MeTa needs to catch its breath September 21, 2001 7:26 PM   Subscribe

MetaTalk of late has been living as accelerated an existence as the Mothership has. With complaints, controversies and crises coming in every few hours, it increasingly seems to me that MeTa needs to catch its breath. More inside.
posted by rodii to MetaFilter-Related at 7:26 PM (20 comments total)

A number of us have had thoughts, positive or negative, over the direction of MeFi, even before the recent hyperactivity, and I gather Matt has been having some thoughts of his own about its future. We've talked and talked here about the purpose of MeFi, the nature of good and bad threads, ways of socializing new members, the newbies-vs.-oldbies debate, etc. etc. etc. I'm feeling like there are a lot of issues in the air, and yet nothing is really being decided on or worked out. I wonder if it's possible or desirable to step back and try to figure out what the lessons should be of the past few days/weeks/months. Ideally, some think tank would send us to a cushy resort for a few days for a retreat to talk things over, but failing that, would anyone like to try and start doing that here?
posted by rodii at 7:28 PM on September 21, 2001

Sigh. Only because it's you, rodii.

What is the point of discussion if we cannot take action? What action can we take? This is Matt's playground.

I'm reluctant to talk in yet another circle.
posted by frykitty at 7:37 PM on September 21, 2001

Oh, geez. Where to start? We've seen a number of suggestions, including limits on the number of new users (after some of us lobbied to get signups reinstated), limits on the number of posts each user can make in a day, limits on how quickly new members can post.

The general feeling I get is that Matt is leaning very heavily away from limits. As always, it seems he's trying to let Metafilter police and take care of itself. However, I get the feeling that the discussions and users have gotten worse, and that's the signal is being thrown very quickly into a downward spiral.

How do we avoid this? Many people suggest leading by example, that new users will learn from older users. That doesn't seem to be working, as the older users seem more frustrated and easily provoked and just overall irritable by the tone of the current tone of discussions. Also, with so many new users, new threads, and long discussions, it's becoming more and more difficult to make any significant impact in a thread.

In other words, MeFi is just not scaling very well. And to be quite honest, I'm not sure how to make a site that worked extremely well with a couple thousand users support 10,000+. Any (new) suggestions?
posted by dogmatic at 7:44 PM on September 21, 2001

(Just to clarify, based on some feedback I got outside: I'm not trying to set up some ersatz "legislature"--just trying to provide a space for some reflection about things, to see if there's anything worth gleaning out of the recent chaos. What happens then? I don't know.)
posted by rodii at 7:49 PM on September 21, 2001

I'm not trying to set up some ersatz "legislature"--just trying to provide a space for some reflection about things

I had a big long post, but I changed my mind. Sorry, rodii, but it does sound like yet another circular discussion. I don't think I can stand it. I crave a facilitator with a whiteboard. Goals. Brainstorming. Solutions. The rest is just noise at this point.
posted by frykitty at 7:57 PM on September 21, 2001

My faith in Metafilter was renewed again today.

This is a very good thread. In particular, crasspastor's comment is, to me striking. Also read ciderwoman's comment, just two above crasspastor's. If there's another place online where people talk like this, I don't know where it is.

My point: we've gone through some hard stuff lately. Growth is never easy. But maybe things are getting better on their own? I think that maybe all we have to do is keep our standards high, communicate with respect, lead by example, and self-police vigorously.
posted by gd779 at 8:30 PM on September 21, 2001

As I see it, being around not too long, and not too much of a newbie ...

Matt has a whole junk load of stuff to get around to.

He can't always act as "Big brother" to us all. And with such a situation we need to either conform to our own personal etiquettes.

How we can achieve this? I am not certain.
Moderators? Who knows.

But, with this many members. And new members joining each day. Matt can not possibly be called upon to settle all qualms.

Or perhaps a legitamate email / ICQ form of contact so that fellow members can take that member aside with a refresher on what MeFi rules are.

In my opinion, it's pretty darn hard to enforce many strict regulations on a community that was formed on the good judgement of a few individuals to know what a "good - discussion-worthy post" was.

posted by a11an at 8:32 PM on September 21, 2001

Thank you gd779! You made my day. In fact you all make my day!

I'm gonna go whistle myself up to the bar now. . .

posted by crasspastor at 11:02 PM on September 21, 2001

I tend to agree that given the general idea of the place, limits will be bad, and probably counter-productive. I do, however, still(try to ignore the sniping in the thread, and yes I was part of it) think that The Rules need to go into writing rather than be these nebulous concepts new users are supposed to learn by osmosis. In general, the decent users will, but I'm sure all of you can think of a time with someone difficult when you've wanted to be able to say, "No, you ARE doing something wrong, and go here(link) to see why." And it has to go in the nav bar.

There will have to be real deliberation as to which ones do need to go in writing, as opposed to some others, such as quality of topic, that are purely value judgements and do have to be learned by experience. Double posting is a grey area but is being worked on a little. There are several things that are taken for granted, however, that don't appear in the about page, new user page, or the guidelines page, such as one of the biggest complaints right now: searching for previous postings of a topic. I read all three top to bottom, and there's no mention anywhere of doing this, nor are most people going to take the time to follow the links to get at this information. The nearest is a suggestion to look at older posts to get a feel for quality, but nothing regarding duplication. Is there another page I've missed?

In the end, though, Matt has to actually add it to the site, so I suppose it's a matter of waiting to see if he's interested in this at all.
posted by Su at 12:29 AM on September 22, 2001

This is a little tangential, maybe, but maybe somwhat germane : in response to what dogmatic was saying, "MeFi is just not scaling very well. And to be quite honest, I'm not sure how to make a site that worked extremely well with a couple thousand users support 10,000+", I've been curious lately about how many of the 11000+ users that have registered are actually active. Being the old-time math wonk that I am, I'd love to see some stats and graphs and groovy stuff like that to show how many users are in the Great Beyond (never to be seen again), ghosts (appearing occasionally and then fading into the woodwork), in some kinda limbo (not quite all here, but not quite gone), and still in the Land of The Living.

OK, I stretched that thin metaphor to its limits (image : Howie Mandel with condom over his head, inflating)... anyway, inquiring minds wanna know. It feels to me like there are a LOT less than 10K+ people around here during any given week, and if that's true, I wonder how much baseline scaling we're actually seeing....

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:45 AM on September 22, 2001

I'm not not necessarily saying that there are 11,000+ users that are all active, but. The amount of growth that has taken off during the past few weeks has been unprecedented and has been extremely difficult for the site to deal with.

I honestly hadn't thought about it before, but now that someone mentioned it, what's your official stance on moderators, Matt? The self-policing community idea seems to be failing, since no one appears to be taking it seriously anymore...And we know you can't take care of all the problems here. Aren't there maybe 4 or 5 other users that could be looked up to and serve as the voice of reason when any chance at normal discussion fails?
posted by dogmatic at 7:05 AM on September 22, 2001


That does seem to be what most community/message boards do ...

But, I'm just not sure if that is what Metafilter should do, I guess that it is inevitable to think that a single person can police a community of such a size. So some well selected voices of reason seems to be a relatively good road to follow.
posted by a11an at 8:18 AM on September 22, 2001

Yep, deputies. That's what Matt needs. You guys with 3- and 4-digit user numbers and the time and willingness to do it. Nothing wrong with members of a self-policing community doing a little policing. Getting some basic rules in writing is another excellent idea.

Just for the record, I've been visiting this site since the Brill's Content article came out, but only registered a few days ago. I really wish I hadn't waited to so long to do so, but oh well. MetaFilter's become pretty important to me, and I'd hate to see it degrade like some of the mailing lists I'm on.
posted by Dean King at 10:33 AM on September 22, 2001

posted by feelinglistless at 12:06 PM on September 22, 2001

One obvious and easily implemented rule would be to make an email address mandatory. MeFi is not about anonymity. It is about freedom. Price of which: responsibility.
Responsibility means answerability, above all. So all who participate should allow others to respond privately.

posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:09 PM on September 22, 2001

Following in Miguel's idea ... the email address should be thoroughly verified before someone's joining is complete ...

This, I think, would stop some people from just using a made up email addy.
posted by a11an at 2:34 PM on September 22, 2001

Although it won't do anything to stop people from using a free email service and then never ever checking the mail (with the acct being ultimately closed), it is still a good idea for contacting people. I've been trying to get a hold of Adnan for a while now...

Matt, I have some ideas on how you can obviate the first problem I mentioned. Write me.
posted by fooljay at 3:25 PM on September 22, 2001

One of the problems I can see with appointing a moderator panel here is the variety of beliefs we all hold. From moment one after the names are announced, I'd expect to see MeTa explode in complaints about how moderator X will suppress the views of ideology Y. Picking a panel of mods who represent all the major schools of thought around here wouldn't do anything except create discord and favoritism--and I've seen far too many communities wrecked by administrator infighting. I can't think of any ways around this problem, other than choosing saints as moderators, and I doubt there's anyone else here as universally trusted and venerated as mathowie is.

fooljay: wouldn't it be simple enough to disallow hotmail, yahoo, geocities, and a couple more of the most common freemail providers? If someone's dedicated enough to seek out a mail account off the beaten path, then chances are they're dedicated enough to post here.
posted by darukaru at 9:35 PM on September 22, 2001

Darukaru: I can create an account at my domain to give MeFi and never ever check it, either. Since giving even a real name is optional, there's no way for anyone to know the entire domain belongs to me, so it has to be assumed I just have that one account there. Same problem, in the end.

Telling someone they can't have an address from X provider is ridiculous.
posted by Su at 1:00 AM on September 23, 2001

darukaru, I wouldn't dare disallow hotmail, etc because there are people who legitimately use those services because that is the only email address they have. Besides, there are literally thousands of free email providers, many with anonymizing features. It would be a great big game of whack-a-mole.

Believe me. I spent a year of my life pondering and working on solutions for these problems...
posted by fooljay at 1:33 AM on September 23, 2001

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