As far as communities on the web go, I think Metafilter takes the cake. So it was with great interest that I read this interview with the founder, Matt Haughey (via rc3.org). In it he says pretty much everything I’d expect him to say (but as those brands building “communities” never think of).
In my mind the most brilliant feature of the site is the five dollar signup fee. Haughey explains the rationale:
It’s mostly just putting a huge hurdle in front of having to deal with new users. ‘Cause it’s such a pain. The last ten years have shown that any time there’s press, like the New York Times writes something about us, 300 people sign up and then wreak havoc for a while, and then go away. [Without barriers to entry] it would just be a nightmare.
On size, growth and just how much work it is to maintain:
It grew naturally over first few years. I never sort of advertised the site anywhere. It just sort of grows all the time. Just sort of randomly. I’m not doing anything to goose that or anything. Because [the site] doesn’t work if it’s big. Metafilter is actually run by me and two moderaters and a programmer. It’s really done by hand. We’re constantly emailing people, contacting people personally. It’s a ton of work and would never work if tens of thousands of more people joined. I’m not interested in it going to twitter proportions at all.
And finally, on just how un-sexy building a regular old profitable business can be:
A lot of people obsessed with venture capital see Metafilter as a lifestyle business, but in my mind, it’s a mature business. It works really well and yet nobody aspires to do something like this and I don’t know why. Nobody celebrates just simple businesses that work.
Seriously, I could pull about five more quotes, but just go read the whole thing.