It’s a me!


A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reporter at the Willamette Week, asking if I was open to an interview before MetaFilter's 12 anniversary and I said sure. Then I got a note that a photographer would pop in during our interview and take a few shots. Then hey, you're done and have time, do you mind standing in front of this makeshift studio backdrop for a few more photos? We might use them next to the story. It won't be on the cover or anything. Ok, we need to ask a few more questions, the story just got lengthened. 

Then last night I got an email saying that my photo did end up being on the cover.

Here's the story on the Willamette Week's site. I like how it turned out (aside from calling my friend Anil, Neil, but they said they'd fix it) and it was fun to do.

Today I sat in a coffee shop and got interviewed for a research project by someone that had a copy of this on the table and it freaked me out to stare at myself the whole time.



Treme, the HBO show by David Simon (of The Wire fame) is a show set in post-Katrina New Orleans and follows the world of musicians, chefs, and residents. Sunday night, the third episode "On Your Way Down" had this exchange where a jazz musician hip to the internet tries to convince a record exec to help promote him on places like "Facebook, Myspace, the blogosphere, MetaFilter…"

It blew me away to hear it mentioned on a show of such stature and I figured maybe one of the writers was a fan but we're lucky enough to have the music supervisor on MetaFilter who said he had nothing to do with it, and the show's writer was just trying to pick out an increasingly obscure internet references to reinforce the character's internet cred.

I'm glad I got to catch David Simon talking about Treme right before they started filming, on a trip to New Orleans a couple years back. Who knows if being in that audience lead to this (seriously doubt it).

My SXSW 2011 talk on lessons from 11 years of community

Lessons from 11 years of community (my SXSW 2011 talk) from Matt Haughey on Vimeo.


This past Saturday, I gave a talk at SXSW Interactive on some lessons in moderation and growing a community that was sparsely attended (I was half a mile away in one of the outlying hotels, no biggie — it happens). People liked the talk and plenty of people that missed it asked for my slides but I use minimal text in my slides. 

So this is me doing my presentation in my home office. I miss the benefit of an engaged audience so I might sound kind of low-energy doing it alone and I do miss the live Q&A afterwards I’d get at a real conference, but if you have any questions feel free to ask them on Vimeo in the comment thread.

Here are all the tweets archived from the live talk, marked with #RWModeration:

North America – Western Europe equivalent latitude maps

When I first moved to Oregon I often heard local Pinot Noir wineries proclaim "we're at the same latitude as the best wine regions in France! That's why our wine is great here too!" Every weekend in the Fall, I get muddy in local bike races then go home to watch similar races taking place around Belgium, with similar weather and I've often wondered how my latitude compared with theirs.

Now I know that latitude determines length of daylight pretty consistently but isn't a great comparison to weather — The west coast of the US has a cold ocean current and a jet stream to match while the Atlantic that makes up the west coasts of the European continent has a warmer ocean current and different weather to match. Still, it's interesting when making rough comparisions to know if Los Angeles is really like the south of France/Italy (it's actually in Northern Africa, latitude-wise), and I've wondered ever since a friend moved to Helsinki if that was as far north as our Alaskan cities (it is).

Today I asked on Ask MetaFilter and a GIS expert member whipped up exactly the maps I envisioned.

Here are major European cities overlaid on North America, corrected for the identical latitude (click to view full sized):

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Here are North American cities, overlaid on Western Europe and Northern Africa at the identical latitude:

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Pretty cool stuff. I never knew Paris, France was at a latitude farther north than Fargo, North Dakota, or that so much of Western Europe was farther north than the US-Canadian border.

2010 at MetaFilter: that’s a lot of stats

I've been doing MetaFilter for over 11 years now, and I'm almost always proud to share that with new people I meet that ask me what I do for a living. I get to live out my dream of goofing off on the internet and running websites and it somehow pays the bills. It took many years and lots of work to get there, and it takes even more to keep it going.

About the only time I don't like mentioning it is when I run into an old friend I haven't seen in some time and they ask me what I'm working on lately. "Still doing MetaFilter? Really?" is often the response I get, and I understand it may seem like I'm standing still these past few years given that I haven't launched a ton of new projects (beyond Fuelly, and releasing newish sections of MetaFilter).

A couple weeks ago I figured I'd compile some stats on MetaFilter to let old friends now how much of a monster the project has become. It's a corporation now with employees. We have healthcare and a 401k plan now. Also? It's a shit ton of work to do by hand, for the five people that help keep the site and servers sane. In the past few years I've been contacted by representatives at some major companies sniffing around for acquisitions, but when they find out the moderation and maintenance of the community is all done by hand and we have to talk to thousands of people like grown-ups instead of some amazing whiz-bang python script doing it all for us, the conversation ends and we go back to work.

Thanks to the hard work of Paul Bausch, Josh Millard, and Jessamyn West (and vacapinta!) we compiled a bunch of stats on usage of the site and community contributions for 2010. I threw it into photoshop and started making a monster sized infographic to share these interesting stats in an attractive package. I had to wait for December 31st to get final 2010 numbers, which I plugged in last night and published this morning. Click on the thumbail to see the whole thing.

Screen shot 2011-01-03 at 12.50.21 PM
Thanks as always to the excellent community that make MetaFilter great. Every day I get to wake up to dozens of interesting links and discussions and a handful of amazing questions and answers I thank my lucky stars I get to do this day in and day out.

Milestone: five years without a day job

A little over five years ago, I gave my notice to my last employer, Creative Commons. I'd been waiting for the day for over a year, but even with outside income from blogging it was pretty crazy at the time. We had just bought a new house and we had a six month old baby, and there I was, thinking it was the perfect time to quit my cushy telecommuting job and strike out on my own with no real idea of what the future would be like.

Thankfully, a lot of luck landed in my lap in the form of advertising income. It took six penniless years to get MetaFilter going, but soon after I started doing it full time it became big enough to pay other people to help out and we continued making MetaFilter the best site we could, as income grew with traffic.

2010 is the first year that hasn't seen double digit growth, but I'm chalking it up to the stagnant recession economy and I'm seeing glimmers of things improving again so I have high hopes for 2011.

I'm stoked that I went from something that could barely pay the bills to a company with employees, it's really beyond my wildest dreams when I made the decision in 2005. Here's to another five years (and hopefully a lifetime) of never having a boss ever again.

Elvis Costello: adenoidal

I want to share a small snippet from the latest MetaFilter Podcast. To anyone but the most hardcore users of MetaFilter, the podcast I do with the other moderators of the site (Jessamyn and Josh) is oddly impenetrable to most. We talk about the things we see on the screen, so it makes it difficult to listen to anywhere besides in front of a computer. But I don't want this snippet to be lost forever so I've plucked 30 seconds out of our hour long recording to share this:

It's based on this comment at MetaFilter, which uses NYT's own search to skewer them slightly (Daily Show megaclip-style) for repeating a phrase about a great performer.

The unfortunate mainstreaming of internet douchebaggery

Today someone spammed MetaFilter on behalf of Conde Nast publications, and it pissed me off way more than the average occasional spammy self-promoter on MeFi. We have a strict rule at MeFi (since there's no editorial vetting upfront) that you can't post about your own stuff, you have to make posts to interesting random stuff you found on your own. Unfortunately, that doesn't matter to the douchebags intent on ruining the web for everyone else with search engine gaming, as long as they benefit their clients, so we end up having to delete these keyword-laden posts that feature over the top fake testimonials about sites they "found" when they really worked for them.

What pissed me off today was seeing a normally reputable outfit like Conde Nast stooping to hiring a dodgy firm that employs such lame spammy activities. I know the response from Conde Nast or the spammy SEO company will be the same I've heard a thousand times: "It was one rogue employee" or "We didn't know the firm would employ such tactics." I heard the same thing when the Times (UK) was found spamming social sites earlier this year.

The point that seemed to be lost in the Times story was that a cornerstone of journalism that had been publishing for hundreds of years would stoop to such lame-brained antics. You'd think that someone higher up at a place like that would think maybe getting a couple percent more advertising revenue by ethically shady means wasn't worth jeopardizing the reputation or position of a 223 year old newspaper — that institutions with a long-term vision shouldn't be interested in a quick buck by any means possible.

It's a bummer to see Conde Nast hiring someone to "optimize" search engines for them (where "optimize" means spam the web and generally make social sites and tools less useful for everyone in the hopes they do better for certain key search phrases) but given the way the economy is going and where it is headed, I suspect we'll see a lot more big name outfits and longstanding institutions making these same mistakes and resorting to problematic methods of increasing their bottom line, and frankly it sucks for everyone involved. It sucks for anyone using the web and wanting decent honest search results based on real quality of information (not just the information promoted by self-interested parties). It sucks to see industry leaders with dozens or even hundreds of years of successful business think this is a sensible approach to the web. Finally, it sucks to see some chucklehead get paid to spam websites in ways that are becoming so normal that people think this is something every business should do.