Past posting history: When is it okay to mention? June 14, 2011 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Past posting history: When is it okay to mention?

Justinian mentioned this in another thread, and it's something I've been wondering about a lot lately. Several people answered that bringing in past posting history (in Ask specifically) is okay or not okay based on "context" ... but to be honest, I've been watching this the past couple of months and I cannot tell what the contexts are. I think I need it spelled out more clearly.

I don't want to call out specific posts, but I've seen it passed by without comment in one thread and dumped all over as terribly rude in another thread, where the context seems essentially the same to me. So whatever the contextual clues are, I am missing them, and I am puzzled as to the proper etiquette on this point.

I checked the FAQ and site-searched and I tried likely sections of the wiki and couldn't find it, but the wiki confuses me, I'm not sure I searched very comprehensively or with the right term ... which my terrible tags probably illustrate.

Thanks!
posted by Eyebrows McGee to Etiquette/Policy at 9:39 AM (161 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I'll let the mods speak to this, but I get the sense it's something like this:

* If someone posts a lot of AskMes on the same topic, to the point that you get the sense that they're kind of not hearing the advice they've been getting, pointing out "uh, you seem to ask this one question a lot, have you tried what other people have suggested earlier?" That may be an okay instance of bringing up past history.

* If someone in here just rubs you the wrong way, and they say something you don't like -- but other people are kind of okay with -- it's no fair looking at their past posting history to see if you can find anything else that you think other people would also dislike, just to say, "hah! See? Sid's a jackass who thinks [this other thing he said ten months ago], so we shouldn't listen to him about this either!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:53 AM on June 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


Short answer: Never.
posted by Trurl at 9:59 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno about the mods, but I get tetchy when someone trots out someone else's posting history to win an argument - debate the ideas, not the personality. There are some instances where someone needs to be called out for thread-shitting and axe-grinding, but holding a different and sometimes incompatible-with-your-own opinion on a consistent basis is not thread-shitting or axe-grinding in and of itself.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:59 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know if there is a set rule, but I've always thought that if mentioning the past history helps answer the question, it's okay but if you're just kinda being an ass (by bringing up something to as a "gotcha' moment) and therefore not being helpful, it's very much not okay.

Now that I've written that, I realize that those are the basic rules for all Ask answer anyway.

As for other areas of the site, 95% of the time I've seen people bring up a poster's history it has been in some sort of ass-y callout, which I'd assume is why it's looked down upon. -- not just because you're bringing up a past statement but because of why/how you're doing it. (The other 5% has been a joke reference by people who have much better memories on what specific people have posted than I ever will.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:59 AM on June 14, 2011


You may always mention my past posting history. Except for that one thing. You know what it is.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:02 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's one of those things that's used so much more often for grinding axes than actually helping solve problems that our rule of thumb is "please don't do it" That said, people sometimes bring up a poster's commenting history, specifically if they're the subject of a MetaTalk or if there's some difference of opinion. This is okay in limited amounts but generally speaking we'd prefer if people spoke in generalities and didn't link to and quote at length from old comments.

So, to be clear, there is no set policy other than "If you're going to do this, you better be sure there's a very good reason and you're not doing it to score points or otherwise embarass or "out" someone" We deal with it on a case by case basis and we're unlikely to get much more specific than that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:03 AM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


My standard of whether I'll think you're an asshole is:

Did you dredge it up to throw it in their face as some kind of gotcha? Asshole.

Did you pull previous information in to help make your answer to the current question more helpful and well-rounded? Not asshole.

This can be totally a matter of tone rather than content, too.

"Back in this previous Ask, you mentioned X, and I think that plays into this situation in this way that you should consider." vs "Back in this previous Ask, you said X. Are you deliberately omitting X because you don't want people to tell you how it plays into this situation in this way?" Same information, totally different level of asshole.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


More specifically, there's a sort of gradation of when it's okay based on the part of the site too. It's rarely okay in MeFi proper, sometimes okay in AskMe [though should be used very very cautiously and again, less linking and quoting the better] and it's totally up in the air in MeTa. In the thread you link to [which is still open] people were bringing up other posts by the OP of the AskMe thread in question to bolster their own arguments about what they thought her home life was like. I feel pretty uncomfortable about that but we've been watchign the threads pretty closely and we have to have a pretty good reason to remove something in MeTa and things haven't reached that point yet, to my mind.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:06 AM on June 14, 2011


Metafilter: totally different level of asshole.
posted by owtytrof at 10:07 AM on June 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think it's ok to mention past history when it's necessary to point out, say, that the person has asked the same question in nine different ways?
posted by Melismata at 10:19 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the MeTa thread is "Hey this person is asking the same question over and over" then yes, sure. That said, these sorts of things are often not awesome uses of MeTa, they don't necessarily require community input and someone who may be having a difficult time then get a magnifying glass focussed on their questions. If someone is having the sort of trouble where they're asking a question over and over, it may be a better idea to talk to us about it and not just link it here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:22 AM on June 14, 2011


History can teach us nothing. We must follow Obama's lead and always move forwards.
posted by DU at 10:26 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It may make someone an asshole, but what about when past posting history makes it clear someone is trolling, spamming, or lying?
posted by maryr at 10:27 AM on June 14, 2011


In the thread is unlikely to be the right place to point that out.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:32 AM on June 14, 2011


It may make someone an asshole, but what about when past posting history makes it clear someone is trolling, spamming, or lying?

There's no clean threshold here where it goes from being kind of problematic (which is what it is most of the time) to being totally okiedokey, is the thing. Aside from some very very hyperspecific What If?, the general answer is that making a public thing of it is dicey and doesn't always make a situation better so much as just more volatile.

Dropping us a line via the contact form if you see something that looks sketchy is a good solution because we're able to look at the situation in more detail, use backend tools to connect more dots if the dots are there to be connected, and can take action on it in a non-dramatic way if there is indeed a problem that needs addressing.

Contacting us instead of making a public thing of it is also a good alternative because it means that if there's not actually anything sketchy going on, someone doesn't get raked over the coals publicly for no reason.

Ultimately, insofar as this place is made out of conversation and the record is nominally public, people are going to notice weirdnesses or inconsistencies or conspicuous retreading of ground and so on and it's probably going to come up sometimes. We ask that people try and use good sense and caution about going there, and to try very hard to avoid doing it in a jerkish way if it needs doing at all.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:33 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


totally different level of asshole

For the record, there are Nine Levels of Asshole: Ass, Ass Hat, Ass Clown, Ass Munch, Ass Wipe, Ass Hole, Ass Wart, Master Ass Blaster, and Self-Linker.

Don't be a Self-Linker.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:37 AM on June 14, 2011 [20 favorites]


I think it's always okay.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:38 AM on June 14, 2011


I think it's always okay.

That's not what you said 18 months ago.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:42 AM on June 14, 2011 [20 favorites]


[I see that "you can't learn from History 'cause History is written in German" doesn't apply here. Good.]

It seems to me that not digging too deep in others' posting history, and thus giving people a chance to a fresh start every now and then is a good practice. So for me: let intuition and friendliness be the guide.
posted by Namlit at 10:42 AM on June 14, 2011


It's okay to do it to someone, if the target is not popular here. In that case, bully away.

That's been my experience of it, anyway.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:44 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Opinions are like assholes : They evolve over time.
posted by crunchland at 10:45 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Opinions are like assholes

Only to be shared with doo consideration.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:54 AM on June 14, 2011


99% context, 1% text and 5 % butterscotch ripple.
posted by clavdivs at 10:57 AM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I guess this is the "edge case" where I can't ever tell when it's appropriate and not:

"If someone posts a lot of AskMes on the same topic, to the point that you get the sense that they're kind of not hearing the advice they've been getting, pointing out "uh, you seem to ask this one question a lot, have you tried what other people have suggested earlier?" That may be an okay instance of bringing up past history." (EmpressCallipygos)

Sometimes this is apparently okay and sometimes it is apparently not, and I can't tell the difference of when. I guess when it most confuses me is in relationship, family, or certain kinds of work AskMes where people seem to be asking the same question (or making the same mistake?) over and over, and sometimes people bringing in past history are lauded and other times they're attacked. Maybe tone is a part of it (as some others suggest) that I've overlooked.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm dying to bring up people's past histories. I think I've only even bothered to look like twice unless someone has mentioned it in the thread, both times when I was like, "Wait, I sort-of remember a similar question -- same poster?" I'm just having a terrible time figuring out the application of this community norm from context and would like to feel less-dumb. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:06 AM on June 14, 2011


It's okay to do it to someone, if the target is not popular here. In that case, bully away.

I've fairly consistently seen the mods admonish people to not do this.

People are welcome to do it to me. I'm guessing this sort of thing bothers some people more than others. I can't imagine anything I've written here that I would hate for someone to bring back up.

I have some stuff I am proud of, some not-so-much, and a lot of meh.

I always find it funny when people do this to try to prove someone wrong. "Oh yeah, well in this post you said your favorite ice cream was Chubby Hubby! Now you saying it's this"? Liar!

Digging through someone's posting past is a product of the site. Otherwise you wouldn't have user activity. In my mind it's like any other tool. If you are doing it to prove a point that is dickish you'll come off like a dick. Don't be a dick.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:10 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't be a dick.

Man, will I be glad when people stop adding the word 'Unless...' to the end of that.
posted by Mooski at 11:12 AM on June 14, 2011


Maybe tone is a part of it (as some others suggest) that I've overlooked.

Tone, or more generally presentation in context, is probably a big part of it. Chance is too. Even if everything is pretty similar in terms of the broad structural elements in two situations, you're going to have different people involved, different perspectives, different local or personal contexts, different degrees of investment in pro- or anti-drama approaches to the site, etc.

That's a big part of why we don't have a pat answer for edge cases: they're defined as much by the very specific local details and related whammy factors as they are by the broad features of the situation.

Which, from the mod side you've got our position: it'd be great if people could be careful and thoughtful and err on the side of generosity and positive developments in a thread's atmosphere in situations where they're considering referencing past history. If something for some community-related reason really needs to be brought up in a negative context, it's important that the why there be made very clear.

We're not going to pretend that people have always been perfect angels, but we also don't want people needlessly mucking about with comment history dumpster diving or Oh Yeah Well What About type gotchas.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:13 AM on June 14, 2011


I think in my case it helped others understand the context of the situation I am in (although I can't complain, I can watch all of the re-runs I want to now lol). There was a huge debate differentiating when disciplinary actions are and are not considered abuse. So it definitely helped having my past family history exposed, however embarrassing that may be.
posted by nikayla_luv at 11:22 AM on June 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I find it problematic when I see comments telling other users that their responses to a question or their comments on a callout are useless or worse simply because they didn't read through a poster's history. We are encouraged to take things at face value, to give the benefit of the doubt, and to consider each post separately (of course, unless the poster encourages us to do otherwise).

We don't know far more than we do know about anyone else, even if we're familiar with the questions they've asked or the comments they've made. Our interpretations of others' feelings and motivations, based on the slim clues of a posting history, usually tell a lot about ourselves and very little about anyone else. Preening over our own empathetic interest in an asker's personal life, or deriding another answerer's lack thereof, sucks shit.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:24 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are occasionally times when I'd like to refer to a commenter's previous comment, because it seems relevant to a discussion we're having about a similar subject and I recall the previously-expressed viewpoint. This is not a "gotcha", more of a "so there you said X, you are now saying a non-contradictory Y; given those two bits, I'm curious about Z".

I don't do this, because I respect that people generally don't like old comments being referenced in new threads. I don't really understand that though, except in the "gotcha" cases that are the basis for this custom. One of the things that we appreciate about the community here is that people have posting histories and that over time we build up relationships with each other based on our interactions and comments; it's why we don't love sock-puppets, shared accounts, etc. It seems weird to me that we would praise the community that arises from frequent interaction but frown so strongly upon referencing those interactions.
posted by Errant at 11:36 AM on June 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


If we're never supposed to consider someone's history, then what's the point of having user names?

[and oh god please stop saying past history]
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:36 AM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


We can consider it. We just can't talk about it. History is like Fight Club. The first rule of History is don't talk about History. The second rule of History is don't learn nothin. The third rule of History is ..... The fourth rule of History is Profit. The fifth rule of History is shouldn't the first rule make all these tired cliches and memes like "Profit" die already?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:42 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bringing up past posting history is like Peter Gibbons getting all angry when he thought Joanna had slept with Lumbergh.

A) You're acting like an ass.
B) Who are you to judge?
C) You're probably wrong about it anyway.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:45 AM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


As far as I've been able to tell, people check the user's past posts a LOT, whether it's considered "okay" or not. I thought it was considered kind of a social requirement here or something.

That said:
(a) I only post innocuous first posts to Metafilter under my own name.

(b) I have done one anonymous post, which was for work-related reasons and I just outed myself after the situation was over with because at this point I don't think it can hurt me and it can help the next poster with the same problem.

(c) But if I had an actual relationship-related question to ask, there's no way in hell I'd post it under my name. Because it seems like once you have a history of stuff, the posting really gets kind of insane, you get yelled at for your past posts and actions, etc. Once someone checks someone's past posts (note to MrMoonPie: I am TRYING not to say "past history," I swear) and is all, "You've been dating so-and-so and asked 12 questions about the same jerk and you still won't leave him," the conversation goes way downhill and tends to get nasty. Which may or may not be deserved if you continue to ask about the same thing 12 times, but it certainly gives me pause about ever wanting to publicly admit to any shit I'm going through. So far I've managed to restrain myself from posting any drama, once I remind myself of how crazy it can get. I hope I keep on restraining myself :P

This is not to say that your history isn't relevant. If someone has inadvertently provided you with the ability to check what you've said before on this topic, well... you kind of did it to yourself, I guess. And god knows it would change a lot of what people would say to you if they knew more of the story. That may or may not be a good thing, but it's almost guaranteed to give you more of the Clue Bat treatment than you might get from an anonymous post.

So a note to all and sundry: if you have Teh Drama to discuss, especially if it's on a semi-frequent basis, you probably would be better off submitting anonymously. (My apologies to the mods ahead of time for saying that.) Because if your history is right there to click on, people are gonna do it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:48 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bringing up past posting history is like Peter Gibbons getting all angry when he thought Joanna had slept with Lumbergh.

A) You're acting like an ass.
B) Who are you to judge?
C) You're probably wrong about it anyway.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:45 AM on June 14 [+] [!]


This would be true if we didn't actually have, you know, the verbatim words that a user posted rather than hearsay and confusion about which Lumberg we're talking about.
posted by proj at 11:53 AM on June 14, 2011


When in doubt, leave it out.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:53 AM on June 14, 2011


While I agree that this tool is too often used here to catch people in embarrassing "gotcha" moments used solely to discredit, I do think there are times, particularly in AskMe, where NOT referring to somebody's posting history is itself problematic.

For a specific example, I can think of a particular poster who has over the course of her time here posted a countless number of similar AskMe questions along the lines of, "I just started dating a new guy, this is the absolute most amazing relationship I've ever been involved in, I've never felt this way about anyone in my entire life, the sex is amazing, we connect on so many levels, but here is some major, huge red flag thing about him...". I understand the idea that within reason we should take each question at face value and treat it as unique, but in a case like this, it seems like not taking into consideration the fact that the poster continually finds herself in the same situation over and over again would be to ignore a detail so significant as to be unhelpful in and of itself.

Similarly, in the thread that inspired this post, not knowing the unique family situation of the OP, which could only be found by digging through her AskMe history, makes the initial question so lacking in context as to make virtually any response potentially unhelpful.
posted by The Gooch at 11:57 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


This would be true if we didn't actually have, you know, the verbatim words that a user posted

Pro tip: A forest is what you call a large collection of trees.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:02 PM on June 14, 2011


"in the thread that inspired this post"

Technically, Justinian's post inspired my post, because I was like, "Oh, good, I'm not the only person with this question." I didn't want to reference particular Asks or comments looking at post history (or complaining about looking at post history) because I don't want to call anyone out; I just want to understand better the community norm. (And, yes, this is helping.)

Also I will try not to say "past history" anymore. :)

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:06 PM on June 14, 2011


in a case like this, it seems like not taking into consideration the fact that the poster continually finds herself in the same situation over and over again would be to ignore a detail so significant as to be unhelpful in and of itself.

Agreed. We definitely don't feel that each question has to be a tabula rasa. That said, bringing this up in a somewhat subtle and/or gentle way is a lot better than saying "You know you've been saying this about the last five guys you've dated: link, link, link, link, link" I think there are ways to bring up that something may be a recurring issue [and trust people who are interested to follow the trail if they feel that they need to] without having to quote verbatim from someone's other questions. We've seen people to this pretty effectively in some repetitive-AskMe situations in the past, enough to know that there are ways to do it well and ways to do it less well.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:06 PM on June 14, 2011


There was a MeTa comment years and years ago, in a discussion about privacy, if memory serves, where somebody went through someone's history and posted an annotated biography, all 'Soandso was born in Texas (link to Metatalk comment), but grew up in Oklahoma (link to Ask Metafilter comment). He went to elementary school sometime in the '80s (link to Ask Metafilter comment), where he enjoyed science fiction movies (link to Metafilter comment),' etc. etc.

Sometimes, I wish that somebody would do that for me.
posted by box at 12:08 PM on June 14, 2011


And sometimes, I hope that nobody ever does that for me.
posted by box at 12:08 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


box, you are thinking of tamim.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:11 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


So a note to all and sundry: if you have Teh Drama to discuss, especially if it's on a semi-frequent basis, you probably would be better off submitting anonymously. (My apologies to the mods ahead of time for saying that.)

Another option is to create a second account just for posting your relationship-drama questions. One significant advantage to this approach is that it's much, much easier to respond to the people who answer your question. If memory serves, provided you're not trying to get around the AskMe posting limit, the mods are more or less cool with it.

On preview: hey, thanks, cortex!
posted by box at 12:12 PM on June 14, 2011


box has five sides and four flaps that form a lid. box is finely corrugated, with bronze staples and strong glue. box is strong and very convenient for storing things. When moving, box is your best friend. box is frequently prefered by children to the presents that box delivered. Since the purpose of box is to contain, the only time box is empty is when box is full. Think about it. Outside the box, please.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:16 PM on June 14, 2011 [22 favorites]


Past posting history: When is it okay to mention?

I'm pretty much never okay with this, and try never to do it. We're all technically here for fun, so what's the point of holding grudges? I'm kind of an extremist about this : I try really really hard to suspend judgment of someone's character until I get to know them in person. Why? Because people will be an asshole in one thread, and perfectly fine in the next. It's nearly impossible to get a true idea of someone until you've had the chance to interact with them personally, over a decent span of time.

And then you have the other thing, where people will be all like, "oh yeah?! but you said [X] three years ago, how about that, huh?" Which is like, such bullshit. Makes me think of Bush calling Kerry a flip-flopper. Like we can't take the idea of people being adults capable of changing their minds, and have to hold them to this ridiculous artificial standard of consistency.

I think digging through peoples' history is obsessive, wrongheaded, and destructive to the community. Think about it : if the minutia of every conversation you had in person was indexable and searchable, and people used it against you in arguments -- or just for the purposes of snarking you -- do you think anyone would ever actually be friends? It would be a freakin' nightmare. It would make it impossible to get along with anybody.

Anyway, any time I see someone do this, I think, jesus fuck, someone has a lot of spare time on their hands. Actually, it strikes me as funny, because I start to imagine it as part of some kind of political attack ad.

AFROBLANCO once said that he likes cheese sandwiches. Now he's turned his back on them and said, "I do not like cheese sandwiches." Is this the kind of person you trust to make comments on Metafilter? AFROBLANCO : WRONG FOR METAFILTER, WRONG FOR YOU. Paid for by citizens against Afroblanco.

I also think it's wrong when people dig through post history on AskMe. I've posted about this before. Basically, I think that focusing on the asker instead of the question does a disservice to the community (and the internet), and that people should stick to Just Answering the Question.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:23 PM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am all about bringing up users past posting histories.


But only in those schmoopy hug-fests where we talk about comments that we've really enjoyed.
posted by quin at 12:27 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


You don't like cheese sandwiches?! What are you - a communist?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:31 PM on June 14, 2011


Myself, I only bring up users' future histories.
posted by owtytrof at 12:32 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Most of the time, before I answer someone's question, I read every previous question by that person, and sometimes all of their comments.

If I find anything I think they might not want to see resurfacing, but which is important to my answer, I'll attempt to refer to it in a general way, as if answering their question would make anybody naturally think of that thing knowing nothing of their personal history.
posted by jamjam at 12:44 PM on June 14, 2011


Metafilter: We're all technically here for fun.
posted by sweetkid at 12:57 PM on June 14, 2011


Pro tip: A forest is what you call a large collection of trees.

The phrase "pro tip" is seriously one of the most teeth-gratingly irritating memes of the past year or so.
posted by proj at 1:51 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I roll a proj, I twist up both ends so that nothing falls out until I'm ready to fire it up.
posted by box at 1:56 PM on June 14, 2011


We seem to be talking about two different things here

1. Askmefi
2. Everywhere else

In askmefi it can be helpful but not if it's accusatory or aggressive. If you're pissed or annoyed at the asker, don't answer the question. If you think the asker is wasting your time, don't answer the question. If they bring previous questions into it for background, then it's obviously fine to reference them.

Everywhere else, don't do it unless you're being complimentary. I can think of a very few rare edge cases where it might make sense but usually it's one more manifestation of a weird (and usually pathetic) grudge that no one wants to hear about anyway.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:03 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure pathetic grudge quite covers it.

People occasionally take rather strong rhetorical stances here, frequently condemnatory of other users, angry, and the like. Noting hypocrisy might well be a useful brake on that sort of thing.

I am with Errant in this. Community cannot function without memory; memory is not merely implied. Pretending that we do not remember what people said prior to that very thread is just that, pretending.

MeFites can nearly break the sound barrier in pouncing upon hypocrisy, inconsistent behavior, and actions at odd with rhetorical stance when it comes to the subjects of topics; it's a little weird that we refuse to apply that same standard to ourselves.

This isn't to say that it would not be contentious, all would be hunky-dory. Not at all. I harbor no illusions there. However, the tradeoff in contentiousness might well be good, on balance, if it serves to curb the kind of "you're an asshole if you believe that" statement we get rather more often than I like.

However, I know I am in the minority on this and that such a change stands a percentage chance requiring decimals to properly note.
posted by adipocere at 2:23 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't do this very often but I have done it. I think it can be helpful to (kindly, compassionately) point out relationship patterns that are being repeated.

But I have also done it in a case of a Particular Poster. PP posts AskMe questions that are often about how the neighbours are making it difficult for he and his wife to live in their current apartment. The neighbours smoke. They play music. They have children. They walk on the floor above.

You can ignore each of these questions, answer each one prima facie, or actually try to help the poster by pointing out that their posting history indicates that they are spectacularly poorly matched to the realities of mixed-age, apartment complex living. I think PP eventually came back asking about how to move to low-cost housing that actually is matched to their (finally articulated, prioritised, and precise) needs, so I don't know; maybe that was ultimately helpful. I would certainly like to think it didn't hurt.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you are bringing up past history in genuine good faith to try to help the poster, and you can do it without blame or accusation, it might be OK. That's what I think about Ask; I lack an internal compass for other sections because I am not as active there.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:59 PM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't agree with the bright-line "NEVER DO THIS" attitude some people have about it. IMHO, it's okay to refer to people's prior contributions here in order to make a legitimate or constructive point, as opposed to unfair gotcha games or mean-spirited mocking of people for earnest changes of heart from years-old positions. What's the point of maintaining a consistent identity on the site if the history of that identity can never be spoken of? Brand New Day notwithstanding, of course.

For example, back in 2008 I dredged up half a dozen or so comments from people in early 2007 talking about how callow and untested Barack Obama was, then compared them to comments from the same people in the 2008 Obama victory thread gushing over his win and waxing hopeful for the future. People loved it! It was even in the podcast. And it was because it wasn't presented as "haha, you guys were so stupid and wrong," but as "wow, it's amazing how quickly this guy's risen from obscurity to the presidency." (I did a repeat last year, btw, contrasting those same skeptical-->glowing comments with more skeptical comments from the same people two years into his term. Fair and balanced!)

Blazecock Pileon: "It's okay to do it to someone, if the target is not popular here. In that case, bully away.

That's been my experience of it, anyway.
"

I wasn't bullying you, sheesh. I was just pointing out that you were using the same crude, uncharitable "punch a hippie!" metaphor over and over as a substitute for worthwhile criticism of the people you were talking to in that and other threads. And again, it was more for the sheer *repetition* of that single one-liner than the point it was trying to get across. I'd say the same thing if somebody was using and re-using a phrase like "the Foxconn-exploiting sycophants of the Cult of Jobs" in six different Apple threads.

(FWIW, I would have just MeMailed you about it, but you have that disabled. It didn't merit a whole MetaTalk callout, but it was annoying and frequent enough that I thought it was worth mentioning in a brief "hey, can you cut that out already?" kind of way.)
posted by Rhaomi at 3:16 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not private information and is often relevant to the (current) question being asked on Ask, so I use posting history occasionally to inform an answer. Mostly when there's a clear linear relationship between questions. For example:

Q1: Help me set up my own home apiary. Mmm honey. [more inside]

Q2: Is it unusual for a person's throat to swell shut after being stung by an insect? Bonus question: What are these stings all over me?

Q3: Any good recommendations for sticky floors? [more inside]
posted by yellowcandy at 3:17 PM on June 14, 2011


> it's a little weird that we refuse to apply that same standard to ourselves.

You are discussing a topic and user n opposes your position. Finding and linking to material that supports you is probably the single most common (substantive) response.

But what if some of that material happens to be on metafilter itself and to consist of user n, on a different occasion, supporting what you now support and he now opposes? Why would that be different from any other supporting link you might google up?

There is certainly no reason in logic. Some practical considerations (risks raising the grar a couple of db, makes mores work for the mods) may apply--in which case it's up to you what you're willing to risk, be that a ruler across the knuckles or a two week vacation.

If the site as an entity thinks dredging up old threads should be off limits there's a simple solution: delete them, 4chan-style. To say "We're going to let these elephants remain in the room but no one must refer to them" ... that's silly. Don't be silly.
posted by jfuller at 3:18 PM on June 14, 2011


And to be clear, it wasn't just BP using that language, it was a lazy potshot I've seen repeatedly on the site. I'm not that bothered by people making these criticisms; I just don't like seeing people falling back on the same smirking, knee-jerk quip over and over. It shuts down discussion and reduces it to name-calling, like Freepers dismissing people they disagree with as communists instead of offering more constructive criticism of why they disagree and how they might bridge the gap.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:26 PM on June 14, 2011


In general, I think I'd enjoy the *.metafilter.com sites if people focused more on the content, and less on each other.

But that's just me.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:29 PM on June 14, 2011


You would say.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:35 PM on June 14, 2011


I was just pointing out that you were using the same crude, uncharitable "punch a hippie!" metaphor over and over

I'm not okay with you pulling my old comments without context. The context makes it clear that the metaphor I used is perfectly applicable to the tiresome and predictable ways in which both you and Ironmouth respond to when Obama gets any kind of criticism, whatsoever.

If you aren't bullying people into groupthink by shaking Republican bogeymen into the thread, you're now bullying people with left-wing bogeymen (evil "Chomskyites" and "Green Party" strawmen who want to destroy Obama).

You and he should really not be throwing Freeper analogies around when you two are the worst part of the problem.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:35 PM on June 14, 2011


How is it reasonable to take "pick your battles, because opposing the Democrat in a de facto two-party race for not taking outspoken liberal positions on every possible issue will do more harm than good" and reduce it to merely "right on, punch hippies!!"? It's not a fair characterization of the other person's argument.

At least "President Palin!!"-style fearmongering is based in reality. If 2012 is Obama vs. [Palin/Perry/Pawlenty/Romney/etc.], then saying Obama is unacceptable and unsupportable due to positions X, Y, and Z effectively concedes the contest to a candidate who is worse in virtually every respect. Including positions X, Y, and Z. Saying that decision isn't pragmatic in terms of getting actual policy passed in our imperfect society is not equivalent to decking John Lennon, and acting like it is hurts the discussion.

Blazecock Pileon: "You and he should really not be throwing Freeper analogies around when you two are the worst part of the problem."

I'll eat my words about citing post history being OK for constructive purposes and ask you to point out an example of me being "the worst of the problem." Because the only time I recall being called out while posting in a political thread was in a positive way, for being respectful and backing up my arguments with sources. I think you're just conflating issues you have with Ironmouth's posting style with me just because I've defended him on occasion.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:08 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


... see? And this is what happens when people start pulling things in from other threads.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:15 PM on June 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


At least "President Palin!!"-style fearmongering is based in reality.

Given that she has not declared her candidacy - or even assembled a serious campaign staff - I must respectfully disagree.
posted by Trurl at 4:17 PM on June 14, 2011


In a super-long Japanese nuclear reactor meltdown thread, there was a guy who was holding forth, expert-style, as if he were a nuclear physicist or nuclear engineer or something similarly impressive, on various nuanced aspects of the disaster. IIRC, people were openly questioning his credentials, because they were trying to determine whether he had an applicable expertise, or whether he was just talking out of his ass.

A quick look at his posting history revealed that he worked at a drive-through beer barn or something like that.

I pointed out that he appeared to work not in any nuclear energy-related job ... but at a liquor store. I am pretty sure my comment was deleted.

I still maintain that it was an appropriate thing for me to point out.
posted by jayder at 4:22 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still maintain that it was an appropriate thing for me to point out.

Unless he had claimed that his comments were informed by his professional expertise, it wasn't.

Surely there are things you consider yourself well informed about that have nothing to do with your job description?
posted by Trurl at 4:27 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Trurl: "Given that she has not declared her candidacy - or even assembled a serious campaign staff - I must respectfully disagree."

Interestingly, Nate Silver made the point the other day that Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann (who declared just before participating in last night's debate) is actually more disciplined, on-message, and drama-free than Palin while still holding the same tea party conservative appeal (23 foster kids!!). While also being a habitual liar and totally crazycakes. Which is a high bar to clear when even "establishment moderates" like Romney and Pawlenty* want to expand Gitmo and reinstate DADT.

*(I suppose the most moderate would be Huntsman or Johnson, but they're getting very little traction.)
posted by Rhaomi at 4:28 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Surely there are things you consider yourself well informed about that have nothing to do with your job description?

Liquor stores, for one.
posted by box at 4:30 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I pointed out that he appeared to work not in any nuclear energy-related job ... but at a liquor store. I am pretty sure my comment was deleted.

You have not had a comment deleted from the blue since September 2009.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:31 PM on June 14, 2011


Indeed, Bachmann is a far more credible bogeyperson than Palin. She can pass for sane when she wants, did well in last night's debate, and may well win Iowa.
posted by Trurl at 4:32 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I watched that shit last night, and as disappointed as I've been by Obama, I pray for your country and this world that none of those fuckin' idiots win the presidency.
posted by gman at 4:37 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'll let the mods speak to this

I'd just like to say that I really, really hate this bizarre construction. Speak to this? Speak to it? How the hell can you speak to a non-sentient thing? Well, I suppose you can, but you look like a loony when you do, right? You see that, right? Where did this horrific mutilation of meaning come from? And how did it usurp "speak about this", which is, of course, correct and sensible English?

America, you distress me mightily, and far too frequently. Please stop using our shared and precious language as if you had no idea what its constituent words mean, or worse, as if you cared not a jot for such meaning.
posted by Decani at 4:38 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


You have not had a comment deleted from the blue since September 2009.

Actually, The Cabal* had that line stricken from the record. The person in question works in a very, very important "liquor store." Some of the more experimental "liquors" bear chemical similarities to nuclear fuel-related products. We thought it best if the conversation had never happened.

*There is no Cabal. There is no "liquor store." That's just a really big keg of Guinness. That mouse in your beer does not have two heads. Nothing to see here. Move along.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:40 PM on June 14, 2011


What the hell is a "jot"?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:41 PM on June 14, 2011


Where did this horrific mutilation of meaning come from?

England, in the early 17th Century, judging by the OED cites.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:42 PM on June 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've tried to use "ecstasy" in the Shakespearean sense of "insanity", but it hasn't gone well.
posted by Trurl at 4:46 PM on June 14, 2011


4-SOOTH!
posted by Artw at 4:46 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not a fair characterization of the other person's argument.

Being told Palin/Bachmann/whoever will get voted in because Obama got criticized on the Internet for, say, running torture camps and continuing wars, was as tiresome as the repetitious drone of anti-Chomsky and Green Party comments.

If you want to improve the quality of political discourse, give some consideration to the rhetoric you're rationalizing in this thread. In other words, if you don't want to hear your behavior described as hippy-punching, stop punching hippies. Stop blaming Obama's woes on people asking fair questions and making legitimate criticisms.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:50 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


What the hell is a "jot"?

Something like a tittle.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 4:52 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I move that people STFU with this Obama he said/she said derail - I get enough of the horrible BP arguments drama elsewhere.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:57 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


England, in the early 17th Century, judging by the OED cites.
posted by cortex at 12:42 AM on June 15


Really? Link?

But even if so, I am sure you realise that the English language has moved on a bit since the days of Billy the Shake. And while I fully expect the tiresome and tiresomely predictable response that "speaks to" is just another example of language moving on, I also reject it on the grounds that movement is not necessarily wise on every conceivable occasion.
posted by Decani at 4:58 PM on June 14, 2011


I move that people STFU with this Obama he said/she said derail

I suspect that there are some comments in your "NATO has begun bombing Libya" post that would be amusing to revisit today.
posted by Trurl at 5:03 PM on June 14, 2011


I move that people STFU with this Obama he said/she said derail - I get enough of the horrible BP arguments drama elsewhere.

You don't have to read Metatalk, Meatbomb. Go somewhere else if discussions on this place bother you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:03 PM on June 14, 2011


to "speak to" means "to address" and is known as a "phrasal verb," I believe.
posted by sweetkid at 5:05 PM on June 14, 2011


Maybe there's this simple test. As one is digging through a user's personal history, ask, am I doing this because I am jerk? If the answer is POSSIBLY YES then refrain from posting the results of digging.
posted by angrycat at 5:05 PM on June 14, 2011


also I have this image of BP puffed up and spitting like my cat does when it's finally had enough. There's sort of this weird vibe of dilated pupils and unsheathed claws.
posted by angrycat at 5:06 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Stop bullying me BP, we were talking about something else before you came here to fight in your old tiresome way.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:08 PM on June 14, 2011


Really? Link?

Unfortunately, my access to the OED is through a portal service provided my public library, so I can't link to it for you. But, yes, really. Check with your local library or university, they may offer cheap or free access; it's a wonderful resource.

But even if so, I am sure you realise that the English language has moved on a bit since the days of Billy the Shake.

Of course I realize that English changes and in some cases leaves old forms behind. It did not, however, apparently move on in the case of the specific phrase in question. It is the very definition of "correct and sensible English" and basically exactly the opposite of what you were complaining about it being.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:10 PM on June 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't think there's anything wrong in bringing up posters' previous comments- certainly not any more than I think it is wrong to bring up past statements by people I interact with in person. Certainly, there are ways not to be jerkish while doing so; I don't dredge up my acquaintances' past indiscretions just for drama or to prove a point, and I wouldn't do that here. . Like a couple people said above, you can't have shared community experiences without memory.

The problem is assholish behavior, and that can be achieved without bringing up past comments equally successfully. I think it makes far more sense to say "don't be creepy" than to have a policy of not bringing up past comments. People need to take responsibility for the things they say here, and realize that being consistently knee jerky or hypocritical or whatever might come up.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:11 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


we were talking about something else before you came here to fight in your old tiresome way

I was responding to Rhaomi's comment, which I have as much a right to do as anyone else. Maybe go subscribe someone to an email list somewhere, if you're bored.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:12 PM on June 14, 2011


am I doing this because I am jerk? If the answer is POSSIBLY YES then refrain

Please tell me when I can unfreeze. I can only hold my breath for a little while, and I'm already starting to see... OMG IT'S FULL OF STARS!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:13 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey, at least we say that we're going to the bar. You guys are always going down the pub. Do you have to slide your way there or something, on a muddy country road? Are you hurt from falling down? Do you need assistance? Shall we go to hospital, which is apparently an abstract locale like heaven that exists everywhere and has no specific coordinate or article reference?

Look, we have to take up the slack, because you don't use enough prepositions, and if we don't, the great grammar scale will smash into the Atlantic and kill us all. So, you're welcome.
posted by Errant at 5:17 PM on June 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wow, aside from being impressed how quickly a thread can spin out of control right before my very eyes, I'm impressed by how distinct some of you are to each other. I remember the posters I particularly like, but the posters who annoy me just sort of blend together in a puddle of idiot and until I forget who they are. Result: I love you all equally! Even when YOU ARE WRONG.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:18 PM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


It seems weird to me that we would praise the community that arises from frequent interaction but frown so strongly upon referencing those interactions.

Errant is right. If we aren't allowed to remember and reference strong statements made in the past by posters who are now making equally strong statements inconsistent with those past statements, we're undermining whatever value we claim to find in consistency of identity on the blue, and undermining one of the main tools we have to keep each other intellectually honest over time.

cortex: Ultimately, insofar as this place is made out of conversation and the record is nominally public, people are going to notice weirdnesses or inconsistencies or conspicuous retreading of ground and so on and it's probably going to come up sometimes.

I'm glad to hear a mod agree that noticing weirdnesses or inconsistencies in someone's arguments here is worth doing. It's hardly creepy "gotcha" behavior to say to someone, "Hey, you said X last week, and now you're saying Y, which seems to directly contradict what you said before. Can you explain that?" Digging through someone's posting history to verify that you are indeed remembering their past statement correctly before raising questions about possible hypocrisy is the right thing to do.
posted by mediareport at 5:18 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


We wants our "puddle of idiot" t-shirtsss, and we wants it now, preciousssssss!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:23 PM on June 14, 2011


It's all 2005 up in this bitch.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 5:24 PM on June 14, 2011


I'm impressed by how distinct some of you are to each other.

Some day soon, a heavy rain will come and wash distinct away.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:25 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, just to be clear: There is no official policy against bringing up posting history in non-asshole ways when relevant to honest discussion on the blue.

Is that correct?
posted by mediareport at 5:25 PM on June 14, 2011


I don't think there's anything wrong in bringing up posters' previous comments- certainly not any more than I think it is wrong to bring up past statements by people I interact with in person. [...] Like a couple people said above, you can't have shared community experiences without memory.

There's a big difference between the sort of shared community memory you have with your friends and the kind of thing that's being spoken about here.

With your friends, you may say things like, "You were a jerk that one time when we were talking about my career." What you don't say is, "On January 14th 2010 at 3:15PM, you called me an asshole who would never amount to anything, and that I was pissing my life away and that you hope I fail at life." To me, these are completely different statements. Because of its specificity, one is a hell of a lot more pointed, petty, and likely to cause a fight. Furthermore, in real life, you don't have the ability to search through your past conversations to pick out the "gems".

I mean, say you had a friend who remembered every word of every conversation you ever had with them, and they would regularly quote you verbatim to prove a point. Your friendship probably wouldn't last very long! Our willingness to forget the petty little details is probably the reason people can get along at all!

Now you can argue that an online community is a different beast. And that is true. However, it is our choice what kind of community we want to have. Do we want the kind of community where people dig through your past to find damning quotes to hang you on? Or do we want the kind of community where people are willing to let some things fall down the memory hole for the sake of getting along?
posted by Afroblanco at 5:28 PM on June 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


So, just to be clear: There is no official policy against bringing up posting history in non-asshole ways when relevant to honest discussion on the blue.

No brightline policy against Ever Doing It, no. There are plenty of situations where with care and good sense it can be done in an unproblematic fashion.

On the other hand, there are a lot of ways that it can be kind of problematic so we really need people to do so with care and understand that depending on how and when and where it happens there might be pushback from community and mods alike, up to and including comment deletions and being told to knock it off.

The sticky bit is that not everybody is going to agree on what's an okay and a not-okay way to do the grey area bits, so it'll continue to be a subject of disagreement and debate and no sort of brightline "it is always definitely okay if you think you're right to do it" statement is ever gonna pass across this particular keyboard.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:30 PM on June 14, 2011


Afroblanco, I notice that all your examples are of people being assholes to each other. I'm willing to say that the community norm of "try not to be an asshole to other people" is a first principle that informs all other situational behaviors.
posted by Errant at 5:34 PM on June 14, 2011


I can live with that, cortex. But hobbling debate by refusing to allow folks to point out inconsistencies in a poster's ongoing presentation of their arguments over time would be a serious mistake. We're not babies, and as long as the point is being made with civility, it should be very much allowed on the blue to say to someone, "You know, you're really being inconsistent in your arguments, and I'm going to show you how."

Afroblanco: Do we want the kind of community where people dig through your past to find damning quotes to hang you on?

That's a really uncharitable description of what many of us would like to preserve when we talk about bringing up previous comments in honest discussion.
posted by mediareport at 5:34 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wish you would get that whole "you signed me up to a mailing list" thing out of your head, BP. I have tried on a number of occasions to help you understand that I did no such thing, and I am still getting the "shipping news" in my inbox every once in a while, which I suspect must have been your attempt at misplaced retaliation.

But whatever - I am going to go back to my much more pleasant MeFi experience of trying my best to ignore you, despite your omnipresence.

Sorry for the derail people.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:42 PM on June 14, 2011


Okay, who's up for a Blizzard? Or a soft serve cone? My treat!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:45 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


You have not had a comment deleted from the blue since September 2009.
posted by cortex at 4:31 PM on June 14 [+] [!]


Hmm. I feel quite certain this happened. But I suppose you would know.
posted by jayder at 5:48 PM on June 14, 2011


Ice Cream Socialist: Okay, who's up for a Blizzard? Or a soft serve cone? My treat!

It's a trick! If you accept the offer, he'll tax you to shit.
posted by gman at 5:50 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


inconsistencies in a poster's ongoing presentation of their arguments over time

Maybe they changed their mind. Maybe they're a hypocrite. But neither is relevant to the thing being argued about.

Citing Last Year Me to discredit Today Me is a hidden appeal to the authority of Last Year Me - who I assure you has none.
posted by Trurl at 5:51 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


inconsistencies in a poster's ongoing presentation of their arguments over time

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Okay, who's up for a Blizzard? Or a soft serve cone? My treat!

I'd rather put together a crew to head out to the new Long Island location of Sonic. All those years of cable ads have got to me.
posted by jonmc at 5:59 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Put together a crew = rob the place?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 6:06 PM on June 14, 2011


Citing Last Year Me to discredit Today Me is a hidden appeal to the authority of Last Year Me

I don't get that at all, Trurl. There's no appeal to the authority of the Last Year version of you; there's simply a note that you might want to think more clearly about the issue under discussion, since you seem to have made arguments that don't fit one another. Don't you *want* to make your arguments sharper? I sure do. I want to have my inconsistencies pointed out to me by smart folks who don't stoop to easy insults. That's one of the reasons I stay here: listening carefully to other MeFites makes me smarter. The idea that someone might not point out to me that I've been making inconsistent arguments out of some weird notion that offering corrections is the same as "discrediting" someone in a mean way is kind of horrifying.

Adults should be able to do this. Insulating our long-term thinking (such as it is, knowing my own) from the perspective of fellow members makes no sense at all. And sells MeFi short in the process.

*chugs a vodka shot for jonmc*

I knew someone would jump on the "consistency' thing with that quote. Cheers.

posted by mediareport at 6:07 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


... there's simply a note that you might want to think more clearly about the issue under discussion, since you seem to have made arguments that don't fit one another. Don't you *want* to make your arguments sharper? I sure do. I want to have my inconsistencies pointed out to me by smart folks who don't stoop to easy insults.

Okay, yeah, that's great and everything, but while you're out there "helping people make their arguments sharper", have you ever considered that perhaps you're the only person who finds that branch of the conversation interesting?

I'm serious. Say there's some debate going on. You bring up a quote from someone's past because you want to prove a point. Why do I, as a reader, care? I don't. At all. I DON'T CARE. It adds nothing interesting to the discussion. That sort of nattering back-and-forth is the least interesting part of any thread. I realize that the MeFi sites have less of that then most sites, but it doesn't change the fact that it's noise, and should be avoided as much as possible.

Can't you "help someone make their arguments sharper" over email?
posted by Afroblanco at 6:44 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you talk about someone's posting history, then you have changed the subject from whatever the thread was about to that person's posting history.

Topic changes are the sort of thing that happen in a discussion. There's nothing wrong with going "off-topic" if the new topic is still relevant to the topic you're concerned about. So... is it? Is the other poster's history relevant to the topic of the thread?

The answer to that question is always somewhat subjective and open to interpretation. From your perspective, the answer will be "yes" for as long as you care about the other poster's actual opinion, rather than the opinion they expressed in the thread. (Those opinions might have been the same at the very moment the poster typed the comment, but opinions change rapidly. Sometimes on purpose.) But this is a community weblog, so you have to take the interests of the community into account. The rest of the community is unlikely to take the same interest in that particular poster, unless perhaps you're talking about the posting history of the administrators, who often comment about site policy. I figure, linking to those particular comments should be fair as long as they're relevant.

So, when else might someone else's previous comments serve the interests of the community if linked in a particular thread? I mean, you'll never serve the interests of every single person in the community, again with the exception of linking to the rules of that community. But given that you're in that particular thread on MetaFilter, which is being read by the subset of MeFites who care about it, what would serve the greatest proportion of the interests of that group of people?

If you give that question serious thought and decide that linking other posters' previous comments would be the best thing for the whole thread and all the people reading it, then the next question is how to go about it. Other people have covered that already.

But I'd advise you to consider your other options first. A particular poster's history is a pretty special-interest sort of item. How many other comments could you make that would be more widely appreciable?
posted by LogicalDash at 7:21 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


It happened to me here. I'm okay with it. This may be a fringe case, but I think an outright ban may not be a good thing.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:28 PM on June 14, 2011


Being a dick is being a dick. Using somebody's posting history to be a dick is being a dick. Quoting someone's posting history to say that they are a model MeFite, deserving of accolades, a wreath of ivy, and a unicorn pony that has wings and breathes rainbows and shits glitter, I don't see why that would be a problem.
it'd be great if people could be careful and thoughtful and err on the side of generosity and positive developments in a thread's atmosphere in situations where they're considering referencing past history. If something for some community-related reason really needs to be brought up in a negative context, it's important that the why there be made very clear. - cortex
or, Just try real hard not to be a dick. That's from me. Feel free to quote me.
posted by theora55 at 7:32 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing about the past is sometimes thoughtful, open-minded people change their minds.
posted by rain at 7:45 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The past sure is tense.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:56 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Con(r)text is everything.
posted by arcticseal at 10:28 PM on June 14, 2011


A jot, or a jott in the King James Bible, is a very small thing. Specifically, it's an iota - the Greek letter "i". It's the smallest and simplest of the Greek letters, represented by a single vertical half-stroke. Given that Matthew may or may not originally have been written in Hebrew and translated into Greek, it might have referred to a yodh - the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Not that anyone probably gives a tittle at this point, but there you go.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:43 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whoah... this is weird. I just used "jot" in a comment on Ask, and I hadn't even read this thread (not to the original "jot" comment, anyway). This isn't even an issue of confirmation bias, because caring not a jot isn't a new or unusual construction to me. It's just weird because I bet I've never said that in a MetaFilter sites comment before, and now here's this... which I'm sure I didn't read before before using the phrase.

now I'm beginning to wonder, but I'm 99%-sure not; I would have been extremely tempted to weigh in on "speak to," and when I saw it just now, it was completely new comment material to me.

Ima hafta attribute this to the [currently awesome] full moon and and lunar radiations of ... collective unconsciousness or something. At least a jot of METAphysical woowoo in there somewhere, must be.
posted by taz at 3:12 AM on June 15, 2011


Why couldn't I just have won the lottery instead?
posted by taz at 3:13 AM on June 15, 2011


You know what, taz, I've had this happen several times. I'll use an odd word in a comment and then open a new-to-me thread to see others have used it in comments posted at an earlier time stamp. But I've also seen folks using "my" odd word after I posted, and then I delude myself into thinking I've had vocabulary impact on Metafilter. I feel Very Important... and then remember it's synchronicity all the way down.
posted by likeso at 3:25 AM on June 15, 2011


Yep, same-same-like, likeso.

I was once (lightly) castigated for using the word limned on the blue, but, hey – at least I didn't say otiose.

{/}

posted by taz at 4:26 AM on June 15, 2011


Otiose

That's just offal.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:03 AM on June 15, 2011


I was once (lightly) castigated for using the word limned on the blue, but, hey – at least I didn't say otiose.

Huh, eleven different people have used this word in a total of twelve comments.
Only you have used limned. Love limned.
posted by likeso at 5:52 AM on June 15, 2011


I got called out once for pointing out an Asker was basically reposting a previous question, one they hadn't acknowledged or returned to the first time around; most of the issue was that I was being a dick about it.

So yeah, if you feel you are being a dick, or that your actions may be construed as dickish, it may be best not to do it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:51 AM on June 15, 2011


rain: The thing about the past is sometimes thoughtful, open-minded people change their minds.

That's true. Or have nuanced positions that can't be reduced to a binary of hate/love which is what most of the callouts seem to be about.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:29 AM on June 15, 2011


There was once some thread where someone was being a patronizing git about something the person obviously knew nothing about. So I went through their posting history to find something stupid that person had said so I could trimphantly say "Ha! How are we supposed to take you seriously about this, when you said that!" And I didn't find the person actually saying something stupid, but a found a fairly naive AskMe on a vaguely related topic that I figured would do in a pinch.

So I started typing, and realized I really, really needed to get a life.

So I don't know where the border is, but if it's done in the spirit described above, it's clearly on the wrong side.
posted by Zed at 10:28 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Only you have used limned. Love limned.

Doomed to be pruned, I fear.
posted by jamjam at 10:41 AM on June 15, 2011


Don't get me wrong, limned is cool and all, but it ain't got nothin on knurled.

Knurled.... now THERE is a word.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:00 PM on June 15, 2011


That is a fine word, indeed, Afroblanco. Now, if we were talking about names, though... Well, there can be only one perfect name. I speak, of course, of Postlethwaite.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:28 PM on June 15, 2011


Ah. IRFH, I see your Postlethwaite and raise you a Cholmondeley.
posted by likeso at 12:48 PM on June 15, 2011


But it only has two syllables!
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:01 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, there can be only one perfect name. I speak, of course, of Postlethwaite.

What, not Chidiock Tichbourne, of 'And now I live, and now my life is done' fame, the only man put to death just because his name was too weird?
posted by jamjam at 1:06 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Postlethwaite. Say it with me: Postlethwaite. I maintain that there is no better word, proper noun or no. The mouthfeel. The rolling on the ear. The way it practically begs to be drawn out. Paaaaaw-sillllthwaaaait! Paaaaaw-sillllthwaaaait! Paaaaaw-sillllthwaaaait!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:20 PM on June 15, 2011


Postlethwaite

I'm sure Michael Pemulis and Hal Incandenza would agree with you!

But for my money, it has to be Chakrabarty or Threlkeld.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:24 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I recently worked with a woman named Velma Beaglehole.

Sure, you can google it.
posted by Wolof at 3:53 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


She looks like she has a sense of humor. Good thing.
posted by likeso at 3:56 PM on June 15, 2011


[and oh god please stop saying past history]
...unless you are from a dimension that has mastered time travel, of course. If not, may you be struck by lightning for wasting words so needlessly. Also see 'ATM machine' and PIN number'.

'Speaking to' is a common use of English in formal meetings, where a person may speak for or against a motion, but may also 'speak to the motion' when they have something to say that is neither supporting nor opposing the motion. Usually, people do this when they think everyone needs to hear their opinion but they don't have the guts to declare whether they are for or against.

I was once (lightly) castigated for using the word limned on the blue, but, hey – at least I didn't say otiose.
Huh, eleven different people have used this word in a total of twelve comments.
Only you have used limned. Love limned.

Actually, otiose was used 14 times in one thread recently. Of course, the last 13 times were by people discussing the appropriateness of using the word at all...
posted by dg at 4:04 PM on June 15, 2011


I may be performing a terrible social offense here, but... what's wrong with "otiose"?
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:42 PM on June 15, 2011


It's Hitler's middle name.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:53 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a MeTa comment years and years ago, in a discussion about privacy, if memory serves, where somebody went through someone's history and posted an annotated biography, all 'Soandso was born in Texas (link to Metatalk comment), but grew up in Oklahoma (link to Ask Metafilter comment).

That was Tanim, um... *cough* long before askMetafilter was conceived, if I recall correctly.

And the comment did not involve virtual time travel, if I recall correctly.
posted by y2karl at 5:03 PM on June 15, 2011


what's wrong with "otiose"?

It serves no practical purpose.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:08 PM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


And here is tanim's history of thomcatspike.

Wow, and people thought thomcatspike was incomprehensible. And, that was not even PC as in Pre-clavdivs, if I recall correctly. Which is quite possibly recalled incorrectly.
posted by y2karl at 5:16 PM on June 15, 2011


Man, all those names of the dearly departed: dong_resin, MiguelCardoso and rcade -- were that they were still here. Or, if still here, more apparently here.

And, here, from the same thread, is thomcatspike's response, by the way.

Is he more comprehensible than clavdivs ? You be the judge.
posted by y2karl at 5:30 PM on June 15, 2011


And, here, from the same thread, [ now completely out of context and sequential order, as I posted it in the Cool Papa Bell thread, d'oh! ] and complete with later comment by clavdivs -- what did I tell ya about my subtotal recall ? -- is rcade's analysis of tanim.

Wow, that thread was an orgy of comment mining....
posted by y2karl at 5:38 PM on June 15, 2011


Man, all those names of the dearly departed: dong_resin, MiguelCardoso and rcade -- were that they were still here.
... and rushmc and skallas and and and ...

Ah, the Golden Age of MetaFilter! *sigh*
posted by dg at 7:44 PM on June 15, 2011


Remember when Mom was a kid? Those were the days!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:32 PM on June 15, 2011


We'd sing and dance. Forever. And a day.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:47 PM on June 15, 2011


We also thought they'd never end. So far, so good.
posted by dg at 9:00 PM on June 15, 2011


And, looking back at that thread again, I see Zurishaddai is another one long gone...

Everyone should learn ancient Greek--of course, he didn't write any song parodies or 97 favorite zingers, but, still, we are poorer for his absence, I think.

On the other hand, vacapinta, ColdChef and stavrosthewonderchicken, are still with us, so all is not lost.
posted by y2karl at 10:23 PM on June 15, 2011


And y2karl, of course. Don't forget him.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:54 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem is all inside this thread she said to me
Favorites are easy if you take it logically
I'd like to help you win the contest that's Mefi*
And post some ninety-seven favorite zingers.

She said it's really not my habit to shit threads
Nonetheless, while they read TFA I'll get inside their heads
And I'll repeat myself, while the Aussies are in bed
I'll post some ninety-seven favorite zingers
Ninety-seven favorite zingers

You just stand up for bikes, Mike
Make a good pun, Son
Don't tell a long story, Rory
Just win the MeFi.
Slam the Repubs, Bub
Don't make fun of chub rub
Just drop off the key, Lee
And win the MeFi.

* Personally, I'm in the Mee-Fie camp, but artistic license and all...
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:01 AM on June 16, 2011


* Personally, I'm in the Mee-Fie camp, but artistic license and all...

Hey, those those of us in the Meffy camp know what this kind of abandoning of your principles means: you're really one of us, at heart. You know we're right.

Cause we're more poetic.

posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:11 AM on June 16, 2011


Well, I appreciate the conversation. (It was definitely not otiose.) I feel like I understand a bit better now, although I'm still not crystal clear. (But, as noted, I rarely bother to check past history and I'm not dying to post it, so my lack of crystal clarity is unlikely to have consequences.) Hopefully now that I get it a little better I can figure it out from context and achieve clarity. :)

I do understand the mods' position and appreciate them dropping in with the official line.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:44 AM on June 16, 2011


...past history...
*bangs head on desk*
posted by dg at 5:02 PM on June 16, 2011


dg, we all were trying to type "pâtisserie", it's just that goddamned auto-correct getting in the way.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:13 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


DAMMIT! Sorry! Gah!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:53 PM on June 16, 2011


If past history is any reflection, dg now has a headache.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:55 PM on June 16, 2011


As an amusing (to me) aside, I have been googling variations on the phrase "I passed History on the stair" for the past several minutes, trying to figure out which poem it was from. I was pretty sure that it was a Billy Collins poem, but couldn't turn it up. Finally, it dawned on me that it was the first line to a poem that I never got around to writing many years ago. It was, quite literally, and not joking at all, my own passed history.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:00 PM on June 16, 2011


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