discussion not as expected; how to improve? November 4, 2005 12:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm kind of dissapointed with the way things turned out in a post I made to Metafilter yesterday. I was hoping to discuss how many of the leaders of the fat acceptance movement are feeders and the consequences this might have in terms of it's future progress. Oh and I also wanted to discuss the new slate piece I linked to. But of 140+ comments, very few seem to even reference the links I made. Most just gave their opinion on fat people . I read all of the comments, and the general consensus seems to be that topics regarding obesity cannot be discussed sensibly at Metafilter. What should I do in the future to make a better FPP and what other topics should I wholly avoid?
posted by skjønn to Etiquette/Policy at 12:59 PM (73 comments total)

Don't mention SUVs, circumcision or circumcising SUVs.
posted by ColdChef at 1:02 PM on November 4, 2005


actually mention whatever you want, just realize that with a community this large there can be a BIG signal to noise ratio on anything remotely sensitive. In depth discussion may not be this place's forte. Reading links that are above average (usually) is.

There is practically no way to moderate threads here, so don't expect to be able.

I think the post was fine. Gonna need to become less sensitive to survive here as well. It only hurts for awhile.
posted by edgeways at 1:06 PM on November 4, 2005


Or aborting Palestinian SUVs.
posted by COBRA! at 1:06 PM on November 4, 2005


Metafilter simply doesn't handle topics about the obese and then thin people who love them well. Coming to terms with this is really all you can do.
posted by cmonkey at 1:06 PM on November 4, 2005


Your FPP was excellent. I'd suggest you keep doing what you're doing: FPPs with an ideologically disinterested and "informationally interested" tone.

It's hard to say how a discussion will turn out, and it's not your fault some people are immature. Good links are appreciated in spite the discussion.
posted by Rothko at 1:06 PM on November 4, 2005


Yeah, I can't recall the specific threads, but body weight should simply not be discussed on Metafilter. It's the ultimate combination of poking members in insecurity-laden mental areas and pumping up the members whose sole purpose is to wait for that perfect moment in the conversation to unleash assdickhole-yooo-ken!
posted by selfnoise at 1:07 PM on November 4, 2005


Are you joking? You made a fat post and are surprised at the jokefest that ensued?
posted by xmutex at 1:10 PM on November 4, 2005


Lay off the donuts and stop driving up our insurance premiums lardass, GOD, AMERICANS ARE SO FAT!

it was a good post, fatness on mefi brings out the angry guy in some, don't hope to direct discussions too much, as Rothko says
posted by Divine_Wino at 1:15 PM on November 4, 2005


I imagine if you made a post about a fat-acceptance group's sponsorship of a particular Critical Mass event it would turn out better.

Your post was fine.
posted by hototogisu at 1:17 PM on November 4, 2005


I wouldn't sweat it, your post was good, the discussion was standard.

On the other hand, while I don't think you did anything wrong, I'm not sure I buy your stance of naive surprise. Your post was pretty inflammatory, highlighting the issue of "feeders" and using the language of sex to discuss something that can be talked about in significantly less racy terms. The Slate article that seems to have prompted the post spent very few words talking about the same issues.
posted by OmieWise at 1:17 PM on November 4, 2005


Coldchef has a point. the overweight are a very delicate topic on MetaFilter, for whatever reason. there was nothing wrong with your post. just try to make what is to you a good post, and don't worry too much about the discussion that ensues. it's out of your control anyway, unless you frame it in an inflammatory way (you didn't) or you try to moderate the thread (you didn't). it's OK, don't blame yourself. it was a good post
posted by matteo at 1:18 PM on November 4, 2005


If you want people to talk about the one link that prompted the post, don't link various words to nine other sites. Focus!!
posted by smackfu at 1:19 PM on November 4, 2005


other delicate topics on MeFi: SUV's (they're very much disliked by most), circumcision (very, ahem, cutting comments usually ensue), child-rearing ("you suck as a parent!", "no you suck!", "kids suck!"), torture (strangely enough here there's no real agreement on the fact that it's a war crime).
just don't believe those who say we cannot post productively on religion, we can.
posted by matteo at 1:21 PM on November 4, 2005


xmutex writes "Are you joking? You made a fat post and are surprised at the jokefest that ensued?"

She's only been here for a couple of months. Ease the fuck off.

The reaction of Metafilter users to body-weight-related issues is a little bit surprising. My wife (who's been reading the site for the better part of a year) was astounded by the lack of civility and the out-and-out asshole aggressiveness in that thread. I knew better than to even look at the comments....
posted by mr_roboto at 1:21 PM on November 4, 2005


feeders?!
posted by andrew cooke at 1:23 PM on November 4, 2005


that's because fat people suck.
posted by keswick at 1:24 PM on November 4, 2005


Jesus man, get with it already! Feeders!
posted by hototogisu at 1:25 PM on November 4, 2005


oh, ok, i just read the link. what the fuck did you expect?
posted by andrew cooke at 1:26 PM on November 4, 2005


Feeders are all the rage these days--works out really well if you have a breeder fetish, too...
posted by hototogisu at 1:28 PM on November 4, 2005


Going on an assumption of the communal emotional age of Metafilter, I think it's safe to assume that it's best to avoid anything that would cause a 10-year old boy to giggle with devious glee.
posted by crunchland at 1:28 PM on November 4, 2005


are there "starvers" as well? kind of like supermodels but, well. ok, i guess i know the answer to that one.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:31 PM on November 4, 2005


it must be frustrating if you're into overweight backsides and keep getting google hits for catfish.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:32 PM on November 4, 2005


"overweight backsides" sounds like some kind of ice-cream you could buy at a sex-toy shop...
posted by hototogisu at 1:36 PM on November 4, 2005


My short list of topics that seem to not go well here: Israel/Palestine, Christianity [but especially "LOL those wacky J3susfr3aks!!"], so-called "intelligent" design [see: Christianity], weight issues, ugly women, stupid people, Ann Coulter, George Bush, public schools in the US, and whether downloading music without paying for it is or is not theft.

Other obvious topics like abortion, iPods, gun control, money/debt, SUVs, Iraq and other hot button issues can go either way depending on how they're introduced and how the early comments go. Flash/art/music/culture posts tend to go well. NSFW posts tend to get all spazzy early on.

Your post was fine, but MeFi maybe wasn't the best place for it, due to a history with this sort of thing that you may or may not know about.
posted by jessamyn at 1:48 PM on November 4, 2005


I actually thought it was a bullshit post. "Most" fat acceptance leaders are sexual deviants? (You say that like it's a bad thing!) And your evidence for this assertion is...?

I found your inflammatory language offputting. If you want a substantive discussion, try not starting out with an insulting generalization.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:49 PM on November 4, 2005


"...just don't believe those who say we cannot post productively on religion, we can."

Bullshit. I worship fat chicks.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:50 PM on November 4, 2005


mr_roboto writes "I knew better than to even look at the comments...."

Yep, a train wreck looking for a place to happen. What's weird to me is I didn't make a conscious decision to not read the thread but in hind sight that's exactly why I scrolled by.
posted by Mitheral at 2:06 PM on November 4, 2005


I'm with ottereroticist. Knowing How We Are Here I didn't even want to go inside to see the resulting carnage (though I did click on feederism, you know, just to see).

In reading it now, though, for such a post, some reasonable discussion. For here. A few folks discussing feederism, the "civil rights" aspect, etc. Remarkably on topic.

For the future: avoid sensationalism when unecessary.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:22 PM on November 4, 2005


I think you should focus on the "My Favorite Band Rocks! Your Favorite Band Sucks!" type post, with an occasional foray into "The List of Top 100 _____ of All Time" posts. That would make this place really cool.
posted by grateful at 2:27 PM on November 4, 2005

so-called "intelligent" design
Does this topic play out well anywhere other than in a meeting of IDers?
posted by sequential at 2:30 PM on November 4, 2005


Oh, add to the list of things we don't talk about well the following:
  • Drama queens
  • Losing Elections
  • Pedophilia
  • The Bell Curve
Somehow, each of these topics forces us to eat our own. Essentially, if you fall on the unpopular side of any argument, be prepared for hasenpfeffer.
posted by sequential at 2:41 PM on November 4, 2005


Pretty much what edgeways said at the top. Just wanted to mention I thought it was a good post, although the feeders part was a bit of a red flag to this crowd. Awaiting reactions to my first couple posts was kind of nerve wracking. Most folks get a thicker skin, or if not, they may flameout in a spectactular fashion.
posted by marxchivist at 2:50 PM on November 4, 2005


I'll add the subject of smoking cigarettes to sequential's list. I had gotten in similar trouble for linking to a tobacco-related topic in the distant past. Never again.
posted by psmealey at 3:27 PM on November 4, 2005


And add groin waxing to the no-no list.

I want to commend beth for her excellent post amidst all that displaced angst.
posted by Rumple at 3:32 PM on November 4, 2005


All this futility is pretty sad. You know, if we as a community wanted to change, and make the concerted effort to be able to rationally discuss any topic, we could probably do it.
posted by milovoo at 3:49 PM on November 4, 2005


No we couldn't.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:51 PM on November 4, 2005


You lose control of post the very moment it is made. On any given day, the thread can go well or ill, based on little more than who is logged in and itching to post a comment at that moment. It is the nature of the site.
posted by LarryC at 3:58 PM on November 4, 2005


posted by milovoo All this futility is pretty sad. You know, if we as a community wanted to change, and make the concerted effort to be able to rationally discuss any topic, we could probably do it.

The only topic we've ever made a concerted effort to discuss rationally was the fact no topic existed that we could make a concerted effort to discuss rationally.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:05 PM on November 4, 2005


Saying we don't or can't discuss topic X rationally creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, and an excuse for the next time such a discussion turns to poo. Stop it already.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:43 PM on November 4, 2005


I'm guessing if you want sensible discussion, you should probably avoid MetaFilter.
posted by Eideteker at 7:30 PM on November 4, 2005


Just to agree with others above: There was nothing really wrong with your post, the problem (in this particular case) was with the Metafilter side of the equation.

And to join up the separate "Issues Metafilter Can't Maturely Discuss" suggestions above (omitting jokes):
  • Obesity
  • Critical Mass
  • SUVs
  • Circumcision
  • Child-rearing
  • Current US military conflicts
  • The non-military side of current US military conflicts
  • Israel/Palestine
  • Christianity
  • "intelligent" design
  • Ugly women
  • Stupid people
  • Ann Coulter
  • George Bush
  • Public schools in the US
  • Downloading music/copyright
  • Abortion
  • Apple products
  • Gun control
  • Money/debt
  • Recent US elections
  • Pedophilia
  • The Bell Curve
And plenty more. Don't worry, you don't have to memorize the above. Just write the best FPP you can, and if it just happens to be about a hottopic issue and everybody explodes, realize that it probably wasn't your fault. Probably.
posted by Bugbread at 7:39 PM on November 4, 2005


stavrosthewonderchicken : "Saying we don't or can't discuss topic X rationally creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, and an excuse for the next time such a discussion turns to poo. Stop it already."

Only to the extent that saying "My name is Michael" is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's a statement of fact, and avoiding saying it won't make it become false. As for whether it's an excuse, that seems much more likely.
posted by Bugbread at 7:41 PM on November 4, 2005


I suppose it's safe to add feminism to the Big List.
posted by afroblanca at 8:04 PM on November 4, 2005


Don't forget rape.
posted by fandango_matt at 8:10 PM on November 4, 2005



A passenger jet didn't crash into the Pentagon. Discuss.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:14 PM on November 4, 2005


Only to the extent that saying "My name is Michael" is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's a statement of fact, and avoiding saying it won't make it become false.

Well, you're wrong, so there, thbpbpt. It isn't a statement of fact, nor is it inevitable. Of course avoiding saying it does not make it false -- that's bloody obvious. Saying it is true, however, does increase the chances that it will be. This is the way these things work.

Also, I think Ethereal Bligh is starting to rub off on you. Take care, danger lurks!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:22 PM on November 4, 2005


stavrosthewonderchicken : "Saying it is true, however, does increase the chances that it will be."

Ok, on reflection, I guess you may be right, in that, while saying it doesn't directly make it true, it does provide an excuse, which does increase the likelihood that people won't try to do better, which might increase the likelihood that people continue to do it. I guess it's just that I'm cynical about the issue: I think people will be unable to discuss this stuff even if we don't admit it, so saying it doesn't make it so; it would be so whether we say it or not. But that's my cynicism speaking, and if you're less cynical, I can see how it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

stavrosthewonderchicken : "Also, I think Ethereal Bligh is starting to rub off on you. Take care, danger lurks!"

I've always liked EB's discursive style, so I doubt it's that he's rubbing off on me, but just that you're noticing some stylistic similarities that were there all along.
posted by Bugbread at 8:35 PM on November 4, 2005


topics regarding obesity cannot be discussed sensibly at Metafilter

I've never been quite able to figure out why this is, but it seems to be the case. I think it taps into the same righteous pomposity as trying to talk about religion. There are a shitload of svelte atheists here who don't want to talk about people and problems they consider to be entirely unecessary - egregious in their utter stupidity and self-inflictedness.

I'm describing, not agreeing.
posted by scarabic at 8:38 PM on November 4, 2005


Oh, and add Burning Man to the list.
posted by scarabic at 8:39 PM on November 4, 2005


I think I'm sensing a theme here - if it is a topic that we CAN argue senselessly about, we WILL.

Interesting.
posted by afroblanca at 8:47 PM on November 4, 2005


afroblanca : "I think I'm sensing a theme here - if it is a topic that we CAN argue senselessly about, we WILL."

No, there's some kind of common aspect to it, but that's not it. EVERYTHING can be argued about senselessly, but these particular topics seem to attract more lightning.
posted by Bugbread at 9:16 PM on November 4, 2005


What's weird to me is I didn't make a conscious decision to not read the thread but in hind sight that's exactly why I scrolled by.

Yep. Same here. I would've forgotten my eyes had even seen that FPP had this thread not been started. But calling up the memory of scrolling by it, I can recall a nanosecond of "Oh, yeah, that'll turn out great."


Also - One more for the list: Pat Harrington.
posted by soyjoy at 11:34 PM on November 4, 2005


It would probably be easier to list the topics that don't result in an all-out wibble-fest, wouldn't it?

All this futility is pretty sad.

Too right. The problem is that once a topic is established as one that will cause a nasty thread, any posts on that topic inspire hundreds of daft comments about passing popcorn or the fact that the thread won't go well.

But there are loads of new users who've never discussed these issues on Metafilter. Who knows, maybe they're capable of talking about fat or what have you without it going all vile?

Those of us who have taken part in Fat Wars before could just have a wee look at the links and wander off to let the discussion commence without ruining the thread from the get-go, and making posters like skjønn feel bad for making a decent post.
posted by jack_mo at 1:54 AM on November 5, 2005


Safe topics for posting:
Rabbits with Pancakes on their heads
The ongoing Canadian/Tahitian conflict
"MIT Scientist Proves We are Living in the Matrix"
Iron Maiden album in Streaming Audio!
Japanese Goth Girls
More Rabbits with Pancakes on their heads
posted by zaelic at 2:14 AM on November 5, 2005


why does "intelligent" design get the scare quotes?

it's a good name for the theory, which claims that development is directed. indeed, one of the big failings of intelligent design, compared to evolution, is the need for this deus ex machina.

so why the quotes?

my own guess is that somehow people associate "intelligent" with "good" (too much indoctrination with gold stars at school?) and are trying to say "this isn't a good theory, even if it has the word 'good' in its title". but "intelligent" doesn't mean "good". it means "intelligent", surprisingly enough (hello tarski). so please, drop the quotes.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:53 AM on November 5, 2005


We do a pretty good job with tittyfucking threads though.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 5:29 AM on November 5, 2005


andrew cooke, I'm thinking it has at least as much to do with commentary on advocates/practitioners of ID. A person says "intelligent" design to imply something directly about the intelligence of believers in ID.

I agree that they should cut it out, regardless. It's as bad as people who openly laugh in religious people's faces for believing in God.
posted by cortex at 8:00 AM on November 5, 2005


jack_mo : "It would probably be easier to list the topics that don't result in an all-out wibble-fest, wouldn't it?"
  • AARDVARKS
  • ABACUSES
  • ABALONE
  • ABATTOIRS
  • ABBEYS
  • ABBOTS
  • ABBREVIATIONS
  • ABDOMENS
  • ABERRATIONS
  • ABILITIES
  • ABLUTIONS
  • ABODES
  • ABOLITIONISTS
  • ABRASIONS
  • ABRASIVES
  • ...
Maybe not.
posted by Bugbread at 8:23 AM on November 5, 2005


A person says "intelligent" design to imply something directly about the intelligence of believers in ID.

In my case I used it in a "this is their word not mine" sense. In my mind this theory could be just as easily called the Design Theory because you're claiming that someone designed the world and the things in it as opposed to gradual change over time. Why this designer also has to be intelligent [i.e. because this designer is God, to most [all?] people who agree with this theory. I mean of COURSE someone/soomething who designed all of this, if they did that, is intelligent. It's redundant] just gets into the whole "why some people think this is a topic worthy of discussion and others do not" area i.e. what MeFi does badly.
posted by jessamyn at 8:40 AM on November 5, 2005


Bugbread again - and how many times do we need to see this - dumps abrasive and aberrant aardvarks into the thread, derailing it! It makes me want an ablution! Or less abdomen!

Mmmm... abalone...
posted by zaelic at 8:46 AM on November 5, 2005


Sorry, skjønn - I just commented, and also did not address the question you raised. I've had threads go that way, though. What I thought was interesting about the item was not what people wanted to talk about.

Basically, if there is a traditionally controversial element in any post, the comments will concentrate on that, and not on any more interesting aspects of the subject that the poster may focus on. I 've seen this over and over... and can't really think of any instances where the poster managed to actually overcome this
posted by taz at 12:26 PM on November 5, 2005


Skonn, it was a great thread, and for a newbie like me, a bit intimidating but illuminating. It seems there is, more or less, a liberal live and let live consensus in MeFi, just don't test it by being liberal and fat. Which I am, so I guess no meets for me then.
posted by Wilder at 1:11 PM on November 5, 2005


Wilder, I've never been to a meet, but from what I gather, they're always far, far, far more civil than Metafilter itself, so I wouldn't worry too much about it.
posted by Bugbread at 1:34 PM on November 5, 2005


This liberal fat atheist queer has always been treated sensibly at meetups.
posted by matildaben at 2:08 PM on November 5, 2005


I want to add to the er, troublesome topic list:

- Arguing whether race does or does not exist

I was on the unpopular end of this one in a thread once, and after I had decided the thread had no more to offer me and I wasn't going to change anyone's mind (and no one was going to change my mind), I moved on and left the thread.

Then one of my opponents had the gall to email me and chastise me for being a coward. Because I wouldn't keep arguing with him.

The nerve of some people...
posted by beth at 12:45 AM on November 6, 2005


Beth:

It's been my experience that the "race does/doesn't exist" topic is one that always stirs up a hell of a lot of passionate argument, but isn't quite the "guaranteed trainwreck" that obesity or Israel are. I'd put it on Terrorism Danger Level Orange, not Red. But that may be just because I had a pretty good discussion about it on MeFi once.
posted by Bugbread at 4:09 AM on November 6, 2005


i would just like to point out one thing: the "ø" is simply option+o on my keyboard. taint that hard, y'all. (or are other keyboards different?)
posted by RedEmma at 12:38 PM on November 6, 2005


RedEmma : "(or are other keyboards different?)"

Some don't have an "option" button. But, no, neither ctrl-o nor alt-o produce a ø on my keyboard.
posted by Bugbread at 12:50 PM on November 6, 2005


But can't you just copy-and-paste from her username? Like so:
skjønn
posted by languagehat at 1:56 PM on November 6, 2005


languagehat : "But can't you just copy-and-paste from her username?"

I'm surprised at you, lh. You know that "but" indicates disagreement. I certainly wasn't saying that one couldn't cut-and-paste (that's what I do for skjønn as well), just that "ctrl-o" and "alt-o" don't give me an "ø". I'm not sure on what grounds your statement was a disagreement.

(Am I doing that excessive nitpicking again?)
posted by Bugbread at 2:02 PM on November 6, 2005


So Skønn, I can cut and paste, thanks to language hat. I wish I knew what they meant by "flagging" a post cos I'm sure the techies do it brilliantly. All the info when you join seems to be how NOT to post something. Anyway thanks for the reassuring comments, you guys, maybe we can meet some time
posted by Wilder at 3:25 PM on November 6, 2005


Wilder: The bottom of each comment or post looks something like this:

   posted by Wilder at 3:25 PM PST on November 6 [!]

If you click the "!", you can flag a post/comment as noise, derail, offensive comment, brilliant comment, etc. It doesn't work like Slashdot or anything: there is no automatic result. All it does is put up a little marker that only mathowie can see (or an email, or something, I dunno), and if he gets a lot of flags about something, he knows he should give it a look. So if somebody posts "Fuck all you you fuckers! I hope you all fucking die! Come see hot sluts at my website www.hotsluts.com." out of the blue in some discussion, and a whole bunch of people flag it, Matt will probably look at it, realize it's a whole blob of derail, noise, self-linking, etc., and delete it. And if someone posts something like "I think Bush is a pretty good president.", it'll probably get a bunch of flags, Matt will look at it, think "Huh. A bunch of people flagged it because they strongly disagreed with it, but there's nothing wrong about the statement being on Mefi", and leave it there. It's just an easy way to call Matt's attention to something.

And if it's an amazing awesome post, Matt may put it on the sidebar on the front page. Again, none of it's automatic: It's all matt's discretion, and he's the only person who knows what was flagged, how it was flagged, and by whom it was flagged.
posted by Bugbread at 3:57 PM on November 6, 2005


Am I doing that excessive nitpicking again?

I think so... I wasn't so much disagreeing as offering an alternative ("but" as equivalent to Greek de or Russian a, a mild change of focus), and at least it seems to have helped Wilder, so it's all good.

posted by languagehat at 7:19 AM on November 7, 2005


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