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This descriptive study explores deliberate barriers to user participation on the long-lived discussion site Metafilter has been in continuous operation since its founding in 1999, and at the time of this writing has around 12,000 active users. While many newer online sites appear eager to eliminate barriers to participation and recruit as many new members as possible, Metafilter charges a $5 fee to join and has a mandatory one-week waiting period before new users are allowed to post. In this paper, we explore both why these barriers were imposed and why some users choose to surmount the barriers to become members. Our data sources include historical documents posted on the site, interviews with eleven site members, an informal user survey, and an interview with the Matt Haughey, the site’s founder and owner. Implications of these design features are discussed.


Technical Report No. GT-IC-14-01