The weblog, Metafilter (Meta Filter or MeFi), has evolved from a news filter / community blog into a reference site with a distributed folksonomy. The community of users that edit Metafilter adhere to explicit guidelines for what content is suitable for posting, how to respond to a post, and too many other rules of etiquette to list here. Wikipedia has a volumonous set of Policies and Guidelines for editing. There is also a more distilled version of their Ruleset.
Metafilter, unlike Digg, strictly enforces its guidelines. The website Metatalk is a blog dealing specifically with enforcement of these guidelines and usability issues. Typically, when a post or FPP [Front Page Post] is deemed inappropriate by community-members, it winds up in Metatalk, where Matt Haughty, Metafilter’s housekeeper, diligently weeds it out (is that a mixed metaphor?)
If you ever want to check out a fascinating document, read Metafilter’s Guidelines. Just kidding. Its really quite boring but integral to the success of the site. That and the diligence and alertness of its users. Metafilter is constantly grooming itself. Since this grooming is carried out in a semi-distributed fashion, there is less chance that anyone will be asleep at the wheel or using his or her power with abandon.
Resulting from this vigelance, Metafilter has developed a distinct character: a sharp, witty, insighteful, and even compassionate character. One of the facets of this personality is a level of quality control that takes enormous presidence. A new member of the community might find this elitist or off-putting. This trait accompanies other sites as well, such as SomethingAwful (Something Awful). These are adaptive conventions that were adopted by the community members to stave off trolls. In fact, all of these conventions were developed to insure the orderly governance of a community forum within a largely un-policed Internet.
Metafilter encourages community members to post multiple links in each post. Single-link posts are discouraged within the community but tolerated to a certain extent. The multiple links transform each post from a mere link to something much more valuable. What results is a group of links that are connected by some commonality. This commonality may or may not be implicit. It may be a series of links about saber-tooth tigers, but it might also be a series of links composed of diverse topics containing the word ‘tiger’ or ‘saber.’
Here is a classic example of a post where the links share a common subject theme.
The final chromosome in the human genome has been sequenced. The Human Genome Project has completed sequencing Chromosome 1 and has published its work in Nature here. If you’re impatient, here’s a sneak preview..
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:45 PM PST – 32 comments
The author of the post has gone with an obvious choice for relating these disparate links. Each link points the user to a site that is relevant to the topic of the Human Genome Project, whether it is a link to a Wikipedia article describing what a chromosome is or a link to the Human Genome Project website, all links share this common thread.
Here is another example, which is not a classical example of subject-linking, but the common thread, Stephen Merritt, stays the same.
Is Stephen Merritt a racist? Sasha Frere-Jones, the New Yorker’s Pop Critic and maybe the finest music critic writing today, has long been an activist against rockism. Stephen Merritt, the gay, white auteur behind such postmodern pop experiments as 69 Love Songs, and sometime target of S/FJ’s ire, recently got into hot water with Jessica Hopper, among others, for allegedly racist comments made at the EMP Pop Music Conference, which is Christmas and Halloween all rolled into one for music crits and their fellow nerds. Slate’s John Cook defends Merritt, claiming that disliking rap doesn’t necessarily make one a racist, and S/FJ responds with some further thoughts. But was Frere-Jones accusing Merritt of racism, specifically, or simply of wack unexamined biases? And is that a fair criticism? Slate’s readers don’t seem to think so.
posted by maxreax at 4:53 PM PST – 177 comments
Here’s a novel example of a post where not only has the author included many relevant links about Ayaan Hirsi Ali but has included links to other metafilter mentions. This type of post connects not only the external links, but those links from the earlier post as well.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali (née Magan)
has already been mentioned in several times in Metafilter. Whether you consider her a couragous campaigner for women’s rights and against Islamofascism, or a crass opportunist, there’s no denying that she’s some character. However, it now seems that her Becky-Sharp-ish rise to fame and power also left a similar trail of embittered ex-friends and lies that has ended up landing her in serious trouble with fellow right-winger (also previously mentioned in Metafilter) Rita Verdonk, Dutch Immigration Minister.
Before feeling too sorry for Ayaan, consider that she’s moving to Washington DC, where she’s landed a job at the American Enterprise Institute. I’m sure she’ll fit right in…
posted by Skeptic (34 comments total)
Each of these posts, which are relatively compact, have a quality not unlike a human memory. Memories are visceral sensations that do not adhere to any meta data scheme. If we could tag an individual memory, it could have lots of different attributes. For example, Summer Camp: (sitting under a tree, the sound of creaky bunkbeds, the color of my dufflebag, the smell of the dining hall, the sound of the bugle in the morning, the fear of going in a canoe, betrayal by a girl, etc. etc.) These tags might appear at some other point in life. I may hear a sound on the radio that sounds like the bugle from camp. The sound triggers a memory of hearing the bugle along with other thoughts that are relevant to camping as well.
One might argue that web links differ from memories in that they are malleable and vulnerable to alteration. What if my memory of the bugle call at camp were actually transformed into a beat box or removed entirely. My response is that most of our thoughts are ephemeral as well. When I recollect that bugle call, I might not get it exactly right. I might have only a fleeting impression of the bugle, or that there was a bugle, or a musical instrument. These are the pitfalls of having a brain. Sometimes memories stay crystal clear; other times, they fade depending upon how much effort is put towards preserving them.
As the web grows out of its awkward ‘text’ and ‘jpg’ phase into a more multi-media experience, we will begin to see more paralells between blogs and memories. Perhaps this is the ultimate destination of the Internet for our human culture?
A few nights ago, I attended a presentation by Jeffrey Zeldman of A List Apart. I wasn’t sure why Zeldman had been invited to Pratt by the Special Library Association, but as it turns out his wife is a librarian.
Zeldman talked at great length and quick clip about web usability, but much of what he said I’ve heard before. He made a few novel statements comparing MySpace and Flickr. He describes Myspace as a hierarchy with heavily-linked users on the top competing to add more friends. Beneath them are users trying to add friends by giving patronage to the users above them. At the bottom are users with few or no links who hardly get noticed by the group at the top of the pyramid. In this way, Myspace has a lot of similarities with how blog influence is measured. An even more striking comparison are the similarities between blogs and scholarly communication networks, but we’ll save that discussion for another occasion. Flickr is also a social networking site. It is a social networking site where users create a personal account and upload their photos to store and share online. Similar to MySpace, Flickr users can link up to one another, but they differ, according to Zeldman, because Flickr is not a Feudal System where users on the top throw their table scraps to those below. On Flickr, users are motivated to link up with one another not because of the status, but because they connect with the user’s photography.
I’m not ready to dismiss Zeldman’s analysis, but I do find it hard to compare the two. It presumes that Flickr users are anything at all like MySpace users, which nobody really knows. It also suggests that there is only one type of MySpace user, a primitive driven soul with a greedy appetite for friends that cannot be satisfied.
True, there are a lot of MySpace users who compulsively add friends. Take this guy. Just who in the hell does he think he is? There are also plenty of users who sign-up for one reason or another and never engage with the community. These users sink to the bottom where they rest unless somehow motivated to participate.
There is atleast one other type of user, who is not fully understood. I believe a substantial part of the MySpace community is composed of users who are not focused on linking as much as Zeldman would have us believe. Instead, they maintain a manageable set of friends, 25-100 (many of which they know personally). This collection of friends grows over time, but it is also weeded periodically. The weeding reduces the number of pages a user has to click through to find one of his or her friends. A great deal of time is spent by this concientious user to keep his or her profile in good shape. The user’s profile is manicured regularly (sometimes like a Japanese Garden though oft times like a Megadeath Concert). As every good neighbor should, the user stops by his or her friends’ profiles when the weather is nice just to say hi.
The only three social networking sites that have not been complete failures are MySpace, Friendster, and Facelift (or whatever you call it). To throw Flickr into the mix just because users can upload a buddy icon or forward a flickr stream to a friend betrays the enthusiasm and activity of the Myspace community. Even the proliferation of YouTube has occured largely without the relationship-building necessary to sustain a site like MySpace.
Comment threads like this one from YouTube are not unlike many found on actively circulating videos…
Notice that less than a third of the users link to any friends at all while a greater proportion post their own content. This suggests that while being able to post comments to a Youtube video is a valuable feature, having copious links with other users is much less significant. For now, the relationship between Myspace and Flickr seems to be limited to me posting incriminating photos of my friends from my Flickr account to their MySpace profiles.
Its crisp and cool outside, warm and stuffy inside, but here I am, slightly altered, attempting to offer up some clever idea or thought. Tis the nature of the web that every individual that writes a blog is basically standing on a stage in front of billions with their fly open. Why do it? My reason for doing it is so that fifty years from now, in some filthy nursing home outside of Tampa, an old, decaying narcissist can look at his own picture, next to his own words, and say through his rusted trach ring, “I’m a goddamn genus.”
Digg.com is a community weblog, but its much more. Looking at the site for the first time, I don’t see anything impressive about it. Its got that crappy web 2.0 look, where everything looks… well kind of like this. The news items on Digg are presented not hierarchicallly (sorted by relevance or chronologically in descending order), but these qualities are immediately apparent. This is due to Digg’s novel (well I’m not sure how novel) ranking system. As you scroll down the page, scanning the stories, you can click ‘digg’ next to the stories that you liked or that grabbed your attention. If a story doesn’t manage to arouse interest, it is sent into purgatory and stays there. The stories that get a lot of ‘diggs’ go to the front page. Its kind of like life, isn’t it? I also like that Digg records your diggs and categorizes them, sort of like a social bookmarking site.
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