Josh Kramer, writing at New Public:
What separates a forum like MetaFilter from Quora, Reddit, or even 8chan? The answer is culture — rules and expectations, developed over a long time. To be clear: MetaFilter isn’t good because it has a lot of old rules, it’s good because it has the right old rules. Below, I lay out some unique, interesting qualities that have developed at MetaFilter over the years and how they’ve contributed to a culture that is still thriving after two decades.
Not only does MetaFilter have many rules, its moderators earnestly enforce them; but they do not always get it right and are subject to their own biases. While I generally favour the idea of larger social networks moving their moderation policies closer to those offered by MeFi, the sorts of stories linked to by a commenter on Kramer’s article paint a picture of moderators who sometimes struggle to identify bigoted conversations when it is not immediately obvious.
Going through some of those older threads, another thing becomes clear: complaints about the sensitivity of moderators are as commonplace then as they are now. There are plenty of complaints from users who feel moderators are oversensitive; there are also plenty from people who feel they are not taking an active-enough role. Even the places on the web where conversations are pretty good have a hard time keeping them that way, as a wander through the etiquette and policy feedback area makes clear.
MetaFilter occupies an increasingly niche part of the web — last year, it was forced to cut back on moderation — and I wonder if its approach can be replicated or improved upon elsewhere. It sounds like Twitter’s Birdwatch is an attempt to do something similar.