What are the economics of metafilter? May 24, 2005 11:37 PM   Subscribe

What are the economics of metafilter? I assume that everyone gets some enjoyment out of posting things of interest (in economics terms, intrinsic motivation), but what sort of extrinsic payoff motivates posters in terms of posts -- number of replies? controversy? "this is good" statements? [more]
posted by blahblahblah to Etiquette/Policy at 11:37 PM (47 comments total)

The implications are interesting, since it means that, over time, posters who like controversy (easy to create) could outlast posters who like pats on the back (harder to get). This might cause a long-term shift in the balance of FPPs. Any thoughts? Anyone observe differences in drop-out rates of controversal vs. non-confrontational posters?
posted by blahblahblah at 11:39 PM on May 24, 2005


Actually, all of the above. Sometimes posts are so good there's no thread - there's no need to comment. It would be nice to have a clickthrough tabulator to show just how many times the links were clicked as a metric for those threads.

Controversy, snarkin' and flingin' poo is fun, too. So are pats on the back. So is the sharply honed and/or bombastic commentary. The peanut gallery here is so chock fulla nuts it's halfway to fruitcake.

Also fun is seeing some of the amazing intellect and top-notch debating going on, and often pulled out and formed in real time and in very short timeframes. Sometimes it's like a Wild West showdown in the streets at high noon, but with words, ideas, references, supporting links and sometimes even diagrams and pictures.

But then, once you get hooked on teh crack, do you really care all that much about the meta-details of economics? Nah.
posted by loquacious at 12:22 AM on May 25, 2005

I think that Flamewarriors describes a lot of the reasons why some people post. That said, a lot of MeFi FPPs rise above Flamewarriors (yes, even the political ones). Some people are out to prove their points, some people are out for the spirit of the debate, some people get their rocks off on pissing people off, some people get their rocks off on being approved.

I think you'd have to break things down into political/non-political since there seem to be major differences in the way the threads run. Within that, there seem to be a variety of different players, including of course the troll.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:56 AM on May 25, 2005

I think some of it is about a quest for affirmation. A small subset belongs to the "shake them silly to wake them up" philosophy --but brains bang around the head that way. I guess, economically, it should be about transactions being more important than self-worth.
posted by gsb at 3:48 AM on May 25, 2005

I post soley for the appreciation of madamjujujive. Except for that recent chomsky post ... that was just a feeble attempt at arson on my part.
posted by crunchland at 4:12 AM on May 25, 2005

posters who like controversy (easy to create) could outlast posters who like pats on the back (harder to get).

increased rarity = greater value
posted by biffa at 4:37 AM on May 25, 2005


if demand {increased rarity = greater value; }
posted by quonsar at 5:18 AM on May 25, 2005

I love it when you talk clean.
posted by biffa at 6:39 AM on May 25, 2005

extrinsic payoff
posted by airguitar at 7:03 AM on May 25, 2005

...and I so appreciate those posts, crunchland! Keep them coming. But while we are at it, you are falling down in the grape peeling department.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:14 AM on May 25, 2005

As I see - red-faced - that I figure way too high on list linked by airguitar - I think I'll take the occasion to explain, and then fade out.

Over the years I have posted fairly intensely on a couple of lists, one to do with language teaching, and one to do with anthropology. Getting involved in the conversations that took place was both fun and educative; I learned more from those lists about both domains than ever I did from the text books.

I also found that I was writing more than I had before; when I came off the lists - each one for a different reason, but I suspect that list members always move on in the end - I was able to be more productive than I had been for a while. I think that it had a positive effect on what I was doing in 'real life' and that that effect could be felt by others - students and colleagues.

Then I found myself in a fallow period again. I stumbled on MeFi. Some of it looked dire, some of it interesting, and some of it good fun. And I got drawn into it, as I had been drawn into those other places. I've always found that it's when you are active that you learn.

In the end, neither the number of responses, nor the pats on the back make much difference. FWIW, I think that of my own posts, it's probably the case that those with very few responses were the more interesting - for other people, at least. Certainly I notice a number of posts that are low volume which I find of greater interest than many of the high response posts. At first I would drop a word off on such a post, making some encouraging noise or other. But I won't be doing that any more; to my mind, it's a little condescending - and it only ups that bloody index.

Oh, and I really hate the posts that take ordinary people who are using the net to talk to their buddies or to themselves or to no-one in particular, and hold them up to the MeFite light. It's like pointing at people in the street. It's really not cool.
posted by TimothyMason at 9:20 AM on May 25, 2005

I consider it a treat to have matteo, quonsar, jonmc, orthogonality, amberglow, AlexReynolds, etc. to even look at my post. Getting a comment from them is a bonus.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 10:01 AM on May 25, 2005

Nice standards you've got.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:18 AM on May 25, 2005

Dispite whatever their reputations may be at the moment, they are well-known amongst the community, and I respect that.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 10:21 AM on May 25, 2005

posted by C17H19NO3 at 10:23 AM on May 25, 2005

Hrm. Did something happen to their reputations recently? Why is their well-knownedness "respect"able? Someone who spends 12 hours a day reading and posting to MeFi happens to read and/or post in response to something you've written, and it's a "treat?"
posted by Kwantsar at 11:02 AM on May 25, 2005

I try to quietly set a good example. Until the inevitable day when I get really bored and start acting like a goon. Then I start over.
posted by sciurus at 11:51 AM on May 25, 2005

Number of users linking to me.
posted by orthogonality at 11:58 AM on May 25, 2005

I consider it a treat to have matteo, quonsar, jonmc, orthogonality, amberglow, AlexReynolds, etc. to even look at my post.

Dispite whatever their reputations may be at the moment, they are well-known amongst the community, and I respect that.
posted by C17H19NO3

Why not just link to the contribution index.

Unless you were trying to be funny (or you're in high school) that's really quite sad, and therapy might be in order. Adults tend to leave value based upon popularity behind with their childhood, especially when (in some cases) popularity is based upon quantity and not quality.
posted by justgary at 12:12 PM on May 25, 2005

[this is good]
posted by knave at 12:19 PM on May 25, 2005

posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:23 PM on May 25, 2005

My count of the current value of this thread, based on the responses:

0 new people linking to me (orthogonality's standard)
1 [this is good] (my personal standard)
2 visits from C17H19NO3's list of special people (C17H19NO3's standard)
1 post in praise of madamjujujive (crunchland's standard)
? people educated or enlightened (TimothyMason's standard)
2 (mild) insults to other posters (one of loquacious's standards)
A soupcon of ineffability (monju_bosatsu's standard)

Hmmm, I think I will leave it to history to judge the post's value, since the quantitative approach isn't looking so hot.
posted by blahblahblah at 12:32 PM on May 25, 2005

actually, justgary, I am in high school. (BTW I think you're wrong.)

I also happen to think that some oftheir posts are pretty damn good.

Yes, even Kwantsar.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 1:14 PM on May 25, 2005

Well, I dunno about the rest of you guys, but I get a check for my threads monthly. It's based on comments, and times accessed. I'm thinking of quitting my job, and just going full time postin'.

Oh...a more philosophical economics question, I guess.
posted by graventy at 1:41 PM on May 25, 2005

I know what you mean C17H19NO3, I didn't wash my monitor for weeks after quonsar blessed my first post *heart flutters wildly*
posted by squeak at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2005

Oh, and I really hate the posts that take ordinary people who are using the net to talk to their buddies or to themselves or to no-one in particular, and hold them up to the MeFite light. It's like pointing at people in the street. It's really not cool.

posted by languagehat at 2:54 PM on May 25, 2005

I got nobody to talk to in my native tongue, damn near, here in the wilds of Korea. I am forced to get my conversational wordplay jollies on the web, for the most part.

That sucks, but you take the good with the bad being an expat type.

Also, MeFi is TEH CRACK.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:31 PM on May 25, 2005

The money, the chicks, but mostly the subtle humor from dreamghost and moift.
posted by NickDouglas at 7:11 PM on May 25, 2005

I post and comment mostly because Metafilter is like a really big soapbox on a really busy corner. (Thanks Matt.) And often 'cuz I'm a wackjob with nothing better to do.

By the way, what does it mean when someone links to you? Should I be flattered, insulted, or afraid?
posted by davy at 10:22 PM on May 25, 2005

contribution index.

Damn. I don't even show up yet. I need to hire a team a typists so my arm won't get crippled, and someone to feed me between babbles; I might catch up with y2karl by 2009 if he keels over soon.
posted by davy at 10:25 PM on May 25, 2005

Why not just link to the contribution index.
posted by airguitar at 10:33 PM on May 25, 2005

I can't speak for anybody else, but I'm into MetaFilter the sex.
posted by scarabic at 11:58 PM on May 25, 2005

From George Orwell's Why I Write

1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen -- in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all -- and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money .

2. Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

4. Political purpose -- using the word "political" in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples' idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

I'd say that was applicable to Metafilter.
posted by Kattullus at 12:11 AM on May 26, 2005

? people educated or enlightened

MeFi does very well on that front. Just recently, there was the post on rhetoric, the one on Civil War photographs, and so on and so forth. I've harvested a huge number of links that I can recommend to students and to colleagues.

But it's also fun; like the cat doing the drum roll on the kid's head or those russian robot-dancers - and wasn't it here that I found out about the Cannibal Rabbit?.
posted by TimothyMason at 3:56 AM on May 26, 2005

Though I had to wait forever and a day to get myself on the MeFi ("accounts are closed for now" "Metafilter is expanding" was up forever) I had started reading it years ago. Ultimately, I wanted to contribute something back. I guess for me, its being a part of a community (albeit an online one) that is the most appealing. And even though #1 doesn't like it, the injokes that are a part of MeFi I think are what help all of us think of this as a community. Sure it may be slightly insular (I really needed to know what the PepsiBlue references were about for a while) but when you do find out what they mean you've not only already invested something in finding out, but I think it helps you feel like a part of the cognoscentii in a way. Like a rite of passage.

I post when I find something interesting that i'd like to share. OR more likely, if i need to know something at AskMe. I get information out of it, if we're still talking 'economically' and I get (most of the time) intelligent conversation. (And I work in Washington DC, so I don't get a lot of that offline.) If something's not either of those, I just filter it out. Or i don't read it.

At the risk of sounding sappy, for me MeFi is not like anyplace else on the web. It IS as addictive as crack. And some o' my pals who do the fark or the drudge or whatever they're like "why don't you join up with this biz?" and I'm like " cause i've seen something better." They call MeFi pretentious, myself included. Whatev. I just think we're all lucky to have everything here fall into place as well as it does.

Alright, I'll stop. /cheez
posted by indiebass at 2:43 PM on May 26, 2005

I'm pretending to be pretentious now. Tomorrow I'll go back to pretending to be unpretentious.

(Hey scarabic, you feeling special yet?)
posted by davy at 10:17 PM on May 26, 2005

I stay here and read for those glorious moments when someone says what I would have said, only they say it much better than I possibly could have. Bonus points if it's snarkier than I would have been, too.

Also I am always looking for places to mention that Mars Saxman gave me scabies in 2001. So watch out on that mefi sex!
posted by beth at 6:22 AM on May 27, 2005

I come here for the mental stimulation, so badly needed in my line of work. But as for why I post... there are lots of usernames on here that when I see, I think "I know that person. They usually have good things to say". And so I have a vague goal of other people thinking that about me.

Also what beth said, but she said it better.
posted by squidlarkin at 8:08 AM on May 27, 2005

I just like typing.
posted by delmoi at 9:07 AM on May 27, 2005

For all of it's problems, Metafilter is an island of light amid the chaotic wastelands of the web. It's something that people want to be a part of. I'm not sure how to make economic sense of that.
posted by Loudmax at 11:15 AM on May 27, 2005

This is where the majority of my current friends reside...that may sound sad, but it should flatter you that a normally very socially active person would rather have a grip of friends online and rarely meet them than have friends in Teh Reel Whirled. I lurked for about 6 months before I decided that $5 was infinitely worth it, and frankly there is no place I'd rather be.

How in the hell did I pass quonsar on that list? #12, wow, didn't think I'd posted that much...
posted by schyler523 at 3:25 PM on May 27, 2005

I come here for the mental stimulation, so badly needed in my line of work.
Me too--i'm not at all exercised at work (except politically). And i have a big mouth (obviously). I learn and find out about stuff i never knew about every single day here.
posted by amberglow at 3:38 PM on May 27, 2005

describing interaction here as "economics" is one of those things
posted by amberglow at 3:49 PM on May 27, 2005

I just like typing.

roffl! Delmoi wins!
posted by loquacious at 4:12 PM on May 27, 2005

Yeah, you're not going to do much better than delmoi's answer. Mine is the obvious education and fun, but also this urge I have to tell my friends about stuff I think they'd be interested in or products I think they'd like or ways they'd be advised to handle their personal crises. Now that this sort of behavior is associated with stealth marketing asshattery I feel self-conscious about it. I also don't want to be some tiresome Agnes Cravitzish busybody natter queen. I want my friends to ask me for advice when they want or need it, not force it upon them.

So AskMe is tailor made for me. Because people are asking, they want to know, and I can feel useful without being overbearing. It's a perfect release for the self-conscious nattering yentas of the world. And of course I like reading what all the other compulsively helpful people have to say; there's so many good tips, it's like yenta crack.
posted by melissa may at 4:49 PM on May 27, 2005

Metafilter: it's like yenta crack

(it completely is, and i'm one too) : >
posted by amberglow at 5:16 PM on May 27, 2005

Kattullus writes "I'd say that was applicable to Metafilter." [on Orwell]
I think the binding characteristics of this place are the variation, extent and quality of input be they links, discussion or advice (and yes, even snark *sometimes*). It satisfies the itch we all share which is a profound desire for information, in all its nuanced forms. The economics are pretty subjective 'though and like life, there's different payoffs for the same things at different moments in our lives. One day it may be mood lifting to get a pat on the back, the next such feedback can be viewed as trite piffle. Sometimes we get off on joining in a debate and at other times just watching and smiling from the sidelines at the erudition, exegesis or wanton humour. That's why I like it - it comfortably caters to my many altered states.
posted by peacay at 7:09 PM on May 27, 2005

« Older The Wacky Antics of user BushIsForEating   |   How to create a thread in Projects Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments