WHAT. THE. SNOWCLONE. METAFILTER?

This is a collection of references to and permutations on an old Metafilter injoke that displays snowclonish flexibility in its deployment.

The following focuses almost exclusively on its use in Metatalk, and depends on a pattern-matching technique that is imperfect, so there are definitely a number of instantiations of the template that I have not covered. Feel free to point out any interesting ones in the comments.

My search method: a SQL “LIKE” statement to filter for metatalk comments containing either the string “what” or the string “what.” at the end of a line in a comment, case-insensitive.  This finds some false positives (“so what.”, dumbfounded solo “what”) but those are fairly easy to disregard by eyeballing the results for the classic four-ish line form.

Genesis of the WTFM meme

August 1st, 2002: Irontom calls out mathowie in Metatalk, and punctuates his concern with this construction:

WHAT.
THE.
FUCK.
MATT?

The phrase gets discussed a bit in thread, and catches on as (generally) a joke, showing up a lot in Metatalk in the next bit, either repeated verbatim or modified in one of a number of ways. I’ve organized citations roughly by type of modification.

Replacing the first term

WHY

– My search was based on a search for isolated “WHAT”s, so finding this was just luck. There may be other instances of non-WHAT X for “X THE FUCK MATT”, but I will have to come up with a sane method for locating them.

Replacing the third term

GOOGLE-FU

what
the
metafuck
wendell??

WHAT
THE
FUST
MATT
BURMA SHAVE

Complex replacements

Many instances of the template involve replacement or modification of more than one element of the original, or some other more complicated formal subversion.

WIPE
THE
FUTON
MATT!

READ.
THE.
FUCKING.
ARTICLE.
{insert name in ALLCAPS}.

WHAT
THE

HAPPY
BIRTHDAY

MATT!

WOULD.
YOU.
LIKE.
A COOKIE.

MATT?

WHAT
THE
DIZZLE
MIZZLE?!

WHAT
ART PROJECT
MATT
???

WHAT
THE
PAN
CAKE!?

What
The
Fustian
Metafilter?

Metafilter: Surely, this… will WHAT
THE
FUCK
wendell
LOLTAGLINES Fixed that said for you

WHAT.
PANCAKE.
OVERLORDS.
OWILLIS?

What.
The.
Fyck.
Irontom
?
(taboo avoidance + comeuppance?)

WHAT.
THE.
….oh never mind…. :-)

Vibrating Fuckwit seeks Pancake Overlord for
WHAT
THE
FUCK

I.
AM.
NOT.

MATT?

WHAT.
THE.
FUCK.
NOT.
MATT?

WENDELL.
BASHERS?!?

CANADA.
POST?!?

Acronymization

WFTM? (Likely intended as WTFM. Oops! Mocking ensues…

WHY
FUCK
THE
MATT?

and

WFTM, but the… Matt won…)

– I did a quick google search on “WTFM” and found a handful of further uses, most of them on Metatalk:

W.T.F.M as jokey Metatalk post
WTFM suggested as tag for Metatalk.
Reference to “WTF?” as wildcard template matching WTFM.
RFK (really, George Bernard Shaw) riff
RTFM? I WTFM! WHAT THE FUCK MATT becomes WROTE THE FUCKING MANUAL
w.t.f.m?, calling Matt out on a double post.

Miscellaneous style notes

Some of the citations deviate from the form of the original in specific curious ways or come off as ambiguous with respect to the original form.

General notes on format: the original was in all caps with terminal punctuation after each line, single-spaced, with periods for the first three words and a question mark for the final word. A variant without terminal punctuation on the initial three (or so) words cropped up not long after the meme first took off, and accounts for about half of the citations, with a somewhat greater proportion of the later citations.

What
The
F@#!
Miguel?

– Lack of all-caps, taboo-avoidance munging of the word “fuck”.

WHAT
THE
FUCK MATT???

– Idiosyncratic collapse of the third and forth lines together, tripled question mark

WHAT
THE
FUCK

– Is this an intentionally abbreviated WTFM, or an unintentional template collision from someone aiming to emphasize their vanilla WTF without any attempt to reference the WTFM template?

MATT?!?!?!?!ELEVEN

– Parodic over-punctuation, including transliteration of numeric interpretation of failure-to-hold-shift-while-pounding-“!” string of adjascent “1” characters. This is a whole side discussion, one that would hopefully take a look at the plausibility of an actual angry person generating the order of keystrokes presented in parody. Alternating ? and ! characters? Really? Etc.

WHAT
THE
FUCK
LOQUACIOUS?

– Note the use of the blink tag on “FUCK”.

WHAT
THE
FUCK
ARE
YOU
SMOKING
MATT?

– Another dilemma. Intentional embellishment of the WTFM template, or random collision?

Matt?

– Referenced in a question about the origins of the meme.

Matt?

– Referenced in a description of a meetup photo.

What.

The.

Fuck.

tsarfan?

– Note the double spacing!

Hell.

– User writes “Hell.” instead of “Fuck.” for the third item. This one is double-spaced as well.

Name/target (fourth item) replacement

Specific Metafilter users:

By far the most common (and simplest) use of the template. Sometimes used jokingly, sometimes as a genuine rebuke, though reading the tone of any given use is a subjective game.

Note also the use of nicknames and foreshortening of usernames, presumably to hew somewhat closer to the rough topology and meter of the original.

MAUDLIN.
MATT?
MATT.
MATT.
TOM? (aka Irontom, who birthed this whole thing.)
MATT? (courtesy Evan “evhead” Williams)
GROD?
HOOPYFROOD?
MATT?
ANDREA?
HACKLY_FRACTURE?
Miguel? (aka MiguelCardoso)
MATT?
MIGUEL?
timeistight!
MIGUEL?
CRUNCHY? (aka crunchland)
ZACHSMIND?
Grand Wahzoo?
MATT? (in response to technical jargon)
MATT.
BirdDOg?
adamgreenfield?!?!
quonsar?
matt?
SELF? (aka PrinceValium)
QUONSAR?
Matt?
WENDELL?
HASH_SLUT? (aka dash_slot-)
ADAM? (aka adamgreenfield)
SPECIALK?
DS? (aka darksmiler)
JESSAMYN?
JESSAMYN?
Delmoi?
ETHEREAL BLIGH?
Davy.
ME? (aka mathowie, with the self WTFMing)
Scarabic??? (re: corpse disposal)
DAYVIN!?
JHARRIS
SHANE?
MATT?
POSTROAD?
ANDREW COOKE
ROTHKO?
DIOS?
EIDETEKER?
MATT?!?!?!?!ELEVEN (again!)
MATT?! (yet again!)
GNFTI? (aka goodnewsfortheinsane)
FILMGEEK?
MR_CRASH_DAVIS?
MATT? (poor guy can’t get a break!)
FROGAN?
INTERROBANG.
MATT / JESSAMYN / CORTEX
MATT (it never ends!)
FISHFUCKER?
MATT?
WENDELL.
ME? (aka Skot this time)
LOQUACIOUS?
F. MATT? (aka fandango_matt)
ZARAH!?!?
QUONSAR!?
POWDEREDBABYBEARD?
ORTHOGONALITY?
SCRUMP
SMEDLEYMAN?
JESSAMYN?

Non-user names:

IDIOT?
FORBES?
PORTUGAL?
EVERYBODY?
BUSH????????
MetaFilter?
GERMANY?
TURLYMING?
NYT?
GOATSE.CX?
EVERYBODY? (again!)
MATTEFILTER?
Everyone?
METAFILTER?
MOM?
BYTECODE?
METAFILTER?
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS INDUSTRY?!
METAFILTER!? (again!)
BEER?
METAFILTER? (and again!)
JAPAN?
CAT? (Ceiling Cat, that is.)
AUSTRALIA?
PHONE NUMBER?
NERDS?
CHICAGO MEFIS?
CHAIR?
NEW HAMPSHIRE?
METAFILTER (that place can’t get a break!)

Metafilter usage, Venn stylee

Logged-in visitors to Metafilter subsites

Some Metafilter analysis.  From my writeup on Flickr:

Following up to this comment from a recent Metatalk thread, this is a crunch of the numbers for distinct logged-in visitors to the big three Metafilter subsites in the last 30 days.

The Venn diagram is a close to scale as I could get it — the relative areas of the circles are correct, but for the overlap I didn’t do anything more scientific than eyeball it.

Metafilter has about 41,000 active (e.g. successfully signed up and not banned) user accounts; something a bit less than a third of that is represented here, with the remainder being accounts that are either abandoned (going back as far as 1999) or are held by people who haven’t stopped by in a while on a computer they’re logged in from.

If you don’t feel like doing the arithmetic, the number of folks who visited each of the three sites (regardless of whether they visited either of the other two) is as follows:

MF: 10601
Ask: 9991
MT: 5984

One other interesting value: the sum total of folks represented by the “outer ring” of the diagram — that is, folks who visited exactly one of the three subsites — is 3,188 users. That is, 26% of the logged in members had one and only subsite destination in the last month. Internet monogamy.

Note that folks visiting Ask and Metatalk may have “visited” mefi as nothing more than a navigational stepping stone, which no doubt skews things. (Then again, perhaps most AskMe-only mefites have bookmarked the green and never touch the blue, in which case the MF + Ask numbers would be on the nose.)

Note also that a significant portion of these folks may have touched one or more subsites only once or only a few times in the month. I have no way of measuring it beyond “when did you last hit this page”, and while commenting and flagging and favoriting and posting stats could give a good hint of proportional visits, that’d only be guesswork and doesn’t provide any hard numbers about strict lurkers.

Wilder Schmaltz Turns 30

It’s my good friend Wilder Schmaltz’s 30th birthday today (which means I’ve only got another six weeks to go myself); last night, his wife Christina threw a semi-surprise party for him (meeting some friends for drinks was expected, meeting like FORTY of them was not), where everyone got to see in print something that a lot of us had contributed to in the last few weeks: a book of art and photographs and writing about Wilder and our various histories and friendships with him.

I put together this drawing/collage and a short anecdote about our time in high school together, producing which got me so stuck in that weird mid-late 90s mindset that I ended up recording an acoustic cover of Creep the next day.

Now that the cat is out of the bag and the man has seen the book, I’m reprinting the image and text here.  Happy birthday, man.

Wilder and Josh, High School Rockers

I think I really finally became friends with Wilder during our senior year at Franklin High School, back in 96-97.  I had known him for longer than that, first as friends-of-friends back in middle school (where I had only this very vague impression of him as That Kid Who Can Draw) and later throughout high school when we ended up doing time together in open-mic contexts, both of us long-haired nascent singer-songwriter pseudo-hippie kids.

But we were both in Journalism that last year (Wilder was drawing headshots and editorial illustrations as the staff artist, I was vainly trying to be a humor columnist), and I think something about sharing creative space every day like that allowed something to click.  We weren’t just friendly, we were friends, talking music and art and occasionally breaking out a guitar right in the middle of what was ostensibly a class but usually felt more like a mix of workshop, volunteer job, and hangout.

I organized a musical showcase assembly that year, a big eclectic mess of after-school performances in the auditorium — an open mic writ large, maybe, but strike the bad poetry (“This one is called…Brown Shower…”) that me and Wilder and the rest of the high school poetry fringe had snickered through down at the now-defunct Cafe Lena every week, and fill up that space with lots of rock covers and pop originals and band-instrument recitations instead.

Wilder and I agreed to do, as one of the acts, a cover of Stone Temple Pilots’ “Creep”.  I don’t remember if he approached me or if I approached him or whether it was just some shared brainstorm.  I do know that I didn’t know the song that well, but that I was thrilled to be doing music, to have someone to share that enthusiasm with and to try collaborating with, especially someone who was not just a classmate but a friend.

And so, in a quiet moment of that weird wonderful afternoon, in front of however many dozen restless Franklin students, the two of us gave a moody sit-down performance of Creep, Wilder singing the melody and playing his acoustic guitar, me playing a borrowed electric bass and singing pre-chorus harmonies, the two of us doing call and response with his “half the man / I used to be” overlapping into my “this I feel / as the dawn / it fades to grey” and back again.

I wish I could say we did a great job of it.

It turns out that playing the bass and singing at the same time when you’re not a bassist isn’t very easy, and we didn’t practice together very much ahead of time either.  Wilder didn’t know me well enough then to force me to practice on my own, poor guy.

Putting it in context, I’m pretty sure we were more compelling than the guy who did a solo trumpet recital.  I know for a fact that we were less entertaining than the string-breaking student/faculty finale, with Mr. Buckmaster from the science department and Mr. Matteo from English teaming up with a couple of metal-head kids to demolish Paint It Black.

But it was a fun performance, and a good day.  The duet a subtle touchstone in my life, one of a handful of moments that year that made Wilder into a very good friend, someone I’m glad and lucky to know.  That was twelve years ago now, or very nearly so: an age, forever, impossibly long.  And I’ve never forgotten that day, and my fondness for Wilder has never diminished.

And I think we’re both better lyricists than Scott fucking Weiland.