Cam thinks Metafilter's 'ruined'
February 27, 2001 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Cam thinks Metafilter's 'ruined' Too many idiots and stupid posts? Thoughts?
posted by darren (90 comments total)
I think the last few days have been very good, better than before. But perhaps I'm after different posts than Cam. :)
posted by prolific at 12:07 PM on February 27, 2001

Cam's entitled to his own opinion of course, just like everyone else here. It's both a blessing and a curse when something gets popular. On one hand we may have some stupid posts and thoughtless comments, on the other hand we have a larger wealth of information, contributed to by the knowledge of every member of the metafilter community.

We have an amazing opportunity to see how different people around the globe, from different backgrounds, react to the same topics. Wether you think these reactions are smart or stupid, they're all relevant, because they all belong to us.

posted by fiery at 12:16 PM on February 27, 2001

Seems like the same old "it was cool until other people arrived" complaint. I understand Phish fans and ravers say the same thing.

Then again, I'm new here. Maybe it's my fault.
posted by bondcliff at 12:16 PM on February 27, 2001

It's so easy to criticize that way. Of course there is an element of truth in what Cam says, but you have to take the good with the bad. I believe this forum is still a great place for discussion and to find interesting stories. Silly posts (maybe like my last one) and stupid opinions still give us something to think and talk about. It'd be better if he actually offered some constructive suggestions to improve things.
posted by tremendo at 12:18 PM on February 27, 2001

thats why i just don't post. I know i'm an idiot. :)

You think if I put something on my page about the quality decline of metafilter that someone will post it? Ahh shit. Why don't you all just go visit my site ( so I don't have to do that. Its a community site that needs people. ;) Unfortunately its not near as cool as metafilter.
posted by howa2396 at 12:23 PM on February 27, 2001

With no offense intended to Darren, this is exactly the kind of discussion suited to MetaTalk, which would cut down on the front page clutter that's "ruining" MetaFilter.

FWIW, I don't think MeFi is "ruined," just evolving and going through a bit of an awkward phase (much like my hairstyle).
posted by bradlands at 12:24 PM on February 27, 2001

Frist psot SUCKAS!!!
posted by darkpony at 12:24 PM on February 27, 2001

I find such comments to be utterly ridiculous (although Cam makes the point quite subtly on his website.) I'm a relative newbie, having only been posting to MeFi for a couple of months.

But as far as I can see, this kind of site improves the more people post to it. As more comments are added, the viewpoints become more varied and the service in general more addictive. As long as Matt continues to be fairly firm in his rules and regulations I think MeFi will continue to improve.
posted by tobyslater at 12:26 PM on February 27, 2001

Perhaps, Cam is having a bad day but, those remarks fall somewhere on the spectrum between immature and elitist. I hope this is just an anomolous post from Cam, I prefer to read content that is more proactive than reactive.
posted by saturn5 at 12:28 PM on February 27, 2001

too follow up on that. I have to say I'm one of the idiots( fairly new here). If metafilter sucks, please show me what doesn't. This is still one of the most comfortable sites I check out. I mean one of the few remaining places that still feels like a community with a reasonable population. Cam sorta sounds like that ol Dave Eggers rant.


posted by darkpony at 12:28 PM on February 27, 2001

Perhaps, Cam is having a bad day but, those remarks fall somewhere on the spectrum between immature and elitist.

No, just an average day for Cam ;)
posted by rad dude at 12:32 PM on February 27, 2001

Hm, so *are* there more stupid posts? It seems that with the groovy new sorting ability, there has been more discussion and fewer new silly threads, which to me is a good thing. Does he feel that the number of stupid posts is rising faster than the number of new members?

One thing I've been doing lately is going back into the archives to read threads/posts from exactly a year ago. For example, on Feb. 27th, 2000 there were three different Napster-related threads started.
posted by gluechunk at 12:37 PM on February 27, 2001

Who really cares what he thinks? The guy who runs the deli down the street also thinks Metafilter sucks. Apparently a lot of people like it, as well.
posted by Doug at 12:37 PM on February 27, 2001

Darkpony - You mispeled "SUCKASS". ALL YUOR BASE ARE BELONG TO US!
posted by swell at 12:38 PM on February 27, 2001

Is Steve here? See? Mefi doesn't suck, there are occasional double posts, but they are accidents, most of the conversations get around 20 comments, that's enough to read and judge. seems perfect for me. And who are the idiots? Cam?
posted by tiaka at 12:42 PM on February 27, 2001

Silly nonsense. I have read over Cam. What Cam says, thinks is ok, acceptable, insightful, clever. What many others have to say is unacceptable and lacking in cleverness and wit. I much prefer a mix of posts that range from great to stupid than one fashion critic who decides what is ok and not ok. I have cancelled my scubscription to Cam.
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posted by bondcliff at 1:00 PM on February 27, 2001

Cam has got a point.
posted by crunchland at 1:07 PM on February 27, 2001

And so does everyone else. Thus, Metafilter.
posted by jragon at 1:12 PM on February 27, 2001

Aw cripes.

A) This isn't a new opinion of Cam's. It's hard to search through his site for "MetaFilter" since it's been in his link list for quite some time and the archives are full of it, but he's mentioned in the past one at least one occasion how he feels the quality of MeFi's been going downhill for a while.

B) Whoopdee do. Shall we discuss how Kottke's not original, or how GWB's a fool and CLinton's a crook, or how weblogs are a fad, or how the media gets everything wrong (even their biased pieces!) or how the A-List is the new orange cabal, or how awards suck or how or how or how.

C) I think that it's a very good indication of the strength of the MeFi community that of the people who've posted in this thread have been members for < 6 months.

D) I think it was actually a jab at AOL, I mean, who thinks that plastic is cool? :-)

E) He's in on the April Fool's joke.

F) Opinion. We're entitled to ours, and he's entitled to be wrong. :-)
posted by cCranium at 1:21 PM on February 27, 2001

Funny, Cam's low opinion of MetaFilter hasn't altered my enjoyment of the site one iota. Nothing to see here . . .
posted by Skot at 1:23 PM on February 27, 2001

Derek Powazek on Metafilter:

Let's say you go to CNN and read a story about the latest election drama. You become impassioned. You have something to say. So you click on the "Discussion Boards: Presidential Race 2000" link. And there you're greeted with message number 587,334 of 587,335.

What does CNN expect us to do, read five-hundred-thousand messages before responding? And, if not, what does it say about the value of the community if you're not expected to familiarize yourself with its members before becoming one yourself?

It's a user-hostile way of integrating community features, and, unfortunately, it's the norm.

I guess the question is: Can something like this possibly succeed and stay vibrant? Or is it necessarily a victim of its own success?

(But I'm new here, so maybe I should keep my mouth shut...)

posted by MarkAnd at 1:25 PM on February 27, 2001

If MetaFilter suffers from stupid posts it's its own fault. New users are instructed to watch things for a while to get a feel for what kind of links get posted. I watched a long time, and know what? There were no clear patterns in the types of links posted and no posted criteria for what links are appropriate. MF suffers from a lack of specificity.
posted by fleener at 1:27 PM on February 27, 2001

This discussion is better than most. My opinion of MetaFilter is quite high, actually. I love what Matt has done. What I dislike about it is the sheer number of silly and thoughtless posts that have been increasing steadily since I first started reading the discussions here. More often than not I am reminded of a chat room.
posted by camworld at 1:28 PM on February 27, 2001

"More often than not I am reminded of a chat room."

NE14 Cyber?

Seriously, what's wrong with silly? The news is way too serious. I love coming here and seeing a silly comment in an otherwise serious thread.

As for thoughtless, that can be a matter of opinion. A post that one might consider "thoughtless" might be a valid question for someone else.

Chances are the increase in silly/thoughtless is just due to the increasing number of people posting. I would gather that the number of "intelligent" posts have increased just as much.

You can't have one without the other.
posted by bondcliff at 1:37 PM on February 27, 2001


There's a fine line between silly and wit (and I'm no where near it).
posted by Mick at 1:41 PM on February 27, 2001

Damn, beaten to the obvious silly joke
posted by Mick at 1:41 PM on February 27, 2001

I think, Cam, that that (chat room atmosphere) a problem with a community that has social leanings. And for some , it's a feature, not a bug.

It's also a direct result of bastards like me sticking around for a while after reading all the new posts and posting in the same thread minutes after I just posted. It's pretty easy to get into loose, conversational mode doing that. I think I should stop.
posted by cCranium at 1:42 PM on February 27, 2001

i found a year-old archived metafilter page from my drive (and now i'm glad i save everything). there's a LOT more worldly, pertinent discussion going on now than in 2000. and, since we were about a third of the size it is now, there was more of an opportunity for attention-starved members to continually make pithy comments simply for the sake of gabbing...not so anymore.
posted by patricking at 1:47 PM on February 27, 2001

I used to like Cam A Lot--JFK
posted by Postroad at 2:09 PM on February 27, 2001

I think he's probably right to an extent - all online communities lose focus as time passes unless they have a very specific agenda in mind. Having said that I suspect the man could do with a slap for being self-important enough to condemn a community (and insult a substantial group of people) out of hand. He could (at the very least) have couched it in vaguely sensitive terms.
posted by barbelith at 2:10 PM on February 27, 2001

Didn't we discuss this three months ago? Six months ago? Nine months ago? Didn't Jason say this (with resulting discussion here)? Didn't Meg say this (with resulting discussion here)? Won't someone else say it in three months? Doesn't this come up like It's a Wonderful Life at Christmas on every community site? Hasn't it happened at Dreamless? At Slashdot? At Astounding? Hasn't someone written these exact words somewhere else the last time it came up? Don't all sites change? Except for the fact that they keep having the same conversations every time someone notices that they've changed? Where is this relationship going? Do you really love me, or do you just dig my car?
posted by Zeldman at 2:21 PM on February 27, 2001

Being the smart guy that Cam is, I'm sure he knew his comment would end up on MeFi and spark some debate. Perhaps even teach some of us what a good thread should entail. Hopefully mission accomplished.
posted by jdiaz at 2:21 PM on February 27, 2001

To be completely honest, I agree with Cam just as well. I've been visiting Metafilter for quite a while now. I believe that the plethora of political messages which were mindles links to CNN, Yahoo! News, and other news sites were the significant point of MeFi's current state.

To anyone who believes that this is merely just another "it was cool until other people arrived" deal... You should check some of the links and messages on early posts in the Archives of MeFi. What attracts me to MeFi were the links to things that you had never heard of before that were incredibly interesting or innovative. MeFi was a way of finding out about things prior to the hype. Yet on today's list of links on February 27, 2001 you have links to sports news, political news, technological news, etc. While these are interesting and I would not know about them if it wasn't for the links... I continue to find fewer links to things which interest me as much as the pre-election posts these days on MeFi.

Anyone else agree and think that the election had an impact on MeFi?
posted by crog at 2:21 PM on February 27, 2001

Pfft. I'm an idiot, and I've been here since the beginning. There goes [i]that[/i] theory, Mr. Crankypants.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 2:22 PM on February 27, 2001

(as if to prove it, he fails to recognize the use of bulletin board style tags in his post)
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 2:23 PM on February 27, 2001

i've been a member of MeFi for over a year now, and it's still the first site i check every morning. sure, there's more inanity now, but that happens every time a community grows as quickly as this one.

for another good example of a self policing community, check out the forums on the moderator (pamie) and the community members all work together to keep trolls out. it's quite refreshing.
posted by sugarfish at 2:31 PM on February 27, 2001

crog, MeFi was the first place I ever heard of ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US. It's incredibly interesting and innovative. ;)

Now, I imagine that the fact that there are lots of political discussions reflects the fact that most people are interested in such things. Matt left the MeFi topic list wide open (thank goodness). Some people don't enjoy too many design/UI/look-at-this-freaky-flash-animation links. I think there's always a good mix.
posted by daveadams at 2:34 PM on February 27, 2001

it would be nice to have a vague notion of where ppl are from (physically) to better understand where the ideas tend to come from. you could better hypothesize if weather, job market, and other factors influence ideas/ideals/logic reflected in MF posts. I'm talking State or country. As in Central CA usa = greyscale. Hey Matt, can you incorporate this into the MF profile using ip address or volutarily? This could almost be more useful than your MF handle: if you knew that the post was from a 13y/o white male in SFO representing some fringe surfers against pollution or something you'd get a better picture of whether it was worth following the discussion or not.... then you could flag all the content and have a feature where you pull up everything from ppl of similar background, locale, etc to see if you're typical, or nuts, etc.
posted by greyscale at 2:41 PM on February 27, 2001

Z> Didn't we discuss this (xxx months ago)n?

Surely you're not implying that newer members don't deserve to be exposed to this introspection. Right? Anyone fed up by this recurring theme can move on to the next thread.
posted by tremendo at 2:42 PM on February 27, 2001

Frankly, the whole thing just seems to be a little bit too much flame bait for my liking. Like Chicken Little, we've suddenly got ourself up in a tizzy concerned about "are we/aren't we", "did we/don't we", when, after all is said and done, "we am what we am and that's all what we am."

I used to go to a local bistro, and, for a time, I felt I really belonged there. Five years or so went by, and the clientele changed a bit, the walls got a new set of paint, they changed the menu. It wasn't the exact same as it was. Some folk liked it fine. Some folk liked it better. Some folk never came back.

I'm no old-guarder here, I know. But, from what I've seen, for the most part the place is pretty self-policing, polite, and amiable, and the folks here like being here. Cam's got his opinion, which is fine. Frankly, I've never heard of him before, and, having seen his site now, personally see nothing there that makes me want his autograph. He won't bemoan my absence either.

My IMHO - if you folks like coming here day after day, keep on comin'. Like that soft drink commercial says - 'Trust your tastes'.
posted by Perigee at 2:42 PM on February 27, 2001

Cam's "observation" smacks of the elitist attitude I hate so much. The view that things were so much better before the riff-raff came around. We saw this show when AOLers came on line, then when the WebTV folks came online (and we'll see it again and again as different economic classes and races come online en masse). The newcomers are derided as stupid and simplistic, when in reality they add another distinctive voice to the fray.
posted by owillis at 3:15 PM on February 27, 2001

Funny...this thread brings to mind the constant self-examination that often occurs on mailing lists. It is right about this time that somebody posts The Natural Life Cycle of Mailing Lists...


Perhaps Metafilter seems to be in an awkward growth phase to some because it appears to be extending beyond the weblog community. This, I would think, is A Good Thing TM.

posted by webchick at 3:21 PM on February 27, 2001

He's got a point but it's not worth saying. All social groups go through an evolution (growth, renaissance, word of mouth and popularity, finally over population - critical mass - and death). I don't consider it elitest to say this. I have seen it time and time again through the groups I've participated in (hmmm...).

A lovely post on Slashdot by Aunt Mable summed this up:
"What do you want to say this week?"
    "Oh I don't know - anything will do. What's the president up to?"
"That's not the attitude, Billy, why I remember when you started this business nigh on three years ago and boy, you weren't flacid my son"
    "Well I liked writing about stuff that I found interesting. That was natural. But there's no relation between interesting things and a regular publishing schedule. I let the quality drop, it was either that or not publish. Now it's three years later and I barely recognise my thoughts so categorised into 'publisher' with 'headlines' and five main stories, ten on a weekend - I would have been as happy saying what I wanted in a cartoon. The audience broke me, but I wanted their attention. I've become a whore you know."
"All your base are belong to us"
posted by holloway at 3:30 PM on February 27, 2001

Re: the natural life cycle of online communities: does anyone have a good example of a (6b) mature community?
posted by sudama at 3:36 PM on February 27, 2001

>and we'll see it again and again as different
>economic classes and races come online en
> masse

What, they allow blacks online?

posted by holloway at 3:57 PM on February 27, 2001

If anything ruins Metafilter, it's people's arrogance. I don't know if a disproportionate number of MeFi'ers are arrogant, or if a few bastards are making it hard on us. I suspect the latter.

Anyway, I still love Metafilter. Still visit it every day.
posted by SilentSalamander at 3:59 PM on February 27, 2001

>What, they allow blacks online?

Only one or two... you know how they are... :)
posted by owillis at 4:22 PM on February 27, 2001

Re: the natural life cycle of online communities: does anyone have a good example of a (6b) mature community?

LambdaMOO. It's nearly ten years old now, and kind of quiet as a "community" per se, but you'll still find a couple of hundred people logged on, in small groups, chatting and posting rather than building.

I imagine that something similar happened after colonists/pioneers/emigres stopped regarding themselves as a homogeneous "community" and settled into "communities". Online domesticity, if you like.
posted by holgate at 4:46 PM on February 27, 2001

>does anyone have a good example
>of a (6b) mature community?

Hi, Sudama...

Online communities are still finding themselves (I am responding under the assumption that you strictly mean Web communities).

A lot of people I know think that Web communities just don't have that same feeling of closeness and camaraderie that prevail on mailing lists (and formerly BBSs). Theories abound as to why...most just boil down to the fact that the inherent strengths of the Web are the very thing that make it tough to build a cohesive community.

Not that it's impossible...and I have seen people on MeFi wax nostalgic that this is the first board they've come across that has that BBS feel. This, too, is A Good Thing TM.

There is one inescapable truth: a community is only as good as the members who comprise it. If you care about a particular community, do what you can to help it along and ensure that it becomes that oh-so-coveted-and-oft-elusive (6b).

posted by webchick at 4:50 PM on February 27, 2001

> > What, they allow blacks online?
>Only one or two... you know how they are... :)

That's what I like about Metafilter lately. I can make a silly throw-away joke and have them taken in the way it's intended. Nice.
posted by holloway at 4:52 PM on February 27, 2001

[ On LambdaMOO an online domesticity ]

FWIW, people in this thread may also be interested in reading Jon Katz's series on /. re: Rethinking The Virtual Community (Part One, Part Two, and Part Three)

>I can make a silly throw-away joke
>and have them taken in the way
>it's intended. Nice.

Cool...just as long as no one accuses us of getting chatty :-)))
posted by webchick at 5:04 PM on February 27, 2001

1) I think you could make a good case for The Well being a mature online community. Plenty of people have been active there for a dozen years or longer, and the signal to noise ratio is still high. Of course, you have to PAY to be on The Well, which helps in that regard.

2) Cam thinks MeFi sucks. That's OK. I'm sure plenty of people on MeFit think Cam sucks. Sounds even to me.
posted by ffmike at 5:29 PM on February 27, 2001

Some folks here are probably taking Cam's comments a bit too personally. My read on what you said, Cam, is simply that the volume of posts has increased to where, instead of a 10-post thread with 5 really good comments, you get a 50-post thread with 10 really good comments, 20 decent yet repetitive and superfluous comments , and another 20 pointless one-liners, snipes, and digressions. I know the impulse well, and there's hardly a thread where I don't have a quick "this would be funny" though that's quickly replaced with "sit on your hands and let someone else have a shot, maybe they'll say something deep and thoughtful". Naturally the higher the number of snarky one-liners in a thread the more quickly it devolves (and if the first 2 or 3 are pot shots, it's pretty much stillborn). And then the threads themselves become not worth the time it takes to read them.

fleener's comments indicate a common newbie-to-community approach to this sort of thing. Yes, the topics are wide open. If there's a rule for metafilter, though, it's that posts should be open-ended, and preferably the type of post that engenders a discussion. Provocative. Not just 20 posts a day of "newest game applet I found" with 0 comments. That's memepool, or fark, or, not metafilter.

Can we fix it? I dunno. Right now Metafilter is open to the public, and closing on 4000 members. There's no way it can be the same community it was a year ago even. Can you deal with it as a reader by just ignoring threads? Yes, but that still leaves the problem of threads that are full of too much junk. Even if the signal-to-noise ratio remains high, there's just too much for a person to easily sift through. Slashdot has dealt with this vai moderation, and that helps to keep the signal high, but it also leads to a very disjointed community with little camaraderie and a lot of karma whoring (in the best possible sense) for those top-rated spots. That's one kind of community, but it isn't a very close-knit one. You can see in some of the better communities a collaborative conversation between highly knowledgeable people in the field, back and forth, sometimes coming up with ideas in that conversation that wouldn't have arisen any other way. That's very different from the kind of standalone, get-it-all-in-one-big-post approach that Slashdot encourages, a kind of hit and run intellectualism.

The most obvious solution is to close the community in some way, either formally, or by putting up barriers to entry. (One moderately well-known site did just that recently, moving its index page to a hidden location. I'll say no more, so don't ask: you're not meant to know.) That's a little drastic, and it creates a new problem, which is the tendency of such closed communities to stultify and begin to run in circles as the main participants learn to anticipate each other's positions, and one of the greatest things about online communities is how they can attract the best and the brightest from anywhere. Closing a site seems to shoot the very hallmark and greatest strength of the web right smack in the Reeboks.

Do I have an answer? Nope, I'm copping out on that one. In one sense Cam alluded to the most common solution: a kind of urban renewal of the web, where new community sites arise to replace the ones that have become blighted and crowded.

I do have one quibble: There was a time when Plastic was good, Cam?! *sigh* Actually, I do believe Plastic serves a purpose. Plastic attracts people who would otherwise come to, say, Metafilter. Make Plastic stickier, that's my solution.
posted by dhartung at 5:44 PM on February 27, 2001

C'mon, seriously can you take someone who uses "Thinking Outside the Box" as a slogan?

posted by tregoweth at 5:44 PM on February 27, 2001

>That's very different from the kind of
>standalone, get-it-all-in-one-big-post
>approach that Slashdot encourages

Like this one? (just kidding... I couldn't bring up *excellent* points, of which I am in full agreement... :-)

>You can see in some of the better
>communities a collaborative conversation
>...coming up with ideas in that wouldn't
>have arisen any other way.

Absolutely...I couldn't agree with you more. I remember getting beat up once for engaging in conversational-type postings in a moderately well-known Web-based forum (I'll say no more, so don't're not meant to know. :-). Hell, I thought engaging in a conversation is what communities *do*. Along with learning from each other (as you noted), talking to each other is the only way you can truly get to know one another.

posted by webchick at 7:14 PM on February 27, 2001

A few thoughts:

1. Online communities are no different from RL communities in that they need the influx of new members/residents to remain vital and that they all carry some of the responsibility of keeping the community vibrant/safe/orderly/interesting.

2. While community issues belong rightfully in MetaTalk, I like that Cam, Derek, etc. bring up the subject of MetaFilter simply because someone around here is going to link to it and there will be a bit more community-wide introspection about what MetaFilter is and should be.

3. MeFi at its best reminds me of a college dormitory corridor at 1 a.m. where folks are hanging out, talking about whatever is on their minds, with a few die-hards hammering out a debate whilst others chime as they pass by.

In another thread, Vis10n brought up the concept of folkways as an excellent way to describe the way that this community remains civil. While Matt's server-side changes have helped to cut down noise, the long-term viability depends (as it always has) on the practice of these folkways (humor being one).
posted by Avogadro at 7:26 PM on February 27, 2001

One word: moderation. For example, I still find Slashdot useful and a good read if I turn the threshold up high enough. Since there is no moderation on Metafilter, I usually skim to see comments from people I know or know of. I might read someone else's posts if someone I know refers to it. The rest I ignore.

I can't imagine anyone reading through everything that is posted here.
posted by Calebos at 8:13 PM on February 27, 2001

Calebos, I actually find myself wishing there was more to read.

posted by Mars Saxman at 8:17 PM on February 27, 2001

I think what Avogadro says is very true, and a mistake that's sometimes made is to take the humor as *being* the noise. It's not. You can build a…facility for exchanging pure information, but that's not a community. In a community, people approach each other first as people. Maybe they value the information that's being exchanged, maybe that's even their primary motivation for coming back, but all that information exchange is mediated by the social life of the community. People in communities laugh, tease, flirt, chide, cheer, mope, nag, preen, gang up, sulk, jeer, fart loudly in church, the whole bit. You have wise elders, candidates for mayor, whippersnappers, yobbos and village idiots, you have legends, running gags, Oscar the Grouch and Crazy Uncle Joe. From the standpoint of someone wanting to mine the site for information, it's noise, but it's not *just* noise. There's no one recipe that says "the ideal site must be 80% pure data, 10% self-governance and 10% grooming rituals." Everyone has his or her own idea of the way things should be, and none of them work all that well, thank god.
posted by rodii at 8:41 PM on February 27, 2001

Further down in the same post Cam feels moved to report to the web-surfers of the world that he saw a toilet (a porcelain toilet, no less!) on the sidewalk while walking home. In my book, this excludes him from credibly commenting about damn near anything. I hope all the traffic he gets from his little trolling expedition puts him over his monthly bandwidth limit.

Number 61! Wooooo!

And if you're still reading this far down, I both fear and admire you.

posted by BGM at 9:22 PM on February 27, 2001

Rodii: maybe the community is the problem. Maybe to get rid of the noise you need to get rid of the community. Though, of course some people like the noise.
Then again...who decides what's signal and what's noise?
posted by davidgentle at 9:41 PM on February 27, 2001

Can we fix it? I dunno. Right now Metafilter is open to the public, and closing on 4000 members.

Yes, but how many of them are active? Something like 70-80% of all people that join an online community walk away from it for good in less than a week. Another 15% or so only last ~30 days. The number of people signed up to MeFi doesn't mean much in and of itself.

The last time we rehashed this "Whither MeFi" discussion, I went back into the archives to see if things are really that different now. To me, they aren't. The same various categories of links were posted in roughly the same ratios to each other as they are now. The only difference is that there are quite a few more of them in any 24-hour period. A lot of this reminiscing about "the good old days of MeFi" seems to be The Way We Weren't.

Well, there's one other difference between then and now: The MeFi population is no longer composed only of people who were the core participants of paleoblogging. And thus it's no longer composed only of the people Cam wants to be around. His buddies, the elites of the design/blogging communities no longer totally dominate the action here, thus he doesn't want to waste his veddy veddy important time slumming it with the Teeming Millions. So, hey, fine. Door, ass, etc. Another place will eventually open up that only includes his kind of people. And then it will slowly be "watered down" by an influx of uncool newbies. Which will lead to another new place. Lather, rinse, repeat.

And yes, it's true that any community that closes itself off to new members will die, period. That's not an option if you want MeFi to stick around.
posted by aaron at 11:08 PM on February 27, 2001

I'v seen several communities suffer through these life cycles from gestation to death, and I don't enjoy this process (frankly I miss them) nor do I think metafilter is certain to be immune from that process, although Matt certainly appears to be trying to set in place those safeguards that do work.

Notes (and threads) such as these might certainly be no more than a way to mark and monitor change. If that's the least that this achieves, then at some basic level it's probably still serving a need.

Good note fleener.
posted by lucien at 12:48 AM on February 28, 2001

I wouldn't advocate moderation for MetaFilter, but I would say that most of the useful and engaging forums I've ever participated in have been moderated in some fashion. In particular, the late, lamented GEnie online service had two very strong communities in their Science Fiction RoundTable and their Apple II RoundTable, both of which were heavily moderated. (In A2, moderators would even move posts from one thread to another when they deemed it necessary.)

Of course, this type of effort is extremely labor-intensive, and the only reason GEnie was able to do it was because they charged by the hour. Eventually, flat-rate Internet plans basically destroyed the service (it struggled on, under new management, until it expired due to a Y2K bug late in 1999). I think it's sad that we'll probably never see the likes of these forums again. They had a distinct flavor that has basically been lost.
posted by kindall at 1:35 AM on February 28, 2001

I can't imagine anyone reading through everything that is posted here.

And if you're still reading this far down, I both fear and admire you.

I read every single post in this thread. Is that wrong?
And I quite often read every post, or at least try to. Otherwise I may miss a perspective or opinion on the topic. Which means that I might post the same thing as someone else or miss out on the opportunity to expand my perspective, intelligence, and beliefs. Which would not only add to noise but also make me a little less able to engage in intelligent and thought-provoking conversations.

Because, whether Cam likes it or not, that's what I think most MeFi threads are. Little conversations where you are able to laugh, learn, and express yourself all in one sitting. Sometimes its in-depth conversations about issues we feel strongly about (politics, feminism, and war to name only a few) and sometimes its silly but fun conversations about aliens, gadgets, and music (again to name only a few). Sometimes one can spark the other.

I would much rather contribute my knowledge, opinions, and ideas to a forum where smart commentary and knowledge are a regular feature.
What MetaFilter has Cam been going to? There isn't smart commentary and knowledge here? We're able to make serious and intelligent discussions out of just about anything. (That link isn't the only one, but the first one that came to mind.)

Then the idiots came in and ruined the discussions with too many stupid posts. Granted there are a few idiots who contribute a few too many stupid posts. But if you let them ruin the conversation...I'm sorry...discussion, that's your problem. You tell them to shut up (either mentally or by posting it) and then move on to the next post that you deem acceptible. After awhile that may lead to more noise than signal, but I don't think it has too badly so far.

You're not going to like everyone in a community. You're going to think that some people are mean, some people are stupid, and some people smell. That's part of being in a community. The stupid posts are not drowning out the intelligent ones (yet). MeFi discussions are getting longer not because every other post is an unintelligent statement but because more people are joining and stating their opinions and beliefs and perspectives. More people doesn't always equal less intelligence.

But I suppose since I haven't been here all that terribly long, this post is just more noise. Bah.
posted by crushed at 2:01 AM on February 28, 2001

Duh, left out the much for adding to the intelligence...
posted by crushed at 2:09 AM on February 28, 2001

Does Metafilter Suck?
Metafilter Residents

- - -

"NO" said they.

The End

posted by holloway at 3:33 AM on February 28, 2001

member since: sometime in 1999 (a long time)

camworld has posted 3 links and 59 comments to MetaFilter

It seems to me that one of the best ways to encourage the type of posts and comments that you would like to see would be to post some yourself. As Cam was such an early member, it would seem that he has had plenty of opportunities to steer this forum in the direction that he would like, and that he has failed to capitalise on them, content instead to sit idly by and let this site flounder aimlessly without his "expert guidance."
posted by donkeymon at 6:55 AM on February 28, 2001

Aw cripes, people, don't get petty. Even if you think Cam's being petty or arrogant or some other negative adjective (which, personally, I don't) there's no reason to lower yourself to the level you perceive him to be at.

Cam doesn't like the way MeFi's evolved, and he misses the community the way it was a year ago. That's not inherently elitist, you know. There's nothing wrong with having fond memories of the past, and there's nothing wrong with wishing on whatever level that that past was the present.

Haven't you ever wished you were back at summer camp because it was so much fun, or in your apartment from college, where you were right beside that neighborhood bar, or whatever? Things change, but our memories don't. If he misses the way he thinks MeFi was, that's fine.

Trying to figure out what he misses and seeing if it can be retained, that's a Good Thing, it'll likely only improve MeFi by making it a better place for more people.

Taking his opinion personally is a Bad Idea. Unless he's e-mailled you privately saying "Hey, you're ruining MeFi" then there's a pretty good chance he's not talking about you.

If you have this nagging suspicion that you're one of the idiots and/or fools that he's referred to, then maybe it's time to reconsider the way you post to MetaFilter. A little extra thought in the postings will never hurt anyway.
posted by cCranium at 7:42 AM on February 28, 2001

Well you have a point there, cCranium. A little more thought almost never hurts before posting. I personally have found Cam to be elitist from having read his website over the years and so this is just an extension of that. But my point was that there are ways to keep things the way that you would like them to be, or to change them to be more like you would like them to be. One of the main ways is participation. It is just like complaining about the outcome of an election in which you did not vote. Of course MetaFilter has moved a great deal towards a more general interest focus, and there is nothing wrong with lamenting that change on your personal website. It's not like Cam came in here and posted "This site sucks" or anything. But if you would like a community to reflect your interests, you have to participate in it.
posted by donkeymon at 7:56 AM on February 28, 2001

I had a really intelligent and insightful addition to make to this topic, but I've not been here very long and someone important might have thought it wasn't, so I didn't.
posted by normy at 8:09 AM on February 28, 2001

So, to sum up:

1. MetaFilter doesn't suck

2. Think before you write (got that from my Mom -- advice was meant for taking tests, though, but it applies here!)

Did I miss anything? :)

For what my 'pinion's worth, I find MetaFilter to be a humbling and encouraging mix of the brilliant and inane. While there can be some st00pid items posted, I don't find anything wrong with that -- doofiness certainly has its place! But the vast majority of people here are smart and have insightful things to say -- so I stick around. :)

Now everyone go listen to "Everybody is a Star" (Sly and the Family Stone) and do a little dance...
posted by metrocake at 8:49 AM on February 28, 2001

the elites of the design/blogging communities no longer totally dominate the action here

Hey! I'm an elite paleoblogger and I totally dominate the action here!

Or maybe that was someone else...
posted by daveadams at 9:10 AM on February 28, 2001

The responses here are better than most threads I've read recently. However, it doesn't excuse the fact that I was inundated yesterday with anonymous emails from people calling me "an elitist pig" and saying things like "screw you elitist". I know who most of these people are because I track IP connectivity to my all aspects of my site, including email processing. To say the least, I am not surprised. This is exactly the kind of crap I am refering to when I talk about the decreasing quality of posts to MetaFilter and other online communities. My participation in MetaFilter, to date, has been moderate. I read far more than I post, and I comment only when I think what I'm saying needs to be heard or is making a point not already addressed. This was the spirit of the community when I first joined. The community has changed, and I am no longer happy with it. The easiest solution is for me to leave, which I don't want to do, but I feel I have no other choice. I will most likely continue to skim the posts as I have been doing recently. I doubt I will contribute to the discussions, though. This is not a new problem. Slashdot went through this and solved it (partially) with a moderation system that puts less emphasis on the low-quality posts. Other online communities have erected barriers of entry and created objective memebership criteria that requires approval from the existing community before posting is allowed. I don't want to see MetaFilter do this, but I am concerned that the number of "useless" posts that contain chatter has become too high. Anyway, I'm free to state my opinion, and think that too many people here took my comments personally. I am receptive to your feedback and have taken it with a grain of salt as I have everything else. It was not my intention to spark such a debate about MetaFilter, but I do think it has helped clarify the problem in the minds of many people. My observations are my own, nothing more.
posted by camworld at 9:49 AM on February 28, 2001

You have read this far? Wow, you really don't have anything better to do. "La rueda está dando vuelta, pero el hámster es muerto"I'm also fairly new here, yet have taken the time to watch threads and look back into the "sacred" archives. This may be redundant (ie. See above quote), but the neat thing about MeFi is that it is not centered on anything in particular other than discussing the web. There's no rule saying it has to be philosophical in its quality (ie. like, or in the "mainstream" (whatever that is, ie /.). If someone finds something interesting, he posts it. And whether it's good or not determines whether it stays and furthermore, gets commented on. If your interested in getting quality posts all the time, I suggest that you make a website, and only allow yourself to post to it....otherwise, kick back and go with the flow, avoiding any paradigms you may convince yourself of in the process.
posted by samsara at 10:00 AM on February 28, 2001

what i find most interesting is "I wonder if this is related to the fact 33% of all time spent online last month was by AOL users."
was it '96 when aol first opened the spigot and their users poured forth? i myself will own up to much bemoaning of it being the beginning of the end. at that point they had an excessively crappy browser that rendered everything into something of a quagmire. but that was five years ago.
bear with me, as i haven't worked this entirely through in my head, but doesn't the vast number of aol users give some growing legitimacy to this thing we call the web? people outside the web used to think that it was a fluke that it would all go away. as the numbers of users grow, so does the legitimacy and the dollar amount that companies and people willing be willing to invest in creating a variety of online experiences from e commerce to communities and beyond.
we want "them" online but we bemoan the possibility that their participation might be the ruin of "our" communities. i don't think that we can have it both ways.
posted by heather at 10:48 AM on February 28, 2001

I don't think we can have it both ways, either. But I do think it's human nature to want it both ways. Or, as a great group of young men once said, I want it That Way.

And am I the only one who didn't think what Cam said was that big a deal? We all go through periods of love and hate with everything we do. Having recently begun to frequent some Usenet groups again that I was a regular on several years ago, I found the same people saying the same things with different dates on the headers.

I suppose I could have been annoyed with the idiocy of it all, but I just took the information and conversation I went there for, and ignored the rest. Sounds like what Cam's doing here.

As with everything in the world of weblogs, if it ain't fun anymore, don't do it.
posted by anildash at 11:50 AM on February 28, 2001

This planet was a lot better before all the poor and "middle-class" and starving people were so visible. Yay, aristocracy! :)

As for Cam's comments, who cares?? Cam doesn't like the current state of Metafilter. Lots of us apparently do. Different strokes for different folks, ya'll.
posted by daveadams at 11:52 AM on February 28, 2001

It's like telling the homeless that they can't live in phonebooths. I agree with heather that if it wasn't for the large ISPs, the amount of energy put into the web's culture would probably have died out like BBS's. Or it would still be what it was called then, "a glorified version of the yellow pages." (Hmm...I wonder if that still applies?) Yet I also feel that numbers can be a bad thing in this case where "popular" sites can get overly congested. That goes for anything. If you work anywhere near Boston, you can relate this to driving during morning rush hour. The reality is, we'll just have to adjust or just go elsewhere.If you remember the Usenet...there's a perfect example.
posted by samsara at 12:05 PM on February 28, 2001

donkeymon, I wasn't referring specifically to anyone and, despite the hour lag between posts, I actually started writing mine before you wrote yours. (I often get distracted with a half-written message sitting in my browser)

I just don't want to think I was harping on you, specifically, even though I do disagree with your assessment of Cam's elitism.

Well, not entirely. I mean, everyone's to some degree an elitist anyway. People we encounter have to live up to a specific set of criteria - even if we don't conciously run through check-lists in our heads - or they are not worth our time or effort.

I'm an elitist bastard, and I'm proud of that. If you (again, not you donkeymon, some generic "you") demonstrate to me that you don't live up to my expectations (for instance, appropriate behaviour on a message board) then you're not worth my time.

If the current state of MetaFilter doesn't meet Cam's criteria, well, it's unfortunate to lose an intelligent and knowledgeable poster, but sometimes it happens.

Personally, Cam, I hope you continue to share your knowledge with us, but since I read your site anyway I'm sure I'll glean some of it through that means.
posted by cCranium at 12:39 PM on February 28, 2001

I don't agree with Cameron; I don't think the quality of MeFi has fallen much, if at all. There are certainly more front page posts on MeFi then there were a year ago. It is more difficult to read everything, and if I don't check everyday, it takes awhile to catch up. Comment posts are another matter. I do feel the signal to noise ratio has gotten worse, but that doesn't mean I won't read comments on a post I have an interest in, like this one.

I am also reminded of Usenet in 1993. I was an active poster to a particular group that will go unnamed. There were only a few posts a day, and the great majority of them were well thought-out and fairly well written. Then, in September of 1993, a number of new voices began to be heard in the newsgroup. They were university students with no knowledge of net culture and little knowledge of what they were writing about. There was much flaming, and many of the new posters left. However, some stayed, the number of daily posts went up, and there was a definite change in the feeling of the group.

Over the next few years the newsgroup grew with the addition of more and more undergrads, and then AOL users, and then net punters, and it changed from an exclusive club for well-educated white men to something with a lot more diversity. Many oldtimers people didn't like the result, and left the group. A few of them started Web sites, and the community reformed in a more controlled, diffuse setting. The conversation went on, but the interaction was harder to find.

Weblogs have been another change again. The conversation has become more explicit, and bloggers seeks out connections with others in new ways. Now, one can select who will be part of one's online community, and exactly that is happening on the thousands of weblogs that link to like-minded sites. But we want the immediacy, too, of back and forth conversation, and come full-circle to sites like Metafilter.
posted by tranquileye at 12:53 PM on February 28, 2001

"There exists a sizable community of webloggers, and in that community there's plenty of room for humor (wetlog) or even scathing critiques (bloat), remember it's a big web after all. Places like this website exist to break down the barriers between people, to extend a weblog beyond just one person, and to foster discussion among many.
"Cam, whether or not you know it, you influence many other people, and responding negatively to Neale's work in a public forum is bad for us all. "
    -- Matt H January 24

So you see, it's really Cam that broke Metafilter in the first place, over 5000 threads ago. Back when MeFi was about to break the 150 user mark.


posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 1:08 PM on February 28, 2001


I sooo thought it was me that broke Metafilter back then.
posted by dangerman at 1:56 PM on February 28, 2001

No. You broke Christmas.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 3:11 PM on February 28, 2001

cCranium, I did not think that you were referring to me specifically at all actually, although I could fault myself to some extent for calling Cam an elitist without providing anything to back that up. It's hard to put a finger on what gives me that impression Cam, and it's not particularly pertinent anyway. If my worst character flaw was a whiff of elitism I would consider myself a very lucky person. I have no reservations about the quality and thoughtfulness of my posts, but I could not even begin to make any evaluation of their value to other people, although I may have a bit of a sense about what Cam might think. It's really easy to be way off base in your guesses about random people you have never met and barely know though. Just as this site appears to have outlived its usefulness to him, his site has outlived his usefulness to me. But I would be very grateful if he would continue to contribute to this community, as he has intelligent and thoughtful things to say. To me, just reading someone's writing on their weblog is not nearly as engaging as participating in a discussion such as this site allows.
posted by donkeymon at 4:52 PM on February 28, 2001

Oh...yeah, Christmas.

Nevermind then carry on. =)

posted by dangerman at 7:19 PM on February 28, 2001

I didn't think Cam had a point until I saw all the "He said bad things about us, so we'll say bad things about him" bullshit in this thread.
posted by harmful at 8:33 AM on March 1, 2001

Translation: "The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead"
posted by samsara at 9:26 AM on March 1, 2001


"He said bad things about Metafilter and because I think he's popular, he's an elitist."

Oh, hee hee. That's funny.

I'm with Zeldman. Except, Zeldman forgot that Scott Cohen's been doing that to Metafilter longer than Cam or the whole blogger sucks argument.

I'm wondering what actually makes an elitist as opposed to someone who just is so obviously smarter than you that you take offense at realizing you're so stupid.

posted by rich at 10:33 AM on March 1, 2001

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