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Thoughts on comment thread meta-comments. April 19, 2012 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Perhaps I don't have enough experience on the site to gauge this, but does anyone else find one liner meta comments about threads really annoying and useless? Perhaps this is something that should be mentioned in the guidelines? From the negative "This will not go well." to the typical sarcastic "This is thread is going nowhere..." to the positive "I'm surprised this went well!", they seem out of place and more about the person writing it than the topic at hand. When I remember, I'm going to start marking all of these as noise.
posted by smidgen to Etiquette/Policy at 12:56 PM (108 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

They're crappy noise posts. I say flag them and move on.
posted by introp at 12:58 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think we have reached Peak Peeve.
posted by absalom at 12:58 PM on April 19, 2012 [25 favorites]


thanks for the update please keep us apprised on your future flagging strategies.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:00 PM on April 19, 2012 [24 favorites]


Flagging this thread: redundant or ironic?
posted by Curious Artificer at 1:02 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


There was the MeTa the other day that has plenty of discussion on this point.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:02 PM on April 19, 2012


I think we have reached Peak Peeve.

I agree! We seem to be on a streak of very personal, very granular peeves about the way we converse with one another. We need a big cookie jar full of Live and Let Live around here.
posted by Miko at 1:04 PM on April 19, 2012 [17 favorites]


Fair enough. I'm relatively new, so this is me partially wondering whether it's a policy issue or it's the type of thing you just flag and move on.
posted by smidgen at 1:05 PM on April 19, 2012


it's the type of thing you just flag and move on.

Everything is the type of thing you just flag and move on.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:08 PM on April 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


I see mods complain about them too, so I think flagging is appreciated (and making those comments in the first place is not).
posted by dfan at 1:14 PM on April 19, 2012


My current #1 piss is the "shut up and take my money" line.
posted by Edogy at 1:16 PM on April 19, 2012


In fact, I've been noticing that since the last time we had a huge conversation about derails, early threadshitting and whatnot, the mods have all been far more stringent about maintaining order regarding these types of comments. Afaics anyway...
posted by infini at 1:17 PM on April 19, 2012


I'm quick to move on but seldom flag. Flagging just seems so final.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:17 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fair enough. I'm relatively new, so this is me partially wondering whether it's a policy issue or it's the type of thing you just flag and move on.

The answer is both: these sorts of comments are frowned upon, and the best way for you to help crank up the frownbeam is by flagging and moving on.
posted by vorfeed at 1:18 PM on April 19, 2012


Yeah, the mod take on this is that one-liners by themselves aren't necessarily a problem, but one-liners specifically to just generically beef about a post or to predict its doom or to forecast (sarcastically or otherwise) Something The Commenter Dislikes About Threads On This Subject pretty routinely make threads worse and are worth flagging. We'll delete a lot of that stuff if we see it early enough to prevent some sort of derail about it getting wrapped up tightly in the rest of the conversation.

Generally speaking, metacommentary belongs in Metatalk. There's stuff that is more grey area or mild that isn't going to get deleted, and sometimes the specific context of a thread is unusual enough that a little more navelgazing than normal is understandable in the flow of the conversation itself, but most of the time when someone is talking about a thread or about the Ur-thread in a thread on the blue or the green what they need to do is decide if it's something that actually needs public discussion and if so it should come over here immediately.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:18 PM on April 19, 2012


Veni, vidi, abii.
posted by y2karl at 1:20 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


thanks for the update please keep us apprised on your future flagging strategies.

And in sort of a related vein, this sort of thing is a good example of stuff that doesn't make metatalk threads themselves any better. It's okay to just not agree with or like someone's opinion about something site related and let that be your own inside-your-head thing to deal with instead of immediately getting sort of sarcastic and jerkish at people for using this part of the site the way it was intended.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:21 PM on April 19, 2012 [21 favorites]


I think metatalk posts should be open to ridicule as a self-correcting mechanism.
posted by found missing at 1:24 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


historically, they have been, but i guess this part of mefi is a pads-and-helmet zone too.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:24 PM on April 19, 2012


Veni, vexillavi, percurri.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:25 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm actually kind of chuffed that the first few comments weren't just a bunch of people all saying "this will not go well" or "this will wendell" over and over.

I was reeaaaaaaaally tempted. I admit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:35 PM on April 19, 2012

I'm actually kind of chuffed that the first few comments weren't just a bunch of people all saying "this will not go well" or "this will wendell" over and over.
I will go on record as having prepared myself for the metatalk thread to not go well in that regard. :-P
posted by smidgen at 1:39 PM on April 19, 2012


about those emoticons...
posted by infini at 1:47 PM on April 19, 2012


Yeah, I'm surprised this went well, smidgen!
posted by maryr at 1:48 PM on April 19, 2012


about those emoticons...

do you want to make the MeTa post, or should I?
posted by Think_Long at 1:49 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]



It does feel like we've had a rash of SLERO* threads lately.

But maybe I'm cranky.

*Single Link Editorial/Recreational Outrage)
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:56 PM on April 19, 2012


"I think metatalk posts should be open to ridicule as a self-correcting mechanism."

I'm not thrilled with ridicule and think that mefi is a better place with less of it rather than more (and I certainly don't claim to be a saint in this regard), but MeTa has a different status than the rest of the site — comments are only deleted when they're truly egregious, this is supposed to be a more truly self-moderating part of the site.

"Generally speaking, metacommentary belongs in Metatalk. There's stuff that is more grey area or mild that isn't going to get deleted, and sometimes the specific context of a thread is unusual enough that a little more navelgazing than normal is understandable in the flow of the conversation itself, but most of the time when someone is talking about a thread or about the Ur-thread in a thread on the blue or the green what they need to do is decide if it's something that actually needs public discussion and if so it should come over here immediately."

I hope that emphasis is placed on "generally speaking". Because natural human conversation, especially when there is disagreement or strong feelings or especially disparate perspectives, incorporates meta-discussion and, I think, it does so because it's productive.

It can be counter-productive, of course. Meta-discussion is often powerful stuff. Very often when we converse, we distance ourselves from the conversation and subject matter in a very artificial and abstracting way that hides from both others and ourselves what it is that we're really talking about and engaged with. How people act in conversation and how the conversation progresses are both much more salient to the actual subject matter than people tend to think. When we engage with how we're conversing, how we're presenting our thoughts to each other, how the conversation has progressed, we often move from the abstract to the personal, which is provocative. That can be a very good thing when the heart of the matter lies somewhere subterranean and needs to be provoked to the surface; but it also can be a bad thing because an abstract and bloodless, impersonal conversation is one that's much less likely to involve antisocial and hurtful behavior.

It seems to me that the test, rather than being a categorical "meta-discussion is bad", should be a combination of a) whether the particular meta-discussion has demonstrably become toxic (or there's a near-certain likeliehood of it becoming toxic) and b) it really doesn't have much to do with the issues-at-hand and is a true digression or even an imposition of something alien.

As some here know, the TV-centric site TVWoP has a hard, categorical ban on all meta-discussion in their forums. And it's deeply unnatural and intensely stifles the conversation. It also very strongly prevents the sort of stuff that leads to antisocial and hurtful behavior, which is the point of the ban. But, in my experience, it severely distorts the conversation, makes it unnatural, and closes the door to all sorts of relevant and fruitful lines of thought. It's as if there were a ban on a particular class of verbs. Important tools are removed from the toolbox.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:57 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't speak for official site policy, smidgen. There is a general caution that predicting that a thread is going to go bad can often contribute to discussion in a bad way. Please see the link that Admiral Haddock posted for more on that.

But sometimes the way a discussion proceeds is worthy of comment as a topic in itself, so you might continue to see it. Part of what makes MetaFilter interesting is that there is an aspect of community conversation and community memory, and I think that is why people tend to make such comments - reflecting the place to itself.

Because natural human conversation, especially when there is disagreement or strong feelings or especially disparate perspectives, incorporates meta-discussion and, I think, it does so because it's productive.

I had to walk away and forgot to post my above comment, and see that the discussion has gotten some mod comment and moved on, but want to say I agree with Ivan F. that natural conversation includes meta-conversation. I can understand when it reaches a damaging extreme or becomes a lazy repetitive snark habit that it may need to be curtailed, but I would not want a blanket prohibition, or a sense that any time anyone wants to categorize or comment on the conversation that a new MetaTalk thread has to start.
posted by Miko at 2:18 PM on April 19, 2012


But there actually are threads that anyone who is at all au fait with the site knows from long and painful experience really won't end well, and will in fact wendell.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:20 PM on April 19, 2012


"I think metatalk posts should be open to ridicule as a self-correcting mechanism."

I agree, because that lets me know who is a jerk and who is not. If you get huffy that someone dared to post a metatalk thread about something: you are a jerk. If you get huffy that someone got huffy about someone dared to post a metatalk thread about something: You are not a jerk.

:)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:23 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I, too, think that meta discussion is part of discussion. I would be disappointed if it all went away. I'll go further and say that not having every conversation conform to your own personal ideal is part of what helps define communities that exceed the strictly solipsistic.
posted by OmieWise at 2:26 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Crank up the frownbeam!
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:28 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


do you want to make the MeTa post, or should I?

Been there and done that, my friend. Guess what the first reply to the thread was?

For the record I more or less agree with the OP, that these sort of one liners are obvious and don't do much, but also don't really care enough to flag them. I expect a certain... quality of thread whenever I come in to MeTa and am rarely disappointed on that front.
posted by codacorolla at 2:30 PM on April 19, 2012


I'm going to start marking all of these as noise. -- Yay you!
posted by crunchland at 2:31 PM on April 19, 2012


We need a big cookie jar full of Live

I read that far and totally expected the next words to be "squirming caterpillars".
posted by Specklet at 2:33 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think metatalk posts should be open to ridicule as a self-correcting mechanism.

I think they should be open to criticism. I think ridicule is mostly just people being shitty to other people out of some kind of failure of empathy rather any kind of improvement to what is nominally a community place.

There is no shortage of places on the Internet where people can act like pricks to one another. We're pretty light on deletions in metatalk and so it sometimes ends up being one of those places, but that is not one of its better qualities.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:47 PM on April 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Cortex, I would hope ridicule would be discouraged but not deleted. Not to further derail this conversation, but I do believe that metatalk should be polite by disposition, not by law. Deleting discourteous comments on the blue is good. But I've seen some things get deleted from the gray, which I didnt think was possible, and I hope that's not a trend.

Anyway as to the original point here, yeah, flag it and move on, or (way better) just leave a comment of your own about something else that isn't a short dumb snark! Positivity drowns negativity in the long run, though sometimes you have to hold its head underwater and bash it with a boulder.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:58 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think metatalk posts should be open to ridicule as a self-correcting mechanism.

This is a non-starter. For this site to work as it's supposed to, MeTa needs to be available as a viable option for people. Turning into some sot of nerd thunderdome is not okay. We don't delete discourteous comments here but if someone decides this is going to be their own special hazing room (for anyone other than the mods, for whom it's a job requirement) we'll tell them to ease off.

As usual, well delete early *gets popcorn* sort of threadshitting but other stuff could stay or go depending on context.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:09 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Positivity drowns negativity in the long run, though sometimes you have to hold its head underwater and bash it with a boulder.

New t-shirt: We practice tough love here. No popping corn allowed.
posted by infini at 3:10 PM on April 19, 2012


We delete very little from the grey, yeah. To the point where "basically nothing" would be a pretty reasonable characterization except sometimes someone will read that as "literally nothing" and then freak out when something especially shitty gets nixed.

And that's kind of the larger problem with metatalk's traditional no-holds-barred, nothing-gets-deleted mythology; folks have sometimes treated that as justification for being really shitty, and that's fed back into this idea that being shitty is what metatalk is for and that it's fine to do that.

So, we still delete very little over here, because we think there's value in having this be the place where stuff gets worked out on the site, but we've been less willing to let the worst of the worst stand. We've also been more inclined to address explicitly some of the crappier non-deleted stuff, because it is frankly a drain on this place even if it's not violating some firm policy. Don't Be An Asshole is one of our abiding guidelines here; people who look for opportunities to act like assholes to other users are not high on my list of folks to try and accommodate.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:14 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yay you! -- To elaborate, you're using the system the way it was designed to work. Should enough people agree with you, and they flag comments that they think are noisy, the mods will react, and delete them. Then, people who tend to leave messages like that will go unheard. Their thoughts will disappear and they will be alone in the wilderness. And Metatalk will once again become a haven of civility and warm hugs and mugs of cocoa. And those snarky people will either have to CONFORM, or they will be outsiders, shedding alligator tears of loneliness. All because you took the initiative, and flagged their comment.
posted by crunchland at 3:15 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or there could be some middle ground where people could stop being absolute assholes to each other and most of the time MeTa could be used for what it's supposed to be which is allowing people a place to talk about the way the site runs, is supposed to run, could run or might run. There is a huge internet where people can be assholes to each other pretty much non-stop and we are okay saying we'd prefer MeTa did not become any more like that. As cortex says, we delete precious little from MeTa but the things we do delete are often weird viscious attacks on other members, things that are not okay on the site period, which is why we say we delete almost nothing but we don't go further than that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:20 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


the site runs, is supposed to run, could run or might run.

Sees site, runs.
posted by infini at 3:25 PM on April 19, 2012


Jrun.
posted by box at 3:28 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure whether to flag crunchland's comment as offensive or favourite it.
posted by dg at 3:36 PM on April 19, 2012


Meta on a Sunday and my heart stood still
Da doo run run run, da doo run run.
Somebody told me he was a buzzkill.
Da doo run run run, da doo run run.
posted by maryr at 3:40 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Or there could be some middle ground where people could stop being absolute assholes to each other and most of the time MeTa could be used for what it's supposed to be which is allowing people a place to talk about the way the site runs, is supposed to run, could run or might run. There is a huge internet where people can be assholes to each other pretty much non-stop and we are okay saying we'd prefer MeTa did not become any more like that. As cortex says, we delete precious little from MeTa but the things we do delete are often weird viscious attacks on other members, things that are not okay on the site period, which is why we say we delete almost nothing but we don't go further than that."

Yes, but...

"thanks for the update please keep us apprised on your future flagging strategies."

...is not a vicious personal attack.

I'm totally, emphatically in agreement with you guys about what you wrote because MetaTalk used to be exactly like what you're saying you don't want it to become. Vicious personal attacks were common. And I think that MetaTalk and MetaFilter in general are much, much better places today because what I used to call the "attack and ridicule" aspect of MeFi culture has been greatly diminished.

But the example that cortex specifically quoted wasn't even close to that kind of comment. It's snarky, no doubt. But it's not a personal attack and it's not vicious. What it is, is a relatively gentle example of push-back against yet another This is My Pet Peeve post to MetaTalk. This is part of how community self-moderation works. This is part of how community standards are set.

I've made this point before here and I'm honestly confused as to how it is that many people seem to think that community standards and such can be evolved and enforced in entirely positive, and not negative, ways. Criticism of behavior is natural. Maybe in some ideal world all criticism would be exquisitely formulated to have no element of ridicule and affirms that everyone is a very special person that deserves love. In the real world, criticism usually has some edge to it but, nevertheless, there's a big difference between whatever edge that quoted comment has and something that is a vicious personal attack. Of which, again, there used to be many examples here every day.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:43 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm (serious) wondering if its a generation gap we're beginning to see with the far more delicate and fragile sensibilities that I'm increasingly seeing on display?

(not meant to be debating against what Ivan F and cortex et al are talking about, but in general and see in regular FPP threads etc)
posted by infini at 4:05 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And that's kind of the larger problem with metatalk's traditional no-holds-barred, nothing-gets-deleted mythology; folks have sometimes treated that as justification for being really shitty, and that's fed back into this idea that being shitty is what metatalk is for and that it's fine to do that.

I had never thought about this in a cause-and-effect way before -- that the level of vitriol and personal aggro can rise higher here in MeTa because people have an assumption about non-deletability.

Hmmm.

Honestly, I'm not so sure that that's true, or maybe it's just more true among newer members (but then, they wouldn't really have that preconception). I mean I do agree that the whole nerd thunderdome aspect that jessamyn mentions (which is tedious and makes us all look bad) has always been a part of MeTa, regrettably, but I'm not sure there's a straight line from expectations of non-deletion to getting all up in other members' grills.

I suppose this is because I (personally speaking) don't feel like there is much of a deletability-gradient between blue and grey (green being different, rightly so), a view of things that developed a long time ago but isn't really a reflection of the site-as-it-is these days, where deletion, it seems to me, happens more often. And where suggestions that
Everything is the type of thing you just flag and move on.
which I quite strongly disagree with, are fairly common. I rode that appeals-to-authority hobbyhorse into the sunset many years ago, though, so I won't pull it out of the stables again.

Ah well. I'm not arguing with the main points -- I'd like it a lot better too if Metatalk had less confrontation and mockery (and maybe a bit less of the derails and 'flag-it-and-move-on' admonitions, for that matter). Just not sure your analysis of the whys of it is entirely on the nose.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:14 PM on April 19, 2012


...is not a vicious personal attack.

What it is is a needlessly shitty bit of sarcasm, right out of the gate, in response to someone using Metatalk correctly to bring up something about how they relate to the site and how it works. It's also not something that got deleted; it's something that got mentioned as being crappy.

What it is, is a relatively gentle example of push-back against yet another This is My Pet Peeve post to MetaTalk.

Again, subtantive criticism of a metatalk post's premise or arguments is totally fine. I'd rather not defend knee-jerk, unconstructive snarky rebukes of folks using Metatalk in okay ways as being "relatively" gentle on the notion that someone could have been more overtly shitty; I'd rather say, hey, just skip to being actually constructive instead of dropping off some sarcastic bullshit.

If someone wants to have a discussion about a perceived problem with pet peeve posts in Metatalk, the thing to do there is to make some kind of decent comment about that phenomenon, not to take some lazy shot at a specific poster's failure to predict and avoid their ire on the subject.

It's seriously, genuinely not that hard to refrain from being a dick to folks. People damned well should make more of an effort than they often do on that front. I have a hard time understanding why that'd even be a remotely controversial notion.

Again, there's no firm "you can't be snarky/rude/impatient with each other rule" in Metatalk, which is why that stuff tends to stand. But it's also not actually good for this place, it doesn't make it work better, it's not any kind of quality substitute for actually having a constructive conversation, and if people don't want to get pushback themselves on their dickish behavior their option is to go find a more explicitly dickishness-friendly venue or to try and improve how they act here. The fact that we don't delete most of the crappiness that happens in Metatalk doesn't mean it's not crappy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:21 PM on April 19, 2012 [9 favorites]

"thanks for the update please keep us apprised on your future flagging strategies."

...is not a vicious personal attack.
Agreed. Yet it offered almost nothing. Except, perhaps, to make the target (me) feel slightly defensive and to make the poster presumably feel witty. There were other comments surrounding it that were equally critical, and made my faux pas much clearer in context.
I'm honestly confused as to how it is that many people seem to think that community standards and such can be evolved and enforced in entirely positive, and not negative, ways. Criticism of behavior is natural.
Criticism is fine. I got plenty of it above. Justifying people being assholes to each other is not a good idea. If one is tempted to be an asshole as some sort of negative reinforcement technique, they shouldn't. Can it and try to be less lazy next time.

Do not interpret my or others silence or civil response to such things as accepting of such behavior. I just don't want to engage in a shouting match, that's all. Same as in real life, most people aren't going to get into arguments or bar room brawls with asses every ten minutes -- they will simply lower their expectations and leave. It's not worth it.

If a majority of the comments were like the one you quoted? I would do precisely that.
posted by smidgen at 4:32 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


stavrosthewonderchicken: "I'd like it a lot better too if Metatalk had less confrontation and mockery"

I think confrontation is fine - MeTa is the place where we hash out difficult community issues and that can't be done properly without confrontation. As long as it's tempered with respect for others and, yeah, mockery really isn't a good look for any of us. says the pot to the kettle
posted by dg at 4:34 PM on April 19, 2012


Metafilter: nerd thunderdome
posted by nathancaswell at 4:35 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's my morning:

Wake up, shower, play with kid, eat, go to work.
At work, see a link a friend found of a video where someone had put a bunch of clips of people saying "DoubleOh" in Bond movies together.
Watch the clip several times, think it's a fun little thing, and decide to post it.
Fret over the posting - some people don't like single link YouTubes, some people want lots of background, some will break into my house and throttle me in the night if I mention anything to do with a tin.
Decide to post the link, describing exactly what it is. Those that want to watch it can, those that don't, don't have to.
The first comment is "This isn't exactly what I come here for."
Seethe.
Walk away from the computer, not wanting to threadsit, still seething. It's the 'exactly' part that sands up my nethers. What the hell? Is that the standard posts are being held to now?
Seethe. Do some work.
Flag the comment.
More people comment, but the first one remains.
Seethe more. Why would you comment that when the post describes the exact content of the link? No other posts were wiped from the site for this one. It's even brief! Just scroll down.
Do some more work.
Comment is still there. Other comments have appeared talking about the weird hypnotic quality of doubledoubleoh that entranced me.
Still, that first comment remains. Seethe more.
See ColdChef comment, "This is exactly what I come here for."
Feel great relief, because who would I rather post stuff for, someone who has been a positive part of the community for ages or some drive by dingus?
Go about my day, seething diminished, but bits remain. Like the comment.
Come home from work, pick up kid, eat dinner, do dishes, put kid to bed.
Kill off any remaining seethe with judicious application of wine and this comment in an apropos MetaTalk thread.

So the system works, I guess?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:38 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Infini, for what it's worth, I'm noticing that too. It seems odd - now that the Facebook/Twitter/etc panopticon follows us around everywhere, you'd think people would grow thicker skins to deal with the never-ending cattiness. But maybe having a worldwide stage upon which to act out our porcelain vulnerability is enough to compensate?
posted by Quietgal at 4:40 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mmmm, seethe. I love that word. Seeeeeethe.

It'll take years off your life, though, robocop is bleeding. Good thing you added those years back with some wine!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:43 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's wonderful stuff. Better yet, the box feels pretty full, so I know I can make it through Thursday Night Mugging Vampires without a care in the world.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:46 PM on April 19, 2012


Everything I should have learned in kindergarten, I much later reluctantly accepted as MetaTalk behavioral expectations, after having it patiently explained to me several times at length.
posted by fleacircus at 4:50 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


...thicker skins to deal with the never-ending cattiness. But maybe having a worldwide stage upon which to act out our porcelain vulnerability is enough to compensate?

I don't know if its that individual or "cattiness" per se though hence my wondering if it was generational. Honestly I'm not quite sure I know what a trigger is and why everyone is so afraid of them (again, not being facetious as some of the usage just seems to run the gamut of things rather than huge overpowering trauma.) That's really what I noticed, the frequent and what seemed to me (as someone whose been treated for ptsd way in the distant past) loose usage of the word thus leading ot my question as to whether it was the helicopter generation now grown up enough to use the website who are far more delicate (or is this simply something each generation feels about the next?).

Maybe this comment should be anonymized... I'm probably breaking a bunch of societal rules here for the dominant continent by articulating this out loud. But its a pattern I noticed, apologies if I've crossed some communication line
posted by infini at 4:52 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


How did triggers come in to this?
posted by maryr at 4:56 PM on April 19, 2012


The word is popping up in threads across all the subsites more.
posted by infini at 5:00 PM on April 19, 2012


Sounds like the kind of thing that the Infodumpster might shed some light on.
posted by box at 5:05 PM on April 19, 2012


Well, phrasing it as "the far more delicate and fragile sensibilities that I'm increasingly seeing on display" sounds pretty dismissive.

Internet culture was shaped by a subset of society: in large part white, young, and male. We're so used to those voices being the overwhelming perspective online that maybe it feels weird, or even a bit taboo, to see those boundaries questioned, to see them shift.

There's more diversity now. I think that's a bonus. We're being confronted with different perspectives and sensibilities from a wider range of people a lot more often and it is easy to knee-jerk against what we don't understand, what we find strange, but we could also try to empathize, and try to learn from it.

I feel MeFi is at its best when it shows me something new, a different perspective, an insight I haven't considered before. I don't come to MeFi for the part where people get nitpicky, snarky, or dismissive of each other.
posted by flex at 5:11 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


infini: "whether it was the helicopter generation now grown up enough to use the website who are far more delicate"

'Entitled' is the word I would use in place of 'delicate', based on my own experiences. It amounts to much the same thing in terms of the way they respond to criticism, but with a different cause.
posted by dg at 5:12 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I didn't want to go as far as to say entitled but yes, that makes sense.

I'd like to see the Infodumpster results, is it something I can use directly on my own or will I need some assistance with the tech behind it?
posted by infini at 5:20 PM on April 19, 2012


"How did triggers come in to this?"

Well, from my perspective after being gone for four years and returning, that's a completely new community ethos (being aware of them and avoiding or necessarily announcing their presence) that didn't exist before. It's new to me, generally, also. Not that triggers exist, of course. Or being sensitive to their existence in particular contexts. I mean, I used to be a rape crisis volunteer and was married to a survivor. But people being widely, universally sensitive to the existence of triggers with all audiences? That's new to me.

I have to assume that this is part of some greater cultural change — it's been twenty years since I was actively involved in that particular subculture and, also, I'm old. I now feel pretty certain I have no clue what a 30-year-old is thinking. Much less a 24-year-old.

It sort of bothers me because I'm a product of a time and place where the more this stuff was talked about and destigmatized, the better. But that's the sort of viewpoint that tends to come and go (and return, and then go again) over time. Thirty years as a feminist has taught me to have some perspective on this type of thing and I tend to see the changing emphasis, or even reversals, as appropriate and often necessary adjustments for the particular conditions of different times and places.

As to whether this has anything to do with some greater sensitivity and increasing thin-skin among people these days? I don't think so.

Honestly, I think that people are generally behaving better on the Internet than they were five or ten of fifteen years ago because people are finally learning that what we do here does, in fact, matter. Even five years ago in discussions about behavior here on MetaTalk, the phrase "it's just words on a screen" and "it doesn't matter" would come up over and over again. I've been arguing for a long, long time that online culture is not some special zone where normal rules of conduct no longer apply.

That's just what a lot of people told themselves, and each other, who came to the Internet because they wanted to be somewhere in which they could behave as badly as they wanted.

To some degree, I do think there's a generational thing happening. Older people, like but not including me, have a hard time taking the Internet seriously. They don't think that any real social bonds can be made or maintained here, they don't think that any insults can actually be hurtful. They don't think that anything done here can possibly matter in any real psychosocial sense.

Younger folk have been living on the Internet most or even all of their social lives. They know perfectly well that what people say here matters. And, accordingly, they are more inclined to expect people to behave better.

Of course many, many of these younger people behave badly. But there's badly behaved people in clubs and on the street and in the office, too. What I think we see less of among young people is the bald claim that nothing matters on the Internet and that it's just words on a screen. Excuses of bad behavior are more, um, elaborate now. More like the kinds of excuses people make in the offline world.

On Preview: Also, what flex wrote.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:28 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, I do agree that Metatalk has become a fairly useless forum for anything other than bug fix requests. Opening a metatalk thread is like painting a target on your face and handing out baskets of rotten tomatoes. The mob shouts down anything and everything, just because they are allowed to. We've cultivated a culture of snark here for more than a decade, and now it's a like a weed-infested garden. Now is not the time for gentle nudges.
posted by crunchland at 5:31 PM on April 19, 2012


Well, I do agree that Metatalk has become a fairly useless forum for anything other than bug fix requests

THEN JESUS GOD PLEASE STOP POSTING IN IT PLEASE
posted by fleacircus at 5:33 PM on April 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


crunchland, to be fair, you are part of that mob.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:33 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm never sure which parts of Mefi are the Argument Room, and where you're supposed to go for Abuse. Or maybe it's all Complaints?

Still it's good value, all-you-can-eat for $5.

And with a free Spanish Inquisition now and then thrown in.
posted by philipy at 5:33 PM on April 19, 2012

Honestly, I think that people are generally behaving better on the Internet than they were five or ten of fifteen years ago because people are finally learning that what we do here does, in fact, matter.
Yes. I was writing a couple of paragraphs that said exactly this, and you just about replicated it. :-)
posted by smidgen at 5:38 PM on April 19, 2012


Sounds like the kind of thing that the Infodumpster might shed some light on.

Not for this type of query. There's very little verbal content in the Infodump; aside from tags and thread titles and deletion reasons it's pretty much all just numbers.

The most immediately accessible if not the most elegant way to play with word frequency stuff is to just do a search for the key word or words with the site search, which for most single-word queries is actually quite fast and robust. You can ballpark frequency numbers just by paging through the search results, or do some hand-counting if you want to be thorough. Comments with both the words "trigger" and "warning" in them come out to a bit more than 200 total as of right now, though a search for just "trigger" or "triggers" would probably be more useful if you want to catalog the overall use of those phrases over time, and that's more in the thousands-of-comments range so it'd be a pretty serious project to tabulate.

There's also frequency tables for the site up through the end of 2010 that have detailed per-year/month/day word frequency information per subsite going back to day one, which is a much more powerful resource but requires some work to process for any detailed information, so you'd have to do a bit of scripting or whatever to map word use over time. And it's not up to current right now, so tracking very recent trends wouldn't work that way.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:39 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, that's a great clarification--thanks, 'tex.
posted by box at 5:41 PM on April 19, 2012


Thank you Ivan F for the very comprehensive overview. It makes sense.

cortex, seconding box's comment and thank you but I also realize that my own pattern recognition style is less data driven in the hard exact numbers sense and includes more nuance so the word usage alone may not necessarily be the only factor for this sense. However, as Ivan has observed, there is a shift, we are just not yet sure why or how. I too may have forgotten what its like to be young, and will never know what its like to be white or male sadly enough. However I do wonder if its also the democratization of technology as well the aspect of digital natives that's changed the flavour over the past couple of decades.
posted by infini at 5:48 PM on April 19, 2012


My observation bias and a set of comprehensive data analyses conducted by the crack team at the University of My Ass suggests to me that there are significantly fewer "Please don't write [pretty generally agreed upon as hateful slur]" call-outs than several years ago, and a lot more "Please don't write [pet peeve]" call-outs than several years ago.

Which is good that fewer people are writing hateful slurs. The people who get bugged by "mommyjacking" or "hipster" or "YMMV" or whatever do seem to expand to fill the space formerly allotted to perhaps more substantive call-outs of late.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:53 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And for what it's worth on random gut bias checks, my impression is that there's really not any overall uptick in "please don't pet my peeve" stuff in Metatalk, even if there's been a small flurry of stuff in that sort of mold lately. If anything it feels like the word "moratorium" comes up a lot less these days than it used to, but that's just a superficial feature of the thing.

But, yes, there have always been plenty of peeve-related metatalk posts, is my take. Mefites have peeves.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:57 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pony request: Button that bans yourself from the thread. That way when you get the urge to snark you can just hit it and watch instead.
posted by Talez at 5:59 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feed my pet peeves unicorn tears and cupcakes. That's how they grow strong.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:02 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Irregardless, those cupcakes may contain beetle parts
posted by infini at 6:07 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


those cupcakes may contain beetle parts

Is that a bug or a feature?
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:12 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A feature, especially when you need to replace headlamp covers.
posted by smidgen at 6:17 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


All fab four of them.
posted by infini at 6:19 PM on April 19, 2012


I'm going to start marking all of these as noise.

Do this. But starting a discussion about it is.... you guessed it, noise.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:35 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


What it is is a needlessly shitty bit of sarcasm, right out of the gate, in response to someone using Metatalk correctly to bring up something about how they relate to the site and how it works.

I favorited that snarky remark because it echoed my feelings. I didn't feel this post WAS an example of someone using Metatalk correctly. I have no ill will toward smidgen, I just think this is something better handled privately, with the mods, rather than a post on the grey drawing attention to an issue the OP himself says he has realized calls for flagging.

That "needlessly shitty bit of sarcasm" said all of what I just said, just more concisely, and in a more amusing way.

I also figured there would be more people coming in to make just that point, and that the mods would agree that yeah, this is not really what the grey is for, next time just use the contact form.

After all this time, I thought I was getting the hang of the site. I've been flagging and moving on. But now flagging is 'mean' and 'permanent' and I'm seeing more and more users saying they don't do it.

Apparently I should have just been making Metatalk threads about my pet peeves instead. I guess now I will do that. After all, if any of ya'll snark at me, you'll get admonished for it. I expect to see lots more posts on Metatalk, too, since there's no real downside to making frivolous threads any more.
posted by misha at 6:41 PM on April 19, 2012


The whole pet peeves thing is bizarre to me. I mean, IRL I run into people all the time who trigger one of my pet peeves. But I would never tell someone in real life to stop using the word "like" as a comma, because that would be rude. Yet a lot of people here seem to feel that it's okay to ask the entire membership to stop doing that thing that drives them crazy. Which kinda leads us back to the ever-present problem of "YOU ARE WRONG! EVERYONE SHOULD THINK EXACTLY AS I DO!"
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:47 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a big difference between harmless pet peeves and mean pet peeves. Being shitty sarcastic, aiming with intent to wound, to someone on this website where discussion is ostensibly an important part of the site? That's not, like, harmless. It's shitty and mean. Apparently some people find that amusing, though.
posted by introp at 7:54 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see this as fundamentally different than the "don't say phrase X" pet peeve. The topic here isn't a specific turn of phrase, the topic is a way of behaving and interacting with the community in general. Heck, the post isn't even a demand to change that behavior, it is a call to discuss it. I think classifying this with those others isn't giving it the consideration it deserves.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:24 PM on April 19, 2012


Ok so I guess I'll drop in here well past the point of much useful discussion and just kind of pose a relevant question. Because yeah I made a comment that's pretty much what the OP describes earlier.

I didn't really have it in me to engage with the shit in that thread today.

I'm usually a big "flag it and move on" advocate, but it's not like mods were going to show up and take a chainsaw to the comments. Not least because that wouldn't be a great way to handle it.

I guess my other choice is to just not comment and, ok, I can see a pretty good argument for that.

But I also sort of wanted to register my nonplussed status. Like maybe I don't really want to get strapped and dive in guns blazing (politely), but also I feel like there's some worth to be had in someone waving the "at least one person thinks this isn't cool" flag.

Maybe there isn't? I have some ambivalence I guess.
posted by kavasa at 11:21 PM on April 19, 2012


No kavasa, that comment is nothing like what is described. Not even on the same planet. To some extent, it's meta-commentary, but well-deserved and understandable. That thread ... wow.
posted by dg at 12:29 AM on April 20, 2012


Yeah, I think your comment in that thread was pretty much exactly the kind of meta-comment in exactly the kind of thread where it's entirely appropriate and justified and actually on-topic and (potentially) productive. It's not really what's being discussed.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:37 AM on April 20, 2012


I'm adamant that ridicule is nothing to be scared of.
posted by Abiezer at 1:13 AM on April 20, 2012


lol noobs
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:41 AM on April 20, 2012


to an issue the OP himself says he has realized calls for flagging.

I read that as flogging and was quite disconcerted for a moment.
posted by infini at 5:15 AM on April 20, 2012


crunchland, to be fair, you are part of that mob. -- With all due respect, I prefer to be called "rabble."
posted by crunchland at 5:22 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


rabble rabble rabble rabble rabble rabble
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:26 AM on April 20, 2012


Hark! the sound of a wonder chicken...
posted by infini at 6:03 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounded like the hamburglar to me!

I just want to add that the comment I'm agreeing with is, again, in its entirety: "thanks for the update please keep us apprised on your future flagging strategies."

I don't agree with abusing, piling on or personally insulting the OP. I just don't think that comment did any of that. I don't see it as "shitty sarcastic, aiming with intent to wound". I see it as gentle ribbing on choosing to make this whole issue public.

If I were the OP, I'd prefer it to the more familiar and also frequently employed, "this is a bad post and you are a bad person for making it."
posted by misha at 8:34 AM on April 20, 2012


rabble rabble rabble rabble rabble rabble

Rabbelasian!
posted by y2karl at 9:01 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just don't think that comment did any of that.

Since we're talking about language ambiguity in the other thread, it's maybe good to realize there can be alternate readings. It's hard to tell affectionate ribbing from nasty ridicule unless you know the relationship between the people involved and/or the context of the remark.

For something to be unambiguously taken as affectionate ribbing, there pretty much needs to be a well-established prior history of affection between the people.

Even then, people being what they are, that kind of thing is often enough just a put-down in fancy dress.
posted by philipy at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2012


For something to be unambiguously taken as affectionate ribbing, there pretty much needs to be a well-established prior history of affection between the people.

This is a thing, yeah. I won't fault anyone for reading something generously, I try to do that as much as I can myself, but it's pushing it to assume that the generous read is what everyone has or should have.

And beyond that, there's no way to not put a fine point on this but if someone's got a habit of being sort of jerkish on the site, it's harder to give them the benefit of the doubt when it seems to keep happening. There's definitely plenty of cases of folks accidentally coming off snarkier or whatever than they intended—communication is hard, text is harder, this stuff happens—but there's also plenty of cases of folks being intentionally brusque or mocking or whatever and standing by that as their like god-given right that other people shouldn't harsh on. And, no, I can't get behind that. It is, again, not that hard to just find a way to not be a jerk even if you want to say something negative or critical. "But it was funny" isn't a defense.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:38 AM on April 20, 2012


Subjectivity is an interesting thing.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:47 AM on April 20, 2012


"But it was funny" isn't a defense. Only by verbally abusive people, tbh.

This conversation gives rise to food for thought, particularly in context of Ivan F's words above about the differences in perception on the 'meaning' and 'value' of words, if virtual (McLuhan, where art thou?)

Even those who may never consider themselves abusive personalities may not realize the impact and consequence of their words, written, and all nuance and emotion stripped from them.

/ponders self deeply.
posted by infini at 9:50 AM on April 20, 2012


Subjectivity is an interesting thing.

Boredom is subjective.

Self-absorption, on the other hand, is fascinating for the self absorbed.
posted by y2karl at 10:45 AM on April 20, 2012


"this is a bad post and you are a bad person for making it." - I've always hated that retort. I'd hate to see the kids of the people who say such a thoughtless thing.
posted by crunchland at 11:53 AM on April 20, 2012


Crunch: Actually, it's a Futurama reference, which may make it a smidgen more benign.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:57 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Given the gentle nature of this pony request by the OP, I do believe that a smidgen is benign.
posted by infini at 12:00 PM on April 20, 2012


MetaFilter: I'd hate to see the kids of people who make in-jokes crunchland doesn't catch.

That said, it's a good reminder that "this is bad and you should feel bad" isn't an in-joke everyone will catch!
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:04 PM on April 20, 2012


I thought jokes were supposed to be funny.
posted by crunchland at 3:06 PM on April 21, 2012


And you have been here how long, again ?
posted by y2karl at 4:43 PM on April 21, 2012


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