New MetaChat FAQ 2010

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What is MetaChat?

MetaChat is an adjunct to MetaFilter (a large community weblog). MetaChat was created because MetaFilter's guidelines disallow idle chat in favor of topic-focused discussion. Some folks on MetaFilter wished for a place where they could interact in a less content-driven way, and MetaChat was created for that purpose.

Not everyone on MetaChat started at MetaFilter, but the majority of users arrive via MetaFilter and MeFi is still the basis of the shared culture here. Lots of users are active on both sites. But MetaChat is a different site, separately managed and run, with a different purpose and guidelines.

Who Runs This Thing?

MetaChat was created in May, 2005 by taz and dodgygeezer. The team was complemented by seanyboy shortly afterward. In 2009, taz and seanyboy moved to emeritus status and handed the reins to the following team of mods, admins, and helpers. All are volunteers.

Hours and availability vary – unless you want to contact a specific person, your best bet is to email, which is a group email address that reaches all the team.

Who Can Join?

Anyone. You don’t have to be a MeFi member. Approval takes a short while; gaspode currently handles new member approvals.

At some point after you’re approved, you'll be welcomed by name in a New Users Welcome thread. Keep an eye out for it so you can pop in and introduce yourself.

MetaChat doesn’t approve known “sock puppet” accounts (we check the IP address). One account per person, please.

How Can You Have a Good Experience Here?

Metachat has its own site culture. As one site member put it, "MetaFilter is like a huge university campus; MetaChat is the dorm where we all hang out after class." MetaChat aims for an atmosphere that is open, friendly, respectful, and relaxed. It's been described as "chummy," "homey," "chatty," "like a little internet-neighborhood party," "Like a never-ending PJ party," "low-key," "a nice and flexible playground." To have a good experience as a user here, it helps to know what you can and can't expect from the site.

Some characteristics of MetaChat:

The site is primarily social, not defined by content. Almost any kind of post is welcome. Posts do not have to include links. Posts and discussions range from serious to playful, issue-oriented to casual banter. Whatever would make for a good conversation among friends probably will operate the same way here. There's a mix of utter silliness, deep discussion, and everything in between.

But there are a few important notes about posting:

  • Don't get us fired. Please use the [NSFW] tag in your post if the link is not suitable for viewing at work.
  • Self-linking is mostly OK. Self-links to things like your blog or Flickr or other projects are fine. But please stop short of SPAMming the site with business promotions or using the site for marketing polls, surveys for your research paper, etc. If you need to survey the site for some other reason, please email an admin to propose that first.
  • Posts which directly solicit donations, sales, or gifts are not allowed (requesting sponsorships or donations for a charity race, for example). However, it is OK to mention that you are involved with such an event or that you support such-and-such a charity in order to share information. If you think there is a special case in which you should be able to solicit donations, please email an admin to discuss.
  • No spoilers! When talking about a book, movie, or TV show, be mindful that maybe not everyone's gotten to the end yet. If your commentary is going to give away important information, please tag your post with "Spoiler alert," and consider using the black background for your text. That way, users can only see what you're saying if they highlight it.
  • Post what you love, the chatting will follow."There are too many cooking posts! There aren't enough funny stories! We used to have such great [skydiving/movie-review/toenail-grooming/etc] threads - where are they now?" The solution: MetaChat's content is 100% user-generated. If you don't like what's on the front page, post some stuff of your own. Too much politics? Post some arty stuff or some cartoons. Too many cute animals? Post some pics of hideous deep-sea invertebrates. Too much GRAR and shouting threads? Post a word game or lyrics ID thread or other fun pastime. Everyone here has the ability to make the site more of what they like.
  • Since posts are not deleted for quality reasons, please don't call out "bad" posts. If it looks like a "bad" post to you, turn it into a good discussion. If it's a double, you might see a pink bunny on a hillside. Not a big deal. The goal of MetaChat is for users to feel really free to post things they want to and to keep the barriers to entry low. Posting stuff here is much less a big deal than posting stuff to MetaFilter. The main thing is to enjoy ourselves chatting, like the site name says.

Everyone's truly welcome to join in. We work hard to make sure the community is open and friendly to new people as well as comfortable for long-timers. As a new user, it may take a little time to feel like you "belong," but the site needs, loves, and welcomes new people, so please jump in. One good way to get involved is by participating in (or starting) the frequent threads that invite everyone to contribute something simple: A "three-point status report," for instance, or "what did you have for lunch?". Don't be shy about posting your own threads, or jumping into discussions, either. Your contributions are being read and enjoyed by others, even if you can't see it happening and even if they don't respond with a comment.

We're inclusive. At times, MetaChat has appeared "cliquey" or "clubby" to some people, especially when they were new and it seemed as though everyone already knew one another. In part, that's a natural outgrowth of the fact that some users may be familiar with one another from MetaFilter, or from lots of time spent here on MetaChat, or because they know one another in meatspace. MetaChat is a small enough community that people who read it regularly quickly begin to know a little about one another's lives, and share some of their own. But everyone here was new once, and we want the site to be as inclusive as possible.

It's a community. When MetaChat is working best, people come to feel that MetaChat gives them peeks into the lives of others, glimpses of our common humanity, better understanding of the variety of experiences in the world, and a place to share joys and frustrations with a sympathetic community. Users value the connections they make on the site, and the positive atmosphere it generally maintains. Whether you visit rarely or often, whether you post frantically or just read along, you are part of this community and your voice and actions help make it what it is. The more people contribute, the more fun it is. Be visible - Let your personality become known on the site. It can feel a little bit invisible here until people get to know you. Not that you should give out your shoe size, street address, and sixth grade class photo, but do contribute enough that people have something to associate with your username.

Be Safe The friendly and sometimes intimate tone of the site makes it feel like a little neighborhood where you can trust everyone. But don’t forget – this is still the Internet. Information posted here is public and searchable. Your employer, grandma, kids, angry exes, and high-school crushes can stumble across what you say here. Be careful about divulging your personal identifying details. All kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds read the site and not everyone in the world is sane and OK. Always be aware of that.

It’s Not All a Bunch of Roses: Venting, Support-Seeking, and Conflict Because MetaChat is generally friendly, safe, and supportive, it can be a great place to come and vent frustrations. This often takes the form of a SHOUTING THREAD, but occurs elsewhere too. Sometimes users will ask for advice, commiseration, or help understanding a difficult situation. Sometimes they'll shoot off steam about a pet peeve or a major issue, personal or societal. Metachat users can be good at discussing and helping with this kind of thing. There's even a tradition of offering "whuffles" to someone feeling down or in distress - no one is really sure what whuffles are, but they seem to be appreciated.

But remember, even a web community can get burnt out on support if it doesn't go both ways. Remember to contribute advice, help, and kindness as well as take it - as one user put it, "Make a few deposits in your account before trying to withdraw some emotional support."

Also, we don't always get the reactions we are hoping for. Remember that MetaChat is PEEEEOPLLLEEE!!, just people, and it's not always possible to predict all reactions. Some people might not have it in them to be supportive that day. Somebody might even challenge you on the way you view the problem, or be dismissive without meaning to. Please don't take these things too hard, if they happen. We're all human and doing the best we can. We have good and bad moments, kind and peevish moments. Some of us are drunk half the time, or just plain batshit. Take what helps you, leave the rest.

Conflict happens. Any group of interesting, smart people is going to have disagreements about things in life. We can handle it. In fact, we encourage the use of MetaChat as a place to discuss important things. But keep in mind when introducing or discussing a topic, your statements may not meet with the kind of support or agreement you would wish, and be prepared for divergent views. And when there is conflict, please follow the User Guidelines. And if you ever find that you’re feeling super bad or angry and MetaChat is making it worse, take a break!

OK kids. Now go outside and play.