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How does it feel to know you're a lab rat? May 6, 2009 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Exploring the dynamics of blog communities: the case of MetaFilter. Leiser Silva, Lakshmi Goel, Elham Mousavidin. Information Systems Journal. vol 19 no. 1 pp 55-81. 2009.
posted by dersins to MetaFilter-Related at 1:56 PM (173 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

This is not the first time Metafilter has been the subject of an academic paper.
posted by dersins at 2:00 PM on May 6, 2009


(1) There are two groups, new comers and old-timers. The latter feels responsible to discipline the former on matters of applying warrants.
(2) Community members deploy three types of techniques of discipline to enforce warrants: (a) ignoring posts, (b) congratulatory comments and (c) ridicule.


I feel cold.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:02 PM on May 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Weird. Most people doing a study contact me, but I don't recognize any of the researcher's names. It also seems like 3/4 of the paper is just digging up definitions and previous work, then the one sample data set is just 38 threads with a total of 1300 comments that they analyzed?

The whole thing reads like it was written in some crazy moon man language, I can't make heads or tails of any findings.

Also, the statement "It is read by approximately 150 million people every day" cracked me up. We're currently running about 17million pageviews monthly seen by 6million unique IPs, but that's on a monthly basis. There's no way in hell half the population of the US visits MeFi everyday.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:03 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I agree with Matt - this looked like someone's hand-scrawled notes for a paper, not the paper itself.
posted by Mister_A at 2:05 PM on May 6, 2009


The member receiving an insulting remark may see himself as being undermined, while the one posting it may see himself gaining more respect from other community members. Of course, this is not a strict rule because sometimes the opposite may occur when the community deems a message as coming from a troll.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:06 PM on May 6, 2009


Or, Your Favorite Peer-Reviewed Academic Information Technology Journal Sucks.
posted by Mister_A at 2:06 PM on May 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


No desks, it seems. :(
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:08 PM on May 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Huh. Did anyone else find it sort of weird that all the pullquotes were lacking dates? I saw a lot of quotes from people I haven't seen around here in years. Also, isn't generic he/his falling out of favor yet?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:10 PM on May 6, 2009


I visit MetaFilter on behalf of half of the population of the US. So, there you go.
posted by owtytrof at 2:10 PM on May 6, 2009


Are they sure they were actually looking at Metafilter? Do we ignore posts we don't like? I hadn't noticed that.
posted by Caduceus at 2:11 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since the blog was created in 1999, we decided to examine all the posts and their related comments for that year. This was done with the purpose of obtaining an insight into the genesis of the blog.

Big mistake. That's like saying "We studied all of Charles Schulz's doodles in his junior high math notebook, and a few Peanuts cartoons from 1950-2000" Also, I'm pretty sure most of the people who were on the site back in 1999 are either dead or in prison at this point.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:13 PM on May 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


(1) There are two groups, new comers and old-timers.

What about the third group: people who believe newcomers is a single word?
posted by davejay at 2:15 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


we found that the identity of MetaFilter is initially proposed by its founder. The defined identity is the carrier of values such as openness and wit.

Uh... sure, why not.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:16 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


What about the third group: people who believe newcomers is a single word?

You haven't been moderating the thread I have been moderating all day, clearly.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:16 PM on May 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


Also, the statement "It is read by approximately 150 million people every day" cracked me up. We're currently running about 17million pageviews monthly seen by 6million unique IPs, but that's on a monthly basis. There's no way in hell half the population of the US visits MeFi everyday.

Correction: In our April 15th, 2008 issue (Volume 19, Issue 1), Silva et al stated that metafilter.com is read by approximately 150 million people every day. It has come to our attention that most of those people have been reading over the shoulders of their friends. The ratio of primary readers to "over-the-shoulder" readers appears to be roughly 1:300.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:17 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: In sum, the identity of a blog community is contingent on the goals and purposes of its founders. Its institutionalization depends on participants valuing its precepts and acting accordingly. In the case of blogs, because blogs are 'owned' by individuals (Herring et. al., 2005), they can define the contents and the dynamics they want for their blogs. Whether they become a community or not depends on whether the blog services an existent or latent community (Wenger, 1998). In this sense Wenger (1998, p. 229) says that CoPs as such cannot be designed: 'Practice is not amenable to design.' In other words, one can articulate patterns or define procedures, but neither the patterns nor the procedures produce the practice as it unfolds.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:19 PM on May 6, 2009


Since the blog was created in 1999, we decided to examine all the posts and their related comments for that year.

Dude come on. You can't get a clear impression of Metafilter by restricting your research to its first year of existence. Nothing gets good until it has been around at least three seasons. You have got to give Riker time to grow his beard baby!
posted by ND¢ at 2:20 PM on May 6, 2009 [19 favorites]


Man, I didn't get cited.

I ignore and ridicule this paper.
posted by GuyZero at 2:20 PM on May 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


(1) There are two groups, new comers and old-timers.

What about the third group: people who believe newcomers is a single word?


This group includes Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate.
posted by Caduceus at 2:21 PM on May 6, 2009


Also, how does [s]he "prove" that someone is being ignored as an enforcement measure versus just, you know, being ignored for posting "d00d LOL"?
posted by GuyZero at 2:21 PM on May 6, 2009


Me not knowed anything it sayed on that paper. Nothing got understood.
posted by iconomy at 2:22 PM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Can someone give a more lay friendly definition of what they are trying to get across of the term "community of practice" acronymized CoP throughout the whole paper?
posted by bigmusic at 2:23 PM on May 6, 2009


This has inspired me to go around and shame some more newcomers. I haven't been pulling my weight.

"Hey, you! Yeah, you, new guy! Get a come towel if you're going to do that! What an idiot."
posted by Skot at 2:23 PM on May 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


You're mocking Anonymous? Low man, that's low.
posted by GuyZero at 2:25 PM on May 6, 2009


I'm sorry Skot. It won't happen again.

*runs off crying*
posted by eyeballkid at 2:28 PM on May 6, 2009


Not a towel. A zamboni.
posted by rtha at 2:31 PM on May 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Do we ignore posts we don't like?"

I'm ignoring this one.



Ah, shit!
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:33 PM on May 6, 2009


Leiser, Lakshmi, and Elham?

Who are these people????
posted by jasper411 at 2:34 PM on May 6, 2009


Texas + business school = ?????
posted by booknerd at 2:34 PM on May 6, 2009


tl;du
posted by iconomy at 2:36 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I glaze over at academic stuff, so I haven't read it. Do they mention me??
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:37 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Since the blog was created in 1999, we decided to examine all the posts and their related comments for that year.

Well, then, how can they talk about oldcomers and newcomers? The first year, wasn't everyone basically new?
posted by misha at 2:40 PM on May 6, 2009


Well, then, how can they talk about oldcomers and newcomers? The first year, wasn't everyone basically new?

They don't make it very clear in that paragraph, but I think they randomly sampled a few threads from each of the later years. They only looked at 38 threads total though, so that doesn't leave room for very many posts per year in the ten years since then.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:44 PM on May 6, 2009


Also, the statement "It is read by approximately 150 million people every day" cracked me up. We're currently running about 17million pageviews monthly seen by 6million unique IPs, but that's on a monthly basis.

but doesn't everybody else do what i do - print dozens of copies of each thread and leave them in cafes & bars for people to read?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:45 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Y'know when I see the word "newcomer," the first thing that comes to mind is not a newly registered user of a website. Just sayin'.

(PS: By this metric, this thread is HILARIOUS.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:47 PM on May 6, 2009


Folks in lab coats with fancy degrees and clipboards been venturing 'round these parts asking all sorts of strange and silly questions. I reckon we have us a laugh and just make all sorts of shit up. We could say we're all inbred, and in some kind of cult. We could pretend we've got all sorts of secret code languages and such to say that when there's a full moon the sacrifice will start. That kinda thing.
posted by ornate insect at 2:51 PM on May 6, 2009


In the case of MetaFilter, whose owner opted for not having formal moderation, the choice of a criterion for distinguishing noise from signal is left to its members:

Huh?
posted by bookish at 2:53 PM on May 6, 2009


I didn't realize I had stalkers. Next it will be the paparazzi and I'll never be able to leave the server.
posted by Meta Filter at 2:54 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


*waves to 150 million people*
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:56 PM on May 6, 2009


Folks in lab coats with fancy degrees and clipboards been venturing 'round these parts asking all sorts of strange and silly questions.
Weirder still is I had a bunch of Americans I've never met trying to serve a warrant on me. Still, came as a relief, I thought the Child Support Agency has caught up with me at last.
posted by Abiezer at 2:57 PM on May 6, 2009


Can someone give a more lay friendly definition of what they are trying to get across of the term "community of practice" acronymized CoP throughout the whole paper?

CoP is a term that comes from anthropology, which is why I'm a bit puzzled that people from a business department are using it as a framework, although it has been used to discuss professional communities, so I guess it fits. Anyway, here is the definition from Etienne Wegner's website:
"Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly."

The problem, I think, with trying to apply this framework to places like MetaFilter, is that we're not a community whose members are fundamentally driven by a specific practice, like say, woodworking, or knitting, or writing software, but rather a community driven by interest, in this case, interest in reading /discussing the "Best of the Web." Certainly, conversation is a practice, but it is the sahred interest that drives the conversation.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 2:59 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


we're not a community whose members are fundamentally driven by a specific practice, like say, woodworking, or knitting, or writing software, but rather a community driven by interest

I'm just here for the porn.
posted by ornate insect at 3:01 PM on May 6, 2009


So did they get an F on this paper?
posted by cjorgensen at 3:02 PM on May 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


"Since the blog was created in 1999, we decided to examine all the posts and their related comments for that year."

Just for fun I went back and looked at a couple dozen posts from 1999. There are almost no comments. Most days have 1-2 posts. And one person is responsible for almost all the posts. I'm guessing the site had about 10 active users.

Things started to take off in 2000. But in 1999 there wasn't really even any discussion, so how you could relate that to the study is a bit of a mystery to me.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:06 PM on May 6, 2009


Also, as this is a subject (online communities) that I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking (and sometimes writing) about, I have to point out that this claim in their introduction:

Yet, despite the fact that the total number of these electronically enabled communities grows almost exponentially, little is known about the mechanisms and processes that shape them

is patently false. Did they try googling "online communities?" Because Howard Rheingold wrote about this in 1993 and there is a VERY substantial literature about online communities that has developed since. I can only assume that because this appears in an information systems journal none of their reviewers were remotely familiar with this research, otherwise I can't for the life of me explain how this got through peer-review with the lit review they have.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 3:06 PM on May 6, 2009 [10 favorites]


Nice frames, LOSER!
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm used to reading sociological papers, but man, their written English stinks. Didn't anyone proofread this thing?
posted by desjardins at 3:10 PM on May 6, 2009


They don't make it very clear in that paragraph, but I think they randomly sampled a few threads from each of the later years. They only looked at 38 threads total though, so that doesn't leave room for very many posts per year in the ten years since then.

Yeah, I read this section again and I can't quite figure out if their stratified sample covered multiple years or not. Again, this seems like something you should really clearly spell out in your method section. But it is odd that none of the quoted excerpts have dates attached, which leads me back to wondering if they did sample only one year.

Also they say:
To strengthen the validity, we asked a regular member, as opposed to a visitor or novice (Kim, 2000), of MetaFilter to read and comment upon our interpretations (Klein & Myers, 1999; Yin, 2002). He confirmed most of our analyses, and when in disagreement, we took his suggestions into account and reanalyzed our interpretations.

Does anyone else want to know who this regular member was? I sure do.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 3:11 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The University of Houston: Studying the Internet of Ten Years Ago, Today!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:14 PM on May 6, 2009 [16 favorites]


This gives the peer-review system a bad name.
posted by chillmost at 3:14 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Just for fun I went back and looked at a couple dozen posts from 1999. There are almost no comments.

We were attempting to discipline the poster for his shitty posts.
posted by nowonmai at 3:18 PM on May 6, 2009 [10 favorites]


I've been inside the Bauer School of Bidniz recently. They have a mock trading floor, complete with big plasma displays, where they instill and sharpen the time-honored business of greed.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:20 PM on May 6, 2009


I don't have time to read the whole thing. Did they mention me?
posted by marxchivist at 3:20 PM on May 6, 2009


> Does anyone else want to know who this regular member was? I sure do.

I'm pretty sure it was Astro Zombie 3.
posted by languagehat at 3:22 PM on May 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Is this where we fling poo at the folks on the other side of the glass?
posted by zoinks at 3:23 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Consequently, for the purposes of our research, we focus on the process by which knowledge is generated and transferred by the members of a blog community."

You know.......... I'm all for science........ but this is seriously stupid.

The "knowledge" that they're looking at is limited to the context of a CoP. So basically they're studying how people learn how to make good front page posts, and how to comment without being seen as an asshole.

Let me submit that the quality of posts has been largely static as we've grown 9000%. And that people post like assholes here all the time. So much for learning.

I think I could have saved someone some grant money.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:24 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I searched for my name, didn't find it, and decided to ignore the whole thing.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:29 PM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


6million unique IPs, but that's on a monthly basis.

And I'm at least 756 of those, personally.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:31 PM on May 6, 2009


The "knowledge" that they're looking at is limited to the context of a CoP. So basically they're studying how people learn how to make good front page posts, and how to comment without being seen as an asshole.

As I mentioned, I think this is why using CoP as a framework to study MeFi is a bit of a stretch, especially if they are not including MetaTalk as part of the analysis. There is a learning process that goes on, but the knowledge gained is of the rules and norms of the community. And while I personally think it is fascinating to watch how we continually discuss and revisit the norms of the site right here in the gray, this article does not deal with the meta-discursive activity that goes on here, and thus fails to make any new contribution.

It's only really a "new" contribution in the sense that they closed their eyes and pretended that the other research didn't exist.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 3:34 PM on May 6, 2009


*opens paper in new tab*

*presses ctrl-f, types 'brain_drain'*

*gets no hits*

*closes tab*
posted by brain_drain at 3:36 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


We're currently running about 17million pageviews monthly seen by 6million unique IPs, but that's on a monthly basis. There's no way in hell half the population of the US visits MeFi everyday.

Citation? In reality, the MetaFilter website gets 150 million pageviews daily.[1]

[1] Silva et al, 2009.
posted by dgaicun at 3:42 PM on May 6, 2009 [32 favorites]


I tried to read a couple of paragraphs of that thing, and my eyes crossed. It was written by a robot, right? A robot having its bit of fun?
posted by scody at 3:47 PM on May 6, 2009


Matt, you should totally use their pageview count to sell ads.
posted by desjardins at 3:47 PM on May 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


"Exploring the Dynamics of Blog Communities: the Case of MetaFilter" How to Really Overthink a Plate of Beans.
posted by ericb at 3:50 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love, love, love the CofP model, and have applied it to several linguistics research papers I've written. Metafilter is indeed a community of practice, as defined by Etienne Wenger in his definitive book on the subject, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity (1998, pg. 73). Wenger shows how a CofP is exists in three dimensions:

1. Mutual Engagement
2. Joint Enterprise
3. Shared Repertoire

The following is a paper I wrote about a different CofP, but I have adapted the text to Metafilter, to help explain why this community is indeed one of practice, according to Wenger's definition.

I think its important in an academic paper to explain the model you are using, to make the subsequent research more accessible to those who are not familiar with the tools you use in reaching conclusions. I don't know anything about the authors or the paper linked to in this FPP, but maybe the model explanation below will help a bit.
1. Mutual engagement is the first characteristic of practice. It is the source of coherence of its members, consisting of relationships and activities organized around what it is that the community does.

The things that make mutual engagement possible are essential to any practice. Those that are more involved in the forms of mutual engagement are seen as ‘core members’. This is not surprising, because those that participate more in any community are apt to be recognized by a wider set of people as active participants, both within and outside that community. However, this does not mean that mutual engagement is the most important criteria by which to judge a member.

2. Joint enterprise reflects mutual engagement in the sense that it is something that is negotiated by its members—they all have a stake in the enterprise of Metafilter, and through their participation and sharing of ideas, they decide what’s important to them.

It goes beyond the simple act of posting/reading; MeFites are invested in making the environment the way they want it to be, to promote the image of the community in the way they see fit, to make their sessions pleasant and enjoyable (both now and for the future), and to align the image of being a part of Metafilter with the rest of their identity. Members won’t always agree on how these things are done, which is why no one member is representative of an entire group. The act of participating engages them in this process of constantly negotiating what it means to participate, how they participate, what events they attend, what rules they ignore, and all the other negotiable facets of their ever-changing enterprise.

3. The development of a shared repertoire is the third criteria for defining a CofP. According to Wenger, “the joint pursuit of an enterprise will create resources for negotiating meaning” (pg. 82). For example, people participating in Metafilter together will eventually collaborate to improve the experience, such as with the creation of better features, posts, sub-sites, etc. These improved tools will then help renegotiate what it means to be a part of the community, and increase the ability to learn, which gives more meaning to the enterprise and its members.

A shared repertoire involves more than just objects or requirements of group membership. It includes terminology, ideas, stories, ways of doing things, symbols, actions, concepts and all other things the community can produce, and all things that are a part of the practice itself. The Metafilter community is so productive in regards to reifying its practice with these resources, that despite the popularity of the site as compared to other sites, many of these resources are borrowed and propagated through other communities or by nonmembers. However, without the other two characteristics (mutual engagement and joint enterprise), those attempting to represent as members are not seen as legitimate.
---
Once this has been defined as a community of practice, we can start to analyze membership from a CofP perspective, where every linguistic choice an individual makes serves to negotiate with others who they are in terms of level of membership, mode of belonging, and trajectory (the direction they are heading with respect to the group). Essentially, each choice is a statement that reveals the desires, knowledge, and goals of the individual who makes it. Therefore, each linguistic choice is one involving identity.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:54 PM on May 6, 2009 [10 favorites]


I tried to read a couple of paragraphs of that thing, and my eyes crossed. It was written by a robot, right? A robot having its bit of fun?

Or, written by a buzzword generator.
posted by ericb at 3:55 PM on May 6, 2009


"n the context of Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPP), the concept of warrants is fundamental because without warrants, the CoP as presented to a newcomer would lack legitimacy (Garud & Rappa, 1994)."

Who's down with LPP?
posted by klangklangston at 3:59 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, man, they cite the wiki for the pageviews number.

Time to go change it to 150 million people admire klang's genitals daily…
posted by klangklangston at 4:02 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


the concept of warrants is fundamental

I'll gladly accept a grant of MetaFilter Network LLC warrants from Matt today, especially in light of the fact that we might expect half of the American population to visit the website daily!
posted by ericb at 4:09 PM on May 6, 2009


University of Houston? That's the one that accepted Lil Wayne.
posted by box at 4:12 PM on May 6, 2009


I read the paper. No sweater stuffers. No snuggle puppies. I feel cheated.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:14 PM on May 6, 2009


Hmmm ... maybe it's all a set-up to really see how WE'LL ALL REACT here in MetaTalk!

Human guinea pigs be us all!
posted by ericb at 4:22 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who's down with LPP?

I think some of the old-timers were sent down for Larceny of Personal Property.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:22 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


iamkimiam, I see where you're going here, and you've done a better job articulating how MeFi might fit in as a CoP than that paper did, but I'm still not sure what you are defining as the core practices around which the community organizes. Now admittedly it has been a few years since I have engaged directly with the CoP literature, so maybe my understanding is out of date, but my feeling would be to define practices somewhat more narrowly than you seem to be. I don't have any of my books here, though, so I have to rely on my poor old memory.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 4:22 PM on May 6, 2009


Time to go change it to 150 million people admire klang's genitals daily…

While the other half of the population of the US avoid klang's genitals daily.
posted by Elmore at 4:33 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


OMG. I just finished reading the paper. It's a shame, it's all over the place, yet it goes nowhere. I don't know how it got published, to be honest. It looks like they did a ton of data analysis, but they don't say what purpose that collection and analysis served. What did they do with it? What types of tokens did they collect? How did they look at them? Semantically, structurally, pragmatically, what? As far as I can tell, this all was really just a roundabout way to legitimize Metafilter as a CofP, which it is according to already defined and accepted theoretical work(s), so...

But here you have a setup for a quantitative study, with a ton of data collected (and categorized? how? I want to know!) and then it all kind of shifts gears into this quasi-qualitative thing, with an explanation of what Metafilter is and how it works, as justification for what it is and why it works the way it does. Sort of. With a smattering of identity construction, a little bit of narrative, and some philosophy.

I hate to be harsh, but this could've been sooo much more. With all that data, they could have set up MeFi as a CofP in a couple of paragraphs, and then used that as a launching off point to say something. Like, what the data analysis revealed.

Also, what threads were used? Why? How where they selected? Were they focused on a topic? From all the subsites? What was the distribution of users? I could go on forever with the questions...but, my last one: If none of these details were relevant to the analysis, and therefore unnecessary to explain, why weren't they relevant? Because to me, they kinda seem like a big deal.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:35 PM on May 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


> We're currently running about 17million pageviews monthly seen by 6million unique IPs, but that's on a monthly basis. There's no way in hell half the population of the US visits MeFi everyday.

They don't, but you're ignoring the traffic on metafilter.cn.
posted by ardgedee at 4:39 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


noafroblanco; dr
posted by Afroblanco at 4:39 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


DiscourseMarker: "74...I'm still not sure what you are defining as the core practices around which the community organizes..."

The practices are coming from inside the posts...
posted by iamkimiam at 4:52 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The practices are coming from inside the posts...

*cue scary music*
posted by felix betachat at 5:06 PM on May 6, 2009


Also, what threads were used? Why? How where they selected? Were they focused on a topic? From all the subsites? What was the distribution of users?

Inquiring minds want to know, indeed.

They did mention that they chose some specific topics (I've closed the paper now and I'm too lazy to go back and look this up) but beyond that they were extremely sketchy on the sample used. They claimed that it was "representative," but it is far from clear to me exactly how they determined this.

I'm just embarrassed by the existence of this article. There is a lot of very high quality qualitative research on online communities out there. This article, however, was crap. And irony of ironies, the journal's missions explicitly says they aim to promote qualitative research. Oy!
posted by DiscourseMarker at 5:12 PM on May 6, 2009


Keyword searched for my name and got bupkis. Meh.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:12 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


also, any typos that I may have made in this thread are the result of undergrad-paper-grading-induced brain drain
posted by DiscourseMarker at 5:14 PM on May 6, 2009


I have to agree with iamkimiam and DiscourseMarker, I am surprised this got through peer review. I am also in academia and not directly studying online communities (yet) but am exposed to the research others in my institution are doing and also familiar with CoP. Basically the paper authors came across like they had no deep understanding of either CoP or online communities or MetaFilter.

That said, the UH Business School is not one of the hotbeds of this type of research, nor is the journal one of the first ones I'd pick to find out more about research on online communities.
posted by needled at 5:18 PM on May 6, 2009


And one more thing, (and I hope I'm wrong), but I cannot see how any of this research could have been authorized by an IRB prior to the start of investigation without contacting you guys first. Not to mention asking about ethnographic and background info, permissions, and you know, a sanity check along the lines of "hey, is this accurate?"

But what concerns me most is that they've scanned through the entire site, admittedly all 10 years of it, cherrypicked content from individual users, and edited and published it without permission. Seems kinda not ok.

And lastly, one of the first rules about writing about Community of Practice is to be a member of that Community of Practice. Or, you know, at least talk to someone who is...
posted by iamkimiam at 5:18 PM on May 6, 2009


I'm going to stop badly quoting movies now...
posted by iamkimiam at 5:19 PM on May 6, 2009


iamkimiam, since the researchers did not talk to anybody, whether the mods or users, and they relied solely on publicly available data, a lot of IRB's would consider it "exempt" research. Which might be the reason why they didn't contact anybody, because at that point they would have had to prepare a full package for IRB review including informed consent forms, sample questionnaires, etc.
posted by needled at 5:24 PM on May 6, 2009


iamkimiam, I think you should write a letter to the editor of the journal. Seriously.
posted by rtha at 5:26 PM on May 6, 2009


In the case of MetaFilter, whose owner opted for not having formal moderation,...

Of course you're not in the paper, jessamyn! The owner opted for not having formal moderation, remember?

I'm curious if they ran that bit through their veteran member / fact checker. It seems a pretty important point when talking about maintaining community norms and high(ish) levels of discourse.
posted by mosessis at 5:29 PM on May 6, 2009


okay, they did talk to one veteran member, but their role was not that of an informant, more like a research assistant. so still not under the purview of most university IRB's.

IRB regulations make my head hurt.
posted by needled at 5:32 PM on May 6, 2009


iamkimiam, since the researchers did not talk to anybody, whether the mods or users, and they relied solely on publicly available data, a lot of IRB's would consider it "exempt" research.

Yeah, it's "exempt," which at most universities still means you actually have to fill out an IRB request for that status, but you would not need informed consent to analyze public data.

That's not to say that their analysis might not have been improved had they decided to hang out here for a while.

I really, *really* want to know when this data was collected and who their veteran member was.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 5:37 PM on May 6, 2009


Yeah, it's "exempt," which at most universities still means you actually have to fill out an IRB request for that status, but you would not need informed consent to analyze public data.

Right, right. I was thinking of the"exempt" you're describing above, and didn't consider this use of the term "exempt" with respect to IRB is not the commonly understood one. I've been juggling IRB applications for 3 different projects so I'm a bit frazzled regarding university IRBs right now

Among my colleagues the feeling is that it's just common courtesy to ask the community moderators first, before embarking on this type of study.

I'm kinda wondering if they happened to get their hands on some data dump from 1999 and that's why they stuck to that instead of collecting new data. Or if this was a paper that had been sitting in somebody's desk for a couple of years and they finally found a journal to accept it after refreshing the bibliography slightly.
posted by needled at 5:51 PM on May 6, 2009


Metafilter: Wise elders, candidates for mayor, whippersnappers, yobbos and village idiots (CITATION NEEDED)
posted by lukemeister at 5:52 PM on May 6, 2009


I have never been so let down by a "here's some metafilter-related research!" post.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:13 PM on May 6, 2009


:(
posted by ocherdraco at 6:22 PM on May 6, 2009


Among my colleagues the feeling is that it's just common courtesy to ask the community moderators first, before embarking on this type of study.

I think it's pretty fair to say that that is the prevailing view among the community of practice of internet researchers. Based on this paper, my sense is that these authors have not engaged with this community, to their detriment.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 6:34 PM on May 6, 2009


I was not the long-time member who reviewed their work. Doesn't dios live in Texas?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:46 PM on May 6, 2009


Weird. They cite one of my comments in there, but I can't for the life of me find it in any searches. Also, I never say "cheers".

This is kind of driving me nuts. Here's the purported comment:

"uncanny hengeman writes 'I thought he was Jack the Ripper'. Awesome comment. Cheers, man. – Posted by mr_roboto at 10:45 PM PST on October 5"

I cannot find that anywhere...
posted by mr_roboto at 7:18 PM on May 6, 2009


Oh, shit... Just found it. It was in a deleted post back in 2005.

Here's the comment.

And.... It looks like they miscoded it. They thought I was being sarcastic, but I actually thought that uncanny hengeman's comment was awesome! I mean, that's a good quick joke!

I'm sorry, uncanny, I wasn't ridiculing you, really!

And I guess I do say "cheers"...
posted by mr_roboto at 7:22 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, man, they cite the wiki for the pageviews number.

What's wrong with that? Wikis are totally legitimate sources of information for academic research papers.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:22 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have never been so let down by a "here's some metafilter-related research!" post.

Show 'em how it's done, cortex!
posted by lukemeister at 7:23 PM on May 6, 2009


By the way, my previous comment was not sarcastic either. I really honestly thought that the joke about Jack the Ripper was awesome.

I'm getting totally paranoid about how I'm perceived, now.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:29 PM on May 6, 2009


I really honestly thought that the joke about Jack the Ripper was awesome.

Yeah right, I'm *so* sure that you *really* thought it was a good joke. We get it, you hated the joke, no need to keep piling on the sarcasm.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:44 PM on May 6, 2009


Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Metafilter
Leiser Silva*, Lakshmi Goel † & Elham Mousavidin

KEYWORDS
lol • mis • phds

Lakshmi Goel is kind of hot
posted by killdevil at 7:44 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm getting totally paranoid about how I'm perceived, now.

THAT'S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO THINK.

This is how it starts. They come here with their clipboards and their research methods and they start anthropologizin' us...next thing you know, we're at each others' throats.

Then they swoop in and turn the whole site into an SEO farm. I've seen it a million times.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:48 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: It's shorthand for MetaFilter.

Someone went a bit overboard with the search-and-replace.
posted by decagon at 8:12 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: It's shorthand for MetaFilter.

Someone went a bit overboard with the search-and-replace.


Nay, since the Great Leader himself said it, I think this should become the official tagline for the site.
posted by lukemeister at 8:35 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


MeFi: [mi.fai] is long for [mɛ.fi]
posted by iamkimiam at 9:22 PM on May 6, 2009


Lakshmi Goel is kind of hot

Please don't do this.
posted by Kwine at 9:27 PM on May 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty sure most of the people who were on the site back in 1999 are either dead or in prison at this point.

I know I am.
posted by wendell at 10:41 PM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


> they start anthropologizin'

Hey, to be fair, they never got off the veranda so to speak, so I'd call this more of a statisticianin'. Quantitative research with no interaction with the peoples, let alone the trade mark of field ethnography, getting drunk with your subjects.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:45 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Let's tell em our pig stealing stories. Ka-ching!
posted by Artw at 11:03 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


To strengthen the validity, we asked a regular member, as opposed to a visitor or novice (Kim, 2000), of MetaFilter to read and comment upon our interpretations (Klein & Myers, 1999; Yin, 2002). He confirmed most of our analyses, and when in disagreement, we took his suggestions into account and reanalyzed our interpretations.

Does anyone else want to know who this regular member was? I sure do.


I honestly doubt this 'regular member' even exists. Considering how lazy, technically and intellectually, this paper is, I suspect the 'writers' got a suggestion (possibly from a faculty advisor) to contact a Real MeFite and they did the old "let's not and say we did".

It is quite obvious that these 'academics' were and are still so clueless about MetaFilter that they don't realize that one of its "community aspects" is the ability to sniff out bullshit and find proof of its bullshittiness. These 'students' are gonna be in serious trouble.
posted by wendell at 11:05 PM on May 6, 2009


> I honestly doubt this 'regular member' even exists

Oh the person can easily exist, and just be a lurker. They have an account, they participate in askme, but never really go to the grey. Of course, they also assumed that a single informant would be adequate for their research.

It just reads like something created by someone who had never taken a course in anthropology in their life, or if they did, couldn't see applying the same methodologies to their own research, because their research was about "computery stuff."

(My general belief is that a good field methodology course, doing research, interviews, and working with a physical group of people should be an element of any social research type program, even if the rest of the program is about online communities / information science / how to optimize your fortune 500 company)
posted by mrzarquon at 11:48 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those authors nobody knows who didn't bother to contact mathowie- do they really exist or are they more of Its Raining Florence Henderson's sock puppets?
posted by Cranberry at 12:07 AM on May 7, 2009


"I think some of the old-timers were sent down for Larceny of Personal Property.

Did Naught y By Nature not make it down under?

What's wrong with that? Wikis are totally legitimate sources of information for academic research papers.?

I can't even tell if you're being sarcastic. Totally cromulent sources, sure.
posted by klangklangston at 12:23 AM on May 7, 2009


Did I mention that we eat each other?
posted by Artw at 12:53 AM on May 7, 2009


Man, that was disappointing. The backtagging project alone would have given them much more data, and a hella more interestng thing to study.

Hence, our findings suggest that no matter how diligently the owners and participants of a blog community attempt to make them explicit, warrants can only be learnt by actively engaging in the core practices of the community. Thus, as will be discussed below, what constitutes a 'good' post is often a matter of uncertainty for newcomers and debate for old-timers.

iow, the poor (quality posts) will always be with us.

And this bit: Old-timers support their contributions and comments with their seniority ... 'scuse me? I know the mods will grant some leeway to old-timers because of good past contributions and because they're willing to work with people. And don't we have an argument at least once every winter about what gives someone's words weight? (favorites count, user number, expertise in a field). My impression was the general consensus was that these things count, but in certain contexts, they don't matter.

Now this I'll buy:

Principle 1: Community blogs should not be imposed; they have to support either extant or latent practices.


Right. Information sharing cannot be conscripted, it must be volunteered.

Principle 2: Community blogs are appropriate to support extant working practices in which the filtering of information and commenting on posts are fundamental.


This is true to a point, but if you don't have a way of gathering up the really relevant information that a newbie would need - in the context of a CoP - then the blog just goes on to repeat itself. Thus we have the wiki. They missed a huge part of the enforcement of the intent and purpose of this place. Big hole.

We started up a blog and a wiki for a small CoP at work. The wiki is not something the people participated in, but the blog was. However, the mod does occasionally pull useful stuff out of the blog and put it in the wiki.

All they really confirmed was that a good online 'community' (and I'm including mailing lists and newsgroups) need 1) a purpose 2) firm, impartial (as far as possible) moderation, and 3) you can learn just by reading, not necessarily posting.

This might have been interesting in 2003. Now it's like looking at what someone's calling your portrait, but it's just a picture of your foot.

And I don't want to get started on the long time user confirming their findings - talk about confirmation bias. It reminds me of an icon I stole from a friend.
posted by lysdexic at 1:48 AM on May 7, 2009


do they really exist or are they more of Its Raining Florence Henderson's sock puppets?

I never thought of that, add that to the list of plausible possibilities, along with

(1) The 'regular member' was quonsar.
(2) The 'regular member' was the fish in quonsar's pants.
(3) It's all the first part of an elaborate setup that will end with a 'big reveal' at a 10th Anniversary Meetup.
(4) The writers from "Heroes" got bored. (Have you seen that show lately? They are obviously bored out of their minds!)
(5) The 'students' are undercover operatives from Liberty University trying to undermine the educational standards of the U. of Houston.
(6) It's next weeks storyline in PhD Comics
posted by wendell at 1:58 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I found my name like 5 times and got excited before I realized I was accidentally searching my diary.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:36 AM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Potomac Avenue,

I didn't know Information Systems Journal published diaries!
posted by lukemeister at 5:48 AM on May 7, 2009


This is just a random idea (and a crazy one, at that), but what would you guys think about collaborating on a study of MeFi (as an autoethnography of sorts)?
posted by daniel_charms at 6:52 AM on May 7, 2009


Fine by me, but I want right of refusal on whomever you get to play me in your picture, daniel_charms. My shortlist includes but is not limited to:

Miko
Meatbomb
Blue_Beetle
ParisParamus
StrasbourgSecaucus
Manitoba Kabbadi dude
That dude that doesn't like Mutant
The dude with the fedora
posted by Mister_A at 7:02 AM on May 7, 2009


Mister_A: I was thinking of getting Lipstick Thespian. And dhoyt as both mathowie and jessamyn.
posted by daniel_charms at 7:08 AM on May 7, 2009


Dude, I am so in.
posted by Mister_A at 7:13 AM on May 7, 2009


Proposed title of the autoethnography: The Raw, The Cooked, and The Banhammered
posted by lukemeister at 7:16 AM on May 7, 2009


I forgot to add that you'd be doing this for SCIENCE!
posted by daniel_charms at 7:35 AM on May 7, 2009


I'm used to being autoethnographed ALL MY LIFE.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:56 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


They kept talking about their "theoretical lens", and I came to realize that my anger with what I was reading might be due to my jealousy over how awesome it would be to have such a device.

Because I'd love a theoretical lens that was like 10 to 2000mm at F1 with optical image stabilization and I could mount it on any one of my cameras (including the one on my phone), and it ensured that every single picture I took was flawless.

Also, it would take my dogs for a walk when I'm too tired.

Yeah, if I had a theoretical lens, I'd babble about it all the time too.
posted by quin at 8:07 AM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


These are the sort of useless PhDs that insist on being referred to as "Doctor", aren't they?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:06 AM on May 7, 2009


I just emailed the first author alerting him to this thread and invited him to comment either directly or through me. I'll keep everyone posted, if I hear anything.
posted by jasper411 at 1:17 PM on May 7, 2009


oh so YOU'RE the longtime member, jasper411?
posted by desjardins at 1:44 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


KILL HIM! KILL HIM WITH STICKS!
posted by Artw at 1:45 PM on May 7, 2009


STEAL HIS PIG!
posted by Artw at 1:45 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think he just took advantage of how the paper lists email addresses for the authors, and decided to get his initiative-taking on.

FUCK HIS RAINBOWS!
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:48 PM on May 7, 2009


I burnt his hut down and ate his wife.
posted by Artw at 1:55 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


one of us, one of us

totally irrelevant, but some how appropriate
posted by mrzarquon at 2:04 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, isn't generic he/his falling out of favor yet?

In American academic usage, it's way past out of favor except among the thankfully vanishing decrepit tweedosauruses, and any decent copy editor would have caught that. But the journal is UK, so maybe not.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:51 PM on May 7, 2009


I read most of this yesterday so I don't recall quite all the reproofs directed at the authors. So let's all join in a heartfelt "I hope your heads fall off" and hope it is retroactive.
posted by Cranberry at 3:48 PM on May 7, 2009


> I just emailed the first author alerting him to this thread and invited him to comment either directly or through me. I'll keep everyone posted, if I hear anything.

As pointed out by another mefite, that isn't very cool to do without asking other people who were contributing to this thread, as other academics (who may be in the same field) were riffing in a casual fashion about this may not have wanted to bring direct attention as if this were a formal review.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:10 PM on May 7, 2009


that isn't very cool to do

While I sympathize (and will delete standalone comments from people worried about some sort of academic retribution, MeMail me) public internet is sort of public internet and from a modly perspective we're really not going to say "hey man, uncool" about this one. Letting people know that the community they talked about is talking about them seems to be the decent thing to do in my book.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:30 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


NOTE TO VENEGEFUL ACADEMICS: The best revenge would be reprinting some of the SHAMEFUL ACTS OF MEFITES that we have discussed here, prefrably in a major national newspaper or magazine.

/rubs hands in anticipation.
posted by Artw at 7:35 PM on May 7, 2009


I burnt his hut down and ate his wife.

Dammit Artw, I was totally gonna eat his hut.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:10 PM on May 7, 2009


> public internet is sort of public internet

What struck me was not the private/public shift, but that the phrase "invited to comment" which I associate with the formal peer review process. So it was more of a shift from informal to formal discussion about a topic. I can see that as a bigger problem, as it frames the introduction to the thread as "this is a formal assessment, we would like your comments on it" instead of "some people at metafilter have noticed your article, and have some questions".

I'd imagine it as sitting around having peers with some colleagues bs'ing about a presentation you just saw, only to have the dean show up with the presenter in tow, and announce that your group had some feedback for them, and here was the tape of the conversation leading up to them walking in the door.

I realize it is splitting hairs in a way, and I don't really mean to chastise jasper411 about it, but it does appear to change the tone of the conversation dramatically, and kind of without warning (and I really don't know if that was how the first author was contacted).
posted by mrzarquon at 8:40 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


*beers with colleagues, obviously I've had enough already.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:41 PM on May 7, 2009


spot on, mrzarquon.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:56 PM on May 7, 2009


so if you and your colleagues weren't having these peers after all, are they still available for eating?
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:02 PM on May 7, 2009


More like peer review fondue, eh?

I got nothin'
posted by Burhanistan at 9:14 PM on May 7, 2009


Well. That was actually kind of sucky. Metafilter is a fascinating example of an online community, and doubly so from a research perspective, as its guts are laid bare in the form of MetaTalk. Yet they managed to ignore all the good stuff for supposition about the motives of various Mefites, and fuzzy data with fuzzy interpretations.

The whole thing reads like it was written in some crazy moon man language....


It's certainly not going to win a prize for coherency.
posted by zennie at 9:31 PM on May 7, 2009


Burhanistan - I'll throw you some suggestions:

Stilton, Peer and walnut salad
T-Bone Steaks With Blue Cheese Butter And Peer Salad
Upside Down Peer Pudding
Peer Wedges with low-fat vanilla cream dip
Chocolate Coffee Peers
Peer and Chocolate Tart
Peer And Almond Puddings
Roasted Peer tart
Peer and polenta syrup cake
Poached Peers With Chocolate Sauce
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:56 PM on May 7, 2009


/Eats Devils Rancher's hut, eyes Devils Rancher's pig.
posted by Artw at 12:44 AM on May 8, 2009


First of all, sorry, desjardins, I'm not the long time member the authors reference - frankly that sounded like BS to me, and certainly it doesn't seem like an academically respectable way of involving the site for feedback about the validity of the authors' conclusions.

Second, I'm really surprised that people had a negative reaction to my email to the first author. I simply told him that the article was being discussed, gave the URL, and told him that he could comment if he became a member of the site ($5), or, if he didn't want to do that, he could email me comments and I'd pass them along. Why is that not cool? Our little community of practice is often delighted when the subject of threads show up - heck, those little episodes show up in the sidebar with excitement.

If there are some academics in this thread who feel that their professional credibility is at stake because of some kind of joke they made here, welcome to the age of the internets, where everything you say, every joke you make, every picture you take, can find its way back to you. Wouldn't you just *assume* that the authors of the article would be checking metafilter to see how the site responds? I mean, it's not like metafilter is some big secret and they didn't know it existed until my email told them about it, right?

No response yet, btw
posted by jasper411 at 10:47 AM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not the long time member the authors reference

sorry about your hut and your pig then. and your wife
posted by desjardins at 11:19 AM on May 8, 2009


-burp-
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on May 8, 2009


Me and the rainbows are moving in together. I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:23 AM on May 8, 2009


Does Mrs. cortex approve of this?
posted by Mister_A at 11:43 AM on May 8, 2009


my pig, hut and wife are doing just fine, desjardins, you scamp!!!

at least i *think* they are</small.
posted by jasper411 at 11:50 AM on May 8, 2009


Your pig, hut and wife are part of Astro Zombie's sex life?
posted by dersins at 11:55 AM on May 8, 2009


Metafilter: my pig, my hut and my wife
posted by Artw at 11:58 AM on May 8, 2009


erm, before you go emailing Canadian banks, only the last link is me.

sorry about your small "hut"
posted by desjardins at 12:06 PM on May 8, 2009


jasper- as I pointed out, it was how you had phrased your comment here.

Saying "invited to comment" is actually a term used in academic circles referring to peer review process, so it just changed the dynamic when you mentioned it.

So it sounds like you did in fact just sent an email, and pointed out the thread, which I really don't have a problem with personally, but how you had said you had done it set off a few warning bells in others minds about the whole circumstance. And that it had happened without mentioning it at all to the people who were in the middle of actively discussing it, is again just a nails on chalkboard moment.

Again, it isn't that the authors were notified about the thread or conversation, but how they were that appears to be the issue for some folks. Giving the heads up before going off to contact them, so any parties who wish to leave the conversation may, or who may want to add / or interject a comment in how they are contacted, would have been adequate in my mind. I also think those who were discussing the paper would have wanted to have a say in how the authors were to be approached, and you going off and contacting the author without checking in with others put them on the defensive.

I am saying that just because it is on the internets does not mean it has to be instantly reported to every person immediately, a modicum of discretion, especially over what could be a fairly controversial topic, would have gone a long way to preventing some folks from feeling like they can't contribute to this thread anymore. I think they wanted to have a conclusion and an idea on how to approach it, as many questionable practices were used in this paper it appears, before the authors were actively notified.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:08 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess I feel like the whole thing could have been handled better, and as you've noticed, this has now just turned into a conversation about hut burning and the meta-meta discussion about academic criticism in a semi-public space.

(that being said, I still do think the journal that published this should be contacted and notified of the various inaccuracies and issues with the paper)

cortex- who's wearing the bowtie?
posted by mrzarquon at 12:27 PM on May 8, 2009


Does Mrs. cortex approve of this?

She totally understands and respects my polychromatamory lifestyle, yo.

Saying "invited to comment" is actually a term used in academic circles referring to peer review process, so it just changed the dynamic when you mentioned it.

This reminds me of the time I pissed someone off in metatalk by describing some aspect of their objection to a post or a post deletion or something about the civil war as being "a lost cause". It's good to know when you've tripped into insider lingo, but it's also good keep in mind that lay people using lay language in a natural way can lead to things that seem itchy for no real good reason.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:34 PM on May 8, 2009


I appreciate the way you are phrasing your response, mrzarquon, but I still don't think I'd do much different, if I had it to do over again.

"Invited to comment" is a term that has common usage. It's not like I'm the sysadmin or that I have any particular privileged position. I suppose I could have said he could "participate in the discussion" or "contribute to the thread" but these all add up to the same thing, in my mind. I'm a former academic - the term we would have used that I think is comparable to what you're saying is asking him to "review the thread and provide feedback," but again, I'm not in a privileged position here, so I don't think my invitation has any special merit or weight.

Would you have rather I'd said, "Hey everyone, wouldn't it be awesome to see what those guys have to say about metafilter's response? Is that ok?" What happens then, since, at best, I'd get 3 comments me ragging on me for asking, 2 saying no, and at least 1 who's figured out some sexual innuendo in the way I worded the question?

Would you (or others) really have emailed the mods asking for your comments to be deleted because some guy who may be a bigshot about the social construction of blog communities may read them? If so, were you planning to ask the mods to delete your comments, since, after all, these people would probably wander by anyway?

I don't want to be callous, but ANYONE can read what's written here, anyone with 5 bucks can post here. I don't understand your (very politely worded) request that I show a modicum of discretion. Do you really think this thread was evolving toward a conclusion or a consensus on how to address Silva et al's shortcomings before I scared everyone away? If so, you have a very different experience of Metafilter than I do.

In my opinion, if someone is worried about what professor Silva thinks, they shouldn't write it on metafilter, or they should ensure that their identity is well cloaked.
posted by jasper411 at 12:51 PM on May 8, 2009


I'd get 3 comments me ragging on me for asking, 2 saying no, and at least 1 who's figured out some sexual innuendo in the way I worded the question?

Countdown to in-u-endo... Giggity

posted by quin at 1:23 PM on May 8, 2009


> Would you (or others) really have emailed the mods asking for your comments to be deleted because some guy who may be a bigshot about the social construction of blog communities may read them?

Well one point is that these guys have demonstrated they really aren't that big on the whole social construction thing at all (the authors), checking out their bios, they are mostly business school folks working with Information Science programs / degrees, not people with a lot of background necessarily in the actual research of online communities. It may have been them branching outwards.

And I don't think that one would assume there would be people ragging on you for getting them to comment, or asking the group, I think to assume that is to assume the worst parts of metafilter, when in fact the thread did not appear to be going in that direction. (well, if you ignored the hut burning, etc.). MeFites have worked these things to a conclusion in the past, I mean there is the whole Givewell thing, and recently the redroom guy.

> I don't understand your (very politely worded) request that I show a modicum of discretion.

The thing is this, in the academic circles I have traveled with in the past, if there was a suspicion of questionable research or just flat our wrong research in regards to a study, it is taken extremely seriously and you did not want to be perceived of as making false or spurious accusations, so you wanted to have everything double and triple checked. Now I realize this situation was unfolding in real time, and not behind office doors, but in the public, so the context is a bit different. But these critiques aren't just "people are bad at their jobs" but could be construed as "they falsified research" and do carry weight associated with it. Maybe the thread should have pulled off of that topic sooner, individuals wishing to notify the relevant people moved over to another channel of communication. And really this isn't about what Silva thinks, but possibly putting other academics in the spotlight among their own research circles if something big were to come of this.

And as cortex pointed out, there is the insider lingo vs outsider thing going on, and I wouldn't have even noticed the insider aspect of the whole thing if someone else hadn't called attention to it, but now that I've noticed it, I can see why the people who were talking about the academic merits of this work have stopped (maybe they have gone and moved over to discuss this somewhere else).
posted by mrzarquon at 1:37 PM on May 8, 2009


I have to agree with jasper411: it was inevitable that someone would contact the authors, it has happened pretty much every single time a similar situation has occurred, and the whole "insider lingo" thing is (with respect) pretty silly. Nobody should say anything in a MetaFilter thread they don't want the public (including people being discussed) to see, and I frankly don't understand what difference it makes whether they see it today or next week.
posted by languagehat at 4:49 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Hey everyone, wouldn't it be awesome to see what those guys have to say about metafilter's response? Is that ok?"

you want them to take a voyeuristic look at our collective intellectual hardon?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:02 PM on May 8, 2009


You did WHAT to a pig?
posted by Artw at 5:04 PM on May 8, 2009


i just took a pig into my mouth and all the way deep down into my throat!
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:17 PM on May 8, 2009


(i mean that figuratively, of course - it wasn't the whole pig; just a part)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:18 PM on May 8, 2009


It was a metonymic pig.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:35 PM on May 8, 2009


yeah, i only met on 'im last night.

(this is actually how we speak around my neck of the woods)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:41 PM on May 8, 2009


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