what is the system bottleneck that makes new users a bad thing? August 6, 2004 11:45 PM   Subscribe

Matt - speaking curiously, what is the system bottleneck that makes new users a bad thing? I presume it's database load, because the logged-in user enjoys comment counts and other database-intensive features that are demanding to serve. The static, logged-out homepage is easy to serve, even to a large number of visitors, by comparison, right? The real danger number to watch is the pageviews by logged-in users (please correct me if I'm wrong, I'm totally guessing). Are there features we could sacrifice for the sake of an open reg? What are you all willing to give up to open the gates? User comment history? Custom timezones and comment previews...?
posted by scarabic to Uptime at 11:45 PM (83 comments total)

I only ask as a follow-up, because we've seen the Apache swtichover come and go, there is no new call for supporting donations, and yet the gates are still shut. What's the status?
posted by scarabic at 11:46 PM on August 6, 2004


He isn't paying for the bandwith, and a T1 on a major website only goes so far.
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:53 AM on August 7, 2004


Why would we want more users? I already skip over the threads that have 100+ comments. That is just too much to go through. Metafilter is working great, I hear about everything that happens on the net first, before any of my friends. Opening the gates ruins the integrity of the community and is a bad idea. Maybe you could run some sort of timeshare system with a certain number of new accounts, but I think in terms of users we're at a good number.
posted by banished at 12:53 AM on August 7, 2004


The primary bottleneck is "user administration" and not technical. Matt's said that he simply doesn't have the time to spend babysitting new users.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:02 AM on August 7, 2004


Keep the gate closed, and start playing Metafilter Survivor. When we get back down to mathowie only, well, then open 'em up again!

That'd be fun.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:21 AM on August 7, 2004


I thought it was a "community-management" thing, not an infrastructure issue--I take "there's no more room for new users" figuratively.
posted by LairBob at 5:40 AM on August 7, 2004


Insert know-it-all comment
posted by angry modem at 6:13 AM on August 7, 2004


boy, you are speaking curiously. what the hell is that accent?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:08 AM on August 7, 2004


This is why opening up new user signups takes up Fearless Leader's time.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:09 AM on August 7, 2004


The db hits of logged in users are probably the biggest technical hit, but managing tons of new users is also a problem when I've got umpteen million other projects and a full time job to do elsewhere.

I've left the new user thing in limbo for a while now because I haven't figured out the magic bullet that would let the intelligent, calm users in and keep the raging psychos out. I've considered making people pay a couple bucks, as a small hurdle to get people that really, really want to be here in, but in the past some of the most problematic users have paid to get in and been a problem on their way out (complaining that they paid and deserve to be here no matter what they do).

I'll say this -- I do think there's a potential that after five years of running this site, I could do something to make it pay enough to make quitting my job possible and devoting time to it exclusively. So far I've explored my own ads, google ads, and talked to people about additional ads, but I'd much rather give users something more than plaster the site in advertising. I've thought about what would be worth $3 a month for some sort of pro user -- a custom watched threads feature, photo gallery hosting, weblog hosting if you need it, killfiles, voting and moderation, etc, but I haven't come up with a compelling feature set that is worth paying for.

If I could come up with something worth paying for and a bunch of people took up the offer, I'd spend my full time on this site, and open new users wide open, and expand to more servers and better hosting as necessary. To do the site with that level of dedication requires that it become a real business to sustain itself, and is a big risk on my part.

Or I could just keep letting the site idle on for another five years as I do a million other things and keep new users closed so the site takes up the least amount of my time.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:57 AM on August 7, 2004


if you'd make enough money, go for it--just don't ever do what the Fark guy did.

Couldn't you package and sell or license the framework/code/etc to businesses and stuff? As a group tool? That should be worth bucks.
posted by amberglow at 9:08 AM on August 7, 2004


(or as part of a company-wide intranet?)
posted by amberglow at 9:10 AM on August 7, 2004


I'll say this -- I do think there's a potential that after five years of running this site, I could do something to make it pay enough to make quitting my job possible and devoting time to it exclusively. So far I've explored my own ads, google ads, and talked to people about additional ads, but I'd much rather give users something more than plaster the site in advertising. I've thought about what would be worth $3 a month for some sort of pro user -- a custom watched threads feature, photo gallery hosting, weblog hosting if you need it, killfiles, voting and moderation, etc, but I haven't come up with a compelling feature set that is worth paying for.

The sense I've gotten of you Matt, is that Mefi as a fulltime business would bore the shit out of you. Follow your bliss (sorry, been watching The Power of Myth) and keep doing a bunch of different things. Mefi will survive.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:19 AM on August 7, 2004


I wouldn't mind more ads, or even an annual fee. However, I think to make real money at this you would have to let in many more users and then the site would lose its special character. How many of us have visited some site soliciting comments only to find that you will be leaving comment number 1, 344 or something? At that point who cares to comment? No one will read it or respond.
posted by caddis at 9:34 AM on August 7, 2004


One thing that attracted me to Mefi (I lurked a long time) was that it wasn't the rest of the internet. The rest of the internet is open-membership and we can see that some of that is good, some is great, and a lot is pure crap - like that Badcommie routine linked above.

I like Mefi because it filters everything. Mefi isn't just a time-saving link-dump. I think it more importantly filters the users. We don't have users "quonsar" through "quonsar34" posting 500 comments on every FPP with at least 200 of those comments being "fap fap" or "wassup!?!?"

I'm afraid that letting in more users would be just like 8/1 where suddenly there were hundreds of comments that were identical. Even now we sometimes have way too many comments with the inevitable "_filter" and "Mefi: it's what's for dinner" cliches. Can you imagine what it would be like if anybody could sign up and post dumb one-liners everyday? It would kill the comments feature of Mefi for good. As for new FPP's, quality FPP's, I think the current user base does pretty well at that.

I'm not saying never open new membership, but perhaps we could institute a system. Make a new section similar to Askme or Meta and call it "AppliFilter" where, say, 5 random users a day will be able to log in and then be given 30 minutes or an hour to come up with an essay or FPP of quality. Mefi users would be able to judge these and could vote a new user in if the application was worthy. I don't know enough about programming to know if that would be easy to make or if it would be too much for Matt, but it could be interesting.
posted by crazy finger at 9:47 AM on August 7, 2004


i blame kwantzar.
posted by quonsar at 9:52 AM on August 7, 2004


Are there features we could sacrifice for the sake of an open reg? What are you all willing to give up to open the gates? User comment history? Custom timezones and comment previews...?

No!
posted by The God Complex at 9:59 AM on August 7, 2004


Paranoid theories aside, opening this place up wide open would be a pretty scary thing. This place is chaotic enough as it is.
posted by crunchland at 10:19 AM on August 7, 2004


What crazy finger said. and PinkStainlessTail, too.
posted by geekyguy at 10:27 AM on August 7, 2004


Ah, ok. I didn't realize that it was more of a human time limit and not a resource limit.

So you're saying you expect problems to arise if user registration is wide open, and you don't have time to mop those up? Alternately, some validation/moderation feature would take development time that you don't have, either. Meanwhile, really burning urgent account requests can still be handled manually, behind the scenes. Do I have all that right?

I just wanted to understand the situation. No "shoulds" here from me.
posted by scarabic at 10:59 AM on August 7, 2004


As I commented in the "Jump the Fark" thread:
"I'd be very happy to pay to get access to MetaFilter, except, if Matt did charge for it, then it would no longer be the antithesis of Fark in every way."

If Matt (or any of us giving him unsolicited advice) ever find the perfect Filter for membership that would raise the quality of content for this site higher than it already is, then he will be in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize. I know you can rule out charging for membership, random access to memberships, rule enforcement by heavy handed moderators with varying agendas*, user un-friendly interfaces or other things that screen out the tech-non-savvy and IQ or DNA testing.

Apparently, the stumbling** forward of a truly well-meaning adminstrator is the "best of the web".

*Isn't the whole "weblog" concept based on the accountability of the siteowner him/herself?
**visualizes Matt doing a Dick Van Dyke-style trip over a virtual ottoman.

posted by wendell at 11:25 AM on August 7, 2004


While waiting for a signup here, go to Monkeyfilter and comment and post. MoFi is more civil, which is quite restful.

Matt, I'd recommend you pick new talent from among the monkies, and offer accounts selectively.
posted by theora55 at 11:34 AM on August 7, 2004


I'd say try the non-profit model: I know a few people here make a lot of money. Allow them to sign up as 'sponsors' and give them recognition or a free mug or t-shirt. Maybe a few levels, like $10, $50, $100 a year. Of course, they can still be banned etc. at any time - no guarantees.

Barring that, open up a market.metafilter.com on the craigslist model (I was recently looking for someone local that would take an old Royal typewriter off my hands). Craigslist is making millions while being ad-free.
posted by vacapinta at 12:57 PM on August 7, 2004


The db hits of logged in users are probably the biggest technical hit

Just a thought: Why not move as much of this as possible to the client-side?

For example, at this moment thread #34838 has 20 comments. When I reload the front page or the thread page, this could be stored as a cookie. Next time I hit refresh, if there are 35 comments, the Mefi code would grab my cookie that says 20 comments, see that there are 35 comments, and send back the tag that says "15 new" and point a link to http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/34838#C16 You wouldn't have to make Mefi store or retrieve any information about my last visit in order for this to work.
posted by PrinceValium at 1:08 PM on August 7, 2004


Taking inspiration from Edwards' "Two Americas," we could simply implement "Two Metafilters." Both would view the same FPPs, but the comment areas would be separate. Here, we would continue to operate tax-free, of course...
posted by rushmc at 1:23 PM on August 7, 2004


i'm just trying to think of a way to filter users here. is there any way of letting a limited number of non-registered people post on each thread and then selecting people if they post useful comments?

maybe you add a new kind of user - one that can register, login, etc, but can only post once a day (in comments, not at all to the front page). then any really good posts, if they catch your eye, get their poster promoted to a normal user?

the problems i see with this are (1) some coding involved (perhaps not so much - an extra column in the user table, and some checks in the code) and (2) there's nothing to stop someone signing up a hundred times and posting 100 times a day.

maybe (2) cold be fixed by restricting logins as before (few per day) and by recognisiing quality in a series of posts (encouraging people to post good posts under a single name)?

on the fulltime mefi-admin idea, i'd second what someone else said above - that it sounds terribly boring (although i can see that the idea of not having to work is attractive i'm not sure moderating crap posts is a good way to fill the time).
posted by andrew cooke at 1:25 PM on August 7, 2004


maybe each currently active Metafilter member could - over the course of about two years so that perhaps a dozen new members a day might join (to properly asorb newbies) - select (or sponsor) one new member over that time frame.

So the sponor's rep would be a bit on the line.

Or, there's this :

Somebody volunteers to host and manage the damn thing (biggest hurdle). It'll look and work just like Metafilter and will be called "the playpen". There, "new users" can brawl and spew to their heart's content. We can watch them. Eventually, the best of the lot can be culled for Metafilter membership - after having proven they have something worthwhile to contribute. In a fashion similar to that described in Sturgeon's "Microcosmic God", canny coding changes could be employed to exert subtle pressure and so cause the new users to "evolve". If, in doing so, they become smarter than we are, they can always be "killed off" by simple administrative fiat.
posted by troutfishing at 1:43 PM on August 7, 2004


If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

If you have someone in particular you want to invite who you think would be an asset, I can only assume and guess that you could, say, ask Matt if you may invite them.

My brother invited me, but I guess he talks to Matt frequently or something. YMMV.

Word of mouth vouchsafing seems to be the way to go.

I would rather give up my account then have MeFi on open user registration. This place is a blessed oasis in a harsh, blasted wasteland of unredeemable horseshit. (Sturgeon's Law was almost right. These days it's more like 1/100 instead of 1/10.)

And to make a working and pleasant Temporary Autonomous Zone, you need walls and filters and hurdles and such. The older I get the less unfortunate I find those walls to be.

Raise the bar. I'll train harder to jump higher, and maybe I'll even thank you later for it.

Summary: Please don't "fix" it, Matt. It's working just fine.
posted by loquacious at 3:03 PM on August 7, 2004


My two cents: limited, controlled new membership would be a good thing. Pretty much anything else wouldn't be. I'm generally not a conservative type of person, but I have a strong intuition that the status quo of metafilter is about the best it's gonna be.

The only idea I have is similar to one presented above and previously: an informal arrangement with MoFi (and perhaps a few other sites) so that they act as filter for new MeFi users. As a (dormant) MoFite myself, I admit that this is insulting to MoFi and would ignite a big debate over there. But something like that would probably work. That is, informal enough that people'd have to lurk MeFi or be active in these other places for a good while to be aware that they were uncertain (and merit-based) routes to MeFi membership. It could be a benefit to the other sites, too, although, again, it's a bit insulting to be in any sense a farm team for MeFi.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:23 PM on August 7, 2004


As someone who posts rarely I can't help but find this talk of 'vetting'/'culling'/'selecting' members from some sort of pool where we, the elite who already have metafilter accounts, choose among the peon classes of non-members distasteful.

I didn't get membership to metafilter by proving myself with an essay, or showing that I had something worthwhile to add. I just managed to sign up during a period where new accounts were being granted.

The best idea I've seen posted here so far has been market.metafilter.com. Buyers wouldn't have to be metafilter members, meaning you could generate more cash without admiting tens of thousands of more members.

Another idea could possibly be to charge a small fee for posting questions to askme. At the very least it would remove the superflous questions that sometimes get asked.
posted by toby\flat2 at 4:17 PM on August 7, 2004


It's so funny to see 17kers arguing to keep the gates shut.
posted by rushmc at 4:28 PM on August 7, 2004


1k representin'

It's not about being elitist (although that will always be an obvious conclusion), it's about what works. There are wolves at the gates - I know they're probably not all like BadCommie, but if the gates were opened we would see an exponential increase in user numbers. I don't think the site could take that. Right now, there are a reasonable number of posts each day, a reasonable number of comments, most people have at least some grasp of the rules. It works well, but if we had 30,000 users by next Friday, it wouldn't. It would be the Farkisation / Slashdotisation effect - the fundamental character of Metafilter would change, and I have no doubt some of the older users would no longer want to hang around.

The fact is, Metafilter is a very simple concept. As Monkeyfilter has shown - it can be easily replicated - so why don't new users try their hand somewhere else? People want to join Metafilter out of a desire to be attached to the brand, rather than out of a desire to share and discuss. If they want to metablog, there are plenty of places out there to do it which could be just as good if they don't mind having a less cool domain name.
posted by Jimbob at 4:39 PM on August 7, 2004


yay for america! it's distasteful to select people based on competenece, but ok to charge....
posted by andrew cooke at 4:52 PM on August 7, 2004


It's so funny to see 17kers arguing to keep the gates shut.

Yeah, it is. Traitorous bastards. People arguing for the status quo are elitist ("now I'm in the club, let's not let anyone else in ever again! It's such a cool club!"), not to mention inconsiderate.

I don't think new users would be half as much trouble as you all make out -- simply because, once people have got a mefi username, they generally won't want to lose it. I mean, out of the last lot of new users, how many have been banned? One, isn't it? 99.9% of the time, you'd only be dealing with people violating the (somewhat arbitrary anyway) rules accidentally, not maliciously, and a quick talking-to from some other random user would fix it.

Yeah, the thing would probably collapse if user registrations were completely open, because I imagine the site's membership numbers would double (or more) overnight. I don't understand the fear of the hundred-per-day model, though: it's managable technically, and unlikely to blow up in mefi's face socially.
posted by reklaw at 5:00 PM on August 7, 2004


Aw, Cripes. Open the registration once per hour, for 20 people, for 24 straight hours.

You add 500 heads, everyone who gets in really wants to be in, and the place internationalizes a bit (if we're lucky).

Of these 500, say 5 percent flame out. 25 asshats to be weeded. Not a big deal.

Matt can't figure out "the magic bullet that would let the intelligent, calm users in and keep the raging psychos out" because there's no easy or fair or elegant way to do it. So just lest some people in. Wait a few months, assess the situation, and do it again.

Though waiting till after the election is a fine idea.
posted by trharlan at 5:18 PM on August 7, 2004


All of this talk of new members is kind of funny. We have had these conversations countless times, countless great suggestions for opening mefi to new users have been put forth, yet ultimately if Matt doesn't feel like opening up, we don't open up.

I would love to see membership open (even a little), and get kind of frustrated that we are in a perpetual state of limbo (stagnation?) in which we go around and around in the same circle.

blah.
posted by Quartermass at 5:35 PM on August 7, 2004


Why is it "funny" that a 17k-er would be arguing to keep the gates shut? I even offered to remove myself from the club. Rushmc, how do you know that I haven't been lurking here and simply reading since very early on?

The fact that I had spent a fair amount of time lurking before socially engineering myself an account was informative and helpful.

At E2 the registration is entirely open, but the posting process isn't.

The community there - and dedicated editorial powerstructure - works very, very hard at keeping the signal to noise ratio exceedingly high. (Granted, there's a lot of stuff there outsiders would consider to be noise and not signal. This is apocryphal.)

If MeFi had some sort of feedback and self-management structure like that, I'd be more accepting of the idea of open registration.

But we certainly don't need another Fark or slashdot on the net.

Why can't there be a word-of-mouth invitation process? I'm not saying "no new users!" at all. I'm just saying don't lower the bar and open the gates just because it's supposedly the fair and progressive thing to do.

For the official record I wholly welcome the idea of new users, particularly of the "intelligent, calm user" variety, of any sociopolitical stripe. We need fresh blood, this much is clear.

Is society at large elitist because it expects some standards of decency and behavior? What about universities that expect performance? The Olympics?

Paging Diana Moon Glampers! Get your shotgun! Harrison Bergeron is running amok and flying around the studio again!

And what would be so wrong and terrible with the idea of creating an online community that has an intelligence or aptitude test as a condition of admission? I'm not asking in regards to MeFi, just in general. Why would people find that so offensive? Oh, dear, you're going to be measured, and you might not be tall enough to ride.

One is always welcome to start their own project if they don't like it. This is a refrain commonly heard on E2.

posted by loquacious at 5:43 PM on August 7, 2004


"now I'm in the club, let's not let anyone else in ever again!"

Well, I don't think it's fair that anything I've said could be characterized that way. I think Matt should find a way to add new uesrs, regularly. But not have the gates wide open. I think we 17kers mostly worked out because a) there were so few of us; and, b) a large portion of us were long-time lurkers who were paying enough attention to know there was an opportunity to join. (The latter point being that the opportunity to join was so limited, that mostly only those paying attention knew about it—and those paying attention had alredy learned many of the rules of behavior.) Flinging the doors open would be like 8/1.

Again, I'm all for new members. I just don't think it should be a free-for-all.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:54 PM on August 7, 2004


Yay for America indeed.

My reason for suggesting that I find it distasteful that new members should have to undergo a competance or intelligence/test is that none of us had to.
posted by toby\flat2 at 5:59 PM on August 7, 2004


I don't really see the incentive for someone to "pre-filter" new users for us, especially a site like MoFi, which has good things going for it in its own right. Why, after all this time, should the MoFi admin surrender all her best members to us? What's the incentive?
posted by scarabic at 6:05 PM on August 7, 2004


Sometimes, its the supposedly unintelligent who are the most compelling
posted by ZippityBuddha at 6:12 PM on August 7, 2004


Why, after all this time, should the MoFi admin surrender all her best members to us?

How much of a vacuum would three people leave behind them?
posted by trharlan at 6:21 PM on August 7, 2004


I would love to see membership open (even a little)

It is open a little. This guy joined Thursday.

I think we 17kers mostly worked out

Maybe so, but even amongst those few there was at least one guy who joined simply to pimp for his commercial site and another one who joined just to type "commie commie commie" in all the threads. Cleaning that up takes up Matt's time and attention, and Lord knows he hasn't got much to go around.

Matt's offered to devote himself full time to this site if he can make a living at it. I'd be willing to kick in $100 bucks a year to see that happen. Who else would?
posted by timeistight at 6:25 PM on August 7, 2004


toby\flat2: I agree that changing the rules after the fact is distasteful, but what about at some new and hypothetical site?

I'm not even implying that such a thing should be carried out here or anywhere. I'm just curious.

Critique is a strange, double-sided thing. Without it, it would be difficult to grow. But it hurts so much, usually.

And yet people crave it, and ask for it in the form of "honest opinions", even if a truly objective and honest opinion is the last thing they really want.
posted by loquacious at 6:43 PM on August 7, 2004


I'm not sure what benefit is derived from opening membership. New blood? There have been calls for new blood since membership was initially closed. Look at the active members, though; the population of members actually posting and commenting *has* changed over time, despite restricted membership. Yet--surprise, surprise--conversations in news and political threads are remarkably similar. There isn't any new blood--just old blood with new usernames.

Are we elitist for keeping membership closed? I don't think so.
elitism:
1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.
2. a. The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class. b. Control, rule, or domination by such a group or class.
Okay, maybe some of us *do* have a sense of entitlement. But we shouldn't. We are here by chance, not selected by merit, and it is absurd for us to think otherwise. The only requirement for retaining membership is that we avoid intentionally vandalizing the site and abusing each other (well, a little abuse is okay). The same should be true of any new members, or we really will be elitists. If and when membership is opened, it should be on the same basis that membership was opened for all of us. No tests, not trial period, no judgment, no getting voted off the island.

Unfortunately, the recent login madness pretty well demonstrates the problems with open memberships. In 1999--heck, anytime before September 11, 2001--the active population was pretty small, and frankly, membership was not in great demand. Now, however, the site is honestly at capacity, in my opinion. There are already more posts and comments than I can keep up with, and if more users are added, not only will there be a lot more signal, there will be a higher percentage of noise, as well. I think opening membership in very small batches and letting the new members integrate into the site before adding the next batch is the only successful way to add new members.

The only alternative to keeping the stream of new members very small is for Matt to do this full time, and to institute Pro-level features like kill files and voting. Add to that mix blog hosting and maybe email addys, and I'd be happy to pay my 3 bucks a month, or 50 bucks a year, or whatever. The bottom line is this: I don't think new members are necessary, but if we do "open the gates," we need new features on our end as well as Matt's.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:59 PM on August 7, 2004


If I had gained membership to a particular site (or club or organisation) after undergoing a test or matching certain required criteria, then yes, I would feel that others joining afterwords should meet the same requirements.

As this question sort of ties in with a question in your previous post, I don't know if society is elitist because it expects some standards of decency and behaviour, but these expectations are not an entry requirement, they are expectation. If you do not meet society's expected requirement, you are (depending on the degree of anti-social behaviour) ridiculed at the low end or thrown into prison at the high end.

The point I'm trying to make is that if you're a bad person in real life you get punished, and if you fuck up on metafilter you get punished. In both cases there is no entry requirement, and I don't believe there should be.
posted by toby\flat2 at 7:04 PM on August 7, 2004


the recent login madness pretty well demonstrates the problems with open memberships.

No, it mostly just demonstrates the problem with total anonymity.
posted by ook at 7:08 PM on August 7, 2004


I pretty much agree with everything you've said there monju_bosatsu, but I'd like to state that I wasn't suggesting that people here were elitist (not to say that I don't think this is the case), but that people who have accounts on metafilter are inherently part of the elite when compared to people who don't.
posted by toby\flat2 at 7:15 PM on August 7, 2004


Sorry, OT but WENDELL: When does Dick Van Dyke ever trip over the ottoman? It always shows him sidestepping it with a grin, while a funny sound effect plays... am I missing something? Is it like that Family Guy spoof of the D.V.D. Show?
posted by ac at 7:36 PM on August 7, 2004


I'm not saying "no new users!" at all. I'm just saying don't lower the bar and open the gates

Of course, that wouldn't be "lowering the bar" at all, since that is how the vast majority of us got in in the first place, through an open gate...

I think we 17kers mostly worked out because a) there were so few of us; and, b) a large portion of us were long-time lurkers who were paying enough attention to know there was an opportunity to join.

Both of which conditions could be easily duplicated in future, periodic "open" periods.

Flinging the doors open would be like 8/1.

History and common sense tells us that that is almost certainly false.

even amongst those few there was at least one guy who joined simply to pimp for his commercial site and another one who joined just to type "commie commie commie" in all the threads. Cleaning that up takes up Matt's time and attention

If Matt can't take the few minutes it takes to ban two people every few months, then he should just shut the site down NOW. Seriously.

As much as many of us would like it, I don't think anyone is advocating just throwing the doors wide to unlimited immigration at this point. People are trickling away from the site all the time (though it's usually not visible to us); there's no reason that some can't be allowed to trickle in as well.
posted by rushmc at 7:41 PM on August 7, 2004


I've thought about what would be worth $3 a month for some sort of pro user -- a custom watched threads feature, photo gallery hosting, weblog hosting if you need it, killfiles, voting and moderation, etc, but I haven't come up with a compelling feature set that is worth paying for.

I'd pay to be able to killfile users who are already here.
posted by bingo at 8:42 PM on August 7, 2004


the recent login madness pretty well demonstrates the problems with open memberships.

No, it mostly just demonstrates the problem with total anonymity.


Don't you mean it mostly just demonstrates the problem with quonsar?
posted by crunchland at 8:51 PM on August 7, 2004


*grabs crotch, moonwalks*
posted by quonsar at 8:54 PM on August 7, 2004


*suddenly confronted by mental image of "total quonsar"*

*falls off tricycle*
posted by ook at 10:45 PM on August 7, 2004


even amongst those few there was at least one guy who joined simply to pimp for his commercial site and another one who joined just to type "commie commie commie" in all the threads. Cleaning that up takes up Matt's time and attention

rushmc: If Matt can't take the few minutes it takes to ban two people every few months, then he should just shut the site down NOW. Seriously.


I'd also like to add that it doesn't take Matt's delicate wisdom to identify and remove shitheels like those. Yes, the delegation of moderator responsibilities is a complicated risk, but *anyone* could have dealt with those two assholes just as well as Matt did.
posted by scarabic at 10:54 PM on August 7, 2004


I'd pay to be able to killfile users who are already here.

I've been wholeheartedly sold on Matt's original rationale for a site design that makes even implicit user filtering difficult. There are people I don't like, and who I don't like to read, and even though I don't normally use killfiles, I might use one. I'd prefer to be protected from myself, thanks. That is, the whole character of MeFi would change for the worse, I think. One of the reasons MeFi has continued to work in spite of its various tensions is that it is for the most part a unitary community.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:54 PM on August 7, 2004


As an aside, I do, sorta, feel like my entry to MeFi was as a practical matter conditional. I read MeFi for, oh, about a year and a half, daily (and probably more of all the comment threads then than I do now, interestingly, validating Miguel's relurker post last week) before the opportunity arose on April 1 and 2 to get in.

Of course, I wasn't one of the first 20 who were supposed to have been let in. I was one of the other 100 or so. But, anyway, the effect of lurking a long time while membership was closed is to make one feel as if one has "paid dues". Rightly or wrongly. Something to think about for those of you who just stopped by one day and joined.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:59 PM on August 7, 2004


I don't think new users would be half as much trouble as you all make out

agreed !

Why, after all this time, should the MoFi admin surrender all her best members to us?

she won't have to, loads of them have no interest in joining mefi, and most of the monkeys that got in last time scampered right back to the lavendar.
posted by t r a c y at 11:11 PM on August 7, 2004


I'd prefer to be protected from myself, thanks.

Well, sorry, but the rest of us shouldn't have to suffer for your weak will.

One of the reasons MeFi has continued to work in spite of its various tensions is that it is for the most part a unitary community.

What you seem not to realize is that it didn't suddenly come into being that way, magically. It's the members themselves who find it worthwhile to make the effort to unite, whoever they may be and whenever they happened to "get in." There is no reason to believe that the world has suddenly begun to spin in reverse and that this would no longer work with some new folks.
posted by rushmc at 11:15 PM on August 7, 2004


"MetaTalk: We're all in this together"

I don't really like the idea of killfiles either.

One of the most elegant and beautiful things about MeFi is it's cohesiveness and simplicity.

In structure, it's not that much unlike Fark, in that there aren't nested threads and levels of moderation. If you're moderated, you're simply deleted, and that's astoundingly rare here at MeFi.

I seriously enjoy the well-written and intelligent "conservative/right wing" counterpoints occasionally found here. It at least provides some balance and dissent to the arguably left-leaning nature of MeFi.

(And yeah, as one-dimensional - and dated - the left or right quantification is these, I'm pretty damn far left. I wish The Political Compass would enter common usage already. Having that sort of thought-paradigm in common use would likely expand our collective ability to think about politics and social issues more flexibly. Once we get the Political Compass into mainstream thought, we could maybe work on an XYZ political spectrum, as you could easily map the complexities of personal ideologies to 3 or more vectors...)
posted by loquacious at 11:27 PM on August 7, 2004


Ethereal Bligh said: ...an informal arrangement with MoFi (and perhaps a few other sites) so that they act as filter for new MeFi users.

Back before MoFi started, before I was even a mefi member, I suggested this. I don't know how it would work now, because I wasn't expecting such a response at the time. It doesn't sound like it'd happen anyway because Matt has a life, something many of us may crave. But the offer is still there.

How much of a vacuum would three people leave behind them?

Oooh, burn! /sarcasm
posted by tracicle at 11:50 PM on August 7, 2004


I like all ideas except "no new users". That's crazy talk! It's unnatural! It's clear that a wide-open 24/7 new user sign-up isn't going to work, and not really because the system is too fragile to handle it, but because the potential new member base is just too huge; so let it be a trickle that finds its way in through brief windows of sign-up opportunity, or let there be a "farm team" space, or let members sponsor applicants from a general pool, but by all means let's keep things vigorous with a little circulation. As others have pointed out, it's natural that some people drift away. It's also natural that some people should drift in.
posted by taz at 12:29 AM on August 8, 2004


Also, it may be that signing up some new members might be the only way to redeem this place as the U.S. election looms closer, especially if new users are strongly encouraged (in the sign up process? as a period of "probation"?) to try to focus their contributions outside the political realm.
posted by taz at 12:32 AM on August 8, 2004


Just to help you pigeonhole me correctly my political leanings according to the political compass are -

Economic Left/Right: -3.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.64

which apparently puts me right there with the Dalai Lama.
I'm just off to buy some orange robes and shave me head.

As far as letting new people in, there have been people banging at the doors trying to join what is effectively an exclusive country club for a long time now and I don't see why allowing a few people in on an occasional basis would cause any issues.

If you make trouble, troll or contribute nothing to the discussion then by all means you should be booted - but to not give anyone a chance because they did not join when you did? If there were a post about a club with the same restrictions on membership quite a few of you would be up in arms about how unfair it was - look beyond the luck that landed you a membership here first and think of what you are missing out there.
posted by longbaugh at 12:35 AM on August 8, 2004


If anyone wants my membership, they can have it if they make a nice enough case. I've had fun here. Don't mind passing things on to someone else if they look like they'll benefit the community... username@mail.com.
posted by humuhumu at 5:13 AM on August 8, 2004


Welcome longbaugh!
posted by caddis at 6:01 AM on August 8, 2004


I think it would be great to let some new people in. I'm sure there are plenty of people who would help keep the site good / make the site even better.

I agree with this:

I'd also like to add that it doesn't take Matt's delicate wisdom to identify and remove shitheels like those. Yes, the delegation of moderator responsibilities is a complicated risk, but *anyone* could have dealt with those two assholes just as well as Matt did.

Delegating a little authority could go a long way towards not saddling Matt with too much moderating. Surely Matt can pick out a handful of individuals he could trust to properly maintain the ethos of the site.

I am totally in favor of user fees, if that means we get more resources (human and / or hardware / software / bandwidth) which allows us to support some more users.

I think a dedicated full-time administrator, whether Matt or someone he hands off / sells to, would be a good thing. But then, I think we should be ruled with an iron fist (or a set of them)...
posted by beth at 8:11 AM on August 8, 2004


Been here, done this, let's see what's up in AskMe.
posted by mischief at 9:18 AM on August 8, 2004


I'd pay if I could filter out threads on the "upcoming election."
posted by Quartermass at 10:43 AM on August 8, 2004


I'd pay $5-10/month for access to the site just as it is now, no new features needed.

Two thoughts, neither of them original:

--Other moderators besides Matt. A handful of them, carefully chosen; and
--Current members vouching for new members.
posted by Vidiot at 12:05 PM on August 8, 2004


OT but WENDELL: When does Dick Van Dyke ever trip over the ottoman?

ac, for the first season of the show, the opening just showed pictures of the cast; in the second season, they used an opening sequence with Dick entering and tripping over the ottoman, with the rest of the cast running to him and picking him off the floor. Later, they reshot the scene with him sidestepping the ottoman and let the editor flip a coin to decide which version was shown. When it first went into syndication, they deep-sixed the unmemorable Season One openings, and maybe, in some places, used the sidestep version for all the episodes. But all the D.V.D.* DVDs I've seen (including 3 episodes from Season 2 on one I got at the 99-cent store), have the openings as originally intended.

Because I have no life, I have a short sequence of screen captures showing the trip here.

*when I first noticed the coincidental initials, I couldn't stop giggling for an hour; now, I frequently say "I'm going to put a Dick Van Dyke in the player", no matter what the program. I have few friends, just people who don't confuse easily.
posted by wendell at 12:16 PM on August 8, 2004


You know, he could have just as easily been called Penis van Lesbian...

[/off-topic]
posted by Vidiot at 12:26 PM on August 8, 2004


traicicle: I have an even better idea than asking potential members to offer candidate posts for review. How about they offer their external weblogs for review? That would serve pretty much the same purpose: showing something about their ability to filter the web and present their findings meaningfully. And we'd guarantee, right off the bat, that all the FW already G their OWL.
posted by scarabic at 9:49 PM on August 8, 2004


$2 per month for your login. Even if 7k of the 17k said "bye" that would be 10k paying members, $20k per month, $240k per year. That should cover bandwidth and a salary, I would think. And that is with 0 new signups.

And I doubt very many, if any, people would be at all impacted by a $2/mo fee. It is so cheap as to be almost free. If someone doesn't get $2/mo of utility out of MeFi, then I'm not sure why they waste their much more valuable time here.

All a very small monthly fee does is help prevent one-timers from showing up and defecating on the place. If any member has a legitimate financial hardship and cannot find a spare $24 per year, I imagine Matt could handle those on a case-by-case basis.

As far as new members, friend referral ala Gmail (but many fewer invites per person) makes sense.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:08 AM on August 9, 2004


1) Theoretically attractive idea
2) Marginal cost
3) 50%+ sales in target market
4) PROFIT!!!!

Really, you've got to work with a sales/acceptance rate of somewhere under 2%. Half of the population will *not* just start paying a few bucks for something they're used to getting for free. It just doesn't happen, and the internet is full of (or should I say no longer full of?) examples thereto.

Matt has commented on this over here.
posted by scarabic at 12:03 PM on August 9, 2004


Only 3k of 17k accounts active any given day? I would have expected more. Maybe it just *seems* busier than it really is.

That also implies there is a very large untapped market for selling unused MeFi logins. Ebay would have to make a special sectoin just for it.

At any rate, if those numbers are correct, I'm not sure how bandwidth has ever been a problem. Matt's serving up pure text with almost no graphical elements.

I am in agreement that your average site will not/can not begin to charge.

I hold that MeFi is not your average site. It has a solid community of thousands of people. Those thousands of people value it enough to spend significant amounts of time on it.

The problem with many internet "pay to signup" schemes is they either want WAY too much, or they demand a year in advance. Am I going to pay $19.95/mo? No. Will I pay $1.99 per month? Sure.

Let's say that we could bank on that 3k number, even with a number of those saying "no way" but being replaced by new signups that will pay. I expect if new signups were allowed he could easily get back to the 10k users who would pay, considering he said there were "several times that (3k)" of non-members who come every day, but that's another subject.

3k * $2 = 6k/mo = 70k/year

That is enough to at least "think about" attempting something as such. It would surely qualify as covering bandwidth and being a "part time" job.

Its obviously not easy, and its obviously not a sure bet. But, with a site famous enough and unique enough and generally well regarded enough, it can, and has, worked.

The key to MeFi is participation. Why are there clamoring hoardes at the gate begging for a login? They can view everything with no login. It is because they desire to participate.

I believe there is a reasonable percentage of that throng who would give up a Mexi-Melt a Month* to get in.

(Note: I do not eat Taco Bell so I do not know how much a Mexi-Melt actually is. I just liked the phrase.)
posted by Ynoxas at 12:39 PM on August 9, 2004


At any rate, if those numbers are correct, I'm not sure how bandwidth has ever been a problem.

I'm not sure it ever has been. As far as system resources go, I think it's the logged-in users hitting the database that hurts most. Scroll up to where Matt commented on this. But as far as bandwidth goes, multiply that 3K number by several factors to count in the logged-out visitors as well. And that's just unique visitors. If each of them reads an average of 3 pages, that's another 3x multiplier to add in. It can add up, even for "plain text."

I think 70K as a full-time salary would be a low minimum for someone of Matt's skills, talent/creativity, and unique credibility. A minimum. And 70K as a gross business revenue would be paltry, quite frankly. As an independent business, Matt would be subject to more taxes than a salaried employee, he'd have to pay for his own healthcare and such, and it's likely that things like the bandwidth hosting (which he gets donated) would cease to be free once the dollars started flowing. Everyone's nice and generous as long as there's no money involved at all. But once a little bit of cash starts to flow, everyone wants their cut, and will fight you quite nastily for it.

I think you're being very generous when you imagine that any active users who chose not to pay would easily be replaced by new folks. Matt estimates about 500 existing users would stay on.

So if 2500 new users come in to replace everyone who left, a key thing to consider is: will it still be MetaFilter? Will it still be worth paying for? It's an awfully big risk. You know someone will stomp off in disgust and start a free alternative, and you know MoFi will soak up tons of refugees. So you will have wound up watering down the now-free MetaFilter and charging people for the privelige of sucking it up.

I don't think it'll fly. Not far anyway.
posted by scarabic at 1:17 PM on August 9, 2004


I regularly read MeFi for quite a long time before finally becoming a member, and even now it seems like I barely comment. In the past, I've been hesitant to do so because I didn't feel I'd really be adding to the conversation. Lately, it seems like I'd just be pouring fuel on the fire in some of the more confrontational threads.

Too many factions. Not enough random views and discussion. It seems like every new post is attributed to a group, and then the battle continues. Maybe I just need to get with the FPPs and stop whining from my place against the wall.
posted by mikeh at 1:28 PM on August 9, 2004


The only way that I can see to monetize MeFi is to sell it off to some tangentially related business that wants a "community." Like when Salon bought the Well, or when my mom paid those kids to come to my birthday party.
posted by Jart at 1:48 PM on August 9, 2004


scarabic: seems reasonable. This is all conjecture, but I wonder how many people post to places like Mefi because they don't want the hassle of a blog/don't know how to set one up/don't have enough content. Meh, I don't know. Your idea is good, though, because like you say people would be able to prove they can do the filter work and present it in an interesting way.

And we'd guarantee, right off the bat, that all the FW already G their OWL.

...yes.
posted by tracicle at 2:31 PM on August 9, 2004


Too many factions. Not enough random views and discussion. It seems like every new post is attributed to a group, and then the battle continues. Maybe I just need to get with the FPPs and stop whining from my place against the wall.

But why move from the wall when it's the safest place to be? I think that's a prominent view from lots of lurkers here (myself included), and I can understand it. Why rock the boat?

Unsure of the point I'm trying to make here, but I certainly know a lot of people here feel the same way.
posted by toby\flat2 at 4:11 PM on August 9, 2004


Too many factions. Not enough random views and discussion.

That particular problem is in full effect everywhere MeFi's demographics go, not just here.

Pour fuel on the fire. It will be your fuel, at least, instead of the same peoples' again and again. Really, if the discussion opened up and every lurking member felt free enough to offer their $.02, then the blowhards among us (myself included) would be less inclined to just walk all over the place and piss our pheremones all over absolutely everything with impunity. As it is, there's no real reason why my opinion is more valid than yours, but you've basically surrendered this place to me to do with as I will. And I will.

Plant your feet, pull up your pants, and comment. Please.
posted by scarabic at 5:28 PM on August 9, 2004


What about a sort of Country Club Model where you have to have a current (or previous) Mefi user vouch for you and you have to donate a certain amount of money to the Mefi pot and you get put on a probationary period and if you screw up you're out for good, as is your sponsor. Maybe even institute a peer review after 90 days? Too much? Too harsh?

Or maybe make it easier for a current (lurker) user to close and donate his/her account to a new user, as humuhumu did above?
posted by shoepal at 9:46 PM on August 10, 2004


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