We need to talk about this... January 13, 2008 10:48 AM   Subscribe

During the GiveWell hubbub, some commenters become obsessed with outing a pseudonymous troll calling itself "Rachel Tension." We need to talk about the ethics of outing, unmasking, and breaking anonymity.

Rachel Tension was linked, apparently erroneously, to "a junior academic with an interest in race," and that person received a threatening e-mail. One of our own, Catch, posed on GiftHub as the pseudonym Persona E Person, further fanning the flames of speculation. Some of the energy devoted to exposing GiveWell's fraud was siphoned off into the efforts to punish the person who told us to "Go f*ck yourself. I wipe my *ss with Metafilter. You mistake an incited mob for a community." The pursuit of truth and justice got diverted into a quest for vengeance.

Look: it's okay to out self-linkers, but not okay to out people who insult you. Phil Cubeta has asked why MetaFilter hasn't responded to his requests for a larger discussion of this, and I think it's because most of us would rather prosecute interlopers like Holden Karnofsky than long-time members who muck about on other websites. I'm not sure that's good enough.

There are (at least) two options:
1. Membership here isn't contingent on your behavior in the real world or elsewhere on the internet. Do what you like outside, just leave the roughhousing out of your Metafilter contributions. (cortex wrote: "But in general, what people do offsite is not something that translates cleanly to administrative action onsite; I don't hold any sway over how people choose to conduct themselves, nor do I want to presume that kind of influence. ")

2. The metaphorical pitchforks and torches we grab for flameouts in MetaTalk are wildly inappropriate in the wider internet. It's extremely stupid to turn community policing into inter-site warfare, and it makes us all look bad. If you do it, the moderators will suspend or ban you, just as they would if you outed a member of the metafilter to the wider world. (cf. the recent mefimail outings, etc.) (cortex also wrote: "If someone's offsite behavior is so bad, or implicates metafilter badly, it may be something that'll lead to onsite consequences, but I can't remember the last time anything like that happened, and (again, barring some clearer-cut explanation of the Rachel situation) I'm not clear that it did here, either.")

I think this conversation should be happening here, at the site of the transgression, rather than at the site that we transgressed against.
posted by anotherpanacea to MetaFilter-Related at 10:48 AM (189 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

The metaphorical pitchforks and torches we grab for flameouts in MetaTalk are wildly inappropriate in the wider internet. It's extremely stupid to turn community policing into inter-site warfare, and it makes us all look bad.

I agree, though I'm not sure what the best way to handle it from an admin perspective would be.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:54 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Has this been eating you up inside or what?
posted by puke & cry at 10:58 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bravo! Yes, if we can talk about it here in thoughtful way, I am all in.
posted by PhilCubeta at 11:13 AM on January 13, 2008


Wait, so out of the 10 to 20 k active membership here (or whatever it is), a few people spazzed and acted a fool somewhere else and we're doing mandatory self-criticism? Who's this "we" that transgressed? What's it to ya? Etc.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:15 AM on January 13, 2008


I disagree. As a community, it is our obligation to pursue and punish wrongdoers who harm or insult Metafilter or engage in disapproved activities elsewhere online or offline. Injury to third parties is regrettable but unavoidable, and ultimate responsibility rests with the wrongdoer himself.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 11:15 AM on January 13, 2008


Both cortex and I went back and forth with Phil about this issue and the end response from him was that nothing was needed on our end. I missed the Catch follow-up in that monster thread, but at the point where urbanwhaleshark had said that the person on the other site was a MeFite was the point at which I offered to help Phil out. However, I also said that we wouldn't divulge personal or protected member information unless there was something more damning than "someone who we think is from MeFi said something crappy to someone on another site." which was, at the time, what we had. I offered to be a go-between between him and other MeFites and I offered to make some sort of "hey that's not cool" statement if that's what was required.

That said, between this and MetaFlippant, there's only a certain degree we as mods can be responsible for MetaFilter user behavior on other sites. Our options are pretty much, a talking to, a timeout or a banning or an "outing" of their personal information here to people from other sites or, in extremely rare cases, authorites. We could, I suppose change policies to make these things happen.

I have other issue with the Rachel Tension situation personally which don't have much bearing here and I'd prefer not to get into but I think part of this stems from inter-community norm assessment. It's much more clear on MeFi what is and isn't beyond the pale on our site as a result, I think, of us spending eight years hashing these things out. I think other sites haven't worked that through quite as much, so when there are dilemmas (outing Rachel Tension when perhaps she thought that she was protected either through obscurity or through moderator action) they're handled clumsily and everyone gets involved in that.

I don't personally have enough time to pay attention to what is going on over at GiftHub and what is going on here. I've responded to every message I've gotten from Phil up until the last one which seemed like more of a closure note than something requiring action or response on my part.

I think there are two issues here

- people from MeFi going to other sites *as MeFites* and being jerks
- people going to other sites and being jerks

And I think we have to realistically assess when what we think may be the first case, and discussable and worth thinking about here, the second case is out of our hands pretty much. Generally, my opinion is, if someone goes to another site and tries to out someone who is an asshole to them, that is something that site's internal policies and procedures should be dealing with primarily and first. If that fails to work, talking to us is a next step if it's closely MeFi related. If someone came to MeFi and tried to out someone who is a member here, their outing comments wouldn't stay on this site. Then again, we also have deleted flames against LGF when we thought those comments were just encouraging intra-site animosities.

I'm interested in what people have to say about this topic generally, but I hope you're not looking at cortex and mathowie and I as having not done something we were supposed to do here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:22 AM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


There was no transgression. Remember why we were interested in who Rachel Tension is. Phil directed us to another blog seemingly inviting us to make the Tension/Tavern connection. And even Phil said the e-mail the academic received was not threatening; he just said it was an e-mail he would not like to have received. Please don't conclude that MeFites did something wrong, just because Phil said we did.

The cautionary tale here, I think, is "Don't make an argument from authority, while simultaneously insisting on the anonymity of the authority you are citing."
posted by jayder at 11:25 AM on January 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


I think it is basic internet etiquette that you never "out" a person, no matter how many clues they have dropped, unless they are unethically misrepresenting themselves in some way. And I would hesitate to do it even then.
posted by LarryC at 11:30 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Someone deliberately concealing their identity and someone choosing a pseudonym that very closely resembles their popular web site in the subject is slightly different. If Nick Denton posted in a thread about Gawker under the username "Nick Detante" and people started questioning whether he was Nick Denton, I wouldn't see anything wrong with it. Is this a similar case or am I missing some sort of drama that occured off site?
posted by geoff. at 11:34 AM on January 13, 2008


I hope you're not looking at cortex and moathowie and I as having not done something we were supposed to do here.

Well, I don't know many of the details of the specific incident, so I'm not interested in laying blame at your feet. But I think doing research into a person's identity is shitty unless it involves self-linking. All sorts of revelations were showing up in the GiveWell thread, and the (potential) outing of a person on another site seemed diversionary at the time. Now that the issues around GiveWell have played out, I think we should go back and rethink that micro-incident, because it's really, really troubling and (I hope) would never be allowed stand unchallenged in a less chaotic situation.

Phil directed us to another blog seemingly inviting us to make the Tension/Tavern connection.

I think it takes a lot of paranoid, hot-tempered work to tie White Courtesy Telephone to Rachel's Tavern. But more to the point, what makes you think that an insult deserves an outing? Phil 'invited' us to out her? Is that it?
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:37 AM on January 13, 2008


I think it is basic internet etiquette that you never "out" a person, no matter how many clues they have dropped, unless they are unethically misrepresenting themselves in some way.

Anonymity isn't a blanket excuse to act like a shit. If I started cyberstalking a female member of Mefi, people would be well within their rights to figure out who I am even though I wouldn't be "misrepresenting" myself in any way. I think too many people hold up the mantle of anonymity as a good in and of itself when it is only a means to an end.

Outing someone posting anonymously shouldn't be done on a whim, but neither is it the equivalent of naming names in front of HUAC.
posted by Justinian at 11:40 AM on January 13, 2008


What's your connection to all this anyway, anotherpanacea?
posted by puke & cry at 11:40 AM on January 13, 2008


In any case, I have know idea what the deal is with Rachel Tension. It appears that a lot of this occured on another site or in e-mails? It didn't even make the Wiki article on Give Well, so is this really an issue or is this the continuation of drama that doesn't really pertain to Metafilter but involves some people who became really involved in Give Well?
posted by geoff. at 11:42 AM on January 13, 2008


To work towards general understandings, let me say for the record that the comment cited above about "wiping ass" by one of my friends at Gifthub under the name of Rachel Tension is clearly inappropriate. It is way off key for my site, and way off key for this commenter all in all. It came at an emotional moment. Seeing it again on the instant replay monitor I realize that I handled it wrong as moderator. I know the person and should have used my relationship to make sure that person chilled out and said what they had to say better. That is a ball I dropped. Per a personal offline communication, the person who made that insulting comment also wishes it had never been said that way. I believe an apology was given here to you all as well. So, chalk that up as a clear and acknowledged mis-step on the part of the commenter and on my part as moderator. Had I stepped in fast, we might have avoided the escalation that led to so many issues.

Also, as a general point, but not as an excuse, volume and velocity do matter. Even a good batter in a batting cage can only hit so many balls if they are pitched fast and hard from several ball machines, and from all angles. I have a low volume site, and as noted by someone here, I personally respond to almost every comment. That keeps things pretty congenial, generally, even when we have a stranger in the house who takes us to task, as sometimes happens. In this case, I was overwhelmed by the speed and volume and frankly ferocity of comments. My systems and habits were not up to the load. The mods here might say the same from their angle. Here, though, the volume is generally much higher, I would think than at Gifthub.

So, I am with PinkSuperhero who suggests, speaking of MeFi, "I'm not sure what the best way to handle it from an admin perspective would be." I am glad, though, the subject is being discussed, and hope you will use me in any way you think best as a kind of friendly outsider, who may have a perspective that could help you reach your own conclusions. Michelle and Josh are doing that for me at Gifthub and it is much appreciated.
posted by PhilCubeta at 11:45 AM on January 13, 2008


Wait, what the fuck happened? Between Phil's pompous aversion to plain-speaking and the mountain of off-site text about this, I need a five to ten point summary before I can know whether to even care about this.
posted by klangklangston at 11:47 AM on January 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think it is basic internet etiquette that you never "out" a person, no matter how many clues they have dropped, unless they are unethically misrepresenting themselves in some way.

I understand that. But when Rachel Tension started showing her ass in that thread, Phil himself made it sound like she was a very prominent and recognized innovator in the non-profit community, and most importantly, he made it clear that he knew who she was and it didn't appear he minded if we knew who she was. His remark, something like, "she's about as highly educated as one can be and still function as an American citizen, and she's a recognized innovator in this field," was dropped casually, as if everyone at Gift Hub was familiar with her. He further said something like, "Just follow the link to White Courtesy Telephone." We get there, to White Courtesy Telephone, and the only Rachel to be found, is the junior academic. We were just doing what he suggested; does this sound like a bunch of crazy cyber-stalkers?

anotherpanacea -- regarding the Tension/Tavern thing: after Phil accused a MeFite of mistakenly identifying the academic as Rachel Tension, a quick Google search revealed that there were two blogs (Last Days of a Great City and White Courtesy Telephone) that had regular contributor named Rachel Tension and whose blogroll was scrubbed, around January 4, of a link to Rachel's Tavern. The Google cache showed the scrubbing.

Maybe the hasty scrubbing is entirely coincidental; I agree the matter should be dropped; but it certainly does not require "paranoia" to make the Tension/Tavern connection, especially after Phil himself directed us to one of those blogs when we asked who she was. It is certainly unfair to accuse anyone at Metafilter of mistakenly "outing" someone.
posted by jayder at 11:49 AM on January 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think we should go back and rethink that micro-incident, because it's really, really troubling and (I hope) would never be allowed stand unchallenged in a less chaotic situation.

I disagree. It's concerning, sure. I don't want people to look at MeFi as having a goon squad that, once riled up, will leave no stone unturned to get at their quarry. That said, I think this was an issue that had two parts, one of which maybe we could have been more responsible for

- the Rachel/Rachel stuff that showed up on MeFi (i.e. outing of someone someone else, happening on our site) should have some sort of general guidelines. Generally speaking if someone is outed here either via WHOIS quoting or with name/phone/address stuff, we remove it. That is already true. We don't usually apply the same rigor to outing of other people's sock puppets on other sites, and maybe we should but it's never come up before. Does everyone remember when Something Awful went after Keyser Soze here and we watched them put photos of his house on their website? What could we have done there?
- the Rachel/Rachel stuff that happened at GiftHub should have been, and was, dealt with locally

And, to restate

- the letter the "other" Rachel received was NOT threatening, it was not nice (and I haven't seen it and am finding this sort of a dopey semiotics exercise that no one's seen it)
- I find it strains credibility, this two Rachel thing. I'm happy not to talk about it further, but that is my opinion.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:49 AM on January 13, 2008


I'm not sure what's the worst part of this givewell event, Holden getting a kick in the pants or attracting the attention of a pompous blowhard like Phil enough that he brings his wordy bullshit over here.
posted by puke & cry at 11:51 AM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm in agreement with jessamyn in her idea that the community needs some introspection on the prospect of Mefites showing up on other sites *as Mefites* (as she puts it).

I'm not sure where the discussion would begin, and I'm not sure if this phenomena should entail consequences. But I do think that showing up on another site as a Mefite is probably a bad thing to do, and I'm looking forward to the discussion here-
posted by localhuman at 11:54 AM on January 13, 2008


I think it's pretty clear; We're already full up on pomposity here, puke&cry.
posted by Justinian at 11:54 AM on January 13, 2008


Can't you see that this Givewell stiff is TEARING US APART?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:54 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


And by stiff, I mean stuff.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:54 AM on January 13, 2008


I also agree with Jaydar, vis a vis my mis-steps, "The cautionary tale here, I think, is "Don't make an argument from authority, while simultaneously insisting on the anonymity of the authority you are citing."

As for the note that was called threatening, please let me make my position clear. When all was said and done the person writing that note under an alias apologized to Rachel and to me in separate notes. The person was quite clear in taking responsibility for the note having been out of line. I applaud the person for stepping up like that. I replied that as far as I am concerned that case is closed. I want to honor that commitment. All in all, the end result in that line of inquiry leads to honor, not dishonor. Let's call that wound healed.
posted by PhilCubeta at 11:55 AM on January 13, 2008


My theory is that Phil created the "Rachel Tension" account in an attempt to induce Metafilter into attacking Rachel from Rachel's Tavern. I'm not sure why, though. More research is needed.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 11:58 AM on January 13, 2008


What's your connection to all this anyway, anotherpanacea?

I'm a junior faculty member, much like the author of Rachel's Tavern. The notion that someone might try to ruin me because of something shitty I said on the internet is the real cause of my concern. I hope I've never said anything as bad as Rachel Tension, but it now appears that I must worry that someone here might want to destroy me with the words of a complete stranger. That's rubbish and it ought to be sorted.

It didn't even make the Wiki article on Give Well

It was completely irrelevant to GiveWell, so it wouldn't belong there. It was literally just a snarky derail at another site that some tried to turn into a witch-hunt. That's why it worries me.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:00 PM on January 13, 2008


Puke and Cry,

I am here because Michelle Moon said on my site that this conversation was best handled here. Also, I started getting hits from this thread, followed the link, and found what struck me as a good conversation, one that I had been invited to join. I hesitated because one of the issues I had been discussing when Michelle suggested I take the conversation over here was bullying. I was asking if bullying is an accepted part of your culture, and if so whether the mods are expected to, or able to, stand up to it. Specifically, I said, that I wanted to discuss the policy on bullying, not serve as the object of it.
posted by PhilCubeta at 12:01 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think for the purposes of this discussion, the personal slams are really an unwelcome derail, puke_and_cry. It will hamper any progress toward resolution, that I guarantee. Any chance you could set it aside?
posted by Miko at 12:08 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


anotherpanacea, maybe your motives are pure, but if your concern is the privacy of the Rachels, this thread is just re-opening a wound that she/they probably hoped was healing up.

Your panacea, in other words is not working.

Yes, this thread is eponysterical.
posted by jayder at 12:08 PM on January 13, 2008


Another panacea,

You well express my concern. In this case, I jumped on the offending action. I don't think I got much help from the MeFi mods. I did ask for help in two private emails, one to Jessaymn and one to Josh. Maybe I got some help in the background, but I don't think so. I got the impression that their level of concern was less than mine. (Please realize that this was now days ago. In the meantime, Josh has spent time on gifthub and we are now pals.) So, I wrote the offending person at the aliased address on the note to Rachel. I was not sure if I would get a response. I did. And the thing wound down happily. But I was left with the sense that a witch hunt (and the burning of the wrong witch) had been averted.
posted by PhilCubeta at 12:10 PM on January 13, 2008


Jayder,

The issues before the house, I think, are these: Is there a culture of bullying at MeFi? Is it tacitly condoned? Does it spill over into raids and witch hunts on other sites, and if so what can be done to turn this around before someone gets hurt?
posted by PhilCubeta at 12:13 PM on January 13, 2008


I do think this is something worth talking about. I actually like the idea that when folks come to MeFi and fuck around, the detective squad gets all riled up. It's often a response to something like a self-link, but also to general issues of scamming etc. I think it's appropriate, and an appropriate response to the anonymity of the internet, which seems to encourage certain folks to be bad actors. When someone starts to use AskMe to perpetrate their ebay scams, it's time to reduce their ability to rely on anonymity for their actions.

On the other hand, it seems like a mistake to encourage a norm at MeFi where folks where folks turn on their powers whenever they feel like MeFi has been slighted. It just seems petty, and displays the talents of members here in a bad light. Ultimately, people act as they choose to act, and I'm not a big fan of sanctions toward users here for things they do elsewhere, but I see nothing wrong with suggesting that it's not within the community norms to pull that stuff. Community norms are just that, not rules, simply the expectations of behavior that most of us subscribe to in this setting.

Several folks seem to be upset that this might get talked about or discussed, which is a bit of a mystery to me. If you don't want to discuss it, don't. Discussion need not, and in this case I hope does not, lead to any change in policy. We talk about community norms all the time in MetaTalk, this seems like a timely conversation to have.
posted by OmieWise at 12:16 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Phil, all this bullying is just an elaborate masque to point out the Folly of Fools. You see, one fine afternoon we were all reading Épître à l'Auteur du Livre des Trois Imposteurs and languagehat noted, deliciously, that it would be marvelous to "play-act" in the style of El gran Galeoto and jesus christ I can't keep this up how do you live like this
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:17 PM on January 13, 2008 [58 favorites]


Maybe a lot of us just saw what happened in the Givewell threads and realized that we had grown tired of staring at our own navels.
posted by clevershark at 12:17 PM on January 13, 2008


Optimus, got it. I had been thinking it was more like The Dunciad.
posted by PhilCubeta at 12:20 PM on January 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure who we're supposed to be investigating this weekend, but have we gotten them fired yet? Has it made the New York Times yet? Come on, slackers, to the barricades, sharpen up them pitchforks!
posted by spitbull at 12:20 PM on January 13, 2008


Ah Jaysus, not this shite again.
posted by Abiezer at 12:22 PM on January 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


So, where were we?

Is there a culture of bullying on Metafi, is it condoned, does it spill over into raids and witch hunts, and what can or should be done to turn it around?
posted by PhilCubeta at 12:23 PM on January 13, 2008


Is there a culture of bullying on Metafi, is it condoned, does it spill over into raids and witch hunts, and what can or should be done to turn it around?
posted by PhilCubeta at 12:23 PM on January 13


No, no, no, nothing, and nothing. Try being a member for more than a week.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:26 PM on January 13, 2008 [8 favorites]


Excuse my cri de coeur there.
Phil, in my experience whilst there is no shortage of internecine sniping here, it rarely amounts to bullying and on rarer occasions still does it venture beyong these hallowed server spaces. Should it do so, it needs to be provoked by some completely egregious malarkey, such as spamming by a poorly reformed Wall Street parasite.
posted by Abiezer at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


here are the high points for me:

- Someone anonymously wrote a negative comment about MeFi somewhere else
- Some people here wondered who it was, and tried to figure it out
- Someone sent a not-so-nice email to some innocent person they thought might be the culprit

On the first, I really think it's no big deal and people should really let criticism of a community they take part in go by the wayside. It's quite unfortunate that anyone even felt the need to try and figure out who the anonymous commenter was. It's really no big deal if some anon person uses anonymity to hide being some cowardly slag against a site, the flipside is much worse, where you have these stupid cross-site turf battles over pointless comments.

It's really, really unfortunate that someone sent anyone email over this, especially that they hit the wrong person. That's just so completely lame I don't know what to say about it. If the person that got the email can forward it to me and we can trace it back to a user here, it would be the thing I would take action against.

I've banned and given timeouts to users that go to other sites and start turf wars with other sites and this one. I don't remember the last person that did it specifically, but I do recall I saw a lame turf-war type of thing start and told everyone in a metatalk thread to lay off links to that site and don't go over there and post troll comments trying to incite them against us, and someone went ahead and did that and got banned from here.

So of course, I don't condone stupid behavior here or elsewhere but I think the problem is that 99% of everyone here gets that, but among thousands you're bound to have 1 or 2 people that don't read the signals or misinterpret and do something stupid like send a nasty email to someone off-site. It's incredibly rare (only happened once or twice before in 8.5 years) so I don't know if there's anything we should do about it.

Overall though, I think after 2,000 comments, the whole givewell thing is pretty played out in everyone's mind (rightfully so), and although the story at the core was interesting when it happened, it's kind of boring to rehash this stuff yet again.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:34 PM on January 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'm going to have to go with Abiezer and OC on this.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:34 PM on January 13, 2008


I don't think I got much help from the MeFi mods. I did ask for help in two private emails, one to Jessaymn and one to Josh.

With all due exasperated respect and without quoting specifically from the emails you sent me, this is not my impression of events at all. I'm not sure what sort of help you were looking for, this was my response to you
Hi Phil -- I can easily get in touch with [mefi user], the Mefi
user and ask him if he'd care to share the identity of who was sending
threatening emails and then I'd be happy to get in touch with that
person.

I would like to caution that one person's "threatening" may be another
person's harmless jibe so while I'd like to get this all sorted out,
I'm also cautious about saying "oh hey give me the person's IP address
and we'll ferret them out and pillory them publicly!" which I don't
think is what you're suggesting, but I just want to be wary of edge
cases.

I'm in New Hampshire this weekend doing primary stuff so I'm not going
to be super responsive over email but I will be reachable, but if
you'd like I'll drop an email to [mefi user] and see if we can't get the ball
rolling on resolving this in a way that is decent for everyone. Sound
okay?
The next I heard, I got an email from you and cortex related that he had gotten an email from you in the same hour specifically saying "I am not sure that you or Jessymn need to take any steps at this point." So if you're saying you did most of this on your own without a lot of mod intervention, that's certainly true. If you're saying that you asked for help you did not receive, that is not true.

And as to the topic of hand, I don't think there is a culture of bullying here. It's specifically sanctioned against on our site (see my previous comments about outing and we have other policies about harassment of users) and when people are on other sites *as MeFites* we don't want them to go harassing other people, but we have a limited enforcement range.

However, I think this is a double-edged sword where you have acknowledged that you left Rachel's harassing comments up on your own blog as well as alluding strongly to her identity, saying it was somewhat of an open secret there, and yet take issue with other similar comments on your own blog some of which we know were from MeFites and many of which we don't know anything about. I'd like some concrete ideas of what you think realistically should have been done differently and what you think could be done differently in the future.

I find it a little facile to talk about bullying which is a hot button topic without saying specifically what it is that you're referring to. We all know what Rachel said on your site about MeFi, what specific words or actions are you, or anyone, objecting to?

Is there a culture of bullying on Metafi, is it condoned, does it spill over into raids and witch hunts, and what can or should be done to turn it around?

1. no
2. I've almost never seen anything like this happen (and when we see turf wars, we act on them as mathowie said) and while you can argue that this is an exception that proves the "OMG there's bullying hiding here" rule, I'd argue that the fact that we're talking so much about it shows what a total outlier of an event this is
3. well this presupposes that the answer to #2 is "yes" which I think is debatable. I think restating that this sort of mob thinking is generally a Bad Idea and keeping an eye out for something similar happening again is a good faith effort and probably workable.

Realistically the ONLY THING WE CAN DO as moderators, short of ratting someone's personal information out to the police and/or other site admins, is ban someone's account. Having people stay in the community and be answerable for things is much more effective in the long run, though has much less satisfactory appeal as a punitive measure.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:34 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure who we're supposed to be investigating this weekend, but have we gotten them fired yet?

I say we go after "Filipino Monkey!"
posted by ericb at 12:40 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, I remember what being a drama student in High School was like.
posted by loquacious at 12:41 PM on January 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ah, I remember what being a drama student in High School was like.

Oh great, more bully-bashing...
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:47 PM on January 13, 2008


Ah, I remember what being a drama student in High School was like.

Yeah -- and you get do wear plenty of different masks, trying to figure out who you really are.
posted by ericb at 12:47 PM on January 13, 2008


That metaflippant thing is a detestable idea. That's the sort of thing that could make me leave AskMe for good.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:48 PM on January 13, 2008


*takes loquacious' lunch money, administers swirlie*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:48 PM on January 13, 2008


Okay, I've read this entire thread and I'm still not sure why its here.

From my (admittedly Metafilter-centric) perspective the topic of Rachel Tension's identity came up, a bunch of people said "there's no reason keep worrying at this, let it go" and then the topic was dropped.

It doesn't seem like that leaves a lot to discuss.

anotherpanacea writes....
The notion that someone might try to ruin me because of something shitty I said on the internet is the real cause of my concern.

And it SHOULD BE. I don't care how anonymous you think you are, a sufficiently dedicated individual can break your anonymity and bring their retaliation right to your doorstep. Note that I say individual -- the Mefi Detective Squad benefits from sharing information, but a dedicated individual can achieve similar results.

Even better, a sufficiently dedicated individual can get it wrong while attempting to unmask someone and end up at your door. I've had it happen to me, and it sucks.

It would be a better world if the internet wasn't this way, but you're asking way way too much if you're expecting Metafilter to fix that.
posted by tkolar at 12:49 PM on January 13, 2008


OmieWise wrote: I actually like the idea that when folks come to MeFi and fuck around, the detective squad gets all riled up. It's often a response to something like a self-link, but also to general issues of scamming etc.

For my part, I think that the efforts of the community in this regard are awesomely cool: the mods, Miko, and even Astro Zombie collectively outed a fraud and uncovered his other fraudulent activities. No problem there.

Unfortunately, the answer to Phil's first question is definitely 'yes.' There is a culture of bullying here: the community takes pleasure in rough and tumble talk, and that turns into bullying when someone demonstrates weakness. I don't think we necessarily need to change that element so much as counter-balance hard words with soft words: moderation in the original sense, if you will. So many of the recent blow-ups have centered around this issue, especially the misogyny threads: surely this is settled territory, by now?

The question of 'raiding parties' is a little less clear. Certainly we don't do anything like deputize members to head to a particular site and 'fuck it up.' But posters here direct an awful lot of eyeballs. That's why editorializing in FPPs is so condemned: too often it's a transparent effort to bring the collective might of Metafilter to bear on an 'outrageous' issue. But more subtle editorializing goes on all the time, and I can't see that changing. Metafilter is far from a navel-gazing self-involved community: every page is devoted to getting you out into the wider internet. That's not usually a problem, these aren't usually 'raiding parties,' just pageviews. When it becomes the other thing, moderator action has been forthcoming in the past. Hopefully, it will continue to be,

I'll end with something else OmieWise wrote: "Discussion need not, and in this case I hope does not, lead to any change in policy. We talk about community norms all the time in MetaTalk, this seems like a timely conversation to have."

Amen to that. An NYPD sergeant I knew used to tell me that the hardest, most important lesson he ever learned was that a police officer's job is more often than not to show up, ask questions, and listen to the answers: not to shoot or arrest someone but just to be there to keep gun play and prison from becoming a necessity. The same should be true for community policing.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:55 PM on January 13, 2008


Of the time I've spent here, I've noticed no culture of bullying. What I have noticed is that some individuals in the minority are often more likely to toss out an insult or a vulgarity. Frankly, some folks like communicating that way. Its easier for them to just hurl a put down than to talk civilly or simply refrain from commenting. This happens most often here in Meta, occasionally in the blue, and almost never in AskMefi. In general, I figure it just reflects society at large more than resemble some kind of site specific behavior. Its what happens when you allow a certain amount of freedom to a large number of people. When you consider the number of members (thousands) and the number of mods (3), I think it presents an amazing picture of pretty well behaved people.
posted by Atreides at 12:56 PM on January 13, 2008


This really is very high school.

I guess people need to keep the drama going!

*moves on*
posted by disclaimer at 12:59 PM on January 13, 2008


most people eventually spit the hook out of their mouths when they've been trolled

you all have been trolled by whoever racial tension might be

spit the hook out, already
posted by pyramid termite at 12:59 PM on January 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thanks, Jessaymn.

You are right that my calls for back up were rapid fire and changing, as events unfolded. Your final comment is on point with my concerns. Realistically the ONLY THING WE CAN DO as moderators, short of ratting someone's personal information out to the police and/or other site admins, is ban someone's account. Having people stay in the community and be answerable for things is much more effective in the long run, though has much less satisfactory appeal as a punitive measure.

I would disagree cordially. The first step is to set a good upbeat example, absorb negative energy, gently caution or cool those who project it, and try to keep focused on positive outcomes. A habit of rebuking insulting ad hominens also helps. (I should have done so with Rachel's comment, as I have admitted. ) Offline correspondence can also help cool things. I have tried to specifically acknowledge my own low points in this ongoing conversation, and look forward to self-reflective acknowledgments from the MeFi side. We started in that vein at the top of this thread. I look forward to working back to that kind of balanced account. This is not about pointing fingers. It is about learning from experience and creating rules, roles, and procedures conducive to a particular kind of community - one free of bullying, witch hunts, and raiding parties.

We are making a bit of progress, I think. Here and there in this thread I hear people looking to the future and seeing how much better things could be. At least you have given me this chance to voice my concerns. That is appreciated. Thank you.
posted by PhilCubeta at 1:01 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


note: Everyone needs a hug.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:05 PM on January 13, 2008


It's not sufficient to ignore them because we've all got 'GiveWell' fatigue, since there was never any connection between Rachel's Tavern and GiveWell. Even if Rachel Tension was connected to Rachel's Tavern, that wouldn't be a good reason to out her.

Phil: I should say that my understanding of metafilter puts -more- of the brunt of that failure on the community than on the mods. The three of them are busy folks, and shouldn't be expected to notice everything, especially amidst the chaos. So the rest of the responsibility falls on the community, which is "why this post is here": we can only prevent witch-hunts if we name and decry them.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:07 PM on January 13, 2008


anotherpancea,

Thanks, I will keep this in mind, excellent: An NYPD sergeant I knew used to tell me that the hardest, most important lesson he ever learned was that a police officer's job is more often than not to show up, ask questions, and listen to the answers: not to shoot or arrest someone but just to be there to keep gun play and prison from becoming a necessity. The same should be true for community policing. I agree.

Guilliani called it the broken windows theory. When a window gets broken you show up and ask questions. That alone brings the crime rate way down.

I am an outsider, so am only asking: "Are there enough cops asking friendly questions about broken windows here or has the site scaled out of proportion to the number of mods?"
posted by PhilCubeta at 1:07 PM on January 13, 2008


[note to self: your first instincts are usually pretty good, no matter how much languagehat and stavrosthewonderchicken protest]
posted by tkolar at 1:07 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


The first step is to set a good upbeat example, absorb negative energy, gently caution or cool those who project it, and try to keep focused on positive outcomes.

And we do that. We do that as well as you do it on your site which is to say most of the time we do it well and sometimes we do it less well. We also email people offline, but part of that process involves not then going back to the thread and saying "I told puke&cry to please not be a jerk anymore" (though I did, and I assume he won't mind htis being used as an example) because for these things to work, people who already feel bad enough to act up on a site they generally love and care about are dealing with some sort of issue that probably won't be helped by an additional pile-on. Giving people the room to move on (as I really wish this Rachel thing would because I think dragging her specific name out here again just makes that whole part of the whole incident fade into the background much more slowly) is really an important part of all this.

We work very hard to keep pile-ons from happening in just this way and while there are times when it doesn't work, most of the time it does. However, one of the things that I think is so telling about the Givewell issue versus our in-house one is that the moderators, while generally thinking transparency is a good idea, are not so married to the idea of radical transparency that we can't sometimes take moderator decisions and actions to the back channel so that they are more effective. To use this specific example, because I think talking in specifics is much more helpful than making vague allusions to failures that can't be pointed to. I bet puke&cry (sorry about this p&c) would be less likely to come into this thread belligerently if I had just MeMailed him and not come back here and said "hey, that is TAKEN CARE OF NOW" because then he's peered at and his actions are tied to mine in a way that isn't really fair to either one of us. He comes back here to be a pill and people glare at me "can't you control him?" and they glare at him "a mod talked to you and you're still being jerky, wtf?" and for all I know his dog died and all his friends are away and he has a hangnail.

We have to be willing to sometimes forgive people their transgressions -- by leaving them alone, by letting people heal, by giving them another chance -- so that we don't just become a room of people pointing at each other saying "oh yeah well YOU did this thing ONCE" There may be a real division between people who think there is a culture of bullying here and those who don't, but in my opinion, it makes no sense to act like there's a culture of bullying here without some real examples of that culture (more than one iffy example) and turn the moderation up a notch just in case.

"Are there enough cops asking friendly questions about broken windows here or has the site scaled out of proportion to the number of mods?"

I'll leave this to other people to hypothesize, but I think it's like asking about the number of hospital beds or something. Under normal use, 99.9% of the time, it's enough. We're a website, not a hospital, so buiding in a ton more infrastructure for total edge case scenarios [when we have limited funds and manpower available] isn't as simple as saying "we need more mods." Do you think GiftHub needs more mods, after you got overwhelmed during the GiveWell surge?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:21 PM on January 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


eponysterical?
posted by IndigoRain at 1:22 PM on January 13, 2008


Guilliani called it the broken windows theory. When a window gets broken you show up and ask questions. That alone brings the crime rate way down.

I am an outsider, so am only asking: "Are there enough cops asking friendly questions about broken windows here or has the site scaled out of proportion to the number of mods?"


9/11 changed everything.
posted by Divine_Wino at 1:24 PM on January 13, 2008


Phil -- you have used various terms here at MeFi and at Gifthub to characterize this community and its "behavior": "mob," "bullying," "witch hunt" and "raids." Personally, I have difficulty with the terms you use -- and find them somewhat inflammatory.

Regarding "community behavior," it's not as if someone blows a whistle and a "mob" falls into place, with others coordinating raiding parties to disrupt threads here and elsewhere.

When I peruse the GiveWell threads at Gifthub I see a very limited number of MeFites there. They are there as individuals...and the few (especially cortex, Miko, etc.) who are there are engaged in very balanced discussions. Your descriptions (whether they are from "Phil," the "Fool," or some other "mask") make it sound as if there was/is a horde of "barbarians" banging at the gates, ready to break through and pillor your community.

IMHO your semantics aren't helping.
posted by ericb at 1:25 PM on January 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Err: *pillage*
posted by ericb at 1:26 PM on January 13, 2008


Yeah. That's what MetaFilter needs. More cops.

And what really brought the crime rate down in NYC was Dinkins lifting the moratorium on the hiring of new officers coinciding with the winding down of the crack epidemic, both of which Ghouliani took credit for. The "broken windows theory" is just another excuse for cops to hassle poor people, IMO.

That derail aside, it seems like PhilCubeta is seeing bullying where I see robust discourse. I have been known to say thoughtless, stupid stuff, and when a fellow MeFi responds, "You, sir, are a pinhead and a troglodyte, and here's why" I don't see that as bullying, I see it as part of a discussion.

And for the record, I don't give a fuck who Rachel Tension is and what she thinks about anything.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:28 PM on January 13, 2008 [8 favorites]


I think it's time to crack down on the squeegee men -- after all they're the bane of MeFi!
posted by ericb at 1:31 PM on January 13, 2008


The controversy that wouldn't die.
posted by Dave Faris at 1:34 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am an outsider, so am only asking: "Are there enough cops asking friendly questions about broken windows here or has the site scaled out of proportion to the number of mods?"

I'm someone who thinks that this is a conversation worth having, and yet, I find your contributions, Phil, to be inflammatory. One mis-directed and poorly considered email should not lead you or anyone else to question whether or not this site has "scaled out of proportion." If anything, the opposite is true: the folks arguing that in a community this large one or two bad actors is to be expected have a solid point.

(You also have wrong what the broken window theory is, and I think tellingly. Even in Guiliani's implementation of policing based on the broken window theory, the point wasn't to ask questions, but to make arrests for petty crimes so that larger crimes would not be committed as a matter of course. I don't think we need any arrests here.)
posted by OmieWise at 1:37 PM on January 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


With all due respect...

anotherpanacea - I deliberately avoided the Rachel/Rachel thing because I felt it was a derail and not important and that thread was godDAMN long enough to get through without having to detangle the Gifthub stuff. I didn't know which Rachel was which and didn't care. But thanks to your detailed summary, now I do. And now there's even more speculation in THIS thread about Rachel/Rachel. I think you could have picked a better way to frame this discussion without putting Rachel in the spotlight again considering you seem to think the original "outing" was disturbing. I understand what you're trying to do and I can respect it but it seems like you are throwing more fuel on a fire that was about to go out completely.

PhilCubeta - I have tried, really tried, to see your side in this and I think you made some good points in the original thread about Mefi and its relations with other sites. But I really think you're overstepping your bounds here. You've been a member of this site for, what, a week? Two? Maybe you should hang around more - and maybe participate in threads that AREN'T about YOU - before you start trying to mediate community discussions about whether or not there is a "culture of bullying" on Metafilter. Seriously, I think you're a little too close to this one to be impartial. Hang out on the blue or on AskMe. I think you'll find that this is a site with thousands of active members and that sometimes things get a little heated, just like in real life. MOST of the time anything that can actively be called bullying is headed off at the pass or shouted down. Using the Givewell thread as a yardstick by which to measure Metafilter as a whole is a mistake. That sort of thing happens once in a blue moon.
posted by LeeJay at 1:42 PM on January 13, 2008 [11 favorites]


Ah, I remember what being a drama student in High School was like.

Me too. Lousy acting, black-clad, mtg playing techies, in-jokes, the best parties, and sex backstage. That's Metafilter all over.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think I have ever seen bullying on Metafilter, Ask Metafilter, or MetaTalk.

I've seen brutal candor. For example, look at this thread and read fourcheesemac's comments in response to a question about becoming a mentor.

But that kind of "tough talk" is what I value about Metafilter. It's tough talk tempered by intelligence, and usually, common sense. When things get out of hand, the moderators take care of it.

The Givewell imbroglio just happened to be a perfect storm of elements that appealed to Metafilter members' sense of outrage. Cocky, youthful, privileged founders; a blatant violation of our site's policies; a lot of fawning press coverage highlighting a focus on transparency that was flatly contradicted by Holden's subterfuge; and a bunch of his friends, on another website, telling us what jerks we were to think it was a big deal. And in the process, we all got to hash out certain ideas about the charity/nonprofit world. When you add Phil's eccentricity and Rachel's tantrums, it was all very rich fodder for a lively discussion.

It was, actually, a fun discussion. A lot of us work at jobs where we spend a lot of time at the computer, and it was interesting enough to keep us popping in from time to time, catching up and adding our two cents. At least from my perspective, it didn't feel like a "mob" so much as a multi-day round-robin discussion that got more interesting every time I checked back.
posted by jayder at 1:47 PM on January 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


I cannot believe we're on our third thread about this whole incident. Maybe it's time for a separate blog about all this stuff? Because I have no idea why MetaFilter is becoming the internet's one-stop-shop for all things Givewell.

Seriously, "we need to talk about this"? Not really.

And I like all of the people still fired up about all this, but, guys, give it a rest already.
posted by Mid at 1:49 PM on January 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


Matt: I've banned and given timeouts to users that go to other sites and start turf wars with other sites and this one. I don't remember the last person that did it specifically, but I do recall I saw a lame turf-war type of thing start and told everyone in a metatalk thread to lay off links to that site and don't go over there and post troll comments trying to incite them against us, and someone went ahead and did that and got banned from here.

I think it was this.
posted by Mid at 1:53 PM on January 13, 2008


This is the thread that doesn't end. Yes it goes on and on my friend. Some people, started posting it not knowing what it was, and we'll keep on discussing it forever just because this is the thread that doesn't end. Yes it goes on and on my friend.
posted by cashman at 2:07 PM on January 13, 2008


Mid, my understanding of this is that it ISN'T about GiveWell but about outings, community standards, etc. GiveWell is involved only to the point that the whole bit of nonsense was going on regarding it while this particular event happened.
posted by Stunt at 2:09 PM on January 13, 2008


If only GiveWell was an anagram of "clusterfuck" we'd be all set.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:11 PM on January 13, 2008


If only GiveWell was an anagram ...

"Level Wig" (best powdered and worn by a "Fool").
posted by ericb at 2:14 PM on January 13, 2008


More jizz for the bukkake face.
posted by chlorus at 2:18 PM on January 13, 2008


Nice, chlorus. Real nice.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:31 PM on January 13, 2008


Bullshit, saying that to her was NOT misogynist, so you can take your feminist theory and...

Ooops, wrong thread that never ends.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:38 PM on January 13, 2008


If you're all out of jizz and anagrams, you could just watch John McLaughlin analyze the lyrics of 50 Cent's "In Da Club" (and call him "Mr. Cent" in the process). (HuffPost video, but still worth it.)

I don't know why I thought it fit the context.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:43 PM on January 13, 2008


Cuz here at MetaTalk, we're into having sex, we ain't into making love.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:47 PM on January 13, 2008


I'm begining to suspect that Phil is engaging in a subtle form of flame-baiting here, one that uses highly rational-seeming language, but is nonetheless primarily seeking attention and -- in this case -- a strongly negative emotional response that would then back up his original claims.

This thread would be closed by now if his tone were just a little more aggressive.
posted by nobody at 2:53 PM on January 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


We get there, to White Courtesy Telephone, and the only Rachel to be found, is the junior academic.

The junior academic whose area of expertise happens to be race. It doesn't seem an enormous stretch to put together someone who chooses the user name Rachel Tension with someone who happens to be a sociologist, blogging on race -- particularly when someone actually points out which links you should follow to get there.

If anybody outed her, it seems to me that it was Phil himself who did it.

I hope I've never said anything as bad as Rachel Tension, but it now appears that I must worry that someone here might want to destroy me with the words of a complete stranger. That's rubbish and it ought to be sorted.

That's not outing though, is it. Outing is when someone has their anonymity revealed. Concern about being outed is easily countered by not saying anything publicly using your pseudonym that you wouldn't otherwise say using your real name.

You seem to be concerned about somebody making false and malicious allegations claiming that you've said something, that you haven't actually said, for reasons of malice. There's nothing really that you can do to guard against that. I've had people make false and malicious allegations about me online in the past. It's not so much of a worry when your online identity and offline identity are congruent, because people pretty much know who you are and what you have to say about stuff. The idea that somebody want to go around claiming that I've got a sockpuppet account that's really me just isn't a worry for me, because I don't think anyone would believe them. The outrageous stuff that I say using my real name is likely to be far worse than anything anybody can make up about me.

I don't think I have ever seen bullying on Metafilter

Quite the contrary, in fact. Whenever I've seen someone being out of line, rude or unreasonable, invariably other members of the community will step in and tell them so. Metafilter's strength, as far as I can tell, has always lain in the community's ability to largely police itself and act in a civilized manner. The only exceptions I've ever seen to that rule is when somebody finds themself in a whole as a consequence of their own behaviour, and they refuse to stop digging.

When that happens, it tends to be kind of hard to prevent a crowd from forming to break out the popcorn and have a good laugh, but bullying? I'd wanna see a link, because I've never seen it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:01 PM on January 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think this conversation should be happening here, at the site of the transgression, rather than at the site that we transgressed against.

And who the hell is this 'we' that you speak of? Is that the royal we? Because I certainly didn't transgress against another website, so I don't get how you feel it appropriate to speak for some notional 'us'. I'm reminded of those petty-dictatorial schoolteachers who, because one of the class acted like a dick, thinks everybody should get detention.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:24 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


...only in this case, "detention" is an optional discussion thread.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:31 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm begining to suspect that Phil is engaging in a subtle form of flame-baiting here

it's not that subtle

i wonder if he'll ever have anything to say here on a subject that has nothing to do with givewell, his site or the other elements of this whole fracas

if he's doing it to reinforce preconceived ideas he has about this site, so be it - i dare say there are quite a few people here that don't even know who he is or what he's said - and there's probably more who don't care
posted by pyramid termite at 3:33 PM on January 13, 2008


I think it is basic internet etiquette that you never "out" a person, no matter how many clues they have dropped, unless they are unethically misrepresenting themselves in some way.

It's no secret that I advocate the abandonment of online monikers all together. And so I think that if someone hides behind a moniker and lobs offensive bullshit, and aren't willing to take personal responsibility for it, they certainly don't deserve anonymity.

After all, let's not forget that it was sockpuppetry and finagling with identities that started this whole drama.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:39 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


And who the hell is this 'we' that you speak of? Is that the royal we? Because I certainly didn't transgress against another website, so I don't get how you feel it appropriate to speak for some notional 'us'. I'm reminded of those petty-dictatorial schoolteachers who, because one of the class acted like a dick, thinks everybody should get detention.

Oh calm down. This is not elementary school and you aren't being punished. The "we" is the community insofar as it espouses community norms. anotherpanacea doesn't seem to be confusing individual with collective action, nor does he seem to be arguing for collective punishment. In fact, the validity of his suggestion that this bears consideration is borne out by the "I certainly didn't do anything like that" response. If you're concerned enough to misread him as trying to smear you with a collective brush, perhaps it behooves those of us who think of this place as a community to have a conversation about whether actions like the ones that occurred violate community norms.
posted by OmieWise at 3:42 PM on January 13, 2008


*takes loquacious' lunch money, administers swirlie*

I wasn't a drama student. I just observed them.

*avoids swirlie by thrashing BitterOldPunk with skateboard*
posted by loquacious at 3:44 PM on January 13, 2008


What a pointless thread. jayder said all that needs to be said, really:

But when Rachel Tension started showing her ass in that thread, Phil himself made it sound like she was a very prominent and recognized innovator in the non-profit community, and most importantly, he made it clear that he knew who she was and it didn't appear he minded if we knew who she was. His remark, something like, "she's about as highly educated as one can be and still function as an American citizen, and she's a recognized innovator in this field," was dropped casually, as if everyone at Gift Hub was familiar with her. He further said something like, "Just follow the link to White Courtesy Telephone." We get there, to White Courtesy Telephone, and the only Rachel to be found, is the junior academic. We were just doing what he suggested; does this sound like a bunch of crazy cyber-stalkers?

anotherpanacea, you're letting your paranoia rule you; Phil, you're too close to this to have a good sense of it. Listen to what people are telling you: there may be hurt feelings from time to time, but there is no "mob culture" here. If there were, I'd leave. People are blunt and honest, and that's a good thing. I've gone through the following with some of my favorite members: gotten pissed at their bluntness, fenced with them, realized that they were smart folks and just enjoyed a good argument (as do I), and relaxed and enjoyed their company. I'm sure there are people for whom MetaFilter is too strong a drink, but there are plenty of other sites around. This place is fine the way it is.
posted by languagehat at 3:44 PM on January 13, 2008 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter: Too Strong A Drink For Some People You
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:48 PM on January 13, 2008


metafilter: there's WHAT in my shirley temple?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:58 PM on January 13, 2008


Pip, pip, Phil, a spot of tea or a Pimm's Cup? It's on me.
posted by ericb at 4:01 PM on January 13, 2008


Is there a culture of bullying at MeFi?

*takes of sunglasses to reveal blacked eyes* I just fell down the stairs, I fell of my bicycle, I had it coming, I'm very clumsy JUST LEAVE ME ALONE, ALRIGHT! YOU CAN'T HELP ME!!!!
posted by nola at 4:16 PM on January 13, 2008


pyramid, I think it might be . . . jizz.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:18 PM on January 13, 2008


jayder, I missed that AskMe that you linked above. fourcheesemac, I salute you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:21 PM on January 13, 2008


is this still going on? This has got to be the most amount of words ever expended on an utterly trivial non-event. Everyone needs to go outside.
posted by empath at 4:26 PM on January 13, 2008


Oh calm down. This is not elementary school and you aren't being punished.

Sorry, ma'am. I'll go back to my seat and put my hand up before speaking next time, shall I?

The "we" is the community insofar as it espouses community norms. anotherpanacea doesn't seem to be confusing individual with collective action, nor does he seem to be arguing for collective punishment.

He does seem to be arguing for collective responsibility though -- for comments on a site at which maybe ten people from here visited, and possibly two or three were less than civil. From how many thousands?

In fact, the validity of his suggestion that this bears consideration is borne out by the "I certainly didn't do anything like that" response.

I'm not seeking to curtail discussion. I'm simply casting my vote for the view it's all complete and utter bollocks.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:27 PM on January 13, 2008


For my part, I think that the efforts of the community in this regard are awesomely cool: the mods, Miko, and even Astro Zombie collectively outed a fraud and uncovered his other fraudulent activities.

Suddenly I feel like Scooby-Dum.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:29 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Er, Lobster and jayder, thanks. I actually regret being quite as harsh on the kid as I was.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:30 PM on January 13, 2008


The issues before the house, I think, are these: Is there a culture of bullying at MeFi? Is it tacitly condoned? Does it spill over into raids and witch hunts on other sites, and if so what can be done to turn this around before someone gets hurt?
posted by PhilCubeta at 3:13 PM on January 13 [+] [!]


Flagged as "disingenuous attempt to use loaded rhetorical questions to bait this community."
posted by googly at 4:35 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


PhilCubeta, I think you are looking for metafilter to be something it is not and something it does not want to be. There is nothing broken here. Mathowie founded this community on a cornerstone of trust and precious few rules. It has worked well for nearly a decade and has a reputation for being one of the smartest communities on the net.

We have and we want minimal rules. We consider this to be self-policing community, one that favors more free speech rather than less, even if we risk being rankled by a jerk here and there. Most here are not free speech absolutists, however. If behavior is egregious, unfair, or cruel, other members call it out even before the mods do. Members have to live with the reputation they earn - for being good, reliable contributors or boorish blowhards.

Our mods are not babysitters and few of us want them to be. They walk a tightrope and have proven to be masterful acrobats. If they moderate with too heavy a hand, the community takes them to task. They keep order and moderate wisely and good naturedly with a light touch and we love them for that.

All due respect, but to call GiveWell "a community" is a misnomer, really. You have a private blog and you open it to comments. You put forth the content and you've been successful in attracting a good readership and a decent regular crowd of commenters who share your interests. While it may not be a 100% business blog, it largely has a professional purpose and tone and you are predominantly interacting with professional colleagues. That's very different than what we have here.

See, you're hosting a discussion in the company cafeteria or perhaps a salon in your home. We're all congregating in the pub down the street. The conversation shifts depending on who's here on any given day. We know the regulars, but there are a lot of occasional drop-ins and new folks, too. That obnoxious guy at the end of the bar? Ignore him, ya he's a tad annoying, but that's part of being out in public rather than in my living room. If he gets too obnoxious, rest assured, he'll get tossed out.

I second the commenters that suggest you - or any newcomer - should read and participate in the community for much, much longer before you prescribe changes. But the welcome mat is out. I hope you do give it a try and I hope mefi works out for you. But it isn't for everyone. Some find it too fast-paced, irreverent, messy, and frustrating, while for many of us, that is the main appeal.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:36 PM on January 13, 2008 [40 favorites]


Does everyone remember when Something Awful went after Keyser Soze here and we watched them put photos of his house on their website? What could we have done there?

I seem to remember that he was a member of Something Awful, had committed some sort of Horrible Transgression there (of which there are a multitude, as Lowtax continues to make his best efforts to kill his own forum). Your points stand, though, jessamyn, and are good.

Phil, I've got to agree with others here that you need to spend a LOT more time at Metafilter, watching how things operate (and how, even as the role of our moderators is tending to grow over time, we are still to a large extent unmoderated -- something that is quite wonderful given the overall level of discussion, most of the time), if you're so inclined, before attempting such pointed Socratizing. Metatalk is always up for a good round of discussion about policies and such, 'cause we to talk about ourselves -- though there are always some people who'll say 'oh, christ, not this again' -- but people kind of do expect a more comprehensive level of engagement than signing up and showing up before someone decides to lead a round of community self-examination.

Metafilter almost always welcomes newcomers, but making critical comments about curtains and carpets are generally not taken very well until someone has spent some time seeing how things actually do work.

For my part, even though a lot of folks here have said there is no 'mob culture' here, I've got to say that I think that mobs do form, probably weekly, in Metatalk threads, and go after unrepentant rule-breakers, astroturfers, right-wingers, whoever. A lot of it is actually ironic mocking of mob behaviour (often almost indistinguishable from the real thing), some of it is really unpleasantly vicious, and it tends to be the Usual Suspects who engage in it. We wouldn't have jokes about pitchforks and flameouts if that weren't the case.

But I don't think it qualifies as 'mob culture'. It is less stupid and nasty than almost anywhere else on the web that I've seen, it is limited to Metatalk, and it has grown organically as an almost ritual behaviour, with carefully circumscribed but unwritten rules and limits over which one must not stray, out of the years of self-policing that once was the mainstay of the site when it was smaller.

In other words, although irruptions of excess happen, they happen rarely. There is no 'mob culture', but there is a strong imperative towards bluntness tempered with reasonable civility.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:37 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm begining to suspect that Phil is engaging in a subtle form of flame-baiting here, one that uses highly rational-seeming language, but is nonetheless primarily seeking attention and -- in this case -- a strongly negative emotional response that would then back up his original claims.

This thread would be closed by now if his tone were just a little more aggressive.
posted by nobody at 5:53 PM on January 13 [3 favorites +] [!]


Is he being a "concern troll"? (I've never really understood the term...)
posted by footnote at 4:37 PM on January 13, 2008


Is there a culture of bullying at MeFi?

lulz. That's really something coming from someone who's deeply invested in a conversational culture of noxious slithering mendacity.
posted by Firas at 4:37 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]



Quite the contrary, in fact. Whenever I've seen someone being out of line, rude or unreasonable, invariably other members of the community will step in and tell them so. Metafilter's strength, as far as I can tell, has always lain in the community's ability to largely police itself and act in a civilized manner. The only exceptions I've ever seen to that rule is when somebody finds themself in a hole as a consequence of their own behaviour, and they refuse to stop digging.


ditto (and well said). There is a difference between self-policing and bullying, and MetaFilter is very strong on the former and very strong at using the former against the latter when it turns up.
posted by Sparx at 4:43 PM on January 13, 2008


Oh my God.

Metafilter: a conversational culture of noxious slithering mendacity.

It's my favorite yet!
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:43 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Are there enough cops asking friendly questions about broken windows here or has the site scaled out of proportion to the number of mods?"
Obviously, there are not enough to tell you to mind your own business. You think you can hide behind your high tone, but all you are showing is your own bullying technique. This has all been very interesting and entertaining - to a point. Either you go away and vanish into the sunset or you are interested in becoming a member and you take some time to listen and read and absorb the culture of the place.

But your accusations are out of line and the more you brandish them, the more stupid you look. A lot of people around here are much more experienced than you are in running communities. I am afraid that you have mixed up politeness with permission to take the pulpit and harangue us. Your condescending tone doesn't work its magic here, sorry. Please take a break.
posted by bru at 4:50 PM on January 13, 2008


I felt uncomfortable seeing that derail about trying to identify Rachel Tension, mainly because that kind of inappropriate exchange isn't characteristic of MeFi -- or even of the Monster from the Id that is MeTa. If that thread hadn't been unbelievably cumbersome and had shown up on a regular weekday rather than a national holiday when the mods might have been trying to live their lives for two minutes, I'm betting the RT material would have been removed or at least there'd have been a stern "knock it off" warning issued. I should have flagged it, but frankly, I was just too screen-exhausted at that point.

But to generalize that this one instance means MeFi has a culture that promotes vengeful exposures or mob "witchhunts" is about as fair and logical as deciding that one of Phil's friends making hostile, insulting remarks on his blog means that GiftHub has a "culture of hostility and insult."

The only recent occasion when I've seen what could reasonably be called "bullying" (rather than just a couple of folks being chronic mean-spirited asshats) is the Infamous Fedora AskMe -- but you'll notice that there was an immediate MeTa callout to go along with it. That's what I have usually observed when light-hearted pile-ons start to go bad.

(Apropos of nothing, anybody who worries that making a rude comment on a blog is likely to get an academic fired hasn't ever attended a college faculty meeting, where colleagues routinely threaten each other's lives.)

I keed; I keed. Sort of.

posted by FelliniBlank at 4:54 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I seem to remember that he was a member of Something Awful, had committed some sort of Horrible Transgression there

I think he was a member of both places, yeah, and he posted a link to MeFi from a forum of AP wire photos that was being collected there on the downlow by someone who had that access through work. I remember watching in total fascination as we all (seemingly) sat together in MeTa and watched the goon squad collect information about him, even more than we had at MeFi, culminating in a photo of his house and some vaguely threatening (but ultimately empty) "we know where you live" talk.

I've never, ever, seen an orchestrated attack by MeFi members using MeFi as a staging area and going out somewhere to "go get" anyone else. The worst we have are the very rare "wtf is going on with this wacky story" MeFi Junior Detective Squad (and AstroZombie!) and I don't think I've seen those cases spiral out of control. Even the Kaycee Nicole thread had a few people who were calling tangentially related people on the phone and other people in-thread quickly put a stop to it, iirc. I've also seen people go comment on other blogs as a result of MeFi attention, but rarely as a coordinated event and only a few times (when MeFi is mentioned) as some way to set the record straight. As madamejjj ably mentioned, the nature of MeFi means we're all deputized to speak for this community at some level, but it also means that we all bear (a teeny bit of) responsibility for someone going out in public with a MeFi t-shirt on and mooning someone.

In this case, as I've said before, the people involved apologized. The woman involved said it wasn't a terribly huge deal and did not even herself demand any apology or, to the best of my knowledge, show up. Maybe she stayed away because she was afraid people would bug her, maybe it wasn't that big a deal to her. All I have for information about this event is what PhilCubeta has said, and the emails that I have received which I assume are from the same person. Do mobs apologize? Do bullies apologize? I'm a little leery of making any self-congratulatory or -affirming statements but I still come away from all of this thinking "huh, the system mostly works."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:59 PM on January 13, 2008


Don't forget PreacherTom.
posted by BeerFilter at 5:51 PM on January 13, 2008


...someone going out in public with a MeFi t-shirt on and mooning someone.

I say we outdo, outflank, out "mob," Improv Everywhere's 7th Annual No Pants! Subway Ride that happened around the country yesterday.

MeFites Unite!

Next weekend it's only t-shirts and bent over bare-asses on street corners in every hamlet of America! Twill be 'mob (i.e. "flash mob") mentality' at its best.
posted by ericb at 5:58 PM on January 13, 2008


I'm badly late to this (I went and had a Sunday, go figure), and I'm not sure what to add that hasn't been covered by others here or by my comments on Gifthub. Phil, I appreciate you coming over here and being game to discuss this; I do agree with much of the notion (as I've said a couple times over on your site) that there's a big matter of differing perspective and experience with the realities and practicalities of running a large community rather than a small community of bloggers/commenters.

If you truly do want to get a sense for what we're doing over here, and why people enjoy the site as a whole, I'm not sure there's any remedy except for hanging around and spending some time in other threads and whole other parts of the site that aren't hopelessly steeped in this particular situation. I understand that that might be more time than you're willing or able to invest, and that's fine, but I don't think there's a shortcut here, and barring that we're probably stuck with views of the site and the situation that are never going to quite overlap.

I've appreciated the discussions over at Gifthub over the last week, and am glad to be on friendly terms with you and yours. Hopefully I'll stick around and get to know that side of the fence better, too.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:20 PM on January 13, 2008


For example, look at this thread and read fourcheesemac's comments in response to a question about becoming a mentor.

Damn fourcheesemac, you really went off on him. Almost like you had years of frustration built up for snotty little students all ready and waiting :-)

Still, I would like to toss a little "bite me" your way on behalf of some people who would never say it themselves: the large number of upstanding, humble, and well learned priests in this world. There is more than one graduate of Harvard Divinity in my immediate circle of friends, and I can guarantee you that none of them would think your young narcissist was suitable material for a life of pastoral service.

Still, I don't think there's any danger he'll take your advice there.

Very enjoyable rant. 4 out of 5 stars.
posted by tkolar at 6:36 PM on January 13, 2008


Yeah, I regret that line about the priests.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:39 PM on January 13, 2008


That metaflippant thing is a detestable idea.

I completely 100% agree, and I can't believe that the person running the site hasn't been banned yet.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:58 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just read the mentor thread. Then watched the McLaughlin video. I hereby declare my love for FourCheeseMac.

PhilCubeta, I look forward to hearing your thoughts over in AskMe on how to get my deposit back from my landlord, whether I should get a Mac or a PC, and if it's time to leave my wife-beating, drug-doing, unemployed husband. Please also weigh in on the front page on whether Hillary's presidency would be a feminist triumph, how that YouTube video suckled ass, and how Halo 3 was actually a letdown.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:07 PM on January 13, 2008


Disappointing. Makes me wonder why I've been bothering.
posted by Miko at 7:42 PM on January 13, 2008


PhilCubeta: raiding parties ... raiding parties ... raiding parties.

I'm not sure if you're still reading this thread, but just in case you are...

What your blog experienced that day was no raid, and I mean that as honestly as conceivably possible. There was... what would you say, a handful? a dozen?... of new people commenting on your blog. There were a couple ass-hats, but most were being civil and sometimes constructive.

In the larger internet world, organized "raids" do happen. Someone finds a person's MySpace page, for example, posts a link and gets literal mobs of others to descend upon it posting extremely vitriolic crap. Comments like "die in a fire! lol!", "go kill yourself! lol!" by the hundreds. Just for the fun of it. The adolescent nature of that gives you a good idea who the raiders are.

I'd direct you to places where you can read up about it, or see it in action, yourself but... well... There be dragons. The sheer amount of meme-speak and casual violent imagery there could make your head spin. Also, trying to engage those people in conversation would possibly be the Worst Idea Ever. Doing so could result in a real raiding party dropping by your blog.

Suffice it to say that, with some perspective, you weren't raided.
posted by CKmtl at 7:53 PM on January 13, 2008


Seriously, this is some kind of alpha level special forces trolling going on here, every post from your man Phil has the breathless quality of someone jerking off while they complain on the phone to tech support. Who gives a rented fucking shit about any of this nonsense at all? It's drama queenery raised to the MTV level, if you can't fucking come, stop wanking for five minutes and go have a glass of water or something, sweet weeping, limping, muttering, jitterbugging Jesus.

Of course people shouldn't go off and be jerks on other websites, of course there is a community here that needs to hold each other accountable (frankly sometimes we seem to mainly hold each other accountable and sometimes post and discuss links), but how is that not happening? This whole situation with gifthub smells like used Kleenex.

I've rarely felt actual anger while reading or posting anything metafilter related (rarely, but not never), but this shit is fucking cheesing me off in a major way.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:22 PM on January 13, 2008 [18 favorites]


Disappointing. Makes me wonder why I've been bothering.

Wow. That is a little disappointing. Mostly ridiculous and whiny. But disappointing too, I suppose. Another day, another butthurt mask to wear.
posted by LeeJay at 8:25 PM on January 13, 2008


I am so sad that I missed this thread. I haven't been called out in Metatalk since 2002.
posted by Catch at 8:35 PM on January 13, 2008


i've read a bit of the main entries at gifthub - my only conclusion is that for some mysterious reason they have decided to assume the masks of attention seeking self absorbed narcissists

they can go whine about the mob over there - i wish we'd just stop talking about them
posted by pyramid termite at 8:42 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Several people introduced to metafilter via this givewell brouhaha were welcomed here with acclaim like they were visiting royalty, all things considered (I mean, when I showed up no one even mentioned my earrings or my dress or anything--which is typical, I mean it's been happening MY WHOLE LIFE), and they've not even bothered to see what this site is about before rolling out their grand plans to fix it.

You know what they say about moving into a new house and planning a remodel? Live there for a year first, get used to all of the rooms, figure out what works and what doesn't, and then go from there. Not bad advice.
posted by maxwelton at 9:21 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hits at Phil's sites subsided already, eh?

I don't think I got much help from the MeFi mods.

Wow.

Just. Motherfucking. Wow.
posted by mediareport at 9:29 PM on January 13, 2008


note: Everyone needs a GiftHub.
posted by localhuman at 9:41 PM on January 13, 2008


Disappointing. Makes me wonder why I've been bothering.

You only just started wondering that now?
posted by nanojath at 10:02 PM on January 13, 2008


What a fucking wind-bag!
posted by ericb at 10:18 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


ericb and Michelle, Phil has got to be PWD over there. Or he's just deranged.
posted by jayder at 10:22 PM on January 13, 2008


How much you want to bet "Rachael Tension" is really Phil Cubeta?
posted by fandango_matt at 10:57 PM on January 13, 2008


For a bright, shining moment there I thought Phil might actually be in good faith. Boy, do I ever feel like a chump now.
posted by sculpin at 11:02 PM on January 13, 2008


It's all a game to him.
posted by euphorb at 11:12 PM on January 13, 2008


Or he's just deranged.

Sexually repressed. It's hard to miss.
posted by Firas at 11:26 PM on January 13, 2008


Well, I got a message from Jess (rightly so) basically telling me to stop being such an asshole in here so I dropped out for the day. But I'm glad to see other people here share my view of phil as incredibly disingenuous in his appearance here. I'm glad other people aren't falling for his bullshit. It really irked me because he seems like he thinks he's smarter than everyone and thought he'd stroll over here and use his intellect to game people. That really pisses me off.
posted by puke & cry at 11:28 PM on January 13, 2008


posted by PhilCubeta The issues before the house, I think, are these: Is there a culture of bullying at MeFi? Is it tacitly condoned? Does it spill over into raids and witch hunts on other sites, and if so what can be done to turn this around before someone gets hurt?

Phil, what exactly do you mean by "someone getting hurt"?
posted by fandango_matt at 11:44 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sigh.

1. If there were bullying here, trust me, I'd be the one saying so. I think there's a mix of asshattery and assholery from commenters here, but it's very limited, and it's nothing compared to Digg/Fark/Something Awful. This discussions here are just more heated than you'd find in real life. It reminds me of a faculty meeting more than some sort of truth squad.

2. Why did we go over to Gifthub? I think we were really trying to understand why something we thought was a Very Bad Thing -- the hypocrisy of misrepresentation -- was being shrugged off as No Bad Thing What Is YOUR Problem? over at Gifthub.

3. The Racial Tension stuff was a classic troll-n-flame. Why did we fall for it? Probably the heat of the moment. Luckily, everyone backed off before really stupid things happen. (And I did go follow the chain through to the prof's site, but in the end I decided it wasn't her. For one thing, the description of the flamer (long history in NPO/NFP world) didn't jibe with what I saw -- a 28-30yo assistant professor in sociology. And the issues the prof was interested in, mainly race and African-American racial identity, didn't seem to have any congruency with Gifthub's discussions. I just wish I'd posted this a lot sooner.)

4. What I'm seeing now is a rolling argument between two different cultures over what amounted to edge cases on both sides. And it seems really pointless. There seems to be hypocrisy here on the Gifthub side -- the Mefites were told by the Gifthubies they don't understand the culture so you stop telling us how to conduct ourselves, but now the Gifthubies are trying to tell the MeFites how THEY should conduct themselves and maybe they should police themselves because Bad Things might happen. The Doyles both flamed out doing this. Phil, who knows? But this really is a pointless argument. If Phil had a problem with the MeFites, then he should have just banned us. End of discussion. The blame and finger pointing I'm seeing here seems to stem from a lack of understanding as to how the web works.

5. So, why are we even having this discussion? This really is an edge case, one that apparently spawned many more edge cases. This isn't SOP around here. What I'm seeing is Phil and the NFP community flopping around trying to understand what exactly happened here. And this was, as I become more circumspect about this event vis-a-vis others I've seen or been a part of, a very large discussion about a very small thing in a very small community. No, I'm not explaining any of this away. Holden reaped what he sowed. But the NPO/NFP web community is miniscule compared to even MeFi. This whole thing shouldn't have spanned 2000 comments here and 400 at other blogs. Honestly, we should have been done with this on January 2 (with a followup about the demotion). But it rolled on, because Phil and others just Didn't Get It. We're here because the NPO blogging community hasn't matured enough to be able to absorb this event without triggering a massive round of finger-pointing and navel gazing. The rest of us, those who have been around the web for 5-10-15 years, this is nothing. We've been here. When it gets ugly, we just shake our heads, say something about how the web is going to hell in a handbasket, and go look at some LOLCats for a while. We don't have to navel gaze.

6. And honestly, I'm tired of all of this. I've really pulled back from these (and other) threads because, well, I have work to do. And sick/dying/dead relatives to deal with. And it was sunny out here today. I don't see what the point of this discussion actually is, other than the picked over leftovers from the original Giftwell thread intermingled with some hand-wringing and rehashed discussions I haven't seen on the Internet since... 2001?

7. Really, Phil. Enough. We get it. Too well, in fact. I'm tired. We're all tired. Regardless of whether the scalpel is meant to "hurt or heal," you can still sue the doctor for malpractice either way. Enough already. Learn how we work, or learn how the web in 2008 works, but just give it a rest. You're burning through your social capital here like it's 10 below in Dallas tonight.
posted by dw at 11:46 PM on January 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


posted by dw 5. So, why are we even having this discussion? This really is an edge case, one that apparently spawned many more edge cases. This isn't SOP around here. What I'm seeing is Phil and the NFP community flopping around trying to understand what exactly happened here.

What I'm seeing is Phil enjoying lots of fresh web traffic just because someone said something mean somewhere else but we're somehow responsible or involved.

posted by ericb I say we outdo, outflank, out "mob," Improv Everywhere's 7th Annual No Pants! Subway Ride that happened around the country yesterday. MeFites Unite!

Clearly what we need are bright blue boxer shorts with the MetaFilter logo and [more inside] emblazoned across the ass.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:05 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Clearly what we need are bright blue boxer shorts with the MetaFilter logo and [more inside] emblazoned across the ass.

fandango_matt the "more inside" will be emblazoned across the front of my blue boxer shorts.

Not that there is anything wrong with your plan...
posted by arse_hat at 12:11 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The next person who says there is bullying at Metafilter gets their ass kicked and their milk money stolen. And, if I can find a locker, they may get stuffed in it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:20 AM on January 14, 2008


Is Phil the world's most boring agent provocateur, or what?

Miko and cortex, you're wasting your good faith; he's jogging for a flogging, and if he can't get it here by making transparent attempts to conjure the "mob" attention he is seeking, he goes back to pathetic come-ons on his own site, hoping against hope for a little hot raiding action. Bah and meh. Beh.
posted by taz at 1:36 AM on January 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


You know, it would be the opposite of a raid if everyone has been commenting at gifthub gave up and quietly left.
posted by maxwelton at 2:01 AM on January 14, 2008


I'm switching sides. Somebody give me a goddamn pitchfork over here.

I think Phil was meaning to be funny (I think), but that was just annoying.

(On the other hand, if he was intending to be annoying, well: mission accomplished!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:01 AM on January 14, 2008


"who has been", "quietly left gifthub", etc.. Just keep adding words until my previous comment makes some sort of sense.
posted by maxwelton at 2:03 AM on January 14, 2008




The sad part is that the gentleman is in the mould of the Alpha Attention Whore: not only is he a one-man carnival of immaturity and irresponsibility, but he's a parasite on the whole affair at hand. What does he have to do with GiveWell anyway? I'm waiting for Miko to be all like, "I know Holden Karnofsky. I criticized Holden Karnofsky. Holden Karnofsky had some reflective integrity. You, Cubeta, are no Holden Karnofsky."
posted by Firas at 2:33 AM on January 14, 2008


i liked the whole dhoyt thing better - it was much more interesting imho.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:50 AM on January 14, 2008


Some context on sgt.serenity's comment. Now that *was* far more interesting.
posted by gsb at 4:08 AM on January 14, 2008


I'm sure dhoyt's newer sockpuppets don't think so.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:55 AM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Boy, if there is anything singularly less attractive than an adult professional man assuming the role of a transvestite dominatrix to play the dance of the seven veils with a community of 65,000, I don't know what it is.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:51 AM on January 14, 2008 [21 favorites]


Phil may rank high in knowledge but exhibits a deficit of understanding.
posted by ersatz at 6:03 AM on January 14, 2008


I think Phil was meaning to be funny (I think), but that was just annoying.

Ditto.
posted by languagehat at 6:37 AM on January 14, 2008


Please someone put this thread out of its misery.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:51 AM on January 14, 2008


I think walking away is the best course of action here. Eesh.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:09 AM on January 14, 2008


Have you guys seen the guy almost 300 videos on YouTube of himself dancing in public places? So, is that worth a front page post or not? I'm so torn.

He even has one for Phil.
posted by mediareport at 7:48 AM on January 14, 2008


"Vee vant ze Ban-hammer, mathowie."

"You don't have the fucking email, dipshits. We know you never did. So you've got nothin' on my Johnson."

"Vee don't care. Vee still vant ze Ban-hammer or vee fuck you up."

"Fuck you. Fuck the lot of you. There's no Ban-hammer if you don't have a fucking threatening email. That's what Banination is. Those are the fucking rules. "

"But, we started this whole new MetaTalk thread. It's not fair!
posted by euphorb at 7:53 AM on January 14, 2008


Though I might agree, and appreciate the Lebowski reference, I'm not sure how helpful saying it aloud is...
posted by localhuman at 8:10 AM on January 14, 2008


At this point, I imagine it's safe to say that Phil's greatest contribution to MetaFilter will turn out to be five dollars.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:13 AM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Would that he--Phil of the noble trade, who is ever thus a pastiche of Sloterdijk and Theo of Odiou--cognize the pith of such an appleation, I would gaily proffer unto him the only sobriquet befitting his sublimity: douchebag.
posted by dios at 8:28 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Eh. I don't think it's really necessary for us to continue to pile epithets on the guy. Suffice it to say he's managed to achieve quite a bit of notoriety here in a very short time, and maybe leave it at that. To continue to insult the guy reflects worse on us than what he's already managed to do to himself.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:37 AM on January 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


I remain pretty much not a fan of Phil's particular style choices, but, yeah. Let's drop it, maybe.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:45 AM on January 14, 2008


Rather obviously, Phil needed to whack the hornet's nest once more, because his temporary bounce of hits on his blog started to wane. Considering how this whole thing started, that's more than a little ironic.
posted by norm at 8:47 AM on January 14, 2008


To continue to insult the guy reflects worse on us than what he's already managed to do to himself.

I dunno, it feels like everyone who's participated in these threads should get one swing at the pinata. It's cathartic.
posted by tkolar at 8:55 AM on January 14, 2008


Did you guys hear the news about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi? I never would have dreamt it, but there is actually a "MAHARISHI TV" channel available here on my satellite.

They are celebrating 50 years of the Maharishi's work. He has apparently declared "Mission Accomplished", and all of his Rajas and Pundits and Ministers and Country Directors are singing his praises, 24/7 - don't take my word for it, see for yourself.

I wasn't aware until I started watching a few days ago, but apparently perfect and everlasting universal peace has blossomed here on earth, all thanks to this one guy and his followers! You'd think the MSM would have picked that up?
posted by Meatbomb at 9:04 AM on January 14, 2008


All I'm saying is that the noble traditions of irony, satire, and épater le bourgeois have suddenly been made ignoble by this pompous son of yack.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:09 AM on January 14, 2008


everyone who's participated in these threads should get one swing at the pinata. It's cathartic.

especially when you discover the pinata's been filled with stale fortune cookies and paper bags with crayoned faces and holes where the eyes should go

somehow, we've managed to penetrate into what seems to be a rather inbred, self-referential social scene of people who are nowhere as brilliant or satirical as they believe they are - they place one mirror to another and go down the recursive rabbit hole of reflected frames until they run out of light and gnash their teeth in the inner darkness of their own inflicted irony

it's like gertrude stein's description of oakland - there's no "there there"

and to think that this is what we are offered as this country's best and brightest - a philanthropic elite who are more motivated by self-amusement and perception of their status than they are of getting anything helpful done

it's the same mindset that can cause a fema director like mike brown to ask about his wardrobe and his dog while an american city suffers a historic catastrophe

it's the same mindset that can cause a president to pose in front of a "mission accomplished" banner when hell is about to break loose in the country he's liberated

it's the same mindset that creates the great piles of paper that represent billions of dollars in sub-prime mortgages - only to turn into useless piles of paper

it's the same mindset that creates desolation where thriving communities of factory workers used to be, because it means nothing that your country's becoming unlivable or the company you lead is heading down the tubes as long as you're getting your bonus for the year

yes, this has been quite educational - it's a nice look at how the privileged and the powerful conduct themselves - at how our "best and brightest" behave

my god, are we ever fucked
posted by pyramid termite at 9:17 AM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


This all reminds me of secret note passing in the junior high school cafeteria.
posted by mrbill at 9:27 AM on January 14, 2008


*slams mrbill against the locker* Give me your fuckin' lunch money! Now!
posted by ericb at 9:35 AM on January 14, 2008


The fish is in Phil's pants now.
posted by chlorus at 9:57 AM on January 14, 2008


Look, I think Phil's a well meaning guy and all, but can you imagine how ruffled he'd be right now if Holden Karnofsky had been caught astroturfing SomethingAwful.com? Right now Phil seems like landed gentry at the races when Eliza Doolittle refers to a horse's "bleedin' arse." But shit, if we're Eliza Doolittle, then somethingawful would have been some kind of psychotic drifter wandering in to pound a six pack, let loose a nose-thumbing fart and kicking some dude in the nuts while screaming "Tequila! Da dut dada dadut dut dut!"
posted by shmegegge at 10:01 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Honestly, is there any reason to keep this thread open, other than to pile on or wait for the anti-bullying vigilantes to give ericb such an Atomic Wedgie that he'll be sitting down to pee for the next month?

I think we're done here.
posted by dw at 10:12 AM on January 14, 2008


yeah I was hoping anaotherpanacea would come back and we could have a MeFi discussion instead of what this turned into. But that's not what happened.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:15 AM on January 14, 2008


Reading these two threads was a huge waste of time. The only remotely worthwhile part was FelliniBlank's Forbidden Planet reference.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:24 AM on January 14, 2008


This morning, as I rubbed sleep from my eyes, I considered the day ahead. Grey, lonely, quiet, empty hopelessness awaited me. Raising the blinds did nothing to brighten the room or my mood.

Even a smile and a deep cup of brewed coffee from the Brazilian girl under the elevated train couldn't lift my trampled spirits. I thought about a cigarette and then punished myself with a set of pushups instead.

I shaved for the first time in days. My clean wet mentholated chin shone pink and soft under my false grin as I brushed and flossed and my gums bled red lines down the sides of my canines. I thought about being beaten to death, and wondered if, after a few hard hits with a bat or a boot, the pain ever assumed the full-body, shocking, heavy weight it does when you fly over the handlebars of your bike onto pavement, or trip off the roof of your house onto the carpark. Or does the fear of the activity heighten sensation? Do you feel each hit seperately or even incrementally until function ceases and even the instinct to protect yourself fails?

Days like today, I'd like to be beaten to death, or thrown off a bridge, if only to know how far the pain goes before everything is gone.

There's this feeling people have that tells them, if they have been picked on for something, that they're sensitive to that sort of thing and can't possibly pick on someone else for that thing: if you've been a target of racism you can't be racist; if you've been a target of sexism you can't be sexist.

The same mediocre thinking leads us to the belief that those who've been bullied know from bullying, and never bully others. This is pernicious bullshit: those smart people who were bullied as kids often team up and bully others as adults.

It's not the same bullying. With kids, at least in America (I know Japan to be different and assume there are differences the world over), a bully or a few bullies terrorize a whole class. With adults, far more often a group bullies a single person. Frequently this group is made up of folks who were bullied when young and who now have their day in the sun.

It happens here a lot, where a group of people who all agree target someone with whom they disagree and, bolstered by the ring of kicks provided by the like-minded, ratchet up the stakes far disproportionately to the weight of the matter at hand and deliver a beatdown to the dissenter.

If you see what you consider a gratuitous swipe in a thread, look closely at why it's gratuitous, and you'll see bullying. If you see a pile-on, look closely and you'll see a pile of folks who just can't resist bullying.

And if you justify the pile-ons and gratuitous swipes as well-deserved punishments for an obnoxious poster, remember that kid in fifth grade who shit his pants before lunch and how he was a thief and a trash-talker, but it still wasn't fair when you all made him cry at recess because the school nurse gave him a pair of green Toughskins to wear, and when he wore them the next day because hand-me-downs were more valuable than food stamps, you teased him again until he fought back and you could all get a lick in on him because he started it, and he was the only one punished because he threw the first punch.

A funny thing happened: you were ashamed of it then, but you aren't anymore.

I'm a hypocrite. That's the least of my worries. I change every day, and I try for these changes to reflect what I've learned. Does it feel worse to be beaten to death or to slam hard into the ground from height?

Not everyone's the same, and not everyone who swipes gratuitously or piles on is a bully. But many of you are bullies, and are as seemingly incapable of self-reflection or -correction as you were in fifth grade. Some of you are that most loathsome sort who waits for the teacher to scold and then jumps on the bandwagon.

All of these things are as bad as their target. In a way, I think it's worse to be a righteous adult bully: since you parrot the party line, the only folks who criticize you are outliers, easy to ignore and maybe part of the problem.

The real problem is people being dicks: being a dick to a dick makes you a dick. Being a dick myself, and one who has been and probably will again be a bully, I know this well.

I can only try to stop it in myself, and that fact is depressing to me, and maybe that's why I woke up thinking about violent death.

Such is life.
posted by breezeway at 10:42 AM on January 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


The real problem is people being dicks: being a dick to a dick makes you a dick.

This, unfortunately, is the truth. Sometimes I revel in it and sometimes I abhor it. Sounds like you do the same, breezeway.
posted by dersins at 10:56 AM on January 14, 2008


If this doesn't get closed, I will cut off my right hand.
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:03 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


This morning, my doorbell rang. Upon opening the door, what should I discover but another smiling donkey piñata sitting on my front steps, on fire. Next to it was a pole with a big pink bow wrapped around it. Third time this week! Needless to say, I picked up the pole and got ready to whack that fire out.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 11:05 AM on January 14, 2008


This whole thing (from Rachel Tension on) is absurd. It was a total distraction from the main issues with GiveWell.

The freaking out about Rachel (by a handful of people) was equally absurd
posted by delmoi at 11:49 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Days like today, I'd like to be beaten to death, or thrown off a bridge, if only to know how far the pain goes before everything is gone.

This doesn't belong here.
posted by eddydamascene at 11:51 AM on January 14, 2008




This doesn't belong here.

A reason is all it would take to turn your decree from useless noise into something valuable.

Hell, I might even agree with you. Maybe even probably. Or I might find that you're just quibbling, making up a side-issue in order to miss the larger point. That's not uncommon. Or maybe you think it's off-topic. Could be.

Without explanation, though, I can only guess at your motivations. Since I don't want to falsely ascribe to you reasons you might not feel, my only course of action is to briefly wonder what you're on about, and then forget it.
posted by breezeway at 12:19 PM on January 14, 2008


Someone please kill this thread before it starts to rot!
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:23 PM on January 14, 2008


LAST POST!
posted by Hat Maui at 12:27 PM on January 14, 2008


I miss the old GiveWell thread.

(Seriously, though, am I really the only MeFite who doesn't have a hair up my ass about Phil and GiftHub? Calling the dude out for stuff he does off on his own site seems unseemly to me, like randomly criticizing a MeFite for writing Harry Potter slash or something. But I concur that the best thing to do at this point is just to walk away.)
posted by whir at 12:34 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, yuck!

I'm glad I wasn't the only one icked out by that comment.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:34 PM on January 14, 2008



Seriously, though, am I really the only MeFite who doesn't have a hair up my ass about Phil and GiftHub?

Come.....join us.....
posted by tkolar at 12:36 PM on January 14, 2008


Well, this does introduce an opportunity for my proposed candidate for a new MeFi meme, viz., "This will GiveWell," which means not only will a thread never end, but even if it does, someone will punch it up immediately into a new MetaTalk thread again, so I guess you might as well just give up. Give up well. Give well. As in deep as a . . . cold as a . . . bottom of a.

See also: "gave well, this."
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:38 PM on January 14, 2008


I must admit, breezeway, you do make the prospect of your being beaten to death attractive.
posted by nanojath at 12:42 PM on January 14, 2008


This is the most headache-inducing MeFi controversy I've had the misfortune to attempt to read and understand. And really, it's neither funny enough nor tawdry enough to validate the effort. I need incest, cannibalism, or at least genderbending sockpuppetry, and this whole GiveWell nonsense has failed, spectacularly, to deliver.
posted by kosem at 12:49 PM on January 14, 2008


The real problem is people being dicks: being a dick to a dick makes you a dick.

No argument there.

And I'm pretty much in agreement with Jessamyn at this point; I think this thread has pretty much run its course, and without anotherpanacea coming back with any other input it's probably best to just close 'er up and let the subject rest. It's been a long couple of weeks.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:51 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


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