The code for Freefilter, an open source clone of Metafilter is now available February 14, 2003 4:33 PM   Subscribe

The code for Freefilter, an open source clone of Metafilter is now available. Mefi's structure as a posting and discussion board is unlike most other's available. It's fluid and user friendly and it was only a matter of time before someone coded their own version especially considering the success of Whedonesque and Sportsfilter. This isn't the first time an attempt has been made of course. This version isn't 'out of the box' yet though -- as the readme.txt says, you'll need:"A Web server, preferably Loonix, MySQL, an, er, recentish version, Perl, DBI and CGI modules for Perl, these should come as standard with most Perl installations, a sense of humor to read my source code..."
posted by feelinglistless to MetaFilter-Related at 4:33 PM (32 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

There's also holloway's phpilfer and one of the original mefi clones, verbament.

I'm considering GPLing the mefi code when the site turns four, this July (another leading idea is to close the site, sell it, or throw an essay contest to give it away).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:15 PM on February 14, 2003

Essay contest? Is this one of those $500 entry fee things? Or the 3rd Grade Scholastic Books "Why I am Proud to be an American!" kind of essay contest?
posted by Stan Chin at 5:23 PM on February 14, 2003

another leading idea is to close the site, sell it, or throw an essay contest to give it away...

cue beating of breasts, gnashing of teeth, flailing of arms...
posted by dash_slot- at 5:26 PM on February 14, 2003

I didn't mean to say it aloud. But think about it: four years, on the internet. More than 10% of my life spent on this website. Someday, I'll have to move on.

So feelinglistless, why did you go for perl instead of php?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:30 PM on February 14, 2003

'cause he didn't want anyone to understand the code :)
posted by timeistight at 5:42 PM on February 14, 2003

four years, on the internet. More than 10% of my life spent on this website.

posted by WolfDaddy at 5:43 PM on February 14, 2003

So we can actually have an IraqFilter, NewsFilter, PancakeFilter and NaderNaderNaderFilter? That's going to leave the main page pretty bare.
posted by Gary at 5:52 PM on February 14, 2003

I think there may be some wires crossed here ... Freefilter isn't *my* project. The only Perl I know the the kind you find in oysters. I've barely got some html (I mean does my weblog look like it was put together by someone who knows what they're doing?).

It's actually the work of this man, although I've heard a rumour wackybrit may also be involved. I found it via LMG, who found it in a thread at /. I was just blown away by how close it was to the Mefi we know and love, and was wondering if it was actually a good thing. I'm in the yay camp -- I've always found the google usenet groups and /. very difficult to follow and use which is probably why I've hung around here, so anything which makes it simpler for others to set things up for themselves ... I've always been a supporter of the idea of subject and geographically specific versions ...

From the author's site:

"FreeFilter is now open for public viewing. I've used a guady green color scheme so I don't get sued by Matt for totally ripping off his look and feel (*smile*).. anyway.. go and enjoy FreeFilter. I'd REALLY appreciate it if you post comments (you can post comments anonymously or with a username), join up, perhaps post something."

What is the difference between PHP and Perl? If Mefi is PHP, then I suspect the author used Perl so that it didn't infringe any possible coding copyrights ...
posted by feelinglistless at 5:56 PM on February 14, 2003

Although deeply flattered that you thought I had the wherewithall to *do* something like *this*.
posted by feelinglistless at 6:02 PM on February 14, 2003

The initial version was coded in 14 hours, so it was probably more to do with experience than weighing the pros and cons of different programming languages.
posted by Gary at 6:03 PM on February 14, 2003

MeFi is not done in PHP, it's done in ColdFusion (somebody bitch at me if this is incorrect).
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:15 PM on February 14, 2003

oh weird. I thought wackybrit was the guy that programmed it. It's someone else entirely?

I don't mind the total clone job, though it's nice when people use their imagination to build on top of what I do, instead of merely cloning it (like how wheadonesque is great looking and works better in some ways (with MORE and SPOILER features))
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:22 PM on February 14, 2003

So we can actually have an IraqFilter, NewsFilter, PancakeFilter and NaderNaderNaderFilter? That's going to leave the main page pretty bare.

I am counting 32 posts on the front page. It could stand a little austerity. Perhaps Matt might not be considering losing the site if it were not such a heavy thing.
posted by thirteen at 6:31 PM on February 14, 2003

Another MeFi clone written in Perl is being used for small community sites at and Both have just started within the past month and are in test mode among friends. When a front page post is more than one paragraph, only the first paragraph is shown on the front page, and the More link is displayed. This allows for lengthy posts without cluttering up the front page. When logged in and viewing the page with the post and comments, the user can save the topic to their favorites within the system. There may be a couple of other minor additions, but it's a shameless rip-off of the look and feel of MetaFilter, which works for me.
posted by munger at 7:15 PM on February 14, 2003

munger, what's the "narrow view" feature for?

Cool to hear about the additional features, those are both things I've always wanted to do (auto-mores and custom bookmarks).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:33 PM on February 14, 2003

For some, it might be easier and faster to read a lot of text on a page if it's in a narrow width column and not stretched out across the screen, but it shouldn't be the default view. Only the topic and comments are squished if narrow view selected.
posted by munger at 8:44 PM on February 14, 2003

q wants to 0wnz0r m3tafilte4
posted by quonsar at 8:47 PM on February 14, 2003

Queue up, quonsar.
posted by timeistight at 12:41 AM on February 15, 2003

It is Wackybrit! I just checked his user page ... "I'm working on a MeFi-like system called 'FreeFilter', primarily because 'open source' is the goal. It's working really well. Check the URL above."
posted by feelinglistless at 1:32 AM on February 15, 2003

... unless you thought I was wackybrit ... which is sort of funny ...
posted by feelinglistless at 1:33 AM on February 15, 2003

Recipe For a Site, by holloway

Mix equal parts interface with people, add cat scans to flavour. Leave to raise and sprinkle with admin juice.

Mmm... admin juice.
posted by holloway at 5:57 AM on February 15, 2003

Why I want to own MetaFilter, by Hildago:

If I owned MetaFilter no one would laugh at me anymore. If they did, I would delete their accounts. Everyone would like me and my laughter would ring throughout the mountains. We would have a party and I would promise to go, but then I wouldn't go, and everyone would say "why isn't Hildago here? He is awesome." And my allergies would go away.
posted by Hildago at 9:42 AM on February 15, 2003

I propose that fold_and_mutilate and myself get joint control of MetaFilter... just to keep things in balance.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:01 PM on February 15, 2003

Thanks, Steve_at. If no one minds, I'm gonna go get drunk now.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:12 PM on February 15, 2003

I was two seconds away from having NewsFilter online, and my web host takes a dump. Yeesh.
posted by oissubke at 9:31 PM on February 15, 2003

You guys ask why would someone do it in perl?

I didn't make it but the reason I use Perl over PHP is I find that it's easier to layer your application and integrate you application with other applications in perl. As well you have a reasonable database interface instead of DB specific functions.

I use perl because I have to maintain web apps and perl is much better for these sorts of things than PHP.

Basically you have database independence, smart templating and/or XML/XSLT translation, massive library choice and finally a stable language which you can extend as a user without the sysadmin. Also you can easily program genericity in perl with it's flexible OOP features.

Readability is a problem but that's what coding standards are for, configure the development to something a team or you agree on.
posted by abez at 12:56 AM on February 16, 2003

PHP makes it easy to blend code and templates, but then if you're writing up a single webform and jumping between then it won't matter, and when it does there are templating engines.

I chose PHP over Perl because PHP is easier to install on Windows, and there are many more PHP hosts available. It's more likely that someone will be able to run Phpilfer than Perlpilfer.

As of last year PHP has few remaining technical problems, and what does remain will be solved with PHP 5 (in a few months). More to the point, the remaining flaws don't affect most web software.

PHP is fast and smart, provides database abstraction, and is genuinely cross-platform.
posted by holloway at 2:33 AM on February 16, 2003

Holy crap, I search my referrers and I find a whole discussion about my program, lol.

Well, thanks, and new version out in a few weeks.

I started FreeFilter and was immediately swamped with lots of real life work (hmm.. what a coincidence.. it's as if God hates open source) so I got bogged down.. but things are clearing now, and all the problems will go away in the next version.

Thanks for your patience.
posted by wackybrit at 12:17 PM on February 16, 2003

wackybrit: Thanks for releasing the code into the wild. It's always interesting to see how someone else codes up an application like this; it stimulates new ideas and makes me consider new approaches.

One thing to watch out for: Some of the code still makes references to ".fi" files, which have been renamed ".cgi" in the release. Anyone who implements your code will need to go through and fix these up.

Otherwise, so far, so good.
posted by macrone at 1:43 PM on February 16, 2003

macrone: Just released a version 0.11 to address those problems, thanks! I'd never touched MySQL from Perl before, so this was really an experiment to see how it worked.. hence, the slightly odd way of doing things. I've come fully up to speed in the last month though, and 0.2 will be totally rewritten and streamlined in the SQL department.

holloway said: and there are many more PHP hosts available.

This appears true on the surface, but in reality I think almost every ISP supports Perl in some way or another, even if it's not proclaimed as loudly as PHP. That said, not every ISP that supports Perl also supports MySQL.. whereas you're confident that a PHP host will nearly always have MySQL installed.

I've been coding in Perl for 6 years, so that's my explaination though. It's just a language I know, and love, deeply (although judging by the scrappy source code in this release, you'd be hard pushed to tell).

I'm going to document progress on version 0.2 as it goes, including the SQL table buildup, etc, so you can simply post comments on the thread and give me building suggestions as I go. It begins over at FreeFilter on Wednesday.
posted by wackybrit at 2:22 PM on February 16, 2003

Waaaay cool. I have been toying with setting up a forum for a sporting association, but have not had the knowledge to make something myself or the money to pay for it. This looks like a perfect solution. Fantastic!
posted by dg at 5:50 PM on February 16, 2003

So I was surfing metafilter, on my PC, and it was like "bleep bleep bleep bleep" and I was like, errrrrgh?

i lost my metafilter. it was a really good metafilter.
posted by PrinceValium at 8:19 AM on February 17, 2003

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