June 22, 2006

501-600: Drama in Bloggerland

Get ready. Get set. Get:


Microsoft suckers Matt
Matt plays Slashdot mod

The Matt Dabrowski Saga
Not going to dig into it right now, but I think it'd make a good refi post of its own—early active mefite teenager (and inveterate self-linker) geek gets into trouble, etc.

This post features an appearance by the father of one of the principle players, even. Exciting!

An early candidate for [more inside]

"kottkefilter" speculation
It's a whole thread of kottke talking about Matt talking about kottke, and basically bloggers calling themselves dorks, and in one comment Matt claims this is the first thread to have broken 10 comments. Was he right, at that moment at least?

Matt vs. script kiddies
More administrative stuff on the front page, pre-Metatalk.

no seriously napster is awesome
kitten-chucking at unamerican.com
pinko commie web design
chatfilter (and another great big post)

Matt suggests voice synth gutenberg radio
And no one responds. God, I have days like that.

A terrible post!
At least, in retrospect. No explanation, just a link to a url (www.word.com) with the text "I smell a lawsuit." Did it make sense at the time? Probably. Maybe. I wasn't there. The contents of www.word.com are, at this point, far from contentious.

So that's interesting. Would this post fly on mefi today? Should the durability of a post in the long run be a consideration when posting? Over how long of a run?

Does anybody know what was interesting about word.com in early 2000?

There might've been a comment editor!
Matt willfully doubleposts
Mad props from CoolSTOP
Matt can ollie a foot high
More Bloggy Drama!
Bygone: font colors
Bush and Gore

Death to DoubleClick
And what was this about a marketing scare, Matt?

domain dispute drama

Matt talks about MeFi's growth
Item: proposed moderation for link posting!
Item: default was 7 days of posts on the front page. 7 days! On contemporary Mefi, that'd be something like 300-400 posts to scroll through. Wow.
Item: proposed karma and comment moderation!
Item: again with proposed comment editing!

Mefi was getting 1,000 page views a day as of January 26, 2000. It was also, bear in mind, crazy silly fresh.

dangerman makes a prescient declaration about what makes Metafilter work. (And dings kottke.)

And kottke speaks up: 50 posts a day (just a fever-dream at the time; now a MeFi reality) is Too Many. Site style will shift over time as the userbase grows. And he signs his post. And in a followup comment, he predicts increasing snark ("bitterness or crankiness", specifically) and the appearance of an agenda as the site grows.

According to vitaminb, "you can have popular weblog or an uncensored weblog, but not both." Which is a good line, but may not really hold up. How do you define "uncensored?" Contemporary MeFi sees occasional comment and post deletions, but does not have the transparent feel of Moderation seen on, say, Slashdot. Where is the line, and just how wide and gray and fuzzy is it?

More MeFi press
Another self-link!

log spam a new thing?
I hear "log spam" and think of the junk that shows up daily in my referrer logs—it looks like prolific meant it as "web log spam": the receipt of email from a blogger requesting that you check out his site. The instance quoted is actually, to my modern sensibilities, quaint beyond belief, but apparently it was jarring in 2000.

Plus: more appearances by old A-listers. Blog drama!

no one uses HTML anymore lol

administrative stuff: preferences improved!
No Metatalk yet, so Matt posts site news on the front page. What's this "floating menu" stuff he's talking about? Also, apparently karma was impending. Never did materialize [aside: thank god], though as of June '06 Matt has been mentioning a thumbs up/down idea...


Genesis of "no self-links"!
What would by today's standards be an incredibly shitty post. Back then...well, it was apparently an incredibly shitty post.

Read the historic comment. The phrase "self-links" was still apparently uncoined—Matt refers to "self-promotional links", a wordier option that collapses rather nicely to the current lingo—and there was a 24-hour waiting period. (These days it's, what, a week, plus a few mandatory comments?) Also: No Marketing Crap. Pepsi Blue was still a glint in a soda exec's eye, but Matt was laying down the law.

Note also his deployment of the phrase "self-policing". Is that a first?

Also, CrazyUncleJoe calls kottke "Mr. Cranky Pants".

And it's technically out of bounds, being at thread 602, but there's a shameless (though slightly more artful) selflink that same morning.

June 14, 2006

The 300's

So I looked at 301-400.

Metafilter was still very definitely in its nascent stages. Given how slow the discussion was and the quality of the links, I wonder how people would have been attracted to the site. There were several posts on some days; on other days, maybe one. Some days none.

The participants are mostly mathowie and grant. Most of the posts are marginally interesting single-links, and the majority of the posts do not have any comments or discussion. The posts are heavily weighted to "new" computer technologies or updates which are utterly archaic to the modern reader. Apparently user honeyman didn't find Metafilter terribly interesting, as the user made two comments on back to back days and never came back again.

Here are some highlights to 300's

In 301, Matt posts a guide to e-mailing and lets the world know that he was receiving 150-200 emails a day. In 1999, that was surely quite a bit. Matt let us know more about his e-mail box in post 356 (a self-link) where he lets us know that he has 74 useless emails in a month. In 2006, 74 spam mails in a month would be terrific for most internet aficionados.

In 303, there is a discussion about .pdfs with mathowie and grant praising the potential for .pdfs. As the years advance, Matt's appreciation for .pdfs has apparently waned.

In 304, a post about fonts that was botched, mathowie makes mention of including "edit functionality" to Metafilter. Interestingly, the request for edit functionality is still one of the most requested features at Metafilter to this day.

Post 316 is the most popular post in the 300's in terms of discussion with a whopping 5 comments.

There is a blatant self-link by #1 himself in post 327 (and 356 by mathowie and by user grant in 309) in which he links to an article he has written and his own site with a mirror of the article. Today, such a post would be in Metatalk under the category Metafilter-related. But it would be bannable for a poster to link his own article.

In post 348, we see the first incidence of what could be called a meme or fixation of Metafilter. Matthowie posts about Bill Hicks, someone who is frequently memorialized and lauded on that site.

376 appears to be a double post (of sorts) by mathowie of post 346. If it was a double by #1, it was not deleted.

mathowie links to fark.com again at 386. Fark is persona non gratis on Metafilter these days, but Matt linked to the main site himself several times in the early days.

In 391, some fresh faces appeared that still participate today: jonmc and riffola. A post about music from jonmc should not surprise anyone. jonmc has been one of the most extensive participants at Metafilter, and music is frequently his topic of choice.

All in all, there is little of interest to be found in the 301-400 posts at Metafilter. The conversation is virtually non-existent. The posts are primarily by mathowie or grant. The posts are mostly single-links to technology news or tech-related observations.

But it trudged on.

June 06, 2006

Shark-jumping: 701-800

I hear what you are saying. Where are 301-700? This post is out of order! THIS WHOLE WEBSITE IS OUT OF ORDER!

Well, hush. Those other posts will be along in good time—contributors are working on them, and will post them when the time is right.

In the mean time, I'm hopping ahead a bit, to see how things have changed between October 1999 and February 2000. And so...

Threads 701-800

Let's take a stroll through 701-800, shall we? First of all: it's still quiet, but not too quiet. Most threads have comments, and the average there has jumped from 1 to 5-6 (ballpark). A few threads break into double digits—I've noted a couple of interesting ones below.

Also, with the exception of the Dave Winer thread detailed below, things remain remarkably civil. Most threads are either goofy or earnestly agreeable; there is essentially no name-calling and very little genuine conflict.

On with it:

Live action The Tick!
CrazyUncleJoe asks permission to curse
Stan Lee draws Backstreet Boys
contentious, 6-comment discussion of homosexuality!

Ernest goes to the void
I got excited when I saw this—was this a precursor to the moment-of-silence "." marker that has become such a fixture in contemporary Mefi obit threads (and such a fixture of Metatalk queries)?

No. It was an accident, as dan_of_brainlog's next comment attests. Damn.

Apologetic (!) re-rail of thread
Matt is an ignorant white American
Mefi threads might've been threaded
Jesse Helms = racist jerk!
Weak eponysteria: obit by tomcosgrave

"I blogged this"
Further evidence of Metafilter's continued limbo status—not quite Matt's blog, but not quite a community site that Matt just happens to run yet. Of course, this might just be evidence that back in 2000, Matt really liked using "blog" as a transitive verb. Or that "I posted this" just wasn't natural parlance yet. Or something.

First annual Oscars discussion
With a (record-breaking?) 16 comments, no less. Viva la chatfilter!


jessamyn signs her post
Another forebearer of Todd Lokken syndrome. This was not her first post; that happened a few weeks earlier. But this is the first time she tags her comment with her initials, and she doesn't do it again in her next few comments, at least. Odd.

She has since become the only true co-administrator of Metafilter and is now inescapably part of the site—but at that point, she felt the need, at least this one time, to actually sort of declare who she was. How things change!

(It's worth noting that, other than Sapphireblue, she is the user with the highest usernumber (and is hence the newbiest newb) in the thread; her newness may well have been chafing her a bit. Number 292? Did you ride your widdle bicycle to the website? Did you? Did you?)

Cavatica deploys UBB code

Matt has had it with Dave Winer
Also in the thread: Kottke disses Dave's design, Derek speaks up about his side of the argument (and signs his post!), Dave shows up to explain that everyone is full of shit, tomcosgrave notes the high comment count (which closed out at a stunning 40 comments), Matt jokes about closing the thread (a feature that has since actually seen implementation in Metatalk)...and in a months-later coda, Dave closes it all out with a recto-centric suggestion for Matt.

Ladies and jerks, this may be the first genuine instance of full-blown Metafilter drama.

Interesting to note: the major players in the thread are mostly folks actively involved in the (then inchoate) Blogosphere. Metafilter seems to have been as much about/by bloggers as it was a nexus for community blogging—there were apparently a lot of Big Names (dare I say A-listers?) on board.

I admit I wasn't paying much attention to blogging in general at this point—I was reading memepool and playing counter-strike and programming for recreation and hadn't likely even heard of Metafilter quite yet, etc—so it all has an odd sort of History Channel cattiness to me. I don't quite know what's going on, but I can't help but read the thread anyway.

Sock Puppet: pets.com
Did you know George Bush Sr. worships Osiris?
More of Derek and the Bloggers
They called it the PSX2?

Steven C. Den Beste is appalled!
About who Wants To Marry A Millionaire, specifically. And it's his first comment ever!

this Jabber thing might catch on

MetaFilter used to kick so much ass
This may be the first time Metafilter was declared to have jumped the shark. Not much of a thread—a self-link before "self-link" was common lingo on the site, followed seven months later by one lengthy self-described diatribe by cCranium, who uses the phrases "empty vanity post" and "self blog" to describe the link.

I haven't read the September 2000 archives yet—I don't know if the "idiotic personal attacks" referenced were a problem by then or not. And that this comment was posted months later suggests that this wouldn't likely be the "first time" mefi was thus dissed, but rather just the earliest thread in which it happened. I'll be keeping my eye out, regardless.

Metafilter starts displaying new-comment count
And appearing therein, a truly earlier shark-jumping allegation by none other than jkottke. Fortuitous! Plus, sikk encourages fighting. So now you know who to blame.

I wonder where the Metatalk launch was, relative to this. Seems like just the sort of discussion-about-Metafilter that Matt was aiming to take off the front page. I could look up the date, but that would be spoiling the surprise!

(Oh, okay. I couldn't resist. Metatalk was launched March 3, 2000, about two weeks later. But that's a whole other post.)

June 05, 2006

Refi: Naming and Namespace Collisions

Adventures in Namespace

It just occurred to me—has Google indexed the site yet? (The answer is yes, they have.)

But before I requested from Google such specificity, my first query was for, simply, "refi". This, I thought to myself, is a nonce construction, an odd jamming together of letters that has no meaning. Right?

Well. Hoom. This is where it becomes clear that I do not have a mortgage: I have, as consequence, never considered refinancing. As such, I've certainly not gotten so used to talking about my refinance plans that I would feel compelled to adopt a useful (if twee) bit of short-hand like refi.


There's also a Polish (I'm guessing) blog at refi.blog.pl. Anyone who can read the language is welcome to let us know what, precisely, is going on there with the pictures of adorable children and the dearth of paragraph breaks.

Note: refi.blogspot.com, the address I had hoped to snag when I created this blog, is throwing a "Not Found". Which suggests that someone used it and wasted it. Blast you, failed blogger!

Why name this site "refi"?

Short answer: it's short and snappy.

Long answer:
Regular readers of Metafilter know more than one name for the site. We call it the blue, after the color of the front page (so lazily cribbed for the design of this very blog). We also call it mefi, because that's a 60% savings on keystrokes.

And the other sections of the site—ask.metafilter is the green or simply askme, and Metatalk is the grey (or as some people have asserted in the past—we'll keep an eye out for this—the brown) or simply meta. Any of these can be seen rendered in lowercase or with punctuating capitals—MeFi, AskMe, MeTa—though I think this is most common with MeTa, being as how the lower-case rendering "meta" is a bit confusing without explicit context.

(There's also Projects, which is a newer part of the site. The newness of the section, the weird-cousin difference in functionality from the rest of the site, and the lack of any particularly euphonious coining: I suppose these factors taken together explain why there's no generally accepted nickname for Projects yet. I've heard "MePro" once or twice, but that's not exactly a winner. Projects was also called the red for a while, but after a number of complaints Matt opted for a less retina-searing dark teal. And the dark teal just doesn't stick.)

It is in the context of that grand history of names and nicknames that refi was chosen. It's an implied collapsing of "Review of Metafilter", I suppose, though "Metafilter in Review" is a much more appealing subheader.

But it is not about refinancing your home. Really.

June 02, 2006

The Early Days - the second hundred

Thanks is due to my dear friend, Doctor Millard, for allowing me to participate in this delightful project of his.

The first 100 threads have been covered and quite capably summed up. It would seem, to paraphrase Eliot, that MetaFilter began not with a bang, but a whimper. The next hundred are not entirely different, although a few precious moments stick out - and much like those sappy ceramic dolls of the same name, they're awfully saccharine and
characteristically MetaFilter.

The mathowie posting frenzy continues - he no doubt scoured the Internet for post-worthy material as MeFi still held that coveted "new shiny toy" space in his heart. We see an out-and-out Saab boycott from user #1 in thread 105. Given the relative obscurity of the thread, I wouldn't be surprised if he's gone against his words and rushed out to buy the latest 9-3 sedan from the Swedish auto maker. The cause? Saab seems to have sent spam advertising their latest models, mathowie has taken umbrage. He links to the text of the offending e-mail, which has since been deleted, lost to the waves of time.

And lo! In thread 109, mathowie comments several times on his own FPP within the course of a few days, surely the Internet equivalent stepping up to the microphone and shouting, "IS THIS THING ON? HELLO?"

So many posts in the second hundred come and go without comments, these hastily written FPP's that smack of the "GYOBFW" genre. Cheese sandwiches, billboards about butter, The Real Life, and -- wait, what's this? The first self-link? Why, yes! Yes, it is! And mathowie seems to approve! Why anyone hasn't posted a MeTa callout about the two dozen threads that link to mattdabrowski.com is beyond me. Better late than never, however, and I strongly urge the reader to right this wrong,
post haste.


Thread 140: mathowie links to Fark, and thus a new epoch is born.

Thread 145: mathowie takes joy in anagrams.

Thread 161: A website for instant expert answers to whatever question one needs to pose. The precursor to AskMeFi?

Thread 172: Diaryland.com is launched, both of MeFi's active users (seemingly, only mathowie and tdecius are around) take notice.

Thread 184: Hot damn, it's an absinthe post, complete with an absinthe FAQ!

And so the next hundred trudges along, much like a lonely pedestrian travailing the quiet, dimly-lit streets of the Internet. That pedestrian is MetaFilter -- do you recognize that trademark blue sweater? MeFi is wandering the streets, searching for its sense of purpose and identity, quietly singing Jimi Hendrix tunes to itself and waiting for the dawn.

Digest: Threads 201-300

If you're keeping track, you'll note that threads 101-200 haven't been covered. Worry not—they're coming, via guest correspondent (and long-time mefite and #mefi/#tapes denizen) antifreez.

In the mean time, let's look at...

Threads 201-300

Still prehistoric times, much like the first hundred. Many broken links. Not worth linking too, though—they're broken. Among those are a plurality of deceased Geocities pages.

tdecius did a LOT of posting; he and Matt account for a good 90 of these 100 threads. And most of the very, very few comments. Most threads still have none; a few have comments from whichever of the two posters didn't make the post. Matt also replies to himself now and then.

Highlight Reel

Matt likes guiness

Shotgun Rules
This one's interesting—not only has the link not died, the website in question, shotgunrules.com, has gotten an incremental makeover from back when Matt linked it. Much of the text and layout remains the same, but it's been prettied up, adorned with Google Ads on the sidebar, and revised here and there. Note particularly the change, in the Exceptions section near the bottom, from "The Opposite Sex" on the older version to "Significant Others" on the current revision. The addition of a Rock, Scissors, Paper rule for arbitration of contested shotgun calls is a good thing as well.

Matt predicts death of Slate
Unabashed links to several unrelated things
Wow! Domain registration for just $20!
Front page editorializing!

First: Linkee comments in thread.
And, adorably enough, he commits a Todd Lokken. Remember, kids, don't sign your posts.

Matt <3 Moxy Fruvous
The dark days before Skype
Godwin's Law manifests
A post by someone other than Matt or tdecius!
San Fran is dead to Matt

A landmark post!
Item: not posted by Matt or tdecius!
Item: 4 comments! 4! Of course, they're all from Matt and tdecius...
Item: I worked for a dot-com in 2000 that was trying (and failing) to compete in this space. If only I'd been reading Metafilter back then...

Metafilter server boots slow
Wow! Napster!
tdecius is a self-linking bastard
Matt scratches surface of non-secure communications
Did I mention Rock, Scissors, Paper?

And that's a wrap. Look for antifreez's post in the next few days, as well as a contribution from another super secret guest correspondent (named "dios") whenever he gets a chance to put one together.

(What? You are interested in contributing? Really? Well, drop me an email, then!)

June 01, 2006

The Extremely Early Days - On To 100

Looking through the early history, Metafilter can be seen to have started off quietly. Despite the belated party in the first thread, posts to the blue have only a few (if any) comments by modern standards. It's almost quaint—it's clear, glancing through these early posts, that, Metafilter then could not have seemed at all to carry a sense of the inevitablity of it's Internet Presence that I take for granted these days. Those first few months especially: it feels like some dude's website.

Thread 25

After Thread 19, we jump to 25, a post about JenniCam. (That takes you back, innit? In 1999, we were bemoaning the tiredness of JenniCam; in 2006, we're thinking, "oh, hey, JenniCam! I remember that! Wow, yeah!" JenniCam is betamax now. Wide ties. Pet Rock.)

And what have we got in Thread 25? One comment by jjg on the day of the post. Another, a month and a half later, from CrazyUncleJoe. And then...a big jump to some latter-day OMG I CAN STILL POST comments in the style of Thread 19. Not a thread so much as a link—Metafilter as an over-implemented memepool.com.

Odd trivia: the "Older/Newer" links down at the bottom of the thread (which are by my recollection yet another added feature not present when Mefi launched—which may help explain the following) point, from threads 19 and 25 both, to non-event Thread 24, which the link text suggests had something to do with "Download[ing] Abiword". Click the link, though, and you see only this:

"No post found"

Bit of a mess in the old database, I guess.

A quick skim of early threads

Moving on. We have a post about an Apple product—something I consider a Mefi staple. The link is dead; the comments are split: 2 related comments (mathowie and poster jjg discussing the PDA? in question), and 2 others from MUD that suggest he might be discovering that threads are still open long after the fact.

Thread 27: jjg (again!) posting about a tiny webserver. One comment.

Thread 33: mathowie posts about extreeeem sports TV and gets no reply whatsover.

Thread 34: honkzilla link to The Death Clock. Sole comment: Matt making a UNIX joke.

And so on. Matt on fonts; peterme on Hello Tarot; Matt on Yahoo; Matt disses Soccer Barbie. No comments on any of those.

The trend continues as such—paging through the threads that follow, I see two things:

  1. 0-2 comments per thread

  2. usernames I don't even recognize (and a few I do)

A few other hilights from the first 100 threads:

Remember when Aerons were the new black?
Yet Another Apple Post
riffola celebrates 50
Politics come to Metafilter
Wow! 10 Megabytes!
Bashing Hipsters in 1999
Matt Thanks Kottke
Mozilla not ready for prime-time
Gitcher vintage browsers!
riffola celebrates 100

So that's the first hundred. Or, well, the first hundred, minus the couple dozen that got deleted. Between the lack of comments and the dominating presence of mathowie-as-poster, the whole venture up to this point feels pretty small-scale, pretty GYOBFW. Consider also: these threads (19 through 100) span more than a month, 7/14/99–8/26/99. These days, we see that many posts to Metafilter inside of a couple of days. Slow days.

I think it's fair to say that at this point Metafilter hadn't really started yet. The site was there, a few people were there, but it was less community weblog and more Matthew Haughey's Experiment.

I'm interested to see when that changed.