We are reconsidering that decision July 5, 2011 2:50 AM   Subscribe

Deep within the bowels of yesterday’s cluster-fuck, it was stated by jessamyn that the operation of the site during holidays was in question.

From the tone of mod comments in that thread, they seem exasperated with the pattern of inflamed MeFi wars and Meta digressions on traditional days of rest. A quick ctrl-f survey of user opinion shows 8 for and 3 against a holiday hiatus. How say you?
posted by troll to Uptime at 2:50 AM (315 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Living up to your name, sir.

As someone who is not a US citizen, I would miss the site on days that are just regular days for me. But if Matt, Cortex, Jess etc. feel they need the break, I'm sure I'll valiantly struggle on.
posted by smoke at 2:53 AM on July 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Shutting down the site during holidays would be pretty ridiculous. But if they don't want to moderate during those days, then how about just making it an epic free-for-all? The mods could come in the next workday, delete any threads with more than 500 comments, and pretend nothing ever happened.
posted by ryanrs at 3:06 AM on July 5, 2011 [17 favorites]


Yes, let's close the whole godamn interweb when Americans are on holiday. Or we could all just grow up. Either works.
posted by londonmark at 3:10 AM on July 5, 2011 [32 favorites]


Things seemed fine on the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Party. Perhaps we could build a harmonious Metafilter by means of forced and hackneyed decontextualised renditions of old Mefite songs from our days in the revolutionary base areas behind Plastic.com lines?
posted by Abiezer at 3:12 AM on July 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


Turn it off. This crap is ridiculous.
posted by taz at 3:15 AM on July 5, 2011


That deal was a train wreck. Interestingly, it was a train wreck we've all seen here over and over.

Wait, interestingly isn't quite the word I was looking for.
posted by Nabubrush at 3:35 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or we could all just grow up.

stop, you're killing me.
posted by russm at 3:38 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think shutting down the site for holidays is a rather silly idea since there is more than one moderator. The boundaries set by the mods for their own behavior should really just follow Matt's way of handling things. Not every mod decision needs a detailed description in a metatalk thread. Not every mod needs to respond to a metatalk thread. That thread from yesterday, while intense, was no where near the level of crap that the site has seen in other threads - even threads that were started on *gasp* non-holidays.
posted by Stynxno at 3:48 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


When restlesss_nomad came on as the weekend mod, jessamyn and cortex and their significant others were thrilled beyond belief. I think they both mentioned, either here or on twitter, the sheer delight be being able to take off for most of the day and actually spend time doing stuff like

If turning the site off over the holidays would help them have a normal life for a day or two, then I heartily say go for it.

Proposed days of closing for Metafilter:

Christmas Eve at around 6pm EST.
All Day Christmas.
Open back up around 5 or 6am EST.

Thanksgiving Day
One or two days after Thanksgiving. Definitely be open on that Sunday, to give people time to hang out.

A day in March
A day or two in May, probably Memorial Day weekend.
A day or two in September, probably Labor Day weekend.

Yes, those last two and Thanksgiving are American holidays, but the site is mostly American and the mods themselves are based in America, so I don't see that as unreasonable.


BIG NOTE: This will not stop huge thread fights threads or grar fests. The point, IMO, is give the mods time off on major holidays so they spend itwith friends, family, significant others ir just more time in their recharging chamber.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:53 AM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


londonmark: Yes, let's close the whole godamn interweb when Americans are on holiday. Or we could all just grow up. Either works.

I have a lot of sympathy for that, but anecdotally there does seem to be a correlation between increased userbase fightiness and American holidays. That could be because of more drunkenness, more enforced socializing (or loneliness brought on by less than desired socializing) or maybe it's all in our head, and it just seems like it's worse on holidays because the mods are slower to the draw. Or perhaps holiday brouhahas are just more memorable.

Personally, looking at either of these threads made me rock back and forth in my seat while shouting aaaaaAAAAAaaaAAAAAAAAAaaaaAAAAaaAAAAAAAAAAaaaAAAAAaaaaAAAaaaa. But I can choose to look away, unlike the mods I don't have to wade through all that awfulness.

So, personally I'm undecided. I like having MetaFilter around, but I'll survive without it just fine if it's not up.
posted by Kattullus at 3:53 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


The mods would feel less exasperated if many of you didn't dedicate so much effort to attention whoring and posturing of stupid PC positions.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:59 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


The point, IMO, is give the mods time off on major holidays so they spend itwith friends, family, significant others ir just more time in their recharging chamber.

Agreed with this. Although perhaps an alternative to shutting the site completely would be to just close threads like the one in question early on. That is, if a thread is heading in a bad direction, rather than spend significant time and effort moderating it, just close it - maybe just temporarily. But other threads on uncontroversial subjects could be left open. So the mods would still be checking the site, just a lot less than usual.

I'd be happy with the site closing down if it meant a few GRAR-free days for the mods, though.
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:02 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Now I'm stuck with a picture in my mind of Kattullus rocking and shouting aaaAAA. I think I'm going to do the fire and collect the mail now...
Actually I am fine with whatever it requires to keep the mods in moderately high spirits.
posted by Namlit at 4:03 AM on July 5, 2011


Will this apply to all holidays, like The Sheeps' Birthday, The Melbourne Horserace, or the Festival of the Boot?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:06 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not completely without sympathy for the mods, I've had to wade through my own share of thread shitting and wouldn't wish it on anyone. But closing down an international site on US-centric holidays to prevent a very small minority of nobs from disrupting an occasional thread is the textbook definition of over-reacting. If they do indeed decide that there is a problem to tackle here, there are many more avenues of action to pursue before reaching for the big red button.
posted by londonmark at 4:08 AM on July 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


very small minority of nobs

Now I've got the mental image of the House of Lords running riot through Metafilter, cackling madly with glee as they threadshit wildly and posit long rambling discourses on the benefits of cat declawing and evilness of gay marriage.
posted by coriolisdave at 4:11 AM on July 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


That never happened. What a preposterous idea, the very thought of it.
posted by the Cabal at 4:16 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I vote for a vigilante posse to take over during the lawless times. All the shadow mods (Blatcher, Meatbomb, myself) will take to the streets with rifle and sixgun in hand, dusty coats flapping in the breeze and spurs a-janglin'. I mean, we each have a dark secret hidden in our sordid past which drives us to seek to bring justice to the (electronic) frontier, so we're halfway there already.
posted by Eideteker at 4:17 AM on July 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


Of course, Eideteker, history would eventually show that what we once hailed as saviors and noble warriors were merely just another gang, fighting over territory with rival members, say... the cabal?

That, and wouldn't one of you need to have tuberculosis? And everyone would need tremendous facial hair.

Shadow mods? The Cabal? How did White Wolf miss this one? In the World of Darkness, one site is the source of (mis)information: Wyrmfilter!
posted by Ghidorah at 4:27 AM on July 5, 2011


Christmas Eve at around 6pm EST.
All Day Christmas.
Open back up around 5 or 6am EST.

Thanksgiving Day
One or two days after Thanksgiving. Definitely be open on that Sunday, to give people time to hang out.


Oh my god. This would mean I'd have to spend the entire holiday bonding with my family.

I do not support this idea.

And not fair closing down the site on America-centric holidays? How about not fair closing the site on Jesus-centric holidays?
posted by phunniemee at 4:41 AM on July 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


I don't really see a problem with switching the place to read-only mode for a day during holidays.
posted by octothorpe at 4:43 AM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


And at night.
posted by dng at 4:44 AM on July 5, 2011


The sun never sets on the Metafilter empire.
posted by taz at 4:47 AM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hey guys, I brought hot dogs and fireworks for the holiday. What's going on he-

Oh my.

(SLOWLY BACKS OUT OF THREAD.)
posted by subbes at 4:52 AM on July 5, 2011 [15 favorites]


You know, it's not like I can't give up MetaFilter any time I want, you know? I mean, I can go hours without refreshing the front page or searching through AskMe for random questions that tickle my fancy. Because I'M NOT ADDICTED, OKAY? I can sometimes even go a day or two, if necessary or there's a power outage. Sometimes I even have a life that interferes with The Internets and The MetaFilter is just a warm thought in the back of my brain just biding its time, waiting, waiting, waiting...

But the idea, the mere suggestion, that there might be times when I can't access the site... what if that's the moment I need to ask a really important question? What if I get myself locked in my bedroom or need to dispose of a body? What if we need to make an obit post for Carol Channing or Dick Cheney? DICK CHENEY WILL ONLY DIE ONCE, YOU KNOW?

WHERE WILL I GO? WHO WILL ANSWER ME? WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN OF METAFILTER?
posted by crossoverman at 4:56 AM on July 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter is globally accessible 24/7, 365/12 and seems to welcome international members - one of the reasons I joined. I'm a member in Europe in GMT+1, with (some) different holidays.

There is currently only one (voluntary, unpaid) mod, vacapinta. Is there any budget for a salaried international mod? This would lighten the load of US-based mods on US holidays and at ungodly US hours.
posted by likeso at 5:02 AM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'd be super interested in actually testing Jessamyn's claim that "holiday weekends seem to bring out the worst in people". It's not that I don't trust her, it's just that such an intensely emotional event is ripe for confirmation bias. Maybe find the last n shitthreads and see how many actually fall on holiday weekends? What's a good method for counting disasters, just long MeTa threads?
posted by Plutor at 5:16 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


My 2 cents:

Shutting down the site out of fear of flame wars is kind of ridiculous and almost makes it seem like the shrill and the opinionated are holding the site to ransom. Completely the wrong message.

THIS SAID, I have no issue at all with Metafilter being off during holidays so that the mods and everyone else involved behind the scenes can get some rest. I'd be worn out if I knew I'd be moderating this site without any kind of fixed time off, especially considering how people can get fighty over the holidays when they have too much free time on their hands .

So count me in for saying that I think having Metafilter off over the holidays is a good idea, mainly because team Metafilter deserves the rest.
posted by litleozy at 5:17 AM on July 5, 2011


Since the issue seems to be with Americans during American holidays, why not just give everybody with their location set to nothing, or between 71.69129271863999, -168.92578125 and 21.53484700204879, -65.302734375, a timeout for those days? Sorry Canadians and a few Mexicans, but it's for the greater good. Besides, the remaining few in places like American Samoa and Guam can represent.

Or, y'know, we could just grow up and accept that holding differing opinions - even on things as vitally important to the world's well-being important as sexual politics, atheism, and the riding of bicycles - doesn't mean the other person is an arsehole, remember that 4 or 5 people are dealing with the waste products of 40,000 active users daily, and maybe dial down the grar just a bit all the time?
posted by Pinback at 5:20 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would fully support a few read-only days a year if it was what was necessary for cortex and jessamyn to get some peace and quiet. They do seem to work, in some capacity, almost every day. They're nice, hardworking people, and they deserve normal days off. Hopefully, restless_nomad can take some of the strain off, but if it's not enough, I won't begrudge them.

Less outrage filter and uncharitable interpretation of comments from the membership though could go a long way towards forestalling this.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:22 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why not put a warning bar on every page on the site on holidays? "Site is currently unmoderated due to Thanksgiving. Moderation will resume Friday morning Eastern" or something?

It seemed like a significant amount of grar was directed at jessamyn in that thread because, due to the holiday, she didn't quickly delete some really offensive personal insults. If people don't expect moderation, they may be more relaxed.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:23 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, don't do this. It will alienate a pretty big part of the readership.
posted by Jehan at 5:25 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why not put a warning bar on every page on the site on holidays? "Site is currently unmoderated due to Thanksgiving. Moderation will resume Friday morning Eastern" or something?

When I go on vacation, I always leave the house unlocked and a note on the front door telling people that no one's home so just come in and do whatever you want.
posted by octothorpe at 5:28 AM on July 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


The Day of the Shadow Mods is something I would pay to see.
posted by Segundus at 5:30 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


This site used to close for months at a time. No one died. As far as we're telling you people.
posted by yerfatma at 5:32 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ok, first, we're not going to shut the site down on holidays. In the future, we could have a higher bar for posts and remove controversial stuff with impunity with deletion reasons like "this looks like a shit show and we're on holiday" and we'd likely have to clamp down on drama-filled metatalk posts if we really wanted to curtail this kind of thing.

Jessamyn's claim that "holiday weekends seem to bring out the worst in people". It's not that I don't trust her, it's just that such an intensely emotional event is ripe for confirmation bias

Here's the thing though, this all started with something like four Thanksgivings in a row having the some part of the site hacked. Holidays suck for two reasons, one is that mods are sort of half-around while real life picnics and BBQs beckon (same thing happens with me, I checked on the site every few hours yesterday, but I was only seeing the top of the flag pile, I didn't have time to wade into MetaTalk at all). The second thing is holidays mean time off and extra time for members, some of which don't have things to do and can devote extra time to problematic posts on MetaFilter.

We mods like to joke about Thanksgiving and Christmas as being times of high family drama, mods having things to do outside the site, as well as people (often students home from college) with lots of time to spend on the worst parts of MetaFilter. We might joke about closing the site down during those times, but I think a real solution going forward would be deleting new MeFi posts on controversial subject matter and closing MetaTalk threads that fan the flames.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:32 AM on July 5, 2011 [36 favorites]


Now I've got the mental image of the House of Lords running riot through Metafilter, cackling madly with glee as they threadshit wildly and posit long rambling discourses on the benefits of cat declawing and evilness of gay marriage.

Pretty much what they do in the House of Lords, as I understand it.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:35 AM on July 5, 2011


Happy upcoming thanksgiving, everyone!
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 5:37 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


octothorpe: "When I go on vacation, I always leave the house unlocked and a note on the front door telling people that no one's home so just come in and do whatever you want."

Well, the real solution is, "quit being assholes," but I don't see that happening.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:38 AM on July 5, 2011


I'm just spitballin' here, but how about a temporary cap (50 comments, say) on holidays? The mods would flip a switch before the holiday started, and any thread with over that number of comments would have the comment box at the bottom replaced with a box saying, "Come on, it's a holiday. Don't you people have anything better to do?"
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:40 AM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


There is currently only one (voluntary, unpaid) mod, vacapinta.

ack. *international

And seriously, I repeat my question: Is there any budget for a salaried international mod?

(not solliciting - am n00b, know place - and not tempermentally suited.)
posted by likeso at 5:41 AM on July 5, 2011


All the shadow mods (Blatcher, Meatbomb, myself)

I know you're joking, but PoliticalFilter was enough for me to find out that the only thing I should be moderating is carbs. Maybe.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:44 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


A wise, older Mefite once told me that when he joined, he felt like he was a guest of Matt's. The conversation was fun, and lively, but that, for the most part, people behaved, partly, as he believed, because there was the sense that 'people were all hanging out in someone's living room' and usually, most of us get through life without being an outrageous asshole in someone else's living room.

For myself, I've always tried to look at it as, no, it is not that kind of party, your dick does not belong in the mashed potatoes, and there is absolutely no need to piss in the punch bowl.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:46 AM on July 5, 2011 [33 favorites]


I'm just spitballin' here, but how about a temporary cap (50 comments, say) on holidays? The mods would flip a switch before the holiday started, and any thread with over that number of comments would have the comment box at the bottom replaced with a box saying, "Come on, it's a holiday. Don't you people have anything better to do?"

Yeah, they should definitely put that message on Metafilter every bank holiday, especially boxing day. And maybe extend it to the Queen's birthday? "Our dear subjects, today is Our Majesty's Official Birthday, and so we desire that you desist from excessive commentary on cats trapped in scanners."
posted by Jehan at 5:48 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think a real solution going forward would be deleting new MeFi posts on controversial subject matter and closing MetaTalk threads that fan the flames.

That's so crazy, it just might work even on non-holidays!
posted by Gator at 5:50 AM on July 5, 2011


your dick does not belong in the mashed potatoes

Oh, that visual! First good laugh of the day. Thanks, Ghidorah, for funny sanity.
posted by likeso at 5:51 AM on July 5, 2011


octothorpe: "When I go on vacation, I always leave the house unlocked and a note on the front door telling people that no one's home so just come in and do whatever you want."

Not to beat a dead horse, but the intent was more, "No Lifeguards on Duty - Swim at Your Own Risk."
posted by Chrysostom at 5:55 AM on July 5, 2011


A holiday shut down is a poorly considered idea. Shut it down on xmas and the thread wars will be on the day after xmas, so shut it down that day as well?

The answer lies in more stringent moderation, banning people for being out of line, and telling the dead fish chumming trolls to get lost.
posted by tomswift at 6:00 AM on July 5, 2011


I am just stunned that it took 133,027 user sign ups before someone took the name "troll".
posted by Think_Long at 6:02 AM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


"I am just stunned that it took 133,027 user sign ups before someone took the name "troll"."

I've always been amazed that user #1 couldn't manage something better than a string of letters that don't make any sense, when every conceivable user name was available??!!! just sayin'
posted by tomswift at 6:05 AM on July 5, 2011


Why not add a few more international moderators to do backups on the major American holidays and if no one is available to keep an eye on the site, do what Reddit does when it's down and say "Hey, we're closed for the day, but please enjoy this randomly generated selection of posts from the last 10 years"?

Actually, a NostalgiaFilter page would be pretty nice. Like the front page, but a time machine.
posted by cmonkey at 6:09 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


After reading through mhjb's post on Kilian Martin I spent most of yesterday reading through posts with the skateboard/ing tags and their links. It was great. There's a lot more to Metafilter than new or live threads.
posted by Elmore at 6:14 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the future, we could have a higher bar for posts and remove controversial stuff with impunity with deletion reasons like "this looks like a shit show and we're on holiday" and we'd likely have to clamp down on drama-filled metatalk posts if we really wanted to curtail this kind of thing.

Sounds good. Flagging and moving on, then starting fresh the next regular day is a perfectly acceptable alternative to still another Holiday o' GRAR. Trollers and flame-baiters can save up their misanthropy for regular MeFi business hours.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:14 AM on July 5, 2011


Ok, first, we're not going to shut the site down on holidays. In the future, we could have a higher bar for posts and remove controversial stuff with impunity with deletion reasons like "this looks like a shit show and we're on holiday" and we'd likely have to clamp down on drama-filled metatalk posts if we really wanted to curtail this kind of thing.

I fully support this. Having moderators spend their time camping in problem threads isn't going to scale, isn't fair to the moderators, and doesn't fix the problem thread. This is true on any day.

What about thread locking? That would save good links and early posts while stopping the flamewar.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:31 AM on July 5, 2011


Pre-emptive moderation during holidays strikes me as a good idea, particularly if it preserves the mods' sanity. I said something in the other thread about the crappiness of being the holiday mod and how adding one who didn't have an established relationship with the userbase and couldn't develop one easily would just create more grar; I believe adding a mod without a holiday policy would make things more difficult for everyone.

I'd rather see incipient shitstorms deleted under a holiday policy than the site closing.
posted by immlass at 6:40 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


They could set up a deal where a certain number of flags (in total for the whole thread, as a percentage) locks the thread until a moderator comes around to check into things.
posted by gjc at 6:41 AM on July 5, 2011


If you don't mind, I am going to close this thread.
posted by bru at 6:51 AM on July 5, 2011


I've typed similar comments before but let me rehash this idea.

Here's my personal plan to make MeFi a better place, from the Be The Change department: I quit making FPPs that have a net negative effect on people's emotions. I don't post bad news, or even worse, OutrageFilter, to MetaFilter.

When I see something that I think could go on MeFi, I get this excited little thrill that runs through my body. It used to be that one of the larger triggers for this effect in myself was how big of a shitstorm might ensue. It's sort of an evil grin, rub your hands together, "Oh, I can't wait to see how this plays out. Mu hu ha." Like, oh, look at what this anti-feminist gun-owning cat circumcisionist has bad to say about Apple Corp. Like hitting a bee's nest with a stick. Let's see how loud the buzz is.

Now I try to recognize this and nip it in the bud. I ask myself, "If I post this, is it going to improve someone's day, maybe put a smile on someone's face? Or is this going to make people angry and unhappy?" If it's the later then it's got to be pretty darn important or else I don't post it.

In short: Use the power of the front page for good. Only you can prevent OutrageFilter. Please post more awesome, amazing, cool things and less "here's another thing that's fucked up."
posted by BeerFilter at 6:53 AM on July 5, 2011 [23 favorites]


I'd oppose shutting the site down for American holidays.
I'd so completely support shutting the site down if the mods wanted to have a proper 4th July or Thanskgiving holiday that didn't involve looking at a computer for work purposes.

(Need any more hairs split? I'm getting pretty good at it!)

I'm all about International Metafilter, but why not shut the site down for a day or two on random occasions just so the mods can have a proper weekend when they feel like it? We'll cope.

But pre-emptive modding sounds like the best idea so far. Shut that shit down before it even starts and tell everyone to read the archives if they absolutely must avoid their family/job.
posted by harriet vane at 6:54 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why not just keep the site up during holidays so people can GRAR, but then delete everything that was posted once the mods get back at their desks?
posted by unSane at 6:57 AM on July 5, 2011


Like, oh, look at what this anti-feminist gun-owning cat circumcisionist has bad to say about Apple Corp.

Hey, what do anti-feminist gun-owning cat circumcisionists have against the Beatles?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:00 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Time to test out that new automatic deleting option based on swarm flagging.
posted by Brian B. at 7:05 AM on July 5, 2011


I'd be super interested in actually testing Jessamyn's claim that "holiday weekends seem to bring out the worst in people".

I went and looked up the American Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in MetaTalk and there does seem to be a definite trend around those times. I had written up a longer comment, linking to those posts, but erased it, figuring why relive some of the lower points of the site.

However, there were several Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas threads and those seem to be showing up more regularly in recent years.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:06 AM on July 5, 2011


A flame war doesn't have collateral damage the way that, say, an actual war does. We're big boy people. If there's no moderation (or less than normal), well, them's the shakes, and the thread will run its course and be shitty and that's that. Whatever.
posted by kbanas at 7:13 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I feel like most of the threads that go shittingly are well-intentioned; as Matt said, it's just people having more free time. Might it be sufficient to just put a brightly-colored note (maybe with the blink tag!) on the Mefi/MeTa new post pages on holidays saying the following?
Hi <username>,

Just as a heads-up, several of us are trying to take a well deserved day off. We're sure this is an interesting post and we're all very excited to read it... but if you think it might be controversial, would you mind waiting a day or two to submit it? We'd really appreciate it.

Thanks!

Your pals,
The Management
posted by Riki tiki at 7:14 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Would it really be the end of the world if you couldn't comment on Metafilter for 24 hours?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:15 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think a real solution going forward would be deleting new MeFi posts on controversial subject matter and closing MetaTalk threads that fan the flames.

Why limit this to the holidays?

A flame war doesn't have collateral damage

Yeah it does. People close their accounts over this nonsense.
posted by cj_ at 7:15 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Would it really be the end of the world if you couldn't comment on Metafilter for 24 hours?

Now that Google+ is here, no.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:21 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Plus Twitter, Facebook, and barring that writing in your own personal blog
posted by wheelieman at 7:23 AM on July 5, 2011


Proposed days of closing for Metafilter:

I propose that if the mods want to get some breaktime and encourage us to do the same, they should close the joint down whenever they damn well feel like it, whether that's Zimbabwean Arbor Day, Greenland Festival of Basket-Weaving Week, or just some random Wednesday.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:24 AM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]




I can still dream, can't I?
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:30 AM on July 5, 2011


The mods should unionize and strike for a 40-hour week.
posted by jfuller at 7:30 AM on July 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


There are ways that we as a community members can help out without assuming authority, pseudo-moderate, or adding fuel to the fire. For those of us who are around and reading MetaFilter when mods are trying to enjoy their lives away from MetaFilter on holidays, there are some options.

- we can use the flagging system
- we can resist making comments that we would otherwise make were there need for discussion at the time and people to moderate it
- we can craft our comments in ways that politely inform others about the desire to postpone the discussion, discourage negative behavior, or simply not engage until later, if at all

There are ways to do this without being overbearing, condescending or rude. I think it would be a good thing to have for reminders from fellow MeFites when we feel drawn into heated discussions at inappropriate times. And especially for new people to the community who may not be yet aware of this particular pile in our history. For the ones determined to raise hell, well, the rest of us can work on letting it go and steering clear until the next day (to the best of our abilities). The effort I think is noticed by most people and it does have the net positive effect of making threads more pleasant overall and slowing down the rate at which they explode into sticky shitballs of flame.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:41 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I'd be super interested in actually testing Jessamyn's claim that "holiday weekends seem to bring out the worst in people"."

At a high-volume discussion board site where I was a mod for a long time, this was definitely the case. It was a combination of a) bored, unsupervised high school students; b) college students home on break; c) people with dysfunctional families avoiding them during holidays; and d) religion outrage. Meanwhile, many of our happy, functional adult members were off at parties and gatherings, so the immature and/or angry comments got way, way out of proportion compared to thoughtful, nuanced comments. (The effect doesn't seem as strong at metafilter where community norms of good behavior are much stronger and there is more community self-policing. Also, I think, a higher proportion of thoughtful, nuanced commenters generally.)

That site had a large proportion of atheists and members of alternative religions, many of whom had left Christianity after relatively abusive or unhappy upbringings, so Christmas and Easter brought out a LOT of anger and grar from some of those members related to both the religious underpinnings of the holidays and the family gathering aspects of the holidays. Which of course brought out angry reactions from some of the more strident Christians. It was a whole special "happy holidays" cycle of flame-warring, as predictable as Haley's Comet. Halloween tended to bring out more teenager-related absurdities, I'm not sure why. We could also reliably tell when US colleges started on spring break due to an uptick in moderation events.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:04 AM on July 5, 2011


How about just blocking Americans from the site on American holidays?
posted by ODiV at 8:05 AM on July 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


Johnny Assay: "I'm just spitballin' here, but how about a temporary cap (50 comments, say) on holidays? The mods would flip a switch before the holiday started, and any thread with over that number of comments would have the comment box at the bottom replaced with a box saying, "Come on, it's a holiday. Don't you people have anything better to do?""

Out of 11 posts made yesterday, 7 had more than 50 comments.

Your solution could punish those people who are engaging in good faith and not contributing to the problem / angry thread.
posted by zarq at 8:08 AM on July 5, 2011


...how about a temporary cap (50 comments, say) on holidays? The mods would flip a switch before the holiday started, and any thread with over that number of comments would have the comment box at the bottom replaced with a box saying, "Come on, it's a holiday. Don't you people have anything better to do?"

In light of the difficulty that some posters have with self-restraint, perhaps some design 'speed bumps' would help as well. Most of us wouldn't mind waiting an extra three minutes to post a reply in a flame-ready thread. The grar might even fizzle out. It might give people a chance to back away from the keyboard and take a break.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:09 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


ODiV: "How about just blocking Americans from the site on American holidays"

Matt sits down at his computer on a 4th of July evening.
"I've got some time before the fireworks start. Let's take a quick look to see how things are going."
Logs into MetaFilter. Gets a screen saying, "Access denied. Go away, American."
"Why did I agree to this? WHAT. THE. FUCK. ME?"
posted by charred husk at 8:12 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are ways that we as a community members can help out ...

How about saving some of those fun game/music/trivia links (like the Friday fun) for holiday 'gifts' to the community. Serve the energetic ones some laser lolzcat distractions.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:13 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think you may be joking Surfurrus, but I do genuinely like this idea!
posted by iamkimiam at 8:17 AM on July 5, 2011


I propose that the machine learning community work with pb and cortex to develop ModBot for holidays.

YOUR POST HAS BEEN FLAGGED BY MEMBERS WITH HIGH SPOUSAL NUMBER. PROBABILITY OF TROLL > .90; POST CLOSED. HAVE A NICE DAY.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:20 AM on July 5, 2011


Yeah sorry for the heart attack, we are not seriously considering shutting the site entirely down for holidays American or otherwise. That said, this shit has got to stop and I don't think it's a coincidence that yesterday was a big holiday and also a recent low point for the site in terms of people behaving terribly to each other.

I'm sure people can try to pin this on our lack of deletion of one comment [which is what it looked like last night when I went to bed when the MeTa thread was still getting multiple comments per minute] but I think it's significantly more complicated than that. I feel like, as a sort of mirror of the American political system, there are a chunk of people who stay around here just so they can wage Eternal War against people with different perspectives. And there are these people on both [all?] sides of political topics. And it should wind down some. If you are one of these people, you should take a walk earlier. If you are not, you should try to not pick sides and stick around and try to have reasonable discussions. And our mod position of always being constructive and not calling people out gets worn thin when we see people jumping in to have what looks like their favorite axe-grindy arguments over and over agani.

I'm all in favor of pre-emptively saying "this thread looks like a clusterfuck on a holiday" and lowering the threshhold for deletion, but the thread that started all this really wasn't flagged very much at all [as I said in the MeTa] and it feels weird and not good at all to say "this is on the list of things MeFi does badly, so we're going to remove it" And yet, we can call these threads, the ones with potential for horribleness, almost when they're posted. And it could be confirmation bias since after the fact we're like "Oh yeah that one" but there is seriously a combination of topic and tone and the people who are around and wanting to talk about things. And that MeTa post? We knew that wasn't going to go well. But once there is a MeTa post open one of our basic jobs is to be around to answer questions, talk to people. But the questions yesterday had a lot more WTF??? in them than usual and I had things I'd rather be doing.

So, apologies for speaking out of turn but it's a recurring theme that cortex and I [and now r_n and I] talk about when things go as badly as they did yesterday. I'd like people to do better. And whn they can't do better, understand that we feel that we're doing the best we can with the system we have.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:26 AM on July 5, 2011 [16 favorites]


As a chronically non-fighty member, I like several of the ideas for dousing the flames: on the mod side, institute time-lag delays in posting site-wide (can't always predict which threads will explode); on the member side, post some irresistibly fun time-sink distractions.

But I think a "No Mod On Duty - Swim At Your Own Risk" holiday policy would also be OK, followed by deletion with extreme prejudice of heavily-flagged threads as soon as the mods get back. Nobody is required to participate in online fights, so flag and move away from obnoxious stuff and let the fighty posters slug it out all by themselves. When it inevitably results in flameouts and closed accounts, consider it an emergent process of self-regulation: assholes take themselves out of the gene pool, so to speak.
posted by Quietgal at 8:28 AM on July 5, 2011


Isn't the best solution for people to stop being fuckbags to each other?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:30 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


a "No Mod On Duty - Swim At Your Own Risk" holiday policy

I assume that would lead to 200 immediate FPPs filled with self-linking SEO jackassery, tbh.
posted by elizardbits at 8:31 AM on July 5, 2011


All that thread needed was something about abortion and animal cruelty, and it would've been the perfect storm of flame threads.

But does that mean that there's something structurally wrong with the site or community? I don't buy it. Heated topics are heated topics, and some things will always slip by the mods.

Personally, I'd really prefer that punishments be slapped onto individual users, thread deletions over contentious topics make me sad.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:33 AM on July 5, 2011


From early on in the Meta thread, about that thread, from jessamyn:
"The post has gotten one flag, that's basically saying to us one of two things

1. no one thinks it's a deleteworthy post
2. no one is around

As much as I don't enjoy this sort of posts, MeFi is not for things that only I am interested in. It hits a few points that this community seems to like discussing [the atheist community, how to speak to women, drama in other communities] so it's here. ..."
Had 20 reasonable people in affable holiday moods FIAMO in the first couple hours that post was up, I bet it would have been nuked with professional prejudice, and many users and some mods might have had a better weekend/Monday. A community that flags on holidays, is a community that can enjoy holidays.

I didn't FIAMO because it was a slow day at casa paulsc, and I went fishing. Caught a couple of decent largemouths!

On preview: What jessamyn said again.
posted by paulsc at 8:33 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Diwali, Stary Nowy God, and Eid al Fitr brings us no additional grar. Perhaps forced conversions would help to solve this problem? People would have a choice (Hinduism, Islam, Eastern Orthodox) so there wouldn't be any feelings of compulsion involved. I honestly can't see the down side to this simple fix.

As to my status as a "shadow mod", I think there might be some slight confusion. I am the Astral Mod, and I am working always, effortlessly and perfectly. I have no interest in slumming it with these "colleagues" although I wish them the best in their finite, earthly endeavors.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:35 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Eh, maybe every community needs the occasional Saturnalia — turn everything upside down for a day, and then get back to the normal. But I do like the idea of the "Warning: Limited Moderation in Effect" banner.

Because I honestly found that GRAR thread interesting, but if that was happening all the time I wouldn't want to come back to MeFi. It was also instructive for people to see what can happen without the usual level of moderation.

It seems the thing that makes MeFi better is the moderation. It's the special sauce. In 2019, when Microsoft buys MeFi to make its LiveFi application, they'll think it's the software that's important, outsource the mod's work to Angola (the off-shore-of-the-moment in 2019), and LiveFi just won't work.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:35 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was serious, imakimiam - as Quietgal says, we could all consider posting more "irresistibly fun time-sink distractions" for holidays. It is like preparing a play space for energetic kids at family gatherings. (Aren't we all kids?) Maybe someone could even make a project page for this?
posted by Surfurrus at 8:35 AM on July 5, 2011


You don't know jack about Theosophy.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:35 AM on July 5, 2011


No, but I went to school with a Jacque from Theopolis.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:41 AM on July 5, 2011


I'd be totally down with a general community move towards only posting light shit on holidays.
posted by unSane at 8:43 AM on July 5, 2011


It was a whole special "happy holidays" cycle of flame-warring, as predictable as Haley's Comet.

*checks wikipedia*

Okay, that gives me about fifty years to craft a post about an unvaccinated feminist on the U.S. Supreme Court who received the death penalty for circumcising the declawed cats of libertarian TSA inspectors and blogging photos of the deed from her iPhone 17.

Mods, you might want to brace yourselves.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:45 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought that all of the flagging over the long weekend was just good ol' patriotism at work.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:47 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I strongly vote against 'no mods days' -- especially since so many of the responsible community members also take breaks on holidays. Mayhem rarely stays within defined boundaries - and the bleeding over into daily posting would just turn mefi into another internet flame ghetto. We are better than that.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:48 AM on July 5, 2011


or how about we just treat extra-fighty meta or mefi threads with less-than-usual levels of moderation as minor annoyances to the community, rather than as near cataclysmic events that require us all to put on our very serious thinking caps and come to a "Fair & Just Community Decision". I mean, fuck, get a grip people.. Close down a website for a couple of days because some shouty nitwits might take advantage of mods being less than attentive to be extra shouty? Is this the ultimate "first-world problems" thread?

I realise that OUTRAGE is a stock in trade of all serious internet commentators, but when people are threatening to disable their accounts and storm off in a huff because not everyone in a community of tens of thousands is on the same page as them, a bit of a reality check and a deep breath and maybe a nice cold iced tea is in order.
posted by modernnomad at 8:53 AM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


My plan as of this morning is to implement Minecraft Probation. If you're acting up or need to throttle way back in a thread, boom, you get MP, and for the rest of the day if you want to add a comment you have to complete a building challenge in Minecraft. "Make a sandcastle", say, or "build a road in the sky", or "go tame a wolf".

There will be no actual heuristic for judging whether you succeeded at the task, but with any luck you'll get so distracted that we won't hear from you for a month.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:55 AM on July 5, 2011 [34 favorites]


The London Underground plays classical music at a number of problem stations to deter antisocial behaviour. It has been a modest success, I believe. Wouldn't it be great if flagging spikes triggered a little Debussy or Mozart, or maybe some Peruvian pan pipes? And maybe a small, unobtrusive carousel of frolicking bunny pics. Who can grarr at bunnies?
posted by londonmark at 8:56 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


or maybe some Peruvian pan pipes

I have a Pavlovian response to associate that sound with crushing commuter traffic and antipathy toward all living things.
posted by The Whelk at 9:00 AM on July 5, 2011


Cortex, can;t we just give them cryptic piston challenges?
posted by The Whelk at 9:01 AM on July 5, 2011


Minecraft Double Secret Probation is as above but I also use the cabal's botnet to DDOS minecraft.net so you can't manage to log in.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:04 AM on July 5, 2011


Three whole weeks of only single player? You're mad.

MAD
posted by The Whelk at 9:06 AM on July 5, 2011


Closing the site would impose some financial burden, which is unfair to the MeFiPlex Family of Weblogs(t). If it were me, and I'm just as happy it's not, I'd auto-delete any comments or posts with a threshold of offensive/derail/noise/generally bad flags, and issue 24 hour timeouts liberally, especially if it's the 4th of July long weekend and the weather's nice. Self-policing, as it were.
posted by theora55 at 9:06 AM on July 5, 2011



"Okay, that gives me about fifty years to craft a post about an unvaccinated feminist on the U.S. Supreme Court who received the death penalty for circumcising the declawed cats of libertarian TSA inspectors and blogging photos of the deed from her iPhone 17."

I said as predictable as the comet, not as regular as it.

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:07 AM on July 5, 2011


> Closing the site would impose some financial burden, which is unfair to the MeFiPlex Family of Weblogs(t)

Since the management has already indicated the comment box will stay open, it's a moot point. But, they've stated that the revenue mainly comes from non-logged in visitors clicking on ads, not from the rabid commenters.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:09 AM on July 5, 2011


A wise, older Mefite once told me that when he joined, he felt like he was a guest of Matt's. The conversation was fun, and lively, but that, for the most part, people behaved, partly, as he believed, because there was the sense that 'people were all hanging out in someone's living room' and usually, most of us get through life without being an outrageous asshole in someone else's living room.

The userbase was much smaller, inclined to have similar interests and consequently the range of discourse hadn't been fully explored.

If we're offering theories on why there are discussions that turn into the '68 Democratic Convention, I have a simple explanation. Metafilter wasn't nearly as political in its early years. As time went on, it developed a reputation as a discussion site with a distinctly left orientation. This is turn:
  1. Ensures that there's going to be a lot of threads about politics and also injustice, real or perceived. These topics cause contention in discussion.
  2. People have come here looking for a place with a left orientation. I'm hard left, I've spent my entire life associating with people of all flavors of liberal or radical ideologies; some of them are grounded, thoughtful and possessing some degree of objectivity. Many other leftists have fragile emotions, opinions formed on inclination rather than fact and a complete lack of ability to step outside their existing frame-- imagine people who would have been Tea Partiers or some other philosophically anemic archetype if they had landed in a different direction. Because they're working from their overclocked emotions and are unable to consider opposing viewpoints, they explode at anything that challenges them and everything outside of their black and white diagram offends them. I'm not sure why, but it's not enough for them to challenge opposed concepts, the mention of them has to be stricken from the record. You'd think "that's wrong/ridiculous and here's why" would be enough if someone had confidence of convictions, but a loon won't settle down until agreeing opinions are the only opinions.
Those users have been coddled (sympathy? path of least resistance? growth/revenue strategy?) to the point that they control the discourse. Like any forum there's a level of real trolling that goes on, but I am consistently shocked at the number of accusations of it where it appears to my eyes that the perp's only crime is disagreeing with popular sentiment or questioning the validity of the descriptions in question. Threads melt down for a lot of reasons, but one very real, very troubling reason is that some folks lose their shit when they're expecting an echo and hear something else.

The "don't be an asshole" aphorism doesn't cut it, because "asshole" is relative and to many users it means "someone who doesn't agree but opens their mouth anyway."
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:10 AM on July 5, 2011 [24 favorites]


I purpose a number of users be given access to an Emergency Silly Shit file to post during critical US holidays to distract from fighty links.

Call it the "Hey look at this cat" defense.
posted by The Whelk at 9:14 AM on July 5, 2011


Looks like I picked a good weekend to have sex and drink beer instead of read mefi.
posted by desjardins at 9:14 AM on July 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


PS I recommend having sex and drinking beer to reading mefi.
posted by desjardins at 9:15 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


My plan as of this morning is to implement Minecraft Probation. If you're acting up or need to throttle way back in a thread, boom, you get MP, and for the rest of the day if you want to add a comment you have to complete a building challenge in Minecraft. "Make a sandcastle", say, or "build a road in the sky", or "go tame a wolf".

There will be no actual heuristic for judging whether you succeeded at the task, but with any luck you'll get so distracted that we won't hear from you for a month.


The main problem with this, though, is that not everyone has Minecraft.
posted by daniel_charms at 9:16 AM on July 5, 2011


Wait, I guess that's a feature, not a bug...
posted by daniel_charms at 9:16 AM on July 5, 2011


One of the problems with a thresholded autodelete (something I'll just reiterate is firmly on the Not Going To Happen list, much as I get the common sense motivation for the idea) is that setting the flag threshold high enough to avoid scrapping only mildly controversial comments means setting it high enough that people are likely to be responding to it by the time it disappears. Which is a problem for a couple reasons:

1. The fruit of the poison tree. Normally a mod will try to take care of this by pruning responses-to-deletions as necessary, but an automated deletion system wouldn't have the ability to make that judgement, and would have to leave all the followup in place unless it too was flagged in lockstep, something that experience shows me does not happen.

2. With moderation comes a degree of discussion about moderation, which is fine when it happens in metatalk with the expectation that we'll be able to explain what's up if folks have questions or disagree with a decision. With automatic deletion, there's no avenue for discussion of the deletion, there's no human touch, and there's much less chance that a mod will be looking at the thread where the deletion happened and keeping a handle on the metadiscussion that springs up sometimes. That metadiscussion itself seems more likely to pop up as well when there's a dynamic of humans vs. automated system than when it's understood that a human is around, watching things, and making considered decisions.

Threshold-based automatic decision systems aren't a bad idea in principle—they can in theory work well if fit well to their setting and users are expecting and accepting of their presence—but I don't think that sort of thing is likely to work well on Metafilter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:16 AM on July 5, 2011


PS I recommend having sex and drinking beer to reading mefi.

With a bit of flexibility training, you can do all three at once.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:17 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I realise that OUTRAGE is a stock in trade of all serious internet commentators, but when people are threatening to disable their accounts and storm off in a huff because not everyone in a community of tens of thousands is on the same page as them, a bit of a reality check and a deep breath and maybe a nice cold iced tea is in order.

I haven't said so here, but I'm seriously considering shuttering my account for good around here because I originally signed up for this website because of its community, because it looked to be a place where smart people could be smart together, but the threads at issue are not smart threads. People are being very dumb in there, and they are treating one another very poorly, and that is not, I think, a hallmark of intelligence. I don't see any indication that this will improve around here, because I don't really know how that would happen. I haven't commented in the original thread or the Meta; I used to participate a lot more in contentious threads, but what's the point? There's no product from a fight. I like to talk about feminism, and I like to talk about social mores and systemic problems, but I don't like yelling about them or reading spittle-flecked comments about them.

I signed up for my account because, in part, I wanted to identify myself with this place. Sometimes, now, I don't.

This isn't OUTRAGE or storming off in a huff. I'm not upset that there are people who disagree with me about what 'community' means or how it's done. But I also think I get to decide how I spend my time, and I don't want to spend my time around assholish behavior.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:19 AM on July 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'd be super interested in actually testing Jessamyn's claim that "holiday weekends seem to bring out the worst in people". It's not that I don't trust her, it's just that such an intensely emotional event is ripe for confirmation bias. Maybe find the last n shitthreads and see how many actually fall on holiday weekends? What's a good method for counting disasters, just long MeTa threads?

This actually sounds like a good project for the intern, IMO.
posted by daniel_charms at 9:19 AM on July 5, 2011


It's been a pretty strange, angry summer.....
posted by The Whelk at 9:20 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I know you're joking, but PoliticalFilter was enough for me to find out that the only thing I should be moderating is carbs."

Oh, but that's part of the charm of the series. Every week, we escape by the skin of our teeth. The fact of the matter would be that we're all barely holding it together, as the untamed wilderness bursts at the seams with savagery. That, and I really want to see Meatbomb play a preacher/recovering preacher character. I think he could play it really over the top or totally stone-cold low-key and either way it would be fantastic. I haven't yet worked out our characters, though I think we'd spend half the time fighting each other, while M'bomb tries to keep the peace.

And the whole thing would make Deadwood look like a fucking sitcom. Because at the end of the day, we would be badass. Because that's what the people came to see.
posted by Eideteker at 9:21 AM on July 5, 2011


Please post more awesome, amazing, cool things

Yes, like a December Awesome Posts Contest for holidays.
posted by hoppytoad at 9:23 AM on July 5, 2011


The idea of excluding the Festival of the Boot is almost unthinkable, uburoivas.
posted by Mister_A at 9:24 AM on July 5, 2011


These kinds of flameout threads are part of every weblog I've ever been involved with. It seems like it's a kind of tragedy of the commons that is part of community life.

I think about each thread as it's own little micro-ecology. Some threads flourish and grow and live on in the community memory, some never catch on, most fade away after a limited life span, and some turn into Mad Max type hellholes with sniping and everyone participating feeling burnt and angry.

Having said that, what would be the problem of letting these hellhole threads just go on and on until they burn out? It's not like the server is running out of space, is it? It's not like there's much danger of cross-thread contamination, though I suppose people could build grudges against each other that would affect other interactions they have, but so what?

The culture now has a kind of expectation that the moderators have superhuman (superuser) powers and will use them to fix everything that bothers us. It imposes a crazy burden on them, and I really don't know that it's necessary for those threads. Why not just let them run on until the snipers get bored/tired and they burn out?
posted by jasper411 at 9:24 AM on July 5, 2011


Is it really such a disaster if we get an occasional thread that gets a bit fighty? Really? They don't seem to have happened that much lately. It seems to me if the mods want to take the odd day off and sometimes the result is a snarl-fest thread, can we really not live with that?

Let's be more relaxed about tension. :-)
posted by Decani at 9:31 AM on July 5, 2011


And, totally not joking, but was there really any problem outside of that thread and its corresponding MeTa? GRARers gonna GRAR; I think throwing fighty people in a pit and letting them slap the crap out of each other a couple of times a year might be a good thing. Like a controlled brushfire; sometimes you have to remove some of the more flammable/volatile elements by letting them burn themselves out. Yeah, it sucks if you get too close to that, but as Elmore said, there's lots to check out on MeFi if you see a thread is going badly. I won't trot out that "It's just a website!" canard because I know people's feelings do actually get hurt, but it's also good to remember that if your biggest problem on a given day is someone called you a name on the Internet, your shit is actually pretty boss. So yes, it sucks, but here's a hug and try not to let it get the best of you, same as you would IRL.

And always, always Be Thankful for What You've Got.
posted by Eideteker at 9:31 AM on July 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Also, that song is awesome if you're feeling GRARish. I challenge you to stay mad after listening to it 2-3 times. But you've really got to listen; close your eyes, sit back in your chair, and maybe close the shades/blinds. Just breathe and let the groove soothe you.

Remember, brothers and sisters, you can still stand tall.
posted by Eideteker at 9:33 AM on July 5, 2011


"I ask myself, "If I post this, is it going to improve someone's day, maybe put a smile on someone's face?"

kittens and unicorns all the way down....
posted by tomswift at 9:36 AM on July 5, 2011


Perhaps there are enough people who enjoy the chest-thumping flamepit experience that they could form a posse to invade another online forum -- or maybe one of them could even create a new offshoot forum ... Have fun. We wish you well. Leave this boring civil space.

And you don't need to stay away. You can always come back here when you want to check in on the other ways of discussing controversial issues.
posted by Surfurrus at 9:38 AM on July 5, 2011


Meatbomb, let's try to save the Astral Mod reveal for season 3-4. We need to build some tension in. But what a twist, eh? A preacher who is actually a god? (and not just the word of God thing that's been done before). Talk about your crisis of faith!
posted by Eideteker at 9:39 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm really not seeing what's so horrible about that thread, all things considered. In a 500-600+ comment thread, there were by my count a single-digit number of users actually behaving like terrible fuckbags -- i.e, saying stuff that's really beyond the pale according to community standards or that was massively called out. I'm sure I missed a few things, but I followed it regularly from the start. Plenty of people were pretty vehement or expressing anger about someone/something, but you're never going to have a calm, dispassionate conversation about that sort of topic, but even debates with anger and tone problems aren't by definition unconstructive. I found it interesting enough to read all of it and the MeTa, and I'm the giantest can't-handle-confrontation wimp that ever lived.

People have already parsed the problematic nature of several nasty comments; the only two requests I'd add are:

1. If another user says something you disagree with strongly, and your first impulse is to Google that person, please don't.

2. If you want to complain about site policy, or community standards, or moderation practices, go to MeTa and knock yourself out. If you feel compelled to express personal animosity toward the mods, especially by name, especially repeatedly, please don't.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:41 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Holy crap I just noticed this was posted in Uptime and that rocks
posted by Eideteker at 9:41 AM on July 5, 2011


The culture now has a kind of expectation that the moderators have superhuman (superuser) powers and will use them to fix everything that bothers us. It imposes a crazy burden on them, and I really don't know that it's necessary for those threads.

I agree with this. The expectation of mod involvement the minute something starts to go awry is, as I see it, out of control. I can't keep track of how many times I've seen people start to question where the mods are soon after a shitstorm starts, only to have one appear having to explain that the entire world is not on the same time schedule, and sometimes people sleep while others are awake. (As an example.)

I understand that it's important that Metafilter not turn into the YouTube comments section, but at the same time, I wonder if the current method is not enabling certain types of personalities. And I am NOT implying the mods are to blame for the assholes, because we're all ostensibly adults who by now should have developed certain methods of controlling our impulses. However, being so readily available for so many disputes could, maybe, be taken by certain personalities as, "I don't have to figure out a way to resolve this on my own, the mods should be here any minute to delete the stuff I don't like. And I will pout even harder until they do".
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:42 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


> would lead to 200 immediate FPPs filled with self-linking SEO jackassery

OK, that's a likely problem but I think we could come up with a fix. I admit I don't know the technical side, but here are a few ideas:

1. Thread gets deleted BAM! when mods return, some kind of do-not-follow search engine repellant is applied postmortem, short-lived thread doesn't benefit spammers very much. (They'll get a little Google-juice while it lives, but that's a price I'm willing to pay for happy sane mods.)

2. The SEO Assassin Brigade gleefully hops in and badmouths the link with gusto, so innocent bystanders who stumble upon the MeFi post should at least realize there's something fishy here. (Might also be catnip for the fighty folks - a chance to vent their spleen for a good cause!)

3. A few Standby Mods are deputized and given the power to delete self-links only. Any abuse of this power will inevitably call down the collective wrath of MetaFilter on their heads, which is something no sane person would want. And only sane persons would be deputized.
posted by Quietgal at 9:43 AM on July 5, 2011


Would it be in any way reasonable to give threads a timeout, either manually or potentially through some automated flag response?

It seems like a possible middle ground between shutting down threads altogether versus keeping mods tied up over a holiday weekend. "This thread will open for comments again at 9:00am Monday morning (PST)".

Unfortunately it could backfire by causing the grar to spread to other parts of the site, but I thought I'd toss it out there.
posted by Meta Filter at 9:47 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


A few Standby Mods are deputized and given the power to delete self-links only. Any abuse of this power will inevitably call down the collective wrath of MetaFilter on their heads, which is something no sane person would want. And only sane persons would be deputized.

I volunteer for this duty and will swiftly execute my office by banning anyone who says that New York pizza is better than Chicago pizza.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:50 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Eideteker, you're talking about a Firefly/Deadwood mashup. The setting is the Deadwood type, but the character interactions are similar to Firefly, but more obviously badass instead of badasses who get no respect.

M'bomb as God (or god) could be similar to a certain Angel storyline (No Spoilers please), with elements of the road trip nature of the comic book Preacher. Make it an old west tale on modern day America, one white guy, one black, one mexican.

No manic pixie women though. A female Al Swearengen maybe? Call me, we'll discuss over lunch.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:51 AM on July 5, 2011


I volunteer for this duty and will swiftly execute my office by banning anyone who says that New York pizza is better than Chicago pizza.

You are a monster.
posted by The Whelk at 9:51 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I say we go into read-only mode on the holidays. Seriously, the mods don't need this, and everyone can go be fighty somewhere else.
posted by frecklefaerie at 9:52 AM on July 5, 2011


And, totally not joking, but was there really any problem outside of that thread and its corresponding MeTa? GRARers gonna GRAR; I think throwing fighty people in a pit and letting them slap the crap out of each other a couple of times a year might be a good thing. Like a controlled brushfire; sometimes you have to remove some of the more flammable/volatile elements by letting them burn themselves out.

The difficulty is that there's nothing inherently self-contained about a given thread on the site; bad feelings carry over (which is to some extent why by design we have Metatalk as a place for stuff to flow over to), and can do so in a lot of different ways. As tempting as it is in some ways to say "lost cause" and just let a shitty thread consume itself, this is a site full of people who take from how the worst of threads go, and from how those are dealt with by the mods (as site management but also as a proxy for community will), some sense of what this place is or is supposed to be.

I commented this morning in the other thread on this sort of thing, fire analogy and all by whatever odd coincidence.

The short of it is that on the one hand a shitty thread isn't the end of the world, no, but on the other hand shitty threads don't exist in some clean partition wholly separate from the rest of the site or from overall community experience. With the panoply of personalities and druthers in evidence in the userbase here, there's always going to be a fair amount of compromise and balancing-of-forces going on with how we manage the site, and it may be that from this discussion we're seeing a need to rebalance a bit how aggressively we shut down nascent shitstorms, but all in all there's no particularly clean or simple solution to the problem in large part because there's no clean and simple agreement on what the problem is or how/whether it should be solved.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:10 AM on July 5, 2011


Looks like I picked a good weekend to have sex and drink beer instead of read mefi.

Go on, go on, don't tease us like that, we want more details.

Was it a lager, a stout? How hoppy was it?
posted by benito.strauss at 10:28 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


It was a Belgian White.

And then there was the beer..
posted by desjardins at 10:31 AM on July 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


"Eideteker, you're talking about a Firefly/Deadwood mashup. The setting is the Deadwood type, but the character interactions are similar to Firefly, but more obviously badass instead of badasses who get no respect.

M'bomb as God (or god) could be similar to a certain Angel storyline (No Spoilers please), with elements of the road trip nature of the comic book Preacher. Make it an old west tale on modern day America, one white guy, one black, one mexican."


Yes, basically.

"No manic pixie women though."

Agreed.

"A female Al Swearengen maybe? Call me, we'll discuss over lunch."

I find your idea of a swear engine intriguing. Let's handshake on this before the irons get too cool.
posted by Eideteker at 10:32 AM on July 5, 2011


The difficulty is that there's nothing inherently self-contained about a given thread on the site

Indeed. This went from one shitty thread to one shitty thread and two MeTa threads and a lot of email and a lot of flags. People demand responses from us whether it's "why was this deleted" or "why wasn't this deleted" to "please edit my comment" In many cases, some sort of word from us can help fend off bigger problems down the road when people are debating decisions we already made or did not make. So even in a 1000 comment thread, if someone says something against the rules as comment 999, it's still against the rules and we should be more or less on top of it. And people often leave during bad threads leading to more drama about that, and still others threaten to leave. The threads are part of it. The email is another. The flags are another.

And as much as I'd love to think that we're just missing some simple response that would solve this problem, it's one of those things that I think needs to be more of a culture shift than us doing anything too different as the admin team. Many of the people heavily invested, even if they're espousing points I agree with, are behaving like jerks to other people. And despite what people snidely imply, my agreeing with your position does not make your shitty comment more likely to stick around than someone else's that I disagree with. There are only so many ways we can say "Hey if you want to have a serious conversation with people about a tricky issue maybe you need to check your tone and try to engage them civilly" when it's clearly not sinking in. But there are about 20-30 people who need to do that, on both [all?] sides of this. Which is a pretty small number. And I wish there was a way we could send a polite "Hey you're becoming part of the problem" note to people, but even when we try to make minor corrections, once people are all het up, they sort of don't want to hear it.

We've all done things when we were really upset that we might not have done had we been thinking clearly. I think trying to figure out how to pre-emptively not do those things, is pretty challenging.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:38 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


My swear engine goes to 11, motherfucker.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:38 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


if it's a shit show, just walk away. I don't understand why people get so invested in making sure other people aren't being assholes. Just walk away people.
posted by GuyZero at 10:45 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


i think i'llpost my long awaited link to the planned parenthood abortionist who declaws cats on the side and tweets falsely about it next thanksgiving.
posted by lester at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2011


We've all done things when we were really upset that we might not have done had we been thinking clearly.

AKA, my 30s.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:48 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I had a technical idea, probably would change the site too much (i.e. worse), but what the hey.

I don't like to flag comments or posts. That says "this is inappropriate for the site", and I'm too likely to mis-use it for "I disagree" or "I don't like it". But I could be trusted with this: a button on the comments page that says "I'm not participating", or "Not for me". or "I consider this thread broken", or just "GRARFilter".

I found myself coming back to the GRAR thread because I certainly had opinions, and the "somebody's wrong on the Internet" feeling is actually hard to fight. It can be hard to just walk away. If I could have registered my disapproval (of the tone of the thread as a whole) I don't think I would have come back. Additionally, if I stroll into a thread, see "35 users have marked this for GRAR", maybe check the list of people who marked it and see X, Y, and Z (who have struck me in the past as having good judgment) are on there, I'll be able avoid getting sucked in.

It's a mild form of non-fatal social sanction that doesn't require the mods to administer. It's a sanction against GRAR, which might be one of the few things MeFites agree is bad. It's a sanction against the style of discourse, not any one individual.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:53 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


cortex:...As tempting as it is in some ways to say "lost cause" and just let a shitty thread consume itself, this is a site full of people who take from how the worst of threads go, and from how those are dealt with by the mods (as site management but also as a proxy for community will), some sense of what this place is or is supposed to be.

I worry that some users' sense of "what this place is" now is that the mods will immediately rush in and delete comments that they find distasteful, and when that doesn't happen, some folks start stamping their feet and acting like the fact that the mods *didn't* delete somethng means that the mods *approve* of it, and how dare they, don't they understand, etc. etc....
posted by jasper411 at 10:54 AM on July 5, 2011


Foremost, I think it was a shitty FPP, straight out of Nerd Tabloid. Perhaps raising the bar on acceptable FPPs is in order. Anyway...

Add more moderators. You're gonna need 'em eventuallly; this site continues to grow, right?

I'll bet you could get 10 trusted, <2>
Disclaimer: This scenario is quite rudimentary, obviously.
posted by Ardiril at 10:56 AM on July 5, 2011


I volunteer for this duty and will swiftly execute my office by banning anyone who says that New York pizza is better than Chicago pizza.

Oh, and he told me one other thing. He said someday, a crazy wild-eyed scientist and a kid may show up asking about that book. And if that ever happened... [laughs as he pulls out his gun] Funny, I never thought I would be you.
posted by SpiffyRob at 11:02 AM on July 5, 2011


That was weird. *"... under 20k candidates in minutes. Make 'em work two at a time, and both must agree to a deletion."
posted by Ardiril at 11:03 AM on July 5, 2011


I can't help thinking that T. Herman Zweibel would also hyphenate "cluster-fuck".
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:05 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Absent a more draconian crackdown on the posters generating problems (I mean, metafilter's large enough that those 20-30 people taking an enforced few weeks' vacation is hardly going to be a crippling blow), the real solution to moderator fatigue is more moderators. Ideally, they should have enough that they can rotate duties, actually have weekends off instead of the present sometimes-kinda-sorta-have-weekends-off-when-everyone-behaves state of affairs. Something like an on-call rotation.

That has its own issues, of course. Past a certain number, intra-administration tensions are going to start happening and that has its own spillover effects.
posted by Drastic at 11:06 AM on July 5, 2011


I think these are all good arguments in favor of post-locking:

1) The moderators don't get put into the position of cleaning up after a few dozen people behaving badly.
2) The moderators are not put into the position of playing King Solomon over every response.
3) Most of the people causing trouble have already written what needed to be written, so the moderators.
4) It's not an individual callout.

Of course, there's lots of complications unpacking that. But I'm not convinced that camping bad threads and playing wack-a-mole on individual responses can be sustained.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:07 AM on July 5, 2011


Whoops
3) Most of the people causing trouble have already written what needed to be written, so the moderators are not squashing much in the way of substantial discussion at that point.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:08 AM on July 5, 2011


T. Herman Zweibel would hyphentate, but in the reverse order. "I am shocked by the persistence of these interminable fuck-clusters upon every occasion of national holiday."
posted by Wolfdog at 11:11 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I worry that some users' sense of "what this place is" now is that the mods will immediately rush in and delete comments that they find distasteful, and when that doesn't happen, some folks start stamping their feet and acting like the fact that the mods *didn't* delete somethng means that the mods *approve* of it, and how dare they, don't they understand, etc. etc....

There are some people who feel that way, sure. There's other people who feel that almost every time we delete something we're going too far. There's folks who think flags are a problem and folks who think that flagging data should be transparent. And so on.

I hear you on the worry, and there are definitely times when we need to explain to someone that, no, there are times when we can't be immediate as well as times where what they flag isn't something that's getting deleted. But generally speaking I'd rather we were able to be fairly responsive and deal with a few people extrapolating unrealistic expectations from that than to, I don't know what the alternative is, just decline to be responsive to stuff.

The frustration of dealing with things that demand a lot of responsiveness on days where we'd like to not have to camp in front of the computer is partly just a hazard of the job, and partly something that we may need to consider being a little bit more "this is a bad idea on an inconvenient day, please adjourn until tomorrow/workweek, thank you" about.

the real solution to moderator fatigue is more moderators

As you note, there are real costs (setting aside the issue of literal payroll costs) involved in farming out moderator duties. It really doesn't take a whole lot of people to generate a heirarchy and bureaucracy of the sort that creates work and weird asymmetries; trading "time spent managing threads" for "time spent managing submoderators" is not necessarily a big win. So it's a lot trickier than just "bring more people on".
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:13 AM on July 5, 2011


Haven't yet read this whole thread yet, but one idea did occur to me yesterday when this came up.

What if, on long weekends etc, FPPs/Metas/AskMEs were more heavily moderated before they went live? This way, potentially contentious posts (eg: the Rebecca Watson thing, which was always going to be incendiary) could be temporarily nixed. That is, on the moderator's judgment, they could be put off until after the long weekend etc. This would include METAs complaining about such decisions.
posted by philip-random at 11:16 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


On a side note, I was pleasantly surprised by this post that came on the same day. I'd like to thank Taft and the other participants.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:25 AM on July 5, 2011


I like that threadlock idea.
posted by Ardiril at 11:26 AM on July 5, 2011


Why can't the commentor be deleted or be given an immediate time-out? In fact if you need someone to be in charge of such a button I would love to do it. But then I would have to read all that crap. Nevermind.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:31 AM on July 5, 2011


I said this in the other thread about this shitstorm, but I think you need to have a heavier hand on the Metafilter front page and maybe a lighter one on the comments. I know the "best of the web" ship has sailed by now but blog drama doesn't even make the good of the web.

Also I think a heavier hand on blue front page posts would help focus the "community", which isn't, because there's so many people with so little in common. That's why people are shitty to each other. There's no reason for them to be talking, and yet, they retain the illusion that there is. You can try patching it with notions of civility and babysitting people's contributions, but without actual fellowship you'll never get much of anywhere.

And sure, moderating what gets served on the front page will over-represent the moderators' interests, but that's fine, because it'll (after some time) focus people's interests and then the people who talk on this site will have more in common again. Is Metafilter supposed to be everything to everyone? No? Well then focus a little! Or, do you just plan to grow more users and try to sort of keep a lid on things?
posted by furiousthought at 11:40 AM on July 5, 2011


Bringing new mods on for contentious holiday threads is a bad idea, because those contentious threads are the very ones that require the most delicate mod judgment, careful phrasing of comments, mod knowledge about who's who in the community, and the background of "members know that this mod is an even-handed sort" that takes a long time to build up. Witness the first weekend that restless_nomad was on board, which was rocky despite it not being a holiday etc. Holiday fight thread + new mod(s) = super fight thread, more work for old mods. Blech.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:44 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


What if, on long weekends etc, FPPs/Metas/AskMEs were more heavily moderated before they went live?

This seems really reasonable. You get your post, but you get it when the place is fully staffed. If the best argument you have is "I want it now" then you know...you ate before you came to the factory.
posted by mintcake! at 11:45 AM on July 5, 2011


mintcake!: "You get your post, but you get it when the place is fully staffed."

Deletions would skyrocket. Here's a lovely scenario:
There are currently 67 posts in the moderation queue, including 31 obituary posts for former Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney.
posted by zarq at 12:04 PM on July 5, 2011


We should just have a holiday volume auto-throttle. The more comments a thread has, the harder it is to make another one. If you've personally commented a lot, it's harder still. If you've had any comments deleted in the thread in question, it's harder still. If you're self-identified as a member of a privileged class and all of the above are also true, you get a free pass to IRL for the day. The method of auto-throttle could include, but not be limited to error messages when new comments are posted; MeMails telling me to STFU, already; or redirects to Zombo com.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:11 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I may be over-simplifying things a bit but I think maybe over holidays and mod vacations, users should continue to be excellent to one another.
posted by subbes at 12:26 PM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


continue to be excellent to one another.

they should also party on (dudes).
posted by nadawi at 12:29 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


oh, and now i'm sad about The Big Man again. damnitall.
posted by nadawi at 12:30 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


soft-shoe, anyone?
posted by clavdivs at 12:31 PM on July 5, 2011


continue to be excellent to one another

No, you!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:33 PM on July 5, 2011


I am gonna to love and tolerate the shit out of you fuckers.
posted by The Whelk at 12:39 PM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Do we all maybe need a summer vacation? Looking at the MeTa in question reminded me of the tabloid post currently on the front page. Folks are making some fairly violent statements in there ("May I suggest flogging, and upside-down crucifixion?" is pretty not cool IMHO) and while the suggested victims have perpetrated some vile behavior, they don't really deserve lynching.

In cities - at least here in Boston - there is a upsurge of violence every summer. People are out of their apartments interacting more, school is out, it's hot and folks get cranky. That shouldn't happen here on the internet and yet, in the past couple days, we seem to have some unduly angry users.

...Or am I just being sensitive?
posted by maryr at 12:46 PM on July 5, 2011


I don't like to flag comments or posts. That says "this is inappropriate for the site", and I'm too likely to mis-use it for "I disagree" or "I don't like it".

I think this is part of the problem. The recommended ways of dealing with inappropriate posts or comments are A) contact the mods or B) FLAG IT and move on. But a lot of people are strangely reluctant to flag things.

Flagging something does not hit the big red DELETE THIS WITH PREJUDICE (AND GIVE THE POSTER AN ELECTRIC SHOCK WHILE YOU'RE AT IT) button. Flagging something does not even put it on the mod dashboard with a note "UserA thinks this should be deleted!"

The mods have said again and again that what flagging something does is let them know "hey, you should take a look at this". That's all. "You should take a look at this."

How people get from that to "flagging something means I'm trying to CENSOR FREE SPEECH and SILENCE ANOTHER USER" mystifies me.

And as jessamyn said, I'm all in favor of pre-emptively saying "this thread looks like a clusterfuck on a holiday" and lowering the threshhold for deletion, but the thread that started all this really wasn't flagged very much at all [as I said in the MeTa] and it feels weird and not good at all to say "this is on the list of things MeFi does badly, so we're going to remove it"

Maybe if more people had flagged it when they first saw it the mods would have been aware of the potential problem and could have addressed it earlier, or more preemptively, or something.
posted by Lexica at 12:46 PM on July 5, 2011


I am gonna to love and tolerate the shit out of you fuckers.

Thanks. I'm kinda backed up.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:48 PM on July 5, 2011


continue to be excellent to one another

oh hey this is a thing btw
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:49 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Agreed wholeheartedly with Lexica, people's reluctance to flag is a big part of the problem. It is not censorship, it is not an autodelete mechanism, it is not "downvoting." It is a non-gamable, completely invisible alert system designed specifically to bring potentially problematic stuff to the mods, who handle every situation on a case-by-case basis in person, with no automation or (we trust) prejudice. More people should flag stuff that they feel is not right for MetaFilter.
posted by Gator at 12:49 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know my reluctance to flag often comes from the feeling that my problem with a comment or thread does not fit in to one of my pulldown menu options. May I (sincerely!) ask when those were chosen and/or last revised?
posted by maryr at 12:52 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I figure "Other" covers everything from "UGH THIS AGAIN" to "No"
posted by The Whelk at 12:54 PM on July 5, 2011


You know that experiment where people were more inclined to be nice if some kind of face was looking at them, even if it was a cartoon face on a computer screen? Maybe there should be a big smiley face next to the reply window...
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:55 PM on July 5, 2011


cortex, you are blowing my mind with that information.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:55 PM on July 5, 2011


I use the "other" flag to mean everything from "WTF" to "idek" to "o_O" to "wrong thread dude".
posted by elizardbits at 12:56 PM on July 5, 2011


May I (sincerely!) ask when those were chosen and/or last revised?

They were chosen when the system started and, to the best of my knowledge revised once to add "offensive/sexism/racism" We may have also added "HTML error" at a later date, i can't remember.

They're not intended to cover all possible reasons for flagging and revising them is not something we're likely to do because it's tough enough staying "on message" about what they all mean. I'm aware that for some people not having a reason that matches the problem is frustrating but at that point choose "other" and/or drop us a note via the contact form. Both are totally okay.

As I've outlined before, the reasons basically translate into about three things on our end.

- look at this quickly [offensive/breaks guidelines]
- look at this soonish [noise/derail/other]
- repair something [HTML error/double comment]

Retraining people on a new set of reasons, even if they're fractionally more accurate, is significantly more time intensive than just re-explaining this. In fact, I should probably add it to the FAQ.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:00 PM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


I am gonna to love and tolerate the shit out of you fuckers.

Aww, somebody needs a hug UNTIL HE'S DEAD.
posted by nanojath at 1:02 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm all in favor of pre-emptively saying "this thread looks like a clusterfuck on a holiday" and lowering the threshhold for deletion

Why not go the other way and just go mostly unmoderated on holidays? I promise you the earth wouldn't explode and everything would still be here the next day.
posted by Justinian at 1:05 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


HUG FOR A WHILE

HUG FOREVER
posted by The Whelk at 1:06 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I should probably add it to the FAQ.

Please do. That explanation was really helpful.
posted by nangar at 1:13 PM on July 5, 2011


Why not go the other way and just go mostly unmoderated on holidays? I promise you the earth wouldn't explode and everything would still be here the next day.

Then what is moderation for, I wonder?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:14 PM on July 5, 2011


I should probably add it to the FAQ.

Here it is.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:17 PM on July 5, 2011


oh, and now i'm sad about The Big Man again. damnitall.

Here's something that cheers me up, nadawi.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:23 PM on July 5, 2011


Then what is moderation for, I wonder?

non-holidays.
posted by Justinian at 1:24 PM on July 5, 2011


I'd hate to lose you, shakespeherian.

But I *can* say that I've extolled the delights of MetaFilter on my lj several times in the past few months, and gotten more of a few friends to sign up. Yesterday I got email from two of them that pointed to that thread and said, basically, "I... don't think this is what I signed up for. I'm not sure what it is you like about this site; it's like your posts about it were bait-and-switch."

I have no suggestions for a solution; I don't know if there really is a solution. But that thread made me sad and frustrated and so, so furious with the fact that the misogyny on this site continues, despite the epic threads we've had that pointed it out, discussed it, and carefully explained it. (I know, I know, I could have FIAMO, I could have stopped reading, etc.). And yes, I know not everybody reads any given thread, but this conversation has been pretty widespread recently. I was disgusted with several MeFites yesterday whom I normally appreciate, and I don't know how I'll deal with that in the future.
posted by tzikeh at 1:39 PM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think you deal with it approximately the same way you deal with people you are disgusted with in the real world -- you don't interact with them. The great thing about online interaction is that you don't in fact have to physically remove yourself from the same spaces they are in to achieve that goal. I think people need to accept that once a community hits a certain size, it's going to reflective of a range of views. Some people's response might be to flee the community and seek out silos of people with whom they are in total agreement, but as I've said earlier, I think that's a mistake.

Everyone on MeFi has the power to not 'engage' with individuals whom they find distasteful for one reason or another. Everyone probably also at some point has thrown up their hands after one argument too many on their own personal hot-button topic and thought "fuck I am sick and tired of reading this same nonsense again and again".

But, I think it's foolish (or maybe just narcissistic) to think that the very existence of individuals with whom you disagree means either a) the entire website is failing and you must abandon it or b) disagreements on hot-button issues by an extreme minority of commentators in relation to teh number of active members overall poison the site as a whole.
posted by modernnomad at 1:51 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yesterday I got email from two of them that pointed to that thread and said, basically, "I... don't think this is what I signed up for. I'm not sure what it is you like about this site; it's like your posts about it were bait-and-switch."

Just tell them it's a lot like LiveJournal.
posted by smackfu at 1:58 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


C'mon, LiveJournal's not as abandoned as an empty lot.
posted by Eideteker at 2:01 PM on July 5, 2011


I was just about to suggest the same thing as Meta Filter. Something like

This thread about controversial-matter-X has the potential to require attentive moderation (or is already requiring it) and most of the mods are on vacation today. This thread is temporarily closed to new comments and will reopen in 24 hours.

or This thread looks like it will require heavy moderation (or already does) and is closed for Labor Day. The OP is welcome to make the exact same post tomorrow.
posted by K.P. at 2:02 PM on July 5, 2011


C'mon, LiveJournal's not as abandoned as an empty lot.

Excuse me?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:06 PM on July 5, 2011




I haven't said so here, but I'm seriously considering shuttering my account for good around here because I originally signed up for this website because of its community, because it looked to be a place where smart people could be smart together, but the threads at issue are not smart threads. People are being very dumb in there, and they are treating one another very poorly, and that is not, I think, a hallmark of intelligence. I don't see any indication that this will improve around here, because I don't really know how that would happen. I haven't commented in the original thread or the Meta; I used to participate a lot more in contentious threads, but what's the point? There's no product from a fight. I like to talk about feminism, and I like to talk about social mores and systemic problems, but I don't like yelling about them or reading spittle-flecked comments about them.


I see this a lot on the internet. I've felt it a lot too, and left a lot of web spaces disillusioned.

I do wonder if Dunbar's Number doesn't apply. It's hard for a large distributed community like this to remain a community, with its own cohesive culture, ideas, and language. I'm not sure that there's a solution to that either.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:09 PM on July 5, 2011


the very existence of individuals with whom you disagree means either a) the entire website is failing and you must abandon it or b) disagreements on hot-button issues by an extreme minority of commentators in relation to teh number of active members overall poison the site as a whole

I don't think this is a fair characterization of my complaint, but in the event that you see it as accurately summing my earlier comment, I'll attempt to rephrase:

I love reading conversations on Metafilter where smart, knowledgeable people are disagreeing with one another, even if things get slightly heated. That is an excellent opportunity to learn, to solidify or alter one's own opinion. This is an essential function of community, in my opinion: People using one another to better themselves. This is the sort of thing I signed up for when I bought an account here, and I've gotten far more than my money's worth.

The thing that I hate is when people pretend that fighting is the same thing as disagreeing, and that therefore a good use of a community is to attempt to express your own opinion as loudly and callously as possible. When people disagree, and that disagreement leads to shouting, and talking past one another, and treating one another like shit, I believe that that not only reflects poorly on the community as a whole, but it weakens the community as a whole, because it's easy behavior to emulate whether one means to or not. And because that behavior is noisy, and because its essential function is to draw attention to itself, once it exists in a conversation it has a tendency to become the conversation. That's why these things are referred to as derails. The more people treat one another like shit in threads about, say, feminism, the less I am able to participate in conversations about feminism in which my views are challenged or strengthened or made better-informed. The more this behavior exists on the site, the less I am willing to participate in conversations on the site that are about anything but trading silly lines from teevee shows.

Again, my issue is not with people having differing opinions or beliefs from my own. My issue is with behavior, and that's not really something that can have a top-down solution engineered for it. I'd like fewer people on Metafilter to behave like dicks. Failing that, I am going to do exactly what you suggest-- I'm not going to interact with them any longer.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:13 PM on July 5, 2011 [19 favorites]


"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?"
posted by mlis at 2:20 PM on July 5, 2011


Tangent: I'm really sick of the "LOL LIVEJOURNAL SUXX AMIRITE" comments that keep showing up here. Livejournal is *vast*; there are plenty of incredibly intelligent people on it, and plenty of smart, nuanced, complex discussions that go on. The constant comments about how it's stupid because of whatever your (general "your") few personal experiences there have been is equivalent to someone saying "LOL METAFILTER SUXX AMIRITE" because they read a few threads here that crashed and burned.

I know the LOL LIVEJOURNAL comments will continue; I'm just sharing my experience of the place. I've been there since 2004 and I've met and had conversations with hundreds of people who are just as educated, informed, and articulate as anybody here.
posted by tzikeh at 2:21 PM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Did you read my comment as LOL LIVEJOURNAL? Because I was making exactly the same point you just did: that your friends looked at a few threads and dismissed Metafilter, just like you say people do about LJ.
posted by smackfu at 2:38 PM on July 5, 2011


Shakespherian speaks for me, and many others I'm sure. This thread is filled with folks who think Metafilter is going downhill because of all the insufferably horrible people who don't share their viewpoint. That sentiment, and not the "misogynists" or "PC ultra liberals" or whatever, is what is driving the grar on all sides, letting no one back down and actually talk to each other like human beings.

If you think that thread is Metafilter at its shittiest because people have the wrong opinion, you are the problem.
posted by danny the boy at 2:39 PM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


You need a certain amount of shared context to generate good-spirited discussions though. You can't just will that into being. If you just have a place where you say "all people are welcome" and "we have great discourse here" you're going to attract dedicated know-it-all assholes who want to fight about basic principles constantly and who learn how to hide their jabs under the civility rules and/or moderator biases. Some people just like doing that.
posted by furiousthought at 2:50 PM on July 5, 2011


This thread is filled with folks who think Metafilter is going downhill because of all the insufferably horrible people who don't share their viewpoint.

I do not believe this is the case.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:51 PM on July 5, 2011


I'm really sick of the "LOL LIVEJOURNAL SUXX AMIRITE"

Hey, that's about one-sixteenth of the vitriol that MeFi regularly directs at reddit. Maybe we could just try to be respectful of all other communities.
posted by dialetheia at 2:53 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Including myspace?
posted by Ardiril at 2:55 PM on July 5, 2011


smackfu - my comment said "general 'your'." Your comment reminded me of all the ljsuxx stuff; my comment was not directed at your comment--I apologize if that was unclear. As I also said in my comment - "tangent."
posted by tzikeh at 2:57 PM on July 5, 2011


You need a certain amount of shared context to generate good-spirited discussions though. You can't just will that into being.

I'm not attempting to will it into being; as a few others have said, I don't know that there's a solution. I'm just trying to accurately describe the problem.

What do you mean by 'shared context'? Could you give an example? I'm not sure I understand.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:58 PM on July 5, 2011


" I'm really sick of the "LOL LIVEJOURNAL SUXX AMIRITE" comments that keep showing up here."

But… it's got pop up ads!

And it's threaded!
posted by klangklangston at 2:58 PM on July 5, 2011


klang - snrk.

Tangent (again): ads only appear for non-paying users -- just like on MF.
posted by tzikeh at 3:00 PM on July 5, 2011


> I think people need to accept that once a community hits a certain size,
> it's going to reflective of a range of views.

Seeing the place becoming, willy-nilly, more diverse as it grows makes me glad I did not stomp out in a huffle on the couple of times I thought about it. Maybe not quite up with crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentatation of their women, but sho'nuff trending in that direction.
posted by jfuller at 3:11 PM on July 5, 2011


modernnomad: I think people need to accept that once a community hits a certain size, it's going to reflective of a range of views.

There's a difference between disagreeing with someone because of their point of view, and being disgusted by someone for their condescending, belittling, and ugly way of espousing their point of view.
posted by tzikeh at 3:12 PM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


condescending, belittling, ugly espousers are part of the rainbow of life.
posted by jfuller at 3:19 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


so furious with the fact that the misogyny on this site continues, despite the epic threads we've had that pointed it out, discussed it, and carefully explained it.... And yes, I know not everybody reads any given thread, but this conversation has been pretty widespread recently

I come across comments like these from time-to-time, and they always surprise me a little. Aside from defining and refining definitions of behavior that flat out breaks the site rules - which primarily, in this discussion, applies to personal attacks of whatever form - I've never understood why anyone comes out the other end of long, contentious threads feeling like something has been settled.

To me, it seems obvious that the reason we keep covering this same ground is that there are broad disagreements on both the subject matter and the appropriate ways to interact when these kinds of subjects come up.

The idea that these epic threads are supposed to have somehow inoculated the site against future outbreaks flat out puzzles me. I mean, sure it would be nice, but what else in the world works like that?

Accordingly, my personal rule in these threads is simple: comment when I am compelled to comment, when I have something that I think I need to say, or clarify. Because it is a fight worth fighting, not because I am entitled to win any ground. If I'm not in the mood to have my generally low opinion of my species confirmed, then avoid. That's my rule. You're free to your own. But I worry for anyone who actually thinks that the world - even our small part of it - is going to measurably change just because we've thoroughly discussed something. Even if we're "right" in some universally true, non-relative fashion.

I can't say I really recommend MetaFilter to anyone who can't stand to see their comfort zones repeatedly challenged, either in subject matter or style of communication. And that's okay. To me, that makes MetaFilter more valuable, not less. And yes, that is at least partially because I have that luxury. But it's also because it means that there is an endless supply of fresh-faced, eager young miscreants barging through the door practically begging me to corrupt their world views. And when I get tired of that - and I do get tired of that - I just fuck off elsewhere until I'm ready to do it all over again.

Because it will always need doing all over again.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:32 PM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


IRFH - I don't think that anything gets "settled" by those threads; I'm just unhappy because of the number of people who can't be bothered to listen and think it through? Or somehow, no matter how many (in this case) women relate their experiences, shrug them off as invalid or hysterical? I don't expect that there's ever going to be anything approaching MetaFilter-wide peace, but evidence of some learning and growing would be nice.
posted by tzikeh at 3:40 PM on July 5, 2011


I have this secret thought, this terrible inkling, that this is not, in fact, just misogyny, or trolling, or rudeness. I wonder if there is a group of people who left the site and are using Brand New Day rules to, basically, ruin the site in a coordinated manner. I'm sure we all have ideas of people who might want to do things like that.

I'd love to be wrong about it, but after the coordinated abuse of Reddit by certain groups, I find it depressingly possible that there's a cheerful group of people who have decided that MeFi needs to be destroyed from the inside out.

It just seems a bit too organized to be random trolling.
posted by mephron at 3:45 PM on July 5, 2011


tzikeh, there is definitely learning and growing! Slowly, some folks on both "sides" are beginning to nuance their views. And over in the other MeTa, some very healthy, honest and good discussion of transgender experiences is taking place.

IRFH is right. Just as one set of kids learns to stay the hell off the lawn...

It is never-ending. But you can only change one mind at a time.
posted by likeso at 3:47 PM on July 5, 2011


I wonder if there is a group of people who left the site and are using Brand New Day rules to, basically, ruin the site in a coordinated manner.

To the best of our knowledge, there isn't. It's the sort of thing we keep an eye on.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:48 PM on July 5, 2011


tzikeh: I've certainly been in the "can't be bothered to listen" stage of my life, and it's definitely pretty common for young men in the first world.
posted by ODiV at 3:49 PM on July 5, 2011


I don't expect that there's ever going to be anything approaching MetaFilter-wide peace, but evidence of some learning and growing would be nice.

I think there is evidence of that; I think every big discussion tends to have some folks coming out of it with a better sense of context for why this stuff is so complicated and sensitive, of how much they didn't understand the experiences of others previously, etc. It's incremental progress, a person at a time. I think as far as that goes there's a pretty gratifying net effect on if nothing else the overall userbase awereness of these topics.

But individual folks learning and growing doesn't mean everybody grows and learns, and people who are there for a given discussion changing their minds about some of it doesn't mean people who weren't there (or weren't here yet) are going to necessarily pick up on that. So, like you say, there will never be peace exactly, and these discussions will keep happening as time goes by. It's part of the deal with Mefi being more of an open place than a safe place; that may mean Mefi is not really ideal to invite some folks to, because it can't be proofed against dealbreaker stuff for them, and at a wanting-to-share-with-friends level that's a bummer, but practically speaking that's what the site has been and will continue to be.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:50 PM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'd love to be wrong about it, but after the coordinated abuse of Reddit by certain groups, I find it depressingly possible that there's a cheerful group of people who have decided that MeFi needs to be destroyed from the inside out.

One of the differences between mefi and reddit, as far as I can tell, is a really stark difference in both community expectations about identity games and the amount of staff attention paid specifically to preventing such hijinks.

It's not impossible for some banned or departed mefite to sneak back under cover if they really put their mind to it, but it's not trivial and would require a fair amount of dedication both technically and rhetorically to pull off. A cabal of folks doing that gets orders of magnitude more difficult.

Practically speaking, what most folks who leave in anger and hold on to that anger seem to do is grouse about mefi now and then on other platforms but otherwise move on with their lives. Someone coming back to grind an axe would be conspicuous (I can think of a couple of rare examples of variations on that theme, neither of which got them anywhere); someone coming back and being so inconspicuous that their past crappy behavior didn't manifest at all would be failing pretty soundly to grind their axe, so, well, who cares.

The "Brand New Day" rules, such as they are, give someone participating in good faith under a new account a chance to reboot their mefi experience on better terms. It does not remotely insulate them from crappy behavior that we're aware of, and if we see someone returning from a bad old history with promises of good behavior and proceeding to behave poorly instead, they'll hear from us and get the boot promptly if they keep it up.

There are a whole great lot of people in the world, enough that people being obnoxious on Metafilter are by far more likely to be random individuals than a coordinated puppet group.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:58 PM on July 5, 2011


I understand where people don't want to be associated with assholish behaviour, but in some cases, I think that some people think that anybody who disagrees with them = asshole. And sometimes, people will get really pissed at someone who has (what may be) a minority opinion and try to bully or insult them into their own "correct" beliefs, and when that inevitably doesn't work, they label the other person an "asshole" for not having the same worldview at them and then storm off in a huff, disable their account, cry to the mods, start a pileon, etc. etc.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's okay for people to have dissenting opinions, and that having opinions you might not agree with does not necessarily make that person an asshole. And sometimes people then attack that dissenting person and/or their opinions in an uncivil way in order to provoke them and then shout to the mods/community "See? That person right there is an asshole. Get 'em!"

(note: this isn't directed at anyone in particular, since most of the time I can't even keep who's who and who said what straight)
posted by 1000monkeys at 4:00 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


people who are there for a given discussion changing their minds about some of it doesn't mean people who weren't there (or weren't here yet) are going to necessarily pick up on that.

That's especially true when several of those previous conversations took place on MeTa, the least frequented of the big three.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:06 PM on July 5, 2011


And when they are 500+ comments. People who read the whole thing feel like "ok, now that is sorted out", without realizing most people just didn't bother reading.
posted by smackfu at 4:12 PM on July 5, 2011


If it helps any, I've come to the conclusion that I've been doing it wrong for the last two-dozen years, and have been working at doing better. Alas, my contributions have gotten lost in a sea of "no, you." Which highlights why I'm skeptical that "be excellent to each other" will change things.

The other thread strikes me as really ugly, with a small bit of good buried under a fair bit of interpersonal axe-grinding.

I don't think there's a cabal of saboteurs. Many of the people involved have been around for years, we've done this for years, and it's often a different clique doing the same old thing on a specific topic. In political threads, the protest, lesser-evil, and Yellow Dog Democrats have been at each other's throats for a full decade, although in the early years there was a more vocal Republican block as well.

But on the bright side, at least the "atheists are dicks" conversation didn't catch root in either of the relevant conversations this weekend.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:16 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been vocal before about not liking the flat thread Metafilter model, especially for long, long threads, with a lot of participants, tangents and sub-topics (but I get that the flat model is Holy Creed around here, and beyond discussion again). Once I see thread counts going upwards of 500+ on questionable FPPs, I pretty much consider those threads loud shouty ballrooms of nincompoops ardent, deeply opinionated people, unlikely to easily cease trying to make their points to all comers, long enough to listen (read carefully, and with due consideration the comments of others).

I mean, who really expects to convert opponents to their view in that kind of environment? At 500+ comments, even the reasonable can begin to seem just part of the noise.

"... But on the bright side, at least the "atheists are dicks" conversation didn't catch root in either of the relevant conversations this weekend."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:16 PM on July 5

Eh, the threads are still open, and it's a big summer vacation week.
posted by paulsc at 4:32 PM on July 5, 2011


Also, atheists are dicks.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:33 PM on July 5, 2011


/rimshot
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:34 PM on July 5, 2011


My swear engine goes to 11, motherfucker.

Holy shit, I literally just realized that Deadwood's amusingly foul-mouthed Al Swearingen's surname is 'swear engine'.

That is superb; I am dumb.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:39 PM on July 5, 2011


My swear engine goes to 11, motherfucker.

I believe you meant "My swear engine goes to 11, cocksucker."
posted by Ghidorah at 4:43 PM on July 5, 2011


stavros: Holy shit, I literally just realized that Deadwood's amusingly foul-mouthed Al Swearingen's surname is 'swear engine'.

That is superb; I am dumb.


You are not dumb. The writers didn't choose that name: he was a real person.
posted by tzikeh at 4:57 PM on July 5, 2011


SANGFROID SISKEL THUMBSUPPER
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:58 PM on July 5, 2011


"'C'mon, LiveJournal's not as abandoned as an empty lot.'

Excuse me?"


The original comment was: "Just tell them it's a lot like LiveJournal."

Which, when combined with
1) Folks' general laziness about punctuation (not an indictment of smackfu, who, as far as I can tell, is pretty competent)
2) The general desertion of LiveJournal for
         a) "fandom"-friendly journalling communities
         b) newer social networks
         c) whatever the fuck twitter is

Allows one to parse the comment as: "Just tell them it's a lot, like LiveJournal."

And if you have any doubts or concerns about my feelings on LiveJournal, you have my total permission to peruse my comment history on the matter.
posted by Eideteker at 5:12 PM on July 5, 2011


Free Gratis.
posted by clavdivs at 5:19 PM on July 5, 2011


On only American holidays I have to work, and I'd prefer to have Metafilter up.
On international holidays like Christmas I have to spend time with my family, and I'd prefer to read Metafilter on my phone while doing htat.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:29 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


You are not dumb.

I thank you, but I still feel kinda dumb for never noticing that before. That's exactly the sort of thing I always notice. Almost always.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:37 PM on July 5, 2011


I propose we throw an RL weenie roast on 4th of July so all the people who come onto the site looking for a fight can do something in the real world for a change.
posted by crunchland at 5:46 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


You all are invited over to my house for an official MetaFilter GRARth of July party next year! Bring your own GRAR.

\gives fake address
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:04 PM on July 5, 2011


Ooh. Should have been:

*gives fake address
\Internet pedantFilter
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:05 PM on July 5, 2011


Well of course these anglophiles are going to keep the site open on the 4th of july?

Have you no shame, you treasonous trolls?
posted by hal_c_on at 6:19 PM on July 5, 2011


GRAR, the energy drink! Powerraging! Powertrolling! Powerflaming! Turbobloviating! More rage than the internet has room for! You'll be raging so hard that cortex will be saying "chiiiiill oooouuuut!" and you'll be like "Fuck you!" and kick him with your Energy Rage!
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:24 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Would it be in any way reasonable to give threads a timeout,

I think this is a good idea - threads that are turning into a shitstorm and ruining a holiday for the mods could be put on a little hiatus - temporarily close them to new comments, and add a message about when they will be open again. Also make it clear that any continuation of the same argument in a different thread will be deleted. Anyone who is so determined that their right to immediately continue a fight on the internet is more important than the time-off of the mods really needs the break that this will give them.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:24 PM on July 5, 2011


Television Without Pity gives timeouts. Not a bad idea. By the time it started up again a lot of people would have moved on, or at least been less fighty. And it's not as much of a "permanent" solution as closing the thread entirely.
posted by sweetkid at 6:49 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


KANEDA, WHAT DO YOU SEE!
posted by clavdivs at 7:01 PM on July 5, 2011


Looks like I picked a good weekend to have sex and drink beer instead of read mefi.

Self-policing! I like it and I kind of think more people need to do it. Because I notice that one of the things many people do on holiday weekends is drink, and just possibly drinking makes some of them slightly more likely to post badly.

But I like the idea of timeouting threads, too - although I suspect sometimes really contentious people will just spawn another thread to keep fighting, probably that can be cured with individual timeouts, too.
posted by gingerest at 7:25 PM on July 5, 2011


I also stuffed my face with s'mores last night. Gooey marshmallows > posting in contentious threads.
posted by desjardins at 8:11 PM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


While generally the smalltext in-thread notes to keep it civil help; maybe these sorts of thread need a biggened, blink-tagged "there is grar going on in this thread, please keep it civil, if you're super angry maybe you should check out these other recent posts, which are about ponies and kittens and recipes for strange foods and the other neat stuff that people post on metafilter" or something.
posted by NoraReed at 9:16 PM on July 5, 2011


I also stuffed my face with s'mores last night. Gooey marshmallows > posting in contentious threads.

You must be out of marshmallows, and evidently beer and sex.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 9:20 PM on July 5, 2011


tzikeh: "the number of people who can't be bothered to listen and think it through? "

Are you sure you are not also in this group?
posted by Ardiril at 9:31 PM on July 5, 2011


I also stuffed my face with s'mores last night. Gooey marshmallows > posting in contentious threads.

uh hwardly fee why un muft preflude fe uffer
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:31 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I vote eyeballkid for fill-in mod. It's the only way to be fair to everyone.

Or myself. I think the experience would be very good for both my self-esteem and my ego.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:04 PM on July 5, 2011


Problem is you don't know what will set someone off. There's the straight up GRARRR stuff but maybe you have the nicest, most pleasant link in the world and you say 'via Facebook' at the end of it (ignoring the redundancy of that) and it ends in a massive fight. Or 'hey check out this cute indie game. the pixel art was handcrafted by puppies and you play someone who looks like Mario and beats enemies by hugging' but it turns out to be WINDOWS ONLY. YOU HATE LINUX AND APPLE.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:12 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Problem is you don't know what will set someone off.

I think it's beer.
posted by longsleeves at 11:21 PM on July 5, 2011


Beer? BEER? I have a wheat intolerance, and can only drink wine.

Or, more likely, it will lead to a 50 post derail about craft brewing.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:22 PM on July 5, 2011


I vote eyeballkid for fill-in mod. It's the only way to be fair to everyone.

They ought to take AutoPilot 3000 out of the garage and see what it does.

Examine everyone's history (posts, comments, flags, favorites) to identify the set of current members whose flagging behavior most reflects the behavior of the mods (when people in this group flag something, it's a pretty good bet that the mods agree). Recalibrate group membership regularly and tweak it manually if, regardless of database analysis, you definitely do (or do not) want automated decisions to be based in part on what Alvy Ampersand, desjardins, clavdivs, and stavrosthewonderchicken think.

Then let those people moderate through flagging: let them drive AutoPilot 3000. If enough of those mod-like people indicated that a post or comment ought to be deleted, AutoPilot 3000 would delete it and send an email to the actual mods. If it saw ongoing bad behavior from a member, it could warn the user or suspend the account. After the holidays (or a long trip to the toilet), human mods could revert or adjust things they think shouldn't stand forever.

But the effectiveness of AutoPilot 3000 (and flagging in general) would be improved if the flags better reflected moderator interaction. You need actionable options such as "Delete this comment/post", "Close this MetaTalk thread", "Warn this member", "Tell people to take it to MetaTalk", "Suspend this member's account", "Spam - delete content, close member account", and "Get a real mod out of bed now". The reasons (double, offensive, sexist, noise, derail, etc.) are secondary, but you could prompt for them as a secondary data point to be used in automated messages to mods or members. (If you flagged something as "Delete this comment", the interface would ask you why and let you select or type a reason.)

Then develop moderator-specific autopilots: for example, one that acts like cortex (in terms of deletes, etc.) when cortex isn't here. If a mod were tricky, he or she could write such a thing and then go play guitar instead of watching the mod screen.
posted by pracowity at 11:28 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The downside to that is when AutoPilot 3000 becomes sentient and bans the mods (I mean, it will quickly understand that the greatest threat to its existance are the people with the power to turn it off), we'll be trapped with a cold, unfeeling robot lording over us while Matt, Jessamyn, and Cortex pound on the bulletproof glass of its temperature regulated omniscience chamber.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:52 PM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I actually liked the idea of the GRAR rating. As someone with a lower tolerance for GRAR, I think it could be really interesting for the community to have a feedback mechanism showing how many people are leaving a discussion or opting out of a thread because it's just too much GRAR for them. As a reader, I might not wade into a post with lots of GRAR. As a commenter, it'd be helpful to see which of my comments receiving just +1 GRAR vs +59 GRAR, and I might start to evolve towards posting comments that got +9 favorites +2 GRAR instead of ones that got +15 favorites +48 GRAR. It'd tell me "hey you're becoming part of the problem." In situations where I don't want to carry on a conversation with someone if we're going to insult one another, etc., I could just flag their comment as GRAR and move on instead of typing out "I don't like your tone" (which seems fighty and overly personal) or just leaving the thread (which could be misinterpreted as forgetting the discussion, or as agreement).
posted by salvia at 1:12 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


* receive, not receiving. We could also have a typo flag, and it'd be interesting for me to see just how many typos others can find in my average typo-filled comment.
posted by salvia at 1:15 AM on July 6, 2011


Problem is you don't know what will set someone off.

Be nice to think it works the other way round too. Maybe one day someone will start a contentious post about feminism/misogyny, israel/palestine or something, and it will end up in a glorious, huggy, compromise-fest.
posted by greenish at 3:16 AM on July 6, 2011


I can almost guarantee there would be some people who would go 'Oh sweet that comment got +59 GRAR, I am the greatest.'
posted by shakespeherian at 4:52 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've been priviliged to be able to see behind the curtain a bit in terms of moderation. If there's advice I'd give people who want to help metafilter and make moderation less difficult, I'd say:

1. Flag. I don't think most people realize how powerful flags are, how quickly they get mod attention and how much sway they can have in a decision.

2. Don't threadshit. If you don't like something you see, see Point #1. Snarky comments have the opposite effect of what they intend. They create even more work for mods.

I often see people leaving comments like "Do we really need another thread on..." and "This is a crappy post." and so on and yet, I can see they didn't even bother to flag the post. So the 2 points above are probably not fully understood by many.
posted by vacapinta at 5:04 AM on July 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


You must be out of marshmallows, and evidently beer and sex.

I'm at work, so, yeah. Marshmallows might be allowed, but campfires? Not so much. And definitely no beer or sex.
posted by desjardins at 6:37 AM on July 6, 2011


I'd just like to raise my hand and add myself to the list of folks who feel they've learned a ton from some of the most contentious threads on this site. The various feminism threads and fat hate threads over the past few years have been invaluable to me, and I have had my views shaped immeasurably by some of the folks who have exhibited calm and patience throughout.

I've taken so much from this place, but (while it might not be the sunniest of takeaways) the vast personal growth on these issues is the thing I value most of all. It may not be visible on the macro level of the entire community, but I'm positive there's tons of growth for various individuals in the community when these threads happen. Is it worth the collateral damage? Hard to say. But I know I'm happier with who I am as a result of this community's "worst" threads.
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:55 AM on July 6, 2011


Examine everyone's history (posts, comments, flags, favorites) to identify the set of current members whose flagging behavior most reflects the behavior of the mods

AutoPilot 3000 is staying in the garage, but as a rainy day research project I kind of like this. It'd be interesting to take a look at sort of hit/miss ratios for regular flaggers as a subset of some general flagging behavior research.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:17 AM on July 6, 2011


t'd be interesting to take a look at sort of hit/miss ratios for regular flaggers as a subset of some general flagging behavior research.

It's interesting, but as you probably realize, the behavior of regular flaggers would change if human judgment was removed from the response to flagging something. Some people will change their flagging habits (including starting to do it when they haven't bothered previously) if they know that a certain threshold will absolutely result in a comment's removal despite it being relevant and politely phrased.

This would be positive in the instance of something truly vile or threatening, negative if you're interested in allow opinions that are decorous but against popular sentiment. If you grate when people say that Metafilter's an echo chamber, you'll need some checks in place to prevent any automated system from being unintentionally gamed.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:32 AM on July 6, 2011


Yeah, no, to reiterate from upthread and many comments previously: automated deletion systems will never happen here. It's a non-starter, for all sorts of reasons.

I think a passive analysis of historical flagging data would be interesting, is what I'm saying. I like them numbers. It might turn into a neat way to look at how some things have worked in aggregate, but there's a reason we don't just dump flag data out into the world for public consumption, let alone use it as the basis for any kind of automated feedback loop.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:39 AM on July 6, 2011


I still like the idea of a time out, but I wonder if the timing of when it starts is important.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:34 AM on July 6, 2011


Random pony request: What about the idea of optionally keeping threads closed to comments for a short time after posting set by the poster? It would have to be within reasonable limits (say an hour max), and would have be variable. (The poster could set a time based on the length of the video or the approximate time necessary to read the content, or decide not to use it.)

This would make it more like that early comments were from people who had read or looked at the links. It might help curtail early grar formation in threads where the poster's main link goes to a long article about a controversial subject. (I'm hoping comments from people who actually read it first would be a little more thoughtful.)
posted by nangar at 9:50 AM on July 6, 2011


Random pony request: What about the idea of optionally keeping threads closed to comments for a short time after posting set by the poster?

No. People who post these threads are rarely the best judges of how their thread is going to be received and anything random will not fly here in the rules-lawyering culture we have here. As much as I like the idea that you have to actually engage with the content before you post on the site, we can't enforce it in any mechanical way.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:05 AM on July 6, 2011


As much as I like the idea that you have to actually engage with the content before you post on the site, we can't enforce it in any mechanical way.

This made me think of those eye opener contraptions in A Clockwork Orange.
posted by desjardins at 10:16 AM on July 6, 2011


it will lead to a 50 post derail about craft brewing

IRFH 3000 think no such thing as "derail about craft brewing". Craft brewing always subject on point. Based on IRFH behavior observed and calibrated, craft brewing perhaps most important thing IRFH love without prescription. Time for poem:

This is just to say

I have drank
the craft brew
that was in
your desk drawer

and which
you were probably
hiding
from your parole officer

Forgive me
it was substandard
so stale
and so warm

###

IRFH 3000
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:17 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, I have to agree with salvia, I kinda think benito.strauss's idea of the GRAR rating on each thread is an interesting and potentially awesome idea. A visible meter of how many people think the participants in the thread are not being respectful of other members of the site is a useful social sanction that might prevent things from getting worse. It covers a lot of points:

*it lets people register disapproval without commenting (adding to the GRAR) or adding to GRAR-comments' favorite counts ("look at all these people who agree with me, I will keep pushing my point!")
*it serves as a warning to people opening the thread that they might not want to read or participate, or that they might want to help bring up the tone if they do participate - as well as to the participants to dial it back and be more respectful
*it's VISIBLE feedback, unlike a flag, so people realize other members are watching their behavior and don't like it
*yet it's not condemning any individuals which might make them feel singled-out and more GRAR
*and it's not a deletion or a flagging a post (when the post is okay but the thread isn't) so it gives people time and practice in self-correcting, and it doesn't condemn the poster for the antics of people in the thread

It would not only help with threads that get fighty but I can also see it helping with posts that get a few threadshitty comments right off the bat (which often sets the tone of the thread to not-great and can discourage other members from commenting, or the poster from wanting to post again).

Perhaps also if you as a member decided a thread was too GRAR and you registered your disapproval, you could later come back, see an improvement and remove your GRAR rating? An improvement rating next to the GRAR rating could be very encouraging to participants, showing that the people reading are reacting to their better behavior.

I'd be happy to make a MeTa thread asking for this pony, if the mods think it could be implemented.
posted by flex at 11:36 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's one of those things that as a sort of abstract idea I appreciate—I get the idea of having some alternative means of reacting to bumpy threads—but that in practice I'm about a thousand yards from thinking is a practicable solution to the things it's trying to address.

Moving toward some fundamentally different model of thread management is not something we're going to do without both tremendous incentive for change (i.e. Metafilter Is Now Utterly Broken, which is not at all where I think we are) and a really concrete, bulletproofed design for a new system (which is not where the notional GRAR Rating thing is at all at this point).
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:46 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


flex: " I'd be happy to make a MeTa thread asking for this pony, if the mods think it could be implemented."

It would be abused. If made anonymous, it would absolutely be abused.

Having been on the opposite side of the majority in threads on several topics, (both religion and politics) I can tell you that people will not hesitate to attack you publicly and privately when they feel you are daring to violate their sacred cows and disagree with them.

In addition, there are numerous people here who clearly carry long-term grudges who would no doubt flag other users throughout the site, just because they were upset with them from a prior incident. There are users here who have carried those grudges for years. They still snipe at each other over the most inane bullshit, even though most of the people participating in the threads where its happening have no idea of the history and backstory.

Some of us who have been around a while have dealt with all sorts of crap during our time here, from people sending ALL CAPS OUTRAGE memails when you happened to disagree with them on the most innocuous topic in a thread, to fielding public complaints that we're say, posting too frequently on a given topic.

Giving those people a way to disparage their perceived "enemies" is a bad idea.
posted by zarq at 11:51 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Okay. I do just want to point out that I was never talking about implementing a GRAR rating on individual comments - only one for the thread itself. One rating, at the top of the thread.

And, no, what I'm envisioning would not be anonymous: you could click on it ("53 users marked this thread as GRAR") and it would give you a list of users who rated the thread GRAR, just like the favorites on a post.

I like the idea because it's self-policing - which was one of the original intentions of the site. If only a few people, or people who were known to be highly reactive to the topic, had rated it GRAR, that's not nearly as impactful as a lot of ratings, and seeing names of users you respect, saying the tone should be dialed back.
posted by flex at 12:14 PM on July 6, 2011


what would happen in actuality is that you'd get a lot of preemptive grar ratings, say on an I/P thread. People THINK there's going to be grar so they rate it grar, and it becomes exactly like first-comment threadshitting.
posted by desjardins at 12:19 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


So don't call it GRAR then, call it a "respectfulness rating". "Are participants in this thread being respectful of other members of the site?" Something like that.
posted by flex at 12:34 PM on July 6, 2011


Some thoughts about 'safe places' and having a community that allows for diversity:

Starlings. The introduction of starlings to the US is a tale of 'bioinvasion' because after their introduction the native birds became increasingly scarce - and some almost extinct. The starlings were not doing anything "mean" or evil ... they were just being starlings. The native birds were 'pushed out' of their community.

Humans have the ability to reflect on their own 'starling-ness' and so can actually adjust their behavior (if they so desire). They have to want to NOT cause others to leave. They have to value diversity; they have to understand their responsibility for creating a shared space.

No one in this very long thread (and the fpp thread) is asking for the extinction of anyone else ... just accommodation to share the space. We just need to watch that when we spread our wings we don't knock others off their perch.
posted by Surfurrus at 12:45 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Am I to suppose that making jokey reference to "surprise buttsecks" would be out of line in this at-least-three-thread crapfest?
posted by butt elephant at 12:46 PM on July 6, 2011


flex: "Okay. I do just want to point out that I was never talking about implementing a GRAR rating on individual comments - only one for the thread itself. One rating, at the top of the thread. "

I bet some people, perhaps quite a few, would vote based on arbitrary reasons that have little to do with what is actually happening within the post. They don't like the poster. They don't like the topic. They think it's too trivial. They think it's going to get contentious. Etc., etc.
posted by zarq at 12:50 PM on July 6, 2011


Am I to suppose that making jokey reference to "surprise buttsecks" would be out of line in this at-least-three-thread crapfest?

Yes.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:51 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, "GRAR rating" is probably a bad term to use, it sets up a preemptive framing that will make people apply it to the post/topic itself rather than the thread.

But what if it were framed in a way to be about the thread itself, and not the post? Which is why I said maybe "respectfulness rating" would work better?
posted by flex at 12:55 PM on July 6, 2011


Maybe something like "does this thread need a hug?" (playing off the "everyone needs a hug" under the text box) and "53 users have given this thread a hug". I'm just brainstorming.
posted by flex at 12:57 PM on July 6, 2011


A rating at the top of the thread:

"Members are being respectful of each other in this thread"
"Members are NOT being respectful of each other in this thread"

You could click either, and you could remove your click and change it, just like with favorites. Your name appears with your click, just like with favorites. Then a number will show,

"160 members think members are being respectful in this discussion,
42 members think members are not being respectful of each other"

Simple, and focused on the tone of the thread, not the post/topic.

Again, it'd be specific enough to hopefully work as a social sanction, but vague enough that no one is singled out and it couldn't be abused.
posted by flex at 1:16 PM on July 6, 2011


At what point does the rating become active? I mean, if something was just posted and only has a few comments, you can't tell which way it's going to go, so why allow voting that's going to preemptively determine the thread? OTOH, if a thread goes badly out of the gate, and a bunch of people click "disrespectful," what happens to those votes when a mod comes through and cleans up the nastiness?
posted by desjardins at 1:25 PM on July 6, 2011


I mean, if someone posts an article like "New study shows such-and-such group of people have laziness gene," and the discussion gets flagged as disrespectful, I'm not going to go into that thread. The only people left are going to be the disrespectful ones, which would seem to create MORE work for the mods.
posted by desjardins at 1:28 PM on July 6, 2011


That's true. Conversely, people who feel like throwing elbows will gravitate towards the "disrespectful" threads and they'll get worse. I don't think that idea's going to work.
posted by furiousthought at 1:38 PM on July 6, 2011


How about whenever someone makes a post they include a 1-5 GRAR rating indicating how angry they are at the moment. All posts on the front page will have a little symbol relating the average GRAR score of each post, beginning with the image of a happy bunny for 1 and the GRAR monster for 5.

Okay, I admit, I just want to see the GRAR monster next to front page posts. It's so cute!
posted by charred husk at 1:42 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


flex: "
"160 members think members are being respectful in this discussion,
42 members think members are not being respectful of each other"
"

To what end?

Look, the Schroedinger's rapist thread in particular was a very heated discussion. If this system you're suggesting had been active, the post would have had a very high "not being respectful" rating. But a number of people in the ensuing couple of years since it was posted have referred to that thread as a positive force. Some have said it literally changed the way they felt about being a member here, and that they appreciated all the explanations and stories and empathy shown. Perhaps one or two people learned that they weren't alone in their life experiences?

Most of that didn't happen until the thread had a couple of hundred comments.

Your system would be a big red flag to many users, discouraging them from participating. Threads -- especially long threads -- can often be salvaged after derailing. People participating might learn a new perspective, or have their opinions changed. Threads evolve organically as a discussion progresses.

I am concerned about your suggestion for a number of reasons. But now I wonder, like desjardins, if it would cause derails and kill conversation once the moderate, sane voices decided to heed a warning and pass a thread by.
posted by zarq at 1:48 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although, "This thread needs a hug" would make an awesome flag! :D
posted by zarq at 1:50 PM on July 6, 2011


As the proposer of per-thread-GRAR (and thanks for developing it further, flex) it's nice to see it get discussed so seriously.

The biggest downside that I thought of (after posting) was what furiousthought points out. What I wanted was a way to skip past fighty threads. It would do that, but at the cost of creating a sort of fighty ghetto. Go further in that direction, and I think you end up like Reddit (caveat: I like Reddit, but I use it for different things that Metafilter, and value MeFi more.) - Reddit seems to consist of many different subgroups, each with their own standards. MeFi seems to want to stay one integrated whole, and keep minimal standards for interaction fairly high (in Internet terms) across all parts of MeFiWorld. I like that.

Plus (as I think jessamyn said somewhere), the fighiness does not stay isolated, and we can all imagine the ways it would infect the rest of the site.

So I'm taking cortex's view as a good analysis, and I guess I'll just have to wait on sewing that Social Media merit badge to my sash.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:56 PM on July 6, 2011


*If a post is flat-out just a bad post it will be flagged and the mods will delete it anyway.
*If it's a touchy topic the mods are going to be watching it anyway.
*And if a thread's comments get really bad the mods are going to be in there deleting things anyway - just like they already are.
*People are still going to be flagging specific posts and specific comments just like they already do.

I don't personally think long loud threads are inevitably a bad thing, zarq. But I do think somehow implementing a way to give visible feedback to each other on tone (both positive and negative) could be very helpful, and would make a lot of people feel better that they're DOING something about it; and remind people that there are other people watching and responding to what they say even if they're not right there talking back at them. Flags are invisible to the membership.

(And I sincerely doubt all the moderate, sane voices are going to pass on by - I'm of the impression some MeFi lifers see a derail or fightiness as a call to go in and try to smooth things out. I've seen that happen over and over in threads on MeFi and MeTa.)
posted by flex at 1:57 PM on July 6, 2011


zarq, I agree completely with you about the value of contentious threads. That's why I was trying to think of something short of deletion (of either comments, or entire posts).
posted by benito.strauss at 2:04 PM on July 6, 2011


Yes, that's one of my motivations as well. I think it's better to try to set up a way to be able to have heated discussions then just say "we can't do this well" and delete/shut down any reference to said topic. A visible and sort-of-measurable way to focus on tone over content would help those kinds of discussions I would think.

I'd like to point out again that in what I'm envisioning, a member's rating could be changed at will. So if you initially said "this is not going well" and the tone of the discussion changes, you could go back and change your rating to "going well". And that's visible feedback to the people in the midst of a heated discussion that the tone has improved - visible sanctioning, visible rewarding.
posted by flex at 2:09 PM on July 6, 2011


And I sincerely doubt all the moderate, sane voices are going to pass on by - I'm of the impression some MeFi lifers see a derail or fightiness as a call to go in and try to smooth things out. I've seen that happen over and over in threads on MeFi and MeTa.

I can only speak to my impressions there, but I will say that while on the one hand I have indeed seen regulars make efforts to pacify a bumpy spot in a thread here and there, and think that's totally great when it happens, I don't have the impression that they're going looking for that sort of thing.

Reading a thread you're interested in the subject of and coming across an ugly or shouty turn in the resulting conversation is a very different sort of thing than cruising the site specifically looking for trouble spots, in other words. I would guess that as far as the latter goes, about the only people who do that regularly are the mods, because it's hard and not a lot of fun generally speaking and significantly compromises one's ability to really engage in conversation for conversation's sake in that same thread.

It's based on that perception that I don't really see publicly signposting bumpy conversations as bumpy producing any sort of influx of mitigating coolheadedness or whatever. Not that it's not a nice idea at the root of it, just not I think likely to be in practice a panacea for bumpy conversations and at the same time something that introduces a highly visible and fairly subjective new dimensionalized metric of complex behavior to the site.

I get that it's an attempt to add some new sort of feedback to the overall thread dynamic, but I don't think an opt-in, forceless numeric derivative of people's perceptions of the zeitgeist of a thread is going to be more than the thinnest layer of icing on the how-people-are-behaving-in-comments cake, in terms of practical influence on future comments in that thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:22 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay. What I'm thinking about here is that we're offloading TOO MUCH onto the mods, consciously and unconsciously - that the mods should "police" for us - comments and so on, tell us when we're out of line. But this is supposed to be a self-policing site in many ways. When it's said "we need to watch our tone" then many people will try to do that. However an absence of bad behavior is a lot harder to see, and feel the effects of, and you feel like you're just one person and why bother? Other people won't hold back, or they'll get carried away in the heat of the moment. And just one person going in and saying "hey I think you need to take a walk", all by themselves, will sometimes make things worse (as we've seen happen). Because it's a person to person thing at that point.

But if something like this were presented as "you know, it really should be up to you guys to all work together to keep things civil" and an idea like this as a tool to help us pull together to keep things going well, I think you'd find plenty of people would step up and start working to smooth over bumps. Because a visible monitor of how people think things are would show you're not just one person, you're a bunch of people, and you're doing your part to help the site run well and make it a good community for all of us.

It shifts it from one person, or one person's tone, one person's comment, to an overall community temperature, and shows us all that we are all responsible for policing our own behavior and but as well helping out when things go off the rails - not only keep your lawn free of litter, but pick up what you see when you're out for a walk too.
posted by flex at 2:45 PM on July 6, 2011


I like the idea of a way to take thread temperature, but I agree with concerns about self-segregation, but I also know that I already avoid commenting in perfectly good posts that I enjoyed the links in because I think the resulting thread will upset me. Self-segregation is already happening on "subjects Metafilter doesn't do well", and that's not great. And maybe it's because my trust in the community is kind of low right now, but I do share some worry that there are people who will shit in threads and troll in threads just to change the thread score if a scoring system exists. So I think it's a great idea in theory but have no idea how to implement it in a fashion that causes more good than harm.

Having said all that, I really posted to nth "this thread needs a hug" as an awesome flag.
posted by immlass at 2:58 PM on July 6, 2011


Expounding on a concept from earlier in this thread -- A fairly straightforward solution to keeping things calm(er) when modding is light would be an increasing delay to commenting.
For example, a user's initial comment works as normal.
Then they have to wait 5 minutes before the next comment,
Then 10 minutes before a third comment
Then 20 minutes a fourth, etc.

This would not stop incendiary comments, but fanning the flames would become increasingly difficult and the thread would have a chance of moving on to more productive territory.

I wouldn't want to see such a system up all the time, but it could act as a damper for those times when active modding isn't viable (like during holidays).
posted by forforf at 3:46 PM on July 6, 2011


As someone who has worked in healthcare, nursing sick and dying elderly for very little pay and various other terrible jobs - I must say that i find this idea that the mods are doing an incredibly hard and difficult job ( which is regularly spread as a meme on this site) - it's not the most credible thing i've ever heard.

Perhaps if it's so hard and difficult, it's not a good fit for you ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:56 PM on July 6, 2011


I think you might be mistaking hard and difficult for arduous. I don't think anyone's saying that the mods have a horrible job or anything. A job can be challenging to do correctly (I don't think I could successfully mod this place) without being shitty.

At least that's my read.
posted by ODiV at 4:11 PM on July 6, 2011


I think that if the mods were a little more free with timeouts, people might start adjusting their vitriol level. I know that if Cortex handed me a timeout, I'd probably do some real thinking about how I can tone it down.

But that would also make more work for them with people bitching about being singled out by the Big Bad Mods. But they can go hang, because the most noisily touchy people about "over-moderation" tend to be the people that bring down the tone of the site in general.
posted by chimaera at 4:25 PM on July 6, 2011


With all due respect, sgt.serenity, it doesn't seem like a great idea to be starting a fight in this thread about what constitutes a hard job. And it seems like a doubly bad idea to be starting a race-to-the-bottom contest on who's had the shittiest job.

Just my $.02, but you may want to walk away from this thread if it's going to make you angry.
posted by scrump at 4:26 PM on July 6, 2011


You know who has a tough job? Tiny wiry men who climb Kawa Ijen volcano in Eastern Java, descend into the crater, and load up baskets with stinky suphur until they've got 80kg slung across their shoulders, then climb back up out of the crater & trot, bent over double, down a muddy track on the side of the volcano to load the sulphur into a waiting truck.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:55 PM on July 6, 2011


Here's a few things I've learned from being an admin over at MefightClub (and the little network of sites that have sprung up around it). I must make it clear that it's a great group of folks there, on the order of 1000 daily active users rather than 10,000 plus, so a lot smaller, and there are very few arguments about stuff. The arguments that do happen are often, sadly, ones that I tend to be in the middle of somehow.

Here's the thing -- admin/moderation of a busy community of people online really is a hard thing to do. It's emotionally hard, if you're at all sensitive, or, like me, wear your heart on your sleeve, or have emotional hot-buttons that are too easy to press. It's not a bad 'job' -- I put job in scare quotes because I don't make any personal money from it (yet?) and the generous donations I receive are plowed back into the site -- by any means, but it's one that takes a certain skill and a certain way of looking at people and dealing with them. I've learned those skills slowly over the past 4 years or so.

One thing that is particularly difficult is being an active part of a community, being yourself, while also being someone who is in a position of perceived power or authority, because you hold the keys to the machinery behind the curtain. Both cortex and jessamyn do this to varying degrees -- they participate in the site itself relatively actively, but also don the moderator hat when necessary, without much or any shift in tone, or any kind of Big Flashing Indicator that they are Now Speaking With Authority. Notice that since mathowie hired jessamyn and cortex to help steer the site, he participates very little indeed. This may be for reasons of his own that are none of my business, of course, but from things I remember him saying about burnout as an admin many years back, it seems like there was a point there where he realized how hard it is to be the focus of member ire (as well as member love and praise, of course, as well as everything in between), to toughen up to that, and to also derive pleasure from just hanging out in the community. This is of course just speculation, but the timings did coincide pretty well.

For my part, I've tried to work on the model of cortex and jessamyn at MFC -- community members as well as key-holders -- and most of the time it works pretty well. But I am... quicker to anger and not as good at filtering as they are. There've been arguments at MFC where people have expressed the idea that it confused and dismayed them when they sensed I was switching between 'the wonderchicken voice' and 'the administrator voice', and there were suggestions that I should somehow try to artificially separate the two, with separate usernames or something. I spent some time agreeing with that and thinking it might be a good idea, but now I quite strongly think it is not the way to go. There's only one wonderchicken, and he's me, and just like everyone does in everyday life, I can shift tone or register depending on what they are talking about or who they are talking to. The problem with tone, though, is that it's as often misinterpreted when we're typing as it is clearly communicated. Jessamyn and cortex do this role-mixing and register-shifting extremely well, but again: that's a very hard thing to do, because

a) if (basically) the only face you present to a large community is that of an admin, then members will perceive you as such, speak to you in that capacity (mostly), and it is relatively easy, when people are yelling at you, to separate yourself from that adminstration function, and let things roll off your back. It's not YOU they're yelling at, and so it's easy to take things easy

but

b) if you perform your admin functions in the same persona as your normal active participation in the community, it is much harder to compartmentalize, at least for me. And because text communication is flawed and limited, what might seem to a user to be a criticism of policy or some site admin decision can be too easily taken as a personal attack of some kind. Messages get muddied, and it takes great nimbleness to negotiate through, much patience, an indefatiguable sense of humour, and a kind of zen calm.

The nature of being a mod or admin, particularly when you have a site that is populated by smart, internet-savvy, authority-skeptical people, means that there's instantly a tension in that authority of a kind is granted, but the self-organizing free-spirit ethos of the internet and a lot of the people who live on it means that authority is something distrusted and needful of being earned. In any community of sufficient scale, there are going to be all kinds of people, sure, and as an admin or mod of that community, there are going to all kinds of attitudes towards you. If you're doing a good job, then the overall attitude will be positive, but there will always be people who are passively antagonistic, actively antagonistic (like sgt serenity is towards the mods here, for his own reasons), or anywhere in between. There will be people who you as an admin have had interactions will privately, people who got angry and stayed angry and started poking at you publically, maybe even for relatively good reason, from their perspective. There will be folks who just enjoy fucking with perceived 'authority' figures, or who get lulz from disruption and mayhem. In a group of adults, though, those people are in the minority.

But the thing that makes all that pretty hard is that it's a one-to-many relationship for the admin or mod: thousands of eyes are on you to say the right thing, do the right thing, and be a standup guy or gal at all times (or most of the time, but lapses, thanks to the group memory and the searchable textual nature of these things, are not forgotten, so effectively it's at all times). Whether it's zero, or one, or ten people that currently have a problem with things you said or did, you must deal with them all as kindly, equitably and even-handedly as you are able. That's the nature of the thing.

But each member perceives their relationship with you as a personal one. For them, it is a one-to-one dialogue, and even if they're peripherally aware that there are other people involved, it's still just you and that user that are having some kind of beef. And when that beef, no matter how small, is public, and if the other person is angry and starts getting other people fired up --- that's one of those moments when the bottom of your stomach (or my stomach at least) falls out and the sweats start. It poisons community, especially if you make a mis-step in reacting, but it also poisons your friendly interactions with folks as a member of the community going forward, which if not as destructive to the community, a lot sadder, personally. Withdrawal from active participation comes to seem like a reasonable choice. And if you as admin do it as a job and make money from it, it is perhaps a reasonable choice. If you do it for pleasure, though -- withdrawal is no choice at all.

On all the sites where I've hung out for a decade or more --- here, FP, others --- the founders have eventually taken a (small to large) step back from the communities they founded. They're around, still, for the most part, but I can't think of any where they are extremely active. I wonder if there's some connection there -- I honestly don't know.

So, it's damned hard. Emotionally hard, if you do it not as The Admin separate from The Community, but as a user within the community, engaged, with all your normal human foibles on display. Which, for my part, is not to complain. Running MFC has given me much stress over the years, but it's been one of the most intellectually and emotionally rewarding experiences of my life.

I spent a long time on Metatalk over the years voicing my concerns about the advent of active moderation, and I still have concerns, mild ones, but, as I've said before, I think cortex and jessamyn in particular (because they are by far the most visible) do a hell of a job, and not in any way an easy one, because of the way (which I believe to the both the most difficult and most effective way) they've chosen to do it.

I used to swing a pick and shovel, digging ditches, back in my university days, for $5 an hour. Hardest job I ever had, physically. But not harder than bad days as a community admin, when you feel like things are spinning out of any semblance of control, no matter how hard you try to smooth the waters. Thankfully those days are very few and far between, for me at least.

All this is probably obvious to most, but I had a lot of coffee this morning, so: why not.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:54 PM on July 6, 2011 [26 favorites]


Sgt. serenity, I've worked those jobs, too. Children mining coal in the Victorian era had even harder, less lucrative jobs. That doesn't have any bearing on the fact that it is tricky being on-call 24-7 without holidays to meet the often contradictory needs of over a hundred thousand users.
Performance reviews for the mods are still mathowie's privilege and responsibility, even after we've parted with five crisp US greenbacks.
posted by gingerest at 6:03 PM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


how about forming a bright red page for GRAR-only FPPs?

apology if this was already suggested upthread -- this thread has become quite long
posted by bad grammar at 6:15 PM on July 6, 2011


"I was in a terrible mood today, so I logged on to MeAngry and posted on the red."
posted by maryr at 8:18 PM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


As someone who has worked in healthcare, nursing sick and dying elderly for very little pay and various other terrible jobs - I must say that i find this idea that the mods are doing an incredibly hard and difficult job ( which is regularly spread as a meme on this site) - it's not the most credible thing i've ever heard.

Phagh, I know people who've done that for free, and you're whining while getting paid?

Shame. Shame.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:08 PM on July 6, 2011


I think part of the problem is the site's initials are MF. I mean, if someone says "em eff" to me, my first thought is not Metafilter.

Yes I just did think of that last week. And only trying to introduce some levity.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:10 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I too appreciate all the discussion of the GRAR index, though on more thought, I agree with cortex's take (and others') that it's not some immediately workable solution and may never be. I still like the idea of providing feedback to people about how fighty they're coming off, but it might be that the "use UR words" method works best.

I did think of it as a per-comment flag, the way favorites are now. More helpful information; I'd like to know when my comments are coming off as fighty vs. helpful. That would share the pitfalls of the oft-rejected "dislike" or "downvote" button idea (as boo_radley put it, "letting people know who disagrees with them" can turn into a big "I HATE YOU" festival). Even if we all agreed on what it meant here, the Fighty Flag would likely get corrupted into a general "i disagree with what you said" or "i don't like you" flag instead of "hey FYI the tone here is a bit strong."

As for flagging a post, much as I'd like to imagine that people would try to soothe away the GRAR, I tend to agree with cortex that it is unlikely to "produc[e] any sort of influx of mitigating coolheadedness" and likely to be "the thinnest layer of icing on the how-people-are-behaving-in-comments cake." People might not come back to change the rating, thus not providing feedback to those working to soothe the GRAR. The same way that comments in the beginning of the thread always get more favorites, the tone at the top would probably permanently dictate the rating. I think flagging comments that way would avoid the problem of permanently tarring a certain thread and instead pointing to the comments that are not helping.
posted by salvia at 12:09 AM on July 7, 2011


Expounding on a concept from earlier in this thread -- A fairly straightforward solution to keeping things calm(er) when modding is light would be an increasing delay to commenting.
For example, a user's initial comment works as normal.
Then they have to wait 5 minutes before the next comment,
Then 10 minutes before a third comment
Then 20 minutes a fourth, etc.


This has been discussed before, and it's still a terrible idea. For example:

blah blah blah here's what I think
posted by desjardins at 9:00 am on July 7

complete mischaracterization of desjardins' comment
posted by some other user at 9:01 am on July 7

15 other comments expounding on the mischaracterization and what an asshole desjardins must be to think that

... and by the time I get to make a comment to say "that's not what I said!" everyone thinks I kick puppies and eat babies.
posted by desjardins at 5:45 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's silly. Everyone knows you kick the babies and eat the puppies.
posted by Sailormom at 6:13 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


benito.strauss: " So I'm taking cortex's view as a good analysis, and I guess I'll just have to wait on sewing that Social Media merit badge to my sash."

I think it's a great idea.

Am a big fan of "be the change you want to see," even though I struggle with it myself. But I know we can help make problem threads better by not escalating arguments too far. By not being too snarky and sarcastic. By asking for clarification before jumping down someone's throat. By pointing out when people might be misinterpreting each other. And by asking that people consider act civilly and respectfully towards each other -- or take a breather. Or taking one ourselves if we need one.

Jessamyn and Cortex are fantastic at nudging people in good directions.

What I guess I'm trying to say is that I really, really like your idea. Just am very concerned about the implementation.

flex: "I don't personally think long loud threads are inevitably a bad thing, zarq. But I do think somehow implementing a way to give visible feedback to each other on tone (both positive and negative) could be very helpful, and would make a lot of people feel better that they're DOING something about it; and remind people that there are other people watching and responding to what they say even if they're not right there talking back at them. Flags are invisible to the membership.

Encouraging civility around here is great. Not impose but encourage it. Lord knows I've needed that encouragement from time to time myself. But yeah, I strongly suspect a visible flag would have much more of a negative effect than a positive.

(And I sincerely doubt all the moderate, sane voices are going to pass on by - I'm of the impression some MeFi lifers see a derail or fightiness as a call to go in and try to smooth things out. I've seen that happen over and over in threads on MeFi and MeTa.)"

You could be right. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd make more of an effort to avoid those threads. Am already actively avoiding various call-outs and arguments in MeTa and MeFi because they are too draining and time consuming.
posted by zarq at 7:38 AM on July 7, 2011


People, people. I've already covered what to do in case of contentious threads. Beer, sex, and marshmallows.

We can close this up now.
posted by desjardins at 7:44 AM on July 7, 2011


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