What is MetaFilter worth to you? November 4, 2022 11:33 PM   Subscribe

As we continue with the fundraising drive to try to keep the lights on here (please donate if you can!), this has had me thinking about what the value of MetaFilter is in my life, relative to other regular expenses I have. The Steering Committee's financial update has made it very clear what it costs to keep MetaFilter running, and the question I've been turning over in my mind is, what is the value that MetaFilter provides for its members?

In August, wesleyac posted an analysis of MetaFilter usage statistics that revealed that a bit over 5000 user accounts per month are engaging with the site in some measurable way (posting, commenting, or favoriting). While we can't know exactly how many people that represents (as some of those are sockpuppets), and those numbers don't capture lurkers who enjoy reading the site but don't engage in a measurable way, a guess of about 5000 people per month using MetaFilter in some way seems like a reasonable conservative estimate.

The Steering Committee has proposed three funding scenarios encapsulating the cost of running MetaFilter at increasing levels of desirability: survive at $19,690/mo, revive at $28,743/mo, and thrive at $46,484/mo. While there are funding sources other than contributions from the membership, I think it's helpful to consider what this means in terms of the cost per person per month to run the site. At "survive" levels, that works out to just under $4/person/month, "revive" is about $5.75, and "thrive" is about $9.30/person/month.

So that's the cost of running MetaFilter. What's the value it adds? For me personally, I'd say its value is significantly more than the "thrive" level. It's hard to pin an exact dollar amount on it, but maybe it's worth comparing the costs of a few subscription services. Spotify, the music streaming service, costs $10/month for a premium membership; I don't subscribe to it, but I'd say MetaFilter is more valuable to me than a streaming music service would be. HBO Max, the video streaming service, is also $10/month for a basic subscription, with prices going up for more features. I definitely value MetaFilter at least as much as my video streaming. The New York Times is $17/month for a digital subscription. Ancestry.com is $25/month for basic access to records within the US.

Of course, MetaFilter isn't a product the way any of those services are; we don't pay to receive access to MetaFilter, and while the hosting and moderating services provided by MetaFilter Network, Inc., are certainly valuable, it's the community of people that forms the core value on offer. And one of the things that I value about the community here, is that the community itself values the idea that every member here is equally valuable, regardless of their financial ability to pay. We have the nominal $5 signup largely as an anti-spam measure, which can be waived if it would be a hardship.

What that means in practice is that not everyone here can afford to pay to financially support the site at a level that's commensurate to the value the site offers to them. That was true for me, personally, for a very long time; arguably it's still true, and I hope to be able to continue to increase my financial support in the future. Perhaps at some level it's okay for us to get more value out of the site than we put in, at least in dollar amounts, on average, but the problem we have now of course is that what we've been putting in financially doesn't even cover the costs of running the site. At a practical level, if we want to be serious about our shared value that everyone is valued, that means that those of us who can afford it need to cover more than our own per-capita cost in order to keep the site running, because not everyone is going to be able to contribute their own per-capita cost.

So I've been wondering: what is MetaFilter worth to you? How do you think about the value MetaFilter offers you? Is it worth more than your current regular contribution? Do you wish you could afford more? Would you pay more if you knew how many people need you to help cover their share of the expenses?
posted by biogeo to MetaFilter-Related at 11:33 PM (25 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Sorry for the delay on this ... and we have a couple more in the queue as well. We're having a bit of a run on Metatalk posts at the moment, and trying to space them a bit!
posted by taz (staff) at 11:36 PM on November 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

before I left I would have said the world as MF shaped me, saved my life, helped me understand my life and I wished I had money to help out more. Course it also frustrated me and enraged me as a poor disabled genderfuck Canadian and led me to button.

now that I am back as a direct result of the SC and effort being made I am cautiously ok with adding back a tiny wee monthly $4.59 donation. As one of those low income people that's about all I can give along with my hope that the SC and members can build back a healthier thriving community.
posted by Bemused Recluse at 4:19 AM on November 5, 2022 [9 favorites]

It's worth enough to me that I pay more than my "fair" share despite being poor AF. Although lately it's less about the value I personally receive in return and more about believing it should continue to exist in the world.

It may be a love-hate thing sometimes (and sometimes because there's good reason for my discomfort that I need to work through), but I have never seriously considered cutting my support just because I disagree with management decisions or other users, not even on the occasions when I've felt all "fuck this place and the horse it rode in on!" for a few days.

I can't really increase my monthly at the moment, but I will be sending a couple of extra months worth in the next couple of weeks, barring some unforeseen emergency. It's the least I can do for a community that has entertained me, informed me, occasionally shown me different ways of thinking, and helped me grow as a person. And yes, occasionally infuriated me. Thing is, the community is just people trying, for the most part, to do their best. It's unreasonable and frankly a bit entitled to take your ball and go home just because it's not always sunshine and rainbows for you. Good friends help you check yourself when you need it. It's not pleasant, but that doesn't mean they're not your friends.
posted by wierdo at 4:33 AM on November 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

It’s worth a frankly ridiculous amount of money to me. Which I don’t have.

But! This post and this notion in another thread have made me see that it’s worth, for instance, easily as much as my Netflix and NYT subscription and more than my various Patreon subscriptions. So I’ve increased my contribution again.

(I know not everyone can do that; that’s in part why I did.)
posted by fruitslinger at 5:36 AM on November 5, 2022 [7 favorites]

I have long thought about my MeFi support as relative to my PBS support, so it was more than, media subscriptions but at par with PBS because ‘MeFi only benefits me but PBS has broader benefit’. But MeFi doesn’t just benefit me: it benefits YOU too, and the lurkers. And I really want it to thrive.
So for a few folks who can’t contribute in the form of money, I’ve got you.
posted by janell at 10:08 AM on November 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

$100 just sent to MeFi. First two to Memail me, I will send to Jessamyn (or Rhaomi or Eyebrows) for special posts.

I also re-enabled my monthly funding. It had... just stopped? One of the threads showed it was $6/hr per user to moderate. So, I'm now covering an additional 5. (Or, I guess, I might need a little extra moderation, so maybe an extra 4. :-D ).

I feel absolutely crappy that I had not been contributing. It just.... stopped? No notice, no nothing. Nothing in e-mail from my bank, nothing from MeFi. Anyway, I'm gladly supporting MeFi again for one of the best places on these crazy interwebs.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 11:13 AM on November 5, 2022 [8 favorites]

Awww, this brings me back to childhood memories of PBS fundraisers.
posted by aniola at 1:01 PM on November 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

Fewer clips of Victor Borge performances, though.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:44 PM on November 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

I shouldn't just be jokey -- MetaFilter is worth an awful lot more to me than what I'm currently donating. I increased it a couple dollars earlier today, but would love to be able to give significantly more. Even though it has changed over the years, this community has been a stable fixture in my life since I started lurking a few years before joining. This has been my home on the internet for two decades, and I don't know what sort of price to put on that.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 6:12 PM on November 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

I need to talk to my spouse (also a Mefite) but yeah we're gonna have to upgrade our contribution.
posted by gentlyepigrams at 10:28 PM on November 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

This will probably get piled on, but I want to be honest in case it resonates with someone who is making decisions. MeFi and especially AskMe have done a lot for me in my life, but I have no intention of setting up a monthly contribution if 90% of it is going to moderator hours. This site's moderation policy is frankly bad. Moderators who police hate speech, threats of violence, whatever is fine—moderators who actively intervene in conversations to prune them so as to arrive at a certain consensus model of what a thread should look like, informed by decades-old informal policies and grievances, is actively alienating to me and I suspect to many of the other users who have left the site over the years. The figure someone cited in another thread that we're spending 6 dollars per active user per month (and growing, as the number of active users continues to shrink) is frankly absurd and I have no desire to reinforce it with my donation. Call me ungrateful, bigoted, or whatever if you like, but that is what's informing my decision not to donate.
posted by derrinyet at 6:40 AM on November 6, 2022 [14 favorites]

And, to be clear, I realize you can't please both the pro- and anti-moderation people at the same time, so this may not even be useful. But I do want to say, if there are commitments to changes in at least the principles if not the quantity of the moderation, I will contribute.
posted by derrinyet at 6:49 AM on November 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Moderators who police hate speech, threats of violence, whatever is fine—moderators who actively intervene in conversations to prune them so as to arrive at a certain consensus model of what a thread should look like, informed by decades-old informal policies and grievances, is actively alienating to me and I suspect to many of the other users who have left the site over the years.

This is an important point, and to me it is the one topic that has been kind of avoided since the fundraiser started. It was eye-opening to me to read the subreddit where former longtime regulars felt like they were driven from the site by overzealous moderation. I remember some of those members from years back and realized I missed some of those voices here. Metafilter has become more of an echo chamber than I think it needs to be.

I personally haven't found myself on the wrong side of Mefi's moderation too frequently, but I do recall one time a while back where a comment of mine was silently deleted with no explanation - and I was just like "Huh, I guess someone didn't like that." I don't remember what the topic of the thread was, but it was a disappointing experience. It made me wonder how often that happens.

I do find myself self-censoring or not responding in posts I have an interested in, if I feel like my opinion would upset the wrong people. And I say that as someone who is broadly in line with the obvious political leaning of the site. Like, I was hesitant to make a comment stating "Nobody needs Twitter" in one of the Twitter posts a week or so ago because I thought that might go too strongly against the statement some other people made that those who do not need Twitter are privileged to not need it.

In the end it was apparently not a big deal because my comment didn't get deleted, but it seemed like the sort of thing that might get deleted if the wrong people were offended by it.
posted by wondermouse at 9:52 AM on November 6, 2022 [10 favorites]

This is probably the wrong thread. I can't keep track of what best fits where, but presumably the Steering Committee are reading all of it, so here goes. Just a few thoughts on the fly.

There have been some interesting points in the other thread about websites being moribund per se, including the warning that without significant change, Metafilter would become a legacy service that's kept together by the explicit financial contributions of the existing community

...Hmm, maybe that's not a bad thing? Assuming we get through the present crisis, would it be possible to cut costs enough to get by without an expanded user base?

Speaking for myself:

- Despite what I said earlier about valuing the people, realistically, I'm not going somewhere new just to keep up with them. Many of my favorite voices aren't around any more, or at least aren't around much. I haven't been around much lately myself, either!

- I use the archives all the time, at least as much as I check out new content. So if the site content goes, I'm probably gone too.

- Culture-wise, further to wondermouse's point just above: if we eased up on impossible expectations* concerning moderation, we could a) get by with much, MUCH less of it and b) preserve the mental health of the people doing it.

- I wouldn't miss having so many subsites. People can post the same content in less granularly defined places.

*I'm referring to 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.
posted by tangerine at 12:35 PM on November 6, 2022 [10 favorites]

- I wouldn't miss having so many subsites. People can post the same content in less granularly defined places.

I still think a recipes subsite would be the best thing ever
posted by aniola at 5:53 PM on November 6, 2022 [14 favorites]

The figure someone cited in another thread that we're spending 6 dollars per active user per month (and growing, as the number of active users continues to shrink) is frankly absurd and I have no desire to reinforce it with my donation.

I'm sorry you feel like you're exposing yourself to a pile-on for expressing this opinion, though I definitely understand why, and it's one of the things about MetaFilter culture that's not great. At the end of the day, it's your money, and your decision whether to donate it to keep MetaFilter running. But I'd like to ask you to reconsider this line of thinking. The cost of moderation is based on the cost of keeping moderators active, not based on the amount or type of moderation that they do. The decision of whether to help fund full-time moderation actually has no impact on whether moderation policies that are more in line with what you'd prefer are implemented, it only affects whether MetaFilter can continue to operate in the coming weeks and months. And even if we were to immediately change moderation policies, that would have no impact on the cost of moderation, because that depends only on the cost of paying a decent living hourly wage to our professional moderators.

I actually agree with you and with many others here that the moderation policy on MetaFilter has swung much too far in the direction of deletion as what often feels like the first and only step taken. But that moderation policy has developed in response to vocal demands from the community, pushing things in that direction over years. Arguably, the financial strain and reduced mod coverage have also pushed mods more in the direction of relatively low-effort actions like deletions rather than higher-effort actions than mod notes to guide discussion. (I don't know if the moderators themselves see it that way, but from the outside it often seems that way.)

If MetaFilter as a community is valuable to me, that means I, personally, feel an obligation to support it in the ways that it needs, including financially, even if I don't always agree with the community's stance on moderation. That's actually why I made this post, as distinct from the other fundraising-related MeTas currently active. We can focus on the cost of various aspects of keeping MetaFilter running, and I think that's necessary and important to do. But we can also focus on the value that we derive from MetaFilter. I think it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking of an online community like MetaFilter in the same way that we'd think of some sort of fee-for-service site, and consider the decision to donate is purely transactional terms. But I think communities are more important than services we may make decisions about purchasing on the basis of pure personal self-interest. And while financial contribution isn't the only form of contribution to the community, it's a form of contribution that the community badly needs right now.

Right now I can't afford to donate any more than I am, but I know that the value that MetaFilter offers to me is much greater than what I'm paying in monthly. In a sense, that means that other members of the community, who are putting value into this place with their words and their financial contributions, are subsidizing the value I get out. To me personally, it seems wrong to tie the decision to financially contribute or not to my opinions regarding moderation strategies, as long as I'm still happy enough in this community that I am getting more out than I'm putting in. I don't judge you or anyone else for reaching a different conclusion there, but that's the way that I think about it for myself.

Anyway, none of this is meant to accuse or criticize anyone for not deciding to donate, whatever their reasoning. Rather, I hope that if the above resonates with you at all, you might reconsider your decision.
posted by biogeo at 9:01 PM on November 6, 2022 [9 favorites]

I still think a recipes subsite would be the best thing ever

*picks up jaw off floor*

I didn't even realize I needed this in my life.

100% support and would definitely contribute more. I would live there in all my spare time.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 12:34 AM on November 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

Metafilter is worth more to me than my newspaper subscriptions and less than my church. My regular donation is pitched accordingly.
posted by plonkee at 2:30 AM on November 7, 2022

Also, in case anyone is keeping count, it's Ask that provides the most value to me. I enjoy the main FPPs but not as many of them, and I don't comment on there as much. Other sections I don't use much at all.
posted by plonkee at 2:35 AM on November 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

As my non-digital world has shrunk to a point, my online social outlets have become a lot more important to me. That's mostly Metafilter and Twitter, so obviously I'm feeling really fantastic right now.

I've been here for more than ten years, and I'd really miss it if it went away. Same as plonkee, my main involvement is with Ask - it's the place where I feel most able to contribute - but I read plenty in the other subsites, even if I don't post much in them. I'm very much a written-word sort of a person; I really struggle with the modern web's insistence on trying to catch the user's attention with things that move or pop up or sit permanently on top of the content; and I like reading intelligent conversations between people who aren't trying to start fights. Metafilter has a pinned tab in my non-work browser, and it's the tab that's usually got the focus.

Apple's just put up the cost of Apple TV, which I hardly ever watch, by 40%. I think I'm going to cancel that subscription (once I've finished watching the series I'm in the middle of) and add it to what I'm donating to Metafilter instead.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 6:09 AM on November 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

These posts about Metafilter's financial situation have been really useful and transparent. Thank you for this. Just upped my monthly donation (had to cancel the previous one in order to do so) - I've been supporting the site since 2017 at a level which seemed reasonable at the time but clearly is not enough to make an impact in the current climate, so I have multiplied it.

I've been a member (under a previous username, before this) since 2008, and the idea of Metafilter going away is... actually extremely emotional to me if I pause to think about it. I've learned so much from this site, so much that has made me the me that I am today has come from your combined wisdom, humour and experience, my life would be vastly diminished without Metafilter and I would gladly keep paying for it, although this is just something that goes for me personally, is reflective of my privilege, and is not meant as a reflection on anyone else and what they choose to do with their money.

Also, a recipes subsite? Are you kidding me? that is GENIUS.
posted by unicorn chaser at 8:16 AM on November 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

Is it possible to make the Metafilter posts on all the homepages a lot more visible and urgent, like a main announcement? The auction seems like a really cute one-off holiday idea, but I didn't realize that it was literally one of the last stands to maintain the financial future of this site until I read all through Metatalk and I'm a super active Metafilter user...

I honestly had no clue that we only have two weeks left in funding until I read the comments here, I feel all the posts I've read are a little bit timid about naming the situation...and yes I donated.
posted by yueliang at 9:37 AM on November 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

… Assuming we get through the present crisis, would it be possible to cut costs enough to get by without an expanded user base?

Sure, I agree that I would rather have some MeFi in my life than none but the drop off in participation levels (mainly due to loss of users, I assume) has negatively impacted Ask and the blue. It’s snuck up on me as an uneven user, but even when checking only once a week I’ve noticed there’s fewer new posts. I generally prefer quality over quantity but think there’s a point where too little participation is slowly making it a place I’m less likely to hang around. Fewer users means a greater individual user cost to operate, fewer comments and thus potentially limiting perspectives, and increased burden on fewer users to bring the “people” part that makes metafilter so great.
posted by Bunglegirl at 3:55 PM on November 8, 2022

If I suddenly inherited millions, the very first thing I would do is bequeath a large portion of that to MF. As a somewhat poor person living in the developing world, who tries to have zero expenses, I am really not in a position to pay anything now.

Unlike a PBS fundraiser, in this case we are asking Mr. Rogers and Tim Lehrer and the Antiques Roadshow team to cover expenses for broadcasting to the world. So yeah this is a community but it is also something where the main value is the content created by users, with benefits open to the general Internet public and not just the userbase...

Hey lurkers please donate some money! Or even better, join us and donate some money!

I guess that is just me facetiously trying to shift the free rider problem off of my back and onto some others, I promise if I am ever plugged back into the Western financial system and lifestyle I will happily chip in.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:01 PM on November 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Metafilter's worth, to me, is great, albeit intangible. It's part of the group of community aggregators like Something Awful, Fark, and Slashdot, that I started visiting regularly around the late 90s and early 00s. Of all of those, Metafilter alone has maintained a worthwhile signal-to-noise ratio of thoughtful, diverse views, that keeps me visiting. I signed up around 2013 because good signal was getting increasingly hard to find online, and I thought that I ought to support those sites that tried to maintain strong signal.

I think that a large part of that is due to that entry fee mentioned, and the generally excellent moderation work.

Oof, that qualification, though. For reasons already covered above, I agree that Metafilter (and its moderation style) can be alienating. And this is coming from someone whose views generally align with the community's.

I am not suggesting that Metafilter ought to change its moderation style. What I'm saying is that derrinyet's and wondermouse's comments resonated with me. I do catch myself skipping past threads in the manner wondermouse described. On the rare occasions that I am following a thread closely, I feel like I can sorta see the kind of pruning derrinyet describes.

I would not be surprised, at all, if this contributes to the user decline. A decline in users is a decline in signal, the very thing that makes Metafilter valuable to me, but at the same time a decline in users is also a decline in the available base from which contributions can be had, so active donators take on more of the burden as it were.

I donated. I think Metafilter's signal is still strong, and signal is still important to me. But I totally get why people would not and I feel like that's a problem.
posted by theony at 1:28 AM on November 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

« Older After the Fire – Metafilter Should Consider...   |   Metatalktail Hour: Life of Pie Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments