Fundraising Idea -- MeFi Book(s) October 19, 2023 1:42 PM   Subscribe

The "Life Hack" question now on AskMe made me think of this. Over the years, AskMe has collected a bunch of enduring info on life hacks and other topics. One or more people could organize that, put it into a booklet form and sell it for the good of MeFi. Or would that be any conflict?
posted by NotLost to MetaFilter-Related at 1:42 PM (51 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Quick note: I've put this MetaTalk through so that this and similar ideas can be discussed openly, BUT technically, we don't own member-generated content.
posted by loup (staff) at 1:45 PM on October 19 [8 favorites]

toss us link to current askme?
posted by clavdivs at 3:02 PM on October 19

I love books. It’s easier to publish than ever. With print on demand there’s basically no upfront cost. There is a lot of content here (though, as noted, not necessarily usable without permission).

That said, it is work to put together something that people will find valuable, especially something with enough appeal to raise a significant amount of funds. I think it is interesting to imagine what such a book might be and how it might be beneficial, even if it doesn’t raise significant funds. Also, what would translate well into book format?
posted by snofoam at 5:33 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]

Just to highlight what loup said, because of the way the MetaFilter TOS is written, you would have to get signed permission for each comment/answer from the author to have the rights cleared to publish. That’s a lot of coordination!
posted by warriorqueen at 5:50 PM on October 19 [14 favorites]

Ah, thus one?

'Hacking Life' would be a great title. Booklet, as in paper, sure. A PDF? The only conflict would be asking prior permission of the posters/commenters in every post used.
posted by clavdivs at 5:55 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]

can't believe I was in preview for 3 minutes
posted by clavdivs at 5:57 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]

The Annotated Emotional Labor Post is maybe instructive precedent here?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:27 PM on October 19 [13 favorites]

I've had this idea too! And I've worked out some possible approaches, but like, 3% of the thinking needed if that.

- There's enough good, interesting content in some subject areas that even if 25% of the authors said yes, you'd still have a pretty interesting collection.

- Coming up with marketable, interesting, relevant titles/subject areas/structures/themes, i.e. curating, becomes key.

- If you can't get enough authorized material in a subject area, you could always...wait for an AskMe specifically FOR creating a written collection and get new information. Maybe. Especially if:

- It could be a contest of some kind.

- I recommend coming up with several ideas, then seeing how potential sample buyers outside Metafilter react to them -- just the potential title and/or capsule description and/or example quotes -- before choosing one to focus on at a time. That way, the amount of effort expended isn't as big a risk, and lessons from the first can be immediately applied to save pain with any subsequent efforts.

My first idea: Cat Tax Deductible: Feline Advice Not Collected Anywhere Else / but Metafilter
posted by amtho at 6:44 PM on October 19 [5 favorites]

I had forgotten about print-on-demand, snofoam.

And good ideas, snofoam. Possibly it could work out that a given publication has a number of categories. One way to start might be to look for AskMes that had many favorites.
posted by NotLost at 7:07 PM on October 19

Possibly I could work on this. I've also volunteered to help with the transition to a nonprofit, and I don't want to bite off too much at once.
posted by NotLost at 7:11 PM on October 19

Just to highlight what loup said, because of the way the MetaFilter TOS is written, you would have to get signed permission for each comment/answer from the author to have the rights cleared to publish.

For my edification, where are the MeFi TOS?
posted by NotLost at 7:29 PM on October 19

Oops, I meant great ideas from amtho!
posted by NotLost at 7:42 PM on October 19

It was somewhat before my time but Chowhound did something like this and one of the things I do know about it is that it was an absolutely massive amount of work - and that's keeping in mind that they already created newsletters that distilled this stuff on the regular. I am not that in touch with that many people from Chowhound's early days but I could probably reach out to some people who were part of the editorial effort for more info on what they did in terms of managing rights issues and such if people are serious about pursuing this.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:19 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]

MeFi Mag was an early sort of version of this. But it was made at cost, to avoid the pesky questions of paying people and how much. Plus it had a lot of original material.

It was fun though!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 8:42 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]

Many moons ago, in more innocent days, I wrote some code that turns a Metafilter thread into a PDF suitably formatted for printing in book form, which I then used to print a few personal copies using The code is on GitHub, although it's pretty broken now. I've considered updating the project a few times, but over the years, as giant company after giant company scraped our collective labor for profit, it felt better to leave things be.

But if there's some way to responsibly do a project as outline in this post, maybe the code could be useful...
posted by gwint at 8:43 PM on October 19 [4 favorites]

Those books are beautiful, gwint!

And the magazines are sharp, too!
posted by NotLost at 8:49 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]

Yeah I remember the book version of the Emotional Labour thread being deeply controversial due to issues around consent and copyright.
posted by creatrixtiara at 9:13 PM on October 19 [5 favorites]

Also with factual content: you'll need to spend enough time fact-checking the answers - if it's a How To book, you might inadvertently publish advice that's dangerous.
posted by creatrixtiara at 9:14 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]

clavdivs, "Hacking Life" is taken, fairly recently
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:49 PM on October 19

For my edification, where are the MeFi TOS?

Omg, I think you’re right and there isn’t really one. I was thinking of this.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:18 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]

From the link in the previous comment, there's this bit: "So if you wanted to publish a book of your own MetaFilter comments, you could."

So people could find their most popular comments (under favorited by others on their profile) and publish a book of their own comments. If several people were interested in doing this, they could get together and do a mix of their favorites comments and publish something. That would be make the securing permission part the easiest, possibly.

Could be also be a podcast or youtube of people simply talking about the story behind their most popular comments.

Just thinking out loud, any of the ideas could be developed for personal or MeFi use.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 7:30 AM on October 20 [4 favorites]

The Annotated Emotional Labor Post is maybe instructive precedent here?

Yes, it definitely is. The story of that very long metatalk thread is that Cortex momentarily forgot that copyright exists when someone on the internet thought it would be fine to grab an enormous wad of copyrighted material from MetaFilter, shuffle it, edit it lightly, and republish it with their name on it without first getting permission from the owners of the content, then leave it published and steadily gathering clicks while it slowly and continuously morphed and dwindled in size as its unsuspecting "contributors," some of whom were immediately terrified of being outed and getting killed, and some of whom were just pissed off that their stuff got published without their knowledge or permission, became aware of its existence and opted out of "contributing." It was very much extremely not fine.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:52 AM on October 20 [14 favorites]

- There's enough good, interesting content in some subject areas that even if 25% of the authors said yes,

I wish there was a way I could just preemptively say yes to use of my words in a Creative Commons sort of way. IE: make sure there's attribution etc and maybe some kind of overall limit in terms of no, you can't publish a philip-random self help manual which consists of nothing but my words (and even there I wouldn't mind as long as I got a piece of any net profits). But in general, yeah, anything I say here is yours to use, for good or for bad or for ugly. I trust the universe at least that far. There I said it.
posted by philip-random at 10:03 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]

I wish there was a way I could just preemptively say yes to use of my words in a Creative Commons sort of way

The newsletter for my kid's school always includes a few pictures of kids at various activities with a note at the end that if you want to see your child pictured you should make sure they have a media release form on file.

I could envision a similar sort of opt-in release for MeFi (LLC or 501c3, as appropriate, but I'll use "MeFi" here to mean either). Maybe there's a standard license that grants MeFi more usage rights beyond the "All posts copyright their original authors." on the footer, but still falls short of the "all uses known now or in the future, to be broadcasted throughout the known or unknow universe, evil mirror version or otherwise" licenses many other sites have. As philip-random says, maybe a sort of not-too-commercial MeFi fair-ish use license.

Then there could be an opt-in button available in our user settings, and whenever a project like this occurs asking for permission, there'd be a reminder that folks could chose to opt in for any future project if they desire.

And then the book announcement has a reminder as well: Want to see your comments in a future printing? Make sure you have a license agreement on file!

There are obviously more questions around what the exact license would be and what happens if anyone is switching between opting in and out over time, but in general it could be a slow way to build towards easy published projects in the future for those who chose to do so.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:20 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]

I trust the universe at least that far. There I said it.
Adorbs. Glad you got that off your chest. But the cool thing about those creative commons licenses is that they make it so that you don't have to trust the universe that has so many times proven itself manifestly unworthy of trust. Instead, you can require re-users of your creations not to change them in a way that makes them and you look idiotic.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:35 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]

Could be also be a podcast or youtube of people simply talking about the story behind their most popular comments.

In the spirit of relating this back to the fundraising idea, I would 100% sign up for the Patreon or whatever that monetizes listening to that podcast. (Not sure if anyone outside MetaFilter would, or if the logistics of doing that beyond the existing MF podcast make sense, though . . . maybe it's good advertising for the site?)
posted by kensington314 at 3:32 PM on October 20

Jacquilynne, yes, if you could get any insight about how Chowhound made its book, that would be helpful, please.
posted by NotLost at 11:05 PM on October 20

(I’m still waiting on socks.)
posted by Going To Maine at 12:59 PM on October 21

I'll send my release(s) right now, cough sigh.... as long as I'm either fully anonymized or indemnified from folks actually using my advice.

(what was I thinking when I made that bleach suggestion ;-)
posted by sammyo at 4:44 AM on October 22 [1 favorite]

Grant of License.
When you post or transmit Content on or through the Site you grant the Site and CNET Networks, their affiliates and partners a nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sub licensable, royalty-free license to use, store, display, publish, transmit, transfer, distribute, reproduce, rearrange, edit, modify, aggregate your Content with other Content, create derivative works of and publicly perform that Content for any purpose on and through each of the services provided by the Site or on other sites owned by CNET Networks or its affiliates or partners. This license shall apply to the distribution and the storage of your Content in any form, medium, or technology now known or later developed.
We have the right, but not the obligation, to use your name, city and state in connection with any use of your Content.

That’s how Chowhound did it. Metafilter’s TOS are pretty unique.
posted by bowbeacon at 4:40 PM on October 22

The Chowhound books came before the CNET years, though the terms of use included a grant of license even before that.

I have reached out to one person I know worked on the books to find out more about their work flow but it was a long time ago and she didn't remember but she has suggested another contact.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:32 PM on October 22 [1 favorite]

Thank you, jacquilynne.
posted by NotLost at 7:42 PM on October 22

So I was over on the FPP about the metafilter history stuff and I was thinking how one thing this site really needs is to bring in new users and more younger users. And I was thinking about what would bring people here and I was thinking if there were a medium-like section where people could write essays, instead of FPPs (don't jump on my yet, my thought process didn't end here...) and then maybe those articles could be picked up by pocket or those sites that just write articles stealing content from websites (like those articles that are just picked from AITA on reddit) thus making people aware of the website...but then I thought why would anyone write an article for free and post it here.... so that idea is dead...

And then I came into Meta and saw this book post again...and wait...there are a lot of hurdles into making a book, but what about some pages that are distilled from the site.. and still ON the site... or or whatever. So on this subsite are basically strung together content from various metafilter posts/questions etc. etc. tied together thinly (like literally you know those sites I was mentioning that just take the content of forums and turn them into articles? let's do it ourselves) and it all links back to the content in main sections of the site (FP,, etc. etc.). Basically it would be a new gateway for new people to discover metafilter.

The lifehacks thing could be one such (or many such) articles. A lot of stuff in the wiki that are just links could also be taken from a list of links to loosely-strong-together into article form. The articles could be anything from content farm-quality linking to New York Review of Books Metafilter style essays. The point is it all links back and some people fall through the rabbit hole and into our Wonderland.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:37 PM on October 22 [1 favorite]

Here are some examples of some content-farm articles that just take web forum content and turn it into articles...

COLD SHOULDER Joy-Anna Duggar slammed for ‘dangerous’ treatment of baby son Gunner, 5 months, during family camping trip

Housewife receives support after saying her daughter-in-law isn’t welcome in her home

Fans Think Jennifer Lawrence Got 'Plastic Surgery' After Looking 'Unrecognizable' At The Dior Fashion Show

I'm thinking like that, but less trashy and also those articles really want to keep you in the article, not the source. But I'm suggesting liberally linking back to the source material on other metafilter sites to create a rabbit hole for potential new users to fall down.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:46 PM on October 22

Professional opinion: Content marketing can work but it’s unlikely to work the way you’ve described for MetaFilter because we’re a generalist site and are the farm. You might bottle lightning now and then but it’s unlikely.

We definitely could come up with a few overriding themes but it’s not going to work much better than our native SEO. There are other forms of digital marketing that might work better.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:43 AM on October 23 [3 favorites]

To me, one logical starting point would be to look at the all-time most favorited comments and see what might work in an anthology. Stuff like how to survive a siege or how to dispose of a body are the kind of things I could imagine working. Some comments might only be relevant in context or is an inside joke or maybe didn't age well. If there are hundreds of popular comments that might work as standalone bits of prose, then maybe there would be enough after the permissions process. If not, then it is harder for me to imagine what a first Metafilter book might be.
posted by snofoam at 10:37 AM on October 23 [2 favorites]

To me, one logical starting point would be to look at the all-time most favorited comments and see what might work in an anthology.

The Infodumpter is a fantastic third party source for this and related information. I usually wind up spending way too much time here, when I remember it exists. For example, here's the list of the most popular comments of all time!

Call the book/magazine/whatever "This Is Everything This Odd Website Taught Me", have sections about eating, work, relationships/sex and go that. Life is essentially just working, eating, and fucking, so it's what most people are interested in talking, reading, or learning about.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 12:36 PM on October 23 [5 favorites]

So what I was picturing in the content marketting -- and I'm not arguing with your warriorqueen if you have expertise in this, I'm just clarifying in case it makes any differnence -- is not take this one awesome comment or thread and draw it out into an article, but rather something like an article about "Gee, gift giving sure is tricky!" You have a few throw-away links to all the "gifts for ____" (X year olds, gardeners, people who hate the colour blue or whatever) links and then go into "...but it's not always that simple..." and mention the anonymous banjo gift thread, then some threads about bad gifts or people whose gift-giving is intrusive or problematic. And anyway, should we be giving gifts at all (the post on the blue about the economics and environmental costs of the endless gift-giving) and end with "One site even creates its own yearly mall where community members can advertise to each other..." etc.

So an article would have a them and then pull in lots and lots of stuff from all over the site. Like what about something pulling together all the posts and great comments about pizza, or providing tech supportt to family, or crazy craft projects, houseguests and houseguesting, stuff that goes wrong while travelling , ghost sightings, home ownership issues, embarrassing blunders,... etc. Lots of links and teasers from all over the site.

But yes, the challenge is then pulling people into those articles, I guess. Ok, now I read this list and they're not necessarily the kinds of things that will bring in young people, which was my stated, so maybe not.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:32 PM on October 23

Thanks for sharing those links, BB! It seems that a lot of those very popular comments are actually pretty long, like 2-3 book pages, so being able to get permission to use 70-100 would probably be enough for a modest but satisfying book. To me, the best first book would be a greatest hits of comments from across the site that showcased the breadth of knowledge and experience and jumped around without any thematic organization. Something for everyone and a testament to how great the site is and has been. If it is successful, whatever that might mean, then there could be follow-ups, either in the same style or built around a theme, etc.
posted by snofoam at 2:41 PM on October 23 [2 favorites]

If only I had a penguin..., you bring to mind those Buzzfeed "articles" that are life-hack tips and "I never knew!" confessions collected from redditors and tiktokkers.

I've thought that posts on the Projects and FanFare subsites would make good "content" breadcrumbs to the site, particularly for the demographic you're talking about. Either TikToks and Instagrams of project processes (like the cool 3-part Painting w/Lego post linked on the Blue recently) or the great critiques found in-thread on Fanfare discussion pages as screenshots posted on Instagram. Copyright is simpler, too - asking permission from one person (Project creator or FF commenter). MetaFilter could have a template library (well, like an "as seen on MetaFilter" frame with some consistent color scheme and font) to easily create social-media posts.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:19 PM on October 23 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed the top comments collection; I'd only seen one of them before.

I agree with snofoam, a collection of the longer ones would make a great small book, and if the absolute number of comments is small it shouldn't be hard to get permission.
posted by zompist at 7:23 PM on October 23

I would strongly encourage people thinking of creating articles to increase traffic to really think about where you see/find those articles. Like really watch your habits over a week or two.

In the modern Google era, it’s rare for a basic article that is not on an authoritative site to float to the top of results without some kind of paid or marketing-driven avenue. You probably caught the titles as a sponsored link, or through one of the content exchange networks (you know the “extra” articles at the bottom or sides of sites, which are a kind of exchange model involving both content and money), or via social media, possibly paid.

The idea that people will “just find it” basically started to die when MetaFilter’s search optimization started to go down and it hasn’t gotten better overall. For super specific or local things, sure. You think things pop up to the top because you see things some up on Search. But you don’t see the dozens/hundreds/thousands of pages that aren’t there.

There are 10s of thousands of X hacks articles out there, some even nicely produced with good UX.

I do still think a properly optimized FanFare might work just because of the way fan communities and fan searching (going deeper on Google results on a topic) works. But that’s niche.

Anyways, long story short is - there are ways to engage people but they will probably have to be more strategic efforts than just some article-length posts with decent on-page optimization. And that’s before you even get into trying to get those people to engage with the content.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:08 PM on October 23 [9 favorites]

For what it's worth, I have an account with Lightning Source, the largest print-on-demand company in the world and part of Ingram the huge book distributor. Put a book with an ISBN up on LS and it appears on pretty much every online bookshop and catalogue globally. LS then takes orders, prints and ships copies, and sends a payment every month. I've been in publishing forty years (if you include badly photocopied fanzines in my youth) and it's the most stress-free version I've ever found: I get to do the fun bits of putting a book together, and someone else looks after printing and fulfillment. Of course, publicising the books is the trick.

I've also won awards for book design.

If anyone is actually thinking of doing something with this idea, I'd like to be part of the conversation.
posted by Hogshead at 3:34 AM on October 24 [4 favorites]

I also used to run a small press and have extra ISBNs I'd be happy to donate. Happy to help however I can, but have limited bandwidth.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:00 AM on October 24

This (themed book compilations of MetaFilter content) was one of the projects the SC had in the pipeline, when the SC was active. There have been a few precedents, or similar projects (there was a community cookbook produced years ago). When/if MetaFilter has the bandwidth, it would be nice to see the work on this continue. Happy to pass on the ideas/research already done to any group that might want to take this up, in future.
posted by aielen at 9:59 AM on October 24 [1 favorite]

aielen, that would be fantastic!

I wonder if the list of ideas could be made into a MetaTalk post that could point to a sign-up sheet/popularity poll for what ideas have the most support, e.g. a working group ready to coalesce. The research could then be shared if the theme aligns? Or perhaps the existing research should guide the theme choices?

As for permission, I was guessing we could memail people / use their contact email and ask people about specific comments that we want to publish? No response means no permission.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:14 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]

In addition to the EL debacle, we also have a positive precedent: The MeFiComp music compilation CD, created sometime before 2009. Can't find any actual post about the final product but perhaps someone else will. For some reason, in that case, copyright was taken seriously and I got an actual letter drawn up in legal terms with a rights package for me to wet-sign for permissions. In today's world, with the existence of things like Google Forms and eSign, this is much easier. It is pretty simple to set up a rights agreement, contact authors, and get their permissions for republication, with them keeping original rights (this is something many of us do a lot at work).

Also, it's probably not a savory prospect, but if someone wanted to cull and manually rewrite the ideas underlying the life hacks posts in completely different and original wording, that should be okay. But it would be against the spirit of it coming from MeFi users in their own voices, and would lessen the value of it as a particular MeFi product, I think. (No doubt there are already folks out there who have done this for their own benefit).
posted by Miko at 8:05 AM on October 28

list of the most popular comments of all time!

Whatever happened to Pastabagel? Does anyone know them IRL?
posted by neuron at 12:14 PM on October 28

Here's the cookbook doc.
posted by brilliantine at 8:03 AM on October 30

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