Growth and its discontents May 13, 2001 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Is MeFi getting too big?
posted by jpoulos to MetaFilter-Related at 4:20 PM (30 comments total)

The all-too-often-beaten dead horse of capital punishment was thrashed again--this time in relation to botched executions. Here we have calls for government-sanctioned torture and dismemberment.

Metafilter recently topped the 8,000-user milestone. Is intelligent debate suffering from an influx of "mainstream" users? Or am I just being cranky?
posted by jpoulos at 4:24 PM on May 13, 2001

to add to my comments at the link: whether what brought us to the death penalty in the first place is complex or simple, insulting people is probably not going to get you very far jpoulos. BTW I totally disagree with Wulfgar. There are very painless, clean and cheap means of execution: carbonmonoxide being one of the most popular home remedies. Opiate overdose being another. As I understand it, one good reason to be against the death penalty in OUR society is that it typically costs more than life in prison. If anything about our current justice system is ignorant and worth getting upset about it's having the initiative process (on the West coast anyway) influencing criminal law. Most ppl that want a harsher system have not one clue about how it works or the outcome of what they're talking about let alone understand what they hear about the system in the media (CNN NYTimes MSNBC etc). This is a topic worthy of discussion in general and is a subject that will have direct impact on the death penalty. Problems worth solving include: how can the media be pressured to be more responsible about reporting on legal matters, what are accessible and reliable sources of legal news and views, how can the public be better educated on basic law?
posted by greyscale at 4:31 PM on May 13, 2001

Take it to Metafilter, greyscale. This thread is about the (also beaten to death) topic of whether MF is too big.
posted by rodii at 4:43 PM on May 13, 2001

Whenever you have a community growing at a rate like this, you are bound to see some rehashing of topics and, additionally, some more widespread opinions than in the past. However, the influx of content (in the form of new threads) that comes along with these new members, in my opinion, outweighs some of these negatives.

TractorInc - member 1246
(one of those quite type kids that sits in the back)
posted by TractorInc at 5:07 PM on May 13, 2001

1264 that is, not 1246.

Why won't spell checker catch my arbitrary numerical transpositions... dammit!
posted by TractorInc at 5:09 PM on May 13, 2001

I like hearing the new voices too, even if a lot of them disagree with me.
posted by owillis at 5:16 PM on May 13, 2001

lol. jpoulos asked that we move the conversation here. so you babysit everyone @ metataalk tractorinc?
posted by greyscale at 5:16 PM on May 13, 2001

sorry, i meant the jab for rodii. my mistake.
posted by greyscale at 5:16 PM on May 13, 2001

Seems like jpoulos and I are on a similar wavelength today.
posted by briank at 5:39 PM on May 13, 2001

Don't worry about it...
posted by TractorInc at 5:42 PM on May 13, 2001

I may not be able to follow every thread like I used to, but I can still find good ones to contribute to.

There may be more folks posting poorly, but there are enough still posting interesting and thoughtful things.

Unless extremely compelling I have decided to not take part in any thread or post myself something about abortion, religion, politics, gun control, drugs, capital punishment and pop singers.

I think there is very little that has not been said about these things. I rather find something completely different. Sort of like when I found that story from India. I am going to try and limit my posts to stuff like that.
posted by john at 5:45 PM on May 13, 2001

Ooh, a "jab." My.

It's simple, greyscale. This thread is about whether MF is too big. That one's about the death penalty.

Glad to help.
posted by rodii at 5:46 PM on May 13, 2001

Though, do you ever get the feeling that it is somehow 'quieter' over here? The analogy between MeTalk and MeFi being one of stepping off into a adjoining room during the midst of a large noisy party. Kind of soothing...
posted by TractorInc at 5:49 PM on May 13, 2001

Not to be overly critical, but if you really want to start another thread about whether MF is getting too big, you might want to avoid phrases such as "here we have calls for government-sanctioned torture and dismemberment."

Now, is MF getting too big? No.

I've concluded that certain topics (capital punishment and abortion are examples) are such obvious minefields that anyone who wanders into them does so at his or her own peril. If you stay away from those, this looks like a much more manageable place.
posted by anapestic at 7:08 PM on May 13, 2001

I've been avoiding most hot-button threads lately as well, but there are times when I'd like to discuss the divisive issues. Everything seems so polarized now, real discussion is more & more rare. More lighthearted subjects can still be a blast here, though.
posted by gimli at 8:03 PM on May 13, 2001

So, much like in real life, one should avoid the topics of sex, politics and religion in polite conversation? MetaFilter should exist only to provide people with neat links?

I'm asking this sincerely; some topics are minefields as you say.

Should comments exist primarily for people to supplement the link with additional information or insight that their vocational/academic/professional/empirical expertise may provide them with?
Should comments be limited to being about the link and only the link, with personal attacks on other posters being outlawed?

Should there instead be a separate area (MetaFracas, let's call it) for all these perennially prickly and contentious topics to be brawled over? (Matt's previous comments on this make me think it unlikely.)

These aren't intended as inflammatory, rhetorical questions, just ordinary, wondering questions that come to mind.
posted by cardboard at 8:34 PM on May 13, 2001

Speaking from my lofty position as MeFi inhabitant #447 (under my alternative username, sperare), I would think the very best place to cap the membership is at 448. I assure you, I am not the influx, as member #2249 has asserted.

However if I can take my tongue out of my cheek for just a moment, and the hoi polloi can settle down, I would like to point out that there are certain hot-button topics that will always bring out the extremists, which is why they are not often discussed in polite society. Abortion, for instance, and the right to it. The death penalty. The Capitalist PigDog Republicans, versus the Naive Bleeding Heart Democrats. All these topics are best left to those with the most need to thrash them to the very core of rational debate with ridiculous rhetoric - college freshmen, sitting around dorm rooms, higher than kites, burning incense and smelling like Patchouli.

And frankly, this is Matt's party - let him do what he wants with it. Keep your sense of humour about what you read, and remember that irony can be your friend.

posted by kristin at 8:40 PM on May 13, 2001

In the other thread, jpoulos said, "Does anyone remember the happier days here at MeFi, before the blood-thirsty ignorants found it?" Then he starts this thread here with the same complaint, and then says flat out just what I had suspected he meant with the original comment: The diversity of opinions on MeFi has grown to the point where he now feels threatened, or at least antagonized, so he wants those other opinions crushed.

I vote an absolute no to ANY plan to stifle legitimate debate on MeFi. As TractorInc said, the benefits far outweigh the extra minor inconveniences.
posted by aaron at 10:44 PM on May 13, 2001

You know, as an experiement, I took a look at some of the more prominent member numbers - 1000, 1500, 2000, and so on.

Almost all of them are inactive - those that have posted have only contributed a lonely comment or two.

So while MeFi may have topped the 8,000 member mark, the percentage of those members who are actively participating is relatively small. There are, perhaps, only a few hundred members who are actively generating content. From that perspective, I don't believe things have gotten too big around here. Yet . . .

Gotta tell you though, I take great pride in being part of the first 1000. I feel like it gives me the right to holler at all of them newbie whippersnappers.
posted by aladfar at 10:57 PM on May 13, 2001

According to Gladwell in The Tipping Point, communities start to collapse under their own weight at about 150 people. I would suggest that MeFi has just about that many active posters, maybe a few more, which would explain its growing pains.

Given that people who post are usually 10 or 20 percent of the total active membership (i.e., including lurkers) that might suggest that about 750-1500, maybe up to 2000, people regularly read MeFi ("regularly" being at least every couple of days). There would of course be many more who visit less frequently.
posted by kindall at 11:15 PM on May 13, 2001

Should there instead be a separate area (MetaFracas, let's call it) for all these perennially prickly and contentious topics to be brawled over? (Matt's previous comments on this make me think it unlikely.)

I say this only half-seriously (which means that half is still serious) but since many of these threads end up as emotion-filled deja vu, how about this:

When posting, a user would also select a topic category from a dropdown. Many of the headings from Yahoo's front page would fit to start. We could also easily add "The Middle East", "The Bush Administration", "Abortion", "Drug Use", "Capital Punishment", "The State of the Web" and a few other already frequent topics.

Some would span mutiple topics, but there's some way to fix that problem... Perhaps an "Other" field would be provided and used for keyword searches and later categorization. Keywords might be a great idea anyway to help the search feature...

Anyway, let's say a user posts something about Israel forcing underrage Palestinian prisoners to watch a Brittney Spears video. On the top of that thread might be a link to other Middle-East-related threads and maybe also links to the top five threads in the category.

The category list would be dynamic and could be added to as new frequent discussions come up.

I don't know. Maybe I'm solving a problem that doesn't really exist or perhaps am creating 50 new ones. Either way, I think the keywords might be an interesting thing to incorporate...
posted by fooljay at 1:23 AM on May 14, 2001

i'm one of the late-coming rabble... and i belong to mefi (and will defend its existence to the hilt) because i love the opportunity to have a rational discussion with other rational people.

i haven't contributed much, i lurk a lot, but i'm with anapestic - i just pick my topics to contribute to.
(apologies to anyone offended by my gun control link)

i would be very upset tho, if mefi turned into a linkfest - that's why i subscribe to other sites.
posted by cakefork at 3:22 AM on May 14, 2001

I'm member 123, so I'm definately cooler than all of you who are over 124, and I'm especially cool because it's 123, all in a row, like 1,2,3... it's RICH! Whoo hoo!

Uh, as for what cardboard said; yeah, Dave, it's like people have to insult eachother to bolster their point. But I think the hard topics are always the best ones to discuss.

I was laughing my ass off today because in 'Over the Hedge', Verne has a WOG. And he links to all the other woggers.


Ahem, now go about your business.
posted by rich at 11:20 AM on May 14, 2001

Pre-999 user numbers are valuable, as less than 1000 were made.
posted by thirteen at 11:41 AM on May 14, 2001

The diversity of opinions on MeFi has grown to the point where he now feels threatened, or at least antagonized, so he wants those other opinions crushed.

Oh, please! Do you actually consider "legalize torture" a valuable, diverse opinion? I'm not threatened by views that differ from my own--if I were, would I spar so often with capitalist pig-dogs :-) like you, aaron? As much as I disagree with many here at MeFi, I respect anyone with an intelligent argument. I do not, however, respect the kind of crap I've heard recently in many of these hot-button threads.

Whatever intellectual snobbery I may be exposing here, I think I have a valid point. No one, yourself included I assume, wants MeFi to turn into an AOL chatroom.

I vote an absolute no to ANY plan to stifle legitimate debate on MeFi.

So do I. I also oppose stifling most illegitimate debate (trolling etc.). I'm not calling for censoring posts, or instituting a litmus test for new users. I'm just trying to express my concerns, and hear if others among us share them.
posted by jpoulos at 12:21 PM on May 14, 2001

how's about we set up a MeFi Gestapo ... they will cruise the various bandwidths with powerful bludgeons in hand and deal out 'cyber' beatings and silence members here and there with a reckless abandon ...

"why?" -- *shrugs* -- sure would be a neat event though
posted by a11an at 2:27 PM on May 14, 2001

I hear that some of the computer security groups use something they call "honeypots". They put computers online which they deliberately set up to be attacked, but they watch them closely to learn how it's done. Some anti-spam activists do the same thing with email addresses, which they actively try to get on as many junk-email lists as possible.

How about "honeypot" posts (state-sponsored trolls) on MeFi: everyone who falls for it and responds gets their account deleted for gullibility? Start with "All whites are racists" and "All homosexuals will burn in hell", or similarly hyper-liberal or hyper-conservative trollish sentiments.

Just a modest proposal.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:11 PM on May 14, 2001

Heh. Great idea.

(Could we stipulate that the "I think that this place started to go down hill with user N+1" joke by user N has been done? So we can just say "N+1 joke! LOL!" and move on?)
posted by rodii at 4:29 PM on May 14, 2001

My, aren't we thinking of creative ways to exclude one another. Such irony! Swift loves ya, baby.
posted by darukaru at 5:29 PM on May 14, 2001

I don't think MeFi is too big.

Yes, it's become impossible to follow every thread.

Yes, some users are idiots (no, not you).

Yes, some topics have been beaten to death; yes, some threads collapse into pointlessness.

But I come to Metafilter tp be exposed to interesting information from a diverse group of people; that was why I first started coming here a year or so ago. I sift through the day's posts and look for the ones that seem the most interesting. Metafilter is not a "pre-sifted" environment, like, say, a moderated mailing list — but, for me, the value of Metafilter emerges.

I've always had to perform sifting here. Even with the increased number of posts, the effort required to sift takes me no more than one minute per day. More posts means more bad posts, yes, but I find that it also means more good ones; and that seems true in the discussion threads as well as the main page.
posted by jbushnell at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2001

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