The demise of Mefi August 30, 2001 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Metafilter is making me sad. (more)
posted by solistrato to MetaFilter-Related at 12:03 PM (79 comments total)

Has anyone else noticed that something has been...off since it came back up? That there are a lot more senseless posts? That the tone of conversation has veered towards outright hostility? That the same tired debates (Bush bad/good, Israel/Palestine, etc.) are still recurring? That coming here is starting to feel like a daily habit, and not a good one?

I normally wouldn't start a "MeFi sucks now" thread, but it definitely feels like something is different, and I don't like it. Is anyone else feeling this vague, unformed sense? Is it just me?

Maybe we should have a blog meeting about it.
posted by solistrato at 12:09 PM on August 30, 2001


No, I'm getting the same thing. I do still read the posts & the comments & everything, but.. something's changed. I think a big part of it I've definitely noticed is a lot more hostility -- where before we'd have some thinly-veiled ad hominem attacks, it seems now we've veered more towards outright insults in the "Oh yeah? Well fuck you!" vein. Don't get me wrong, I still love MeFi and (for the most part) enjoy reading it, but I think the userbase is definitely evolving into something far different from even a few months ago.
posted by zempf at 12:22 PM on August 30, 2001


Hell, I've only been here a few months and I think you're right. Time and again I see some inane comment and click on the user profile to find that they've been here 2 days. I think maybe we could wait it out.

Maybe some people think I'm just as annoying as these people...but I do my best to be a non-mean goofball.

The idea behind the new group doesn't seem to be to create any kind of useful discourse but only to tear down what's already there. That gets old EXTREMELY quickly, unless you are about 12. It's kind of like the Something Awful mentality. Jeff K was funny maaaaybe twice, but after a while is as annoying as top 40 music.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:26 PM on August 30, 2001


I vote for member names you wouldn't be embarassed to tell your mom about as a civility measure.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:38 PM on August 30, 2001


I think we are all seeing on the horizon that MeFi will be unmanageable to read if it continues to offer new membership without some sort of *cringe* karma system to weed out dead threads and double posts. I think the wait time for posting a first comment and a first front page post should be evaluated as well. I think some restraint among even the ol' timers is needed too. I've felt especially non-poignant lately, and vow to only comment on stuff that I actually have some insightful experience to relate. We could all handle a little less of hearing ourselves talk.
posted by machaus at 12:44 PM on August 30, 2001


I don't think member names have anything to do with it, or that censoring "naughty" names would do anything but impede creativity. In and of themselves, they're not hurting anything. I do agree, however, that since the Return, there seem to be more necks out - and more axes swinging - than in the past. Open hostility from newcomers (tit), but also vitreolic responses from veterans (tat). We should probably simply sit tight and see if it lasts; ten days of a more rancourous MeFi does not a crisis make.
posted by Marquis at 12:44 PM on August 30, 2001


I got flamed slashdot style in the past few days. Not only was it hostile and rude, but incorrect. MeFi has been a place for a good exchange of ideas and things would get heated, but the outright hostile blasting should be reserved for slashdot.

Can we only allow post privileges to those with e-mail addresses that are posted?
posted by vanderwal at 1:02 PM on August 30, 2001


Perhaps we should each ask ourselves if we have truly been policing ourselves. This includes not only smacking users that are rude/obnoxious or avoiding f**cked threads, but also contributing meaningfully to good threads and posting non ananova/yahoo stuff.


We can take back MeFi.
posted by Avogadro at 1:10 PM on August 30, 2001


Not only do the latest batch of rude comments and disgusting links make people like me uncomfortable, but the condescending comments from the MeFi elite (those with user IDs < 5000 or whatever) bring down the positive idea flow too. I've been afraid to comment on anything simply because I have a new ID. I've been visiting for several months, but by the time I decided to sign up, the form was down so I couldn't sign up until after the 20th, or during the so-called downfall. That makes me a newbie, unfortunately, and I wish I didn't have to feel nervous to post because I haven't been properly initiated.


But between the troublemakers and their rotten.com links and "fuck yous", and the people who snap about the good ol' days, you have a bunch of us who would rather sell our IDs on ebay (once an ID under six digits becomes de rigueur) and just leave instead of possibly contributing something cool. Then it will really be sad.
posted by lnicole at 1:12 PM on August 30, 2001


Can we only allow post privileges to those with e-mail addresses that are posted?

Perhaps.

It seems that ever since the faucet was turned back on, 1 in 10 new users are good. I expect that if you could draw a graph from day one until now, it'd be a continuous decline. At first, only hyper-interested individuals participated, and now many just login to post an insult. I've banned a handful of people in the past 24 hours for this behavior, all along with emails about it, but haven't heard back from most of them.

It has to be harder to sign up, or no new signups at all, but then we lose that 1 in 10 good poster that has something to add. I guess I'll do the email authentication stuff, so everyone must have an email address. I'll consider requiring people to expose their email address as well.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:12 PM on August 30, 2001


I have not been that active lately for some of the reasons discussed here. I've been going through crap in my own life. There were too many times where I realized I would just spew bile if I posted a reaction to someone's careless hostility.

I have a hard time giving up Mefi. I trust Matt and those members that continue to put their energy into making things work. Hopefully once I get a job (it's been a while) and my life gets a bit more stable, I will find those 'good links' to post here again.
posted by john at 1:35 PM on August 30, 2001


Not only do the latest batch of rude comments and disgusting links make people like me uncomfortable, but the condescending comments from the MeFi elite (those with user IDs < 5000 or whatever) bring down the positive idea flow too.

This is very true. One of the things that I have also noticed is that, oftentimes, the rude comments are coming from folks who have been around longer. I do not mean to bash newbies (as we all once were such), and I do hope that you do post and comment, because folks like you are needed here.
posted by Avogadro at 1:41 PM on August 30, 2001


How about requiring that new users wait a (long) while before posting anything including comments?

Also, Matt, can you track their visits? Require that they've viewed at least X number of threads and that they've visited at least Y number of times during that Z-day wait period? A key part of this is not publicizing the exact rules beyond the waiting period, as well.

Would that get rid of lots of good people? It would certainly weed out some of the reactionary first-timers and force them to wait a while and get used to the site before they go off.

Also, it would most likely kill future DPGs, Zippity BOPs, and baby deity aliases.
posted by daveadams at 1:42 PM on August 30, 2001


Obviously my plan won't solve problems due to permanent bad attitudes. :)
posted by daveadams at 1:44 PM on August 30, 2001


Although to be fair, I think today's been a good day. The green tech thread, the Eggers thread, the rapatronic photos, these are posts and threads I've enjoyed more than anything in the past couple of months.
posted by claxton6 at 1:46 PM on August 30, 2001


Also, it would most likely kill future DPGs, Zippity BOPs, and baby deity aliases.

*cries*

Oh well. Price of freedom, eternal vigilence, etcetera.

How about requiring that new users wait a (long) while before posting anything including comments?

I don't know that this is such a great idea; I've jumped into online communities before simply because I wanted to participate in one discussion that was going on right then. It seems unduly punitive to people like lnicole, as well.

On the other hand, once people have made a nuisance of themselves, there's no reason to make it easy for them to get back online -- when we kept getting visited by PrivateParts/RightWinger/FreeSpeech, was that because Matt wasn't blocking his IP or because he kept going to different Internet cafés?
posted by snarkout at 1:48 PM on August 30, 2001


If things get too bad, it seems like a good way to clean out the trouble is just flush out all the registrations from metafilter. You'll either have to remake your account or just re-activate it some way (probably better idea). That way you only get the people who visit the site often, no more "you 5-digit bastard" stuff, and no more multiple accounts.
posted by Laugh_track at 1:58 PM on August 30, 2001


I like the idea of having users "earn" the right to post as a compromise between the perceived elitism of having only approved posters and the crap-o-rama free-for-all MeFi is now experiencing. Perhaps a little quiz they have to take, or only posting after a week or 10 comments, whichever comes first. How about attaching karma to posters instead of posts?

posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 2:00 PM on August 30, 2001


I haven't been reading MeFi as much since it came back, mostly because the summer is busy and so am I. However, I had popped over to Metatalk to suggest that, at the very least, membership be capped for awhile, at least two months. There have been an ever increasing number of daily posts, and I expect Matt is finding it harder to moderate threads, and manage trolls and their ilk, in an effective way.
posted by tranquileye at 2:07 PM on August 30, 2001


It has to be harder to sign up, or no new signups at all, but then we lose that 1 in 10 good poster that has something to add.

If I was inventing a community like this today, I would use some kind of Advogato-style trust model where new users have to be recommended by an existing user and all recommendations are shown on user profile pages.
posted by rcade at 2:22 PM on August 30, 2001


Ok, f--- it, here goes.

l33t.metafilter.com -- an invite-only community weblog. One hundred charter members hand-picked by Mr. Haughey himself.

I'm about 2/3 serious.

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more. I love this place...or at least I used to...and I miss what it used to be.

Please commence calling me an elitist pig.
posted by jpoulos at 2:22 PM on August 30, 2001


was that because Matt wasn't blocking his IP or because he kept going to different Internet cafés?

If I recall correctly, in y6y6y6's hilarious/terrifying email exchange, PrivateParts indicated that while Matt had indeed blocked previous IPs, he had access to multiple others through his job.

MeFi definitely has been suffering, and I've been bailing on many, many threads lately. That said, this thread is giving me some hope and some ideas.
posted by Skot at 2:27 PM on August 30, 2001


I agree with Mr. I-hate-5-digit-people, Laugh_track (That's sarcasm by the way, I happen to know the bastard personally) and that's a very good idea. Boot everyone and require email validation to get back on,
but,
dig this
announce where to go (like, topsecretsignup36825.metafilter.com) through the provided email address. That way, people who didn't provide a legit email address wouldn't be able to reenlist.
posted by fuq at 2:32 PM on August 30, 2001


i dislike the idea of attaching scores to posts, in support of a karma system (which does not necessarily have to use the slashdot score-for-every-post model), because i think it just gives everyone an excuse to post off-topic. i often worry if, when i post, people think i am grandstanding -- but i worry more that, if you implement a karma system, a lot of people will try to grandstand in the hopes of upping their karma.

you know the old adage that, when you're angry about something, you should "sleep on it"? i think metafilter could use a shot of that in the arm -- not in posting comments, but in posting links. it just seems to me that a lot of links are posted in kneejerk reaction: Israel v. Palestine, George W. Bush is Stupid, ad nauseum. yah, the posts may be news in the sense that they haven't been posted to metafilter. it just seems to me that a lot of posts are made not to promote civil conversation about something interesting, but rather to serve as a place-holder for people to vent about something that they have strong opinions for. and, not surprisingly, people get upset at each other's comments, and they start cursing at each other or calling each other idiots, and worse. i consider links posted for that purpose anti-community, and i think that for that reason they do not belong on metafilter.

lnicole:

as long as you're honest in your posts, and reasonable, i don't think you need to worry about being attacked by the self-appointed elite. if they do, then they're simply being assholes, and hopefully most people will see them for what they are.
posted by moz at 2:34 PM on August 30, 2001


*subscription*

One-off fee of $5 (£3.50) - paypal - if it's good enough for Salon...
posted by johnny novak at 2:37 PM on August 30, 2001


*subscription*

One-off fee of $5 (£3.50) - paypal - if it's good enough for Salon...
posted by johnny novak at 2:37 PM on August 30, 2001


I recently started this thread and was pleasantly surprised at the helpful and informative replies I got. Granted, it only got eight comments, but that was enough to restore some of my MeFi faith.

What ever happened to the proposed $5/month "MeFi Titanium Membership" doohummer?
posted by Shadowkeeper at 2:40 PM on August 30, 2001


and fines for double posts
posted by johnny novak at 2:41 PM on August 30, 2001


I think signal to noise is a problem too, there's no filtering going on.

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

Would it be save to block any front page links to yahoo & annonova's ap news section? Sometimes I feel like CNN stole MeFi's stylesheet when I read all the headlines posted for discussion.

posted by Mick at 4:14 PM on August 30, 2001


Moz: I'd like to second that emotion regarding the never-ending debate links. Granted, I've certainly posted my share of links criticizing or picking on Dubya - I've done my best to frame the discussion to be more than just "Shore is dumb" or conservative-baiting, because I actually am genuinely curious about alternative viewpoints. However, it seems that MeFi is in danger of becoming freerepublic.com with stylesheets.

It's easy to blame it on the newbies, and certainly there's been a fair share of them posting *ahem* unusual links. But we've definitely reached some sort of tipping point (who mentioned that in the other MetaTalk thread?) after which this place could seriously go downhill.

And it's also not fair for Matt to have to worry about the whole damn site. One guy to look after 10,000 members? Impossible, and I'm amazed the damn thing has gone as problem-free (from the outside viewpoint) as it has.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with MeFi, but it was mostly because I used to shoot my mouth off a bit and then would feel dumb for having done so. I think Metafilter can be a great place, but I don't think any system of scoring comments or whatnot is going to help. To be honest, if I wanted that, I'd go to Slashdot. The completely open and freewheeling nature of MeFi is its unique appeal, and I think it's the reason it's been so successful. My fear is that any sort of system would be an artificial hindrance.

We are approaching Phase Three of Metafilter's life. Phase One was when it was basically Matt's blog with a few guest stars. Phase Two was the incredible explosion. Phase Three is popularity and all its undesired effects.

So here's my suggestion for how to ensure that MeFi survives and thrives in this new phase:

Metiquette.

There is already an ad hoc version of this. We as a community know what works and what doesn't. What I'm suggesting is that these informal rules be codified into a document that people will read upon joining.

I'm not suggesting terms of service or rules or anything like this. Basically, I'm suggesting guidelines to make people better posters, better commenters, and better readers. You know, suggestions on how to post links for maximum impact, how to comment to make the thread worthwhile, how to deal with heated debates and flaming, that sort of stuff. Someone could violate these suggestions, but then the community could police them, as has been done before. Everyone an admin, as it were. ;)

I'm proposing that instead of putting systems and rules into place to stop people from fucking up, I'm saying we educate them so they won't fuck up. I'd be happy to throw my two cents in on this sort of project.
posted by solistrato at 4:27 PM on August 30, 2001


A couple of people mentioned that the same old tired debates are still occurring here on Metafilter (examples: Bush good/Bush bad. Israel/Palestine). They say it as though it's a bad thing. But not all of us are as informed on these issues as we'd like to be. To my mind, the solution is not to avoid the debates, but rather to increase the quality of the posting.

Matt probably doesn't need anybody else telling him what to do, so I'll let him figure out the appropriate solution. I'm just saying, don't knock a debate just because you're tired of it... society's most important issues are generally the most volitile and the most discussed, but not everybody joins the discussion at the same level.
posted by gd779 at 4:43 PM on August 30, 2001


err, "volatile".
posted by gd779 at 4:44 PM on August 30, 2001


A waiting period for new members posting would come with a price. Occasionally, the creator of a cool site that gets posted may want to drop by and join the discussion. It has happened before. I remember the filmwise thread, where one of the guys' roommates came by to put in his two cents. And if we're going to rip on somebody, Wil Wheaton for example, he should at least have the opportunity to defend himself. We'd lose something by limiting first posts.
posted by gimli at 5:17 PM on August 30, 2001


gd:

i don't know if you're referring to me or not when you speak about the bush/palestine thing, but i don't believe any post on either of the two are bad in and of themselves. informed discussion is fine, and i believe that the link description is a good predictor of what kind of discussion will go on in the comments section. ParisParamus' thread on GW Bush, for example, was horribly worded. unsurprisingly, tensions arose in the comments forum.

i think that the best and most practical solution would not be to make sure every poster is educated and civil; that would be too hard, and the chances of infraction too many. where to attack the problem is at the source: the link descriptions.
posted by moz at 5:25 PM on August 30, 2001


My thread was good! the intro was bad.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:44 PM on August 30, 2001


Theory: August dulldrums=less stuff going on=more attitude to fill the void.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:09 PM on August 30, 2001


True, but I'd pay $5 a month in order to never have to go through it again.
posted by machaus at 7:14 PM on August 30, 2001


Okay. My two cents (AUS, so only 1c US):

I'd like to see a filter to filter out posts with certain words, such as "Doublepost", "Zippity" and "Facist/Communist/Redneck.. etc". That way I could probably turn off all the crap posts without restricting what other people do.

Failing that, I'd like to see a longer waiting period.

Failing that, I'd like to see a little page that comes up on making a post (not a comment). It would have a little list of check box questions. Sample questions should include:

Is this post free of George Bush references?
Is this post a link to Ananova?
Is this post about Micro$oft?
Is this post shit stirring for no reason?

If the post gets all ticks, it gets through...
posted by Neale at 8:42 PM on August 30, 2001


a couple points:

Karma (or grading) and threading systems are solutions to mass posts. Have we reached that point? Plastic.com's posting is way below the quality and quantity here and they use karma/threading to bring up the handful of readable posts. Maybe after x amount of users/traffic/posts you're forced to move into the karma/thread method.

Subscribing and freezing new users are elitist no matter how you look at it. Subscriptions are forgivable if MeFi is about to go under because of cash.

I don't see the dropping of discussion quality as being MeFi specific. Lots of boards are heading towards a AOL chatroom for angry teenagers/college kids style crapfest. I remember when fark.com was starting off, it was a big joke with lots of hilarious posts. Now with a million hits a month its boards are more of less a "fuck you, fuck you too" fest.

I think its to early to start building a moderation system. If concerned members make an effort to ignore a troll and raise discourse above the level of, say, cable TV we'll do just fine.

Has anyone considered that a lot of MeFi'ers just didn't come back? They spent 2 weeks at plastic or slashdot or wherever and just don't care to contribute anymore. I've noticed some familiar names are no longer here and I've also developed a mental list of newbies that just suck. Don't take that as ALL newbies suck, just a few post happy newbies stick out in my mind.
posted by skallas at 9:11 PM on August 30, 2001


I can understand about the ad hominem's - I've JUST been called a bloodthirsty barbarian (wee!) - and I got a kudo post in the same thread. But I guess what I'm asking is, OK, someone like me - a somewhat conservative, corporate-friendly, often at odds with the Mefi establishment type - going to be even more marginalized by Metiquette? I like Mefi, and I want to stay. But I make my points vigorously. Never personal, but sometimes strongly worded. And they are often opposite the consensus. And I tend to post a bit more often than most. I just worry how I and people who are like me might fare under a metaKarma system. I'm personally pretty thick-skinned, but constant battery from the libs along with a bad kama rating might shove out solid newbs who might otherwise provide good devil's advocacy.
posted by UncleFes at 9:28 PM on August 30, 2001


Just had an idea - how about a rogue's gallery? If someone vetted spots a shit disturber, he gets a warning; if he keeps it up, he gets put on a page where regulars can figure out who's worth replying to and who's worth ignoring...?
posted by UncleFes at 9:32 PM on August 30, 2001


I'd have to echo Kafkaesque. I've only been here a few months, yet I've noticed things have been extra rough since the 20th. I've been coming less, and often poring through old threads instead of bothering with the new ones. (Although, there were a few good links today.)

If a relative newbie can make some suggestions – a working email should be required. It's a privacy tradeoff, but it seems part of the problem is posters who don't really feel accountable, and it might help that a little.

I think link posting privileges could stand to be drastically curtailed. Make the waiting period a month or so. No restrictions on commenting, for the reasons gimli gives.

A secret escape by the old-school members isn't going to help. That's basically abandoning MeFi, and there are things that can be tried before people start jumping ship. (Or maybe I'm afraid I wouldn't be invited on the lifeboats...)

A $5 fee: you'd rid yourselves of the poor & ignorant, but lose the poor & insightful. And you might be surprised by the number of rich & ignorant folks who would glady pay money to swear at strangers. Also, wouldn't it be a little trickier to ban someone if they've paid?
posted by D at 10:02 PM on August 30, 2001


Sorry to keep spouting off, but clarifying/codifying some of the unwritten rules would really be a good thing. It took me forever to get a feel for some of the limits of acceptable behaviour here, even after going through old MetaTalk threads, which I imagine most newbies wouldn't bother with. But I think I could help with that process, being relatively new and all, if anyone is going to kick that off.
posted by D at 10:07 PM on August 30, 2001


Usually all these folks really want is to get their yayas out in front of the public -- don't matter too much who the public is. If you try to shut them up, you end up w/ further angry words from them.

$5 username purchase price sounds fine to me.

Or... how about an area for folks to screw off in? A 2nd board for all things crappy? Metafuck.

I can imagine some serious problems, and it's no guarantee. The biggest serious problem being that Matt may not actually want to host crappy stuff, which makes total sense to me. But it might boost the signal a bit by diverting some of the noise.

To make it more effective, transport crappy links posted on metafilter over there. Maybe leave the initial post and an indicator? To make it self policing -- 3 votes to fuck it and it goes automatically.

Thinking aloud...
posted by daver at 10:12 PM on August 30, 2001


I don’t know. The same complaint crops up every month or so. It was always better in the mythical before. I suspect people have a tendency to forget about all the garbage they filtered out to get to the handful of great they remember and celebrate.

That said, I think the problem is that with so many users it becomes difficult to educate them as to what makes for a good post or discussion.

Several people have recommended a /. approach. I suspect the fact that we don’t have that speaks volumes to Matt's reluctance to go that route for some reason.

Here's an alternate thought though - what if nobody could post to the front page? What if all posts went to a limbo type of second level page. If each thread had a promote to front page link, and some number of the MeFi community had to say promote this to get it to the front page, then it would be easier for new users to see what is considered good here. As an added bonus people who have become disheartened by viewing all links could skim the gold off the surface for a while to build up their tolerance for the diversity that is MeFi.

posted by willnot at 11:17 PM on August 30, 2001


Oh and Matt -

If the measly little 1.1% of the total donated to MetaFilter that I contributed carries any weight, I would like to vote for not requiring e-mail addresses. I know people think it would help, but I don't, and it would probably mean that I for one would not continue in this community.

posted by willnot at 11:46 PM on August 30, 2001


i'd like to know why people are so paranoid about having an email address listed on their member profile. if you don't like yahoo or hotmail, have you tried evil email?
posted by moz at 12:31 AM on August 31, 2001


sheesh...this has got to be on of the most honest, best and true threads that I have seen on this board. I do not agree with alot with what is said above, but the fact that it is talked about is excellent.

It s high time that MF grew up.

Thank you solistrato. Check marks to you.


posted by tp3wen at 12:50 AM on August 31, 2001


condescending comments from the MeFi elite (those with user IDs < 5000 or whatever) bring down the positive idea flow too

As a sub-1Ker, I'd have to say I agree with this sentiment as well. Ironically I came across this thread when I was going to post one about how the 10k+ers had added some interesting thoughts and spin to the dynamic of Mefi in the past few days. Granted, there will be some growing pains but I tend to feel if people want things like karma, or ratings -- well there's always Kuro5hin and Slashdot for that. One solution is probably just some of us helping out matthowie administratively rather than getting rid of Mefi's uber-democracy.

It's sort of like everyone saying "MTV used to play music" -- but I've been down that road before...
posted by owillis at 2:39 AM on August 31, 2001


I really get a lot out of Metafilter. I find myself sharing with friends all sorts of things I’ve learned here.

email addresses are a good thing. That’s why hotmail and yahoo exist.

And I don’t see any thing wrong with a waiting period, personally I observed a long time before I made the leap. (the recent leap at that)

$5 a month, no problem.

People’s actions speak much stronger than their user#. The current antagonism between recent members and long time members only seems to fuel the negative atmosphere. I was very interested in joining MetaFilter because of some of the conversations happening here but I can’t say that it has been a very welcoming place.

posted by mmm at 6:08 AM on August 31, 2001


I too am not so hot on karma, as I still get a lot of noise on /. that I could really do with out. Good posts get moded down by the same noise makers.

I am curious as to why a member would not want to have a valid e-mail registration. I have e-mail I use for signing up and posting on the web, which is tied to a pretty good spam filter at yahoo. I don't often post my addresses I cherish. I have no problem with e-mail to sign-up (obviously) if it is non-scrapable (javascript seems to work alright). But if someone would expand my mind as to why they would leave MeFi if they had to use an e-mail address.

I am somewhat concerned that some wonderful newbies may take this whole discussion as a slap against all of them and feel like they are unwanted. MeFi needs new blood as does any community. It seems many of the old regulars are off on vacation (burning man and such) much like March around SXSW time.

I have hope that MeFi returns to its wonderful state again or close to it. As I hope MeFi does not sink into the fate of many of the other wonderful communities I have enjoyed since 1992. Pricing plans, popularity, spam, limited access time, and other fates have doused wonderful digital fires where people came to share stories and gems they found.
posted by vanderwal at 6:20 AM on August 31, 2001


Every time I read a metatalk thread like this, I get more and more disheartened. The same themes get rehashed, nothing changes, and the decline of MetaFilter continues nearly unchecked.

Look, I understand that people want to be as inclusive as possible, and I understand the libertarian bent of many of you net geek types ("geek" is not meant as a pejorative, ok?), but the simple fact is either some rules get implemented and somebody takes action, or things get worse.

Individual user action is good. Some people are making efforts to post better threads and ensure more reasoned discussion. But it only goes so far. That is to say, it's helping, but only in a limited number of threads.

You can't whine about the loss of community on one hand and then protest the usual mechanisms of a community on the other hand. E-mail verification is a must. If you're not willing to be held to that level of responsibility, then you wouldn't be welcome in a real-world community, and you shouldn't expect to be welcome here.

Yes, we might lose a few good members, but we'll lose mostly chaff and encourage other good members to participate. We're going to have to accept that having a responsible community means that some people aren't going to choose to participate. When you have an irresponsible community, plenty of people also choose not to participate. They just don't make as much noise about it when they disappear.

I'm also in favor of front-page posting limits, limiting posts for new users (not a waiting period, but perhaps an n post/day limit for the first couple of weeks), and, especially, much faster and more severe action against miscreants.

And before any hard-core libertarians start in about how oppressive all these suggestions are, I hope they'll think about the current policy of self-policing and how poorly it's worked as membership has increased. I don't like the idea of getting rid of people any more than anyone else does, but if people misbehave, there should be consequences.
posted by anapestic at 6:41 AM on August 31, 2001


I'm not keen on $5 a month - just a one-off fee for commenting and posting rights - stops people randomly joining to troll - but allows people to see what kind of thing goes on here and join if they think it's for them.

I did mention tipping points in another thread and I do believe the growing exposure is taking Mefi to this point - I suggested a karma system in that thread - on reflection I'm less sure.

Money/karma - not sure - but I do believe we need more checks and balances.




posted by johnny novak at 6:45 AM on August 31, 2001


I'm amazed that we've made it this far into a "The Decline and Fall of MeFi" threads without bringing up this old chestnut. Yes, "The Natural Life Cycle of Mailing Lists" has been linked in MeTa time and time again, but I still think it's relevant. And even though I'm not enjoying or participating in MeFi very much any more (though I can't resist at least a daily fix — "addictive as crack" is right) I'm not sure the site hasn't reached the "Maturity" stage. Seriously, take a look; this stage is marked by a fairly stable community, with occasional flareups of excessive postage, general annoyance, and conflict between old guard and newbies. Consider the possibility that the site is just going through a particularly ugly such flareup after the hiatus, and that This Too Will Pass.

Still, this is the worst such flareup I've seen, and even our glorious leader has some concerns. I tend to agree that those who aren't willing to register so much as a throwaway hatemail hotmail account for the admins are unlikely to be much of an asset to the community.

Also, I can't help but wonder if the topic base hasn't become a bit too broad. Warning: Theoretical Meanderings Ahead. I've been thinking about how I'd build a MeFi-like system if I were so inclined, and one idea would be the ability to split the message base if necessary. Then, if a recurring topic starts dominating conversation a bit too much, I could spin off a sub-site and shift that particular discussion there. For example, if you could split off all the vitriolic "red vs. blue" type postings of the last year into their own "PolitiFilter" page, it seems that might take a lot of pressure off the front page. Of course, this is much easier for a lazy schmoe (who hasn't even implemented comments on his own site) to suggest than for the dude in the hot seat to implement.

Even if I choose not to stay on as a member of this community (which may be as much due to changes in myself as changes on the site) I would like to see this site continue to grow and thrive.
posted by harmful at 7:28 AM on August 31, 2001


Please, please tell me that I am not sitting here, reading a group of adults honestly debating the difference between assigned user numbers and their associated quality/'elite' meaning.

There is no difference between any now and any then, and it's merely the human tendency to forget history that provides us with that illusion. Secondly, to call Metafilter a community is laughable - a place to go and find links and then discuss/debate them, sure. Anything more than that is a delusion of grandeur.
posted by gsh at 8:22 AM on August 31, 2001


So you can't call MetaFilter a "community," but it's OK to call it a "place"? Gotcha. Let me know where you stand on MetaFilter as a region, area, backfence, or superhighway.
posted by rcade at 8:41 AM on August 31, 2001


My take on this is simply that it is "a bunch of people finding their balance"


Forget "community", forget "place". It will happen when it happens. No amount of metatalkiing will further that.. It will become what it is, whenever that day is.


There is no solution. Only threads like this one will make it better.


secondary thought --------

hmmm....methinks a cheeseburger is in my future
I gots to be going.
later kids


oooohhhhh babay babay
posted by tp3wen at 9:07 AM on August 31, 2001


[willnot] I would like to vote for not requiring e-mail addresses. I know people think it would help, but I don't, and it would probably mean that I for one would not continue in this community.

Thanks for letting us know, but why would you quit? I'm being serious here. For what reason would that be a deal-stopper in your continued participation?

Personally I think email verification is mostly pointless in stopping one-off accounts and trolls. It's easy enough to create a Yahoo mailbox and then drop it after it has been used. But it's nice to have a way to get in touch with members without having to use Mefi itself.

If a member doesn't want his email address revealed to the general Mefi population, why not have an option to hide it but a form somewhere on the site where other users can type up a message that gets sent to the registered email address without revealing the address to the sender? That's how the Motley Fool boards work by default, and it works great.

[gsh] please tell me that I am not sitting here, reading a group of adults honestly debating the difference between assigned user numbers and their associated quality/'elite' meaning.

gsh, are you reading the same thread I am? User numbers have come up, but only as a joke or a timeframe reference. No one is debating the significance of a usernumber to the quality of a user's posts. I'm sure user 11000 will have just as much of a chance to have something interesting to say as user number 673 does (actually, he would probably have a much better chance in that case), and I'm sure we all agree with that.

[anapestic] I'm also in favor of front-page posting limits, limiting posts for new users (not a waiting period, but perhaps an n post/day limit for the first couple of weeks), and, especially, much faster and more severe action against miscreants.

I think pesty's idea here is a good compromise between my original suggestion (Make 'em wait a month!) and the free access to posting they have now. I still think they should have to wait a long while before they are allowed to post to the front page. But giving them a max of 2 comments a day for the first few days and then upping that gradually until its unlimited is a good way to introduce them into the community. There could always be a mechanism whereby a new user who wanted to use more than his alotted comments could go to a form on the site, plead his case, and have his case reviewed by Matt or some delegate.

I also think it would make it easier if Matt would share some admin responsibilities with users he trusts. This will, of course, inspire those who feel put-upon to cry elitism, but I really think it's the only way to keep up with the admin responsibilities. Assuming Matt trusts anyone here, that is. :)

He would have to have ways of backing out of decisions made by delegates, and tough decisions that delegates were unwilling or unable to make would be forwarded on to Matt.

Just some ideas. (And willnot, respond about the email, I really am interested.)
posted by daveadams at 9:24 AM on August 31, 2001


Among all the other bad stuff people pointed out, has anyone else noticed that the average number of comments per thread has risen. I remember when good (what's good is subjective of course) threads had about 30-40 comments; now we're up to 70-80 or something. Not good, cause we'll eventually end up like the CNN or Yahoo! boards with 3049 messages.

Allow me to say that I haven't read all the comments (over 50) in this thread, just the first 20 or something.

As someone else already said, I believe the best solution for MeFi is:

1) to become invite-only. Current members inviting other members, etc. We've already got like 11k members. If we don't go to 'invite-only' mode, the thing will blow (as it already has begun to). Oh, and karma-rating sucks. Don't even mention it. Once karma is here, I'm out. (nobody cares about me, but I just want to say that karma-voting is one shitty mechanism).

2) force users to give their e-mail addresses and have them posted in their member pages.

There you go. Apply these rules, and you've got a better place already.
posted by kchristidis at 10:45 AM on August 31, 2001


Is this post free of George Bush references?
Is this post a link to Ananova?
Is this post about Micro$oft?
Is this post shit stirring for no reason?


Debate isn't inherantly wrong. Let's not censor certain topics because people feel strongly about them. You can't compare politics & technology issues to Ananova and trolling.

To my mind, the solution is not to avoid the debates, but rather to increase the quality of the posting.

Absolutely.

Let me say this: I saw this thread yesterday, and resisted posting to it because I wanted to give MeFi a few days to bounce back (to its state prior to Matt's vacation). And I think we will....we're getting back into the swing of things.

But I can't answer "how do we get back to where we were __ months ago?" Or maybe there is an answer: we can't.

We do, however, have a responsibility to guide neophytes by conducting ourselves with civility, and being helpful, not hurtful, when a newbie slips up. (E.g., double post, a rude comment, Ananova link, etc.)
posted by jennak at 11:20 AM on August 31, 2001


I agree jennak, while recently I was being part of the problem (posting a stupid link in a stupid manner), I have since apologized have resumed behaving like a normal, functioning, and polite human being again (well, for the most part).

MeFi will bounce back. It's bound to have a few bad days now and then.

posted by tj at 11:33 AM on August 31, 2001


On second thought, Matt, could you check the referrer logs to make sure some hax0r site hasn't declared war on MeFi? Like, "Hey, everybody go to this site, make an account, and then post the most mind-numbingly inane comments you can!"
posted by harmful at 12:40 PM on August 31, 2001


I have been reading MeFi since it started, but did not sign up as a user for qiute sometime. I do not make many comments or post many links, but I read almost every thread. There are some I skip completly. I skip a thread that has no description or one that makes no sense, I do not read them. As to the profanity, it seems to me that in late summer and late spring it goes through cycles. This cycle does seem to be worse than ones before. Most posters will stop with the silly posts if no one reads them or if you do read them refrain from being drawn into a silly debate about nothing.
posted by bjgeiger at 1:25 PM on August 31, 2001


wow, thanks for letting me in the club! </sarcasm>

Seriously, I appreciate the people whose comments made the rest of us who have great things to say feel welcome, but I feel that some of the other solutions that have come up here might add to the problem. Maybe most of the new people need to feel welcome to post here, instead of feeling like they're trying to fit in with the popular kids at school. When people feel like they're trying to break down the system, that's what makes MeFi flame-bait.

Metafilter is a weblog that anyone can contribute a link or a comment to.

Invite-only MeFi isn't MeFi. It's special-clique-of-metafilter-users.com. I believe that domain might still be available if that's what y'all really want.

I believe that MeFi is a community, and its members to have the right to maintain a level of standards for their community. What happens when an undesirable element moves into your real-life community? How would you solve that problem of hooligans with loud music blasting from their homes at night and uncut front lawns? Well, you could lead by example, and show them how it's done correctly where you live, or... you could move.

No one should have to feel like they need to leave. Therefore I think we should just find ways to politely remind people of the way things are done in MeFi-ville, and "quit double posting, you newbie shithead!" might not be it. Complaining about it on MetaTalk doesn't solve it either (since it gives off the impression that you're talking behind someone's back). The stuff on the About page of the site sums everything up, and should be made more prominent. I actually didn't notice it until this discussion came up.
posted by lnicole at 1:34 PM on August 31, 2001


Complaining about it on MetaTalk doesn't solve it either (since it gives off the impression that you're talking behind someone's back).

MetaTalk keeps MetaFilter from getting bogged down in conversations about the site and the way people behave here.

You don't have to move to stop loud music and unruly neighbors. Do what I did: Move into one of those obnoxious covenant-governed communities where your neighbors can order you to mow your lawn if the grass goes uncut.

P.s. Go Eagles.
posted by rcade at 1:45 PM on August 31, 2001


Thanks for letting us know, but why would you quit? I'm being serious here. For what reason would that be a deal-stopper in your continued participation?

1. It's invasive
2. There isn't a single thing MetaFilter needs it for
3. The only thing that could come of it is more e-mail and I already get enough
4. In fact e-mail could lead to private discussions, and I'm only interested in MeFi for group discussions
5. It doesn't solve the problem it is intended to solve
6. In fact it works against finding solutions to the problem it's intended to solve

--Invasive--
A couple of people suggested that a society in real life would never allow a member who preferred to maintain a degree of anonymity. OK - what if there was a bar where interesting people met to show interesting things and discuss what was shown. Sounds pretty good. I'd be inclined to frequent the place. Now what if they required you to wear your valid phone number pinned to your chest. How many people would like that? Not me. But wait you say, here's a free cell phone. Just use this number. To extend the analogy, I've already got a phone at work, at home, a cell phone and a pager. I get hundreds of calls a day. I don't need another phone, and I don't want any more phone calls.

--What Does MeFi Need it For?--
Amazon has my e-mail address. They need it to tell me my orders have shipped or that there was a problem and a piece of my order wouldn't ship. The MeFi group projects mailing list has my e-mail address - they need it to send me the projects the group is working on. MeFi is a public web board. Anything I need or want to know about MeFi happens on the board.

--I Don't Need More E-mail--
As I already indicated before, I get 75-150 e-mail messages a day. I have at least 5 active e-mail addresses and dozens of dead e-mail addresses. I use filters. I'm sure I could manage to deal with an extra 1 or 2 message from MeFi each month/year/whatever, but I don't want those messages. I don't want to be compelled to deal with them as a consequence of participating in MetaFilter. Messages are already filtered and in context as a result of being posted on the board - I can come at my convenience and sample as much or as little as I care to pay attention to. For me at least, e-mail tends to be more pay attention to me now, and it's harder to ignore.

--Private Versus Public Discussions--
How could e-mail addresses possibly be used? Matt or some other member could send messages off-line to tell posters that their points were particularly good, bad, offensive inappropriate, whatever. In all cases I believe it is better to do that in the context of a thread where lurkers can benefit from that message as well. I don't need MetaFilter to be another place where I can meet and talk with people 1 on 1. I like the dynamic of the group. One idea leads to another. "Oh, that's a great point and by the way this..." I believe that anything that undermines that dynamic does MetaFilter a disservice.

--It Won't Fix Anything--
Ah, but people feel free to be more vitriolic where there is anonymity. In my experience that is simply not true. The worst flame wars I've ever gotten into happened in e-mail not Usenet/Web Boards. It's the computer not the lack of a name to tie a personality to that strips the humanity out of it and lets people say inappropriate things. An e-mail address won't be a magic bullet it will just lead to other negatives (in my opinion).

--It Works Against Fixing It--
We always say that MeFi is self-policing. People who violate that conventions of the place are taken to task for it. If that doesn't happen publicly, but in some secret backroom of an e-mail exchange, then others who haven't posted yet won't have the benefit of the lessons taught.

posted by willnot at 2:11 PM on August 31, 2001


3. The only thing that could come of it is more e-mail and I already get enough
4. In fact e-mail could lead to private discussions, and I'm only interested in MeFi for group discussions


I have to agree there. The only email I've gotten from having my address posted on my profile are scorching emails sent to me from anti-smoking people because of some things I've said here who only saw one comment from the entire discussion. (who also failed to see that I had quit)
posted by tj at 2:23 PM on August 31, 2001


Willnot, in what concerns your explanation for the "it won't fix argument", Mr. DesignForCommunity Powazek says that indeed people feel free to be more vitriolic where there is anonymity. Just another opinion, you know.
posted by kchristidis at 2:35 PM on August 31, 2001


A quote from person who pisses me off more often than not.....

I really get a lot out of Metafilter. I find myself sharing with friends all sorts of things I’ve learned here.


well said sir. very well said. good on ya.

this is community. he pisses me off, but I am ready to listen to his arguments.

OW - cheers mate. Keep On Keeping On. thank you for pissing me off. I wouldn't have it any other way.


Cheers Pal!
posted by tp3wen at 2:35 PM on August 31, 2001


willnot --

I agree with most of your e-mail comments. I still like the valid e-mail address, but maybe posting it publicly is not required. Most of the vicious comments are coming from folks with no e-mail or non-valid e-mail. In one of today's posts MeFi friendly conduct was suggested and that got flamed. The e-mail even privately, like Amazon providing comments about information you need, a reminder that this is outside accepted behavior and like many communities can cause the user to be bounced.

It took me quite a while to get back to posting e-mail due to some similar problems I had in the past too.

All of us have found some great stuff on MeFi and shared some great experiences. Most of the etiquette is to help enjoyment not to be stuffy or a snot.
posted by vanderwal at 4:54 PM on August 31, 2001


The best idea would be to cap the new users and make invite *except* that wouldn't foster any kind of new ideas. We'd have the same people agreeing on everything. That's really not fun at all. I would have to say that MeFi was VERY good when noone could sign up. I think this is a detterent for some people.

Say only have signups at the first week of the month? That allows people to lurk. It could even be every other month. That would allow people who really want to contribute to do so, while weeding out the "one-time-post" people.
posted by geoff. at 5:36 PM on August 31, 2001


How about having the signup URL change every day and having a robot post that day's address for the signup page inside an explanatory comment that is randomly attached to one of that days threads? Raises the bar a bit, and gets a higher percentage of people that actully read comments. Sort of an invitation only thrown out where lurkers would see it.

Also, I think the thread on the college kid has been good, even if there is a lot of room to raise an eyebrow at actually posting her name and links to her name (yeah, I read those links, too).
posted by NortonDC at 7:39 PM on August 31, 2001


One thing that I haven't seen much talk about in the "too many new users" debate is the rather lengthy period that the 'join' form was down. I'm in the same boat as lnicole - I've been lurking for 3 to 4 months, but I couldn't join until sign-ups were reinstated. Is the sudden influx of new users an aberration - related to that "backlog" of waiting lurkers - or is it the regular pace of growth that MeFi can expect in the months to come?

I definitely agree that the recent tendency to attack rather than debate is worrisome. But should we be looking at it as a long-term problem that requires fundamental changes in MeFi's structure, or as a brief flare-up that only needs strong short-term control?
posted by brookedel at 3:11 AM on September 1, 2001


No one should have to feel like they need to leave. Therefore I think we should just find ways to politely remind people of the way things are done in MeFi-ville, and "quit double posting, you newbie shithead!" might not be it. Complaining about it on MetaTalk doesn't solve it either (since it gives off the impression that you're talking behind someone's back).

are you kidding? people don't say "quit double posting, you newbie shithead!" -- why do so many people have the impression that they do? the whole point of metatalk is to find the "ways to politely remind people of the way things are done" -- but anytime anyone actually does do this polite reminding they get accused of having written "quit double posting, you newbie shithead!"

and metatalk isn't behind anyones back. that's the point.

i really think that the accusations of low-digit members pulling rank are way overstated. it's not that older members pull rank on, say, the 6000s, it's more that often newbies aren't familiar w/ the ways of metafilter and are corrected by any established member of the community (that could be someone who's been posting for three weeks and often is!) -- but whenever a newbie is publicly corrected (often necessary because no email address is listed in their profile) that correcting person is accused of pulling rank and being inhospitable.

i also feel the frustration that anapestic mentioned at the fact that this is a recurring MeTa thread but nothing ever comes of it. something has to give.

as for the invite-only idea -- i like it. it wont prevent the community from having diversity, we already have a very diverse crowd, and if everyone was able to invite new members that diversity would be reflected -- also it wouldn't really keep anyone out, if a new person stumbled upon mefi and wanted in, i'm sure they could pretty easily ask an established member to invite them.

2. There isn't a single thing MetaFilter needs it for

yes there is. mefi needs it for quietly correcting you when you step out of line. it's necessary. i'm willing to lose those members who refuse to list their email addresses. peace.

personally, i haven't contributed much of anything to metafilter in a long time -- this is the first time i've seen the "decline of MeFi" issue directly manifested by a drop off in posting by many of the members that have been prolific, intelligent and responsible posters -- a trend that feeds off itself and is bad bad bad.
posted by palegirl at 4:27 AM on September 1, 2001


reading these posts, most start with I, me, etc. Like real life. What is expected of MeFi. i know its stated "purpose". i think it falls far short from its lofty intentions. I hear this crap, no more anonymity etc. Horse shit, one cant find willnot (sorry will not, i remember your still "over there") I think the old MeFis are pissed about other members having this avatar thing. I will say this, if one uses an AVATAR, YOUR A WEAK FOOL, your socially inept and probably have issues that worm itself into metafilter like a disease. I thought of e-mailing a few members, ones whos info and integrity i could trust, i may, but my list has about three names on it. WHY? do you want to know who someone is. that baffles me, you gonna marry my sister, come over a have a drink and talk politics? So i actually support the end of anonymity if it would expose the avatars. Because then, they would become an unreliable source and i could make fun of them to mask my own deficiencies....:)
posted by clavdivs at 8:32 AM on September 1, 2001


palegirl -

I see what you're saying, and please understand that I wasn't trying to generalize. But I believe that what we're trying to figure out is why even the most seemingly polite reminders don't end up being so polite.

Anyone can feel free to email me at the email address which is now listed on my profile page if they would like me to expound on what I just said or if they would like to correct me, in case I seemed too sensitive.
posted by lnicole at 8:50 PM on September 1, 2001


I agree that gentle chiding ought to be done on MetaTalk or privately in an email so that the offender doesn't feel the need to defend vociferously on the MetaFilter thread itself. But I also think just ignoring obvious flames/trolls will encourage them to find somewhere else to go. Maybe we all need to exercise a little more self-restraint when a poster makes us angry.
posted by mjane at 12:15 PM on September 2, 2001


We've reached LambdaMOO, 1994-5. Right down to the numbers racket.




One thought, other than "think before you submit": it might be worth a volunteer effort to categorise decent posts according to subject matter in DMOZ.org style. One thing that has wearied me -- and I suspect, not just me -- is feeling obliged to restate basic things on each bloody thread, which makes participants testy to begin with, as well as making it harder to get any kind of subtle dialogue until comment 147. If there were an archive based around a dozen or so of MeFi's "hottest topics" (Bush, environment, medication, cheese etc) it would make it less of an excavation to recall older discussions, and give people things to read before they start writing.
posted by holgate at 4:16 PM on September 2, 2001


Camembert kicks ass!

oh! sorry! wrong thread.
posted by Kafkaesque at 6:02 PM on September 2, 2001


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