I get by with a little help from 94552 friends

MetaFilter is ten years old today. It feels both like a long time and it went by in a flash, if that's possible. I guess it's safe to say the first five years were an atrocious slog in terms of my life/work balance and how much energy and free time I put into it, while the last five years have gone quickly as I've gotten to work on it full time and have several people helping out.

I remember Chuck Olsen interviewing me for Blogumentary (it's not in the final cut of the movie). It was spring of 2003 and I'm at the lowest of low when we discuss MetaFilter. The site is sucking the life out of me as I'm trying to juggle running MetaFilter on my own along with a full time day job, a marriage, the expense of living in the Bay Area while at the same time trying to save up for a move to Oregon and a house. My world was crumbling as I was doing a mediocre job at everything while still devoting hours everyday trying to keep things civil at MetaFilter. I talked to a couple people that had had some internet success, asking them what they'd do if they were in my shoes, but I didn't get any good answers. Thankfully, I just kept my head down and slogged through a bad year.

Late that year I set up Ask MetaFilter after repeated requests for a Q&A forum. Early on I could tell it was special and could lead to something great. Normally online communities sort of start out, get good, then slide downward into oblivion. Ask MetaFilter renewed my faith in the community I helped build and I felt like it reset whatever downward slide had taken place in the previous year or so.

Today, the site is bustling, doing an insane amount of traffic (mostly due to Ask MeFi). Four other people work on the site along with me. The front page of MetaFilter continues to be a wonderful mish-mash of interesting things on the web and Ask MetaFilter astounds me everyday with the great questions and answers about stuff I've often wondered about. My life is richer for having built it and having ran it and (especially) having read it for all these years.

I noticed a lot of people on twitter are thanking me personally, but I'd rather thank the people that got MetaFilter to where it is today. Every one of the thousands of account holders have contributed things both big and small to the site and its culture and without them the site simply wouldn't exist so I'd like to thank anyone that has ever joined the site, posted a comment, posted a question, attended a meetup, or even simply read the site as an outsider.

The site could not continue without the incredible staff working behind the scenes. Jessamyn became the first employee on the site when I noticed she was doing a better job of explaining the site than I was. I'm thankful for her balanced moderation that helped mold all the sites into wonderful places to hang out. I couldn't keep up with both the endless parade of new feature requests as well as the constant site maintenance and thankfully I soon got a ton of help from Paul. His work is amazing but even more so when you consider the site spits out roughly 18 million pages to 9 million people a month using ColdFusion and just three servers (one web server, one database server, and one just for images and other static files). Paul has re-engineered the entire codebase to the point where I can barely understand what makes some features on the site actually function. Josh became the third employee when he, like Jessamyn, was doing a better job than me explaining things on the site but he was also doing it faster than I ever could. Josh also alleviates the monster workload Jessamyn and I were working under trying to moderate a hundred new threads and a few thousand comments that were added daily. Eventually we realized since we're all in the USA, the time we sleep became a problem and thankfully vacapinta stepped in from Europe to save our butts many, many times at 3am our time.

Many others have helped along the way. My first real web job at UCLA was cool enough that the director let us run hobby sites on our own hardware under our desks. When I left to join Pyra, Ev and Meg let me run the server under my desk there as well. When I left in 2001, Jason Levine stepped in and graciously shared his personal home bandwidth and closet space to house the server at not just one but two apartments on the east coast.

Over the years I've met thousands of MetaFilter members at organized MeFi meetups, at technical conferences, and sometimes just walking down the street. Often I was surprised by this and given my introverted personality, I usually never know what to say to members I meet randomly, but I do want to say from the bottom of my heart I thank you for helping make the site more amazing every day.

This weekend we're celebrating the site's 10th anniversary at one of almost seventy places on Earth's seven continents. There will be thousands of people celebrating and I hope anyone that has ever been a part of the site can join in.

32 Comments

  • Yay Metafilter! Here is a picture of the MeFi server in Jason’s old NYC apartment in 2002, when I slept on an air mattress next to it for four nights:
    http://bluishorange.com/newyork/photos/51.jpg

  • Congrats on 10 years — this is a wonderful post and a fitting tribute to the great community that has helped MeFi run so well for the past decade.

  • What’s funny is that today it’s not really even a physical object. It’s just an anonymous server in Texas somewhere that I’ll never see.

  • congrats, Matt. MeFi has had a huge impact on so many folks, and you should be incredibly proud of what it’s done. \o/

  • Thank you Matt, for Ask Mefi. I gave up on the blue many times and occasionally check it out for interesting links, but Ask Mefi is a regular stop for me. I’ve posted questions (some anonymously) and received amazing, incredible, helpful answers on a very regular basis. It’s a testament to how strong the community is and how well Jessamyn and team moderates the community in a hands-off manner, only stepping in when someone really goes over the line.
    User #29 will forever be thankful for what you’ve built.

  • Thanks, Matt and MeFi, for answering all the questions I was afraid to ask. And for sharing the story. :)
    Congratulations on ten years. Looking forward to the next ten.

  • It’s been wonderful to be a part of the MeFi world for ten years, and fun to imagine where the next ten years will take us. Thanks!

  • Metafilter owes a lot to the community, but it wouldn’t be the same community without the guidance of user #1. Thanks, Matt.

  • Sounds like a great spot for a meetup!

  • I love Metafilter, especially watching the mods do their work. Best of class.
    On a personal note, I’ll never forget the AM of 9/11/2001 when I loaded up the blue a little after 9AM and read about planes crashing into the WTC. I lifted my head up over the computer to look out the window and saw the streaming black smoke over lower Manhattan. Somehow that bonded me to Mefi in a weird way.
    (I use the plain theme now, and whenever I load Mefi when I’m not logged in and see the blue bg, I get a vague sense of unease.)

  • I remember the first time I read Mefi. It was sometime in 2000 via a nod from Robot Wisdom & I was at my desk job at the University of Texas in Austin. I was sucked in immediately, though it’d be a couple of years before I grabbed a membership – #16892 – less than a month before memberships were closed for a good long while as the site dealt with growing pains.
    I’ve met many amazing people through Mefi & have made several lifelong friends. The site continues to lay waste to my productivity & I wouldn’t have it any other way. The world is a better place with Metafilter in it.
    Thank you, Matt.

  • MeFi is simply amazing. I lurked for about a month before joining in March of 2000 and I can still remember how nervous I was the first time I attempted a FPP.
    A lot — and I mean a *lot* — of sites have come and gone from my Favorites bar in the last 9+ years, but the blue has always been there. I doubt I’ve gone longer than a few days without visiting at any point since I found it.
    I *still* think of AskMeFi (and the other step-children) as “the new stuff”, but like everyone else, I’ve been wonderfully surprised and frequently aided by its questions and answers.
    I went to a meetup in LA in March of 02 and one of my conversations there basically launched my career.
    Thank you, Matt, sincerely.

  • I, for one, welcome our decade-old community overlords.

  • Happy birthday, MetaFilter, and deepest congratulations, Matt and team!

  • Hippo Birdie Two Ewes MeFi. And here’s to 10 more years!
    TNL

  • Congrats Matt – I’ve got various mags saved from way back then including the one of you on the cover of Brill’s Content. Congrats on ten years!

  • It’s been five or six years now since I was active on Metafilter, but I still stop by a few times a week to see what’s new. It’s as interesting, amusing, and generally good-natured a community as ever. Good work, and congratulations on your success.

  • Too modest, sir. Too modest.
    I think you’re right about Ask, from my own outsider’s perspective. My guess is that lots of people come in through the green door these days, and that it encourages a certain attitude towards the blue.
    (It does get me thinking how your recent question on the green chimes in with the way you’ve remodelled the MeFi complex over these past ten years. Architecture makes a difference.)

  • Was just realizing without MeFi having helped me make a lot of my initial connections on the web (not least to Jason, and thus indirectly to my wife), I wouldn’t have the career, friends or life that I do today. Thanks for doing so much, especially when it was just a thankless burden that you took on as an act of kindness towards all of us who are members of the site. You’ve made the web better!

  • Like Mars above, I rarely drop in to participate these days, but I actively lurk via RSS. It really is a gem of a place, many many thanks for getting it off the ground and supporting it for so long. Lately I’ve been learning firsthand how difficult it can be dealing with zillions of comments and participants, and that makes me appreciate your (and your team’s) efforts all the more. Looking forward to MeFi’s 20th!

  • AskMeFi is awesome. The idea of a speedbump for entry is brilliant, and it makes the content go down quite smooth. Kudos.

  • Thanks Matt for creating and sticking with Metafilter over all these years. Along with kottke.org, Metafilter is by far the longest daily stop (since April of 2000) in my internet routine. Although I choose to mainly read and infrequently post, it has never lacked to inform and entertain.

  • Thanks Matt.

  • I also must thank you for ENLIGHTENING me about http://glassyeyes.blogspot.com/ , since that time I’ve bought several more prescription eyeglasses for cheap! And saved so much in the progress!

  • Has it been 10 years? Wow. It’s been a long time since I was there actively, but I enjoy Mefi via RSS. There’s always something that piques my interest.
    Congratulations on a decade of hard work, fun and community!

  • User #1712 here (c’mon, that’s pretty old, right?) and truly the biggest accomplishment is that you kept with it. I also went through some dark times, no longer loving mefi, but came back with a vengeance when I rediscovered it via ask.mefi. I’m addicted to it! It’s the most fantastic resource and that is due overwhelmingly to the mods who keep the threads on track and the wider community on the even keel.
    I also have the Brill’s Content with Matt on the cover. Was re-orging and purging my bookcase and came across it again. Laughed. Put it back on the shelf.
    Cheers to all of you and bravo!!

  • I loved it, I hated it, I can’t stay away. Congratulations, Matt.

  • Thanks for everything over the (many) years, Matt. You guys have done an incredibly good job of keeping the community feel like a community while scaling it up to the thousands of regular users we have now.
    MeFi’s been one of the most consistent and rewarding parts of my life for almost that whole ten years. It really is the best of the web. I’ve made more enduring friendships there than I could possibly count, and that, for me at least, is what it’s all about.

  • Congrats, Matt. As Mefi user 202, it was my honor to tweet this today:
    10yr congrats @mefi! Special thanks @mathowie for a Jan 2000 link, found in my referrer logs, that intro’d me to blogs http://bit.ly/1avvRc

  • Matt, thank you so much for MeFi. I was a lurker for a couple of years, before spending some of the best $5 I’ve ever done online in 2006. The community is what keeps me coming back daily and you and the other moderators should feel very proud of what you’ve created. Happy 10th Birthday MeFi!

  • A Metafilter thread was the venue for my very first public side-project, the silly “Are They Hot or Not” crawler that scraped Am I Hot or Not and showed only the most attractive/ugliest people. (You even commented on it.) And your work on Metafilter inspired me to work on social software, and later the design for Upcoming, which was the real start of my career.
    Like in 2000, Metafilter still rocks my little world. Thanks for the last ten years!

  • Big congrats, Matt & team, and keep up the outstanding work!

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