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Thoughts about coordination of FPP authoring. May 24, 2011 7:18 PM   Subscribe

Would it be useful to have an official method for coordinating WIP FPPs with other users?

PROBLEM: The problem I want to talk about mostly applies to newsfilter posts, but also for others like "Hey, check out this awesome new game/movie/article I just saw!." I haven't made a post to MetaFilter (yet), but a couple of times I've started compiling one, only to have someone else beat me to it by a few hours. I noticed this with the Google Video news post - Rhaomi was already working on a post about the same topic when the first story went up. And of course, in the last few days there have been multiple doomsday aftermath posts.

SOLUTION: Would it be useful to have an official method for coordinating WIP (=work-in-progress) FPPs with other users? I'm imagining something that could be as simple as a copy of MetaTalk's functionality. Someone could make a post there saying, "Hey, I'm thinking of making an FPP about the aftermath of Camping's Judgment Day prediction. Anyone want to contribute?" Then, later that day or the next day, after 2 or 3 people have put together a nice FPP, it gets posted to the blue by one of the collaborators when he/she feels it's ready.

Perhaps when you're writing a new FPP, if your tags match any of the tags from a topic on the collaboration/coordination section, you'll be notified on the post preview page. Something like "These upcoming topics might be similar to the post you're about to make." Then you, as the author, have the choice of continuing with your post, or collaborating with the WIP one.

some arguments for:
  • helps prevent collisions and doubles of new or emerging topics
  • solves "I'd better hurry before someone else posts this" situations
  • higher quality posts because of more contributors - more links, more insight, less typos, more peers saying "maybe this is a crappy post" or "this was just posted last month" before it ever makes it to the front page and gets deleted
some anticipated arguments against:
  • not nearly as effective (in fact, possibly counterproductive) if it isn't checked by most users
  • breaking news stories might be delayed. I found the Bin Laden is dead post before it was announced by the president, and enjoyed (probably not the right word) reading people's comments as it was breaking
  • "No, we are neither Wikipedia nor [insert crowd-edited content website here]." I understand this is not how the site currently works and that its implementation could mean some kind of paradigm shift or unintended consequences. I'm mostly interested in hearing these kind of concerns, because I only have a vague sense of what it might mean.
  • "You mean another fucking color!?"
While typing this up I finally found the Drafts and collaborations page on the wiki. It looks to me like it was used for a couple of days, then was quickly forgotten. What happened?

Besides that page on the wiki, I can't find any other time this sort of idea may have come up. If anyone could point out a previous instance, that would be helpful.
posted by MrFTBN to Feature Requests at 7:18 PM (38 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

If you look at the collaborations MeTa tag you can see a few other different types of collaborations that have been proposed, one of which wound up with the wiki page you found. I think we're really not able, at some real level to have a space here on the ol' community blog for a collaboration space. It's not really in keeping with the other stuff we do here and the wiki seemed like a good place for the people who were interested to keep up with something like that. It may be that there's not a huge demand, or there's not a great way to make this sort of thing more visible and usable, but as a "this should be official" thing, it's always felt like a bunch of work for something that wouldn't actually solve many of the problems that we'd hope that it would.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:24 PM on May 24, 2011


I'm not sure how this would work, but I think it would have been awesome for the Bob Dylan birthday post or the obligatory LA Noire/Portal/Doctor Who posts. Something like that, where it isn't newsfilter but 'hey, awesome thing is coming up and we should put together some links' could benefit from pooled knowledge.

OTOH people just post links in the comments.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:25 PM on May 24, 2011


Yeah, we really have zero plans to implement a collaboration function (or, somewhat related, a saved draft function) on the site. Collaboration on post drafting isn't at all a core part of the posting experience here, and without enforcing it there's no way to avoid post collisions as they occasionally occur right now, which in its own right can be a bummer in some cases but is not a pressing issue.

It's fine if people want to work with each other in putting a post together in whatever ad hoc way they find beneficial, but it's up to them to figure that outside the context of official site functionality.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:27 PM on May 24, 2011


...but a couple of times I've started compiling one, only to have someone else beat me to it by a few hours.

Not to be snarky, but try branching out in terms of post topics. For instance, with the last flight of the Space Shuttle coming up, there's probably an unofficial race to make a killer post about the subject and/or put it up first. One could get in that "race" or decide to skip it or just ignore it and do a post on related subject. For instance, rather than doing the space shuttle, one could do it on the ISS or China's space program or some such.

Also, if we collaborate, I promise to do none of the work, yet claim all the credit if the post is popular or blame if it's not.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:33 PM on May 24, 2011


Yeah, the most effective way to handle this kind of thing is to put something in the comment thread like "Hey, I was working on a post on this very topic. Here are the bits I had assembled which aren't already covered in the FPP" and basically post what you've developed, links and all, modifying it so it's not just a blanket cut-n-paste but actually fits in with the discussion so far.

Part of what makes MetaFilter so awesome is that the comment threads often add depth and texture in the form of links, not only discussion. In fact, I'd say (with exceptions of course) that it are the discussion threads where the comments end up pulling together a large amount of bonus material that make for the best, most informative posts.
posted by hippybear at 7:37 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


OK the only other discussion I see that is similar is this one. Maybe I should have focused more on "upcoming posts" rather than "forced collaboration" as the main concept here, because I'm more concerned about the collisions of news stories, obituaries, etc. which result in races to post and make unsatisfactory FPPs and doubles.

hippybear, I agree that the comments are often the best part about Metafilter, not the post itself or its links. But I see lots of people contribute links that get overlooked in a 300+ comment thread. Just searching for comments with the most favorites doesn't always help to find the gems in a long discussion. IMO links are better in the post than in the comments.

Thanks for input so far guys.
posted by MrFTBN at 7:42 PM on May 24, 2011


Yeah, the most effective way to handle this kind of thing is to put something in the comment thread like "Hey, I was working on a post on this very topic. Here are the bits I had assembled which aren't already covered in the FPP" and basically post what you've developed, links and all, modifying it so it's not just a blanket cut-n-paste but actually fits in with the discussion so far.

May I just emphasize the "modify it so it fits in with the discussion" part? Otherwise, you may find yourself in the middle of a disconcerting derail about who has the better post.
posted by zarq at 7:42 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


...because I'm more concerned about the collisions of news stories, obituaries, etc. which result in races to post and make unsatisfactory FPPs and doubles.

Eh, it's an imperfect world and a imperfect website. No need to be concerned or worried, we'll muddle through. We just have to believe in ourselves, each other and the mods. But not Eideteker. NEVER him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:46 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK the only other discussion I see that is similar is this one.

Woops, I meant this one. Besides this of course.
posted by MrFTBN at 7:47 PM on May 24, 2011


I'm more concerned about the collisions of news stories, obituaries, etc. which result in races to post and make unsatisfactory FPPs and doubles.

We may just be head-in-the-sand about this sort of thing, but none of those are huge problems from our end. Occasionally there's a MeTa, sure, and occasionally there's some obit collision but this is a fairly unusual occuerrence for something that isn't really part of MeFi's main purpose anyhow.

That is, we like obit posts and news posts as something that rounds the place out, but since this isn't a breaking news site or a "who died" site [though I wonder sometimes] it's okay to have the occasional collision. As mods, they don't really bother us. If these collisions make you personally uncomfortable, they're completely easy to avoid by never making breaking news or obit posts. People will usually make the posts you've avoided making and you can make posts about neat stuff you find on the web.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:48 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


That is, we like obit posts and news posts as something that rounds the place out

*forcibly restrains self from firing up the Crankytron 3000™*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:51 PM on May 24, 2011


Stavros, there's a mefi group on Fetlife if you want to be restraining tips.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:55 PM on May 24, 2011


something something James Brown
posted by Kwine at 8:04 PM on May 24, 2011


People will usually make the posts you've avoided making

I've actually adopted a bit of an inconsistently-followed policy where, when I find an article or something, I actually hold onto it for a day or three and see if anyone else writes up a post about it. If they do, great. If not, I post it. There are no medals awarded for being the person who writes up a particular post.
posted by hippybear at 8:11 PM on May 24, 2011


As mods, they don't really bother us. If these collisions make you personally uncomfortable, they're completely easy to avoid by never making breaking news or obit posts. People will usually make the posts you've avoided making and you can make posts about neat stuff you find on the web.

Ha, OK. Sure it bugs me, but I think I'll live. I just thought it might be a solution for a few of those problems. Sounds like these relatively rare cases aren't much of a concern to mods. At least not enough to warrant adding new major functionality to the site. Maybe it's just my brief experience or selective memory that makes me think it's a bigger quality issue.

And I realize that the newsfilter kind of posts are not the meat and potatoes of MF anyway. My personal favorites are more like this (which could also benefit from collaboration now that I think about it.) Anyway, I have a lot of old bookmarks that I'd like to organize and share here soon, I swear.
posted by MrFTBN at 8:12 PM on May 24, 2011


Somebody work on a post on the Dem win in the NY-26 special Congressional election, in a district that went McCain in 2008. Ryan-mentum, the Republicans touched the third rail. Someobody work on that post, so I can snark in it.
posted by orthogonality at 8:42 PM on May 24, 2011


There are no medals awarded for being the person who writes up a particular post.

Unless by "medals" you mean abuse, thread-shitting, flagging, deletion, and call-outs.
posted by orthogonality at 8:44 PM on May 24, 2011


Do what I do and only make posts about stuff that no one gives a shit about.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:03 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm old school but should really be putting that much work into their FPPs? I'm not really a fan of link padding, where people throw in a ton of superfluous links, many of which are uninteresting in order to make a post seem more substantial.

If you see something interesting online, just link to it. If other people have interesting links to add, they should be able to do inline.

Maybe it would be cool if we had something like StackOverflow where users could collaboratively edit the 'more inside' with new and updated information, so that comment threads could be more about the commentary. That would obviously take a lot more work, though.
posted by delmoi at 9:05 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


This would be great if:

1. Metafilter wasnt filled with procrastinators. Lets be honest...we come here especially when we have shit to do. I just wrote a disgusting paper about pedophiles...and man did i procrastinate on here.

2. By its very nature...metafilter is a procrastinator.

3. There would be no more newsfilters on here...as someone would claim a piece of news...and then finish the fpp 2weeks later.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:29 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm an inveterate procrastinator. There've been a few times where I've thought "I should really make a post on Bulletstorm/that pin-up thing that's going around Facebook/that hot new indie game", utterly forgotten about it, and seen it show up a few weeks later.

There's also sites I like that I save for a rainy day.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:50 AM on May 25, 2011


Google Wave, you could have been useful here.
posted by adipocere at 4:32 AM on May 25, 2011


Oh, now we have a use for Google Wave...

Admittedly, I was guilty of an FPP recently so bad that it led to questions in MeTa about my citizenship, so I may not be qualified to comment, but in general if beaten to an FPP is there a problem with adding any links or context that were missing from the FPP in a comment underneath? As I understand it, editorialising is not a good idea in FPPs, and the rest is just content...
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:11 AM on May 25, 2011


i just came in here to find out what the hell a wip is.
posted by msconduct at 5:14 AM on May 25, 2011


Work in Progress
posted by zarq at 6:06 AM on May 25, 2011


Maybe I'm old school but should really be putting that much work into their FPPs? I'm not really a fan of link padding, where people throw in a ton of superfluous links, many of which are uninteresting in order to make a post seem more substantial.

I dunno. People couldn't help gushing over this post (I liked it too.) That's not to say I don't appreciate the short, single-link FPPs as well. Personally I like the variety of styles.

If you see something interesting online, just link to it. If other people have interesting links to add, they should be able to do inline.

... is there a problem with adding any links or context that were missing from the FPP in a comment underneath?

I think there's an undeniable value in having the main content all up top and organized in a way that gives you a logical overview at a glance. Reading through every single comment for relevant nuggets isn't always practical. IMO relying on people to contribute more content in the comments is a pretty good solution (and a MeFi strength, not a weakness), but not quite ideal. If you're asking me, it's better to have the content up top, and the discussion in the comment section.
posted by MrFTBN at 6:19 AM on May 25, 2011


delmoi: "Maybe I'm old school but should really be putting that much work into their FPPs? I'm not really a fan of link padding, where people throw in a ton of superfluous links, many of which are uninteresting in order to make a post seem more substantial.

Define "uninteresting."
posted by zarq at 7:37 AM on May 25, 2011


Anything I'm not in the mood to read.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:49 AM on May 25, 2011


Howdy, I'm filthy light thief, one of the perpetrators of the "new style" of FPPs that might be overwhelming, and I'm trying to curtail my tendencies towards that end of things. I'm a fan of providing a more complete picture of the Interesting Thing at hand, but not everything needs a lot of context. Some NewsFilter / Hot New Thing can be improved with context (like "how was this recent event/thing possible/made?"), but other times it's fine to post what you can find and let it go from there. While some additional links can provide context, too many links can water down the topic, and create too many tangents to follow.

In short: your post about a topic or event does not need to be encyclopedic in scope, as other people will add more in the comments.


MrFTBN: While typing this up I finally found the Drafts and collaborations page on the wiki. It looks to me like it was used for a couple of days, then was quickly forgotten. What happened?

I'm also the instigator of the Draft/Collab wiki, and from my perusal of the wiki, it seems like the waves of interest are common. Circa 2003 seems to be the peak of activity, and since then certain sections are updated sporadically, or when someone remembers that the wiki has a section relating to a certain thing. Without looking at traffic logs, I'd guess that fewer people read the wiki than MetaTalk, just as fewer people read MetaTalk than visit the main page of MetaFilter.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:01 AM on May 25, 2011


Yeah, the most effective way to handle this kind of thing is to put something in the comment thread like "Hey, I was working on a post on this very topic. Here are the bits I had assembled which aren't already covered in the FPP" and basically post what you've developed, links and all, modifying it so it's not just a blanket cut-n-paste but actually fits in with the discussion so far.

This. I'm just as likely to click on a good link in-thread as I am to click on of the posted links.

Maybe I should have focused more on "upcoming posts" rather than "forced collaboration" as the main concept here, because I'm more concerned about the collisions of news stories, obituaries, etc. which result in races to post and make unsatisfactory FPPs and doubles.

I wouldn't mind the mods taking an even heavier hand against Newsfilter-y posts for that very reason. Hopefully that would dissuade people from making weak posts just to be first. And if someone posts something that is halfway decent, there is then no shame in posting your own contributions downthread.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:07 AM on May 25, 2011


If you can conceivably imagine that someone else is working on a post about the same thing you are right now, post about something else. It's the out-of-the-blue (pun not intended, but it works) posts I like the most. Newsfilter, eh, not so much. Even the current events - type posts that spawn really interesting discussions don't depend on the initial post quality.*

On the other hand, just because I wouldn't ever bother to look at it (not that I'm that prolific of FPP poster anyway) doesn't mean it's a bad idea. I think, though, that it should say something about its actual usefulness that it's been tried and didn't catch on. Not that it was a big paradigm shift kind of thing, just that people weren't really that into it after all.

(*Well, I guess they can be done REALLY self-derailing-ly badly, but that takes some effort.)
posted by ctmf at 6:30 PM on May 25, 2011


If you can conceivably imagine that someone else is working on a post about the same thing you are right now, post about something else.

I think I know what you mean, but I'm not sure that's good advice. If everyone followed this, a lot of good things would never get posted.

The following might be a bit off-topic, but it could explain a little better where I'm coming from:

[tl;dr? don't worry about it. feel free to skip my long-winded bullshit. no harm in sharing though, right?]

Once I had embraced the RSS format, I slowly subscribed to more and more feeds until last year it was just too many. Even if I just skimmed the title of each item to decide if it was worth reading, it was taking up too much of my time every day. So I had to make a tough decision* - I purged most of my feeds and relied on MetaFilter to give me the 'best of the web'. I've been much happier since. Though as a result of MetaFilter being my biggest source of 'neat stuff on the web', I'm much less likely to find links to share here. And that's OK. I'm fine with just contributing in the comments for now.

But let's say tomorrow there's a cool story on Hack a Day (one of the few feeds which survived The Purge) about hobby robots, and I want to share it on MetaFilter. And maybe I know a bit about the particular robots featured in the story, so I want to add more context than just the single Hack a Day link. Well, it's conceivable that another Hack a Day reader is a MeFite and has the same thought. Following ctmf's advice, I should just avoid it, but I decide to go ahead. Sure enough, as I'm drafting the FPP, I notice that another MeFite has posted the story's link to the blue. The current optimal response (and basically common sense and standard practice anywhere) would be for me to share my input in a comment within that post. It was after reading dozens of posts and thinking "Hey, I know something I could share on this topic. But is that really worth $5?" that I eventually decided to sign up (in fact my first post waaaaay back in March was of this nature.)

But as I've said above, I don't think this is quite ideal. If I'm reading about a topic on Wikipedia (not equivalent, I know, but I struggle for a better analogy), I want to see the content and links laid out efficiently and effectively within the article, not buried on the discussion page. But as far as that kind of attitude exists here, it looks like I'm in the extreme minority (i.e. possibly the only person who sees it as anything more than a non-issue.) Oh well, at least this discussion is on the record now.

I think, though, that it should say something about its actual usefulness that it's been tried and didn't catch on. Not that it was a big paradigm shift kind of thing, just that people weren't really that into it after all.

Yeah, I was wondering if there are only half a handful of people interested in the collaborative concept, or if it just didn't get a lot of exposure, being only on the unofficial wiki. I haven't quite gotten the answer, but I suspect it's more the former than the latter now.

* Yeah, unsubscribing from RSS feeds is a tough decision in my world, so what?
posted by MrFTBN at 9:45 PM on May 25, 2011


I think it would be nice to see some kind of official thread policy where current events and obituary posts could be drafted before landing on the front page. Perhaps there could be teams focused on editing and posting these kinds of posts with the stated expectation that there would be an official thread on the subject. This might also help limit some of the newsfilter and kosgrar that we get from time to time. Also I propose a new word: kosgrar

kosgrar (v): reading something on a liberal blog/forum (such as Daily Kos, Huffington Post, etc) and posting an angry poorly constructed fpp to Mefi.
posted by humanfont at 7:41 PM on May 26, 2011


with the stated expectation that there would be an official thread on the subject.

This is really not something we can create or enforce, is our feeling. I know you're just spitballing here, but this would be so different from the way we currently manage the site that unless it were solving a giant site problem, which we don't feel it does, it's just not something that is on the table.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:50 AM on May 27, 2011


The mod-explained difficulties of creating/managing a collaborative space make sense. But what we often see is a first post that's not nearly as good as the subsequent deleted double. But we're stuck with #1.

A way to deal with this is to create a mechanism for Suggested Edits, as they have on Quora. Any Quora user can suggest edits to any answer posted there. Could be spelling/typo corrections, could be suggested supplemental links, whatever. The OP gets a notification when suggestions are made; The suggestions don't go live until the OP accepts them.

Of course here at Metafilter that runs counter to the long-standing resistance to ever allowing OPs or commenters to modify posts. And, there's a danger that certain comments will become redundant or nonsensical because of post edits. However, over on Quora that doesn't seem to be a problem. Adding a changelog would address that issue, but of course that's another complication.

And, I'm not saying Metafilter should emulate Quora in any broad way.
posted by beagle at 9:03 AM on May 27, 2011


Metafilter's solution to that general problem is "comment in the thread". Which, I realize it's not as elegant in some ways as more designed solutions like collaborative edits or post amendment, but it's straightforward and dead simple and aligns well with (and reinforces) the cultural expectation here that participants will read the thread.

It's not the only way to do things, and it's great that other sites with different or even inchoate cultures and ways-of-being have other approaches, but there's this risk sometimes of saying "why not change x to be like y" without recognizing that changing the fundamentals of a thing changes the thing. Revising the basic expectations about how a post and a thread on mefi works would be a giant change; like jessamyn says, without a giant problem affecting the site, that's just a nonstarter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:21 AM on May 27, 2011


Yes, but how would you feel about a Donut Reward System?

With Every Ten Posts, You Get A Free Donut!
posted by zarq at 10:54 AM on May 27, 2011


Isn't the obesity and diabetes epidemic bad enough already?
posted by MrFTBN at 11:45 AM on May 27, 2011


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