Why MetaFilter are laying off moderators; there’s less money in thoughtful discussion

Metafilter job loss news

Metafilter job loss news

I was, like every other blogger, going to write about the NYT innovation report. It’s a shocker: analogue organisation grapples with digital change, documents it honestly.

But to me, the news that the famed MetaFilter community is to lose three moderation staff is more shocking. I care about Metafilter, and its sad news is a reminder that digital disruption happens even to the digital natives.

The Metafilter website is a beacon of good moderation – a rare place where thoughtful, constructive conversation is common because of its skilled moderators.

Over the last year and a half the website has experienced “a 40% decrease in revenue and traffic to Ask MetaFilter, likely the result of ongoing Google index updates”.

By my rough estimates, traffic from Google US to the main metafilter.com weblog has fallen from a million visits per month in October 2011, to 370000 visits in May 2014.

These days, general interest question and answer websites have fallen out of favour with Google, as they’re often considered to provide low quality information. Also, the Metafilter site is not displaying the “trust signals” that Google in 2014 likes to see. It lacks rich content for example, its pages contain no video or photos.

At the heart of Metafilter is moderation; the absence of the moronic mean-spirited extremism that’s so common on forums and comment sections.

However, inflamed argument (Hi Daily Mail!) drives website traffic which can lead to lots of advert-clicks.

Which really is idiotic.

Lessons from 11 years of community

In this video Matt Haughey – founder of Metafilter – explains why the site is so special. He gives his tips and ideas for more effective moderation:

The three moderators losing their jobs:
Jessamyn ,
LobsterMitten and
Goodnewsfortheinsane.

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One Response to Why MetaFilter are laying off moderators; there’s less money in thoughtful discussion

  1. J. Nathan Matias May 23, 2014 at 4:46 am #

    Thanks for writing this post! As it happens, it seems like the real cause was not a lack of interest (Metafilter had its best years until the drop in Google traffic) but rather becoming classified wrongly as a link farm.