What is "Meta"?

Meta means discussion of the discussion itself instead of the actual topic of the discussion. For example, discussions about…

  • The style of discussion.
  • The participants in the discussion.
  • The setting in which the discussion occurs.
  • The relationship of the discussion to other discussions.

The etymology for the “meta-” prefix dates back to Aristotle’s Metaphysics, which came after his works on physics. Meta means “after” in Greek.

Why do we need a meta category?

Meta is incredibly important. It is where communities come together to decide who they are and what they are about. It is where communities form their core identity and mission statement.

Meta is for the folks who enjoy the forum so much that they want to go beyond merely reading and posting – they want to work together to improve their community in various ways. Meta is the place where all leadership and governance forms within a community, a way to debate and decide direction for the whole community.

Meta serves as community memory, documenting the history of the community and its culture. There’s a story behind every evolution in rules or tone; these shared stories are what bind communities together. Meta also provides a home for all the tiny unique things that make your community what it is: its terminology, its acronyms, its slang.

What kinds of meta topics can I post?

Some examples of meta topics:

  • What sort of topics should we allow and encourage? Which kinds should we explicitly discourage?

  • What kinds of replies are we looking for? What makes a good reply, and what makes a reply out of bounds or off-topic?

  • What are our standards for community behavior, beyond what is defined in the FAQ?

  • How can we encourage new members of our community and welcome them?

  • Are we setting a good example for the kinds of discussions we want in our community?

  • What problems and challenges does our community face, and how can they be resolved?

  • How should we moderate our community, and who should the moderators be? What should our flag reasons be?

  • How do we publicize and grow our community?

  • What does does TLA mean? Who was Kilroy and why does everyone drop his name when they make a typo?

  • How should (or why did) the rules change?

But really, anything is fair game in the meta category, provided it’s a discussion about the community or the forum in some way.

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