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Does Gratuitous1 = Second Account
October 1, 2007 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to get an admin ruling on whether Gratuitous1 and Second Account For Making Jokey Comments are the same person?

I don't want to make a full-on callout here, as I certainly may be wrong, but the convenient joining, post history, and favoriting of Gratuitous1, who joined yesterday and has heavily jumped in to defend (practically alone) Second Account in his text messaging suspicions question, seems to me highly suspicious.

It certainly may be a coincidence, though personally I doubt it, but, while we should all be able to have as many personalities/accounts as we want without them being tied together, using them in one thread, to pretend to be a different person giving "backup" in your discussions seems to me to be a significant breach of good faith and civility, which goes beyond the limits of appropriate use. I may be alone in this opinion, of course.

Still, as Gratutious1 has no further post history to "out", as admins have access to IPs and account creation payment records (I'd assume), and could potentially clear this up, I was hoping they might check and see if this is the case.

I figure if my request is considered, it would lead to one of three scenarios:
1) They are the same person and the mods can tell: I think we should know, as it alters the discussion considerably.
2) They are clearly not the same person, at all. No privacy breached. A suspicious account is cleared of suspicions, and several people including me apologize to them both.
3) The mods look but it can't be proven either way, as IPs are not perfect for this, etc. So be it, we're exactly where we are now with suspicions but no fact.

Perhaps the above is simply considered out of bounds to check. I realize multiple accounts have the right to remain separate under normal use, but I do not feel such potential issues are under the umbrella of "normal use". If this is denied, at the least I would like to hear some opinions on the practice of creating a second account to bolster your argument as though you were a separate person (as an overall issue, not as in this unknown instance,) and see if I am in line with the community or not on seeing it as a major transgression.

((I am so going to get called out for my callout here, but at least then I'll know the community's thoughts.))
posted by John Kenneth Fisher to Etiquette/Policy at 7:15 AM (115 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I gave it a quick peek yesterday and they're not totally obviously the same person, but I agree it's a weird and suspicious pattern that I cannot otherwise explain.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:22 AM on October 1, 2007


Likely explanation: Situation strikes a chord with longtime lurker. Draw to comment finally outweighs longtime lurker's hesitation about sending $5 over the internet to longtime lurker's favorite website. Longtime lurker begins with gusto.
posted by Partial Law at 7:28 AM on October 1, 2007


Hmmmm, interesting theory. Wonder what the IPs say.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:29 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, parial law, you hit the nail on the head. The guy was getting treated completely unfairly IMO, so I felt the need to step in. I can totally see how we may seem like the same person. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help.
posted by gratuitous1 at 7:31 AM on October 1, 2007


More than one data point would be nice.
posted by smackfu at 7:33 AM on October 1, 2007


Oh come on. I seems pretty reasonable that someone, who felt the asker was getting slammed unfairly to sign up and defend them. I imagine that Gratuitous1 probably has the same sort of views and attitudes about dating, saw this guy being attacked, and decided to defend him as well as his own views.

Jess says they're not the same person, so I doubt that Second Account went through the trouble of acquiring another IP address and a new paypal account under a different name.
posted by delmoi at 7:35 AM on October 1, 2007


Oh great, now it looks like we're all the same person.
[Backs away from thread slowly.]
posted by Partial Law at 7:35 AM on October 1, 2007


Well except for the $5 part. I'm not that paranoid/cheap. Actually, I registered so I can post a question next week. This thread drawing my attention was just a coincidence. I'm still a little amazed at the one-sidedness of it, usually I agree with the majority.
posted by gratuitous1 at 7:37 AM on October 1, 2007


"More than one data point would be nice."

What does this mean?
posted by gratuitous1 at 7:41 AM on October 1, 2007


also: as of now only mathowie has paypal info, just for future sleuthing. I think he's on a plane to London now. He and chrismear will cross in midair!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:42 AM on October 1, 2007


Isn't it the early hours of a workday morning in Aus? So gratuitous1 posting in this thread would suggest that they're not one and the same. Welcome aboard, gratuitous1.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:45 AM on October 1, 2007


Jess says they're not the same person

Nope, she didn't.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:47 AM on October 1, 2007


What does this mean?

It means, for accusations of sock puppetry, you need multiple examples of the same people supporting each other. One example is probably a coincidence.
posted by smackfu at 7:48 AM on October 1, 2007


One more perspective on why gratuitous1 (hi there!) would be unlikely to be a Second Account For... sock:

Second Account is itself the second account it claims to be, and we've talked a little bit with the owner recently about some borderline-questionable sock/main usage (posting frequency, not any dhoytish boostery or other such bullshit). So pulling a yet-another-account stunt would be an appallingly stupid move on their part.

You can officially safety those pitchforks, I think.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:49 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


So pulling a yet-another-account stunt would be an appallingly stupid move on their part.

On the other hand, that would suggest that Second Account.... is inclined to account stunts.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:56 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Isn't it the early hours of a workday morning in Aus? So gratuitous1 posting in this thread would suggest that they're not one and the same. Welcome aboard, gratuitous1."

Thanks. I did stay up too late posting in the other thread last night. I just go to work now. I'm in the midwest US.
posted by gratuitous1 at 7:57 AM on October 1, 2007


You can officially safety those pitchforks, I think.

But what about the torches, tar, feathers and hungry midgets?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:00 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't it be easier to just make a mental note of "douchebag" and move on with your life? There's people here I sometimes think may be sockpuppets of others playing tag-team with themselves, and there are people who I just think are jerks being jerks. In both cases I think less of them when I read their comments. What more than that is necessary?
posted by phearlez at 8:01 AM on October 1, 2007


I so want a new sockpuppet: Third Account For Agreeing With Myself
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:04 AM on October 1, 2007 [18 favorites]


Oh great, now it looks like we're all the same person.
[Backs away from thread slowly.]


Actually, I'm the only one here who's the same; the rest of you are different.
posted by sleevener at 8:05 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


ah, the irony of all this is killing me.
posted by desjardins at 8:10 AM on October 1, 2007


And therefore, the irony of all this is killing me.... and him.... and her..... and him over there....
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:13 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


What more than that is necessary?

That stuff can get outta hand real quick, so it's good to put a stop to it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:14 AM on October 1, 2007


"Wouldn't it be easier to just make a mental note of "douchebag" and move on with your life? There's people here I sometimes think may be sockpuppets of others playing tag-team with themselves, and there are people who I just think are jerks being jerks. In both cases I think less of them when I read their comments. What more than that is necessary?"

I'm going to go ahead and respectfully disagree with you here. If I'm going to think less of somebody/bodies, I would be the most comforted knowing that it was the largest number possible.
posted by gratuitous1 at 8:15 AM on October 1, 2007


Well, the evidence, though impossible to be conclusive, seems to lead rather much to separate people, so my apologies to both. And welcome, gratuitous.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:16 AM on October 1, 2007


Well, the evidence, though impossible to be conclusive, seems to lead rather much to separate people, so my apologies to both. And welcome, gratuitous.

Thanks very much sir. No apology needed. I think it's time for me to actually start doing work now.
posted by gratuitous1 at 8:21 AM on October 1, 2007


I'm going to have to agree with what I said above when I was posting under a different user name.
posted by psmealey at 8:31 AM on October 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


Welcome from me too, and congratulations on taking your callout so well!

Wouldn't it be easier to just make a mental note of "douchebag" and move on with your life?

Just like it's easier to hate all humanity on general principle. Ease isn't everything. Since it seems clear gratuitous1 isn't, in fact, a douchebag, it's good the question was posted and cleared up.
posted by languagehat at 8:33 AM on October 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Even though they're different people, Second Account probably owes gratuitous1 a beer, though.
posted by desjardins at 8:38 AM on October 1, 2007


The secret of Metafilter is that they're are actually 30 members and 59637 sockpuppets.
posted by ALongDecember at 8:45 AM on October 1, 2007


And this one can't spell. Damn it!
posted by ALongDecember at 8:45 AM on October 1, 2007


...while we should all be able to have as many personalities/accounts as we want without them being tied together, using them in one thread, to pretend to be a different person giving "backup" in your discussions seems to me to be a significant breach of good faith and civility, which goes beyond the limits of appropriate use. I may be alone in this opinion, of course.

You're not alone. Using sockpuppets to argue with yourself in a thread *is* a significant breach of good faith and should be enough to permaban both accounts.
posted by mediareport at 8:51 AM on October 1, 2007


Using sockpuppets to argue with yourself in a thread...

Now that would be very hard to track.
posted by googly at 8:56 AM on October 1, 2007


Bob Dylan just told me your sockpuppet is a dick.
posted by breezeway at 9:02 AM on October 1, 2007


Are we looking for the balance of probabilities here, or beyond a reasonable doubt? I need to know, is this a tort or a crime?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:09 AM on October 1, 2007


I agree with breezeway completely! I always agree with breezeway. He/she/it is a wonderful entity.
posted by Mister_A at 9:21 AM on October 1, 2007


Since it seems clear gratuitous1 isn't, in fact, a douchebag, it's good the question was posted and cleared up.

You misunderstand me; I was not speaking in specific him/her or even this particular conflict. I was speaking of this seemingly burning need to know if one person is acting under multiple identities, in general. If there's some crappy behavior that makes you believe such a thing, then just believe it, just like you may believe someone else is being a twit under a single login.

It is not necessary to get MatJesCor to weigh in and prove conclusively if someone is playing sockpuppet games. You can simply decide someone is a twat and roll on with your life. The belief that there's some big difference between thinking someone is being a jerk and knowing conclusively is not as big as some of you seem to think it is.
posted by phearlez at 9:27 AM on October 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


You can simply decide someone is a twat and roll on with your life

Does "rolling on with one's life" include commenting multiple times in a Metatalk thread on the topic? Just curious.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:34 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dear AskMe: I think the sock-puppet police are on to me. Should I throw myself on their mercy or try brazen it out?
posted by scold_and_obfuscate at 9:35 AM on October 1, 2007


It is an architectural feature, also known as a dog trot.
posted by breezeway at 9:35 AM on October 1, 2007


Bob Dylan just told me your sockpuppet is a dick.

the red hot chili peppers just told me their dicks are sockpuppets
posted by pyramid termite at 9:40 AM on October 1, 2007 [5 favorites]


What set off my BS detector was not simply Gratuitous1 jumping in as the sole defender of Second Account, but the actual timing of his initial couple posts, which immediately followed posts by Second Account and were time stamped shortly after.

For example, Second Account posted this at 4:30 yesterday; Gratuitous1 followed up in agreement less than 20 minutes later.

Second Account later posted this at 5:51 and Gratuitous1 again immediately jumped in to offer support six minutes later.

I realize this isn't a smoking gun necessarily, but from the looks of things the idea that the OP posted his defensive replies and then immediately followed up with a supportive message from a (phony) staunch defender doesn't seem all that far fetched.
posted by The Gooch at 9:43 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fuck it up, Nancy Drew! Raise the rofl!

JUSTIFY!!!
posted by breezeway at 9:45 AM on October 1, 2007


Holy crap, we breached the 60,000 user number mark, and over 500 users ago? Well, welcome, Gratuitous1. Though, I have to say, there is no user with the name "Gratuitous," so that "1" is sort of ... um, you know.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 9:58 AM on October 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Does "rolling on with one's life" include commenting multiple times in a Metatalk thread on the topic?

Duh, obviously!
posted by phearlez at 10:03 AM on October 1, 2007


Everyone here is being too controlling of Gratuitous1. He has a right to post. You don't "let" him post.
posted by spec80 at 10:21 AM on October 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


Heh, so I wasn't the only one who thought "Third Account For Making Defensive Comments".

The question remains, who is Second?

Hey Abbott!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:27 AM on October 1, 2007


Whatever, I am not controlling. I didn't "let" him post. I told him I would rather he not post, and asked if he'd rather I post instead. But he posted, so whatever. And he did e-mail me and tell me that he loves my sexy sexy posting more than any of the other posters. But now this thread comes along, and it's possible he belongs to someone else... I have to go smash some things now.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:28 AM on October 1, 2007 [6 favorites]


I have no idea what's going on now.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:34 AM on October 1, 2007


Ooh baby I post you long time.
posted by SassHat at 10:36 AM on October 1, 2007


I know, but I don't know, and I'll never tell; come over here and I'll tell you.
posted by breezeway at 10:36 AM on October 1, 2007


we should all be allowed to make one anonymous post per week for emergency purposes
posted by troybob at 10:42 AM on October 1, 2007


Well, welcome, Gratuitous1. Though, I have to say, there is no user with the name "Gratuitous," so that "1" is sort of ... um, you know.

No, I don't know, what is it?
posted by gratuitous1 at 10:44 AM on October 1, 2007


extraneous? superfluous?
posted by ODiV at 10:55 AM on October 1, 2007


If there's some crappy behavior that makes you believe such a thing, then just believe it

And if you want to believe the world is run by a Jewish conspiracy, hey, just believe it.

Seriously, it doesn't bother you at all to consider someone a douchebag for no good reason?

gratuitous1: Look in the mirror.
posted by languagehat at 10:57 AM on October 1, 2007


fortuito.us, surely.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:00 AM on October 1, 2007


I'll take "Gratuitous" for $200, Alex.
posted by splice at 11:03 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


that thread is still going? wth.
posted by Stynxno at 11:08 AM on October 1, 2007


H is for Hell!
posted by breezeway at 11:14 AM on October 1, 2007


I ALWAYS KNEW JEWS DID WTC AND NOW LANGUAGEHAT CONFIRMS IT!
posted by Kwine at 11:29 AM on October 1, 2007


Some of us just have more wished-for selves that others, and I don't know about you, but I intend to inhabit every last one of them.
posted by Julia F***ing Sugarbaker at 11:33 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


No! I am Spartacus!
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 11:40 AM on October 1, 2007


Has anybody registered 'Second Account for Washing My Dirty Linen in Public' yet? If not, can I have it?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:56 AM on October 1, 2007


I registered so I can post a question next week. This thread drawing my attention was just a coincidence.

WHAT? What are the odds that you coincidentally joined MeFi to post a question so soon after this particular question was posted?

They must be near zero! I know it from math!
posted by turaho at 11:58 AM on October 1, 2007 [6 favorites]


Also, Julia F***ing Sugarbaker, yours is the only profile I've ever wanted to favourite.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:02 PM on October 1, 2007


I'm still a little amazed at the one-sidedness of it,

Why?

usually I agree with the majority.

I see..
posted by Chuckles at 12:10 PM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


What is going on? Who pissed off pink? Am I really dog trot's evil twin? Why do I have my shirt off in the emergency room? Find out next time on The Young and the MetaTalky...
posted by Mister_A at 12:29 PM on October 1, 2007


...should be enough to permaban both accounts

Permanban™ - Kills dogworm, cutworm and doucheworm.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:13 PM on October 1, 2007


Anyone who argues with themselves in a thread has crossed over into realms that even the Almighty Great MetaFilter cannot help with.

And fuck what kevinskomsvold wrote. Dick.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:16 PM on October 1, 2007


Seriously, it doesn't bother you at all to consider someone a douchebag for no good reason?

I don't understand. I'm presuming that the reason people get all worked up over suspicions of someone being a sockpuppet assclown is that they're seeing some evidence of douchebaggery, not that they're picking profile numbers at random and trying to cross-check them. I'm merely suggesting that once someone reaches the point of thinking "jerk" when they read something here that they have, in fact, reached a perfectly good stopping point.

Instead it seems to turn into this big quest to unearth absolute proof of the matter. Which, ya know, if that's entertaining to you, okay. I'm just suggesting that there's a liberating feeling involved with simply accepting that you don't have to like everyone and it's okay to simply dislike them while going about your business.

Certainly that's not an endorsement of the small but very visible cadre of people on the internet who spin extended, convoluted yarns. Extended, sleazy deception is repugnant, but I've yet to see that kind of thing exemplified in the kind of cases that get people worked up about these sockpuppets. More often they're some bozo who doesn't have anything interesting or worthwhile to say using either persona. If they feel the need to prop themselves up with a fake name that doesn't make their points any more salient or interesting, it's just sad.

So, if it's really that important to someone, fine. I'm just saying I don't get it.
posted by phearlez at 1:39 PM on October 1, 2007


Doucheworm.
posted by tristeza at 1:53 PM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


To piggyback on this, can we get a ruling on whether I'm a sockpuppet?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:57 PM on October 1, 2007


...and the M. Night Shyamalan twist to this thread is that Second Account belongs to John Kenneth Fisher.
posted by Durin's Bane at 2:04 PM on October 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


This thread has become like the plot of Memento. Compelling, full of intrigue, high stakes, and while I have theories about what's going on but ultimately couldn't say for sure.
posted by sneakin at 2:27 PM on October 1, 2007


I have no idea what's going on now.

Spoken like a toned naked guy, full frontal, with his dick in his hand.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:31 PM on October 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I was so sure I was gonna get called out for this request too. Original question could have been half the length without me paranoically trying to defend myself in advance. Oh well.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 3:14 PM on October 1, 2007


jamesonandwater writes "Isn't it the early hours of a workday morning in Aus? So gratuitous1 posting in this thread would suggest that they're not one and the same. Welcome aboard, gratuitous1."

Proponents of Metabolic Fascism can post at any time.
posted by Mitheral at 3:17 PM on October 1, 2007


I can't possibly pass judgment on this whole mess until I see the MMS in question. Mobile number in profile.
posted by desjardins at 3:19 PM on October 1, 2007


I don't understand. I'm presuming that the reason people get all worked up over suspicions of someone being a sockpuppet assclown is that they're seeing some evidence of douchebaggery,

Do you even understand what this thread is about? The only "evidence of douchebaggery" was an unsubstantiated guess that one poster was a sock puppet of another. This turns out not to be true. It is a good thing that the question was asked, because it turns out the alleged douchebag was not a douchebag at all. Capeesh?
posted by languagehat at 3:28 PM on October 1, 2007


It is not necessary to get MatJesCor to weigh in and prove conclusively if someone is playing sockpuppet games.

MatJesCor... I always imagined it as Matamyex.
posted by ALongDecember at 3:55 PM on October 1, 2007


That sounds like a pokemon.
posted by spec80 at 4:06 PM on October 1, 2007


I registered so I can post a question next week. This thread drawing my attention was just a coincidence.

"WHAT? What are the odds that you coincidentally joined MeFi to post a question so soon after this particular question was posted?

They must be near zero! I know it from math!"


Very nice. Two-shay.

Speaking of math, I posted a mathematical thesis in the aforementioned thread. Make fun at your leisure. Or respond seriously, I'm not picky.
posted by gratuitous1 at 4:26 PM on October 1, 2007


One of the nice things about Metatalk is the way that people will often make fun seriously.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:51 PM on October 1, 2007


It is not necessary to get MatJesCor to weigh in and prove conclusively if someone is playing sockpuppet games.

No, it's not necessary, but I'm getting tired of starting earnest discussions on the blue with people only to have it end with them calling me a sockpuppet. I would certainly appreciate MatJesCor stating definitively that I'm not.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:13 PM on October 1, 2007


I would like to categorically state that I am not adam savage's sockpuppet.
posted by desjardins at 5:30 PM on October 1, 2007


What set off my BS detector was not simply Gratuitous1 jumping in as the sole defender of Second Account, but the actual timing of his initial couple posts, which immediately followed posts by Second Account and were time stamped shortly after.

For example, Second Account posted this at 4:30 yesterday; Gratuitous1 followed up in agreement less than 20 minutes later.

Second Account later posted this at 5:51 and Gratuitous1 again immediately jumped in to offer support six minutes later.


what are the odds of this... 1 in 10,012031,141342?
posted by flabdablet at 5:31 PM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


What the heck. I'm going to hypothesize that Second Account's third account is actually Mr_Crazyhorse, whose history starts with the post that also contains interesting math and says "your fiancee goes out to a bar and gets drunk... and the next day she gets a DIRECTED, cock-pic MMS on her phone out of the blue?"

I don't see where it had previously been revealed that this was a DIRECTED message. So that seems to be information that only the OP would know.

So now we're in a three-way, even without the girlfriend.
posted by sageleaf at 5:46 PM on October 1, 2007


It is not necessary to get MatJesCor to weigh in and prove conclusively if someone is playing sockpuppet games. You can simply decide someone is a twat and roll on with your life. The belief that there's some big difference between thinking someone is being a jerk and knowing conclusively is not as big as some of you seem to think it is.

Well:

1) We are known here by our words, which are (or have been, until the advent of so much up-meeting and offsite activity) our only social currency on Metafilter.
2) Our words are tied to our identities.
3) Sockpuppetry subverts that by blurring identity.
4) Metatalk was created to be used as a venue to query the userbase about matters of etiquette and policy, although that is no longer, it seems, its primary purpose (and at least one of the mods seems comfortable this evolution).
5) One of the guiding principles of evaluating if individual behaviour on the site has always been 'what if everybody started doing that'?
5a) This somehow morphed into the 'callout and pileon' mentality that we see so often these days, to the detriment of the usefulness of Metatalk, I reckon.
6) John Kenneth Fisher was using Metatalk for its stated purpose.

Of course, it can be and has been argued that a) non-concurrent sockpuppets or sockpuppets that are clearly sockpuppets and just run for a laugh are no problem b) focus on the minutiae of others' behaviour achieves little but bad blood c) the very concept of identity on the internet is worth much more to some people that it is to others, and d) pancakes are delicious, especially with a side of beans.

All's well that ends well, though, I guess.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:54 PM on October 1, 2007


Note to self: when you create a jokey sock-puppet, remember to write down that name AND the password, or you'll spend twenty minutes trying to google partial word phrases and by the time you're able to log in, you'll have forgotten the joke you were planning to make. Drat.
posted by PinkSomethin'Somethin' at 7:16 PM on October 1, 2007


::puts sock back in drawer::
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:28 PM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Metatalk was created to be used as a venue to query the userbase about matters of etiquette and policy, although that is no longer, it seems, its primary purpose (and at least one of the mods seems comfortable this evolution)

Comfortable that Metatalk has expanded to do more things like meetups and "hey we made the papers!"? I think all of us are comfortable with that evolution.

I thought this question was totally appropriate, didn't turn into a witch hunt, and wound up making people feel marginally better about something they were feeling weird about in AskMe. That's good, seems like the system works.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:32 PM on October 1, 2007


Comfortable that Metatalk has expanded to do more things like meetups and "hey we made the papers!"? I think all of us are comfortable with that evolution.

Of course, myself included, for the most part.

But my point continues to be that the expansion of the roles that Metatalk serves shouldn't eclipse the primary purpose, which, as far as I am aware (and I very much hope) continues to be the place where discussion of how the site is run, of policies and etiquette, where the actual meta-talk about and development of whatever mutant digital manifestation of 'community' we have (and the necessary incessant and often repetitious discussion about what that means in a World of Text) happens.

Just because we have (well, you lot over in North America and Europe, mostly) lots of meetups shouldn't mean that we should be getting all laissez-faire about the site itself, or leaving all the heavy lifting and decision making to the moderators, hardworking, clued-in and conscientious as they are.

That's good, seems like the system works.

Yep, most of the time.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:42 PM on October 1, 2007


shouldn't mean that we should be getting all laissez-faire about the site itself, or leaving all the heavy lifting and decision making to the moderators

I agree; I just don't see anyone suggesting that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:44 PM on October 1, 2007


I really like the (unintended?) typo in one of the mods seems comfortable this evolution. It makes me picture mathowie, bike helmet atop his head but otherwise in full mad scientist gear, gazing approvingly at his latest lab-grown creations. "Ah, yes - the mods seem comfortable this evolution. Ex-cellent".
posted by yhbc at 8:52 PM on October 1, 2007


I agree; I just don't see anyone suggesting that.

Well, perhaps it was simply me misunderstanding what you said, and if so, I apologize, but a couple of days ago, you said:

It would be nice if everyone knew how the site worked and how things got decided but not everyone cares to. Are you really just now noticing that there is a teeny subset of users who frequent MetaTalk and that the site has grown sort of large while MeTa has grown not so much at all? Not everyone cares about how favorites counting works or the Whistler meetup or what social software tools we add on user profiles page and that seems okay by me.


I took that to mean (leaving aside your surprisingly dismissive snark about me 'just now noticing') that you see Metatalk as playing a small and, relative to the growth of the site as a whole, diminishing role. You seem to be perfectly happy with that (and that's totally your prerogative), because not everyone (by implication, few people) care about how the site works and how things get decided, or about meetups or minutiae of feature implementation. Which is probably true. I don't have the visit stats.

But that, to me, in no way discounts the central importance of Metatalk to the site. For my part (and I think I've written more about this here over the years than probably anybody, Matt incuded), I reckon that Metatalk has been the secret to Metafilter's success over the years.

Oh, hell, rather than just rehashing it, let me interpolate and quote some stuff I wrote in the last few days via email to a user who had some questions about Meta-stuff (I've edited slightly to clarify and mashup a couple of emails):

Back in Ye Olden Days (say before the reopening of registrations a few years ago) self-policing was as successful as it was (which was variable, certainly, and more of a Fine Idea than an Operational Success) because the community was smaller, I think. A lot of the people who signed up in the first few years were web folk -- first-gen webloggers and interested others. Drop a Big Name from the first wave of the explosion of web and weblogs -- late '90s, say -- and chances are they have a defunct MeFi account (or an active one, for that matter).

So Matt's ideal of 'Self-policing since 1999' (the MeTa tagline for years, of course, until recently) using Metatalk as the forum in which that was accomplished and him as the ultimate authority to which to appeal worked, in part, I think, because a lot of people (myself included) were really excited about the democratization of information and the mass amateurization of nearly everything and all of that, and the possibilities inherent. It felt awfully new back in, like, 2000, and a lot of people were really rooting for it to work. Most of the community was really smart, really verbal, and pretty geeky, just as, for the most part, it is today.

And it did work, pretty well. It's only been in the last few years that Metatalk has started to become as much theatre as anything else, nearly. There's a certain thud-dullard viciousness that rears its head quite often now, and, old-skool-elitist that I am, I think it may in some part have been the influence of people in their thousands who have recently joined up and enough of whom (along with folks of that ilk already here, of course) are of that particular skew of personality that they really like the idea of flameouts and pileons and group-condoned public humiliations of outsiders and transgressors of laws guidelines, unwritten or otherwise.

The 'self-policing' regime, which was and is all about using the site itself to discuss issues related to the site, to some extent involves people who misbehave being hauled into Metatalk to be excoriated and publically (if gently, once) shamed (or evolved into that with the growth of the 'callout' meme, which I hate). Some new and some old and some not-very-nice users tend to take this over the line into personal attacks and display an unseemly love of the flameout and the pileon. Things tended (and still do) to get nasty, mostly because (this is my theory) Metafilter had developed a reputation for being snarky and merciless (if smart) over the years, and particularly during the time signups were closed, and when the doors opened, a fair number of people who just liked being mean joined up.

But Matt has gone on record many times about how he hates the personal attack and the pile-on, as do most of us, and I think it really hurt him to see how nasty things were getting, sometimes. Again, only my theory, but I suspect he saw Metatalk as going bad to some extent, that as the site grew in size, too many people were getting the idea that self-policing meant kicking the living crap out of anybody they could get up enough of a gang to go after for breaking the nonexistent rules. (It is significant that there are, and consciously never have been, more than one or two 'rules' on the site -- Matt has always said, and I agree with him, that most adults can be expected to behave like adults and rules are not necessary, even if guidelines and positive examples and reinforcement for good behaviour are.) I think that he wanted to curtail that growing viciousness that started to appear more often, to try and steer (with a light touch as always) the site back into a path where there was less of the cudgel (amongst users themselves) and more of the tap on the shoulder.

I want to be clear, though, about the new user thing. I think it was the sudden surge post-14000 signup hiatus that set the boat to rocking. Any animus (of which there was little, and which was usually as much a joking thing as anything else) between older and newer users has settled down now almost entirely. The community is big enough that you don't recognize the difference between 2004s and lastweekers; and it's all about how much they contribute (or how amusingly or insightfully or whatever). That mostly the way it's always been, except for during that brief Human Deluge. This is good.

But (and I can only speak for myself and my observations here) I think there was a relatively straight line from opening the user signup floodgates to more material flooding on to the site and a bit of a perceived qualitative drop from the surge of the '5-dolla newbs' (a much reviled epithet that I'm as guilty as anyone of whipping out sometimes), many of whom didn't understand the mores and unwritten rules of the place (there was no FAQ to speak of back then, for example), right through to the addition of both mechanical tools to help moderation and bringing on board first jessamyn and then much later cortex to help. Banning the use of images (something I argued for strongly, because it was at this time that unfunny image macros and bad photoshops were drowning discussion on the blue and the grey, though they'd never been a problem in years previous) came at this time, too. It all felt like it was spinning a bit out of control, to me, and maybe to Matt as well.

Metatalk has to an extent become the IRC and the reputation-building and jocularityjocularityjocularity part of the site, rather than the place where lots of hard thinking and communitarian effort was found. For my part, I'd like it to be both (with its Real True Non-Secret Purpose being the latter).

Now, I don't think it's all that bad, most of the time, but it often is, and it can be a little tiring. There are still lots of people, new and old at the site, who are interested in trying as much as possible to perpetuate the experiment -- that is, to try as much as they can to discuss, with heat if necessary as long as there's light too, issues that come up when thousands of people are milling around trying to talk about stuff and earn accolades and whuffie for being smart with text, or funny, or insightful, or whatever combination they want to or can project as their avatar through their participation. To discuss, and maybe reach some sort of messy democratic near-consensus, which may or may not result in Matt doing something, which may or may not result in anything changing.

But, same as democracy itself, the value was (and should be) in the process, not in the result. Discussing an issue or problem builds visibility of community opinion, which, hopefully, will be seen by enough people (which is why I think everyone should read Metatalk), and will result in less bumpiness and less need for Matt (still talking old days here) to step in and Do Something.

But when Matt brought jessamyn and, later, cortex, on board (both of whom I like and respect and believe are doing the very best jobs they can, which means they are doing well indeed), and around the same time rolled out the flagging functionality (which is silent, including, effectively, any action taken by moderators, which is silent deletion of offending comments or threads, sometimes), I think it changed the tenor of things to one where healthy focus on process is given a backseat to efficiency and results, and where individual involvement in community standards formation becomes an appeal to authority.

I don't think that's healthy, and it's the same sort of trend I see in Britain or America (or wherever) in the wider world, and makes for good consumers and bad citizens.

I don't think it's a matter of Matt actually having given up self-policing. I think the argument can be made that flagging and moderating are the current manifestations of the self-policing of yore (which was still, in the end, an appeal to authority for any kind of action reached from discussion of policy -- at that time, Matt's authority only). There is much to be said for that argument that we are still essentially self-moderated, too -- jessamyn and cortex rarely delete or edit anything (if ever) that hasn't been flagged by users and so appears on their moderation queue interface, and even then, not always. The primary reason, I assume, that Matt went that way is because of scaling issues within the community -- there were just too many people.

This all sounds black and white, and it's not -- Metafilter is still one of the best-run web communities I've ever seen, even if I'm not comfortable philosophically with some of the ways things have gone. I don't think it's all bad by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm continually surprised at how good the site can be when it's good (and the opposite, too), and how good it continues to be. Lots of really interesting smart new people are signing up all the time (along with the inevitable LOL!!1! folks, of course), and some of them stay.

I understand the logistical needs for the way things have gone, with scaling the size of the site and all, and the hard decisions Matt's probably had to make. (I do get the impression, as much respect as I do have for Matt, that he just does things and waits to see what happens, but that could just be his generally laconic demeanor.) I think things have gone pretty well, all things considered, but I'm afraid that the 'institutionalization' of appeals to authority in terms of running the site since the addition of moderators and flagging means that new members will assume (as it tends to be everywhere else, even in those few places left that aren't overrun by The Stupid) that that's the way it always has been and is the natural state of things. I don't care for that.

Most people who've been on the net since forever recognize the very light-handed, very careful and conscientious way in which Matt, Jessamyn and now Josh steer the good ship Metafilter, and like me, really do love the community, and are willing to praise what they see as good decisions or policies just as much as they are willing to criticize what they perceive to be bad ones.

And Matt (as have j and c) has always shown himself to be responsive of the thoughts of the community, even if he tends to be a bit absentminded, seemingly, sometimes. I think he really does care about the quality of the place and the quality of users' experience there far more than he does about money made or microfame achieved, and it really does worry him when things go sideways. I think that may be the biggest reason he brought mods onboard -- not to whip misbehaving users into shape or to exercise any kind of deus-ex-mathowie authority, but to help to make the experience better for everyone, to serve the kind of selfless public service role that seems to be disappearing in the rest of our lives these days.

--------

So, after all that (and apologies for the length), and given what you said in that thread a couple of days ago, jessamyn, it worries me that you are not in any way dismayed with the marginalization of Metatalk, because I think that it is the very thing that makes this place great, and always has, second only to the fascinating people that have come and gone and stayed. Like I keep saying, I like and respect you and mathowie and cortex and greatly appreciate the work you do, but I think that you guys should be mining Metatalk for old, useful discussions on various topics, encouraging new users to use Metatalk, to read it, to dip into the archives, and making it some kind of Badge of Metafilter Citizenship (metaphorically) to spend a bit of time learning the history and folkways of the place. If Metatalk is withering on the vine, it is precisely because a shift from messy, process-focussed self-policing to neat and clean appeals to authority based on silent, invisible dobbing-in, along with a certain lack of focus on its core purpose, is making that happen.

I agree; I just don't see anyone suggesting that.

So, yeah. See, I kinda see you suggesting that, implicitly. And it bothers me because you are one of the three people who are ostensibly the authorities to which we are ultimately appealing. Benevolent, yes, but still.

In my opinion.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:01 PM on October 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


Thanks very much sir. No apology needed. I think it's time for me to actually start doing work now.

More or less conclusive evidence against this account being a sock puppet. I can see anyone around here thinking it's that important to get to work.
posted by Nabubrush at 9:15 PM on October 1, 2007


Can't, dammit.
posted by Nabubrush at 9:27 PM on October 1, 2007


Holy essay Batman!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:29 PM on October 1, 2007


What a gratuitous comment, stavros.
posted by spiderskull at 9:30 PM on October 1, 2007


stavros?? Dammit, I was already rolling my eyes at Ethereal when I got to the end.
posted by mediareport at 9:51 PM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think the move from self-policing towards a more institutionalized form of community moderation is about scalability, but I don't think it's a bad thing. It's one thing to have, as stavros says, a messy, process-focused system when you have a fairly small and stable community, but it's hard to implement efficiently when you have over 50k people comprising at least 3 or 4 'generations' of members.

In some ways, I think the flagging system is a way to keep people from looking behind that dingy gray door where they used to make sausages. MeTa participants are neither fair nor numerically accurate representations of MetaFilter's membership - if they were, the signal:noise would be completely fucked. It's good to have a forum for people who are genuinely invested in the community, but considering the huge, relatively diverse number of users who don't give a tinker's damn about whether favorites should be called bookmarks, MeTa's relevance as stavros sees it it (Or at least my interpretation of how he sees it) has been made nil with the tagging system and creation of the FAQ/Guidelines.

stavros mentions the natural state of things, but the thing is, nature - I know, I'm reaching here - is about equilibrium and fluidity. MeTa is largely stagnant when it comes to community management, and gets more so every time the MeFite-O-Meter on the front page rolls up, IMO.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:05 PM on October 1, 2007


By the way, I apologize profusely for using the word 'whuffie' -- I think it's idiotic, but I was on a roll, and I couldn't remember the phrase 'social capital'. Sorry.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:21 PM on October 1, 2007


God, that thread sucked. Why were people just pounding on him? As if somehow that is supposed to help him deal with his problem? Calling him names? It was not the purpose of AskMe to rip on people like that. We are supposed to be, you know, helpful.

People were seeing their own demons everywhere. The problem with RelationshipFilter has always been people who assume they "know" the person or their situation from the few paragraphs we get. Hell, the person asking the question doesn't even know what's going on in the relationship. How the hell is someone who knows exactly none of the actors in the question going to know?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:21 PM on October 1, 2007


I agree with whatever Astro Zombie has said in this thread.
posted by Astro Zombie 2 at 12:32 AM on October 2, 2007


So, yeah: I see you suggesting that.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:44 AM on October 2, 2007


it worries me that you are not in any way dismayed with the marginalization of Metatalk

Not to belabor the point here, but I think you misunderstood me. I like the rough and tumble let's-talk-out-every-issue here in Metatalk quite a bit. It's freeing for the mods in a big way to feel that there's some sort of consensus about policy changes or edge case situations. In that case an absolute democracy where there was one usernumber one vote would be nifty for most things. However, a Metatalk consensus (or majority) isn't the same as a sitewide consensus and I think my initial assertion, snark or no, was that it never has been. It was just easier to maintain the illusion that it was when the site was smaller and now it's much more obvious that the core group in MeTa isn't growing as much as the larger group of users outside of MeTa.

MeTa has always been about core users who care a lot about the site (both with the lets talk about policy stuff as well as the let's fight with the people who endager our way of life here way). That said, lots of other things now also go on in MeTa and while before if you were a MeTa regular you'd probably be comenting in every thread because every thread was about policy or someone's birthday you knew or something, now there is a lot of MeTa that isn't of general interest in the same way -- meetups in faraway locales, nuances of features on part of the site you never use -- and it seems weird to somehow feel that everone should be engaged in all parts of that.

I'd like, personally, as wide an input on feature discussions as we could get, but some people who use the site don't care about features, or tags, or social tools on their profile pages and so it's an open question how much they need to be involved in that discussion.

I think the big different here really stavros is that working here the way cortex and pb and I do requires a bit of a "play it as it lies" mentality. While mathowie can wake up one morning and decide to fill the site with cherubs, he and he alone can make that decision. So having a sort of middle-level of people who are not ultimately in charge (though we talk about most major policy issues together, etc) creates a weird new class of people as far as site modding goes. For people who are using the site, every feature/policy discussion can be a balls-out "this is my my idea is important" arena, even if ultimately we try to agree on things here.

cortex and I especially have in some ways taken on the role of explainers (I think about the recent category discussions in Meta) where we explain why something is the way it is to newer members at the same time as we solicit opinions on how it could be different. We have a sort of acceptance of how the site is at the same time we might want a given policy decision to go a certain way mainly because we like it here and to like it here you have to like what is was and also what it might become. It's an odd duality but one of the things that i think makes cortex and I relatively effective at what we do is being able to roll with that duality and still do a decent job. So part of what you may be seeing is just us being accepting of change here, because to fight against it would make working here impossible or unpleasant, but that doesn't mean that we or I don't do what we can to adjust that moving forward.

I appreciate the lengths you took to spelling all of that out above but I can't help but feeling that you're taking my meaning differently than I intended it. Partly my responsbility, I'm sure, but the things you seem to think I feel about MetaTalk are not how I feel about MetaTalk unless i'm not getting your meaning, which is entirely possible.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:16 AM on October 2, 2007


but I think that you guys should be mining Metatalk for old, useful discussions on various topics,

Oh, HELL NO. They've got enough to do without dragging out dead horses. If someone has an issue they can bring it up, the admins don't need to go looking for trouble, we'll find them.

encouraging new users to use Metatalk,

Jessamyn, when deleting comments, tells people to take it to Metatalk (not sure about corex) . I don't know how more direct she can be. Also, when people have issues, they take it to Meta and create a link to the MetaTalk thread. That's pretty direct.

to read it, to dip into the archives,

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. MetaTalk is link at the top of the page, next to several other links. Either they want to make with the clicky or not,

and making it some kind of Badge of Metafilter Citizenship (metaphorically) to spend a bit of time learning the history and folkways of the place.

Fuck that, it's sounds like the circle jerk from hell.

If Metatalk is withering on the vine,

It's not. It's a bit different, which is natural, as Cortex has been "made" and there have been new members and site changes, but I think it still works incredibly well.

The only suggestion I would make, at this point, is a quick, one page minifaq, so a new or curious user can get up to date really quick about what the various subsites and "rules".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:03 AM on October 2, 2007


Hey everyone, it's a monologue-off!
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:30 AM on October 2, 2007


Sorry sir! 'm doing the best I can.
posted by Gunner's Mate 1st Class Phillip Asshole at 1:40 PM on October 2, 2007


Well, OK, then. I don't think we're talking about the same thing when it gets down to it here, jessamyn, but that's cool. It's the way it goes sometimes.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:17 PM on October 2, 2007


There appear to be two ultimate evolutionary targets for all online hierarchies with unrestricted growth and diffuse identity constraints: Usenet or Wikipedia.

One thing that could prevent this is a rigid trust economy based on impermeable identity verification. For the men, I suggest using a simple cock picture strategy. The base level of trust will require a naked full frontal photo of each member with his dick in his hand. The next level requires naked full frontal photos of each member with another member's dick in their right hand. By matching dicks to members, unlicenced sockpuppetry should be minimized. It has not escaped my notice that the specific pairing I have postulated immediately suggests a possible extension mechanism for higher levels of trust.

Verifying female members with the same rigour obviously presents a more significant challenge.
posted by meehawl at 9:28 PM on October 2, 2007


JESUS CHRIST GET YOUR OWN BLOGS ALRE oh hi jessamyn.
posted by scrump at 4:08 PM on October 3, 2007


I think this situation is essentially normal for all on-line communities, be it IRC, MUDs, Usenet, WoW guilds, and so forth.

The problem is that the community experiences a value maximum once everyone has gotten comfortable but is still burning with the excitement of the new. See Slashdot, Digg or Reddit at inception, or talk.bizarre's "Golden Age", or for that matter somethingawful, 4chan, what have you.

But everyone's perception of what "gotten comfortable" and "excitement of the new" means gets more specific, and less accepting over time.

So the early adopters come in, and relatively quickly establish a high level of quality. But this attracts the next tier, who by definition can't be as comfortable/experienced as the first tier in the first tier's viewpoint. So they are relatively more accepting of change, not having had a long window with which to view change. Quality sinks according to the first tier but rises according to the second. And the next tier comes, and so forth and so on.

Each of these tiers brings new blood but also new chaos. The most recent tier, for instance, appears to be way more likely to use "lol" unironically, to link to digg, and to make light-conversational, rather than involved-conversational comments. If you are of a previous tier you are likely to think all those things are bad. But if you're new, this is just part of your culture, in which online persona/posting is more like twitter than usenet because "online" is a hilarious term you use ironically to describe your grandparents.

So Stavros, I think you're trying to step in the same river twice. It's not just the people that change as the community scales and transmutes, it's the boundaries and walls as well. If jessacorthowie were to lighten their touch, self-policing would likely start looking like myspace and livejournal, because that's the gravitic pull of the current and future tiers. You seem to be wishing for a return to self-policing as of 2002, where the tier number was small and people were, if not book people, at least usenet people; certainly not blogger people. Sadly (for I am a usenet person, and prefer the company of my lonely savage breed), the majority has changed and changed radically.

In fact, I would venture to suggest that the jessacorthowie is actually courting trouble, because I judge that they are also book, usenet, and blog people respectively; and like all communities metafilter must bring in new blood at a high rate, lest it becomes Salon.

So there's a tension between the relatively geriatric, staid and conservative moderators -- think liver spots and a slight palsied droop of the lip here if you must -- and the frenetic 18 year olds out there who have never heard a modem train, who MMS each other ironic lolcat renditions of their professor in-class, and to whom the idea of not being connected is patently ludicrous. Yet whom also are the great FPPers of the next few years.

How does that tension get resolved? No idea, I only post here.
posted by felix at 2:40 PM on October 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


You seem to be wishing for a return to self-policing as of 2002, where the tier number was small and people were, if not book people, at least usenet people;

usenet self-policing?

MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOW
posted by pyramid termite at 3:40 PM on October 4, 2007


I couldn't help but notice that two weeks have passed and gratuitous1 never asked his question.

So yeah, my vote is he was a friend of the original poster, called in to register and defend.
posted by turaho at 12:31 PM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


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