There are almost certainly more refugees from Metafilter than there are people who actively participate, these days. The registered user count is up over 14000 at the moment, but if I recall correctly, Matt recently said that the server logs indicate there are only (only) a couple or three thousand registered users that hit the site on a regular basis. All indications, based on the numbers, at least, are that Metafilter continues to be a robust and roaring success. Matt has recently purchased some new hardware, and there are days and threads when I would defy you to find anything smarter or more amusing anywhere on the iNtARwEb.
But everywhere I turn, there is a constant keening lament about how bad the site has gotten, as compared to its long-past Glory Days. It is typical of these things, I suppose, but amuses me anyway that some disgruntloids insist that the golden age ended only recently (with a raft of calm, reasonable, and highly respected old guard users quietly calling it quits) while others point to the beginning of this year (when there were some high-profile, I’m-taking-my-ball-and-going-home departures). Still others glare and hurl imprecations (though mercifully stop short of screeching and flinging their poo) at the huge upsurge in registered users following September 11th last year, and yet other others pinpoint the date that everything went to sh-t as November 16, 2000, a day of infamy that was marked by the first appearance of a certain wonderchicken on the #006699 scene.
Michael Sippey, for instance, lamented in Swiftian style
It is a melancholy object to those who click through to the great site of MetaFilter, when they see the front page, the comment pages and the MetaTalk sections crowded with chatter, with noise, and with meaningless posts that should have never seen the light of the submit button. Readers, instead of being able to rely on MetaFilter as a trusted source of daily diversion, are forced to employ all their time in scrolling to beg sustenance for their starving minds: which, as they evolve over time, either whither into dust, or abandon their dear MetaFilter for sites unknown.
almost a year ago!
A while back, I spent some time (way too much time, compulsively hitting the refresh button, wirehead monkey at the joyjuice hotbutton) hanging around with some folks who splintered off a long time ago from the grandpappy of Metafilter cult threads, 1142 (folks I miss, but in order to actually accomplish anything with my time must continue to hug from a distance – *waves*), and amongst all the other things that were talked about, they spent a lot of their time bemoaning how bad Metafilter had gotten. These were, are, some of the smartest, most creative people I’ve ever spent time with, virtually or otherwise. The few months that I spent a lot of time there were almost a year ago.
Since then, some of them have stopped appearing at all on Metafilter, although the occasional Special Guest Appearance leads me to believe that they are still watching, still disapproving, still shaking their heads in dismay at the decline of the Mothership.
Another gang of Meta-refugees with whom I hang out, the wacky kids at 9622.net, another MeFi splinter site that was birthed from a cult thread (9622 this time, duh), although much more concerned with having fun and being silly, also note occasionally, between flinging poo and screeching, that Bad Things are happening these days.
Recently, jpoulos (one of the admins of 9622.net) has been talking about his disenchantment in more direct terms in the comments attached to this post : Why Metafilter Sucks Ass. I find myself agreeing with him, with some reservations.
jpoulos doesn’t participate at Metafilter anymore, and is missed.
Many many words have been spoken and typed about the Metafilter and how it has changed over the past year or two. Hell, I’m adding to the wordcount now, and I can’t seem to stop myself. Nick Sweeney said a few months ago :
Matt’s always been very trusting towards his membership, and in general, receives the respect that’s deserved by such trust. I can’t help thinking that it doesn’t accommodate 13,000-odd members: partly because the times don’t lend themselves to seminar-style discussion; partly because you’re dealing with the friction between oldbies and newbies, and their different conceptions of what the place is, was, and should be. ‘Member memory’ is a vital aspect of community sites, even ones which profess to deal with the transient meme-feed, and I think it’s much stronger at MeFi than Plastic: so that when you have members who take perhaps two years’ worth of discussion into the day’s discussion up against new arrivals, it’s bound to create the same kind of frustrations as a USENET September.
Nick doesn’t participate at Metafilter anymore, and is missed.
For my part, I’ve written defenses both impassioned and tongue-in-cheek of the place in the past. I’ve said
…things are pretty much as they’ve been since I started coming here, at least – some good days, some bad ones, some thread hijacks, some crap posts, some egos and wrestling matches, some absolute diamond-hard fascinating discussions, some erudition, some crap jokes, some pee-myself-laughing ones too, a generally tolerant and friendly hubbub.
and other things, more embarrassingly and openly in love with the place.
I personally think the exodus started when Jason Kottke posted this Metatalk thread not long after the massive influx of users after September 11th, which seemed to be a continuation of a real-world conversation that he and Matt had been having. Matt commented in the thread that he was tired of it all, and thinking about folding the tent. Much consternation ensued, and I honestly think that some people who might have stuck around and dug in their heels to try and make the place better and lead by example threw in the towel at this point.
There were other things – the rise in chattiness, the rise in incivility, the decline in collective intelligence, the increase in jokiness and pointless IRC-esque chatter (in which I admit my occasional participation) – most of which were probably as a result of the massive influx of new users.
Whatever the reason, even though there are many voices still participating that I enjoy hearing, lots of people with whom I enjoy interacting, I’ve got to agree for the first time in public that the Mothership is not what it once was.
What to do? This is the $64,000 Question, of course. I still enjoy the place a lot, and will continue to participate until Matt bans me permanently for conduct unbecoming a wonderchicken, but I am starting to understand a little better the complaints that I’ve ignored or argued against for so long. To some extent I wish that I’d paid them more heed a year ago.
(Should I mention my theory about the disenfranchisement of the A-List now? No, perhaps not. Not until my secret plans for World Domination have been hatched, my pretties. Not until then.)
It has been said, and truly, ‘it’s only a website’. Can you love a website? Is it internet-era pathological behavior to say ‘I love that website’?
But some days it feels as if my love is turning into common street trash before my eyes, and no matter how well-documented my weaknesses for common street trash, that’s just not the girl I fell in love with.