How long do we let the ghosts haunt us? March 29, 2009 9:01 PM   Subscribe

"Thoughts from a former member" and and a rebuttal. A debate on comments via proxy.

Brandon Blatcher suggested hashing this idea out in Metatalk, so here it is. I'm interested to hear community feedback on this issue. Do we consider it appropriate for those who are no longer members of the site to post via proxy? If so, under what circumstances?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero to Etiquette/Policy at 9:01 PM (262 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

To throw my opinion out right off the bat, I'd say I'd imagine it could be appropriate in some instances, but I don't think this is one of them. Comments relating to the topic of the post could have easily been posted by the writer herself, and comments relating to the topic of why she thinks we're all idiots ("commenters who have shut off their critical faculties entirely"), well, if she doesn't participate here anymore, then what does it matter that she thinks we're all idiots?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:03 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


As the old saying goes: "Want to shit in a thread? That's five bucks a head. Shit under a tree? That one's free."
posted by Krrrlson at 9:07 PM on March 29, 2009 [15 favorites]


The poster says: "This is a perfect example of why I no longer participate on the site."

How is reading and posting not participating on the site?
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:09 PM on March 29, 2009 [35 favorites]


I'm finding the entire post obnoxious but can't quite put my finger on exactly why yet.
posted by agregoli at 9:09 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


(the original post on the blue. But I didn't really like the posting of the thoughts of someone no longer here either - what's the point of that?)
posted by agregoli at 9:10 PM on March 29, 2009


I like ghosts, they keep my bath clean my dog and collect my clip and clean my animal.
posted by nola at 9:12 PM on March 29, 2009


They are not ghosts haunting the site. They are demons possessing Brandon Blatcher.
[searches paranormal-thread toolkit for comment-trepanning drillbits]
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:14 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry, just saw this from Brandon Blatcher: "Just to be clear, the poster didn't ask that I post it."
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:17 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


If the comment was signed with the former user's user name, it would be no big deal. I mean, if you don't plan on commenting a lot in future, the hassle of reactivating is pointless for everyone involved.

To do it anonymously is, at best, very obnoxious.
posted by Chuckles at 9:18 PM on March 29, 2009


Yeah, that's kind of annoying. Don't do that.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:20 PM on March 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


my opinion is that it is kinda crappy. This person is "no longer part of the community", but still skims from time to time and has found an outlet to post to the community without having to get him/herself dirty? I got a name for that, and it ain't pretty so I'll stop now.
posted by edgeways at 9:20 PM on March 29, 2009


Chickenshit?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:24 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Although the very idea of proxy commenting bothers me, I think what bothers me the most is the sort of false gravitas that a comment gets by virtue of being made "by a former member."

Like we're all supposed to think, "Awww, this poor unique snowflake won't post their opinion themselves because we're all such MEAN AWFUL BRUTES, and this is why we can't have nice things! Maybe if we're really nice and well behaved, they'll return someday like the fucking Lorax and then we'll all be saved."

You know, I kinda used to weep for users who ditched their accounts, but now I'm far more likely to say, "fuck 'em." I don't really have much sympathy for people who get all huffy and close their accounts because they don't like the way a thread is going. It very much has a "pick up my toys and go home" bullshitty air about it.

And if they can't even be bothered to create a new account and stand behind their new "contribution," why in hell should I care what they say?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:26 PM on March 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


I know just what to do to excorcize ghosts of frustrated middle-aged of female mefites.

TITS OR GTFO! THE POWER OF SWEATERPUPPIES COMPEL US! TITS OR GTFO!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:29 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


How is reading and posting not participating on the site?

This nails it for me. You can read things casually, but when you cross that line into writing, you are definitely participating.
posted by Forktine at 9:30 PM on March 29, 2009


*hears a knocking on the table*

Afroblanco, Ethereal Bligh has something to say on that topic, I'll channel it. ...But I... transmission is too powerful... very long comment.... I can't cut and paste it all... It's too long... it's... my eyes are going dry...

*faints*
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:33 PM on March 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


THE PERSON DIDN'T POST!

For fuck's sake, stop shitting on the former member. Please shit on Brandon for posting someone's email as if they intended for it to appear on the site. Totally fucking lame.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:34 PM on March 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


Totally obnoxious. WTF BB? That wins the passive-aggressive prize of the month.

If this really even is a "former member" and not some fictional character, seeing as s/he was summoned from the ether by the author of the thread, who had already struck a fairly defensive pose in response to criticisms of the FPP.

My invisible friend says you all suck. Really.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:36 PM on March 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Afroblanco, Ethereal Bligh has something to say on that topic

Yeah, actually it's funny, but EB was probably the one user I felt the worst about losing. He was just such a fixture around here, and such a part of what I thought made the MeFi sites what they are/were. But at the same time, dude had been around here for a long time -- long enough to know his own boundaries, and long enough to know how things generally play out. In general, I think he should have known better. So yeah, no real sympathy there.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:42 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whatever grief I caused him, I miss EB's comments and hope he is doing well.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:56 PM on March 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


I guess I'm agin' it. Only because I worry that it's a way for our less than reputable members to make controversial statements and claim it wasn't them who said it, it was a MYSTERIOUS FORMER MEMBER!!!

Not that I'm saying BB did that in this instance or anything. However a MYSTERIOUS FORMER MEMBER told me to say that he or she thinks BB might have. This MYSTERIOUS FORMER MEMBER also told me to say he or she heard BB eats puppies and finds them delicious. So don't blame me for the views I've just committed to text, blame the MYSTERIOUS FORMER MEMBER!*

*I really don't think BB did this. But I hope it helps illustrate my point.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:57 PM on March 29, 2009


Have to say that thread isn't one of MeFi's shinier moments, but yeah the gravitas of "this is the sort of thing that makes people like anonymous me leave!" is sort of weird feeling. I have a fairly decent idea of who that person is, and yeah I think it's a weird thing to post stuff form former members. Not like "oh it should be against the rules" or anything, but it's weird and I'd prefer not to see it.

Former members can, almost always, re-up and they should if they have something to say. One of the tough things about MeFi generally is that we have a lot invested in it, many of us, and yet it's frustrating as hell on occasion. Figuring out how to deal with that dichotomy is tough, tougher for some people than others I suspect.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:02 PM on March 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Have to say that thread isn't one of MeFi's shinier moments

Apologies to all if my comments contributed to this. I stand by everything I said, but some of it probably didn't need to be said, if that makes sense. I should have left well enough alone instead of making the same point over and over.

That said, I pretty strongly disagree with the content of the MYSTERIOUS FORMER MEMBER's email. Things can get weird here sometimes, but overall the level of confirmation bias is way, way below what I've come to expect, given my experiences elsewhere on the web and in real life. Disagreement is generally well-reasoned, and minds are generally open. The MYSTERIOUS FORMER MEMBER was either reading a different website or has some serious baggage of his/her own.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:20 PM on March 29, 2009


I'm kind of surprised people care so much.
posted by delmoi at 10:21 PM on March 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


If the former user who sent that missive to BB didn't intend or expect BB to post it, then this is a non-issue. There is no former user trying to have their cake and eat it too, simply a lurker who directly contacted the poster of something they read online to comment on the posting.

We link to things and cite sources around here when we need to emphasize our points, and BB emphasized his point by sharing with us a perspective that had been shared with him. It's not uncommon when we discuss things that have also been discussed on other online forums to quote or link to comments from those other forums, and this is functionally no different.
posted by chudmonkey at 10:21 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


By the way, I think we should use Effigy's method of referring to the MFM from now on.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:22 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just so you all know, I could become a former member at any moment, so take my comments for the fucking wells of intellectual gravity they are, right this fucking instant, lest you fail to achieve fucking enlightenment velocity which will prevent you from orbiting my fucking brand new day.*

* If I was smarter this all would sound better and you'd be all "oh yeah, I totally see that, lord knows what we would all do if maxwelton was a former but skimming-and-commenting-by-proxy member (who also, by virtue of being married**, hasn't had sex in years but his ongoing dalliance with a married man, namely himself, has prevented permanent prostate damage)."

** I kid, I kid! Though I do kind of long for the days when any joke about married people not having sex would bring out the very-secure-in-their-own-marriages people to note they had sex all the time*** and the "jokes" weren't "funny".

*** Sometimes even with their own spouses! Oh, god, just kill me now.


In sum, what
posted by maxwelton at 10:28 PM on March 29, 2009 [18 favorites]


I don't get the "I haven't had sex in n years" cred. I've gone without, far longer than the anonymous poster, and I still was not impressed with the article. I think most of the commentary in that thread is more or less accurate. It's okay to be alone, but that subject is not so holy and beyond reproach that a good portion of the listed reasons should automatically go without reasoned critique, which the anonymous poster somehow finds objectionable.

I'm sure the reasons themselves are valid to Ms. Lane, but, gracious, they're often not particularly good reasons, even with all of the sexism thrown to the side. Might be a good list to bring to one's therapist, but as a potential banner to be flown for the permanently single, it's a trifle droopy.

And posting comments while having left looks suspiciously like an instance of wanting to have one's cake and eat it, too. Heck, just reading it and mailing members is still interaction. "I'm not participating, but here's my thoughts, anyway." It's not exactly "Not of The Body!" — more of a case of, whom are you trying to kid, yourself or us?
posted by adipocere at 10:30 PM on March 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I tend to agree with Afroblanco on this subject (shocking, I know, to those two or three of you who know how close Afroblanco and I are) but I'll agree that for one thing, BB wasn't instructed to post it, and so it's hard to get too pissed at the "former member" (I, unlike jessamyn, have no idea who it is and don't particularly care to, because in general when people choose to hit the disable button it means to me that I shouldn't care what they have to say anymore.) I'd also cut BB a little bit of slack, though, because he's such a good current member, and also because he probably had no idea what kind of shitstorm he'd stir up with it and just thought it was an interesting and relevant insight worthy of sharing.

I, too, miss EB, as long-winded and histrionic as he could be at times. I miss Amberglow probably more than any other former member, but even with him I'd be wary of proxy posting. For the community to survive, methinks, one simply can't be allowed to post noxious, blanket comments about the people here and remain above retort.

Since this seems to be agreed upon, however, I'll use this moment to bring up what is becoming my new pet peeve on the site: self-appointed MeFi detectives determined to route out the identities of new accounts opened by old users whose names had become too besmirched to be used without drawing undue fire. I've seen this way to often, with MeFite X making an innocuous comment, followed by MeFite Y saying something like, "Fuck you, Mefite X, some of us know who you really are!

Congrats, I guess, on your sleuthing skills, Mefite Y, but you're an asshole who shouldn't be a part of this group. A user feels like their username has prejudicial baggage attached to it, and so they change it, and you feel like it's your duty to dig up the baggage? No, the problem is with you. Maybe that's what would keep a former member from opening a new account in order to comment.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:37 PM on March 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


"I no longer participate in this site" + "I have been alone for 10 years" feels a lot like "I don't know how to handle people".

Also, the correct expression is "eat one's cake and have it too". If you already have it, of course you're going to eat it at some point. But if you eat it, all your cake is gone. AND YOU WILL BE ALONE AGAIN.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:48 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have more than enough cake, thank you.
posted by Former Member at 10:52 PM on March 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Holy shit. 90000+.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:52 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's a lot of userids.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:55 PM on March 29, 2009


And user 90000 whiffed. What a waste.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:55 PM on March 29, 2009


The user that has all the 8s is a real slut.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:56 PM on March 29, 2009



Sorry, just saw this from Brandon Blatcher: "Just to be clear, the poster didn't ask that I post it."
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:17 PM

This sounds like a round-about way of saying he didn't get permission at all. What were you thinking, Brandon?
posted by boo_radley at 11:01 PM on March 29, 2009


He did get permission, boo_radley.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:11 PM on March 29, 2009


I'm finding the entire post obnoxious but can't quite put my finger on exactly why yet.

Because it was typical of all those posts from people who flounce away from MeFi, declaiming that I'm a special little snowflake, and you people just don't meet my moral/intellectual/ethical standards.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:19 PM on March 29, 2009


Or: ...typical of people who love Mefi deeply, treasure it, who think highly of many of the posters here and value their knowledge, humour and intelligence, but find one aspect of the site - in this case perhaps, the lack of empathy and eagerness to criticise and dismiss - clouding the many positive aspects of the site, so much so that they feel it is too frustrating to continue contributing as a poster/commenter.

You can of course say that people who don't like it can fuck off. And they do.


It was a bad idea for Brandon Blatcher to post her comment, and I can very much see why people are ticked off, but neither of them meant any harm. I'm guessing it seemed to him to support his own frustration with how the thread was going. He wasn't the only one feeling that way.
posted by dolca at 11:54 PM on March 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


I've got no problem at all with people fucking off, dolca. It seems like a very sensible thing to do when you're not getting your needs met.

It's the obligatory lecture as you're leave the building that seems obnoxious to me. It's one thing to share that information with friends who ask why you're leaving -- but here it's invariably presented as to some sort of moral instruction. *I'm* empathetic and non-judgemental, whereas *you* rabble are all critical and eager to dismiss.

Anyone who invests too much in the opinions of a pseudonymous group of people on the internets is bound to be disappointed at some point. Flag it and move on.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:05 AM on March 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I give zero fuck about former members.
posted by Damn That Television at 12:08 AM on March 30, 2009


It was not exactly an amazing, insightful comment, either.

I mean, if you're gonna go through the trouble of reaching out like that at least have something to say something that, you know, I find interesting.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:45 AM on March 30, 2009


Keep in mind, folks, that criticism of the comments by proxy practice may be - in part - because folk don't like what the proxy commenter said! Just something to keep in mind.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:05 AM on March 30, 2009


(((((cockbuckets)))))
posted by bardic at 1:11 AM on March 30, 2009


Just a reminder to everyone, the poster did not ask that I post the comments, I asked them if I could and did so because I thought it was pretty harmless, much in the same vain of "X is outta the room, heard what we talking about, commented to me about it, I think it was interesting and here's what they said" and the information about why she left was useful to the community at large.

I don't really have much sympathy for people who get all huffy and close their accounts because they don't like the way a thread is going. It very much has a "pick up my toys and go home" bullshitty air about it.

To be clear, the user didn't get huffy about that particular thread and I actually don't know why or when they left.

This MYSTERIOUS FORMER MEMBER also told me to say he or she heard BB eats puppies and finds them delicious.

This is funny because I had steak yesterday, first time in a while.

Yeah, that's kind of annoying. Don't do that.

Got it. But does anyone have suggestions for how to deal with someone who writes to a user and includes information about why they've left the site? To me, that's extremely important info and worth sharing, which was part of my reasoning for posting it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:22 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind, folks, that criticism of the comments by proxy practice may be - in part - because folk don't like what the proxy commenter said!

Well sure, but it's understandable that people don't like or tolerate having negative qualities attributed to them or their community.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:51 AM on March 30, 2009


Also, the correct expression is "eat one's cake and have it too"

I prefer the Latvian version: "He wants a full bottle and a drunk wife"
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:52 AM on March 30, 2009 [47 favorites]


Comments on the blue have definitely gone deeper and deeper into the negative as time goes on. A lot of times, I find myself enjoying a particular FPP, and I have to make a conscious decision not to click the thread link and read the comments, because they'll just sour the experience.

It's typical internet stuff, not surprising (dickwad theory, etc.). This is cliche, but I think conversations were better here before there were 90,000 members. I'd post a MetaTalk thread urging restraint and civility, but such things are impossible by now, and no one really cares.

Long story short, I completely sympathize with the nameless former member.
posted by knave at 2:20 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think conversations were better here before there were 90,000 members

around three hours ago?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:36 AM on March 30, 2009


Internet: serious business. Why would one anonymous non-member's opinion be of value to the "community at large?" I couldn't care if the ex-member is Dr. Phil, they lost the right to comment on goings on here the moment they stormed off in a fit of pique. The fact that the OP is returning to the thread to post whiny passive aggressive missives from disgruntled people who don't even have accounts here is just not on. Grow a set and get back on here with an identity and do your *waah nobody understands me, especially Metafilter* routine in front of everyone. Or tell your mates to keep your emails private.
posted by fire&wings at 3:25 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think conversations were better here before there were 90,000 members

I couldn't disagree more. Threads used to regularly get de-railed by an elite cadre of "popular" old-timers who got pissy about threads they didn't like. Thread-crapping still occurs, but people generally recognize it as being the bad form that it is.

In fact, Metafilter has been pretty goldurn awesome as of late. The FPP style of "leaner and meaner" has taken hold as well.

You little shits probably don't remember the days of two posts taking up the whole front page.

So get off my lawn before I hit you with my cane!
posted by bardic at 3:46 AM on March 30, 2009


bardic: knave predates you by six days.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:01 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but I'm right and he's wrong.

And my mom says I'm a cool dude.
posted by bardic at 4:12 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


My invisible friend says you all suck. Really.

Ask your invisible friend what he thinks about someone who comes into a Meta thread (now closed), makes a bunch of hints claiming there are dire doings afoot that could affect a set of members, then disables his MeMail so said members can't ask him about it. Does your friend have a word for that guy?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:15 AM on March 30, 2009


Delicious.
posted by gman at 4:24 AM on March 30, 2009


I'm not an MFM.

But I did fuck two whores in a Holiday Inn last night. They were young and both wanted to marry me in the Mormon Church. Former MeFites, no doubt.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 4:30 AM on March 30, 2009


You could've fucked four at a Holiday Inn Express.

Fartknocker.
posted by bardic at 4:32 AM on March 30, 2009


Could have.

But they couldn't afford me.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 4:34 AM on March 30, 2009


they didn't even have five bucks apiece?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:47 AM on March 30, 2009


It's the obligatory lecture as you're leave the building that seems obnoxious to me. It's one thing to share that information with friends who ask why you're leaving -- but here it's invariably presented as to some sort of moral instruction.

Which is the same kind of attitude people objected to in the HuffPost column the OP linked to.
posted by headnsouth at 4:48 AM on March 30, 2009


Eyeballkid says he hates you all.
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 4:52 AM on March 30, 2009


quonsar says he's out doing some good in the world and he's never coming back.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:54 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


someone who comes into a Meta thread (now closed), makes a bunch of hints claiming there are dire doings afoot that could affect a set of members, then disables his MeMail so said members can't ask him about it.

That was remarkably obnoxious. Can anyone explain what the heck the bizzaro ending of that closed thread was about?
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:56 AM on March 30, 2009


BREAKING: RECEIVED MEFIMAIL MESSAGE FROM MATHOWIE ENTITLED "WELCOME TO MEFI MAIL!" DETAILS TO FOLLOW.
posted by Kwine at 5:30 AM on March 30, 2009


THE POWER OF SWEATERPUPPIES COMPEL US!

For the record, it's sweaterstuffers and snugglepuppies.



/me grabs microphone

Having been somewhat, partially, indirectly affiliated with yet another trainwreck, I would like to ... well, not apologize. Offer to buy the next round, perhaps. I've steered clear of several (otherwise tantalizing) wrecks-in-progress in recent months; this one kinda snuck up on me.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:43 AM on March 30, 2009


I just wanna know, when's the next Mysterious Former Member Meetup?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:47 AM on March 30, 2009


I so badly wanna meet anonymous.
posted by gman at 5:49 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


As as future former member, I'd just like to say: Fuck all y'all, lick the dick and suck on deez nutz. But don't choke. And when I leave, come together like butt cheeks.

And I'd like to say it with gravitas.
posted by Eideteker at 5:53 AM on March 30, 2009


The one thing I have taken away from both the thread and its meta is that people talking about how much they're having sex are about as interesting to listen to as people talking about how much they're not having sex.
posted by Spatch at 5:53 AM on March 30, 2009


And I'd like to say it with gravitas.

Well, you could do, but you might be better off saying it with Zero Gravitas, who is also a Future Former Member.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:16 AM on March 30, 2009


people talking about how much they're having sex are about as interesting to listen to as people talking about how much they're not having sex.

Ask me about my digestive processes!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:36 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


So get off my lawn before I hit you with my cane!

Get in line, youngster.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:37 AM on March 30, 2009


How many of that 90,000 are active members? I.e., posted within the last 120 days?
posted by odinsdream at 6:43 AM on March 30, 2009


how to deal with someone who writes to a user and includes information about why they've left the site? To me, that's extremely important info and worth sharing, which was part of my reasoning for posting it.

You can write the mods if you want to or you can talk more to the person yourself. Generally speaking why someone left is a combination of public/private reasons. This, and we may have had back and forth conversations with a particular user about why they left in any case. I'm not entirely sure in a community of this size, every members reasons for leaving are necessarily good fodder for public discussion and does have a ring of "fuck y'all I left" and/or opening the now-former member up to more chiding and whatnot from the site.

I guess I disagree with your assessment that such a thing is "extrememly important" I'd say it's something good to know -- good to know why the site fails some people, good to know how to do better -- but without a dialogue about it, it's harder to assess whether the site failed them or whether this wasn't the place for them and that's a longer conversation than a drive-by comment in MeFi or here can suss out.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:50 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ask me about my digestive processes!

So...how about them?
posted by electroboy at 6:54 AM on March 30, 2009


Does active mean posting, or just regularly logging in?
posted by AD_ at 6:54 AM on March 30, 2009


Perhaps the Mysterious Former Member is reading this in her occasional skimming of the site?

If so, I say to her that women who have affairs with other women's husbands - even "informal long-distance dalliances" - are in no position to be lecturing us on etiquette.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:58 AM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I dunno, I think that the "former member" thing is a red herring that allows us to conveniently avoid what the person was actually saying. It's easy to bitch about how someone wouldn't pay five dollars before posting, but difficult to accept that it's not worth five dollars for someone to participate in the increasingly negative, superiority-fueled discussions that so many threads seem to create. I often feel just like the poster does: individually, we try to prove how smart and witty we are; as a group, it paradoxically makes us dumb and intolerable sometimes.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 7:05 AM on March 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


How many of that 90,000 are active members? I.e., posted within the last 120 days?

Here's a nifty venn diagram. Only about 12,000 in the last 30 days.
posted by stavrogin at 7:17 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I couldn't care if the ex-member is Dr. Phil, they lost the right to comment on goings on here the moment they stormed off in a fit of pique.

Not everyone who leaves the site storms off in a fit of pique, and sometimes the thoughts of those people about what's going on here are worth a helluva lot. Just sayin'.

I'm not a fan of drive-by anonymous commenting, but some of the resentment here aimed at the former member is really funny.
posted by mediareport at 7:18 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


If so, I say to her that women who have affairs with other women's husbands - even "informal long-distance dalliances" - are in no position to be lecturing us on etiquette.

Oh, please. That's your contribution to this discussion?

Also, what Help, I can't stop talking! just said.
posted by mediareport at 7:19 AM on March 30, 2009


Ask me about my digestive processes!

So...how about them?


Well, first, there's the gas. Sometimes it feels like one of those relationship AskMes that has all kinds of enthusiastic answers, but makes you feel kind of queasy, you know? Other times, it's more like a full-throated MeTa thread, with torches and rumbling back-and-forth accusations and bloated, pages-long statements of position. Those are kind of entertaining, but in the end, it's still all just gas. Then there are the little snark-clouds that kind of slip out unnoticed. Those can feel very satisfying.

Then there's the main product. The substantial, solid, loaded-with-fiber stuff. You're going to have to subscribe to my service to get any of that, but if it's the kind of thing you like, you'll decide it's worth it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:23 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


mediareport: "Oh, please. That's your contribution to this discussion?"

Apparently.

Problem?
posted by Joe Beese at 7:30 AM on March 30, 2009


Joe, your persistent attempts to deflect all criticism by linking to that image is now something of a running gag here, but, you know, it won't work. You should stop trying. I found your comment irrelevant, mean-spirited and crappy, nothing but a drive-by insult at someone who's not here and didn't ask to be the subject of discussion.

So, yeah. Not quite "Problem" status, but worth pointing out in the hope you'll grow up on that kind of thing.
posted by mediareport at 7:36 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I dunno, it seems to be that BB got played like a fiddle.

He's going to great lengths in that thread to defend the article from all attackers. Of course he's going to want to post an e-mail comment that supports his positions on the topic.

Add that the comment contains the dreaded atomic weapon of "this is why I left", and it's pretty easy to see that whoever sent it WANTED it to be posted.

So don't give her the benefit of the doubt. She wanted to comment on the thread, and wanted to do so with some false sense of gravitas of "former user".
posted by graventy at 7:36 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess I disagree with your assessment that such a thing is "extrememly important" I'd say it's something good to know

Yeah, I was overstating things a bit there. Also, it would have been better to shoot ya'll an email maybe or encourage the person to do so. Lesson learned.

So, apologies to all for inadvertently stirring things up there., that wasn't my intent and I should have spent more time thinking my actions and the consequences through in that particular case. The next round of dry-roasted veggies are on me.

That said, the dismissive attitude about people who have left the site is surprising to me. Asking " Why would one anonymous non-member's opinion be of value to the "community at large?" with its implication of us vs. them sounds overly negative and toxic when applied in a general sense. By all means agree or disagree with specific statements but the "fuck ya'll, you left and don't mean anything now" doesn't sound like it would like it's helpful to the community. To me, it sounds odd that someone could post something here on the site and have it taken seriously then leave and say similar and it's not taken seriously and instead treated dismissively just because it's not posted here, only to rejoin and suddenly it's taken seriously again. Either the point is valid or it isn't, no matter where it's said.


On preview:
I dunno, it seems to be that BB got played like a fiddle.

Certainly worth considering, but obviously I don't think so.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:41 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Brandon's a good egg, and this is a case of questionable judgment on his part. I use the word questionable, because it really isn't a flagrant, open-and-shut case, like posting someone's MeMail message sent in confidence. I agree that it's not a good idea to do this, but I don't think we need to carry on any longer about why it's not a good idea.

So, how would you describe this boat?
posted by Mister_A at 7:49 AM on March 30, 2009


Either the point is valid or it isn't, no matter where it's said.

Yes and no. We've definitely developed a mod attitude where the opinions of the people who are in the community are, at some real level, more important than the opinions of the people who have chosen to leave. People who have chosen to leave aren't part of our constituency. We care about them because they're still people, but we care differently. Not that we don't care about their reasons for leaving and whatever, but considering that anyone who wants to can be a part of this community, speaking as an expatriate about the flaws of the community just seems like a weird stilted way to talk to the people here. It's okay not to like it here, certainly, but I really feel that people should pitch in ot make it better or back off and admit that it's not the right place for them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:00 AM on March 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


mediareport: "I found your comment irrelevant, mean-spirited and crappy..."

And yet you seem to resent it when I helpfully remind you of the way to get it removed.

You just can't win with some people.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:00 AM on March 30, 2009


And, on preview, Joe the point is that the mods aren't the only people who can say what's good and bad about the community. We're just ultimately the only ones who can delete stuff. We'd prefer, in many cases, that people would just act in ways that don't require mod actions. You seem to ruffle a lot of feathers for someone who is new here and go back and forth between caring and not caring about that. I suggest you care a little and not toss everything back at the mods for sorting out.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:02 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, how would you describe this boat
That looks like a reproduction of the boat used in the Palauan story of Echo (halfway down the page). Prolly not the original.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 8:08 AM on March 30, 2009


the mods aren't the only people who can say what's good and bad about the community.

You really seem to have missed this point, Joe. Missed it hard.
posted by mediareport at 8:10 AM on March 30, 2009


Asking " Why would one anonymous non-member's opinion be of value to the "community at large?" with its implication of us vs. them sounds overly negative and toxic when applied in a general sense.

We have built-in options to hash out this stuff in the community, though. Metafilter isn't like Scientology, we have a whole subsection here to deal with "I don't like this" type complaints. Ex-members had their chance to air grievances to the community, and either didn't take it, or didn't like the results.

This is a bit like getting to attack the community without giving us a proper chance to respond, because of her anonymity.
posted by graventy at 8:10 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


By all means agree or disagree with specific statements but the "fuck ya'll, you left and don't mean anything now" doesn't sound like it would like it's helpful to the community.

I agree that there's a natural tendency for the us vs. them mentality for any community site, but I think that comment in particular was doomed to provoke a strong negative reaction. The third and fourth paragraphs are filled with a variety of insults directed at either MetaFilter as a whole or most of the people commenting in that thread. Paraphrasing:

- People are disagreeing with the author because they are inexperienced and can't possibly understand her point of view.
- They lack any kind of sympathy or empathy.
- They are disrespecting the author's view of herself.
- They must have lived a charmed life and never had to evaluate their own situations as the author has.
- Most of society live differently than the author, which explains the backlash.
- This kind of thing is why the former user doesn't participate anymore.
- Most of the people in the thread had shut off their brains.
- Some people only condescend to comment on MetaFilter to criticize people.
- No one reflects enough to be able to relate to other viewpoints/experiences.

The rest of the comment was actually fairly innocuous, but that section was pretty much a flame. When someone says something that boils down to "You guys all suck, that's why I don't hang out with you," the general response is going to tend to be "No, you're the one who sucks, and we don't want to hang out with you anyway."
posted by burnmp3s at 8:17 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think the MFM's comments regarding MeFi are accurate, at least as far as that thread goes. He/she writes "I can't help but feel that the author's experience is so foreign to most commenters that they can't fathom it. What other explanation can there be for such a glaring lack of sympathy, empathy?"

But in fact several people in the thread have commented that they live alone and like it that way, but that many of Lane's stated reasons for being alone ring hollow to them. The MFM might have a point if everyone in the thread were coupled, but even those MeFites who are alone and like it that way, and are accepting in general of people who prefer to be alone, find Lane's defense of her reasons for being alone unconvincing.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:18 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is one of those weird cases that will eventually show up in the MeFi law journals. Ex-user isn't exactly wrong for commenting to BB about this thing - not wanting to participate in the social aspects of MeFi doesn't necessarily mean you don't want to consume MeFi (I guess), and Brandon isn't exactly wrong for posting a comment that he found interesting on several levels. But the sum total of it is clearly outside acceptable procedure.

Everyone is welcome to play, except those who aren't playing. It's quite simple.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:22 AM on March 30, 2009


And yet you seem to resent it when I helpfully remind you of the way to get it removed.

Joe, you have more than once seemed to make a post-kerfluffle effort to be reasonable and self-aware and nominally apologetic for poking things with sticks and being a jerk and over-responding to stuff, etc. I really appreciate that you've done that, because it has let me believe you're basically an okay guy who just has some really crap impulses. But it'd be really great if you could start moving that post-kerfluffle stuff to the pre-kurfluffle portion of the threads and just quell the crap impulses in the first place.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:22 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Who was that masked member?
posted by jonmc at 8:29 AM on March 30, 2009


Color me surprised this thread is still open. What is there to discuss anymore?
posted by voltairemodern at 8:30 AM on March 30, 2009


We can discuss that this is the 100th comment.
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 AM on March 30, 2009


What is there to discuss anymore?

Members, of course.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:32 AM on March 30, 2009


I HAVE A MYSTERIOUS FORMER MEMBER.

IN MY PANTS.
posted by loquacious at 8:47 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, also... I was sent here to do this. Sorry Joe.

*loquacious suddenly tackles Joe Beese and pins him to the ground, producing a buzzing tattoo gun*
*after a brief struggle loq stands, releasing Joe Beese and revealing the words POOR IMPULSE CONTROL freshly inked into his forehead*
posted by loquacious at 8:52 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Loquacious has haunted pants.
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 AM on March 30, 2009


Wow. I disagree with almost everyone, apparently. I'll repost my comment from the original thread:

I entirely disagree, and I think this sentiment is childish, on the order of posting a SEEKRIT DUNGEON sign and talking about how great the clubhouse is and how stupid everybody outside the club is. And what the fuck do you care if someone left the site? Would it have made you happier if Brandon Blatcher hadn't mentioned that fact, but just said "A non-member wrote..."? Me, I welcome all interesting perspectives, and I'm glad Brandon Blatcher chose to post this one.


I stand by that, and I'm surprised and frankly disappointed that the mods feel the way they do:

Yeah, that's kind of annoying. Don't do that.

We've definitely developed a mod attitude where the opinions of the people who are in the community are, at some real level, more important than the opinions of the people who have chosen to leave.


Really? The opinions of some people "are, at some real level, more important" just because they're members? I find that bizarre and objectionable. Everyone is equally important, and we should welcome all worthwhile opinions. And I still don't understand why it makes a dime's worth of difference whether someone left the site, unless you're chained to a junior-high view of life: "ooh, they don't like us anymore, well then I hate them too!!"
posted by languagehat at 8:53 AM on March 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


"X is outta the room, heard what we talking about, commented to me about it, I think it was interesting and here's what they said"

X?
posted by Chuckles at 9:05 AM on March 30, 2009


We've definitely developed a mod attitude where the opinions of the people who are in the community are, at some real level, more important than the opinions of the people who have chosen to leave.

Really? The opinions of some people "are, at some real level, more important" just because they're members?


I would hazard a guess that "non-members" can't gripe on Metatalk at the mods so in a functional way, yes, that would be of less importance to those who are tasked with responding to said gripes.

At a more general level, I agree. Statements put forth are statements put forth, and are all grist for the MeFi-mill.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:07 AM on March 30, 2009


We've definitely developed a mod attitude where the opinions of the people who are in the community are, at some real level, more important than the opinions of the people who have chosen to leave.

I am not sure what "important" has to do with anything. I think the better measure is "interesting." And I agree with languagehat that the extent to which an idea is interesting is not likely to be dependent on whether it originated with a member of the site...
posted by prefpara at 9:07 AM on March 30, 2009


I see it more as a drama-triage thing, honestly. There's a degree of pay-to-play that I think when kept in force keeps people a little more honest on average—I don't mean the literal $5, I mean time and effort spent being part of the community that justifies (to the extent that it can be justified) laying dramatic hands on the community.

If someone wants to not be here, that's cool, and I wish them well. But if they want to not be here, I'd rather they not mix shit up by proxy. And I think this is a weird half-strength case where (a) BB didn't mean any harm and (b) MFM may not have had any expectation that their comments would end up on mefi when they shared them. So I'm not particularly agitated about this outing, though I do agree with the folks who have said that it probably wasn't the best judgment call, good intentions on BB's part notwithstanding, because, well, here we are:

Drama by proxy from someone who already took their leave from the community. It's not something we want to encourage. It's sort of the ex-boyfriend version of cross-site conflicts (MF vs. BoingBoing, MF vs. Userfriendly, Camgirls Invade Metafilter, whichever bit of history you want to compare it to), and those almost never leave anyone looking good.

I don't think a person is more important or more real at the base level if they're a member vs. if they're not, but as far as managing this community, we're a lot more concerned with the folks who are around and participating than we are with the ones standing off in the distance sending us post-breakup letters. Maybe Jessamyn elided too much of that in her comment for it to be clear that that's specifically part of where we're coming from, but that's the pragmatic side of the coin.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:10 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Really? The opinions of some people "are, at some real level, more important" just because they're members?

Of course they are. That's the whole point of membership- you join a club, you align yourself with other members, you abide by the rules. Why should the mods be responsible for dealing with people who have made it publicly clear that they're not interested in being a part of the club anymore? On preview, cortex said it better than I did.

Everyone is equally important, and we should welcome all worthwhile opinions.

We do. All you have to do is pay $5 and you can opine to your hearts content.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:12 AM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Everyone is equally important, and we should welcome all worthwhile opinions.

At a very real level, being employed by the site is in some ways really different from just being a community member. Part of what we do for work is keep the community running, keep the community members happy and try to think about things that would make the community run better. Sometimes this does mean drawing a distinction between people who are members and who are non-members.

As far as a discussion, I agree with you everyone's opinion is worth hearing and important. As far as "things that require mod attention/action" we do draw a distinction. Someone random complaining about MeFi from another site (whether it's their own blog or Jezebel) doesn't get the same attention as someone complaining about MeFi from within MetaTalk. Every outsider's opinions about how the community runs is worth knowing, but doesn't get the same weight as people in the community who are more invested and actually create the community that they are discussing.

I don't mean to sound mercenary about this, but when my work hat is on, I serve the members of the site first and the "greater internet community" second. This has nothing to do with the validity of their opinions, but simply our practical response to them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:12 AM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Speaking of spectres, I find it ... interesting that the spectres of communitarianism should surface at this site of all places. It may just be because that spectre is always so difficult to exorcise.

Something I've always appreciated about the site is its openenss to a kind of self reflection at a community level, concerning its practices and whatnot. And it seems reasonable to think former members' experiences would be helpful input for that process.
posted by rudster at 9:18 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


We do. All you have to do is pay $5 and you can opine to your hearts content.

In this case, it'd be a free un-disabling of their account.
posted by graventy at 9:24 AM on March 30, 2009


posted by Joe Beese Problem?

If you're going to link to my Flag It and Move On poster, please do me the courtesy of linking to the image in my photostream. Thanks.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:25 AM on March 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


"There is no legitimate reason to leave...former followers are always wrong in leaving. [...] Former followers are, at best, considered negative or, worse, evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided."

Warning Signs Of A Cult
, The Ross Institute
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:32 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think notes from ex-members that are simply, "o hai - don't wanna re-up my account, but here's X new information about this subject that you might be interested in" would be no biggie, but that an anonymous message that is basically, "you people suck" isn't cool. Not because it isn't true, but because it's craven: you're taking your shot without exposing yourself at all.

But also, it's sort of unfair to people who may be suspected of being the MFM. Someone may think, "oh, I remember so-and-so left over some boyzone stuff, I bet this is her," when it really isn't. So for me, best practice is getting your account turned on to make the comment, even if you never again post another thing. Failing that, at least sign the email message that is going to be shared.
posted by taz at 9:39 AM on March 30, 2009


There are also those special shirts, and let's not even mention all the group jargon.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:39 AM on March 30, 2009


Warning Signs Of A Cult, The Ross Institute

Oy gevalt.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:40 AM on March 30, 2009


Cult leaders often use their positions to obtain sexual gratification from followers. I'm just saying.
posted by found missing at 9:40 AM on March 30, 2009


"Really? The opinions of some people "are, at some real level, more important" just because they're members? I find that bizarre and objectionable. Everyone is equally important, and we should welcome all worthwhile opinions. And I still don't understand why it makes a dime's worth of difference whether someone left the site, unless you're chained to a junior-high view of life: "ooh, they don't like us anymore, well then I hate them too!!""

I kind of liken it to, say, Senators or House Reps. Sure, they care about things that are ultimately good for the country too, but their most pressing duty is to the constituents. We're more an informal monarchy here, but still, benevolent monarchy is pretty much tasked with doing whatever to make sure that their citizens don't form into mobs and ransack the palace.

Which is the community.

Oh, balls, you know what I mean.
posted by klangklangston at 9:45 AM on March 30, 2009


It's different with me though–he really likes me.
posted by Mister_A at 9:46 AM on March 30, 2009


But also, it's sort of unfair to people who may be suspected of being the MFM. Someone may think, "oh, I remember so-and-so left over some boyzone stuff, I bet this is her," when it really isn't. So for me, best practice is getting your account turned on to make the comment, even if you never again post another thing. Failing that, at least sign the email message that is going to be shared.

Agreed.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:51 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"There is no legitimate reason to leave...former followers are always wrong in leaving. [...] Former followers are, at best, considered negative or, worse, evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided."

That's just the thetans in your mind brain talking crazy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:54 AM on March 30, 2009


Well, this explains the weird diet I've been on for the last 5 years and why cortex keeps mailing me his panties and touching me too much when he's talking to me.
posted by loquacious at 9:59 AM on March 30, 2009


Coincidentally, a spanking new member memailed me his panties. I can’t report the details to you now, but this is sensitive stuff and bound to engender controversy and whatnot.
posted by found missing at 10:04 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


We can spank new members?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:07 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmm, the ghost of a new member just sent me some information about a new charity, Ponziwell.com...
posted by Mister_A at 10:07 AM on March 30, 2009


What burnmp3s and DevilsAdvocate said. I'm having trouble extracting the content of the comment in question from the greater argument.

The problem is more than just "former member sends comments damning Metafilter by proxy;" It's "former member sends comments damning Metafilter in general and those who disagree with the OP's comments in specific." Someone posting a comment from a former member is Sort Of A Bad Thing, but the notion of someone saying "Look! Here's someone who agrees with me so strenuously, they cite a similar situation as their reason for leaving the site in a huff!" just shits on the whole concept of a community. Involving anonymous haters in the discussion is setting precedent for all kinds of useless trouble down the road.

But then, I'm commenting on a discussion I was pretty vigorously a part of, so take what I say with a grain of salt.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:16 AM on March 30, 2009


Warning Signs Of A Cult...

Whoa! I never realized I worked for a cult before.

(Or at least, my employees work for a cult. As a leader, I'm pretty much unaccountable.)

(Fuck yeah!)
posted by quin at 10:24 AM on March 30, 2009


We can spank new members?

This is a cult, we can do anything we want.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:27 AM on March 30, 2009


FWIW, I totally agree with languagehat's comment in the thread:

I entirely disagree, and I think this sentiment is childish, on the order of posting a SEEKRIT DUNGEON sign and talking about how great the clubhouse is and how stupid everybody outside the club is. And what the fuck do you care if someone left the site? Would it have made you happier if Brandon Blatcher hadn't mentioned that fact, but just said "A non-member wrote..."? Me, I welcome all interesting perspectives, and I'm glad Brandon Blatcher chose to post this one...

I didn't think anything of BB's decision to post that comment and was surprised that people got all hot about it, and while I agree it would be weird if that happened all the time, I don't see what the fuss is here.
posted by hermitosis at 10:33 AM on March 30, 2009


while I agree it would be weird if that happened all the time

My biggest issue with it, at least, is that it sets a precedent we might not want to be setting. People argue on Metafilter; it's part of the experience. And anyone can "win" an argument by borrowing equity from a "former member."
posted by hifiparasol at 10:37 AM on March 30, 2009


I totally disagree with languagehat, simply because the barrier to first-party participation here is trivial, there is a value to establishing a record of comments associated with a username (hence, no anonymous commenting), and because commenting by proxy does not lend itself to dialogue.
posted by found missing at 10:46 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


*shruggo*
posted by Pax at 10:51 AM on March 30, 2009


...commenting by proxy does not lend itself to dialogue.

Neither do lots of things. Like "." for example. Or 86% of AskMe (thank god). Or the users who seem to think that MetaTalk threads shouldn't ever be opened and bitch and moan when they are, regardless of the subsite's function.

This quoting incident is extremely uncommon, and I don't see it as setting some new precedent. If people hadn't gotten so immediately groupthinky and defensive and just dismissed it as trivial feedback from a non-participant, it would have just faded away.
posted by hermitosis at 10:55 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I signed all my income and assets over to Mathowie, I had a moment of unease.

Sometimes I still feel uneasy.
posted by everichon at 10:59 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


fuck it. are these cans I'm holding supposed to give me electric shocks?
posted by adamvasco at 11:09 AM on March 30, 2009


I'm pretty sure "Brandon Blatcher" isn't his real name.
posted by Floydd at 11:13 AM on March 30, 2009


We've definitely developed a mod attitude where the opinions of the people who are in the community are, at some real level, more important than the opinions of the people who have chosen to leave.

This is a bad, bad attitude for any kind of leadership to develop.

It's what led Detroit to make bigger SUVs and Hummers when they were losing all those customers to Toyota, for example, as well as the reason Microsoft didn't worry about Firefox until it was too late.

The people who leave are your best guide to how you're really doing, and we've lost quite a few excellent contributors.
posted by jamjam at 11:19 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The people who leave are your best guide to how you're really doing, and we've lost quite a few excellent contributors.

I think that's a little too vague and subjective - we're at 90k. In almost a decade there have been thousands of contributors and probably hundreds of great ones who've moved on to without disclosing their reasons for leaving.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:28 AM on March 30, 2009


The people who leave are your best guide to how you're really doing

Jessamyn said there was back-and-forth with many of the people who left. She never said those voices weren't important -- just that they're not as immediately important as the voices of the people who choose to stay in the community to make it a better place.

The mods have to triage to some degree. There's a handful of them, and tens of thousands of us.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:30 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was glad that BB posted that email and it didn't occur to me that it would be controversial. It was a perspective that I was glad to see.

Former members posting through current ones isn't so much of a regular occurance that a call out was necessary, and I don't understand why it raised so many hackles.

Add that the comment contains the dreaded atomic weapon of "this is why I left",

Also, what makes leaving such an atomic weapon?
posted by small_ruminant at 11:30 AM on March 30, 2009


Pop psychology, but "this is why I left" is a potent bit of ammo because it can carry with it, if not phrased with some care, the implication that the person who left is right and ergo the people who stayed are wrong about some critical aspect of the site/community/whatever.

People can have very good reasons for wanting to take off, and can be totally reasonable about conveying those reasons when it comes up, but it's also really easy to move into much nastier territory if things get off on the wrong foot. Again: that can make this sort of message delivery situation stink of incipient drama, which is part of why we're not hot on it from a community-management perspective despite generally not having a problem with folks feeling whatever they might feel about the site or their time on it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:42 AM on March 30, 2009


I'm not participating AT THIS VERY MOMENT.


still not
posted by blue_beetle at 11:43 AM on March 30, 2009


The opinions of some people "are, at some real level, more important" just because they're members?

Yes. Most definitely yes. Just as the opinions of your own family and friends are more important than those of a stranger (or an ex-family member or ex-friend).

For example, if your current roommate tells you that you need a shower, you'd give that opinion way more weight than if an ex-roommate saw you walking down the street and said it.

If your best friend told you that your dress was too short, you'd probably give her opinion more consideration than if a former friend came up to you and told you that your dress makes you look slutty.

If your girlfriend/boyfriend tells you that you seem grumpy lately, you'd probably believe her/him. But you would resent hearing that you're grumpy from someone who is not involved in your day-to-day life.

Once people choose to remove themselves from our lives, for whatever reason, they lose their rights to impart their opinions to us. Heaven forbid that you would give as much weight to the feelings of a former spouse as you do to those of your current spouse.

So, yes, the opinions/thoughts/feelings of people who are actually members of the site are more important than the opinions of people who have left. Former members can sit back and observe and be as opinionated and/or judgmental as they please, but, once they leave, they're not entitled to our attention.
posted by amyms at 11:44 AM on March 30, 2009


Also, what makes leaving such an atomic weapon?

Leaving isn't the atomic weapon. The atomic weapon was the fact that the statement was allegedly made by proxy to support an argument a current user was making. If I'm in a debate with someone (or several someones), and I resort to saying, "Comments like yours are why people leave Metafilter, and here's unsubstantiated proof!" it's unconstructive at best and ad hominem at worst.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:46 AM on March 30, 2009


If your best friend told you that your dress was too short, you'd probably give her opinion more consideration than if a former friend came up to you and told you that your dress makes you look slutty.

Not reallyl, she's been trying to steal my stuff for months.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:53 AM on March 30, 2009


To me, it sounds odd that someone could post something here on the site and have it taken seriously then leave and say similar and it's not taken seriously and instead treated dismissively just because it's not posted here, only to rejoin and suddenly it's taken seriously again. Either the point is valid or it isn't, no matter where it's said.

I don't want to give this more gravitas than it deserves but the nature of MFM's comments make this analagous to a defendant's right to face their accuser.

One of the reasons Mefi works is that all of us are accountable, in terms of the community and the moderators, for our posts.

So, if you're gonna come in and bash the community, please have the intestinal fortitude to identify yourself. And if you don't have the courage to do that, do NOT give BB permission to add it to the discussion.
posted by cjets at 11:54 AM on March 30, 2009


Leaving isn't the atomic weapon. The atomic weapon was the fact that the statement was allegedly made by proxy to support an argument a current user was making. If I'm in a debate with someone (or several someones), and I resort to saying, "Comments like yours are why people leave Metafilter, and here's unsubstantiated proof!" it's unconstructive at best and ad hominem at worst.

If we all acknowledge you were right, so right, about everything, and would never have walked away from that argument looking like a jerk if not for BB horribly terribly evilly invoking the Ghost Poster and also women should all really like you because you're awesome so fuck that woman and her bullshit amirite, can this stupid thing be done?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:59 AM on March 30, 2009


So let me get this right...if the MFM would have simply said:

MEFI rocks, I love you all and wish I was part of your community but I am too broke to pay the $5 bucks/dont have electricity/use a borrowed computer (insert your favorite reason here for NOT BEING on MEFI)


Then everything would have been a-ok correct?
posted by The1andonly at 12:01 PM on March 30, 2009


We need a false equivalency flag here.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:03 PM on March 30, 2009


You lost me at "So let me get this right"
posted by found missing at 12:06 PM on March 30, 2009


The people who leave are your best guide to how you're really doing, and we've lost quite a few excellent contributors.

Yep. Every member who leaves can explain why they're leaving. Every member can email us and have a conversation with us. We as mods are accountable and the community at large is reachable by members and to a lesser degree by non-members. We care a lot when people leave, but sometimes there are just bad fit situations and sometimes there's probably something we could have done better. However, while "retention" [to use a word we never use in mod discussions but something we think about in the library world] is something I take seriously, sometimes people leave for reasons that are neither our fault nor our responsibility.

So the big thing about MFM's comment was that it implies that they tried and failed at some level to stay with the community and that reflects a failure by us, possibly. However, we don't know. There's no other information. It's not a member leaving a manifesto on the way out. It's some member we can't identify saying that we failed them as a community but not opening a conversation about that topic, so there is a "scrw you" aspect to it. I figure that member can contact one of us if they want to actually talk about it, but as someone who takes retention stuff seriously especially retention of female members, I take stuff like that personally and it stings, that's all.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:40 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"This is a bad, bad attitude for any kind of leadership to develop.

It's what led Detroit to make bigger SUVs and Hummers when they were losing all those customers to Toyota, for example, as well as the reason Microsoft didn't worry about Firefox until it was too late.

The people who leave are your best guide to how you're really doing, and we've lost quite a few excellent contributors.
"

That's deranged.

Detroit's decline is complicated, but national health care has more to do with their decline than Hummers; IE still commands the lion's share of browsers, and it's not "too late" to adopt some of Firefox's innovations by any means. The people who left are not a better guide, especially undifferentiated—the flamed-out and banned fundamentally misunderstood parts of this community; folks that stay and contribute demonstrate continuing understanding of the community and interest in its viability. To cop from librariana, the patrons you serve are always more important than the patrons you don't because they're not your patrons.

The only way you could have been more wrong is if you'd added that The Fantastic Four was the best comic book movie ever and that President Roosevelt was behind 9/11.
posted by klangklangston at 12:40 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The atomic weapon was the fact that the statement was allegedly made by proxy to support an argument a current user was making. If I'm in a debate with someone (or several someones), and I resort to saying, "Comments like yours are why people leave Metafilter, and here's unsubstantiated proof!"

Look, I'm easily contactable and participating in both threads, so there's no need to make assumptions about what I did or why, I'm right here. If you want to discuss this or point out something you think was done wrong, fine, but layout off the twisting of words and subtle innuendo.

Either you believe me or your don't. Either way, say so, quit hiding behind "allegedly".

The comment wasn't posted to support the argument, I never wrote it was posted to support the argument so I have why you think it was, but you're wrong.

Nor was the posting of the comment a resort to anything, nor was your comment similar any statement I wrote.

Knock it off, please.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:50 PM on March 30, 2009


The people who leave are your best guide to how you're really doing

I don't think this is true at all.

The people who leave could just as easily be a "best guide" to the people with the thinnest skins, or people who don't function well in a community environment, or people who can't handle vigorous debate and/or having their opinions challenged, or people who don't like to see/read anything that isn't full of sunshine and ponies. Or they could be trolls who gave up, or bullies who got one-upped, or attention-cravers who got ignored.

The people who embody those examples can't be considered any kind of indicator about how the site is "really doing."

Even people who leave after a legitimate complaint or a heartfelt concern -- the ones who are basically saying "Okay, that's it, I give up" (which is fine, and a perfectly valid thing for them to do if they so choose) -- are still not anything close to a "best guide" for how well the site is functioning.
posted by amyms at 1:05 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I so badly wanna meet anonymous."

You have, you just didn't recognize them at the time.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 1:18 PM on March 30, 2009


"this explains the weird diet I've been on for the last 5 years and why cortex keeps mailing me his panties and touching me too much ..."

As if cortex could ever touch someone too much.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 1:28 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I so badly wanna meet anonymous."

You can. Right here.
posted by cimbrog at 1:29 PM on March 30, 2009


Gives a whole new and yet not knew meaning to MetaTalk...
posted by juiceCake at 1:52 PM on March 30, 2009


I'm wondering how many more times "gravitas" can be used in this thread.
posted by nonmerci at 2:00 PM on March 30, 2009


How long do we let the ghosts haunt us?

There's more of gravy than of gravitas about this thread!
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:11 PM on March 30, 2009


This quoting incident is extremely uncommon, and I don't see it as setting some new precedent.

Bingo. Does anyone seriously think this is going to open the floodgates and MeFi will suddenly be filled with anonymous screeds from disgruntled ex-members? In the first place, that's so unlikely it strikes me as a disingenuous attempt to avoid having to come up with a real argument (beyond sheer clannishness, which some people seem to think is good enough), and in the second place, in the extremely unlikely event that it came to pass, it could be dealt with then. This is not the Supreme Court, and there are no "precedents"; Matt & Co. are perfectly capable of saying "Well, we let that slide back then, but now it doesn't seem like such a good idea, so no, you can't do it." (And they have done so many times; insert ritual lament for img tag.)

Also, The Fantastic Four was the best comic book movie ever and President Roosevelt was behind 9/11. (Teddy, that is.)
posted by languagehat at 2:23 PM on March 30, 2009


*casts gravitaga*

(Teddy, that is.)

PANAMA = A MAN, A PLAN, AN INSIDE JOB
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:56 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is not the Supreme Court

Then how do you explain the robes?
posted by found missing at 3:01 PM on March 30, 2009


They were thirty percent off if we bought wizard hats too.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:05 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thirty-four percent, actually.
posted by carsonb at 3:09 PM on March 30, 2009


Thirty? Thirty-four? If we're negotiating, I'm not going to be satisfied until the robes are 100% off, fellas.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:24 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I do not like the image of cortex in nothing but his wizard hat.
posted by found missing at 3:28 PM on March 30, 2009


depends on where he wears it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:33 PM on March 30, 2009


gravitas.

just trying to help.
posted by CitizenD at 3:34 PM on March 30, 2009


It's amazing how strongly the audience projected on both the writer of the essay in the original post and the former MeFi member. Didn't matter what Ms. Lane claimed in her essay or comments, she was afraid of life, afraid of men, engaged in a cynical marketing ploy, unhappy, and lying to herself. Perhaps she was; I won't argue that it's inappropriate to infer something different than what an author claims to be the case. I even thought some of the criticisms were valid, but the intensity of the attacks and the claims of sexism weren't warranted. Someone, writing under her real name, decided to share her personal life. Even if it's likely that she's being dishonest with herself or that her real motivation was to build business, so what? Is it worth shitting on her view of her self? "It's a cold world, baby girl." Yeah, I get that. Still, that's a poor answer to the question, "What value comes out of that?".

And then the projections on the former MeFi who wrote a private email to Brandon. Apparently she's passive-aggressive, sanctimonious, and she threw a fit when she left. Or so I'm told. Is it so threatening to hear someone state that there are MetaFilter "commenters who have shut off their critical faculties entirely"? I just don't see the need to require a user handle to be present so the community can direct its responses. It's bizarre that in a note written to express a little empathy, we focus on her paltry criticism of the site, or the possibility that she's a figment of Brandon's imagination conjured up for him to 'win' the debate.

Once people choose to remove themselves from our lives, for whatever reason, they lose their rights to impart their opinions to us.

Huh? There's a difference between considering another's opinion and considering their preferences. We aren't going to be doing the former member any favors here. I don't see how anyone wins but us in getting another voice on the subject. We're the richer for it.

But for those who are concerned that she could just swoop on in and diminish our dignity and self-respect with her cruel, well-crafted insults without the risk of being held accountable for her opinions, fear not. No doubt, she's gotten an earful.

It's also a little weird that an anomalous situation comes up and we jump to create policy. As if something bad would happen if we didn't declare a position.

-----

Brandon,

I'm grateful you made both postings. To quote your own correspondent, "So I'm glad you cared what she thinks... Thanks for posting it.".
posted by BigSky at 3:40 PM on March 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


"The lurkers agree with me in email" is a classic and well-known troll move - I suspect that is what a lot of people are reacting to, whether consciously or not, even when trolling was not the intent of either BB or MFM.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:56 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it so threatening to hear someone state that there are MetaFilter "commenters who have shut off their critical faculties entirely"?

It's not threatening so much as it is silly, in the context of a thread where members reading between the original author's lines & speculating on her motivations & philosophies is *precisely* an engagement of critical faculties.

Not using one's critical faculties would amount to taking the author's words completely at face value, which is not reading critically, but the kind of disengaged reading that any schoolchild could come up with, not unlike a fledgling happily scoffing down the predigested pap that its mother regurgitates for it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:59 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


He/she writes "I can't help but feel that the author's experience is so foreign to most commenters that they can't fathom it.

Ah, the old "if you don't agree, you just don't understand".

Is she sure she isn't cut out for this place?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:14 PM on March 30, 2009


It's not threatening so much as it is silly, in the context of a thread where members reading between the original author's lines & speculating on her motivations & philosophies is *precisely* an engagement of critical faculties.

Speculating on the motives of an author who is sharing her emotions and beliefs about being single doesn't seem to be so much 'critical' as 'self-indulgent'.

And I agree with the former MeFite who pointed out that such a rush to criticize and dismiss, suggests an unwillingness to consider who and how the author is. I suppose that one could retort that all the criticism is in answer to precisely that issue. Maybe it is. I guess I just see a lot of value in the bromide that each person is doing the best they can with what they have. Not that it's some sort of metaphysical truth or anything, but I have a hard time trusting the judgment of anyone who doesn't at least partly share in that outlook.
posted by BigSky at 4:24 PM on March 30, 2009


Proxy posting just seems like all kinds of wrong. I think it does set a precedent and it opens the gate for former Mefites with an axe to grind to pitch up their stall in the middle of any thread (assuming someone is willing to assist) - and that's exactly the message I'm getting from that post.

The subject matter aside, it's the comments on why they no longer participate (while, strangely, actually participating) that stand out.

I don't think that ex-Mefites should be all packed off to the leper colony either. Their opinions are as good as anyones. If I had time and the inclination I'm sure I could pull up all sorts of great commentary and insight from people who no longer participate on Metafilter. This, unfortunately, isn't a good example.
posted by panboi at 4:30 PM on March 30, 2009


But does anyone have suggestions for how to deal with someone who writes to a user and includes information about why they've left the site?

For me this is a very simple boundaries issue: it's none of our responsibility to speak for others. As jessamyn pointed out, the site not only allows for disagreement, it has an entire channel where people can bring up grievances and concerns, and it makes the mod identities and addresses quite public so there can be personal interaction hopefully leading toward a resolution. If someone wrote to me with such a long comment, showing such interest and engagement with the site community, I really wouldn't want to take their stuff on me. It's inappropriate, as far as I'm concerned - not just on MeFi, but in life. People can and should speak for themselves. BB, by leaping to the rescue, you got into the middle of this. If an MFM has something to say, let the MFM login and say it.

As far as whether people who leave have important perspectives - they sometimes do, but from an organizational standpoint it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to worry about them. Leaving is ultimately a personal choice. You leave because you don't enjoy it any more. There are things in this community that legitimately anger or hurt people sometimes, but you can only change it if you are in it and if you are active. That's true for every organization; if I had $10 for everyone who told me about the organization I work for "You know what you guys should do?" then we wouldn't have a deficit this year. Leaders of organizations will drive themselves insane if they try to appeal to anyone and everyone who's not committed to the organization. It's a losing game; the organization exists for the membership and this one is largely shaped by the membership. Only the people who are opting in have actual influence. That's as it should be. If you want to help shape it, be a member. Those who want influence should opt in, and should speak for themselves. It's uncomfortable but far healthier.
posted by Miko at 4:52 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


languagehat - ok, just looked back at the original thread and realized that your rant was aimed at me. So I'll go ahead and lay it out for you.

I lose respect for people when they leave the site because "you people are such assholes" or "these threads make me so mad, but for some reason I'm always in them." I think these people are either kinda unbalanced or take the site way too seriously. In either case we're better off without them. And if they go through such a dramatic change of heart that all of a sudden we're no longer "assholes," then okay -- mazeltov, Sport. Go ahead and make a new account just like everybody else, and try not to fuck up this time.

Honestly, I probably would have never said anything if it wasn't for the "and THIS is why I left the site" part. I know that's supposed to make me think, "oh gee I'm such a bad person, if only we were all better people we could please everybody and then nobody would throw a fit and walk off." But really it just makes me think, "Yup, another unbalanced ex-user. No great loss."

I've been involved in some pretty vicious threads, and I'll admit that I haven't always been the stellar user I'd like to be. But ultimately I'm glad that I stuck around. If I had left or became a lurker, I don't think I would have learned anything about myself, the argument, or how best to conduct myself on the site.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:55 PM on March 30, 2009


Not using one's critical faculties would amount to taking the author's words completely at face value, which is not reading critically

Bzuh, first you (not you UbuRoivas) should try to comprehend what is actually being stated as a whole before you start trying to make yourself feel better by tearing it down—by such "critical thinking" as picking at a part of it, calling the source sufficiently smeared, or just outright misreading the fucking thing. I don't see much critical thinking in that thread, but I see a whole lot of shadowboxing.
posted by fleacircus at 5:07 PM on March 30, 2009


BB, by leaping to the rescue, you got into the middle of this.

Miko, wow that sounds so scoldy! I didn't see any "leaping to the rescue." The author of that email wasn't begging for it to be posted. It was just thoughts they'd formed that BB thought valid enough to pass on. That's it.

If he had quoted a news article or someone famous would people be as upset? Should they also have to buy an account for their words to hold weight?

What about when Mrs. Afroblanco uses Afroblanco's account or is quoted by Afroblanco? Where are the pitchforks and tar for those comments?

(sorry Afroblanco- your username just happened to be the one in eyeball range on the screen)

I'm totally baffled by the outrage here.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:12 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only thing I have to add that hasn't already been said is that outside of AnonyMe posts, I think that for the sake of accountability that people post behind SOME kind of username. Re-up your old one or pay $5 for a sock puppet if you're an ex-user. I know that in this case, BrandonBlatcher wasn't asked to post, but chose to - but still... I feel like the sense of MeFi as a community relies a lot on user accountability. We're not all *totally* anonymous freaks who run off into the ethers. We're just semi-anonymous freaks who at least have MeMail accounts.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:13 PM on March 30, 2009


BB, by leaping to the rescue, you got into the middle of this.

What are you talking about?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:16 PM on March 30, 2009


MetaTalk: I'm totally baffled by the outrage here.
posted by GuyZero at 5:17 PM on March 30, 2009


MetaTalk: What are you talking about?
posted by netbros at 5:28 PM on March 30, 2009


Me, I welcome all interesting perspectives

I am in complete agreement with languagehat and I'm somewhat baffled by the opposing view. I was wondering why I feel the why I do when so many people here feel otherwise. Then I read TPS's comment, in which she said, "...you join a club, you align yourself with other members..."

This made me think it's a matter of how you frame your membership here. As far as I'm concerned, I didn't join a club. Nor did I align myself with anyone. I "paid $5" (in quotes because I joined before the fee) for the ability to post on a web site. That's it.

I like many, many people here. I like contributing. But I have zero sense of being IN something that other people are OUT of. Rather, I feel the way I do when I'm watching a movie I paid to see. The people who didn't pay (those not in the theatre) aren't "not in the club." They're just people who aren't watching the movie.

(My claim is that we don't necessarily think of all group activities that aren't all-inclusive as clubs. I'm not sure what makes certain activities seem like clubs and others seem like "something we're doing." But I'm sure that two people can be part of the same group and one person can legitimately think of it as a club while the other can legitimately think of it as something else.)

Given my analogy, I could understand someone getting upset about the fact that someone is getting to post without having paid a membership fee. (Which isn't exactly the case here.) Frankly, even that doesn't upset me too much -- unless we're talking about something that cost me HUGE amounts of money or HUGE amounts of work. I guess I might be pissed if, after years of practice, I lost a ping-pong match to someone who had never practiced but was taking ping-pong enhancing drugs. But if I found out someone had snuck into a theatre and was watching the movie for free, I wouldn't dwell on the unfairness. I'd be too caught up in the movie.

But I don't think TPS is wrong. I think she and I just frame the site in different ways. From what I know of her, she's deeply involved in the community aspects of the site: meetups, etc. I'm not. I sometimes like that stuff, but for me, MeFi is predominantly about information. Since that's how I frame it, I want chiefly want information when I come here. I really don't care whether the info is from a former member, a current member or a talking bear. I just care that's it's useful, enlightening and/or entertaining.

(Imagine a less extreme example: a post on MeFi that said, "Etherial Bligh emailed me yesterday about this great site. He suggested I share it with the MeFi community." If it really is a GREAT site, would you rather not know about it, just because EB is no longer a member?")

I'm turned off by anything that curtails my access to information. To me, (useful) info is so wonderful that I can't see why anyone would choose to have less of it. And clique-ish stuff REALLY turns me off. If you think, "well, that's too bad, because by joining this site, you're part of a clique," then you and I are just framing things in different ways.
posted by grumblebee at 5:29 PM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


If we all acknowledge you were right, so right, about everything, and would never have walked away from that argument looking like a jerk if not for BB horribly terribly evilly invoking the Ghost Poster and also women should all really like you because you're awesome so fuck that woman and her bullshit amirite, can this stupid thing be done?

Oh, sod off with your assumptions about me. I was making salient points, explaining my responses logically and in detail, and generally making a coherent argument. If you have a problem, the problem is yours. I'm not responsible for shit you make up about what's in my head.

layout off the twisting of words and subtle innuendo... Knock it off, please.

Brandon, first you agree your linked item is an essay, then you claim it's just a list of related items, when it became rhetorically inconvenient for you to continue admitting it was an essay. Multiple readers make reasonable points about the essay's writing style and you claim everyone is just "interpreting things through their own filters." You use the words of an anonymous ex-Mefite to bolster your off-topic argument that everyone here is just a bunch of confirmation-bias-having jerks, then accuse me of hiding behind words. Do I think you're lying about the MFM? Probably not. Do I think you're debating in a disingenuous manner? Yes. Is that direct enough for you?

If the two of you want to have the last word because it's so important to your delicate sensibilities that you take one last blast at the thoughtless jerk who had the gall to openly point out the flaws in this delicate flower of an article, go right ahead. Or better yet, take your issues with me off MeFi and into my inbox, where I'll be just as happy to ignore you.
posted by hifiparasol at 5:37 PM on March 30, 2009


grumblebee has a point: I definitely think of the site as a membership organization, where, sure, the members are here to share in the information pool. But primarily a membership organization. "Club" has different connotations for me, but clubs are only one kind of membership organization; there are many. I do think MetaFilter is one.

I don't really care that much about this issue and doubt it will become SOP. Sorry I was misunderstood and in fact, misunderstood myself what the interaction between Brandon Blatcher and the MSM was. I perhaps misperceived it as a damsel-in-distress situation where someone fearful of being accountable for their views asked another person to relay them without being identified. I apologize for suggesting that Brandon Blatcher was 'leaping to the rescue' for someone who didn't want to speak for themselves - that's how it looked to me at first but it seems that's not exactly how it happened.

I still wonder why she didn't want her name appended. Where people don't want their comments to appear with their names beneath them, I think it's fair to discount the import of that comment a little. Generally, I value the accountable-to-an-account representation here and think it's one of the things that makes it a good community.
posted by Miko at 5:44 PM on March 30, 2009


clubs are only one kind of membership organization; there are many. I do think MetaFilter is one.

...is a membership organization, that is. I don't think it's a club, because I tend to think of clubs existing for primarily social purposes.
posted by Miko at 5:45 PM on March 30, 2009


I don't think it's a club, because I tend to think of clubs existing for primarily social purposes.

For some people (not me -- or apparently you, Miko), MeFi does exist primarily (or partly) for social purposes. And that's fine. Different people use the site in different ways.
posted by grumblebee at 5:51 PM on March 30, 2009


For some people (not me -- or apparently you, Miko), MeFi does exist primarily (or partly) for social purposes. And that's fine. Different people use the site in different ways.

Yes, I'm aware of that, but that doesn't make it not an organization. If MeFi exists primarily for social purposes, it exists for the purpose of socializing information. I think quibbling about whether or not it's a "club" is a semantic issue, whereas it's most definitely a membership organization - unlike a movie.
posted by Miko at 5:54 PM on March 30, 2009


I really don't care whether the info is from a former member, a current member or a talking bear.

I disagree in the strongest possible terms. I'd enjoy reading comments so much more if I knew they came from talking bears.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:59 PM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Just imagine them getting all flustered, padding away at their keyboards with their oversized bear paws!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:02 PM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I thought that said talking beer, which would be even better.
posted by Pax at 6:03 PM on March 30, 2009


I thought that said talking beer, which would be even better.

We already get plenty of comments from talking beers.
posted by amyms at 6:06 PM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


What about this as analogy: if you go see a movie, you pay a one-time fee and receive the information (movie). It's public and anyone can go; they can come or go, and discuss the information as they like. If you've paid to be in the theatre, you can talk to the theatre staff about the condition of the theatre, the types of movies they run, the sound levels, the food, etc. And they would listen to you inasmuch as they're interested in pleasing the customer base so that you'll come again, come more often, spend more money, etc. But you're essentially interchangeable with any other customer who buys your seat. If you never spend money at the theatre, they might still be interested in your opinion if it can somehow help them benefit materially or financially - if you might start coming to the theatre, might start being their popcorn supplier, whatever.

If you join Netflix, even at the lowest level, you are a member of that organization, with a defined role within it. You now receive some resources - you can do reviews, make lists, give ratings, connect to other members. If you don't like the way the service is run, you have some 'hand' in registering your feelings about it - membership gives you a different relationship to the organization than being a one-time or potential customer does. What the parameters of that relationship are are basically up to the organization. Membership in some organizations means more and has more power than membership in others.

I think that membership in MeFi is not meaningless. The existence of a registration process and active accounts means there's a binary member/nonmember status. Members have a profile, the ability to comment, a bookmarking function, access to certain areas of the site, etc. To me, this is all part of a transaction that means you are part of an organization, with the ability to use the membership benefits within the parameters set by the owners. So while I think it's good to argue for openness and inclusion, I don't think it makes a lot of sense to construct MetaFilter as something other than a membership organization.
posted by Miko at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not a club because you can't hit people with it.

Grumblebee—The reason that I thought people were objecting was, to take your analogy, someone who hadn't paid for the movie and had walked out halfway through complaining about the plot. It's like, well, yeah, of course you wouldn't like it or know how it ends. You left. I'm gonna discuss the movie with other people who saw it and have informed opinions.

Obviously, this perversion of analogy is flawed too, but I thought that was much more the complaint—disgruntled member is disgruntled—than clubbiness.
posted by klangklangston at 6:18 PM on March 30, 2009


Grumblebee, I think you are missing the point. This isn't about social clubs v information. The reason people got shirty is that the poster criticized some things that were said here, saying "this is why I don't participate anymore." That would be like someone walking into your darkened movie theatre and yelling "this audience is full of assholes" and walking out. You were just there, watching your movie, you know?

On preview, klang had a better movie analogy.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:32 PM on March 30, 2009


Grumblebee—The reason that I thought people were objecting was, to take your analogy, someone who hadn't paid for the movie and had walked out halfway through complaining about the plot. It's like, well, yeah, of course you wouldn't like it or know how it ends. You left. I'm gonna discuss the movie with other people who saw it and have informed opinions.

I note you said it's a flawed analogy. I agree. It's flawed because the person who walked out of the movie has incomplete information. But the former MeFi member spent a long time here and still lurks here. So she's in a position to have a meaningful insight. What's left to argue is a point of etiquette.

Actually, to belabor your analogy a bit longer, I CAN imagine finding utility in someone's opinion of a movie, even if he walked out halfway through. For instance, a movies might have a serious flaw in its first scenes. If it's serious enough, nothing that comes later is likely to mitigate the flaw. If a fan of the movie is arguing with the guy who walked out, at some point the fan will probably say, "You know, you have no right to comment. You didn't even see the whole movie."

What the fan is doing is standing up for something he loves. That's fine. It's human. But he's talking about etiquette (and maybe ethics), not information. In fact, in my version the fan is honest about this. He doesn't say, "Since you walked out, you have no way of knowing if the movie is flawed." He simply said his opponent had no "right" to comment. He's pointing out that his opponent isn't playing by "the rules."

Rules are arbitrary, but they're deeply meaningful and important to people playing certain games. But to me, a guy who is just interested in info on the movie, I really want to hear what the fan's opponent has to say. I don't care that he walked out if he has something insightful to say about the part he saw.

Let's imagine an AskMe question: you post, "can anyone tell me the name of a movie with a robot in it called Gort?" Let's say no one can answer the question. But Etherial Bligh emails me and says, "I know the movie." Should I post that EB told me or not? Don't you want the info?

Now, info/opinion about whether or not MeFi is a good or bad site MIGHT be a different case than info about a robot movie. To you. To many people. That's fine. I don't discount anyone's opinion here -- except for someone who suggest there's a way that "we" mefites feel or should feel. some of us just want access to info. Others want solidarity. Some want both. Some want both but value one over the other. For some, it probably depends on the day.
posted by grumblebee at 6:33 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Grumblebee, I think you are missing the point. This isn't about social clubs v information. The reason people got shirty is that the poster criticized some things that were said here, saying "this is why I don't participate anymore."

I'm not sure I do understand. Are you saying it's offensive because it's hypocritical? It's someone participating by belittling others who participate?

I guess the first thing I'd say to that (beside the admission that I'm probably misunderstanding your point) is that the criticism wasn't coming from a participator. It was something said in a private email. BB then posted it. From what I can tell, the writer ISN'T participating. I don't think lack of participation takes away your right to comment. For instance, as an American, I value non-Americans's comments about my country. They are -- or can be -- useful.

BB stated that he had a useful piece of information and so he chose to post it, without caring about the etiquette. In his position, I would have done the same thing. I would have assumed people would have been more interesting in the info and less interested in the etiquette. I would have been wrong. I'm glad BB made the mistake before I did.

One other thing about hypocrisy: yes, it's obnoxious. But that doesn't the hypocrite's point untrue (or true). If I tell you to quit smoking while puffing on a Marlborough, I'm being a hypocrite and I should be called on that. On the other hand, you SHOULD stop smoking. My hypocritical info is correct.

Do we discount even useful information when it comes from a hypocrite? There's no right answer to that. It depends how much hypocrisy irks you. If it irks you enough, it might be worth it to you to avoid even useful information from such a source. On the other hand, you might be someone who cares more about the info than the ethics of the person conveying it.
posted by grumblebee at 6:43 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I don't think it's a club, because I tend to think of clubs existing for primarily social purposes."

It's sort of social. Demented and sad, but social.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 7:04 PM on March 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


"I don't think it's a club, because I tend to think of clubs existing for primarily social purposes."

Well, at the end of the end of the day, we're not curing fucking cancer or anything, we're just a bunch of geeks with nothing better to do than yell at eachother, which is a weird kind of sociability.
posted by jonmc at 7:09 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's sort of social. Demented and sad, but social.

Well, in MetaTalk we... we talk about MetaFilter, properties of MetaFilter.
posted by amyms at 7:19 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


we're just a bunch of geeks with nothing better to do than yell at each other...

Oh yeah?? Says WHO, motherfucker, SAYS WHO???
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:46 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't be so keen on watching a movie with talking bears. They'd be constantly hassling me to hand over my popcorn & choc-top icecream cone.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:48 PM on March 30, 2009


Featuring, man. Plus bears don't so much as hassle as just take directly.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:53 PM on March 30, 2009


Brandon, first you agree your linked item is an essay, then you claim it's just a list of related items, when it became rhetorically inconvenient for you to continue admitting it was an essay.

Dude.

In the second link, I specifically wrote that it was essay with a list. It's right there, plain as day. Here's the entire paragraph that I wrote:
"I would agree, especially since she made no such claim, so I understand why you're holding the essay to a standard she never claimed. Hell, the first paragraph specifically says she's just making a list and the reasons why."
Nothing like you what you describe, this charge of "you said it's an essay, now it's a list" ever occurred. I don't know where you got that idea, but you are mistaken.

Yet in the next comment in the thread, you take that claim further, insinuating that I claimed it was "it's just this random list of things". Which is strange as hell, I mean, you made the next comment in the thread, after the one that contained the quote above, yet you slip the word 'random' it. Hell, you're the one who used the word in a comment.

You use the words of an anonymous ex-Mefite to bolster your off-topic argument that everyone here is just a bunch of confirmation-bias-having jerks, then accuse me of hiding behind words

You're showing either a willfully deceptive streak or an stubbornly obtuse line of thinking. Why I posted the comment has already been stated, discussing the reasons behind comments is definitely on topic and I never said everyone here are "confirmation-bias-having jerks".

Do I think you're debating in a disingenuous manner? Yes. Is that direct enough for you?

Yes and thank you for saying so. However, this doesn't change the fact that you're mistaken in your views on what I've said, why I said it and what my intentions are.

Or better yet, take your issues with me off MeFi and into my inbox, where I'll be just as happy to ignore you.

My issues you are simply about you being wrong about what has occurred.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:58 PM on March 30, 2009


how boarish!
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:59 PM on March 30, 2009


(the bears, i mean)
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:59 PM on March 30, 2009


boaring bears?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:01 PM on March 30, 2009


Late to the party, but, general thoughts:

I don't get the folks upthread who are assuming that the mystery poster flamed out or left in a pique. Those aren't the only ways to leave, and, considering how many flameouts I've seen compared to the amount of people who comment compared to the number of accounts, I'd guess that the vast, vast majority of people who leave do so without flaming out or slamming the door.

I disagree that people who leave necessarily are the best barometer of what's wrong with MeFi, but I do believe that they can be. That is, not every complaint from an ex-member is valid or useful, but some probably are. It would be best (as with most things in life) to take them on a case-by-case basis, and not just declare across the board that "this complaint is from an ex-member, and is thereby definitionally useless", nor to declare that "this complaint is from an ex-member, and is thereby definitionally useful".

I think that MeFi has a hard time taking strong complaints, for better or worse. Basically, if someone expresses a strong dislike of some aspect of the MeFi community, they're more often than not told to leave and go somewhere else, because MeFi isn't what they want it to be. If they do so, their complaint is dismissed with "if they wanted us to listen, they should have stayed and argued their case instead of quitting". I know that when I was a lurker, before Matt opened MetaFilter for free sign-up, I took a year or so off from reading comments, because I had issues with the atmosphere, but (as far as I can remember) I haven't made one of those "let's be more civil" MeTas, because experience has taught me that they don't really accomplish much besides getting the MeTa poster flamed.

I've never cross-referenced the names, so it may be a matter of different people making those arguments. That is, make a MeTa complaining about general behaviour, and A, B, and C tell you to piss off. Piss off, and D, E, and F complain about how you should have stayed and made an argument, instead of "being a pussy". But I'm terrible with remembering names and previous arguments, so I have no idea, unfortunately.

Oh, man, I really shouldn't post at the end of a night shift. I'm not making nearly the sense I'm trying to make.
posted by Bugbread at 8:59 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


jonmc : we're just a bunch of geeks with nothing better to do than yell at eachother, which is a weird kind of sociability.

And just like that, your description stopped us from being a club and turned us into a family.
posted by quin at 9:07 PM on March 30, 2009


"Rules are arbitrary, but they're deeply meaningful and important to people playing certain games. But to me, a guy who is just interested in info on the movie, I really want to hear what the fan's opponent has to say. I don't care that he walked out if he has something insightful to say about the part he saw."

However, that's not what's being argued here: it is the prioritization. No one is saying that ex-members' opinions are never worthy of consideration, but to argue, as jamjam did (Christ, I can barely believe I'm writing this sentence) that the opinions of people who left are the MOST important. Surely you can grant that while we all have an intellectual curiosity regarding the opinions of people in other countries regarding American policies, hey, we live here.

This is especially true for subjective criticism, which is what the MFM was offering.
posted by klangklangston at 9:09 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The people whose opinions matter most (to someone who is simply trying to learn something) are the ones who are best informed. SOMETIMES those are the people "on the scene." Other times, those are the people who have some distance. Often, it's worthwhile having both perspectives and it's impossible to rank one as superior to the other.

Who is more likely to be right about some aspect of my brother's personality, someone inside my family or someone outside it? It could be either. Maybe the outsider is missing key info that only a close family member would have? On the other hand, maybe family members are too close to be objective.

Who I am more likely to trust is another matter. If I think of my family as a club, unit or community, I am likely to want to rally around it. That's an emotional issue.

In the case of MeFi, I have no opinion on what's "right" or "better" -- rallying around the "team" or "just the facts, ma'am." For selfish reasons, I prefer the latter. Realistically, MeFi will always be an uneasy alliance of people in both camps. And there will also be plenty of people who think of it both as a fact/entertainment resource AND a community. The site works well for all these types of people. Unfortunately, all these types of people don't always work well together.
posted by grumblebee at 9:29 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The people whose opinions matter most (to someone who is simply trying to learn something) are the ones who are best informed. SOMETIMES those are the people "on the scene." Other times, those are the people who have some distance. Often, it's worthwhile having both perspectives and it's impossible to rank one as superior to the other."

Bzzzt. Often this and often that, but we have a case to argue from.

In this case, what is the more important opinion?

Further, since you ignored this before meandering off onto a summer stroll of camps and teams:

The comparison of mods to government is most apt. The government is empowered by and responsible to its constituency. While we could argue that a non-voter's opinions can be just as educated and valid as a voter's, fundamentally they ignore the method of making those opinions known to those with the power to enact them as policy.

That is it. That is the point. Of course the mods care more about people who are here than those who aren't: this is a consumer democracy.
posted by klangklangston at 10:05 PM on March 30, 2009


MetaFilter has always been a consumer democracy.
posted by the Cabal at 10:31 PM on March 30, 2009


I think a town is the aptest of the apt when it comes to analogies for the MeFi community.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:51 PM on March 30, 2009


Or a hotair balloon manned by a coot of drunken meercats.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:52 PM on March 30, 2009


I feel like commenting on this. Cause i feeeeel like it.

<>

I am relatively new to posting here, but what many of you don't know is that I have been lurking for probably about 2 years, maybe more.

There is a certain, uh, group think here. This isn't a negative criticism, but its true (it happens everywhere). This is enforced a few ways, passively through various metafilter posts and community flaming, and actively by literally deleting material that doesn't "fit".

  • 'Passive examples' I've observed over the years: Flaming a christian in a thread about atheism. Flaming someone who doesn't agree with affirmative action in a thread about racism. Flaming a rifle owner in a thread where some kid stole his dads shotgun and shot things. Flaming a libertarian for just, uh..being him. You get the idea, it happens a lot. Whatever....

  • A drop-needle 'active example': I had a post deleted just last week. Why? As mathowie put it "Lame". Just... "Lame". Wow. deep. informative. That's just censorship. But.. that's ok. This isn't my 'sandbox'. Its yours, dude. The material didn't fit, basically. A lot of threads vanish into the ether for different reasons. The point is that what you see here is actively censored and controlled by mods.
    (and i don't care what you say the Dr. Manhattan cock-game was freaking awesome, but I digress... *blows raspberry*)

    So this user took her toys and went home. So what? That's what i did growing up in the midwest surrounded by churches. We all do it all the time. So yeah ... Here's the analogy:

    A church claims to accept anyone and everyone but that's just plain no true. Difference is tolerated to a degree, but unless assimilation eventually happens you will be met with a hostile atmosphere. Maybe you really like that tapioca pudding the serve after service, but you'd really like to jsut avoid the congregation if you can help it. Are the fruits worth the group think? You can take your toys and leave, but no pudding for you.Now that's church.

    The atmosphere here is different, but like anywhere... the same social rules apply.

    What is metafilter? its this kinda liberalish geeky elitist thing (often anti-capitalist, pro-freedom of speech, pro-porn, antiglobalization, anti-outsourcing, anti Dr. Phil, pro-freak, pro-information etc. etc. etc. etc. ). Its got standards, mods and a community that help reinforce this image. Its not posted on the walls, but its true. That's the "vibe" i've gotten after years of reading. Its not bad, or good. It just is. If you want stupid, go to ebaums or failblog. If you want toilet, go to 4chan.
    Metafilter: it gots this thing it does, and that's what it does and we're all here for that, right?

    There's a bit better model in this place than the aforementioned hypothetical church w/tapioca pudding though. One can lurk- no problem. You can see all the links you want (the tapioca pudding) and avoid the congregation entirely. That's your option. Not bad in my opinion.

    So i say to the previous user:
    "Did you expect to go into the baptist church "the metafilter" preaching buddhism something unrefined, or non geeky, or nonliberal (or just anonymously against the group think) and not get booed out?"

    To "the metafilter" I say:
    "Are you denying that you booed out the buddhist? individual that did not fit the zeitgeist of this site


    ....Could we really be playing in a carefully mitigated ideological playground, operated and censored by mathowie and the mods?"

    Yes we are. And i still payed my 5 bucks. And the pudding is yummy. And i want to talk about it. The pudding. I mean the links. The metaphorical pudding.Oh.... Yeah.

    Also to the former mefi member:
    I also a personality type where don't mind walking into a 'church' and telling the whole lot of them i disagree. But i am not kidding myself. I'm not unlike this guy in that singular respect. He got booed out too, you know.

    If you can't do something like that in a virtual sense. Don't post. Don't tell your friend to post for you. Do or do not. You might get booed out, but what are these fucking geeks gonna do to you? Call you names? Delete your shit? Other boards do much worse, you know.

    <>

  • posted by 5imian at 11:02 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


    We have always been at war with Metafilter.
    posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:15 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Hey bugbread! Miss your always thoughtful contributions, wish you were around more these days.
    posted by Kwine at 11:29 PM on March 30, 2009


    Yeah, change in internet policy at work (from "internet during off-time is A-OK!" to "sleeping during off-time is A-OK, but no internet") has greatly reduced my MeFi time. And two little kids means not a lot of home MeFi either.
    posted by Bugbread at 2:09 AM on March 31, 2009


    Well, in MetaTalk we... we talk about MetaFilter, properties of MetaFilter.

    Well, we get worked up...but we don't get high.
    posted by Pax at 5:50 AM on March 31, 2009


    Wow. deep. informative. That's just censorship.

    It's more like curation, really. Metafilter's trust-but-verify approach to the front page—that we let people put stuff up there on their own recognizance instead of requiring everything to sit in a queue first for moderator approval—involves a lot of give-and-take to work. A huge part of that social contract is the poster accepting that not everything is going to fly, here, and that the moderation of posts is going to happen after they go up.

    The deletion reason on deleted posts isn't intended to be the final and only word on the subject of the post; there's often a lot of indication in a thread already as to how people feel about it, and, especially if we're in a hurry, we may trust the readers and poster to be able to apply that context when they're looking at a deletion, instead of restricting their thoughts on the matter to only the words in that one little box.

    One of the reasons we keep deleted posts world-viewable and add a deletion reason and are a-okay with scripts and sites that keep track of them is that we don't want this stuff to be some sort of secretive We Know Best, Don't Look Behind The Curtain type of thing.

    Deleting stuff is a given if we want to keep the signal on mefi from degrading into anarchy (spent much time at Metababy lately?), but we make a pretty strong effort to keep the process and the content on the table, for all that.

    But then, that's just what you'd expect me to say, &c.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 6:59 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Could we really be playing in a carefully mitigated ideological playground, operated and censored by mathowie and the mods?

    I think about this a lot. My return question -- keeping in mind that I'm a mod and I come at this from both that perspective and as one of a longtime user -- is what's just the general vibe of the place (i.e. like minded people getting together to talk about what they like, community norms) and what's an enforced regimen?

    I feel that sometimes we err too far to the other side, leaving in posts that we don't at all agree with ideologically but we feel that we shouldn't axe just because it's not a topic MeFi does well. We try to moderate more based on link/discussion quality than on topic/content. BUT we're also community-driven which means that we pay attention to the flag queue and the general gestalt which means that topics that don't "go well here" get attention from other peopel besides just us.

    And I'm not sure why many of the more axe-grindy posts we see seem to come from people who are oppositional to the site generally. Is that something just I see or is it real? I have a hard time analyzing this. We've certainly been talking about it a lot lately and I feel generally that some people have been having a not-entirely-good-faith discussion about our motives and approaches. They see ill will where we just see a normal day at work.

    And I'm not convinced that it's censorship if we say "please don't do these things" in our community and then you do them and then we remove your post or comment. I think we're pretty above board in how we operate and we're willing to discuss the work we do here ad nauseum. Clearly this is a position with many viewpoints, even among people on this site.

    But every long philosophical rambly comment we write is more time we're not doing other work on the site at large so I'll wrap this up, but my strongly held feeling is that this is generally a lightly moderated site, with the exception of AskMe, and I'm always surprised that peopel feel differently.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:45 AM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


    I entirely disagree, and I think this sentiment is childish, on the order of posting a SEEKRIT DUNGEON sign and talking about how great the clubhouse is and how stupid everybody outside the club is. And what the fuck do you care if someone left the site? Would it have made you happier if Brandon Blatcher hadn't mentioned that fact, but just said "A non-member wrote..."? Me, I welcome all interesting perspectives, and I'm glad Brandon Blatcher chose to post this one.

    If Brandon had framed it as "I had a discussion with someone offline about this, and they brought up the interesting perspective of..." I wouldn't have find it particularly annoying.

    The "former member" part was essentially irrelevant to the discussion in a distracting way. I don't have any hate for this MFM, I just think that adding that detail struck the same sort of dissonant chord as...for instance, a newspaper article with a superfluous mention of gender or race or some other "asking-for-judgment" detail.
    posted by desuetude at 7:57 AM on March 31, 2009


    Can we call former members (mysterious or otherwise) "dismembers"?

    No?

    ok
    posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:02 AM on March 31, 2009


    And I'm not sure why many of the more axe-grindy posts we see seem to come from people who are oppositional to the site generally. Is that something just I see or is it real?

    Not just you.

    I really don't get what their act is all about because there's a 1001 other websites out there that are probably more accessible to their demands. Instead we have to endure pay-attention-to-me posts about how over-the-top the "censorship" is on Metafilter - a claim utterly without any foundation or logic. Taking these people seriously would mean a site that would start to shift towards comments of YouTube quality.

    I've endured websites where censorship and/or a clique-like atmosphere prospered. I no longer visit those sites - and Metafilter is a refreshing change from such antics.
    posted by panboi at 8:07 AM on March 31, 2009


    "And I'm not sure why many of the more axe-grindy posts we see seem to come from people who are oppositional to the site generally. Is that something just I see or is it real?"

    Many, yeah, but I'm thinking it's more a plurality than a majority. And I can definitely see it taking up more of your time.

    But then, my set of users who I believe are opposed to the site may be different than yours. (Like that Cortex guy, jeez. When are you gonna ban him?)
    posted by klangklangston at 8:09 AM on March 31, 2009


    Jessamyn, cortex

    Thanks for taking my rant seriously (meta filter ate my comically appropriate rant tags at both the beginning and end of the post.)

    No this place is generally lightly moderated and pretty fairly censored, its a great place really.

    but we make a pretty strong effort to keep the process and the content on the table, for all that.


    You really do, that's a great thing. *thumbsup*


    I guess the salient points of my previous are:
  • that group think is generally unavoidable, and not necessarily a bad thing, it simply just... "is". ]
  • I think the mods' take on operation and censorship is certainly very fair, but it does exist and it shapes the site to be a certian way.
  • Don't post, or ask your friend to post for you unless you're ready for some possibly libralish geekish (witty and often sarcastic) critical criticism..it...will happen. always does. (yes critical criticism. That. Metafilter critically criticizes critics with critical criticism)

    I guess i just wanted the "mystery poster" to get that, and more importantly for metafilter itself to get that. Yes there's a bit of 'groupthink'. Its perfectly normal in any system.

    I'm not convinced that it's censorship if we say "please don't do these things" in our community

    Well, it, by definition is..though not in that Fahrenheit-451-book-burning kinda way. More of a "curation" kinda way, as cortex said. Its not a bad thing at all. There are some uh, rather famous sites out there with even LESS censorship, even in a curatorial capacity. I'm thinking of one rather NSFW piece of gutter trash in particular. Hint: Internet hate machine.

    Yeah. please. do censor stuff. If that's the alternative (toilet of internet), go for it. Keep doing your thing, man.

    like i said. "its your sandbox, dude" and its a fun sandbox. Its a good one. I like it. Whee!

  • posted by 5imian at 9:05 AM on March 31, 2009


    The comparison of mods to government is most apt. The government is empowered by and responsible to its constituency. While we could argue that a non-voter's opinions can be just as educated and valid as a voter's, fundamentally they ignore the method of making those opinions known to those with the power to enact them as policy.

    Here's how I think governments should relate to non-constituents (and clubs to non-members):

    member: let's paint all the buildings green.
    another member: I agree! Green!
    non-member: Please, please, please, don't paint them green. Paint them blue.
    government: Sorry, non-member, we have to go with green.

    member: PI is equal to 4!
    another member: Yeah, PI is equal to 4!
    non-member: No it's not. It's 3.14195...
    government: The non-member is correct.

    In other words, if the mods are polling us to determine whether we'd prefer to keep MeFi's front page color as it is or change it, they should listen to us before listening to non-members. On the other hand, if they're looking for ways to improve the site and a non-member has a good idea, they'd be foolish not to listen to it. It might actually improve the site FOR MEMBERS.
    posted by grumblebee at 9:31 AM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


    You may not mean 'groupthink' and 'censorship' as pejoratives in their Fahrenheit-451 and/or 1984 senses, but those words and concepts will often be taken that way here because there is a history of them being used in precisely those senses.
    posted by CKmtl at 9:32 AM on March 31, 2009


    Can we call former members (mysterious or otherwise) "dismembers"?

    Only if we can call them "remembers" when, drawn buy the irresistible pull that is metafilter, they either pony up another five bucks or beg the moderators to reactivate their account.
    posted by dersins at 9:33 AM on March 31, 2009


    You may not mean 'groupthink' and 'censorship' as pejoratives in their Fahrenheit-451 and/or 1984 senses, but those words and concepts will often be taken that way here because there is a history of them being used in precisely those senses.

    I see what you mean. I think we often unfairly reserve those words as some form of intellectual insult, when they are appropriate for a lot of things.

    "Discrimination" is another one of those words.
    posted by 5imian at 9:38 AM on March 31, 2009


    Yeah, the thing about "censorship" is that it carries a fair amount of charge and implication with it. There are a lot of different words that can be used to describe the process of moderating/approving/deleting content on the front page and in threads, and each of them has its own set of nuances. (See for example the small firestorm started by the BoingBoing moderation staff's use of "unpublishing" to describe the deletion of various Violet Blue-related posts last year.)

    I get that you may be that you're intending it in a like strictly utilitarian sense, "to censor = to remove" or something, and if that's how you think of it you're probably raising an eyebrow a little at us bristling at the term.

    So, to be clear, for a lot of folks, "censor" carries with it a strong connotation of systematic repression or agenda-driven information control, whereas that sort of motivation for deletions is actually something that none of us on the mod team have any interest even touching with ten foot poles.

    And, like CKmtl says, there's a long history (on mefi but more so on the internet at large) of people trotting out that term and a bevy of others in that Orwellian stable specifically to level kind of over-the-top grindy charges when they dislike a deletion or moderation decision. So it's not just a hackle-raiser in abstract but in practice.

    I don't mean to put words in your mouth, though; that may be more the nuance you actually have in mind, and if you want to talk about that and why you feel that way I'm all ears. But if that wasn't your intent, there's some context for you on why it's frustrating and sometimes a little maddening to see that term start flying around.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 9:44 AM on March 31, 2009


    "if the mods are polling us to determine whether we'd prefer to keep MeFi's front page color as it is or change it, they should listen to us before listening to non-members. On the other hand, if they're looking for ways to improve the site and a non-member has a good idea, they'd be foolish not to listen to it. It might actually improve the site FOR MEMBERS."

    You're discussing a different argument from the issue this thread was based on.
    posted by panboi at 9:46 AM on March 31, 2009


    And I'm not sure why many of the more axe-grindy posts we see seem to come from people who are oppositional to the site generally....We've certainly been talking about it a lot lately and I feel generally that some people have been having a not-entirely-good-faith discussion about our motives and approaches. They see ill will where we just see a normal day at work.

    Every post is a creation and nobody like having their creation deleted by someone else. Essentially when you're deleting their stuff, it can be interpreted that you're making a judgement about them and/or their likes or interests. That's not particularly rational, but it's quite human.

    Also, as mods, you guys have power over us, just by the nature of being mods. Now, you guys seem to go above and beyond in not abusing that power, but that raw fact rears itself suddenly when you're having to use your Dark Mod Powers® and putting the hammer down. Suddenly fun and games are over and even though the user is in Matt's digital living room, the actual person may be in their physical room, using their computer and suddenly someone else is telling that usually adult user, "No". Usually when this is done, it's for the greater good of the community, implying the group is more important the the individual. Most people can understand and agree with that in general, it's those specific cases that hurt. Add in that the individual is probably an American, who seem to be ingrained with that Individual over The Group gene (don't you dare censor me!) and you can have instant anger and resentment. Again, none of this is rational and certainly not true for everyone, but you get a combination of the above with controversial topic (ex: my god, how could delete my post about the Middle East, it's important) and person having a bad day/week and suddenly you're against them as opposed to just another day at work, because while you as a mod may have to say "no" several times a day, the general user usually doesn't hear that often, so it could be a shock when it happens.

    And then there's some that just like to argue and have formed an image of you in their head(Jessamyn allows defends this topic even when it's wrong, Cortex always defend that topic, etc, etc) and yeah, it's easy to see some people thinking you're coming from a place of ill will.

    or beg the moderators to reactivate their account.

    You're probably joking around, but I just wanted to point out a user doesn't have to beg for their account back. I disabled my account last year while on vacation (mostly 'cause I wanted to see what it was like to go without member access). When I used the contact form to ask for it back, the mods were like "Sure, no problem, you're all set" within 5 minutes or so.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:54 AM on March 31, 2009


    You're discussing a different argument from the issue this thread was based on.

    I thought that this thread was (at least partly) about whether or not non-members should have a voice about the site. My argument is that if ANYONE'S voice has the potential to improve the site, it's worth listening to.
    posted by grumblebee at 10:05 AM on March 31, 2009


    KK's argument, as I understand it, is that the job of government is to listen to and enact the will of its citizens. My argument is that this is only part of the job of government. I want my government to work to improve the quality of life in my country (and in the world). Sometimes, that will mean listening to outsiders.
    posted by grumblebee at 10:10 AM on March 31, 2009


    Sometimes, that will mean listening to outsiders.

    I think they're ok with listening to outsiders, but on a practical level how that message is delivered matters. Blurted out in while something else is going, thus derailing that something else and 'causing other headaches sometimes isn't as helpful as a private side conversation.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:20 AM on March 31, 2009


    So, to be clear, for a lot of folks, "censor" carries with it a strong connotation of systematic repression or agenda-driven information control...

    Cortex, I think the problem is that the VICTIMS of censorship are usually the ones who think of it this way. The censors tend to think of themselves as well-meaning people who are trying to improve their community. For instance, a Fundamentalist who tries to censor porn thinks he's saving children. A Feminist who does so may think she's stopping the exploitation of women. Porn consumers see it as "systematic repression or agenda-driven information control."

    I want to be clear that I think (a) there SHOULD be censorship on Metafilter, and (b) you mods do a very good job enacting it.

    I also think that you DO employ agenda-driven information control, even if your "agenda" is stuff like "to keep peace and harmony" or "to rid the site of inappropriate content, e.g. self-links."

    I would even suggest that it's impossible to create a non-chaotic community without some amount of censorship.

    But I really bristle at pretending that censorship is not censorship. You're right, it's a loaded term, but that's a GOOD thing. If part of your job is to censor, then you should always confront that word directly. You should say, "Yes, I am censoring. And I realize that censoring can cause many problems. I think that in this case, it's for the greater good, but I will be ever watchful for pitfalls."

    It's a slippery slope when those in power start using euphemisms to describe what they do, in order to make themselves feel like good people. (It's also totally understandable, and I'm sure I've done it many times, myself.) It sounds like you're trying to separate yourself from those evil people who censor for evil reasons. But again, I don't think many of those people exist -- except as defined by the victims. Most people truly believe they are doing good. In this case, you think you're doing good and most people here -- including me -- think you're doing good. Which is all the more reason to look the good squarely in the eye and call it what it is: censorship.
    posted by grumblebee at 10:25 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Jesus.
    posted by Burhanistan at 10:26 AM on March 31, 2009


    I am now officially tired of hearing myself speak. And I'm sure all of you are even more tired. I'll exit, stage left. MeMail me if you want to continue to discuss.
    posted by grumblebee at 10:31 AM on March 31, 2009


    Eh, mods' work is far more in the line of editing. The difference is that censorship is aimed at suppression of content deemed dangerous. The censor wants the content not to exist, and wants to smother it and prevent its expression anywhere.

    The mods aren't looking to suppress viewpoints - there are many channels for viewpoints here and I'd wager most viewpoints that aren't egregiously offensive to the majority readership get shared. They're looking to maintain the quality of information published on the site - especially where link deletion is concerned - and as the editors of the privately owned publication platform, they have every right to do it and to look at it that way.
    posted by Miko at 10:44 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


    "KK's argument, as I understand it, is that the job of government is to listen to and enact the will of its citizens. My argument is that this is only part of the job of government. I want my government to work to improve the quality of life in my country (and in the world). Sometimes, that will mean listening to outsiders."

    Is your city's primary concern the quality of life of people who live there or people who have moved elsewhere?

    PRIMARY. I don't know how I can make this more explicit, since you are AGAIN arguing against some phantom of your own imagining. Do you not understand how prioritization works? Do you not understand basic civics? How much do I have to dumb this down in order for you to get it?

    That you don't recognize the primacy of stakeholders is bizarre when coupled with your stance on censorship—for whose good would things be censored? "The greater good"? That's a bullshit empty phrase. For the good of the community? Which is made up of stakeholders?
    posted by klangklangston at 10:45 AM on March 31, 2009


    For instance, a Fundamentalist who tries to censor porn thinks he's saving children. A Feminist who does so may think she's stopping the exploitation of women. Porn consumers see it as "systematic repression or agenda-driven information control."

    There's a vast difference between those sorts of examples and what goes on here.

    Real-world porn consumers in the cities/states/countries of Fundamentalistan and Feministan are severely limited by those decisions. They'd have to either physically leave their city/state/country to access porn, or use elaborate computer-fu to get around sufficiently complex firewalls.

    People here aren't categorically banned from accessing stuff that's removed here. The deletion of a tentacle-porn post doesn't install a permanent tentacle-porn-blocking trojan on everyone's computer. If they want tentacle-porn, they're free to find it elsewhere on the internet, which requires only using the search terms "tentacle+porn" on Your Favourite Search Engine.

    Plus, the deletion of one "Hey, check out this weird tentacle-porn" post doesn't mean that the entire subject of tentacle-porn is verboten. Another poster, or even that same poster, could construct a better post about, say, the history of, putative origins of, and researched effects of the tentacle-porn sub-genre of hentai and that better post may stay up.
    posted by CKmtl at 10:58 AM on March 31, 2009


    I just want to restate for the record that my hypothesis above is purely in my head, and need not be how things happened.

    The only problem I have with BB posting her comment is that accounts are so very easy to reactivate. Her general thoughts on the piece are interesting, and do add something to the thread.

    When the comment leaves talking about the post and starts talking about Metafilter is where I think she crosses a line. It seems very much like an attack on a site that has no way to defend itself to her. Even a blog post we could respond to.

    As previous posters have said, usernames add a level of accountability and value to posts, and I think are an important part of the format of the discussion here.
    posted by graventy at 10:59 AM on March 31, 2009


    I also think that you DO employ agenda-driven information control, even if your "agenda" is stuff like "to keep peace and harmony" or "to rid the site of inappropriate content, e.g. self-links."

    This doesn't really click for me—I don't think you can meaningfully describe something as loose as "the site not going to crap" as an agenda, and "information control" implies that there's some sort of a priori goal to control information. We're not in the business of trying to control information—we're not trying to keep any specific topic or packet of information on the downlow or off the radar.

    There's no specific mapping from kind-of-information to kind-of-moderation-action, essentially. "This isn't going to work well" is a very different editorial approach than "this is verboten", and I think for most people in practice it's the latter, not the former, that falls into the expected meaning of censorship.

    And, more to the point, it's a lack of recognition of that distinction that seems to be behind most of the more obnoxious trottings-out of the Orwellocabulary, which, again, is why it's probably more frustrating for us to have that stuff thrown around than it would be in a neutral context.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 11:07 AM on March 31, 2009


    Oh really? Then how do you explain the Ministry of Truth? Hmm?
    posted by found missing at 11:16 AM on March 31, 2009


    Damn, we were supposed to replace "Truth" with "Hugs" on the signage and letterhead.

    *disappears in cloud of smoke*
    posted by cortex (staff) at 11:21 AM on March 31, 2009


    Damn, cortex, now you fucked up.
    posted by owtytrof at 1:12 PM on March 31, 2009


    [off the subject, kinda]

    Man. Matt, Jess, and Cortex have such an intense job, it's difficult for me to comprehend. Every decision they make -- hell, every comment they make -- has to stand up to the scrutiny of a 100+ comment MeTa thread. And still people complain about transparency and whatnot. My god, I could never handle that.
    posted by Afroblanco at 2:35 PM on March 31, 2009


    Man. Matt, Jess, and Cortex have such an intense job, it's difficult for me to comprehend.

    Come on. Not to diminish the work that they do, but it's not like their paramedics or surgeons or something. Let's have some perspective.
    posted by Burhanistan at 2:45 PM on March 31, 2009


    They're even.
    posted by Burhanistan at 2:46 PM on March 31, 2009


    No, they're odd.
    posted by dersins at 3:00 PM on March 31, 2009


    Come on. Not to diminish the work that they do, but it's not like their paramedics or surgeons or something.

    I guess this differs from person to person, but I think I'd rather be a paramedic. I'd sooner eat my own arm off before taking a job where I (A) had to constantly get involved in MeTa debates (B) take them seriously and (C) wasn't allowed to walk away from a thread just because people were being ridiculous. I'd much prefer a job that required physical exertion, but had very clear rules for conduct and action.

    Would never want to be a surgeon, though. My god, they work some insane hours. I don't even know how one could do *any* job on that little sleep, let alone one where you had peoples' lives in your hands.
    posted by Afroblanco at 3:41 PM on March 31, 2009


    GUYS I THINK IS THREAD IS HAUNTED.
    posted by The Whelk at 6:17 PM on March 31, 2009


    I guess this differs from person to person, but I think I'd rather be a paramedic.

    ParaMeta-ic?
    posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:39 PM on March 31, 2009


    I went without sex for 27 years once. Where's my prize?
    posted by mecran01 at 8:48 PM on March 31, 2009


    I went without sex for 27 years once. Where's my prize?

    Either horrible frustration or ascetic bliss?
    posted by Burhanistan at 9:25 PM on March 31, 2009


    Why do you need a prize? Isn't coming first enough?
    posted by UbuRoivas at 10:15 PM on March 31, 2009


    Keep in mind, folks, that criticism of the comments by proxy practice may be - in part - because folk don't like what the proxy commenter said! Just something to keep in mind.
    posted by By The Grace of God


    Keep in mind that Brandon Blatcher posted the comment by proxy - in part - because it agreen with his view point.

    And I still don't understand why it makes a dime's worth of difference whether someone left the site, unless you're chained to a junior-high view of life: "ooh, they don't like us anymore, well then I hate them too!!"
    posted by languagehat


    I still don't understand why you're framing the entire argument in this way. It's dishonest.

    The people who leave are your best guide to how you're really doing, and we've lost quite a few excellent contributors.
    posted by jamjam


    You're mistaken. Their opinions are no more or less important than those that choose to stay.
    posted by Dennis Murphy at 11:09 PM on April 1, 2009


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