Verbing Metafilter

Metafilter is a website, but it’s also, judging by usage both on MeFi and off, a verb. But what does it mean?

Searching for “to metafilter” is asking for trouble; uses of ‘metafilter’ as a noun referring to the site itself dwarf verb-form uses, and “to metafilter” turns up lots of hits for, likewise, noun forms with to as prepositional glue (“subscribe to metafilter”, “strong connections to metafilter”, “POSTING ASCII ART TO METAFILTER”), dwarfing whatever infinitive “to Metafilter” cites might be out there.

Alternate tack, then: search for “metafiltering”. And this works pretty darned well, dishing up in total a few dozen uses of the phrase on mefi itself as well as some off-site usage (some related to the site, some not). It turns out that metafiltering can mean a few different things.

(Note: there are at least a couple other obvious suffix-based tactics which I have ignored for this writeup: “metafiltered” and “metafilterer”. Both turn up some interesting results, but I’ve found “metafiltering” to be the most engaging of the three; +ed and +er will have to wait for a separate writeup.)

So what sorts of things does “metafiltering” mean?

1. to post something to the front page of Metafilter. Transitive verb: the object is either some content elsewhere on the web or the text (including one or more such links) as presented in its entirety as the content of a Metafilter front page post.

2. to overwhelm or cripple a website or page due to bandwidth consumption and/or server load resulting from a Mefi link to same. Transitive verb; object is the site or page or server that has been linked to. Compare with the older “Slashdotting”, named for the unusually heavy spike in traffic directed to a site when linked from; this has also been referred to as “the Slashdot Effect”. (A google search for “the Metafilter Effect” turns up a small scattering of results, some of which are analogies of this.)

(See also: 2003 metatalk thread on the destructive influence of metafilter posts on small sites.)

3. to organize or filter web/internet/media content. Apparently intransitive from the available cites; the implicit target of this kind of metafiltering would be the vague sum of all extant web content, I suppose.

3a. esp. to filter/organize some sort of existing metafilter content. Minor variation.

4. to read or comment at or otherwise spend time on Metafilter. Intransitive verb. This is easily the most common meaning; there are many more cites, on and off-site, beyond those documented here.

4a. esp. to engage in the intended use of metafilter, rather than non-canonical behaviors?

4b. esp. as something that is notable to do at work. Recurring theme; the subject of mefi at/versus work is a recurring one in general on the site.

5. to act in a way consistent with metafilter user activity. Intransitive.

Miscellaneous citation grab-bag. Several cites use “metafiltering” in a way that doesn’t clearly and cleanly fit with any of the above meanings, or is otherwise unusual.

Uses unrelated to MeFi itself. Uses include the general idea of information filtering; of filtering internet/web content specifically; and of “metafiltering” as a jokey or made-up concept.

Author: Josh Millard

I manage and help moderate the community website MetaFilter, where I go by "cortex"; in my spare time I get up to all sorts of creative nerdery on the internet and in Portland, Oregon.

8 thoughts on “Verbing Metafilter”

  1. Man, you have got to reveal the secret of how you fit so much into a day. It would take me a week to come up with as much meaningless banter as you can spout in half-an-hour ;-)

  2. Also, I’m a little sorry that re-reading that intro bit reveals that you aren’t really talking about “dwarf verb-form uses” at all. *sigh*

  3. Note from a fellow mefite:

    “Interesting. I have verbed “fpp” for this purpose:
    I’m thinking of fpping that
    You should fpp that

    Pronounced eff pee pee.”

    FPP is mefi jargon for Front Page Post (see meanings (1) and (2), then). But FPP captures a much more specific subset of metafilter activity, and so the verb “to FPP” probably doesn’t take much else in the way of potential meanings.

    Another research project for another day: the metafilter(-and-elsewhere?) use of “OP” to refer to either the Original Poster of a given thread, or the Original Post itself, or possibly something else. I did some very brief scratching around on the subject a while back.

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