Looking back 12 years, I honestly have no clue how I found MetaFilter -- after this long as a reader and contributor, the site is more or less baked into my DNA, and wondering how I found it is sort of akin to wondering how I learned to breathe. I know I started reading it sometime in its first year, and I signed up right around the same time as a few other folks who were also in the NYC tech circle at the time. I'm sure that it was one of those things where one of our weblogs linked to it, and we all jumped onto the bandwagon -- the web was a smaller place then, and in small circles, sites got a lot of play.
Even with that, I didn't feel worthy of commenting on the site until February of 2000, and didn't front-page-post until the following month (holy crap, my first FPP had a self-link in it!). From the start, though, I've been more of a consumer than a producer on MetaFilter.
Hosting MetaFilter for four years = a fantastic wife and life
By far, the best memory I have of MetaFilter is hosting the site for nearly four years in my home, and meeting a slew of people as a result of it.
Back in the spring of 2001, old-timers will recall that MetaFilter was struggling under the weight of too much traffic and too little bandwidth; it was just after the Kaycee Nicole thing and a series of prominent mentions in the New York Times, and Matt was doing everything he could to lessen the load of serving the site off of the fractional T1 that Pyra was kind enough to let him leech. Up until then, Matt and I had had the occasional email back and forth (mostly me being an annoying pest about tiny little issues I saw on the site), but we certainly didn't know each other in any real sense. But buoyed by an incredibly nice post Matt made about me on the site in April of 2001, I felt like it wouldn't be too weird to reach out to him with some potential assistance. So towards the end of May, I offered to let him host it on a T1 I had in my NYC apartment (awesome job, awesome tech), and under four days later a huge box arrived at my doorstep containing the MetaFilter server (and Anil Dash captured an early unboxing video from my webcam!). The machine started its NYC life sitting in my bedroom next to my dresser; every morning, I'd get ready for medical school alongside its lights and hard disk chatter, and I became the hands-on maintenance guy for when things went horribly awry. (Processor fan failure? Check. Flaky network card? Check. Hard disk failure? Check.) A year later, I was able to move it into my second bedroom when my roommate moved out -- which mean that guests were treated to its hard disk and fan noise (and occasionally played tricks on the MeFi user base by briefly unplugging the network cable!). And then in the summer of 2003, the server moved with me to Boston and eventually got a server closet to call its own -- and through it all, I continued to meet folks who were intrigued that a site like MetaFilter was running out of a bedroom closet rather than a highfalutin' hosting provider. Finally, towards the end of 2004, Matt recognized that MetaFilter's growth trajectory and hosting needs had outgrown our arrangement, and moved everything to a proper web host.
MetaFilter living in my home for four years was responsible for quite a bit of tech growth for me, because Matt let me contribute to all sorts of server maintenance tasks along the way. I learned a ton about managing a Windows Server machine, programming in ColdFusion, building firewalls and network access lists, tweaking database design, backing up and restoring huge amounts of data, and remote server administration -- all skills that, in some way, I continue to use twelve years later. I became comfortable enough hosting MetaFilter that I started self-hosting a bunch more than that (my family's email, a few dozen websites, and more), and there's no question that it helped me find the medicine-plus-IT niche that I occupy in my professional life today.
And that post that Matt made about me in April of 2001? There's a very real chance that it is responsible for my fantastic life. His post caused a metric asston of traffic to flow to my site, and led to a bunch of mentions on other folks' sites. On April 29th of that year, I was checking my referral logs (remember when you could do that?) and noticed a link to my post from a weblog written by a lovely woman in Washington, DC, and dropped her a note to say hello. Over the ensuing few months, emails became instant messenger chats became phone calls, and then in July we met face-to-face. We moved in together a few years later, got engaged in 2004, got married in 2005, had our first kiddo in 2008, and have our second on the way! This far away from 2001, there's no way to remember whether MetaFilter was directly responsible for Shannon posting a link back to my story, but it's very likely that there was an indirect relationship between the two events... and the rest is history.
Thanks for twelve awesome years, Matt and MetaFilter -- here's to a dozen more!