[MeFi Site Update] August 16th August 16, 2023 3:15 PM   Subscribe

Hi there, MetaFilter!

Welcome to your monthly Site Update! The last update is here. You’ll find some updates regarding the site below. I’m looking forward to your feedback and questions.

Reminder: I will be the only mod monitoring this thread so please be patient as I reply to your feedback and questions.

Fundraising Update

– So far, we have raised $193.00 in new subscriptions and $4,680 in individual contributions. I have seen several of the subscriptions that were being declined have now resumed. Thank you everyone who has been able to help! Our main goal is to make up for the annual attrition in revenue and you can all help contributing to it or by checking if the payment method you use for your current contribution is still valid. If you need any help checking the status of your contribution please Contact Us .

– Ask Mods Anything thread is still going in AskMe, this MeTa has details..

Admin/Moderation

– We have a short list of candidates to help frimble with Tech work and I have reached out to them.

– We’ve also received a few very nice offers to help with some of the ongoing business re-org stuff, also thank you!

– The FAQ have been updated by Brandon


Technical changes

– Converted the popular posts RSS feed to use CDATA escaping rather than character entity escaping, which it’s used since 2013. This should allow better handling of unicode and occasional HTML in places where it’s not expected.

– Fixed a profile “all activity" bug and we updated the Fundraising page to not have a broken PayPal link

– Updated the chat.metafilter.com certificate

–We’re actively looking at how to block GPT4 scrapes of the site


BIPOC Advisory Board

– Notes for the BIPOC Board’s Meeting #18 are being approved to be posted in the Global BIPOC Board page and in MetaTalk. Meeting #19 will take place next week.


If you have any questions or feedback not related to this particular update, please Contact Us instead. If you want to discuss a particular subject not covered here with the community, you’re welcome to open a separate MetaTalk thread for it.
posted by loup (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 3:15 PM (290 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

2. I am waiting for some paperwork from cortex in order to get MeFi LLC's ducks in a row which I keep hoping is imminently arriving but so far has not been.

I know this isn’t coming in your mail, loup, but now that this has been cited as a factor impacting the future of the site, maybe it should be included in updates.
posted by snofoam at 7:14 PM on August 16, 2023 [16 favorites]


Will any of the fundraising methods or tools developed by the steering committee during last year's fundraising drive be used again this year?
posted by twelve cent archie at 4:59 AM on August 17, 2023 [3 favorites]


Mod note: Will any of the fundraising methods or tools developed by the steering committee during last year's fundraising drive be used again this year?

I guess you are referring to the Power BI dashboards which are super detailed and comprehensive but I'd rather prioritize some of the fundraising money to do some accounting with Tim's help (or previous accounting volunteer) to plan and budget better.

maybe it should be included in updates.
Yes, I've pinged Jessamyn about this for an update.

posted by loup (staff) at 12:50 PM on August 17, 2023


maybe it should be included in updates.

I emailed with cortex on Saturday and talked to him about this specifically on Sunday and he said that this is now in process. It's not quite as dire as "affecting the future of the site" per se, it's more like "It will be much more of a hassle to do forward-motion things if we don't have this all sewn up."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:15 PM on August 17, 2023 [1 favorite]


Has there been any thought to throttling Ask again to reduce mod load? Limit of 3 questions a week? 2?
posted by phunniemee at 2:19 PM on August 17, 2023 [8 favorites]


I guess you are referring to the Power BI dashboards which are super detailed and comprehensive but I'd rather prioritize some of the fundraising money to do some accounting with Tim's help (or previous accounting volunteer) to plan and budget better.

I'm not sure which tools/methods twelve cent archie was specifically referring to, but the SC did utilize more tools/methods/initiatives than just Power BI dashboards.

Power BI itself as an expense ($10/month) though was included in the budget for 2023 that the SC and admin finalized in December 2022. To my understanding (please correct me if I'm misunderstanding any part of this) these available funds have not been touched (and neither have the available funds budgeted for staff hiring, and certain other items that were agreed on in that budget) - so technically there should already be funds available for this (and more), and these items should not be in conflict with accounting expenses (which were also budgeted for, which do not seem to be fully utilized to date as well).

Perhaps it would be more accurate (I'm guessing) to say at this point this is more about prioritizing staff time/skills than fundraising money? Since there already should have been 12 months' worth of funds available for these budget items that have not been utilized.

The finalized budget was also planned taking into consideration a projected decline in monthly subscription income (projections which were also relayed to the admin), so the decline in monthly subscription income since January 2022 should not be impacting (or not significantly impact)* the funds/budget for these items.

*If there has been an impact (i.e. if the decline has been greater than projected - which may be the case, although more clarification around the $1,730.00/month figure mentioned in the other fundraising post would be helpful), my understanding is that this should still not be offsetting the available budget for these items to this extent (i.e. 7-8 months worth of funds for these items being unavailable).
posted by aielen at 8:40 PM on August 17, 2023 [17 favorites]


So far, we have raised $193.00 in new subscriptions and $4,680 in individual contributions. I have seen several of the subscriptions Thank you everyone who has been able to help!

It looks like something got cut off here?

How short are we of the goal?

(Who's Tim?)
posted by trig at 3:40 AM on August 18, 2023 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure which tools/methods twelve cent archie was specifically referring to, but the SC did utilize more tools/methods/initiatives than just Power BI dashboards.

Even though there is no longer an SC, the SC didn't take away or delete anything that was developed for the fundraiser. There's an auction site account out there, there are very basic social media sharing graphics, there's infrastructure and ticketing methods available for live events. If you don't have the login credentials, a quick memail to the SC members would rectify it.

Yes, social media is evil, but the fundraiser isn't mentioned on MeFi's Twitter account and only in the description of the "Ask Mods Anything" post on the Best of MeFi Facebook account. (I'm not on Mastodon.) Has anyone asked MeFi favorites with large follow counts to tweet/skeet/toot/shriek our fundraising info? Is anyone reaching out to lapsed donors or last year's donors, especially those who gave larger amounts? These are low-cost efforts.

But beyond that, what garnered the most excitement was the open sharing of concrete financial goals and progress made toward those goals. I know the site doesn't have the personpower that it did last year, but you did have a bunch of community goodwill carried over from 2022 and months to prepare for 2023. This year the energy isn't there.

If I could make one suggestion from a place of concern that I know sounds scoldy: we are more than halfway through the fundraiser. The August 1 MeTa fundraiser post's comments ended up in a place that shouldn't be highlighted to casual folks who want to toss a coin to their MeFi without being embroiled in drama. Create a new MeTa about the fundraiser that has the updated amount, a goal, all of the previous ways to donate, plus the AMA info and replace the link in the top banner with a link to the the new post.
posted by kimberussell at 8:48 AM on August 18, 2023 [37 favorites]


Things a number of site members - including but definitely not exclusively the SC - worked on, or laid the ground for (tools and methods both), included: a number of social media assets; consultation with a Mefite who is a professional in donor relations and advised on best practices in thanking and retaining contributors to the site; improvements to how gift memberships work; the auction; sponsored posts; the crouton meter -- the latter admittedly not an unalloyed success, but it reflected the fact that there was a fundraising strategy behind it (how much to raise/ what it might pay for/ progress towards those targets) and at least an attempt at reporting progress against targets. There was also cross-posting across sub-sites; the gift guide initiative; affiliate programme and events; the enlarged banner (definitely not an SC initiative but driven by site members and greatly valued for creating a sense of occasion and urgency); and I am sure I am forgetting some. Many or most or all of these were valuable tools, methods and approaches that could be used for raising funds and creating site spirit this time around. As far as I can tell, the only fundraising activities more than halfway through Fundraising Month 2023 have been a rather half-hearted AMA and DirtyOldTown's valiant Fanfare posts.

Many of the initiatives I’ve listed didn't actually raise as much money as the effort that went into them, but they were important means of building, reinforcing and celebrating members' attachment to the site. And, in the end, it was not the activities, methods and tools that raised funds, but the attachment that members feel for that site and investment in its future. The fundraising activities were, to a large extent, a way of recognising and reinforcing that attachment and showing that there was a purpose to financial contributions.

Many of these tasks were time-consuming and site staff remain overstretched. Given the issues with seeking volunteer help, obviously it's just not possible to have a similar large-scale fundraising effort, though one might argue that it's important enough for the site’s viability and growth to temporarily allocate some of the staff hours currently spent on moderation and at least to have a fundraising strategy so that limited capacity can be used effectively to meet defined fundraising goals.

A carefully planned fundraising drive might have included a clear indication of what the gaps are, what the need is, and what the site is growing towards, rather than the vague ‘increasing moderation’ (what value will full-time moderation coverage add?) and ‘maintaining the server’ (already budgeted, surely?), neither of which feel very compelling reasons to contribute. How about strategies for growing user numbers or hiring a consultant to develop a strategy to increase user numbers? Improving the user experience eg in the criminally neglected Fanfare? What about lessons learned from the last drive, like a prominent banner and site-wide publicity, or better ways to bring contributions from international users, or even considering if relying on recurring contributions is the best way to fund the site when many users clearly preferred one-off contributions?

The previous fundraiser extended far beyond the PowerBI dashboard loup has mentioned. A couple of good Excel sheets with correct data could easily replace the dashboard and give some accounting of user contributions and defined plans for the future. Perhaps more importantly than the simple fact of the dashboard, or any of the activities listed above, there was a strategy for the fundraiser, a nascent vision for the site’s future, as well as a commitment to transparency.

I share aielen’s confusion about the site finances. The SC and the site management prepared and discussed at exhaustive length a site budget, which included hiring new staff to reduce the administrative and coding burden.

Personally, I am rather disheartened that what was budgeted for does not seem to have been taken forward. This includes the added human resources, and things that are really necessary for the site to both survive and to flourish, ie professionalising its business operations (eg proper accounting by paid staff rather than the heroic efforts of a single volunteer) and diversifying the site's income streams. It’s possible that the site’s finances have dropped far more precipitously than was projected or funds went towards legal consultancy, and is the reason why the admin and coding staff weren’t hired earlier in the year, why tools that were budgeted for aren’t available, and why accounting that was budgeted for needs fundraising money, as per loup’s comment above. If so, this should be made clear to the user-contributors who are currently the site's primary source of funds. As aielen has noted, the rather minimal fundraising call and update aren’t really clear on this.

Most of all, I’m concerned that all of the above shows that there is no real vision for the site besides coasting along until some hypothetical future when the structure is changed to a non-profit (and then what?).
posted by tavegyl at 9:30 AM on August 18, 2023 [34 favorites]


A carefully planned fundraising drive might have included a clear indication of what the gaps are, what the need is, and what the site is growing towards, rather than the vague ‘increasing moderation’ (what value will full-time moderation coverage add?)

I thought we were at full or near full time mod coverage now. Is this not the case?
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:55 AM on August 18, 2023 [1 favorite]


(I guess not, re-reading this post. I could have sworn it was communicated that we had full time mods after last fundraiser but that could be my mistake)
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:58 AM on August 18, 2023 [1 favorite]


It’s possible that the site’s finances have dropped far more precipitously than was projected or funds went towards legal consultancy

Just to address this specifically, the sites funds are fine even including the legal/accounting consultancy we've paid for and what we anticipate being those costs in the future. Hiring has just been slow. We've tried to be exceptionally cautious and conservative since April. The SC's work was incredibly valuable and lifesaving to the site not just for the money stuff but also the community building, agreed.

If I could make one suggestion from a place of concern that I know sounds scoldy

Your comment doesn't sound scoldy to me kimberussel. Those are good suggestions and we'll work on those for Monday.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:33 AM on August 18, 2023 [10 favorites]


Time to fire some mods and hire aielen in their place. It’s embarrassing to the staff of this site that they appear so careless and unskilled in the basics of administration.
posted by crazy with stars at 12:50 PM on August 18, 2023 [21 favorites]


If the site has a team of amazing people who step up to work incredibly hard for months to financially save the site from going under and set up a bunch of stuff to get it on a better trajectory, the site can fail to build on their progress. It can ignore the recommendations of that team and not use the tools they put into place. It can do a fundraiser less than a year later that does very little to recognize those people who helped so much. It can fail to explain why it isn't using what was put into place. It can fail to employ any notable new fundraising efforts, or what many would consider even the bare minimum of messaging around the once a year fundraising campaign that literally funds almost the whole enterprise. The site can make comments that, perhaps inadvertently, downplay and diminish the tools provided by the SC.

These are all choices that can be made, perhaps because people are busy or don't have a compatible skillset or inclination for certain things. During the day-to-day grind, maybe it is hard to find a space to appreciate and honor the gift that the SC gave to the company and the community. A group of well-meaning people can drop the baton, even when they are genuinely trying.

There have, obviously, been difficulties and obstacles over the last six months or however long the SC has been paused. This fundraiser has highlighted the difference in energy and progress with and without the SC. Though they were working as volunteers, I think the site does owe them the debt of carrying on their work, using their tools, and following their recommendations, or being really clear about why they can't do it, or want to go a different route. I think a thriving future for the site will depend on volunteer participation. I think that the SC was a test of that. I think it seems to be failing, and not just because it had to be put on hold while the site restructures in a way that it can be restarted.

But I don't think it is too late. If fundraising isn't that urgent right now, maybe acknowledge that it wasn't being taken seriously enough, stop for now, and schedule a do-over for September or October or whenever the team feels they can do it seriously. Or figure out another way to show that this team is the team that can run the site, and that you aren't letting months of community effort go wasted (side note: shout out also to the TT for getting the ball rolling and the BIPOC Board for their ongoing efforts). There are no villains here and everyone wants this to work. There are some key suggestions from people upthread who have more than earned a proper response. This is the perfect time to show off what the team is capable of and really go for it. Good luck!
posted by snofoam at 2:09 PM on August 18, 2023 [22 favorites]


The latest sponsored series of FF posts is up under the tag #Queer90sWomen.

expialidocious was kind enough to support MeFi with a donation. Their request was for six films by, for, and about queer women that came out in the early to mid 90s.

Donate $25 or more to MeFi and you can MeMail me a request for a themed day of your own. I'll fill up the sidebar on FF with six movies that fit your theme.

My docket is empty and I'm ready to start putting together your list!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:24 PM on August 20, 2023 [3 favorites]



I am interested in making front page posts recommending short scifi/fantasy stories you can read for free online!

For the rest of August: MeMail me to tell me you've contributed USD $150 and I'll make a post. $225 if you want to specify some kind of theme.
posted by brainwane at 4:20 PM on August 20, 2023 [1 favorite]



What's the status of Merch - both new and old?

What's the status of auctions for physical things?

Would happily contribute to both.
posted by lalochezia at 5:06 AM on August 21, 2023 [2 favorites]


On-call moderation on weekends during US daytime has now been replaced with regular mod coverage thanks to last year’s fundraising.

This was the last update I could find. Is that a return to 75% mod coverage, the other last reference I could find? Don't know what "regular" is.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:15 AM on August 21, 2023 [2 favorites]


Why are comments turned off on the newest fundraising thread?

I guess the powers that be didn’t like some of the responses here.
posted by crazy with stars at 7:09 PM on August 21, 2023 [3 favorites]


It's an announcement. The original post with discussion is linked from there. I don't find it objectionable that there not be comments.
posted by lookoutbelow at 10:46 PM on August 21, 2023 [2 favorites]


It's an announcement.

I think it is the first no comments fundraising thread ever, aside from the "AMA" announcement which was presumably no comments in order to make sure the questions were posted to the Ask thread. It's not an obvious choice for a post saying "Your contribution to this community is greatly appreciated." In the absence of a more formal mode for community-led management, asking about it here is understandable to me. The admin is ostensibly managing the site for the users, for the donors, for the community.
posted by snofoam at 5:08 AM on August 22, 2023 [10 favorites]


I would like to strongly urge the mods to put up a fundraising goal in the new post. Even if the underlying strategy is, "raise as much as possible" have a target and stretch goals can help you there.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:41 AM on August 22, 2023 [4 favorites]


It's not an obvious choice for a post saying "Your contribution to this community is greatly appreciated."

There are currently two open threads where fundraising is being discussed. kimberrussel's suggestion above (new post where everything's linked, accessible to casual folks, put in the banner, will be shared on socials) was a good one.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2023


I think it is the first no comments fundraising thread ever

At first glance and not asking any of the other mods, the no comment format is a good idea for conveying the fundraising information, while avoiding members getting into arguments on that specific announcement, while still leaving space for members to voice their opinions, albeit in related MeTa threads.

(brief rest after putting all that in a single sentence)

Also, we've posted the fundraising announcement on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, updated the site banner with new link, and will put something on TikTok in a bit. Constructive criticism/pointers about posting to social media is welcomed!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 9:41 AM on August 22, 2023 [4 favorites]


the no comment format is a good idea for conveying the fundraising information, while avoiding members getting into arguments on that specific announcement, while still leaving space for members to voice their opinions, albeit in related MeTa threads.

This is well said and now I can delete the comment I was struggling with attempting to say more or less the same thing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:52 AM on August 22, 2023


I want to start by thanking everyone for the help so far, and specifically to DirtyOldTown for the contribution with the sponsored posts.

When I referred to the Power BI dashboards, I did not mean that to come across as dismissive towards the titanic amount of work the SC has done. I was seriously asking about that specifically since they did an amazing job summarizing how last year's fundraising went in there.

I know that some of you want more clear goals for this year's fundraising. The reality of it is that our main goal, at least for this year, is to go back to the end of the summer (in the northern hemisphere) schedule; to have fun; and , to make up for as much as possible for some of the 6.5% ($1,730.00/month) decrease in Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) without putting too much pressure on both staff and members. This comes from the fact that thanks to everyone's contributions last year and the huge help of the the SC we are in a fairly stable place and have a bright future to look towards to.

Since then, most of the efforts at the staff level have been put towards cohesion and structure in moderation. This includes the update of our public policies, internal coordination and communication, as well as clearer structure in how we use the moderation tools we have available. We think this is critical for the health of the community.

Now, let me address some of the unanswered questions in the thread:

Has there been any thought to throttling Ask again to reduce mod load? Limit of 3 questions a week? 2?
No, this doesn't involve a ton of mod work and seems to be highly appreciated by several members.



Who's Tim?

AKA shakespherian, a fellow Mefite who has gracefully helped us with accounting last year and knows better than anyone that structure of our revenue model.



Yes, social media is evil, but the fundraiser isn't mentioned on MeFi's Twitter

Brandon is now posting across all of our social media accounts. Thank you for pointing this out.



Is anyone reaching out to lapsed donors or last year's donors, especially those who gave larger amounts
Yes, I started doing that prior to the beginning of the fundraising and, as mentioned earlier, I will continue working on that list.

What's the status of Merch - both new and old?
We still have the old merch but it has never been a huge source of revenue so we have not prioritized new mech.

What's the status of auctions for physical things?

We are looking into the feasibility of running it with the staff resources we have and hope to start soon if possible, keep your eye our for the announcement in MetaTalk.



Don't know what "regular" is.

By regular I meant scheduled moderation rather than on call.
posted by loup (staff) at 1:26 PM on August 22, 2023 [3 favorites]


I know that some of you want more clear goals for this year's fundraising. The reality of it is that our main goal, at least for this year, is to go back to the end of the summer (in the northern hemisphere) schedule; to have fun; and , to make up for as much as possible for some of the 6.5% ($1,730.00/month) decrease in Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)

I can't speak for others, but for me clarity would be "We've raised X so far, which means we have Y to go to reach the goal of $1,730.00/month."

I know this post started with the sentence "So far, we have raised $193.00 in new [I assume monthly] subscriptions", which technically provides the X, but it would add a fair amount of clarity to do the math and spell out Y, instead of leaving readers to calculate it.

193 out of 1730 is pretty bad, right?

without putting too much pressure on both staff and members.

Pressure on staff might be a serious problem. I really wouldn't worry about pressure on members, though. Some pressure, enthusiasm, and "guys this is important, this matters" is a basic expectation for fundraisers. Which are also ideally morale boosters. And I think for a lot of people getting a sense of activity and non-casualness from the site's leadership about its financial situation is reassuring rather than stressful. "We're not actively drowning at the moment so we don't feel it's that important to help us get to a more solid footing" has the effect (to me, anyway) of being not reassuring.

The last fundraiser had a stretch goal for "thrive" - shouldn't that always be the direction to aim for?


On a semi-related note, is the mod budgeting taking into account the upcoming return of US election megathread season?
posted by trig at 4:34 PM on August 22, 2023 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, I've made one-time contributions before but never been in a position to start a subscription. If anyone wants to make a $5 monthly subscription before next Wednesday, or add to their current one, I'll make a non-expert FPP about... I guess anything you've been wanting to see a post about but haven't had the time or energy to do!
posted by trig at 4:43 PM on August 22, 2023 [1 favorite]


And I think for a lot of people getting a sense of activity and non-casualness from the site's leadership about its financial situation is reassuring rather than stressful.

This may sound harsh, but… from the outside (i.e. as a member) the apparent lack of activity and enthusiasm from staff, the lack of any concrete goals, and the lack of pre-planned events/activities does make it feel like this fundraiser isn't that important and few of you really care about it. Do a fundraiser or don't do it. A relaxed few posts about making up for the 6.5% decrease in MMR doesn't feel like either.

Brandon's chatfilter effort, three weeks into the month, feels like the first big, interesting, thing to happen, which also makes fundraising more noticeable elsewhere on the site. So well done on that.
posted by fabius at 6:17 AM on August 23, 2023 [11 favorites]


193 out of 1730 is pretty bad, right?

This is an example of where a lack of general business sense or a strategy for this site shows up. A lack of an explicit vision or target at the outset mean that efforts have all been focused on generating one time contributions (i.e., $25 for a post; a one-time contribution for a chatfilter post) when the actual goal, behind the scenes, was recurring contributions. So people have been pitching in towards the wrong goal.

And you might say - $ to the site is the same no matter what! But to my memory, this site always puts one-time contributions in some kind of reserve category that is only drawn on to deal with unexpected costs or to cover short-falls - not actually budgeted to be used. So generating a bunch of $$ in this regard will not be factored into improving the site in any way.

Everything about this site, barring the short time the steering committee was involved, is reactive.
posted by openhearted at 6:36 AM on August 23, 2023 [10 favorites]


Following on - if I go back to the summary from last time, we generated $9,863/month in recurring revenue and the survive goal was set at $7,000/month. Survive at the time was described as "this scenario doesn’t give the site much breathing room in the budget or extra capacity to take on any new projects to improve the site, but we will be paying our bills month to month."

In about 7 months, recurring dropped by -$1,800/month or about -$260 lost each month on average.

Right now, net what has been done so far (and using the math provided), we are about $1,300/month above the survive goal. This gives us a roughly 5 month window (assuming revenue loss is linear, which tbh I imagine it would be) before the site is back to running in the red or dipping into reserves or cutting back expenses.

And so while I understand the staff's goal was to have fun and to not put too much pressure on staff or members - this is just deferring the pain. I'd personally advocate for something like 10 hours of moderation time per week to be reduced and those hours dedicated to a person doing finance and fundraising in a sustained way so it looks somewhat like what it did last time.
posted by openhearted at 7:03 AM on August 23, 2023 [8 favorites]


Mod note: One comment deleted. While MetaTalk has lighter moderation to allow for open conversations, we all still need to abide by the guidelines and be considerate and respectful.
posted by loup (staff) at 8:48 AM on August 23, 2023


loup I saw the comment you just deleted.

It was a suggestion that MetaFilter is a failing business, that someone with actual business skills should be hired to run it, that current moderation staff resource should be reduced to a minimum to keep the site readable, and that funding be reallocated towards other activities like paying people to run fundraising.

More than a fair observation, expressed in a respectful enough way.

A very dubious deletion.
posted by iivix at 8:56 AM on August 23, 2023 [28 favorites]


Yeah, that's a wild deletion. I also read it, and it was totally fine.
posted by bowbeacon at 9:16 AM on August 23, 2023 [7 favorites]


This is a display of an unfathomable amount of disdain towards the userbase.
posted by Jarcat at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2023 [18 favorites]


Very disappointed in that comment deletion. A reinstatement and apology for the knee-jerk overreaction seems in order.
posted by otsebyatina at 9:40 AM on August 23, 2023 [8 favorites]


It's possible to critique fundraising without accusing the people involved of being incompetent, lazy, embarrassing, saying they should all be fired, etc. -- see openhearted's reasonable comments above, for ex. Casually talking about eliminating people's jobs (especially for those in places without a good safety net) is quite insensitive.

I would 100% be in favor of hiring somebody from the SC for fundraising/business purposes, even if that requires shifting hours around -- not because I think people here are horrible failures, but because that would be a *dedicated focus* as opposed to juggling fundraising and bizdev with existing mod/admin responsibilities. If running a bigger fundraiser on a volunteer basis was unsustainable and prone to burn-out, expecting the same scale from a smaller team already tasked with mod/admin work isn't an improvement.

PS: Catastrophizing every mod action and disagreement as some Shocking Affront to Decency is getting pretty tiresome... like, have y'all seen the rest of the internet lately? Not even talking about Reddit/Twitter/Facebook BS -- deleting a rather rude comment disparaging the abilities of site staff to their faces and calling for them to be fired is par for the course just about anywhere. Idk where people have gotten this idea that talking shit and venting spleen about staff is sacrosanct and cannot be modded even if it violates site guidelines. Everybody here deserves the same basic level of respect, even if they're a mod and you think they're doing a bad job.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:54 AM on August 23, 2023 [18 favorites]


The deleted comment was critical about the fundraiser and the operation of the site as a business, but it didn’t disparage anyone. It just suggested that the site should be run by someone with a stronger business skill set. It was a harsh comment, from someone who put a lot of volunteer effort into the site, but it didn’t break any guidelines as far as I could tell.
posted by snofoam at 11:02 AM on August 23, 2023 [10 favorites]


For context to anyone who didn't see the deleted comment: it was deleted for violating the guidelines and for no other reason.

Speaking in critical terms about the fundraiser, or any staff-led initiatives will always be acceptable and even encouraged here.

The comment will not be reinstated.

The feedback you provide will always be acceptable, welcome, and taken into account to refine our efforts.
posted by loup (staff) at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2023 [1 favorite]


Somebody should write a separate MetaTalk post about whether the comment deletion, so that commenters can then accuse the post of being an anti-Metafilter crypto-fascists, and then other commenters can accuse those commenters of actually being crypto-fascists themselves, and three or four members will button, and... OK yeah maybe we shouldn't write a separate MetaTalk post about it.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:23 AM on August 23, 2023 [1 favorite]


Be considerate and respectful
MetaFilter is a space for conversations, not a contest; add your own informed perspective and nuance instead of shutting others down. Extend the benefit of the doubt in conversations and earn the benefit of the doubt that others are extending to you. Listen if someone says they're upset and be willing to apologize and step back.


Which part of the cited guideline was violated? Someone made a conversational statement. They added their own informed (very!) perspective. Nobody told them that they were upset, so they had no opportunity to apologize and step back.
posted by bowbeacon at 11:26 AM on August 23, 2023 [10 favorites]


it was deleted for violating the guidelines and for no other reason.

But it didn’t?
posted by not just everyday big moggies at 11:33 AM on August 23, 2023 [9 favorites]


Honestly, the message I am getting from the site communication about fundraising month is as follows:

“Hi guys, we have plenty of money at the moment, but it’s fundraising month so if you want to give us even more money, you can I guess? We can’t really think of anything we particularly need to spend it on, but we can always employ more mods!”

That’s not a particularly compelling fundraising reason, especially when there’s s cost of living crisis. If it is a choice between giving money to people who say they don’t really need any more, and wouldn’t really know what to do with my donations anyway, or alternatively donating money to a foodbank, or just keeping it myself, I’m going to choose the second two options not the first.

The SC messaging last year was very different in tone, and far more effective.
posted by tinkletown at 11:49 AM on August 23, 2023 [12 favorites]


The deleted comment was critical about the fundraiser and the operation of the site as a business, but it didn’t disparage anyone

As someone who works here, I found that comment and similar ones unnerving. Specifically the part about firing me or one of my co-workers. The rest of it was fine and even had some interesting ideas.

Criticism is fine and expected, but I firmly believe that the community and the management of the site need to decide whether publicly calling for an employee to be fired is acceptable and to what degree. Especially if it’s a past or present member of the Steering Committee.

Again, criticism is fine, but some people’s seemingly cavalier attitude about firing people who are often trying to their job is quite unnerving.

Just speaking for myself here.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 11:52 AM on August 23, 2023 [5 favorites]


I think the comment also deployed "pathetic" towards the mods/the efforts of the mods/the owners, which may well have pushed it over the line.
posted by sagc at 11:56 AM on August 23, 2023 [1 favorite]


Sagc, I read that as referring to the fundraiser, which you must admit has been a bit of a damp squib.
posted by tinkletown at 12:00 PM on August 23, 2023 [4 favorites]


the community and the management of the site need to decide whether publicly calling for an employee to be fired is acceptable and to what degree

The vast bulk of Mefi's budget is mod salaries, the fact that there is nobody doing professional bizdev / fundraising stuff is a glaring omission given the site's ongoing and well understood issues. "If we get a bigger budget we'll hire more mods" is the wrong answer.

So yeah, I think talk about firing mods is a completely sane and reasonable part of the discussion.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:35 PM on August 23, 2023 [24 favorites]


Question: Has there been any thought to throttling Ask again to reduce mod load? Limit of 3 questions a week? 2?

Answer: No, this doesn't involve a ton of mod work and seems to be highly appreciated by several members.

Is it highly appreciated by more people than those who do not appreciate it? I'm only speaking for myself here, but I've found myself increasingly checked out from AskMetaFilter because it seems rather diluted now.
posted by wondermouse at 1:02 PM on August 23, 2023 [5 favorites]


I appreciate that no one wants to read a comment about being fired. I think that would be unnecessarily harsh, though not necessarily breaking guidelines as far as I can tell.

The actual deleted comment described keeping the minimum necessary mod staffing and parting ways with the rest. To me, that sounds like a layoff. It could even be a buyout or severance offer that might be appealing to some staff, while freeing up budget in the long term.

They weren’t calling for people’s heads, they were just describing an overall strategy that could be implemented in ways that respect the staff. Deleting someone’s comment and then misrepresenting doesn’t strike me as fair.
posted by snofoam at 2:12 PM on August 23, 2023 [10 favorites]


I thought the comment was harsh both in tone and in content, but also don't think it should have been deleted. Aside from whether the content was justified or not, there were better, more modly ways to respond. And ultimately these comments are born of worry and frustration based on unexpectedly baffling fundraiser decisions, and deleting doesn't address the actual issues or provide any reassurance; it just derails the thread.

Mods, coming back in and engaging non-defensively with the largely polite criticism (and questions) here would help.
posted by trig at 2:37 PM on August 23, 2023 [3 favorites]


It's awful when good, conscientious people lose their jobs. I've been present when a charity had to make some people redundant as part of a restructuring. They were devoted and skilled employees and yet with hindsight the charity directors made the right decision. Metafilter itself once scaled back on moderators for financial reasons and while the 'how' of that can be debated, it was financially responsible and kept the site running.

In the (temporary or permanent) absence of a steering committee, community governance can only take place through MetaTalk discussions so anyone who feels, for example, that the current employee balance between moderators and fundraisers or administrators is unsustainable and has to change soon either has to bite their tongue or risk unnerving the mods.

There are kinder and crueller ways to raise the topic and I'm not comfortable with 'sack n mods' rhetoric but I'm just as uncomfortable with only one side of a discussion about staffing levels being heard.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:54 PM on August 23, 2023 [12 favorites]


In a business with only five months before income goes lower than expenses, and nobody clearly responsible for improving that situation, it's not only sensible to talk about the possibility of layoffs, or reducing staff hours - it's absolutely essential! Hiding this very real situation and preventing people from talking about it is only going to make it more likely that the layoffs will be necessary.
(I'm relying on someone's back of envelope runway calculation above, so forgive me if that's wrong).

Layoffs due to insufficient revenue are a completely different beast from "firing people" (as if they were underperforming or committing misdemeanors), and I don't think it's helpful at all to conflate the two.

Unrelatedly, I wonder if the finances may appear at first glance to be better than they are, because the team have substantially underspent on things that were previously budgeted. That's worrying, especially when it's "hiring" that seems to be the bottleneck - not having the resources to dig yourself out of the hole you're in is a tough position.
posted by quacks like a duck at 2:55 PM on August 23, 2023 [11 favorites]


As someone who works here, I found that comment and similar ones unnerving. Specifically the part about firing me or one of my co-workers. The rest of it was fine and even had some interesting ideas.


brandon, i truly do not mean this personally because i think you have been doing a great job, but i don't actually understand why you were hired when the userbase has been asking for an admin hire for years, and the steering committee apparently already budgeted that money?
posted by JimBennett at 3:17 PM on August 23, 2023 [17 favorites]


If the mods aren’t able to impartially moderate a thread where mod lay-offs is a relevant topic, perhaps they should recuse themselves and let site ownership handle the thread.
posted by not just everyday big moggies at 4:14 PM on August 23, 2023 [15 favorites]


What specifically in the guidelines was violated by the comment?

Once again the mods prove themselves incompetent in the one thing they’re willing to do (delete other people’s writing).
posted by crazy with stars at 6:16 PM on August 23, 2023 [2 favorites]


I think the phrasing of that comment (as I can find it archived elsewhere) did strain the limits of “respectful” a bit. Unfortunately the deletion threatens to turn this thread into an argument about the deletion. The sentiment behind the comment… was not so unfair.
posted by atoxyl at 8:03 PM on August 23, 2023 [2 favorites]


If the site is asking for money from users, it's reasonable for the users to question where that money is going and whether that plan makes sense. If you don't want user comments about how money is being spent, stop using our money for those plans.
posted by lapis at 8:43 PM on August 23, 2023 [22 favorites]


there are but three certainties in this world; death, taxes, and the ineluctable surety that mods will in no wise explain this decision
posted by Sebmojo at 9:14 PM on August 23, 2023 [2 favorites]


a site with fewer users than ever

This is really The Thing - the thing that’s upstream of all the other problems of sustainability.
posted by atoxyl at 9:56 PM on August 23, 2023 [10 favorites]


One comment deleted. While MetaTalk has lighter moderation to allow for open conversations, we all still need to abide by the guidelines and be considerate and respectful.

For context to anyone who didn't see the deleted comment: it was deleted for violating the guidelines and for no other reason.

Speaking in critical terms about the fundraiser, or any staff-led initiatives will always be acceptable and even encouraged here.

The comment will not be reinstated.

The feedback you provide will always be acceptable, welcome, and taken into account to refine our efforts.


Hi loup. My comment did not violate the guidelines, and you saying that it did is dishonest and gaslight-y. That needs to stop.

I understand that my comment may have made you feel defensive as a first reaction. I invite you to find a second or third reaction.

The only people who are threatening the employment of the staff of MetaFilter LLC are the people, past and present, who are responsible for mismanaging MetaFilter LLC. The normalization of deviance at MetaFilter LLC started a long time before you, loup, but it's partly your show now. You didn't start the fire, but you're on the watch now. It's past time to cut the bullshit here.

Having seen first hand the negligence (born not of malice but incompetence) with which MetaFilter LLC operates, I really don't understand how y'all can pass the hat around again so casually. It's absurd. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night.

---

Jessamyn. I've e-known you for 20 years. You have been someone whose opinion I value and whose perspective I trust. You have helped me over time in many ways. You are the only person who can break the normalization of deviance at MetaFilter LLC and save the MetaFilter Community from this slide into non-existence.

You probably should not have accepted the transfer of ownership of a business with 15 years of red p&ls. And you probably should have run screaming in the opposite direction from a business that could not even produce a p&l because it does not have any business bones.

But there's relationships and emotions involved, and it happened and it is what it is. But the time is long past, now, for you to step up and be the adult in the room here. Please. Let's cut the bullshit now.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:16 AM on August 24, 2023 [38 favorites]


Oh yeah, discussion about expenses and whether labor cost are too high, along with constructive criticism and tough questions are totally fine, and frankly, necessary. My only request would to be mindful that these are people folks are publicly discussing laying off .

That's just my personal request and not meant in any way, shape, or form to shut down these discussions at all.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 7:02 AM on August 24, 2023 [3 favorites]


On slightly related note, Taz and I have been aiming at beefing up the MeFi's social media presence (FB, Insta, Twitter, Threads, TiKTok, and Mastodon) so if anyone had any pointers or suggestions on how to make things better on that front, please feel free to post or email suggestions via the Contact Form (so the entire staff will see and learn). I'm defining "better" as attracting more users to the site over time.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 7:16 AM on August 24, 2023 [5 favorites]


The series of events Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em describes are 50% of the reason I cancelled my reoccurring payment to the site. The other 50% is Loup’s general lack of responsiveness and follow-up to the BIPOC board’s reasonable requests for information, plus general dissatisfaction with moderator decisions over the past year, particularly in Ask. This thread, and the overall fundraising drive, have done nothing to convince me I made a mistake there.

You all run the company/site. You’re able to make these decisions, but they have consequences.
posted by Alterscape at 8:18 AM on August 24, 2023 [14 favorites]


This kind of thing is not respectful of the people giving their time and energy and money to keep people employed.

Wow that is a rough read - in May, this is what is being said re: the admin role:

" Loup says that Loup has been already taking on this role, working with Jessamyn themself rather than adding on an extra person to the process.
17. aielen notes that they understand Loup has been doing admin work, but
this is precisely what the Steering Committee saw and identified as
something that needed additional support: that Loup had a lot on their
plate trying to do a lot of admin tasks, with some of these admin
tasks/skills not necessarily in Loup’s wheelhouse (e.g. numbers,
financials, report compilation) - and that this was a lot of extra tasks and
requirements on top of Loup’s moderation work that were overwhelming,
resulting in backlog and overload.
18. Loup believes the scope of work has changed to the effect that the extra
work has not been much compared to the work that would be involved in
onboarding a new hire"


And yet in this thread we have Loup using "the feasibility of running with the staff resources we have" as a reason why auctions aren't happening and that touching base with members whose recurring contributions have lapsed is a work in progress. All things an admin resource that was resourced by the last fundraiser and whose job description was largely done by the SC could be helping with.

The decision to not prioritize hiring even since the BIPOC committee in May 2023 clearly stressed its importance is an insult to all members, particularly the steering committee and our BIPOC committees who have given a lot to this site. Accountability for this work not being done or done well needs to sit with the person who decided they can do it all on their own. People put their hard earned time and money into seeing things change and for that not to be actioned while asking members to donate yet again is problematic to say the least.

It seems mentioning anyone in particular is against the guidelines now, so I will say - this site has gone from a singular bottleneck holding back progress to another one and, at least personally, I will not be donating a dollar until some accountability for the outcomes of the dollars fundraised in 2023 is in place.
posted by openhearted at 10:59 AM on August 24, 2023 [12 favorites]


I missed the comment. Sorry I don't have time to make this shorter.

When I was on the Transition Team, it was hard to be working on things and have eleventy million ideas pouring in at the same time. I've tried to be conscious of that since. Just want to acknowledge that and if it's not the time, ignore.

I still would like to share some experiences from turning a small business from "crisis to crisis, ask ppl to (illegally) volunteer before things fall over" to profitability and raising pay to market levels and having staff for all the essential operations. (At least to the point I left to go back into, mentioning this for relevance, my original career of digital strategy.)

1. The only thing worse than going out of business, is not knowing that you're going out of business. Administration is how you know.

2. You cannot hire people to help them, unless your profitability is beyond solid. You hire people to help the business meet its goals, period.

There are lots and lots of reasons for this.

-hiring based on need, not skills, lowers the professionalism of your team. Good people leave or aren't interested. That goes double with volunteers.

- it makes feedback, improvement, and staff development awkward, almost impossible. How do you hold that person to deadlines and quality of work? And that's the exchange. Of course there are other models but this is what a pay structure is.

- because you're not hiring the best person for the job, almost by definition -- if you were, you could do a proper search -- it puts the burden of task definition and training back on the person who is most overloaded, so the work of taking a step back and developing a strategy and all those things goes undone. What MF needs in administration is someone who has been doing it somewhere else for the last 5 years and knows all the latest tools and efficiencies. Freshbooks or Quickbooks? Etc.

I will go on record, and have, that MetaFilter needs to do better by its staff. Not because anyone is treating people badly or being terrible - not at all. But because people need clarity, support, clear processes and guidelines, deadlines, and feedback at the right time -- not reactive feedback due to a MetaTalk. Again, you can't do that if you are in crisis mode.

3. The biggest mistake you can make is thinking that your activities are more important than the value they produce.

And here I will dig in a little.

When we did the survey, which of course had its limits but still was at least something, the two biggest takeaways for me was that moderation wasn't really a problem overall (that's not to say some people didn't like it) - like, as represented in the survey, it was such a non-problem from a business perspective* that I would not have spent another 10 minutes on it if I were queen of MF, from a staffing perspective (I would have from a staff support perspective.)

But people feeling like they couldn't post or comment because they didn't feel that they could contribute was a huge problem, and besides just attracting new people, that's a massive finding.

Because moderation is not MetaFilter's unique value proposition. It is a support to the value proposition.

But the community and the quality of discussion are the value proposition - and members actually on a word-to-word, minute-to-minute basis are the absolute, heads and shoulders above everyone else, #1 creators of that value. Membership (and audience) growth and engagement is the number one priority. Both relate to fundraising, but they also relate to the actual content produced on the site -- the posts and comments and answers in Ask.

The thing is, right now the site is in transition and Jessamyn is looking at alternate structures. That's hamstringing resources. But it doesn't have to hamstring priorities. I am disappointed there hasn't been at least an admin hire, and I hope that can be corrected. I also hope that positions everyone to laser-focus on growing our membership, and making our current membership feel glad they are here (including maintaining discussion standards.)

* I'm leaving out BIPOC concerns because that is critical to membership.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:01 AM on August 24, 2023 [46 favorites]


Also for the love of God, while I'm posting, get GA4 installed if you haven't already. Without data there just can't be good decisions.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:41 AM on August 24, 2023 [3 favorites]


moderation wasn't really a problem overall (that's not to say some people didn't like it)

I don’t know that moderation was raised here as an issue in terms of, you know, moderation on MeFi proper being badly done* - it seems like it was raised more in terms of mod coverage always being talked about as a funding priority when it feels like there’s less activity to moderate than ever, which is actually the site’s biggest fundamental problem. And also in terms of the mods doubling as the business people and ombudspersons without being particularly adept at that role, and the concomitant feeling that nobody really has any idea what to do about those fundamental problems.

* obviously there are people who have issues with the moderation qua moderation but that’s another topic and sorta overlaps with other cultural issues.
posted by atoxyl at 12:32 PM on August 24, 2023 [10 favorites]


warriorqueen: "Also for the love of God, while I'm posting, get GA4 installed if you haven't already. Without data there just can't be good decisions."

IIRC loup and frimble are against using Google Analytics because of risks to user privacy; they use the open-source Matomo instead.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:42 PM on August 24, 2023 [4 favorites]


Oh good, fair enough. That wasn't a question we got the answer to at the TT point.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:44 PM on August 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


Apologies if this question has been answered recently but roughly what percentage of loup's workload is business admin duties and what percentage is regular moderation? In other words, does Metafilter already have half an admin post or some other proportion? (Just very roughly, I'm sure there are grey areas, overlap, weekly variation etc.)
posted by Busy Old Fool at 1:07 PM on August 24, 2023


I had stopped reading BIPOC Board minutes because for a long time it seemed to be in setting-up mode, but the minutes from both May and June are really interesting and revealing. I was kind of shocked to see that some of the repeatedly criticized and discussed mod communications issues from older update threads were being still experienced by the Board itself. I hope that ahead of the July meeting they weren't left waiting again for promised updates that never came.


Is the plan for the admin role under discussion to be restricted to things like accounting, or would this also be the person who can do proactive, experienced business development and fundraising? If not, is there a plan or intention to hire anyone for that?
posted by trig at 2:35 PM on August 24, 2023 [11 favorites]


IIRC loup and frimble are against using Google Analytics because of risks to user privacy; they use the open-source Matomo instead.

Collecting analytics and using analytics are two different things. MetaFilter is not using analytics.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:05 AM on August 25, 2023 [3 favorites]


Presumably Google has already flagged me as a mefite on my permanent record as a consequence of the decade old jQuery library used here being requested from their servers.

I do wonder how useful analytics are anyway, since uBlock Origin's built-in privacy filter blocks Matomo/Piwik, and I'm assuming a large subset of users here are at least tech-savvy enough to be using that or something similar.
posted by otsebyatina at 4:04 AM on August 25, 2023


Probably not as many as you think. Also commenters are just the tip of the iceberg. Also that’s how you track whether your off-site efforts are effective. And, and, and.

Not to pick on you but this attitude that everyone here is a techie who’s too good/savvy for practices (and standard features) that have been common ways of collecting information and building interfaces to make user experience and products better and more effective for decades now is really antithetical to growth.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:58 AM on August 25, 2023 [12 favorites]


True, it's not like it's nothing, and unlikely that a lack of data is what's hindering growth here currently.
posted by otsebyatina at 6:36 AM on August 25, 2023


Fwiw, I'm someone who set up a modest recurring donation during last year's fundraiser and have since cancelled it. I've been around the site for about 20 years in various ways, mostly just lurking. I started donating last year out of a combination of nostalgia and some interest in seeing what a fresh new metafilter direction looks like. New leadership, new ideas, new governance structures - it all sounded pretty cool and worth investing in.

I cancelled it because it seems clear to me that I misunderstood. Which is fine and not necessarily anyone's fault but my own. But if there was a real desire to implement meaningful changes, there at least would be some tangible progress by now. I cannot accept that it actually takes this long, if people wanted to get things done and had minimal competence. If the preferred lawyer is too busy - get another one! Goodwill has an expiration date.

I am left feeling like I'm in a performance art piece or a psychology study or something. How can it be that leadership has this multi-year focus on flagging UI and drafting and redrafting FAQs? How can it be that increased moderation is the continual goal, as site activity dwindles? It's like being in an anarchist version of waiting for godot.

I honestly would feel better about donating again if someone just came out and said that the goal is to keep things like they always were, and nothing will change, and that stasis as a web relic is the goal. I can wrap my head around that! But the expectations have been set that there will be some sort of change, and it really doesn't look like anyone has the stomach for that, so here we are.
posted by bepe at 9:36 AM on August 25, 2023 [124 favorites]


Wow, bepe. I've drafted and deleted a few replies here, but "I am left feeling like I'm in a performance art piece or a psychology study or something" is a better, more entertaining, and more succinct version of what I was thinking. Don't want to be unkind, but it's a reasonable representation of the feels.

To which I'll add that I really appreciate the deep dives here into site history, business practice, and nitty gritty of TT, SC, and the Global BIPOC Board's contributions. I don't have the bandwidth to volunteer, or to track month-to-month details the way some of y'all do, so seeing timelines & perspectives here is helpful. To be clear, that includes Site Updates and mod comments to discussions. Thank you! I hope things can move forward positively, with all the good energy about an LLC or other shifts designed to support long-term stability of MetaFilter.
posted by cupcakeninja at 10:22 AM on August 25, 2023 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: It's like being in an anarchist version of waiting for godot.
posted by mlis at 1:13 PM on August 25, 2023 [18 favorites]


Beckett-scan.com is one of the strangest sites I've seen in some time. I have no idea how these people got their absurdists wedged into their scanners, or why.
posted by paper scissors sock at 5:21 PM on August 25, 2023 [6 favorites]



W/r/t metafilter issues/metatalk stuff in the past, I've just been really angry about how I perceived users being treated and I was a real asshole about it. (I didn't cover myself in glory with that whole Anne Frank debacle either I guess).

I'm sorry I've been an asshole because a) Being an asshole is wrong and accomplishes nothing unless i guess you're trying to warn people of imminent death and b) I would be astonished, given my latest history of screaming like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and running away, if anybody working for metafilter would take my input seriously.

But the thing that counterbalances this salutary impulse I experience to be a more solid citizen here are threads like these.

Well, that and restless-nomad talking about how much she hates metafilter users on social media. That doesn't help either.

The really painful of this WfG experience is that each metatalk incident makes it seem to me that metafilter is not likely to survive, and so my whole internal dialogue is 'angrycat now is the time to be a good metafilter citizen' followed by 'but i have so many other things to do and metafilter is a dying community, so i'd rather be focused elsewhere'

Anyway, since I've come in shrieking recently the last few times I thought I'd try a more measured approach
posted by angrycat at 12:12 PM on August 26, 2023 [8 favorites]


beep certainly captures a lot of what I think and expressed it in a way that is clear and honest and fair. It would be great to see a response from the site that is equally earnest, even if it is not exactly what people want to hear.
posted by snofoam at 4:44 PM on August 26, 2023 [12 favorites]


Are there stated mission statements for Metafilter, Inc? Core values that are documented and drive the business decisions being made?

I often find in assessing a business and its success, it’s important to understand how they define and measure success.

Can someone share them here and the thoughts on how the recent administrative decisions align with them?
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 5:04 PM on August 26, 2023 [6 favorites]


Are there stated mission statements for Metafilter, Inc?

I put together this bio of MeFi when creating some new social media spaces. It's based on what's in the About section. So not a a mission statement per se, but a good indicator of the site's overall purpose.

"MetaFilter (MeFi) is one of the longest-running online communities. Since 1999, we've been focused on fulfilling the web's potential to bring people together and create genuine, vibrant, good-hearted community spaces."

What do people think the mission of MeFi should be?
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 4:07 AM on August 27, 2023


The "create [...] community spaces" part makes me think of a service like Reddit which provides places for communities to connect and grow so maybe needs a little rephrasing?

Personally I've never liked the focus on Metafilter as a community so that side of the bio doesn't connect with me. I'd prefer the mission to be hosting a space for intelligent, respectful and interesting discussions of web pages, questions, media etc. I'm aware that many others prefer to focus on the community side though.

Also, thanks Brandon for actually responding to and participating in this discussion. Given that there's currently an appeal to raise money, much of which will go to pay staff salaries, it's dispiriting how staff engagement with the discussion has otherwise tailed off to almost nothing.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:59 AM on August 27, 2023 [22 favorites]


Thank you for the response BB! Generally, mission statements have to do with the core purpose of why a business exists. I think is is a great cut of how you see the mission statements and goals of MetaFilter.

Bring[ing]people together and [to] create genuine, vibrant, good-hearted community spaces.".

Do we have a North Star metric for how we measure that? For example, Cochlear implant’s metric is how many people they help hear with their medical device - a substance abuse website is how many people they help get and stay sober.


Do we have another, similar North Star metric for how we know we’re meeting our mission statement?
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 5:30 AM on August 27, 2023 [1 favorite]


January 2022 discussion of MeFi's mission and whether a consensus mission statement is possible. Though meant more to elicit "what the users of MeFi see as the value and goals of our interactions on the site" and "not meant to be a statement for MeFi as a business or even necessarily inform the mods' work".
posted by brainwane at 6:11 AM on August 27, 2023 [2 favorites]


My own basic sense of the mission, this is just me and not speaking for the site or for anyone else, is that the basic goal of the site is to continue to be:
- a reasonably-okay place to share and discuss interesting stuff members find on the internet, with a general-interest audience; a reasonably-okay place to ask and answer questions, discuss media, etc -- similar to a real world small hangout space like a neighborhood coffeeshop or bar where there are some regulars and some non-regulars
- with other real humans speaking for themselves -- i.e. not bots or AI or advertisers/people speaking with promotional intent
- with persistent identities (even if pseudonyms), so you can get a sense of who a person is over time (so you can decide how to weigh their comments/model their deal, just like we can do in any regular hangout space in real life), and there are enough consequences to being a jerk that lead most people try to be conscientious/non-jerks, try to have basic consideration for each other and feel like that effort will generally be reciprocal
- in text, low-bandwidth
- with a human moderation process
- that isn't about trying to exploit users or modeled on the behavior of companies that are all about exploiting users/scaling/etc

At the moment I am not around much (I have a family situation that takes most of my time these days - and because of that, note that I may not see replies to this comment, apologies for that).... but I want, for myself, to be able to drop in here and check what Mefites are saying about the weird thing I heard about (a boat got stuck! is there a thread of boat jokes and a few boat-knowledgable commenters who have perspective about international shipping?); to quickly scan to see what interesting things people have posted to the front page; I want to be able to drop in to AskMe and see if I can help with a question over there; I want to be able to ask a question to wide-ish group that might have the specialist knowledge but also where I have a sense of who's who so I can weigh their responses accordingly. I want to read what Mefites have to say about a movie I just watched. I also want to see how the people I "know" from Mefi are doing if there's a natural disaster in their area, or if maybe I noticed someone asked a question about being ill, getting a pet, finding a new job etc a few months ago I will be glad to see an update from them etc.

I think this fundraising reminder time is about basic routine keep-the-site-running-as-normal fundraising. It takes money every month to keep things going, keep the basic space that we're all using going. Subscriptions/monthly contributions tend to gradually decline over the year (e.g if your credit card expires, it might silently stop renewing, so it's worth checking), we need to remind people to please re-up. The site needs to do this funding-reminder thing regularly. This is about just paying for the thing I'm using - just the basic existing reliable space I've been using and enjoying for years. If you like hanging out here, if you drop by and use the space regularly, and you want the place to stay viable, please kick in.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:32 AM on August 27, 2023 [10 favorites]


Ways to tell if a mission is well crafted and useful:
a) You can describe in a relatively objective way, how you would know whether you were successful in the mission.
b) You can look at other sites that you explicitly don't want to emulate, and clearly describe in what way they don't match up with the mission.
c) If the team do things that don't contribute to the mission (directly or indirectly), you can agree that it's reasonable to stop spending salary money on those things.
d) The mission is an end in itself, not just a means for achieving something else that could be seen as the mission.

So there's two different but overlapping themes I can see:
- thoughtful, considerate discussions
- community

I feel like the "thoughtful considerate discussions" part of it meets the criteria relatively easily, since the existing moderation policies reflect a lot of thought going into what "thoughtful and inclusive discussion" looks like. We can all point at sites hosting discussions that are not thoughtful and considerate, and describe how Metafilter differentiates itself from that

The "community" part takes more thought. How do you know when you have a community? How do you know what's more community-ish or less community-ish? Is "community" a goal in itself, or is it a goal because it facilitates something else? How does "community" differ from "thoughtful, considered discussion"? What do people get from a community that they don't get from a set of people that aren't a community? How do we think about people who are not part of the community, or don't contribute to it, but who could be regarded as a customer base (i.e. people using AskMe as a resource in the same way they might use an advice helpline)? What proportion of the user base see this as a community, or care about it as a community, and does that matter?

Hopefully that's some food for thought and further discussion!
posted by quacks like a duck at 9:01 AM on August 27, 2023 [5 favorites]


For whom is also a question: is it thoughtful discussions and community for a global, diverse group of members, or is that part less central. (I think the leadership and most of the membership would say that it's a central part of the mission, in which case all the questions about prioritization and measuring success apply.)

I'm not clear though: are we having this discussion about what the site's mission should be, or what the leadership's mission should be? Because I think the former is just a subset of the latter.
posted by trig at 9:15 AM on August 27, 2023 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that until the issues mentioned in bepe’s post are addressed and concrete evidence is shown that they’re being resolved, it’s going to be difficult to convince many new or former donors to give any more money to this site.
posted by wondermouse at 8:57 AM on August 28, 2023 [19 favorites]


It seems to me that until the issues mentioned in bepe’s post are addressed and concrete evidence is shown that they’re being resolved, it’s going to be difficult to convince many new or former donors to give any more money to this site.
VLADIMIR: Well? What do we do?
ESTRAGON: Don't let's do anything. It's safer.
VLADIMIR: Let's wait and see what he says.
ESTRAGON: Who?
VLADIMIR: Godot.
ESTRAGON: Good idea.
VLADIMIR: Let's wait till we know exactly how we stand.
ESTRAGON: On the other hand it might be better to strike the iron before it freezes.
VLADIMIR: I'm curious to hear what he has to offer. Then we'll take it or leave it.
ESTRAGON: What exactly did we ask him for?
VLADIMIR: Were you not there?
ESTRAGON: I can't have been listening.
VLADIMIR: Oh . . . Nothing very definite.
posted by paper scissors sock at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2023 [4 favorites]


I wonder if there was even any consideration put towards constructing a coordinated response to bepe's post. It was phrased about as gently as could be hoped given the subject matter. That it was met with silence isn't necessarily surprising, though it somehow remains disappointing.
posted by otsebyatina at 11:21 AM on August 28, 2023 [13 favorites]


At this point tbh we are just lucky it didn't get deleted
posted by Jarcat at 11:22 AM on August 28, 2023 [7 favorites]


To me it seems like the issue isn't a lack of direction, but a lack of progress.

Like the flagging UI change was promised on June 21 2020 and is this:
1. Changing the [!] glyph to something textually explicit. Possibly [flag], possibly something more verbose. Bigger, easier click target; screen-reader friendly; semantically straightforward.
2. Adding an explicit link and prompt for the contact form near the comment box. It's in the footer of every page, but right there is where folks are much of the time going to be thinking/feeling about wanting mod awareness on something.
3. Adding an explicit link to the guidelines page in that same spot, something we have been meaning to do for a while and should get done while we're in there.
Now I know about the problems of working on complex and old codebases. But that isn't three years work at 25 hours per week. If the codebase is so bad that this kind of change takes three years, then we need to throw away the code and migrate to different forum software.

Another thing that was supposed to happen was hiring for new tech and admin notes. The BIPOC minutes have some explanation, in theory, of why this never happened.

But it's not really about mission statements. We know what the goals are: change the flagging UI as above, hire an admin, hire a tech resource. The problem is that the actual work is not being done.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:03 PM on August 28, 2023 [25 favorites]


The problem is that the actual work is not being done.

Exactly. The three things you have listed are, being pessimistic, 10 hours of work. Being ultra-pessimistic, they are 100 hours of work. To have accomplished none of them in the last 3 years is simply malpractice.
posted by bowbeacon at 12:06 PM on August 28, 2023 [12 favorites]


This thread has made me very sad. It also convinced me to cancel my monthly payments. They weren't large but I no longer have confidence in this site's leadership and future direction. I genuinely hope to be proven wrong and have my mind changed at some point!
posted by ElKevbo at 12:11 PM on August 28, 2023 [13 favorites]


As far as I can tell, the flagging thing is a specific case of a general site tendency in recent years to work towards an ideal solution (which is fine) at the cost of intermediate solutions (which is not). Iirc the explanation for why it's taken so long to fix the flagging UI is that the codebase is such a mess that things need to be changed individually in many places. The obvious approach, given limited development time, is to first just go ahead and make the (small! doable!) change in the various places required. Tedious and inefficient, but should not take more than a few hours. (Maybe I'm underestimating? Maybe somehow it would take a few days?) And then work on the massive, less-urgent project of overall refactoring or whatever in the spare time not taken up by more urgent tasks. Instead of working on refactoring first, so that 2-3-? years later you can finally make the original change in one place instead of many.

I really understand the impulse to try to clean everything up first instead of working with the mess you have, but when you're managing a project with limited resources, you've got to prioritize. It's the same thing with first cortex and then loup putting off theoretically regular updates again and again because they were waiting for some information that would theoretically make those updates more complete; with the predictable result that instead of intermediate progress there was nothing.

Maybe I'm wrong and that's not what's going on, but given the minimal transparency there's been on this, that's my best guess.


We've gotten off topic in this thread, but that's not surprising when all the on-topic questions go unanswered. Besides bepe's on-point comment there are a lot of questions people have asked that are waiting for a response.

(Way up in the thread I asked 3 questions: "It looks like something got cut off [in the OP]? How short are we of the goal? (Who's Tim?)" Exactly one of these got answered - the least relevant one (Tim).)

More recent questions I asked that I hope will be answered:

1) "Is the plan for the admin role under discussion to be restricted to things like accounting, or would this also be the person who can do proactive, experienced business development and fundraising? If not, is there a plan or intention to hire anyone for that?" (Asked 4 days ago)

2) "193 out of 1730 is pretty bad, right?" (Asked 6 days ago) This one night not seem like it but it is a serious question - I was hoping to get a sense of how site management actually views the result so far, how seriously they're taking it, and whether there's any will to make significant changes in how the fundraiser is happening. I guess there's been a de facto answer of sorts, but having to read tea leaves sucks.

There are a lot more important questions that other people asked, and requests people made, and I was going to try to make an organized list for clarity's sake here or in the next update thread, which should be coming up. But that takes time and energy; I'm not paid to make sure site-member communication is healthy, while there are people who are; and I've actually done that work before, in one of the past many threads where ghosting happened, and it sucks that this continues to be a thing.


The feedback you provide will always be acceptable, welcome, and taken into account to refine our efforts.

Stuff like that, you have to demonstrate, not just state.
posted by trig at 1:46 PM on August 28, 2023 [41 favorites]


An admin person would be able to gather data, set priorities, and (ideally) hold people accountable. More mods or more mod hours would just be more of what we have now.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:25 PM on August 28, 2023 [6 favorites]


Agreed that the fundraising this year was a bit half hearted, although "we're in crisis and desperately need money to keep the lights on" is a much more compelling fundraising story than "revenues have dwindled a bit but there's no immediate crisis."
I'm fine with "everything stays just as it is" assuming that it's possible to keep the site propped up on donations.
I think it makes the most sense to pause a minute to figure out what the site's business structure is going to be (will it be possible to incorporate volunteer work etc? If so, how?) before doing much else, because so much is going to hinge on that. Once again, people get all excited about business models and metrics. There have been PLENTY of websites, no doubt many run by professional managers with business plans, performance metrics, etc. which have come and gone over MeFi's lifespan, while MeFi is still standing. I'm not saying that being more formal about things is necessarily a bad idea, but seat of the pants management can work too.
It's not that complicated. You have to provide a service that people want, people have to be able to find you/be aware of you, and you need to be able to extract enough money from the enterprise to cover your expenses.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:44 PM on August 28, 2023 [4 favorites]


Agreed that the fundraising this year was a bit half hearted, although "we're in crisis and desperately need money to keep the lights on" is a much more compelling fundraising story than "revenues have dwindled a bit but there's no immediate crisis."

The problem with going from “emergency fundraiser because we didn’t have our ducks in a row” to “we’re doing alright let’s keep it low key and have fun” fundraiser the next time around is that people are primed to expect it to be a big thing again, and also to grow concerned that the waterfowl are quietly unsorting themselves if it isn’t.

On top of that, as other people have discussed, the outpouring of concern for the future of the site last time and the talk of new governance structures and the use of language like “revive” and “thrive” translated into a moment of optimism about the future of the site. There are certainly worse things to be than an old school web forum that hangs on forever with a small population of die-hard users. I’m on a few of those. It just feels like this one has enough resources that it could have a vision that more clearly tries to establish its niche, modernize a few things while remaining true to its roots in the pre-social-media Web, and maybe even attract some fresh blood. But in practice it’s just plodding along the same as before, minus a few users as usual.
posted by atoxyl at 5:21 PM on August 28, 2023 [12 favorites]


I can’t remember exactly the data that was posted maybe last year, but I think there might have been about 2,000 active (monthly?) commenters or something. Also, surely, some readers who donate. But if there were 2,000 regular users, all of them would have to donate $12.50/month to meet a budget of $25k/month, which I think is roughly where the site is at. I am more inclined to believe that it is a miracle that the site is alive than assume it can chug on indefinitely.

Sorry if I am misremembering some of the numbers, but I feel like the only thing keeping this site alive might be that it has some really well-off members who either get a lot of value from the site, or can donate generously for nostalgia without thinking about it.

I am sure there are also members giving donations that do impact their monthly budget, but I can also imagine these donors being very vulnerable to attrition if the site doesn’t thrive.
posted by snofoam at 6:35 PM on August 28, 2023 [2 favorites]


What's the plan when the money runs out? There's a set of documented closing procedures, right?
posted by fluttering hellfire at 6:49 PM on August 28, 2023 [1 favorite]


Wouldn’t the plan be decreased staffing first? Or is that a rhetorical question? Running the backend infrastructure here can’t be that large a percentage of costs.
posted by atoxyl at 7:04 PM on August 28, 2023


Well, we had a steering committee, and that took a lot of energy to create/organize, and then they had to figure out what their job was (and there are a lot of jobs!) and then that got shut down by lawyers. So it’s not as if they’ve done nothing, it’s more like the Big Plan For Change fizzled out. I’m happy to stick around to see what the next plan is. This site is extremely educational for me.
Bored? Go read some recent BIPOC minutes, they’re quite impressively detailed.
posted by Vatnesine at 7:56 PM on August 28, 2023 [5 favorites]


If the codebase is so bad that this kind of change takes three years, then we need to throw away the code and migrate to different forum software.

Popping up for my legally-required suggestion that we should migrate to Discourse, a versatile open source platform with far superior accessibility, security, and mobile support used by thousands of sites, many much bigger than Metafilter.

No, Metafilter's problems aren't all or even mostly technical – but a lot of them are.
posted by adrianhon at 3:12 AM on August 29, 2023 [9 favorites]


Hello. I spend much less time on MeFi than I used to, and I participate even more rarely. But I dip in once in a while – like checking in on an old friend who's fallen on hard times, to make sure they're hanging in there.

I've never cared to follow the minutiae of mod decisions, fundraising, financial transparency, advisory boards, etc. So I really have no dogs in those fights.

But, it should be clear from this thread that MetaFilter is at a decisive crossroads, and that its owners and staff have some hard decisions to make.

Sooner or later, those choices will decide whether MetaFilter lives to fight another day, or becomes another stop along the internet's memory lane (next door to Memepool, and around the corner from Orkut).

What's that old saying? "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." It's hokey, but it points to something real.

The cultural and technical landscape of the internet has been changing around MetaFilter for many years, and MetaFilter's consistent response has been "let's declare that we refuse to sell out, keep doing everything the same way, stick our head in the sand, and pretend that it's 2005 forever".

With each passing month, that stubborn refusal to evolve erodes the user base. Which erodes income. Which makes it even harder for the site to pivot. It's a vicious circle. (I'm sure the full story is more nuanced than that – but this is the bottom line.)

It may be too late to break that circle at this point. MeFi seems to value "don't sell out" even more highly than its own survival.

It's not a bad thing to have principles (of course), but I'd wager that 99% of MeFites would be unable to articulate exactly what principles are being preserved by MeFi's decisions: using weird also-ran services for analytics/advertising, refusing to implement simple and now-standard features to attract more traffic from social media, creating an ever-more byzantine set of rules for users to follow, etc.

At some point, choosing "don't sell out" is functionally indistinguishable from choosing "shut down the site". And, sure – you can argue that if keeping the lights on requires MeFi to compromise its principles, then the site would become something that isn't worth having anyway.

But, again – what the heck are those principles? (And are they shared by the users?) Frankly, I think that many of them are only intelligible from within a certain EFF-ish, Portland-ish, 2003-ish, fair-trade-rooibos-ish, Very Online bubble.

I honestly say this with affection – those are, to some extent anyway, my people. But facts the inescapable dynamics of the internet in 2023 don't care about your feelings abstract communitarian ideals.

Whatever choices MeFi makes from here: if they don't hurt, then they probably aren't sufficient. You're gonna have to rip some bandages off.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:39 AM on August 29, 2023 [22 favorites]


I used to have a small monthly donation but stopped it largely because I thought the steering committee was treated very poorly. And it seems like individuals who served on that committee are still being treated poorly for all the work they put into it.

It made me sad to see the kind of work that was being expected of a volunteer advisory committee on a for-profit website, and how when the first term was coming to an end, anyone who wanted to be a part of it was expected to jump through all sorts of hoops in the application process to kind of beg for the opportunity to be on that committee. I expected better from MetaFilter.

I still value MetaFilter for what it continues to be in a lot of ways. The fact that it hasn't modernized in certain ways does mean a lot to me. So much of the rest of the internet has become homogenous and overwhelming and more about keeping people's attention in unhealthy ways than about anything else. I like to think there is a way for this place to add features we'd all like while not losing that old school internet feel.

I don't know what the point of all I'm saying is, but wanted to put it out there as one more user's experience.
posted by bananana at 6:26 AM on August 29, 2023 [9 favorites]


Last year I donated $200. I noted at the time that the money wouldn't go very far without a radical change away from the absentee style of management that's developed at Metafilter. I never got any sort of acknowledgment. No thank-you, no follow-up for this year's fundraiser, no nothing. The staff either doesn't track this stuff, or doesn't care.

From the way this year's fundraiser is being handled, it's clear to me that the situation has not improved. Last year the SC set goals and made a plan to get there. They shared financials, projections, and targets with the membership. They were engaged and accountable, and raised a lot of money. They provided a compelling demonstration of how much of the value of Metafilter is in the community membership.

I'm interested in supporting that community, and if it were possible to donate to the community directly, I would. But I'm no longer interested in supporting the outsized costs for Metafilter's anachronistic software stack, or in supporting the mods doing social work/therapy/AMAs/podcasts, or in supporting management's pursuit of increasing mod coverage despite dwindling participation.
posted by dmh at 6:37 AM on August 29, 2023 [33 favorites]


it’s not as if they’ve done nothing, it’s more like the Big Plan For Change fizzled out.

This is the impression that I got, too. I want MetaFilter to live, and am willing to support Metafilter, long enough for it to achieve a form in which volunteer contributions will be very legal and very cool.
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 7:25 AM on August 29, 2023 [6 favorites]


Last year I donated $200. I noted at the time that the money wouldn't go very far without a radical change away from the absentee style of management that's developed at Metafilter. I never got any sort of acknowledgment. No thank-you, no follow-up for this year's fundraiser, no nothing.

Wow. On top of everything else that's been going on, a simple Thank You for a donation is just basic human courtesy, never mind good business sense. If there was any doubt about the disdain directed towards the users, this clinches it. I've been hanging on here, but now I'm done.
posted by bookmammal at 7:58 AM on August 29, 2023 [6 favorites]


My small PayPal recurrence still directs to cortex@metafilter.com . . .

I'm not super emotionally tied up in any of this, so I don't feel anything like 'disdain' toward the users. I feel more like a member of a kind of hippie-adjacent nonprofit with a lot of intelligence and good intentions, but not much interest in operational skills.

nevertheless, if I were in charge i would prioritize:

1) rolling out visible changes in conjunction with site updates. Listing off minor, back-end things that would have gone unnoticed only gives the impression of futzing and delay. Especially when there is so much low-hanging fruit out there. Our footer should not be an archive to defunct sub-sites. Small updates to our FAQ and guidelines should not count as enhancements.

2) a plan to increase the userbase.
posted by Think_Long at 8:38 AM on August 29, 2023 [13 favorites]


2) a plan to increase the userbase.

Still waiting on a plan to stanch the increasing attrition of the existing userbase
posted by knucklebones at 8:43 AM on August 29, 2023 [7 favorites]


There were thank you messages to donors all over the site before, during, and after last year's fundraiser. I also needed to update my cc info and received a thank you then as well. OMMV, but I didn't feel unthanked.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 11:12 AM on August 29, 2023 [8 favorites]


bookmammal, sorry to see you go.
posted by paduasoy at 11:17 AM on August 29, 2023 [3 favorites]


Even if we set aside things like having proper admin, management, marketing, development, fundraising, strategy, etc. happening to make sure the site is on track (which I don't think we should set aside), I think there are some legitimate questions about moderation. Moderation is the bulk of the budget, and the only metric I've really seen discussed is hours of coverage. How many posts are flagged per hour on average? How many receive multiple flags? How many moderation decisions are being made? How many emails are being answered? What is the average response time to flags/emails/etc.? How often is something posted that is so harmful it requires immediate action?

Every dollar spent on one thing is a dollar not spent on something else. Without any insight into the moderation process and productivity, there's no way for a user to know for sure that some of the moderation budget should be going to other things. But I think for some it certainly feels that way. It is 100% management's fault that we are forced to wonder if all the moderation is worth it because everything about it is hidden.

Any serious discussion of the site and its finances has to assess moderation and what options there might be to maintain an acceptable service level while also being able to spend money to do some of the many much needed things that are not being done. I think a lot of the users and donors would be willing to accept moderation trade-offs (e.g., no more speedy correction of typos in FPPs) if it meant the site was able to implement tech changes people want, grow the user base, spend time on community building activities, survive more years, etc.
posted by snofoam at 5:29 AM on August 30, 2023 [19 favorites]


I never got any sort of acknowledgment. No thank-you, no follow-up for this year's fundraiser, no nothing.

I'm sorry about that and believe it was just an oversight. That admins are digging through things to see what happened. That doesn't excuse it, but did want to express apologies, without reservations. As another donator noted, they absolutely did get a thank you note, so it's definitely not a lack of caring or any sort of disdain..

Thank you for donating, it is appreciated. I'm sorry you don't feel that it's worth donating again, but from your explanation it's totally understandable. We still have much to do, but we are intent on doing it.

Thank you to everyone who has donated and thank you to everyone who has articulated why they don't feel comfortable donating this year. The site can't maintain or get better without either, so we are grateful for all that everyone has contributed in donations and feedback.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 5:37 AM on August 30, 2023 [8 favorites]


As another donator noted, they absolutely did get a thank you note, so it's definitely not a lack of caring or any sort of disdain..

What they noted was there were thank yous posted on the site to donors in general and they received a thank you when they updated their billing info. There is no mention of an individual thank you specific to them for making a donation.

I set up a small recurring donation last year* and looked back at the associated correspondence just now -- each month I received an email with a summary of the transaction in the body and two attachments, an invoice and a receipt. The word "thank" does not appear in any of those documents. There was no other correspondence.

I never even noticed that and certainly never thought it was a deliberate or accidental slight against me personally. I still don't think that. But its weird to be told that admins need to dig through things to figure out what happened when [no thank you in the mail] really seems like mefi's standard modus operandi. (At least it was.)

* I stopped the donation in April, surprised my profile still reads "I help fund MetaFilter!". Will it go away eventually?
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 7:12 AM on August 30, 2023 [9 favorites]


surprised my profile still reads "I help fund MetaFilter!". Will it go away eventually?

Ditto. I stopped contributing, too.

Why is Brandon the only mod who leaves notes? At one time, I believe they were routine.
posted by jgirl at 7:18 AM on August 30, 2023 [10 favorites]


Other mods leave them too sometimes, but Brandon does a really great job with them.

Also thanks to Brandon and LobsterMittens for your comments in here - above all those comments feel human and earnest, not just toeing a defensive line. I really appreciate that.

I hope that Loup or ideally Jessamyn will come back and really answer some of the questions that have been piling up. If the plan is to just wait until the next update thread and address things as lightly as possible in order to move past it - that's disappointing and discouraging.
posted by trig at 9:58 AM on August 30, 2023 [9 favorites]


So I appreciate Brandon responding, but it really does feel like at this point that there is a conscious choice for mods to not respond to any difficult question.

I think it is completely reasonable to ask if the best thing for metafilters continued future is to invest only in moderation, and continually deemphasize administration and development roles.

And honestly, the flagging UI issue is just bananas. I appreciate that metafilters code base is old, but this request is three years old. If I was to fail to deliver such a basic feature on a project to which I gave 50% of my time.. well I don't think I would have my position anymore.

Fundamentally, as metafilter has moved to a model where a good proportion of its income is based on donations, I really do think that members are owed at the very least basic transparency and responses to highly favourited questions!

If you don't have an answer, maybe indicate in this thread that you are at least thinking and formulating a response l?
posted by Cannon Fodder at 10:52 AM on August 30, 2023 [20 favorites]


surprised my profile still reads "I help fund MetaFilter!". Will it go away eventually?

You can turn that off yourself when you edit your profile.
posted by soelo at 11:16 AM on August 30, 2023 [1 favorite]


Ah "Display funding message?" .... thanks!
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 11:43 AM on August 30, 2023 [1 favorite]


Dunno, I’m gonna buck the trend and say I don’t really care to hear from the mods any more. We’re well past the point where talking matters. It’s time for action. Either the mods are finally listening this time and we’ll finally see things change or (far more likely) we won’t. Either way we’ll have our answers.
posted by dorothy hawk at 1:37 PM on August 30, 2023 [11 favorites]


Good lord this makes me sad. I've been here since 2000, and have now and then felt bad/tense/angry about MF, but I've never felt so pessimistic about the future of it. I cancelled my monthly donation from last year after reading the recent absurdly detailed BIPOC notes and realizing that even in a real-time meeting, direct answers to reasonable questions were not forthcoming. Are the notes so detailed because it's the only way to reveal that no substantial work is happening? This thread shows that comments about the level/quality/amount of work by the MF staff are subject to deletion, so maybe the notes are a substitute for comments in Meta threads?

So I despair of getting answers to these simple questions, but ask anyway: If we, the community, donated to hire admin and programming help, why were those projects back burnered in favor of endlessly updating FAQs? What happened to the money? Why doesn't anyone answer questions/leave notes anymore except Brandon? What is frimble doing for 20+ hours each week? Why has a business that claims to want to be community-led practice so little transparency?
posted by donnagirl at 8:13 AM on August 31, 2023 [31 favorites]


Why has a business that claims to want to be community-led practice so little transparency?

Especially when it is completely reliant on user-generated content.
posted by jgirl at 10:11 AM on August 31, 2023 [5 favorites]


I'm not very happy about how things are around here, but I'm finding that I can't really say much about what's wrong, and why, because at the end of the day I have very little idea what's actually going on behind the scenes.

There is a lot of criticism being thrown around at specific people, both here and elsewhere, much of which seems to be built on a lot of guesswork and assumptions. I would bet that a lot of it is misguided and/or misdirected, and I don't want to add to that problem.

So I'm just going to say that the reason I have stopped my monthly donation is that I don't have confidence that the site's funding is being used and managed effectively. I'll be happy to resume contributing if and when that changes.
posted by automatronic at 10:21 AM on August 31, 2023 [8 favorites]


donnagirl, you asked whether the BIPOC board meeting notes recently were super detailed as a way of conveying a particular message. No, it was just a time issue -- we had a process that went like "someone listens to recording of meeting and basically transcribes it to add a ton of detail to the notes people had taken live during the meeting, then someone distills down those very detailed notes to more condensed minutes". And then once or twice we ran low on time and didn't do the distillation step, and we were trying to get the notes out the door faster after our meetings, so we ended up publishing the detailed versions. Right now we are modifying that process to rebalance stuff better (labor, detail vs. concision, etc.).

Separately, I have a more "things are in progress and I have confidence in future improvement" point of view on MeFi than several recent commenters in this thread, in case lurkers or other MeFites think that the more pessimistic view is turning into a consensus.
posted by brainwane at 10:22 AM on August 31, 2023 [17 favorites]


brainwave, thank you for that explanation and also for modeling how simple it can be to just answer a question directly to put a stop to unfair/untrue assumptions.
posted by donnagirl at 10:26 AM on August 31, 2023 [16 favorites]


donnagirl, I'm glad you appreciated the explanation, but I reject the second bit. I interpret your sentence as saying that the MetaFilter admins should have done similarly and haven't done so in equivalent circumstances, and I think you're wrong.

I am home and taking a day off work, kind of sick, and felt annoyed by how you phrased your question, and I could imagine a bunch of people jumping on board with the implications of your possibly rhetorical and possibly genuine question. So I decided to do something kind of unfair and answer you quickly without checking with the rest of the Board first. And, this is actually at least the second time someone in MetaTalk has asked why the notes are so detailed, and the first time they asked, I mentioned the question privately to the rest of the BIPOC Board, and it touched off a discussion that was part of why we're changing the processes now. And I think no one from the board ever got back to the relevant MetaTalk thread to give an answer. So this actually isn't the best modelling for answering a MetaTalk question directly! And, it wasn't as simple as I think you inferred it was!

You are one of the people asking several questions per comment, some of which are phrased in a really ungenerous way. By making it so the people with the information you want have to unpick your ungenerous assumptions as they answer your questions, you've made it harder to get what you say you want.

I am being crabby, out of sorts, off-kilter compared to my usual approach to the site. Usually I don't comment in MetaTalk when I am in an ungracious mood of this type. I am making this comment, again, without conferring with the rest of the BIPOC Board. Some of them may well disagree with my stance on The Future Of The Site, on what you have said, on productive ways to ask questions in MetaTalk threads, etc.

And now I have a choice: do I take several minutes to re-write this post now that my head is a bit cooler, or do I post it as is? For once I am posting it as is, and if someone is reading this comment and finds it off-puttingly snide, I ask you to check whether it is an outlier in the greater gestalt of my comments, as I hope it is.
posted by brainwane at 11:11 AM on August 31, 2023 [9 favorites]


If you're saying you have to be annoyed to give a great answer, then...I dunno, maybe we should keep annoying the mods.
posted by bowbeacon at 11:18 AM on August 31, 2023 [5 favorites]


So I decided to do something kind of unfair and answer you quickly without checking with the rest of the Board first.

I think this is a perfectly fine approach and not something that needed to be done by committee. (I also appreciated the original answer.)
posted by anderjen at 11:19 AM on August 31, 2023 [5 favorites]


For me, it's pretty simple- do I want MeFi to continue? [Yes] Do I feel that I get $X dollars of utility/enjoyment from MeFi each month? [Where X=my monthly contribution] answer, absolutely yes.
Is everything about how MeFi is run perfect and optimized? Probably not, but I can't see how cutting my contribution is going to help improve MeFi.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 11:20 AM on August 31, 2023 [6 favorites]


Brainwane, I am really glad that you feel positive about the future of the site.

My experience, and the experience of other users is that repeatedly people ask quite reasonable questions, and make reasonable points which are utterly ignored by anyone in an official capacity.

What makes this feel worse is that eventually someone comes into the thread, asks a much easier to answer question, and immediately gets a mod response! Maybe this is just human nature, but over time it feels systematic.

I have been a member of metafilter for a long time. I have never been the most active contributor, and have never donated. I still like it here a lot. I find value in many of the subsites. I think the moderation mostly works, and does improve the quality of conversations.

However, the actual community management, as represented by metatalk is awful. Metatalk posts almost always seem to lead to long term members quitting, and very rarely seen to result in some concrete action taken by staff. I think this is by far the worst subsite, and I think that is due to

a) the way it is moderated
B) the design of the subsite

I wouldn't be the first to note that metafilters design does not actually help it. Fanfare is similarly hampered by a design that doesn't really suit it's function.

And here's the thing about all this.. we should be having real conversations about the look and design of this site, but instead we are talking about changes which amount to very minor updates because there seems to be no real impetuous for change!

Again, I find this frustrating because I actually like metafilter, I like the overall culture, and want to see it flourish.

I'll be honest the biggest shock for me was after the fundraiser, when we had been told metafilter was in crisis, and the steering committee listed all their ideas for improvement. And the members stepped up, funding increased well beyond expectations... And the very first action was to hire a new mod! Now don't get me wrong, Brandon is a terrific mod, and I am very happy for him, but it really feels like the priorities of the leadership is just completely at odds with what seems to be the pressing issues this site has.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:33 AM on August 31, 2023 [17 favorites]


> I have a more "things are in progress and I have confidence in future improvement" point of view

I think there are two separate issues - lack of progress and lack of vision.

"Progress" can mean slowly incrementing towards goals (feeling good that something is being done) - but those goals themselves are not where we should be heading. I'm sure over 3 years some progress has been made towards implementing the flagging UI (?), but it's totally hypothetical what returns that effort (and cash!) will bring, if any, and if that commitment is justified at all in terms of moving towards a better future. Partly because that future state is undefined, and partly because there are no success metrics in place to measure whether this achieves anything or not.

If Frimble is not incompetent or corrupt, they are definitely mismanaged, and that's as much due to the lack of vision and measurement as lack of leadership skills.

I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed in jessamyn's comment here, because the implication is that it's OK to plough on ahead with business as usual, moving onto "the big picture stuff" when it becomes convenient. In product development there is a fundamental difference between "optimisation cycles" (incrementally moving from the current state onwards via minor improvements) and "transformation programme" (making large scale changes that are guided by a future state vision). MetaFilter needs to move from a "business as usual mindset" where "big picture stuff" floats on top of ongoing development as an optional nice-to-have, towards a "transfomation mindset" where "big picture stuff*" drives all decision making.

By which I mean, jessamyn, please let us know that you have a vision and there is something more going on here than reactive short term thinking. I think any leadership at this point would be really appreciated, and I'm pretty sure that whatever vision you have for the site, if you tell us you really believe in it, we would rally behind you and have faith in that vision.

* Big picture stuff expressed variously as north star vision, unique value proposition, mission, values, etc. Lots of smart commenters have providing their own take on this on this thread and others.
posted by iivix at 11:34 AM on August 31, 2023 [7 favorites]


You are one of the people asking several questions per comment, some of which are phrased in a really ungenerous way. By making it so the people with the information you want have to unpick your ungenerous assumptions as they answer your questions, you've made it harder to get what you say you want.

Back in 2020 or 2021 or 2022 - probably all of those - I made some comments to the effect that mods' participation in these threads can shape the discussions - and so does the absence of their participation.

Mods know this - it's the whole essence of moderation, the whole reason the role exists. Discussions can be shaped.

The longer these threads go without mods actually answering the hard questions, the more (important, reasonable) questions are going to pile up, and the more impatience is going to (deservedly, predictably!) come to the fore. This is a pattern that has repeated so ridiculously many times over the past years.

So I don't think it's fair to blame the commenters for making it harder to get the answers they want. I think it's fair to assume that mods have basic reading comprehension abilities. And I think that if mods actually wanted to answer questions here they would - and that doing so on a frequent basis would avoid the reality of a million unanswered questions piling up.

Cynically, I have to wonder if having a million questions pile up is the goal. Once they pile up it's easy to say "there's too much here for us to answer, we'll just start another update thread later with a clear slate". Result - questions never do get answered, people give up on bringing the same questions to thread after thread after thread.

If mods have the ability to shape discussions, and don't, then it's not unfair to conclude that this is the shape that they want: lots of discouraged users, asking each other "what the hell is even going on", eventually giving up on asking.

It's either that or incompetence, and I really am not sure which is worse.


I'm finding that I can't really say much about what's wrong, and why, because at the end of the day I have very little idea what's actually going on behind the scenes.

Yeah. I don't even know who to be frustrated with. Who's responsible for how the fundraiser was designed and implemented? Who's responsible for the lack of communication and interaction here? Is it Jessamyn? Or is Jessamyn's role mostly about hands-off ownership and actual leadership of the site is delegated and entrusted to loup? Or do all the mods decide on these things together, equally? What is the structure? Is there anyone with the authority and self-awareness to say "this fundraiser isn't being managed well" or "communication isn't being managed well" or "maybe whoever is in charge of those things is not effective in that role"?

Is the lack of communication an active decision on someone (whose?) part? Or is it a failure?


This site's important to me, I want it to continue, I want fundraisers to be successful, I want it to draw new members and more members younger than me, and I really, really want management that does not feel contemptuous, does not equate professionalism with a "talk to the hand" approach, and does not repeatedly make me wonder "what the hell are they doing?"

If there are too many questions in this comment to address them all - fine, please pick the hardest ones.
posted by trig at 12:19 PM on August 31, 2023 [29 favorites]


It seems to me like there is a massive disconnect between a large portion of the userbase (particularly the users that keep up with MetaTalk), and the management, which might include the boards/committees/mods/what-have-you.

It feels like management has kind of a "When we get to it" attitude about a lot of the issues being discussed here, including responding to our questions about the issues. Which leads to the problem where it seems, to the users, like those things are never gotten to. And then the problem there is that we don't know why these things are never gotten to.

The users don't know why the member of the staff who posted this thread last responded 8 days ago. Which leads to folks feeling like they are being strung along or misled or, at best, ignored and forgotten about. It is unclear if this is due to negligence, like maybe the admins really just aren't reading this thread anymore and they've moved on with their lives.
posted by wondermouse at 12:23 PM on August 31, 2023 [9 favorites]


What specific jobs are currently unfilled? Where are the jobs posted?

I see mention in several places, in this thread and others, about an admin role and a tech role, and maybe details about exactly what the site is looking for can be found deep in one or another of these threads, but... shouldn't they be front and center somewhere, if filling those roles is a priority? And yet an (admittedly casual) search of MetaTalk doesn't turn up the postings, and they don't appear to be on the Jobs subsite, and there's no Careers or Join Us or whatever link in the footer, or a link from the About page to current openings, which I'd expect to see on any other website that's hiring.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 12:24 PM on August 31, 2023 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: [A]n outlier in the greater gestalt
posted by riverlife at 12:29 PM on August 31, 2023


There is, famously, no point in claiming that the purpose of a system is to do what it continuously fails to do. Whatever anyone’s intentions might or might not be, these threads (and MetaFilter more generally) provide jobs for several people, jobs which objectively seem to require very little effort, in exchange for a website where you can post your links and comments if you like. They do not (and MetaFilter as an organization does not) provide an opportunity for community input which influences the site or transparency in response to community questions.

The purpose of a system is what it does.
posted by gd779 at 12:39 PM on August 31, 2023 [7 favorites]


I just saw the new Askme update bounty post and (a) Dirty Old Town is incredible and seems to be putting more effort into this fundraiser than anybody, and (b) I didn't want to shit in that thread but I too immediately wondered if maybe a bounty on some of the questions here is what it would take to actually get some answers. One-time contribution for opaque, corporate-style responses; monthly subscription for actual informative stuff!

(With all the comments about intentionally stopping subscriptions, that seems to kind of be what is happening, except in reverse.)
posted by trig at 12:40 PM on August 31, 2023 [11 favorites]


I am still agog that volunteer positions have seemingly been squashed. WFMU, which I have been a volunteer and donor and even a temp staffer, couldn’t function without volunteers. And that is an actual radio station, with an FCC license and everything. So why can’t Metafilter?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:05 PM on August 31, 2023


I started using MeFi more recently because of the demise of Twitter. I've been around for a decade, so I've seen a lot of Metatalk drama, mostly because I deliberately go looking for it when I'm bored. If it weren't for that occasional boredom, I would be happily using the Blue for 10 years and have no clue about any of these issues. I would merely notice if there's a posting drought, or if more asshole comments are left up because of lack of moderation.

I guess this is to say that LobsterMitten's description of what the site is for matches what I believe. Most of the problems listed here don't really affect that, and $5 a month seems reasonable to me to keep those services up.
posted by tofu_crouton at 1:10 PM on August 31, 2023 [5 favorites]


Brainwane, I am truly sorry I made you feel grouchy. My questions weren't directed at you or the BIPOC board, nor did I even ask a question about the minutes. But I do appreciate your initial response.

The questions were genuine, btw, and born out of a not-insignificant affection for this site and an acknowledgment of all the ways it has helped me understand and enjoy the human condition. But being grateful doesn't stop me from being confused and sad about the complete disregard for the community that the current mod response to meta questions implies. Your second response, well, it makes me more sad, but at least it was a response.

Thank you for your work on the BIPOC board.
posted by donnagirl at 1:16 PM on August 31, 2023 [2 favorites]


So why can’t Metafilter?


Metafilter is a for-profit business owned by a single person. Meanwhile,

WFMU’s license is now owned by Auricle Communications, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group managed by current and former WFMU staff members and listeners.

A club can accept volunteers. A business can't. Roughly speaking.
posted by bowbeacon at 1:17 PM on August 31, 2023 [10 favorites]


(I didn't mean to criticize that comment by the way, it was absolutely my first instinct too, because how could it not be)
posted by trig at 1:46 PM on August 31, 2023 [2 favorites]


My generous take on the lack of visible progress in new features and improvements is that some/many people on Metafilter think that the site's unchanging nature is its strength. Not only does it mean existing users don't have to learn new user interfaces and features, but it stands against the trends and vicissitudes of the wider internet. "Just look at all these other sites that have come and gone while Metafilter remains – we must be doing something right!"

Indeed, the first half of Metafilter's mission statement is very proudly about its longevity: "MetaFilter (MeFi) is one of the longest-running online communities. Since 1999..."

The problem is that survival is not enough. The second half goes: "...we've been focused on fulfilling the web's potential to bring people together and create genuine, vibrant, good-hearted community spaces."

Vibrant community spaces require retaining users and attracting users. I don't think The Well or Usenet are getting a lot of new users. And to a younger audience, Metafilter might as well be the same. That doesn't mean the site needs to become TikTok but it does mean considering the features and affordances more vibrant text-based communities use. Metafilter has adopted precisely zero of them in recent years. The future may be different but the past speaks for itself.
posted by adrianhon at 2:08 PM on August 31, 2023 [11 favorites]


This is the millionth thread where people are legitimately upset, asking questions, bringing up issues, and the mod response to most of it is silence, and seemingly letting it fizzle out until the next update without making any real changes. loup, the "only mod monitoring this thread", hasn't commented in a week. I'm patient, but not that patient. Does anyone in charge even read the comments down here? Just an acknowledgement would go a long way.
(Thank you to Brandon Blatcher for replying to at least a couple of the concerns.)

I love this place a lot, but I've canceled my recurring donation for the time being.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 2:34 PM on August 31, 2023 [25 favorites]


It is unclear if this is due to negligence, like maybe the admins really just aren't reading this thread anymore and they've moved on with their lives.

But, like just the part of their lives that doesn’t involve the work that they are paid to do, or, in one case, the site that they agreed to own?
posted by snofoam at 4:27 PM on August 31, 2023 [5 favorites]


And to a younger audience, Metafilter might as well be the same. That doesn't mean the site needs to become TikTok but it does mean considering the features and affordances more vibrant text-based communities use.

I’ll go ahead and say it - I don’t actually think Metafilter the community is any less intimidating to new users than Metafilter the site.
posted by atoxyl at 6:52 PM on August 31, 2023 [4 favorites]


@Brandon Blatcher: I know you're the new guy and it sucks for this to fall on you, but maybe you should message loup and Jessamyn with big capitalized underlined letters to get them to come in here.

We've gone past the time window of "maybe they're digesting the comments and drafting a reply" and arrived at "maybe they don't have a useful reply and are waiting for the 30-day MeTa window to close".

In fact, I'm going to actualize trig's bounty idea: $10 donation if loup or Jessamyn posts a substantive reply here by midnight Friday (Eastern US time). If they both show up with replies? $20 same as in town.

(Who decides what's a substantive reply? I do, because it's my money.)
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:38 PM on August 31, 2023 [15 favorites]


I will match The Pluto Gangsta's donation.
posted by mpark at 9:59 PM on August 31, 2023 [1 favorite]


Love the bounty idea; I'll donate $50 if the [!] button gets fixed in this calendar year.
posted by Threeve at 10:11 PM on August 31, 2023 [6 favorites]


Let's not forget the incalculable value of the exposure that attends direct engagement with our community. That ought to be compensation enough, but big thanks to those willing to pay out cash nonetheless.
posted by otsebyatina at 10:19 PM on August 31, 2023 [2 favorites]


Well, The Pluto Gangsta, you tried.
posted by bowbeacon at 9:21 AM on September 1, 2023


Damn, midnight already? Fridays really do fly by.
posted by not just everyday big moggies at 9:32 AM on September 1, 2023 [2 favorites]


Still about 10 hours to go! (fans self with displayed singles)
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 11:38 AM on September 1, 2023


Hey there -- just a quick check in from me to say this won't be a substantive update, apologies, because I am home sick with Covid (and have been for the past week) though I am reading along and have been making note of people's concerns which loup or myself will try to address here or elsewhere.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:02 PM on September 1, 2023 [9 favorites]


Get well soon, jessamyn.
posted by terrapin at 12:40 PM on September 1, 2023


Get well soon, Jessamyn! I grump about the site because I want the site to be better. All the same, I want nothing but the best of health and happiness for the individuals here, regardless of how I feel about MetaFilter LLC or their actions as employees thereof.
posted by Alterscape at 12:44 PM on September 1, 2023 [2 favorites]


We've gone past the time window of "maybe they're digesting the comments and drafting a reply" and arrived at "maybe they don't have a useful reply and are waiting for the 30-day MeTa window to close".

Sorry about that, as Jessamyn mentioned above she has been sick and I had a few days off because I had to take long flights to return to Costa Rica. Since then I have been busy outside of mod hours and catching up with fundraising numbers as well as catching up with other admin work.

It looks like something got cut off here?


I corrected the cut sentence as soon as I read the comment but forgot to mention that in my update afterwards.

193 out of 1730 is pretty bad, right?
Not exactly, so far I have only measured new contributions but not the ones that have been fixed and I'm still reaching out to members with declined transactions as I can.


I honestly would feel better about donating again if someone just came out and said that the goal is to keep things like they always were, and nothing will change, and that stasis as a web relic is the goal.
This is realistically where we are at, our goal since we stopped having a Steering Committee has been to keep the site sustainable, most of that has been achieved by operating under the original budget and by optimizing the resources we have.

Both Jessamyn and I have been avoiding drastic changes to the site, not because of a lack of perspective but because we both believe that the path forward for the site should be a lot more member driven and a lot of effort has been put to make that possible. Hopefully we'll be there soon.

Are there stated mission statements for Metafilter, Inc? Core values that are documented and drive the business decisions being made?

Since we changed the about pages some time ago the mission has been "Fulfilling the web's potential to bring people together and create genuine, vibrant, good-hearted community spaces."

Is the plan for the admin role under discussion to be restricted to things like accounting, or would this also be the person who can do proactive, experienced business development and fundraising? If not, is there a plan or intention to hire anyone for that?
What specific jobs are currently unfilled? Where are the jobs posted?

We hired Brandon as a new mod rather than a full on admin position since we had one mod leaving, cared about having stable coverage and a lot of the scope for the admin role was to support the SC with data, and any required tasks. At this point, I think this role needs to be rewritten entirely and posted soon(ish) but having a new tech hire to support frimble with the flagging UI changes has been prioritized over that. A lot of progress has been made on the back end to make the flagging UI changes over the past month, but certainly having extra help will allow us to have visible changes soon.

1) rolling out visible changes in conjunction with site updates. Listing off minor, back-end things that would have gone unnoticed only gives the impression of futzing and delay. Especially when there is so much low-hanging fruit out there. Our footer should not be an archive to defunct sub-sites. Small updates to our FAQ and guidelines should not count as enhancements.
Thank you for pointing this out. Specifically the site's footer need an entire overhaul and would love to get more feedback on how you would like to see these changes happen.

2) a plan to increase the userbase.
We have historically relied a lot on organic growth, that being said, since Brandon started doing a lot of work in social media in the past month I'm seeing more signups than usual. For now I want to measure how effective this is being and take it from there.

I'll keep catching up with the thread on Monday.
posted by loup (staff) at 2:51 PM on September 1, 2023 [5 favorites]


As a native Tico who flies in and out of Costa Rica from PDX, Vegas, Dallas, L.A., and Miami often, and does code, network, and IaC deployments for multiple organizations from both the plane and airports along the way I just can't even with this. It does not take days to make the trip, and even if it did airports all along the way have internet, telephones, and even snail mail. To intimate, as the self-defined only moderator watching/moderating this thread, that travel to Costa Rica is so difficult that you cannot say boo for 6+ days, nor communicate to any other mods to even update the thread that our beloved jessamyn is terribly ill ... what the actual fuck?

Costa Rica is by no measure the Ninth World as this message intimates, and to blame travel to it for this ridiculous lack of communication is a step too far. Good Lord.

ETA: Have an excellent holiday weekend.
posted by riverlife at 3:27 PM on September 1, 2023 [7 favorites]

I had a few days off because I had to take long flights to return to Costa Rica. Since then I have been busy outside of mod hours and catching up with fundraising numbers as well as catching up with other admin work.
You might want to communicate this sort of thing in advance, or coordinate with the other staff to communicate that, if you intend to be "the only mod monitoring this thread." I can't believe that there was no way for you to communicate with Brandon and Jessamyn, get updated on what was going on in your thread here, and either have one of them leave a note indicating that you were unavailable but planned to respond at some specific time in the future, or leave that note yourself.

I can only speak for myself but communicating proactively a week ago would have done wonders to improve my opinion of you and this site. Right now I'm wondering how on earth communications got so dysfunctional at MetaFilter, LLC, and I'm feeling even more confident in my decision not to support this business.
posted by Alterscape at 3:28 PM on September 1, 2023 [24 favorites]


Respectfully, I assume one of the reasons for having multiple mods is to ensure adequate coverage. If you have a thread where multiple people are cancelling their subscriptions, I’m astonished you wouldn’t prioritise any kind of response over admin work and modding.

As regards the footer - it is surely your job to figure out what is defunct or not, not to ask users what they think should happen.
posted by adrianhon at 3:31 PM on September 1, 2023 [21 favorites]


even update the thread that our beloved jessamyn is terribly ill

We are not, under any circumstances, owed the medical status of anyone who works on or participates in this site.
posted by Etrigan at 3:54 PM on September 1, 2023 [29 favorites]


When I was a kid entitlement only cost a nickel, not $5.00.
posted by bondcliff at 4:00 PM on September 1, 2023 [4 favorites]


Entitlement here is $20, same as in town.
posted by Vatnesine at 4:34 PM on September 1, 2023 [4 favorites]


Et(rigan) tu?
posted by riverlife at 4:34 PM on September 1, 2023


Lol this whole thing has me upset to the point I'm making self-comparisons to *Caesar* to make a rhetorical point, that's outrageous and I apologize directly to you Etrigan, and to the entire Metafilter community, which of course includes loup.

My frustration with the ongoing creative excuse-making for lack of communication stands.

Obviously no one is entitled to another's private medical information. I was ignorant of the fact that reporting someone was gravely ill was a privacy violation, and as ignorance is no excuse, I apologize for that as well.

Stepping away to address my entitlement.
posted by riverlife at 4:54 PM on September 1, 2023 [1 favorite]


We are not, under any circumstances, owed the medical status of anyone who works on or participates in this site.

I fully agree. And people get sick or have other issues, even at inconvenient moments. This really shows that the current admin is not up to the task of effectively managing the site with a hands-off owner.
posted by snofoam at 4:57 PM on September 1, 2023 [8 favorites]


I am deeply dismayed to see so many comments expecting immediate answers or specific actions or even the impossible from loup, Jessamyn, and other staff.

I value MetaFilter, and I value everyone who makes it possible - from loup and Jessamyn to every mod to every member of the committees to ever poster who contributes interesting posts or comments. I am glad to be able to donate a bit to help pay for all the underpaid labor and all the infrastructure it takes to keep MetaFilter running.

I don't expect ANYTHING from loup, or Jessamyn, or anyone who helps make it run.

I appreciate the desire that loup and Jessamyn and many others have expressed in providing transparency and incorporating community ideas into the future of the site.

But honestly, I don't get massive transparency from any other organizations I donate to. PBS doesn't lay out explicit website plans and staffing plans; neither does the ACLU or the League of Women Voters. It is expected and understood that the people running those organizations - and many others, including tiny ones running with just a handful of staff - those people know what they're doing and are doing their best to fulfill their mission.

I appreciate the aspiration to be transparent, encourage community steering, be inclusive and thoughtful and tackle everything that needs to be tackled - but when those aspirations don't all come to fruition right away, exactly the way I'd like, I understand that not all goals can be reached quickly and easily, and some may not be achievable at all.

To be honest, I have a lot more faith that the people keeping the lights on here at MetaFilter are even more devoted to doing everything they can to do the right thing and make things work than even the fine and dedicated folks at PBS and the ACLU.

I thought one of the precepts of MetaFilter is that we are supposed to offer to others in the community the assumption of good faith and the respect of believing they're reasonably knowledgeable about what they're doing and they're doing their best. I am appalled at the idea that a valuable member of any staff anywhere should alert customers when they're going to be out sick, or that they're not entitled to some time away from their job. Like, actual evenings and weekends.

If any MeFite offered up an anecdote about being treated by a boss the way many people treat loup and Jessamyn and the mods, the community would be outraged at how crappy bosses can be to workers. And we're not even their bosses. We are members of a community that only exists because they keep doing all the hard slogging work of talking to lawyers and moderating terrible comments and maintaining the servers and so many, many things that are invisible to us, because most hard ongoing work is invisible.

When someone you value and care about doesn't meet your expectations, is your first reaction to berate them? Or do you ever stop and ask what's going on with them, if maybe there's something else in their life keeping them from providing what you need? Or do you ever even ask if maybe what you want is excessive? I'm surprised no one thought to ask whether maybe loup or Jessamyn might be sick, or otherwise dealing with something more important than a website, or maybe even worn down by the massive weight of unkindness.

These people are doing their damnedest to keep a wonderful thing alive, against the odds. It breaks my heart to see people blasting them for not being individually responsive literally 24/7. It's like some people don't even think they're human.

They are human, and they are members of the community just as we all are, and they deserve better from us.

(If anything were to drive me away from MetaFilter, it would be these threads, where some people treat the staff and mods with enormous disrespect. I will not be posting further in this thread, and if I know what's good for me, I won't read any updates here either.)

loup, I hope you had a good trip, and Jessamyn, I hope you have a quick and full recovery. Please take good care of yourself.
posted by kristi at 4:59 PM on September 1, 2023 [20 favorites]


I am deeply dismayed to see so many comments expecting immediate answers

This seems like a shocking inaccurate and uncharitable read of this thread.
posted by not just everyday big moggies at 5:05 PM on September 1, 2023 [33 favorites]


> But honestly, I don't get massive transparency from any other organizations I donate to. PBS doesn't lay out explicit website plans and staffing plans; neither does the ACLU or the League of Women Voters

You may not look for it, but it's there! Here for example is ACLU's 2022 annual report. It's 28 pages long, full of success stories and metrics and all sorts of information about their priorities and how they spend their money. Check out the charts starting on page 22! And here's ACLU's 2022 990 (PDF), the financial statement required of all US nonprofits. It goes into even more detail about spending and fundraising -- it's 139 pages long! It lists, for example, every single individual donation over $5k, every grant they paid out to individual ACLU chapters (only $8,000 to my home state of Kansas, c'mon), compensation for all key employees (their CEO makes a shade under $900k per year), and so on and so forth. And here's the ACLU's donor relations portal where, if you donate or are thinking of donating to the ACLU, you can submit questions and get responses. I'll bet if you put something in there you get a response back within a day or two.

Of course, the ACLU has resources far beyond most, so a better example might a rural animal shelter I support. They have a staff not much larger than MeFi, actually (a full-time director, two full-time employees, and three or four part-time staff; the rest are volunteers). Their annual budget is larger than MeFi's, though probably only by 2-3x I'd guess. Just like the ACLU, though, they publish a 990 -- they're required to, by law -- and they also publish an annual report. It's a lot less glossy than ACLU's, but it has much of the same info.

And critically, they're always willing to answer questions of donors! Earlier this week I spent a very pleasant hour on the phone with the director, hearing about her plans for next year -- they're going to finally build a bigger kitten room -- and answering my questions. I didn't have to ask for this: she reached out to me because I made a donation this year; I think she does these calls with every donor above a few hundred bucks. This is, by the way, fairly typical: nearly every organization I support does something like this.

Having a clear mission, clear goals, and transparency about how donor money is spent to meet those goals is like the bread and butter of running a successful nonprofit. It's nearly universal because nonprofits that don't do this don't survive.

Yes yes, I can hear everyone typing furiously that MeFi isn't a nonprofit. And yeah in the context of for-profit companies, MeFi's not unusual. I don't know or care what m grocery store's mission and long-term goals are, I just want a good price for milk. But my grocery store isn't asking me to donate money for altruistic reasons.

The fundamental weirdness of MeFi right now is that this donation drive wants me to treat it like a nonprofit, but it doesn't do any of the things that nonprofits do to encourage people to donate.

Either MeFi is a non-profit, and it needs to fucking start acting like one. Or it's a for-profit enterprise, and it needs to stop asking for handouts.
posted by dorothy hawk at 5:33 PM on September 1, 2023 [68 favorites]


It breaks my heart to see people blasting them for not being individually responsive literally 24/7.

No one demanded a response in 24 hours, and the comments about a lack of responsiveness only really picked up after more than 7 days had passed. No one was blasted for not being instantly responsive. Literally.
posted by snofoam at 6:06 PM on September 1, 2023 [33 favorites]


Either MeFi is a non-profit, and it needs to fucking start acting like one. Or it's a for-profit enterprise, and it needs to stop asking for handouts.

Quite. Metafilter's corporate culture includes a longstanding and deeply entrenched unwillingness to resolve the question of whether its longer-term goal is to be a community-run nonprofit (or, back when we were told nonprofit status was impossible, a nominally for-profit entity but with transparent finances and some level of democratic decision-making) or if it's a business.

Metafilter as an organization has consistently tried to position itself as the former, or at least working toward that, while equally consistently stonewalling when issues were raised or questions asked that were inconvenient or embarrassing for the owner or staff.

There have been some genuine concrete steps made in the last year or two and I commend that work. It is not easy to rework a settled pattern of interactions and behaviors. But this is one of the questions that would have to be addressed head-on if Metafilter were to have any hope of existing in a few years. With less talk and fewer promises and more actions that move things forward.
posted by tivalasvegas at 6:11 PM on September 1, 2023 [19 favorites]


As a native Tico who flies in and out of Costa Rica from PDX, Vegas, Dallas, L.A., and Miami often, and does code, network, and IaC deployments for multiple organizations from both the plane and airports along the way I just can't even with this. It does not take days to make the trip, and even if it did airports all along the way have internet, telephones, and even snail mail. To intimate, as the self-defined only moderator watching/moderating this thread, that travel to Costa Rica is so difficult that you cannot say boo for 6+ days, nor communicate to any other mods to even update the thread that our beloved jessamyn is terribly ill ... what the actual fuck?

Costa Rica is by no measure the Ninth World as this message intimates, and to blame travel to it for this ridiculous lack of communication is a step too far. Good Lord.

I've been doing my level best to stay out of these threads, but: my dude. This is the shittiest, least kind thing I've read all week, and this week includes Boston's version of The Purge, the day that every lease in the city turns over.

Yes, it is possible to be Online while you're flying internationally, if you are the sort of person whose immediate availability is so critical that your company ponies up for satellite internet in business class. For the rest of us, we take PTO so we can relax for a goddamned minute, because we're not actually all that mission-critical and we'd rather not run ourselves into the ground by trying to be all things to all people 24/7. There's a fairly long history of loup being the only person monitoring these site update threads, because they tend to turn vicious and personal toward site admins, and I'm guessing COVID-positive Jessamyn has more important things to focus on than a two-week-old MeTa thread that had gone mostly quiet until three days ago.

I get that there is a lot of frustration within the community, but kristi is 100% right: no one in this thread would tolerate this kind of shit from their own employer. It's toxic to the point of driving longtime site members out, and seeing people double down on it after two admins have responded to say "hey, yeah, my bad, one of us is on vacation and the other has COVID, we'll update you on the next business day" makes me wonder if we're even reading the same thread.
posted by Mayor West at 6:49 PM on September 1, 2023 [25 favorites]


It is so weird to wander over to the grey from the blue or green, especially after not even noticing its existence until over a decade into weekly or daily site usage. Like people are by and large pretty charitable to one another on MF and then you come over here and it's like a fucking Black Friday stampede video or something. We humans sure contain multitudes.
posted by kensington314 at 7:15 PM on September 1, 2023 [5 favorites]


It is so weird to wander over to the grey from the blue or green, especially after not even noticing its existence until over a decade into weekly or daily site usage. Like people are by and large pretty charitable to one another on MF and then you come over here and it's like a fucking Black Friday stampede video or something. We humans sure contain multitudes.

I totally get that and I think it's one contributor to how... heated MeTas can be sometimes. Speaking for myself, I've generally at least skimmed key MeTas for at least the last ten years or so and it's pretty easy to get frustrated and even angry about stuff that if I hadn't been here I wouldn't've thought twice about. Like, sure, it's totally reasonable that jessamyn has COVID and loup is on vacation. But when you've been watching years and years of various excuses being proffered for why something that was promised didn't happen, or why mods weren't more responsive, or whatever -- it's harder and harder to step back and give the benefit of the doubt when something like sudden lack of responsiveness with no explanation happens.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:28 PM on September 1, 2023 [17 favorites]


And just to be clear, there's absolutely not a right or wrong way to use the site: some MeFites pay close attention to MeTa, others just look once in a while, others barely know it exists, all of that is fine! I just mean that there's a lot of context that people are missing if they haven't been a part of these conversations going back for years and years.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:31 PM on September 1, 2023 [4 favorites]


any MeFite offered up an anecdote about being treated by a boss the way many people treat loup and Jessamyn and the mods, the community would be outraged at how crappy bosses can be to workers. And we're not even their bosses. We are members of a community that only exists because they keep doing all the hard slogging work of talking to lawyers and moderating terrible comments and maintaining the servers and so many, many things that are invisible to us, because most hard ongoing work is invisible.

So I feel the need to respond to this. I am grateful that both Jessamy and Loup took the time to respond to this thread. I appreciate their reasons for not doing so before, although I do think the delay probably could have been avoided with slightly better coordination. That said, these things happens, and it's good to get a response, even if it doesn't address every point in the thread.

But here's the thing to remember. We are absolutely not the bosses, and in the context of metafilter, Jessamy and Loup hold a disproportionate amount of power. They get to choose where funds are spent, what features are worked on, what priorities are, and what happens to this website. Metafilter being a private entity, Jessamyn could probably decide that it was going read only as of next week.

So yes, let's absolutely treat them like human beings and understand where they are coming from, but equally it is not out of the question that users of this site might be concerned if the owner and head mod are not responding to legitimate questions.

Again, to finish off I am happy that we got answers here, and do understand the delay, I just wanted to respond to this particular attitude as I think it's wrong headed
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:59 PM on September 1, 2023 [6 favorites]


To briefly get back to the original topic, the fundraiser remains laughable. No responses about why nothing was planned, why there are no goals, why there's so little apparent enthusiasm from staff. As I said before, either do a fundraiser or don't do it. It's been a wasted opportunity.

And then, a site that prioritises spending on several professional moderators can't respond to a thread in which people are cancelling subscriptions and reaching the end of their tether, for over a week.

Specifically the site's footer need an entire overhaul and would love to get more feedback on how you would like to see these changes happen.

Every time there's a MetaTalk in which people are making suggestions for changes, or for clarification on rules, or for answers about things, it tails off into nothingness, with no acknowledgement or response from moderators or leadership. And nothing changes. It's a real pattern. But now you want suggestions for how to arrange and fix the footer?!

It's odd. I feel like MetaFilter either needs to really look for and respond to what its "community" wants, or else to show some strong leadership and just get on with doing things to improve and sustain the site, even if that inevitably annoys some people. But it feels like neither is happening. Nothing is happening.
posted by fabius at 2:54 AM on September 2, 2023 [28 favorites]


What I think is desperately needed here is some sort of "not mod" staff. Let an administrator put "fix the footer" on a list of shit, and see it gets onto frimble's pile, tell them to deprioritise previous action items, when that gets 75 hours of billable time assigned to it get an explanation as to why, blah blah blah.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:45 AM on September 2, 2023 [11 favorites]


if the model of the site admin is to let membership drive the evolution of the site, okay, cool. but, please, i implore you, admin: avoid thinking of metatalk as this place where bad ideas/arguments/users go to die.

i would consider thinking of metatalk as a place that mostly former users (like me) monitor to see what's up with what i used to think of as my internet community. and i when i see threads like this, my most constructive take is basically Jesus Fucking Christ

even if Loup was going to Mars, they could've dropped a note in the thread: hey, going to Mars, will be back in a few days. Or just simply on vacation. whatever.

I think the users are asking for respect? Amongst other things, but a seeming lack of respect is what is on display here.
posted by angrycat at 5:03 AM on September 2, 2023 [24 favorites]


loup and jessamyn, may you both be well.

I'm an "occasionally does a one-time donation" user. I haven't donated this year. It's unclear to me that the site is moving toward sustainability, and my paying more attention to MeTa and other parts of the site truly leave me scratching my head about what would actually need to happen to thrive. Money is needed, it's true, but I'm not super-comfortable donating at the moment. Certain dysfunctions persist from month to month and year to year.

Different users want different things, I know, but what can I say? Presumably I'll donate again down the road. I expect that will depend on visible site improvements (I can't see and don't care about chat certificates; I do care about "[!]" taking years to fix), a future sentimental convulsion on my part, or us again reaching the "it's now or never" stage.

To the point angrycat and others have raised: there's some perception here that site leadership needs to respond in ways X, Y, or Z. Because Metafilter is a discussion site, we often think leadership should be willing to discuss things with us, at length, and so various site leaders have over the years. I can see various merits to various responsiveness models, but I don't expect detailed convos with leaders of every org I'm part of, and I think their time is often wasted in responding to every user question or concern.

I don't need or want monthly interaction with leadership about what they're doing or thinking. I want them to do what needs doing and move on to do more things. I don't know how much time it takes to respond to or think about responding to comments on MeTa, but it's clear that for some users, comments from leadership will only ever be gasoline on the fire. Time spent trying to handle those inevitable fires is detracting from site improvement, and it will never, ever put out some of the fires. Because resources are limited, I think site updates should be closed to comments -- these 100+ comment morasses are not helping Metafilter.

[Edit: with kindness to myself and others, I am removing this post from my recent activity, per jessamyn's excellent pointer a while back.]
posted by cupcakeninja at 5:26 AM on September 2, 2023 [5 favorites]


Thank you for pointing this out. Specifically the site's footer need an entire overhaul and would love to get more feedback on how you would like to see these changes happen.


loup, this is how a previous boss of mine used to deflect things off of himself and back onto me when I earnestly raised an issue or complaint about something in the company or how things worked that ultimately was not my responsibility to come up with solutions to fix. That boss was how I ended up being very much overworked and underpaid at that company. Seeing that kind of response from a paid admin/mod to a member of this forum, who is not an employee of MetaFilter, is very strange.

That's all I have to say at this point. I hope you enjoyed your trip, and I appreciate the update from jessamyn (feel better soon).
posted by wondermouse at 5:38 AM on September 2, 2023 [12 favorites]


But here's the thing to remember. We are absolutely not the bosses

I would actually prefer that this were true. I think the site would be better if jessamyn would just say “this is my site, and loup is my manager, and if you don’t like it, go somewhere else”. Instead we get all this talk about community governance and soliciting ideas to fix things and, oh yeah, asking us for money. Users are signing the paychecks, so the staff probably shouldn’t ignore them. But also, I don’t think that’s a good model. I’ve heard Pinboard has had some trouble recently, but I don’t see why Metafilter shouldn’t use that model. Small team kept afloat by subscription revenue. If jessamyn and loup want to run the site their way, let them. But you can’t have it both ways.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:08 AM on September 2, 2023 [18 favorites]


Reading through many of the responses above, it's clear that a lot of the angst is coming from the fact that the governance and "political" vs legal responsibility for the site are murky, at least in the minds of many members of the community. While I appreciate the efforts of Jessamyn and the team so far, these issues need to be resolved for everyone's sake.

On the subject of what we would like to see in order to make a donation, as I have mentioned several times before, I would be pleased to contribute to a designated fund to get some external and independent governance advice and concrete, actionable recommendations on the organization's structure and ownership. Getting that straight will not solve all the problems people might have, and some things we might want might not actually be possible, but without that foundation, these cycles are likely to continue to repeat.
posted by rpfields at 9:33 AM on September 2, 2023 [6 favorites]


Having a new tech hire to support frimble with the flagging UI changes has been prioritized over that

To be clear, you are saying that it takes not one person, but two people, to change the flagging UI? A change that has been promised for years, I think?
posted by adrianhon at 11:18 AM on September 2, 2023 [31 favorites]


.flag::before { content: "now the flag text is longer" }

Literally one line of CSS.
posted by oulipian at 12:34 PM on September 2, 2023 [7 favorites]


Hey, don't forget they now have to spend another three years on the Take The Expired Links Off The Footer project.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:36 PM on September 2, 2023 [5 favorites]


First of all, real thanks to Jessamyn and to loup for coming back, and to loup for answering some questions.


it's clear that a lot of the angst is coming from the fact that the governance and "political" vs legal responsibility for the site are murky

That's part of it. For me angst is mostly in the overall context of recent history:

- I can't feel confident the site is in good hands, because the site has been dancing on the brink of folding for financial reasons for a number of years now - without always even being aware of it

- I can't feel confident the site is in good hands because things that should be small potatoes are treated as though they were mountains. Changing the symbol "!" to "flag", in however many files, is just one tiny but very visible example of that, not just on the part of frimble but more importantly on the part of whoever is managing frimble.

- I can't feel confident the site is in good hands, because while I don't even know exactly whose hands it's in, it does largely seem to be in the hands of loup. And loup may be great at many things behind the scenes, but the things that are visible from a public vantage point make me feel that (a) they do not have a realistic sense of the site's precarity, and (b) they don't fulfill their role as a public interface seriously or skillfully. And so I find myself wondering if the things I can't see are getting done seriously, skillfully, or realistically.

The context for the last bit, which may seem overly harsh, is years of waiting for responses from loup, asking loup for responses, literally begging loup for responses, and carefully trying to find non-adversarial ways to phrase things like "please at least post an intermediate response or a sign that you're listening if it's not possible to post a substantial response for whatever reason". This has been a running theme in (almost?) every substantial MetaTalk thread for which loup has designated themselves as contact person. I don't know what the relationship is between the userbase and the mods - it's not "boss", but it's also not exactly the same as "customer" or "investor" or "impersonal acquaintance" or anything else. Maybe "teammate" is closest, as in team Wants Metafilter to Survive? Whatever the nature of the relationship is, it's a relationship. And it's hard to feel confident in a relationship with someone who needs to be begged for years to do -- I apologize -- basic adulting-type stuff like letting people they're in mid-conversation with know in advance if they're not planning to be reachable for a while, or having someone stand in for them. Not once, not twice -- that can happen with anyone -- but as a rule rather than the exception.

I found that dynamic so frustrating personally that I decided to try to mostly stay out of site updates and similar for a while. What brought me back to this one? This fundraiser - not the fact that it was happening, but the worrying sense of damp squib from day one. Which did not improve as the days went by. So that's the other reason: I can't feel confident the site is in good hands, because this fundraiser doesn't feel like it's being led by good hands.

I hope I'm wrong; I hope funds are raised way beyond the target. And that actually hard projects like increasing membership are handled at a very different level of ability than the small potatoes ones.


I feel bad saying all this stuff, because it is harsh and because I do think everybody at least means well. You know the bit in The Princess Bride about how "as you wish" actually means "I love you"? What all of my comments and questions actually mean is "please help me feel confidence that the site is in good hands." Serious, skillful, and realistic ones.

So I apologize for the harshness, and I'm going to stop now and stay out of this thread.
posted by trig at 1:05 PM on September 2, 2023 [42 favorites]


The footer should be 10 minutes of work. Remove the dead and defunct links — really, just the Steering Committee link, right?

Use your best judgment. There’s no need for a process involving user feedback and meetings. Just make a decision, execute it, and move on with your life.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:49 PM on September 2, 2023 [16 favorites]


Like, there has to be better uses for everyone’s time than overhauling the footer of all things? Utterly bonkers that would even be mentioned as a priority.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:54 PM on September 2, 2023 [18 favorites]


This shit is completely bonkers. Three years to fix the flagging, and no progress made? If site management can attach a dollar amount, completion date, and responsible party to this task that they ostensibly want done, I’ll happily kick in the first $100. We need some concrete wins, y’all.
posted by not just everyday big moggies at 3:20 PM on September 2, 2023 [10 favorites]


Might it simply be best to archive all of it as a searchable read-only site and move on?

Start over with another tech stack to create lo-fi subsites that retain at least some of the pre-social media text-driven feel that appeals to current users and that may be starting to appeal to potential younger users (it's not visually exhausting to read); have the high-touch professional moderation brigade train volunteer mods as used for years by so many larger sites; move to a subscription model; and do business development.

How is a "member-driven" path forward going to work?
posted by jgirl at 4:20 PM on September 2, 2023 [8 favorites]


> Literally one line of CSS.

Absurdly enough, I "fixed" the flagging UI for myself ages ago with a stylesheet override pretty much just like this.

I will admit to spending extra dev time on hiding the exclamation point. Leaving it in made it seem so harsh, and I prefer the comment reporting process to feel as gentle as possible.

a.flag::before {
  content: ' Report this comment';
  visibility: visible;
}
a.flag {
  visibility: hidden;
}


P.S. This is not a self-pitch for employment with MetaFilter LLC in the IT department.
posted by otsebyatina at 4:43 PM on September 2, 2023 [16 favorites]


What if the real flagging UI changes are just the friends we made along the way?
posted by Jarcat at 7:07 PM on September 2, 2023 [9 favorites]


$10 donation if loup or Jessamyn posts a substantive reply here by midnight Friday

In the interest of supporting accountability, I donated $15. Lots of others have made their points about COMMUNICATION and RESPONSIBILTY with much greater clarity than I ever could, so I feel my money was well-spent.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:15 PM on September 2, 2023 [3 favorites]


is frimble actually doing any work on the site at all? they haven't posted for two years, and i'm not aware of any significant changes that have happened in that time apart from adding a banner or two?
posted by Sebmojo at 7:32 PM on September 2, 2023 [4 favorites]


Frimble absolutely does do various work on the site, particularly when a problem pops up, they’re on it. I worked with them to add the ‘Upcoming’ category to Fanfare, and they were great to work with.

The other day they some fixed some graphs that required Flash, and got them working again. Looking at the recent activity in the Tech channel on Slack, they fixed a problem with IRL events not mapping, and dealt with various other issues that popped up.

My impression, as a non-developer, who’s coded some html, css, etc, is that the MeFi code is a nightmare and fixing or adding something can cause another thing to break.

I have no clue or knowledge about the flagging UI.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 7:58 PM on September 2, 2023 [3 favorites]


Back in April, I sent a Contact Us note requesting a small change to the IRL interface. frimble took care of it really quickly, like within a day, and I received a very nice email confirmation from them.

frimble was, in fact, so notably helpful and professional that at this point I'm genuinely wondering whether anyone had ever actually bothered to properly assign the flagging task to them in the first place. And now it's been literally years, and perhaps it's easier for the acting manager to keep suggesting it's a really, really difficult task than it is to simply admit a mistake was made?
posted by mochapickle at 8:09 PM on September 2, 2023 [8 favorites]


(And Brandon, just to be clear, my comment wasn’t a response to yours. Thanks for being active in this thread and working to bridge the gap. It really does help.)
posted by mochapickle at 8:50 PM on September 2, 2023 [5 favorites]


so forgive me if i'm completely misremembering, mistaken, or misunderstanding, but i believe the reason the flagging interface update is taking so long is because frimble is using the change as an opportunity to change how subsites work - right now they are all individual projects (i am not a coder) and they basically are going to change it so they all are based on the same central template? so that a change can be made in one place without it needing to be copied across all the subsites?

which if i'm understanding correct, is a really great and important change! but it feels like this should have been upgraded to "The Subsite Project" or something and "The Flagging Project" should have been prioritized to be completed under the current structure. and if that really isn't possible, the change in scope of this project could have been communicated in how it is presented in the site updates, so people know what's going on (or in a response in this thread when people ask about it). instead it just comes across as having been mismanaged for years, which maybe is also true.
posted by JimBennett at 9:24 PM on September 2, 2023 [15 favorites]


> which if i'm understanding correct, is a really great and important change!

It's an important change if it brings either increased user value or future workflow efficiencies. The first is very dubious given that it's currently pegged to a very minimal (and unvalidated) optimisation around flagging, the second irrelevant at this point given how these efficiencies will be outweighed by the massive overspend to date.

The fact that frimble can action other items immediately (responding to user request within a day) is not encouraging - that there is apparently no planning and prioritisation process (no one is acting as product owner, there is no sprint planning and apparently no formal backlog?). Everything seems, let's say generously "hobbyist", but more accurately, un- or mis-managed.

It's not even clear why there is a developer on staff (let alone soon to be two)? Why not just a devops person retained on minimal hours to maintain hosting? Hire a contract developer as and when there is actual need to develop a new feature set (that delivers actual user value)?
posted by iivix at 12:39 AM on September 3, 2023 [12 favorites]


The fact that frimble can action other items immediately (responding to user request within a day) is not encouraging

I mean, I worked in web development in my previous life and we regularly deployed bugfixes and small feature requests on the same day. That doesn't really seem all that unusual to me.

JimBennett's take on what's likely been happening here makes a lot of sense. But it also makes it clear that someone needs to own and manage this particularly complex change in a more meaningful and impactful way: they'd need to work with frimble to create a project plan for the subsite changes and set estimated timelines with an expectation of meeting them. And I think, too, at this point we should first consider whether such a project is entirely necessary.
posted by mochapickle at 6:28 AM on September 3, 2023 [9 favorites]


Is there a business plan? A site plan?

Anything?
posted by jgirl at 6:42 AM on September 3, 2023 [2 favorites]


I worked in web development in my previous life and we regularly deployed bugfixes and small feature requests on the same day. That doesn't really seem all that unusual to me.

It shouldn’t; that’s normal. But the key word in your comment is “we”. When you were doing this, it was as part of a team, and presumably the team members who were doing the same day bug fixes weren’t the ones also working on the big multiyear projects. The project devs didn’t just drop project work every time a ticket came in. And presumably you had a manager who could decide if a ticket was so high-priority that project devs should drop their work.

To be clear, in case it sounds like I’m being hard on frimble, I would do the same thing if I were in their position. But that’s why everyone is saying there needs to be some sort of management structure.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:04 AM on September 3, 2023 [9 favorites]


I was the manager making those decisions.

You know, it's funny, but I had written a whole paragraph in my comment above about our ticketing system and our protocol for prioritizing tasks for different clients, but I deleted it before posting because I was afraid it would sound patronizing.
posted by mochapickle at 7:36 AM on September 3, 2023 [4 favorites]


...but I deleted it before posting because I was afraid it would sound patronizing.

Constructive criticism and suggestions on how the site can be better are always welcomed, so folks are encouraged to give that feedback!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 7:44 AM on September 3, 2023 [1 favorite]


Has past user feedback been maintained somewhere for future ease of reference by those with the power to apply it to the site? There's been a great deal offered over the past few years that hopefully isn't just buried across multiple MetaTalk threads.
posted by otsebyatina at 5:00 PM on September 3, 2023 [11 favorites]


^ pretty sure Loup's working on it
posted by some loser at 8:35 PM on September 3, 2023 [1 favorite]


Does it include feedback from users who have since requested account wipes?
posted by knucklebones at 10:29 PM on September 3, 2023


Has past user feedback been maintained somewhere for future ease of reference by those with the power to apply it to the site?

I think the Steering Committee compiled a big list of this, sorted it into buckets and maybe even tallied up something as far as frequency of requests. Maybe a combination of survey data and MetaTalk stuff?
posted by snofoam at 3:34 AM on September 4, 2023 [1 favorite]


That's fantastic! Thank you, Steering Committee 🐐
posted by otsebyatina at 7:14 AM on September 4, 2023 [2 favorites]


Yeah we have some great compilations of stuff from the Steering Committee that are really useful roadmaps for making plans. We do have some essential tensions as folks can see above when feedback indicates different groups of people are looking for different things here. But I think some things are pretty enduring

- more accountability, especially for things that seem to be taking much longer to accomplish than they should
- more transparency, especially for things like developer time and moderator actions
- more visible activity, especially around things like fundraising and things where the business model of the site rubs up against the workings of the site
- continued community check-ins and iterative feedback

And just an apology, I was the one who said it was okay for loup to focus on traveling home and check in to this thread a few days late. We've discussed that and we're going to aim for more regular Site Update thread updates as a bare-minimum way to interact and to help people not feel like they're just talking into an empty room.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:46 AM on September 4, 2023 [16 favorites]


Thanks for the reply, and indication that someone's reading what we're writing here.

Also, thank you for the apology. Personally, I don't think the site update threads need to be more frequent, but if they're going to exist/have open comments, I'd really like to see more frequent communication along the lines of what you just posted. I have zero issue with Loup (or anyone else) taking time away from work, but I would have really appreciated a post along the lines of "Loup is going to be unavailable until [x date]. They will read over the feedback and respond then." That lets people know that there is a specific reason for the lack of feedback, and a specific time when feedback will be given. What we got was seven days of uncomfortable, unexplained silence.

Regarding the "Flagging UI" project, if JimBennett's analysis is correct and what's really going on is a significant rework of the codebase, it would be great to see that communicated. It's probably also worth considering if the flagging UI actually matters. If it's important, and it's being delayed by the big refactor, then it might be worth doing the "hacky" solution (changing it across the subsites) first, before the big refactor lands. If it's not important, then let's stop talking about it, and just talk about the "Refactor the codebase to unify the subsites" project instead. If we're wrong in that analysis, it would be helpful to understand that too. Right now, it seems like someone, probably multiple someones, are incompetent/mismanaged/mismanaging, and that's not a great look. Communication could resolve this!
posted by Alterscape at 10:26 AM on September 4, 2023 [16 favorites]


I want to start thanking the members who have reached out proactively about their lapsed contributions. Thank you for making our job easier. Also, thank you everyone for the understanding and empathy shown. To be clear, I did not take vacations, I was in Germany due to personal obligations, which implied working at night while there and taking some days off for flying from and back to Costa Rica.

Still, you are totally right about how important it is to communicate this and being upfront about my availability is a totally reasonable ask. I will also be away from moderation but still around for fundraising and admin tasks next week due to another work commitment.

Now let me address some of the comments from the past days:

As regards the footer - it is surely your job to figure out what is defunct or not, not to ask users what they think should happen.

Yes, we have avoided removing the Steering Committee link from the footer specifically because we have the hope to go back to a similar iteration of it, eventually. Rather than transferring the responsibility of the decision about what needs to happen to the footer to anyone in this thread, my intention was to open the floor for feedback specifically about this, my sincere apologies for the wording used, I see what you are pointing out and how it came across.

Is there any plan to hire a new mod in the next couple of months?

The short answer is no. The long answer is: rather than thinking about headcount I’m thinking about proper coverage, so we need to evaluate this on an ongoing basis depending on both mod availability and business needs, for the time being our mod coverage seems appropriate with the exception of a few gaps that we would want to reduce for specific days.

Either MeFi is a non-profit, and it needs to fucking start acting like one. Or it's a for-profit enterprise, and it needs to stop asking for handouts.

Metafilter's corporate culture includes a longstanding and deeply entrenched unwillingness to resolve the question of whether its longer-term goal is to be a community-run nonprofit (or, back when we were told nonprofit status was impossible, a nominally for-profit entity but with transparent finances and some level of democratic decision-making) or if it's a business.

Currently and historically, the main source of revenue we have comes from user contributions. This alone allows us to be in a position where we don’t require a mandatory subscription model or private-corporate funding. However, as I have mentioned in the past updates, governance is one of the main things we are currently working through. If there have been several organizational changes in the past 2 years, there are many more to come as a result of this.

We are absolutely not the bosses, and in the context of metafilter, Jessamy and Loup hold a disproportionate amount of power. They get to choose where funds are spent, what features are worked on, what priorities are, and what happens to this website.

Is there a business plan? A site plan?
Anything?


The way I see it, both Jessamyn and I are at the service of the community, that’s why threads like this one are necessary to bridge the gaps between how and what we are doing and prioritizing, and and how the community wants it to work. As it currently stands, we have been prioritizing 4 major things:

Governance: How MetaFilter is run and how we work structurally. This is Jessamyn’s biggest priority right now and both she and myself want to move towards a more member-driven site, this has been our goal since day one, and while it has been a bumpy road, the goal remains the same.

Infrastructure: Clearer and more concise moderation policies and practices, including the streamlining of decision making and more coordinated internal communication. Specific procedures outlined in the Content Policy, Guidelines, and Microaggressions page.

Sustainability: The former SC, Jessamyn and Myself have worked toward optimizing how money is spent (which you can read about in past updates). This includes distributing responsibilities among the staff in a way that ensures we keep the site running without incurring in unnecessary expenses.

Improvements: This, specifically on a technical level. More details on that below.

No responses about why nothing was planned, why there are no goals, why there's so little apparent enthusiasm from staff. As I said before, either do a fundraiser or don't do it. It's been a wasted opportunity.

We did not want to make it a huge fundraising effort for several reasons, including the fact that the last fundraising wrapped up this very same year, the fact that our finances have been stable given how much we have reduced spending, and also because I think we are in a position where we need to deliver first and ask later. I mentioned above that our main goal for this year was to go back to the end of the summer schedule and to make up for as much as possible of the decrease in Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) without putting too much pressure on both staff and members. This remains true.

You were happy to hire an admin when it was going to be one of your buddies or whatever who needed the job. Despite the fact that the steering committee expressed significant concerns with it.

This had nothing to do with the personal relation with anyone and more with wanting to keep someone with deep institutional knowledge and the right skill set for the role. That being said, the scope of the admin role is totally dependent on how the site governance looks in a few months, hence why I would prefer to prioritize it in a moment where the entire structure of the site is bound to change.

- I can't feel confident the site is in good hands, because the site has been dancing on the brink of folding for financial reasons for a number of years now - without always even being aware of it
Honestly, a lot of the financial instability was both inherited from the previous management, and this has changed drastically since last year’s fundraising.

- I can't feel confident the site is in good hands because things that should be small potatoes are treated as though they were mountains. Changing the symbol "!" to "flag", in however many files, is just one tiny but very visible example of that, not just on the part of frimble but more importantly on the part of whoever is managing frimble.

The core problem with the flagging UI is that the byline has been copied and pasted hundreds of times across subsites and themes and then those copies have been changed over time, so while frimble has been standardizing that code testing and fixing it, this is way bigger than just a change here and there. As mentioned back in June the next step is making actually-visible UI changes.

- I can't feel confident the site is in good hands, because while I don't even know exactly whose hands it's in, it does largely seem to be in the hands of loup. And loup may be great at many things behind the scenes, but the things that are visible from a public vantage point make me feel that (a) they do not have a realistic sense of the site's precarity, and (b) they don't fulfill their role as a public interface seriously or skillfully. And so I find myself wondering if the things I can't see are getting done seriously, skillfully, or realistically.

The main areas I have been focusing on are Moderation Infrastructure, Financial Sustainability and making sure the Improvements keep happening, (all detailed above). You may be right that, in the long run, I might not be the right person to keep the site running, and that is something I knew when I accepted this responsibility, moreover knowing that I only work part time and most of the work I do happens in-between moderating the site as well. That being said, my biggest goal has been leaving the site in better shape than I found it, and when the time comes, be able to hand over a site with better timelines in how we get things done, with more healthy finances and with more clear and streamlined moderation procedures. I’d like to think that progress is being made, slowly but steadily.

Has past user feedback been maintained somewhere for future ease of reference by those with the power to apply it to the site?

Does it include feedback from users who have since requested account wipes?


Yes, as Jessamyn already mentioned we have some great compilations of feedback and user requests and this has generally been captured before anyone buttoning.
posted by loup (staff) at 1:17 PM on September 4, 2023 [7 favorites]


For those concerned with mission/vision/direction, I recommend listening to the episode of On the Media that airs this week, "How Big Tech Went to Sh*t." It focuses on how terrible most of the web is, highlighting the things MeFi does offer as distinct advantage in the value proposition department.

To jessamyn's list above, under the list for "transparency" I would add "finances." I don't think we need more lists, though - the SC outlined a pretty strong priority set. It's not a problem that thousands of people can't agree on the same ideas - that is normal. Nothing involving more than a few humans can be free of tensions. When there is a strong leadership structure in place, the task of those in that group will be to make choices from all the ideas offered, in accordance with the framework of values they've established and/or accepted.
posted by Miko at 1:17 PM on September 4, 2023 [13 favorites]


I keep writing and deleting things about specific parts of your response, Loup, but I think my frustration comes down to the fact that saying that you are at the service of the community doesn't actually mean you are at the service of the community.

The Steering Committee were literally elected by the community and you chose to override their recommendations regarding the admin hire – an absolutely crucial role for which money had been set aside – for reasons that you are only now sharing, months later. You are still arguing with the community about this and you still demonstrate zero willingness to change direction. How is that being at the service of the community?

It's their fundraising work that led to the healthy, steady finances; it's the community that gave the money and contributed to the auction and gave the talks and paid for tickets. You seem to think that you're leaving Metafilter in a better place than it was before, but I have never been closer to cancelling my subscription.
posted by adrianhon at 3:24 PM on September 4, 2023 [29 favorites]


And frankly even if it's true that there are hundreds of instances of the byline across the subsites, the right decision would have been to literally find and replace "[!]" with "Flag" everywhere because that would've been a hundred times faster. I have to assume the only reason it wasn't done is because frimble's manager decided it simply wasn't that important to improve the flagging accessibility.

Did the community get any say in this? No. I'm sure it'll get done but the fact it's taken this long and has been communicated so poorly is the real tragedy.
posted by adrianhon at 3:30 PM on September 4, 2023 [16 favorites]


I really appreciate that Jessamyn has taken MetaFilter on and appreciate the loop is providing insight and work during all this transition as well as before. It can be really wearing.

That said, this wanting to keep someone with deep institutional knowledge and the right skill set for the role doesn’t sit well with me, because if there’s something I’ve observed it’s that there has either been no one on the team that prioritized this work or had the skills - at least not visibly. This is not a slam on anyone. Historically everyone’s been a mod, which is a different skill set.

I think there’s a gap in understanding here about what a strong administrator would do, at least one versed in small business/non-profit. It’s not just about keeping a ledger and tracking donations (and possibly communicating things like credit card expiries.) It’s about bringing a discipline of stewardship, and ensuring that the use of resources meets the goals, that goals set and are measured, including sometimes overseeing marketing budgets and tech and all those things. It’s also about looking at burnout and retention and training. A good administrator would, for example, calculate donation average/user and project that into the future and then see what the attrition rate would be and then bring the team together. They would use the current analytics to identify where new users get lost or pages that aren’t visited (jobs?) and help make decisions quickly, and then help resource those decisions. And a really good one wouldn’t be able to not do those things, because they would have a strategic viewpoint.

In order to help the current team I really do hope you can get a great admin. It makes a huge difference. Having sat in that role, I can tell you an organization often doesn’t know what happens when you have that lift until you do.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:27 PM on September 4, 2023 [27 favorites]


That loup, not loop - sorry, trying to get this written between spurts of cheering at a local game.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:37 PM on September 4, 2023 [1 favorite]


If it matters. I am someone who has yet to contribute to Metafilter, who does not feel "affiliated" with the site, and who has no stake in all the evident years of bickering and controversy. And y'all, my current plan to never contribute to this organization has been fully validated by what I've seen in this thread. I feel comfortable in my judgment that Metafilter is suffering from profound levels of mismanagement. This makes me sad, because it is one of the few places I frequent that still feels uncurated, as opposed to monetized and algorithm-driven and enshittified. But I know from experience that donating to mismanaged organizations is slightly worse than setting money on fire, because donations are a form of approval, and only encourage leadership to continue going down whatever cursed path they've embraced. Of course, Metafilter does not have a cursed path so much as zero path whatsoever, but, same difference.

Anyway, my main takeaways as a relative outsider:

- Please, for the love of god, hire a consultant who understands how to manage a nonprofit, especially one that fundraises. (I'm aware Metafilter is not a nonprofit, but I think it's more likely someone from the nonprofit space will be able to help.) Hire a separate consultant who works with businesses on IT management and coding issues. Invest in a head-to-toe audit of every aspect of the site. Take whatever advice is offered, and do not invite community input; just do it and don't look back.

- Every aspect of this discussion of mods and moderating and etc. is bizarre to me. You know why I don't post on Metafilter very much? It's not because there is not enough mod coverage. It's because the moderation is heavy-handed, opaque, and misaimed. I often see the vanishing of comments that are perfectly...whatever. Or comments that are shitty but could at least serve as a learning moment for people reading along. But what rarely seem to disappear (from my limited perspective as a user) are the pointlessly hostile, performative, or reactive comments that ruin or sour threads from the outset. These comments are the reason I don't post on Metafilter proper. I doubt I'm alone. So everything about the moderation discussion feels a bit comical, in that none of it would solve the problem that seems to actually prevent people from joining or participating here.

- (Side note, I'm like, a Zillennial or something, and I feel that opaque and heavy-handed management is one of the best ways to repel younger users that I can imagine.)

Much love, thanks for all the fish, etc., but damn. The wheels appear to be fully off the bus around here, and I don't envy whoever dares to play mechanic.
posted by desert outpost at 11:54 PM on September 4, 2023 [53 favorites]


But the key word in your comment is “we”. When you were doing this, it was as part of a team, and presumably the team members who were doing the same day bug fixes weren’t the ones also working on the big multiyear projects. The project devs didn’t just drop project work every time a ticket came in. And presumably you had a manager who could decide if a ticket was so high-priority that project devs should drop their work.

With just one developer, the presence of a manager isn't going to change the dynamic that much. Does dropping project work to fix the Now Broken Thing suck? Very Yes. Do you pretty much have to do that anyway when you're the only dev available? Also yes.

JimBennett's and others' comments (separating the quick-n-dirty fix from the subsite overhaul, both in terms of the work done and the public discussion of it) seem like they're on the money. It's certainly how I would have approached this situation. However, I am not certain about to what extent this seemingly-correct approach is enabled by aspects of the workflow/tech stack that may or may not be in place at MeFi (e.g. version control; CI; separate environments for dev, test, and prod...).
posted by a faded photo of their beloved at 8:40 AM on September 5, 2023 [3 favorites]


The core problem with the flagging UI is that the byline has been copied and pasted hundreds of times across subsites and themes and then those copies have been changed over time, so while frimble has been standardizing that code testing and fixing it, this is way bigger than just a change here and there.

The decision to put this much time and effort and money into maintaining this site’s infrastructure is madness. The time to get off the treadmill of inefficient technology is when you have money in the bank - because as we have seen things will get lean again and it will seem impossible then, and the site is permanently hamstrung from being efficiently responsive to users with even two part time developers on staff if they’re working in a Byzantine environment.

The basic site components - accounts, moderator tools, posts, comments, tags, subsites - could be so easily handled by even basic blog technology. We don’t even handle payments, serve audio or video or even images, or do other forum type things here. We are talking about a couple thousand active users and posts and comments a day. I’m being sort of facetious but like Wordpress could serve this site’s user experience for the most part except for some of the FanFare specific things.

Staying in this development environment is a recipe for permanent user strife. I feel like a good firm with two weeks could put a live product on the board that replicates this site as it is (given it’s so primitive) that would be easier to maintain and improve into the future. The time to pull this bandaid is now.

If we are talking about ways to leave the site better than you found it, this will be a lot more effective than redrafting policy documents again.
posted by openhearted at 4:25 PM on September 5, 2023 [29 favorites]


The decision to put this much time and effort and money into maintaining this site’s infrastructure is madness. ... Staying in this development environment is a recipe for permanent user strife. I feel like a good firm with two weeks could put a live product on the board that replicates this site as it is (given it’s so primitive) that would be easier to maintain and improve into the future. The time to pull this bandaid is now.

If we are talking about ways to leave the site better than you found it, this will be a lot more effective than redrafting policy documents again.


My God, THIS, a million times!
posted by jgirl at 7:38 PM on September 5, 2023 [6 favorites]


I think some of these comments are understating the challenge of a site transition - it’s not hard for me to imagine it being done in a way that puts off longtime users without attracting any new ones. That basically comes back to lack of vision again, though - I think it absolutely could be done successfully, but there needs to be somebody who understands how to do it.
posted by atoxyl at 9:32 PM on September 5, 2023 [11 favorites]


I think some of these comments are understating the challenge of a site transition - it’s not hard for me to imagine it being done in a way that puts off longtime users without attracting any new ones

I don't disagree and think another risk with the way this site works is it would also take 10x as long as it needs to because we will fiddle with the final 5% forever because we want something that works for everyone. This org is the anti-agile and so getting a basic mvp product out the door may be impossible.

But I think the current path has been putting off longtime users and not attracting many new ones AND has very little hope for that to change. And so I'm not sure the status quo is offering much other than nostalgia.
posted by openhearted at 5:22 AM on September 6, 2023 [7 favorites]


It would have been great if, at some point, someone had estimated how long the flagging project would take. Then the years of effort necessary could have been prioritized against other, perhaps higher-impact, activities or tasks. At the end of this multi-year effort, what will the opportunity cost have been?

It seems like there are some basic product management practices that could benefit the organization, and for which at least entry level training is probably very inexpensive. Committing to a roadmap, prioritizing fixes, making tough decisions about where a finite amount of resources will be spent -- these are pretty simple concepts but they're not necessarily easy! And they definitely require a person with whom the buck stops.

Does that person exist? Who is, to surface a term from the deep past, the Decider? This would be a person who can say "we decided to do X instead of Y because of Z," and that might not be popular but ... at least it's a decision.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:58 AM on September 6, 2023 [16 favorites]


At this point, I think the flagging project has a symbolic weight [vis-a-vis metafilter's operational disfunction] grossly out of proportion with the actual importance of the project. I mean, do we really think that new/prospective users roll up to the site, say "hmm, interesting content, some good discussions here, these seem like my people...but I just can't figure out how to flag things! I guess I'm just going back to FB/X/Reddit etc." Obviously, most long standing users already know how to use flagging, so the somewhat sub optimal interface isn't too big a deal.
Let's first solve the problem of getting new users, THEN let them struggle with the flagging learning curve, THEN solve it.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 3:59 PM on September 6, 2023 [11 favorites]


An additional point, which feels a bit obvious- It would be very interesting to have "MeFi virgins" experience the site for the first time and record /log how they interact with it, what their reactions are like etc. That would be a great opportunity to see if any minor tweaks could make the site more appealing, what prevents people from participating, etc.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:02 PM on September 6, 2023 [4 favorites]


I think I remember that the flag feature was identified as a "social justice issue" or similar wording and that might help explain why so much focus was put on solving that problem.
posted by some loser at 5:13 PM on September 6, 2023 [4 favorites]


If it's an actual social justice issue, the fact that it's taken this long is ridiculous.

If it's just a tech fix, the fact that it's taken this long is ridiculous. Or else it's that no one managing things has set it aside and instead keeps listing it as a major project that's getting prioritized is what's ridiculous.

If it's a tech fix that requires an entire site overhaul, the fact that the site overhaul's been described as "the flagging UI" rather than explaining why the site overhaul has taken precedence over fixing the actual problem is ridiculous.

It's at the point where there is no earthly reason that it hasn't been finished, stopped, or recontextualized so that the decision to keep working on it makes any sense. It seems like you're using a user request that was made in an urgent manner to justify taking three years to do something that in no way addressed the seemingly urgent problem and has been used an excuse to keep from doing other things. This is why things feel mismanaged, or unmanaged.
posted by lapis at 6:38 PM on September 6, 2023 [27 favorites]


It's a social justice issue alongside the myriad other accessibility issues with the site.

Given how unfancy the UI is (as most users here seem to prefer), it's a shame this place doesn't exemplify conformance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Missed opportunity to stand out.
posted by otsebyatina at 7:52 PM on September 6, 2023 [2 favorites]


Is it my imagination or is there suddenly more space to the left of the flag link?
posted by staggernation at 10:11 PM on September 6, 2023


its-happening.gif
posted by otsebyatina at 1:14 AM on September 7, 2023 [5 favorites]


Cleaning up the footer is probably a distraction at this point, but just wanted to acknowledge loup's response. Really it's more of a metaphor for general visible site decay that a simple maintenance queue would resolve, and it just contributes to my sense of stagnation around here.

This is related to my feelings on community governance and where it works and doesn't. I feel like leadership should be motivated to make decisions, like updating the footer, transitioning our platform, etc., on their own without waiting for endless rounds of input. Community guidance should be more limited to discussions of community norms and standards.
posted by Think_Long at 9:14 AM on September 7, 2023 [14 favorites]


I don't have expertise in business analytics or fundraising, and it's not clear that's even what the site needs. I will offer my opinion as a long time casual reader. The site culture makes it very difficult to participate and it's gotten worse over the last fifteen years. This occurred in a polarized political climate, but that's not what caused the multiplication of rules, guidelines and documentation on this site. More of trying to manage differences or conflict that way or training for mods is not going to make it easier to participate here.

On most sites where I post, with far more and more varied users, moderation is done by either anonymous people who don't accept feedback or by volunteers who've been on the board forever. I don't understand why Metafilter needs something very different. The professionalization of moderation here has coincided with the higher barrier to entry. Maybe there's not a causal relationship, but it does seem like there's some connection between the two trends.
posted by CtrlAltD at 12:27 PM on September 7, 2023 [21 favorites]


Everything makes so much more sense about this place when I remember its basically a side hustle for the people asking us to fund them
posted by Jarcat at 1:30 PM on September 7, 2023 [15 favorites]


I would like to find that rude, but as far as I know it's completely accurate. So... well, there it is.
posted by tivalasvegas at 3:00 PM on September 7, 2023 [4 favorites]


... and to be less dismissive, I can put that in nicer words: I don't think this community can succeed without even one full-time staff member who is empowered and able to focus on it.
posted by tivalasvegas at 3:01 PM on September 7, 2023 [10 favorites]


Thank you everyone for the comments. Jessamyn and I are both here paying attention and discussing all your feedback. We should have an update regarding the Flagging UI and the Fundraising soon. Talk to you next week.
posted by loup (staff) at 2:03 PM on September 8, 2023 [2 favorites]


Just to add a simple stat to the discussion on increasing mod coverage at a time of declining site activity.

In 2006 there were 100 posts and 2,200 comments per day across the three main subsites. The site had two mods.

In 2023 there are 30 posts and 700 comments per day, i.e. two thirds less activity. The site employs five mods.
posted by Klipspringer at 6:08 AM on September 10, 2023 [20 favorites]


Ah, but there are yet 24 hours in a day, and 7 days in a week. Coverage is required at all times lest the heavens fall due to an untimely moderated comment while most of the userbase is inactive.
posted by otsebyatina at 6:59 AM on September 10, 2023 [4 favorites]


One indication of the amount of moderation coverage the site requires, is the amount of moderation activity actually happening.

Comment deletions and edits are normally accompanied by mod comments, so these are a reasonable measure of activity (although obviously don't capture post deletions, monitoring the flag queue, and contact form responses).

Over the last seven days (3-9 Sep) the moderation team left 2.6 mod notes per day (18 total). Several were typo corrections. This excludes non-mod comments in MeTa, and personal contributions.
posted by Klipspringer at 10:03 AM on September 10, 2023 [1 favorite]


It doesn’t make sense.
posted by Miko at 10:13 AM on September 10, 2023 [10 favorites]


I read a few folks here as saying that we don't really need that much mod coverage, and that aiming for 24/7 mod coverage should not be a high priority. I think that low mod coverage makes it harder for racism concerns to get addressed quickly, and that having consistently poor or absent mod coverage during certain timezones makes it harder for mods to communicate quickly in back-and-forth conversations with MeFites who live all around the world. From what I've heard in conversations with the BIPOC board, getting those concerns addressed often includes conversations via the contact form.

Speaking just for myself, not for the BIPOC board.

And when people are citing statistics, I'd love for them to link to the sources so other people can more easily run their own analyses and iterate!
posted by brainwane at 11:13 AM on September 10, 2023 [5 favorites]


Comment deletions and edits are normally accompanied by mod comments

Ron Howard voice…
posted by kevinbelt at 11:17 AM on September 10, 2023 [6 favorites]


brainwane: And when people are citing statistics, I'd love for them to link to the sources so other people can more easily run their own analyses and iterate!

Site activity stats are from the Infodump. To replicate, run
for YEAR in 2006 2023; do grep -c " ${YEAR} " {post,comment}data_{mefi,askme,meta}.txt; done
Sum the post and comment totals and calculate daily averages, noting that there are 253 days in the 2023 YTD data.

Mod comments were counted manually from their activity pages.
posted by Klipspringer at 12:11 PM on September 10, 2023 [4 favorites]


2006 there were 100 posts and 2,200 comments per day across the three main subsites. The site had two mods.
In 2023 there are 30 posts and 700 comments per day, i.e. two thirds less activity. The site employs five mods.


To make a useful comparison, i think it is essential to know how many hours were worked by two mods vs. how many hours by five mods. I am not trying to be snarky or difficult but genuinely interested.
posted by 15L06 at 12:48 PM on September 10, 2023 [3 favorites]


In 2006 there were 100 posts and 2,200 comments per day across the three main subsites. The site had two mods.

In 2023 there are 30 posts and 700 comments per day, i.e. two thirds less activity. The site employs five mods.


Hi, I work here, since February 2023, but been a member since 2004, just noting the obvious bias.

In my opinion, those numbers can't really be compared, without further details. The most important number is how much labor cost in 2006 vs how much in 2023, probably adjusting for inflation and what percentage labor was of the total budget. Getting into the weeds, it's probably important to look at how many actual hours those two mods in 2006 were working during that year across three subsites vs the five mods in 2023 working across at least four subsites (Front page, Ask, Meta, and Fanfare). I included FanFare because that seems to get/need a certain amount of mod attention.

Over the last seven days (3-9 Sep) the moderation team left 2.6 mod notes per day (18 total). Several were typo corrections. This excludes non-mod comments in MeTa, and personal contributions.

This doesn't include dealing with emails or other work that isn't visible, not does it account for the unseen work behind those mod comments. For instance, this mod comment of mine (made on September 8), which is a note about adding something to the Best Of blog, took all of 30 seconds to a minute to type, link, and check for typos. That time does not reflect the time spent making the post to the Best Of blog, Mefi.social, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok.

None of the above should be taken as objections to people seeking or wondering about this information. But I don't think the comparisons are very meaningful. Respectfully, it sounds like an opinion has already been formed (ie too much is being spent on labor, which is fine) and then faulty comparisons are being used to present that opinion as fact.

If people want to use numbers for justifications, we're going to need a better data. But I don't think there is better data, at least for the number of hours of labor in 2006. Jessamyn noted in 2014 that it was only once restless_nomad started working here in 2011 that actual schedules for work were made. So there's that.

Imma just finish this up by reiterating that seeking this information is fine and wanting a better understand of how the site is spending money is absolutely fine. But speaking just for myself, who's never done any type accounting type work for a business, the comparisons do not seem to be meaningful. If accountant types want to chime in about those comparisons, feel free!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 1:09 PM on September 10, 2023 [4 favorites]


Getting into the weeds, it's probably important to look at how many actual hours those two mods in 2006 were working during that year across three subsites vs the five mods in 2023 working across at least four subsites (Front page, Ask, Meta, and Fanfare).

Fair point regarding the actual number of hours the two mods were working in 2006 vs. the hours five mods are working in 2023, but the fact remains that the average number of daily comments has declined by almost 70%. On the face of it, it seems questionable that a 70% reduction in site activity would require a 150% increase in staff.
posted by paper scissors sock at 1:42 PM on September 10, 2023 [10 favorites]


I think most of the users wondering where all the donations go would welcome more detail provided by the site itself. Until that actually happens, any real stats, like the ones collected as described above, are more meaningful than anything else we have been offered to consider.

Re: 24/7 coverage being the best way to combat racism, it only is if the site is unwilling to consider any other option. Just automatically hide anything with three flags until a mod can review it. I am sure people could think of plenty of other options that would be effective at a fraction of the cost of full mod coverage. Might as well implement this sooner rather than later, because the site is only going to get less able to support mod salaries as it continues to shrink. Just keeping things as-is isn’t an option.
posted by snofoam at 2:22 PM on September 10, 2023 [8 favorites]


I would love for more people to flag comments and posts they want a mod to look at, so that flagging data could be more useful and be reused for other things! Over and over, when encouraging MeFites to do so, I've read MeFites saying that they have never flagged anything or that they don't think to do so, and as I recall, mods have confirmed that this is a pattern -- lots of MeFites silently get annoyed at posts or comments but don't flag. Or they use the contact form, which doesn't send as precise a signal that could be used in the way snofoam suggests.

One reason people don't flag things is that they don't know what will happen if they try it, and that's why I wrote a description, with screenshots, on the MeFi wiki. If you are talking with a MeFite who mentions that they never flag things, please mention this to them!

And this is a reason I'm looking forward to the overhaul of the flagging UI. The MeFites who don't currently flag, and who don't read MetaTalk, will be more likely to use it.
posted by brainwane at 2:33 PM on September 10, 2023 [5 favorites]


But we’ve already been told that the way mods find things to moderate is by flags. Racist comments that don’t get flagged are not going to get moderated either way. I’m just saying that having the maximum hours of mod coverage is unnecessary because there are other ways to achieve the same thing without having a mod on duty all the time. And the site will not be able to increase or even sustain current mod coverage so it is a moot point. Anyone who legitimately wants to address racism or other problematic posting/commenting should be looking at realistic solutions.
posted by snofoam at 2:53 PM on September 10, 2023 [6 favorites]


Thinking about the way MetaFilter does moderation, as paid, labour-intensive, and theoretically "high touch":

- Does it produce the best outcomes in terms of user satisfaction, engagement, and retention? It's a hypothesis (or site dogma) but unproven, and personally I'm skeptical it's fit for purpose. It would be great to have data to find out one way or another.

- Is it being applied in a fair and equitable way? On past performance, not always, it's often arbitrary, unpredictable, and on rare occasions malicious. Again, it would be great to have data to monitor this.

- Is it necessary based on current site traffic, number of posts and comments? I think not, but it would be great to have data (about moderator workload) to find out.

If, for the sake of argument, real data does suggest paid, human, high touch moderation produces good outcomes, is applied fairly, and there is sufficient site activity to justify it... Well, even then, it's still ridiculous to throw so much cash at it when little to nothing is being used for structured fundraising, marketing, and new user acquisition.
posted by iivix at 3:01 PM on September 10, 2023 [19 favorites]


Fair point regarding the actual number of hours the two mods were working in 2006 vs. the hours five mods are working in 2023, but the fact remains that the average number of daily comments has declined by almost 70%. On the face of it, it seems questionable that a 70% reduction in site activity would require a 150% increase in staff.

Apologies, if we're still using 2006 labor costs, it's worth noting that PB came on in May of 2006, to do development work, so it would have to be decidedon whether that labor cost is factored in to any comparisons. I'd say not and to keep looking at mod labor for comparison.

Otherwise, I'd argue that you're still have to consider the number of mod hours if you want to compare, rather than number of mods. I don't know what the hours are (for 2006 or now), but offhand, the two mods in 2006 seemed full time-ish, but weren't covering the "overnight" hours (as decided by USA time). The current five are part-timers and overall do cover those "overnight" hours.

Just automatically hide anything with three flags until a mod can review it.

That means any three people can decide on what's being discussed i.e. a small group will definitely game the system on certain topics or commenters because no human would be around to make a judgement call. I personally don't think that's the best way to work or be alerted to problematic comments, but recognize others may differ.

But we’ve already been told that the way mods find things to moderate is by flags. Racist comments that don’t get flagged are not going to get moderated either way.

Eh, I consider it part of my duties to look at what's been going when my shift starts and keep an eye on potentially problematic threads.

Thinking about the general topic (the cost of moderation) I think the major problem is that people generally feel that money hasn't been spent well, so they're looking to fix that with various suggestions and the highest cost in the budget is an obvious choice. Which is incredibly understandable and reasonable! I just think the whatever decisions made on that need to look at a complete picture of what's going on with the site and what moderation work entails.

Finally, overall I think the site needs to work on bringing in new members with specific plans and efforts. Hopefully that's something that can be decided on and implemented when the Steering Committee or something like it returns. If not, I personally push to something along those lines (heads up Jessamyn and loup :))
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 3:34 PM on September 10, 2023 [8 favorites]


Oh, all of my recent comments should be taken as me speaking for myself and not any sort of official position. I didn't work at MeFi today, had a good day at that other job and am just feeling chatty about MeFi!

Giving this thread a rest for a day or so.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 3:46 PM on September 10, 2023


I just think the whatever decisions made on that need to look at a complete picture of what's going on with the site

I agree fully. Every metric we see shows a site with fewer members and less engagement. It is obvious that the budget for the site overall will decrease as time goes on unless there are huge changes, perhaps even with huge changes. Moderation should be made more efficient because it will have to be.

There's also the weird notion that only moderation makes the site better. When Metafilter was a growing community, there was no need to invest in growing the community or increasing engagement. The situation has flipped entirely (over a decade ago) but the site hasn't adapted in any significant way.

If the site was like, we're going to try Solution X (doesn't have to be what I suggested) to protect users from shitty comments while also reducing mod hours, and then put that into a structured community engagement position that focused on building and improving the community, I think it would be a huge win. Out of the current mods, Brandon, I think you are my obvious choice for such a role. I think a role like this would include donor relations work that might increase revenues some or at least keep them from declining as fast. Well executed, it seems clear that a role like this has the potential to improve the site much more than an incremental amount of mod coverage.
posted by snofoam at 3:51 PM on September 10, 2023 [12 favorites]


You're a good egg Brandon.

for reference to another web 1.0 dinosaur that continues lumbering along heedless of its anachronous existence in a world that cares naught for it, I just checked and we get around 23,000 posts a day at somethingawful, which is run with volunteer mods.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:59 PM on September 10, 2023 [6 favorites]


a small group will definitely game the system

If someone appears to be abusing the flagging function to game the system, disable their flagging privileges for some duration, and ban them for repeat infractions.
posted by otsebyatina at 5:40 PM on September 10, 2023 [6 favorites]


I mean it wasn't better here in 2006, was it? I thought it was generally accepted that those were the Bad Old Boyzone* days. There's a potential argument to be made that threads are over-moderated now, but we still have people complaining about what other people say, and the only two potential answers are "yeah that's terrible isn't it but (shrug)" and "well let's get a moderator to fix that." We seem to have generally moved in the direction of Option B. We left the past behind for a reason.

Also I wonder which two mods would volunteer to be the -only- two mods left here, to replicate Ye Olde Days of 2006.

*this is shorthand for all the assorted ills of the early days of Metafilter. I am given to understand that there were a wide variety of problems.
posted by Vatnesine at 5:42 PM on September 10, 2023 [4 favorites]


the only two potential answers are "yeah that's terrible isn't it but (shrug)" and "well let's get a moderator to fix that."

These are not the only two potential answers. The fact that most people have seemed to decide they are is a huge problem, because it creates a false binary choice between 24/7 mod coverage and a racist sexist transphobic Wild West. There are plenty of other choices around managing (rather than avoiding) conflict, shaping conversations, and setting and enforcing expectations that aren't just about deleting things.
posted by lapis at 5:50 PM on September 10, 2023 [16 favorites]


These are not the only two potential answers. The fact that most people have seemed to decide they are is a huge problem, because it creates a false binary choice between 24/7 mod coverage and a racist sexist transphobic Wild West.

If people really cared about making the community better, how come there is never a banner saying: “Help us be the best community we can be. If you see a discriminatory comment, flag it! Here’s how.”?

Personally, I think it is because Metafilter the institution is more dedicated to trying to preserve the status quo than actually getting better. If the people working here cared half as much as some of the users, it could be a much better place.
posted by snofoam at 6:32 PM on September 10, 2023 [4 favorites]


I mean it wasn't better here in 2006, was it?

It certainly wasn't a better place to work.

I am here with Brandon Blatcher saying that constructive feedback and suggestions from people are welcome and nothing I am saying should be construed as not appreciating that feedback. But yeah, Matt and I basically worked all the time. And then cortex and Matt and I worked all the time. It wasn't until I saw Matt giving a SXSW talk about running MeFi and he talked about how he was finally in a place with it where he could take weekends off and I was like "Huh? I don't get weekends off..." that we finally put some boundaries around things, and yes there weren't schedules until 2011 as people noted above. I've got a lot more "Tied an onion to my belt" stuff that is probably deadly dull to folks who aren't into a lot of inside baseball recaps from things that happened decades ago, but part of the general vision for the site now is being a decent place to work. There's room for improvement, certainly, but I'm pretty sure that other than compensation, that was never a concern for pre-2017 MeFi and I'm honestly not sure what cortex's vision for that was. I know he tried in some ways and was in over his head in others.

(in the U.S., middle of the day)

I'm aware that was stressful. Part of trying to be a better site for people from non-US-time zones is spreading out the moderator coverage gaps, and this fell into one of those gaps. 24/7-coverage MeFi had "We'll get to your flag within 15 minutes and your email within an hour" response times. Since we've had coverage gaps we don't have that. This is a thing that rarely but sometimes happens, but that doesn't make it easier and I'm sorry that happened.

I think that low mod coverage makes it harder for racism concerns to get addressed quickly

This is one of the tensions the site deals with. Moving to a site that has Community Guidelines and a Content Policy (a fairly recent development in the overall lifetime of MeFi, in response to people asking for more clarity around what guides moderator actions) also means the site has to be able to be responsive to content that breaks the guidelines (racism, transphobia, homophobia, various kinds of ableism and other guideline-breaking content) with reasonable haste. Not saying it always has to operate exactly the way it's been operating, just that it's a thing we don't take lightly.

If people really cared about making the community better, how come there is never a banner saying: “Help us be the best community we can be. If you see a discriminatory comment, flag it! Here’s how.”?

We'll implement that after the fundraiser.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:52 PM on September 10, 2023 [16 favorites]


I mean it wasn't better here in 2006, was it? I thought it was generally accepted that those were the Bad Old Boyzone* days.

I was a very active user in 2006. I don't particularly view it as the Bad Old Anything days -- and I say that as someone who definitely fought a lot of the boyzone battles on behalf of the anti-sexist/anti-misogynist side. (On preview: I acknowledge that Jessamyn had a different experience as an employee.) I certainly am glad that the old "I'd hit it" impulse, and its analogous racist/homophobic/xenophobic/etc. bullshit, was nuked; it definitely helped to change Metafilter for the better. Nevertheless, such changes do not, in and of themselves, explain a decline of 70% of site activity in the intervening years, unless we are to believe that of the 100 average daily posts and 2200 average daily comments in 2006, 70 of those posts and 1500 of those comments would be worthy of deletion today.
posted by paper scissors sock at 7:01 PM on September 10, 2023 [5 favorites]


I dunno man. I’d be careful about “reasonable haste.” I think it’s possible for mods to respond to flags within a timeframe.

But being expert enough in all nuances to ferret out that quickly? I think that leads to a kind of Minority Report-like thinking where every link is suspect. Monitoring “in case” something happens is different than responding when something does. It’s a mental difference - I can think about this other thing until this pops up, vs. scanning the skies. And I think that leads to a site culture that ends up where desert outpost described it.

Lately there was a decision to remove a post that I think was on trans issues and was from the NYT. I stan the reasons for that. But does that mean now mods and posters need to track not only which global publications are ok, but on which topics? Because that is a hell of an expectation. And while I don’t want it to suck for everyone, nor do I really think it’s a slippery slope - that does lead to inequities.

I don’t think it’s realistic for a small paid team to mirror the kind of expertise you get when you have amateur experts moderating just in their own content areas. Sometimes I see comments where the piece linked is reasonable but the author Did Something and it’s sort of the tone of “I’m amazed the nods are letting this stand.” I don’t respond to those comments because that’s not our site culture, but if I were I’d say - look, it’s not reasonable to me that the mods be expected to google every author and determine if there’s an issue (especially with the amount of disinformation out there.) Dealing with all the frustration when you miss something is hard in that context too.

And with all respect to Brandon, history suggests that in a year he too won’t have the bandwidth to be doing outreach because it seems from the outside that those expectations is a high burnout thing.

One way to address this would be to surface the number of flags (not a list of flaggers.) It would give members an ability to show solidarity/allyship and also for people to feel sure that as flag numbers increase, the next available mod will respond in some way. Yes, there’s loss there and I think the BIPOC viewpoint would be important. But there would potentially be a gain too in that things might not go off the rails or people would have a way to get the culture that leads to more engagement, not just waiting for the mods.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:47 AM on September 11, 2023 [8 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: I'm sorry about that and believe it was just an oversight. That admins are digging through things to see what happened.

Any update on this?
posted by dmh at 7:38 AM on September 11, 2023 [1 favorite]


I think that low mod coverage makes it harder for racism concerns to get addressed quickly

If the model for addressing racism remains "delete a harmful comment immediately," then yes, 24/7 mod coverage is a necessity. However, that may not actually be the model by which MeFi best addresses racism. Instead, it could be through the process of cumulative learning and reflection over time, evolving policy, and honest effort to maintain a space that respects identities, and discipline or removal for those who don't. The emphasis on immediately disappearing problematic content is one we can reasonably question. What if it were visible a bit longer (or hidden with reveal), but the community were able to better process it through a stronger emphasis on shared practice? I work in many contexts where unwelcome comments might not be seen or deleted for a long time, if ever, but that doesn't mean we aren't addressing racism or learning from such instances. In essence, I'm talking about the difference between incident policing and culture building, and putting more effort into the latter, less on the former.

W/r/t the automatic flag idea: three flags to auto-deletion is far too easy for someone with a grudge to game, but I can imagine a scenario where some number of flags automatically hides a post behind a click-to-reveal, along with a status indicator saying "this post has not yet been reviewed by a moderator," "this post is under review," "this post has been reviewed and reinstated," or "this post has been reviewed and deleted." This is an example of one way to manage expectations and allow time for a thoughtful decision to be made.

I consider it part of my duties to look at what's been going when my shift starts and keep an eye on potentially problematic threads.

That seems to me the more long-term, community-building way to go about it - offering a holistic view of how the site culture is developing. Heck, the site moves slowly enough now that even I can track what's going on in a day and I don't spend much time here.

That time does not reflect the time spent making the post to the Best Of blog, Mefi.social, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok.

We can also question how valuable this is to users. I don't know how many users care about the Best Of blog or follow these accounts, but judging by how they never seem to cross my feed it can't be a lot? I do understand the need for social presence as a new member recruitment strategy as recommended by the SC, but in fact, there's no reason these social projects need to be run by mods. A person who works many fewer hours per week, perhaps on a contract, could certainly do a very good job curating the social feeds and allow the mod time to be reduced proportionally. Content curation toward a demonstrable metric of increased users & engagement is a specific, and different, skill set than moderation anyway. In general, there seems to be resistance to streamlining down the work of the site to what the users of the site most value, and I'll wager these activities produce relatively low value for most, at least in present, financially strained times. Many of those things are nice-to-haves for times of abundance and surplus, especially with no accountability metrics to justify the time spent on them.

One of the reasons the SC did such good work was that they weren't burdened by fundamental assumptions about "the way it's always been" being "the way it has to be. " I am seeing a lot of that thinking here. Whoever it was who said that it wasn't linear leadership, but transformational leadership, that is needed was right on. This is a very different time than 2006 or 2011. We need very different solutions if the site is to survive.
posted by Miko at 12:33 PM on September 11, 2023 [28 favorites]


W/r/t the automatic flag idea: three flags to auto-deletion is far too easy for someone with a grudge to game, but I can imagine a scenario where some number of flags automatically hides a post

Not that it matters, but I'm the one that suggested this as an option, and every time I have suggested this, I have suggested that a post that receives too many flags is temporarily hidden until it can be reviewed by a moderator. This is a kind of change that could make the site "safer" for people at any level of moderation coverage (aside from instantaneous mod attention).

I think anyone that who is interested in protecting users from inappropriate content should be interested in ideas like this that could help with that. The pushback against an idea like this, from people who claim to want better protection for users, is always some second order hypothetical about people gaming the system. Personally, I think the truth is mostly that some people are just reactionary against change of any sort, even something that might make the site better in a way that they actually want. I don't necessarily think it is conscious, and definitely not malicious, but it is an ingrained thing that is dragging the site down.

I agree with Miko that we need new perspectives and people open to new ideas. We need people willing to embrace improvement, not just people clinging to a dwindling nostalgic ideal of a Metafilter that never existed.
posted by snofoam at 1:35 PM on September 11, 2023 [7 favorites]


It sounds like these things are true:
1. there's a desire to move to a more community-led version of MetaFilter
2. exactly what that would look like still needs to be decided
3. that decision is to be made at a future time, not yet possible to estimate and contingent on legal advice
4. because of 1-3, no significant changes are contemplated and time is being spent on existing backlogged tasks rather than substantial changes or planning.

What I'm wondering is whether 4 can and should change. Understandably 1 to 3 are difficult, but it doesn't seem to me that sticking with status quo is the best response to that difficulty. Inaction is a form of action, and isn't a necessary response to 1 to 3.

Let's say the goal is for community input and for decisions to be made to preserve the long-term interests of the community. Focusing effort on 1 to 3 to the exclusion of all else, in my opinion, is not the best way to further this goal where there's a widely held and reasonable perspective that inaction is harmful to the site.

Could some moderation time be diverted to a simple survey to find out where the community stands, by and large, on areas where some shorter term action might be important? Or if there's no new information needed, on actioning the results of previous community input?
posted by lookoutbelow at 3:48 PM on September 11, 2023 [4 favorites]


Ironically I just tried to flag lookoutbelow’s comment as fantastic on mobile, and I think I flagged it as HTML/display error instead. Oops. I meant fantastic.
posted by Alterscape at 5:39 PM on September 11, 2023


every time I have suggested this, I have suggested that a post that receives too many flags is temporarily hidden until it can be reviewed by a moderator

Which is an entirely normal and common design pattern around the internet. Anybody who's calling this "auto-delete" is either arguing in bad faith or has never spent time on another forum/comments section.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:44 AM on September 12, 2023 [3 favorites]


I don't think there is good reason to think that it would be helpful for site engagement/activity to increase the level of hiding/suppressing/deleting of potentially objectionable comments. It always strikes me that, at the big picture level, as the site has become more inclusive and less nasty over the years, it has steadily lost participation/engagement. It may be that the two things are not linked causally - i.e., the decline in participation is a secular/macro trend for communities like this, which I think must be a big part of the explanation. But if you are going to posit that more intensive moderation will lead to increased site engagement or otherwise improve the health of the site, I think you have to grapple with the fact that the site has a history of years of increasing moderation and decreasing sexism/racism/other anti-inclusive conduct, with no increase in site engagement to show for it. In fact, there are many complaints by people who feel that the site has too many rules or pitfalls for people who are trying to participate - it seems likely to me that having comments hidden by a few users for whatever good reason or mistaken reason is likely to only increase those sorts of complaints. Creating a queue of hidden comments for mods to work through and adjudicate does not sound compatible with real-time discussions, also.

TLDR: if you want more participation, be careful about introducing more mechanisms to suppress comments, even if only temporarily.
posted by Mid at 6:52 AM on September 12, 2023 [7 favorites]


I don't think that's the kind of participation anyone on either side of this debate wants though. Three might be too low a threshold for auto-hiding, which is fine: just increase the threshold to five flags, or ten, or whatever. But if there's a shadowy group of people coordinating their flagging to hide posts they don't like (seems unlikely to me but what do I know?), maybe we should address that directly rather than just saying "oh, I guess auto-hiding won't work in every possible scenario, so it's not worth discussing".
posted by kevinbelt at 8:38 AM on September 12, 2023 [6 favorites]


...the site has a history of years of increasing moderation and decreasing sexism/racism/other anti-inclusive conduct, with no increase in site engagement to show for it.

Mefi has a history of being pulled kicking and screaming into the current decade's expectations around inclusion. The site's fundamental resistance to moderating these things (& need for constant affirmation when it does so) has been a major contributor to user attrition and disinvestment, yes.
posted by knucklebones at 12:59 PM on September 12, 2023 [2 favorites]


that's certainly an opinion one can hold
posted by Sebmojo at 1:53 PM on September 12, 2023 [4 favorites]


Mod note: Any update on this?
Yes! I have reconfigured this for stripe so that a thank you email goes out for every payment or declined transaction moving forward. I'm also working to have something similar in Paypal as well.
posted by loup (staff) at 2:22 PM on September 12, 2023 [5 favorites]


I don't think there is good reason to think that it would be helpful for site engagement/activity to increase the level of hiding/suppressing/deleting of potentially objectionable comments.

I’m not approaching this from a philosophical point of view about the level or style of moderation. The site is shrinking and will not be able to sustain something like real time moderation. I was just suggesting that, in general, it makes sense to consider implementing tools to deal with that. If those tools allowed the site to spend something on building and improving the site rather than just moderating, then that would be a big benefit, too.
posted by snofoam at 5:11 PM on September 12, 2023 [4 favorites]


What I'm wondering is whether 4 can and should change. Understandably 1 to 3 are difficult, but it doesn't seem to me that sticking with status quo is the best response to that difficulty. Inaction is a form of action, and isn't a necessary response to 1 to 3.

Absolutely. This is valuable planning time being lost.

And please: GOD NO not another survey. The TT/SC did one within recent memory and the problem areas have been Very. Clearly. Mapped. What is need now is not analysis paralysis but forward action.
posted by Miko at 5:47 PM on September 12, 2023 [29 favorites]


This whole cycle reminds me so much of what I've seen in.... Pretty much any company I've ever worked:

- Some innovative people who like building things, build a cool thing
- Then the thing stabilises, and needs managing
- Folks are hired to manage it! Over time, this selects for people who are good at optimising their day to day work, good at making incremental positive change and at reducing small-scale risk. (Of course, there's an increasing long term risk that this status quo becomes unsustainable).
- People who enjoy building things often don't like/ aren't good at managing, so the original builders(s) leave and the organisation becomes 100% managers (sometimes really great ones, sometimes not so much).
- After a long time, this stable situation is interrupted by some dramatic change, whether that's external circumstances or just "declining revenue suddenly sending us into the red"
- This new situation requires a very different kind of leadership. It requires significant change and it requires running significant risks. There will always be staff and customers who are upset at the changes and make their views known, whether kindly or otherwise.
- People who are really great at managing the status quo are not usually great at major change management, and/or aren't interested in it. They may not have done it before or even seen it before, it can be far outside their risk tolerance and really uncomfortable even when it's 100% welcomed. Someone who thrives on significant change is unlikely to have been hired or to have stayed hired for very long.
- Often at this stage you see a lot of things that SOUND like maybe change is happening, but that don't stick the landing, and nothing really changes.
- The solution is almost inevitably to bring in change making folks from outside.
- Unfortunately, people who are great at managing can find it really hard to hire and manage effective changemakers, without accidentally boxing them in so much that the change can't happen. The exact same skills that make people good managers in a stable environment, can be actively maladaptive when significant change is needed. The organisation as a whole is literally designed to maintain the status quo (or make extremely gradual improvements) and will often keep doing that despite everyone's best efforts.
- This sucks and lots of companies find it hard or even impossible to get over the hump.

TL;DR - this stuff is really hard. It's not in the least bit surprising that it's taking a long time, it's not surprising that it's outside the wheelhouse of the existing team and it's not really fair to ding them for that.
posted by quacks like a duck at 10:49 AM on September 13, 2023 [20 favorites]


I think it’s fair in the sense that there’s a responsibility to understand and manage where your organization is in this life cycle, and to take the needed actions at whatever that point is,
posted by Miko at 11:02 AM on September 13, 2023 [14 favorites]


It's fair to ask people to do that, since the organisation won't survive long-term without it. But it's unrealistic (at least, from my experience) to expect people to have the skills to do that quickly, tidily, or in a straight line without a bunch of false starts that can leave everyone feeling kind of exhausted, frustrated and burnt out.

Honestly in my experience it's already unusual for people to even understand and acknowledge that "what got us here won't get us there".
posted by quacks like a duck at 11:39 AM on September 13, 2023 [1 favorite]


I don't feel it's all that rare, but that might be because organizational transformation is a bigger part of my sector (driven by factors including but also other than money) and it seems there's a lot of built-up knowledge of it. We've certainly had a lot of time spent, not in a straight line, with a lot of false starts. All indicators point to the need for a new way of leading and also of working here.
posted by Miko at 2:11 PM on September 13, 2023 [5 favorites]


Honestly in my experience it's already unusual for people to even understand and acknowledge that "what got us here won't get us there".

I mean, if you go back to the SC analysis that was incredibly well done - active users have been in decline since 2011. So I am not sure we have to worry about too much buy in to what worked because jessamyn is the only one who worked here when the site actually experienced growth. If anything, I’d worry that everybody on staff was hired to moderate content and not for any managerial or growth oriented skills. (This is not to say they don’t have them, it’s just not what anyone was hired for.)
posted by openhearted at 3:52 PM on September 13, 2023 [7 favorites]


TL;DR - this stuff is really hard. It's not in the least bit surprising that it's taking a long time, it's not surprising that it's outside the wheelhouse of the existing team and it's not really fair to ding them for that.

I wouldn't criticise anyone for major changes taking a long time to set up and implement. But I (and, I think, others here) are criticising management for not showing much acknowledgement that major changes are needed, or how to even begin working towards one day approaching how to start making them.

Everything points to "business as usual". Fill out the mod roster. If there's any spare money after that, perhaps move on to whatever minor change can be implemented over a few years after the fabled Flagging UI has been tweaked.

When that last survey was done I was pretty much in the mindset of "everything's fine, the best thing about this site is the moderation!" Since then I started reading MetaTalk, we've gone through a lot of events , and I would probably change most of my survey answers now.

I cancelled my (tiny) monthly contribution during this bizarrely uninspiring fundraising month because, after months and months of hoping and waiting, I no longer feel it will be put to good use. I can't currently imagine a future in which anything other than very gradual decline continues to happen.

I hope to have my mind changed at some point, and to be inspired by someone showing a genuine appetite and a plan for the changes needed to keep this place alive and, maybe, thriving for more decades.
posted by fabius at 1:52 AM on September 14, 2023 [9 favorites]


What I'm wondering is whether 4 can and should change. Understandably 1 to 3 are difficult, but it doesn't seem to me that sticking with status quo is the best response to that difficulty. Inaction is a form of action, and isn't a necessary response to 1 to 3.

Absolutely. This is valuable planning time being lost.


Who should be doing the planning here? If the goal is to move to a more community-driven site, it doesn't seem to make sense to have strategic planning done by the current staff (leaving aside questions of bandwidth and aptitude). And if the current business structure doesn't allow for volunteers to do this planning, it seems that the community can't do it either. It seems like a bit of a catch-22.

Perhaps there are creative solutions (I've seen "Friends of Metafilter" suggested before, although I don't know what the limitations on data sharing about the business would be and am not proposing any particular structure really), but it's easy to say that planning should be done, it's not clear how to accomplish that legally.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 1:41 PM on September 14, 2023 [2 favorites]


It is tantalizing to think that something could be done, somehow, without being delayed by restructuring. But it’s not clear how that could work. In theory, a group could work independently, but who would invest that time without having any certainty that the work would be used?

Maybe we know enough stuff from surveys and SC work? If we could glean enough info from that to decide that, for example, moving to a new software is going to be inevitably necessary and there is a clear first choice option, then someone could be hired to start building on that (maybe as a test and chatfilter subsite like mentioned in a more recent meta). But even something like that, mostly preparatory and technical, would involve non-community decision making.
posted by snofoam at 5:40 PM on September 14, 2023 [1 favorite]


Note to snofoam before this thread closes: We will be putting up your suggestion for the site banner at some point next week, probably on the 20th (ish). There will be a different banner up from the 16th-20th (ish). Your very good suggestion will appear after that banner, just fyi.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 6:10 AM on September 15, 2023 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the heads up! I’m happy to see the site trying new things and I hope it reaches some people who would flag inappropriate content, but may not know they can or how. Good stuff!
posted by snofoam at 12:32 PM on September 15, 2023


In answer to the question about who leads change: right now, site staff and ownership are the only entities who can functionally lead change. Under a different incorporation structure, or even a different private LLC structure, it’s possible for a structurally empowered body to lead change. But right now the survival and direction of the site are solely in staff hands.
posted by Miko at 8:34 PM on September 15, 2023 [8 favorites]


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