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27 March 2017

whence MetaChat? Hey there. I noticed we were down for a while What happened?

It raised the question for me again, "whence MetaChat?" Partly in light of this recent interview with Jessamyn on closing down a web community that was linked on MetaTalk, I started thinking that when/if that day comes here, it would be a lot better to know it in advance, and let people say a goodbye, come and export their comments or special threads or whatever they'd like to keep, etc. I'm glad it seems to have gotten patched up at this point, but I wonder if we want to think about a planned demise, rather than just a thing where we show up one day and it's all gone?
I'll miss this place so much when it's gone, but it hasn't been the same for quite a while now, despite trying to advertise it on the mothership, etc.

Doesn't it still cost a small amount of money to maintain every year? Is someone doing that? Chrismear (auto corrected to Chris meat) is still helping with the occasional glitches, yes? I don't know how much longer this time and money will be spent, but yes, I agree completely that there should be a proper sendoff. Hugs to all!!
posted by Melismata 27 March | 17:12
I noticed the site down on late Friday, 24 March (EDT) and sent a message to gomichild who I thought was still involved because it was morning in Oz. I didn't want to bother chrismear because it was late and I knew he was attending his brother-in-law's wedding the next day. I pinged chris on Sunday and he said the mysql server just needed a restart. And here we are.
posted by terrapin 27 March | 17:27
Thanks, terrapin and chrismear. I'm glad the resuscitation worked!

Let's still go forward with the discussion.

I have loved MetaChat so much. It gave me a lot - friends, a lot of fun and support during hugely important years of my life, and not least, my life partner. But I don't think it has as much life in front of it as behind it. Can we discuss a proper sendoff, and what that would look like? A real-time last hurrah party? Setting a date a month, 6 months, a year from now when we will officially close up? HAving a few "highlights reels" threads in between? Archiving or just documenting the site in some way, so that it has a continued presence somewhere, but not open/live to new comments? Putting a "front door" on the URL so people who wander back can see the traces?

Some folks might want to continue/replicate components of this community elsewhere. Are there other platforms that can be home to a MetaChat group or network? We've already got small versions of this on Facebook and Flickr. Other proposals?

I'm interested in things that both give us a chance to celebrate and memorialize the site and what it's meant, allow us time to mine the memories and save what's wanting to be saved, and also that leave a few lasting hints to what was here - even if it's Zombie Bunny on a placeholder page, forever.
posted by Miko 27 March | 18:11
Doesn't it still cost a small amount of money to maintain every year? Is someone doing that? Chrismear (auto corrected to Chris meat) is still helping with the occasional glitches, yes?

Yes, yes, and yes. :D

I'm paying a few bucks a month to keep the Metachat server up. It looks like taz is still renewing the domain name. Those are the only costs associated with it, and those costs would remain if we turned it into a static archive.

I only do the bare minimum amount of maintenance on it (i.e. running software update on the server to get security updates).

I don't intend for there ever to be a day when the site just 'disappears' with no warning. If we decide that we want to shut it down, I'd like all the old URLs to keep working for as long as possible. Turning a site like this into a static archive is a decent chunk of work, though, and I'm not sure I'd be able to commit to making that happen in the near future. Keeping it running as-is (with the occasional glitch!) takes up very little of my time at the moment.

That said, the nature of software is that one day security updates will stop coming for the old versions of the various things we're running to keep MetaChat running as it does today. And it would be cheaper to host a static archive. There will inevitably come a time when it's not tenable to keep running MetaChat as it currently stands. So I'm glad we're having a discussion about how we want to handle the site, rather than waiting until that time and having our hand forced.
posted by chrismear 28 March | 00:19
When I saw the error I wondered if that was the last rattle of
At the same time that made me sad. And it gave me the feeling that the end of a web community can hardly be otherwise.

Do you guys know anything about Could be indexed by and thus be preserved?

I'm amazed that you keep it running chrismear. Really awesome.

posted by jouke 28 March | 08:06
I think holding a farewell for Metachat sounds like a nice idea- never seen one before and I think the site deserves it. I would prefer a placeholder memorial (gotta have the bunny!) over a full archived history- I'm getting older and something about everything I've ever said living forever online is creeping me out these days. Let the tide wash it away!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 28 March | 11:02
t. I would prefer a placeholder memorial (gotta have the bunny!) over a full archived history- I'm getting older and something about everything I've ever said living forever online is creeping me out these days.

Seconding that!

I'm thinking along the lines of picking a date to wind things down, and then having a little time for a bit of a second line/Irish Wake sorta thing before it closes. And that, if we did that, it would be a nice courtesy to email everyone we have in the database (and I'm sure 80% of those aren't current) just so they know they have a chance to come collect their comments or memorabilia if they'd like, and contribute a memory or thought.
posted by Miko 28 March | 13:32
Oh, for reference, here's the message they posted on mlkshk when it closed.
posted by Miko 28 March | 13:35
I support what Miko is proposing. It's sad to check out this place again and again, only to discover that no one is really interested in connecting anymore, in continuing the rich history of 3-point update threads and SHOUTING THREADS. In addition to emailing everyone, I'm guessing that making a MetaTalk thread would also be appropriate.

Cortex and Jessamyn used to participate here; I wonder what their thoughts are.
posted by Melismata 28 March | 14:13
Also: I miss gomichild! :(
posted by Melismata 28 March | 14:17
Just reading this thread makes me too sad to make any meaningful comment.
posted by Senyar 28 March | 16:21
Fuck me. This is so depressing. I have been on-line in some fashion for decades (BBS, relay mail, The Source, Internet.) I started a very early commercial Internet access provider and content provider before the web was a thing. The really great thing that attracted me to on-line communication was the ability to connect with other people I would not otherwise be able to connect with. Places like this were great little communities. Now everything has migrated to corporate run spaces and I just don't find much point to going there.

NO, typing Amen will not help the child in the picture and you are just helping to exploit a child and NO the government is not paying refugees $60K a year while your grandma starves and NO company is giving away a home for your like and repost and NO you can't buy $300 sun glasses for $19.95 and ON AND ON.

Corporations don't really care that racism and sexism and hatred of any 'others' is moving out from quiet talks in locker rooms or bar rooms or out at a smoke break to loud and proud declarations of get dead or raped or die of cancer. Saddest thing is while some people really seem to believe the stuff they say a lot of it seems to be motivated by money or the second best currency, Internet infamy.

Recommendations from sites like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube etc. are driven by paid placement or by things that are moniterized by the platform. If someone you follow on Pinterest or Youtube or Instagram recommends something then they are likely paid to do it. Nothing wrong with getting paid except for when you don't tell people about it. (many people don't seem to care about that anymore)

There are now thousands of sites with THE TEN BEST _____ or 14 WORST _____ or other lists that seem to be slapped together with no thought (of course because no one wants to really work to generate good content for such meagre pay) and all the commentary seems to be 'your list sucks and so do you'.

There are a number of places generating long form journalism and well researched news and art and fiction and producing some good stuff. Unfortunately none of them seem to be able to do community along with it. They just hope to piggyback on the Istagrams and Youtubes and Facebooks of the world. So no community and likely not enough revenue to keep going for the long haul.

I had hoped smaller social community sites would see a renascence but that seems increasingly unlikely. Now it sounds like the folks here are ready to take this horse out back and shoot it in the head. R.I.P. fun small on-line gathering spots.

My email (same for 20 years) is in my profile along with FB and Twitter. Drop me an email if you want to connect on Whatsapp or on some other site.

If we are closing the door then I have no opinion on how things end. That mlkshk message is the same as every other shuttered web site. It will suck whatever you decide.
posted by arse_hat 28 March | 17:43
It does suck, but to me it sort of equally or worse sucks that the site is functionally dead, despite the occasional post and here and there. Nothing can stay the same. We could leave this site open if that's the general sentiment, but the limping along doesn't feel good either. We don't have the community we once did, even if we retain an ability to post and comment.

I agree the web has become something sadder and more boring. And the internet itself helped strangle some other forms of community. Maybe letting these things makes room for whatever's next....perhaps IRL things.
posted by Miko 28 March | 21:37
Yup it's dead.
posted by arse_hat 28 March | 22:38
Arghhh this makes me very sad.
I am considering a big change and was thinking this might be the only place I would want to post about it! But anyway, yeah I would rather know the end is coming than be shocked by it.

I will certainly miss the 3 point updates if metachat decides to close. I love hearing about the details of your lives and feeling like I know people I've never met around the globe. It's much more personal and intimate here than on MeFi.
posted by rmless2 29 March | 15:12
You can look at the archives link to see how far we've fallen. A decade ago there were as many as a thousand posts a month, now we struggle to get more than ten.
posted by octothorpe 30 March | 07:10
I will miss our annual Christmas Card exchange. I suppose I could do a similar exercise on Metafilter, but I feel like that could be a lot more work and loose the sweet intimacy of our little exchange!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 30 March | 10:03
What arse_hat said. (You started a preweb ISP too, arse_hat?) At least I found out by showing up instead of getting an email to an address I no longer use. I just looked and I still use that address, sorta. It's on another dying preweb community, either in denial, or redefining what it means to be alive. A little of both, I guess.
posted by Obscure Reference 30 March | 11:48
I will miss our annual Christmas Card exchange.

\Most of it happens via email, right? It could continue as an opt-in email list. And that's an extension we could mention in any email/outgoing message.
posted by Miko 30 March | 12:24
Looks like MetaChat went live on May 18, 2005. So, this May 18 it will have run for 12 years. That's pretty good.

I'm just not sure to proceed. I have no more ownership of MeCha than anyone here - I adminned for a year and care about it, but it's not "my" site in any sense, and so I am not uniquely empowered to end it. At the same time, I'm willing to have the conversation because I'd like it to 'die with dignity,' as it were, rather than limp along feeling a bit sad. PatrickOKeefe made some interesting points in the MeTa that sure, you can let a site meander along with 5-10 people participating, and it doesn't really do any harm. So one choice is, do nothing, and let the handful of people who continue to circulate by here post and chat here. It doesn't really hurt anything. That's one viable option.

There's something in my heart that aims for closure, and for a moment to celebrate and then call it day, but that may be just me. I think the tricky thing with a web community is that there's no pressing issue demanding closure. If you're a business, yes, you likely need to make the call that it isn't making money any more or that the admins and developers need to move on with their time and can't maintain it. Our only real constraint is the limit of chrismear's patience, I suppose, as the life support provider. So there's no reason we HAVE to pull the plug. I just recognize that this is about the 3rd go-round of this particular conversation: site goes down, comes back up, the event prompts a brief flurry of attempt to revive it, but it doesn't gain traction.About all I see in the future is more iterations of that. So it's not so much that it's over and needs to close for hygienic or resource reasons, so much that there's not much hope for anything different in the future.
posted by Miko 30 March | 12:25
When we put down a dying animal, there's the understanding that we are putting an end to its suffering. Let's see if we can say what the suffering is that we wish to end.

Is it the feeling of loss? We come here looking for something and experience its absence? In the same vein, the suffering of starting a thread and not getting responses?

Is it a self-image thing? Can we not bear to see what has happened to us? Can we not bear for it to be so public? Anyone could come along and see what we have become, and we are ashamed.

Or is it merely "practical?" A wish to conserve the brain real estate that's not being well used?
posted by Obscure Reference 30 March | 13:15
I wasn't around ten years ago, so this is all I know!

I would miss metachat, even at a couple of posts per month, but definitely understand the desire not to let it simply go down one day and not come back up.

I particularly love the card exchange, and would vote for continuing that somehow, if possible.
posted by needlegrrl 30 March | 13:33
Or is it merely "practical?" A wish to conserve the brain real estate that's not being well used?

For me, that is part of it. I continue to check back here every so often because I know it's still open, and I still have the mod access, and I feel somewhat obligated to keep an eye on things and make sure nobody's having an extra bad day online and posting problematic (for them or others) stuff, or feeling super troubled and looking for help and support in an empty void, etc. So it still takes up a bit of brain real estate in that sense.

I also feel a stake in it kind of like TPS' - I have a lot of words in this thing and want to feel sure they're taken care of, whether by an active set of mods that I trust or because they're archived and so nothing unpredictable that might bring a sudden influx of random renown is likely to happen.

Another reason is that it's just sort of sad to see posts with no responses, weeks with no posts at all, the vestige of a community. That's a more personal issue.
posted by Miko 30 March | 13:48
It does seem there is no way to bring life back to this place and that is gutting. This was a rare on-line place I felt comfortable talking about issues in my personal life. Familiar to all who hang out here but more or less invisible to the rest of the world.

I met a lot of good people through this site and had a lot of fun here. I'd like it to go on but that does not seem possible at this point.

The ideas about keeping things like the Christmas card exchange alive sound good but I doubt they would last more than 2 or 3 iterations. Without a community focal point where you have traded recopies and commiserated over loss and celebrated wins it just becomes a list of names of people you used to interact with but now only see once a year. Also they become static with no chance of new people coming into the activity.

I'll miss the Christmas music.

Further to the comments I made up page about the wider changes in the web, I have, over the last few evenings been deleting photos and videos and audio files and deleting accounts all over the web. They serve no useful purpose anymore except as data mining resources for marketers.

Facebook and Twitter pose a bit of a dilemma. I don't really see any reason to actively participate on these sites anymore but increasingly if you want information about events, groups, artists, businesses, organizations, and agencies, you must be on these two services. I have been going back and deleting posts and removing a lot of myself from them. I think I may take the big step and delete my accounts and rejoin under an pseudonym so I can just follow bands and museums and dance groups and authors and restaurants and such.
posted by arse_hat 30 March | 17:17
I sticky posted this thread to keep it active but I added a couple words at the beginning to make it clear what it's about. Hope you don't mind Miko.
posted by arse_hat 30 March | 17:20
Obscure Reference. Yeah, I started Canada's first commercial dial-up ISP and had the first commercial .ca name.
posted by arse_hat 30 March | 17:25
See, we never should have gotten rid of zombie bunny. : )
posted by Pips 31 March | 10:25
posted by danostuporstar 20 April | 14:01
Potty Training Baby Sloths || while the place is still open...