Jason posted some thoughts
January 26, 2000 12:33 AM   Subscribe

Jason posted some thoughts on the growing popularity of MetaFilter, and how we might be able to handle it. I'd like everyone's opinions on several key points. Read my first comment to see the questions posed to the group.
posted by mathowie (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
(if you want to post a reply, you'll have to scroll down pretty far, this gets kind of long - not necessarily a bad thing because there may be many replies in the future, and each page might become this long)

I want to come up with some solutions. I've been coding a lot of things recently, but for the most part, they've been patches to the current way of doing things. I'd like to know what I should do to help sustain the good exchanges we have here, what has been forgotten, and how to handle the growth.

1. Moderated link posting - right now, anyone can instantly post a link to the front page of MF. Should I moderate posts by saying yes/no to them after they are submitted? This would induce a delay for posts. Should I grant a group of users "posting rights" instead? How should I determine who gets into that group? Should I leave things the way they are?

2. Display issues - I'd like to let people decide how much is stuff is on the index page. I can let users customize the # of day's links on the index page, currently it is 7. I can also cookie users when they visit, and then optionally show only posts and comments that are newer than their last visit. This would make revisits easier. I can come up with a scheme that allows both, would that be optimal?

3. The Floaty menu - several people have expressed displeasure with the floating menu. I can add an option to disable it from view, and when I do, I might make that the default. I can also make it customizable, so only the links you want to see are there, and I can also put the site navigation there instead of at the top, to make jumping to the search or archives easier. How useful is the menu to you? Would you like to see it gone or customized?

4. Moderation - should posts and comments have karma and allow filtering for highest scores first?

5. Comments - displaying lots of comments has in the past made separating them visually quite difficult. I've added two blank lines between posts, to break them up, but should I add HR lines or a graphic to separate it more?

6. Loose ends - I'm going to add the ability to edit one's link posts and comment posts, to minimize mistakes, and also adding more to preferences (like changing your homepage link, etc.). Is there anything else I have forgotten?

The traffic and membership have gone up considerably in the last couple months, there's now almost a thousand page views a day by almost 500 distinct IP addresses. Has the site gotten any slower in terms of loading time? Some of the suggested additions may add to that, as more database-webserver activity takes place.

I want to make this place great for everyone and appreciate you taking the time to voice your opinions, community is what makes this place great (at least for me).
posted by mathowie at 12:48 AM on January 26, 2000

My thoughts on the questions you have put forward:
1. Nearly every post I have seen so far has been both well phrased and useful to me, so I certainly have respect for the people who are posting. If things start to get unruly, I suppose you could designate two groups of users--those who have earned our trust through strong posts, and those who haven't. Put a delay on a particular user until, after a certain number of posts, you decide that user is trust worthy. Then grant full access. I'm not too enthusiastic about this two party system, but as Jason said, this community is only as good as the worst participant. I think putting a delay on all posts would unnecessarily slow things down.
2 and 3. Offering both dispay options would be great, if the code is within your reach; the more customizable the page, the better. Personally, the menu would be just as useful to me in the form of a side column of links. But it's really cool anyway.
4. No need for karma just yet. This kind of weblog is the future of news and info exchange, however, so if you start to get loads of posts, could turn out to be a handy and necessary tool.
5. A small character or graphic would help the eye distinguish one comment from the next. Perhaps a small arrow pointing at the first line of each comment?
Keep it up. This site is crazy silly fresh, if you ask me.
posted by sixfoot6 at 2:30 AM on January 26, 2000

I've added similar to feature to my site for a year now, and I don't see much unhelpful postings either. My two-cents: If the webmaster is focused on the kinds of links posted, the readers will be similarly focused. (SlashDot has too wide an area of focus, and hence would need moderation.)
posted by applesurf at 2:44 AM on January 26, 2000

Options 2, 3 and 6 would make the most difference in my eyes.
As a noderator on a Usenet group, moderation can be a controversial process - I don't think a site like this warrants it - I reckon there would be too many hurt feelings if someone got their post rejected.
posted by tomcosgrave at 5:27 AM on January 26, 2000

The reason I was attracted to MetaFilter was the fact that it was an open exchange of idea's and thoughts. Hence the term Interactive. The idea of moderating peoples links and post ie..censoring, sounds more like web elitist bullshit to me. I hope Matt doesn't take the "only the cool kids can post" approach to this site...like some of his peers hope he does. What will make this site great is the diversity of the people that will post here. Sure there will be post and links that wont appeal to me, but there will also be ones that do. Keep MetaFilter open Matt...its what makes your site refreshing as compared to all the other "follow the crowd" blogs.
posted by dangerman at 7:32 AM on January 26, 2000

The thing that attracted me initially to metafilter was the fact that it was "open". I realize that the logistics of the site could force some sort of moderation, but I'd like to see it avoided for as long as possible. I say leave it as-is for now, and to try the karmic approach before the posting caste system approach.

I somehow manage to differentiate between comments, but I can certainly see the benefit of additional visual cues. I hesitate to recommend graphics, because I wouldn't want to upset the current look and feel of the site.

As for the customization issues - I *LOVE* the fact that I can customize my experience here! I mentioned before that I'd love to see more options with the floaty menu, but I wouldn't have even considered it if it weren't for the fact that Matt has created that sort of environment.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 10:13 AM on January 26, 2000

As far as how to handle growth, you might ask the folks at memepool how they do it. I'm pretty sure they have a set list of people that are allowed to post, but maybe that's not such a bad idea.
posted by endquote at 11:08 AM on January 26, 2000

I've only been here a few days, so I don't feel I have much of a right to speak on the matter, but for what it's worth: I think if things get out of hand, and only if, I'd restrict posting to the main page and leave comments open to all. Would dearly love to be able to edit the floaty thing, it gets in the way on my sorry little screen @ home.

Caroline (who hasn't even posted on the main page yet)
posted by prolific at 12:54 PM on January 26, 2000

When running a site like this, there are a few issues that need to be balanced...too far either way and the usefulness of the site is thrown out the window:

- Volume. How many stories a day are posted? 2 is too few, 50 is too many. If the growth of the site continues as it has been, 50 stories posted in one day is not outside the realm of possibility....far too many for a site like this. People would be overwhelmed and stop visiting

- Quality. Is this site more like a newspaper or a bathroom wall? With the newspaper, one (hopefully) gets good quality writing with balanced arguments, etc., but the "interactive" quality is poor. With the bathroom wall, the writing is crap (sorry), but the collaborative effort is there.

- Vision/tone/style. Since this site started, it has definitely had a style (which you could also call a "brand")...due mostly to Matt's efforts. As the number of posters to the site increases, that style will undoubtably shift, sometimes from one week to the next. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's something to consider. My thought is that if people come to a site a few times and can't get a sense of a specific style or tone, it's hard for them to identify with the site and will seek their education and entertainment elsewhere.

Two examples: Slashdot has a well-developed style. Readers know what to expect from that site day in and day out. Cool Site of the Day, on the other hand, used to have a well-developed style, but they've lost their way in the past couple years. Are they about one quality link a day or driving traffic to their "business partners"?

- Post moderation. Too much can project an image of busy-ness...too little can result in the bathroom wall mentioned above. Metafilter is really pretty simple: links, commentary, and comments....is it too much to ask users to monkey around with karma, modifying the floaty menu, adjusting their filters, etc. It took me more than 9 months of reading Slashdot to modify anything, and only then it was because I had to do something about the rapidly shrinking signal to noise ratio.

Anyway, enough rambling. Matt, you know this, but it's your site and your decision. I think we all trust you to make a good decision. My advice would be to look at other online forums you frequent and ask yourself why you frequent them, what you like about them, what you don't like about them, and how they came to be how they are. If I had to pick a favorite on which to model a community, I'd choose Steve Champeon's Webdesign-L. Ideas and opinions flow freely, but the style and pace of the list remain largely the same due to Steve's efforts to keep it so. A wonderful combination that I like being a part of.

posted by jkottke at 7:20 PM on January 26, 2000

I see Jason's point on volume, but not on content , style, brand...whatever. I thought the point(or brand) of MetaFilter was the open posting and commenting of its members? If I wanted to get a single individuals opinion on what struck them as spiffy on the web that day...I would go to Jasons site, or some other weblog which most likely would be linked back to Jasons site.

As far as solving the volume problem...just limit the days posting size (like 10-15-20)...with a first come first serve policy. Speaking of policy...having one in place during registration might not be a bad idea. But lets leave that for another discussion.
posted by dangerman at 8:55 PM on January 26, 2000

When I say "style", I'm not talking about the purpose of the site. It's hard to explain (or rather, it's hard for *me* to explain), but what I'm talking about is the personality of the site.

The personality of a site can be conveyed a number of different ways. In Metafilter's case, several things combine to create its personality:

- Openess and community. Free interaction between different people and viewpoints.

- The design. Nice and clean. Easy to use, not intimidating, navigation is there only when you need it.

- Good commentary. Very even-handed treatment of material, no "agenda". Tone is nice but not sappy. No bitterness or crankiness. Smart. This is possibly the best thing about Metafilter's personality and the one that could potentially suffer the most from increased site traffic.

- Quality links. I'm not always personally interested in the links here, but they are never bad. And they are most certainly not (at least not until today) a link to the poster's Web site saying "hey, look at me!"

- Caring site producer. It sounds corny, but Matt cares, dammit! He wants to make sure your experience on this site is an enjoyable one. This personality trait can also be seen at the fray.
posted by jkottke at 10:41 PM on January 26, 2000

1. I'd suggest developing that capability on a group basis. The boom in traffic you're experiencing I would guess will drop off a little at least over the coming weeks but... if a problem becomes then you're ready to approach it with a solid fix that would keep the conversation dynamic for those users you know are responsible about their communications.
2 & 3 I like the look of MF but would very much appreciate being able to indefinitely disable the floating bar/dhtml. It'd be nice to have customizeability but don't see it as being a huge contribution to your site. Definitely not as big an issue as dealing with Q no. 1 if it should be a problem.
4. dunno
5. No. White space works. The change in font size and color create a visual marker which clearly distinguishes the comments--assuming they aren't frequently duplicated within the users' comments. I don't see clutter as somehow adding structure to a filled page. Increase the white space between ideas if the reservoir of distinction is depleted.

Thank you Matt. I am amazed & grateful too. MF is quite cool.
posted by greyscale at 7:43 PM on January 27, 2000

I hate Big Brother as much as the next guy, but the "reality" of the situation is that you can have a popular weblog or an uncensored weblog, but not both.

There are too many idiots out there that will take advantage of the situation once they find sites like Metafilter. I'd hate to see that happen, since I just found this place yesterday.
posted by vitaminb at 9:48 PM on January 28, 2000

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