What would make PoliticalFilter.com good?
August 8, 2007 4:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about operating PoliticalFilter.com, a MeFi type clone all about politics. What do you think would make the site good?

To be clear, this isn't some official Matt sanctioned (or unsanctioned) idea. It seems like it would be fun, so why not?

I have my own ideas, of course, about it, but I'm more interested in hearing from others as to what they think would make the site really great.

Note: I'm not a coder, so it's gonna be light on features at first, as I believe content will make or break it.

Yes, I bought the domain already and yes I'm serious.
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Society & Culture (61 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you're putting it on the internet, it will need to be left leaning.

hehe.

Seriously though, it depends on if you want it to lean or if you want some type of balance, if you even plan to police the content at all.

Also depends on if you want to make it a closed community or not, or at least a required registration.

Do you have a....vision for how you want it to look / operate?
posted by Industrial PhD at 4:47 PM on August 8, 2007


note to self: figure out how to change font sizes, because that hehe should have been tiny.
posted by Industrial PhD at 4:48 PM on August 8, 2007


Do you have a....vision for how you want it to look / operate?

I have my own ideas, of course, about it, but I'm more interested in hearing from others as to what they think would make the site really great.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:50 PM on August 8, 2007


This is something I was passingly interested in doing, so I'd be intrigued to see how it works out (speaking of which, I'm assuming when it's up it'll go in Projects?).

What would make the site good? Clear definition of what's covered. Is it US-centric, or will there be subdomains (us.politicsfilter.com, europe.politicsfilter.com etc)? Is it "post a story, discuss", or "post anything related to politics, discuss".

Keep "LOLREPUBLICRATS" to a minimum. Try and get balanced, thoughtful discussion, rather than massive partisan flamewars. Personally, I'd try and take the centrist ground, avoiding editorialising and sensationalism.

Politics stories tend to be longrunning. Perhaps some way of officially updating/appending a thread with new info that bumps it back up to the top.

An optional questionnaire for members to take about various topics, with results on their member pages, so people can get an overview of people's beliefs. More detailed than a simple dropdown.

I'll probably think of some more later.
posted by djgh at 4:52 PM on August 8, 2007


My number 1 recommendation: moderation. You have to have moderators and the moderators have to have firm rules about what is and what is not acceptable. These rules must be enforced QUICKLY, before things get out of control.
posted by gregvr at 5:07 PM on August 8, 2007


What do you think would make the site good?

The contributors/community.

It's a simplistic answer, but it's true. I've seen good forums drown under over-moderation, apathy, ad trolls. If you can attract, groom and maintain an intelligent core of users, no matter which direction they lean, your site will be good.

However, this is likely as easy as attracting, grooming and maintaining a stable community of leprechauns.
posted by lekvar at 5:14 PM on August 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


It will be tough.

First, are you willing to publish anything?
9/11 conspiracies? Half baked scandals? Racism? LOLXTIANS? Things about John Edward's haircut? Things about Vince Foster? Or something on Barbara Streisand's blog?

What about when one candidate keeps coming up? cough Ron Paul cough

What about when one issue keeps coming up, like immigration or abortion?

These rules will be tough to make. And it will be very hard to enforce them and be seen as non-partisan. Which is why most political blogs give up and pick a side.

Maybe... maybe you could make something that just makes fun of it all. And stuff can be deleted because it just takes itself too seriously. But, humor is hard and often liberal. Just look at that godawful Fox News show.
posted by ALongDecember at 5:22 PM on August 8, 2007


If PoliticsFilter.com were to be US-centric, a kick-ass feature would be the aggregation of all legislation, executive orders, and supreme judicial opinions/rulings. They'd each get their own automatic discussion thread. This would probably take a boatload of admin work unless that info (or those texts) could somehow be automatically scraped from some .gov.

Scandals, news, and everyday joe opinions would round out daily content.
posted by carsonb at 5:23 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Stealing this would be a good idea, too:

note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.

I'd suggest however that instead of <small> text you go with <big>, <blink>, and <strong>.
posted by carsonb at 5:27 PM on August 8, 2007


1) A barrier to entry; $5 does wonders on Metafilter to keep the trolls out (usually). Unfortunately, people will probability initially be unwilling to pay for membership to a site when it's just starting up and there are few contributors. Metafilter had what, over 20,000 when $5 accounts came in?

2) Think about what you mean by "politics". Do you mean elections and news and controversies? Do you mean discussions of laws? Do you mean discussion of political theory? Do you want to limit it to, say, federal US happenings, or do you want to make it a real blog about Politics and encourage international contribution and perspective?

3) Don't aim for balance. It's probably not going to happen. You can try by aiming for strong, consistent moderation, from a team of moderators with a diverse range of political views, who make those views public and open. Make it clear to the users that you win some and you lose some. I definitely think real, human moderation is better than any kind of automated "vote down bad comments" system. Or you could just bite the bullet and just split the damn thing into "left", "right" and "other" subsites. I think point 1 may cover this though; 99% of crappy, vicious, offensive, ignorant content on the net comes from "drive-by" commenters. Put up a bit of a barrier to entry, and it will make moderation and management so much easier.

4) Mefi clone is a great idea; don't get over-complex, the format works well.
posted by Jimbob at 5:31 PM on August 8, 2007


A worldwide audience is essential, I think, to making the site work and have lots of great discussion. If there's a way to check the nationalities of your membership (IP addresses?), perhaps make a little pie chart indicating where people are from so people can see that USAfilter, or even EnglishSpeakingWorldFilter, isn't the only way to post things or healthy for the site.

It'd be essential, I think, to have tags like MeFi and AskMe, and perhaps categories like AskMe too - so if I want to view all stories related to education, or the DNC, or the controversy around Muslim girls wearing headscarves in European schools, I can look for those things.

Appoint co-moderators who may be ideologically different from you but who are active in a desire to see the site work, too - I like that mathowie, jessamyn, and cortex each bring their own flavor to the Metafilter family (awwww) of sites, but that they're pretty consistent, too.

Membership should cost something trivial to keep out the ideologues who hear about your site on O'Reilly and go through their phone tree getting everyone they know to shit in a controversial thread.

I'd love to see a big meta-topic like, say, EU expansion dealt with by someone posting about how Country X has been ramping up preparations [link] to host the next EU summit [link], which means that the intriguing topic [link] of the meeting will be something that the next candidates for membership [link] will have to deal with differently than current members, who currently get away with this other thing [link], will have to change. To me, if the model for posts is set up as multiple link storytelling with lots of angles, I think you'll end up with more reasoned comments and a cadre of members who won't tolerate (say) LOLyuropeanz one-liners.

Finally: if I want news, I'll go to a newspaper. Not every politics story is BREAKING!, and it'd be nice to have a site that's less about digesting as much news as possible in as little time as possible, and more about watching long-term social and political trends develop and commenting on those.
posted by mdonley at 5:34 PM on August 8, 2007


The money that Jessamyn's gonna give you.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:54 PM on August 8, 2007


a kick-ass feature would be the aggregation of all legislation, executive orders, and supreme judicial opinions/rulings. They'd each get their own automatic discussion thread.

I agree with the first sentence and not with the second. Aggregating all of this stuff—news, law, and commentary—would be a great feature, maybe as a sidebar type thing for easy, visible one-stop access for readers.

Making each one a thread automatically will leave you with a lot of sparse or empty threads, though, especially with your initially small membership; and nothing says "fuck this place" to a new/prospective user like a forum full of ghost town threads. Let the users start the threads that they want to start, give them the aggregated/sidebar stuff as jumping-off points.

Establish your moderation policy out of the gate. Be clear about the goals of the site; be clear about what is and is not a mortal sin; be clear about whatever editing you expect to do, and about the lines of communication for and appropriate venues of discussing site moderation/policy/etc. Whether you prefer iron fist, anarchy, or somewhere between, spell that out.

Membership-only comments, or at least membership-privileged comments. Nothing spells fuckwaddery—especially in something as potentially heated as politics—like allowing drive-by, zero effort site-crapping. It's hard to build a userbase, but it's easier to retain folks who (a) decided to put in two minutes effort to register, and (b) have a sense of establishing an identity in the community. Plus, for cross-over traffic from existing sites, providing a logged-in user with a profile and a username that they can (if they so choose) use to establish that continuity.

Categories, tagging, and feeds and site view options attached to same will make it easier for users to get the content they want and follow the threads that interest them.
posted by cortex at 6:09 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


The money that Jessamyn's gonna give you.

I will give you a buck each for the first 100 members you sign up, just to keep you interested. You can use it to offset member costs or whatever the heck you want. I will spend my MetaFilter money on it and it will be money well spent.

Here's what I said in the related MeTa thread and some more stuff.

I think you need good design (if you are not a designer get one), moderators that people trusted, guidelines for stuff and a group of people who would be happy talking politics every day on another site.

I see SportsFilter as a really successful spinoff site, for example. It has its own community with a clear purpose, it looks nice and has recognizeable MeFites as well as other non-MeFite participants. If you're really into sports but you sort of like the MeFi format, you can go over there and be someplace with (at least a fair amount of) other MeFites, but where every link is about sports. It's cool.

With a site devited to politics you'd need to have a few things clear at the start. How much hobbyhorsing people do (posting repeatedly on the same topic and running it into the ground), how much inflammatory language you'll allow or disallow, how much you'll aim for balance versus letting the site run the direction.

The thing that could kill the site early is a few axe grinders that interject themselves into every thread, totally griefing at every turn and making everything the moderators do subject to intensive scrutiny tearingt he place apart before it gets going. We don't really have that here, but partly it's because the guidelines are a little loose and the moderator's word is final and we back each other up most of the time. Not that I think you need to be total hardasses, but giving the moderators some solid direction is also helpful.

Otherwise, it's what everyone else said, thinking about broad strokes

- us politics or international?
- electionfilter only or no?
- iraq filter only or no?
- what categories will you use?
- will there be subsites?
- how much updatefilter is okay?
- how often can people post?
- how do conflicts get resolved?
- how do rules and guidelines get communicated to members?
- will you have any realtionship with the mother site here?
- do you want the site to become a job?
- how much incivility is okay?
- how much will you remove threads/comments? what will you do when/if you remove them?

As the moderator, you don't get to particupate in the site in quite the same way as everyone else. Keep that in the back of your mind somewhat as you plan.

Feel free to get me on chat as you go, I'd be happy to help you plan somewhat.
posted by jessamyn at 6:11 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Notes:

The idea is that it's a more balanced site. I don't care if it's a liberal or conservative or whatever slant to the post as long as it speaks to reason and includes interesting links. Yeah, the users themselves might determine the site's general political slant and that's ok, but LOLxitians crap won't stand, though a bit of GOOD humor would be welcomed.

Being strictly US would be boring, though it'll be probably be US dominated. I've had Google newspage set to filter on some political categories and there's lots of interesting stuff from other nations.

The goal for launch is to keep it pretty simple, one section for posts. Any sort of growth or subsections would be determined naturally, by user demands/needs.

You said the first 1,000, right Jess?

Anyone interested in beta testing, drop me a line. Might not be til end of Sept though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:44 PM on August 8, 2007


You said the first 1,000, right Jess?

HUNDRED. But I'll up the ante to $2/each.
posted by jessamyn at 6:48 PM on August 8, 2007


The image tag! Permit the image tag and we will all abandon Matt for you so fast he won't know what happened.
posted by LarryC at 6:50 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Isn't this what devoter.com was developed to be?
posted by notsnot at 6:51 PM on August 8, 2007


Encourage participation outside partisan politics. Address issues. Make third parties (and us anarchists) welcome.
posted by Eideteker at 6:58 PM on August 8, 2007


'nother question: Do you think requiring members to register using their real name would help cut down on that asshole factor?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:18 PM on August 8, 2007


I'd love to see threaded comments used. That's the one thing that bugs me about MeFi.

Also make sure you can submit multiple links in a posting like MeFi.

You also NEED to have a Jessamyn extension. People who regularly filter out the trolls are required. Beware of what happened to Kuro5hin.

Commenting on free Economist, New Yorker and other articles would be cool.

Also, hopefully it won't go down the dailykos route and become a shouting match for thousands of people violently agreeing with each other.
posted by sien at 7:22 PM on August 8, 2007


Using Scoop as an engine could be good. It's the CMS engine behind dailykos. Dailykos has nice AJAXY comments.
posted by sien at 7:28 PM on August 8, 2007


This may seem tangential, but I think it's important that the site is sober looking, like MeFi. You need to distinguish yourself from the hordes of 'forums' - no cute little pictures next to our names, for example. And if you decide to go the image tag route, keep the size down and cache them on your server, instead of allowing hotlinks. One thing you could do is allow embedded video, like DailyKos does (please discourage the style of post used there, though).

Doing those things will hopefully tip people off that they're expected not to act dumb.

I personally request that you strongly encourage internationalism.

On preview, holy fuck yes, listen to sien about K5. Do not, however, be so violently anti-troll that your users start mentioning the word as a kind of weapon(c.f. DailyKos, again).
posted by topynate at 7:29 PM on August 8, 2007


Forcing real names has merit, but it may be the wrong path to take on a political site; after all, a lot of people consider their political views and their voting intentions a deeply private matter. For other people, having their political views out in the open on the web and attached to their real names may be a big turn-off.
posted by Jimbob at 7:33 PM on August 8, 2007


Talk to me about K5 and Dailykos. Where did they go wrong?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:35 PM on August 8, 2007


As a small aside, one of the benefits to having people pay for memberships besides the small barrier to entry is then you have their paypal information which helps for real-world identification and emailing as well as the occasional "oh hey look these two guys paid with the same paypal account, they might be the same guy!" realizations. We never make that stuff public here, but it's useful from the admin side of things.
posted by jessamyn at 7:42 PM on August 8, 2007


after all, a lot of people consider their political views and their voting intentions a deeply private matter. For other people, having their political views out in the open on the web and attached to their real names may be a big turn-off.

This doesn't bother me, as you can't please everyone, but I go by my real name here anway, so what do I know? Seriously, if you're have the balls to say something, then have the guts to say it and back it up. Or is this to narrow a view?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:47 PM on August 8, 2007


and thank you Jessamyn for your advice and extremely kind offer.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:48 PM on August 8, 2007


Blandon: I can think of at least one reason people wouldn't want their views easily tied to their names by a google search -- potential employers might not be as open-minded as you, or have the same opinions.

Despite the fact that it's none of their business what you think about politics -- it has no bearing on your suitability as an employee -- but it could definitely impact your employability if they discover you approve of fifteenth-trimester abortions... ;)

Also, many people are reluctant to have too much of their personal information easily traceable on the web. Assuming an askMefi level of personal disclosure, if you force people to use their real names, it's only a bit more data-sifting through comments for someone to likely figure out where you live (at least to a city level), what you do for a living, which way you swing, etc etc. Just look at the Mefi Detective League's past exploits, particularly those where they managed to winnow out someone's ACTUAL NAME.

Finally: how are you going to make sure they actually ARE using their "real name"? Unless you take a SS# or something you won't be able to confirm it. I could just sign up as Mr Cory Davilos, and you'd never know..... and at which point, what's the point in forcing "real names"?
posted by coriolisdave at 8:04 PM on August 8, 2007


..you'd never know whether it was my real name.

*sigh*

posted by coriolisdave at 8:04 PM on August 8, 2007


Brandon. Real names are a bad idea. I do not want people to find out my politics by googling me. If you have an uncommon name it's a pain.

People can use their real names if they want if they are allowed sigs, but it should not be forced on people.

As for kuro5hin (K5) for a number of reasons. It slid in popularity as it depended on content actually written on the site. When blogging took off people could have their own site to put stuff on and didn't need to put things on what was effectively a group blog. Also, as the trolls were not effectively policed, the place became a den for sockpuppets and trolls. Once the late, great Adequacy.org (a wonderful pure troll site) was shut down, it looks like people migrated to K5. A barrier to entry and good moderation (i.e. $5 and a Jessamyn) might have saved it. But at any rate, it struggles on, with the occasional amusing article.

dailykos does fine really, indeed it actually has some influence, it's just that it is a pretty narrow site. If you're not an American Democrat why would you read it?

Also, dailykos uses the scoop engine as does K5 and the admin of dailykos is Rusty, who founded K5. One of the reasons that dailykos is probably so anti-troll is that K5 was, in part, destroyed by trolls.
posted by sien at 8:13 PM on August 8, 2007


Oik. One thing I wish for was an oops button so I could edit comments.

That sentence that says As for kuro5hin (K5) for a number of reasons should read Kuro5hin (K5), died for a number of reasons.
posted by sien at 8:15 PM on August 8, 2007


Talk to me about K5 and Dailykos. Where did they go wrong?
DK hasn't gone wrong, as such: it is intended as a vehicle to achieve certain ends, hence the groupthink etc. If you drink the kool-aid then you'll be as happy there as a pig in shit.

Now, Kuro5hin... man. I joined it in about 2004, if I remember rightly, and there was a busy, anarchic community producing articles of various quality about many things, with a slight technical bias. It could probably have been maintained in that state indefinitely with appropriate moderation, but with almost none whatsoever, and an atmosphere that encouraged trolling (it was regarded as something of an art), the content started to go.

Then there were a few incidents of questionable taste, and more and more people began getting bored, I guess. The thing about K5 was that it never had a particular purpose except to be cool in many areas, and when the astonishing immaturity of its participants (because what's more cool than being really good at being really awful?) began affecting that, the cool people became less inclined to contribute.

Today, there are still a few of the 'old gang' (who were leaving even before I joined), but only the hardier sort, and there's no joie de vivre in posting or browsing there any more.

Now, an interesting question is if the physical structure of these sites had an effect on the way they developed. I think it did - the rot in K5 spread from the diary section, which acted kind of like a 4chan to the other sections' HabboHotel. In both K5 and DK the threaded format allows nasty people to single you out for special treatment. On MeFi, if you shit in a thread, you shit in everyone's thread, and you might get your arse kicked.

One more thing. Check out politicalbetting.com, a British blog. The quality of discussion there is about as high as you can reasonably expect to find on your own site - an MP posts there regularly, as do many party activists and someone in his mid-100s, I believe. The site has loose, but watchful, moderation. Political neutrality is to some extent enforced by the putative focus of discussions.
posted by topynate at 8:23 PM on August 8, 2007


and of course everyone is British, and noone can swear.
posted by topynate at 8:27 PM on August 8, 2007


In both K5 and DK the threaded format allows nasty people to single you out for special treatment. On MeFi, if you shit in a thread, you shit in everyone's thread, and you might get your arse kicked.

Excellent point; threaded discussions are overrated, linear comments encourage everyone to stay on topic and address everyone else.

Another point to consider in comparing K5 to Metafilter; K5 aimed for people to write articles. Metafilter just wants people to post links to things, with minimal commentary and editorializing in the posts. Which way do you want to go?
posted by Jimbob at 9:04 PM on August 8, 2007


I'd love to see threaded comments used. That's the one thing that bugs me about MeFi.

It depends. Though I prefer readability of threaded comments, I hate actively participating in threaded conversation such as Digg and Slashdot.

Another point to consider in comparing K5 to Metafilter; K5 aimed for people to write articles. Metafilter just wants people to post links to things, with minimal commentary and editorializing in the posts. Which way do you want to go?

In political threads, I would strongly urge against allowing editorializing posts. If you want the site to be "fair and balanced," then allowing editorializing with an obvious intent is a sure way to bring out the trollers and flamewars.
posted by jmd82 at 9:11 PM on August 8, 2007


Would it be possible to require a valid email address from each potential member? And a real location - at least an area such as northern England or southwest US?
posted by Cranberry at 10:44 PM on August 8, 2007


I really like carsonb's idea of automatically feeding announcements and press releases into the site for discussion.

I'd also be willing to help beta test.

LOLREPUBLICATS? I must google this.
posted by Industrial PhD at 11:45 PM on August 8, 2007


Have a registration fee, BUT make registration free for existing Mefi members. Hopefully you would have a guaranteed user base in the beginning.

Also threaded comments suck.
posted by afu at 2:45 AM on August 9, 2007


Okay, no threaded comments or enforced real names.

Valid email address required.

International is fine and welcomed, as are a wide range of viewpoints as long as the user can keep a mostly civil tongue.

Namecalling, abuse and harassment of members gets a timeout and then a perm booting. If you're gonna be a consistent jerk, you're not wanted. Period.

Subsites are fine, but should come organically, say if people keep asking questions about politics, then start an AskPolFi.

RSS Feeds and Tagging are a must, though I'm not so sure categories are needed if tagging is in place.

Updatefilter is fine as long as it's reasonable and interesting, providing new insights etc

People can do a post once a day, unlimited comments at first. It really depends on the atmosphere/personality the site develops.

Admin (me) has final say.

Mods are important and desired (hell needed), but I'd have to see how peopel are posting before naming mods.

No image tag. No sigs.


Currently I'm designing it in ExpressionEngine, for it's membership module, professional support, flexibility and just general awesomeness. But I'm open to non Microsoft related suggestions.

Like Metafilter, deleted comments are deleted, while deleted threads are simply closed with an explanation. Deleted comments may get an explanation if an easy and quick way to do it can be thought up.

a kick-ass feature would be the aggregation of all legislation, executive orders, and supreme judicial opinions/rulings.

Eh, it kinda defeats the point of being a filter if you're aggregating EVERY piece of legislation, order and rulings. Not a bad idea, but I'm not sold on it. Plus it would rely on it being US centered, which I'm not keen on.

- do you want the site to become a job?

What exactly do you mean here?

will you have any realtionship with the mother site here?

Announce it in projects and put a link on my userpage. What other sort of relationship could there be? I certainly don't want it to be "That's a shitty political post, put it on PoliticsFilter"

I'm writing the welcome/registration page now and will come back to AskMe in a week and offer it up for public scrutiny and thoughts.

Thanks to all who voluntered programming or beta testing. I'll contact ya shortly once I'd hammered out the general look and feel.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:17 AM on August 9, 2007


- do you want the site to become a job?

What exactly do you mean here?


I mostly mean that there are to considerations along these lines you'll have to think about

1. does the site need, now or in the future, to make money? In that case, it might be a good idea to think about ads or whatever other revenue stream you might want. If you start it with no ads at all and then get them and it's not somewhere in your plan that you might do that, people might get annoyed. Otoh, I think people are used to ads on decent political sites. Every tie a new ad shows up on MeFi, it's a 200 comment MeTa thread.

2. How much time do you reasonably have to spend on a site? When people ask me how much time I spend on MetaFilter, I usually say "oh about 10-15 minutes every hour..." and they say "oh that's not bad at all" and then I say "EVERY HOUR I AM AWAKE IN MY LIFE" which is different. Don't get me wrong, I like it here, but I have a job here that I am paid for. So, even when I'm really not liking it, there is incentive to stay and make things better. So does mathowie and pb and, as a part-timer, cortex. When you start thinking about mods and your day job and all of that, it helps to conceptualize the site in your mind as a hobby site vs a job site, or at least keep in mind that there are two (at least) types of sites. And sometimes hobby sites become job sites.
posted by jessamyn at 7:02 AM on August 9, 2007


I think "No enforced real names" means "no enforced public real names". As jessamyn pointed out, you'll need to have access to their real names (through their credit card or paypal account) to detect sockpuppets and trolls and to be able to ban troublemakers.
posted by bru at 7:17 AM on August 9, 2007


Real names might work for people living in free societies; could get very nasty very quickly for people not.
posted by flabdablet at 7:18 AM on August 9, 2007


You are definitely going to need some kind of MeTa equivalent, too. Politics is full of grey areas.
posted by flabdablet at 7:20 AM on August 9, 2007


And take a long hard look at Devoter. It was created by MeFites, it was meant to be exactly what you have in mind, it has been mentioned repeatedly on this site for a couple of years, and yet it never took off. Why not? I have no idea, but I think answering that question is your first step.
posted by LarryC at 7:45 AM on August 9, 2007


One thing on the moderation angle: I would work really, really hard at stopping people from being attention-whoring asshats and then hiding behind the cloak of their political affiliation. I can think of several community sites that I want to like but are totally ruined by a handful of take-on-all-comers grouches who'll show up in a thread about legos, turn it into a debate about the stupid liberals, and then successfully cry to the mods that they're being silenced for political reasons when people turn on them.

There's a lot I love about the MeFi empire, and the minimization of this sort of shit is up towards the top of the list.
posted by COBRA! at 8:00 AM on August 9, 2007


Anyone have thoughts on why Devoter never took off?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:26 AM on August 9, 2007


Here's a comment from jca about Devoter's non-starter status, from a thread this time last year. Not much detail, but you could drop jca a line and pick his brain.

My personal take: getting to a decent critical mass is just plain hard. It's the sort of thing that takes a mix of time and luck and love and, barring a shortage of those three, money—which is why corporations don't just build sites, they launch them. The hard thing here is that you just cannot count on people showing up, even if you do everything perfectly; that shouldn't be taken as an argument against doing it, just an important reality check.

At the moment, Devoter seems to be badly broken—nothing but the front page works for me, and a couple weeks ago even that didn't—so I can't really check to see if it had some momentum at some point or not.
posted by cortex at 8:43 AM on August 9, 2007


Also, regarding Devoter buy-in from mefites and the challenges of making the transition, there's a lot of interesting discussion in this Metatalk thread from 2004—around when Devoter got side-barred and spent a month or so getting the most Mefi eyeballs it likely ever got. (A search for mentions of Devoter on mefi shows a lot of activity in late August—many references within poli posts to how they could have gone over there, as well as some [via] action.)

I don't know if amberglow's opinion has changed at all in the following years, but this comment in particular reveals one of the challenges of making this work: someone like amberglow, who is a prolific poli/issues commentor here, would simultaneously be a potential boon to PoliticsFilter and potentially totally uninterested in making the jump.

That goes back to two thing that have been mentioned above: critical mass, and avoiding overwhelming posters/commentors. Getting consistently involved poli mefis on the new site would help, but how do you get them to switch to a much smaller audience? And if you do get them over there, how do you keep them from just completely drowning out less prolific folks?

Which sort of funnels into a brainstorm: consider contacting these folks and getting them involved from a site-management perspective. Give them something to do above and beyond their userland involvement with mefi, something more to give their time on PoliticsFilter some added value to compensate for the smaller crowd/audience/footprint of the new site. Whether and how that would work, I'm not sure, but it's worth considering. And you might want to just start a correspondence with some of these folks just for the sake of discussion and brain-picking—even if they have no interest in a new site, they'd probably be willing to go into detail about why that is and what would make such a site at least more compelling, etc.
posted by cortex at 9:19 AM on August 9, 2007


Thanks for the thoughts and links Cortex.

However a lot of the discussion there stems from whether political posts should or should not be Metafilter and peoples desire to steer them off Metafitler or keep them on Mefi.

To me, that's a very narrow view. Politics is never leaving Metafilter, simply because there's already an established community there, and a very good one, in part due to the Admins.

The level of political thought, and by extension discussion, is pretty terrible, usally sinking down into shouting matches and namecalling. This bothers me, because I want more, yet no one seems to be doing intelligent political links on a consistent basis. Sure there's flashs of brillance: a great post here, an insightful comment or two there, but it's very inconsistent. I want to make a community weblog that strives for consistent intelligent links, discussion and thought about politics.

I want to make a site that I want to see, since no one else has made it.

The best description I have for PoliticalFilter.com right now is "A centrist TalkingPointsMemo like community blog", a place where people from all over the world can come together and find political links to things they're not gonna see elsehwere.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:43 AM on August 9, 2007


At the moment, Devoter seems to be badly broken—nothing but the front page works for me, and a couple weeks ago even that didn't—so I can't really check to see if it had some momentum at some point or not.

My ears are burning.

What sort of problems are you having? I'm not aware of anything being "badly broken" at the moment (as far as site issues not working) -- can you elaborate or explain?
posted by jca at 10:47 AM on August 9, 2007


The problem with launching a community based site/weblog is, as others have said, is you must reach a tipping point ("critical mass") in postings and comments. That can be more of an art than science.

One problem with Devoter is that someone asked (in the Metatalk thread cortex linked to) if Metafilter political posts should "be moved over to Devoter".

I had nothing to do with that thread/idea, and I think it hurt things in the long run. Some MeFi members may have resented the implication that their political posts should be "moved" somewhere else, especially to a much smaller and less popular site. I certainly had no intention of suggesting that, and it was unfortunate that the whole thing devolved into yet another "I hate all the political posts on Metafilter" argument.
posted by jca at 11:00 AM on August 9, 2007


jca: Front page looks fine, but every internal link I click from the main page gives me a blank white document with the words "Disallowed Characters in your global keys". IE6, not logged in.
posted by cortex at 11:05 AM on August 9, 2007


However a lot of the discussion there stems from whether political posts should or should not be Metafilter and peoples desire to steer them off Metafitler or keep them on Mefi.

Absolutely; I think the conversations in there are interesting not as guidance to what PoliticsFilter should try to be, only as an indication of some of the challenges that would be involved in transplanting some of the existing mefi userbase as far as political discussion goes. That's not a necessary component of the project, mind you, but in the context of mefi (this having become sort of a strange one-off hybrid of an askme/meta thread given the circumstances) you may need to consider how and why you will or won't see some of that seed-membership action when PoliFi goes live.

For example, I just now have reconsidered my reading of jessamyn's comment above:

I will give you a buck each for the first 100 members you sign up, just to keep you interested. (Later upped to $2/member, yes.)

I first read that as "first 100 metafilter members you sign up", but it's probably more reasonable to assume she meant first 100 people who just sign up for PoliFi. I have a feeling the two will be close to equivilant, but that could be a poor assumption.
posted by cortex at 11:12 AM on August 9, 2007


he meant first 100 people who just sign up for PoliFi.

That's the way I took it. To me that also means people who sign up AFTER it's officially launched.

and are you gonna let jessamyn outbid you like that?

you may need to consider how and why you will or won't see some of that seed-membership action when PoliFi goes live.

it'll need a couple of days of kick ass posts, ranging from deep, multilinked stuff to a few single link, but well done posts to a bit of humor here and there. That may or may not do anything, but it'll set the bar.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:55 AM on August 9, 2007


and are you gonna let jessamyn outbid you like that?

Ooh, good point. Fine, then: she'll give you three dollars!
posted by cortex at 12:01 PM on August 9, 2007


cortex, I am deleting you as "noise"
posted by jessamyn at 12:04 PM on August 9, 2007


Centrism is ideological.
posted by topynate at 1:42 PM on August 9, 2007


God I hope this takes off for you but I am skeptical. I don't see how you are going to get to the necessary critical mass to attract a decent community without some kind of boost from Matt. One idea is for you to be able to give every single Mefite an automatic membership with the same user name and password they use here. But I am not sure how doable or ethical that would be. Even better would be for Politicsfilter to be an official part of this site, like AskMe or Projects.

Otherwise folks will continue to make their political posts on the blue where they know they will be seen and commented upon.
posted by LarryC at 10:07 PM on August 9, 2007


Centrism is ideological.

In the way you linked to, sure. But I was refering to the idea that site isn't going to take a stance either way. Frankly, i find a lot of reasonable and crazy ideas among the liberal, conservative, green and anarchist sides.

I don't see how you are going to get to the necessary critical mass to attract a decent community without some kind of boost from Matt.

See above, where the guy how did Devoter thought a boost from Matt hurt more than it helped. I tend to agree, as the Metafilter crowd brings it's assumptions and, wait for it, politics in.

One idea is for you to be able to give every single Mefite an automatic membership with the same user name and password they use here.

That sounds like a lot of boring work with little promise of payoff. People can already discuss politics and a bunch of other stuff over at Metafilter, under the very helpful hands of Matt, Jessamyn and Cortex.

Even better would be for Politicsfilter to be an official part of this site, like AskMe or Projects.

Not gonna happen. Matt probably has enough headaches and I'm not interested in being an official part of the Metafilter network, though I hear they have cool office parties.

Otherwise folks will continue to make their political posts on the blue where they know they will be seen and commented upon.

Then I might have to search for members elsewhere, eh?

Though I doubt you meant it this way, it's important to remember that PoliticalFilter.com won't live or die because
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:46 AM on August 10, 2007


See above, where the guy how did Devoter thought a boost from Matt hurt more than it helped.

Just to clarify, that's not what I was referring to. Matt was nice enough to sidebar the link on the front page, which was much appreciated and a big boost at the time.

I was referring to this previously linked MetaTalk thread by monju_bosatsu that appeared later asking if (unwanted?) political posts should be moved off-site, which didn't go over well at all. Had nothing to do with myself, Matt, etc.
posted by jca at 12:39 PM on August 10, 2007


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