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What Is A Good Post
The short version
A good MetaFilter post links to something on the Internet that's new to MetaFilter and interesting.
Writing a good post is almost like an art, and a paradox; a good post should be short, but it should also be descriptive. It should link to an intriguing page yet be appealing to a wide range of readers. You should express your opinion in the post, but not let it completely bias the post. And if you manage to do all of this, the chances are that you won't even be thanked.
Clearly there are no hard and fast rules on how to write a good post, and there can be no advice about how to go about finding subjects to post about. It's generally agreed that actively looking for a story to post to MetaFilter is not a good idea; on the contrary, serendipity plays a large part in good posts, and it can't be hurried. Matt Haughey agrees on this.
One thing that you should bear in mind when writing and submitting a post is that it will be seen by thousands if not tens of thousands of readers. Are you really sure that it will be worth their time reading? Also see What Is A Bad Post.
New and Interesting
A good MetaFilter post should be new to the community. (The page or site you're linking to doesn't have to be newly created.)
If someone else has already posted your link, your new post will probably be considered a duplicate and deleted. (See "Make sure your content hasn't been posted before" below.) If you're posting about something that's been covered on MetaFilter before, your post should offer new information or a new approach to the idea.
While there can be no rules concerning content, there can be rules about formatting:
- Make sure your content hasn't been posted before, possibly under a different URL. Because URLs might change over time, search MetaFilter for common terms or phrases, and check the tags. To be extra careful, add site:metafilter.com to your Google search or !metafilter to your DuckDuckGo search. (!)
- No images, HR tags, or funky funky HTML.
- If it has any potentially objectionable imagery (e.g. porn) then mark it as such. The standard on MetaFilter is to say Not Safe For Work or NSFW within the post; there are many people who browse MetaFilter at work and you don't want them to get in trouble. However, if you're one of those people who browses MeFi at work, for your own sake don't assume that NSFW will always be there. It is often forgotten or deliberately left out. The rule of thumb at Mefi is CLICKER BEWARE.
- If it's to a very large file or a file that's not viewable by a simple web browser sans plug-ins, it should be marked as such (e.g. PDFs, movies, Word documents, mp3, etc).
- You should make an honest attempt at spelling and grammar; you might not think this is important, but the majority does. This includes capitalizing the first letter of each sentence.
Tips about content
Bear in mind these are only tips. There will be times when they are not applicable, but in most cases they're a good rule of thumb:
- Don't Self Link. Your post will be removed and you will be banned.
- Keep your ego out of it.
- Your post should be more than one word. Opinion has been fiercely divided on this subject, but if you do make a one-word post you can be guaranteed that you'll be hauled into MetaTalk by an angry mob.
- Your post shouldn't be too long - two paragraphs is a good maximum. Despite what some say, space on MetaFilter's front page is at a premium; no-one wants to waste their time scrolling forever to find the next post. You can write out a longer post by using the "extended description" feature which will automatically add a [more inside] link.
- Don't be offensive or redundant.
- Have a purpose and be clear.
- Don't "beat the dead horse". If you're planning to post a story to MetaFilter that is part of a longstanding, often-discussed topic (Israel/Palestine, the Iraq war, how stupid Republicans are, etc.), think hard about whether the site you're linking to actually has anything new to say on the topic. Just because your post will undoubtedly generate a lot of discussion does not mean that it is a good one.
- "Water cooler" conversation starters are frowned upon. A good example are name generators (e.g. "What is your Star Wars name?"). While these are mildly entertaining, they don't deserve a place on the front page of MetaFilter.
- Unreserved product endorsements tend to be a bad idea, although there are exceptions. See related MetaTalk thread.
- Don't link to something that requires a registration or login to see (or if it does, indicate so in the post). Often you can find the same article of issue on a news site that doesn't require a login. When using articles from the New York Times you can simply strip the 'www' from the front of the link and replace it with 'archives' and viewers will not have to login to see the article. Example: http://www.nytimes.com/the-rest-of-the-link/ would become http://archives.nytimes.com/the-rest-of-the-link/
- Be mindful of linking to sites that may have bandwidth restrictions (small sites run on personal servers) and try posting to mirrors of the content in addition to the main link if you can.
- Be aware of the reputability of the media to which you are linking, especially if it is a news organization.
(!) If you were looking for the crunchland method, crunchland has since updated his profile page, probably as it was a dated method, even in 2008 (note to future archivists: that link contains some of the last traces of the crunchland method).
Notably Good Posts
The Voyage of Terry Waite's Clogs This is a fun and light-hearted post that most MeFi readers had never seen before. It also sparked off some interesting discussion.
Tricks of the Trade
- You may have noticed that sometimes the first line of a post is not always a link. This is accomplished by ignoring the "URL:" and "Link Title:" input boxes on the "Post a Link" page and instead just putting the entire post in the "Description:" box.
- If you'd like more information encoded in your links, place a title attribute inside of your anchor tags, i.e. <a title="some information about the link" href="link"> Please do not abuse this and keep titles short and manageable. Bear in mind that users who have not turned on DHTML support will not be able to see this information.