Spit it out, please. October 16, 2011 9:55 PM   Subscribe

Mods, I love you, and I have no beef with you, but the moderation in this thread is so oblique that I can't tell if it's aimed it me or someone else. Could you clarify please?

Jessamyn's first comment was forthright and clear, namely that in an obit thread, 'his own stupid fault' comments were unwelcome.

I sort of have differences with this, because although it was framed as an obit thread the whole incident clearly has much wider implications for the sport (every cable news channel is chewing this over right now as opposed to, say, simply eulogizing Wheldon).

However, the mods run the place and it's fair enough.

But then there's this and this which just seem oblique to me. I honestly don't understand what 'reading the room ' means in this context, or who it is supposed to apply to, or what topics are supposed to be off limits for discussion. And it's not like I'm a newbie here.

The whole thing reminds me of an instruction I once saw on a battery pack: USE PROPERLY. Well, I would like to use Metafilter properly but more explicit moderation would be very helpful. When it's oblique it feels almost passive aggressive, which I am sure is not the intent.

Again, not a beef about this particular thread or the mods in general.
posted by unSane to Etiquette/Policy at 9:55 PM (186 comments total)

Generally, Metafilter threads seem more heavily moderated of late. Not sure that's entirely a good thing.
posted by killdevil at 10:02 PM on October 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


The whole point is to not call people out by name and try to re-rail the conversation in the direction it needs to go. No, we weren't talking to you. A bunch of people showed up later in the thread who either hadn't read the previous comments in the thread (including ours) or read them and disregarded them and made more "Sorry, but someone has to say it..." Keeping it Real types of comments which, at that point in an obit thread, basically seem like assholism or trolling.

So, it's a bind. If someone's being a world class asshole we'll usually delete their comments and maybe drop them a note. A fight between two people that needs to wrap up we might indicate people by name. A thread turning into a general clusterfuck of arguments might get a "cool it" comment. And, of course, the "take on all comers" acting out usually get a mention but not a callout. Naming people by name is really tricky here, because many people get touchy when they're called out by mods. Accordingly, we try to do it as little as possible.

So, for that thread, people who want to join the discussion even if it's to be like "This seems like a really freaking dangerous thing to be doing" is fine. Making Darwin Award jokes, calling out everyone who is into auto racing, or making other HURF DURF type comments about someone's death are, generally speaking, not okay for obit threads on MetaFilter and should be avoided.

We do not expect obit threads to be merely eulogies or a string of platitudes. We expect people to understand that there may be people in the thread who know the person who died or who are close to the issue for any number of reasons and to be mindful of that and sensitive to it when they make their comments. If this is not a tack you agree with, you are welcome to talk about it here in MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:04 PM on October 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


'his own stupid fault' is a far cry from honestly questioning safety implications of the sport and what can be done. you can be respectful and still bring up questions about the sport/event (what a dumb derail) and the safety. there are a lot of great comments about course/car/safety gear design and that all seems perfectly in place to me.

people rushing in to see who can be the crassest isn't that.
posted by nadawi at 10:07 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


RE: "reading the room", If you can't figure out the how to participate in the thread, then don't participate in the thread. Pretty simple, really.
posted by BurnChao at 10:10 PM on October 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


In the next week or so there will be a number of interesting articles with in-depth analysis on the dangers of racing. I'm sure someone will put together a decent post, and that will be the time for some heated debate. This soon just feels distasteful.
posted by mannequito at 10:13 PM on October 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Thanks, Jessamyn. I think the phrase that tipped me over the edge was 'reading the room' because a person who is having difficulty reading the room is unlikely to realize they are having difficulty reading the room unless it is pointed out for them, whether by name or by more specific guidelines.

It's like telling a classroom to 'behave properly' when one kid is acting up, if you see what I mean. The good kids all worry that they've done something wrong and the one kid who's an asshole doesn't realize it applies to him/her.
posted by unSane at 10:13 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


...or realizes but just doesn't give a good goddamn.
posted by item at 10:28 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems pretty clear that the mods are now, and maybe have always been, asking people to behave themselves the same way as they would in a room full of strangers. If you were at a dinner party and this crash came up and half the people were racing fans, would you say "racing isn't a sport"? Probably not. But I gotta wonder if all the accusations of trolling, and threadshitting are not worse than the problem. If someone was being a jackass at a dinner party you would probably ignore the guy not spend the rest of the night heckling him.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:28 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey all - thanks for endeavoring to take the difficult stuff here. In this regard, I think mannequito wins the thread so far.

I'm a long time motorsports fan (since I was little kid) and all I can say is that events like today leave me feeling utterly gutted, even complicit. It's a damned dangerous game, no question, and if you're not somehow committed to it, I can see how easy it is must be to only get barbarism from the whole mad spectacle.

But trust us (the various fans hereabouts), there is far more to motorsports than that. I believe Richard Petty once described it as such. "For a while, there was only one car in South Carolina. Then one day, there were two. The next day, there was a race." (or words to that effect)

Must be something in our nature.
posted by philip-random at 10:46 PM on October 16, 2011


Thanks, Jessamyn. I think the phrase that tipped me over the edge was 'reading the room' because a person who is having difficulty reading the room is unlikely to realize they are having difficulty reading the room unless it is pointed out for them, whether by name or by more specific guidelines.

But it's a game of balancing either way, because if the only way we can try to rerail a thread is by having a conversation in the middle of the thread with the person derailing it about why they're derailing it and with everyone else about how they're just fine, we're not accomplishing a whole bunch.

I hate for anyone to be sitting around wrongly thinking that they're being obliquely called out for something, but at a certain point if (a) you haven't been contacted directly by us and (b) you haven't had anything removed from the thread and (c) we haven't said something that pertains directly to what you've said in a thread, it's probably not about you. It's totally fine to drop us a quick line if you're concerned you're stepping on a weird line or something, but it's pretty rare that we're dropping multiple notes in the same thread where it's not directly prompted by deletions that are specifically the problem, and in those odd cases we will be a lot more likely to go ahead and just make it super explicitly.

I dunno, I don't think any of us expected to have to do that much work in one thread just to keep people from being repeatedly, lazily shitty about the general topical context around someone's death. It's not an ideal situation all around.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:53 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know if it merits a new thread, but wtf does "HURF DURF" actually mean? I'd never heard of that phrase before I visited MF. It seems to be used when someone is annoyed with someone else's comments. But that covers a hell of a lot of territory.

If someone was being a jackass at a dinner party you would probably ignore the guy not spend the rest of the night heckling him.

You'd think, but the internet doesn't really emulate a dinner party environment. As such, not only do people become enormous assholes sometimes, you can guarantee if someone is being an asshole, there will be at least one person incapable of ignoring him. This often sets in motion a chain of events where people demand moderation. Particularly with a somewhat exclusive place like MF.

I didn't go to the thread to be confrontational, but was kind of tiffed by a preemptive "fuck you". It's as if we're supposed to care for the well being of race car drivers since they're doing it all for us, as if they are such delicate flowers who never realized theirs was a dangerous sport. I just have trouble believing that Wheldon himself was the type to be offended by such commentary, and that he went out doing what he loved.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:09 PM on October 16, 2011


It's a tough one because it's an obit thread but also kind of a technical one about car race safety.

FWIW, saying he deserved it is a class-A asshole maneuver.

Saying it isn't a tragedy? Well no, it wasn't tragic at all -- death has always been a part of motor racing. Sad and horrible and painful? Yes, but not tragic.
posted by bardic at 11:15 PM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was really ashamed of the obit thread for the Jackass guy.

I said it then, and I'll say it now: if ASavage dies while taping his show, would the reaction here be 'he shouldn't have made his living playing with explosives'?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:16 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know if it merits a new thread, but wtf does "HURF DURF" actually mean?

Oh, it does deserve its own thread, and in fact it already has had some, including the HURF DURF MetaFilter analyzer, the MetaTalk thread about that analysis, and a MetaTalk thread about its deeper roots.
posted by salvia at 11:18 PM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Further to that, it's explained in the wiki.
posted by Dasein at 11:19 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I was really ashamed of the obit thread for the Jackass guy."

Why? Better he offed himself before he ran into a school bus or an ambulance.
posted by bardic at 11:39 PM on October 16, 2011



"I was really ashamed of the obit thread for the Jackass guy."

Why? Better he offed himself before he ran into a school bus or an ambulance.


It's that lack of compassion that annoys me.

I'm not a Jackass fan, but "Man, I'm glad Jeremy Clarkson died in a car crash. He was reckless, and I hated his politics" would make me angry (and I know its coming).

Or, again, what about the Mythbusters?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:44 PM on October 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


comparing the ryan dunn with the mythbusters or top gear or race car crashes is a false dichotomy. ryan dunn died driving drunk. races like this one are heavily regulated and there are a lot of safety protocols in place. if ryan dunn had died doing a jackass stunt it would be a closer comparison, but he died because he got drunk and he drove.

i think not being a jerk is a great idea no matter what the topic, but it's not an apples to apples comparison.
posted by nadawi at 11:50 PM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


if ASavage dies while taping his show, would the reaction here be 'he shouldn't have made his living playing with explosives'?

Jesus, LiB, could try to add a little more GRAR fuel to that comment? Not sure you got your point across.
posted by auto-correct at 11:58 PM on October 16, 2011


if ASavage dies while taping his show, would the reaction here be 'he shouldn't have made his living playing with explosives'?

Only if he was setting a strawman on fire. Those things are dangerous.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:28 AM on October 17, 2011 [33 favorites]


Better he offed himself before he ran into a school bus or an ambulance.

Oh I don't know, but maybe better that he didn't die at all?

It's curious how the absolutist puritanism about drinking and driving that got drilled into us in the '80s is still so prevalent. Of course it's a bad thing to do! But to say someone who makes that mistake "deserves" to die? It's a crime and a mistake but it doesn't render the person less than human.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:42 AM on October 17, 2011 [13 favorites]


Yeah, I'm with drjimmy11. I don't get why people can't just keep their mouth shut and not be assholes. Someone died drunk driving. Does that mean that isn't sad? I don't get that perspective at all. People die doing a lot of things that are inadvisable, in which they could have or did kill others, and very few of those receive the kind of "good riddance!" response that this receives.
posted by salvia at 12:56 AM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


i wish he hadn't died. i don't think he deserved to die. i won't feel bad for being relieved he didn't kill anyone outside of his car.

it's like when that "famous" plastic surgeon ran his car off the cliff because he was tweeting his dog, at least it was only a single car accident and that his bad judgement didn't kill people who didn't assume the risk.
posted by nadawi at 1:11 AM on October 17, 2011


I don't think anyone's asking for you to feel bad about that, nadawi. What was bad in that thread (in my view) were not gentle comments like "i wish he hadn't died. I'm relieved that more people did not die."
posted by salvia at 1:21 AM on October 17, 2011


People die doing a lot of things that are inadvisable, in which they could have or did kill others, and very few of those receive the kind of "good riddance!" response that this receives.

I'm not totally disagreeing with you, but the obvious difference with drinking and driving as opposed to, say, playing Russian roulette, is that you're recklessly endangering the lives of other road users. Probably a lot of people know someone who's been hurt or killed by a drunk driver, or know someone who does. It's one of the most destructive acts of selfishness that people regularly partake in, and the revulsion at that selfishness and lack of regard for others pretty well explains why people don't look at the deaths of drunk drivers as simply a tragedy, but as something that's spared a potential victim from a similar fate.
posted by Dasein at 1:24 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Saying it isn't a tragedy? Well no, it wasn't tragic at all -- death has always been a part of motor racing. Sad and horrible and painful? Yes, but not tragic.

Nothing personal, bardic, but this is incorrect. The death of Dan Wheldon is a tragedy.

"Stephen Dedalus (see James Joyce, Portrait of an Artist) ... turns for guidance to Aristotle, in whose Poetics the tragic emotions are pity and terror. 'Aristotle,' says Stephen, 'has not defined pity and terror. I have.' And he proceeds to his definitions (the italics following are mine): 'Pity is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it with the human sufferer.' Not the poor, the black, the jobless sufferer, be it noted, but the human sufferer. We are penetrating the local, ethnic, or social mask to the human being."

" 'Terror is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it with the secret cause.' Here we are moving to an experience of the sublime. What is the secret cause of any moment of suffering?" ...

"In Aristotle's Poetics, tragedy is analyzed as a form of dramatic composition in which the leading character is by some passion or limitation brought to catastrophe.' But every life, either knowingly or unknowingly, is in the process toward its limitation in death, which limitation is of the nature of life. Moreover, every significant act sets up a counterfield of resistance, in the way of the Buddhist doctrine of 'dependent origination, or mutual arising.' Opposites arise by mutual consent; so that the stronger the passion of one, the closer the limitation of the other. Dame Prudence advises care to the principle of limitation, tempering one's passion for life to the imminency of King Death. But the heroic life of deeds and fame is of the one whose passion bends Death's margin to the limit."

Dan Whedon's death was a tragedy. He dared and he lost his life. Not all heroes live to an old, old age. Some of them die.

See Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space for the quotes above.
posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 1:41 AM on October 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't know if it merits a new thread, but wtf does "HURF DURF" actually mean?

Oh, it does deserve its own thread, and in fact it already has had some


Curious about this myself, I read through the whole thing until I found an actual definition for HURF DURF and here it is:

"jessamyn chides HURF DURFery (HURF DURFery as mass noun label for jokey/dismissive comments)"
posted by bleep at 1:42 AM on October 17, 2011


I personally really appreciate the active approach to moderating this particular thread. Obit threads being used as vehicles for generalized negativity (in other words: "This high-profile death is a perfect opportunity for me to express my preexisting hostility toward this person/activity/demographic") completely freak me out and make me despair. Not every comment that isn't unquestioningly mournful fits that description, of course, but some do. I actually think mentions of room-reading rather than a list of dos and don'ts are a sign of respect for the folks in the thread.

Obviously there are fair questions about safety, risk, whether dying as a result of a known risk is a tragedy, whatever. I remember having a debate with a friend with Dale Earnhardt died about some of these same things. But I had it in private, which I think is the right place to have it in the first day or two. Unless somebody was a pretty terrible human being, staying silent so people can experience unexamined sadness about his death if they choose to seems like a reasonable thing to do.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 3:00 AM on October 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Two things: I've never thought about the deletions much before until the AskMeFi qiestion last night about sex outdoors in NYC. I thought it was a strange question- if you aren't really planning on doing it, then isn't that chatfilter? And if you are, isn't it illegal? Anyway, an answer stating that it was in fact illegal and could brand you a sex offender was deleted. I don't know why- wouldn't that be something worth considering to the asker? Why was that delete-worthy? And if that's not in fact true, couldn't someone just refute it?

Or, am I reflecting my 'absolutist puritanism' learned in the '80s as mentioned by Dr. Jimmy11. And yeah, re the original context it was used in, drunk driving IS absolutely wrong because you can kill someone else based on your selfish decision. I think it is pretty black and white.

But maybe I'm reading the room wrong and should go back to sleep.
posted by bquarters at 3:42 AM on October 17, 2011


If you were at a dinner party and this crash came up and half the people were racing fans, would you say "racing isn't a sport"? Probably not.

You see that's exactly the kind of thing I would say (if I believed it, which I don't). And if I didn't say it I'd be surprised if someone else didn't. And then we'd have an interesting argument. That's the problem with rules of thumb like this: people go to different dinner parties and have very different standards about what constitutes civilized discourse.

I wouldn't say it at the funeral, (even if I did believe it) but that's different.
posted by unSane at 3:43 AM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sorry if it's linked to elsewhere: Urban Dict. on Hurf Durf - def. 2 mentions the '05 Mefi thread.
posted by victors at 3:44 AM on October 17, 2011


Any English person who has said something slightly off-color at a dinner party populated by North Americans only to hear the room go deathly silent and every head turn to stare at them, aghast, with 'NO YOU DIDN"T" on their faces, knows exactly the disconnect I am talking about here.
posted by unSane at 3:46 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


You see that's exactly the kind of thing I would say

well, the key word you missed (?) was strangers. Would you say it if you didn't know a ton of people there and you could readily expect that many you don't know are drivers, or related to them or both and have had previous experience with racing related death...?

Either way, at this party, in this room... it's inappropriate.
posted by victors at 3:49 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any English person who has said something slightly off-color at a dinner party populated by North Americans only to hear the room go deathly silent and every head turn to stare at them, aghast, with 'NO YOU DIDN"T" on their faces, knows exactly the disconnect I am talking about here.

The question is: what do you do next? Do you respect the standards of civilized discourse of those around you, or do you proceed to define by example the word in question, rejecting all standards but your own and drawing lines in the sand about it?
posted by fleacircus at 3:59 AM on October 17, 2011


Anyway, an answer stating that it was in fact illegal and could brand you a sex offender was deleted. I don't know why

I didn't delete it, but I think the problem was a) illegality had already been mentioned – in the very first comment, plus b) the commenter said something like "I don't know about the laws in NY, but in my state, something-something."

If they wanted to go through the trouble to actually look up the laws that apply, that might have been helpful info, but as it stood, "illegal" was already mentioned, and the comment didn't answer the question or add any actual specifically useful information to the illegality comment that had already been made.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:01 AM on October 17, 2011


fleacircus: The question is: what do you do next? Do you respect the standards of civilized discourse of those around you, or do you proceed to define by example the word in question, rejecting all standards but your own and drawing lines in the sand about it?

My point is that in some circumstances 'behave appropriately' is unhelpful, precisely because it begs the question of what the contextually appropriate behavior is. It may also have a chilling effect on folk who are behaving appropriately but dial back their participation because they question their own ability to 'read the room'. The end result is potentially more groupthink and less robust discussion.

victors:well, the key word you missed (?) was strangers. Would you say it if you didn't know a ton of people there and you could readily expect that many you don't know are drivers, or related to them or both and have had previous experience with racing related death...?

I honestly dunno. I can imagine circumstances where I would do that. I've conducted a ton of TV interviews where the standard procedure is to phrase a question like this: "But wasn't he asking for it?" precisely so that you get the interviewee to passionately defend the sport. Generally (but not universally) you would explain to the other party that you were going to ask a deliberately blunt question and why you were doing so.

I totally understand that that's not what you're talking about or what's happening in the thread but again the problem is that it's trying to treat an internet discussion as something else. "It's just like a dinner party! With strangers! Who are the deceased's family and fans!" as opposed to declaratively stating what is and isn't appropriate behavior in a metafilter thread of this nature.

Which the mods have done in this thread, so thanks.
posted by unSane at 4:17 AM on October 17, 2011


>
Generally, Metafilter threads seem more heavily moderated of late. Not sure that's entirely a good thing.

i have to agree with this. i had my own little moderation issue this weekend when i had a comment removed. in my discussion with the moderator it became apparent they were being pretty proactive about protecting a thread from a derail.
posted by lester at 4:31 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree that this thread is a good example of overmodding. I want to hear divergent, dissenting views, and here they seem to have been silenced for the sake of not offending decorum, or the prevailing groupthink that we can't criticize the dead, or the house style of an obit thread -- or something. Erasing strident, contrarian comments that nevertheless contribute to a debate while leaving in page after page of full stops that add little to the discussion seems perverse to me. Not to mention anti-intellectual, and antithetical to the free flow of ideas.
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:16 AM on October 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Generally, Metafilter threads seem more heavily moderated of late. Not sure that's entirely a good thing.

I chalked it up to the fact that there are a couple of new-ish mods who may be on "higher alert" than the others. You know, the way that you're really super-diligent when you have a new responsibility that you're a little nervous about. Given time, I figured, it would settle down as they got more accustomed to, "oh, okay, THAT'S a really bad comment. the stuff I saw earlier wasn't that bad by comparison. I get it now."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:38 AM on October 17, 2011


Well I, for one, think that the mods are KILLING MetaFilter and then reanimating it as a vampire and then battling against it in a small Californian town for five whole series and then having a relationship with it and then it falls in love with them and then it travels to see some medicine woman and gets a soul and then in the end it finally allows itself to be sacrificed for them so that the mods can defeat the First Evil.

That is a TRAGIC eventual fate for MeFi, and the mods are TOTALLY responsible for that.

If there was a musical episode of MetaTalk, I would write some pretty angry lyrics about this, and I would sing them in a soft metal style. But mathowie has NO plans to direct such an episode, and that's just another way we've all been let down by the current directorial team. Vote #1 quidnunc kid.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:03 AM on October 17, 2011 [31 favorites]


As always, anybody who really hates the moderation here and how it TOTALLY CRUSHES THEIR RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH is more than welcome to enjoy that unmoderated hell known as the rest of the Internet and leave Metafilter to those of us who enjoy civilization.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:12 AM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


i think you're right, empress. but i also think that some of that 'new' ambition has rubbed off on the more experienced mods, too.

overall, moderation is a pretty tough business. you really only have two tools and both are pretty drastic: comment deletion and user ban/timeout. both silence the user and are often perceived as being a hostile act in the mind of the user.

but the other alternative is .. to do nothing. sure a moderator can post a comment telling people to tone it down but typically the people who need to heed this message the most tend to ignore it because they don't think it applies to them.

in the case of the nascar thread--it really should be two threads. one as a memorial to the person and another to discuss the issues such a tragedy brings up. and when the two are combined it looks like someone came to a memorial just to shit on it.

so why don't we have a separate category for this--call it something like newsfilter, but with one change--only moderators make them? Plenty of room for a memorial there ... and meanwhile some worthy mefi can concoct a nice issues post for people offend each other.
posted by lester at 6:17 AM on October 17, 2011


i think you're right, empress. but i also think that some of that 'new' ambition has rubbed off on the more experienced mods, too.

...How can you tell? We don't know which specific moderator deleted a thread or a comment and we don't know -- unless the user shares it with us -- which moderator contacted a user privately and told them to tone it down.

In the case when a mod comes into the thread and says something publically, we also dont' know what may have been posted-and-deleted that might have precipitated that step.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:21 AM on October 17, 2011


Is it an increase in moderation, or an increase in whining about it?
posted by inigo2 at 6:31 AM on October 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Occupy Metafilter.
posted by kmz at 6:35 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Occupy Metafilter.

Everyone to the parks! Do something illegal!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:43 AM on October 17, 2011


Having the opinion that more heavy-handed moderation isn't necessarily a good thing isn't the same thing as wishing for a lack of moderation, but every time this subject comes up people set up that straw-man.

I don't comment very much on the site, so it's not like I'm bitter about my precious opinions being moderated. But I do read the site a lot and over the last four years I've definitely noticed a trend of increasingly visible moderation. Moderation's a hard job to get right and I think the mods here do an amazing job in general, but I also think the number of posts/comments that get deleted that I'd have preferred to see stay and generate discussion has gone up over time. Maybe I've changed, or maybe the site has. It's hard to tell from here.

It's OK, though - I know where the door is, but I still think the discussion on the site's better than anywhere else I can think of and I've got the value of my $5 back many times over. One of the great things about MeFi, though, is that the mods take an active role in listening and communicating with users. My opinion is that personally, I'd like to see the level of moderation dialled back just a little. I think discussion about this would be healthy, preferrably outside of the context of a deleted post/comment where people leap to the defence of the poster or the mods.
posted by xchmp at 6:44 AM on October 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'll be the first to admit that I'm still finding my feet on this ship, but I'd like to make a plea that you guys not be too paranoid about this also. For example, I just went back to check my activity over the last seven+ hours, and I deleted two Metafilter comments. I'd rather not be specific, but trust me that neither had anything at all to do with the threads. One was completely nonsensical, and the other was absolutely a direct to memail/email kind of thing.

Other than that, it was all fixing typos and the rest was typical Ask Metafilter answer-the-question stuff.

I might make a mistake. I have made mistakes. And when I do, I want to know. A couple of people have contacted me about things, and that's cool. They've been nice and interested in discussing and that's been helpful for me.

For me, the absolute most difficult part to come to terms with is the derail question. I have my own personal opinions about that, but I'm not really using that as a metric. I'm trying to tune myself to what Metafilter considers a derail, and when to act on that... and there are so many parameters. Some topics are intrinsically more sensitive, some derails might be derails... or they might be natural offshoots of the conversation. At what point does a conversation or, more often, a spat, that's essentially between two or three people represent a derail?

What about when you can see a slight derail that's likely to go very, very bad (because of sensitive subject matter, say: religion, feminism, etc.)? If the comment is deleted you never know for sure if it would have gone bad; but if it's not deleted, and does go south, then it's a big angry mess with people closing their accounts, etc. This is maybe the hardest. If you delete it when you wouldn't delete the exact same joke/derail had it been on a less touchy subject, that is unfair to the poster. But is it best for the site?

I'd love a rulebook. I'd love to say, look here in Section "C," article "A" – it clearly states that you can say bzzbltqbutt, but not "bzzbltqass." But I don't get to have that. It's an unpossible pony for Metafilter moderators. All I can say is that I will do my best, and that I'm always listening, asking for input from the old hands, and hopefully always learning. I'm really, really not eager to delete anyone's comments or posts. This is far more against my nature than it is aligned with my own preferences.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:54 AM on October 17, 2011 [13 favorites]


Wow that Ryan Dunn story is something else. A very interesting contrast to the Australian guy who played with poisonous snakes on TV.

On the one hand, the guy was driving drunk at 3:00 A. M.

On the other, who in the heck are you wrecklessly endangering at 3:00 A. M. but a bunch of other drunks?

The other comparison was maybe that Florida teenager who drove his BMW off of Travolta's runway and killed 4 (?) of his friends. Maybe the lesson is when in doubt don't post in automobile crash obits, and don't take a job modding auto crash obits.
posted by bukvich at 6:57 AM on October 17, 2011


Erasing strident, contrarian comments that nevertheless contribute to a debate while leaving in page after page of full stops that add little to the discussion seems perverse to me. Not to mention anti-intellectual, and antithetical to the free flow of ideas.

Oh geez. Jumping into a thread about someone's recent violent death from a racing accident and saying e.g. "bunch of cars running around in circles why?" or "Driving cars is not a sport." (those are the entire contents of two of the deleted comments) is not an example of making difficult but substantial arguments in a contrarian mode. If you want anti-intellectualism, I'd say resorting to that level of commenting in the first place is a bigger problem by far than removing the stuff when it's threatening to turn a thread into everybody yelling at the person or persons dropping those turds into a thread for no good reason.

If the bar for robust contrary-wise argumentation is as low as "disagree in eight words or less", we might as well fire the mod staff, kill the $5 fee, and throw out an explicit invite to the Yahoo! Answers crowd. I don't feel like debate is going to exactly get more robust or chock-full of worthwhile intellectual discussion that way, but it'd freer in some sense I guess.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:58 AM on October 17, 2011 [27 favorites]

Is it an increase in moderation, or an increase in whining about it?
Or, you know, both? It's possible that those of us who dislike the current moderation policy are right, or somewhat right, or partially, a little bit right, and that our complaints are legitimate.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:58 AM on October 17, 2011


I agree that this thread is a good example of overmodding. I want to hear divergent, dissenting views, and here they seem to have been silenced for the sake of not offending decorum, or the prevailing groupthink that we can't criticize the dead, or the house style of an obit thread -- or something. Erasing strident, contrarian comments that nevertheless contribute to a debate while leaving in page after page of full stops that add little to the discussion seems perverse to me. Not to mention anti-intellectual, and antithetical to the free flow of ideas.
posted by dontjumplarry at 1:16 PM on October 17


Hello there! Please take your place in the hall of dinosaurs! There's a space right here next to me. ;-)
posted by Decani at 7:01 AM on October 17, 2011


I deleted two Metafilter comments.

Two of your own comments? Isn't that a bit weird?
posted by unSane at 7:02 AM on October 17, 2011


Erasing strident, contrarian comments that nevertheless contribute to a debate while leaving in page after page of full stops that add little to the discussion seems perverse to me.

The thing about metafilter is that if you want to talk about that sort of thing, you're free to make a fpp about 'the controversy over racing safety' or what-have-you. Obit posts are apparently not the place to shit on the dead (which i found out the hard way, in an obit for a guy who was far more deserving of scorn, imo).
posted by empath at 7:04 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Though i'm still a bit miffed about someone deleting a comment I made about cannibalism in a thread about an actual tribe of (former) cannibals.)
posted by empath at 7:06 AM on October 17, 2011


Yeah, but honestly it usb;t really an obit thread. I know it's framed as one but it's intimately connected to the issue of racing safety because, y'know, the guy died in horrific, spectacular, fiery, controversial crash. I don't think you can really corral discussion in that manner. Otherwise what is there to do but post a . ?
posted by unSane at 7:06 AM on October 17, 2011


s/usb;t/isn't
posted by unSane at 7:10 AM on October 17, 2011


what is and isn't appropriate behavior in a metafilter thread of this nature.

At the risk of sounding like someone's dad -- isn't it just common decency not to rush to blame someone who has died a horrible death for their own misfortune, no matter how much evidence you think you have that it is in fact the case? Discretion, people. Almost certainly there will be another opportunity someday to share your very important internet opinion about why someone is doing some particular thing in a way you totally do not approve of.

Also, I wonder if there's a class thing going on here, auto racing in the U.S. being a more working-class spectator pursuit. I'm too lazy to do the research but I suspect someone dying in a pro tour bicycle race or a hiking accident would not get as strong a "their own fault" chorus. (This will no doubt cue someone to do the research and prove me wrong here.)
posted by aught at 7:10 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want to hear divergent, dissenting views, and here they seem to have been silenced for the sake of not offending decorum...

I want to hear divergent, dissenting, intelligent views. If it's just someone fapping about stupid race car drivers dying, then please delete the comment. It isn't thoughtful, nuanced or vaguely new point of view.

I do not need to hear every goddamn thing that bubbles up from your (the general you) brain. Put some thought into that there writin'.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:14 AM on October 17, 2011 [16 favorites]


Otherwise what is there to do but post a . ?

Broach the difficult subjects with nuance and care? I mean, we're not now nor have we in the past told people that they have to be fundamentally nice or get out of obit threads (and I have complicated feelings too about what an obit thread "is" and where the lines between a thread about a death and a thread about the context of a death, etc, so I hear you but all that aside this is obviously a thread that is at least substantially in Mefi's obituary territory), but there's a pretty obvious social incentive to at least choose with care how you try and go in that direction when it's clear that other people may be more of a mind that something bad has happened than that this is a great time to debate why it may be directly or systemically the fault of the dead person that they're dead.

And, again, we're looking here at deletions prompted by a serious failure to grab that. There's lots and lots of non-dot content in that thread, the missing stuff is basically a couple of people doing a very bad job of being like "big whoop, he's dead, let's have an argument about something now okay" and people responding directly to that.

Difficult discussion is fine when done well. Examining the complexities of a person's direct and indirect responsibility for the things that lead to their own misfortune is an alright thing to do when it is done with thoughtfulness and attentiveness. I am all for that sort of thing. The problem is when it's done poorly, and it's when it's done poorly that we are likely to take some action. Taking that action isn't a condemnation of difficult discussion, it's an attempt to minimize the damage done to threads by poorly done discussion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:15 AM on October 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


You know, I know jack squat about auto racing. but there were some comments in that thread that made me think - I had no idea about the issues (and perhaps controversies) with types of fences, shapes of tracks, number of cars, types of cars, etc. There were some really thoughtful and interesting comments. Those kinds of comments really helped me understand more about this news story and that is something I really value about MetaFilter, that there are people who will provide insight beyond the headlines.
posted by pointystick at 7:24 AM on October 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


an answer stating that it was in fact illegal and could brand you a sex offender was deleted.

The deleted comment was three short paragraphs about the sex offender registry and seemed a little out of place in a "how can I have sex in public" thread. It's always a judgment call figuring out how many or what kind of "please don't do this" answers are okay in an AskMe thread, but we like people to seem like they're at least trying to answer the question that was posed.

And really the thread in the blue had a lot of nuanced discussion about how dangerous racing is, what Wheldon's personal stance on that was and what a mess the accident was even according to people who work in racing professionally. There were a lot of people talking about different aspects of racing safety as well as Wheldon and his family and the future of racing and etc. I know we sometimes have to play the "What if" game here, but my take based on having been here doing this for the past six years is that if we'd left the early threadshitting [and responses to same] it would have just turned into the same old "let's all yell at each other about not contributing properly" instead of having that conversation here where it belongs.

Erasing strident, contrarian comments that nevertheless contribute to a debate

cortex quoted two of the comments we removed. We regularly see comments along the lines of "Well someone had to say it, that guy was an idiot!" which seems odd and out of place for a few reasons. I sort of get that people feel agitated not being able to say what's on their mind, but this was exactly my point about reading the room. Mods had stepped in to the thread I think three times already asking people to not actively threadshit. A few people had stepped in saying they knew this guy, had friends at the race, were intimately connected to the racing world. That is not the time to step in with your speaking truth to power comment about how stupid racing is. That might be the time to step away and figure that this thread is not for you, not now anyhow.

Generally, Metafilter threads seem more heavily moderated of late.

I've been thinking about this lately too. A lot of the stuff I've axed or seen axed from MeFi (as opposed to AskMe) is either

- old timers who manage to stay on just this side of banning while still being fighty and ranty in threads
- total n00bs

I'm not sure what that points to specifically, but there's not a lot of random "well-meaning MeFite who has been around a while and happens to walk into the middle of some shit by accident" Just fyi.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:27 AM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Y'know how sometimes a magazine will have someone (usually a celeb) be a guest editor for one issue? "In this issue of Vogue, Lady Gaga takes the helm. See how outrageous we can get!".

Well, I'm slowly coming around to thinking we should actually let the quidnunc kid be a guest moderator here for one 8-hour shift. C'mon, admit it, you want to see what would happen too.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:29 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


i think you're right, empress. but i also think that some of that 'new' ambition has rubbed off on the more experienced mods, too.

...How can you tell? We don't know which specific moderator deleted a thread or a comment and we don't know -- unless the user shares it with us -- which moderator contacted a user privately and told them to tone it down.


--human nature, i guess. surely the newer members of the team consult with the older members, which makes the older members think about what they do more precisely because they have to explain it to someone else. then they become more conscious of it.
posted by lester at 7:46 AM on October 17, 2011


I believe Richard Petty once described it as such. "For a while, there was only one car in South Carolina. Then one day, there were two. The next day, there was a race."

Knowing South Carolinians as I do, I expect that guy with the first car held a race by himself, ran it, and then bragged about his victory.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:50 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Knowing South Carolinians as I do, I expect that guy with the first car held a race by himself, ran it, and then bragged about his victory.

Probably paid some money to have it fixed too.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:55 AM on October 17, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: " Occupy Metafilter.

Everyone to the parks! Do something illegal!
"

Play hacky sack. Beat drums. Litter!
posted by Splunge at 7:57 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's important at all times to remember that commenting (as well as posting) is a strictly voluntary act that you are not in any way required to do. The net is vast and there's always someone who disagrees with you, no matter what. This is not, however, a call to take up arms and argue with that someone. It's just a fact. Just because you can take a contrary position doesn't mean that you have to or that doing so actually means anything.

Long story short, sometimes closing the browser is one of the easiest and most helpful things you can do. Do it.
posted by tommasz at 7:57 AM on October 17, 2011


bukvich: "Wow that Ryan Dunn story is something else. A very interesting contrast to the Australian guy who played with poisonous snakes on TV.

On the one hand, the guy was driving drunk at 3:00 A. M.

On the other, who in the heck are you wrecklessly endangering at 3:00 A. M. but a bunch of other drunks?

The other comparison was maybe that Florida teenager who drove his BMW off of Travolta's runway and killed 4 (?) of his friends. Maybe the lesson is when in doubt don't post in automobile crash obits, and don't take a job modding auto crash obits.
"

Are you serious. I certainly hope not. Because that's a pretty damn ignorant comment.
posted by Splunge at 8:00 AM on October 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Otherwise what is there to do but post a . ?

Did you read the thread? There's a lot of intelligent discussion by people who know what they are talking about including one person who's parents are/were both drivers. If the mods had left in the thread-crapping, the discussion would have spiraled into lots of useless yelling back and forth about whether racing is or is not a sport.
posted by octothorpe at 8:06 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


We could probably all refrain from suggesting that people who engage in risky behavior or make bad decisions deserve to die. It's insensitive at best, and it reflects poorly on everyone involved.

I kind of thought that was the take away from the moderation decision, but judging from the comments since I'd say that we've got some slow learners in the crowd.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:06 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Occupy Metafilter.

Metafilter: Occupy Me...
posted by chavenet at 8:20 AM on October 17, 2011


If you want to see overly heavy moderation, try the TWOP forums. Correcting factual mistakes or telling assholes to not be assholes can get you banned. Of course this is because many of the mods are themselves assholes. (And this has been true since the Sars/Glark/Wing Chun days.)

Now, I admit I'm not an old-timer on Metafilter. But browsing through some of the old threads it's clear there's more moderation nowadays.

And thank the fucking lord for that. There's tons of threadshitting, sexism/racism/homophobia (sometimes disguised in their just as stupid lulz forms), general asshattedness, and more. Of course some of that is still around, but it was a flood back in the day.

If you want less moderation, there's Fark, SomethingAwful, Reddit, etc. Hey, I read some of those once in a while too. But when I need a return to (relative) sanity, there's Metafilter.

And if you want no moderation, have fun with Usenet and 4chan.
posted by kmz at 8:31 AM on October 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


TWOP is the worst! All threads do stay strictly on topic, though....
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:40 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just confirming TWOP is the Television Without... forums, and not the sound something viscuous makes when it drops from a high distance?
posted by cavalier at 8:46 AM on October 17, 2011


TWOP is the old text-based Infocom version of QWOP.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:47 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


4chan more heavily moderated than metafilter. You used to be able to apply to be a janitor and work your way up to moderator. The mods are pretty brutal on /v/ Even /b/ is moderated.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:49 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


TWOP is the old text-based Infocom version of QWOP.

That'd be less frustrating than reading the TWOP boards sometimes.
posted by kmz at 8:51 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


You should have seen ONEP. It was so heavily moderated, even the mods would get banned just for logging in!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:52 AM on October 17, 2011


You should have seen ONEP. It was so heavily moderated, even the mods would get banned just for logging in!

That's nothing, on ONAN, you got to "ban" yourself and it was almost always a good time.
posted by OmieWise at 9:00 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Every time I tried to sign up for BOFH, my computer would catch fire and all my email forwarded to anon.penet.fi.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:07 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The moderators of ASOF&I are all mad. MAD I TELL YOU. BEWARE THE--AIEEEEEEEEE
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:29 AM on October 17, 2011


I was an old-time TWOPper. Never once got banned or "warned" myself, but yeah, I witnessed the insanity of the overregulation/overmoderation there. A certain "MeFi's own" was one of the worst offenders in that regard, actually.
posted by Gator at 9:34 AM on October 17, 2011


Generally, Metafilter threads seem more heavily moderated of late. Not sure that's entirely a good thing.
i have to agree with this. i had my own little moderation issue this weekend when i had a comment removed. in my discussion with the moderator it became apparent they were being pretty proactive about protecting a thread from a derail.


Thirded. I am (was) a long-time heavy user of the site. Like lester I recently had a moderation issue over the removal of a comment of mine. As in lester's case, the moderator was being... well, yes, "proactive" is probably a good word.

I'll freely cop to the comment having been fighty, and certainly more unkind and unfriendly than necessary, but it was in a fighty discussion right here in metatalk-- a discussion from which other less kind, less friendly comments were not deleted. And, of course, metatalk is a subsite on which the standard for comment deletion has historically been very high (or very low I guess, but you know what I mean).

I wasn't angry or outraged over the decision, but I was a little perplexed. It was the kind of comment I would expect to be deleted from either the blue or the green, but certainly not from the grey. I wanted to know why the comment was deleted, but didn't want to start a public "look at me!" fight over what wasn't really that big of a deal, so I chose to use the contact form rather than to start a metatalk thread or complain in another thread (the one in question had been closed).

I asked a simple, direct question: why was the comment deleted? And I got a simple, direct answer from one of the moderators: it was a dick comment. Well, I couldn't really argue with that. It was a dick comment. I may have believed (and still believe) that it was a lot less dickish than a lot of metatalk comments that aren't deleted, but whatever-- opinions and standards can shift with time or depending on peoples' moods. And who knows-- maybe I was wrong and it was that dickish. No big deal, just a comment deletion, nothing significant. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Fair enough, I thought. I'll put it behind me.

Until the moderator who had actually deleted the comment chimed in to the email discussion. That moderator wanted to let me know that the comment was deleted not just because it was dickish but because the metatalk thread was being closed, and my comment would have been the last one in the thread and [the moderator] "honestly didn't think you'd want that to be the last comment before close, either. What do you think?"

At the time I didn't want to pick a fight, so I declined to answer that question. I was, however, infuriated by this in a way that I emphatically was not by the actual deletion.

Deleting my comment purely because it was a dick thing to say doesn't bother me at all. Dickishness is a matter of opinion and perception, and by virtue of their position, the moderators' opinions and perception carry more weight than mine on such matters. That is as it should be. You can't have moderators without it being otherwise.

But. Deleting my comment because of an assumption about my thoughts and preferences? A moderator ascribing his/her own opinions, motivations and desires to me and then acting on that? That's not only infuriating, it's a little ominous in terms of the direction it indicates that moderation policy could be taking. And the nannying, condescending tone of it? "I don't think you want that. What do you think?" Well, reader, I was livid.

I did what one should always do when infuriated by something on the internet. I walked away from the computer and went outside. In fact, I went for a long run. After 10 miles and a hot shower, I was no longer livid, but I realized that I was still disappointed and a little sad over how unnecessarily proactive that deletion decision was. (Again, I could give two shits about the comment itself-- it's the decision-making process I'm talking about here.)

I'd been considering closing my account for awhile: I find metafilter to be a real time-suck when I'm trying to be productive, and many years, hundreds of posts and thousands of comments amply demonstrate that I apparently lack the willpower to stay away on my own. So this experience was definitely a precipitating factor of sorts. An aggressive moderation policy is one thing (and totally reasonable, in my opinion), but a community in which it's acceptable for a moderator make decisions based on what he/she thinks I would or should want? That's pretty creepy and seems fundamentally different from what I had always understood Metafilter to be.

So I closed my account. I may return eventually, either with my old account or under a new name, but it won't be to participate in the same way as before. Probably just askme, really. I never thought I'd be one of those douchey old fucks who says stuff like this, but this experience has led me to feel that Metafilter is heading toward becoming something other than the community I have valued so much over the years.

Now I fucking need to stop fucking reading fucking metatalk, god fucking damn it.
posted by Five bucks for one comment? Yup. at 9:42 AM on October 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Better solution: don't make dick comments.
posted by ericost at 9:51 AM on October 17, 2011 [16 favorites]


I have a friend who is a NASCAR fan who I know who almost burst into tears at a near accident, so although I have no connection to the sport, I'm glad that the mods are taking the approach they are. I like vigorous debate, but there's a time and place for that.

What I wish would not happen is non-mods aggressively attempting to moderate a thread. It seems like a non-mod going balls-out to get somebody to shut up is not the pinnacle of cool behavior.

(this may be a very rare thing; I hope it is)
posted by angrycat at 9:51 AM on October 17, 2011


"Five bucks for one comment? Yup.": I think the key word in the moderator's email to you was "either" (assuming you are quoting verbatim). That is, "I deleted it in part because I didn't want this to be the last comment in the thread; maybe you would feel the same", not "I deleted it because I thought you wouldn't want it to be the last comment in the thread". Of course I have much less context than you do.
posted by dfan at 10:11 AM on October 17, 2011

I like vigorous debate, but there's a time and place for that.
Mods, read this, over and over, and ask yourself if this is what you want MetaFilter to be. I know I wouldn't make this bet these days.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:17 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


in a fighty discussion right here in metatalk

OK, wait - you had a dick comment removed from metaTalk - really?

While I fully applaud the mods' work in the obit thread, 100%, this is a bit of a surprise to me. After >10 years here I don't remember that happening.

So, I'm not being whiny and I'm loath to advance a bullshit narrative, but I'm genuinely (if coincidentally) surprised. It may well have happened 1000s of times but this is the first I've become aware of it so either chalk it up to a gaping hole in my perception or a change in mod'ing or as suggested above, a dash of both.
posted by victors at 10:22 AM on October 17, 2011


Would it really be such a bad thing if being a jerk in MetaTalk was slightly less okay now than it used to be?
posted by Gator at 10:24 AM on October 17, 2011


Would it really be such a bad thing if being a jerk in MetaTalk was slightly less okay now than it used to be?

Nope, not at all - it would just be different.
posted by victors at 10:25 AM on October 17, 2011


You know, all of the people in here who are saying that the mods are removing too many comments because they want to see "honest dissent" -- I'm going to book mark all of your comments, so the next time that someone makes a stink in support of Republicans or Christianity and the mods don't delete it.

'Cos I have a hunch that that request for "honest dissent" only goes one way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:30 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like vigorous debate, but there's a time and place for that.

Mods, read this, over and over, and ask yourself if this is what you want MetaFilter to be. I know I wouldn't make this bet these days.


Whoa, all I meant was in obit threads. I vigorously debate all over the place, and one of the reasons I love metafilter is because I can do this on subjects with people who are often much smarter and knowledgeable about X subject than I am.
posted by angrycat at 10:30 AM on October 17, 2011


Maybe one of the reasons that some users (including me) are conscious of an increase in mod activity is that there are, y'know, more mods.

I'm kind of agnostic about whether it's a good or bad thing in general -- it's not my site or my decision -- but it makes me uncomfortable to see comments getting sniped, even if they're not mine, just like the sound of police choppers makes me uncomfortable in LA and the security cameras make me uncomfortable in London. It feels much more like a hosted community than it used to and some of the things that originally attracted me have definitely waned.

But things change so hey ho.
posted by unSane at 10:31 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


victors: OK, wait - you had a dick comment removed from metaTalk - really?

As of just over a year ago, I had 18 comments deleted in MetaTalk (koeselitz's calculations above that comment actually mixed up the AskMe and MeTa numbers).
posted by gman at 10:31 AM on October 17, 2011


But. Deleting my comment because of an assumption about my thoughts and preferences? A moderator ascribing his/her own opinions, motivations and desires to me and then acting on that? That's not only infuriating, it's a little ominous in terms of the direction it indicates that moderation policy could be taking. And the nannying, condescending tone of it? "I don't think you want that. What do you think?" Well, reader, I was livid.

Soooo, you asked why your comment was deleted, the mod who deleted told you and then asked for your opinion on the thought process and you describe that as ominous?

You need to lighten up. Ominous is when they don't respond or don't want to talk about. Ominous is when you can't found out your comment was deleted.

Did you even bother to express yourself to the mod and ask that comment be reinstated? Or did you just make a new account to get in one last comment and tell the world of repressive regimen?

It's just my opinion, but you're making a mountain out of a molehill and doing it in a crappy manner. Have guts to use your regular name around here, if the issue matters that much to you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:38 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


While I fully applaud the mods' work in the obit thread, 100%, this is a bit of a surprise to me. After >10 years here I don't remember that happening.

Metatalk is by far the least likely part of the site to see a comment deleted, but it's never really been a "never" thing. To some extent I think there's this expectation that Metatalk is literally no-holds-barred because of the rarity of deletions, but it's a problematic expectation because now and then folks take it to mean that this place is not just sort of where the buck stops for metadiscussion but literally some kind of "you can't delete me telling that guy he's a fuckstain" thunderdome where it's okay to be genuinely shitty to one another.

I know I wouldn't make this bet these days.

I don't know how to address a bet about a comment that wasn't deleted then and I wouldn't expect to get deleted now, other than to say that I don't know why you expect that to get deleted in the hypothetical now either. The most annoying thing about that comment is its prediction of its own doom, which, as several people noted, was pretty silly.

We're not just popping around deleting anything that looks like it might be a bit contrary, and I really feel like there's a thing here where there's an assumed huge increase in moderation based more on worry and perception than actual change. Clamping down on noise more aggressively has been probably the biggest shift over the last few years, and mostly that's a result of us actually having enough staff to do that compared to when Matt was running solo and burning himself out trying to cover an entire website by himself 24/7.

We have a couple of new people, one brand new, and that means two basically unrelated things:

1. We've got more of the kind of all-day, all-week coverage we've wanted to be able to have, and can actually try and take proper days/evenings off from the site without worrying that things are going to shit in the mean time.

2. We've got new mods getting used to all the complicated ins and outs and social and moderative dynamics that come with this job and which honestly take a while to get used to.

The first bit is a good thing all around. Seriously, unless your specific conception of Metafilter is that of a place where flamewars run wild and people can be shitty to each other without any sort of intervention, this is just Metafilter as a moderated community getting a chance for more of the consistency that we've striven for for years.

The second bit means bumpiness and learning and friction, and there's no great way around it other than for restless_nomad and taz to try and be open to feedback (which they've been in spades in moderator discussions on email and I feel like they've been pretty great about so far in conversation with mefites both in thread and over email) and for folks in general to be realistic about that learning curve stuff and cut them a bit of slack when trying to navigate this stuff.

I can understand if Five Bucks Yup was frustrated by his interaction with taz, that he was bothered by what he read into her words. I don't think it's really a thing that gets anywhere near being a reasonable This Is Why I'm Quitting thing, but he can feel what he feels. In practice, this is a place where we interact by talking to each other and resolve conflicts by talking them out; that goes for conversations in threads and it goes for interactions with mods about the moderation that takes place here. There's no magic wand to wave to get over growing pains or acclimation periods, but I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that folks give stuff time rather than drawing conclusions about the swerving direction of the site or whatever based on new folks settling in.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:44 AM on October 17, 2011



Mods, read this, over and over, and ask yourself if this is what you want MetaFilter to be.


No, it's not. We're not opposed to vigorous dissent generally speaking unless it turns into "fuck you" contests or people grandstanding their own rights to be assholes and not interacting with the community. We have a lot of vigorous dissenters and that's fine.

And to speak briefly to $5's comment. One of the things about MeFi that we ask people to have patience with and understanding of is the fact that we occasionally have new people working here or helping out and our process is to let them basically start with a nearly full set of tools and get to work without a ton of before-the-fact oversight. So, occasionally there is some adjustment that needs to be made and here in MeTa is where we work that sort of thing out. And if you're unhappy with what happened, there are a bunch of ways you can work that out with us, ranging from email to MetaTalk to talking to the boss to starting up your own fuck-MetaFilter blog. They're all available options. Personally I think the sideways callout of a brand new mod without even sticking around to discuss the details isn't really in keeping with the spirit of how we try to do things here, but I understand if people just get to the "I've had it" point where that sort of "we're available to talk" option is cold comfort. I get it.

That said, it's how the place works. Everyone went through an adjustment period being new here. We ask for and appreciate your patience with the process.

And yeah we rarely but sometimes delete comments from MeTa. Usually they're total rule breakers [death threats, stalkery stuff, outing, Treaty of Westphalia] but sometimes they're slightly more benign [ongoing member-vs-member fights that slop over from other threads, callouts of members not in the thread]. This was one of those and we try pretty hard to not delete stuff from MeTa. cortex can run the numbers, but it really is something we almost never do.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:47 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]





What's with the assumption that the new mods are the problem btw ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:54 AM on October 17, 2011


Well, we can go on what people have directly said, which has lately tended to be (and in the case of Five Bucks for example was indeed) a "I don't like x about how the new mod did z". I'm well aware that some folks take issue with the not-so-new mods do things or with the idea of moderation in abstract, but it seems to be less of a raw-nerve thing as far as the general zeitgeist goes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:03 AM on October 17, 2011


Yikes. Yes, that was a mistake on my part, five dollars, but I was asking what you thought, because if you thought it should be reinstated, I would have put it back.

Sorry, I can't stick with this thread continuously right now... but I just checked and saw the comment.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:06 AM on October 17, 2011


Speaking as someone who took a four-year MeFi vacation and came back six weeks ago, I don't think I would have noticed any increase in moderation if I hadn't read numerous people claiming that there's been an increase in moderation. And as for what I've noticed, I maybe kinda sorta feel like there's slightly more moderation, but I wouldn't swear to it in a court of law.

One thing I have noticed, though, is that there is a lot less of people throwing shit around at other people. Which is a very, very good thing.

"TWOP is the worst! All threads do stay strictly on topic, though...."

That's true, but it comes at a cost. The way that posters there are obsequious with the mods and clearly live in fear of getting their hands slapped deeply rubs me the wrong way. Also: it's very inconsistent. Worse: the mods themselves frequently break the rules they enforce so ruthlessly against others.

Aside from one ambiguous example that's not worth mentioning, in my many years of high participation on the internet I've been banned only from one place: TWoP.

Three times. Maybe four, I'm not sure.

It's the only really good place available for great conversation about television. That keeps pulling me back. Sooner or later, I get in trouble. (And they don't necessarily follow "the three warnings and you're banned" system they set up...if they're in the mood, they'll do it for a single comment that really pissed them off. Or they'll look at a thread and sequentially warn for several comments which have already been posted.)

I'm generally in favor of more moderation rather than less. I think the net is cesspool of horrible behavior and moderation is essential. I think that the MeFi mods do a notably great job compared to almost everywhere else. But TWoP is the one place I've ever been where I've really felt a boot on my neck. It's like scary authoritarian there. So, because of that site, I do have an awareness of how bad over-moderation can be.

But MeFi isn't even remotely close to that.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:13 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, every time I see threads and comments on overmoderation I think of TWOP. You can't start a comment with "Um" there ( for reasons they explain and make sense but still). I spent a lot of time at TWOP and the other site for celebrities (Fametracker?) but once I found Metafilter, it became my only online community outlet because the moderation seems perfect to me.
posted by sweetkid at 11:24 AM on October 17, 2011


Just because there is something you are interested in, doesn't mean you have to voice an opinion about it.
posted by edgeways at 11:24 AM on October 17, 2011


The most annoying thing about that comment is its prediction of its own doom, which, as several people noted, was pretty silly.

Comments saying "I bet this will be deleted" here or anywhere else (similar to letters to the editor that say "I bet you don't have the courage to publish this letter!") are the fucking worst. It's the most chickenshit, heads I win/tails you lose, loaded, passive-aggressive, bullshit argumentation tactic ever and any comment using it should be nuked from orbit and the account erased from the record. And they would have to wear a dunce cap in real life.
posted by kmz at 11:28 AM on October 17, 2011 [23 favorites]


never mind twop, is any mefite responsible for the clunky pos that is blender ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:32 AM on October 17, 2011


Quoting myself: "It's the only really good place available for great conversation about television."

sweetkid: " I spent a lot of time at TWOP and the other site for celebrities (Fametracker?) but once I found Metafilter, it became my only online community outlet because the moderation seems perfect to me."

That makes me think...Matt, you have any interest in starting MetaTelevision? Seems like there's definitely a market need waiting to be filled: quality discussion of television shows/episodes on a site that doesn't feel like it's run by bitchy nazis.

I've actually thought about starting something as an alternative to TWoP. The problem is, though, that I only watch four or five shows, at most.

Oh, also: is projects just for showcasing projects that are already up-and-running, or can it be used to advertise among mefites for collaborators?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:34 AM on October 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would love that, I proposed it during the Game of Thrones spoiler debacle. I hate TWOP and wish we could discuss the show without pissing off everyone still reading the books.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:40 AM on October 17, 2011


Also, I wonder if there's a class thing going on here, auto racing in the U.S. being a more working-class spectator pursuit. I'm too lazy to do the research but I suspect someone dying in a pro tour bicycle race or a hiking accident would not get as strong a "their own fault" chorus. (This will no doubt cue someone to do the research and prove me wrong here.)

You suspect right - when a bike rider got glipped by a car and injured, the virtual lynch mob assembled to mull over the best ways to murder the car driver.
posted by rodgerd at 11:40 AM on October 17, 2011


Apparently we don't like Hank Jr very much either.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:43 AM on October 17, 2011


sweetkid: You can't start a comment with "Um" [at TWOP]

O man, I am not familiar with TWOP at all, but that is the best rule ever.
posted by ericost at 11:48 AM on October 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


TWoP and other places with really iron-fisted moderation – say, Ta-Nehisi Coates' Atlantic blog – get away with that because people go there for the authorial voice. It's their show.

Having tight moderation without heavy contributions by the owners feels weird and leads to Kremlinology and vague paranoia. (To protest in vain vs. the obvious: I'm not paranoid, since I barely comment, but I see it starting to show up in other people's comments around here. As is the obsequiousness noted above re: TWoP.)

On several occasions through the years I've opined that it would be better to have tight moderation for the front page posts and loose moderation for the comments but that's not been the tack the staff here has taken. I dunno.
posted by furiousthought at 11:54 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm slowly coming around to thinking we should actually let the quidnunc kid be a guest moderator here for one 8-hour shift. C'mon, admit it, you want to see what would happen too.

Seconding the nomination to let the quidnunc kid occupy meta for a day
posted by infini at 11:56 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


That makes me think...Matt, you have any interest in starting MetaTelevision?

The Metacooler is a (currently small) spinoff discussion site for media, particularly TV, that came out of some discussions earlier this year about the media discussion and spoilers. As a purpose-built venue for (mostly) mefites to talk TV stuff with an explicit eye toward spoiler policy and tags, it's worth checking out.

It's not TV.metafilter.com, but without wanting to speak definitively for Matt that's not something we've been discussing, no.

Oh, also: is projects just for showcasing projects that are already up-and-running, or can it be used to advertise among mefites for collaborators?

If it's just "help me do this", that's not really so much a great fit. If you're thinking about doing a creative project that would be open to mefites in general, that'd probably be okay for its own "hey, let's make a thing together" metatalk thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:59 AM on October 17, 2011


Five bucks, you should be Goddamned glad that comment was deleted.

It would have damaged your reputation severely if it had stayed up, and I was getting set to come into that thread to do my best to rake you over coals as hot as I know how to make them-- and I doubt I was the only one.

And your rage about having someone make assumptions about your thoughts and preferences rings completely false, by the way. I think you are clearly angry about the deletion despite the superfluity of protestations to the contrary.
posted by jamjam at 1:22 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, all of the people in here who are saying that the mods are removing too many comments because they want to see "honest dissent" -- I'm going to book mark all of your comments, so the next time that someone makes a stink in support of Republicans or Christianity and the mods don't delete it.

'Cos I have a hunch that that request for "honest dissent" only goes one way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos


To the contrary. I dislike the practice of shutting down Christians, conservatives and others because of the possibility of a "train wreck" (or the characterisation of them as somehow trolling), and have said as much in the past.
posted by dontjumplarry at 1:25 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I used to be Kwine, and I left recently because of this scenario: " is the way that I would have led off my comment if I were $5.

$5, you didn't do it that way because you are worried that this action would tarnish the reputation of your old account in the opinion of some. You're probably correct. Sort of cowardly, don't you think?
posted by Kwine at 1:36 PM on October 17, 2011


sweetkid: You can't start a comment with "Um" [at TWOP]

O man, I am not familiar with TWOP at all, but that is the best rule ever.


It's a good rule, but I'm still glad we don't have it here.
posted by sweetkid at 1:36 PM on October 17, 2011


To be fair to Five Bucks, while I think the comment and account was a sort of not-great way to join-but-not-join the thread in some ways I don't think he was using a sock specifically to protect his reputation so much as to not make the thread about him and I don't think we need to pile on the whole thing. If he's not here, he's not here, so be it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:38 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If he's not here, he's not here, so be it.

It's a bit weird to sign up for an account and then disable it. But that aside, it seems weird that no one can discuss what he or she said, just because the account was disabled by that individual.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:45 PM on October 17, 2011


"Maybe not so much with the piling on" is not the same thing as "discussion is forbidden". I just don't think that e.g. pointed interrogatives directed to someone explicitly not present are really good discussion so much as getting into needling territory.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:56 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're right cortex. Sorry about that.
posted by Kwine at 2:40 PM on October 17, 2011


I'm going to book mark all of your comments, so the next time that someone makes a stink in support of Republicans or Christianity and the mods don't delete it.

'Cos I have a hunch that that request for "honest dissent" only goes one way.


This is kind of a pics-or-it-didn't-happen moment, cause MeFi is not exactly a new experiment. Does this actually happen?

The worst sins of the minority-view-pileon crowd seem to be that they get shouty, and that they wield flawed arguments (flaws which their ideological compatriots generously overlook) that they'd never accept from the other side. I don't see calls for deletion based on political view alone. I do see actual deletion of drive-by political trolling, though.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:04 PM on October 17, 2011


As always, anybody who really hates the moderation here and how it TOTALLY CRUSHES THEIR RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH is more than welcome to enjoy that unmoderated hell known as the rest of the Internet and leave Metafilter to those of us who enjoy civilization.

This seems needlessly and pointlessly strawmannish. The exact equivalent-but-opposite of the very thing it purports to be mocking, actually. It's just SILENCED ALL MY LIFE in reverse.
posted by Justinian at 3:55 PM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Would that be, I NEVER SHUT UP?
posted by Splunge at 4:32 PM on October 17, 2011


Obituary threads have no place on Metafilter. This was taken as a given by most at one time, and it's where I still stand on the matter, to be honest, despite the fact that one of the earlier obit threads that stood unchallenged was one for one of my best friends.

But then, breaking news threads and much else fall under the same best-avoided banner as far as I'm concerned, and the ship has clearly sailed in a different direction there, so so be it.

But I will say, in general, much as I appreciate and have been vocal in supporting the moderation team, I do also feel that there is more outright deletion of comments of late.

That these comments are indefensible lumps of turd, apparently, is the worrisome aspect to me, not the fact so much that they are being deleted. That there are a growing number of people -- new users and old, apparently -- who believe that dropping them is acceptable.

As we've discussed many times in the past, self-policing does not scale, top-down moderation become necessary, the tenor changes to an appeal-to-authority model, yadda yadda yadda. But I think we're seeing new manifestations of... something... lately at the userbase scale we're reaching now, and it does not bode very well.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:04 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I want there to be about 2% less moderation in comments. Do I get to stay here and talk about that, or must I now go to Fark if I like "butts lol" so much?

There's an awful lot of "love it or leave it" stuff in this thread, which is a little weird to me. As worlds go, MetaFilter is a really nice one and I happen to like it quite a bit, but it's not the best of all possible worlds and there's room for improvement. Most of the time I think the mods do an excellent job. Occasionally I have an issue, so I talk about it here or through one of the many channels they provide. A couple days ago, taz and I had a lengthy back-and-forth over a couple deletions. I didn't and don't think they were good deletions, but I got to learn a little more about her process and I believe she heard my concerns in good faith. I think it was a reasonably productive conversation.

The site works best when people actually talk to each other. Talking about how we talk to each other is part of that. Talking about moderation is part of that. I think there has been a recent and slight tendency towards overmoderation here, compared to what I know historically of MetaFilter. I don't especially care how they moderate on TWOP or 4chan or whatever, because that's not a comparison I'm making and telling me to go live under a real repressive regime or see what no moderation looks like is missing the point.

I obviously don't speak for the mods, but I've talked to a few of them at length and I think they're thoughtful and caring people who want to do a good job and want to hear when people think they haven't, because they give a shit. I also give a shit, which is why I want to talk about this stuff. Making out people who disagree with you to be whiners or telling people that they shouldn't say their opinion out loud or sneering at people to cry more n00b isn't a moderation issue. It's just a garden-variety crappy behavior issue, and I wish it would stop.
posted by Errant at 5:09 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I think we're seeing new manifestations of... something... lately at the userbase scale we're reaching now, and it does not bode very well.

FWIW, people have been saying this for years.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:10 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like it when shitty comments are deleted.
posted by silby at 5:11 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


FWIW, people have been saying this for years.

Of course. It has been true for years.

Different stages of growth, different problems to think about.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:14 PM on October 17, 2011


Obituary threads have no place on Metafilter. This was taken as a given by most at one time

I dunno, I remember it being pretty much a contentious issue since forever, both on the question of whether obit posts are a good fit for the site and on what's the proper way to deal with them in terms of cultural behavior. Here's a 2001 thread about obit behavior, and one from 2002, and a sort of good vs. bad obit posts thread from 2005.

I just grabbed those at random; I'm positive there's other discussions to be found in between. But in all of those it seems like a mix of opinions, not some clear consensus that obits shouldn't be around. Certainly there have been folks from day one who feel strongly that they're not a good fit for Mefi, and I totally respect that, but there's different people who feel that way about a lot of things that are nonetheless long-standing parts of the site culture here. I'm one of the "never another newsfilter post so long as I live and I'd be happy" folks, personally.

Not to be contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, and maybe I'm just parsing your comment too finely. I just feel like it's worth putting the actual historical context out there if we're going to talk about what used to be the case, because I'm not sure how far back you'd have to go, if it's even possible to get there, to the point where "no obits" was actually a firm and accepted majority opinion on the site but it feels like it'd have to be going back to almost the prehistory of this place if my quick browse of those older threads is a fair indication of the actual muddy state of things even in 2001.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:28 PM on October 17, 2011


If the sky was truly falling, we should be breathing stardust by now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:31 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


But the sky would get an obit post though.
posted by lampshade at 5:33 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I remember it being pretty much a contentious issue since forever

Heh. That's why I said 'by most' -- I actually added that bit in after preview.

My memory is that there was a time -- say more than 5 years back -- when very few people indeed were (vocally, visibly) in support of the (much rarer) obit threads, and many more were somewhat-to-very against.

But my memory, she fails me quite often, so.

Doesn't matter -- this is not a point on which I have any desire whatsoever to make a stand. Like I said, there are a lot of things that are par for the course on the front page these days that I personally have no interest in, and that's just fine. I skip 'em.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:36 PM on October 17, 2011


silby: "I like it when shitty comments are deleted."

Hell, I wish that some of my shittier comments had been deleted. Oftentimes, the mods are doing the user a favor when they delete a comment.
posted by octothorpe at 6:22 PM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I find the proliferation of these threads in the last few months quite interesting. On the one hand, it seems there is a sizeable minority concerned about modding and deleting of comments. On the other, there seems to be a dearth of actual badly deleted comments. Even the people who are concerned about deletions are in general agreement that the actual deletions that spark of these discussions are "good deletions".

I can't help but feel those people are arguing against hypothetical deletions - as amply evinced by this thread, and most of the others where the script plays out.

Mefite A: Why was my comment deleted? Not fair.

Mefite B: Yes. Too many deletions. We should be able to discuss X and Y!

Mod: Here is the actual comment deleted - "Poo! Pooscapades! Shitty in poopoo mouth!"

Mefite B: Well, that indeed seems like a very worthy deletion, but that's not that what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the other deletions. Hands too heavy etc.


I mean, come on, let's have a little bit of sanity here: two six-word, shallow, drive-by shits in an obit thread. Is this what peeps are fighting for? Not the hill I want to die on, certainly. These are the kind of deletions I'm seeing a lot of; I can't say I'm seeing the more nebulous, substantive deletions some people feel are happening.

I cant' speak for everyone, but bollocksy threadshits are the thing that - for me - hinders good debate and dialogue. I don't feel the mods are trying to shut down discussion - I've certainly had many great conversations here in the last month - so much as facilitate it and raise the bar.

If deleting thoughtless babble is a new standard, I am unambiguously all for it. Substantive deletions are still open to discussion, though I have to say, when I've had comments deleted, they've generally been for good reason; I feel embarrassed about them afterwards, and grateful to the mods for hiding my boorish behaviour. I've certainly never had anything substantive deleted, and if I did, I don't know if one or two differences of opinion is such a big deal. I come here for differences, sometimes. The idea that there can be too much courtesy in threads is also strange to me.
posted by smoke at 6:22 PM on October 17, 2011 [25 favorites]


Part of the problem is that we don't know that the deleted comments suck until the mods tell us.

I fall into the category of favoring less deletions, and I tend to be suspicious when things get deleted. Typically when the nature of the comments deleted is revealed I agree with the deletions, and feel foolish for once again doubting the mods.

There is no obvious solution to me. Leaving the offending comments leads to a derail, deleting them leads to suspicion, and some form of Reddit down-modding would just continue the argument. What are the mods too do?

Maybe we could have a deleted comment blog? Or a script similar to the deleted post version. We will complain less ( on meta, and in thread) if we can see that the comments were deleted for a valid reason ( almost always the case). Having the comments stored separate from the thread may also discourage users from continuing the derail. If I know what is getting deleted, I will most likely avoid that topic.

I know that this has been a non-starter from mod perspective in the past, but these issues seem to be growing in frequency.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 8:51 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no obvious solution to me. Leaving the offending comments leads to a derail, deleting them leads to suspicion, and some form of Reddit down-modding would just continue the argument. What are the mods too do?

Pretty much the Metafilter answer to that question is "try to keep deletions to a minimum, hope folks will mostly trust us, and talk about specific deletions if someone's curious". Which, yeah, it's not a perfect solution because the people who want less (or more) deleted are unsatisfied and the people who don't like "trust us" coming from people with any kind of authority/power are unsettled, but it's pretty much what has worked within the weird social compact that is moderation in this community.

Maybe we could have a deleted comment blog? Or a script similar to the deleted post version.

This would be a huge change from how deleted comments have been dealt with for the last 12+ years, for what is in practice no apparently compelling reason other than "so we can see all of them". I'm not totally unsympathetic to that curiosity but it's a huge can of worms.

As someone who actually spends his days dealing with folks complaining about deletions and such, I am not remotely confident that making comment deletions more public would lead to less complaining or deletion-related drama, because not everyone who might have a reaction to it is in the "I would be reassured by seeing all the deletions" camp. This is the same territory as the issue of not sending out automated deletions notification emails or leaving in-thread placeholders for deleted comments: different people react to stimuli differently, and for as much as more info about deletions will make some people happier, it'll make others just more prompted to be grouchy, for any number of reasons.

It also would make someone having a bad day or showing a bit of poor judgement a lot more inescapably a matter of public record than with the current system; I don't really feel like someone making a bad go of commenting is something they should necessarily have to have hang out for everybody to look at and kibitz about. Everybody fucks up now and then and while I respect that some people may want to have their fuckups be out there as a full-disclosure sort of thing, I don't want to make that decision for everybody if I have a choice about it.

It's complicated stuff, I can see the other angles on it but like I said making deleted comments systematically visible would be a huge, huge change to Metafilter moderation culture, and huge changes need huge incentives. Avoiding some conversation about deletions in Metatalk doesn't start to qualify, much as it might save us little slivers of grief now and then.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:46 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I tend to be suspicious when things get deleted.

Respectfully, but by this point is that not really your problem, rather than the mods' or the community's? We've seen what feels like a billion of these metas in the last three months or so, and the overwhelming consensus has been that the deleted comments, were in fact shitty comments.

If you can't trust the mods, given their willingness to openly discuss this stuff, happiness in sharing deleted comments, track record in making generally right calls and - let's be frank here, comments coming from people very new to the site or more... combustible longer term members, then I'm unsure what it would take to establish that trust, or why the onus is on the mods to prove they're not the assholes in any given situation. They care a lot more more about this place than random threadshitters, and they are never gonna flame out.

I appreciate that these feelings are a by-product of feeling ownership in the mefi community - which is unambiguously a good thing - but part of being in a community is I think working towards making it stronger. You recognise that leaving shitty comments in threads does a disservice to posters and mefites interested in a proper dialogue - do you honestly think the site is harmed in a way by deleting banal drivel?

I dunno, I think it makes it stronger, in every way. It minimises shitty derails and arrant stupidity, oft-times abuse (and the abuse of the righteous is the worst!), incivility and sometimes a loss to the community of otherwise interesting members.
posted by smoke at 9:50 PM on October 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


^^^ See? That's what I'm talkin' bout right there! How could you not love those little rascals with measured, thoughtful responses like that!
posted by smoke at 9:53 PM on October 17, 2011


pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated: "Part of the problem is that we don't know that the deleted comments suck until the mods tell us.

Why would you not just assume this? In one way or another, all comments that are deleted are deleted because they suck. The problem is that one person's suck is another's awesome and that's a place we'll never get away from. Trust the mods, they know what they're about.
posted by dg at 10:03 PM on October 17, 2011


We will complain less ( on meta, and in thread) if we can see that the comments were deleted for a valid reason ( almost always the case).

Oh, wow, I really don't think this is true. The people who complain about the deleted comments are most likely to be the ones who made them. They don't need to see their own comments; presumably they wouldn't have written what they had if they thought it was delete-worthy.

So there'd be just as many Metatalk threads with people saying, "Why was my comment about how famous chef is no better than a pedophile deleted from the AskMe recipe thread?"

Only now, since everyone could see the deleted comment, we'd have MORe users giving their own opinions on the deleted comments, from syntax to context. And if just one person said, "Hmm. Nah, I would have let it stand," the OP would probably feel slighted over the deletion.

But let's say every person who commented in Metatalk said, "Yeah, you know what? That was really over the top and I would have deleted it, too," what would that accomplish? Maybe hearing all the dissent would help the OP "read the room" and refrain from making another similar comment--but more likely they'd just get resentful of the pile-on they endured in Metatalk in ADDITION to the deletion, and now they've got a "silenced all my life" grudge match going on with the mods.
posted by misha at 11:02 PM on October 17, 2011


Just a general comment about moderation or the lack thereof.....not specific to the comment deletion issue.

I just removed myself voluntarily from another board just the other day - totally different board that was on a online job site. The reason I just stopped posting and even reading is because of the lack of moderation among other things. So I tapped out that line from War Games where Joshua comments that “The only winning move is not to play”, closed my account and left. I do not have the time to deal with that childish behavior.

The last straw for me on that other board was not a specific comment, but when (offline at the time) I did a little comparison between MF and that dysfunctional place. Looking at the two, you could not have a better comparison of “how-to” and “how-not-to” run a board.

MF moves forward on all sorts of levels including reasoned discourse on topics, suggestions from users that actually become policy on occasion and a continual raising of the quality of discussion overall. Yeah, there are missteps, but that is life. Nothing is perfect, but at least MF tries and well more often than not, gets it right. That other place was (is) simply dysfunctional in all aspects. Nothing gets debated because of the flames, duplicate posting and blah blah blah – you know all the situations and players. All the stuff that many people have commented as examples of “overmoderation” here do not exist there. The net result is that the board is simply not usable as it basically like a bunch of 5 year old trying to moderate themselves in a candy store. Everybody wants the candy and nobody wants to pick up the discarded wrappers all over the floor or better yet, learn how to put your used wrappers in the trash.

And that is just one example of thousands of boards out there that can’t get it done. I am sure anybody here has at least a few examples of their own.

Interestingly, the subway/graffiti thread in the blue today has odd parallels to the issues being discussed here. One part was people lamenting the “good old days” where chaos and graffiti taggers ruled that world. Quickly though, there were counter comments supporting a bit of calm and order even with the less desirable by-products that go along with riding the cleaner, albeit more moderated, trains. In short, there seem to be two camps - one for free-form, no holds barred and the other for a desire that there be a line in the sand about certain behavior and whether it should be limited. For me, I will take the line in sand type as just about every community that does not have some sort of authorized person clamping down on errant behavior, it will degrade to the point where that board is not worth participating in.

Ok, maybe there is a bit of a heavy hand here at times and certainly I can see that there have been some mistakes, but the alternative of less moderation results in such chaos, I will take the former. Communities grow like plants. With that growth, you have to clip some dead leaves and keep the bugs away that weren't present at the beginning. Or maybe they were, but just not as hungry or as many of them.
posted by lampshade at 1:35 AM on October 18, 2011


Part of the problem is that we don't know that the deleted comments suck until the mods tell us.

But if they keep telling us again and again that "we deleted that comment because it sucks", then what reason would one have to suspect that they would delete a comment that DIDN'T suck?

I'm serious. The mods have established a "delete only sucky comments" pattern of behavior, what is the basis of your suspicion that they would deviate FROM that pattern?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:06 AM on October 18, 2011


Empress, there are two things at issue without assuming bad faith

-- the definition of suck
-- the degree of suck which should result in deletion
posted by unSane at 5:22 AM on October 18, 2011


Empress, there are two things at issue without assuming bad faith

-- the definition of suck
-- the degree of suck which should result in deletion


But the pattern is that the definition of "suck" means things like: "You are an asshole" and "go kill yourself", things that contribute nothing but noise to the conversation.

Can you explain how a discourse can be IMPROVED by things like that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:31 AM on October 18, 2011


Breaking the guidelines should be the only criterion for deletion.

I don't want a small group of people, no matter how pure their intentions, to decide what's worthy of discussion. It's easy to point out outrageous extreme cases, but there's a hell of a lot of gray area in there where the mods' discretion is given too much credence. The mods are hard-working, caring, honest people, but they can also be wrong.

Here's the moment when it became clear to me that the mods were deleting things not because they broke the guidelines, but because the mods simply didn't like the post. Maybe you didn't like the answer, either, and maybe it's a bad answer. But it's not deletion worthy, not by any of the posted guidelines.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:12 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the moment when it became clear to me that the mods were deleting things not because they broke the guidelines, but because the mods simply didn't like the post. Maybe you didn't like the answer, either, and maybe it's a bad answer. But it's not deletion worthy, not by any of the posted guidelines.

Ok, but did that signal a trend, or just a "trend" as smoke outlined above? I'm not 100% certain that I agree with you about that instance, I mean, I think reasonable people can differ on whether or not that answer broke the guidelines. Still, even if I do agree, I'm not sure it represents a trend.

The thing is that once there is anyone who can delete, there will be disagreement about what should and shouldn't be deleted.
posted by OmieWise at 6:38 AM on October 18, 2011


Here's the moment when it became clear to me that the mods were deleting things not because they broke the guidelines, but because the mods simply didn't like the post.

Funny, that looks like it absolutely fit the guidelines. AskMe comments are supposed to answer the question, not Be Funny Jokes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:41 AM on October 18, 2011


Shouting a jokey slogan as the first comment in a thread is not answering the question; the fundamental guideline of askme is "answer the question". If someone had made a comment in that thread making it clear why they thought "FREE TIBET" was actually a serious answer and not just an easy riff, that'd be fine but when your answer looks like a non-answer joke, you need to put in the effort to make it not look like that. M.C. Lo-Carb, in the askme, later called us jerks for deleting his "harmless joke", which, hey, he can think we're jerks either way but if the poster self-identifies as having used askme to make a joke there's not a hell of a lot else to say.

If we just deleted stuff we didn't like, I would have nixed the bullshitty "YOU ARE CHINESE CENSORS" stuff in the resulting metatalk thread, because, seriously, what the fuck?
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:46 AM on October 18, 2011


WRT being an asshole in obituary threads.

I was one of the "Ryan Dunn was a drink driving asshole" guys, and I suspect that my behaviour fell outside Jessamyn's threshold for dickish things that can be said in an obituary thread.

However, I do feel that people are more likely to think about and take seriously a topic like motor racing or drink driving after a celebrity has died because of it. If discussing the issue at the time of someone's death isn't the right time, you're left only able to explore it in such a manner as to give it little or no emotional significance.

Saying "{x} thousand people die every year because of this thing" doesn't work. Bringing it up at a time when people don't really think it'll affect them doesn't work. Bringing it up when the evidence is in front of people works.

There's a danger when co-opting public grief that you'll also affect someone's private grief. Nobody wants to do that. But for now, I can't see a better way.

I get to choose between being an asshole or being the guy who doesn't care enough to try and change peoples opinions. In some cases (Ryan Dunn) I choose the former and in some (this) I choose the latter.

So yes - Even when there's a danger someone personally involved will be upset by us assholes, I'm still opposed to cutting these sorts of discussions from obituary threads.
posted by seanyboy at 7:53 AM on October 18, 2011


I get to choose between being an asshole or being the guy who doesn't care enough to try and change peoples opinions.

Why do you think those are the only two options?
posted by Gator at 7:56 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]




There's a danger when co-opting public grief that you'll also affect someone's private grief. Nobody wants to do that. But for now, I can't see a better way. I get to choose between being an asshole or being the guy who doesn't care enough to try and change peoples opinions. In some cases (Ryan Dunn) I choose the former and in some (this) I choose the latter.

However, if this were a public memorial for someone in real time -- not an invitation-only funeral, but an organized event open to the public -- the organizers would have the right to remove someone who was being an asshole because he felt like he was "trying to change people's opinions". They wouldn't tell him he couldn't organize his own event, they'd just ask him to leave THIS one.

By the same token, your comment being removed was not a means to exclude you from making your own thread elsewhere, it was simmply saying that you had to leave THAT one.

And the organizers of that event are in the right, as are the mods.

Finally, what you seem to not be grasping is that by coming across as an asshole, you DECREASE the likelihood of people taking your message seriously. So not only does "Saying "{x} thousand people die every year because of this thing" not work, "Bringing it up at a time when people don't really think it'll affect them" not work, but "Bringing it up when the evidence is in front of people" also doesn't work because people don't think "why, lo! Look, he's right!" They think "what kind of asshole would intrude on a family's grief by rubbing it in?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:10 AM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gator - That's a pretty trite thing to say.

There is no wording that could be placed in this sort of obituary thread where saying that the persons death was a consequence of a known and dangerous behaviour that wouldn't provoke anger from people who feel that death personally.

Talking about deaths outside this sort of tragedy is ignored.
Talking about deaths inside this sort of tragedy will always upset someone & can therefore be categorised as asshole behaviour.

I believe there's enough logical consistency in these statements (and my earlier comment) to explain why I think there are only two options.

If you're going to talk about this, then bring some of your "other options" to the table. Hinting that I'm incapable of seeing an obvious third option without mentioning it is nothing more than ill-mannered heckling.
posted by seanyboy at 8:10 AM on October 18, 2011


seanyboy, Can you explain how you got the idea that you were the officially designated advocate on this issue, and that you are the sole person responsible for this campaign?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:11 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


cortex, you're applying 20/20 hindsight. When you deleted the comment, you had no way of knowing it was meant as a joke. You deleted the comment because you thought it was a joke.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:15 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't be obtuse. The thread has plenty of comments discussing the inherent danger of the sport as it currently exists without being jerkish. If you seriously think that being the jerk who inserts himself into discussion of a tragedy with "What did he expect/no one but himself to blame" or completely ignoring the issue are the only two options available to you, "ill-mannered" is the most polite word I could ascribe to you and your motives.
posted by Gator at 8:17 AM on October 18, 2011


cortex, you're applying 20/20 hindsight. When you deleted the comment, you had no way of knowing it was meant as a joke. You deleted the comment because you thought it was a joke.

Dude. The question was "what are some things my band can get translated into Chinese to shout out at a concert in China," and you said "Free Tibet" would be an option.

The only way that could NOT have been a joke was if you were seriously hoping to get the band into trouble, and if that's the case then it was a dick move and would not have helped the asker, and so it's still a violation of the guidelines, and so in conclusion, nyah.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:17 AM on October 18, 2011


MrMoonpie, your previous comment insisted that it was deleted because the mods didn't "like" it. Now you're saying that it was deleted because they thought it looked like a joke, which...is in fact against the AskMe guidelines. What's your point?
posted by Gator at 8:19 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


By the same token, your comment being removed was not a means to exclude you from making your own thread elsewhere, it was simmply saying that you had to leave THAT one.

Good points. I'm aware that there's no desire to exclude me from saying what I think in my own forums. I'm arguing for a bit more leniency in *this* forum.

I think the mods do an outstanding job, and I hope my comment wasn't construed as criticism of moderation policy. I am simply trying to make a case for allowing a degree of grar-making "they deserved it" inside obituary threads.

It doesn't matter if the person being remembered is Ronald Reagan or Steve Jobs. If we're talking about someone who had a public impact, there should be a bit of extra leeway for criticism.

Finally, what you seem to not be grasping is that by coming across as an asshole, you DECREASE the likelihood of people taking your message seriously.
I'm using the "asshole behaviour" phrase as shorthand to mean anything which criticises the person who has died. And yes, any criticism of motor racing in the motor racing thread is going to turn a percentage of people away from what I have to say. This doesn't mean that I shouldn't try and say it. I believe the criticism in the Ryan Dunn thread (despite angering some) will have changed opinions in others.
posted by seanyboy at 8:19 AM on October 18, 2011


I was one of the "Ryan Dunn was a drink driving asshole" guys, and I suspect that my behaviour fell outside Jessamyn's threshold for dickish things that can be said in an obituary thread.

I was also one of those people, but I kind of decided that it just isn't worth the argument even for a case like that, where the guy obviously was at fault for his own death and his passengers.

For something like this, it's even less worth arguing about.

If you want to make a fpp about the dangers of racing, feel free, though, imo.
posted by empath at 8:20 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


And yes, any criticism of motor racing in the motor racing thread is going to turn a percentage of people away from what I have to say. This doesn't mean that I shouldn't try and say it.

But why say it THERE?

I believe the criticism in the Ryan Dunn thread (despite angering some) will have changed opinions in others.

Can you point to a time when that DID happen?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on October 18, 2011


I agree with you empath. I'm just trying to argue that some level of dickish behaviour in obituary threads should be allowed.
posted by seanyboy at 8:22 AM on October 18, 2011


There are, btw, plenty of people discussing racing safety in that thread, from what I can tell.
posted by empath at 8:22 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just trying to argue that some level of dickish behaviour in obituary threads should be allowed.

As someone who engages in some dickish behavior from time to time, I'm pretty okay with them moderating it more heavily in obit threads.
posted by empath at 8:23 AM on October 18, 2011


seanyboy, Can you explain how you got the idea that you were the officially designated advocate on this issue, and that you are the sole person responsible for this campaign?

What? What?

EmpressCallipygos, that's just a plainly weird response. I'm not sure what I've said that's so pissed you off, so I'll just step out of the thread. I said what I wanted to say.
posted by seanyboy at 8:25 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


cortex, you're applying 20/20 hindsight. When you deleted the comment, you had no way of knowing it was meant as a joke. You deleted the comment because you thought it was a joke.

Of course I had no way of knowing for sure. One thing we have never claimed to be is a klatch of psychics. When we see something, we're left to use our judgement to make a decision about whether and how to act based on what we can actually see, at the risk that we might not know what someone's intent was.

Which is why I talked in my comment above about how if what MCLC had meant with his two word "FREE TIBET!" comment was something that wasn't a joke, it'd have been fine for him to go back and take a better shot at actually framing it as a serious answer. That sort of thing happens sometimes, and it works out pretty well: we get some insight into where someone is coming from, they get some insight into how moderation works in practice, and they get to have a go at sharing what they wanted to share in a more effective way.

I feel like fundamentally there's a disagreement here about whether "try harder maybe?" is an allowable approach to problematic content. Nobody on the mod team believes that people should be disqualified from talking about whatever they want to talk about, but this is a moderated community and a big part of how that expresses itself is that when something goes pretty badly it might get cleaned up. If we remove something and someone wants to try and tweak their approach and have a do-over, that's totally fine.

A lot of ink gets spilled in Metatalk about the justice-or-not of a given deletion, and that's part of what this place is for and that's fine and all but it is personally a little weird to me that there's so much friction sometimes keeping "I'm unhappy that x was deleted" from sliding onward to "I'm going to take this feedback into account and try and re-do x in a way that works well for everybody". This is a site where the do-over is not some loophole to be secretly exploited but actually pretty much our main suggestion for anything that's just a framing issue rather than a totally-not-getting-metafilter issue.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:38 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am simply trying to make a case for allowing a degree of grar-making "they deserved it" inside obituary threads.

But even in your drunk-driving argument, "they deserved it" does nothing to add to awareness.

And I don't see the mods deleting something like, "It's even more tragic when someone dies and you feel like if they had just used better judgment, their death could have been avoided. When you choose to drive drunk, you endanger others. Ryann Dunn made a choice, and now he and his friend are dead because of it. All we can be thankful for is that at least this time, no other innocent people died, too."
posted by misha at 9:32 AM on October 18, 2011


But the pattern is that the definition of "suck" means things like: "You are an asshole" and "go kill yourself", things that contribute nothing but noise to the conversation.

Those are the easy ones to defend as deletions, of course. But that isn't the whole of what "sucky" means to the mods in terms of deletions, and it might be pretty cool if you assumed for a second that people other than you weren't idiots and are talking about things that aren't death threats.

do you honestly think the site is harmed in a way by deleting banal drivel?

Yes, I really do think the site is harmed by deleting banal drivel, if that banal drivel is not attacking anyone or being really offensive. I respect the mods' jobs very much, but one job I do not want them to have is arbiter of quality. There is already a quality filter in this community, and it is the reaction of the community. If I say something you think is drivel, you are free to tell me that what I said was drivel. If I say something you think is drivel, and a mod agrees and deletes it for being banal drivel, now I have to consider whether what I'm going to say is sufficiently valuable based on some undefined and arbitrary criteria for quality; otherwise, whatever I had to say will not exist anymore. You don't have to like or give a shit about anything I say, but so long as whatever I'm saying remains inside of some fairly generous guidelines, it shouldn't matter at all whether you think it's boring or valueless, in terms of whether that comment gets to stay around.
posted by Errant at 10:52 AM on October 18, 2011


Those are the easy ones to defend as deletions, of course. But that isn't the whole of what "sucky" means to the mods in terms of deletions, and it might be pretty cool if you assumed for a second that people other than you weren't idiots and are talking about things that aren't death threats.

Okay, memail me an example of these exceptions of which you speak. Because every single time there's a callout like this, after the fact someone who saw the offending comment before it was yanked comes in and says "but they said THIS", and it's always been something like "you are a poo-fucker" and everyone else says "oh, wow, now I get it."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:13 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Done.
posted by Errant at 11:30 AM on October 18, 2011


I mentioned it in here already, Empress, but I made a comment in the thread about the New Guinean tribesman that said. "Yes, they are decent people, aren't they? Especially after they stopped eating human flesh." And that got deleted with no explanation.

And it wasn't even off topic, as they were a cannibal tribe until recently.

I don't know how often they delete stuff like that, but I think that deletion was pretty out of bounds, personally, and out of character for the site.
posted by empath at 11:35 AM on October 18, 2011


Yes, I really do think the site is harmed by deleting banal drivel, if that banal drivel is not attacking anyone or being really offensive.

Which may be the crux of this point of disagreement: if the only standard for something being a problem is direct, personal harm, we have the editorial standards of Youtube or Yahoo! Answers. Fucking up threads in mild, banal ways still leads to fucked up threads that are far less good than the sort of interesting Metafilter conversation I think most people value here.

This is all aside from the issue that where actual moderation policy stands is neither at the point of "we only delete truly awful personal attacks and fuckyouery" or at the point of "we delete anything banal on principle", but rather at a point in between those that we try to keep over toward the minimal side. Trust me, there's lots and lots of banality that I don't delete, and I'm sure there's stuff I say that other people would readily delete if they had a kill button and a mandate to nix their version of banality.

"Only kill the very worst awful stuff" is not where we're at or where we're going to be at, and it isn't where we have been at here since before I was part of that "we". I think we've tried pretty hard to acknowledge that we know and respect that different people have different standards for what they think should go, and that what we actually have as a moderation policy on this stuff is a compromise that will never make everyone happy. But this is not some new thing, some recent mutation of how this place works.

And it wasn't even off topic, as they were a cannibal tribe until recently.

It was an out-of-the-blue sarcastic riff about cannibalism right at the beginning of a thread about an article in which a documentarian talks about being friended on Facebook by one of the Sepik tribesman they met while making a recent film and about the inadvertent introduction of the idea of feathered arrows into their culture. The article had nothing to do, zilch, with historical cannibalism in the Sepik Valley and it read like a weird "oh hey remember when those guys were total savages?" zag for no good reason.

Saying it's on topic is like saying that calling Catholic priests pedophiles in a thread about the mechanical engineering involved in the Popemobile is on topic. If you wanted to actually say something substantive about the cultural contrast between historical and modern Sepik tribal beliefs, you failed pretty hard and ended up with something that looked like really borderline early-thread noise.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:10 PM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


"they were a cannibal tribe until recently" is better than "Yes, they are decent people, aren't they? Especially after they stopped eating human flesh."

a casual eye towards what gets deleted has shown me that things which take a jokey-gotcha tone are more likely to be deleted. this deletion seems to follow that idea.

i've run afoul of this before, as i'm sure many of us have, because we're funny motherfuckers. but sometimes, especially if you're making a challenging point, it's best to check your humor at the door and figure out a direct way to say something.
posted by nadawi at 12:11 PM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Trust me, there's lots and lots of banality that I don't delete, and I'm sure there's stuff I say that other people would readily delete if they had a kill button and a mandate to nix their version of banality.

Oh, I do trust you on that point. I feel like I have to keep saying that I think on the whole you guys do a really good job, because my having some disagreements seems to be translating into "censorship is terribad and you are fascists", which is, I hope, pretty clearly not where I'm coming from.

I prize interesting MetaFilter conversation as much as anyone, and I'd like every conversation to be interesting. The standard for deletion is, as far as I can see, "this is fucking up the thread", and I have no issue with that policy. I occasionally disagree on what constitutes "fucking up the thread", but that isn't to say that I then have an issue with the policy so much as its application from time to time, and that isn't to say that nothing fucks up the thread or that little things can't. I was responding to smoke's rather more strenuous "delete all banal drivel", which I don't think should happen and which isn't currently happening in my opinion.

This is all aside from the issue that where actual moderation policy stands is neither at the point of "we only delete truly awful personal attacks and fuckyouery" or at the point of "we delete anything banal on principle", but rather at a point in between those that we try to keep over toward the minimal side.

To reiterate my initial point, I believe that the moderation policy should be in between those poles also, I am not a strict minimalist-deletion person. My 2% comment above really is where I'm coming from. My disagreements, such as they are and when they are, have to do with where the needle is on that meter, but they're more like "it should move a half-inch this way" and not "smash that meter, information wants to be free".

"Only kill the very worst awful stuff" is not where we're at or where we're going to be at, and it isn't where we have been at here since before I was part of that "we".


I can see how you'd read my comment as implying that that was my stance, so I apologize for lack of clarity. I believe the bar for deletion should be a little higher than it currently is, emphasis on "a little". I understand why the bar is where it is at. I don't expect to feel like the moderation policy is ever perfectly suited to my tastes, and even if that happened by some miracle it'd then be out of line with someone else's. I think it ought to be possible to have these conversations and consider small adjustments from time to time without having that be construed as a call to end moderation or to make it completely authoritarian. It seems like people get really invested in the idea that the other person is some proponent of extremity, which I find unfortunate and erroneous.
posted by Errant at 12:37 PM on October 18, 2011


If you wanted to actually say something substantive about the cultural contrast between historical and modern Sepik tribal beliefs, you failed pretty hard and ended up with something that looked like really borderline early-thread noise.

I didn't want to say something substantive. I wanted to make a joke. You not thinking a joke was funny isn't a good enough reason to delete it, IMO.

If we're at the point where you need to make a detailed sociological essay about anything that's remotely controversial, this place is going to be a lot less interesting to me.
posted by empath at 12:41 PM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not going to bring it up again, because I'm getting to the point where i'm getting unduly exercised about an edge case. I just basically wanted to register my annoyance about it. (and you know that I rarely if ever complain when my stuff gets deleted).
posted by empath at 12:43 PM on October 18, 2011


I didn't want to say something substantive. I wanted to make a joke. You not thinking a joke was funny isn't a good enough reason to delete it, IMO.

...Intellectual exercise: what if it were a thread about Irish-Americans and the joke in question was some riff on "they put down the green beer long enough to get productive"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:30 PM on October 18, 2011


Yeah, Errant, I hear you; I should clarify here that I'm talking more about the overall gestalt of ideas about this than trying to specifically characterize your stance, which is one of the tricky things about these discussions where everyone has a slightly different take. I don't want to spend the whole thread being like "user A, I agree with you 80%; user B, 70%; user C, 20%" or whatever, but as a result of going more for what I laughingly call brevity it gets to be slightly less obvious where I'm trying to argue with some specific person in the conversation or talking more generally.

Generally I feel like, yeah, we have a basic moderation stance that walks a compromise line that's at least mostly on target with what most people are comfortable with in terms of deletions: stuff does get deleted, and not just nuclear grade awfulness, but we try to keep it pretty minimal, and folks are going to individually disagree with some of those decisions even if they're mostly on board with the overall thrust of deletion practice here. And all of that is fine and not really anything we're overly worried about on the mod side: stuff gets deleted, sometimes someone wants to talk about it, and those are both parts of the job that we all signed up for.

For folks who have much strong feelings about the site not being where they feel it should be, we probably don't have any real recourse. The rare "you are literally ruining metafilter by deleting comments" thing isn't something we're going to make a huge change to site operation to try and pacify, nor is the rare request that Metafilter be made a significantly Safe Space from one or another of a variety of potentially upsetting or problematic content. And those aren't the common positions folks take here, so while I always feel like it's a bummer that someone's unhappy with how the site isn't meeting their ideals, it's an inevitability in a large place like this with a heterogeneous population of thousands of active users.

Our goal is pretty much to be as consistent as we can with the understanding, hopefully recognized and accepted by the bulk of the userbase, that we can't and won't be perfectly consistent for a bunch of reasons that mostly come back to us being humans who try to be flexible. Talking about the rough edges of this stuff in the context of that is fine and really even pretty important in some ways, but it's tricky stuff at the same time because outliers aren't great representative lenses through which to try and view the overall situation and I feel like we can end up talking past each other sometimes about this stuff; it gets to feeling like "this is what we're trying to accomplish most of the time, and how we're doing it" is zipping past "here's the worst failure to accomplish that in my opinion, how can that happen" and vice versa.

We're never going to be perfect and consistent, but we're a lot more worried about making sure that how we operate as a general thing is solid and clear than about taking the muddiest situations we have to deal with or the most borderline calls we end up having to make and treating them like the core of how moderation works here. Grey areas are grey, they're hard to work through and hard to find happy compromises in, but most of what we do all day, most of what moderation policy is in practice here, isn't grey, it's pretty straightforward stuff that has worked for years and years.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:32 PM on October 18, 2011


...Intellectual exercise: what if it were a thread about Irish-Americans and the joke in question was some riff on "they put down the green beer long enough to get productive"?

I posted it immediately after getting to this part of the documentary where they themselves make a joke about it with the cast of Stomp. But anyway, whatever.
posted by empath at 1:41 PM on October 18, 2011


Yeah, I think that it can also feel like the emphasis is on those relatively rare edge cases, because they're the ones that generate the most heat through clash of expectation, and then it feels like the majority of your work is getting characterized by those outliers. I think about a soccer analogy, which is that referees are doing their best, or at least their most generally accepted, work when no one talks about them at all, and then it always feels like they're defined by their controversies when those controversies are like 1% of their overall job.
posted by Errant at 6:10 PM on October 18, 2011


Well, it's that 1% of their job that sets good moderators apart from bad ones, I think.
posted by dg at 6:24 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I disagree. Controversy is inevitable, no matter how good you are. I'd argue that the mark of a good moderator is that the controversies are 1% of the job and not 5, 10, or 20%.
posted by Errant at 8:18 PM on October 18, 2011


I agree with Errant on that point. 95% of the time I agree with the mods. In a site this huge, with this many members, that's astonishingly high.

I posted some utter crap to the blue recently that I shouldn't have. It was basically outrage filter, and I wanted there to be more to it, but I was in a hurry, and instead of not posting I just made it worse by padding--ugh. It stunk. So when I came back and it was deleted, I was relieved, because I knew I had made this impulsive post that really was not up to my own standards. I like to think that I don't normally do that. I was having a bad day.

When a user gets extremely GRAR and we know that isn't like them, we tell them to go outside, take a break, take a walk or whatever. We can see something's off.

But when a mod deletes with a heavier hand on a given day, we are much tougher on them. People want to know the precise reasons why their comment went and another stayed, take offense at the wording of the deletion reason, figure it's personal. Their entire modding history gets brought up and dissected.

It's not that I'm saying Empath's feelings, for instance, aren't valid, because I personally think his comment was fine and would have let it stand.

Unless I was having a bad day.

Everyone has bad days. But we tend to forget that 'everyone' includes the mods.
posted by misha at 10:53 PM on October 18, 2011


Errant: "I disagree. Controversy is inevitable, no matter how good you are. I'd argue that the mark of a good moderator is that the controversies are 1% of the job and not 5, 10, or 20%."

I'm not sure that we disagree so much as we are coming from a different angle, but perhaps I should have been clearer.

Mods are something like pilots in that their job is routine 99% of the time and there's not a huge difference between a good one and an average one - it's that 1% of the time when critical things are going wrong and every decision could lead to or avert a complete disaster that the skill of both is tested to the limit. How either one reacts in those times is what defines whether they are good or average.

But yeah, one of the marks of a good moderator (or pilot, I guess) is how often they end up in those situations, so I don't particularly disagree with your point of view.
posted by dg at 2:25 PM on October 19, 2011


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