May 31, 2006

The Extremely Early Days -

It's not entirely easy to pick a starting point for Metafilter—I'd like to get started with an Early Thread, but I can't simply start with thread number one, because it doesn't exist. Metafilter was (and continues to be) a test-as-you-go experience, administratively, and so the first 18 thread numbers were tied to threads that are no longer of this world.

Scanning Cats

The first active thread, then: Thread 19. The infamous "cat scan" thread. Infamous, and from a purist starting-from-the-beginning perspective consequently problematic—folks wandered into the thread long after it was posted, on more than one occasion, to chatter. The lack of a year field in the comment timestamps makes it difficult to tell when exactly the incursions happened, but the key point is clear: this thread, as a single entity, is not really an "early" thread so much as a thread that was originally posted early on. The comments span a great deal of mefi history.

Looking at thread 19 is anachronistic in more than one way. Aside from the great big jumps in the 3-year-long comment chronology, there are site features present to the modern viewer that weren't there when the thread was posted. Tags, for example: those weren't around for years—only after the fact has the post been tagged. A sort of revisionist librarianism, that.

Also, flags—just now, I've flagged this mathowie comment as 'other', but flags are a relatively recent innovation. (God knows what Matt and Jessamyn will make of that.)

And the thread is closed! As it clearly wasn't originally—automatic thread closure after 30 days was a change made no less than three years after the original thread 19 was posted.

The cat-scan Meme

By virtue of both it's historical significance and the sheer potency of the idea itself, has held fast as a long-running (if low-frequency) meme on Metafilter. It's not hard, with a little Googling, to find references to the site and even the original text of mathowie's post. Consider:

The double-post joke has become a birthday tradition for Metafilter, as well:

It'll be another month and a half before the inevitable 2006 edition.

Not What I Had In Mind

My hope, with Refi, is to take a good systematic look at joe-average Metafilter threads over time—essentially, examine threads that have no particular motivation toward self-examination and see what's going on in there. Thread 19 is a terrible fit for that sort of thing—as threads go, it is highly self-aware and its offspring are all likewise.

On the other hand, looking through this stuff is a hell of a lot of fun, so it's safe to say you can expect to see more thematic/memetic explorations that veer somewhat off-point—considering that no such on-point posts yet exist, especially...


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