Why is AskMetaFilter Not As Popular As Reddit?
September 4, 2021 5:19 AM   Subscribe

The title asks the question. I'm so lucky I discovered this community is , but I'm perplexed why it's not more popular. No other site, including Reddit, is as quick in answering my questions nor as rich in terms of answers and quantity of answers.
posted by ggp88 to Computers & Internet (47 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Internet is not a meritocracy.
posted by flabdablet at 5:24 AM on September 4, 2021 [45 favorites]

Perhaps because the methodology here is not a back-and-forth Q&A type. You’re supposed to ask a question, then sit back and wait for answers. I’m not a big Reddit person but isn’t it more of a back-and-forth process? Maybe some folks don’t like that. They want to have a conversation, not just receive responses.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:36 AM on September 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Flabdablet, I had to look up meritocracy... it's a ruling or influential class of educated or skilled people.

Are you saying the internet isn't, on average, used by the sharpest tools in the shed, and thus due to a large amount of overall dullness, AskMetaFilter isn't as popular as it deserves to be?
posted by ggp88 at 5:36 AM on September 4, 2021

Best answer: We have moderators here and you have to pay for an account. Everything is entirely text based. We don't have sub sites full of memes or boobs or screeds against women. You can't ask "girls what do you like in a man" questions 12 times per day here.

Reddit has something for everyone. We're not as fun. That's why Metafilter is better.
posted by phunniemee at 5:38 AM on September 4, 2021 [158 favorites]

Best answer: Reddit caters to anything anyone wants. Including topics that (thankfully) are forbidden here, including racist, misogynistic, and other hateful ideologies. It's simply going to attract more people.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:41 AM on September 4, 2021 [24 favorites]

(Its an awful place and morally often fraught, for me personally. Same reason I am not on Twitter or Facebook. Too evil).
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:42 AM on September 4, 2021 [5 favorites]

Ask Metafilter requires you pay for an account and follow certain rules when posting questions; your questions or comments will be deleted by moderators if they don't comply.

Reddit is a much larger and more mainstream site and can be accessed by web browsers and apps. I suspect the moderators are more focused on removing illegal or copyrighted content than curating for quality or appropriateness.

All this means you're more likely to find better quality questions and answers. Even if it's a question I like, when I see an Ask Reddit thread with 29.9k answers, I skip it.
posted by fortitude25 at 5:43 AM on September 4, 2021 [5 favorites]

Yeah, the paywall is a huge, uh, filter, meaning you don't get every random nobody chiming in on any and everything, and the mods do great work keeping everything nice and on-topic.

It wouldn't surprise me if this question itself gets classed as chatfilter and moved to Metatalk.
posted by quinndexter at 5:44 AM on September 4, 2021 [14 favorites]

Well,Im glad its not as popular,lol.
I find the questions and reply's to be more honest here.
Just my opinion :-)
posted by LOOKING at 6:00 AM on September 4, 2021 [4 favorites]

For instance, I just popped over to Reddit and the top post on my feed was an Ask Reddit thread: "When you hear "MILF", who pops up in your head?"

A website gets the users it deserves.
posted by phunniemee at 6:06 AM on September 4, 2021 [16 favorites]

I think popularity breeds popularity. Most of the people I know have never heard of Metafilter, but everyone knows about Reddit. I found out about Ask because of a single Slate article. I think Reddit gets more media coverage. It would be interesting to find out how people here learned about Metafilter - that would be a MetaTalk though.

I'm sure the fee keeps lots of people out. The moderation here is much more intense, and I have to wonder if that makes some people leave and might make the site less popular. I've been unhappy with a few mod decisions, but overall, the many, many great decisions are what stand out. But a lot of people seem to value being able to say absolutely anything they want online.

(I'm taking a break from my online cancer support group after a post suggesting murdering me was up for three days with not one person objecting - I had taken a few days off from the site, so it was that long before I saw it and asked the mods to take it down, which they did the third time I asked. The mods had immediately taken down a picture attached to the post because it was disturbing, but they left the post itself. That would not happen on Metafilter.)
posted by FencingGal at 6:09 AM on September 4, 2021 [25 favorites]

I suspect it's challenging to scale something like AskMe too far beyond what it was at its peak. Reddit can be as large as it is because it relies on unpaid volunteer moderation for 99.9% of the management of the site. It's a platform for people to make discussion boards, and as long as eyeballs are on ads, the owners don't really care about the details. Contrast MeFi, where we have paid moderators looking over the content and mostly shutting down people who say awful things (acknowledging that there are differences of opinion about moderation, but that's a MeTa thing). Scaling out that hands-on approach would be challenging. You'd need more paid mods, and multiple mods on duty at the same time, and then have the coordination costs associated with that, so you need even more paid staff and people could start complaining about inconsistency too!

There are tiny slices of Reddit that I find useful (mostly due to high concentrations of people with extremely domain-specific knowledge), but even they have awful things surface with some regularity. I definitely prefer the people here, on the whole, tho mefi is not without is problems.
posted by Alterscape at 6:14 AM on September 4, 2021 [11 favorites]

I like the fact that you don't up or down vote answers. The asker makes the decision on what is relevant to them.

The one thing I find not as appealing is that meta, ask, etc have lost some of the diversity of thought on certain topics. Ask a relationship or covid question and you can predict the answers with a lot of certainty.

I also give a lot of credit to the moderators and in particular jessamyn who helped build the culture in ask.
posted by AugustWest at 6:20 AM on September 4, 2021 [35 favorites]

It's worth noting for the young'uns that Metafilter wasn't always $5. It was free for years. The $5 was added, somewhat controversially, if I recall correctly, to stop people from joining to self-promote things.
posted by dobbs at 6:21 AM on September 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Are you saying ... AskMetaFilter isn't as popular as it deserves to be?

I'm saying that the overlap between things that are popular and things that are good contains many fewer things than either.

Quality is not well correlated with popularity. Expecting quality to cause popularity is an example of the Just World delusion and therefore a reliable recipe for disappointment.
posted by flabdablet at 6:23 AM on September 4, 2021 [14 favorites]

Reddit's structure allows it to be closest to the old forum structure, so it's easy for people to find others who share their interests and hobbies. (For some people, those interests are MILFs.) Metafilter is more like a series of conversations on random topics, which can also be fun but has a higher bar for entry than simply joining "r/knitting" or "r/dating" or "r/tv" (to give the most generic fake examples possible).
posted by kingdead at 6:28 AM on September 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

I like Reddit too but there's a lot of joking and people being clever in their responses on Reddit; sometimes it's entertaining, sometimes it's a turn off. Ask Me feels like a sophisticated site compared to Reddit. Depends on what I'm in the mood for. I've learned a lot on both!
posted by DixieBaby at 6:28 AM on September 4, 2021 [6 favorites]

meritocracy... it's a ruling or influential class of educated or skilled people.

That's the literal meaning (anything ending in -cracy technically has to do with ruling systems) but another sense is just "a system where rewards are based on merit", so the good stuff rises to the top.

Aside from all the factors above, Reddit in general is also just much better known than MF, which creates a positive feedback loop. People post on Reddit because they know about Reddit. How would most people even discover AskMe today? I first found out about it years ago, as I think many people did, because a then-very popular site named Lifehacker used to prominently feature an AskMetafilter Roundup or something similar every week or so. (Maybe Lifehacker is still popular, who knows.) Today, I can't think of any prominent website that regularly sends traffic here, and google doesn't seem to surface AskMe answers as often as it used to either (there's been a lot of discussion about why Google's algorithm doesn't like such a high-quality site). The result is that discoverability is pretty low.
posted by trig at 6:32 AM on September 4, 2021 [4 favorites]

I think Ask Metafilter's popularity must also have been bumped down quite a bit by corporate Ask giants like Quora.
posted by johngoren at 6:35 AM on September 4, 2021 [5 favorites]

Paying $5 to make an account excludes a lot of people. The exclusion is intentional and valuable for Metafilter, IMO. (Exclusion is not inherently bad; inclusion is not inherently good—they are unintentional or intentional strategies that produce different community outcomes, depending on who is excluded/included and why.)

Reddit is scalable in a way Metafilter isn't—to Alterscape's point, Reddit is composed of tens of thousands of subreddits with varying moderation styles and approaches, all volunteer, which means the site serves niche interests (Korean skincare, growing psychedelic mushrooms at home), political campaigns (there was a Bernie Sanders subreddit whose moderators actively encouraged people to volunteer for his campaign), and…legally and morally reprehensible interests (subreddits that distributed child exploitation material—my preferred term for what's commonly known as 'child porn'—many of these communities are gone, but they thrived in the laissez-faire Reddit environment for many years).

There is no equivalent on Metafilter to creating a niche community space, for a niche topic, with its own set of rules and culture. Reddit's site/community architecture is more akin to a densely networked set of distinct forums, I'd argue—which distinguishes it from places like Metafilter, which are more similar to a single forum with a single unifying set of rules.

FWIW, I find Reddit a fascinating place and lots of individual communities are troves of immensely useful information, full of generous and interesting people. So this isn't an anti-Reddit screed; I'm more pointing out that popularity is not inherently desirable for communities, and as communities become more popular they do not become 'better' or more legitimate. My impression is that Metafilter has deliberately eschewed popularity for other goals and a less flexible community setup, and that's directly responsible for the quality of the information and discussions here.
posted by w-w-w at 6:42 AM on September 4, 2021 [9 favorites]

The AMF culture tends to lean far left; Reddit mods and users are more diverse so more people find their "home" there.
posted by davcoo at 6:49 AM on September 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

tends to lean far left

I think there's a fairly strong argument to be made that this is true only by comparison to US culture specifically. I also think there's a fairly strong argument to be made that it's a consequence of the mod team's ongoing resistance to unsupportable, pernicious, hurtful bullshit.

AskMe answers are largely well-informed and based squarely in reality, and reality leans left.
posted by flabdablet at 7:28 AM on September 4, 2021 [45 favorites]

AskMe (and MetaFilter in general) also has its share of unspoken conventions - there are types of questions and ways of framing questions that long-time site users know tend to go badly here, but that stuff isn't really thoroughly documented in a way that's accessible to new users; it's the kind of thing you only really learn if you hang around for a while and observe, or run foul of and get told. I suspect question askers here are also less likely to get some of the instant gratification-style responses that subreddits like Am I The Asshole offer; sometimes people don't actually want a nuanced answer to their question, they just want to be reassured that they're a good person and the person they believe wronged them is a bad person.

And it's the internet, a place where it feels reasonable to assume that the average user's attention span and tolerance for frustration are pretty low. Even if you get over the signup $5 barrier here, if your first couple of questions go badly or you get a tough love response or you get actively moderated for not following written or unwritten rules/conventions, I imagine it's more likely that you're going to bounce to a site like Reddit where those things are less likely to happen.

You get a higher-quality answer here most of the time, in my opinion, but that higher-quality answer comes with things that will be downsides for many people - MetaFilter is more cliqueish, and it takes longer to absorb the social conventions of the site (and your choices for doing that are either lurk for a long time or learn the hard way by getting moderated or called out by other users). Many people don't have the patience for that, especially now that more people's brains (mine included) have been trained a particular way by things like social media scrolling & tabbed browsing.
posted by terretu at 7:52 AM on September 4, 2021 [6 favorites]

I'm grateful Ask Mefi isn't as popular as Reddit. It would become a useless hate-filled toilet nightmare if it was. Here you get thoughtful answers and not a giant mob of shit.

I admit I read AmITheAsshole occasionally, but I can't get too far through it before the posters become insufferable.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:55 AM on September 4, 2021 [7 favorites]

Asking this here means you’ll get lots of pretty self-congratulatory answers, but I think it just comes down to the two sites being completely different and serving different purposes. AskMe is heavily moderated and because participation is a fraction of Reddit’s it feels more like a community (though there are also plenty of subreddits that also have this vibe). Reddit is “THE INTERNET” - good, bad, ugly, all of it. Truly something for everyone. Reddit is more freewheeling and and moderation doesn’t operate remotely the way it does here. That means Reddit had plenty of dark corners I wouldn’t want to go poking around in, but I’ve also gone down some truly fascinating internet rabbit holes thanks to Reddit, far beyond anything this site has ever offered me.
posted by cakelite at 8:26 AM on September 4, 2021 [8 favorites]

I suspect MF is less popular because to a significant percentage of posters here, grammar, punctuation, etc. are important to us, matching my requirements when reading text. Untrue, elsewhere on the Internet.

I do visit Reddit occasionally (mostly for Today I Learned) but don't really understand the 'popularity contest' aspect -- anything I post there just disappears since nobody -- is the term upvotes? I'm glad we don't do that here.
posted by Rash at 8:38 AM on September 4, 2021 [6 favorites]

Another thing I’d like to add is that…I had to switch usernames back in the day. On Reddit, it was easy peasy. On Metafilter, it involved working with human support. In the age of throwaway accounts, spam bots, and network propaganda, the slow manual aspects of this work in Metafilter’s favor IMHO.

The nature of the cms and membership make it much harder to go viral, to ping pong verbally between the answerers of a question. The lack of multimedia removes the general foundation needed to spread memes.

Metafilter is something of a ‘90s Subaru or Volvo. Reddit is a Hayabusa. I frankly think the artificial constraints of the former force more thoughtfulness and deeper focus than the latter.
posted by executive_dysfuncti0n at 8:40 AM on September 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Completely different sites with completely different goals, yes. Reddit is designed to be much more interactive, with more rewards for participation, tracking and displaying the number of upvotes any comment or post gets. There's also a subreddit for everything you can think of. Everything. Obscure 1930s farm technology? Probably got a subreddit. Your city? A couple of subreddits. Your bizarre medieval homemade sex toys? Definitely got a subreddit. As does every TV show, movie, series, book, or fandom or kink.

And it's super easy to create a subreddit and have people join.. as stated, moderation on Reddit is volunteered and can be scatter-shot.

And literally half of Reddit is porn, some of which makes even me, a hardened internet delver, squint in pained confusion and go what why?

Different goals, different systems, different users. Reddit is almost infinitely scalable by design.
posted by Jacen at 8:40 AM on September 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Reddit is run like a business, with growth teams and performance goals. Metafilter is run like a corner bar.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:26 AM on September 4, 2021 [13 favorites]

Another way to look at this: Ask being as good as it is for the people it is good for probably has something to do with the vocal community of Very Online people being more or less Like Us also using Ask, if that makes sense. There are definitely people who have felt unwelcome here and chosen to leave. Some of them are voices I miss (though they owe me nothing). Some of those are people I dislike, to whom I say "don't let the door hit you on the way out." My list is probably not the same as others' lists, though who knows.
posted by Alterscape at 10:27 AM on September 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think AskMeFi has a strong self-selection bias towards well-educated, thoughtful members.

Reddit is a free-for-all.

(Also, this might be the only conceivable meta-question that deserves to be on The Green, not MetaTalk...interesting.)
posted by yellowcandy at 10:37 AM on September 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Reddit is pretty useful for specific technical questions; I just found a specific help page for putting the SSD in my thinkpad. For advice related to humans, it skews sophomoric, as does the site as a whole, with exceptions of all sorts. Ask.Me still gets lots of hits on google searches; they should pay better. /grumble.
posted by theora55 at 11:36 AM on September 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

I think the userbase is too small, especially now. Anything specialised is likely to get a better answer on a relevant subreddit. Ask Metafilter works best for general knowledge and personal advice questions.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:39 AM on September 4, 2021 [7 favorites]

There's a lot to be said against Reddit -- I am very active there, but only on a carefully selected set of subreddits. But I think others are right that even the small paywall here works in Metafilter's favor. The moderation here is also superior, but is probably only sustainable because of the smaller userbase. The format may also work "against" Metafilter...on Reddit, you have thousands of communities, here it's basically just one, with a few different divisions not based on subjects but on types of content. If I want to see a lot of conversation about, say, the MacOS beta, I'll go to Reddit. If I want to ask a question about how to keep my old Windows laptop alive, I'm more likely to come to AskMeta.
posted by lhauser at 12:02 PM on September 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I agree with TheophileEscargot. Metafilter’s biggest draw for me is the user base - folks here tend to be thoughtful, socially-conscious, caring sorts. The membership fee and moderation keep out the trolls and meaningless noise. I like AskMe for questions of a personal or sensitive nature. It feels safer here. However, the user base seems to have shrunk quite a lot in recent years.

There are many downsides to Reddit, but if you know how to navigate the site and where to find small, niche communities of subject matter experts, you can find very good information and advice. Reddit is so huge that there are literally thousands of such communities. And if you don’t like what’s out there, you can make your own community to target like-minded Redditors. I find myself mindlessly browsing Reddit for hours because there’s just so much to see, even if it’s more work to find quality posts… just by nature of spending more time there, I post more on Reddit. Some days AskMe has only one or two questions up, so I take a quick peek and that’s it.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:19 PM on September 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Reddit and other large sites people ask questions on (Quora etc) are generally much more likely to appear in Google search results for whatever reason. I think Ask Metafilter used to be that way, but not anymore. That may be by design. The result is that fewer people know it exists.

Metafilter also has an old school feel to it that probably does not draw in many people who did not use the internet back when this version of old school was current. (That's a positive to me, as I liked that internet.)

I joined Reddit recently after avoiding it for years, for a few subreddits that interest me. Reddit has rapid fire action and infinite content. It feels addictive the way social media does in general. Metafilter has a respectable amount of new content posted every day, but it isn't a place that invites endless scrolling, and the discussions here usually feel more substantive.

I do wonder how brand new members come across Metafilter these days and decide to join it.
posted by wondermouse at 12:20 PM on September 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

See also this similar question from July. I answered there that AskMetafilter is one counter-example to the Tragedy of the Digital Commons.
posted by forthright at 1:02 PM on September 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

I feel like a lot of the answers here are coming from people who don't use Reddit, or who only dip into the political side -- which is irrelevant to the question, since it's not in any way competing with AskMe. (We also don't really compete with r/askreddit. People have fun there, and sometimes get a lot of value out of it, but I don't think anyone joins Reddit just to participate in it.)

What we compete with is a large ecosystem of specialty ask subreddits like r/legaladvice and info-focused interest/hobby/lifestyle subreddits like r/naturalhair or r/relationships or r/abrathatfits or whatever.

Here's why they outcompete us:
  • Most people have a few specific interests they want to read about. Special interest subreddits make it easy to subscribe to these.
  • Most people want to be able to write their questions for an informed audience, without needing to explain basics (e.g. in a natural hair community without needing to say "I don't want to use shampoo because it's bad for my hair type. Here's what counts as shampoo...") or defend their choices ("please don't tell me to just straighten it"). These subreddits provide an informed audience.
  • Similarly, most people prefer answers from experienced members of their community.
  • Many people want site rules specific to their interest or topic. A don't-recommend-specific-businesses rule is essential for r/legaladvice but would destroy a makeup subreddit.
  • Many people want a way to joke around and chitchat about their interests without distracting from the useful answers.
Reddit provides all these. For topics that have a good subreddit, it is more popular than us because it provides what most people want, and it would stay that way even if we had a modern look, better SEO, no $5 fee, etc.

AskMe is for the weird subset of people who want to read questions on literally every topic, even the ones they'll never care about IRL, and who want to get answers from basically whoever, including left-field suggestions and total ignorant guessing -- but, weirdly, not including any chitchat at all.

I love it here. I am so glad it continues to exist for the frankly bizarre minority of us who like it. But it is just less valuable to most people than "focused advice on your top interests from people who share them."
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:56 PM on September 4, 2021 [26 favorites]

For a personal example of what I mean: sometimes I ask trans-related questions here. I do it because sometimes I'm specifically interested in hearing what cis people think too. But I'm only interested in that sometimes -- and the vast majority of trans people I know wouldn't be interested EVER. They'd want to ask it in an all-trans setting, among friends, even though the mods here are quite good at shutting down transphobia and it's quite safe. They'd just feel like "Why should I go out of my way to hear from people who aren't affected by this?" (And on some questions, I agree with them.)

But so that's a reason why I'm here and they're not -- I'm weird enough to want to hear from randos on purpose.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:04 PM on September 4, 2021 [6 favorites]

While I agree that Ask provides a higher quality of answers, the Internet is not a meritocracy, etc., I think the biggest reason why Ask is dissimilar to /r/TooAfraidToAsk or /r/AskReddit is the $5 fee to create an account.

I've never seen any hard stats for how many people "bounce off" the account-creation paywall here at Metafilter (as in, start to create an account but abandon the process when they realize it costs Actual Money), but I would expect that it's pretty substantial. On Reddit, it's pretty much de rigueur to create a throwaway account for every question you want to ask, and questions are asked with that sort of throwaway anonymity in mind. People ask a lot of very-loaded/biased questions that are basically invitations to fight/argue, which Ask generally doesn't have, and our moderators are unlikely to permit repeatedly.

At least at one point Ask was the most heavily-trafficked part of the site for external (non-member or not-logged-in) users. A few years back, Google decided to "improve" some part of its algorithm in a way that crushed Ask Metafilter in search results (a loss to Google Search users, IMO), but I suspect it's still the place where a lot of outsiders encounter the site first. It certainly was for me. I do not think this is true of the Q&A parts of Reddit—they exist, but I don't get the sense that they're considered the crown jewels of the site or anything. And the lack of moderator/admin attention they get really shows.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:54 PM on September 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

If I type a random question into Google or Duck, I do not get Metafilter unless I include "Metafilter" in my search. I get Reddit or, less often, Quora. It is sort of like Starbucks being on every street corner, while Metafilter is just one cafe. A cliquey one, to be sure. Sometimes, that is off-putting. Sometimes, though, one wants a coffee different from what one can get on every street corner.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 4:12 PM on September 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have linked Ask to people who also browse Reddit and gotten the feedback that there are a lot of sanctimonious people repeating the same things over and over in slightly different ways. I don't entirely disagree with this assessment.
posted by sm1tten at 4:46 PM on September 4, 2021 [8 favorites]

Good god, the answers on this post should tell you all you need to know. I mean, most people have honestly probably never heard of this site. But the number of people here who clearly consider themselves to be The Best Sort of Person and want to make sure you know that they are, too, is exhausting and not fun or helpful.
posted by imalaowai at 9:17 PM on September 4, 2021 [9 favorites]

There are a lot of rules and customs here, yes - for instance having to wait an entire week to ask your question after signing up, which certainly doesn't lend itself to spontaneity - but I do want to mention that the $5 fee is not a requirement to join:

If the signup fee is a financial or logistical hardship, you can drop the moderation team a line via the contact form to ask about a complimentary signup. How do I sign up for a Metafilter account

That's still going to be a barrier to someone who wants to do a quickie sign up, which is as designed. Also Metafilter needs funds. But some of the above comments could be misinterpreted as saying that the site is better because it selects for users who have disposable income rather than as pointing out that any kind of resource investment, e.g., time, tends to winnow out spammers, etc.

I think nebulawindphone has done a great job of capturing the draw of Reddit ask culture.
posted by to wound the autumnal city at 12:02 AM on September 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

As with the recent similar Ask that forthright linked to, I agree with the many varied answers others have given, but am also surprised that hardly anyone has looked for the answer any deeper than the site structure, sign-up costs, kinds of people, etc.

Fundamentally, they are very different businesses, with different customers. Reddit is funded by venture capital and hopes to IPO eventually. Its aim is to grow. Its investors from each round of funding can only get the returns they hope for if the site keeps growing. So it must become more and more popular or else funding will dry up and it won’t get the valuation they all hope for, the money will run out, and they’ll go out of business or get bought by someone else for less than everyone hoped.

I assume MetaFilter is more bootstrapped - it generates money from its relatively small amount of advertising, its sign up fees, and donations from users. It can, it seems, just about afford the very small staff it has, plus the other related overheads.

So Reddit must become increasingly popular, and its staff are focused on that as the priority. But MetaFilter’s priority is, I assume, to going, sustainably. More users, contributing more money, would be great, but growth at all costs isn’t its priority, thankfully. It’s focused on keeping the lights on and keeping the place a welcoming one for those who like it here. Quantity, versus quality. Short-term versus long-term.

(All conjecture, I have no inside knowledge of either company!)
posted by fabius at 6:57 AM on September 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

I do not think Metafilter adding boobs or being misogynist will help its popularity. Yes, have decorum helps keep the quality up. There's a lot of us that respectfully disagree with some things that have nothing to do with that and we believe keeps the popularity down.

Have you ever been to a club or been a member of a country club? If you're not part of it, you're not part of it and don't feel like a member. It is a hard to describe but Metafilter is like that. It is incredibly exclusive. A lot of people will argue that's a good thing and I'd agree to an extent, but it keeps away a lot of people who don't know or don't take the time to understand the site. I think that's a bad thing, but like any exclusive club people here will argue that they don't want people here who don't fit in. Unlike traditional country clubs it isn't based on wealth, family lineage, or race. That's good! But lets look at how it can exclude people:

1. The design. Metafilter's design is dated. Functionally it works fine but people's opinions are largely based off their first impressions. There's a lot of forums that have dated designs and sadly they're usually just a few small groups of friends who have stuck around. Metafilter is larger, but if you view the site from a new persons perspective, would you stick around?

2. The fee. Originally Metafilter had a classic early Internet dilemma of growing faster than the servers could allow. For a lot of reasons a fee was instituted and remains yet people are accustomed to not paying a fee. As UX feature this is yet another barrier to entry that keeps people out. No one is saying $5 is a lot and yes the mods will waive it but the simple act of paying it is a larger burden than you think.

3. There's walls of text everywhere. AskMetafilter, Metatalk, Metafilter. All warning you not to post. Yes, if you read them carefully they're well thought out reasons to not post. From a UX perspective they are giant deterrents.

4. A laundry list of other low hanging fruit: notifications (e-mail, etc.) when your name is mentioned or your quoted, more visibility to subsections like FanFare with an /all sort of aggregator, targeted content, etc.

I'm not even touching on the user base being too far left, etc. Those are all opinions. I'm saying as a consultant on website and projects, the top 4 would be the biggest things I'd do to become broadly to have a lot more engagement. Better? Worse? That's not what you asked for. You asked about popularity.

There's an old Internet or really any adage that if you add vice to something you get more hits. That's simply not true anymore if it ever was. If adding T&A got visitors I'd create a copy-cat Metafilter site called MetafilterGoneWild or something and enjoy the payday.

Again, let me repeat, I'm not saying Metafilter is or isn't better off -- I'm simply answering why Metafilter isn't as popular as Reddit. I'm saying objectively Metafilter has some anti-patterns and UX choices in my industry we'd broadly consider "bad" in that we consider anything bad that doesn't create profit or engagement (usually but not always the same).
posted by geoff. at 5:14 PM on September 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of marketing, SEO, user experience and development, all of which Reddit has invested in and MetaFilter hasn’t to nearly the same degree. This has allowed Reddit to scale. Plus everything else mentioned above about site culture, moderation and barriers or enablers to engagement.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:08 PM on September 6, 2021

« Older Will Cats Ever Be Like Dogs?   |   Can I apply for FAFSA if I have a previous loan in... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments