Metafilter is, as many of you know, a community website which consists of audience submitted websites. is similar, but more moderated in structure (a team sifts suggestions for posting). There are lots of others, each with their own approach and ethos, such as the blog-centric blogcritics, the activist Indymedia (invaluable for “radioactive” news stories such as protests, not as diverse as one might hope for analysis: anonymity and paranoia discourages reflective writing, generally) and the grandpappy of all of ’em, the computerly-oriented slashdot, which in turn derives some of its genetic code from usenet, a pre-web news and discussion environment well-archived at

D’you remember on “Millionaire” how accurate the audience was? I read somewhere that on the show, in 80% of the cases where the audience was polled on the correct answer to the posed question, the audience was correct. Metafilter is like that. To a varying extent, the rest of these sites are was well. The information presented is fragmentary and holographic, and you, the observer of the audience interaction, must assemble the data into your own picture.

The sites express the theory and practice of democracy, the thesis that we all collectively are able to make decisions together that are the least hurtful for the most of us.

Sometimes the reactive power of the collaborative sites is astonishing. Do you recall that big winner for the evening news a short while ago, the angry mom smacking her kid around near an SUV that was taped on a security camera? The day the story broke, there was a thread on MeFi that shortly included a detailed, knowledgeable discussion of the possibility that the woman and her daughter were Irish Travellers, a gypsy-like culture that was able to transplant lifestyle, controversy, and tradition to the United States.

I’d never heard of the Travellers before the MeFi thread. The family’s heritage as Travellers or not is not germane, particularly, to the news story – woman strikes child – and this was only tangentially mentioned in the professional news coverage a few days later.

This is not a unique experience – and it happens on Slashdot frequently as well. Mind you, these sites can be wrong as hell; they don’t offer the same kind of apparatus that professional news sources do. But when they are right, they are right more informatively and faster, it seems to me, than conventional news sources.

Personally, I adore MetaFilter and boingboing the mostest. Metafilter in particular, with its huge userbase (over 15000) is something I ping at least daily, often both morning and night.

I have yet to reflect on this to the point that I can effectively write about it as a discrete topic, but MeFi and boingboing between them, in conjunction with blog sites (that’s many of you, dear reader) and the NYT website, to a lesser extent – it gets used for specific coverage of a topic I want old-style validated reportage on – has replaced my daily paper as the main way I follow unfolding events in the world.

Well, that, and the Daily Show.

I still read the paper, but I kind of buzz through it for orientation, then I read MeFi, then boingboing, then you guys, then the Times, and then I start my news troll for Cinescape, keeping in mind interesting material I saw in the other four places as I look at the entertainment press.

Oh yeah, Google News is right on the verge of being my daily international page. One aspect of it that I perceive is it appears to skew coverage based on where morning is: if you read it when it’s 3am in the UK, you’ll get all the UK’s morning site updates, for example.

Hm, interestingly, that means that without a doubt I am consuming far more news on a daily basis than at any other time in my life.

Even more interestingly, my job is to add to that stream of info while at the same time filtering it for Cinescape’s audience, which I understand to be (online at least) very entertainment-industry in composition.

One thought on “Ask the audience

  1. I studied in Ireland my third year of college, 1984-1985, and had a number of run-ins with Traveller kids panhandling in downtown Dublin, kind of like Ave rats over here. The traveller kids like to work in groups, spreading out over several blocks, sometimes with cute babies in tow. The settled populace is not overly fond of the Travellers (or “itinerants”, as they’re also sometimes called), and the ill-will is often mutual. However, the Travellers’ culture has also been officially recognized for their role in keeping a lot of traditional culture, especially music, dance, native language and hedge-schools, alive through all the social/cultural change that Irish society has gone through during the past century or so. The film (and now play) “Into the West” has Irish Travellers as the central characters in the story.

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