Unsurprising posts:
June 23, 2000 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Unsurprising posts: Perhaps this should be in Metatalk (and certainly it's more Matt's business than mine), but I want the readers of MetaFilter to read it. Unless I'm confused, the point of a post to Metafilter is to satisfy two criteria:

1. It's interesting to the readership.
2. It's something they're unlikely to discover or encounter elsewhere on their own.

As I look at MetaFilter today, I see several articles which are nothing except digests of news events which I could just as easily have read at Reuters, or the BBC, or CNN, or any of half a dozen other normal web sites. Unless the post here includes an odd editorial slant, just what does it contribute that I can't get from those other sites?

To contrast this, we spent a great deal of time discussing Elian over a period of weeks, and many of those articles included links to the mainline news organizations. But these were means to permit commentary, not treated as ends in themselves.

If you want to tell us that the Dutch truck driver has been indicted, tell us something else besides which we can't discover by visiting CNN or Reuters or the BBC. And why were we told about the end of the hostage standoff in Fiji? What was added here beyond what I would have discovered on my own at CNN?

Unfortunately, what this looks like is "Gawd, this is neat! I want to participate, too!" syndrome. That part's fine, but before you say something, make sure you have something worth saying!
posted by Steven Den Beste (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
And people wonder why I don't post anything to MetaFilter . . . . . . . . . . .
Possibly you have time to visit the aforementioned "half a dozen normal web sites". Everyone does not. In Metatalk Matt mentioned yesterday how some people view MetaFilter as their on-line news source. Possibly Tiaka is one of those people, or was directing those people towards something she thought they might enjoy reading. Tarring and feathering for you, Tiaka!
posted by the webmistress at 10:59 AM on June 23, 2000

Well I can only say that Defense Attorney Jeffrey Zeldman put it best with "So not every post is a gem. Not every article in the newspaper catches my interest, either. So what?"

Kind of reflects my mood on topics here too (not to put Tiaka down, I mean this with topics in general).

It may not be my cup of tea, but it can (and usually does) spark interest with other MetaFilter members... and I say "Kewl".

< Shameless plug> Expect full coverage of the "Class Clowns/Village Idiot" trial aaaaany hour now at a weblog near you! (I have just been advised my counsel not to say any more)
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 11:01 AM on June 23, 2000

Now here's a post which gets it right.

Yes, it references an article in the regular news about John Rocker, but it also adds a personal slant and information I would not have discovered anywhere else.
Well done!
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:02 AM on June 23, 2000

Apolgies to tiaka - I typed 'she', and after visiting your site I see that you are a 'he'. I still think you should be tarred and feathered.
posted by the webmistress at 11:08 AM on June 23, 2000

I half-way agree with you, Steven, but I'm curious as to how far you'd go. All your examples are based on current events in the news. What about tech stories? Do you object when people post about Napster or the latest computer virus? Some of these things aren't covered very well on Cnn, but slashdot and www.pcmag.com probably do cover them in detail.

What about something someone sees posted on www.kottke.org? I've noticed that a lot of MeFi members read Jason's site, but I don't--so such a thread would be news to me.

So, I admire the sentiment behind "something they're unlikely to discover or encounter elsewhere..." but I don't see how to make it workable. What people are likely to encounter elsewhere depends on what else they read/watch/etc. And not everyone gets their news from the same places.
posted by grumblebee at 11:14 AM on June 23, 2000

The people that are so annoyed by the "painful" process of scrolling down to find a post that they consider worthy of being here, don't understand what a community weblog is anyway.

All this flak about posting standards and rules suggest that there is some sort of set community standard to the topical nature of a post. What community?

Enough with this "signal to noise ratio" crap. There is a lot less text on a day to day basis here then in your daily newpaper. There is more whining then actually doing what you preach and leading by example.

Yeah, I guess I'm in a pissed off mood today. I'm leaving work early and am going to play outside.
posted by john at 12:20 PM on June 23, 2000

John Rocker...boy, I really care about that. There is no way on God's Earth to make that even remotely important to me, or interesting. Simply no way. I could not care even the most marginal amount less if all of Baseball were to slide into a deep dark hole and die.

Luckily for you people who care, I am not the final arbiter of what is interesting and thought-provoking and what is not. So my take on events (that the Death Penalty should, nay must, be reevaluated...that the fact that people are forced to create a ship that will take women who seek abortions out into international waters is a dark sign of the death of personal liberty...that, to paraphrase a great man, man is born free and everywhere wraps himself in chains) is not considered the be all and end all of Metafilter. Far from it.

Fortunately, neither is anyone else's to date. Matt could do so, but as yet, he has not. Why does freedom seem to scare some people so, or annoy them, or what have you? Why must limits always be set? If you don't like something someone has to say, and you can't be bothered to come up with a cogent argument as to why they're wrong and engage in an exchange of ideas, you are always free to ignore them. No one will make you read anything here. Even I, were I not willing to try and make a point here, am free to simply move along and go elsewhere.

People read Metafilter for different reasons. Good. Some of us like it because it's an exchange of information and viewpoints. Some of us like it because it distills the events of the day and gives them to us with a bit of personal commentary. Some of us like it because Eric Brooks has a cute butt. Whatever floats your boat, as far as I'm concerned. (Sorry, Eric, but if I'd said someone else, I might have to worry about offending them, whereas you cannot be offended. Not you. :)
posted by Ezrael at 12:28 PM on June 23, 2000

indeed metafilter is more of a real life log than a web log. i rarely ever see anything web related on here (aside from the fact of it being on the internet), more so it seems to me to just be a site where people are posting current events and propaganda they found on some news site.

much of the reason why dont come here as often as i used to.
posted by sikk at 12:32 PM on June 23, 2000

(note to Steven: I say 'you' a lot in this bit, but it's not 'you-as-in-the-original-poster for the most part, it's you-as-in-the-general-you)

Why is it acceptable to say "Hey, this should be on MetaTalk, but oh well, I'm going to ignore my better sense and post it anyway" and then go on to basically say "Hey, you're doing this wrong." to everybody who tries to contribute? Steven's not the first and he's certainly not the last to do this.

I mean, really. This whole debate - what should and shouldn't be on metafilter - is a) OLD, and b) what MetaTalk's for.

I specifically rarely read and haven't posted to MetaTalk because I don't give a damn, but when the teaser-post takes up my entire freakin' explorer window it makes me give a damn.

Until Matt puts specific rules in the posting guidelines (thereby chasing myself and probably others away from MeFi forever) people are supposed to put what THEY find interesting, and what THEY think will spur discussion, as Steven so aptly pointed out.

And where do those rules get determined? On MetaTalk! That's what it's there for. So rather than chiding everyone for not following your perceived standards and guidelines, why not follow the explicitly stated ones, and keep MetaTalk in MetaTalk.
posted by cCranium at 1:27 PM on June 23, 2000

So sikk, why don't you post some interesting web-related items you'd like the Metafilter community to discuss? It seems to me we get plenty of web-related items of the type "Powazek quits!" or "Kottke sez weblogs suck!" And there's always lots of "Flash sucks!" and "Yeah, but not always!" going on.

If that's not what you're looking for, you have the power to post the kinds of things you do want to see. So what's the big deal?
posted by daveadams at 1:28 PM on June 23, 2000

Preach it Steven Den Beste, I think so too. I used to come here saying "COOL!" and then I'd pass the links on to everyone I know. But its inevitable, I guess, that this has kind of become a freeforall soap box for everyone to stand on if they'd like.

A typical weblog is one person posting their thoughts on the unique things they find on the web. This website exists to break down the barriers between people, to extend a weblog beyond just one person, and to foster discussion among its members.
posted by jamescblack at 3:00 PM on June 23, 2000

There's a good operational way of evaluating a posting after the fact to see if it belonged here:

If it's been on the system for a couple of days and no-one has felt the need to post a comment to it, it probably shouldn't have been posted in the first place.

If a large number of posts in a certain category all somehow seem collectively to inspire no followup at all, that suggests that that category collectively doesn't belong on MetaFilter -- not because it's wrong, but because there's been a collective judgement that it's boring.

I certainly don't have a 100% rating on my original posts on getting followups; some have been outright ignored, while others have inspired very long threads of responses. But I try to learn from what gets responses and what doesn't, and try to post more like the former and less like the latter.

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article about how impressed I was by an engineering project to build a telescope 200 meters across. No-one followed it up (except me). Evidently no-one else was interested.

So from now on I won't be posting any more pointers to articles about great engineering feats which are not related to the web and computers, because it is clear that the reading public isn't interested.

I think I would put it this way: my understanding is that the point of any original post on MetaFilter is to inspire a discussion. If it does so, it belongs here irrespective of its subject matter. If it gets ignored outright, it probably was a mistake to post it in the first place. (It's OK to make mistakes as long as we learn from them, and no-one's gonna bat 1000 on this.)

What I, at least, do not want to see is MetaFilter become a mirror for CNN. The potential exists here for something much more valuable, and CNN doesn't need the help.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:08 PM on June 23, 2000

Dangit. Now I have to say something about the engineering post.
I really liked that you posted it and that it was full of geeky interesting details which didn't mean much to me, but that you were obviously excited about. I thought that was neat. I don't think I would read a whole 'blog of stuff like that, but it was interesting that it sort of popped out of the background of MeFi the way it did. Maybe because I am interested in Keen Stuff, too, but in this case, I had nothing to add to what you posted.
I'd be happy to do a post about gecko feet that nobody will respond to, if that will make you feel less alone. In fact, the gecko feet might have to happen anyway, just because I'm obsessed with them.
I guess what it all comes down to is that There Is No Accounting For Taste.
posted by elgoose at 3:24 PM on June 23, 2000

I posted an article about how impressed I was by an engineering project to build a telescope 200 meters across.

I'm sorry, brother Steven! I *did* have a response to the that post. It was something like: "Good thing since Bane & Mr. Freeze blew up the last one".

I didn't post it at the last minute because sometimes *I even find me too obnoxious*.

I'll keep this in mind, bro!
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 3:47 PM on June 23, 2000

"Evidently no-one else was interested."

I found it very interesting. I guess I should have posted that comment. Well, better late than never. "Thanks. I liked that post."
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:58 PM on June 23, 2000

Well, first off, until such time as "read-counts" are implemented here, "response-counts" are basically the only feedback I have to work from. And on the telescope post I got jack response.

Second, I'd really like to emphasize that I'm not trying to set myself up as the "posting police".

posted by Steven Den Beste at 4:35 PM on June 23, 2000

That's what Harmful said back in "Blog Nicely III" about Memorial Day... I hadn't thought of it in that way.

Just because a comment wasn't entered, it didn't mean it wasn't read, appreciated or even agreed with.

I laugh my ass off most of the retarded remarks this guy says at his site, but I don't always add to his comments.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 4:37 PM on June 23, 2000

I think MetaFilter would be a much happier place if everyone stopped overreacting just because they aren't interested in a certain posted topic or article. If you get irritated when you see postings on MF that don't interest you, I think you should step away from the world of open forums like this. It's not a big deal to skip over articles you don't care about, and complaining about it won't get you anywhere but into people's bad books.
posted by Succa at 5:28 PM on June 23, 2000


because it would be sufficated by all the crap in the water. more likely the main problem is that you have 1000+ members 900+ of them are complete web newbies and/or idiots, and just one front index page that stores every single topic.
posted by sikk at 5:34 PM on June 23, 2000

Well, thank you sikk, for hauling up the hostile undercurrent of this thread and bringing it into the light, all slimy and squirming.
I have to say that if I quit reading MeFi, it'll be to get away from these panicky "We must save Metafilter from being overrun by the Visigoths who put up stories I'm not personally interested in!" posts, and the tacit contempt they carry ("I don't recognize these names and I don't care for these posts! These people must be newbies and/or idiots!")... It's like Maximum Rock n' Roll... all the punk kids griping about "What's happened to the scene??!?" Tiresome!
posted by wiremommy at 6:18 PM on June 23, 2000

no problem.
posted by sikk at 6:24 PM on June 23, 2000

Steven, et al...

I just had a revelation as to what works in posts. I don't feel like re-typing it so you can find it in the "Class Clowns/Village Idiot" thread since it ended on the note of people working out how to make effective posts that stir up discussion.

Dammit I'm a genius.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 7:19 PM on June 23, 2000

Um, Steven? Would it be worthwhile for me to point out here that number of comments doesn't correlate well at all with number of readers?

I'm certain of this, from the numbers of click throughs I collected before everyone decided I was a scumbucket, and I stopped.

I *will* note here, though, that this was a bit lengthy for a front page post. :-)

(And you *will* take the observation in the spirit in which it was intended, right?)
posted by baylink at 8:53 PM on June 23, 2000

I'll finish this in a private email... but I do want to say publically that I think you're a pretty cool guy, Baylink.

You know (and I say this to everyone), sometimes the voices of a few sound only like a majority.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 9:19 PM on June 23, 2000

"sometimes the voices of a few sound like a majority"
(even with a preview, I screw up)

No more private chit-chat, but I felt like a lot of people needed to hear that.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 9:22 PM on June 23, 2000

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