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04 November 2009

So . . uh . . what's the deal with Metachat, anyway? Where do you guys think this place is headed? [More:]

On the one hand, traffic has slowed dramatically over the last three years. Posting volume is about a quarter of what it was when I joined. Lots of active posters have left. Quite a few people prefer to interact over the networks they've built on Twitter and Facebook.

But on the other hand, there are new faces here. People still seem to enjoy what MetaChat has to offer. People are still posting.

Maybe it's just me? I don't know.

What do you guys think? Are there ways we can revitalize MetaChat? Or is it OK as it is?
I wish it wasn't so quiet. I really don't like Facebook and only joined it recently because I was missing out on things people were arranging via FB. I'm not on Twitter and have no plans ever to be.

I find the limited post length on FB means that it lacks any depth at all (I know it's not meant to have depth) but that's what I like about MeCha, that people can submit long and quite detailed posts about all kinds of things, and threads can be long and rambling in a way you can't have on FB.

I wish people would post on here more.
posted by essexjan 04 November | 12:24
It has been pretty quiet lately.
posted by octothorpe 04 November | 12:41
I find the limited post length on FB means that it lacks any depth at all

I feel the same way. While there are plenty of light and silly posts on MetaChat, the format allows you to do in-depth posts as well.

posted by jason's_planet 04 November | 13:03
I still enjoy seeing new faces, hearing about people's lives and opinions- I was just mentioning to The Whelk the other day that I'm enjoying his Mecha posts. Quiet isn't all bad- there have been busy times on the site that haven't been all that enjoyable. I think good things will rise from the ashes.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 04 November | 13:04
Ebbs and flows. . .sorta like life.

Although I still miss iconomy.
posted by danf 04 November | 13:13
If you look at the archive page, it looks like the site peaked in activity in '06 and has been slowly declining since then.
posted by octothorpe 04 November | 13:26
I also noticed the slow-down. I just chalked it up to people being busy in their lives, and I figured it would pick back up. At least, I hope so.
posted by redvixen 04 November | 13:27
Quiet isn't all bad- there have been busy times on the site that haven't been all that enjoyable.

Heard that.
posted by jason's_planet 04 November | 13:27
For met, Metachat feels different and fills a different niche than, for example, Facebook or my blog. It's like a little internet-neighborhood party where there are always a few (or a great many) people chit-chatting away. I like it here.

But then, I'm in the minority among my friends: I do not much like Facebook, in part because I see it drawing participants away from other, more in-depth online interactions.

I definitely see the quietness that you described, jason's_planet, though I'm not sure it's all that unusual. But I suspect it is self-feeding, especially for people who come in via the recent comments page: they get here, see that very few comments have been added to a given discussion since their last visit, and click back out without saying anything.

I've contributed to that dynamic some, largely because I'm trying to buckle down and get some writing done and I've been banking my words as if they were irreplaceable commodities lately.

Maybe it's too simple to say without feeling a little dumb, but I'm used to that feeling, so: it seems to me that the best way to revitalize MeCha is simply to use it. Chat here, post here, be happy to be here.

Goodness knows I'm happy to be here; y'all have helped me celebrate good times and talked me through bad times, have talked about cupcakes and love and bigotry and puppies with me, have made me laugh and made me feel glad to have found the place.
posted by Elsa 04 November | 13:52
What danf said. It's pretty normal for there to be quieter times especially around the endish of the year.
posted by gomichild 04 November | 14:01
I miss the personalities that used to be on here, or felt like they were. It seemed back in '05 and '06 like the greatest Spaz Party ever - I used to really enjoy coming home and hanging out here.

Especially when we had Radio Mecha - man, that was the guava. I remember me and Eideteker doing ludicrously long sets, and me with my Mr. Rogers USB mike shout-outs to folks in IRC in semi-real time.

IRC used to be like a never-ending pj party, now it's like a convention center lobby for the regional meeting of Unicorp.

I'm still very much a part of this place, but not nearly as into it as a few years back. As for what can make Metachat better? Who knows?

It's internet-life - things ebb, flow, and the vibe changes. Bring to it what you will, or not. This site still has legs, it's just that those legs aren't jumping up and down on the trampoline like they seemed to back four years ago.
posted by Lipstick Thespian 04 November | 14:06
I like the quiet, the absence of GRAR HATE GRAR METARIOT ANGRY GRAR issues and grudges, man; its like a pleasant walk in the woods somedays.
Critter pics, shared feeling about job loss issues, talk about neighborhoods I'll probably never see, etc. Kinda adds a grandmotherly-esque council balance to my life.
posted by buzzman 04 November | 14:10
What TPS said.
posted by CitrusFreak12 04 November | 14:12
I mourn the place, but, like LT says, ebbs and flows.

I think the Blue got more chatty/less rigourous, and meanwhile MetaChat got more rigourous/less chatty.

Plus, Taz, we just mostly miss, if I may presume.

I actively lurk, but I don't feel as at home or excited or addicted as I once did.

Still a good thing to check out daily or almost.

I spent some months at one point trying to be a "good" member and posting to the front page here, but, eh, I gave up.

posted by rainbaby 04 November | 14:15
I like the quiet, the absence of GRAR HATE GRAR METARIOT ANGRY GRAR issues and grudges, man; its like a pleasant walk in the woods somedays.


posted by gaspode 04 November | 14:16
Oh, yeah, The Whelk rules in old school style, absolutely.
posted by rainbaby 04 November | 14:17
Y'all started marrying each other is what happened.
posted by mullacc 04 November | 14:27
I still participate in the Photo Fridays.
posted by tommasz 04 November | 14:38
I don't participate in any of the big social networking sites, but I can see that their popularity has been the downfall of many of the smaller community-style groups.

I used to be a co-manager of a fairly large group on MSN. For several years, we built a really strong, close-knit group of members who actively posted and attended regular chat nights. But we watched it gradually fritter away as shiny new things competed for people's online attention. Then MSN did away with Groups altogether and we found a new home but we're lucky now if we can get even 5 people together for group chats.

I don't know what the solutions are, but I know it's happening everywhere. MetaChat still seems pretty vital and active to me (although I'm more of a reader than a poster, but I'll do my best to make more of an effort).
posted by amyms 04 November | 15:05
rainbaby has it.
posted by eamondaly 04 November | 15:09
I don't participate in any of the big social networking sites, but I can see that their popularity has been the downfall of many of the smaller community-style groups.

That reminds me of the effects that the new-fangled Internet had on the old-school dial-up BBSs back in the mid-90s.
posted by jason's_planet 04 November | 15:18
I haven't been as active here as much as I used to, but then again, I haven't been as active anywhere as I used to. I've just been going through some difficult times and haven't really felt like writing anything. I even neglected my own blog for a long time, posting only maybe once a month and only because I felt it was my duty to post something, anything. I just didn't enjoy writing anymore as I once used to. But it seems that I'm finally starting to get over this 'block', so I really hope I will become more active here as well.
posted by Daniel Charms 04 November | 15:33
You guys just need to post more. Where else can you find "Ask LT Anything"?
posted by DarkForest 04 November | 15:49
I've run out of things to say.
posted by WolfDaddy 04 November | 16:03
I'm new to MeCha. I just made my first post, and this is my first comment. I like that it's so low-key around here, and I can read through everything without RSS or other fanciness (that I don't quite understand), but I don't know of the prior period to compare and contrast.
posted by filthy light thief 04 November | 16:06
I noticed earlier this year that the volume had dropped a lot. And while I wish it were a bit busier, I sure don't miss the drama fests. Well, most of them anyway. I hope this is just an "ebb" period.

PS: Welcome to Mecha FLT!
posted by deborah 04 November | 16:22
Yaaay, welcome filthy light thief!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 04 November | 16:23
posted by Melismata 04 November | 16:25

I check here every day, but don't post as much as I used to. I still like it an awful lot, though.
posted by Specklet 04 November | 16:42
Maybe it's just me?

No; I think I started feeling a real change at some point between a year ago and six months ago. You're correct, j_p, especially in quantifying the post count and active users. Both are a lot smaller than they once were.

I took MeCha off my bookmarks a while back and considered just leaving. But I still check in once a day or so, but sometimes less. The quality of the experience here, for me, has declined greatly, but there are still a few gems here and there, and there are some people I only "see" here and would miss the chance to interact with them, so I haven't completely cut the cord.

There were a lot of users here who posted a lot, wrote a lot, and had a lot of fun, and many of them have moved on. Some, I know, have moved on because their lives moved on. They have less time for internetting, or they developed more (or more important) personal relationships in meatspace, had children, what-have-you. Some moved on because they were alienated or irritated by some component of what was happening here. Some just got bored. These kinds of things happen in communities.

In order for communities to ebb and flow, as some people migrate out, a relatively equivalent number need to migrate in, averaged over time. That's what hasn't happened here. There are new users (hi, great to have you!) but not in the numbers that would constitute a Renaissance yet. Things can ebb and flow, but sometimes they just ebb and then dry up completely. We don't yet know what's going to happen to MetaChat.

If it's to flow again, here is how I think it will happen: a critical mass of new users will wander in, discover a pretty nice and flexible playground, and be at the right time and place in their life to make exciting and fun personal connections through the site. They will find burning issues to discuss and hilarious memes to share, and they'll come here to do it, and enjoy the freedom of the site.

But I think this potential for "flow" completely depends upon new users finding it and finding reasons to stay. Most of the oldsters who were once big presences and then left are not coming back, or at least not to participate regularly. So a revival of the site won't happen by somehow getting the old community back into it. Mostly, they don't want to come back, or just don't have any compelling reason to prioritize it.

For myself, one factor in my own reduced participation is that I've said a lot of my piece here. We've had some really awesome, deep discussions here over the years, which I really really enjoyed ...discussions which were in many ways formative, or at least sharpening-up-ative, of my points of view on certain topics in life, like relationships and gender and politics, wealth and poverty, work and family relationships. It was, for a while that extended many months, like being at summer camp and just having a huge intense conversation late into the night during which you really touched on all kinds of important things that just had to be expressed. I can't imagine doing that very much now. When it comes to internet discussions, sometimes I just feel tired. I see the debate starting up, see where it's headed, and I think "okay, I could get into now," but then I see someone else saying whatever I would have said, and anyway I've already said it when it was my time to say it, and there's just no pressing reason to insert myself. It was so wonderful discovering all the bright and interesting minds here, and hashing out a lot of the burning questions of my 30s with people who could do the same, but a lot of those questions just don't burn anymore. The same thing is happening on MetaFilter for me, by the way - I just don't have the same need to get involved in the conversation if I have nothing really new to add, and if the conversation isn't going to take me in new directions.

So what I've hung around here for are mostly the casual, relaxed threads - the cooking threads, you know, and the "everyday moments" threads that are somewhat random. The three-point status reports, which give some nice window into people's lives and let me feel I know a little bit about how they're doing.

I miss Taz, too, among others. But I miss Taz in two ways. First, because she was Taz, obviously. But second, because she was a visible and active moderator when she had that role. I believe that part of the reason the site has declined somewhat in participation level is that the moderation style has become very passive. I don't mean that as an indictment of our present mods, who I know are volunteering and taking care of the mechanics and doing stuff I don't ever see, and who probably never envisioned themselves with the burden of coralling a bunch of silly people with too much time on their hands. But I do think that there is a sense of reluctance to bear a hand to some of the interpersonal difficulties on the site, and give those helpful nudges and time-outs that kept things calmer and more pleasant around here in days gone by. I do think that some of the uglier events of the last year or so would have gone in a different direction with that kind of guiding hand and moderator voice. As a user community, we defaulted to an 'anything goes' philosophyand anything has gone, along with a lot of users. In the same way pruning a tree can help it grow more healthfully, moderating a community can help it maintain health as well, and give a sense of structure and social order.

But that freedom could certainly be seen as a positive by a continuing influx of new users who enjoy the freedom and flexibility of an open posting environment where people take a personal interest in the dailiness of one anothers' lives. I think that's the solution, if there is a solution for MetaChat.

But some things just fizzle out. I was part of a great community blog from 2001-2007 or so, and by and by people wandered off to their lives or to other blogs. The community didn't refresh, and it just sits there in blogspot now, inert and gathering dust. We all like accessing the archives so we haven't killed it off, but it's not a functioning community any more. Towns empty, schools shut down, states see their population drift across borders to big cities. Change sometimes happens.

One thing we could look at is sort of new user intake, and whether there's anything we could do to enhance MetaChat's image. Every now and then I see a mention on MeFi that someone "tried MetaChat" and it just seemed "too clubby" or unwelcoming or something like that. Ironically, I did too at first. I think it's just a function of the small-town nature of MetaChat - we actually DO sort of "know" one another and so there is some inside baseball when we talk together, and it takes a while to get caught up. New users are kind of a blank slate, so it's hard to include them personally and directly into the ongoing conversation because you just don't know them yet, or know what you might have in common. The new users who tend to succeed are the bold and silly ones who just jump in and start yappin'. That has worked for lots of us - just taking a flyer on posting or commenting and gradually become known. But some people lack the abandon or confidence to just start doing that, and I think they can't find a good way in.

So we could think about things like creating a New User Welcome Tradition, or a New User Page, or doing like an outreach campaign where we invite a couple new people personally to come over to MetaChat for fun times. Or we could focus on trying to have an abundance of those low-intimidation-threshold threads which make it really clear that everybody is not only invited and welcome to, but actually expected to, respond: the "three-point status," the "what'd you have for lunch,", the "[conversation opening question]", the "what kind of shoes are you wearing" - I remember those really open-ended, you-can't-be-wrong kinds of questions being one of the ways I really started getting to know people as personalities here on the site.

So in short, I think there's strategies we could employ, if we made a concentrated effort. But I think the only thing that will make the site ever really thrive again is a healthy cycle of incoming users on a relatively continuous basis.
posted by Miko 04 November | 16:57
As usual, Miko nails it for me.

I can't explain why it's not as exciting for me anymore, or what would make it different. It's still the first site I visit in the morning (I'm nothing if not a creature of routine), but I often just skim the few links that have been posted since I left work the previous days and say "Meh," then move on without clicking on them.

It's chicken and egg, though. The meh factor, for me, doesn't come from the fact that there are fewer links. Rather, I assume that there are fewer links because others -- the people I was used to seeing around a lot, anyway -- started to feel the meh-ness. And again, other than the expected ebb and flow of any community or any hot new thing, I can't really put my finger on what caused that.
posted by mudpuppie 04 November | 17:05
It happens, but I will bet that all the people here I haven't met are just as nice as all the people I have met.
posted by Ardiril 04 November | 17:38
I haven't had much to chat about lately.

(IRC is still booming, tho')
posted by Eideteker 04 November | 17:43
Did I miss something about the mods? I thought Taz just hadn't been as busy, but it sorta sounds like she's not actually around at all?
posted by richat 04 November | 17:49
I still enjoy MeCha.
posted by halonine 04 November | 18:07
When it comes to internet discussions, sometimes I just feel tired.

Well, see, if you would stop typing out these novel-length comments, you wouldn't feel so tired!

(This is a joke. For the record, I look forward to Miko posts of any length, here or anywhere else. I can't think of anyone else with a higher sense/word ratio.)

I still check in probably once a day at least, but I rarely post or comment. It's mainly my job; previously, I worked at a place where I had oodles of time to waste, and spent much of that here. These days, I have an actual productive and fulfilling job, but that means I really don't have much time for Internet tomfoolery.

In some ways, the smaller number of posts is a little nicer. I remember in the busier days feeling almost overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff here. It's a little easier keeping track of nowadays.
posted by deadcowdan 04 November | 18:18
Quite a few people prefer to interact over the networks they've built on Twitter and Facebook.

Also this, of course. Most of the people on MeCha with whom I have some sort of relationship, I have it on twitter and/or facebook as well. Or I email them. Or call them. Or see them. Because MeCha was (and still is, probably) a *great* place to make friends esp. a few years ago, and now that I have them, I interact with them elsewhere.

Of course I still come here a lot, too.
posted by gaspode 04 November | 19:17
Every forum I know is slower than it once was.

I still like this place.

posted by Doohickie 04 November | 19:19
I don't understand how Miko is in my brain like she is.

It's pleasant, and she kind of tickles, but I still don't understand it.
posted by scody 04 November | 19:31
I'm pretty new here and am late to the thread. Probably nobody is still reading by now. But as a latecomer to the site, I can tell you that it often feels like I'm crashing a party and am tolerated but not especially welcome. There have been some notable exceptions and I keep coming back because this site reminds me of something I loved about living in NYC. Sometimes at night I'd be riding the bus and when it went past apartment buildings, I'd often catch a glimpse inside a lighted window, and see someone standing in a kitchen or in front of a bookshelf or a television, and for that instant, I got a peek into someone else's life. I don't know, it was all at once intimate and anonymous. That's what this site feels like. I get little peeks into everyone's life, and I imagine what you all look like even though I'll probably never get to meet any of you, and it's just neat. I like the sense of community that I feel exists among the oldtimers and I like checking in and seeing what everyone's doing. I feel like you're my neighbors, sort of.
posted by Kangaroo 04 November | 19:35
That makes sense to me, too, Kangaroo. (Boy, that was fun to hear in my head as I typed.) It felt that way to me when I first started spending time here, and I wasn't sure it was a good fit for me.

As time went by and I commented more and more, I realized that what felt so closed-off to me was really just a tightly-knit community with a lot of friendly jokes and backstory... and they welcomed me so happily and openly when I did jump in.

I think your metaphor is apt. For me, it feels like neighbors who you only see in tiny glimpses at the mailbox or on the stoop... and then one day at the block party, I opened up and discovered hw much we have in common and how congenial we are! I hope this will feel true for you, too.

I don't understand how Miko is in my brain like she is.

Dude, I am seriously starting to suspect Miko is some other, more polished version of me: maybe the me I will be when I grow up. I just learned that she also spent her girlhood in Texas. WHAT THE HELL, MIKO. The coincidences of location, timing, interests, and birth are getting a little startling.
posted by Elsa 04 November | 19:45
I don't understand how Miko is in my brain like she is.

It's pleasant, and she kind of tickles, but I still don't understand it.

Welcome to my daily life, Scody. Imagine that feeling in three-dimensions.

She sure is somethin', ain't she?
posted by Lipstick Thespian 04 November | 19:49
I like it here it is fun and pretty

(but I wish the front page was longer, srsly)
posted by The Whelk 04 November | 20:16
Bopping around on Metachat helped get me through grad school when there was a lot of downtime. Now it's blocked at work because work thinks it's some kind of Swedish real-time chat site. Not that I should even be trying to access it at work, of course, but sometimes there's weeks like this one when I just have nothing concrete to do and need to hear friendly voices on the ether.

(MeFi isn't blocked at work. I'm trying to cut back.)
posted by casarkos 04 November | 21:23
I blame myself for the slow down of metachat . i have this nasty habit of joining cool online things after their 'hey day' . fashionably late just doesnt seem to work on the internets :p
posted by rollick 04 November | 22:33
I've been lurking here for a couple of years but don't really participate because, well, what Kangaroo said. I like the quirkiness and the lovely little vignettes people often share. It's kind of weird, actually, to be familiar with so many personalities via this site and the overlap on MeFi...
posted by lalex 04 November | 22:52
Welcome to my daily life, Scody. Imagine that feeling in three-dimensions.


posted by gaspode 04 November | 23:08
I don't understand how Miko is in my brain like she is.

It's pleasant, and she kind of tickles, but I still don't understand it.

But it's awesome! The furniture is baroque and unique and beautiful. There are all these interesting drawers and bulletin boards filled with ephemera leading in different directions. There are wind chimes and stained glass and's awfully nice here...

I just learned that she also spent her girlhood in Texas.

You too? WEIRD. Although I kind of aspire to be as polished as, here we all are!

And Kangaroo too!

I'd love to feel we have some life left in us here at let's keep up the good work.
posted by Miko 04 November | 23:37
Are we sure it's not just because last year was so heatedly crazy with the election and everything, and we're just starting to sit up all groggy and the sun's in our eyes and oh god what time is it and why are we on the floor surrounded by old sandwiches?
posted by casarkos 04 November | 23:43
Are we sure it's not just because last year was so heatedly crazy

No - if I had to pinpoint a heyday I would say late 2005 through end of 2007. By election 2008 it already seemed we were drifting into the weeds, and I actually credit the election with an infusion of life and energy when it otherwise might have already been fading a bit.
posted by Miko 04 November | 23:46
I actually credit the election with an infusion of life and energy when it otherwise might have already been fading a bit.

For me, though obviously not necessarily for others, this worked the other way: the election, and some of the election aftermath, kept me away or kept me quiet more often than it gave me reason to speak up or hang around.

It took a while before I could approach the page here with the same enthusiasm.
posted by Elsa 04 November | 23:52
Casarkos, I'm not sure I like the negative way in which you talk about sandwiches. Sandwiches have always been kind to me, especially when there is sliced cheese involved.
posted by MonkeyButter 04 November | 23:57
"For me, though obviously not necessarily for others, this worked the other way: the election, and some of the election aftermath, kept me away or kept me quiet more often than it gave me reason to speak up or hang around. "

Same here. I really pulled back a lot. The email definitely suggested my style as a mod was not popular.

"It took a while before I could approach the page here with the same enthusiasm." I have not found the same enthusiasm.

The loss of radio and the loss of a number of folks from irc added to my lack of participation. I flirted with the idea of financing radio myself but that passed.
posted by arse_hat 05 November | 00:00
I think there's also less traffic on Metafilter, but I can't be sure.
posted by amro 05 November | 00:00
I wonder if others, like me, are just using the net for social interaction much less in the last year or so.

The election was very stressful for sure and I know I began to back away from the keyboard a lot middle last year. I never really participated that much to begin with so maybe my experience is less relevant.
posted by MonkeyButter 05 November | 00:18
"I wonder if others, like me, are just using the net for social interaction much less in the last year or so."

I feel that way too. I've come to like twitter. The succinct messages and links bring me fun updates and good links. I was never a Facebook fan but I've just come to really hate it.
posted by arse_hat 05 November | 00:28
I had been feeling it too, and quietly lamenting the change in the weather. I've been trying to pipe up a bit more often as a result. MeCha folks were welcoming at a time in my life when I needed the support, and for that I am ever grateful. I miss the friends who have moved on, and I welcome the new friends who are just coming aboard. Whuffles and sandwiches for all Mechazens, past and present, sliced chesse or no cheese, depending on preference!
posted by Triode 05 November | 01:15
*raises a glass, passes the wuffle sandwich*
posted by MonkeyButter 05 November | 02:49
For me, my drop in participation happened when I transitioned from freelancing to a corporate job. The period in my life when I able to get by freelancing was also a period of exploration and self-discovery, and it was great to be able to interact here in way that I normally wouldn't (I'm usually too timid too jump in very often). I've missed that over the past couple of years, and that's why I've recently been posting a bit more frequently.

I think Miko's right on, but I also think this could be related to, well, the economy. Sounds weird, but the whole world has been in "hunker-down" mode for at least the last year. For those of us who work in sectors affected by the downturn, this could mean longer hours and greater fear of getting laid-off, thus less time and energy devoted to pleasant social diversions like mecha. And all this extra work and worry makes everyone less social, more worried, more tired, more cranky, much less socially "open."

I think there are signs this could be changing for the better -- either the economy is getting better or we're adjusting to it -- and I'd venture that a navel-gazing thread like this is one of those signs.
posted by treepour 05 November | 02:54
I feel guilty now and again that I don't drop by here more often. As a moderator here, I feel some responsibility to have a strong presence, to sort of make sure things stay on the boil, but the job I started just over a year ago has really impacted on my ability to hang around. I used to have a few quiet moments each days where I could check in and see what was happening, perhaps throw the odd comment in or start a MP3-shuffle thread or something. Now, my work days are totally packed from 7:15 to about 5:00 or later and I just don't get that breathing space that I used to. I used to spend a fair bit of time catching up on the train to and from work, too, but the availability of a connection through my cellular modem has taken a nose-dive (I think because of the huge increase in people using these devices around me has sucked up all the bandwidth) - I bought an antenna today to try and improve that specifically because I want to get back in touch with MeCha.

I never used to use FaceBook, but I spend a fair bit of time there now and I keep in touch with a few Mechazens that way, which takes away another reason to come here. I also moderate another forum, which can take up some time when users there start to play up. There's always a lot of work for moderators to do on a busy forum, even when things are going smoothly - housekeeping and stuff, so that's taken away some of my energy.

I think that the economy may have a part to play, too (although I really hadn't thought of it until treepour mentioned it). People all over are in serious mode much more and perhaps there just isn't the room in their lives for more playful activities.

For me, the lack of taz is a big change in the site and, to almost the same extent (although this happened much earlier), iconomy. Some of the regulars who could be counted on to contribute a lot have either gone or are almost never here, such as quonsar and bunnyfire. There was a period where there was lots of GRARWWWW! going on, particularly around the US election and I think that may have been a big contributor, although things were already tapering off before that. I know that period gave me, in one day, a brief and frightening glimpse into what it must be like to try and moderate MetaFilter, where I spent an entire day doing nothing but firing e-mails back and forth, deleting comments, warning some users, placating others, even banning a couple. That day really took some of the shine off for me, because it made me feel bad about having to play policeman to people who, in a couple of cases, I had known for many years and who I considered friends. Although it eventually happened at his request (it would have happened anyway), having to ban quonsar hurt me a lot, because we had shared a lot of history at a time when my life was spiralling downhill fast some years ago.

To me, the turning point was that GRARWWWW! period, where what was a friendly, chatty place, really struggled as it started to become more serious and I think the community struggled to cope with that - some people wanted things to stay chatty, some wanted to have more deep discussions and, as a group, we failed to reconcile those conflicting needs. Nobodies fault - shit happens sometimes, you know? Communities (in meatspace as well as on-line) change and evolve. Some grow stronger, some grow weaker and die, some go through various stages of both. Possibly, this very thread, in bringing these issues and that way people feel about them to the front of people's mind could be what will urge people to consciously spend more time here and that will bring back some of the liveliness that I miss. I think we are in danger of falling below that critical mass of activity that makes it worthwhile coming back regularly to see what people are saying - once there is no need to come here every day to keep up, a cycle of reduced frequency of visits means reduced content, means further reduced frequency of visits etc etc.

I'll make an effort to be around more, to be more visible and maybe a few others will, as a result of this discussion.
posted by dg 06 November | 07:36
I've been less active (lately, not active at all) for a combination of reasons, most of which are entirely neutral. The two biggest things that changed for me were getting the dog, and getting the Kindle, so, instead of doing a lot of computer and internet-related stuff that I used to do, I've spent a lot more time playing with her, and reading. Reading a lot... to make up for all those years when books were so difficult to get here.

Aaaaand, I had my recurring summer slump (heat depression), which I think started with getting sick and being in bed for a week or so, then all that combined with procrastination, which made me feel bad that I was neglecting things, which made me procrastinate more. So. Just my own headspace stuff.

In terms of general problems, well, I can say that some things are depressing. One is obviously when somebody has to get a time-out or be banned. That really goes against my grain, and I hate it. For the most part, however, single-individual problems come down to somebody having a bad time at that period - quitting smoking, depression, alcohol-related, off the meds, whatever. Someone gets a little angry and nuts, then, usually, they get better, they come back. This is okay, this is life, and an honest part of community.

The second issue, though, is far worse, and that's when there's just some weird thing among members, some angry dynamic that gets nasty, and it's a no-win situation... whatever any of the mods do or don't do, some faction will be enraged. I won't speak for us all, but there are particular aspects of this that make me just want to walk away. One of them is what seems like back-channel action that gets people riled up. Another is all sorts of mail threatening that unless X-member is banned, then Y-member is leaving and/or because X-member was given a time-out Z-member is leaving. My feeling is that if you want a site with only your BFFs commenting/posting, you should make a site like that, invitation-only. I also think that in most of the cases where things blew up, it would have been simpler and wiser for a lot of people to have ignored certain posts. But, apparently, people really, really wanted to collectively lose it, and that's the very worst thing to me because there isn't any solution.

Sometimes, obviously, it is a question of trolling behavior... is it or isn't it? That's often a tough call, and I don't think I've always been right about my judgments. Sometimes it's more a question of generalized anger, and I don't think that there is any right action... close things up and the brawl will spring up elsewhere, plus many people will be angry about shutting down the "conversation." Let it go, and people will be angry about the lack of oversight. Ban, don't ban, a bunch of people will be angry. There is usually no objectively correct choice for the moderator. This place has always been more hands-off than intervention oriented, which also means that there aren't historical standards for dealing with things, so when there is a mod action, this is also seen as being a big deal, and some indication of the "way the site is going," when it's pretty much always just someone trying to choose the least worst from among a lot of uncomfortable options, at that moment.

But here's the thing for me, as an active moderator, my morning/afternoon/day/week could be completely spoiled or dominated by any single member being grouchy, or the whole group (or significant faction) getting antsy and GRAR (as Jessamyn says). I think that the first couple of years I could deal because of the novelty, and because of a lot of the other activities we were doing - the art stuff, games, music mixes, radio, etc. It was overall rewarding, but I did after a while become resentful of the time spent worrying and thinking and corresponding about the personality problems.

And it also felt more than a little ironic to me, because after a long relationship in which I was at the mercy of someone else's (un-medicated bipolar) mood swings, I worked to make my personal life very calm and serene in this regard - so what the hell was I doing putting myself in a situation where any random person could upset my peace of mind at any moment?

Which all makes it sound worse than it is, but I'm trying to be honest about the various aspects that have been negative, even though I certainly don't feel negative overall.

I've also had a problem with decision paralysis... should I hand it off to someone, once and for all? Should I just get over it, and jump back in? I don't know!!!

So, I think maybe it would be good if the members and mods hashed things out about the best way to go forward... over here.
posted by taz 07 November | 06:46
I dropped in, saw the "going forward" thread, wrote this up, and realized it really belonged here and not there:

I got the sense that Metachat had settled down into something that was useful and nice for its users. I think a lot of people get support here... I know I did, when I needed it after my mom died. But I have a funny relationship with support, and a strange reaction to touchy-feeliness, and I kinda noticed during my absences that when I'd come back I didn't have much to say, and so I gradually learned to not say much at all. Plus, probably because of my history (over the years basically committing every one of the behavioral errors taz points out), I noticed that the less I used the site, the more some other people did, and being, like everybody, self-centered, I figured my absence meant certain other people's presence. That combined with my finally needing the support network here demonstrated to me that if my personality was scaring people off, and if the people I scared off were mostly coming here for the love and support this site offers at the best of times, then maybe I should fade away a bit. I don't try to be a threat, but I understand my behavior has at times been somewhere between offputting and disgusting.

For a long time I found it annoying when other users would tell me that something I said wasn't kosher here, since I remembered the wacky beginnings, before the site settled down into a community, when it really was a goofy release valve, and lots of jokes and pictures and the occasional scrap were posted. But I guess I eventually saw the occasional censure of obnoxiousness as the germination of a community, and as that community grew the more abrasive behaviors and users were pushed out. Not explicitly, but surely.

I've always enjoyed doing things like excerpting books, or talking about my nephews, and I tend to feel good when I can help somebody else through a difficult moment. So yeah, none of this is categorical, there's no real "the site is like this" or "like that" going on, but I know I barely come around here mostly because the site has evolved into something I don't have much use for, most of the time.

Of course I'm sure, like anything I say, this could come across as a positively nasty swipe at this community and some of its members, and I don't mean it that way at all. What I say should really reflect my thoughts and the way my feelings affect them. I'm not so na´ve to think I live in a vacuum, though, so if people are really offended by what I say, well, either I didn't mean it personally, or maybe they should give what I've said a little more thought, and maybe they'll come away with the same sense that I have, that we all contribute to this site, and certainly in my case all those contributions haven't been good.

I love a lot of the people here, and I figure for most all the rest of you I just don't know you well enough to love you. But it's been a good thing, probably for the site and definitely for myself, that I've for the most part detached myself from metachat. I'm not good enough at explaining myself to be a big contributor anymore.
posted by Hugh Janus 07 November | 13:52
I figured my absence meant certain other people's presence.

I knew my presence here as mischief was chasing away at least one major contributor, so I killed off that username and left the site for a couple months. When I did come back, I posted rather innocuous comments with none of michief's trademarks and venom as well as in what I thought was a completely different voice. Yet, within a couple weeks, I received emails asking if I was mischief. After a few months, I saw that my masquerade was futile, and that one member I was trying to keep here eventually left anyway for altogether different reasons.
posted by Ardiril 07 November | 17:25
ouf. The problem with mentioning problems is that a lot of people will feel like they are maybe being called out, but I can tell you guys that stuff started happening right out of the gate... long before you were here, Hugh, and not sure about our "mischief," but almost immediately there were email complaints that were basically threats or ultimatums about leaving because of this person or that person, and they had nothing to do with either of you.

Nature of the beast, I guess. I can only imagine the lines of text reaching to the moon that MeFi mods deal with that are basically ban demands.

Truly the last thing I want to do is throw out complaints as some kind of blanket accusation thing, or make anybody feel bad or cause them to internalize general aspects. I can very honestly say that I personally haven't hard feelings about any single person here (except maybe one person who called me a cunt, so I think that should make it easy for everyone to eliminate themselves from that picture :-) )
posted by taz 08 November | 00:14
] This isn't a response to taz, just answering various queries since the other party left MeFi in a huff and hasn't returned here. [

My particular danse macabre originated on Plastic, migrated through MeFi, and finally landed here. The only mod who was ever involved was Plastic's Joey (who blew if off); the remainder was totally back-channel except for some karma stalking, heheh. It began with a rather nasty, self-deprecating joke I made on Plastic about the week I spent in a mental ward, and the other party took deep offense to it, the old 'don't joke about a trait even if you have it' syndrome.

The whole experience, over six years, was just one big weird cancer of emails ( that I mostly ignored until I decided to kill off mischief altogether--eight different sites total. mischief's anonymity was disintegrating anyway, and I wanted a more open internet experience with a username tied to my real name. Around this time, I also discovered just how well Deja News had archived usenet and that my real name was tied via Google to some rather incendiary comments made between 1995 and 2000, stuff I never would have dared publish as mischief. So, hiding behind a username and an untraceable email address was pointless.

Why did I choose Ardiril? At the time, Googling 'ardiril' brought up no hits. That is no longer the case, and it keeps me honest.

- luv m, ;-P
posted by Ardiril 08 November | 04:10
Oh no, those are all things I've thought regardless of what you wrote, taz, like I said, I'm self-centered as all get-out and I mean in general, yeah, I internalize everything, helps me be a better person in the world and probably a better member here, sometimes being a better member means disappearing from time to time is what I mean. And just for the record I don't really think this site existed for long before I was here, maybe a month; back when we had numbers mine was 420.
posted by Hugh Janus 08 November | 04:35
Ah! So you were here out of the gate, then. :) Remember the grand old days of knifebutt? aaaah! Heady wine, indeed!

Anyway... sure, sometimes better means disappearing - and sometimes it means coming back. I'm glad you come back, Hugh.
posted by taz 08 November | 04:56
I have to second what amyms said about shiny new things, I've seen my mailinglists slowly die these past years because everyone, and I mean everyone, is on facebook. The longest thread we've had recently was about a member who was in hospital after a cardiac arrest (thank god she's OK) that one member saw on facebook and decided to tell the list about since not all of us are. Turns out it was basically me, the moderator, who didn't know because I'm not on Facebook.

I've watched others sites traffic nosedive as well, and the ones that still have traffic have the kind of hit-and-run traffic that only reads the "top ten funny movie quotes" type of stuff coming straight from facebook or twitter. After google Twitter is the biggest traffic-pusher to adland, for example. And sure, it's probably because I befriended all the people who used to hang (or email) adland and the various lists there but I noticed when it all shifted away from the site itself to other sites. We used to have threads that went on forever on adland, now the quirky comments go on forever on twitter. *sigh* It's not like anyone can google up this funny threads after the fact now.

I watched it slow down here as well, and I thought of twitter & facebook likely adding to it and it ticks me off. I shoutout to Taz, I shoutout to dg, I bloody love Eideteker and essexjans bunnies make me laugh and Miko is every sensible eloquent post I want to be - and guess what - I don't know y'all one facebook and never will. You have real names and stuff, and somewhere this part of facebook makes me uncomfortable. If I were to have an account I'd befriend the people I actually know, and never see a great long comment of Miko's or make new friends with arse_hat and dodgygeezer and if those short spurts 'updates' & comments and quizzes are the future of the goddamned web we're all the poorer for it.

/facebook hatred

The economy might have something to do with it. I'm not sure. A lot of people have had their lives change but I think the shift is bigger than that.
posted by dabitch 08 November | 08:57
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