Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday Squee: MetaFilter

The Sunday Squee is about things that make me happy and excited. From books to movies to television shows to podcasts, I'll highlight less commonly known things as a way to share what I love. If you want to join in the Sunday Squee, please link back to me, magnifying both of our joy.

High Voltage

MetaFilter (MeFi or "the blue") is an elderly website at 16 years old, and I've been a member there almost ten of those years. It's an old school web log turned into a community project with comments under each entry. In 2004 Matt Haughey, MeFi's creator, opened the floodgates to people willing to pay him five dollars for access, and it's been game-on ever since. I love the site for it's interesting discussions, it's broad range of interest, it's often genial people, and for the lessons I've learned wrangling with, challenging, and being challenged by people who are very different from me. It's one of the few sites I check almost every day, and while sometimes I've been frustrated enough that it's made me want to scream, it's always made me feel - and that's a valuable thing!

The paid moderation staff sets MetaFilter apart from other places on the net. It's a 24/7 service these days, with moderators in several different countries. The first moderator besides Matt was Jessamyn, and she set a high bar for the qualities MeFites generally expect in moderation. She also began countering the male-centric site culture that was rampant on the internet at the time, which has resulted in a strong and eloquent cadre of women pushing for equality functionally as well as socially on the site. Other groups have stepped up as well to push for quality and respect - in particular the trans gender community. Because of the hard work of marginalized people, MetaFilter has unusual parity for a general interest site on gender, though it lags behind in racial and class terms.

Depths of Tartarus

MetaFilter is currently run by the second oldest moderator, Cortex, who has indicated he relishes the sometimes uncertain and bombastic aspects of managing the site, took over from Matt in March 2015. Matt and Jessamyn have both retired from the site but retain special badges in MetaTalk (MeTa or "the gray"), which is the only place moderators are set apart from other users (on other sections of MetaFilter, moderators use brackets and small text to indicate when they are making an official comment versus being users of the site). MeFites can contact moderators privately or have Meta Talk within which to voice their grievances and communicate with the site in general. Those long, sometimes emotionally grueling threads are where many people hash out the challenges of human beings interacting with other, different human beings - it can be inspiring and depressing both in turn.

The cash cow for the site, and what used to attract most of it's users, is Ask Metafilter (AskMe or "the green"). Users can ask a question a week and get responses from people who, by and large, consider themselves part of a community. Moderation is strictest on this sub-site - cross-talk is heavily discouraged, ignoring the question is often deleted, and users are expected to be on their best behavior. Other sub sites include one for offline gatherings, one for music, one where you can share projects with MetaFilter, and one for fan discussion of television shows, movies, podcasts, and most recently books. I honestly think most everyone would find something they like on MetaFilter - often more than one something they like! If you end up paying your five dollars and joining in, feel free to send me a MeMail!

Three Lights

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