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Type of site Community Weblog
Owner MetaFilter Network LLC
Created by Matthew Haughey

MetaFilter, known as MeFi to its members,[1][2][3] is a community weblog whose purpose is to share links and discuss content that users have discovered on the web.



MetaFilter was founded by Matthew Haughey in 1999. Haughey wrote the software for the site himself, using Macromedia ColdFusion and Microsoft SQL Server.[4]

From its early beginnings as a small community of webloggers who traded links, the weblog now enjoys international popularity. Members are permitted to make one post to the front page per day, which must feature at least one link.[5] Members may then comment on these posts.

Although membership was initially free and unrestricted, growing membership forced frequent extended closures of new-member signup. On November 18, 2004, Haughey reopened signups, but with a 5 USD life-time membership fee.[6] According to TIME magazine, this fee keeps the site "remarkably free of trolls, griefers and other anonymous jerks", resulting in "public-spirited flavor of a small town or good university".[7] Although the number of registrations has topped 90,000, a design flaw in the counting process means that it counts users who abandoned the signup process mid way; the actual number of posters is smaller, clocking in at around 38,700 as of October 2008.[8] The number of non-members who have not or could not previously join, and who simply read and lurk, may be much higher.

MetaFilter has developed a fairly stable community with a variety of in-jokes. Members regularly gather for meetups in cities around the world, and there are numerous websites with strong connections to MetaFilter members and subgroups.[citation needed] Readers can mark other users’ comments as a favorite, and commenters derive pride from how many times they have been "favorited."[9]

MetaFilter was included in TIME magazine's 50 Best Websites 2009 feature.[7]


MetaFilter's name derives from the idea that weblogs "filter" the "best of the web", and MetaFilter posts (guidelines) would be the best of the best.[10] Posters are presumed responsible for selecting only the most interesting or novel websites to link, and users' reputations are largely determined by overall posting quality. Half-baked posts, self-promotion, open-ended questions, and other fare common on other community sites and internet forums are strongly discouraged at MetaFilter, though such things do sometimes make it through[citation needed]. The post must contain a link, and the site linked must be of high quality.

Best of the Web

What gets posted is diverse. Online art, award-winning web design, photography galleries, and the like fit into a cool site of the day theme that is highly prized but often generates scant discussion. Flash games and funny online movies also appear. Net and blog culture discussions also percolate through MetaFilter, reflecting its early connections with Blogger, but this is becoming less common as membership expands.


Open posting permits less rigorous items as well. The derisive term for this on MetaFilter is NewsFilter (or similar -Filter names for specific news topics, e.g. IraqFilter). Links to op-eds with no other point or framing are strongly discouraged and frequently deleted, as it is thought that they generate controversy without informing[citation needed]. Nevertheless, it is accepted that some discussion of current events and politics in particular is inevitable, and a certain level is tolerated. If more than one post is made about a news topic, the extras are often deleted and discussion is redirected to the "canonical" post about the topic, usually the first one made. Important news items or political arguments can turn into very long discussions, such as 9/11 (2001), the London Bombings (2005), or Hurricane Katrina (2005)—which generated over 80 Front Page Posts in about a week. The first example of this was arguably the Nisqually earthquake of 2001.


Because MetaFilter bans "selflinks" or posts by a person with a significant conflict of interest, posts tend to be scrutinized closely. Members of the site also have, several times, worked closely together to root out deception and scams. In May 2001, MetaFilter played a key role in uncovering the Kaycee Nicole hoax,[11] in which a woman made up a fake online persona of a teenage daughter who was dying of cancer, fooling many bloggers and garnering sympathy and gifts.[12][13][14][15] In October 2004, MetaFilter members uncovered the identities of the writers of the hoax Web site Nick Nolte's Diary.[16] An astroturfing campaign by Holden Karnofsky, the co-founder of the online charity Givewell, was detected in January 2008 through a sockpuppet posting to Ask MetaFilter, leading to Karnofsky's resignation.[17] In 2009, a user was responsible for detecting photoshopping by photographer Edgar Martins in a New York Times Magazine gallery, which was subsequently withdrawn.[18]


One of MetaFilter's founding tenets and an important factor in the "feel" of the site is the idea that the bulk of moderation is done through social norms and peer pressure, referred to as "self-policing" in a site tagline.[19] Posts that do not meet the community's standards for quality are often "called out" to MetaTalk, an administrative area of the site, and interested members discuss how the post could have been improved, or, in some cases, ruthlessly mock the offender. (Sometimes the community consensus, after discussion, is that the call-out was unwarranted.) On rare occasions, Haughey steps in and bans egregious offenders from the site temporarily or permanently. Particularly good posts are, conversely, called out for plaudits and are regularly selected by Haughey to be featured on the main page's sidebar.

For the site's first few years, this practice of self-policing ensured a high level of quality and allowed Haughey to use a light touch in moderating the site. However, as the community has grown, Haughey has taken a more active role; in 2004, Jessamyn West began assisting him with moderation duties, in 2007 user Josh Millard (username "cortex") was added as a moderator, and in 2008 user Ricardo Vacapinta (username "vacapinta") was added as an off-hours moderator.[20][21] A relatively recent addition to the site, a flagging capability that allows members to suggest substandard (or superlative) posts for review, has allowed members to continue to have input in shaping the site while quickly alerting the moderators to potential trouble spots.

Haughey has long resisted adding killfiles and Slashdot-style scoring systems to MetaFilter, as he feels the former would fragment the community and the latter would result in users trying to "game" the system.

Subsites at MetaFilter

As discussed above under Moderation, an administrative area known as MetaTalk, or MeTa for short, allows for meta-discussion of the community, including bug reports, feature requests, and "self-policing."

In 2003, Ask MetaFilter (short: AskMe) was launched. This forum allows members to post questions to the community, without the link requirement. AskMe quickly grew to a strong side community with slightly different etiquette requirements and many daily threads covering a very broad spectrum of topics.

At the end of 2005, Metafilter Projects was launched. This area of the site is for members to announce Web projects they have been working on—the one place on the site where so-called "self-linking" is permitted. Members can vote on projects and the best eventually end up posted to the main site.

In 2006, MetaFilter Music launched. This site allows users to upload their own musical creations, which others can listen to via a Flash player, along with playlist and favorites features.

Later, August 24 2006, MetaFilter Jobs was added. This section was created for members to post job openings.

Each subsite has its own unique background color, which leads to the main Metafilter page being called "the blue" by many members, AskMe "the green" and MeTa "the gray." The other subsites have not yet acquired nicknames.

Sites inspired by MetaFilter

The simple and effective design of Metafilter has inspired the creation of several sites and software over the years. The largest[citation needed] of the MeFi-inspired sites is MonkeyFilter, which was originally started for lurkers of MetaFilter when membership was closed and has since developed into its own autonomous community. Other active sites include linkfilter, WHEDONesque, SportsFilter, MusicFilter, Devoter, MetaChat. Madame Martin is a general-purpose French-language filter site. Several software packages, including PHPilfer and MetaPhilter, exist to create Metafilter-like web applications, but people are also using generic CMS, custom software or even Matt Haughey's original codebase to run them.


  1. "1: The First One | MetaTalk". Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  2. "Pronunciation of MeFi and MeFite? | MetaTalk". Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  3. "MeFil | MetaTalk". Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  4. Noor Ali-Hasan. "MetaFilter: An Analysis of a Community Weblog". University of Michigan School of Information. Retrieved 2007-03-06. 
  6. David Carr, "Soothe the Blog and Reap the Whirlwind", New York Times, January 23, 2006
  7. 7.0 7.1 "50 Best Websites 2009: MetaFilter". TIME magazine. 2009-08-24.,28804,1918031_1918016_1917970,00.html. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  8. cortex. "Metafilter Infodump: more stats than you can shake a stick at.". 
  9. Allen Salkin, "All-Stars of the Clever Riposte", New York Times, September 30, 2007
  10. "Guidelines". MetaFilter. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  11. Katie Hafner (May 31, 2001). "Kaycee chronicles: life, death, deception". New York Times News Service. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  12. "Comments on 7819". MetaFilter. Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  13. "Comments on 7819". MetaFilter. Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  14. "Comments on 7819". MetaFilter. Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  15. "Comments on 7819". MetaFilter. Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  16. Greg Allen, "The Positively True Adventures of the Counterfeit Diary of Nick Nolte", New York Times, October 31, 2004
  17. Ian Wilhelm (January 2, 2008). "GiveWell's Self-Promotion". Give & Take (Chronicle of Philanthropy). Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  18. Daryl Lang (July 8, 2009). "New York Times Magazine Withdraws Altered Photo Essay". Photo District News. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  19. "Metafilter | Community Weblog". Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  21. jessamyn. "vacapinta announced as new moderator". 

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