Growth brings DEATH April 6, 2001 10:26 AM   Subscribe

The downward spiral of it all...

discussion inside.
posted by rich to MetaFilter-Related at 10:26 AM (19 comments total)

What purpose does this thread serve that the previous one doesn't? Not to mention that that's the least discussion-inducing subject possible.
posted by darukaru at 10:31 AM on April 6, 2001

The downward part may be due to Newton's law of universal gravitation (Sir I. Newton):
Two bodies attract each other with equal and opposite forces; the magnitude of this force is proportional to the product of the two masses and is also proportional to the inverse square of the distance between the centers of mass of the two bodies.

The sprial may be due to the shape of the object and wind resistance.

posted by iceberg273 at 10:38 AM on April 6, 2001

I wouldn't say that the issues metafilter is seeing has anything to do with metafilter specifically. And I don't think it's because there are 5,000+ people who are registered.

Well, it definately isn't because there are 5,000+ people. Simply because 5,000+ people don't participate. I'd say, at most, you're looking at an actual community of 50 to 100.

Anyway, the problem with metafilter, if there really is a problem, is people themselves. People are naturally lazy. They are on the net for entertainment. They want to have fun.

I would say this is a significant shift from the people who were on the net five, or even three years ago. It was a brave new world. (should I capitalize those letters?) We (yes, I'll be modest and include myself) were here to learn, to figure stuff out, to exchange ideas.

We could have week-long debates about community, journals versus creative fiction, and so on through Tahoo Clubs, BBS's and mostly e-mail listserves and the like. Webstandards were actively debated thorugh e-mail over at the WaSP, political debates were intelligent debates.

I'm not saying that the people are dumber, but maybe their motivation has changed. I know I've become tired of listening to the same stupid arguments, and listening to people who have stopped trying. Normally a post like that Palestinian one that got Matt in all a tizzy would have become something intelligent - wondering who was right, who was wrong - if anyone was right, and maybe how in 1945-1970, most decisions on countries weren't made on the basis of what was right, but one political jockeying by the power-mongers.

But quick jabs and belittling are easier to throw out in a community, especially when you can be sure of some form of groupthink going on (I offer any psuedo 'anti-blog' comment ever made here as an example).

As for self-posts, people are streaming onto the net and making their little homes every day.. they want to be heard, they want validation.. they need to drive traffic in some way, and it used to be reciprocal linking, posting in someone's guestbook, or LinkExchange. There isn't much outlet for self-promotion as there was when I started..

As for Matt working with a bunch of like-minded people about community, I just wonder why it has to be the people he knows. We've all become so segmented in our associations.. if there such a big issue to fix, and I do agree that community on the web, and all its implications is a big issue, why isn't there an effort t maybe create a bigger forum about that issue.

See, maybe that is what is missing here about intelligent converstaion and community. Focus. Maybe if there was something people actually cared about, that had goals and a purpose, there'd be more discourse that was intelligent, and that actually helped us all move forward, and maybe - just maybe - made a difference in the direction this virtual world takes.
posted by rich at 10:40 AM on April 6, 2001

Man, you people are too quick on the button. But the first two posts are what I'm talking about in a way - people are too quick, and don't think. Look at the time on the creation of the thread. And think - If I had something long to say, which is why I said 'discussion inside', don't you think it would take some time for me to post it?


One more thing about focus - there also needs to be a creater effort to bring people into the discussions that haven't participated before, or have been ignored or left out.. the post needs to be stirred a bit more.
posted by rich at 10:42 AM on April 6, 2001

people are too quick, and don't think

I thought for 10 minutes before I posted this. I thought, *man, rich should've written this 'discussion inside' bit before he started.* I thought, *huh. I'll bet that this is a continuation of the thread that Matt started.* I thought, *I like physics. this might be clever and ignorable.* ;) (I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings.)

Now, some comments:

There isn't much outlet for self-promotion as there was when I started..

My blog gets a bunch of referrals from google and other search engines due to content. Granted, a lot of the visitors don't stay for long, but some do, and become repeat visitors. I also have gotten referrals by posting something that other people like/hated/found interesting in one of the MeFi threads. I've found that the more thought I put into a thread, the more people visit my blog.

One other thing: Debate is a lost art.
posted by iceberg273 at 11:03 AM on April 6, 2001

While the top portion of the article is correct, the bottom part, that college/high school debating is bad now -- ARE FIGHTING WORDS.

Do you know how fast you have to think to deal with a debate that is going at X hundred words per minute? Not only that, but fast speaking makes you smarter.

It's my personal observation as a debater and later, as a coach and critic, that debaters are not just fast speaking automatons but can also slow down as necessary to make good argumentation. The problem isn't the debaters but with the nondebaters who get taught that High School football is worth spending school board dollars for but not entry fees and coaches' salaries. Debate makes you smarter and into better arguers, period. Maybe that's why debaters are working hard to expand debate to areas where it's not just the future lawyers that will benefit.
posted by norm at 12:24 PM on April 6, 2001

Sorry, norm. I read the top part of the article and said *Ah, that's the citation I want*. I should've kept reading. :(

I agree with your analysis (now that I've read the whole article). Learning to debate has helped me as much in academia as it would a lawyer. After all, presenting your data, whether in person or in a journal is a matter of making a reasonable argument.
posted by iceberg273 at 12:52 PM on April 6, 2001

I've settled on the fact that I don't care for hits. I just like to write and I want to share it with my friends. I don't feel motivated to contribute to Mefi because I might get hits on my page, though sometimes I'll self-link just to save my typing time on stuff I've already talked about. That certainly feeds into the laziness aspect.

It's more of a boiling pot. Occassionally scum rises to the top and you have to get rid of it. Mefi's pot is getting bigger and more scum is rising.

How about some more analogies?
posted by john at 3:31 PM on April 6, 2001

Slashdot seems to be a good example of where MeFi doesn't want to go - an average 170-250 posts per item, most of which start with "Frist P0sT!" or "Natalie Portman's Hot Grits" or the like... Weeding through the chaff for anything on-topic has become a chore for even me, who's got his content filters in full action. Moderation by users is quite obviously a failure.

Iceberg: I agree there's lots of wind being blown around here* and that we're approaching a critical mass. There's something very planetoid-like about the MeFi userbase. How to keep MeFi more like Earth (capable of supporting intelligent life...) than Jupiter is a critical question, and I wish I could offer some assistance to Matt in doing this...

*not that all wind is bad...
posted by salsamander at 5:11 PM on April 6, 2001

I'm amazed at how often I don't even have to present examples to illustrate what I'm talking about, since they always just seem to appear all on their own.

Regardless, I didn't consider this a continuation of Matt's thread. More of a different offshoot. If I thought it was a pure continuation, I would have kept it there.

From the responses, though, I find it interesting that most everything I mentioned in my post was ignored. What is community? Is metafilter a community? Do communities need purpose, focus, or a tangible goal to resist breaking apart when familiarity and laziness bring simple attempts at wit-sparring?

Perhaps the perception that this all has to be about debate contributes to the problems.

posted by rich at 7:40 PM on April 6, 2001

ok, atoning for my overly-snarky and premature post above...

I'm wondering if it's appropriate to classify a group like the Metafilterites as a community, considering most of us have very little in common other than being homo sapiens and relatively web-savvy. Considering this, what kind of a goal can a site whose members have such wildly divergent beliefs and values agree on?

As far as I can tell, the only mission statement available is on this page: "This website exists to break down the barriers between people, to extend a weblog beyond just one person, and to foster discussion among its members."

Now, 1) 'breaking down the barriers' seems to be doing a tad poorly, lately. But 2) (extend) and 3) (foster discussion) seem to be succeeding. (Although it may depend on how you're defining 'discussion'.) Do we need a goal beyond this? What goals are possible?
posted by darukaru at 10:51 PM on April 6, 2001

The one and only goal which is important is for Matt to get satisfaction out of the effort he puts into the site, and the money he spends supporting it.

No other goal is needed, nor is any other goal important. This site is not here to serve you or me; it's here to please Matt. If it doesn't please Matt, no matter why, then it's a failure.

And it doesn't, which is why Matt is going to change it.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:01 PM on April 6, 2001

Just to add to that:

There is no "community". No-one here has any rights. This is the electronic equivalent of Matt's living room, and we're all guests here. Matt is trying to be a good host but the guests are getting rowdy and obnoxious, fights are breaking out, and they're beginning to break windows and lamps.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:05 PM on April 6, 2001

Hey mathowie, I hope you know you've got a pretty good deal going here. Most of the administrators of virtual-community type things I've been associated with (mostly MUDs and MUSHes) would positively kill to have this kind of homage paid to them. ;)
posted by darukaru at 11:25 PM on April 6, 2001

Devotion, not homage. Geez, I shouldn't post at 2:30 AM.
posted by darukaru at 11:27 PM on April 6, 2001

I guess people miss what actually defines a community. A community doesn't need to have anything in common other than their being some singular commonality among them. Simply by coming to or participating in Metafilter, you are part of that community.

Some communities are functional, some are not. But, in most cases, at least in the real world, you don't choose your neighbors to a great degree. But that doesn't mean that you can exclude yourself from being part of the community you live in. The virtual world is a bit funnier in a way, since you can exclude yourself quite readily from a group you don't want to deal with.

As for goals; sure, the goal could be for Matt to get satifsaction out of this whole experiment. But for the purpose of this kind of site, that isn't a goal that applies to the participants, and it isn't a goal that can be assumed by anyone here. It works great for a personal site like glassdog, but when you talk about a participatory web site, the desires and wants of the actual proprietor become secondary.

And without guiding principals for the participants, the individual goals of the participant become primary.

Without any reaosn for community results, there is no motivation to contribute. There are more implicit reasons that exist the 'real world' for communities.. anywhere from wanting to keep property values up to protecting children, or keeping the area looking nice because you live there and can't readily opt out.

The online world gives people no intrinsic reason to keep community going without some kind of other extrinsic goal which feeds an instric desire.

How this all got to the point of exaulting Matt as God is beyond me. Yet it is another example of why I slowly distanced myself from this place.

posted by rich at 8:42 PM on April 7, 2001

MetaFilter's a community to me, and one that I care about because there has always been a reasonably high level of respect among the members discussing topics.

I agree that there are probably 50-100 hardcore participants, and we could probably fix the present malaise simply by changing their own behavior. If all of us posted fewer, better links and comments, and didn't jump into the fray every time someone posts a cheap, polarizing contribution to MetaFilter, I think it would encourage other people to treat the place the same way.

(As an aside, I feel like the Bush/Gore/Nader threads during the election contributed to the polarization of this place and a decline in respect here, and I'm as much to blame for that as anyone.)
posted by rcade at 5:27 PM on April 11, 2001

I think people post too much and don't comment enough (relatively). I think if there were fewer threads the quality of argument would be better. I also think this late China problem show us that more threads about the same subject dilutes the analysis and rapidly makes all posts redundant.
posted by norm at 8:31 PM on April 11, 2001

"There is no "community". No one here has any rights. This is the electronic equivalent of Matt's living room, and we're all guests here."

I don't think that Matts ideas are inimical to most reasonable people's idea of a "community" Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that his entire focus was aimed at making this a more intelligent and thoughtful community. Hence, a more successful community.

That doesn't have to do with the taking away of anyone’s "rights" surely. It's aimed at getting people to understand that with any right, there are concomitant responsibilities. I think that Metafilter has far more of a community feel than any other forum I have been involved in.

Certainly I understand the "living room" or "party" analogy. Certainly I agree that Matt has the last word, and that he doesn't owe anyone anything. I understant that I have the right to leave, and thus it is only fair that Matt has the right to eject me (fastens seatbealt) I just don't see how that negates the idea of Metafilter being a "community" I think, at best, it has a real community feel. I think Matt is trying to encourage that.

There’s been a lot of murmurings about Matt taking away people's "rights" I don't know where that is coming from. I think he is trying to encourage us to take on more responsibility. I appreciate the fact that Matt has patiently kept us informed of his current and future plans for Metafilter.
posted by lucien at 6:36 AM on April 13, 2001

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