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Jessamyn's talk at SxSW March 8, 2008 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Jessamyn spoke at the SxSW panel on User Revolts today. Here are her notes on The Day They Tested the Manifesto, as was shown during the panel. Most of you MeTa types are infovores, so I thought I'd share. Obv, she rocked the house.
posted by Argyle to MetaFilter-Related at 5:21 PM (105 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

"Sire, the people users are revolting!"

"You said it. They stink on ice!"

(I will never get tired of that joke)
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:43 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting, Argyle.

I think it's great that the mods let everyone know that sexism and other sorts of nastiness are not tolerated on Metafilter. That being said, I can't help but find it puzzling as to why these changes were made when they were. jennydiski is someone who came into the community, heaped a whole bunch of praise upon us in one of her writings, only to leave shortly thereafter because of a misunderstanding of how the site works and perceived sexism. Easy come, easy go.

Though I am wholly in favor of combating sexism and welcome those changes, I am left questioning the motivation behind what clearly appears to be kowtowing to someone with relatively little understanding of what goes on in the blue, green and gray.
posted by dhammond at 5:48 PM on March 8, 2008


And the comments in those three threads* constitute fully one tenth of all comments in all threads over that two month period."

Wow.

*sexism threads

Sounds like a fascinating panel. First-hand reports, anybody?
posted by rtha at 5:50 PM on March 8, 2008


Why in heck would LifeHacker be worried about a user revolt?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:57 PM on March 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm curious what the Second Life people had to say -- they had that well-publicized thing where a user set bombs at a virtual party thrown by the CEO that got the user kicked off the system.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:00 PM on March 8, 2008


I am left questioning the motivation behind what clearly appears to be kowtowing to someone with relatively little understanding of what goes on in the blue, green and gray.

I don't think that's a fair assessment of it. Maybe it would be if it had only been jennydiski complaining about it, but there were a lot of other more 'experienced' members weighing in on that side of the issue.
posted by CKmtl at 6:14 PM on March 8, 2008


I can't help but find it puzzling as to why these changes were made when they were.

jennydiski was just a catalyst for something that had really been brewing for a long time and once things started she wasn't even one of the major instigators keeping it going. If she had been the only one asking for changes, we wouldn't have reponded in the same way.

I just ran into Argyle at dinner who said he'd posted this, so I figured I'd stop in. The panel was fascnating mostly because SL, Lifehacker and Digg [which Annalee was talking about] have such different moderation strategies and even site goals we all had pretty interesting things to share about our different communities. That said, I can't remember a single thing about it since I was there, so I'll leve it to someone else to summarize.

Also, MeFi meetup tomorrow. Details in the usual place in the MeTa sidebar.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:45 PM on March 8, 2008


Sounds very cool; I look forward to hearing details on the rest of the panel.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:47 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


oh WOW.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:04 PM on March 8, 2008


WTF? How did I notice the charity thing and this whole deal just zipped by without me noticing?

I did dip into a jennidiski thread when it was referenced as a classic flameout, but there was just too much activity for me to even figure out what was going on after the fact.

On reflection, that's it. The charity thing happened when I was off work for a couple of days, and I never have time to follow threads any more. Ah well. Youth.
posted by mwhybark at 7:05 PM on March 8, 2008


There was a manifesto? Huh.
posted by smackfu at 7:09 PM on March 8, 2008


Yeah, I know EB could be kind of long-winded, but manifesto?
posted by item at 7:14 PM on March 8, 2008


Feb 17 - Manifesto author opened a new account

Really? Who is he these days?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:14 PM on March 8, 2008


Really? Who is he these days?

Dances With Werewolves
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:20 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is it wrong that what I learned from this post is that I created the most-commented upon MetaTalk thread of all time?
posted by yhbc at 7:25 PM on March 8, 2008


Or that I now realize that it was almost three years ago now?!?
posted by yhbc at 7:27 PM on March 8, 2008


There was a manifesto? Huh.

No, that was the provisional manifesto. I think the actual manifesto was that MeMail K M Ellis sent out, which has never been made public, AFAIK.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:32 PM on March 8, 2008


Now I feel left out for skipping all of the sexism threads.
posted by flatluigi at 7:35 PM on March 8, 2008


I think the actual manifesto was that MeMail K M Ellis sent out, which has never been made public, AFAIK.

Huh, I could swear someone had posted it, but I checked, and it doesn't appear that it was.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:42 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


More like a womanifesto, no?

I am not sexist, I just like punnery.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:43 PM on March 8, 2008


Good grief, you blink and you miss all the drama around here.
posted by ooga_booga at 8:08 PM on March 8, 2008


So it's, like, a SUPER SECRET manifesto?

Can it really be a manifesto if it's hidden in a locked filing cabinet guarded by a tiger at the bottom of an unlit staircase in the basement of an abandoned building?

How about posting the thing already?
posted by Justinian at 8:31 PM on March 8, 2008


Yeah! We haven't had a sexism flamewar in months now! Post it so we can get on with an emotionally charged debate that rehashes exactly the same thing we went through three months ago, further reducing sexism to a tired trope on Metafilter!

I'm certain that the best way to deal with the still inflamed wounds of the last round would be to poke them vigorously several more times!
posted by tkolar at 8:57 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yea, I can't imagine there's any point to posting it- what's past is past, not to mention the fact that I think the only person who has the right to post it publicly is the person who wrote it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:00 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, I think I misunderstood what y'all meant by "manifesto" then.
posted by Justinian at 9:36 PM on March 8, 2008


(Or to be less cryptic; I thought this manifesto was some sort of MeFi adopted semi-official thing, not just a big rant or whatever from a certain user)
posted by Justinian at 9:45 PM on March 8, 2008


I agree that it's sort of strange to think of EB's long MeMail as being a manifesto that was "tested" in those threads. When Jessamyn has time, I'd be interested to hear what she thinks hangs on framing it that way.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:47 PM on March 8, 2008


I still don't understand exactly what went on there.
posted by delmoi at 10:05 PM on March 8, 2008


I am all sorts of enthralled that EB has opened a new account.....but is he active on MeFi? Where??

YOUR NEW USER NAME. SHOW ME IT.
posted by numinous at 10:07 PM on March 8, 2008


I agree with LobsterMitten; what is gained by framing something that only appeared in a MefiMail as a representative manifesto?
posted by Justinian at 10:39 PM on March 8, 2008


I'm just catching up with all this now, because my feeling at the time was that I just couldn't cope with a sexism flamewar to which I would feel compelled to join.

I'm not sure that I regret that decision, actually.
posted by jokeefe at 11:02 PM on March 8, 2008


is he active on Mefi?
see here

And, about the notion of "the day they tested the manifesto" --
I wonder if the idea of framing it that way is to suggest that after those long boyzone threads there was an increase in users actively calling out the kind of light-hearted misogynist comments that were the focus of those discussions, as if those threads had led to a kind of "movement" (which EB's long message could I guess maybe be a sort of manifesto for, maaaaybe - it was a call to action). So, subsequent sexism/etc callouts could be cast as a "testing" of that new movement. But I'm not sure there's anything quite so cohesive as a movement, and even though I agreed with a lot of its spirit, I certainly don't see myself as trying to "follow" EB's suggestions in that message. So I don't think it's completely opaque what Jessamyn might have in mind, but I will be interested to hear more.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:10 PM on March 8, 2008


My understanding is that it was meant as a manifesto for the cause of anti-sexism on Metafilter, and was targeted at a group of people who were seen as being committed to that cause.

That's mostly going from context clues. Haven't seen the thing myself.

However, given the author and the intended audience it would not surprise me even a little teeny bit if the document in question contained assumptions and statements that would prove to be irresistible flamebait. It was sent to a private audience for a reason, and private is most likely the way it should stay.
posted by tkolar at 11:14 PM on March 8, 2008


EB's "manifesto" was an email to some female Mefites. Not cool to publish an email, right? Glad he is back. It is only a website.
posted by Cranberry at 11:24 PM on March 8, 2008


tkolar is right about what it is, and (says me) right that it wouldn't serve any useful purpose in getting published here. It doesn't say anything that would be surprising, and I think the ideas about what kinds of action members on this site can take to address sexism/misogyny/boyzonery etc were extremely well covered in the long threads. So -- I'm not advocating that that document become a subject of discussion. I don't think that would accomplish anything.

But I'm interested to know from jess, when she stops back in, how she chose to frame things that way. That is, I can see those long threads as being a useful case study for a revolting-users panel discussion, absolutely. I just don't see them as having been in any way motivated by or importantly connected to a manifesto.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:33 PM on March 8, 2008


Er, yes, "connected to a manifesto" in the sense that those discussions led EB to write a kind of manifesto; but not "connected to a manifesto" in the sense of having been motivated by that manifesto.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:37 PM on March 8, 2008


I agree that it's sort of strange to think of EB's long MeMail as being a manifesto that was "tested" in those threads. When Jessamyn has time, I'd be interested to hear what she thinks hangs on framing it that way.

Well this was just supposed to be notes for a talk, not a MeTa post. The whole "the day they tested the..." trope is from a story from Coevolution Quarterly called The Day They Tested the Rec Room [about sex in space] and seemed like a catchy title. I see it more as users, or a user, "testing" a manifesto as a way to forward a social change issue that was important to him.

The basic outline was "What was a challenge you faced with a community situation where users revolted?" and my response was talking about the time 50 users received a manifesto on 4 pm on Thanksgiving afternoon 2007 and we as moderators had to figure out what, if anything, to do about it. That, in the context of the whole sexism-charged environment that we were working with [well-outlined, I hope, in the timeline], was the focus of the seven minutes I had alloted, that I probably stretched to nine. The manifesto was a bit of a turning point where we had to seriously think "is this going to turn into a watershed event that totally disrupts the community in a serious way, or not?" That may have been not really visible to a lot of users, but that's what I spent my Thanksgiving afternoon doing, talking to mathowie and cortex and figuring out what needed doing. The content wasn't as important as the weird sinking feeling we got "Is this where everything we've worked on goes terribly wrong?"

That's what I talked about and added a lot of extra data because it's SxSW and there are a lot of data nerds around. I'm still in Texas so I'm not going to be super-present over the next few days. I can take the page down if it makes people feel squicky, it was mostly a one-off for the talk.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:26 AM on March 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I dunno. In a certain context, it sounds more like a pronunciamiento - I realize that that's overstating it, but the argument could be made that calling it a manifesto is an equal exaggeration. Like LobMit sez, it seemed to be to be more of a byproduct of the discussion and dialogue that was already in motion than a catalyst of any real effect.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:26 AM on March 9, 2008


It was sent to a private audience for a reason, and private is most likely the way it should stay.

Good, I guess we can stop mentioning it then? Fat chance of that happening.
posted by puke & cry at 12:34 AM on March 9, 2008


but that's what I spent my Thanksgiving afternoon doing, talking to mathowie and cortex and figuring out what needed doing.

Thank you. There's plenty of other things you guys could have been doing and some would argue, should have been doing, such as taking a day off. But ya'll didn't and clearly put forth an effort to keep things humming along. Take a bow and next year, you get both drumsticks.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:34 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lobstermitten: Thank you!
posted by numinous at 12:36 AM on March 9, 2008


Heh. We suck at rebellion. I wouldn't really characterize what happened here as an uprising as much as a pretty intense and candid conversation (that I consider ongoing) and there was never a unified "here is our manifesto" because what was happening organically via discussion was more useful and consensus-driven than any sort of ultimatum that would have certainly splintered the group of members asking for change. I think it had the seeds of a more dramatic user-side statement, but, for me, the fact that the admins were willing to engage in an ongoing way, and more importantly that a good number of the men here were unequivocal in their support (and some minds were even changed - though many seem to have changed them back since then) prevented a protest movement in terms of women members and male supporters leaving together in numbers. In other words, it was not a dialog to walk out on because there was progress of some sort, and real discussion.

Sadly, then the Boobies thread came to town. Not our finest hour, in any sense.
posted by taz at 12:40 AM on March 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Are there really 769 banned users, or does that include all the various self-closed accounts?
posted by johnofjack at 3:46 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is fascinating, thanks - shall be using it to explain to others what MetaFilter is.
posted by paduasoy at 4:22 AM on March 9, 2008


Wch makes me sound like I know what it is - how embarrassing. "I shall be using it to illuminate something of what MF is."
posted by paduasoy at 4:26 AM on March 9, 2008


Thanks Argyle. J-mym almost always ROCKS. We're lucky to have her here.
posted by Elmore at 6:02 AM on March 9, 2008


Gah!
posted by Elmore at 6:11 AM on March 9, 2008


It was sent to a private audience for a reason

J'accuse! We name the guilty sexists! Off with their genitalia!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:26 AM on March 9, 2008


Looking forward to reading Jessamyn's memoirs when the world finally ends. Hurry up already!
posted by fatllama at 6:48 AM on March 9, 2008


Are there really 769 banned users

Pretty sure that includes everyone whose account has been closed for whatever reason, including people who disabled their own accounts and can re-enable them if they so choose. There are also a lot of what we call "old skool bans" which were people banned before we had a mechanism to add notes to accounts or what have you, so in some cases we have no idea why a particular user's account has been closed [someone who left more than a few years ago]. There are almost no cases where these users then make a big stink about coming back though if we can't remember them and can't figure it out through their user history, whatever they did was probably not too noxious.

Also, that web page that people are looking at is the only things I brought to the talk (including the one "slide" to a comment that amused me and that I enjoyed getting to read out loud) so there were no more handouts or parts to it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:09 AM on March 9, 2008


I am all sorts of enthralled that EB has opened a new account.....but is he active on MeFi? Where??

As folks have said, he's active in that he has a new account, but he's not really active with it—he signed up a bit back and commented nominally in the last treadmill thread in reference to a callout by name. He then commented a few times in the religion thread konolia* started, again after being called out by name.

But his first comment in that latter thread included what read to me as kind of a Fuck You to the site, or at least to whatever aspects of it he's just barely willing to tolerate for the sake of a held-nose excursion into the grey:

I didn't plan to come back—if I did come back—for at least six months. I'm glad for this thread, because it settles the question for me.

So I get the impression that he's not going to be really active, at least until/if he decides to be really active after all. I have no idea if he has seen or will see this thread, but it's possible he'll jump in with his own take on the situation re: the manifesto, etc.

*Speaking of people being active again.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:20 AM on March 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Gather ye Mefites! Mount your drives! Bring forth your Starbu-- oh hey, a Youtube post!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:23 AM on March 9, 2008


*Speaking of people being active again.

It IS like crack.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:24 AM on March 9, 2008


You can check out any time you want. But you can never leave.
posted by Miko at 7:30 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


It IS like crack.

perhaps others would like to relate their experiences of smoking Metafilter.
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:35 AM on March 9, 2008


First, apologies to Jessamyn to post this before asking. When I mentioned it to her at dinner, she gave me a look as if I had rolled a live grenade onto the dance floor. I feel bad that she broke from the Austin nightlife to go check on the thread to make sure no one had pulled the pin.

The title of session is a bit misleading. The talk was really about various approaches to how to deal with people in web communities when they ask for significant change.

Annalee Newitz spoke about the Digg user 'revolt' over the posting of the AACS key information. In short, Digg was taking down posts about the crack of the HD DRM AACS key due to DMCA requests. The users didn't like this and began submitting multiple stories and digging up those stories, effectively DDOSing the site. Digg management relented and let the stories stay up, choosing to face the consequences rather then infuriate their user community. She also spoke of a 'manifesto' style effort by top submitters to get rid of a new algorithm that they didn't like. In the end, it resulting in Digg have regular town hall meetings to allow the community to ask questions nad hear answers directly.

Gina Trapani spoke about a an event at Lifehacker when an ad for a toilet of some sort appeared that involved many nude rear ends. Many people wrote in about the ad and the decision was made to take down the ad in deference to the community, at the loss of the ad revenue.

Jeska Dzwigalski spoke about user revolts in Second Life. As Linden Labs has changed Second Life, they have faced several revolts over changes and have had to have open discussions with their community, sometimes resulting in rollbacks and other times not. She also discussed the way that Linden manages their message boards to avoid bad behavior.

Jessamyn spoke about the discussions over sexism that have been going on over the last year. This is where the notes I linked to were used. As a MeFite, I was a it surprised to see the depth of the issue from her point of view. My personal involvement was limited to following a few high level threads, not really realizing the complexity of all the things going on. The highlight was Jessamyn's facial expressions as she said certain phrases, getting big laughs from the audience. She discussed the complexity of the issue and how it was handled.

The group discussion was interesting, covering the ways different sites handle disruptive users from time-outs to bans to not doing anything. I asked about the impact of users leaving due to 'revolt' and the general agreement was if the people leaving were beneficial to the community or not. This seemed to be universal answer that if someone is viewed as an asset to the community, they are more likely to be listened to and a their departure felt more strongly in the community.

I'm not doing the panel justice in my brief discussion. It was informative and enjoyable. I suggest you start planning to attend SxSW yourself next year to enjoy this kind of discussion in purpose. My ulterior motive is wanting more players for the kickball team...
posted by Argyle at 7:42 AM on March 9, 2008


I wouldn't really characterize what happened here as an uprising as much as a pretty intense and candid conversation (that I consider ongoing) and there was never a unified "here is our manifesto" because what was happening organically via discussion was more useful and consensus-driven than any sort of ultimatum that would have certainly splintered the group of members asking for change.

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Metafilter is well run.
posted by tkolar at 8:37 AM on March 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


a story from Coevolution Quarterly
Hee hee.... :)

And jessamyn, the framing makes a lot more sense thinking of it from the perspective of that night, knowing there's been some kind of mass mailing but not knowing what will come of it. Thanks for the clarification.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:47 AM on March 9, 2008


Many people wrote in about the ad and the decision was made to take down the ad in deference to the community, at the loss of the ad revenue.

The funny thing is that this happened here too.
posted by smackfu at 9:39 AM on March 9, 2008


*Speaking of people being active again.

Well, the account is open for activity anyway- there don't appear to have been any posts or comments since before it was disabled.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:57 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jennydiski's role was secondary, really; the true prime mover was our miss lynnster.
posted by jamjam at 11:06 AM on March 9, 2008


Violent revolution in Metafilter would be quite a feat. Requires a carefully planned meetup or well-timed action on key moderators. This place is like Oz.
posted by Free word order! at 12:03 PM on March 9, 2008


[shoves phonebook down pants]
posted by waraw at 12:32 PM on March 9, 2008


I think something said at the panel is key to running smooth user communities, which I'll paraphase in a far-less eloquent manner--

One important factor in running a community site is communicating to the users the mission and vision of the site and the site's founder. When expectations are pretty clearly set from the onset, people can figure out whether it's the type of community they will enjoy participating in, or not.

When communities don't set these sort of "ground rule" expectations, the community can be more of a blank slate where users believe any behavior can be justified or acceptable in their eyes.

It was one of the better panels I've attended here this week, and it was very much an engaging conversation and discussion. Jess is wonderful to hear in person!
posted by docjohn at 1:47 PM on March 9, 2008


Wow, avoided most of those threads when they came around. This one sparked my curiosity. The actual end result of all this, the change to the flagging language and faq and such, seems quite reasonable. But ye gods is that Dances With Werewolves person (in all their identities) a fucking nutcase. All I can say is, thank the mods that they were able to turn his drivel into something useful.
posted by Riemann at 1:50 PM on March 9, 2008


I am all sorts of enthralled that EB has opened a new account.....but is he active on MeFi?

I'm pretty sure the only difference between the new account and the previous ones is that he hasn't formally closed the new one. He doesn't like the place or want to participate. I wish that weren't the case, but it is.

Riemann, try not to be more of a jerk than you can help. EB contributed a tremendous amount while he was here, and though I wish he hadn't left, I can understand why he did. Hint: comments like yours were part of it.
posted by languagehat at 2:39 PM on March 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Then comments like mine were well worth it damnit.
posted by Riemann at 2:50 PM on March 9, 2008


Rieman, if you aren't familiar with Ethereal Bligh in his previous incarnation (he was on the site for many years and involved in many conversations on all different kinds of topics), you're not in a very good position to judge his value to the site. He definitely had a wordy, long-winded style, but he often had quite good things to say.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:56 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, back off, Reimann. I didn't always agree with him but I sure did appreciate him. It is still a sore point to me that minor short-termers with a chip on their shoulders can annoy long time worthwhile contributors out of here, and yes themselves remain.

And kudos to Jess for what looks like a really cool presentation. Wish I could see it on YouTube!
posted by onlyconnect at 3:09 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Riemann, like anyone, EB could be a jackass and brilliant, so his only fault was being human. Cut him some slack, please?

Onlyconnect, no one runs anyone off on Metafilter. It is their decision on whether to leave, and if they do, whether to return.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:26 PM on March 9, 2008


Of course we're responsible for our own decisions to leave or stay, but if you are suggesting that we are not also responsible for the effect our comments have on fellow users or the community, I would have to respectfully disagree.
posted by onlyconnect at 5:07 PM on March 9, 2008


It is still a sore point to me that minor short-termers with a chip on their shoulders can annoy long time worthwhile contributors out of here, and yes themselves remain.

I don't want to be talking in fight-picking language, but I can't really think of a time where this has happened. Where a longtime user was just minding their own business and then suddenly some n00b set their sights on them and hounded them out of here. Usually there's pushing and pulling both ways. If we see people harassing folks who are not responding in kind, we'll try to mitigate it. I think what happens more often is that some newer user makes some weird site etiquette mistake and are hounded mercilessly for it and if they finally come around and laugh at themselves they're "one of us" and if they don't we can pretend they might not fit in here anyhow. Happens less now than I think it used to, but it's still not something I'm proud of here.

I'm curious in a data geek sort of way how many people make a MetaTalk thread and then more or less never come back.

Riemann, calling any member a "fucking nutcase" may technically be within the rules for MeTa, but it's unkind and unconstructive.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:08 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Riemann, like anyone, EB could be a jackass and brilliant, so his only fault was being human. Cut him some slack, please?

Fuckin' A!

Riemann, it's one thing to say what you think people want to hear to get favorites or an easy laugh. It's quite another to say what you actually think and bare your soul before a community of openly snarky people. That's a whole other order of humanity. People like EB, konolia, AlexReynolds/Rothko/BlazecockWhatever, for all their faults, I'll take their stubborn humanity (to borrow a phrase from languagehat) over two-bit snarkistry anyday. and the fact that such expression has become a liability rather than an asset is a biog reason for the exoduses as of late, IMHO.
posted by jonmc at 5:21 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


jessamyn, I'd agree that I can't think of a time when a longterm user was minding their own business and then someone who'd signed up recently hounded them out. But my impression -- and certainly I could be completely wrong -- was that occhiblu and thehmsbeagle left in part because of some of the petty things that were said in the sexism threads. The call in that problematic Boooooobs thread for the hmsbeagle's comment in the AskMe to be deleted, for example, was something that I thought was a bit silly and was done as a noodge. I suspect that you may not see that call for deletion as petty in the face of the rest of the thread, and I agree that that thread was more problematic in general than the other sexism threads, but my general impression was that we lost people who I thought were very valuable to the site because some users (whose opinions I valued less, though others may disagree) wrote comments that made hms and occhiblu feel like the debate wasn't worth it anymore. And for me, I'd rather have lost the folks that spurred them to leave. That's my loss, and I'd argue the community's loss, but I'm not pretending there's a way to fix it (even if other people agreed with me, which I suspect not many would).

Again, others may not agree; just my opinion.

oh my god, jonmc!!! Hurrah!
posted by onlyconnect at 5:26 PM on March 9, 2008


Hi onlyconnect, good to see ya.

I'm also sad that people like occhiblu and hmsbeagle have left (as well as EB and konolia). I butted heads with occhiblu more times than I can count but isn't that what this site supposed to be about? people engaging with eachother? even people with widely different experiences and viewpoints? The people I've mentioned did just that. and everytime you get that momentary 'Oh, that's what he/she's on about' is when something interesting happens.

Malcolm X once said 'I'd rather deal with someone who's sincere and wrong than someone who is insincere and right.' I'll buy that with everything I've got. even though like Rob Gordon, I'll admit that sometimes my guts have shit for brains.
posted by jonmc at 5:37 PM on March 9, 2008


* buys jon a beer, and puts on the Cure, just to piss him off *
posted by yhbc at 5:53 PM on March 9, 2008


So, jonmc, konolia, IRFH, are all back? Or visiting? That is good.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:19 PM on March 9, 2008


I find it incredibly disappointing that EB is so disenchanted with MeFi, and yet I (sadly) completely understand it. He was such an asset to the site, to the often contentious discussions about feminism and institutional oppression, and articulated his arguments and ideas with such thoughtfulness (a thoughtfulness towards which I aspire as an academic).

Is he active anywhere else online? I'd really like to participate in some sort of continuing discourse with him.

My disappointment at the departure of EB, occhiblu, and thehmsbeagle is only assuaged by my gratitude that LobsterMitten, SassHat, Scody, Miko, languagehat, and ikkyu2 still contribute in a very meaningful way that speaks to my experience directly. Seriously, I love your minds!
posted by numinous at 8:47 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is still a sore point to me that minor short-termers with a chip on their shoulders can annoy long time worthwhile contributors out of here, and yes themselves remain.

Hunh, that's what MeFite #37 said back in '02.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:06 PM on March 9, 2008


"Good, I guess we can stop mentioning it then? Fat chance of that happening."

I have a mole next to my balls that looks like Elvis.

No, it's right next to my balls. I'm not showing it to you.

Just like Elvis.
posted by klangklangston at 9:33 PM on March 9, 2008


I love your minds
eek, zombie!

thanks, numinous
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:40 PM on March 9, 2008


isn't that what this site supposed to be about? people engaging with eachother?

Just as a point of reference... Yes the site is about engagement but it's also about everyone engaging with each other. If two users butting heads gets in the way of other people being able to have a discussion, then those users probably need to take it to email or agree to disagree. This isn't about you in particular jonmc, just a note that the loose outlines of "what the site is for" need to be contextualized within the fact that it's a big site with a lot of users each having many different viewpoints. So, every thread isn't just about getting people to understand your particular take on a subject. The site does better, in my opinion only here, when a wide group of people get to engage.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:49 PM on March 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is he active anywhere else online? I'd really like to participate in some sort of continuing discourse with him.

If you love him so much, why don't you marry him.
posted by smackfu at 10:28 PM on March 9, 2008


I'd marry him, but I'd be afraid old age would do me off before he was able to make it to the end of his vows.
posted by item at 11:21 PM on March 9, 2008


isn't that what this site supposed to be about? people engaging with each other?

No, actually. I think you're looking for The Well or something.
posted by tkolar at 11:28 PM on March 9, 2008


Can I just say that I'm inordinately proud to be engaged to someone whose comment was mentioned in this panel discussion? Yay!
posted by Paragon at 12:03 AM on March 10, 2008


ThePinkSuperhero: Huh, I could swear someone had posted it, but I checked, and it doesn't appear that it was.

TPS, I was sure too, but I also went back and looked, and no.

Alvy Ampersand said: "Yeah, I dunno. In a certain context, it sounds more like a pronunciamiento - I realize that that's overstating it, but the argument could be made that calling it a manifesto is an equal exaggeration. Like LobMit sez, it seemed to be to be more of a byproduct of the discussion and dialogue that was already in motion than a catalyst of any real effect."

Personally, as one of the recipients of the email, I will say that it definitely read like a personal manifesto and call to arms. I addressed my feelings publicly in the thread, and asked that EB post it publicly since he had used very strong language that I felt made accusations against Matt. I wasn't bothered so much by his opinions (that Matt was tacitly supporting a boyzone) as I was by what I felt was a shady string-pulling tactic.

numinous said: "I find it incredibly disappointing that EB is so disenchanted with MeFi, and yet I (sadly) completely understand it. He was such an asset to the site, to the often contentious discussions about feminism and institutional oppression, and articulated his arguments and ideas with such thoughtfulness (a thoughtfulness towards which I aspire as an academic)."

Let's be careful with the rose-colored glasses, here. I don't agree with what Riemann said, but neither was EB a saint. He had interesting things to say, but didn't always demonstrate respect for the community with how he said those things, and that had really escalated in the weeks prior to his departure in November. In fact, a total lack of thoughtfulness is really the primary characteristic I recall, of his posting there at the end.

In other words, his departure was a loss, sure -- but let's not lay the blame on the inability of MetaFilter to properly enchant him. Let's not lionize behavior that basically amounts to being quick to dish it out, but not nearly as willing to take it.
posted by pineapple at 8:54 AM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Paragon, I did a dramatic reading of that comment that went over quite well. I also agree with pineapple in this case. When EB was at his best he was wonderful but that pendulum swung both ways.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:58 AM on March 10, 2008


When EB was at his best he was wonderful but that pendulum swung both ways.

Well, maybe this is where some of us part ways with others, but that's kind of what I found interesting about him (and others). The people who are willing to display their whole personalities, including their faults are more compelling to me than the ones who just put up a carefully worded homework assignment saying all the right things. But that's just me.
posted by jonmc at 9:01 AM on March 10, 2008


maybe this is where some of us part ways with others

I totally hear you jonmc. I just think it's our relative positions here talking. You've known EB for a long time, as have I, and are more willing to roll with the ups and downs he presented (and that many users present, to be fair) but there are also newer users here who don't have that same history and for whom a particilarly crotchety stretch of months may be all they know of someone. I'm not saying we always have to be at our best, I know I'm not, but that we can't just assume that people will give us the benefit of the doubt when we're not because of our track record here. A bad day or week is one thing, but I felt like sometimes we were looking at longer terms than that.

It's an odd thing to note that what the community may like in general (lively exchanges, thoughtful commentary, people not afraid to discuss edgier issues) can also be a little rough to moderate because it gets people upset and heated and there's a line there between what's okay heated exchange and what's toxic to the site and the closer discussions get to that point, the more work it is for us to make sure everything's proceeding smoothly. So, I'm sure I'm speaking from my own personal perspective here, but from a moderation perspective people presenting with "all their faults" can be a real mixed bag.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:15 AM on March 10, 2008


but from a moderation perspective people presenting with "all their faults" can be a real mixed bag.

Well, yeah. You're the zookeeper and we're an odd combination of the animals and the people looking in the cages throwing peanuts. So it's natural you'd have a different perspective.
posted by jonmc at 9:18 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


jonmc said: "Well, maybe this is where some of us part ways with others, but that's kind of what I found interesting about him (and others). The people who are willing to display their whole personalities, including their faults are more compelling to me than the ones who just put up a carefully worded homework assignment saying all the right things. But that's just me."

I've never asked that people be perfect. Just respectful of the community as a whole. I'm not perfect: I can be snobby, long-winded, knee-jerk liberal, prone to over- or mis-interpretation due to drive-by reading... I'm sure I've even done all that stuff in the same thread before. I can accept those as flaws in my personality, without also believing that it's my right to force all that stuff on the rest of the user base without ever acknowledging when I'm out of line.

Everyone can have bad days, bad weeks, bad months -- but to perpetually expect one's long history on the site to compensate for crude, hateful behavior isn't cool. It's got to be a give and take. No one user should get to be on a pedestal at the expense of the community.

This isn't much different from what Jessamyn just said, I know. But I don't think it's fair that her perspective should be painted as, "Well, sure you see it that way, you're a moderator." I'm just a regular nobody user, and I also think that there's a fine line to be walked when a user wants to be "warts and all," all the time.
posted by pineapple at 9:36 AM on March 10, 2008


(btw, welcome back jonmc!)
posted by pineapple at 9:36 AM on March 10, 2008


I can accept those as flaws in my personality, without also believing that it's my right to force all that stuff on the rest of the user base without ever acknowledging when I'm out of line.

Well, it's not so much a matter of 'forcing' it on the rest of us as the fact that if it's part of our personalities it's going to come out in our writing anyway. It's kind of..remembering that we're all only human and in fact, that's what makes us interesting.

But I don't think it's fair that her perspective should be painted as, "Well, sure you see it that way, you're a moderator."


It wasn't meant dismissively so much as acknowledgement that dealing with all our warts is definitely going to create a different perspective for jess, matt and cortex than for me or you.

a user wants to be "warts and all," all the time.

All the time, no. But I don't want debate society finals all the time either.
posted by jonmc at 9:54 AM on March 10, 2008


Not to belabor this, but I recall a time on the site when EB was the subject of ALOT of really vicious personal abuse, before he ever fought back. As far as I saw, he truly did seem to turn the other cheek every time, and rose above it, and I was truly astounded by his thick skin and patience. But after a while someone here advised him that his attitude was actually encouraging people to abuse him, and he started insulting back, often with a hateful tone that really surprised me. So while I will agree with pineapple that EB had his ups and downs here, I do feel like he started off in the manner of a fuzzy little (though longwinded) kitten and then some of us taught him how to use his claws. Of course, I didn't see all his behavior so I could be wrong, but that was my impression.

This sort of thing, and the other departures, is why I was saying above that while we're all responsible for our own decisions to stay or leave, we're also responsible for the atmosphere for others we create through our comments. Of course you're free to say whatever you want here, but don't kid yourself that it's just the Internet and your words can't hurt or your specious arguments won't frustrate someone or, if they do, it's no loss. I think it can be hard to try to be fair with one another, even in the face of strong opinions on both sides (e.g., LobsterMitten in the sexism threads stands out to me as having accomplished this), but I think we lose good conversations (and people) when we don't try.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:44 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I do feel like he started off in the manner of a fuzzy little (though longwinded) kitten and then some of us taught him how to use his claws.

I have no real input into whether this is accurate or not, concerning EB. I'd like to add, however, that it always saddens me to see users basically "give up" and decide to snark right back when previously they had turned the other cheek or whathaveyou. This is for a few reasons, and I refer only to general cases here.

- it basically reflects a failure of the community to respect people at some level, or a falure of moderation to protect people from being savaged [snark is often okay, but savaging is not, we try to moderate with this in mind]
- people who go this route don't wear the claws well, I've seen. They become incredibly aggressive in a way that isn't really informed by their own personality, or doesn't seem that way, so they wear it as a costume. This means that they don't have the normal checks and balances on their behavior that people who are more "naturally" snarky seem to have and when called on it they can retreat into "well this is what this site requires" as opposed to a heartfelt commitment to their statements and actions. This goes against my own personally held philosophy of Right Speech and makes it difficult to sort of assess what to do with this person as a community member and what to do as a moderator.
- I just like less grousing/fighting and more awesome stuff on the web, period. For me, the line between what's spirited debate and what's over-the-line hostility seems obvious but I know it's less clear for other people or it's very clear but the line is in a totally different place. I wish we agreed on at least the line somewhat more. I'd like to be able to discuss difficult topics with other smart people here, but the fact that at least some of the time those discussions aren't just not productive but actually seem to inspire more negativity just makes me wonder if MeFi is bringing more sorrow into the world than it [or AskMe or MeTa or Projects] removes.

I'm at SXSW and it's rainy and I've hid out in the library instead of listening to yet another panel about an Internet that's really only a disneyland manifestation to the people I live among on a daily basis, so it's been a reflective morning. Sorry for the emo.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:27 AM on March 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Jessamyn, you give good emo.
posted by donovan at 2:21 PM on March 10, 2008


makes me wonder if MeFi is bringing more sorrow into the world than it [or AskMe or MeTa or Projects] removes.
Overwhelmingly: "removes".
Sharing, breaking isolation, touching people, opening minds: this is the great uplift, no matter how much sorrow - or joy - is rolled in.
posted by bru at 7:13 PM on March 10, 2008


jessamyn: if you were working in finance, or book publishing, or programming, or the music industry, or if you were an academic, or any of dozens of other jobs, people living in rural Vermont would still be unfamiliar with the stuff you work on. Doesn't mean it's bad or less worthy.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:48 PM on March 10, 2008


(or am I projecting? anyway, I hope you're having more fun tonight than this afternoon.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:49 PM on March 10, 2008


people living in rural Vermont would still be unfamiliar with the stuff you work on.

It's more of a digital divide comment than a "omg do you know who I AM" thing. It's just weird to be here with all these "The internets can change the WORLD" people and be thinking "yeah but how do you get my people online?" I like to think of myself as the John Irving of Bethel Vermont actually.

My day improved greatly once the rain stopped.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:10 PM on March 10, 2008


"I like to think of myself as the John Irving of Bethel Vermont actually. "

Your stories are rambly and your sex scenes smack uncomfortably of Mary Sue-ism?
posted by klangklangston at 9:23 PM on March 10, 2008


ah - I wasn't thinking "don't you know who I am" as much as sympathizing with the n-millionth conversation having to explain what one does for a living in friendly-smalltalk contexts, and having it be something nobody's heard of. But yes, digital divide makes sense. (Glad the rain let up, hope you're seeing some good music down there)

And yeah, don't be John Irving.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:45 PM on March 10, 2008


I like to think of myself as the John Irving of Bethel Vermont actually.

Well, you need more bears in your comments.
posted by johnofjack at 3:51 AM on March 11, 2008


Damn it. I wasn't paying attention, and Jessamyn is in town. I owe you a drink, Jessamyn, and my wife would like to meet you (thanks for the recommendations, btw!). When are you leaving?
posted by rush at 12:34 PM on March 11, 2008


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