Metafilter of the weird March 10, 2001 11:59 AM   Subscribe

I'd just like to make a point about the way-too-predictable postings we get on Metafilter:
posted by Mo Nickels to Etiquette/Policy at 11:59 AM (25 comments total)

Offbeat news headlines

These results are returned from the Moreover Professional Database.

Teacher snubs pupils with dyed hair...
Ananova   Mar 10 2001 5:36PM GMT  email this

Lorry fall saves calf from slaughter...
Ananova   Mar 10 2001 5:36PM GMT  email this

Dinosaur eggs found on train are millions of years old...
Ananova   Mar 10 2001 5:36PM GMT  email this

Temple alterations could increase number of male babies...
Ananova   Mar 10 2001 5:36PM GMT  email this

Gardener sings Elvis to create King-sized veg...
Ananova   Mar 10 2001 11:46AM GMT  email this

Rusty headlight turns out to be Bronze Age gold...
Ananova   Mar 10 2001 11:46AM GMT  email this

Dentist suspended for posing in raunchy magazine...
Ananova   Mar 10 2001 11:46AM GMT  email this

Dogs daring escape to be reunited with sweetheart...
Ananova   Mar 10 2001 11:46AM GMT  email this

Humiliating Oscar...   Mar 10 2001 10:14AM GMT  email this

Women in Bogota celebrate Night Without Men...
Ananova   Mar 10 2001 8:43AM GMT  email this

Car thief asks cop for boost Officer dupes suspect by lending a hand WINNIPEG -- A young auto thief who found...
Financial Post   Mar 10 2001 8:31AM GMT  email this

Sex-crazed dog stops at nothing EDMORE, Mich. (AP) -- A very determined dog didnt let a wire-mesh dog pen, a c...
Financial Post   Mar 10 2001 8:31AM GMT  email this

Lunar loophole Company selling land on the moon CALGARY -- In a deal that is out of this world, a Canadian com...
Financial Post   Mar 10 2001 8:31AM GMT  email this

Cop suspended for wifes naughty photos NORTH PORT, Fla. (AP) -- A police officers wife thought shed surprise h...
Financial Post   Mar 10 2001 8:31AM GMT  email this

Police investigate motoring eight-year-old...
Ananova   Mar 10 2001 5:38AM GMT  email this

Three escape hot air balloon explosion...
Ananova   Mar 10 2001 2:37AM GMT  email this

Pacemaker inventor fitted with one...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 9:04PM GMT  email this

Ugly intruder leaves impression on priest...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 9:04PM GMT  email this

Narrowboat couple stranded by foot-and-mouth...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 9:04PM GMT  email this

Police officer suspended over wifes internet porn pics...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 9:04PM GMT  email this

Ronald McDonald found lynched from tree...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 5:38PM GMT  email this

Hospital pleads: Do not bring sick pets into A&E...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 5:38PM GMT  email this

Worker clings to thiefs car bonnet for two miles...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 5:38PM GMT  email this

Police chief suspended for leaving gun in school toilet...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 5:38PM GMT  email this

Kangaroo meat in demand as foot-and-mouth crisis continues...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 2:37PM GMT  email this

Chicago women demand more Ladies...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 1:37PM GMT  email this

Thief asks policeman to help start stolen car...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 1:37PM GMT  email this

Council guidelines stop colleagues feeling left out...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 1:37PM GMT  email this

Ministers threatened with lunch bill if mobiles go off in Cabinet...
Ananova   Mar 9 2001 1:37PM GMT  email this

Jacko the Child Healer...   Mar 9 2001 10:04AM GMT  email this

posted by Mo Nickels at 12:08 PM on March 10, 2001

Hmm. Resemblance duly noted.
posted by waxpancake at 6:54 PM on March 10, 2001

Interesting links! Thanks Mo!

posted by lagado at 2:33 AM on March 11, 2001

Seriously though, point taken, if these articles had been served up on Mefi, I wouldn't have clicked any of them (except the one on kangaroo meat).
posted by lagado at 2:50 AM on March 11, 2001

Yeah, kangaroo meat is pretty good, actually.
posted by lagado at 3:40 AM on March 11, 2001

Had you also printed the contents of Yahoo's "what’s weird" (in the news) you would have found a few more familiar links, or more of the same.

Easy, too easy, and the more mefi is an alternative to this sort of dross, the better. A few links from those sources are ok over time, It's just not something I would like to see more of.

The threads that form in response to stories such as "Cop suspended for wifes naughty photos....." are generally as inconsequential as the original story. It's a case of intelligent people trying to do what intelligent people do, which is make sense of something, and these stories were never meant to make any sort of sense. They are a skeletal representation of the "real" balanced, story, processed equally with other such stories, for people with 2 second attention spans and no wish or desire to see the world in any more complex terms than "man bites dog, dog gets rabies." They don't stand up to scrutiny, because they are not coherent stories out of which anything important or interesting about the human condition can be deducted.
posted by lucien at 7:55 AM on March 11, 2001

So is the idea here that Matt appoint a set of hall monitors who will validate the quality of each link, to make sure it fits within the old guard's unspoken sense of value: I can't tell you what makes a good MeFi post, but I know it when I see it?

A good post to MetaFilter is something that meets the following criteria: most people haven't seen it before, there is something interesting about the content on the page, and it might warrant discussion from others.

So how do we know what "most people" haven't seen before? I'm sure that was easier back when MeFi's membership was primarily composed of folks already acquainted with each other, but you guys have no idea what I am reading, or any of the other people with a user number over 1000. I'm sure that for a growing number of people MeFi is their news feed, (a situation which will only grow now that Matt's little world has been noticed by the mainstream media).

But maybe we just aren't the sort of folks you want as members, in which case the "hall monitor" concept may be your best solution. Just be careful that MeFi doesn't end up the Elk's Lodge of the net, with a bunch of old farts incestuously recycling the same old tired ideas and bon mots for lack of fresh membership and perspective.
posted by mkhall at 8:22 AM on March 11, 2001

So how do we know what "most people" haven't seen before?

It's an easy game of betting the odds. The odds are good the Metafilter users are readers. The odds are they read newspapers online. The odds are they're involved with other discussion sites.

The odds are *users get around.*

On top of that, no news source has a monopoly on stories. The same stories show up on the wires, in the syndicates, in rewrites.

So the odds are that *stories get around.*

Therefore, the odds are pretty good that anything that's on, say, Ananova, Reuters, AP, Salon, Slate, the New York Times, BBC, Slashdot, etc., etc., etc. is going to be seen by Metafilter users elsewhere.

To respond to arguments elsewhere in Metatalk: Somebody pointed out that maybe people *don't* get around, they don't read those sites and Metafilter may be *it* for them. This is it. This is their one news source, the well of their information, the font of their current events.

So be it. But crikey, that's kind of narrow.

And if "hall monitor" is supposed to belittle someone, or be insulting, or suggest some kind of minor warlord in charge of a tiny fiefdom, it doesn't. Instead, it's a reminder of how some folks are still stuck in a high school mentality in which they believe they are a single solitary self-contained universe unaffected by, and having no effect upon, the world.

Finally, this: If you are indeed one of those people who doesn't read much else but Metafilter, then how can you post anything at all? You've got no sense of what's already been in and out the mail boxes and web browsers of your peers, and judging by the duplicate posts, no sense or memory of what's been on Metafilter, either.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:13 AM on March 11, 2001

I didn't mean anything insulting by the "hall monitor" description. Hall monitors - from what I recall of the dim past - were students. They were members of a group of peers, elevated above the rest to make sure the hoi polloi didn't get out of line. They were ostensibly chosen for their own understanding of where that line was drawn, although results would vary.

Unless I missed an official caste system table somewhere, we are all equal here, with the exception of Matt who owns the place and can therefore call the shots. If there were to be individuals appointed to ensure the quality of links posted, as suggested elsewhere, I would assume they would be roughly equivalent to the aforementioned monitors. (Forgive my laziness if not providing the specific MeTa links.)

I agree that "stories get around," and I, too, see a lot show up here which I've already seen. But what I haven't seen are the comments and insights on otherwise old news which are provided by the MeFi members. I don't come here to get news - there are plenty of other places to go for that. I don't come here for unique links, either - that's why I read weblogs and Google random terms. I come here for the perspective provided by a diverse community of fairly bright people, who are talking about issues from the news.

Would I like to see more original links here? Of course! Does it fill my heart with joy to see another political link which will result in the same reheated tirades? Of course not! Am I going to piss and moan about how far MeFi has fallen since they let the rabble in? Hell, no!

And Mo, I hope you haven't taken anything I've said personally. I realize you were making a point, and not recommending any course of action. But I have just gotten damned sick of some of the whining which goes on around here, and you had the misfortune of starting the thread.
posted by mkhall at 12:59 PM on March 11, 2001

What were you expecting to read in MetaFilter's etiquette forum, mkhall?
posted by rcade at 2:20 PM on March 11, 2001

rcade: Well, discussions of etiquette/policy, I guess. Maybe I'm just thick, but I'm not sure what you mean. (Well, okay, there's no maybe involved - I can be rather thick.) If it is in reference to my whining about the whining, point taken. I am just adding my opinions to the already bubbling pot.

As I seem to be something of a lone voice on this particular forum, let me ask the question: since everyone (self included) is in agreement about the desirability of unique posts, how do we accomplish this without resorting to a "hall monitor" environment? Should Matt just block links to the offending domains, making a sort of posting killfile? If you try to link to any of the sites Mo mentions here, you get a redirect to a polite message informing you of your breach of etiquette, and rejecting the link.

I still don't have a problem with the more common postings, but hey! I'm a member of a community. If all the cognoscenti feel it is a Very Bad Thing, then I'll try to help fix the problem. But let's talk solutions, not just say "look how this sucks."

Not that anyone here would do that, of course.
posted by mkhall at 3:14 PM on March 11, 2001

The reason conversations in MetaTalk make a difference is because most of the regular posters read the threads as often as they read MetaFilter.

Yeah, there are thousands of people who don't read MetaTalk, but they're likely the thousands of people who don't post many threads and/or comments. The people who do, the people who are members of this site because they enjoy the community are reading MetaTalk to try and figure out what makes MetaFilter good - what people come back for.

By saying "Hey, I don't think this is the way MetaFilter should be, does anyone else, or does anyone want to talk about it," we learn more and more opinions and can figure out what posts to make to urge on the aspects of MetaFilter that we like.

It's not about some elite squad of shadow moderators, it's about trying to make the community as great as it is for us for everyone.

It really does have an effect, because that's one of the great things about this community. We do moderate, just not through rankings or karma or any other method, we moderate through peer pressure, the way real life communities do. That's what makes this place so analgous to sitting in a bar (or coffee house, or park, or party, or wherever you feel like hanging out that visit) with a group of friends.

posted by cCranium at 4:06 PM on March 11, 2001

Is it just me or does a lot of links on the Drudge Report also appears on Metafilter? Or is Drudge stealing links from Metafilter?
posted by gyc at 4:37 PM on March 11, 2001

mkhall, after watching this for sometime, I've observed that the mechanism for self-governance of Metafilter already operates without anyone really noticing.

Mathowie, who designed and built this community (a veritable Hari Seldon of his age) added MetaTalk/etiqette as a place to whine, bitch and let off steam about Metafilter and as a place to revisit periodically "how it's not as good as it used to be".

Anyway, when the steam builds up and the bitching reaches fever pitch, a lot of the regular posters (who by definition also read MetaTalk) suddenly back off for a while and become hesitant before daring to post anything. As a result, the number of posts to Metafilter front page collapses. When they do start to post again, the posts tend to be more thoughtful and interesting ones.

This has the effect of cooling the whole system down again and making it ready for the next cycle. You know this has happened when you start seeing see posts in MetaTalk like: "Don't you think the quality of Metafilter has improved a bit lately, or is it just me?"

The important thing here is not to talk about how this mechanism works or it will immediately stop working (because it depends heavily on positive/negative feedback loops and a little on quantum mechanics) and become completely unpredictable.

posted by lagado at 5:35 PM on March 11, 2001

Lagado: Just out of curiosity, did you know you put someone's Amazon affiliate code in that Foundation URL?
posted by rcade at 7:38 PM on March 11, 2001

The important thing here is not to talk about how this mechanism works or it will immediately stop working...

Well hell lagado, you and your big mouth have done it now: here's to the end of irrational exuberance. ;-)
posted by Avogadro at 8:14 PM on March 11, 2001

Lagado: Just out of curiosity, did you know you put someone's Amazon affiliate code in that Foundation URL?

rcade, thanks for pointing that out. I just googled for the link, looks like I just gave twomoons a free ride. Here is another Hari Seldon link without the affililiate kick back. Sorry about that.
posted by lagado at 10:05 PM on March 11, 2001

It's like that saying, "Whenever we finally figure out the meaning of the universe, it will immediately re-arrange itself in a matter even more bizarre and fascinating."

Metafilter in it's current state has a feeling very close to utopia. I wouldn't want to have it monitored for it is already policing itself quite nicely. The absence of moderation has definitely had it's pluses and minuses. Being new here, I see where lagado is coming from when mentioning the great deal of respect many posters have for the site. After a few weeks or so, I tried to post Britney Spears' guide to semiconductor physics which appeared to have gotten deleted within five minutes. Since then I haven't attempted to post a single thing (although, to avoid a double post, I did search the archives and the closest thing I found was MC Hawking's Crib)

For now, I suppose when it comes down to it, folks have enough courtesy as to not abuse posting...but like what was inferred earlier, 'tis better we don't jynx ourselves ;)
posted by samsara at 10:09 PM on March 11, 2001

I'm sure that was easier back when MeFi's membership was primarily composed of folks already acquainted with each other...

I disagree. I don't think it was any easier at all. It's just that back then, there was less complaining about it because there were fewer links in the first place (and also because most of the people knew each other, like you said, though I think it's because they had more reason to think before starting to rock the boat, lest it be interpreted as personal). If you go back into the archives and check out PaleoMeFi (starting from the point where 85% of the posts weren't from Matt himself), the same categories of links were posted in roughly the same percentages as they are today. The only real difference now is the quantity. People often recall the "good old days" through a somewhat rose-colored brain fog. The Way We Were tends to be The Way We Weren't.

Therefore, the odds are pretty good that anything that's on, say, Ananova, Reuters, AP...

Actually, Ananova has carved out a bit of a niche for itself when it comes to offbeat stories. And since I rarely visit Ananova unless someone else has pointed me there for a particular reason (and I doubt very many non-UK residents do either), any weird Ananova news links posted here are new to me. And note that Ananova stories make up about 90% of the links in that Moreover snippet with which you started this thread.
posted by aaron at 12:39 AM on March 12, 2001

Mo et al., I think you should stop reading Ananova, the AP feeds,, and Drudge and just come to Metafilter first. Then you'd feel much happier.
posted by daveadams at 9:07 AM on March 12, 2001

Hee hee. True, Dave. I do, actually, do that, so I can avoid posting stories on my site that have already appeared here.

Problem is, everything seems to show up on Metafilter eventually. It doesn't matter when you visit Metafilter: new posts are bound to be old stuff.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:45 AM on March 12, 2001

Maybe you're expecting a little too much from Mefi, Mo?

Just a thought.
posted by lagado at 3:59 PM on March 12, 2001

"MeFi, Mo?" Fum.

posted by rodii at 4:51 PM on March 12, 2001

Yes, it's true, I do expect too much. That is my biggest failing as a human. Some others:

-- I spell "traveling" and "traveler" with two L's usually.

-- I have an inability to equivocate when I am stricken with conviction.

-- I speak French like a Spanish cow, as they say.

-- I didn't file New York State taxes for 1994. [And when I did, four years later, they sent it all back to me, including the penalty. Who can say why?]

-- I dislike most people, except children, people who are smarter than I am (thus, the children), the Welsh, all of Sweden, pretty girls who talk to me and Mario Cuomo.

-- I am uncomfortable around priests, fat people, old ladies wearing too much perfume and people in polo shirts with the collar turned up.

I have a longer list somewhere, but another failing is that I am disorganized.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:01 AM on March 13, 2001

This is one of the funniest threads I have ever read anywhere on the Web. Thank you!
posted by ParisParamus at 9:21 PM on April 8, 2001

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