On the internet everyone knows you are a wedge of spite October 8, 2007 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Yes it is a double, but it is also good example of how one or two cranky farts can totally change the tone of a thread.

Sometimes it feels like MeFi (hell, the whole damn internet) is just a bunch of bitter dour naysayers, but it's amazing how it only takes one or two cranks to really change a conversation's tone. I just thought this was a particularly egregoius example. Maybe next time you feel like spouting off about how horrible something is it is worth thinking if it's really worth the hate?
posted by aspo to MetaFilter-Related at 3:18 PM (185 comments total)

I'm sorry, I'd rather not read the whole thread to know what the heck you're talking about, so could you just link to the egregiousness and get it over with?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 3:23 PM on October 8, 2007


Sad threads are bad threads.
posted by enn at 3:25 PM on October 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Whatever these bike threads are about, I'm sure the cause of the problem is those damn fixies.
posted by found missing at 3:33 PM on October 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Am I supposed to read these, or something? Feel free to summarize the nature of your complaint, thanks.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:38 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


it's amazing how it only takes one or two cranks to really change a conversation's tone

No pun intended, I'm sure!
posted by grouse at 3:40 PM on October 8, 2007


Yeah, I'm not seeing where one or two cranks are ruining it. It's a bike activism thread, and like all activism threads, it tends to boil up in an argument with some members on one side and others on the uh, other side. Frequently an activist theme ends up as a discussion about activism itself -- if it's warranted or good or bad or annoying or whatever.

But again, I'm not seeing where two people ruin the thread. I thought the quip about roadside memorial flowers was a joke.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:45 PM on October 8, 2007


The post was to a broader version of an American-only phenom, I think? In any case it went as well as most cycling advocacy threads go which is okay not great. I think there is a second tier of "things that only ever go a little well on metafilter" which we can place on a list below "things that do not go well on metafilter"

That list would include cycling and pedestrian advocacy as well as rape threads and sparse obits other topics that seem to bring out contrarians in a weird way (i.e. they don't want to express their opposing viewpoint in a way that might spark discussion but they just want to vent about how the topic makes them feel bad). Posts about topics that invoke strong emotions tend to get them from both sides or all sides of the topic.

I think the Ghost Cycle/Bike idea is neat but I don't know if the thread had any hope of going better than it is going which is to say it (as of now) seems like it's going pretty well, but not great.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:47 PM on October 8, 2007


posted by found missing Whatever these bike threads are about, I'm sure the cause of the problem is those damn fixies.

No, the cause of the problem is always Critical Mass.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:47 PM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think the Ghost Cycle/Bike idea is neat but I don't know if the thread had any hope of going better than it is going

But in the original thread it did go well. People didn't pop up ranting about how those ghost bikes are incosiderate, opertunistic eyesores that just clutter up the place up. It was striking how different the tone of the two posts was, and really only because of one or two users.
posted by aspo at 3:58 PM on October 8, 2007


I'm sure the cause of the problem is those damn fixies.

That reminds me-- a few months ago I saw a hilarious bumper sticker on an old, beat-up full-size pickup truck:

"One less fixie."

Well, I thought it was hilarious, anyway. Probably only funny if you live in Portland, San Francisco, or maybe Austin.
posted by dersins at 4:15 PM on October 8, 2007


Your memorial sucks.

Even though I bitched at wfrgms (who, for his talk of fashion victims, showed up to the party without any vowels on), I have to admit I can see why people are touchy about this.

In my neighborhood, there are a lot of old fire alarms on a lot of the corners, and most of them have rusted over beautifully and extravagantly. They really seem like magical relics from another time. Well, someone has been going around painting them bright goddam red and then on each one, painting the name a firefighter who died on 9/11 in sloppy white stencil. The red is an eyesore, the lettering half-assed, the whole memorial utterly dubious. I mean, of course I will "Never Forget", but it'd be nice to be able to walk a few blocks without being reminded over and over again.

I've been thinking of getting to some of them that haven't gotten the treatment yet and painting them gold and putting the names of movie stars on them, like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Mae West. Spaulding Gray. And hopefully people would get the point and cut it out with the shoddy memorials-- but probably they'd just think I was an asshole and a party pooper. And they'd be right.

Really though, the difference is that the fallen FDNY have memorials all over the place. Leave your house on bike and get greased by a truck, and they just ship your remains to whatever state you moved here from, and someone else moves into your apartment within a few weeks, and it's like you never existed in the city. The ghost bikes aren't perfect and they won't last forever, but they cry out to me and make me think about how brave and trusting we are to balance ourselves on these thin metal frames and charge out into an environment that would just as happily see us run off a cliff, all for the sake of fun or exercise or trying to reduce pollution-- and in some cases, out of necessity. No matter how careful or courteous you are on the road, the message many drivers send to you any chance they get is that they would hurt you if they could. It's just one of the many symptoms of temporary insanity that we've inherited along with our love for the automobile.
posted by hermitosis at 4:22 PM on October 8, 2007 [11 favorites]


But are you a carton of hate? Does the internet know that?
posted by ormondsacker at 4:24 PM on October 8, 2007


Don't worry, we'll put up a ghost thread as a memorial to the slow decline of civility on the internet.

(I've been more annoyed at the jerkasses in the copyright threads of late. One in particular, but whatever.)
posted by klangklangston at 4:34 PM on October 8, 2007


But in the original thread it did go well. People didn't pop up ranting about how those ghost bikes are incosiderate, opertunistic eyesores that just clutter up the place up. It was striking how different the tone of the two posts was, and really only because of one or two users.

Can't step in the same river twice, as it were. If you want to complain about a specific user or comment, that'd help us understand if there's something other than general disappointment at play here on your part; if it's really more that, I'm sympathetic but I don't think a metatalk thread is going to do much for the situation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:35 PM on October 8, 2007


One difference between the two threads is that the first one was started by our number one recumbent biker, which might have made people a little more shy about pointing out which a whiny, pretentious and divisive idea these very selective memorials are.
posted by timeistight at 4:55 PM on October 8, 2007


I think timeistight has it, right there.
posted by Kwine at 5:02 PM on October 8, 2007


"...what a..." not "...which a..."
posted by timeistight at 5:05 PM on October 8, 2007


But in the original thread it did go well. People didn't pop up ranting about how those ghost bikes are incosiderate, opertunistic eyesores that just clutter up the place up.

So by your definition "go well" means "everyone holds hands and sings kumbaya"? Are people who think ghost bikes are eyesores just supposed to shut up because you disagree with them? I just looked through the thread you're complaining about; I didn't read every comment, but I got a good sense of the discussion, which was lively and interesting. If you think that's an awful thread, I've got some religion and obesity posts for you.
posted by languagehat at 5:11 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: Just a bunch of bitter dour naysayers. Now get offa my fuckin' lawn!
posted by ericb at 5:17 PM on October 8, 2007


MetaFilter: One or two cranky farts totally change the tone of a thread.

So true, so true.
posted by ericb at 5:20 PM on October 8, 2007


"Hey, you've got your obesity in my religion!"

"That's not my obesity."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:20 PM on October 8, 2007


It's not a double. A similar post but not a double.
posted by puke & cry at 5:23 PM on October 8, 2007


I've got fucking Kumbaya stuck in my head now. I need something to ban.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:29 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


aspo: I wrote the newer of the two posts you cite. It's not a double. I checked before posting and cited in my post. It's hidden by the 'More Inside' link. My fault for saying 'noted' instead of our usual 'previously', but I was in a testy mood at the time, and you know how testiness leads to deliberately modified jargon.

As for the thread's trainwreck nature, it's healthier and less wrecked than I expected. Probably because it's only drawn sixty or so replies rather than the hundreds that most bike activism posts get. There is some trolling but hardly anybody's rising to the bait.

I appreciate most of the comments in the thread, even the ones I disagree with. Thanks for thinking, people.
posted by ardgedee at 5:29 PM on October 8, 2007


I really liked quonsar's comment and was tempted to favorite it, but then I remembered that I have decided to use "favorite" in its literal sense and q's comment, while extremely amusing, did not rise to the level of my "favorite" comment.

Perhaps I should start a thread asking Matt to rename "favorites" to "top ten" comments.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:39 PM on October 8, 2007


Metafilter: testiness leads to deliberately modified jargon
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:50 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


You never can tell where a thread is going to go. It's less a fractal and more of a rhizome.

I just did a post about forgiveness and there was a hell of a lot of snark in the comments. Literal holier than though.

Sometimes it's not just the moisture content of the post, but the accumulation of sparks from all the axes being ground.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:37 PM on October 8, 2007


Sometimes it feels like MeFi (hell, the whole damn internet) is just a bunch of bitter dour naysayers

*gasp*
posted by jonmc at 6:54 PM on October 8, 2007


Matt should change the background of flameout threads to white. We can call them Ghost Threads.
posted by Plutor at 7:10 PM on October 8, 2007


it's amazing how it only takes one or two cranks to really change a conversation's tone

I don't necessarily agree this happened in the threads in question, but this is so very, very true across the board.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:11 PM on October 8, 2007


There are a few ghost bikes in the part of Canada where I live, and they do the job: the ghost bikes remind drivers and cyclists alike the dangers of the road, and to exercise caution.

What I really find loathsome are the roadside shrines to teen victims of what amounts to vehicular homicide: some teen gets behind the wheel drunk or stoned, and then wraps himself and two or three of his closest friends around a telephone pole. The whole school channels Heathers, and erects a gruesome roadside shrine, complete with teddy bears, Celtic crosses and potted mums that will turn brown and slimy as the days go by.

It's almost criminal, because, year after year, these kids kill themselves, and, year after year, nothing changes (such as raising the driving age to 19 while reducing the legal drinking age to 16 or 17). And the weird thing is, I don't think we erected these creepy shrines back when I was a kid.

But ghost bikes...we need more of them.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:31 PM on October 8, 2007


"... Sometimes it feels like MeFi (hell, the whole damn internet) is just a bunch of bitter dour naysayers ..."

Metafilter, in aggregate, isn't a Really Serious Thing, aspo. It's just One Guy's Web Site, and he's hired a couple of folks to help him run it. So even though #1 and the hired help talk a lot about "community," it's basically a minimally formatted free for all, with paid minders, on any given day. Plus MeetUps. Don't forget the MeatUps. Kinda like kindergarten, without the coloring books or the common sense life lessons, most of the time.

As examples of issues demonstrating my thesis, let me point out first that, despite common usage referring to followup post comment collections as "threads," there's nothing really "threaded" about this place. And that promotes all kinds of mis-understandings and hilarity, that the folks at higher traffic sites like Slashdot, long ago dealt with, by adopting a real threaded discussion model, and community moderation with meta-moderation. Ass hattery tends to ground out quickly in threaded forum models, because discussions tend to remain centered when offshoots look like what they are, and people can quickly filter bozos and the tangents they captain, programmatically, factoring in past reputation. Here, we'll have none of that common sense, in favor of #1, his banhammer, and his hired help.

Here the time stamp and post order rule discussion, for reasons unknown to any but #1. It's all one big, warm cup of piss soup, under each post heading. Why is that, 20 years after threaded discussion has been normative in high volume services like Usenet, and for about 7 or 8 years on many Web sites? I dunno, ask #1. It's His Web Site. Here on Metafilter, absent #1's will to substantively improve the place, all you've got is Greasemonkey, if you're a Firefox browser user. Good luck with that, and write us, if you get work...

But don't get me wrong, I think this place is funnier than the Comedy Channel, by far, most days, thanks largely to the moderators kinderminders. I wonder, of course, why, after Slashcode and various Open Source moderated forum code packages have been freely available for years, is there still a need for paid moderation, for people who talk, all the damn time, about Metafilter as a "community?" You got me.

I guess, because #1 Likes It That Way. But that's just a Wild Ass Guess on my part, and I'm wrong, by design, 47% of the time.

Signed,
Just Another Bitter Dour Naysayer
posted by paulsc at 8:42 PM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Jesus wept. You kiss your mother with that mouth?
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:52 PM on October 8, 2007


Just Another Bitter Dour Naysayer

and yet here you are.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:54 PM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


paulsc's post reminds me of the New Yorker cartoon caption contest.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:58 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


And, like many paulsc comments, he types a lot just to be wrong.
posted by klangklangston at 9:04 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


"... You kiss your mother with that mouth?"
posted by cortex at 8:52 PM PST on October 8

No, she's dead, cortex. But thanks for your personal inquiry, and typical sensitivity. Easier to snark, than to address my points substantively, I guess.

And that's all part of the fun!
posted by paulsc at 9:05 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


OH SNAP
posted by hermitosis at 9:07 PM on October 8, 2007


"But thanks for your personal inquiry, and typical sensitivity. Easier to snark, than to address my points substantively, I guess."

Fair enough, Paul.

Your claims that there's less ass-hattery on community-moderated sites is unsupported, your references to Slashdot as a better community model are highly dubious, and an attempt to link ass-hattery to unthreaded sites is undermined by thirty-seconds on 4chan.

You didn't prove anything near what you thought you did, and your comment only made you look like an ass.
posted by klangklangston at 9:12 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


"... You didn't prove anything near what you thought you did, and your comment only made you look like an ass. ..."
posted by klangklangston at 12:12 AM on October 9

klang, your comment is the perfect proof of why this place should have something analogous to Slashcode's level filters, so that I could never again have to see your chuff, or you mine, by simple profile preference settings...

But, nooooooo.... This is MetaFilter. Thanks for playing.
posted by paulsc at 9:20 PM on October 8, 2007


To which I say, Paul—there's already a simple filter that will allow you to avoid my contributions here indefinitely. A meta-MetaFilter, if you will.
posted by klangklangston at 9:27 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


"... there's already a simple filter that will allow you to avoid my contributions here indefinitely. A meta-MetaFilter, if you will."
posted by klangklangston at 12:12 AM on October 9

Aw, klang, don't worry 'bout me, buddy. You've been in my *.metafilter.com Greasemonkey kill file for months, although I unload it selectively, when Halloween nears, lest I miss just such sparkling repartee as this.

How come I'm not in yours?
posted by paulsc at 9:32 PM on October 8, 2007


klang with the key points. I apologize for not being able to find a happier compromise between tongue-biting and goggling at wherever you got that misapprehension of the stunning achievements of, of all places, Slashdot viz. your apparent despair over the idea that anybody here actually means it when they say "community"; if you want to dress up an idiom as an actual dig at your actual mother, whatever her disposition, go crazy, but I don't have much patience for it.

You want sensitivity, you might consider not posting condescending paragraphs of self-indulgent judgment on the failings of a website that you haunt and yet for which the best you can apparently find are back-handed compliments. You seem to think that a better user experience is one more detached, and that's fine, but if that's not metafilter and you can't brook it, there's a pretty obvious alternative available to you; and considering your apparent contempt for Matt's vision of the site (which, yes, includes a loathesome disinclination toward killfiles, that heartless bastard), it's not really clear why you haven't taken it.

Because while you're busy just barely tolerating the collective misguidedness that is this place, most of the rest of us are actually doing a pretty okay job of getting along without feeling so goddam put-out by the experience.

So if you're offended by my break in sensitivity, I can understand it; god forbid I react in kind instead of just killfiling you and needling Matt to save the day with proper threading.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:33 PM on October 8, 2007 [6 favorites]


I came for the thread-shitting, but I stayed ... for the thread-shitting.
posted by blacklite at 9:34 PM on October 8, 2007


You kiss your mother with that mouth?

No...I tongue your mom with it.

I always thought that was a stupid, stupid, cliche'd, ridiculous comment about someone's swearing.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:41 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


the folks at higher traffic sites like Slashdot, long ago dealt with, by adopting a real threaded discussion model

Threaded comments are the death of true, engaged conversation in the World Of Text, in my opinion. One of the biggest (of many, it must be said) reasons that Metafilter has remained as good as it is when it is good is the simple fact that flat threads give equal weight to each and every comment, which must stand on its own merits.

(Favoriting tends to skew that, which is why I'm still not totally completely sold on the [+], but it doesn't break the paradigm, so all in all, it's a non-negative.)

I don't know what Matt thinks about it, but I think the flat threads are not due to laziness or willfull archaism, but are a fundamental element to the success and relative smartness of Metafilter.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:44 PM on October 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


"Aw, klang, don't worry 'bout me, buddy. You've been in my *.metafilter.com Greasemonkey kill file for months, although I unload it selectively, when Halloween nears, lest I miss just such sparkling repartee as this. "

OOOH NO!

"How come I'm not in yours?"

Because I'm not a pussy?
posted by klangklangston at 9:50 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


"... if you want to dress up an idiom as an actual dig at your actual mother, whatever her disposition, go crazy, but I don't have much patience for it. ..."

"So if you're offended by my break in sensitivity, I can understand it; ..."

Weak, but better than a simple man up apology, for a pointless bit of snark, I guess, c... What's that about "community" again?

I'm guilty of tipping your rice bowl, I guess, and more importantly, in your eyes, it seems, of doing that flippantly. Snark isn't always bad, if it makes a point, strongly. If there's reason in your book for me to apologize for tipping your bowl, publicly, you have it, here and now. No one's choice of job is fair subject for ridicule, and to the extent my comment contained that, I was overstepping propriety.

But there's no snark in my question "... is there still a need for paid moderation, for people who talk, all the damn time, about Metafilter as a 'community?'" Either you believe in "community" enough to trust its self-corrective capability, or you don't, it seems to me.

And, in the main, are you the least self-interested person to be responding to my comments?
posted by paulsc at 9:52 PM on October 8, 2007


"... Because I'm not a pussy?
posted by klangklangston at 12:50 AM on October 9

Jeez, now that you mention it, klang, you might be. Or a dog. "On the Internet, everyone knows that you are a wedge of spite." Or, a dog. Or, maybe, a pussy.

How am supposed to know, now that you've messed with my head?
posted by paulsc at 9:59 PM on October 8, 2007


"... the failings of a website that you haunt..."

Dude, please, it's a Squid at my IP.
posted by paulsc at 10:07 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


"But there's no snark in my question "... is there still a need for paid moderation, for people who talk, all the damn time, about Metafilter as a 'community?'" Either you believe in "community" enough to trust its self-corrective capability, or you don't, it seems to me."

Right, because neighborhoods aren't communities. Neither are, say, football tailgates. Or any other space that has police present. And police aren't a part of the communities they police.

And God knows that no voluntary associations have any sort of rules associated with them.

Quick, paul, better bring up the killscript shields! You're being proven wrong in a snarky way again!
posted by klangklangston at 10:07 PM on October 8, 2007


And, in the main, are you the least self-interested person to be responding to my comments?

I wouldn't be responding to your comments hotly—a bone fide fucking rarity for me these days, whatever your personal perception of my baseline sensitivity may be—if I wasn't invested strongly in the discussion. Which is where it feels like you and I part ways on this, because your investment seems to be in what you wish this place were but is not, whereas mine is in all the things about this place that I genuinely like.

I've been hanging around here for the last six years because I think it's a great goddam place, whatever warts come with the package, and not the other way around. The job is a recent development, and I'd likely have been as taken aback (and probably less retrained in my response) a year ago, or two, because this place has something going on that's actually pretty vital and worthwhile. You seem not to see that so much; from the sound of your comments, it's just a site that, while darned amusing to you in your daily visits, is more broken than working. Failing to live up to its potential as a Slashdot clone, or something.

Do you truly believe that dedicated moderation and self-corrective capability are mutually exclusive, a strict either/or? Do you truly believe that community is defined by killfiles and a lack of any structure beyond people's willingness to strike one another from the record? If so, fine, that's your prerogative, but it's something on which we fundamentally disagree, and makes it very hard for me to hear what you have to say about community seriously.

Aside from which, if you were genuinely hurt by my use of the word "mother"—and I presume that's the case, that you wouldn't invoke your dead mother out of some petty attempt at a zing—then, look: I unreservedly apologize for bringing her into it. I had only meant to say that you were being a great big goddam jerk.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:11 PM on October 8, 2007


"... And police aren't a part of the communities they police. ..."

I guess the badged, blue suited couple that park police cruisers down the street from me, shouldn't be voting at my precinct then, klang? Would that be, because by your reasoning, "neighborhoods aren't communities."?

The cops that live 4 houses down my street are members of my real community, but they don't intervene in my life, or my neighbors, until called. We try not to bother them, with petty BS, so they haven't been called in the 3 years I've lived here.

What you seem to be suggesting might be an interesting model for an online community, but it's hardly the proactive moderation ethic of this site.
posted by paulsc at 10:17 PM on October 8, 2007


Metafilter: If you think that's an awful thread, I've got some religion and obesity posts for you.
posted by pompomtom at 10:21 PM on October 8, 2007


"I guess the badged, blue suited couple that park police cruisers down the street from me, shouldn't be voting at my precinct then, klang? Would that be, because by your reasoning, "neighborhoods aren't communities."?"

Read what I wrote again, this time without your stupid on.

"The cops that live 4 houses down my street are members of my real community, but they don't intervene in my life, or my neighbors, until called. We try not to bother them, with petty BS, so they haven't been called in the 3 years I've lived here."

Run a light and see if they wait for your call to pull you over.
posted by klangklangston at 10:22 PM on October 8, 2007


"... Do you truly believe that dedicated moderation and self-corrective capability are mutually exclusive, a strict either/or? ..."

I think if you really believe in virtual communities, you have to have a lot patience, and server capacity. You've got to let people develop as personalities, in a low bandwidth text medium, and then continue to trust their fellows to pay attention, or fail to, appropriately. And you have to have mechanisms for the approbation, or approval, of an electronic community to make itself directly felt, in the user experience, if it is to mean anything.

You, as a cop, might have to wait for the phone to ring, so to speak. You might have to wait long enough for the community you're trying to help to know that you're waiting, and collecting evidence, unless somebody is getting murdered electronically.

Both of those things are really hard to do, aren't they? Murder someone, by text transmission? And, wait for consensus. To say nothing of implementing them in a real way, in a Web site user experience.

"... I had only meant to say that you were being a great big goddam jerk."
posted by cortex at 1:11 AM on October 9

Is this the right place to ask if you kiss your mother with that mouth?
posted by paulsc at 10:29 PM on October 8, 2007


"... Run a light and see if they wait for your call to pull you over."
posted by klangklangston at 1:22 AM on October 9

It's trivially easy, for cops that live down the street from me. If I drive by, and their cruisers are parked in the driveway, they're home, and I'm not going to be arrested, by them, for running the red light half a block afterwards.

Of course, that's a 6 lane defense highway, with 26,000 vehicles an hour, on which I'd be running a red light, in your example, klang. I might have other real world motivations for being law abiding. Just as I might have "community" motivations for contributing, substantively, to any Web site.

Please, try to keep up, when reasoning by analogy, klang.
posted by paulsc at 10:35 PM on October 8, 2007


Is this the right place to ask if you kiss your mother with that mouth?

Darn tootin'. I got my mean streak from her and my belief in the fundamental goodness of people, even when they're being insufferable. Difference here being that I'm being a jerk to you, whereas you were being a jerk to about thirty thousand other mefites collectively.

For all the cop metaphors and references to proactive moderation, you've got a string of askme deletions longer than the vast majority of users here. That might reflect the failure of the site to be what you want it to be, but it also suggests a serious lack of connect or attention or something the fuck on your part that, again, kind of throttles up the old cognitive dissonance when you start slagging on the site.

I'm hitting the sack. See you in the morning, if I we're still at it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:44 PM on October 8, 2007


"... Failing to live up to its potential as a Slashdot clone, or something. ..."

Sorry, cortex, again, I'm afraid. You're part of the MetaFilter Establishment, and perhaps a genius coder, and I never wanted you to be limited by any suggestion I might make of something as untested and free (as in beer) as Slashcode. I await your brilliance, in the form of an enhanced Metafilter user experience, in humility.
posted by paulsc at 10:48 PM on October 8, 2007


"...I got my mean streak from her..."

Just what we want in "cops." Fair and balanced reactions.

"... you've got a string of askme deletions longer than the vast majority of users here."

The vast majority of Metafilter users never post to the Green, period, c....

Since I do post there, and you're a cop there, isn't saying that, publicly, pretty bad police work? Isn't that, by your own admission, pretty damning, to you, as a cop, in the same comment as your remark above? Let me absolve you, here and now, of the irony defense. You're speaking, in this thread, I take it, as an employee of this site.

Or, are you?

Only one of the problems of paid moderation.

And just, for the record, as a percentage of my posts there, what are the unfavored comments you, and the other mods, have chosen to nuke? 'Cause I think, it's under 1%. That's 2400+ AskMe comments, c. Are you saying I've had more than 240, or even 100 comment deletions?

Go ahead, post 'em, with links to the AskMe threads in which they were originally posted, in context and time stamp order, as they might have originally appeared. All my "bad." Because you can. I'm not afraid of 'em. Are you?

At my "worst," I'm willing to be judged by this "community." Are you? Really? Because, from the admin interface, it's easy to assert you are... Because, as a user, you might never have had access to the "string of askme deletions longer than the vast majority of users here." Or, am I wrong about that?

Shoot, I've never felt strongly enough about any of them, to even bother posting to MetaTalk. That's because I think AskMe moderation is generally pretty silly, much less being some kind of supposed addition to value. But I admit, that may just be me.

And are you even, as a Metafilter "cop," the right person to be posting such allegations? Or are "admins" here, cops and judges? Because, if they are both cops and judges, isn't there a fundamental problem?

"... Difference here being that I'm being a jerk to you, whereas you were being a jerk to about thirty thousand other mefites collectively. ..."

I was being a jerk to 30,000 other mefites??? Where? I'm not being rhetorical.

I've said, in this thread, "... But don't get me wrong, I think this place is funnier than the Comedy Channel, by far, most days, thanks largely to the moderators kinderminders. ..." How is that dissing 30,000 mefites, if that's what the actual number of site users, daily, really is?

You're reaching, cortex. And it doesn't become you.
posted by paulsc at 11:44 PM on October 8, 2007


wow, there's a line above which is a discussion of the ghost cycling posts, and below which is paulsc flaming out. It's like this thread is channeling what aspo right in the more inside...
posted by advil at 11:50 PM on October 8, 2007


"right" = "wrote"
posted by advil at 11:50 PM on October 8, 2007


"wow, there's a line above which is a discussion of the ghost cycling posts, and below which is paulsc flaming out. ..."
posted by advil at 2:50 AM on October 9

I'm not "flaming out," advil. My posting patterns on MetaFilter won't change, because of anything I've written here, unless the moderators revoke my posting privleges on this Web site, for what I've written here.

And what I've written here seems pretty tame and germane to a comment aspo posted for this Metatalk "thread," which was "Sometimes it feels like MeFi (hell, the whole damn internet) is just a bunch of bitter dour naysayers, ..." not to mention to my personal experience of this site, as regards its user interface, and, by my lights, in the face of comments of a paid employee of this Web site (perhaps hastily written), fairly put...

Perhaps you'll pardon me if I take your comment as yet another "vote" for the problems of the current flat discussion model, and as a recommendation for the future, for threaded discussion?
posted by paulsc at 12:06 AM on October 9, 2007


Yeah, it's possible Paulsc is making a veiled argument about the power of a single individual to steer the flow of the thread by pushing buttons.
posted by Catfry at 12:19 AM on October 9, 2007


"... Do you truly believe that community is defined by killfiles and a lack of any structure beyond people's willingness to strike one another from the record? If so, fine, that's your prerogative, but it's something on which we fundamentally disagree, and makes it very hard for me to hear what you have to say about community seriously. ..."

What I'm saying, cortex, is that, in the absence of any server side facilities for filtering content, all users are left with is user tools, like Greasemonkey, and killfiles. Don't hate the player, dude, hate the game of which you're part. You're supposedly a coder. You know this, and asking rhetorical questions, in your case, as a coder and as an employee of this site, is, at best (at the very best I can possibly imagine from a fellow techie), a cheap rhetorical shot.

I'd prefer a better solution to demonstrated inanity than my own local killfiles. I'd love to use the wisdom of the community, expressed in the user interface, to view the site. I'm entirely prepared to find that I'm a pariah, in such a view. It would, in my estimation, still be a better *.metafilter.com.

You, meaning the MetaFilter administration in toto, have yet to provide such. So call it a "pony request" on my infantilized MetaFilter user part. And you know, as a coder, in terms of the Web front end, it's not that tough. Slashcode, poor thing that it might be, serving only 5x+ times the hits MetaFilter ever gets, with much better uptime in the last 3 years, may not be a good example. Since it's free, as in beer, you can hack it, all you want, for the erudite sensibilities of the MetaFilter user base, which I am clearly unable to understand, in the slightest, despite 3+ years of, to use your word, "haunting" this site.

Great pre-Halloween rhetoric, that, "haunting," by the way.
posted by paulsc at 12:52 AM on October 9, 2007


well I would just like to say that paulsc probably has a disproportionately large number of favourites and best answers in AskMe as he is one of the most prominent and effective posters there. The deletions nobody knows about except him and the admins. His advice in relationship, technical and business threads is stellar. When Paul makes a comment about policy I read it closely, taking his good reputation into account.

Slashdot runs with a large staff of admins in addition to moderators and metamoderators. I think their community policing model works extremely well and removes blame from individual moderators (potentially a huge stress reliever for them?), but the lack of threading here is a feature for me, not a bug. The conversation seems like more of a group conversation than several individual discussions (which can happen in threading).

Architecture is politics. Metafilter is like the old internet in many ways - collegial and intelligent - because of its 'outdated' design. Metamoderation would go a long way in resolving the recurrent complaints about overmoderation, and this can be implemented using web 2.0 technology and while keeping the current thread structure.
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:58 AM on October 9, 2007


I like the way that paulsc keeps insinuating that the reason MeFi's not more like Slashdot isn't down to a conscious decision on the part of the moderators and the community, but is due to the fact that cortex can't code for shit, despite all his big fancy talk about being the best coder in the world ever.

No, hang on. Did I say "like"? "Dislike". I meant "dislike".
posted by flashboy at 1:35 AM on October 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


Also, despite the fact that cortex didn't really write any of it, besides the awesome Markov-chaining comment generator.

If you're looking to skewer the authors of the code you so abhor, the doors to pound on are over there.
posted by blasdelf at 2:01 AM on October 9, 2007


Yeah, I loathe threaded discussions. It's probably my #1 reason for just skipping a site completely, outside of inanity. And I think killfiles are pretty much the height of kindergarten mentality; to me, it means "I can't stand this person and don't have enough self control to avoid being goaded" - and worse yet, leads to comments like "I don't know what UserButtface is saying in this thread because I kill-filed him, but I bet he is spouting his usual XYZ." Oh boy.

I also do get a feeling of real community here, even though I don't live in a place that has meetups.

So I guess I pretty much disagree with most of your points, paulsc, but I realize that just about every single involved user here has their own idea of what be the "perfect Mefi" - and most of them won't mesh with my own vision of ideal. That's just the nature of the beast. With respect, when you start actually feeling really angry or bitter about it, it's time to take a MeFi holiday. Everybody does it at some point or another, either by reading but not commenting, staying the hell away totally for a time, reading/commenting in only certain types of posts, reading only a certain part of the site - whatever it takes. If you were advising yourself right now in an AskMe question, you'd be saying, "Dude, time to back away and regain your perspective."
posted by taz at 2:02 AM on October 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


taz is wise.
posted by Wolof at 2:13 AM on October 9, 2007


blasdelf, that's two "file not found" links. Waiting for corrected links.
posted by paulsc at 2:28 AM on October 9, 2007


"... With respect, when you start actually feeling really angry or bitter about it, it's time to take a MeFi holiday. ..."
posted by taz at 5:02 AM on October 9

Thanks for your unsolicited advice, taz. If ever I feel that way, I'll try to remember that you thought this was the best course of action.
posted by paulsc at 2:30 AM on October 9, 2007


heh. Noooooo, you're not angry.

Sorry if I pissed you off... I really didn't mean that maliciously. I've taken several breaks over the years myself.
posted by taz at 2:34 AM on October 9, 2007


Ooh! Ooh! Do me next, paulsc!
posted by blenderfish at 2:49 AM on October 9, 2007


"... I've taken several breaks over the years myself."
posted by taz at 5:34 AM on October 9

And I'm glad, I guess, that you did, if ever such participation caused you pain. I'll try to remember, really, your advice, if ever it becomes germane.
posted by paulsc at 2:53 AM on October 9, 2007


I pretty much disagree with all your points about the interface, paulsc.
Again, a lack of threaded comments here is a plus for me, and I share taz's disdain for killfiles (it does smack of fingers-in-the-ears la-la-laing). Not very impressed by modding points either. I regularly check in on the discussions on the Linux section of Slashdot; I find that I have to be really interested in the subject to summon the energy to battle with the wacky interface, and am constantly changing the view to get a peep at what my peers have decided to hide from me. Even the jokes that get modded up to high heaven seem to be reiterations of one of a handful of memes. Please, let's not have that here.
posted by Abiezer at 3:20 AM on October 9, 2007


"... Please, let's not have that here."
posted by Abiezer at 6:20 AM on October 9 [+] [!]

I guess what I'm having a hard time parsing, Abiezer, is why you don't just set your user preferences at Slashdot for no filtering, and deal with the comment flood, directly. Seemingly, that would suit you, and were such a filtering mechanism available here, it might help those interested in using it, a lot, without impeding your similar unfiltered use of MetaFilter.

Do you really find lots of fun, and wisdom, over at /. in Anonymous Coward posts, and related comments? Perhaps I've been missing The Big Picture, all these years...
posted by paulsc at 3:35 AM on October 9, 2007


"... am constantly changing the view to get a peep at what my peers have decided to hide from me. ..."
posted by Abiezer at 6:20 AM on October 9

I almost missed this, Abiezer. And that would have been a shame, because unlike you, I have a lot of faith in the wisdom of the Slashdot "community," as a whole, not that I think Slashcode is the be-all and end-all of Web forums. Whenever I reset my browsing preferences there for lower levels, I'm sorry about doubting the value that community brings to its admittedly, sometimes, nerdy discussions.

But it is a fairly good sized, working example of a site where "community" really influences, generally positively, in my experience, presentation. I'd be delighted to consider bigger, better examples of that premise, for purposes of further expanding this discussion. But I do also note, that were this a threaded discussion, no one, except those experienced with the Slashdot site, would need be troubled by our back and forth.

Since it's not, I beg pardon for those happening across our exchange.
posted by paulsc at 3:57 AM on October 9, 2007


Yes, I realised as I pressed post that the obvious response is to choose a fully flat view there. Yet I do end up switching around. Maybe it is just a function of the length of an average thread and my level of participation - I follow developments here more closely whereas I visit /. every couple of days to catch up, so my arguments are doubtless quite subjective, but there they are anyway.
Though it further occurs that the two different frameworks probably also set my expectations at each site - when in their Rome doing as they do and not liking it so well; sticking to the norms here and preferring the experience.
posted by Abiezer at 4:07 AM on October 9, 2007


"...thanks largely to the moderators kinderminders. ..." How is that dissing 30,000 mefites,

If indeed you were not being rhetorical - it's perfectly possible to read this (as I did at the time), as calling mefites children in need of minding, rather than calling moderators overbearing nannies (which, seeing your later comment as quoted, I perhaps riskily assume you intended).

Just spreadin', you know, universal understanding and stuff
posted by Sparx at 4:27 AM on October 9, 2007


You know, paulsc, what I can recall reading from you seemed pretty clued-in, but I think you've got it exactly and perfectly backwards when thinking about the relationship between a threaded, modded view of things, where the garbage is hidden, and 'community'. Being able to hide the Idiot Churn encourages it, segments the user base and fractures conversations into shards -- it's about as anti-inclusive and anti-communitarian as you can get, Informationally Architecturally Speaking, I reckon.

It may come in part from deeper way of looking at things -- inductive, deductive, analytic, synthetic, yadda -- but that's the way I see it.

But I do also note, that were this a threaded discussion, no one, except those experienced with the Slashdot site, would need be troubled by our back and forth.

Precisely an argument for why that wouldn't work here, because the whole idea of something happening invisible to everyone is anathema to what (I at least) think Metafilter is about (or used to be, at least), in terms of both ethos and architecture.

Hey, look, are those beans!?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:56 AM on October 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


"... Precisely an argument for why that wouldn't work here, because the whole idea of something happening invisible to everyone is anathema to what (I at least) think Metafilter is about (or used to be, at least), in terms of both ethos and architecture. ..."
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:56 AM on October 9

Nothing need be hidden from those willing to ignore the community, and deal directly, for themselves, with the resultant comment flood. You, stavrosthewonderchicken, I wouldn't expect to stoop to mere programmatic filters. I'd always be here for you, you pretty boy.

But I, a lesser soul, might find it pretty useful. I might see enough value to meta-moderate, as I still do, occasionally, where such user input is invited. I might, you know, act responsibly, and for free in furthering discussion, on a Web site so equipped to help me, in return.

You'd be out nothing, for letting me help. You could ignore the server side filtering, and the threading, and just plow ahead, hearty stalwart, as you have all these years. Meanwhile, I might benefit, by taking into account your opinion, and that of many others, programmatically, at no apparent cost to you.

And if you ever got curious, if you ever came to value aggregated opinion, what some might loosely call "community" online, you could easily pop over to your personal preferences page, in an imaginary future MetaFilter, and see a community's view of the day.

With any luck, I might disappear, entirely, in such a view.

But I'd still be here, for the curious, and unfiltered. Unless I get ban hammered for suggesting such.
posted by paulsc at 5:15 AM on October 9, 2007


I agree with stav - the serendipity that's possible in a flat view of comments is an echo of the serendipty that drives reading the posts/questions on the front pages of both the blue and green.
posted by patricio at 5:16 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


If this was a threaded view, then there would still be two arguments going on.
posted by smackfu at 5:49 AM on October 9, 2007


No there wouldn't.
posted by grouse at 5:53 AM on October 9, 2007


“I don't know what Matt thinks about it, but I think the flat threads are not due to laziness or willfull archaism, but are a fundamental element to the success and relative smartness of Metafilter.”

I'm surprised you don't recall what Matt has said about this. He has said many times, in his book (not that I've read it, but I know that he said it there) and here on MeTa that a key design requirement was to put people's words to the fore and that everyone would have to deal with what everyone had to say. The flat-thread model is not an accident, it's a key design feature.

Frankly, I'm as astonished as cortex and others here that paulsc could argue that Slashdot's model is superior. I don't know what his user number there is, but I'd bet that a lot of us were at Slashdot long before he was. It's not as if we're people who are clueless about online communities and, particularly, Slashdot.

Most people who know more than paulsc does knows that threaded discussion and killfiles are last-ditch solutions to problems that would otherwise destroy an online community. They are last-ditch because they capitulate to the forces which would otherwise destroy the site and, in doing so, provide an outlet for them. The result is a big mess, but it's a manageable mess that allows users to find some utility in a site that would otherwise become completely unusable.

The biggest reason that MeFi hasn't had this problem as it has grown quite large and to have a high online profile is that its users are articulate and intelligent and the culture somehow manages to greatly dissuade the drive-by crap snarks that ruin other places. Quonsar is a nice case study in this, as he became MeFi's town fool, acting in proxy for all the others that we won't tolerate. How his role has changed, and what it implies, is another topic.

Threaded comments and killfiles are user-interfaces which explicitly allow trolls (new-fangled sense) and disruptive comments. It says to those people “I've made accommodations for you”. When you have a site like MetaFilter which (as of yet) does not have a significant troll problem, then adding those features acts like an invitation to them. It's only when you've already got a big problem that you add those features because doing nothing means the end of the site, mass bannings probably would mean the end of the site, mass censoring of comments would probably mean the end of the site. So you create an outlet for the disruptive users such that other people can choose not to see them. It's a huge blow against the overall sense of community and the shared ethos of proper behavior, but if that's your only choice, that's your only choice. And some of us were around Slashdot as those choices had to be made.

I can see a hundred different ways a site like MetaFilter can go so wrong that it fails entirely. And maybe that day is coming for MetaFilter. But I'm amazed that Matt has made the right choices such that MeFi is as big as it is today, with as few real problems as it has. None of the choices, individually, were rocket-science. But consistently making all the right choices is, in a sense, genius.

It's rare to see someone so spectacularly wrong as paulsc is here1. It's like up-is-downism or something. No one really holds up Slashdot as a model of how to best manage a community via site-design. Almost everyone agrees that Slashdot has long been a mess, but it was a mess that it's hard to see how Slashdot could have avoided. For a variety of reasons, Slashdot is aimed at a community of people that are in many ways, the worst behaved people on the web. That paulsc feels more comfortable there than here is to his discredit.

1. It's worth noting that he was just as confidently, spectacularly, and singularly wrong in the recent plane-on-treadmill thread. That people say he's very active on AskMe frightens me. Frankly, my disinterested and admittedly cursory observation of AskMe is that many (not all) of the heaviest answerers are not very reliable at all.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:12 AM on October 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


Aside from which, if you were genuinely hurt by my use of the word "mother"—and I presume that's the case, that you wouldn't invoke your dead mother out of some petty attempt at a zing

Oh, don't be silly, of course he would, and he played you like a fiddle. He's being a complete jerk to no point that I can see, and frankly I wish he'd go spend his time on the Slashdot he loves so much and let us have our pathetic unthreaded fun.
posted by languagehat at 6:23 AM on October 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


[I unsmalled EBs footnote so it doesn't break everyone's My Comments page, I'll resmall it in a bit. xo, your neighborhood mary poppins]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:37 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


That's fine, jess. I'll try to avoid this in the future.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:46 AM on October 9, 2007


Huh. Looking at paulsc's user page and some other info about him (he's 100K /., I'm 400K), he sounds a lot like me: someone who has been online for decades, going back to BBSs and the paid online services of the late-70s and early-80s.

How he can be so wrong about this matter with that history is beyond me. It's like he wasn't aware of all the discussion about this stuff that's occurred in all these places for the last 30 years.

I've watched a lot of online communities grow. One thing I've noticed is that every online community with substantial traffic that is threaded and has killfiles has a much, much lower signal-to-noise ratio than does MetaFilter. I've never seen threading and killfiles actually solve the problems they address—they only ameliorate it once it's already gotten out-of-control. And for small sites, you don't need threading and killfiles. On small sites, they get in the way (the former) or cause confusion (the latter).

When MetaFilter has as much crap flooding it as Slashdot did way back in 1995, then maybe I'll change my mind. But, as it stands, MeFi has a very, very high stn given its traffic and large community. Paulsc's solution is a solution for him, not for most mefites. Most mefites, I dare say, prefer the flat threads and the forced interaction (and thus, a stronger community ethos and peer-pressure means for regulating behavior). A lot of the others maybe don't have an opinion, or they see threading and killfiles as neutral features that it would be nice to have available. Few of the latter group realize that threading and killfiles aren't neutral with regard to how the community behaves and evolves, and don't realize that it has a high negative cost that's only worth it when the status quo has a higher negative cost.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:03 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Slashcode, poor thing that it might be, serving only 5x+ times the hits MetaFilter ever gets, with much better uptime in the last 3 years, may not be a good example. Since it's free, as in beer, you can hack it, all you want, for the erudite sensibilities of the MetaFilter user base, which I am clearly unable to understand, in the slightest, despite 3+ years of, to use your word, "haunting" this site.

See, the problem is that that still works pretty well when I pretend you weren't being sarcastic.

That Slashcode is a name we even know is a happy accident of history. It's free, which is just super for it, but it's a monster that grew out a site that is a force to be reckoned with largely because of timing: Malda et al were running the right site at the right time to harness the shit out of a storm of computer geeks when the whole idea of a web forum was only just blossoming. Which is fantastic for that crew—and I put in my time there, too—but the end result is a site so big and packed to the gills with idiocy that they need to hide 95% of the comments that get posted—by default—just to make the goddam threads readable.

You have associated, a few times tonight I guess, the idea of community with the server-side provision of meta-moderation tools. I didn't imagine that was actually what you were going for last night, but it does explain somewhat the Slashdot comparison: you think that giant branching piles of crap that can be hidden by default is a better thing than one canonical thread taken at face value. Fine. Matt disagrees. I disagree. A lot of folks do. Maybe your argument is that anyone who disagrees on this point with you is just wrong, I don't know. You're welcome to it; I'm taking the other view, obviously.

But it's kind of a shock to me that that, and that specifically, is your idea of community. That we lack community that Slashdot has; that it's in meta-moderation that the soul of it lies; that the people interacting on this site in other respects isn't about a hundred times more important than whether or not your killfile is native software.

This is not USENET, and it's never going to be; if that's a dealbreaker, good luck to you in your further travels. But if it's not, get over it and stop being such an ass about not getting your way, interface-wise. You have the tools to have the interface experience you clamor for, even; your complaint comes down to Matt failing to make your personal preferences canonical, and your expression (however rhetorically?) of zero familiarity with any of the thinking he's done on the subject, or the discussions folks have had here on same, over the years doesn't really bolster that position much.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:07 AM on October 9, 2007


I don't know a damn thing about coding but I just want to chime in and agree with taz & abiezer. I can't stand threaded discussions either; they're impossible to read. I don't want to follow only a small part of a conversation and that's not why I'm here. In my mind, mefi is a big party where you can hear everyone's voice and everyone is participating. A thread designed the way they were in the bad old days of usenet is like being at a party with the cone of silence over your head - if you can only hear one or two comments, what on earth is the point of even attending?
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:24 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm new here, so it's pretty likely I'm wrong about things.

but it seems like paulsc's suggestion that users have the choice to view threaded or flat, vs no choice isn't terrible.

Threaded conversations seem to work on k5, or hulver.

It also seems like moderation of comments and threading don't have to be taken in together. There's moderation over at k5, but it doesn't do anything. And again, viewing it is totally an option that can be disabled.

And killfiles don't have to be included either, especially with moderators interested in banning anti-community posters.

Now if paulsc is the only guy who's been here for a while that wants this stuff, I can see it not being worth the effort making any change. And maybe I'm missing the science behind how flat is better than threaded, but so far it seems like people come up with their best guess and run with it, which doesn't seem like enough to show that one way or the other is definitively better.

so like I said, probably I'm wrong, and I'm happy to be shown the error of my ways.
posted by garlic at 7:26 AM on October 9, 2007


“This is not USENET, and it's never going to be; if that's a dealbreaker, good luck to you in your further travels.“

The best USENET groups I read and contributed to were effectively unthreaded and unkillfiled. People read mostly everything and using a killfile was a very last resort, used very rarely.

I just can't think of an example that validates paulsc's implicit premise. Threading and killfiling and such all mostly just allow viable subcommunities where the larger "community" has gotten out-of-control and is just basically not a nice place to be.

But that's not true of MetaFilter. If it were, people would be agreeing with paulsc, not disagreeing with him. It's self-evident when a community actually requires threading and killfiles.

It wasn't the key of my comment, and I only thought of it as I was writing, but I think the way to understand paulsc's point of view is to realize that he's not actually arguing what is better for most users of MetaFilter. He's arguing for a personal style of usage he prefers. Why does he prefer it? Well, maybe sustaining a larger sense of community and engaging in everyone's ideas isn't important to him.

The thing is, though, is that he can still engage with MeFi as he chooses and this lack of a feature-set is more of an inconvenience than anything else. It clearly doesn't put him off the site completely. But adding his preferred features would adversely affect most of the rest of the people who use the site in a way he (apparently) doesn't and who value the whole-community ethos which he (apparently) doesn't.

On Preview: garlic, I'm arguing that giving users those features will change the user experience for all mefites even for those who don't use them. This is also why external tools which allow these features to those who really, really want them are a decent compromise.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:36 AM on October 9, 2007


"well I would just like to say that paulsc probably has a disproportionately large number of favourites and best answers in AskMe as he is one of the most prominent and effective posters there."

Well, no. He's like SCDB—someone who posts by shotgun, and often results in three or four people coming right after him to point out how he's wrong.

Perhaps my sample is skewed, as it could be that I happen to know about things that Paul doesn't (like, say, feminism, where he's consistently more wrong than he is here about moderation), but he seems to me the very epitome of male-answer-syndrome (which I'll not except myself from).
posted by klangklangston at 7:47 AM on October 9, 2007


Must ... resist ... urge ... to attach JATO bottles to paulsc ...
posted by chinston at 7:56 AM on October 9, 2007


blasdelf, that's two "file not found" links. Waiting for corrected links.
posted by paulsc at 2:28 AM on October 9 [+] [!]


He meant to link to mathowie and pb, as you might have guessed.
posted by philomathoholic at 8:58 AM on October 9, 2007


I have a lot of faith in the wisdom of the Slashdot "community," as a whole,

Then you have far more faith then I. One of the reasons I left /. was because I was getting sick and tired of comments which were simply and utterly wrong get "+5 informative" just because the poster sounded like he knew what he was talking about. Too many people mod up the comment without checking to see if it's actually correct or not. Meta-moderation doesn't help either, because the metamoderators won't check the veracity of the comment any more than the moderators will.

Oh sure, you can post a rebuttal, and possibly the rebuttal will also get modded up, but then you just have the same situation you have in unmoderated discussion, don't you? The misinformation and the rebuttal being equally visible, so what was the point of the moderation in the first place?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:00 AM on October 9, 2007


I was getting sick and tired of comments which were simply and utterly wrong get "+5 informative" just because the poster sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

Hmmm... sounds an awful lot like someone who's taking a very vocal part in this particular contretemps. NO wonder he likes /. so much as an on-line community model.
posted by dersins at 9:08 AM on October 9, 2007


Wow, I came in to say that I was sorry for being cranky in the bike thread and that I hoped it really wasn't my comment that sent the whole thing into a spiral of loathing and snark, but now it doesn't look like it really matters much. Thanks paulsc!
posted by sleepy pete at 9:17 AM on October 9, 2007


Threaded comments are the death of true, engaged conversation in the World Of Text, in my opinion.

I concur.
posted by ericb at 10:21 AM on October 9, 2007


wait wait wait, do I understand this correctly? paulsc is saying that Slashdot has a tighter community than us? SLASHDOT?! I had assumed when I first read his earliest comment that he was trying to say that community wasn't that big a deal and that we should abandon the idea of being a tight knit community because then we could happily thread all of our discussions and killfile people. Presumably he has reasons for preferring killfiles and threads to having a tight knit community. But if he's actually saying (as the last bunch of responses to him cause me to believe) that Slashdot has a tighter community than Metafilter, that's... I mean, what do you say to that? It's like if someone says "Oh hey, I see you have 2 legs, well I think that guy over there with three legs has more of a bipedal lifestyle than you do." There just comes a point where you have to wonder if the words they use mean the same thing to them as to everyone else.
posted by shmegegge at 10:31 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Since it's free, as in beer...

Where the fuck is the free beer around here?
posted by ericb at 10:32 AM on October 9, 2007


sleepy_pete: I was checking in on this thread and am kind of greatful paulsc's meltdown happened here rather than in my post. I disagree with you about ghost bikes but I doubt I would've seen your comments and point of view if they'd been scored down by unseen moderators.

If you're ever in town, I'll let you buy me a beer if you let me buy you one.
posted by ardgedee at 10:46 AM on October 9, 2007


Paulsc posted his last 10 comments at approximately 2, 3, 3, 4, 5:30, 5:30, 6, 6:30, 7, and 8 in the morning his time.

I think we might keep in mind that the world may look a bit different to him in the near future than it did when he lit the fuse to this little string of firecrackers.
posted by jamjam at 10:47 AM on October 9, 2007


Sounds like a plan, ardgedee.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:52 AM on October 9, 2007


Oops!, shift those times forward by six hours, but retain the sentiment.
posted by jamjam at 10:53 AM on October 9, 2007


Or he's a vampire, jamjam.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:53 AM on October 9, 2007


Well, there goes the vampire hypothesis.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:54 AM on October 9, 2007


Let's not forget that there's a massive difference in size between /. and mefi. My first /. account is in the 200k range, and that was about six years ago. Mefi has barely broken 60k.

When you have that sheer tonnage of users commenting, you need some sort of algorithmic, scalable way to filter out the noise because people are uniformly terrible at it. We're IO limited and functionally single-threaded, we have the attention spans of a goldfish with ADD and we often ascribe motives, subtexts and implications where none exist. Distributing and managing this with a slashcode like metamoderation system helps, but doesn't fix it because I don't believe it can be fixed.

Frankly, human interaction is not scalable. You can't have a meaningful interaction with an unlimited number of people and technological solutions to this only get you so far. Metafilter works so well because it specifically and intentionally limits the number of people who can partake in a discussion.
posted by Skorgu at 10:56 AM on October 9, 2007


All true, Skorgu. But many communities disintegrate into very low stn's with fewer members than MeFi has. It's not just relative sizes that explain the difference between Slashdot and MetaFilter.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:03 AM on October 9, 2007


paulsc is wrong (insofar as he has a point at all,) but cortex shouldn't have been the one to say so. It -is- a sign of the decline of community when only those paid to protect it will step up. It's the Kitty Genovese problem, or Little Rock Central High before Eisenhower sent in the troops: where were the neighbors? Where were the whites who weren't bigoted assholes? Why do we always wait for the 101st Airborne Division?

Consider the role of communities in policing domestic violence. Nobody wants to go back to the bad old days of cops looking the other way and calling Mom's black eye a 'family affair.' The problem is that when you get used to cops taking care of problems, you're more likely to sidestep a thorny issue, maybe call 911, maybe, then to go next door and inquire about the shouting yourself. That's a loss, and a palpable one. I don't think slashdot is any kind of model for this, but I have noticed a shift in tone in metatalk discussions since cortex came on the job. There's less discussion of the reasons for a decision, more of a parroting of the results. The mods enter metatalk threads quickly, comment decisively, and there's nothing left for the rest of the community to do but make jokes.

To overextend the metaphor: if you want safe streets, you have to be willing to occasionally police them yourself, to mobilize shame and people power to accomplish what a police officer does with a gun and a badge. When cortex is the only one taking on the troll, that's not self-policing, and it's not autonomy. It's autocracy, which is a fine thing when the leaders are wise (and they are) and the rules are fair (so far as I can see, they are.) However, it's not the same thing as democracy, or community, or self-determination.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:24 AM on October 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


I personally find un-threaded discussion threads really irritating.

I also think they tend to force people to follow the conversation, and they also force flame-wars to happen right in front of everyone's eyes instead of off in some thread-branch. So while they irritate me, I'm with stav et al on the effect they have around here.

The idea that an online community "ought" to police itself without external moderation is a noble libertarian ideal, by which I mean it's wildly unrealistic and doesn't display much consciousness of the ways that things work in open-admission environments. Bars have bouncers, after all.

Anyway, there seems to be some missed-understanding (possibly willful) over the term "commuity." As I reckon it, this isn't, really. Not for me, and not in the sense that most people around here use the term. But there certainly are a number of de facto communities that are enabled by MeFi.

It's a subtle point, so I'll try to state it clearly: MeFi is not a community, but many of its members form communities through it. I don't happen to be one of them (not in any sense that I think is very interesting), nor I think is paulsc. But some people have come to be, by accident or choice. The key point is that there is not one community, any more than there's really just one community in any healthy town or city. If there were, I'd wager most people on this thread [sic] wouldn't want to live there.
posted by lodurr at 11:32 AM on October 9, 2007


It could be also that paulsc being an attention whore doesn't rank high enough on the domestic violence index to merit community intervention, and I note that klangklangston was at least as active in here as cortex was.

Sometimes part of community self-policing is letting someone be a dick all by themselves.
posted by Skorgu at 11:33 AM on October 9, 2007


However, it's not the same thing as democracy, or community, or self-determination.

Of course it's not the same thing as those. You know why? Because those are three different things, and by the Obvious Law of What is as Plain as Day, a fourth thing cannot be the same as each of three different things.

What's more, community exists even under the most oppressive dictatorship. Self-determination isn't undermined by rules. Democracy isn't even part of the picture.
posted by breezeway at 11:39 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's the Kitty Genovese problem, or Little Rock Central High before Eisenhower sent in the troops: where were the neighbors? Where were the whites who weren't bigoted assholes? Why do we always wait for the 101st Airborne Division?

Well, at least you're keeping things in perspective.
posted by shmegegge at 12:07 PM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you don't think there's a relationship between self-determination and democracy, that's because your education wasn't very democratic. (Quick: were the Athenians democrats? How did they select their leaders? Who determined the punishments for their criminals?)

If you don't think there's a relationship between community and self-determination, that's because you've wrongly concluded that your capacity to say 'fuck you' to your neighbor means that you don't really need her to help you pay for the services that make your life possible, or to lend a hand when you're old and need help shoveling the driveway.

And if you think that every bar needs a bouncer, then you're going to the wrong sorts of clubs. Sometimes, people just chill together, you know? Sometimes the bartender talks a drunk down rather than whistling for Fat Fred to get the baseball bat.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:09 PM on October 9, 2007


When cortex is the only one taking on the troll, that's not self-policing, and it's not autonomy.

But I'm not—we're not—the only ones around or arguing this stuff. We're never going to just not show up in threads, or reserve seating for someone to make an argument in our stead just for the sake of appearances, but it's a far, far cry from autocracy around here as far as metatalk discussion and arguments go.

But for all that, I do hear you; I've actually been making an active effort to be a bit scarcer in the front end of issue-hashing metatalk posts. Part of the visibility comes from the fact that I've just plain hung around in Metatalk for a long time now: changing my habits to be a bit less argumentative is an interesting and non-trivial excercise, and will probably continue to be. I bite my tongue so very much more than I did a few years ago as it is, believe me.

Another part of visibility on the more recent side is that we actually know when Metatalk threads are happening and can show up more promptly than we used to. When Matt implemented the admin-alert email for new metatalk posts, it was a revelation—it has been great for any or all of us to be able to respond promptly to things that actually require a direct admin-side answer, or a quick fix and close, or even the occasional really-bad-idea abortion of a metatalk post. The flip side of that is that we've all been just plain more on-the-spot whenever a thread comes down the pipe. That's meant more early involvement in metatalk threads on my part, on Jess' and Matt's. It's a mixed bag, as some folks have noticed, and I've been trying to dial that back some on my part because I hear the criticism and don't discount it or wholly disagree.

On the other hand, I'm not going to be invisible and I'm not going to just plain never respond to crap comments, even if I generally have mighty big reservations about doing so. I try awful hard to be more of a talk-the-drunk-down guy most of the time, frankly; I think it works out better for everybody involved 99% of the time. I don't even like that I got into it with paulsc last night, as lousy as I think his comment was; I don't enjoy it a goddam bit.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:23 PM on October 9, 2007


Quick: were the Athenians democrats? How did they select their leaders? Who determined the punishments for their criminals?

Not sure what you're trying to demonstrate with this, but: No; through a ballot of landholding freemen; through a ballot of landholding freemen.

Every bar does not need a bouncer. Some do. Especially on a heavy night. It all depends on what you go to the club for: The ones that don't need bouncers, they're pretty chill, alright. And mostly boring as hell.

Again, though, what was the point? Are you arguing paulsc's point, that a "true" community ought to be able to police itself and shouldn't need the services of dedicated moderators / cops / whatevers? In my experience, "communities" that lay everything at the feet of the members either end up way out of control or frightfully uptight -- or maybe just dull.

Anyway, this sandbox has monitors. We all know that. If we don't like it, we can take our roughhousing elsewhere.
posted by lodurr at 12:39 PM on October 9, 2007


... and, on postview, since the real issue is the appearance of imrporiety on cortex's part: He's not jessamyn. They have different personal styles. I don't always agree with him, but I think it's silly (and feels to me a bit robotic) to expect him to turn off his personality when he gets a badge.

I'd rather have my cops human and irritated than detached and cool and thinking they're all objective and shit. At least if they're still human there's a chance they'll have an empathetic reaction and note their own biases.
posted by lodurr at 12:44 PM on October 9, 2007


im in ur community apapring imrporietyus
posted by lodurr at 12:45 PM on October 9, 2007


there's a relationship between self-determination and democracy

Of course, there is.

there's a relationship between community and self-determination

Of course, there is.

However, it's not the same thing as democracy, or community, or self-determination.

Of course, it isn't. Not the same thing, anyway. Of course, they're related. Similar, even.

For the record, there's a relationship between good and evil. Weak word choice.
posted by breezeway at 12:46 PM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Good: But Evil, what about our relationship?
Evil: Fuck that!
posted by lodurr at 12:49 PM on October 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


"We're never going to just not show up in threads, or reserve seating for someone to make an argument in our stead just for the sake of appearances, but it's a far, far cry from autocracy around here as far as metatalk discussion and arguments go."

I AM THE CORTEX I SPEAK FOR THE MODS.

(Sorry. I thought all of the "Cortex was snarky to me, that means he's a bad cop!" shit went out with Davy, that lovable wag. And now whaddamichoppedliver?)

Aside from that, I was totally going to get all pedantic about Athens and Democracy, but since Lodurr's essentially covered it, it's not really worth it ("Were they a democracy? Well, I assume you mean 'under one of the terms of their constitutions,' and even then we have to decide whether modern notions of equality should be considered, else they be a broad oligarchy…").
posted by klangklangston at 12:57 PM on October 9, 2007


BRING ME THE HAND OF PAULSC.
posted by loquacious at 1:05 PM on October 9, 2007


KokuRyu writes "The whole school channels Heathers, and erects a gruesome roadside shrine, complete with teddy bears, Celtic crosses and potted mums that will turn brown and slimy as the days go by."

I never conciously noticed this before but it is always celtic crosses. Why?

paulsc writes "let me point out first that, despite common usage referring to followup post comment collections as 'threads,' there's nothing really 'threaded' about this place. And that promotes all kinds of mis-understandings and hilarity, that the folks at higher traffic sites like Slashdot, long ago dealt with, by adopting a real threaded discussion model, and community moderation with meta-moderation"

The flat structure is an intentional design feature. And meta moderation is a freakin' horror story only slightly less worse than the open moderation it was designed to cure. I was there, open moderation made /. worse, they should have ponied up and hired more moderators.

stavrosthewonderchicken writes "I don't know what Matt thinks about it, but I think the flat threads are not due to laziness or willfull archaism, but are a fundamental element to the success and relative smartness of Metafilter."

Yep, one that works in my view.

paulsc writes "I await your brilliance, in the form of an enhanced Metafilter user experience, in humility."

You seem to think this is television or something, prepare to be disappointed.

paulsc writes "But I do also note, that were this a threaded discussion, no one, except those experienced with the Slashdot site, would need be troubled by our back and forth."

But we want to be troubled by the back and forth, it is one of the key features of this place.
posted by Mitheral at 1:10 PM on October 9, 2007


I never conciously noticed this before but it is always celtic crosses. Why?

I've seen quite a few roadside memorials around here (central Indiana), and can't recall ever having seen a celtic cross at one--just the standard latin cross. Perhaps it's a regional thing?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:20 PM on October 9, 2007


But we want to be troubled by the back and forth, it is one of the key features of this place.

Exactly. The back and forth happens in front of everyone. So at the same time that the clothesline structure (as us cranky old farts used to call it that back in the 80s & 90s on bulletin boards) is annoying because it doesn't let you develop conversational branches, it forces you do do all your behavin' in front of everyone else all the time.

I think you get more cross-pollination and more social-pressure moderation in a clothesline structure (like this).

You probably also have a larger number of new ideas generated.

I think you are liable to get more stuff worked out to a greater level of detail in a branching structure, because people can engage one another and reach a greater level of detail. But because there's less cross-pollination, you don't get as many new ideas. It's a tradeoff.

Branched forums are harder to read, too, for the most part. You end up having to change your filters all the time to see everything, and you can't get a quick gestalt of the whole thread -- and you also can't see it develop over time as easily. Some systems (Drupal, e.g., and definitely a few others) can switch from threaded to linear mode and back.

Anyway, the point is that the flat structure has behavioral consequences. The user interface determines the way you feel about the tool. I don't like the constrained feeling of a clothesline interface, but I have also spent a lot of time on slash-bsed forums (most notably Plastic) and I can definitely see the arguments against.
posted by lodurr at 1:25 PM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Mitheral, re. celtic crosses: Isn't the Canadian ethnic base still pretty heavily skewed (at least outside the big cities) toward the descendents of Scottish and Irish immigrants?
posted by lodurr at 1:27 PM on October 9, 2007


Metafilter: I wish this place was more like Slashdot.
posted by LordSludge at 1:27 PM on October 9, 2007


Here's when I think flat threads fail -- when a thread hits more than say 30 comments, and you want to reply to something earlier on, its not very easy. When someone derails a flat thread, it's almost impossible to talk about the initial topic -- the reason you clicked on the link to begin with.

Does anyone know of any studies done on these sorts of things, or do we only have site creator's best guesses to go with?
posted by garlic at 1:30 PM on October 9, 2007


Well, what would you study? I.e., what do you want to find out?

Do you want to test user satisfaction, average thread length, number of message interconnections, ...?

Point being it's a hard thing to study. You have to conceptualize what you're looking for, first. Then it gets to be an apples:oranges thing.

Ideally, I'd want to do an a:b where I randomly split MeFites between b/a. One would get threads, one wouldn't. Then you could look at the differences in behavior.

Still you'd have the problem that people on MeFi know how it's "supposed" to look so the shock of newness would throw the results off on the threaded side. And they'd kind of, you know, notice people missing.

Someplace like the ZDNet/CNet article comment threads would be a good place to a/b test, I think. The people posting on those things don't know one another well enough to notice someone's missing.
posted by lodurr at 1:35 PM on October 9, 2007


I try awful hard to be more of a talk-the-drunk-down guy most of the time, frankly

I respect your contributions, but it's harder to talk somebody down when you're holding a baseball bat (or banhammer) and they're daring you to hit them with it. I'm not really criticizing you as cortex, just that your personal style, lovable though it is, is sometimes not the best one for addressing this kind of issue. For the record, I don't think my style is good for this, either. Maybe it's worse because greasemonkey puts a special little 'Admin' next to your name, and so, maybe it's my fault for installing it.

paulsc flamed you, and you got angry. I'd probably do the same thing. I just think this is the sort of issue better dealt with by some large number of reasonable and unreasonable non-authority figures jumping in and discussing/shaming the flamer than it is when you jump to your own defense.

through a ballot of landholding freemen

Oh really?

Seriously, though, the word 'democracy' may have been evacuated of its definition in the last century, but if you know enough to step into this argument you ought to know it's a contested term. By your argument, the US is not now, nor has it ever been, a democracy. Democracy =/= voting.

For the record, there's a relationship between good and evil.

Well, I figured if I started talking about entailment, universal quantifiers, and sufficient conditions, y'all'd start snoring. But a good point. Now with evil and good: is the relationship privation/plenitude, part/whole, weakness/strength, or excess/moderation?

Are you arguing paulsc's point, that a "true" community ought to be able to police itself and shouldn't need the services of dedicated moderators / cops / whatevers?

I said it up top: "paulsc is wrong (insofar as he has a point at all,) but cortex shouldn't have been the one to say so." Also, two member threaded discussions are less communal than everybody at once talking about whatever seems relevant, and thus us all participating in the constitution of our little republic here.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:36 PM on October 9, 2007


... but if you know enough to step into this argument you ought to know it's a contested term. By your argument, the US is not now, nor has it ever been, a democracy. Democracy =/= voting.

Something led you to believe I didn't know that?

The US is not, and never has been, a democracy, even by the blandest definition. In its idealized notion of itself, it functions as a republic.

And I'll stand corrected: Athenians made their decisions about offices and criminals by rigged lots, as described in your second link.
posted by lodurr at 1:41 PM on October 9, 2007


... also, you should know that when something is said to be decided by 'members of a tribe', "members" often doesn't mean what modern middle-class westerners would suppose it to mean. In fact, it usually means something more or less equivalent to 'free property-holding adult males.' (As often as not, you need to add "who have fathered children".)
posted by lodurr at 1:44 PM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I respect your contributions, but it's harder to talk somebody down when you're holding a baseball bat (or banhammer) and they're daring you to hit them with it.

To be fair here, no one gets banned or even time-outed in MetaTalk just for arguing with the mods, ever. Unless they are contributing in some other destructive fashion to the site (thread shitting, freakouts, threatening other users, goatse-posting) they get to stay and fume in MeTa as much as they want.

I can't speak to why mathowie is staying out of this, but my feeling is mostly that there's not really much of an admin role when one user says "Make the site the way I want it, jerks" in such an insulting non-conversational way, especially when no one else really agrees with their points.

It's a fine line determining when a mod opinion or response is warranted or even useful and I think in a situation like this it's sort of an open question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:47 PM on October 9, 2007


lodurr -- from this thread it seems like the reasons to stick with flat are
a) That's what Matt wants
b) Slashdot sucks, so we want to be the opposite of them.
c) That's what we've always done.
d) threads hurt conversations in some (unclear to me) manner.

a) is a good enough reason not to change, but if enough people wanted to, maybe Matt would be convinced.

d) seems to imply that it's been investigated and shown that threads are worse than flat. This is what I'd like to hear more about.
posted by garlic at 1:48 PM on October 9, 2007


I like that cortex and jessamyn get down off the podium and mix things up with hoi polloi now and then. It's kind of like have a drink with the bartender.
posted by timeistight at 1:51 PM on October 9, 2007


Now with evil and good: is the relationship privation/plenitude, part/whole, weakness/strength, or excess/moderation?

Best Friends Forever.
posted by breezeway at 2:04 PM on October 9, 2007


garlic, i'm not criticisin you, I'm just saying it's hard. The "research" that I know of compares different message boards, and so different populations -- so it's apples:oranges, as I said. Bordering on anecdotal.

Having spend a bunch of time on both threaded and un-threaded "threads", I can tell you that my anecdotal experience is that things get nastier when you're branched. Like, threats of physical harm. I've seen that on Plastic, and (strange to say) on ZDNet article comment threads. In a flat forum, lots of people see that kind of thing, and everyone knows it. I think that's why I haven't seen it in flat forums.
posted by lodurr at 2:11 PM on October 9, 2007


""Make the site the way I want it, jerks""

But that's how I got the Fresca fountain installed!

"And I'll stand corrected: Athenians made their decisions about offices and criminals by rigged lots, as described in your second link."

That's not what it says. The first link says that no evidence of fixing could be found, and the second link describes the history of constitutions in Athens, as written up by Aristotle. Under Solon, they used lots for deciding office holders (aside from military leaders, who were selected with a slightly more complicated procedure), and anyone could petition those courts for redress, and appeal to the whole community of citizens if they didn't get the result they wanted.

The "current" constitution provided for both lots and votes.
posted by klangklangston at 2:12 PM on October 9, 2007


Well, I'm not going to go back and check (if you want to and refute me, then fine), but one of them stated "the result was never seriously in doubt" -- that everyone knew in advance who'd be chosen.

I.o.w., they were rigged.

The larger point I was trying to make still stands: When we talk about "democracy" and raise up Athens, we're not really talking about a democracy in our idealized sense. And I still don't know what was meant by the original comparison, because I think that's the point he was trying to make too. So why the fuck are we arguing about this? God dammit you guys are PISSING ME OFF! AAAAAAHGH! AAAAAAARRRRRRGHHHHH!




sorry. i needed fruit.
posted by lodurr at 2:26 PM on October 9, 2007


To be fair here, no one gets banned or even time-outed in MetaTalk just for arguing with the mods, ever.

Well, I'd agree with that, but frankly, I think paulsc was craving a banning.

First, cortex said: "I need something to ban."

By the end, paulsc was talking like this: "Unless I get ban hammered for suggesting such."

Sometimes, police will back away from a riot because they recognize that their uniforms are actually provoking confrontation. Maybe he wanted to ruin your 'days since a bannin' record, or prove how bad a police state can be, or maybe just stick it to the man. I dunno, he wasn't making a lot of sense. Still, he didn't calm down until cortex went to bed, i.e. until the cause of his ire disappeared.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:37 PM on October 9, 2007


garlic writes "d) threads hurt conversations in some (unclear to me) manner. "
[snip]
"d) seems to imply that it's been investigated and shown that threads are worse than flat. This is what I'd like to hear more about."


Vast internet experience mostly. Put it this way: I think we can agree that MetaFilter is a great place. I'll go so far as to say that Metafilter is the top place available for wide ranging intelligent discussion relatively free of childish asshattery. Now what makes that the case? The sparse ad free design is one factor. The lack of silly crap like avatars and sig lines is another. And I'll posit that the flat comment format is the another. It keeps everyone in all discussions, including the derailed ones, on the same page.
posted by Mitheral at 3:08 PM on October 9, 2007


"When we talk about "democracy" and raise up Athens, we're not really talking about a democracy in our idealized sense. And I still don't know what was meant by the original comparison, because I think that's the point he was trying to make too. So why the fuck are we arguing about this? God dammit you guys are PISSING ME OFF! AAAAAAHGH! AAAAAAARRRRRRGHHHHH!"

HULK SMASH DEMOCRACY!

No, no, I totally agree with you regarding Athens and democracy, especially when people mention it in the contexts of pluralistic democracy, or "civil rights," or any of a handful of nonsense idealism invocations.

However, Aristotle's views on democracy are handy when what I really want are some slaves.
posted by klangklangston at 3:28 PM on October 9, 2007


Aristotle's views on democracy are handy when what I really want are some slaves.

Klang, you've already got slaves; they just like in Guatemala and India.

(My reading of Aristotle's Politics is as an ironic sendup of the notion of natural slavery. It's pretty much a non-starter for serious classicists, but it's the only thing that lets me love the big oaf. Alternatively, he meant people with IQ under 80.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:44 PM on October 9, 2007


democracy in our idealized sense

pluralistic democracy, or "civil rights," or any of a handful of nonsense idealism invocations.

I generally use democracy as a shorthand for what the Greeks called isonomy.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:47 PM on October 9, 2007


garlic, read the Metatalk archives. It's been discussed many times, and there are few places you'll find smarter, more engaged people talking about such minutiae of online experiences.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:27 PM on October 9, 2007


"Klang, you've already got slaves; they just like in Guatemala and India."

Point taken, though I think global capitalism is an imperfect allocation of slaves.

"(My reading of Aristotle's Politics is as an ironic sendup of the notion of natural slavery. It's pretty much a non-starter for serious classicists, but it's the only thing that lets me love the big oaf. Alternatively, he meant people with IQ under 80.)"

Yeah, ultimately I see it as a product of contemporary reasoning, and I'd be happier in trying to bend society toward a realization of his Good Life through the use of machines (c'mon, is there a more apt slave than a Robot?).

But at least he wasn't Hegel—that master/slave morass was one of the most dreadful philosophical justifications that I've ever had to wade through. And in the end, it felt more like something a bong-ripping highon would have come up with to justify trustifarianism ("But, like, who's the real slave, man?")
posted by klangklangston at 4:37 PM on October 9, 2007


Speaking of democracy, the Athenians also held an annual vote to banish the least-liked Athenian citizen from the city for ten years; our word "ostracize" comes from their ostraka, the pot shards on which each voter wrote the name of their nominee.

Can't imagine what brought this to mind.
posted by nicwolff at 7:56 PM on October 9, 2007


"... I think we might keep in mind that the world may look a bit different to him in the near future than it did when he lit the fuse to this little string of firecrackers."
posted by jamjam at 1:47 PM on October 9

Not really. I was watching a big BI index re-build on a client system most of the night, and had to be up anyway. But thanks for your concern!

"... Still, he didn't calm down until cortex went to bed, i.e. until the cause of his ire disappeared."
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:37 PM on October 9

Nah, actually I took my brother to a doctor's appointment, and then we rigged a new trolling motor on the john boat, and slipped it in the river for a little fishin'. The dog went for a swim, too.

As for my use of Slashdot as a UI example, I just brought it up as a pretty well known example of community moderation features. I'm well aware of the history of Slashdot, and as I said above, I don't hold it up as a perfect example of some utopian online community. I used it, because I thought many readers of this thread would be at least familiar with its use of threaded discussion, and with community moderation and content filtering. I could have picked other examples, with different relationships to MeFi, but I'm not sure it would have meant we'd have had a different discussion.

And I realized I was likely to be talking to a crowd enamored of the MetaFilter Way, since my impression is that there's a pretty small subset of even MetaFilter users who ever even read MetaTalk. If you were reading this thread, it was pretty likely that you were a regular user of this site, and I think that means it's more likely that you like the site as is, in terms of basic presentation. This is inherently a self-selected audience for the status quo, but I think I got about what I expected, in terms of consideration, in introducing my topics.

Yet, the thread topic was essentially about thread hijacking, and I tried to make the point that threaded discussion and community moderation provide potentially useful ways for limiting that. There may be other, even better methods than those, or refinements the MetaFilter community might suggest, that would uniquely extend them, at some point, for this site. Clearly, many prefer what lodurr calls "the clothesline interface," but the claims about its superiority as a system for orderly discussion development by large groups ring pretty hollow against what I've seen around here. And while aspo's call for all of us to listen to our better angels when posting might be warranted, so I thought, might different discussion models. And I don't really get the "one way is the right way, and therefore should be the only way" mentality, at all. That's kind of troubling to me, in a crowd such as this, but I put it down to defensive value rigidity, in the heat of the moment.

Software and servers make it possible, like never before, to aggregate actions of many people in near real time, and yet filter and present that information individually, and for different uses, by different people. I think people who prefer "the clothesline model" of comment presentation should continue to enjoy it, and that those who think threading might be good for their heads, should, in the long run, get user preferences that effectively support that presentation. What's divisive about that? Is it really so important to anyone that everyone, literally, see things the same way, as if that is going stop selective reading, thread steering, or hijacking? How far do you carry that train of thought, before it becomes too heavy to support? Should everybody be required to run IE7 or Firefox 2.0.0.6, at 1024 X 768? Is viewing the site in green text on a black backgroud heretical? Moreover, is it going to affect anyone's thinking? What about if they dream in Chinese? Just how "alike" must our view of the site be, before we can discuss its content?

I'm willing to wager that not a single poster in this thread reads every word posted to the site, everyday. Not even the people who run it. But the people who run it, in this very thread, say they do so better, because of improvements in their admin UI. Why is it such a stretch to imagine that concomitant improvements in the user UI would improve its appeal, rather than strike at its sense of community? To filter is human, and while filtering programmatically may be nearly divine, it need not be restricted just to site administrators.

At the risk of appearing monomaniacal, let me also say that while I generally use one, I'm not a big fan of killfiles, either, but there's nothing immoral about them, any more than there is manually skipping over comments you don't want to read, or reading threads from bottom-to-top, which I frequently do, too. But they're certainly not functionally equivalent to community based content filtering, as cortex tries to suggest, simply because, individually, there's no slick way to dynamically update killfiles, based on re-evaluations of a user's contributions by the community. But, you go to war with the personal tools you have, not the better, more powerful community based solutions you'd like to have. Hence the occasional, ongoing discussions here about the value of Favorites, etc. I think community based content filtering, (which in a discussion forum implies, if not requires, community moderation), has advantages for those interested in filtering, over do-it-yourself solutions like killfiles. I grant that's largely a philosophical position, as some have touched on above, but in general, the value of "community" to even commercial sites like Amazon.com is real, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in their case, which I think you have to acknowledge, even if you're never an Amazon.com shopper.

In the end, MetaFilter remains One Man's Web Site, and he gets to say how it works, and who works it. Moving it, ever, to any other operations model is a risk that would have to bear real benefits to several classes of stakeholders, if it were to be done. And I think, in mathowie's case, benefits that are normally foremost in a business venture, don't take the primacy here, that they might for other sites. Nothing wrong with that. Moreover, there's no reason I can see, except for back end complexity, that incrementally adding additional UI functionality need be an all-or-nothing proposition. If the tools work, people that use them may be able to zero in on interesting discussions faster, with less effort, and so their participation or, at least, page views may be encouraged. If those tools are effective in damping topic drift, or reducing noise, so much the better. It costs something to include them, but it costs something different, if the site is to grow, to leave them out. And that's probably the crux of the matter; how growth should happen, and what technical tools and site extensions support that.

Maybe TravelFilter will be a huge success, and generate billions of page views, that put money in the coffers. I'm all for it. Maybe General Foods will start buying 5 minutes of commercial time in the Podcast. Maybe there are plans afoot for IANADFilter (a celebration of homeopathic cures and non-traditional medicine), and MeatUp Heaven, too, and I hope, sincerely, they are big successes, for those interested. Such successes, though I might never use them any more than Music or Jobs, won't impair my use of the parts of the site I do frequent. Even if, through horizontal diversification, MetaFilter as a whole morphs into something other than a discussion site, I suspect that discussion forum functions will remain a core. Thus, extending functionality in that core seems commonsense.

But I ain't the BizDev guy here, either.
posted by paulsc at 9:14 PM on October 9, 2007


huh? i was hoping for more cyclist v motorist shitslinging, but instead i find people discussing hegel, etymology, aristotle, ancient greece & pluralistic democracy.

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!??!?
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:17 PM on October 9, 2007


But I ain't the BizDev guy here, either.

If Matt had've had a BizDev guy, the site'd've been sold to Yahoo long ago, gadgetated and monetized, there'd be 500,000 users, and we'd have all moved on to greener and more intimate pastures.

So, me, I'm OK with where we are, considering the alternatives. Whether Matt's happy about not having pumped and dumped, I couldn't guess.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:28 PM on October 9, 2007


"... So, me, I'm OK with where we are, considering the alternatives. ..."
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:28 AM on October 10

Fair enough. Question is, were you philosophically opposed the addition of RSS feeds? Have the addition of tabs ruined the place, in your estimation? How's all that worked out, for you, on a daily basis?
posted by paulsc at 9:35 PM on October 9, 2007


Question is, were you philosophically opposed the addition of RSS feeds? Have the addition of tabs ruined the place, in your estimation? How's all that worked out, for you, on a daily basis?

I'm not sure what you're getting at (or just being sarcastic), but just in case:

1) No. RSS feeds are not an architectural choice -- they do not have any impact whatsoever on the way one uses the site, but add an option for those who want to read it outside their browser. They are a possibly-useful bolt-on, and not at all part of user interaction with the site or one another. Philosophically? Well, that's a bit of a weird way to phrase it, but philosophically, I tend to think that RSS feeds treat what is essentially human interaction as a data source, and I'm not entirely comfortable with the larger implications of that, but that's another tangent, I think.

2) Tabs are an architectural decision, though, but at a navigation level, not an interaction one. I don't use them, because my usage patterns on the site have become quite set over the years, and only change slowly. As a design decision, they were not the worst one that could have been made, and I'm sure they are useful for others.

3) I don't understand the question. I'm pretty happy with things, me, even though I do tend to devil's advocate a fair bit.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:45 PM on October 9, 2007


"This is inherently a self-selected audience for the status quo, but I think I got about what I expected, in terms of consideration, in introducing my topics."

When in doubt, ad hominem your way to victory, Paul!
posted by klangklangston at 10:03 PM on October 9, 2007


"I'm not sure what you're getting at (or just being sarcastic), but just in case:"
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:45 AM on October 10

I'm not being sarcastic, stav. Generally, I drip sarcasm, way over the top, if ever I employ it in a text medium. See above.

I'm bringing up RSS and tabs, simply because they're analogous extensions of a UI, in accessing the site, and picking through its contents, that have their user chosen utility, much like what I'm talking about. In my case, the AskMe RSS feed let's me put an auto-updated list of AskMe Question bookmarks in FireFox, That Just Works. Hella nice, if you're jumping around in AskMe, thread to thread, as I do.

So, you'll permit me a good faith disagreement with your assertion that:
".... RSS feeds are not an architectural choice -- they do not have any impact whatsoever on the way one uses the site, but add an option for those who want to read it outside their browser. They are a possibly-useful bolt-on, and not at all part of user interaction with the site or one another. ..."
I think at least some people are reading here, that wouldn't otherwise to the extent they do, simply because they can subscribe to RSS feeds, and filter them for interesting content. So, I'd ask you the rethink your conclusions a bit, on that.

Tabs are good, but I wish I got to make user defined tabs. I use the Unanswered tab in AskMe, occasionally, after everyone has passed such questions for several days, and sometimes, I take a shot at providing an answer to the Unanswered, if I know anything about the topic. I feel a little sad for Unanswered Askers, frankly.

My point is simply that, you're not required to subscribe to RSS, or give up much screen real estate to tabs. Those features haven't changed your use of the site, by your own admission, even though you have some vague qualms about the ethical impact of RSS on True Community.

I'm just trying to make the point that incremental UI changes are already part of this site's development. It's evident that some thought goes into them, and I'd expect further extension of the UI, to accommodate content filtering and threading, to be equally well considered. I recognize that community moderation is more than a simple UI jig, and it does carry some operational commitments, that things like RSS and tabs don't. Threading, eh, not so much.
posted by paulsc at 10:18 PM on October 9, 2007


OK, I see what you're getting at, I think, but as an ex-software architect design team lead guy (no, really, that was on my business card!), I'd have to protest that we need to be careful in separating out 'user interaction with the website' and 'user interaction with other users' and that design-design and interaction-design need to be considered from one or both of those perspectives (and others) when building stuff out.

And by 'we', I mean 'they'. Heh.

Each feeds into the other to some extent, of course.

But. When you say 'content-filtering' in this context (going on what you were saying before about killfiles (which, disclosure, I don't care for at all)) I read 'person-filtering'. I think that's contrary to the ethos of the site, if not of the whole idea (idealistic, yeah) of community. I think it avoids addressing whatever problems make it seem necessary, and so those problems get worse.

And threading? I'm willing to admit that it makes my head hurt, and so I may just be making up arguments out of whole cloth when I argue against it, because that's what we do sometimes. But I nonetheless think that there are good, strong, and reasonable arguments that it does the same kind of thing as killfiling does -- fragments conversation, segments the userbase, allows (if not outright encourages) the kind of bad behaviour it's meant to conceal by the very act of concealing it.

If Matt were to offer the option of threading -- say a 'reply to' button beside posts, which would store something in the database that could be used to generate threading while preserving the default chronological we all see unless you enabled threads, that'd be fine with me, I think.

Even better might be just to tweak the CSS ids to do expose the same sort of information in the code, and let people write their own Greasemonkey/whatever scripts to do the threaded rendering client-side.

*shrugs* I don't think it's ever gonna happen, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:05 PM on October 9, 2007


stavrosthewonderchicken writes "as an ex-software architect design team lead guy (no, really, that was on my business card!)"

They let you put ex-software architect design team lead on your business cards? Why'd you ever lead a place that cool?

stavrosthewonderchicken writes "say a 'reply to' button beside posts, which would store something in the database that could be used to generate threading while preserving the default chronological we all see unless you enabled threads, that'd be fine with me, I think."

It'd have to be something that would allow for a graph structure instead of just a tree for comments that reference more than one previous comment.
posted by Mitheral at 11:19 PM on October 9, 2007


Why'd you ever leave a place that cool?

It got uncool, unfortunately.

It'd have to be something that would allow for a graph structure instead of just a tree for comments that reference more than one previous comment.

Yeah, I was just typing there, not really thinking about any possible implementation, 'cause I really don't think it's ever going to happen here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:29 PM on October 9, 2007


"... When you say 'content-filtering' in this context (going on what you were saying before about killfiles (which, disclosure, I don't care for at all)) I read 'person-filtering'. I think that's contrary to the ethos of the site, if not of the whole idea (idealistic, yeah) of community. I think it avoids addressing whatever problems make it seem necessary, and so those problems get worse. ..."
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:05 AM on October 10

"Person-filtering" isn't so bad, stav. Most of us do it, everyday, IRL, and on line. I have to; I live in a city of over 700,000 people and they all can't be my pals, not that I'd even want them to be. Online, it's just as necessary, in my view, but it can be a lot easier, and possibly even humane. Let me explain.

A lot of Mefites, including many in this thread, believe me to be an idiot. And I'm OK with that. Please, killfile me, right now, if you think I'm an incorrigible idiot. I gain nothing by being a further irritant to you. Goodbye, good night, it hasn't been nice knowing you. You aren't fun to play with, and apparently, neither am I. You'd hate how I sing Kumbyeya, and I might not appreciate your guitar licks, fully. Let's agree to do much, much less than disagree.

Doesn't mean I'm mad at anyone. Or wouldn't pick them up and carry them to a hospital, if I found them laying on a sidewalk, unconscious. I'm not sure I hope they have lots of healthy kids, but I don't think they should be sterilized, either.

30,000 user virtual communities are fairly big "places." Probably 10x+ the size of the small town in Kansas where I grew up. And even in that very small town, two blocks wide, and 2 miles long on Highway 56, there were lots of people I didn't hang with, and that didn't like me. I've been not liking people, and not being liked, all my life. It's the human condition, really. I'll probably find plenty of people to "commune" with here, and a lot faster, once I'm widely killfiled.

But, maybe, I've got some different motivations, on a site where content filtering is community based. There's a variable value to what Slashdot calls "karma," although it doesn't mean much over there. In my mind, it goes directly to the difference in what you describe as
"... 'user interaction with the website' and 'user interaction with other users' and that design-design and interaction-design need to be considered from one or both of those perspectives ..."
I couldn't agree, more. But the important difference on a community filtered site, is that I might, over time, programmatically, get "judged," and by "judged" I mean gain or lose (in Slashdot terms) "karma," based on the content I produce, not the username under which I produce that content. In some community content schemes, my opportunities become greater, if I'm more interesting, or a better human being, or whatever the programmatic weighting, and the weight of community opinion that supports it, decides.

But for those of you who want to killfile me, anyway, as a user name, please do. Or not, as you will. Ignore me manually, if you like. I'm not demanding you use community based filtering, supposing it were available, and you may be right, that leopards never change their spots. I'd probably be much happier, being invisible to you. No point in speaking to my hopes for your outcomes.

My larger point is simply that picking through content, effectively, is one thing. Choosing to engage, to learn, to discuss, is something different, entirely, but perhaps dependent on the efficiency of content filtering.

I live, now, in a city of 700,000+. Completely different set of social rules, and opportunities, than the small Kansas town I grew up in, which I again visited a couple years ago. I act differently here, than I can there, and it's no use pretending one is the other. Here, nobody cares what my name is, but they hope I'm not packing. There, nobody cares if I'm packing, if they know my name.

"... *shrugs* I don't think it's ever gonna happen, though. ..."
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:05 AM on October 10

I dunno, stav. I'm not quite ready to give up on The Management, here, yet...
posted by paulsc at 12:39 AM on October 10, 2007


I'm bringing up RSS and tabs, simply because they're analogous extensions of a UI, in accessing the site, and picking through its contents, that have their user chosen utility, much like what I'm talking about. In my case, the AskMe RSS feed let's me put an auto-updated list of AskMe Question bookmarks in FireFox, That Just Works. Hella nice, if you're jumping around in AskMe, thread to thread, as I do.

Well, no, they're not really analogous at all. I'm surprise stavros let it go that easily, because the crucial difference is really obvious: RSS does not fundamentally change the way that people experience the thread. They still experience it as a clothesline, with one post hung up after another.

True, RSS may change the site dynamics a little -- for example, it may make it feasible for threads to live longer and make it easier for a single person to read a shitload of threads. But those are not relevant to the big thing that threading would change, which is to branch small discussions out of view.

User-mod driven message visbility is a whole 'nother issue, but the same criticism holds: It changes what people see in the thread. [RSS has the hidden benefit of occasionally allowing post visibility to persist after moderator deletion.] In particular, it reduces the visibility of assholery.

We can debate instrumental solutions to this kind of problem all day, but at Miller Time we would have learned nothing other than that people game systems. They game social systems, too, but social systems are inherently more responsive than technical systems: I read an assholish comment, I call it out. (That's what you're looking for anyway, right -- user-driven "moderation"? Then let's do it like we do it IRL, by actually taking human action to do things like point it out.)

As for karma, don't get me started. I used to have karma. I interacted on a daily basis with a lot of stone assholes who had karma. Karma is a technical fix to a social problem. It's a neat experiment. And if you're into experiments, go for it. But I've already seen the results, and they are not pretty to my sight. Slash-style "karma" is basically a system that rewards the clever (which is not a compliment) and the persistent, and relegates the rest of us to borderline visibiilty. It hasn't worked on Plastic or Slashdot -- why would it work here?

(While I'm ranting, I think "favorites" should be renamed "bookmarks". That would more or less solve the whole "favoriting karma" issue.)
posted by lodurr at 6:18 AM on October 10, 2007


paulsc: My metafilter experience involves engagement rather than distance, asking rather than ignoring. So I'm wondering, are the mammoth blocks of text a deliberate feature of your argument? As in: "Just think, you could have a killfile editing these inane rants right out of your metafilter experience! Doesn't that sound nice? I'm right, aren't I?"

Because you take a long time to say a thing.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:14 AM on October 10, 2007


Because you take a long time to say a nothing.

fixed &c.
posted by dersins at 8:58 AM on October 10, 2007


Well, I'm not going to go back and check (if you want to and refute me, then fine), but one of them stated "the result was never seriously in doubt" -- that everyone knew in advance who'd be chosen.
I.o.w., they were rigged.


That quote was a quote of somebody else's theory, which was then refuted. Read more carefully.

Paulsc, it's still unclear to me why you spend time here if the experience is so unsatisfactory. And your blend of bland surface rationality and barely suppressed malevolence keeps taking me aback. On people who disagree with you:

A lot of Mefites, including many in this thread, believe me to be an idiot. And I'm OK with that. ...Doesn't mean I'm mad at anyone. Or wouldn't pick them up and carry them to a hospital, if I found them laying on a sidewalk, unconscious. I'm not sure I hope they have lots of healthy kids, but I don't think they should be sterilized, either.


First, disingenuous, emphasis yours; second, pointing-out-hypocrisy, emphasis mine.
posted by languagehat at 8:58 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm failing completely at finding the link right now, but I stumbled upon a fascinating discussion between two developers about (essentially) artificial currencies (in relation to computer resources) and how they could be used to modify behavior.

I won't reiterate the entire discussion, but the salient detail was that literal representations (you have earned 9 credits!) were almost entirely useless whereas more automatic and indirect measures (bittorrent's rewarding good uploaders) achieved actual change in user behavior. The presumed reason for this was termed (I believe) mental friction. The more thought it took a person to grok the connotation and ramifications (the longer-term the intended effect as it were), the more likely people were to simply ignore it.

Obviously slashdot is a particularly crude example of the former approach and metafilter takes an even more indirect line than bittorrent for example. I think there's room for experimenting with low-friction ways of directing interaction, and indeed the favorites system does just this.

My personal opinion is that a flat structure is lower-friction for readers while a threaded one is easier for writers. And let it not go unnoticed that metafilter has threads, they're simply not user-creatable. One thread per FPP, use it as you will.

One thing that might be interesting would be mod-created diversion threads. I.e. instead of [Some posts deleted due to X, take it to MeTa], those posts could be moved to a new metatalk thread. Bam, no worrying about the content of deleted threads, the thread is notified that a large chunk of comments have been removed, and the community knows that sumthin happened. Sort of a police blotter if you will.

Not that I'm necessarily advocating this, just a thought really.
posted by Skorgu at 2:23 PM on October 10, 2007


"... Paulsc, it's still unclear to me why you spend time here if the experience is so unsatisfactory. ..."
posted by languagehat at 11:58 AM on October 10

For the same reasons as uncomfortable seats, overpriced hot dogs, and headless beer don't keep me away from baseball games, I guess.
posted by paulsc at 5:41 PM on October 10, 2007


"... It hasn't worked on Plastic or Slashdot -- why would it work here? ..."
posted by lodurr at 9:18 AM on October 10

Because if you don't like that feature, or any of the others I've mentioned, as I've described conceiving their optional, user selectable nature numerous times above, you don't have to use it? ("Karma" isn't so optional in Slashcode.) And we've already established, in this thread, that this MetaFilter community is consistently nicer and smarter than those knuckle dragging Slashdot louts :-) So that's two good reasons, off the top of my head...

If you're right that such a system is of zero worth, and it were really true most people didn't use it, MetaFilter would be astonishingly like it is now. Except for those of us, over in the corner, who did like it, and were quietly playing nice together while using it?

Many worthwhile things have a narrow audience. The Podcast is listened to by less than 10% of the site registrants, I'll bet. MeetUps don't draw more than a relative handful of MeFi members. Interface tabs are completely ignored by many long time members. Yet, all those components of MeFi are worthwhile, to those who do use them.
posted by paulsc at 7:05 PM on October 10, 2007


"... So I'm wondering, are the mammoth blocks of text a deliberate feature of your argument? ..."
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:14 AM on October 10

Makes you wish the user name/posting time block on comments went at the top of the mammoth text blocks, making ignoring disagreeable person's rants easier, doesn't it? That would be, I think, a feature. [NOT A PONY REQUEST]
posted by paulsc at 7:13 PM on October 10, 2007


“Makes you wish the user name/posting time block on comments went at the top of the mammoth text blocks, making ignoring disagreeable person's rants easier, doesn't it? That would be, I think, a feature.”

This is another deliberate and previously discussed design decision on Matt's part. Do you actually read MetaTalk, or do you just complain here?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:19 PM on October 10, 2007


Makes you wish the user name/posting time block on comments went at the top of the mammoth text blocks, making ignoring disagreeable person's rants easier, doesn't it?

I can always tell from the writing style of the couple of MeFi users I want to skip over.
posted by grouse at 12:03 AM on October 11, 2007


"This is another deliberate and previously discussed design decision on Matt's part. Do you actually read MetaTalk, or do you just complain here?"
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:19 PM on October 10

You know, EB, sometimes you just plain fail to live up to your reputation for being particularly astute. Really, man, in a thread where I've been questioning basic design elements of the site, on the premise that the growth of the site, and the recurring issues that come up regularly, despite previous design decisions, might call for a graceful re-think of some of those characteristics, why wouldn't I bring up another one, when obvious opportunity presents itself?

Because it has been previously discussed? Where's the fun in that? And, where's the reason to re-think issues, in light of experience, if questions aren't raised repeatedly?

But to answer your question directly, yes, I read MetaTalk, like I read the Blue. I pick and choose, as I think you do, what interests me. I'd read more, probably, if it was easier to filter, but some days, more than others, it's just tiresome.
posted by paulsc at 1:38 AM on October 11, 2007


Because if you don't like that feature, or any of the others I've mentioned, as I've described conceiving their optional, user selectable nature numerous times above, you don't have to use it?

Well yeah, but the (vast) majority will use the default, and the discussion will be shaped by that selfsame majority. Not to mention that, as mentioned numerous times above, you can't have threaded and flat styles without preferring one or the other.
posted by Skorgu at 3:33 AM on October 11, 2007


Has anyone ever seen a good UI for threading?

It seems like the popular solutions are:

1) Include comments inline, but indented. This is a mess when you get deep enough, since the indents take over. You also have the problem that a comment will follow another that it's not related to at all, because it's at a higher level. So you have to go find the parent to see what they're responding to.

2) Introduce comment subject lines, and only show them. This means you only read the comments that have good subjects, or that are by a poster you know.

3) Only show "good" topics inline, and show the rest as subject lines. Yuck.

4) Only show top-level topics inline, and show the rest as subject lines. This marginalizes back-and-forth.

Some sites provide all 4 options, and they all suck.

Also, incidentally, I think threading would break the usefullness of RSS feeds.
posted by smackfu at 6:25 AM on October 11, 2007


Has anyone ever seen a good UI for threading?

Yes. It only allows two layers of hierarchy though. One is called "posts" and the other is called "comments."
posted by grouse at 6:34 AM on October 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think threading would break the usefullness of RSS feeds.

RSS feeds would pretty much have to look just like they do now. So it wouldn't break usefulness, it would just constrain it, and then only w.r.t. the threaded UI.

To your other points, there are indeed lots of systems that allow you to see the threading in different views. (I haven't yet seen anyone AJAX it and make them reconfigurable without a whole page reload, but I'm sure it's been done.) Where I see a problem is in two places: (1) when you have participants who have different views of the conversation. This isn't such a big deal when the conversation is small, but (2) it gets to be a problem when the number of participants gets large. That's when all of your UI observations start to pose difficulties.

Grouse: That's just narrow-sighted chauvinism, AFAIAC. MeFi is as it is for specific reasons that do not apply to all cases for threaded discussions. That should be clear.
posted by lodurr at 8:18 AM on October 11, 2007


lodurr: Sorry, I thought this section of the site was for discussing MeFi. My mistake.
posted by grouse at 8:51 AM on October 11, 2007


So it wouldn't break usefulness, it would just constrain it, and then only w.r.t. the threaded UI.

My thinking was that the new comments in the RSS feed would not logically follow each other, since they might be replies to different branches in the thread.
posted by smackfu at 9:13 AM on October 11, 2007


lodurr: Sorry, I thought this section of the site was for discussing MeFi. My mistake.

LOL!

Yeh, as oppposed to pre-emptively dismissing discussion of MeFi. Which is what you were actually doing. ('The MeFi way is the only good way.')
posted by lodurr at 10:08 AM on October 11, 2007


Wow lodurr, I think you are taking my comments in this thread way too seriously. I think I'm done here, feel free to put more words in mouth once I'm gone.
posted by grouse at 2:11 PM on October 11, 2007


...feel free to put more words in my mouth, that is.

OK, now I'm really gone. Continue word-putting-in-grouse's-mouth... NOW!
posted by grouse at 2:13 PM on October 11, 2007


"Wow...put more...in my mouth...NOW!"

GROUSE, WHY DON'T YOU EVER STOP EATING!
posted by Kwine at 5:58 PM on October 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Wow...put more...in my mouth...NOW!"

That's what your mom--

oh, never mind.
posted by dersins at 9:19 PM on October 11, 2007


well, what else would we expect from the ultimate invention in female pleasure?
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:38 PM on October 11, 2007


And I realized I was likely to be talking to a crowd enamored of the MetaFilter Way, since my impression is that there's a pretty small subset of even MetaFilter users who ever even read MetaTalk. If you were reading this thread, it was pretty likely that you were a regular user of this site, and I think that means it's more likely that you like the site as is, in terms of basic presentation. This is inherently a self-selected audience for the status quo, but I think I got about what I expected, in terms of consideration, in introducing my topics.

When I read the first part of this thread I didn't think there'd be any comments as self-serving as the demonstrably false ones in which paulsc suggested that his courage in bringing up this unpopular topic and disagreeing with "The Management" might get him banned. This, though, takes the cake. It suggests that the lack of support for threaded discussions is a function of everyone who reads MeTa already being a self-selected pro-status quo group, when the opposite is as (or more) likely to be true. Since MetaTalk is the only place on the site to suggest and argue for change, it would seem that the people who read it are just as likely to be more interested in change than are MeFi readers who never come to the gray.

paulsc, I think you get more favorites when you combine your particular brand of anecdotally-supported, argument by assertion with the kind of regular-guy folksiness that you do so well.
posted by OmieWise at 2:56 PM on October 18, 2007


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