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Longboat is a term for a long thread -usually in MetaTalk- that is inhabited by users far after the main issue has been dropped and the post fallen off the front page. Many of the longest threads on MetaTalk and Metafilter are so lengthy solely because they became longboats. The "long" in longboat however did not originate because they happen to occur long threads. For instance, one particular thread had merely 13 comments before it became a longboat and then grew to 194 comments total.
In addition, the fact that longboat users originally jumped from thread to thread like pillaging Vikings was only caused by the expiration date of open threads.
The term originated in a MetaTalk thread that eventually grew to become -at the time- the longest Metafilter thread ever (and remained the longest for over two and a half years).
A meta-parody thread originally hit the front page of Metafilter in 2001 as post number 9622. When MetaTalk itself hit post number 9622 four years later, as a tribute to the original 9622, it evolved partly as a meta-parody thread as well, termed "9622v.2". Five days later, after the parody had waned, random conversations continued and in response to the copyrights of users' comments being published in a future hypothetical book, grapefruitmoon said:
Makes note to self to write it down in her will that her estate shall demand a Viking style long boat filled with tiny handcrafted skulls for rights to "Metafilter : The Book."
Gramschmidt later then commented with a link to a picture of a longboat on grapefruitmoon's flickr page:
And it appears as though you already have a longboat.
Grapefruitmoon commented back:
That's not MY longboat.
References to longboats continued all month until the thread was eventually closed.
Continuing beyond 9622v2
The first thread the longboat users hit after the initial formation was on June 29th and continued until July 29th -with a couple trailing comments and final comment by If I Had An Anus on August 16th pointing the way for lost Vikings to the next longboat thread.
Finally on September 4th, Cranberry commented on the last day of the fourth longboat thread:
An all-inclusive Happy Birthday to longboat survivors with special application to raedyn and grapefruit moon.
Thread 14886 (about mods prematurely closing MetaTalk threads before expiration)
Since the longest thread on the site about McCain announcing Sarah Palin as VP stayed mostly on-topic for the duration, it is not considered a longboat.