I'm getting pretty sick of MetaFilter. Changes are coming very soon. April 5, 2001 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Just so you all know, I'm getting pretty sick of MetaFilter. Changes are coming very soon.

Big. assed. changes.

Call me mr. crankypants, but the level of discourse here is approaching an eighth grade level. Seriously. A lot of old timers say "it used to be so much better when..." and I hate to say it, but it's true. A long time ago*, people used to be a lot more respectful to others, people didn't attack each other, people of opposing viewpoints could bring their perspective to a topic and not just point out knee jerk political viewpoints and philosophies. Everyday I see the place getting more and more "mainstream" with all the closed minds and inflexible opinions that come with that.

Be prepared for the upcoming experiment at MetaFilter.

(I know I should just take a vacation from the site, but really, this place doesn't run on its own. I'm spending more time everyday here cleaning up self-posts, watching people attack each other, and banning IPs and accounts. So instead I'm making some huge changes.)

* - and don't go back into the archives and show me a year old thread that got ugly. I know the place used to be better overall, and you're not going to convince me of otherwise, okay?
posted by mathowie (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 4:13 PM (85 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

The ratio of posts worth discussing and posts just put up as news has gotten bad.

I've tried to make sure that I only post something especially interesting now. I'm also going to refrain from posting anything that can be considered news.

The 5K member mark certainly makes it hard for one person to filter.
posted by john at 4:47 PM on April 5, 2001

About time. Are these changes you've been wanting to institute for a while?
posted by dcehr at 4:51 PM on April 5, 2001

...although, come to think of it, "about time" sounds simultaneously cantankerous and snarky. Read that as "great idea", okay?
posted by dcehr at 4:52 PM on April 5, 2001

Re: self-blogs.
Just a thought...
Could these be blocked with a query for a match between the 'Homepage URL' domain in a poster's profile and the 'URL' field in the posting form?
Maybe not totally robust...

posted by normy at 5:00 PM on April 5, 2001

Nope normy, it's not enough. The last one was purposely to a different URL than their profile. It seemed pretty transparent.


I've left a couple recent ones up, and you know why? Because I thought they were good self-posts. About 1% of the self posts are good, but because people can't think I have to make a dumb rule making it black and white. If you look at the guidelines, it's not absolutely crystal clear (at least not to everyone, due to so many people emailing me saying that the guidelines aren't clear enough). But like that last africa self blog thing - that was amazing, and perfectly fine by me.

I'm starting to think that I went down the wrong path when I started making rules. One rule leads to another, leads to more, until it's a mess. And that's what it is.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:15 PM on April 5, 2001 [2 favorites]

"Am I Blog or not?"

Open the page, and two frames appear side by side, displaying two web logs chosen at random from the user base. Press one button or another to say which you prefer.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:33 PM on April 5, 2001

I think I've been particularly conservative about what I choose to post on the front page. My current ratio of links-to-comments is about 1-to-39. (7 links and 272 comments since last August.)

If only others in the community would be so careful, Mr. 1-to-1.8 Ratio.
posted by waxpancake at 5:36 PM on April 5, 2001

heh. the 1:1.8 ratio is due to posting several commentless links a day for a year, while the site got going.

but whatever, that last palestine/israel thread is exactly what I'm talking about. New users showing a lack of respect for others.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:42 PM on April 5, 2001

I think a big thing for me at least would be some method of making people more aware of the importance of posting a front page link. Like the guy who was cutting & pasting from his weblog, or the people who have posted 8 stories to the front page since they joined 2 weeks ago.. that's not to sound like some elitist "look how low my userid is"-type person, but it does seem to me that the most worthwhile front page stories are those posted by people who have been here for a while & have more of a "feel" for how MeFi works.

I'm not sure how to fix this, maybe some method of "earning" the right to post main page stories or something through posting comments. Of course, playing devil's advocate to my own argument, this might lead to people posting more worthless comments just so they can post a front page link, but.. just a thought.

Or maybe the best thing I could say in this thread would be "Me too" & wait for someone to smack me around a bit :)
posted by zempf at 5:45 PM on April 5, 2001

Agreed, mathowie. The problem with any kind of 'techno-fix' to the kinds of problems you wish to address is that the technology wants inhuman rules to work by, of course. I was also very pleased to see the Bermi village link and wouldn't have wished that removed.

For what its worth, most complaints with the site I have read appear to be all based around 'signal-to-noise ratio' issues. These can be nothing but human problems, because signal can only be defined on an individual basis and its pointless to try to assign numbers or ratios to them.

Given that you're the one that does the work around here, its only correct that it should ultimately be your decision as to how you encourage the site to proceed. You appear adamant that the current public free-for-all approach is unsatisfactory, so what are the alternatives?

As far as I can tell, there are only two: Moderation of some kind, or permissions-based (by invitation) posting. Or a combination of the two.

It appears that you're already moderating to a limited extent. Its a burdensome role on a site of this type and I suspect you'll need to enlist some help if you wish to continue on that path. But reliable help of that type is not often easy to find.

Perhaps the permissions-based alternative is the route to go. Develop a policy where the permissions to post or comment are earned or bestowed, or a combination thereof. Again, assigning an algorithm to that decision is probably unreliable, it would need to be a human decision, based on your vision of the site's development, but the burden would, I suspect, be less than the supervisory moderation one.

Following this second route is likely to invite the displeasure of some (many?) existing members. But if you want to reduce the burden on yourself while retaining some control on the site's direction, might be the way to go.

Its your decision and I wish you well, whatever.
posted by normy at 6:06 PM on April 5, 2001

Be prepared for the upcoming experiment at MetaFilter.

If you're going to make changes to Metafilter for the benefit of increasing quality, you're going to have to treat it like a stubborn child. I'm with you on that.

At 5,000+ members tho, I feel that this has become a small city rather than a community. People have become less concerned about their actions from the lack of that community feel. If you're going to do anything...insure that it helps that feeling return.

Automating (dummy-proofing) has it's drawbacks as you replace human interaction with 1's and 0's. Although, the growing popularity of the site is giving mixed messages to those that are new, making it tough to police with just one person. The idea I can offer is.....what if we had self policing at a level much like that found on IRC? I 'volunteer' for ops of course :)

All in all, I don't think tweaking will be a problem with users....if you sell it as a feature...it will only improve things. And the MeFi paradigm won't be lost.
posted by samsara at 6:16 PM on April 5, 2001

It's funny... Don't new members have to post a certain number of comments before they're allowed to post? I know I waited a good three months before posting my first link, partly because I thought I wasn't allowed to.
posted by waxpancake at 6:17 PM on April 5, 2001


I have just had my thread closed for its controversial nature. In my defense, I only discovered Metafilter about three weeks ago, and what I wrote did not seem that outrageous as compared to what I have read over the last three weeks. Which is certainly consistent with the first Paragraph of what Mathowie writes.


posted by ParisParamus at 6:19 PM on April 5, 2001

Is there any way of telling, or at least approximating, what proportion of that 5000+ are active members (more than one post or comment per couple of weeks, say)?
posted by normy at 6:32 PM on April 5, 2001

This is probably just about the stupidest suggestion of all, BUT....couldn't everyone vote on the quality of each post, giving each member a "credibility" rating, so that the posts could be listed not just by date, and comments, but by the general level of crapiness it will probably exhibit? I'm sure Matt has much better ideas than that, and thus I don't have a site of my own.
posted by Doug at 6:40 PM on April 5, 2001

giving each member a "credibility" rating

No, please God no. The idea of rating posts is sort of interesting, but rating people would be just awful, because not everyone would play fair in rating others.
posted by aaron at 7:16 PM on April 5, 2001

I should allude to what I want to do here. I've been talking to a number of people for a while now about what's wrong with the site, if open communities on the web are even possible, and what can be done. I'm not really looking for input on this, I and a few others have been doing a great deal of thinking about this and we're working hard on the solution, so in that sense everyone has to trust me on this one, while I go into a hole and noodle with a lot of things.

The ideas aren't entirely finalized yet, but the changes will be both behavioral and technological in nature. The biggest problem with how the site "used to be" versus how it is "now" is that my presence was much more prominent back then, and I tried to set a standard for how people should act. It worked for quite a while, then eventually people don't know how's really in charge, they don't know who anyone is, so whatever vibe I set out got diluted to nothing.

So, part of it will be making the original philosophies of the site more obvious - there are several ways that will happen.

The other part will be technological. When people step out of line, someone is going to politely tap them on the shoulder and say they did something wrong. And there will be consequences for stepping out of line.

It's going to be interesting, because I think it could be a perfect mix of giving people the benefit of the doubt, and at the same time appropriately controling those that break the boundries. Overall, I think it could remind everyone just how rare a good community is, and how much work that takes to accomplish. I hope to start implementing changes this weekend, and there will probably be some downtime for the site.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:51 PM on April 5, 2001 [2 favorites]

I just wanted to say that Israeli-Palestinian thread was the nadir.

Nadir! Nadir! Nadir!

posted by norm at 7:53 PM on April 5, 2001

I sincerely apologize for that last post.
posted by norm at 7:55 PM on April 5, 2001

While I was writing my comment, Matt posted the above, so I'll refrain from posting the ideas I had. Whatever he decides will make for a better MeFi and I support it wholeheartedly. And I'll do anything I can to help out. Despite being a newer member, I've noticed a change here just in the last month, never mind the last year. I did some of the things that are causing problems now (posted a boring old news story on the front page in my first week, doh!) so I'm not going to go off on a rant about others doing the same. I'll be interested to see how MetaFilter comes out the other side of this, and I'm looking forward to a return to what sounds like it used to be a great community. Good luck, Matt.
posted by jennaratrix at 8:05 PM on April 5, 2001

OK, I have to ask, then: why open membership at all? If you intend to restrict the discourse to the topics and viewpoints that you and that handful of "the old guard" find acceptable, you're saying that those of us who have different viewpoints from the majority will be excluded. It's your site and you can provide access to whomever you please, and I'm not challenging that; I jsut hope you'll change the name, though, since it will not longer be "MetaFilter."

(While we're at it, I'd like to have it explained to me why the post in reference is so offensive. It's strident, but unless it's been edited since it was posted, it's no worse than a lot of posts I've seen here in the past six or seven months and the community doesn't seem that much the worse the wear for it. )
posted by m.polo at 8:05 PM on April 5, 2001

it's yer baby, Matt. You've done a great job so far. Try out something new, go for it. Interested to see what turns up.
posted by daver at 8:33 PM on April 5, 2001

Oh god norm, not more Nader posts.. those are SO November 2000. Oh wait.. nevermind.
posted by zempf at 8:37 PM on April 5, 2001

I just want to know if DoublePostGuy will be getting a promotion or a pink slip.
posted by gluechunk at 8:39 PM on April 5, 2001

I've actually heard rumors that DoublePostGuy will be getting his own sitcom next fall.
posted by Doug at 8:42 PM on April 5, 2001

I think mathowie deserves a sitcom. And the Nobel Prize for Precipitating Literature.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:48 PM on April 5, 2001

If you intend to restrict the discourse to the topics and viewpoints that you and that handful of "the old guard" find acceptable, you're saying that those of us who have different viewpoints from the majority will be excluded.

I find it pretty offensive that the things I proposed equal "restricting the discourse" to you m.polo. Do people think my goal here is limit viewpoints?

I want the site to go back to intelligent discourse, for any and all topics, and for any and all points of view. I want smart people to post smart comments. I want to see interesting, thought provoking things posted on the site instead of everything coming down the "oddly enough" newswire. I never want to see a "me too" comment again, and not because I have to make a fucking rule, but because people realize it doesn't contribute much to a conversation. How about this for a dream?: I want to see self promotional links that are amazing, and a membership smart enough to make a distinction of when that's ok to do (it'd be nice if the 1 in 99 times it's ok is obvious to most people).

I don't see any reason to impose strict limits on expression here, I'm just asking, pleading really, for people to simply think before they contribute here. I never ran this site with a heavy hand, I always wanted it to run on its own, to take a life on its own. I'm hoping this is still possible.

In all honesty, I'm exhausted by the whole thing. This is the biggest attempt at returning some quality to the site that I'm going to undertake. If it slips back to its current position, I'll either hang it up and close the place down, sell it to anyone that wants it, or give the readership to someone else and redirect the site. I'm not saying it to make it sound like an ultimatum, I'm simply stating the facts of how I feel, and how I just don't get much enjoyment out of this site anymore.

I closed that thread today primarily for one reason (it's the same reason I killed a thread a few months ago, which was met with similar protests): it deeply affected several people that found it very, very offensive. I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other with regards to mid east issues, I think all sides are doing things wrong and not working for peace, but some people were deeply offended by the tone and content of the post and asked that it be stopped, and I trusted them on this. I thought maybe leaving it up would be better than just erasing it, in case anyone wanted to see the link.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:37 PM on April 5, 2001 [2 favorites]

norm, that post of yours proves that Mefi definitely has reached its nadir.
posted by lagado at 9:46 PM on April 5, 2001

When I signed on in May 2000 MetaFilter was great. In November 2000 MetaFilter was great. Now in April 2001 MetaFilter is still great. Look at the notoriety Mars Saxman gave the community by notifying the world of the Seattle earthquake while the ground was still shaking. All the decisions Matt has made in that time frame have kept the community alive and growing. I have no reason to doubt any decisions he makes now won't continue that tradition. On the future side of Matt's upcoming changes MetaFilter will be great. My wish is that Matt himself will learn to like it again. Unfortunately quality always seems to suffer when projects become more like work and less like fun. Best wishes Matt.
posted by netbros at 9:59 PM on April 5, 2001

April 5:

"In my defense, I only discovered Metafilter about three weeks ago, and what I wrote did not seem that outrageous as compared to what I have read over the last three weeks.*"

March 28:

"Palestinians" exist as people, but not as a people. The term didn't really even exist before the 1960's, except, perhaps to describe Jews. In any case, there already is a Palestine: its called Jordan; it's just that living in Jordan means living in poverty and under oppression (like everywhere else in the Arab world). But this is all beside the point, which is that Arafat and his cronies have no interest in co-existing with Israel, and that hopefully, the days of feckless passivity to the Arafat are over. Let the Israelis play hard ball with the "Palestinians for a decade or so; let Arafat die, the Palestinians get it, and then some kind of peace might emerge.

April 5:

If Only It Was Arafat. Good. If he was who they say he was, he deserved it. Keep Playing Hardball. The Israelis should play this kind of hardball for a few years. Then the rocks will stop, things will settle down, perhaps the Palestineans will stop claiming Jerusalem, get some kind of real government, and then, perhaps their own little state. Then again, since no Arab state comes close to being a democracy, perhaps that will never happen.

A quote from the item linked:

"Hardan's death raised to at least 369 the number of Palestinians killed in the bloodshed, along with 71 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs."*

My Thoughts:
It seems the random (or systematic, I don't know) killings by the "democratic govt." of Israel will eventually get around to Arafat. I guess.

I am just amazed by your consistency. I guess, in your mind at least, typing "sorry" makes everything ok.

*emphasis mine.
posted by tamim at 10:10 PM on April 5, 2001

projects become more like work and less like fun

Exactly. Boiled down, that's exactly why I'm proposing changes and telling everyone how fed up I am with everything. Because running the site is a chore.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:11 PM on April 5, 2001

Sorry for stepping over a line drawn by our host, not for the opinions.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:13 PM on April 5, 2001

matt - all the best as you evolve your project here - i'm confident that the same wisdom and good thinking that went into metafilter's birth will shepherd it through its adolescence - and again, whatever i can do to help, just ask.
posted by judith at 10:21 PM on April 5, 2001

Does all this mean certain people are going to be promoted into policing positions? "Someone is going to politely tap them on the shoulder," etc. I'm fine with the idea, as long as the mix of chosen people isn't so narrow as to stifle instead of guide.(Not that it really matters what I think, of course.)
posted by aaron at 10:45 PM on April 5, 2001

Paris: You are always entitled to your opinion supporting homicidal/genocidal practices. I did not misread you to be "sorry" for your opinion. I am just amazed at how easy it comes to you and how consistent you are in your support for such practices.
posted by tamim at 10:45 PM on April 5, 2001

From the Palestinian-Israeli I worry about what will happen when the Israelis completely whig out and start the genocide. This is what Sharon was elected to do it seems like. What happens if they lose US support because of this?

They are not sitting on a huge reserve of oil last I checked. Why is the US supporting them? If they go nuts a destabilize the region, it's like Saddam all over again except they have nukes. Sheesh.

posted by valintin23 at 11:02 PM on April 5, 2001

stop it right now. this is a metatalk thread about matt's upcoming decisions about metafilter - a subject that affects all 5000+ of us. there are literally hundreds of places on the web where you can debate israeli-palestinian politics till you're blue in the face - this page isn't one of them.
posted by judith at 11:20 PM on April 5, 2001

I can only hope Matt does not go on a thread closing rampage.

Matt, this is your site. Do with it as you will. As someone who basically got fed up with the weblog world a little while ago, and is now gingerly sticking the toe back in the pool, I applaud your introspection and bravery in announcing a new direction. New directions are good. They take you to places you didn't know you were going.
posted by Neale at 11:24 PM on April 5, 2001

as long as the mix of chosen people isn't so narrow as to stifle instead of guide

Gee thanks aaron for the vote of confidence. I'm down to zero patience here if anyone hasn't noticed yet. If you think I want to stifle opinions or narrow views around here, you're welcome to leave.

Once again, to be perfectly clear to everyone reading this far, I'm trying to promote intelligent discussion on the site. If I'm aiming to limit anything, it will be stupidity.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:33 PM on April 5, 2001 [1 favorite]

Matt: A little off topic, but have you ever thought of open-sourcing metafilter's code ala slashcode? I think alot of good could come of it, especially if you were ever thinking of shutting the site down... god forbid that ever happens.
posted by Neb at 11:53 PM on April 5, 2001

*sigh* It wasn't meant as an accusatory statement, Matt. I wasn't even thinking of it in terms of you intentionally trying to suppress anyone. Sorry.
posted by aaron at 12:00 AM on April 6, 2001

I think generally people might just be suspicious of any policing policy because of the poor policies elsewhere on the net, such as Slashdot where just about any semi-pro Microsoft statement will get you modded doen.
posted by gyc at 12:32 AM on April 6, 2001

I hope it works.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:40 AM on April 6, 2001


I can't recall any place that had had as many cool conversations as this. You have always shown to wield you power here for the benefit of better communication. We all react emotionally to things once and a while, but I have confidence that whatever changes occur will be carried out in a thoughtful manner.

posted by john at 1:14 AM on April 6, 2001

Matt and all,

I'd posted a lengthy comment intended for this topic yesterday but botched it up. Let me explain... no, let me sum up:

1. Make the changes you need to make. It's been obvious you've become dissatisfied with your site, and I'm quite sure that the majority of MeFiFolk will endorse your changes (or at least, understand them.)

2. MeFi has become increasingly valuable to me over the past few months. While I've been perturbed by the increasing number of stories concentrating on the same core of topics, there have been others that have sparked a great debate or discussion. That is really what MeFi is all about, to me, and I love a well-educated debate - not a slew of personal attacks. I post here extensively now, and want to continue.

3. We're all in debt to you for creating MeFi in the first place, so thanks.

Now go kick some butt.

- Paul
posted by hijinx at 4:09 AM on April 6, 2001

Matt, I know that you may not be looking for suggestions and that you've already thought much of this through.


Whilst some time ago I thought that human solutions were the only way to go, I grudgingly accept that there ought to be a technological aspect to this problem. However, the tech solution seems to me to address only the issues that new membership brings to a community and doesn't really change how old members function. I could easily cite dozens of incidents where pre-2K and pre-1K (user id's, not year) members have crossed the line.

So, while a posting moratorium may not fix everything that many of us see wrong with posting and interaction here, I think that it could provide a prologue to the human and tech solutions that you (Matt) are going to unveil. Perhaps having this kind of a foundation to a "New MeFi" would help these changes to take hold.

And again Matt, along with damn near all of us, I think that MeFi's a wonderful thing, and we're committed to building community with you.
posted by Avogadro at 5:23 AM on April 6, 2001

You got my support Matt.
posted by dangerman at 5:58 AM on April 6, 2001

Matt, you've obviously thought long and hard about this, I for one trust you. I think anyone who values Metafilter for what it has the potential to be (and, I grudginly agree, used to be) would be 100% behind you.
This is the only site I visit daily, it has been since late '99 when i first came across it. In all that time you've shown us all that you've been fair and increasingly patient with the ever-loosening community.
When something you create from scratch becomes something cool, something people want to be part of it's great, but then those same people start to presume some sort of ownership or custodianship of it, more people show up and all of a sudden, there are a dozen different voices all saying what should and shouldn't happen. And then the stupids turn up. Along with the 'me too' brigade and the 'in the news today' gang. And then the intelligent discussion get's drowned out by dross and backbiting, and when the guidelines say 'hang around and get a feel for the place before you post' even those who have the consideration to do just that get the wrong idea. And I guess then it's time to choose whether to move on or stay and shake things up in the hope it gets better.
It's Matt's site, we are all here because Matt has worked his butt off to make it happen and held down paying jobs and a marriage all at the same time.
And now it's a chore. So, why should he carry on, why not sell it off, try to get a little compensation for the work he's put into it? I'd have gone a long time ago.
So when Matt says he's changing things here, we should all support him, without question (any questions).

- Just re-read that, I sound like a complete sycophant. It's been stuff I've been wanting to say to quite a few people round here for a while though.
posted by Markb at 6:51 AM on April 6, 2001

I always think of MetaFilter as a big party with a lot of interesting people and interesting discussions. If you go to a party, you implicitly agree to behave yourself. If you drink too much and break a lamp, people won't want you around, and the host may ask you to leave. And if you're boorish, no one will talk to you and you won't be asked back.

You don't go to a party and tell the host what he's doing wrong. You can offer an occasional suggestion ("can we maybe move the chips out of the bathroom?") and support ("would you like me to help pour the punch?"), but you have to remember who's the host and who the guests are.

We should all try to be as good guests as Matt is a host. Even if I had the energy and expertise necessary, I can't imagine throwing a party this big for this long. I have faith that any changes will be good changes, and I hope that they have the effect of lessening the work load associated with running MF. If a guy's too stressed out to enjoy his own party, why bother having it?

Now, try some of this clam dip that I brought.
posted by anapestic at 6:53 AM on April 6, 2001

And like any party, if you're not enjoying it, you can always leave. Good analogy, anapestic.
posted by normy at 7:39 AM on April 6, 2001

I find it pretty offensive that the things I proposed equal "restricting the discourse" to you m.polo. Do people think my goal here is limit viewpoints?

I'm sorry I offended you, but in your original posting on the topic, you specifically said:

Everyday I see the place getting more and more "mainstream" with all the closed minds and inflexible opinions that come with that.

and followed that later on with more details about what you were planning to do:

I'm not really looking for input on this, I and a few others have been doing a great deal of thinking about this and we're working hard on the solution

Now, you do the math and explain to me how that doesn't sound like, "We had this small group of like-minded people who posted links from outside the mainstream for each other and then discussed them without having to hear from the closed minds and inflexible opinions of people 'not like us.' We want that back, so we're designing a solution to create that." As I said in the post that you found so offensive, it's your site and you can do with it as you please, and I'm seriously not trying to antagonize you. If that's not what MetaFilter is going to turn into, then I'd like to continue to participate. If it is, well, your problem will be solved, because those of us closer to the mainstream will just go away, which is fine, too. If the party's gotten too stressful, though, matt, maybe you should just tell everybody to go home and start again when you're feeling like you have the energy to make it worthwhile for yourself again.
posted by m.polo at 8:16 AM on April 6, 2001

In defense of Matt, he does this full time, is exposed to more MeFi content than anyone else and is more sensitive to it. My post may, or may not have been that outrageous in itself; it may have simply been the straw which broke the camel's back (no pun intended, really).

I suspect the "course correction" of which Matt speaks is less extreme than many of you fear, and can be achieved with much less effort than some of you describe or fear. It's mostly a question of awareness of what Matt hopes to achieve. Also, the populus of MeFi is not, and will never be, that mainstream.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:36 AM on April 6, 2001

m.polo, I think you're misunderstanding Matt. By becoming more "mainstream" there is now just two sides to every issue, every poster is correct and most everybody else wrong. There's no nuance, no grey area, so the conversations have become abusive and, well, dumb. By trying to bring more intelligence into the arena, we'll see MORE ideas and MORE viewpoints expressed. I think. There will be less people jumping to conclussions, and commenting without really knowing what is that's being discussed. You should just chill out and see what the changes are before you freak out about them.
posted by Doug at 8:41 AM on April 6, 2001

I know no one needs examples, but I feel that this thread is taking a decided turn towards the pit. Different viewpoints are good, but it looks like it's creeping quickly towards the personal attacks.
posted by hijinx at 8:49 AM on April 6, 2001

Hijinx, I am not saying you are necessarily wrong, but at what point in the thread do you think it gets out of hand? The thread is, overall, filled with good points, some very funny lines, and information.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:14 AM on April 6, 2001

hijinx, Paris, doesn't that discussion belong in a separate MetaTalk thread?
posted by anapestic at 9:24 AM on April 6, 2001

You can say I'm wrong. :) I thought the interaction between pracowity and a3matrix was getting snippy.
posted by hijinx at 9:24 AM on April 6, 2001

Not sure it doesn't connect directly with this one.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:26 AM on April 6, 2001

Don't blame Matt. I'm the one who put the chips in the bathroom.
posted by bradlands at 9:30 AM on April 6, 2001

Hijinx, for what it's worth, I would tend to agree with you that the exchange you refererence was pretty empty.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:37 AM on April 6, 2001

anapestic: Assuming you're not being sarcastic, I think it only exemplifies part of the problem Matt is having with MeFi (although of course, I don't purport to speak for Matt.) A decent link on problems with an SUV, big problems, degenerated into an SUV-bashing party (it's gotten worse), which has been beaten to death, and in a few small incidents it has gotten personal.

How the heck did it get there? If a Bush reference pops up, I'll not be surprised.
posted by hijinx at 9:47 AM on April 6, 2001

I came to MetaFilter because of a link. I come back to MetaFilter because it is a place I enjoy. It is a place I enjoy because of the way Matt created it.

I love this place, Matt, and it's because of your work. I look forward to the improvements you'll be making.
posted by cCranium at 10:14 AM on April 6, 2001

Maybe this is part of the reason things are the way they are:
I was discussing this community the other day with a friend of mine who lurked on MeFi for over a year (I guess he got tired of me reciting MeFi to him word for word every few days) before finally getting his own ID number recently. I mentioned that I felt that back when I was a lurker, I came to this site because someone would see something in the news, or on another website, etc., post it, and then - Blam! - other people would find supercool/useful related info on the web or would say something really insightful (even if I disagreed with it). That's what I love doing (and is one of the main reasons that I have my own weblog), so finding a community of people who were also good at finding stuff was cool. I told him that lately, I felt like I was one of a handful of people who were doing the finding (as in posting links to stuff in comment; I have a woeful record of uninteresting frontpage posts; I really don't want to blow my own horn here - I have no idea if people find the stuff I post useful). Maybe our ratio of consumers to producers has gotten too high - too many of us are consuming the info on metafilter and too few of us are producing in any real way. (Producer - consumer metaphor thanks to Octaviuz).

I *think* this one of things that Matt is getting at. I'd like to see what he has in mind. He managed to solve the first few 'crises' we've had here, so I'm pretty confident in his ability to engineer solutions.

posted by iceberg273 at 10:32 AM on April 6, 2001

By becoming more "mainstream" there is now just two sides to every issue, every poster is correct and most everybody else wrong.

Yes! This is a much better way of putting it than I did originally. I knew that sentence was dicey, but I couldn't come up with anything better at the time, so I left it in as is.

The producers/consumers analogy is also fitting.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:43 AM on April 6, 2001

I would advise you to check out the latest Web Techniques. Hong, one of the engineers/founders behind "Am I Hot or Not?", talks about how they implemented a moderation system. Although he doesn't go into specifics, it sounded interesting (I'm not sure if it was like Slashdot, but it sounded like a way to filter better than the norm).
posted by timothompson at 10:51 AM on April 6, 2001

tim, I don't want to do strictly technical or distributed moderation, it's a whole new ball of wax with moderation complaints up the wazoo, meta-moderation, and it introduces another feedback mechanism (I want to have the highest karma!).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:00 PM on April 6, 2001

Matt, would either a static page or a MeTa thread with examples of what you (or the MeFi readership at large) consider bad threads -- not an ongoing discussion, but a handful of examples to avoid -- be useful? I know a lot of navelgazing goes on about what the purpose of Metafilter is, but if there was a list of actual examples of thinks that hork you off, it might prevent some of the unintentional problems that have cropped up lately.

Or, it could just turn into a game of recriminations about what you/we chose, so maybe it's a bad idea.
posted by snarkout at 2:02 PM on April 6, 2001

I wonder... would it help to impose a moratorium on new users for a short time? Then shake out the problem children? A one- or two- month freezeout might rehab a few of the worst offenders.

[hunkering down for a month without MeFi]

posted by mikewas at 4:01 PM on April 6, 2001

a way to filter better than the norm

what's wrong with norm's filter? :-)
posted by Sean Meade at 7:08 PM on April 6, 2001

I lurked at MEFI for over a year before I even registered. I can look up mine "headline" news stories. I don't even bother to open most of those or check the comments. The better links are getting far and fewer between. I have only posted one front page link to something I found interesting. I don't have the time to look for nice and interesting links, as I spend most of my comp time playing with CSS, I want it to work the way the standards are written, it will not comply in the browses available now. Ok
enough self stuff. Matt, what you do is the "cat's pjs" with me, it is after your baby.
posted by bjgeiger at 7:13 PM on April 6, 2001

I do look forward to seeing the revamped MeFi. Change is a good thing (sometimes). But I feel a deep sadness reading this post. For Matt. For anyone who cares about this site.

I once took a prehistoric archaeology class. Apparently there is evidence that in ancient times, when a society (or tribe, or what have you) got too big to function properly (ie: couldn't feed all its members), it would willfully divide up into smaller communities. I always found this idea so fascinating, because I knew that society as we know it today would never willfully walk away from that which it has created. I couldn't even imagine how it would be possible. On a large scale, at least.

On the smaller scale, it seems easier. Things can be divided, moved, reworked, and though adjustments will need to be made by all concerned, it is a far smaller task and one that people very likely may benefit from. perhaps for small-ish communities (like MeFi, for example) this ancient lesson should be heard. It may be time to walk. To branch off. To re-group.

And so I humbly submit an idea. Various people have expressed interest in creating MeFi-ish websites. Do so. Today. Or Tomorrow. There is a need and you can fill it.
posted by Ms Snit at 2:01 AM on April 7, 2001

By becoming more "mainstream" there is now just two sides to every issue, every poster is correct and most everybody else wrong.

rcb had this Bertrand Russell quote up on her blog, and I think it has become appropriate here, as MeFi has grown to the point that it more accurately mirrors the real world:

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."

In the months that I lurked here, I was amazed at the civility and open-mindedness of the members. There was a tangible sense that people were here to share ideas and perhaps allow their own opinions to be tempered or even completely changed. In a world in which an open mind has come to be considered a weakness by many, this was a place of refuge. So I joined, and the experience has been wonderful. But the sense of polarization has started to creep in. I find myself skipping more and more of the posts and many threads entirely.
Matt, I wish you the best in your efforts and just want to say thanks for all the hard work you have put into metafilter. I have faith that you will do what's best.
posted by gimli at 7:20 AM on April 7, 2001

Funny, read zeldman's first comment in this thread.

I would encourage others to start communities, since it's not like I can create five instances of metafilter and just split it on userID. If I ever decided to shut the place down, I'd give plenty of warning and work with whoever wanted to take over the brunt of the traffic and userbase to their site.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:28 AM on April 7, 2001

Have you considered going with something like a limited user base? Kind of like taxi cabs in NY, you give a certain number of people the privilege of posting. Then, if some of those folks wind up to be troublemakers, boot 'em. The booted ones are replaced by new applicants.

Problems are that you may not have any new applicants, and things may degenerate into sheer boredom without continuous new blood coming into the community.

Benefits are more control over posters and (hopefully) better behavior.

Just an idea.
posted by CRS at 12:29 PM on April 7, 2001

If you want to create your own MetaFilter-esque discussion site, I will very shortly be releasing the perl code to my Discuss system (demo here) which is all happy and template-based and XML and yadda yadda yadda.

Plus, it looks just like Metafilter! ;)

Details will shortly be at brand ben brown. I expect to release the code within about 48 hours.
posted by benbrown at 4:52 PM on April 8, 2001

Ben's funny.
posted by dangerman at 5:12 PM on April 8, 2001

Ben's funny what?
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 10:11 AM on April 9, 2001

Matt: It's actually your comment that seems most prescient...
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 10:14 AM on April 9, 2001

I know you're not looking for suggestions Matt (as has been said before) and this may have been thought of before, but....

A moratorium on new users was talked about. I'm thinking a moratorium would be a good thing, but only in respect to the ability to post. In other words, you get a user id and then have to wait seven days before the system will allow you to post. Think of it as a mandatory cooling off period. Thread trigger locks perhaps. This way, people will read the baords a bit before jumping in and those who might be inclined to sign up for a new ID just to trash someone or support their own point of view would be thwarted...

Just a thought...
posted by fooljay at 11:40 PM on April 9, 2001

It was bound to happen.

I read MeFi a lot a lot more than I contributed to it, but Metafilter has contributed to my ability to dissect and analyze problems more than possibly anything else in the last few years (long past philosophy classes).

You sense the place is not the one it was, even for people, like me, who like to read, more than contribute. It might be irky, but as an european I find that when in threads people post politically-correct comments is even worse than when people display hatre or rage. MetaFilter lost its ability to funnel discussion where there were no barriers, just good taste.

I'm in favour of changes. I wish you luck, Matt, and to the people that will help you in steering back this community to its roots.
posted by pecus at 7:48 AM on April 10, 2001

Personally, I do not like the idea of preventing new users from posting. One of the great things about MeFi, IMO, is that sometimes when we're discussing a site, the site's creator will drop by and join the conversation, and I'd hate to lose that. Yes, new members should have to wait before starting a thread or posting too many comments, but I think Matt already has those features in place.
posted by Aaaugh! at 1:19 PM on April 10, 2001

Top 10 signs of the MeFi apocalypse
1. Metatalk thread approaches 100 responses
2. Baylink's posting drops off markedly
3. The board game
4. "When your trend hits Newsweak…"
5. Matt on the cover of Brill's Content
6. I stop checking in at work because I keep getting "server too busy" messages
7. Aaron and Dreama have a whole subcommunity to feel paranoid with
8. No Nader links for weeks (Nadir! Nadir! Nadir!)
9. The site design is getting ripped off for E-commerce sites
10. Members start posting stuff to discourage new members from joining (go away! It's a lost cause!).

posted by norm at 2:48 PM on April 10, 2001

I just realized that nobody actually obliged Matt and called him Mr. Crankypants as he requested. Matt, you're such a Mr. Crankypants.
posted by kindall at 12:16 AM on April 15, 2001 [1 favorite]

Today was a pretty low discourse day, but I suppose news and interesting things are in somewhat short supply on Mondays. Anyway, I was just thinking that a new term should be invented to describe a variant of a troll: a post which, albeit possibly clever in itself, invites or encourages relatively mindless subsequent posts. I am guilty of this today; problem is, I love this kind of post.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:39 PM on April 16, 2001

That's not a new definition of a troll, Paris, that _is_ a troll. The whole point of trolling is for the troll to proove to himself how witty she is, by causing a flood of angry and/or irrelevant and/or mindless posts.
posted by cCranium at 5:59 AM on April 17, 2001

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