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If your website is full of assholes, it's your fault December 29, 2011 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Mefite[1] Anil Dash[2] writes[3]: "Simply learning from disciplines like urban planning, zoning regulations, crowd control, effective and humane policing, and the simple practices it takes to stage an effective public event, we can come up with a set of principles to prevent the overwhelming majority of the worst behaviors on the Internet." Examples? Why Metafilter, of course, (as well as Stack Exchange sites, of which he is a board member).

# You should have real humans dedicated to monitoring and responding to your community.

"...Sites that do this, like MetaFilter and Stack Exchange sites (disclosure, I'm a proud board member of Stack Exchange) get good results. Those that don't, don't...."

# Your site should have accountable identities.

"No, people don't have to use their real names, ... one of my favorite methods of identity: Persistent pseudonyms. Let users pick a handle that is attached to all of their contributions in a consistent way where other people can see what they've done on the site. Don't make reputation a number or a score, make it an actual representation of the person's behavior..."

# You should have the technology to easily identify and stop bad behaviors.

"If you have a community that's of decent size, it can be hard for even a sufficient number of moderators to read every single conversation thread. So a way for people to flag behavior that violates guidelines, and a simple set of tools for allowing moderators to respond quickly and appropriately, are a must-have so that people don't get overwhelmed."

# You should make a budget that supports having a good community, or you should find another line of work.

[ . . . ]

Because if your website is full of assholes, it's your fault. And if you have the power to fix it and don't do something about it, you're one of them.
posted by Tuesday After Lunch to MetaFilter-Related at 1:57 PM (89 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Who will make the joke that all of us are itching to make right now?
posted by koeselitz at 1:59 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Didn't we talk about this when it was written? No? I like anildash and I use the plain white background in his honor.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:03 PM on December 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


yay! anildash is how I found here.
posted by sweetkid at 2:05 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


#your site should censor freely
posted by telstar at 2:13 PM on December 29, 2011


"I like anildash and I use the plain white background in his honor."

Heh. That whole episode gave me a really bad impression of him. It's nice to think that it wasn't representative.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:16 PM on December 29, 2011


Because if your website is full of assholes, it's your fault.

Define "full of".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:23 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The thing's hollow—it goes on forever—and—oh my God—it's full of stars!"
posted by sweetkid at 2:27 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Asshole-full is the long form of the contraction 'awful'.
posted by carsonb at 2:37 PM on December 29, 2011


I hear this comment at every single meetup when someone glances at my phone:

"oh, you, um use the professional white background on your phone?"

Little do they know that's my setting everywhere. EVERYWHERE! I'm not ashamed.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 3:30 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yo pb: Any chance you could run a quick query on the settings database and tell us what percentage of Mefites use the Professional White Background TM?
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 3:31 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I look forward to the new SEO submissions on the contact form tumblr.

I used to use the professional White background, but find the traditional colors more soothing.
posted by arcticseal at 3:36 PM on December 29, 2011


i love anil dash. he's funny and smart and an all around good chap.

my husband uses the professional white background and i mock him for it. of course, he mocks me for my "gaudy colors that hurt his eyes."
posted by nadawi at 3:47 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


That whole episode gave me a really bad impression of him

Why? I don't recall him acting like an ass about it.
posted by jayder at 3:51 PM on December 29, 2011


I like anildash and I use the plain white background in his honor.

I use the professional white background so I am less likely to get fired at work.
posted by OmieWise at 4:00 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Previously - this exact thing.

However, it was a great article, and he talks a lot of sense
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:11 PM on December 29, 2011


'Guess I'll just watch for the glorious burst of red on my flickering terminal this cool winter evening..
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 4:34 PM on December 29, 2011


"Why? I don't recall him acting like an ass about it."

Your memory in this case is faulty. I just now re-read that thread.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:43 PM on December 29, 2011


That thread. Hard to believe that was 4.5 years ago, seems like only yesterday. We were all pretty ridiculous in that thread, thank goodness for the Brand New Day!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:18 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anil enjoys mint slushes and calamari.
posted by jonmc at 5:26 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I should have flagging tools to identify bad behavior? And user identities? Woah there buddy slow down. This way to advanced for me.

It's like he's a faucet of genius that's broken and won't shut off.
posted by euphorb at 5:37 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I use the professional white background because the other one gives me a headache.
posted by empath at 5:38 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


My view has kind of changed, since anildash posted that feature request. Since that time, I have made Metafilter default to a white background and I find it far better that way.

But colored-background pages seem, somehow, so 2002?
posted by jayder at 5:48 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Professional white at work, funky blue at home. BEST OF ALL WORLDS
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:58 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Professional white at work, funky blue at home.

MulletFilter.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:28 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Any chance you could run a quick query on the settings database and tell us what percentage of Mefites use the Professional White Background

Sure. Of the 15,266 members who have visited the site within the last 30 days, 1,840 currently have their preference set to the plain theme. So around 12%. But keep in mind that the preference is cookie-based. So it's possible for people to have their profile currently set to the default theme, yet they're using the plain theme somewhere.
posted by pb (staff) at 6:30 PM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


thanks pb!
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 7:04 PM on December 29, 2011


New Mefi t-shirt idea:

I am the 12%


/Calls Anil Dash to set up sekrit twelve percenter handshake.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 7:06 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


That thread. Hard to believe that was 4.5 years ago, seems like only yesterday. We were all pretty ridiculous in that thread, thank goodness for the Brand New Day!

Boy howdy that was a clusterfuck. I've wondered about the origin of "professional white background" & now I know. Sadly I don't think I'm any wiser for the knowledge.
posted by scalefree at 7:41 PM on December 29, 2011


That whole episode gave me a really bad impression of him. It's nice to think that it wasn't representative.

Singular episodes are hardly ever really indicative of the poster. I think most people who have been around awhile and are OK with sticking their head over the parapet have had a bad thread or two here. I certainly have. I would hate to think that after 5 years and 5,000 contributions, the two or three threads where I made an ass of myself are the overriding impression someone may have of me. On the other hand, I have some kind of deficit that makes it virtually impossible for me to connect a name with a posting history, so basically I read every post on its own merits and every day is a brand new day with me. (I guess that means that if you're an ass, you can come sit next to me until you are so consistently an ass that even I figure out you are a dipshit.)
posted by DarlingBri at 7:48 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait, I didn't know I predated professional white background. How is that possible? That means I used to comment on BLUE? Mind = blown.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:01 PM on December 29, 2011


also I clicked like 15 of the mefi redesign contest submissions and I didn't get a single page that was still live and it made me weirdly sad. the fuck is up with that?
posted by nathancaswell at 8:05 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


DarlingBri: "On the other hand, I have some kind of deficit that makes it virtually impossible for me to connect a name with a posting history, so basically I read every post on its own merits and every day is a brand new day with me."

Oh, I so have that.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:17 PM on December 29, 2011


That whole episode gave me a really bad impression of him. It's nice to think that it wasn't representative.

That episode gave me a bad impression of Metatalk, not him. That was an absurd amount of pushback to a relatively anodyne and reasonable suggestion. Metatalk's antipathy to any suggested changes is kind of ridiculous.
posted by empath at 8:35 PM on December 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


I like anildash just fine and the non-plain background site makes my retinas hemorrhage.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:40 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


That episode gave me a bad impression of Metatalk, not him.

I thought it was really, really funny and silly. And I liked how he went from acting like a big man to ending up sheepish, and didn't that whole thing end with a hug, anyway?

How can you be a real Mefite unless you say some boneheaded things from time to time to each other? That's what family's all about.
posted by anniecat at 8:58 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like the use of the white, purple, and pink on his website. It's so cute.
posted by anniecat at 9:01 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm particularly proud* of the user who told him, seemingly out of nowhere, to go eat a bucket of cocks.

*No I'm not.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:02 PM on December 29, 2011


I'm particularly proud* of the user who told him, seemingly out of nowhere, to go eat a bucket of cocks.

When people first started saying that, was it a "bucket of cocks"? I can almost swear I heard my cousin tell someone to eat a "bowl of cocks." I think I heard someone once say "bag of cocks." Bag, bowl, bucket? Chicken? Egg?
posted by anniecat at 9:11 PM on December 29, 2011


louie ck is a big fan of the "bag of cocks"
posted by nathancaswell at 9:13 PM on December 29, 2011


"That was an absurd amount of pushback to a relatively anodyne and reasonable suggestion. Metatalk's antipathy to any suggested changes is kind of ridiculous."

It wasn't the suggestion that was the problem, it was how the suggestion was made. And then he doubled down on the attitude, saying things like "And to think I wasted all that time studying propositional calculus" and " I'd submit that some of the people who are taking the idea seriously are doing so because I do know a little bit about this kind of thing, and because I've been a member of this community longer than, well, all of you."

He was actually treated more gently than he would have been if he hadn't been who he is. That wasn't an especially bad example of MetaTalk behavior on the part of the community, it's how people here always have reacted to someone posting in MetaTalk with that kind of attitude.

Furthermore, history hasn't been kind to his credibility, both in regard to his arguments about MetaFilter and how it should look, and Six Apart itself. He was basically saying that AskMe wouldn't be generally successful with the green background because it would drive away "normal" people.

Like some of the older folk here, I am a veteran of the dotcom era, of vast amounts of venture capital sloshing around, multi-billion dollar valuations at IPO, and especially of hype and self-proclaimed visionaries. Not coincidentally, also specifically of the enterprise CMS space. The little boomlet in the aughts in blogging and new media and such was a replay of a lot of stupid stuff that I thought people had learned hard lessons about just a few years before.

This notion that MetaFilter ought to have a conventional presentation in order to be "professional" so as to "attract new users" is exactly this sort of nonsense. It's superficially correct, of course. It's like saying that Dr Pepper ought to reformulate to taste more like Coca-Cola if it wants a bigger market share.

There's a herd mentality that is encouraged by people like Anil and which is ultimately destructive. MetaFilter is successful because it's not like everywhere else. The ways in which it is different are myriad, each insufficient and arguably not even necessary, but collectively creates something that satisfies a particular purpose quite well. Almost everything that would make it more conventional will move it away from being as effective at serving that purpose. The site colors aren't high on that list—unlike, say, the lack of threaded comments—but they're nevertheless important because they have a pretty strong effect of creating a distinct site identity.

I am very friendly to Anil's argument in this link and I do agree with it, but with some caveats—chief among them that he's making the same sort of mistake he's made in the past. That is, one size doesn't fit all. It is very much the case that some of the sites that have bad community experiences nevertheless work very well for the purposes that are most important to those sites. And there are of course counterexamples to his universal claims—a number of the classic unmoderated Usenet newsgroups, for example.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:26 PM on December 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


I have used the professional white for about as long as I can remember, and whenever I see the site in its default color scheme it looks very strange to me.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:08 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh wow, I always thought the "professional white background" was a running gag I didn't get.

It's actually a thing! I'm now reading MetaFilter like a professional!
posted by Packed Lunch at 10:48 PM on December 29, 2011


Hurm. I got curious about what Vox, mentioned in the thread was, and it was closed. And unprofessional MeFi is still here.
posted by rodgerd at 2:17 AM on December 30, 2011


dude, seriously. it's an option in the preferences!
posted by Packed Lunch at 2:38 AM on December 30, 2011


It wasn't the suggestion that was the problem, it was how the suggestion was made.

But that's what is so consistently stupid about MetaTalk: that tone trumps everything else. I'm beginning to think my own ability to ignore tone (i.e. have no emotional response to it) is some kind of superpower. I know it isn't, but on the other hand that thread makes me wonder if I'm some kind of freak of nature.
posted by Ritchie at 4:07 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The sites with the best communities have a really low ratio of community members to moderators.

(sobs)
posted by flabdablet at 5:00 AM on December 30, 2011


Anil Dash once favorited a comment of mine.
posted by slogger at 6:02 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


True story: Anil Dash and I went to the same high school. Five or six years apart and we definitely didn't know each other, but still.
posted by The Michael The at 6:36 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


An anagram of "Professional White Background" is:

Toke Worshiping Cabal Founders
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:07 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I found this out because I started looking for anagrams of Anil Dash, and you're really not going to top Anal Dish, but that's just crass.)
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:16 AM on December 30, 2011


I follow anildash all over the internet but he never follows me back.
posted by Sailormom at 7:38 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


jessamyn: "Didn't we talk about this when it was written? No? I like anildash and I use the plain white background in his honor."

Living in a cave as I do, I don't know much about this Anildash cat, but I just tried the professional white background in his honor and I like it. Make it 12.01%.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:48 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am the 88%.

"professional" was a poor choice of words. And now he's going to be the butt of the inside joke for a long time. Pity.
posted by bukvich at 10:10 AM on December 30, 2011


True story: When I have eaten too much Indian food and the restroom is too far away, I make an Anil Dash.

I AM SO SORRY
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:16 AM on December 30, 2011


So much for keeping your 'background' professionally white, then.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:47 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


BE HONEST YOU ARE NOT SORRY AT ALL.
posted by Aizkolari at 11:50 AM on December 30, 2011


I got curious about what Vox, mentioned in the thread was, and it was closed. - I kinda miss Vox. (Used it for my SUPER SEEKRIT blog for a while, wrote a lot during a bad stretch, and figured out that I needed to look for a new job.)
posted by epersonae at 12:35 PM on December 30, 2011


"Anil" is a regular name in his native land (Pennsylvania). I bet he's a little tired of the anal cracks.
posted by pracowity at 12:47 PM on December 30, 2011


I bet he's a little tired of the anal cracks.

I see what you did there.
posted by rodgerd at 1:45 PM on December 30, 2011


Wow, I missed the "white background" thing, did a little search and just read the thread. I find it interesting that people are mentioning it here as if it reflects badly on Anil Dash ("let's not pay attention at this guy, LOOK AT WHAT HE DID") when that thread should be Exhibit A on the "What's wrong with Metafilter" case.
posted by falameufilho at 4:52 PM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "True story: When I have eaten too much Indian food and the restroom is too far away, I make an Anil Dash."

jesus tapdancing christ
posted by falameufilho at 4:55 PM on December 30, 2011


Stay Crassy
posted by Mick at 5:07 PM on December 30, 2011


I feel like Vox was to Metachat what Google+ is to Metafilter: a place to go that isn't the site but might as well be because you're mostly just talking to people from the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:16 PM on December 30, 2011


I respectfully ask people quit it with these jokes about the name "Anil." Thanks.
posted by sweetkid at 5:16 PM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


sweetkid, stop being so Anil
posted by nathancaswell at 5:29 PM on December 30, 2011


Anil, he's still out there somewhere - honing his routine in the digital catskills.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:31 PM on December 30, 2011


He could have opened up a store called "Dash" but the Kardashians own that now.
posted by anniecat at 6:01 PM on December 30, 2011


The sites with the best communities have a really low ratio of community members to moderators

I'm looking forward to having my own personal moderator. We could go out for a beer and have adventures.
posted by arcticseal at 6:30 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that as the number of users per moderator decreases toward one, the chances of having to bail the user out of jail increases likewise toward that value.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:43 PM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that as the number of users per moderator decreases toward one, the chances of having to bail the user out of jail increases likewise toward that value.

Challenge accepted!
posted by scalefree at 10:12 AM on December 31, 2011


That old thread was a nice Dash down memory lane, though I try not to be too Anil retentive.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 4:35 PM on December 31, 2011


Wow, way to ring in the new year, re-dissecting an old post from a long-standing member and then taking the piss out of his name. What are you people, eight years old? It's neither clever nor funny.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:50 PM on December 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I'm put off by the mocking of his name. To my knowledge he has always been an helpful, good faith contributor here. Why are you all laughing at his name?
posted by jayder at 6:06 PM on December 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wasn't my best thread. But yeah, the site really should be white. :)

Happy New Year, everybody! May your worst conversations not haunt you into 2012.
posted by anildash at 7:04 PM on December 31, 2011 [11 favorites]


I apologize for the joke about his name. It was in poor taste. As somebody who goes by Bunny Ultramod, I am in no position to poke fun at anybody else's moniker, especially when it's their actual name and is a perfectly fine one.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:49 AM on January 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


jayder: "Yeah, I'm put off by the mocking of his name. To my knowledge he has always been an helpful, good faith contributor here. Why are you all laughing at his name?"

People will do stuff like that when they can't find anything legitimate to laugh at someone about.
posted by dg at 2:54 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


"People will do stuff like that when they can't find anything legitimate to laugh at someone about."

That may be true...but when others don't do it, that doesn't necessarily mean that they can't find anything legitimate to laugh about.

I find the jokes about Anil's name to be stupid and juvenile. But I also find this knee-jerk defense of him to be equally juvenile. He himself has just said that his behavior in that thread wasn't anything he's proud of—hell, he said so in the thread itself. I'd be more sympathetic to giving his behavior in that thread a pass on the basis of his being a sort of founding mefite and someone that many people here have online (or real-world) relationships with...if he hadn't invoked that exact status as part of his bad behavior in that thread.

There's been several comments to the effect that the mefite response in that thread is "everything that is wrong with this shithole" (paraphrase) and while the exact nature of the offensiveness hasn't been explained by anyone, I'm guessing it's the snark and piling-on. And, really, I agree that this isn't behavior to be proud of. It's not pretty. And, all things being equal, the less of it, the better.

But if you're going to complain about it, then you ought to take note of the fact that this is pretty much universal for all web communities bigger than tiny; and, more to the point, there's about a bazillion examples of such behavior on MeFi that are egregious and inexcusable and...this wasn't one of them. The only damn reason why Anil got then, and now, any spirited defense from anyone was because of status and familiarity, not on the merits. Anyone who ever posts to MetaTalk about how something fundamental to the site ought to be changed so as to appeal to "normal" people and that this is necessarily good advice because the poster is a recognized authority, who we all should respectfully listen to, is always and forever raked over the coals for both the presumption and just general boorishness.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:09 PM on January 2, 2012


I also find this knee-jerk defense of him to be equally juvenile

Lots of us are personal friends of his. And some people think the site looks better with a white background. I don't think anyone was thinking he should get special treatment, just that racist jokes about his name [which, to be fair, if I didn't know him personally I would have axed with more haste, but I made a decision not to do that which I'm still not totally sure about] and his ethnic background are sort of out of line even for here. That was my main concern.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:28 PM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think anyone was thinking he should get special treatment, just that racist jokes about his name [which, to be fair, if I didn't know him personally I would have axed with more haste, but I made a decision not to do that which I'm still not totally sure about] and his ethnic background are sort of out of line even for here.

Thanks for saying this -- I objected to the jokes but didn't want to start anything by specifically calling them out as racist or xenophobic, but yes, that's how I saw them.
posted by sweetkid at 9:42 PM on January 2, 2012


" I don't think anyone was thinking he should get special treatment, just that racist jokes about his name [which, to be fair, if I didn't know him personally I would have axed with more haste, but I made a decision not to do that which I'm still not totally sure about] and his ethnic background are sort of out of line even for here. "

Those were very much out of line and I completely agree with you. When I mentioned "knee-jerk defenses" of Anil, I was referring to defending his behavior in the past thread, not defending him against this other crap. And you should have axed those comments, they were not only dumb, but they were about someone's actual, real-world name, and—as sweetkid wrote—right up near that line where something more sinister lives.

Personally, I don't assume that the jokes were xenophobic or racist—I saw them more like a Beavis and Butthead thing where making a pun for "anal" was irresistible (for some). I doubt any of the jokers stopped to consider this more carefully.

Please don't interpret my comment as an apology for that behavior, or as cover for it.

Also, by the way, it's not as if Anil's behavior in that old thread was heinous and that he therefore deserves to be despised for all time for it. As I wrote in my initial comment, it gave me a bad impression of him, but I am prepared to believe that it's not representative. But I find the defense of him (with regard to that thread) to be mystifying and, frankly, annoying because it strikes me as hypocritical and most likely the product of the bias of—as you say—people being personal friends of his. Although that's perfectly human, it does matter because it's easy to be generous and forgiving to people you know and like and hard to be generous and forgiving of random strangers. If the snark and pile-on in that thread was offensive—and while I don't think it really was, I accept the opposing viewpoint as valid—then, dammit, it's all the times that some schmo, who no one knows, is unjustly tarred and feathered that the a-list group should speak up and complain—not merely when it's one of their own.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:00 PM on January 2, 2012


I find the jokes about Anil's name to be stupid and juvenile. But I also find this knee-jerk defense of him to be equally juvenile
I wasn't defending him, just noting that making jokes about someone's name tends to be the lowest common denominator that people stoop to when all else fails.

The fact that Anil has been a contributor here in good faith pretty much forever is neither here nor there, in my book. Sure, the suggestion that 'more professional' (a matter of personal opinion anyway) is equal to 'better' was a pretty spectacularly poor read of MeFi culture. Sure, he didn't aquit himself particularly well in that thread. Who can honestly say that they haven't represented themselves poorly or mis-read the crowd from time to time, though?

On the other hand, I'm sure the tar and feathering would have been swift and brutal if someone less well-known had made the same suggestion.
posted by dg at 10:07 PM on January 2, 2012


On the other hand, I'm sure the tar and feathering would have been swift and brutal if someone less well-known had made the same suggestion.

Probably not. A lot of mefites get off on shitting on celebrities and experts that drop by. I've seen it happen a bunch.
posted by empath at 11:03 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your comment, empath, makes for a nice example of a syllogistic fallacy. It seems like recently I've read somewhere about research and speculative discussion of why it is that people have trouble with certain kinds of linguistic transformations of logical equivalencies (or assuming that certain linguistic transformations are logically equivalent when they're not).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:17 PM on January 2, 2012


Oh, good lord.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:23 AM on January 3, 2012


For the record, my beef with this thread was not that there was a pile on. It is that a transparently racist comment was allowed to stand in this thread. I don't care who made the comment, what their intent was, or how well known or not well known the subject of the comment may be. "Special treatment" would be the mods deleting anything that might be offensive because the subject has some celebrity. That is not what happened here. In fact, the opposite happened here -

just that racist jokes about his name [which, to be fair, if I didn't know him personally I would have axed with more haste, but I made a decision not to do that which I'm still not totally sure about] and his ethnic background are sort of out of line even for here.

Basically, the moderators know Anil and made a judgement call that the taunts in this thread wouldn't have him crying in his cornflakes. That's a perfectly valid call, but my discomfort is down to the fact that this means the mods are basically playing inside baseball on a public field. In other words, they know something a casual reader is less likely to know, and now it looks like we tolerate racist barbs here. Which I would like to think we do not do, ever, except we just did.

Having said that, MeFi is not run for my personal comfort level and that's OK. At this juncture I am primarily very glad there's public clarification in a public thread.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:21 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Were any of the defenders of him doing so in a "knee jerk" fashion? I didn't see that, necessarily. It seemed that they were defending him with due consideration.
posted by jayder at 6:52 AM on January 3, 2012


I appreciate the deliberation and thought here, and the spirited defenses, so perhaps I should offer something more than my glib comments above. Yes, I do believe a white background would help the site -- appealing to new users in a way that might encourage them to stay and participate is a valuable goal that I think the site should aspire to more than it does. (MeFi is fairly extreme in its deliberate hostility to new users) Obviously, articulating that as "professional" is a weak way to say it, but that was one word out of hundreds in that thread, amplified by people who wanted to disagree. I'm not wounded that people were so defensive about it; As noted above, there are people who see a semi-recognizable name (as mine is in this context) as a target to be attacked, and I know that.

As to the matter of mocking my name, I think some people do it just as a knee-jerk "haw haw" response to an unfamiliar name, but they feel more comfortable doing so because ours is a racist culture where that sort of thing is encouraged. Doesn't mean they're bad people (as the kind apologies I've gotten in this thread and on memail attest), but rather that we're all subject to our contexts and sometimes have to put in extra effort to transcend them.

Finally:
The only damn reason why Anil got then, and now, any spirited defense from anyone was because of status and familiarity, not on the merits. Anyone who ever posts to MetaTalk about how something fundamental to the site ought to be changed so as to appeal to "normal" people and that this is necessarily good advice because the poster is a recognized authority, who we all should respectfully listen to, is always and forever raked over the coals for both the presumption and just general boorishness.
This is factually incorrect, as evidenced in this thread. Many people on this very page have extolled the virtues of a different appearance to the site. More broadly I'm sure many could agree that, regardless of whatever specific aesthetic choices are made to serve the goal, changes which bring in worthy new participants to the site would also be of merit. You introduced the word "normal" (and in a pejorative sense, no less!) to this conversation, not me.

I don't intend to re-legislate that earlier thread, but I don't want to leave uncorrected the plainly false assertion that it was impossible that the many people who agreed with the fundamental idea I was advocating were acting in anything other than intellectually honest good faith. There's no reason to imply they're all just suck-ups; I'm hardly someone who has enough cachet or renown as to be worth sucking up to.
posted by anildash at 9:05 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I actually had no idea where the white background came from before this thread. I just much prefer it, which is why I found the insane hostility toward the idea in the original thread really off putting.
posted by empath at 9:14 AM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


"You introduced the word 'normal' (and in a pejorative sense, no less!) to this conversation, not me."

You wrote this in the thread we're discussing:

"Or, as some of us like to call them, 'normal' people. I guess I had presumed that some here were interested in attracting new members, as well."

It's okay that you don't remember everything you wrote in that thread; not so much that you would use it as a point of contention without bothering to check.

"I don't intend to re-legislate that earlier thread, but I don't want to leave uncorrected the plainly false assertion that it was impossible that the many people who agreed with the fundamental idea I was advocating were acting in anything other than intellectually honest good faith."

That is a false assertion, but it's not one I made. I asserting that the defense of you was/is influenced by personal relationships and status (not that it was exclusively and entirely influenced so)...the defense of the "fundamental idea [you were] advocating isn't anything I wrote about specifically.

"(MeFi is fairly extreme in its deliberate hostility to new users)"

You made this claim four years ago and, unlike your advocacy for the white background, there was very close to no one who agreed with you. It's hard to understand why you think this is true and, frankly, it indicates to me that your view of MetaFilter is more from afar than it is based upon actual, direct experience.

I was here on April 2nd 2004, which was the second day of only two when MeFi publicly opened its doors again after years of closed membership. The clique here then was as insular as it has ever been (post the days when it was so small as to be inconsequential) and yet that smaller, more cliquish community welcomed the new members with open arms. Not every veteran member did so, that's true. But most did. And in November when membership was truly opened, and the flood began, I was extremely active—among the top five commenters on the site at that time—and I certainly don't recall any sort of collective animosity against new users. Quite the contrary.

MetaFilter has a distinct community culture, that's true. Every web community worth participating in—or, if you like, every web community that has any relative longevity—has a distinct culture that necessarily is unfriendly to those who don't at least partly conform to it. This is how communities work, everywhere, forever.

In any case, I find myself annoyed at the ironic obtuseness of someone who would write the linked piece at the top of this thread, someone who makes his living acting as a consultant on these matters. Because in the context of what is and isn't welcoming to new users, what does and doesn't encourage MetaFilter to grow its userbase, the matter of the background colors is manifestly unimportant. Where to start? How about the five-dollar entry donation? Its effect at deterring new users is many orders of magnitude stronger than presentation. Then there's the lack of emoticons and chatspeak, coupled with a near-universal use of capitalization and punctuation. Again, that is a huge bar to entry for the average person who would otherwise be inclined to join and participate in a web community.

And since you did, and likely still do, have AskMe in mind about all this, it's worth pointing out that every question & answer site where the barrier to entry is low (thus, by definition, being more friendly to new users and more encouraging of growth) has much less utility as a question & answer site than AskMetaFilter. Clearly, growth for growth's sake is counterproductive in this context; while, in contrast, growth of the kinds of users that AskMe already has would be productive.

It may be that some portion of potential AskMe participants, who are like current AskMe participants, are dissuaded from joining because of the green background. But it may also be that many of the potential AskMe participants who are put off by the green background are unlike current AskMe participants. If fact, this is quite likely, as current AskMe participants are, in aggregate, self-selecting for people who don't mind the green background. It's entirely unclear what sort of effect changing the background would have on the quality of participation—it will slightly shift the demographics, but whether it would improve or degrade them is unknown.

What we do know is that the current demographic works. The current demographic, which largely doesn't mind the green background, forms a community of question answerers who collectively do a much better job at this than anyone else on the web. So why, exactly, are you so eager to fix something that isn't broken?

And, really, why are you so focused upon a presentation change to "attract new users" when there are numerous far more effective changes that could be made to accomplish this goal, none of which take a web guru's acumen to identify?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:48 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


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