A corporate MetaFilter?
January 15, 2001 8:06 AM   Subscribe

A corporate MetaFilter? The editors of Suck present Plastic.com, a moderated web log with commentary, in collaboration with editors from about a dozen other leading cultural / news print and on-line zines
posted by MattD (50 comments total)
(This is the one not to delete, as it has a corrected hyperlink...
posted by MattD at 8:07 AM on January 15, 2001

Damn, where's my coffee this morning!!!
posted by MattD at 8:07 AM on January 15, 2001

*throws coffee mug at Matts head*

Here's your damn coffee!
posted by dangerman at 8:14 AM on January 15, 2001

The most amazing thing about this site is that it's using the same engine as Slashdot, yet actually looks GOOD.

posted by costas at 8:27 AM on January 15, 2001

Hmm... what is it with double posts today? This is the second, right? And, is it a mefi coffe mug? It better not be.

Yeah it looks pretty good.
posted by tiaka at 8:40 AM on January 15, 2001

Yeah, I've heard plastic described as a "slashdot of pop culture" so I guess you could say it's like a corporate metafilter. It seems like it's going to be an interesting site, that's for sure.
posted by mathowie at 9:08 AM on January 15, 2001

This ain't a bad-looking blog. Two problems though:

1. When I click on the category icon on the left of each article, I expect to see the same page format with nothing but contents for that category. Instead, it just brings me to a crappy search results screen. =(

2. I don't like the gray bar on the bottom of each entry. The "read comments" link doesn't require a different colored background, and the filtering links could go just as well on the right side of the top gray table.

posted by ratbastard at 9:35 AM on January 15, 2001

I bet Evolt is real happy about their logo thingie:



posted by ericost at 9:44 AM on January 15, 2001

If We're going to get picky here, I should that I don't at all like the white background. Hurts my eyes. (doh!)
posted by tiaka at 9:52 AM on January 15, 2001

Looking at the site again, the title for each post are too low of a contrast. Why they set white text on sky blue boxes is a mystery.

It seems the most important thing determining if I read a thread at plastic is whether or not the title appeals to me, and it's the hardest to read part of a post.
posted by mathowie at 9:54 AM on January 15, 2001

White-on-blue is 'supposedly' the most distinctive in contrast for the eye to pick up...but yeah...the lightness of this blue doesn't really facilitate that ideology. They should have paid obnoxious amounts of loot to mathowie for consultation, as Metafilter knows what's up in this area.
posted by Hankins at 10:08 AM on January 15, 2001

How did Plastic get Mirsky out of mothballs?
posted by rcade at 11:01 AM on January 15, 2001

Since Slashcode generates notoriously clunky HTML, they've obviously hacked the source a great deal to good effect. I'm impressed. It even uses CSS.
posted by dhartung at 11:22 AM on January 15, 2001

well, slash outputs a lot of it's HTML straight from CGI.pm objects, so it's pretty much hard, style-less code.
posted by tomorama at 11:32 AM on January 15, 2001

I'm absolutely positive that evolt wasn't the first to come up with three cubes. At the very least you could say they stole it from qbert.
posted by captaincursor at 11:50 AM on January 15, 2001

They seem to have a problem with the posts/comments ratio. They have so many editors and sub-sections posting so actively that threads drop off the page before they get a chance to develop.

Of course, it's only been up for half a day, so it may be a little too soon to tell. Hehe.
posted by waxpancake at 12:15 PM on January 15, 2001

Hmm, since it's by suck.com and such, I expect a lot of people to be on there. The great thing about mefi is, I know most everyone - 'yeah, this guy's a moron, and so is this one and that one' and such. heh. It's a tight community.
posted by tiaka at 12:35 PM on January 15, 2001

It's definitely a "corporate" site, though only in relation to dotcom content sites in general. Every poster seems to be a known "name," regular people can't post at all (we can comment and suggest, but we can't post), and as a result most of the posts are of things we covered here some time ago. By the time Big Web Media gets around to deciding it's worth talking about, we've already run it into the ground and moved on.

Note that in order to be allowed to post articles, you need to be an editorial employee of a commercial content site: Spin, The New Republic, Inside, Movieline, Gamers.com, Modern Humorist, TeeVee, NetSlaves, Nerve, or Wired News.

They report, they decide. :-)
posted by aaron at 1:44 PM on January 15, 2001

First big problem: It appears that all suggestions to the politics category will only be posted if they are approved by The New Republic. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader as to why this is not a great idea.
posted by aaron at 2:01 PM on January 15, 2001

I don't think either TeeVee or Netslaves is a business with employees.

I don't mind The New Republic picking political links as much as I think it's odd for one publication to run each category. If that's the case, wouldn't these things do better as weblogs on each publisher's own site? If the plan is to build a super-brand from whole cloth out of content from a bunch of other things, Steve Baldwin of NetSlaves should give them all a presentation about Time Pathfinder.
posted by rcade at 2:16 PM on January 15, 2001

It's just really, really dull.
posted by holgate at 2:35 PM on January 15, 2001

I just wonder if plastic is going to enter the linky-love of the rest of the weblog community. Also, does anyone find Tom @ Plastic confusing when we have our own Tom @ Plasticbag?
posted by Neale at 2:44 PM on January 15, 2001

Question: Is a Metafilter-like posting model possible at the Slashdot level? With intelligent moderation, incredibly efficient organization, and categories/sub-categories/sub-sub-categories, maybe. I don't know.
posted by waxpancake at 4:19 PM on January 15, 2001

"Plastic is a new model for news."

Yeah, right. How about "Plastic is slashdot minus the news for nerds and most of the stuff that matters." Honestly, I hope they work out the signal to noise problem and drop as much of the Suck attitude as possible, and that it becomes a great site to surf -- because hey, who doesn't like a great site? There are some smart people involved... but I'm not gonna get my hopes up.
posted by sudama at 4:25 PM on January 15, 2001

Cool domain name for this day and age. Did they buy it in a fire sale or have it in deep storage? Did plastic.com have a former life?

posted by lucien at 9:19 PM on January 15, 2001

I submitted for their approval two posts, and added six responses in order to see how hard it is to get "karma" over there. (You get one karma point for every approved post, and one for every response that a moderater deems worthy of being bumped up one level. And you need karma points for them to ever consider making you a moderater. Which only gives you the power to rate posts yourself. Hmm, this doesn't sound like too great a deal so far.) Neither of the posts have been approved yet, and none of my responses have been bumped up, so my karma is still at zero. Feh.
posted by aaron at 9:48 PM on January 15, 2001

Yah, I'm not sold on the rhetoric. It's simply Slashdot with some editorial clout. But there IS a place for a slash site with these sites' particular editorial spin, but to make it seem any bigger than what it is is just plain pretentious.

I'd like to see them take the technology further, not just replace an internal forum and call it a revolution in news, especially when that particular revolution already happened (thank you Slashdot).

Still, could turn out to be interesting.
posted by teradome at 10:20 PM on January 15, 2001

Exactly. I mean, I've wanted to set up a site running slash since before they released the code -- it's a good system. I just can't believe they're trying to take credit at Plastic for Rob Malda's work, or for the idea of running a slash site. Huh?
posted by sudama at 10:42 PM on January 15, 2001

I like it. I think it has a lot of potential.

It does go futher than Slashdot in that part of it relies on the real contributions of actual editors from other publications - not all of which are owned or associated with the main group from Automatic Media (Suck, Feed, and Alt.Culture).

Although that's important, it's going to be very important to step up and get some grassroots participation in there as well, beyond just posting. Posting is fine, but to get the Kiss Army you need something more.

Additionally, to call the contributing sites Big Web Media is a bit of a stretch. The pubs involved here are all small, they're pubs that went through (and survived) the first web crunch (this one is the second) - and learned how to run fast and lean. I would guess that if you added up the staffs of Feed, Suck, Automatic itself, Alt.Culture, and Plastic you'd come out to well under 100 people.
posted by mikel at 11:20 PM on January 15, 2001


plastic.com used to belong to a web development shop called Plastic, before razorfish absorbed them and they became razorfish sf. That was in 1997 I think.
posted by muta at 12:04 AM on January 16, 2001

Say, uhm, where'd it go? I double checked thrice to make sure I typed in the right addy and I get... NetBoy.com.
posted by hijinx at 12:39 PM on January 16, 2001

hijinx: that's odd. I just clicked the link at the top of the page, and got there (plastic.com that is) no problem.
posted by cCranium at 1:04 PM on January 16, 2001

If you can excuse what is technically self-blogging, tell me that I'm not crazy [32k-ish jpg]
posted by hijinx at 1:08 PM on January 16, 2001

It's OK to link to yourself within a thread.
posted by rcade at 1:37 PM on January 16, 2001

hijinx, you obviously aren't crazy, but man, that's messed up. I'd show you a screencapture, but I wouldn't be able to upload it anywhere (firewall-blocked ftp at work).

Perhaps your name server hasn't been updated, and it's redirecting plastic.com somewhere else?
posted by cCranium at 1:44 PM on January 16, 2001

Darn name servers. I'll check at home; feels ISPy. Thanks for the non-insanity confirmation.
posted by hijinx at 1:54 PM on January 16, 2001

Hey all, Steven from FEED here (one of the Plastic co-creators.) Thanks for all the good feedback here. Two quick responses to comments above:

1. Netboy was the previous owner of Plastic.com, though we've owned it for almost half a year. Drop me a line if you continue to have trouble getting the proper page to load.

2. The combined staffs (editorial, tech, and business) for FEED, Suck, Altculture, and Plastic -- which is all of Automatic Media -- add up 29 people at last count. Plastic's staff is basically four people between programming and editorial. So while we have Big Media backers, and certainly are more corporate than many other web logs out there, we're still trying to run as small and feisty an operation as possible. Which is what FEED and Suck have always been about...

thanks again for the link and the good will.
posted by Sberlin at 6:05 PM on January 16, 2001

Ditto on Johnson's appreciation for the goodwill.

Just wanted to respond to the taking-credit-for-Slashdot comments: my expectation is that a good portion of any success we chance upon with Plastic is going to accrue directly to Malda and company, who certainly deserve it. All the talk about "new model for news" on Plastic isn't some attempt to take credit for Slashdot, it's an attempt to explain it to people who've never heard of Slashdot and really don't quite get what the idea behind Slash is all about. Don't lose sight of the fact that there are more of them than there are of us.

Because Slashdot really is a new model for news, even if a couple of years of existence makes it seem not-so-new to us. I'd go as far as saying that Slashdot is the most significant innovation in news that the web has offered, so much so that even talking about it strictly in terms of "news" does a disservice to the concept. I wish we could just say that Plastic is a pop culture Slashdot -- God knows, I try it every time -- but it's only our luckiest days that people know what we mean when we say that.
When that doesn't work, and "distributed weblog" gets the same blank stares, we're forced to start explaining from scratch, which is where all the hoohah comes in that makes us sound pretentious to those who don't need the remedial ed.

So rest assured that none of us are kidding ourselves about where our debts lie.

As for Plastic seeming so megacorporate, I know it might look that way -- and maybe looking that way isn't all that bad a thing, really -- but I'm not sure there are that many web projects that have made it 5+ years online like Feed and Suck without picking up at least a little corporate pallor. Regardless of what you think of Feed, Suck or Plastic, the least we deserve is a little credit for surviving online longer than just about anyone, with the goal not some Candyland IPO but to turn a completely justifiable love for the web into something more than a hobby, even if we enjoy it like people usually only enjoy hobbies. The price we pay for that may mean losing the right to paint ourselves as some kind of renegade publishers and being mistaken at times for corporate stooges, but risking that misinterpration is definitely worth it.

Ultimately, I just think we'd be crazy to not want to try doing something like Plastic. Slashdot and the zillions of other logs out there just made it look like too much fun for us to resist. If it doesn't work out -- though I have an anointed prayercloth right here that says it will -- it might look on the outside like a big corporation eating shit, but whether we succeed or fail, it'll really just be a handful of people trying like hell to get away with murder, same as it's always been. I think some of you know the feeling.

posted by joey@plastic.com at 7:27 PM on January 16, 2001

Gee, you guys seem smaller in person.
posted by rodii at 7:44 PM on January 16, 2001

Well, one of my submissions got picked, sort of. They edited it into a post some other guy made, and he got the karma point instead of me. But at least it made the front page.
posted by aaron at 9:44 PM on January 16, 2001

aaron, are you trying to make yourself plastic's first official karma whore? :-)
posted by cCranium at 5:55 AM on January 17, 2001

Alright, Steven and Joey get props for dropping by here and taking the time to respond. I'll buy Joey's explanation for now, and keep a pair of jaded but envious green eyes on the site for a while. I have a feeling Plastic is going to obsolete a lot of weblogs but quick by consolidating onto one site all of those good-but-not-great links that ricochet between the (dare I say) B-List weblogs every week.
posted by sudama at 9:54 AM on January 17, 2001

I should note that I was very glad to see this: "Plastic stands as an endorsement of the Slashdot philosophy" on the top of Plastic.com when I visited soon after posting to Metafilter.
posted by sudama at 9:56 AM on January 17, 2001

good for them.

(although karma points still feel like some kind of perverse scooby snack, if you know what i mean...)
posted by teradome at 12:06 PM on January 17, 2001

[ Scooby noise goes here: see the second Channukah song if you don't remember the noise I mean ]
posted by baylink at 8:03 PM on January 17, 2001

It's the writing, stupid.

I find myself pleasantly surprised buy the calibre of the writing both of the stories, and of the comments so far. Like Slashdot, and unlike, well, here, the stories are written long, which I consider to be a good thing (I've just started again to try and write longer on my log after an interlude of really short postings), and they're written pretty well, I think. I like editory with an attitude; that's the approach I try to take.

Having just become an independent contractor again, and since Road Runner goes in in a week, I expect my entries to get even longer and more annoying.

[Though I don't think I'll ever catch up with Etheel. :-)]

For the moment, though, more power to em. Though they *do* oughtta darken that blue just a touch.
posted by baylink at 8:20 PM on January 17, 2001

Um, "Ethel".

Sorry, Steve.

(If this damned entry box wasn't *a fixed size too big for my screen* it wouldn't have happened. Really. What's wrong with percentages, anyway?)
posted by baylink at 8:21 PM on January 17, 2001

(You can't do any normal sort of dimensions with TEXTAREA. Just counting characters and lines. Try setting your monospace font smaller in your browser prefs?)
posted by rodii at 8:49 PM on January 17, 2001

Yes, I want to be a karma whore!

Though when I logged in today, I discovered I'd been given moderation powers despite still having no karma points whatsoever.

Now I just have to figure out if it's a recognition of my brilliance, or sheer pity on their part. ;)
posted by aaron at 10:16 PM on January 17, 2001

Sudama: Plastic has been around for a while, it has waxed and waned several times in my daily readling list, especially when the right-wing mafia tried to take it over. I don't think it'll be making anything obsolete any time soon.
posted by m@ at 10:43 AM on January 25, 2002

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