MetaFilter Financial Update, November 2022 November 2, 2022 12:10 PM   Subscribe

In preparation for the 2022 Fundraising Drive, the MetaFilter Steering Committee has been trawling through the site’s finances and fundraising history. Here’s what we’ve found - and why we’re asking you to contribute to funding the site.

As part of the site’s fundraiser for 2022, the Steering Committee has performed a deep dive into the site’s finances. It’s not always pretty, but there’s reason for hope. We hope this will help members understand how MetaFilter’s finances have historically worked, what changes we’re bringing in, and how we envisage the way forward.

All this is only possible because of your help. And we ask you once more to please consider helping fund MetaFilter.

Here’s the Metafilter Fundraising Drive Financial Packet. It includes: It’s a lot of information, but jessamyn, the site admin and the Steering Committee agree that being clear about where we are and where we hope to go is our responsibility to the members who contribute, and absolutely critical for the site moving forward.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson to MetaFilter-Related at 12:10 PM (171 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

Wow! This is a lot of information, but all very clearly presented. Thank you for your diligent work SC members and staff.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 12:29 PM on November 2 [10 favorites]


It looks like currently something like 85% of income for Metafilter is from contributions. And the large majority of that is recurring donations, a fairly reliable source of income. That seems like good news to me, because it's possible to imagine increasing recurring donations with a membership push. We're at $16k/mo contributions now; if we increased that to $20k/mo the company would be just about breakeven.

(All this based on a quick read of the packet; if I misread my apologies.)
posted by Nelson at 12:41 PM on November 2 [1 favorite]


One thing this highlights for me is that making it easier (and more prominently asked for) to add an Amazon affiliate code to purchases could make a huge difference. If there were a way to click through and have my monthly pedialyte order make some money for Metafilter I would do it! Looks like that would make a difference if enough people did it.
posted by Bottlecap at 12:46 PM on November 2 [26 favorites]


I am trying to get away from Amazon but still use them for all my Kindle purchases and would be delighted to take an extra step if it helped out Metafilter.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:59 PM on November 2 [5 favorites]


Thank you to It's Raining Florence Henderson, the rest of the Steering Committee, the site administrator (is that loop?), and jessamyn. I appreciate all the work that has gone into compiling this information package for the community. When it's not bedtime in Sweden, I will dive in. Special thanks for the summary, perfect for ADHD me.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:16 PM on November 2 [4 favorites]


(To be completely transparent, I did none of the amazing work on these financials and deserve none of the credit. I'm just the SC member who was available to post it.)
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:27 PM on November 2 [10 favorites]


I have been and continue to be impressed at the hard work the SC has been putting into this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:48 PM on November 2 [42 favorites]


Adding my voice to the chorus: this financial update is as detailed as I could want, well-structured and summarized, is realistic AND diplomatic AND presents the factors to use in building hope, and was easy to read on a mobile device. Thank you for the work.
posted by brainwane at 2:12 PM on November 2 [20 favorites]


Thanks for the incredible amount of detail / care put into this! Sorry if this is a question that is answered somewhere that I missed, but the one thing I couldn't fully figure out is, what does metafilter have now? Should I conclude from this:

Shortfalls over these months were made up by drawing on cash reserves/savings, which were depleted by late October 2022.

that the answer is, 0 + 12k from the current fund drive? Thanks again.
posted by advil at 2:40 PM on November 2


Anyone who complains about transparency after this won't be satisfied until the mods stream their shifts on Twitch.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 2:51 PM on November 2 [37 favorites]


That would be intensely interesting actually...
posted by bleep at 3:00 PM on November 2 [10 favorites]


This is great! Well done & much appreciated.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:35 PM on November 2 [1 favorite]


That would be intensely interesting actually...

I would do it as a fundraiser! (I mean not a mod but....)
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:52 PM on November 2 [35 favorites]


This is an excellent piece of work - incredibly detailed and transparent, and therefore incredibly useful in defining the problem and possible solutions. I can only imagine how much effort it involved, especially from a team of volunteers. Please know that your hard work is appreciated!
posted by adrianhon at 3:53 PM on November 2 [9 favorites]


Thank you very much to the SC for the update on finances. This hard work you're doing for the community is greatly appreciated and this transparency is a great direction for the site.

That said, I hope in the future we can dispense with the extended denigration of "previous ownership" in these reports. It's unprofessional and reflects poorly on the site, and calls the objectivity of the SC into question. Individual members of the SC are fine to have whatever opinions they want, and express them as they want when speaking as individuals, but an official document by the SC for the community shouldn't editorialize like that. There's a whole host of reasons for the site's finances to be in the state they are currently, but the only thing that matters is how we move forward from here. Whatever mistakes cortex did or didn't make while running the site aren't relevant any more and bringing it up in the financial update feels like passive-aggressive point-scoring. He's out, let it be.
posted by biogeo at 3:55 PM on November 2 [36 favorites]


RE: Amazon affiliate links I found this Chrome extension awhile ago and posted a MetaTalk about it. It would automatically append an affiliate tag on an Amazon link but it doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

I’ll look around and see if I can find something else similar. Basically it would add ?tag=metafilter-20 to a link to an Amazon product page and if the product was purchased it would drop a few pennies in Metafilter’s account.
posted by bendy at 4:05 PM on November 2 [3 favorites]


I thought Amazon links already got the affiliate tag added. Do they not?
posted by wenestvedt at 4:08 PM on November 2


Also I'm slightly nervous about the statement that "we do not want Metafilter to be overly reliant on member contributions." I agree that diversifying MetaFilter's income stream is a good thing, but I'd argue that member control over the site ultimately means the site needs to be able to rely on member contributions only in order to function. Because fund drives have been relatively infrequent and pretty low-key, I suspect that there's a lot more elasticity in how much the membership would be able to contribute than has been tested so far. We've already seen what happens when the site's main revenue stream depends on the decisions of actors outside the community (specifically, Google's decisions about its search ranking algorithm); it means that the revenue is unreliable. I'm not arguing against diversifying MetaFilter's income stream, I'm just nervous about what exactly the SC has in mind there, but reserving judgment until we hear more.

In the meantime, I appreciate the thought and hard work being put into this, and if there are arguments to be had about how much we rely in the long-term on member contributions versus other funding sources, I think they can wait for some day after we've stabilized things. I'm truly grateful to every member of the SC for the hard work in figuring out how to turn our financial situation around and continue to trust that they've got the energy and skills to make it happen.
posted by biogeo at 4:10 PM on November 2 [3 favorites]


Thanks for all the effort that's been to put in this, it's impressive. I'm unreasonably happy to see it all in Mefi colours! I'm one of those guilty of my recurring payment having lapsed when the card attached to paypal expired, and have renewed my payment.

But am I right in seeing that we basically need another $5K in monthly recurring donations to break even? That feels like a lot, especially if you assume that the people who are most committed and able to spare money are probably already giving, so we're chasing those fringier members in terms of 'ability and willingness to pay,' to try and make up the shortfall.
posted by penguin pie at 4:13 PM on November 2 [4 favorites]


(Actually: Just seen the fundraiser week 1 post, which gives some context to that $5K figure - good news is the recurring donations have gone up by c. $2.5K, which is awesome - but the bad news is we need another £5K on top of that).
posted by penguin pie at 4:19 PM on November 2


I really appreciate this report, it is certainly both clear and detailed. I think it was useful to detail some differences in approach between today and the past. I don't think it was done to denigrate. I think it was part of the necessary transparency that will build confidence in the new approach. If there were no distinctions made between the current approach and past approaches, there would be no reason to believe the current approach would work, because the fundraising trend has been consistently decreasing. Hopefully as new approaches are tried, the conversation will continue to shift towards the future and the need to assess the past decreases naturally.
posted by snofoam at 4:19 PM on November 2 [8 favorites]


Also, I'd like to say that cutting the site's monthly expenses by 10% immediately just by changing how much AWS is being used is amazing and the SC generally and whoever figured that out specifically deserve major kudos for that.
posted by biogeo at 4:21 PM on November 2 [35 favorites]


I thought Amazon links already got the affiliate tag added. Do they not?

I believe so - not that there are very many of them - but the browser extension would tag any Amazon link from anywhere.
posted by bendy at 4:22 PM on November 2 [1 favorite]


Alright I'm going to get pushback on this but as I do love Metafilter and as someone who runs projects and evaluates company acquisitions this is not helpful though that may not have been the goal of this so please do not take this as criticism of the effort just advice I've been taught over the years and use to make sure businesses and projects maintain profitability.

I want to emphasize that these metrics might not be available just what I'm used to drive decision making processes. That's the goal of this right? For us to help make decisions on the future of the site?

It'd be helpful if we tied revenue and costs down to business units (subsites) or even threads. If we have 300 hours of moderator capacity and 200 of it is taken up by Metatalk let us rethink how we approach Metatalk. If Projects or Music are in the red, maybe we should consider cutting them.

Do highly moderated threads drive user engagement or even better, metrics with revenue? Then that needs to me taken into account. We have a good tagging system for posts and analytics so it'd be helpful to correlate that to KPIs.

We may be losing money overall but there's no real insight as to what generates revenue or positive KPIs versus what is a huge cost burden for the site.

I also don't see anything that's revenue generating not related to contributions and the like. Can we create avatars? Make labels by people's name? Given something like "Reddit Gold" or the like? Let people have one AskMetafilter question a week/month and then charge above that? I'm brainstorming here but these things generate revenue and don't rely on what fundraising drives, they actively monetize the site without in my opinion changing the culture.

You might argue there's no money to do that but I have always found that a fallacy. Develop the idea, develop projected revenue, estimate costs and determine funding. Throwing hands up in the air and saying we need money first is self-defeating.

I think this is a great first step and I say this because I want Metafilter to stay around and I truly commend the job the SC did but if you took this to an analyst at any PE firm or the like they'd have no idea where the true value of the business is or how to save it.

I do not want to change Metafilter's culture but I think some hard changes will need to be made. Offshore development and moderation? Reduce moderation to one person? Implement features that allow some user moderation like up/down votes or user blocking?

I find Metafilter's approach commendable but it is obviously not financially viable and frankly every metric: active users, finances, etc. are down. Hard changes need to happen.
posted by geoff. at 4:32 PM on November 2 [37 favorites]


business units (subsites)

I ... don't think metafilter is whatever you think it is?
posted by advil at 4:47 PM on November 2 [22 favorites]


I would consider subsites different verticals or BUs. Fanfare is drastically different than Music. It attracts different demographics. It is a different product. I'm making a conjecture on the different demographics as obviously I don't have that data but there are users who use different subsites and not others. I would definitely consider them separate verticals.
posted by geoff. at 4:51 PM on November 2 [6 favorites]


geoff., might I suggest we're not looking to really do anything with what a private equity firm would say about this? Like, I know you have a lot of thoughts about how tech companies should be run, and that spills out into your comments on how Mefi should be run, but they just seem... very disconnected from what's actually happening to the site?
posted by sagc at 5:04 PM on November 2 [10 favorites]


Look I'm only saying this out of my love of Metafilter and want it to see it to run. I'm not saying this report was wrong, quite the opposite. Nor am I saying that we should treat this as if it was being evaluated by a PE firm. All I'm saying is I've been taught by people much smarter than myself how to turn things around and what to look at and was suggesting maybe we start looking at turning this great analysis into actionable items is all.

I'm sorry if it came off harsh I've been in meetings all day and I probably was still in business mode. I don't want Metafilter to fail and I was just offering my personal experience. I'm not trying to turn Metafilter into a tech darling, just offering what I've been taught on how to improve profitability and stabilize business. :) Please don't take it as if I was criticizing the work done, it just got me thinking of questions I'd be asked or I would ask given the data.
posted by geoff. at 5:16 PM on November 2 [35 favorites]


This is pretty cool!
posted by michaelh at 5:34 PM on November 2


I would be happy to increase my monthly donation! I don’t see a way on PayPal to do this. Is the path of least resistance deleting that old amount and starting a new one? Trying not to mess with your data keeping more than I have to.
posted by eirias at 6:06 PM on November 2 [1 favorite]


I hope in the future we can dispense with the extended denigration of "previous ownership" in these reports.

I didn’t see any of this in the post nor did I see any of it in the report. You are literally the only person to so much as mention cortex in this thread.
posted by kate blank at 6:19 PM on November 2 [8 favorites]


Same question for stripe, do I need to cancel my current recurring contribution and start a new one?
posted by capricorn at 6:19 PM on November 2


kate blank: I didn’t see any of this in the post nor did I see any of it in the report. You are literally the only person to so much as mention cortex in this thread.

They are referring to this subsection of the What Does This Mean section of the report
posted by capricorn at 6:21 PM on November 2 [1 favorite]


This is just a valentine to the SC. They are providing high-level expertise, at no charge, and if you calculated its worth it's easily in the 10s of thousands. Great analysis and communication. Thank you. It's so great to see.
posted by Miko at 6:25 PM on November 2 [31 favorites]


Also, now that I've digested some of the strategy components: This one --

Refined fundraising approaches (e.g. more sustained engagement/communication with contributors, better marketing)

Seems like the winner. The site is already overwhelmingly user-supported. Having a structured means of soliciting contributions from the users, with a real fundraising strategy and relational engagement, really looks like the most promising pathway to follow. Despite the occasional fundraising appeals, MeFi has never had a real fundraising strategy, and it could. Right now it's only achieving a small part of the potential. The expertise is here.
posted by Miko at 6:29 PM on November 2 [13 favorites]


They are referring to this subsection of the What Does This Mean section of the report

I thought that was an incredibly fair and nuanced summary of how we got where we are. It would be impossible to assess the financial history of the site without discussing past financial decisions.
posted by kate blank at 6:32 PM on November 2 [13 favorites]


I would do it as a fundraiser! (I mean not a mod but....)

Actually, I think perhaps a twitch streamed pledge drive could be an interesting idea -- not a "mod shift" per se but rather a "just chatting" type of stream where Jessamyn and some number of other guests reading posts, talking about Metafilter, asking for donations, and thanking donors. Kind of like a PBS pledge drive thingy, but for a shorter time and fewer tote bags.

On the topic of thanking donors, I want to put my Director of Development hat back on for a sec, just to beat the drum again about what you're doing to engage, thank, and steward donors for their gift. The thanking part -- particularly for recurring gifts -- is very important and makes a huge difference both in donor retention and also in eventual gift upgrades. Basically people want to know that you've noticed they made a gift. That is important to donors.

If you want to reach out to me about that I'm open, or there are tons of resources online about what fundraising best practices are around gift acknowledgement and stewardship.

Great work, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.
posted by anastasiav at 6:32 PM on November 2 [17 favorites]


I don't see a problem with the analysis of how we got here. No one is questioning cortex's commitment or passion for making Metafilter succeed. Nowhere in there was there any indication he was engaging in intentionally malicious activity.

I think it is exceedingly important to emphasize there's a change in vision from previous management. We should be honest in assessments or the report becomes meaningless.

Frankly Matt ran the site in a similar manner and like a lot of businesses happened to be at the right place at the right time. That's no slight on him, it just Google ads were profitable and it was before the rise of social media as we know it.

Acknowledging that's no longer viable and current management is willing and actively looking for new options for recurring revenue is the sort of transparency in site management we've been looking for, correct?
posted by geoff. at 6:40 PM on November 2 [15 favorites]


To those who want to change their recurring Stripe contribution:
  1. Go to the Fund Metafilter page
  2. Under Stripe option, you will see the monthly and one-time contribution buttons
  3. After the one-time contribution line, it says "Manage Stripe contributions" - click on that link
  4. Next page shows contribution(s) by Date, Amount, and Status. The amount can be modified and saved.
I imagine a similar process exists for PayPal?
posted by tinydancer at 6:43 PM on November 2 [1 favorite]


I know geoff. is using business/management consulting language, and that may freak people out in this context and feel like a bad fit, but I see what he's saying. In my world it would be called "program evaluation" but it would be the same thing - looking at the various "programs" (business units) being run, establishing their true cost to run, and making decisions based on that knowledge. Understanding the resources invested in each functional area, and whether the ROI is worth the investment. It may be we're spending a lot of precious time and funds on things that aren't really core to maintaining what MeFi's value to its users is. In that view, AskMe is probably a high-performing program that's generating a lot of web hits and a recruitment point for new accounts, while Music is maybe not (I don't know). It's true that if one program is consuming a disproportionate amount of resources (MetaTalk is a good example) then perhaps it needs to be modified.

Some of this comes down to the style and ways of expressing similar ideas. But the SC has put us into the wonderful world of analysis, and the language of analysis has a home here.
posted by Miko at 6:44 PM on November 2 [53 favorites]


I find Metafilter's approach commendable but it is obviously not financially viable and frankly every metric: active users, finances, etc. are down. Hard changes need to happen.

Geoff's suggestions may not be the right ones but I don't think they deserve the criticism they got. I don't like PE firms any more than any of you but I should tactfully point out that the business model of this site is unviable, it's pretty much out of money, and there's a massive gap between expenses and revenues. Sl perhaps we are not in the position of getting on our high horse about what we need to do to keep the lights on.

The site is going to change no matter what; it's dug itself a very deep hole financially and so either it changes through "monetizing" aspects of the community or, I don't know, something even more dramatic like the end of full-time moderation. I think some very hard decisions are going to come down the pike very soon and I don't think most people here are grasping the reality of that. For instance, I am pretty sure than within the next 3-4 months it will become completely impossible to maintain the mod staff as is, so what happens then?

Constantly going back to the well to fundraise is not a longterm solution because the site's user base continues to shrink and there doesn't seem to be a strategy to expand and attract larger audiences. You need to plug a gigantic cash burn every month and to do that you have to expand past the core base of subscribers, and this is not an easy site or culture to learn and feel comfortable using. Also, I think we have probably run out of time and resources to plug the gap through fundraising. You should ideally fundraise for specific capital projects or expansions, not to keep the lights on and the furnace running; if you're doing that you're in trouble.

Also, it is impossible to read most of the financial package documents on mobile; is it due to the presentation?

I am an optimist but I think the situation is far more dire than most people seem to be assuming.
posted by fortitude25 at 6:46 PM on November 2 [30 favorites]


Yes, MetaFilter already appends the referral code if you click on an Amazon link from here. But there’s no button for me to push to get to Amazon to make my never-going-to-be-recommended-here purchases. I need eight cases of pedialyte a month, if I didn’t have to hunt through askmes until hitting on an Amazon link and could just click through to Amazon from the front page or my profile or something, I would like to be able to do that easily, and I imagine other people would also be willing to do so!
posted by Bottlecap at 6:49 PM on November 2 [10 favorites]


Thank you tinydancer!
posted by capricorn at 6:54 PM on November 2


re: affiliate links, apparently Amazon doesn't like it when you use the affiliate link to purchase things that weren't actually linked and it nearly got MeFi kicked off Amazon Affiliate. Someone else can probably dredge up the post about this.
posted by capricorn at 6:55 PM on November 2 [5 favorites]


The site is going to change no matter what; it's dug itself a very deep hole financially and so either it changes through "monetizing" aspects of the community or, I don't know, something even more dramatic like the end of full-time moderation

I agree with what you’re saying about the urgent need for change, but I think we stopped full-time moderation at some point last year? According to the update last week, we’re currently at 56% moderation (95 hours a week).
posted by buntastic at 7:14 PM on November 2


Not that anyone really cares about me specifically but I joined this site solely to be able to ask and respond to questions on Ask MetaFilter. That’s still what I spend the most time paying attention to here.

I know I could go ahead and ask those questions on Reddit or Quora (whatever that even is, somehow it always shows up when I Google a question I have about something) or some other specific website about specific things, but I like asking and answering questions here.

What I’m trying to say is I don’t understand why I constantly see Quora when Googling for things and not Ask MetaFilter, when I am pretty sure something has already been asked on Metafilter. Wouldn’t AskMe appearing in search results be an organic way to bring in new users? Can that change?
posted by wondermouse at 7:28 PM on November 2 [15 favorites]


I think increasing user funding and cost-cutting (which, post-AWS optimizing, seems to be mod hours) are the only viable short-term actions. In the long-term, increasing value to users by fostering a stronger community and bringing in more users seem to be the most important things. Aside from that, if there were a few tweaks that could improve things, like improve search performance and ad revenue, then great, but they are not a dependable long term thing. I am optimistic, because with the SC and volunteers, it seems like the site finally has the capacity to explore short term and long term goals at the same time.
posted by snofoam at 7:34 PM on November 2 [2 favorites]


or my profile

Bottlecap I love that idea!
posted by bendy at 7:36 PM on November 2


re: granularity on which subsites or posts are profit or cost centers, etc. I think there are probably diminishing returns on that. I would imagine less-used subsites require much less mod activity. That said, I could imagine a scenario where a volunteer community admin does certain things on a sub site like fanfare, like correct info in posts at the poster’s request, delete comments that are spoilers for future episodes or include book material in show only threads. Basically stuff that doesn’t require the same finesse or decision making as other moderation. Something like this maybe could help ease the moderation burden so mods could focus on trickier situations.
posted by snofoam at 7:47 PM on November 2 [3 favorites]


This is so detailed and thoughtful. Thank you for putting this together and being clear about where we stand. This is necessary for everyone who cares about this site to get a clear view of the work that it will take to help this place stick around for a while longer at least.

I am glad we’re thinking about transparency and with purpose. I’m a bit surprised at the desperate state of things that got us to here, but we are here now and we need to focus on this immediate challenge now. And it will be a challenge, even if it is doable.

I’ve donated and see a lot of opportunity on this site. I am debating commenting more and adding a little blurb afterwards as a reminder to those who may still be unaware that donating is something every user needs to consider. I don’t want that message to be heavy handed, but I think it needs to be out there more. Unfortunately the banner at the top isn’t going to be the one way forward for notifying MeFi active users, in my opinion.

Thank you to jessamyn and the Steering Committee for everything you are doing. You are so appreciated and I hope you know that. This place is really special, and we are lucky to have you stepping up.
posted by glaucon at 7:48 PM on November 2 [4 favorites]


First, I just want to say that this is a LOT of information and I found it very interesting and useful. I do understand where geoff. is coming from re: not having the metrics they think would be useful for making decisions, but if I had to guess at least part of that is down to the site never being wired up to collect those metrics. That's something that can be fixed, and maybe should be highlighted as an additional objective. Given the constraints on staffing hours, though, we'd also want to ask what our KPIs actually are, how to measure them, and what other indicators contribute to them, and then figure out how to track only those things.

This becomes more difficult when some of our objectives involve community health. Revenue is a relatively easy thing to measure and track; how people feel when they engage in a discussion on the site, much less so. Even then, though, maybe there are some metrics that wouldn't require much effort to collect and help indicate whether particular types of threads contribute to the overall discourse or not. But I don't want to step on the toes of staff, as I think it's quite possible they're already doing stuff like that and don't need me to tell them what for.

Re: Amazon Associates. Amazon is a big enough place that revenue, even significant revenue, coming from products other than the one the user clicked on to get to Amazon, is expected. Plus Amazon specifically offers links that don't link to a particular product in their associates tools. I couldn't find anything in the Mefi search about being in danger of getting thrown out of the Associates program because of non-link-related purchases, so hard to comment further about whether this is a legitimate concern or not.

However, I did dig up this page of recent Amazon links on Metafilter that was apparently created as a Mefi Labs project. Bookmarking that page at least keeps you from having to search out an Amazon link every time you want to buy something. It's not the same as an Amazon link on the homepage, of course.

What I’m trying to say is I don’t understand why I constantly see Quora when Googling for things and not Ask MetaFilter, when I am pretty sure something has already been asked on Metafilter. Wouldn’t AskMe appearing in search results be an organic way to bring in new users? Can that change?

That's very likely an SEO issue that could be worked on, and SEO improvements is highlighted in the report as a potential initiative. I agree that search engine users are missing out on a great resource and we should do whatever we can to let them know AskMe exists!
posted by chrominance at 7:49 PM on November 2 [9 favorites]


Oh, and because apparently I edit my posts constantly while writing them and forget to complete my thoughts: THANK YOU to the Steering Committee and everyone else working on Metafilter for this report. It's great to have this much insight into the operation of the site and I really appreciate the transparency and thoroughness.
posted by chrominance at 7:52 PM on November 2 [3 favorites]


aielen from the Steering Committee here...

biogeo:

Also I'm slightly nervous about the statement that "we do not want Metafilter to be overly reliant on member contributions." I agree that diversifying MetaFilter's income stream is a good thing, but I'd argue that member control over the site ultimately means the site needs to be able to rely on member contributions only in order to function. Because fund drives have been relatively infrequent and pretty low-key, I suspect that there's a lot more elasticity in how much the membership would be able to contribute than has been tested so far. We've already seen what happens when the site's main revenue stream depends on the decisions of actors outside the community (specifically, Google's decisions about its search ranking algorithm); it means that the revenue is unreliable. I'm not arguing against diversifying MetaFilter's income stream, I'm just nervous about what exactly the SC has in mind there, but reserving judgment until we hear more.

There's a little more about the SC's process in filtering and prioritizing idea/suggestions here.
You're right that revenue is unreliable when the site's main revenue stream depends on the decisions of actors outside the community, such as was the case from 2005 - 2014 as you've pointed out. That was not a diversified business model either (as the then-owner - mathowie - also acknowledged). A diversified business model also does not necessarily mean excluding members as a core target audience - for example, it can entail developing new products/services (e.g. subsites / monetized ponies) for members that would want to pay for these things. There are many ways this could look, and transpire - but in general, a diversified business model would mean reducing over-reliance and exposure to potential volatility in one income stream. It would mean being able to spread some risk, and provide some buffer for more financial security and long-term viability. And also allow more space to nurture new ideas/initiatives for their intangible/more indirect benefits and potential longer-term pay-offs.

geoff.:

I want to emphasize that these metrics might not be available just what I'm used to drive decision making processes. That's the goal of this right? For us to help make decisions on the future of the site?

It'd be helpful if we tied revenue and costs down to business units (subsites) or even threads. If we have 300 hours of moderator capacity and 200 of it is taken up by Metatalk let us rethink how we approach Metatalk. If Projects or Music are in the red, maybe we should consider cutting them.

Do highly moderated threads drive user engagement or even better, metrics with revenue? Then that needs to me taken into account. We have a good tagging system for posts and analytics so it'd be helpful to correlate that to KPIs.

We may be losing money overall but there's no real insight as to what generates revenue or positive KPIs versus what is a huge cost burden for the site.


Good suggestions - and like you've acknowledged, these metrics might not be available, although we hope to uncover / obtain / generate as much as possible in the coming weeks. Much of the SC's work thus far has been information-gathering and fact-hunting, and to speak plainly - it's been an uphill task trying to collect, reconcile and collate data. Most of what you see in this information packet was not known, incomplete or bottlenecked in accessibility, before the SC came onboard. We hope that by uncovering and synthesizing more information, we can help establish more institutional memory and lay the groundwork for others (especially future SCs, future volunteers) to build on. This is a process, and we're right at the beginning of it.

Your suggestions fall in the category of optimization: trying to figure out how to optimize what we have currently. This was touched on briefly here - and you're right that optimization is one way to improve profit margins. To try to answer your question, broadly, about specific business units that have high ROI ("We may be losing money overall but there's no real insight as to what generates revenue or positive KPIs versus what is a huge cost burden for the site.") - in terms of Google AdSense and Amazon affiliate links , AskMetafilter still remains the main source of traffic and revenue.
In terms of member contributions and member-oriented fundraising - it may be less easy to arrive at an immediate answer, although consultations/survey with Mefites across all stakeholder categories (results of which are summed up here) have indicated some general areas that could be improved on, for the outcome of increased member contributions/funding. This fundraising drive itself will also hopefully serve as a means to better determine how to optimize fundraising appeals.

In terms of the strategy of optimization itself, though - from an 80-20-oriented perspective, we've felt it more worthwhile, for this current term, to focus on alternative/new revenue streams especially those other than Google AdSense. There is still ongoing work on trying to optimize current revenue streams (for example, we have an affiliate link volunteer team and some investigating SEO possibilities), but in general we've felt that Google AdSense even under more efforts towards optimization may not be a reliable or significant source of income going forward. (More, briefly, about optimization vs alternative/new revenue streams here)

I also don't see anything that's revenue generating not related to contributions and the like. Can we create avatars? Make labels by people's name? Given something like "Reddit Gold" or the like? Let people have one AskMetafilter question a week/month and then charge above that? I'm brainstorming here but these things generate revenue and don't rely on what fundraising drives, they actively monetize the site without in my opinion changing the culture.

These are great suggestions - these and similar suggestions have been raised over time, and we've made note and evaluated them in our database (also mentioned here). For the timeframe and purpose of the fundraising drive, these ideas were not viable to implement in such a short time, but they remain open in the database as ideas that may be considered and tested over the next few months (just not within the timeframe of this fundraising drive).

You might argue there's no money to do that but I have always found that a fallacy. Develop the idea, develop projected revenue, estimate costs and determine funding

Completely agree with this - and the SC does not see lack of money as a reason to not-pursue alternative revenue streams (in fact - that's what we've been advocating throughout). We're also aware (and grateful) that the cost of these initiatives/projects may be offset by volunteer skill and time.

One idea that I'm personally excited about, in the works, is the self-hosted ads idea helmed by JHarris - and for that, for example, yes we are doing the business proposal, the pitch deck, etc. One thing at a time. Right now we're focused on getting the shorter-term projects for the Fundraising Drive running well.

if you took this to an analyst at any PE firm or the like they'd have no idea where the true value of the business is or how to save it.
We would... definitely not take this current information packet, as it is, to an analyst at a PE firm - because they are not quite our target audience, and the information packet is not meant for them. We've tried to orient and streamline the contents of this information packet to the Metafilter community in the context of the Fundraising Drive, trying to balance detail, transparency and readability - while getting this information out within a very, very compressed amount of time. (When it comes to speaking with anyone in the PE world - rest assured we are very, very much aware that information will need to be packaged and framed differently.)

I'm glad for your suggestions, and I understand where you're coming from. There's much, much more we'd like to implement and get more analytics on, and that will come with time. Right now we are trying to manage the Fundraising Drive and more immediate / shorter-duration initiatives projects, while keeping longer-term initiatives in the pipeline. One step at a time.
posted by aielen at 8:25 PM on November 2 [31 favorites]


another note to add: We'll be hosting an upcoming online presentation+discussion event on Metafilter's financials and business model as part of the Fundraising Drive's online event programming. (More information on the date/time will be confirmed in subsequent fundraising MeTa updates.)
So if anyone is interested in the ideas and themes being raised here, we'd welcome you to attend.
(It's like a win-win - we get to discuss ways to help Metafilter financially... while helping Metafilter financially.)
posted by aielen at 8:38 PM on November 2 [7 favorites]


It'd be helpful if we tied revenue and costs down to business units (subsites) or even threads. If we have 300 hours of moderator capacity and 200 of it is taken up by Metatalk let us rethink how we approach Metatalk. If Projects or Music are in the red, maybe we should consider cutting them.
--
Understanding the resources invested in each functional area, and whether the ROI is worth the investment. It may be we're spending a lot of precious time and funds on things that aren't really core to maintaining what MeFi's value to its users is.


I'm not even sure how metrics like this would be measured. To use myself as an example -- conveniently, I'm a long-term user but this account only has about a year's worth of data tied to it so it actually reflects my current usage. I contribute monthly (under my old user name), so that information is available. But what subsites am I contributing this revenue towards?

If you go by the number of posts I've made, 21% is MetaFilter, 11% is Ask, and 68% is FanFare. Clearly, FanFare is the main reason why I'm contributing.
If you go by comments instead, 52% is MetaFilter, 35% is Ask, only 12% is FanFare and 2% is MetaTalk. Clearly, it's a close split between MetaFilter and Ask that I'm contributing towards.
But if you go by favorites, 73% is MetaFilter, 18% is Ask, 4% is FanFare, and 5% is MetaTalk. Clearly, it's mostly MetaFilter I care about; FanFare is even behind MetaTalk in importance.

How do you even interpret these? I favorite MetaTalk a lot more than I post, because I'm trying to send signals about site governance, not because I like reading it. I was relatively more active on FanFare for posts, but that's because I was actually watching Top Chef and wanted to keep the discussion going during the last season; I actually don't comment on FanFare that much because I watch a lot of stuff months or years after the fact, and the conversations are usually dead by the point I've seen something. I get a lot of value out of reading and learning from random Asks, much of which is not actually current at the time -- I frequently remember something six months later that I learned on Ask, and I'm not going to bother to go back and find the comment to give it a fave.

I wouldn't be surprised if Ask was my most-valuable section, even though it's at best a distant second in any of my metrics. And what about something like the annual gift swap? That involves actual in-person, real-world effort; it's something of a commitment on my part -- I probably spend as much effort on this as I do on Xmas gifts for my wife*, but the part that's visible to site management is normally a single comment I make thanking my gift giver.

Maybe there's a point in there somewhere; since most of the revenue is from recurring user contributions, there's no clear signal on what is driving that revenue. Maybe there should be something like an invisible token system, where recurring contributors get a token per dollar per month (one-timers get one token per X bucks), and a button on a post or comment that assigns one of your tokens in a way that is only visible behind the scenes. This could both incentivize funding and provide more granular feedback. Maybe there's some aggregate information that comes out; how many tokens per subsite, what the top 5 token threads or comments are each month.

* don't worry, gifts are absolutely not our love language.
posted by Superilla at 8:45 PM on November 2 [6 favorites]


Thanks, aielen!
posted by biogeo at 9:11 PM on November 2 [2 favorites]


If you go by the number of [posts, comments, or favorites]...

How do you even interpret these?


People make their livings doing analysis like that, but the fact that you made any posts, comments, or favorites at all on a subsite doesn't seem too hard to interpret. Drawing from your personal profile I will suggest that the sudden disappearance of Music, Projects, Jobs, and IRL would not make a big difference in your personal Metafilter experience. It would be sad to see them go, but you're unlikely to stop contributing just because they got the axe.

As a small side note, getting into the nitty gritty of people's posts/comments/favorites behavior vs. how reliable they are as funding sources would make a pretty good final project for anyone taking a Machine Learning course this quarter. The dataset is pretty meager, but not so tiny that the results would be useless.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:39 PM on November 2 [7 favorites]


For long-term survival, the site needs to grow the user base. Lots of folks are volunteering on the SC and for the fundraising drive; is anyone working on new user development? New users aren't going to solve the immediate budget crisis, but they could help avert the next one. A few thoughts about that:

1. Twitter is quite possibly about to suffer a mass exodus. Lots of people may be looking for a new place on the web with high-quality discussion. How can we channel them towards Metafilter?

2. How about a referral drive? Maybe waive the signup fee for referrals from existing users and make an enticing welcome page? I know I have some friends who would fit in here. Another idea about that: Encourage people to post an inaugural question on AskMe -- whatever's on their mind.

3. Where are new users coming from these days? Whatever it was that brought them here, can we signal-boost it?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:21 PM on November 2 [14 favorites]


When you sign up, is there a how did you find us question?
posted by VyanSelei at 11:44 PM on November 2 [4 favorites]


The signup is arduous and had a long disclaimer. It needs to be simplified.
posted by geoff. at 12:25 AM on November 3 [8 favorites]


> Twitter is quite possibly about to suffer a mass exodus.

We could charge users for a Mefi-branded Mastodon. masto.host charges $89/month to support 2k users. Spitballing, I think it's easy to move an account around, in case of sunsetting, and dunno how much moderation would be needed.

Separately, instead of AWS, I wonder if using other cloud providers like Linode or Digital Ocean, Azure or GCP, would be cheaper.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:58 AM on November 3 [14 favorites]


This far exceeds what I was expecting from my previous adventures in non-profit finance. Many thanks to the staff and Steering Committee, and I hope we are collectively able to give the new management team some breathing room.
posted by mersen at 5:12 AM on November 3 [4 favorites]


The only site I'm on that's similar to metafilter - oldschool vibes, text only, member funded and moderated - is AO3.

They do biannual fundraising drives with swag rewards, require an annual donation for membership which you need to vote in site-wide elections, and 99.9% of the labor to moderate the site is volunteered.

They're also much bigger than mefi with a ton more active users...

I think a mefi branded mastodon is a cool idea. I've played around with joining mastodon before but it doesn't come with an inbuilt community, like old school social media you have to find accounts to follow. That's probably a big burden for modern web users who are used to their feeds being algorithmically filled and their posts algorithmically distributed without having to put in so much work. I've been on mefi for more than 10 years and use it as a primary news source (with newsy): it would be great to join a social media hub with politically like-minded people and already feel connected to the community there.
posted by subdee at 5:15 AM on November 3 [18 favorites]


How about a Twitch post-a-thon? Jessamyn and others are doing sponsored posts, so maybe these are done on certain days where the person doing the sponsored posts live streams their activity? I know this isn't for everyone but for some people (jessamyn?) who are used to being in spotlight due to public speaking, interviews etc, it may be something of interest. I assume someone would have to moderate the chat, and perhaps remind people how to donate. I am not sure how else one would monetize it as I don't use Twitch much. If the person doing the sponsored posts discusses their process while doing their stream it may also benefit people who are unsure about making FPP themselves. For example if the sponsored poster streaming says "So-and-so asked for a post on X and when I first read their request I was immediately reminded of the 80s song of the same name, so I am going to look for a few links to tie that into the post. Does anyone else have any suggestions for tie-ins to this post request from so-and-so?"

Just a thought.
posted by terrapin at 5:38 AM on November 3 [3 favorites]


FWIW, I've heard only bad things about self-hosting mastodon from people who've done it: more time consuming than you'd think from an admin perspective (esp. without ruby / ruby on rails experience), doesn't scale well, upgrade compatibility sometimes tricky, lots of moderation needed (can't just ignore federation). That said, from the user perspective it's a great idea and I'd definitely consider joining one if there was some likelihood it would last, but maybe unless a SC member or staff member already has direct experience with this, I'm not sure it's the sort of thing that works as a short term step.
posted by advil at 5:53 AM on November 3 [2 favorites]


I suggested this in the other thread but I'll leave it here too: maybe put up a separate Patreon or paypal subscription link or whatever to fund one of those $90/mo Mastodon instances and see how many MeFites are interested enough to throw a few more bucks a month at the experiment.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:07 AM on November 3


> FWIW, I've heard only bad things about self-hosting mastodon from people who've done it

Absolutely true. However, what was proposed was using a managed Mastodon host and reselling it to Mefites. I love this idea!
posted by thoroughburro at 6:18 AM on November 3 [3 favorites]


The note that Twitter is about to have a mass exodus is both true and a huge opportunity.
posted by Miko at 6:20 AM on November 3 [16 favorites]


Plus the experts it seems we have here in various fields would be fantastic for the deep dive YouTube crowd. For those interested in Special Learning Sessions (one time only, fee of $xxxx to view live and have access after) could be something.

The pending Twitter exodus as mentioned again and again upthread is also a huge opportunity, worth noting again just to emphasize.
posted by glaucon at 6:43 AM on November 3 [2 favorites]


This is not a fully formed thought, but if the codebase makes even seemingly simple ponies hard to implement are there any QoL improvements that might be more readily implemented through officially maintained browser extensions? (Or could there be one that somehow reduces server load from the browser side by using browser features the site code currently doesn't?)
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:50 AM on November 3 [1 favorite]


This is the calm, organized transparency that we need. Thank you.
posted by theora55 at 7:20 AM on November 3 [9 favorites]


No one is questioning cortex's commitment or passion for making Metafilter succeed. Nowhere in there was there any indication he was engaging in intentionally malicious activity.

Indeed. I'm just going to speak to this once here but I think it's possible to both be doing the best you can and also have that not be enough/sufficient for whatever needs doing. I think sitting with the discomfort of this and other frictions is going to be what the next little bit of time is about for this community. Change is hard, needs to happen, and is hard.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:25 AM on November 3 [69 favorites]


Techdirt.com is self-funded and was even able to eliminate Google Ads from the site. It's an old school blog with a comments section, so very similar to this place. A few years ago I helped arrange to get Cortex on the Techdirt podcast as a guest, in part hoping Mike and Josh chatting might spur some ideas that would help here.

If somebody from the SC wanted to chat with Mike about what he is doing to remain solvent I'm sure I can make that happen. I mean, you could just email him and it would happen too, I have no magic here other than being friends with Mike going back about 20 years.
posted by COD at 9:04 AM on November 3 [11 favorites]


Twitter is quite possibly about to suffer a mass exodus. Lots of people may be looking for a new place on the web with high-quality discussion.

Hmmm. The site culture of Twitter is very very different than Metafilter, even among people who share similar politics/values to here.

I would think very carefully before inviting a mass influx of Twitter users. Without very serious 24-hour moderation (at least at first) there may be unintended side effects.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:22 AM on November 3 [4 favorites]


Can I ask a question about the ads that appear on Metafilter? I normally have an ad blocker that blocks all ads. I like this lifestyle.

I had the thought that maybe turning that off when visiting Metafilter while not logged in could maybe generate a few fractions of a cent for Metafilter, or something. So I turned off my ad blocker here, just for you.

However, sometimes the ads are kind of gross looking, or sketchy - like just a few minutes there was an ad to install some sort of browser extension. It didn't strike me as a particularly trusthworthy ad.

Are these ads vetted at all, or are they just like - whatever gets put out there by whatever company? (I speak from a place of one time having a banner ad put a virus on my computer without my even clicking on it. That happened several years ago on a different website, but I am pretty ruthless about ad blocking after that experience.)
posted by wondermouse at 9:29 AM on November 3 [5 favorites]


chrominance: I couldn't find anything in the Mefi search about being in danger of getting thrown out of the Associates program because of non-link-related purchases, so hard to comment further about whether this is a legitimate concern or not.

I decided to stop being lazy and I went and dug it up. It was in this MetaTalk from November 2018.
posted by capricorn at 9:49 AM on November 3 [5 favorites]


I think it would be great if we raised the one time membership fee to $8.

And invited Stephen King over from Twitter.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:17 AM on November 3 [31 favorites]


Indeed. I'm just going to speak to this once here but I think it's possible to both be doing the best you can and also have that not be enough/sufficient for whatever needs doing.

And I'll frankly ditto that. I appreciate the kindness behind folks wanting to stick up for me, but I also handed the site off in part for this precise reason: I wasn't able to do the job that I felt like the site needed. I'm very glad to have other people putting in serious effort to figure out things that were beyond my capabilities or capacity. I was there to keep MeFi going somehow when the circumstances required it; I did what I could and it was very far from perfect, and now fresh eyes and more hands have a chance to move forward and that's a good thing.
posted by cortex (retired) at 10:33 AM on November 3 [71 favorites]


With sincerely-felt respect, the purpose of my comment above wasn't to stick up for cortex. I hadn't intended to follow up on it but perhaps some clarification is in order if I didn't communicate myself well.

I am, as I think we all are, incredibly grateful to the members of the Steering Committee for stepping up to serve the MetaFilter community, and also to jessamyn for taking on the administrative and legal burdens of site ownership. At the same time, we as a community are also entrusting them with considerable power over us: power in the form of making decisions about the direction of site governance and priorities, and power in the form of an elevated and amplified platform for speaking to the community. I personally believe that for a democratic, community-run model to succeed, the people who volunteer to serve the community on the Steering Committee or in other official leadership capacities need to be mindful of the responsibility that comes with that power, and be careful about keeping editorializing distinct from the presentation of facts, and avoid stating inferences about the beliefs or state of mind of MetaFilter members as if they were facts. I think that broadly most of us here, including the members of the SC, would agree with these principles, but may disagree on whether specific cases qualify as problematic, including this one. In my opinion, the first paragraph of the "Quick Summary" subsection labeled "A business model that requires more adaptation and/or rethinking" crosses this line; others clearly disagree. (As a side note, I'm also a bit uncomfortable with the hagiography of jessamyn in that document, though I understand the point is to build confidence that the site's new ownership and governance are worth funding.) My position is that statements by SC members acting on behalf of the SC ought to strive for a fairly strict objectivity, particularly on topics that have proved divisive to the community in the past, and that members of the MetaFilter community ought to voice their concerns if they feel that line is crossed. In my opinion, that represents a healthy collaboration between the Steering Committee and the MetaFilter community more broadly in shaping the future of the site.

I am excited by the more democratic form of site leadership and governance that the Steering Committee represents, but democracy is messy and involves public disagreements. (Not that the previous "benevolent dictator"-style governance wasn't also messy and involved public disagreements.) I agree with jessamyn that change is hard but necessary, and I think hashing out, as a community, what sorts of behavioral norms we expect from the people who generously volunteer their time and are subsequently given leadership power within the community is part of that hard but necessary change.

Thanks and anyone reading who hasn't donated yet, please donate now! More if you can!
posted by biogeo at 1:18 PM on November 3 [6 favorites]


(1) In the general fundraising thread, skewed asked:
Is the current plan to continue with the current level of mod hours until reserves are exhausted?
Are we just going to use the $12k in cushioning we received to put that date off by a month or so?
and the response was that there would be a detailed site finance plan update coming soon.

I've skimmed the financial packet but I don't see that it answers those questions and I think they're important.

(2) Following on from the point upthread about evaluating business units / programs / subsites with an eye to streamlining, some perhaps less obvious costs to consider would be:
  • development / operations resources e.g. testing, compatibility, security
  • moderator resources e.g. training, documentation, communication
  • UX costs e.g. diluting the offer, navigation, confusing new visitors
As an example of the latter, a new visitor lands on the Metafilter home page and tries to figure out the site. There's a top level menu which tells them that besides Metafilter, there's AskMe, FanFare, Projects, Music, Jobs, IRL and MetaTalk as well as, in a dropdown in the same top menu bar, Best of, Podcast, Chat, Labs and Mall. Some of those lead to thriving subsites, others to near-ghost towns, often fairly incomprehensible to an outsider.

For comparison, and since it was mentioned upthread I just visited TechDirt as a first time user and it has a small number of active subsites/sections, all of which I can figure out in a few seconds of clicking around.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:42 PM on November 3 [9 favorites]


(SC member) The Mastodon instance hosting at masto.host sounds great to me, and not just because I'm searching for a new home server myself right now. I'll bring it up at our next meeting.
posted by JHarris at 4:55 PM on November 3 [3 favorites]


aielen from the Steering Committee here...

Busy Old Fool:
Is the current plan to continue with the current level of mod hours until reserves are exhausted?
Are we just going to use the $12k in cushioning we received to put that date off by a month or so?


The financial packet outlines 3 scenarios of operational spend, with the following targets for each scenario:

Survive - a monthly budget of $19.7k, amounting to an annual budget of $236k
Revive - a monthly budget of $26.2k, amounting to an annual budget of $345k
Thrive - a monthly budget of $46.5k, amounting to an annual budget of $558k.

For the month of October, the site has been operating at September's levels of staff hours (i.e. 75% coverage with on-call weekends), with some slight reduction in AWS spend (AWS cost reduction changes were implemented towards the end of October, so the full effect of these changes will not be reflected until November's bill), and the elimination of VOIP spend. These reductions will be maintained going into November. From what I understand, October's expenses have been covered.

The fundraising drive concludes at the end of the November, and at that time we will be able to have a more comprehensive view of what our options are for the year ahead based on the fundraising outcome.

If the target for the "Survive" scenario is met, we will be able to operate at that level going forward. If the target for "Revive" is met, we will be able to operate at that level, - and so on.

If the target for the "Survive" scenario is not met, then further reductions in expenses will be implemented in the area of staffing (reduction in staff hours). (This was addressed in the previous fundraising MeTa here.)

Throughout November we will also be monitoring fundraising progress - and if it looks like we are not likely to reach the "Survive" scenario target, we will likely begin implementing those further staff expense reductions during November itself.

I hope that made things clearer.
posted by aielen at 5:54 PM on November 3 [10 favorites]


The ads are weird — sometimes overtly homophobic, for sketchy firearms-adjacent things, or otherwise not at all representative of Mefi's vibe or values. Not all, not even many, but enough that I encounter shocking, badly-targeted ads regularly.
posted by knucklebones at 6:00 PM on November 3 [4 favorites]


I have spotted ads that were borderline pornographic or offensive and used the contact form to report them, including as much information as possible such as the link.

The staff has been incredibly responsive in removing those ads.

I'm not too familiar with how ad networks work in what gets approved but my guess is the skeevy ads are sold as something benign and "snuck in" expecting to be banned by Google or the ad provider but get enough impressions before this happens that it doesn't matter. I don't know if there's a lot Metafilter can do to prevent it and the onus is on us to report is my general impression.

On a separate topic https://lobster.rs uses sponsored emojis to generate revenue, has no fundraising drives I can tell of and does not use ads. I do not quite understand sponsored emojis and did not look into it closely but as far as sites that mimic Metafilter as being text only, erudite commenters and strict policies about posting it is as close as it can get it.

Again, a quick glance they seem to have volunteer moderators with a strict set of rules around transparency and what moderators can post. It is on a modern platform and is apparently "cheap to run" and they give specs:
Lobsters is hosted on three VPSs at DigitalOcean: a s-4vcpu-8gb for the web server, a s-2vcpu-4gb for the mariadb server, and a s-1vcpu-1gb for the IRC bot. Our domain name is registered with CRI Domains, who donated our first year of registration. DNS is provided by DNSimple and we use Tarsnap for backups, both of which pushcx pays for. Lobsters is cheap to run, so we don't take donations.
They are on a modern platform which is open source and Metafilter could conceivably copy. A quick cost breakdown based on information they provided:

s-4vcpu-8gb: $48/mo
s-2vcpu-4gb: $24/mo
Tarsnap backup, hard to calculate but seems to be around $10/mo
Moderation: $0/mo

Metatalk type comments are in-line with the main site. The site is civil, and invite only.

I would imagine from an architectural viewpoint it'd make sense to combine Metafilter and Metatalk like they do on their site and then create a separate site for AskMe and Fanfare. It'd probably involve removing all the other subsites.

Assuming each site would need its own hardware, that's $82/mo per site or $246/mo. It'd mean dumping existing content and archiving the site and moving to volunteer moderation. Also the owner/administrator seems tech savvy so any sort of maintenance would presumably be completed by him.

Even if I'm off that's way cheaper from $23.4k a month and would afford us perhaps development revenue to modify the lobster.rs code base to match the style of Metafilter more and maybe even content migration. I actually do not think it is a huge shift from Metafilter functionality nor would adding "Best Answer" or some other features deemed essential be unfeasible given how modern the platform is.

I do not have answers for content migration other than ignore it and archive it but a content schema could be developed with the amount saved per month really would afford us to customize some aspects of the platform.
posted by geoff. at 8:37 PM on November 3 [6 favorites]


Google ads use tracking. I know because I do not have an ad blocker and I do have EFF's privacy badger, and I do not see ads on metafilter when I'm logged out.
posted by aniola at 8:47 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]


I don't think turning the site into a lobster.rs clone would work. Maybe that would result in a site that said "metafilter" at the top, but it wouldn't be Metafilter; the human moderation is sort of the key to the whole site culture. Maybe there's some way to employ more volunteer labor, and have the paid staff do more management and training of the volunteer staff (this is certainly how a lot of non-profit orgs operate), basically sort of a "cadre" model, but you're never going to be able to hammer Metafilter's site culture into a hard-and-fast set of rules like Lobsters has apparently settled on.

That would be the end of the community behind the site, I suspect. And what's the site without the community?

Looking at the Monthly Expense Breakdown, staff is far and away the largest expense. But it's also the one I'd monkey with last. We are already down to 75% coverage and only "on-call" weekend staffing.

Given that "AWS hosting comprises most of the tool expenditure (~97% of tool expenditure)", I'd say that getting the hell off AWS ought to be at least under serious consideration. That's just bonkers.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:26 PM on November 3 [10 favorites]


I do not understand the obsession with getting out of AWS.

The most you could save by leaving AWS is about $3k/mo -- and that's only if you somehow got someone to host the site for free. More realistically, you might "save" maybe 1/3 - 1/2 of that. In return, you take on all sorts of systems administration and maintenance tasks which, to be blunt, would either not get done (risking a major outage or data loss scenario), or would eat up most (possibly all) of the savings to pay Frimble or a contractor to handle them.

I'm sure that running a platform as old as MeFi on AWS isn't easy, but I cannot imagine it being any easier to do it on infrastructure you're having to fully manage yourself.

The idea that a business teetering on the edge of bankruptcy can somehow squeeze long-term solvency out of a line item amounting to 15% of the budget while zealously defending the line item that amounts to nearly 80% of the budget is not realistic.
posted by a faithful sock at 3:54 AM on November 4 [18 favorites]


On the other hand, ignoring something just because it is only 15% of the budget can get you in a lot of trouble too.

As far as moderation is concerned, 24-hour coverage has been a core feature of the site for close to a decade and is intimately tied to the culture at this point. Messing around with that ideal leads into "It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it” territory, which makes it one of the most scary things to look at.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:11 AM on November 4 [1 favorite]


I also think "get off AWS" is not really the point. Plenty of people use AWS, as I understand it, because it's not expensive, and is flexible. If the site requires $3,000 of AWS to run then, assuming that's all necessary, I'd be surprised if moving to [your favourite VPS host etc] would save a lot of money.

I'm surprised it costs so much to run the site, but then I/we know nothing about exactly why it costs this amount. It certainly seems like something to improve in the long term - which maybe does involve rebuilding the site with modern technology, I don't know.
posted by fabius at 7:22 AM on November 4 [1 favorite]


It'd mean dumping existing content and archiving the site and moving to volunteer moderation.

I'm curious, geoff., what part of Metafilter are you interested in keeping? I ask because what you're proposing is a) a bunch of up-front technical work b) does not preserve any of the existing site and c) does not preserve any of the current community management. Do you expect to preserve the userbase with all of that? Is there some other part of the site that would continue that would be valuable to you?
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 7:22 AM on November 4 [21 favorites]


I would imagine the SC + volunteers will eventually form teams to address major issues/opportunities, like:
-member fundraising
-alternate revenue sources
-user retention
-user base growth
-moderation
Etc.

I think all these areas could be refined, improved, whatever you want to call it. Having some kind of teams, hopefully with some expertise, looking at these major areas in more detail, will surely be productive. And will be able to really answer questions like whether it is surely easy to save a ton on hosting, or actually not.
posted by snofoam at 9:36 AM on November 4


capricorn: I decided to stop being lazy and I went and dug it up. It was in this MetaTalk from November 2018.

Ah, okay! It looks like there wasn't a specific concern about revenue unrelated to the product being linked, but possibly to the language used on the funding page. The language in question, pulled from archive.org, is "If you're shopping at Amazon anyway, you can use this link to help support MetaFilter:" It sounds like we never heard a specific reason for non-compliance, but it might be that the appeal is specifically focused on supporting the site, which I can see running afoul of two clauses in the Associates policies if you really squint: the clause where you don't ask family, friends, co-workers, etc. to buy through your links, and the clause where you cannot offer compensation for people clicking on your links. Those are both kind of a stretch (I GUESS you could say keeping the lights on at Metafilter is "compensation"), but it's also Amazon, they can do whatever they want and who's gonna fight them.

Something like the Amazon products page I dug up (here's that link again for anyone who missed it!) I think is much more obviously within the limits. And just noting that the links support Metafilter is not only acceptable and a widespread practice, the FCC actually recommends such notices on stuff like product reviews for full disclosure.

Something else I noticed from that post and others: we may not be auto-tagging all Amazon links after all. Commentary on earlier posts suggests we may not attach tracking IDs to any URL that doesn't have it already, which I assume is the bulk of Amazon links posted to the site. Furthermore, given that the current system transforms Amazon links into a really old syntax that was commented on as early as 2008, I wonder if maybe it's failing to recognize some Amazon links as candidates for rewriting? It sounds like neither mathowie nor cortex had this as a high priority, but it might represent low-hanging fruit (though I hesitate to ever assume anything about technical effort for a site I don't know much about).
posted by chrominance at 10:25 AM on November 4 [5 favorites]


I'm surprised it costs so much to run the site, but then I/we know nothing about exactly why it costs this amount.

Site visitor statistics are surprisingly difficult to come by but from what little I did find it appears that Metafilter deals with roughly 3,000,000 site "visits" per month. Each of those "visits" is going to involve loading at least a few pages -- if we conveniently assume 10, that gives us 1,000,000 pages served per day.

If it were just a matter of dealing with 5000 commenters then my tiny little $12/month DigitalOcean server could probably handle it. Serving a million pages a day is a whole 'nother ballgame.

If my numbers are way off, hopefully someone with access to the real info can correct me.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:34 AM on November 4 [3 favorites]


Just to clear something up about Lobste.rs — the sponsorship of the lobster emoji did not generate any revenue for Lobste.rs — that was getting Lobste.rs users to donate to the Unicode Consortium. Lobste.rs is, if I understand correctly, funded almost entirely out of pocket by pushcx (the owner and one of the main moderators) — I think their hosting provider sponsored the hosting for a while, that's not the case anymore.
posted by wesleyac at 10:52 AM on November 4 [3 favorites]


I'm curious, geoff., what part of Metafilter are you interested in keeping?

This is a great question and I think possibly maybe why there's a disconnect in a lot of these threads. In my opinion Metafilter's value comes from the user base adding interesting links and then commentary. All of which from a functionality perspective matches Lobster.rs or Hacker News or the other forum software products out there.

AskMe is unique but I think the functionality can be replicated with some customization of the software.

As a technical platform, the UI, or any specific technical feature of Metafilter is not unique or what drives members to the site. I use GMail over Hotmail (well if it still exists) because from a functionality and technical perspective it is better. I do not think Metafilter offers anything in that regard. I think it is a positive that the community is what drives the site.

Again, I'm not saying that moving to Lobster's platform is the right solution, I'm just throwing out ideas and doing a competitive analysis of similar sites and how they stay solvent.

Look at it this way if I were to create a matrix of features (and again I was just using Lobster as an example as prices were transparent) it has the ability for users to post links, comment and like/dislike similar to Metafilter and at a price far more attainable.

I mean if people believe the UX or technical features of Metafilter are special I'm not in that camp and completely missing the point here. I'm just suggesting there's free alternatives that allow moderation cost to be brought down (it doesn't have to be completely volunteer, we can still have paid moderation! I'm not against that at all), hosting costs to be brought down and is an alternative.
posted by geoff. at 11:22 AM on November 4 [5 favorites]


what part of Metafilter are you interested in keeping?

Stepping away from being a datawonk for second, for me the very core of Metafilter is about sharing interesting links people find on the web. As much as I enjoy parts of being in a community, what I check every day is the front page to see if there's something new and interesting in the world.

Next I check AskMe to see if I can try to be helpful to anyone.

If my entire site involvement ended right there I would be content. I would definitely miss reading elucidating comments on FPPs and making the occasional comment of my own, but it's not what I *do* here.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:42 AM on November 4 [3 favorites]


geoff., how does changing to lobste.rs/reddit/Discourse lower moderation costs? That's what I'm personally missing, and if that explanation isn't there, what would we gain? I think everyone is already well-aware that we might bte paying more for infrastructure than is necessary, so that side of thing makes sense. But *do* we want the moderation culture of lobste.rs or techdirt? (I have no idea, not having used them. But if they're saving money on moderation, they must be doing something different.

If you're saying that volunteer moderation is necessary, I think that's not at all a technical discussion, that's a philosophical one.
posted by sagc at 11:49 AM on November 4


Sorry if I wasn't clear, but I think it is a mixture of technical and philosophical. I've outlined this before but it appears most forum-ish sites, and we can argue on the value of this but from a cost perspective it seems to work:

- Threaded comments keep side discussions from taking over threads, whether you like it or not it is what every major platform does and it is effective, again I did not like this at first

- Up/Down voting versus favorites plus using that to "hide" or otherwise bury unpopular topics keeps threads on topic.

- Utilizing the myriad of services that places like Facebook/Twitter/Reddit use to detect and remove or otherwise keep labor costs down (random one: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/products/cognitive-services/content-moderator/, there's others)

Infrastructure/cloud costs are negligible but labor costs for Metafilter are high. Other forums have nowhere near these cost levels through the use of volunteers and technical innovations that weren't around when Metafilter was built.

We can have a hybrid approach of volunteers and paid moderators, I am not against paid moderation. But I am saying it is the large source of costs and not a revenue generator. If more moderation generated higher revenue through contributions we would not be in this situation. I mean just look at every metric and it is down, yet other sites continue to thrive at a fraction of the price.

Surveys said people loved moderation, that does not correlate into revenue. I like free Big Macs. I want to emphasize I am not trying to use this as a platform to diss moderators at all, there's drawbacks to automation and volunteers. I'm just looking at the numbers and doing a competitive analysis and saying we should ask ourselves whether adopting technical features, volunteer moderators, a few paid moderators would put us in a better spot fiscally.

Again rough numbers we are paying $6 per active user for moderation per month. That's astronomical compared to any other site and our membership has dropped indicating that the ROI isn't worth it. I'm not saying growing membership is a goal and I'm using business terminology again but from what I'm seeing unless a benefactor comes in hard changes must be made.
posted by geoff. at 12:15 PM on November 4 [9 favorites]


OMG, y'all. I think I have the answer. The hordes will come running (with their wallets open!) with onesimplefixtm.

Bring back the <img> tag.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 12:21 PM on November 4 [5 favorites]


But I am saying it is the large source of costs and not a revenue generator.

When people started calling out PE language earlier in this post I was curious if we would arrive at this point - because goal of PE is, generally, to grow money.

The point of MeFi is not, and has never been, to generate revenue.

It might use money but that's not what it's about.

Surveys said people loved moderation, that does not correlate into revenue.

Correct!


Again rough numbers we are paying $6 per active user for moderation per month. That's astronomical compared to any other site

This is very true! I suspect that astronomical figure is a large part about why I'm on this site.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:53 PM on November 4 [14 favorites]


The point of MeFi is not, and has never been, to generate revenue.

No, but surely a point is to generate enough revenue?
posted by fabius at 12:54 PM on November 4 [14 favorites]


If you're saying that volunteer moderation is necessary, I think that's not at all a technical discussion, that's a philosophical one.

actually, it's a financial one - we don't have the money to pay for the staffing - period

i really wish that people would start facing up to that and understand that things will have to be done differently

i'm not sensing they are
posted by pyramid termite at 12:55 PM on November 4 [19 favorites]


Ok, sure, but don't bury that in a discussion of VPS costs for lobster.rs.
posted by sagc at 12:58 PM on November 4 [4 favorites]


Just to follow up on the rather radical suggestion of removing comments on the blue entirely, for the last four years:


Mefi: average comments per day: 569.12 deletions: 3.27%
AskMe: average comments per day: 362.09 deletions: 2.68%


So basically you could cut the raw moderation load by 60% as well as have them focus on a less problematic area.

Just to be clear I'm well aware that many people would rather see Metafilter die than lose comments on the blue. But brainstorming is never pretty; perhaps this will spark a more palatable idea for someone.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:25 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


The point of MeFi is not, and has never been, to generate revenue.

And it is currently following the model of not generating revenue. Is your proposal that the site continue along similar lines? It is an option.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:34 PM on November 4 [4 favorites]


i'm not sensing they are

I mean, the SC has been ultimately pretty clear about this, all this wide-ranging discussion aside. They are running a fund drive, based on current progress it now guarantees the site is safe without changes for ~2 months as a rough calculation, and they have a planned timeframe based on this progress, after which they plan to cut moderator hours if the drive is not going to make the survive target, so that income matches expenses. I'm not sure I've seen any realistic public discussion about how exactly they will be cut, but that doesn't seem like something that can be settled right this moment (and I do trust that they are in fact developing a concrete plan). But, crucially, there is also enough time to see how the fund drive goes over the next few weeks at least without making drastic changes.

Also, one thing that seems to be going on is that there's a contingent that mostly pays lip service to not being opposed to paid moderation, but are in fact pretty vocal about being opposed to the particular moderation we have for various reasons. They aren't so much being vocal about this here, but rather over there; it seems to me that that discussion is definitely seeping into this thread.
posted by advil at 1:36 PM on November 4 [8 favorites]


They aren't so much being vocal about this here, but rather over there;

For me personally I find this an insulting distraction. I post my same thoughts on both sites though as I've said in the past Reddit is smaller and more casual. If there was a comment that was contradictory I was probably brainstorming out loud. Hell, I posted to this very thread that Lobster runs on no moderation costs. I've even said I'd love paid moderation if we an afford it multiple times.

If you're going to vaguely link to another site please post the comment and address it directly.
posted by geoff. at 2:43 PM on November 4 [15 favorites]


I think the site users broadly value human moderation. I assume that they would prefer reducing moderation if necessary versus closing down the site. I think most believe that tech changes can't replace human moderation.

That said, I can imagine some tech or policy or structural changes might impact moderation needs. Maybe changes free-up some moderator time from low-level admin to use for trickier moderation situations or community-building. It might be useful to reframe some of the discussion around ideas of how to make moderation better for mods and users, rather than simply to reduce the need for moderation. Having the time to do community-building also becomes a driver for user growth, income and sustainability. There are many possible ways to use a windfall from process improvements.
posted by snofoam at 3:08 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


In my opinion Metafilter's value comes from the user base adding interesting links and then commentary. All of which from a functionality perspective matches Lobster.rs or Hacker News or the other forum software products out there.

Okay, thank you, that makes sense. I think that the functionality of the site shapes the community far more than you are calculating, and also that userbases are vastly less portable. It certainly would be cheaper and simpler to just build another website that allowed users to post links and comments using modern tech, but I suspect you would go from an established site with a business model problem to a site with very few expenses and also very few users. Which could then grow! But it wouldn't be Metafilter.
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 3:24 PM on November 4 [16 favorites]


When we're thinking about how to handle moderation on a reduced budget, and also about how to encourage new members, I have a few half-formed thoughts.

I don't think we can expand the user base, reduce moderation, AND sustain good conversations.

Nothing new here, but just to review a little history:

1) The first Mefites were old-timey bloggers who mostly knew each other's writing, along with their friends and readers. Back then, "the web" was a special place, not a globalized agora, so anyone who used it had at least that much in common. It was a higher-context culture, which made members at least a little more likely to assume each other's best intentions when disagreements arose.

2) The explicit barrier to entry, requiring either donation or correspondence, maintained a self-selected membership who enjoyed the site culture and wanted to participate. It also discouraged (though it couldn't entirely eliminate) the worst kind of fly-by snark.

Of course, one person's homey culture is another person's alienating in-group. The more people who show up and don't already know or have reason to trust each other, the greater the scope for misunderstanding and acrimony. And those changes over time undoubtedly affected not just some of the expectations around moderation, but also some of the burden.

As Molly_Realized points out in the spinoff thread, moderation of social media is currently a hot topic, which someone might hop on, PR-wise. Could moderation itself be a selling point? I wouldn't have said so a couple of weeks ago, but maybe, before everyone online blinks and starts thinking about something else, someone could take this on RIGHT NOW?

On preview, I suspect restless_nomad is right that the functionality of the site shapes the community far more than might be obvious.

...And as a side point, I absolutely understand why so much discussion about this is taking place on other sites, but I wish it were possible to corral it mostly back here.
posted by tangerine at 3:42 PM on November 4 [8 favorites]


I am not against paid moderation. But I am saying it is the large source of costs and not a revenue generator.


I mean speak for yourself. I can assure you that the majority of the revenue generated from me is attributable to the the paid moderation and the impact it has on the site and culture.

This is not to say that I'm against any idea of volunteer mods but I would like a future where Metafilter can continue to have paid moderators.
posted by roolya_boolya at 4:30 PM on November 4 [12 favorites]


absolutely understand why so much discussion about this is taking place on other sites, but I wish it were possible to corral it mostly back here.

And I say this out of enthusiasm more than censure, because there are some interesting points being made over there.

And to roolya_boolya's point: the thing about moderation, paid or volunteer, is that it's a means to an end. Civilized conversation is the goal. Moderation aims to support this but it doesn't always work and sometimes you can get ye olde unintended consequences.
posted by tangerine at 5:00 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


I absolutely understand why so much discussion about this is taking place on other sites, but I wish it were possible to corral it mostly back here.

Reading through some of the posts on the other site, it seems like a decent percentage of those posters were essentially moderated away from MetaFilter.
posted by wondermouse at 5:50 PM on November 4 [3 favorites]


it seems like a decent percentage of those posters were essentially moderated away from MetaFilter.

No scientific claims intended
posted by mph at 6:51 PM on November 4


Every time someone says “SC” I imagine this thread formatted like Mind-to-Mind comms in Excession.

Which on some level is what I like to imagine we’re doing here.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:31 PM on November 4


"As far as moderation is concerned, 24-hour coverage has been a core feature of the site for close to a decade and is intimately tied to the culture at this point. Messing around with that ideal leads into "It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it” territory, which makes it one of the most scary things to look at."

Just in case, 24-hour moderation coverage already went away quite a while ago.
posted by Gotanda at 7:54 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


Am I the only person who still uses and sees unclaimed value in the Labs feeds?
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:00 PM on November 4 [3 favorites]


I've found a lot of this discussion to be very irritating, if not infuriating, because although it's natural and predictable for various community fault lines to come roaring to life in a crisis, this always worsens the crisis and siphons energy away from addressing the emergency at hand.

By nature, I have little tolerance for a continuing failure to identify and correct root problems. It's extremely frustrating to face the same issues over and over. I strongly understand and empathize with the instinct to look hard at the bigger picture and attempt to problem solve there.

However, having spent a good portion of my working life in "putting-out-fires" environments, I've had to learn to focus on setting priorities, triage, and getting the things done that need to be done now, keeping in mind the things that need to be done next, while also setting aside some time and energy to look at longer-term solutions.

So, yes, the underlying issues here — which, unfortunately, inevitably implicate some contentious divisions in the community — very much need to be dealt with, sooner or later.

But not now and not in this thread.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:47 PM on November 4 [3 favorites]


This is very tactical, but I think there is some hangup on the idea of moderation changing and it's a little either/or, so here's a perspective. There's a chance this has been discussed or is widely known and I just haven't been around enough or followed enough to know, but I don't really understand what "moderation" consists of in any complete sense in the context of Metafilter. I have done moderation elsewhere, but the guidelines were pretty sparse: don't say violent stuff or threaten people, don't call people names, don't stray too far off the topic of a given post, don't spam.

Because I don't know what is happening under the hood, it's hard to know how to talk about what to do with it here. So in a spirit of curiosity and willingness to hear that I'm retreading ground:

On the topic of roles and responsibilities, a hybrid paid/volunteer model might make some sense, with fewer paid moderators shifting into more of a community manager role, and "moderator" becoming a volunteer role. Some tasks fit in one role, some fit in another. Some things require escalation, some things don't.

That might require some changes to the underlying site mechanics. For instance, it might make sense for things to go into a queue so that the community manager cadre can pace out the flow on the site, hold back stuff that's going to get spiky so it's not clumped up, and possibly curate a little more. We have some people who like the "just a link and some quoted text" posts and maybe don't hold them precious, we have some people who like to write pretty big posts. The volunteers can manage lightweight posts, community managers can coordinate with contributors on the big posts and hold responsibility for the overall queue.

I'm drawing some from a model I used years and years ago at a fairly high profile open source news site. Prior to some cuts to moderation, we had a user-contributed queue that the managing editors trawled for stuff to make into posts using the house style. Users understood we accepted some stuff and didn't accept others (e.g. if there was a duplicate of a news item that hit a bunch of sites). Sometimes we'd turn multiple contributions into a single post with a few extra links and attribution to all the contributors. We kept a pace of 20 posts per day per editor. The editors were all jointly responsible for comment moderation.

When the cuts came, I ended up being the last of four managing editors. Something had to give. I negotiated with management to reduce my post output to 15 or 20 per day, 10 per day on weekends. I "future-posted" evergreen content on the weekends (e.g. tutorials, howtos, community profiles, etc.) just to keep the feed moving, and to reduce the likelihood of a flareup in the comments. I posted the most interesting stuff in prime hours. I posted spicy stuff when I knew I'd have time to ride herd on comments.

The sort of fascinating thing about moving to a more heavily managed queue and setting a more predictable pace is that a. the number of comments per post increased substantially, and b. the number of views each article got increased more than enough to offset the lost post volume. Some readers hated heavier curation, but a lot of readers said they appreciated the calmer pace and liked that we were keeping an eye on what was current and breaking and deferring stuff that wasn't timely. They felt it made each visit to the site more worth their time and they liked getting a more curated experience.

Looking back to that time, and then where my career went after, my main regret about all those editorial changes I had to make was that I didn't have a real change management skillset. I lost a few readers and there was some ill will before things settled into a groove. But even with some flatfooted mis-steps on my part, the changes reinvigorated the site in ways it was hard to imagine on the morning I learned I was the last person working the site.
posted by mph at 8:52 PM on November 4 [11 favorites]


We should at minimum be looking at a system where a corps of volunteers do basic moderation that requires few or no judgment calls but flags up more complex issues for paid community managers to deal with. There’s no reason to pay a premium rate for people to do low-level “this is totally off topic/egregiously breaks guidelines” work.
posted by Miko at 10:01 PM on November 4 [9 favorites]


Yeah, but . . . isn't that what flags already do?

I guess the point is that maybe an intermediate layer would be good.

I'm in the camp that thinks we're going to have to compromise on the professional moderation issue, even though I think professional moderation is one of the three or so things that is the essence of MeFi and cannot be abandoned. Staffing is by far the biggest expense, I don't expect a sufficient revenue increase alone to solve the problem, therefore something will have to give. I get that. I agree, even though I think we'll have to be very careful to not make things worse.

But, that said, I still don't really see how this is a useful discussion to have here and now. Here and now, increasing revenue is pretty much all-important.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:24 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


now and not in this thread

Fair enough, but sometimes it can be helpful to "think out loud" (as geoff. put it) and it's not always obvious where best to do that. In any case I'd rather see people try to work things out in the wrong thread than on a different site altogether.

I think Miko's right that some basic moderation will have to be handled by volunteers.
posted by tangerine at 2:44 AM on November 5 [3 favorites]


As much as I'd like to see it work, it seems to me that one of MeFi's biggest obstacles to making the member support model sustainable is the expectation among many members that they will never ever see anything problematic or offensive and that other members are wrong for not knowing things that are assumed to be common knowledge. Rather than accept that nothing is perfect, they then use the occasional misstep to justify constant complaining and their choice to not support the site.

If you don't want to/can't pay for it, that's fine, but don't point at the rare cases to justify it. I mean, do that in your head if you want, but leave it in your head, don't go spewing it all over the Internet. If it was happening often, sure, I'd get it, but when somebody fucks up and the mod team leaves up a problematic FPP it's an extreme outlier. Take your ball and go home if you want, but also realize that you're being unreasonable to expect other people to meet your particular needs 100% of the time.

And if you do want things to be better when it comes to never having the holes in the swiss cheese line up, that's going to take more resources, whether paid or volunteer. And honestly, I would not feel ok asking people to deal with the shit the mods have to deal with without getting paid for it. If I were a mod, I'd much rather deal with obvious trolls and Nazis than mediate some of the shit that goes on here between members. I'd happily delete Nazis for free, but ask me to play couples counselor and I'm out.

Point being that every one of us with the financial means to do so should step up. At the very least with a one time contribution to give the steering committee the runway to make necessary changes without them being unduly abrupt. If things need to be disrupted to make the site sustainable, so be it, but I'd really like it if those decisions could be given the care and deliberation they deserve rather than having to be made under immediate threat.

I'd probably feel differently if it seemed like the SC wasn't taking the situation as seriously as it deserves, but they do appear to be doing so, thus I think that giving them a few months of runway to figure out the best way to get things under control going forward is the proper course of action.

Maybe they'll come back and say more money is needed to deal with technical debt and put the site in a place where the level of service can be sustained with lower labor costs or for some other idea I haven't thought of. If so, that's fine. The goal now should be to give them time to evaluate the possibilities without the threat of the whole place burning down next month.
posted by wierdo at 6:30 AM on November 5 [25 favorites]


Doesn't the FTC require affiliate link disclosure? Or does it not apply because the commenter isn't the person getting the kickback?
posted by aniola at 10:43 AM on November 5




However, having spent a good portion of my working life in "putting-out-fires" environments, I've had to learn to focus on setting priorities, triage, and getting the things done that need to be done now, keeping in mind the things that need to be done next, while also setting aside some time and energy to look at longer-term solutions.
...
But, that said, I still don't really see how this is a useful discussion to have here and now. Here and now, increasing revenue is pretty much all-important.

I very much agree that we need a thread where we focus on short-term increasing revenue and fundraising, which is the immediate priority. We also need to be talking about short-term cost-cutting which, even if it happens after the fundraising drive, needs to be talked through now.

Some people want to discuss other related topics, such as longer-term growth, the platform and site culture. It makes sense for there to be threads for those less urgent (though very important) discussions. But the conversation is, to my eyes, splintered and running out of energy.

The problem is that there are I think nine open threads around the current financial crisis and the only ones that are clearly confined to a specific topic are non-urgent such as the Mastodon server post. I understand there's a currently a queue of MetaTalk posts but I'd suggest this is yet another area where 'how we've always done it' is not sufficient for the seriousness of the situation and we need something more radical e.g.
  1. Close all open threads that aren't focused on a specific topic
  2. Close all open threads that aren't about saving MetaFilter
  3. Write to everyone in the queue apologising that they won't be published for a while
  4. Open threads about the various areas of discussion, perhaps also a brainstorming thread, ensuring that the most urgent threads are at the top of the page
  5. Moderate the threads more than usual for MetaTalk to keep them on-topic

posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:06 PM on November 5 [2 favorites]


I think it's been mentioned before, but it bears repeating. Part of the problem seems to be that stuff happens and people don't realize their monthly contribution has stopped happening. When that happens, we need to send an email. I know that some people here are very sensitive to filling up people's inboxes, but contributors should not be averse to a single email asking if the ending of their support was intentional and if not to please check their stuff/reinstate the recurring payment.

It could also be used to ask people to tell the team why they decided to stop, if it was in fact intentional, but that's much less important than a simple ping to check in and hopefully help keep the slow decline in revenue due to inadvertent payment issues from causing such variation in recurring revenue throughout the year.
posted by wierdo at 6:01 PM on November 5 [7 favorites]


I know that some people here are very sensitive to filling up people's inboxes, but contributors should not be averse to a single email asking if the ending of their support was intentional and if not to please check their stuff/reinstate the recurring payment.

Yep. Just make the opt out button prominent and not 4-point gray text on a white background.

However, I have no idea how well outfitted the site is to conduct a modern marketing blast with attendant opt-out messaging, which is what this basically would be.

Also, speaking from experience in IT dealing with GDPR and CCPA compliance but in complete ignorance about whether site management has had to deal with this, holy cow you better be ready to deal with some demands for records and takedown requests if you do a big touch: A certain kind of person comes out of the woodwork if they thought they were done with you years ago but here you are with the tin cup.
posted by mph at 6:53 PM on November 5 [3 favorites]


To be clear, I'm suggesting that going forward such emails happen when a recurring contribution fails/ceases silently, not a big email campaign aimed at former contributors. In the US, at least, it's generally allowed to send messages to people with whom you have an ongoing business relationship, which you certainly have if money is changing hands on a regular basis.

To be super safe (at least in the US context, I'm not at all familiar with the laws in other countries) it could be worded as a confirmation of the cancellation of the recurring contribution. Not as effective as a call to action, of course, but it could help fix the seemingly pretty common "I didn't mean for this to happen" situation. It should be fine as long as the message is sent within a reasonably short timeframe after the recurring payment ceases.

That said, I don't get the sense that there is much integration currently, so it would probably require some dev effort. I expect it would be worth seeing how much effort would be involved relatively soon, but depending on that answer it may not make it very far up the priority list. I'd hope it would be higher than ponies, though, since it directly impacts revenue in a measurable way.
posted by wierdo at 7:31 PM on November 5


To be clear, I'm suggesting that going forward such emails happen when a recurring contribution fails/ceases silently, not a big email campaign aimed at former contributors. In the US, at least, it's generally allowed to send messages to people with whom you have an ongoing business relationship, which you certainly have if money is changing hands on a regular basis.

On re-read I see that you were proposing more of a thing that is triggered when a thing stops happening vs. doing a big blast. Sorry about that.
posted by mph at 8:38 PM on November 5


The can-spam act lacks a private right of action. Every mefite has a registered address for site contacts. Being contacted by a company that you have an extant user relationship with about its future is not actionable under any regime that comes to my mind…
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:51 PM on November 5


Mefi: average comments per day: 569.12 deletions: 3.27%
AskMe: average comments per day: 362.09 deletions: 2.68%


500 deleted posts per day feels really high for a website that reportedly has less than 5000 active members, which people pay to join. I'm now scared of what things would be like without the 5 dollar outrage speedbump.
posted by pwnguin at 10:06 PM on November 5 [1 favorite]


I did a double take on that as well, but I think it must mean 569 comments per day of which 3.27% are deleted, which equals about 18 or so deletions per day.

Though I also wonder if that includes comments in deleted threads as well as deleted individual comments.

And 569 comments per day is not that many. So-called active users, if there are 5,000 of them, would be posting one comment every 9 days or so. That's not very active.
posted by Rumple at 10:19 PM on November 5 [4 favorites]


A two part revenue idea...

a) Become a bookshop.org affiliate. They're not Amazon and pay 10% on referrals.

b) Have a regular book recommendations thread! It's an obvious thread to run before the December holidays. Quarterly book threads would be delightful.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:29 PM on November 5 [13 favorites]


Being contacted by a company that you have an extant user relationship with about its future is not actionable under any regime that comes to my mind…

Let me be a little more clear about the idea I was getting across:

GDPR entitles EU citizens to contact a business they have a relationship with and demand two things:

1. A complete record of all the data you hold on them.
2. Deletion of that data and proof that you completed the deletion. Some exceptions exist, e.g. for ex-employees, needing to keep tax records

You've got a certain amount of time to do either, and you face penalties if you fail to.

My observation, as an IT director managing the team that had to handle GDPR deletions and record requests, was that those requests came in little surges spurred on by marketing activity. The marketing activity itself was completely legit, not spam, etc. It just tended to remind a certain kind of person that they were in a database somewhere and then they'd file a record or deletion request. For us, it was pretty onerous: Too sprawling a collection of disparate systems to make discovery/review easy, too under-resourced to automate the problem, the solution we eventually landed on over-promised and under-delivered.

Metafilter is probably a smaller concern than the estate I was dealing with, and I bet that whatever process they use for deleting an account vs. deactivating it would satisfy the requirements of the regulation. They could probably even just target fields with stuff that's inarguably PII but leave the user record intact provided it isn't connected to any PII, so you wouldn't even have to blow holes in a bunch of threads.

Moot point. As noted, nobody was proposing a mass action, so the scale challenge that might exist from a big touch wouldn't have a chance to manifest. Sorry for the derail.
posted by mph at 10:39 PM on November 5 [3 favorites]


There is a lot of discussion going on in multiple threads at the moment, so I don't know if this is the place.

Money ideas.

(1) I may be vastly underestimating its cost benefit at the moment, is to slap web-wrapper code around Metafilter and put something in the iPhone and App Store. Call it Metafilter Pewter: Fundraising Edition, give it a one-off cute variant Metafilter icon, and charge $5 or $10 as a fundraising app. Or have it be a $5/mo. subscription. People often will part more with their bucks for perceived purchases - even if it's all just bits - than for donating.

(2) Including those who already have done this, add a little badge symbol next to their username if they want. Small little bit of bling that's actually just a simple emoji. It's amazing how many people want a little goofy thing next to their name and will pay for it.

(3) Are mods scheduled with regard for the hours when posts are most frequent?

(4) We do have a few "Mefi's Own _____" celebrities. It may seem tacky. But have any been reached out to? Some may be in a position to donate more than the average Joe and if they were to know the site's literally a month from closure, some of those who cherish the Old Web might even want to intervene. But because they aren't always frequent visitors, they may not know. Sometimes you hear a story about a celebrity who bailed out their local bar. These people might want to help save their local online watering hole.

(5) Have people design CSS for and let them be skins. Right now I'm using Metafilter Gray, an old CSS file I wrote that basically has all three sites in a fairly unobtrusive gray (I stuck it on Stylus). Get a couple people good at CSS to design some other skins. Stick them in as a subscriber benefit or a $5 one-time purchase. This is assuming this can be added in without heavy tech manhours.

(5 - VARIANT) NEW SKIN CONTEST! Variant on #5. Mefi announces it's adding a new CSS design as a fundraising contest. It costs $X to enter in your design. It costs $Y to cast a vote. You can vote as many times as you want, as long as you're willing to pay $Y for a vote. Winner has their theme permanently added to the site as a free option.

(6) Similar creative tacks on #5. Reddit has its white snoo, Metafilter is going to adopt an animal as its official ... animal avatar. Goofy cutesy animal designs. Same concept - entry fee and vote as for-pay items.

(7) Fundraising idea: if you pay, you have the option of being in the test groups for new features before it's rolled out explicitly to all, for those addicted on the cutting edge. Think about it, you're both getting free beta testers and you've got something people will pay for (being on the bleeding edge), and it's not going to introduce too huge a cost. We're going to introduce a quote button? You can try it out first and help debug it. We're going to introduce a giant purple Godzilla that eats up everything on the page when you try to hit the Close tab? You can help test it and let frimble know that the fire isn't singing the header quite right.

(8) Metafilter merch ... maybe at some company that does print-to-order? I want a Mefi ballpoint. I want a T-shirt that says "Hey, Elon, This is What Content Moderation Done Right Looks Like" and then "Metafilter, since 1997" underneath.

(9) Cheating, since this isn't a direct moneymaker, but the big outlets that have covered Metafilter, can we shop a "this site's been doing content moderation right since 1997, and it's about to close its doors" story to those outlets that have covered Metafilter before? We have gotten press for, for example, having in our archives a live reaction to 9/11 as it happened when other social media was in its infancy. In other words, can we use the fact we are a vital chunk of Internet history to get people who are interested in the historical preservation of Internet history to donate?
posted by MollyRealized at 11:24 PM on November 5 [3 favorites]


1. Some people only access internet through their telephones, I hope they will be able to have access to any mobile apps even if they don't pay.

2. You can go into preferences and then check a box to display that you've donated and a star will show up and say something in your profile.

5. I think people used to have this and it got turned off when people updated their profiles after a certain date for some reason. Vestigial example
posted by aniola at 11:51 PM on November 5


Aniola, you either missed the point or didn't read them closely enough.
posted by MollyRealized at 1:03 AM on November 6 [1 favorite]


Okay, so if MetaFilter can't send out a mass email to all active accounts regarding the fundraiser due to various reasons, can at least the tiny fundraising messages that are pinned across the site be updated to reflect the actual urgentness of the situation?

MetaFilter will literally shut down if they don't get more money right now, and right now the only way to do that is apparently through voluntary user payments.

The current messages just sound so breezy and ignorable:
"Metafilter Wants You - The Fundraising Post! (hide)"
"We rely on reader and community funding to operate. Your voluntary subscription can help sustain the site."

That does not convey that MetaFilter is truly at risk of, as I understand it, completely disappearing due to lack of money. That is the actual risk we're dealing with, right?

Why did the SC choose to make the messaging in those spaces sound so noncritical to the continued existence of this site?
posted by wondermouse at 6:23 AM on November 6 [5 favorites]


I just want to point to the comments on Aniola's post to emphasize what wondermouse is saying/asking. Basically every comment in there is "I had no idea things were so dire, I've {joined|set up a donation|increased my donation}." That suggests that we aren't doing a great job of communicating the seriousness of the situation to people outside "hyper-aware-of-metatalk" folks, and that when the message does get communicated to a wider user audience, at least some people are interested in contributing!
posted by Alterscape at 7:09 AM on November 6 [13 favorites]


Mefi: average comments per day: 569.12 deletions: 3.27%
AskMe: average comments per day: 362.09 deletions: 2.68%


Tell Me No Lies quoted this upthread as the average number of comments per day averaged over the last four years; could anyone tell me where this data comes from? I’m curious what the averages for the last year or so are.
posted by skewed at 8:00 AM on November 6


I imagine a similar process exists for PayPal?

as was detailled by Glinn in the other thread:

"PayPal says that you can’t change a subscription on their side, you have to do it with the people you are sending the money. So, in order to increase my donation, I went to the Metafilter funding page, told it what I wanted my donation to be, and that worked. I went back to PayPal and the previous donation seems to be gone and replaced with the new one."
posted by progosk at 8:56 AM on November 6 [1 favorite]


I believe strongly that people should be paid a fair living wage for doing mental and emotional work. As an entrepreneur running a services agency, there is a constant pull between paying people fairly and offering competitive rates for services.

My solution has been to build a great team in lower cost of living countries than the US. They receive a good wage and my cost of labor is effective. If there is a goal at Metafilter of proving 24-hour moderation coverage and the bulk of (unsustainable) costs is moderation labor, adding staff who are not in the US might be an effective way forward.

Yes, "globalization" can choose to exploit local communities in need of economic input. Yes, "offshoring" has created a long trail of miserably failed projects. Hiring people is hard; hiring people in different timezones and cultures even more so.

If this is something that the Steering Committee is open to exploring further in the future, I'd be happy to provide advice and even talk about an at-cost staffing model. I have a growing group of very effective English language writers, proofreaders, and executive assistants who could be trained to handle the first line of problematic content and let the established and effective mod-team focus on more challenging community tone moderation and growth projects.
posted by QuixoticGambit at 9:51 AM on November 6 [1 favorite]


That does not convey that MetaFilter is truly at risk of, as I understand it, completely disappearing due to lack of money. That is the actual risk we're dealing with, right?

I'm puzzled by the lack of fuss across the site about this. We can see now that plenty of readers of the front page have no idea what the situation is.

Why does that easily ignorable banner not have a more urgent call to action?

Why is there not something much more attention-grabbing on the front page? I'm assuming there's a technical reason, but I haven't seen it confirmed.

It's been two weeks now. If the above isn't possible, make a FPP every couple of days, with different wording each time, to attract attention.

This stuff should be in-your-face enough that some people get annoyed but now isn't the time to be diffident and polite.
posted by fabius at 10:00 AM on November 6 [12 favorites]


If you're going to vaguely link to another site please post the comment and address it directly.

Just to clarify: my comment was about a pervasive viewpoint on that subreddit, also sorta kinda creeping in here, and wasn't particularly about you (except insofar as you post a lot, you're one of the people visibly on both communities, and you keep arguing in various ways that moderation needs to be cut asap). I'm not going to get into a specific back and forth or respond further.
posted by advil at 11:11 AM on November 6 [6 favorites]


I join the crowd of having no idea things were dire until as of an hour ago.

A spitball of ideas:

Are we a 501c3 or similar? If so, can we apply for the Amazon thing where all your purchases have a little donation to Metafilter? I’ve been doing mine for another org, would be beyond happy to switch.

In the short term: I agree that events would be great. Eventbrite has a thing where you can have tickets to livestreams where you donate to the ticket.

Also: could we apply for grants? I feel like the last space of honest discourse on the web has to be eligible for something.
posted by corb at 11:27 AM on November 6 [1 favorite]


THANK YOU progosk for pointing me in the direction of the comment in the previous thread about changing my Paypal donation amount. I did post a followup comment there since after making the change, the old subscription amount (payable to MetaFilter) was still active and had to be cancelled. The new amount sets itself up as being payable to MetaFilter Network Inc. so be sure to check your account after you make the change.
posted by hangashore at 12:50 PM on November 6 [2 favorites]


adding staff who are not in the US might be an effective way forward.

Just in case it's not widely known: most of MeFi's staff is not in the US. However they are not in lower cost-of-living locations and are paid US-level rates. Not addressing your larger suggestions, QuixoticGambit, just wanted to let people know.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:59 PM on November 6 [5 favorites]


There are a lot of threads on The Future of MetaFilter (TM) at the moment, so I guess this will be lost in the void, but I wanted to note some agreement with geoff. (a rare thing for me) regarding the finances. There are thirteen separate 'things' listed on MeFi's menu, each of which costs money to maintain and each of which generates revenue in some convoluted way (donations, ad revenue, ?). A deep dive into finances is incomplete without considering what is known about how those two things are distributed across the thirteen 'departments' that constitute MeFi. There may well be opportunities for cost-cutting where traffic is low but staff time (by far the most expensive resource) is high. As much as it would pain me, this may well be MeTa (which I think of as the heart of MeFi).

Having said that, the community is not hemorrhaging money on fripperies and is mostly run in a pretty frugal way, so cost-cutting alone isn't the solution. The only way to assure the community of a future is substantial and sustained increases in revenue. Identifying the characteristics of each of the thirteen 'departments' is where we would best start the process of identifying opportunities for growth (or, not). What are the specific characteristics of each and how can they be developed to be more visible and more popular? Why (as people keep asking) does AskMe no longer appear much at all on search results, while all sorts of shit pops up everywhere you look? What are they doing and why aren't we doing that?

MeFi is an amalgam of many things that have grown organically over decades. Maybe it's time to do some serious pruning and some work on growing our strongest branches towards the money.
posted by dg at 4:21 PM on November 6 [4 favorites]


Seven of the subsites presumably run on mostly the same code with some special sauce, given that they all use Recent Activity etc.

And I don't think Projects, Music, IRL, Jobs, have much extra administrative overhead in that they're basically never updated (at least with new features). If anything, I'd be asking how to get people to use them more so there's more discovery of neat stuff on offer, not get rid of them.

Podcast is just a link to the podcast. Mall doesn't seem like it would require much maintenance either. Chat is a java applet or something.

(What are the two super s3kr1t subsites? I count eleven tabs. Labs is static and not linked at the top.)

Metachat could and maybe should be moved to Discord there's any significant upkeep or server load associated with it. Could have similar benefits in making the site and its culture more visible, as with the Mastodon instance under discussion (although it would probably be better to keep it private; as open discords can impose steep moderation demands).
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:07 PM on November 6 [4 favorites]


So there are the eight 'core' sub-sites:
MetaFilter
AskMeFi
FanFare
Projects
Music
Jobs
IRL
MetaTalk.

There are the five 'others':
Best Of
Podcast
Chat
Labs
Mall.

Each of these contributes to cost in some way and may or may not contribute to revenue. All but Labs, Best Of and Mall have comments, so some monitoring is needed. They all have recent content, so some work is being done there and work costs money. Perhaps more than we realise. I'm not saying get rid of anything, just that knowing what is costing money vs what is benefiting the community and/or producing revenue is important to know when we're scrambling to balance the books. In my humble opinion, we would be well advised to stop thinking about MeFi as one amorphous blob and start thinking about individual 'products'. FanFare in particular seems like it could be something that gets taken much more mainstream and, as several people have suggested, there are better ways to manage something like that - moving one 'product' to a different platform and revamping it to meet the market might be feasible where moving the whole shebang somewhere would not. It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing conversation.
posted by dg at 6:44 PM on November 6 [3 favorites]


Seven of the subsites presumably run on mostly the same code with some special sauce, given that they all use Recent Activity etc.

This may not actually be a reasonable thing to presume.

I'm happy for someone with access to the code to correct me, but I recall that historically there were times when different subsites had divergent feature sets because they ran off what are effectively forked versions of the original codebase (which serves the blue). So, if a feature was added, the relevant code had to be copied into the other forks as well. Sometimes this was easy, and sometimes it was not due to the forks having diverged significantly in the interim.

If that is still the case, then from an operations perspective these would all be independent stacks, each requiring their own compute resources, etc.
posted by a faithful sock at 4:54 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Would it be possible to code some moderation in? For example, if a comment gets enough flags it is hidden until a mod can look at it? May help slow a thread from getting out of hand before moderators can intervene.
posted by terrapin at 5:56 AM on November 7 [5 favorites]


All but Labs, Best Of and Mall have comments, so some monitoring is needed

In my experience, FanFare coughed up flags a couple times a week (usually issues with one of the APIs rather than moderation), Music and IRL maybe a flag every month, and Jobs a couple a year. They represent a bunch of technical debt, for sure, but aren't much of an ongoing expense. The others all have labor costs associated with them that are not moderation-related.

Which is one of the interesting things about a 20+-year-old online product. In any of the ones I've come across, there are entire internal structures to scaffold projects that were never launched, there are one-off tools and toys that no one uses anymore, there are quirks and inefficiencies and brilliant but uncommented solutions. It's an entire coral reef of code, living and dead and N/A. You can't see most of it from the surface.

I say this mostly because I kind of love the way structures like this get built, but also to gently warn people off from doing too much speculation before information about specific technical issues. It'd be much more useful to the SC and whoever ends up working on the code to collect questions, not proposed solutions.

(Why am I in MeTa again? I guess Twitter's falling apart so I want to help fix something.
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 9:10 AM on November 7 [13 favorites]


It's difficult to keep track given how many different threads there are right now around the fundraising drive, is there an update anywhere as to how much has been raised the first week one update? I want to see more of those croutons.
posted by Wretch729 at 3:52 AM on November 8


It's about time to make a new image yep
posted by JHarris at 4:04 AM on November 8


Wretch729: It's difficult to keep track given how many different threads there are right now around the fundraising drive, is there an update anywhere as to how much has been raised the first week one update? I want to see more of those croutons.

Yes, it's time for a new update, and we're working on it now! We'll also try to make it stand out a little from the torrent of MeTas we've had recently. Emojis will be deployed if necessary.
posted by tavegyl at 4:46 AM on November 8 [8 favorites]


Suggestion: a single page that briefly outlines the current financial situation with all the available donation options, link to the auction, and some kind of progress bar. Right now there’s a mess of MeTas and it’s difficult to keep track of what’s what, plus it would be nice to have one page to send out to people that may be interested in donating.
posted by Diskeater at 6:43 AM on November 8 [7 favorites]


Can you fix the background of the fundraiser image so it’s not a checkerboard, as mentioned in the thread? Thank you!
posted by ellieBOA at 7:14 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


+1 ellieBOA’s request. That checkerboard background is not helpful.
posted by Alterscape at 7:23 AM on November 8


Yes, it's time for a new update, and we're working on it now! We'll also try to make it stand out a little from the torrent of MeTas we've had recently.

I realize you're getting a lot of "X MUST HAPPEN NOW" suggestions, so this may go in the bin with the rest, but mine is that all tech resources/time (or perhaps any not devoted to reducing AWS costs) could go asap towards whatever the quickest/hackiest possible implementation of pinned posts, perhaps for mefi/ask/meta only or the easiest subset thereof (even if like someone has to manually go in the db to change the pinned post id).
posted by advil at 8:14 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Is there like a telethon-style thermometer graphic anywhere telling us how the push to bring the site back into the black is going?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:41 AM on November 8


Crouton Meter in the update thread.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:43 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


That image is six days old, though, and is nigh-unreadable.
posted by sagc at 12:45 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Aye, but it's still the answer. I think JHarris said it will be updated soon (which I took to mean in-place).
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:47 PM on November 8


I took tavegyl's comment to mean there will be a new financial update going up soon. Presumably with updated croutons that are more readable.
posted by umber vowel at 12:52 PM on November 8


Maybe I am missing this in the materials, or not smart enough to understand, but any update should concisely make clear how long Metafilter can survive at the current funding level.
posted by NotLost at 3:24 PM on November 8 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I put the image together fairly quickly. The next one should be a lot easier to see.
posted by JHarris at 4:06 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Thanks JHarris! And thanks to everyone who’s been working so hard on all of the fundraising!
posted by ellieBOA at 12:06 AM on November 9


Yeah, but . . . isn't that what flags already do?

No, it's not. Flags can't delete comments themselves. They alert a paid mod who has to spend paid time on the action. They could (given the right legal business structure) instead alert volunteer mods who are empowered to take low-level actions such as deleting obvious violations and mistakes, thus reserving paid staff mod time for activities that require their technical or community expertise.
posted by Miko at 6:41 AM on November 9




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