I’ve been threatening for a while now to do a post about my favourite website, Metafilter. But the pressure of actually putting something together that would adequately sum up why I love it, while encouraging others to go and check it out – the amount of time it’d take me to put that kind of post together – always stayed my hand.

Until today.

In a nutshell, Metafilter is a community blog where people post links on the front page to examples of what they consider to be ‘The Best Of The Web’. This might consist of various takes on a current news story, or various websites shedding light on some interesting historical event, or just some kooky or fascinating youtube video. Site members (or Mefites, to give them their proper title) can then discuss the posts in a thread underneath. It’s not that the format is totally unique (Fark, Digg and Boingboing all do similar things) but that the quality of posts and comments is especially high. There are a lot of literate, well-informed contributors who make the front page posts and ensuing debates well worth a browse.

I check Metafilter every day, and through it I have discovered pretty much all of my favourite things on the Internet, from shows like This American Life and Jake and Amir to brilliant webcomics like Nedroid, Dinosaur Comics, Hark! A Vagrant, A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible and MS Paint Adventures. Ooh! And Minus! Have you ever read Minus? It’s a webcomic about an omnipotent little girl. It’s over now. Iit was quite sad and unsettling in places. It’s well worth a squiz!

But the reason I decided to post about Metafilter today was this post I read yesterday, in the ‘Ask Metafilter’ section of the site. ‘Ask Metafilter’ is like a non-imbecilic version of Yahoo Answers, allowing posters to draw on the wisdom on the MeFi Hivemind for help with everything from ‘I think my boyfriend is cheating on me’ to ‘Is it safe to eat this?’

Yesterday, I read this:

Facing death: I have received a medical estimate of dying within a year, but this is known only to me (within my circle of family and friends, including my wife). I am so lost as to how to break the news in a caring, non-stressful way.

A chap finds himself at this incredible juncture in his existence, and he turns to a bunch of strangers for the internet for help. I don’t think of myself as an especially glurgey person, but this got me right in the gut. I’m sorry he’s in this situation. It puts all my ludicrous neuroses into extreme perspective. I hope he and his loved ones are able to spend some precious time together now, and I hope he is able to work through this incredibly difficult, surreal and (I use this term in its non-religious sense) sacred period in his life.

What would you do if you knew you had a year to live? Where would you go? Who would you want to spend time with? What things would you want to talk about? What problems would seem less like problems?

Because we’ve all got a year, really. It’s just that some people’s year will last a little longer than others’.

The classic AskMeFi thread is this one: Life-altering experiences. Can you point to a single experience in your life, as a child, which you can define as having contributed to the person you are today? The stories, big and small, that come pouring out are riveting.

And for slightly more unconventional entertainment, may I suggest the quasi-legendary (at least amongst members) Metafilter mushroom thread. In it, poster MiHail botches a front page post about a cashier’s ignorance regarding portobello mushrooms, acts really shittily when people call her out on making a crap post, then the pile-on of snark and sarcasm begins. Eventually it transpires MiHail is having chemo and isn’t very well… The thread is from 2005 and by February 2006 she had died while waiting for her third liver transplant. Mefites respond with the customary mark of mourning in a thread – a single full stop.

Anyway, that’s all I’ll say for now. I’m off to tell some special people how much I love them.