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How about quality over speed?
May 4, 2012 11:24 AM   Subscribe

C'mon guys, enough with "first post wins".

This Adam Yauch obit post was much better than this one. Lutoslawski took the time to do it right, tracking down context and supplementary links, instead of just a quick blurb. But his post was deleted, because he was three minutes too slow.

Enough with first past the post. Doesn't quality count? I mean, it's three minutes, and a much better post, but you rewarded the crappy, fast poster instead.

I always thought this place was about 'best of the web', and it really irks me when taking some actual time for context is rendered useless.
posted by Malor to MetaFilter-Related at 11:24 AM (78 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

By the time we'd seen the flags on Lutoslawski's post, after dealing with a surprising number of MeTa threads and other stuff today, the thin obit had 62 comments. At that point it seemed better to have Lutoslawski [who had emailed us asking us to remove it] to just post it in the open thread. Yes usually we'll confab and say "Eh this thin post isn't any good either" but there are conflicting pressures to stick with one where people are commenting. We felt it would have been punitive [just a little bit, but still] to the people who had already commented and we knew Lutoslawski was okay with it because we'd spoken to him. We did not reward the fastest crappiest obit poster, just the second fastest. Knowing when to say when is tricky, easier to do retroactively and something that we appreciate your patience as we try to do.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:27 AM on May 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah it's not "first post wins" so much as "first significant accumulation of comments comprising a legit conversation that shouldn't just disappear wins". Happens around here all the time. In a perfect world the best possible version of a thread would appear in time to collect that conversation, but this ain't that world.
posted by chaff at 11:30 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be fair though, obit comments are worth 75% less than regular comments.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:34 AM on May 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


I really don't see how these two posts differ in quality. The 'much better' post added: "Context" does not mean "the first relevant links you could think of". Practically everyone knows who the Beastie Boys are, and everyone else knows how to use the Googles to figure it out. Don't confuse linkpadding with useful work.
posted by 0xFCAF at 11:35 AM on May 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


How about quality over speed?

"Age before beauty, pearls before swine."
posted by octobersurprise at 11:37 AM on May 4, 2012


The first post actually got deleted too, I believe. The surviving post was the second.
posted by Sternmeyer at 11:44 AM on May 4, 2012


I'm sorry my post was crappy - truly. I figured if there was a better one, the mods would delete mine, and that was a-okay. I have so very much love and respect for the Beastie Boys, and the comments there are a great tribute to Yauch. Again, apologies to those who made better posts than mine and were deleted.
posted by smilingtiger at 11:48 AM on May 4, 2012


Yeah, I think that the news media wasn't prepared for MCA's early death like they are for a lot of older celebrities. There aren't really any good, retrospective articles out yet. Choosing the post with the best conversation seems to be the right way to go.
posted by Quonab at 11:49 AM on May 4, 2012


I posted the Junior Seau obit FPP the other day. I do have to confess to white knuckling it a little bit while I was putting it together (note the spelling errors) - wanting to pad out the thread with more info than just a "FAMOUS PERSON DIED" link, but figuring that the effort was likely to be rewarded by being beaten to the punch by someone putting up a much shorter post (which obviously didn't happen - guess I shouldn't be surprised that Mefites appear to be more enthusiastic about music than sports).
posted by The Gooch at 11:49 AM on May 4, 2012


How about we start deleting hair trigger obit posts if they're not up to spec?

"This news just hit the wires twenty minutes ago. Take some time and thoughtfully compose another post, flesh it out a bit more, and we'll take a look at it. --mod"
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:54 AM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


How about we start deleting hair trigger obit posts if they're not up to spec?

We do, actually - the two posts referred to here were actually the second and third ones. It's just hard to know when one lands that's as good as we're likely to get before the conversation gets too long to be fair to cut off.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:56 AM on May 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


smilingtiger: "I'm sorry my post was crappy - truly. I figured if there was a better one, the mods would delete mine, and that was a-okay. I have so very much love and respect for the Beastie Boys, and the comments there are a great tribute to Yauch. Again, apologies to those who made better posts than mine and were deleted."

You know, it's perfectly okay to wait until you have a good post before posting it. This isn't a race and there's no reward for coming in first. And if another post shows up in the meantime and survives, then you can always post the content there.

I often wait 24 hours before posting obits to Metafilter. By that time, the media have spoken to friends and family of the deceased and gotten their reactions. I'd like to think including that stuff makes for better posts.
posted by zarq at 12:05 PM on May 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would gladly see you whack-a-mole a dozen weak posts while waiting for a quality one, but that's easy for me to say, since I don't have to do the work. I guess I'm glad that the first post, which was not just bad but infuriatingly, preposterously bad, was swiftly deleted.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:08 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Age before beauty, pearls before swine."

Cart before horse. Look before leap.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:08 PM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


zarq, I guess I'm one of those who is of the opinion that single-link doesn't always equal bad. I didn't think that a lot of background info was required, since most people do know who the Beastie Boys are. My interest in posting came not from a need to be first (I've never posted to the blue before, so needless to say that has never been of interest to me), it came from a need to share my grief.
posted by smilingtiger at 12:12 PM on May 4, 2012


Leg before wicket. Land before time. Shake before opening.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:13 PM on May 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Context" does not mean "the first relevant links you could think of". Practically everyone knows who the Beastie Boys are, and everyone else knows how to use the Googles to figure it out

I thought the obit post that stayed was abysmal, and shouldn't have been allowed to stay either. If a post with a single link is allowed to stand with the expectation that the deceased is so well known, why even bother with a link? just have the mods post the name of the deceased with a lmgtfy link. DONE.

the thin obit had 62 comments.

I just took a look at that thread again - most of those comments are dots. It's not like there were 20 paragraph-length recollections in the 62 comments. You're saying it's unfair to the users to be forced to type a single character in a new thread?

I really wish the bar for obit posts would get raised a lot, LOT higher. The current model feels a lot like a race to get something, anything out there, and if there's enough comments, then it stays. In my opinion, every single-link newsflash obit post should get canned, and if no-one's willing to put in some time to create something with content, well... not every website has to recognise every celebrity death.

Additionally, the current setup has actual disincentive to effort; why spend an hour putting together an obit post with several links, if someone else is going to post a single link first? That's the exact reason I didn't do it - i heard the news elsewhere, looked at the timestamp and realised there was no point; there would already be a link to pitchfork or TMZ.

It's just hard to know when one lands that's as good as we're likely to get before the conversation gets too long to be fair to cut off.

Again, these obit posts are rarely every a "conversation". 90% of posts are a single-tear, cancer or whatever illness is told to fuck off, and then there are a few remembrances. Personally I enjoy those stories or personal recollections the most, although I recognise the reason behind the single dots as well.
posted by dubold at 12:18 PM on May 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


...I guess I'm one of those who is of the opinion that single-link doesn't always equal bad. I didn't think that a lot of background info was required, since most people do know who the Beastie Boys are.

Sure, but the Boys have had such an amazing career, it seems wrong to do just a single link on the death of one of their members. There's a richness and depth to MCA that I personally wish had been celebrated in the post, as opposed to just a link to an announcement. I can get that anywhere on the web, but want more from a MeFi post.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:18 PM on May 4, 2012


I would gladly see you whack-a-mole a dozen weak posts while waiting for a quality one, but that's easy for me to say, since I don't have to do the work.

Yeah, the part of my brain in charge of really stark lines-in-the-sand feels pretty much the same way, so it's not like the delete-it-until-it's-great notion doesn't strike a sympathetic chord. But that part of my brain is not so reasonable, and I think the balance we end up striking by looking at what comes in in real time tends to work out in a good enough sort of way even if it would be nice to have folks be slightly more patient/restrained about these things so that it was less of an issue in the first place.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:20 PM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


smilingtiger: "zarq, I guess I'm one of those who is of the opinion that single-link doesn't always equal bad. I didn't think that a lot of background info was required, since most people do know who the Beastie Boys are. My interest in posting came not from a need to be first (I've never posted to the blue before, so needless to say that has never been of interest to me), it came from a need to share my grief."

OK. That's fair. We usually see a rush of super-thin-on-context obits when someone dies, as people try to get their post up first. I personally prefer longer obits that better highlight the life and career of those who have passed -- and try to make mine that way, too.
posted by zarq at 12:21 PM on May 4, 2012


I do recall one particularly extra thin n' hasty obitfilter post to which the first comment was "You win. Bravo." The comment was deleted of course, as snarky metacommentary, particularly near the start of a thread, generally should be. But I was kinda sorry to see it go.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:21 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clearly the solution here is collaboration, not competition. Arrange it somehow so competing posters can combine their work and share the credit. Maybe a 10 minute waiting period before a post goes live? I don't know, what is the average sort of time differential between competing posts on a hot button issue?
posted by Chekhovian at 12:23 PM on May 4, 2012


the part of my brain in charge of really stark lines-in-the-sand feels pretty much the same way

That part of my brain pulled a gun on the other parts of my brain and demanded that they be marked zero for stepping over the line.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:27 PM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obits - especially with very well known folks - always go like this. I sort of concede to 0xFCAF that mine wasn't much better, though what you'd put in an obit thread for an iconic group like the Beastie Boys that isn't things like some of their generation-defining videos I don't know. I mean, maybe an obit FPP is a place to hunt down obscure b-sides and such or some academic papers about the role of the Beastie Boys in shifting socio-cultural mores and race relations in hip-hop or something, and maybe it isn't. I don't know. Obits are usually threads that are more about 'damn, that sucks,' than 'here is a treasure trove of all things beastie boys obscura.' It's also a cop-out that just because it can be googled means it isn't FPP worthy. Certainly the news of MCA was all over google and facebook and twitter &c, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be on the blue, too.

It's tough because outside of 'this really famous person is dead,' what are you going to put in there that's significant and that most folks don't know? An obit for someone more obscure is certainly a good place to have a meaty post with a lot of links to interesting finds most here wouldn't be aware of, but with someone like MCA, that's tough, and the thread is really about the comments - and it would be cooler all around if people would post more "oh man, Intergalactic was on MTV the first time I made out with a girl and I had never heard it and we both stopped and were like, wow, this is really something. And that's how I decided to go into hip-hop production" or whatever than just the dot, but alas (and I am guilty of dotting myself).

For the record, I saw the first one axed, and thought, well, the Beastie Boys were a pretty big part of my own growing up, so I'll put something a little more substantial together. It got in a bit after the other one, which was well underway, and I sent the mods a note to nix it. It sort of doesn't matter.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:31 PM on May 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sure, but the Boys have had such an amazing career, it seems wrong to do just a single link on the death of one of their members. There's a richness and depth to MCA that I personally wish had been celebrated in the post, as opposed to just a link to an announcement. I can get that anywhere on the web, but want more from a MeFi post.

Fair enough, and I can assure everyone that the last thing I wanted was for anything negative to have arisen from my post about this awful news. I apologise, again, to those who expected better.
posted by smilingtiger at 12:36 PM on May 4, 2012


Abe Vigoda's obit better be epic. Just sayin'.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:37 PM on May 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


The current model feels a lot like a race to get something, anything out there, and if there's enough comments, then it stays.

Blame favourites. And a desire to talk about what has happened.
posted by Mitheral at 12:38 PM on May 4, 2012


Blame favourites. And a desire to talk about what has happened.


I think it's partially the first bit, and i would give more weight to the second part if people were actually typing sentences.
posted by dubold at 12:41 PM on May 4, 2012


I don't mind the quick obit posts. It gets the topic up there quickly for those who want to discuss, and if anyone has any good retrospective info or links to share about the person, they can share it in the thread. The only difference between sharing that material in the comment thread and in the FPP is ego.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 12:44 PM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Blame favourites. And a desire to talk about what has happened.

I think it's partially the first bit, and i would give more weight to the second part if people were actually typing sentences.


I think with obits it is usually not so much about favorites, as I don't think they usually get that many [citation needed]. Like I said above, more interesting thoughts would be nice certainly, but there is something ok about all the dots. You go to a funeral and there isn't tons of talking amongst the attendees, but it's just kind of nice to be in their presence, to have a sort of unspoken shared sadness, which is what the dot is sort of about, and as close as you can get to that on the internet. It's not a great thing, but not a terrible thing either, imo.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:45 PM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obit threads are just like this, sometimes, due to the nature of how fast news moves and how much outpouring some deaths generate. I don't get the angst about it, and I don't think smilingtiger should be made to feel bad.

If someone wants to put together the definitive MCA/Beasties post of all-time down the road, I am positive there are people here who can knock one out of the park, and it will be a pleasure to peruse the links and history and everything else they come up with. In the meantime, the conversation that's exists there isn't a bad one to be having. It also generated this sidebar-worthy comment by holdkris99, which I would hate to have not seen.
posted by scody at 12:50 PM on May 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


The only difference between sharing that material in the comment thread and in the FPP is ego

I respectfully disagree; the structure of the post can do a lot towards contributing to the discussion or setting the tone.

there is something ok about all the dots

I don't have a problem with the dots.
posted by dubold at 12:52 PM on May 4, 2012


Obit FPP's for well know figures don't really need a lot of context. As long as they're respectful and link to a current piece (with information about the passing and a brief summary of a few of the person's accomplishments) it seems enough. I think this is a case where the comments and conversations outweigh the actual FPP. Amongst all of the dots are people sharing memories and offering more links to provide added context - often with a personal touch. The obit FPP is not the definitive summary - it's the conversation starter. In the case of the MCA FPP, I took great comfort and felt a bit less alone in reading all of the comments and will probably continue to check in over the next few days.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:58 PM on May 4, 2012


I think with obits it is usually not so much about favorites, as I don't think they usually get that many [citation needed].

The surviving MJ post garnered 108, Earl Scruggs 43, Noboru Ishiguro 29, Kim Jong Il 18, Anne McCaffrey 13, Steve Jobs 97, Dennis Richie 27 and Jack Layton 28. With the exception of MJ that is just culled from the first half of the first page of the obituary tag. Not huge numbers but especially with big names (IE: the kind people rush to post resulting in doubles) the favourite counts are significant and I'm guessing above the median number for a post.
posted by Mitheral at 1:09 PM on May 4, 2012


Lutoslawski: "I think with obits it is usually not so much about favorites, as I don't think they usually get that many [citation needed]."

I have no hard evidence, but I suspect you're right.

In case anyone is curious, Mefi wiki: Obituaries. Mefi Tag: Obituary
posted by zarq at 1:16 PM on May 4, 2012


Leg before wicket. Land before time. Shake before opening.

Pants before shoes.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:10 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


In before i before e.
posted by fleacircus at 2:17 PM on May 4, 2012


Kneel before Zod.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:17 PM on May 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


Dessert before dinner.
-----------------

Obits simultaneously fluster and unite. As those who care arrive at the places where they are used to processing the ripples that catch them, roosts are established. They aren't always the best roosts, but they're good enough to collect those who care.

The interesting thing to me is how content collects in an obit, well beyond links. The stories and personal reactions make them compelling, which is an inverse model to most posts here. That's what ends up creating the value of obits, to me.
posted by batmonkey at 2:22 PM on May 4, 2012


We do, actually - the two posts referred to here were actually the second and third ones. It's just hard to know when one lands that's as good as we're likely to get before the conversation gets too long to be fair to cut off.

Well, whyy not just make it something semi-official, that any obit post can be preempted by a better one within, say, fifteen minutes?

I dunno, maybe MeFi just doesn't do obits well.

Sorry for the harsh tone, by the way. This has been kind of a rough week, and I'm grumpier than I should be.
posted by Malor at 2:24 PM on May 4, 2012


If the mods deleted the post that had 62 comments, we'd probably have 62 Meta posts of people whining about their dots getting deleted, judging by the multi-day Meta bitchfest that has closed out this week.
posted by Falconetti at 3:08 PM on May 4, 2012


Adding the extra links from the "better" obit post to the standing one would solve the problem.

But as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to obituary posts, it's all a race to the bottom.
posted by crunchland at 3:11 PM on May 4, 2012


multi-day Meta bitchfest

What pisses me off is I paid for the event pass and they started discounting the daily tickets at the door so it was actually cheaper.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:12 PM on May 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


At least you got a pass. The server crashed when tickets first went on sale and many people weren't even able to log in. Scalpers probably bought up the majority of tickets.
posted by Falconetti at 3:17 PM on May 4, 2012


Maybe if she didn't have so many dots, people could post links. Maybe for obit systems we could get a special button you can put to place a 'dot' that would go along the side or something, along with your name.

That said, in obit threads all anyone wants to do is post dots and say "fuck cancer" anyway.
posted by delmoi at 3:30 PM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like our current system of handling obit threads. I think there's a greater community feeling that comes out during obit posts that isn't present in the usual pursuit of "best of the web". They are a space where being right is less important than getting your feelings out. As a rule, rushing rarely makes a great post, but I think we'd really lose something as a community if we didn't make a space for grief close to the time the news breaks. I do want to hear what everyone has to say about a beloved (or despised) person who has just passed, even if it is just a "." or a "fuck cancer". Maybe it's not the most eloquent way of saying "This guy was great and it hurts that he's gone", but at least I know that we are all remembering him together. Like scody said, someone can come along and make an epic post about Adam Yauch later. It won't be any less interesting because it wasn't composed on the day of his death.

I appreciate the fact that the mods continue to maintain the threads in this way. Thanks.
posted by rhythm and booze at 3:57 PM on May 4, 2012


But as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to obituary posts, it's all a race to the bottom.
posted by crunchland at 6:11 PM on May 4 [+] [!]


This is my inclination too, but there's almost always one holdkris99-style comment, which adds such dimension, such heart, it actually does make me feel part of a community, experiencing a loss together.
posted by thinkpiece at 3:57 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clearly the solution here is collaboration, not competition. Arrange it somehow so competing posters can combine their work and share the credit. (Chekhovian)

We've talked about this in the past, and I still think filthy light thief's idea is stupendous and wish there was more collaboration on the blue.

That said, I think there is a big gap in MeFi user behavior here, and that the first-post culture would often outweigh the collaborative product if only because the likelihood that one of the collaborators would be online early enough to get in before a quickie obit has gotten enough comments and traction that it won't be deleted.
posted by catlet at 4:30 PM on May 4, 2012


"...if only because the likelihood is less..."
posted by catlet at 4:31 PM on May 4, 2012


But as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to obituary posts, it's all a race to the bottom.

This may be truer for very famous people than for slightly obscure people who have good obit posts written for them. I've mentioned before that a lot of people's first posts here are obit posts. They're slightly easier to get a good reception on and know you're doing it right to some extent. I've written a number of obit posts that I was really proud of because I felt that the people who died were not terribly well known and that I could do a decent job finding some good links to tell people about what their lives were like.

This is different, of course, from some of the "Hey a famous person died!" sorts of posts we get where the post almost seems like an excuse to get the discussion started that we know we'll be having. And so much of the rest of the internet is so caught up in getting the scoops and the clickthroughs and whatever, it would be nice if folks could take the time to either do a proper obit or just gather some links to put in the obit thread that will eventually develop.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:34 PM on May 4, 2012


Let's argue about who reported a death best!
posted by Decani at 4:39 PM on May 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is different, of course, from some of the "Hey a famous person died!" sorts of posts we get where the post almost seems like an excuse to get the discussion started that we know we'll be having. And so much of the rest of the internet is so caught up in getting the scoops and the clickthroughs and whatever, it would be nice if folks could take the time to either do a proper obit or just gather some links to put in the obit thread that will eventually develop.

The way my post (or posts like it) has been characterized in this thread is surprising to me, and very far from what I intended. Even though I'm a regular reader of the grey, and find threads that debate "what makes a good post" interesting, I didn't know that there existed a single model for "a proper obit" on MetaFilter. Is there something in the posting guidelines about this? If there isn't, it might be a helpful addition.
posted by smilingtiger at 4:47 PM on May 4, 2012


I generally think that if you're going to make an obit, it should at least have enough info in it that if someone doesn't recognize the name, they will at least have some context as to why they should care about this person. I will happily offer up this obit I posted for dissection - I spent a fair amount of time sorting through various links that people would recognize his work and/or discover and enjoy it for the first time, even though it was on the occasion of his death.

That will vary somewhat - sometimes the interesting thing is how someone died, who they're related to, or something other than why their life was notable, but still the idea of context is, for me personally, what makes a good obit different from a bad one. The core value of "this should be interesting stuff on the web" remains a good one, even if it's not as tightly enforced for celebrity obits.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:58 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Richie Teeter obit link that I was unable to provide in thread, for those who care.
posted by jonmc at 5:02 PM on May 4, 2012


Anyone know if there is a way to restrict a google search to posts including a specific tag?
posted by Mitheral at 6:01 PM on May 4, 2012


My suggestion as to how to handle this problem:
(a) Realize that if someone most of us have heard of dies, being FIRST (I'm not saying this sarcastically) is the priority due to the # of comments thing. If you find out that someone died, post a sloppy link and thus call dibs.
(b) THEN continue to work on tracking down interesting related obituary-y links. Post them below the original post in the comments thread.
(c) Anyone else who wanted to write an obit post adds their links in the comments.

I know it's annoying to have "First!" be an issue here, but this, to me, sounds like about the best way to handle everyone posting obits at the same time.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:26 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obit and major news stories should be moderator posted to the FP. Links can propagate in the comments.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:49 PM on May 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


All news posts suck and obit posts suck hard for this reason. I swear there are a legion of folks out there hitting the refresh button on the NY Times site just so they can be first to post the latest headline on Metafiter.
posted by LarryC at 11:05 PM on May 4, 2012


At one point, Metafilter was about the posts - "Best of the Web" as the high order bit. Number of comments is a poor metric for quality of a post when that post involves a death.

For an event like a beloved celebrity death, jenfullmoon has a good point about people wanting to get to the discussing and tributing as quickly as possible. If someone else took a labor of love to craft a tribute post with excellent links and its own comments, and it happened to publish shortly after the headline news regurgitation post, why can't the mods just fold the second post into the first? Deleting the well-considered post and its comments outright just seems petty, and it incents people to invest no effort in posts that might have been scooped by gossip-rag headline cloners.
posted by SakuraK at 1:46 AM on May 5, 2012


You can post your awesome links in the comments. Why is this a problem? Is there a Pulitzer Prize for MetaFilter posts that someone is going to miss out on?

I get really tired of the idea that the post with the most links is the best one. Some of them are so long I just skip the whole thing.
posted by bongo_x at 2:00 AM on May 5, 2012


For an event like a beloved celebrity death, jenfullmoon has a good point about people wanting to get to the discussing and tributing as quickly as possible.

Okay, but if those who want to discuss and tributize have to wait, I dunno, like an extra hour while a decent post gets crafted, aren't they still going to want to discuss and tributize? It's not like they're going to be all "Sorry, I got tired of waiting so I left a dot on another website". It'd be one thing if people were suggesting something that took days and days to throw together, but I don't think that people will have lost the urge to contribute to an obit thread in the amount of time it takes to throw together something of quality (links to their most famous projects, links to things they were involved in other than the things for which they are most famous, links to people writing about why that person was important enough to be talked about).
posted by 23skidoo at 6:06 AM on May 5, 2012


If someone else took a labor of love to craft a tribute post with excellent links and its own comments, and it happened to publish shortly after the headline news regurgitation post, why can't the mods just fold the second post into the first?

We do not, as a really firm rule, edit posts. The sole exceptions on this stuff are things like typo fixes or moving a bit more from above the fold to below if it's a wall of text; anything beyond that is pretty much a non-starter. So folding the second post into the first is in practice just a matter of suggesting the second poster add their links as a comment.

And in close races we've sometimes kept the slightly later, somewhat better post. It really depends on the circumstances at the time—whether we feel like a post that's been made is at least decent, how around we are as a team when a breaking-news death situation occurs (this is less of a problem when it's not such a surprise or not such a high-profile person), etc.

But it's a tricky thing where there's opposing forces at play; the practice of nixing a later post when an earlier one is already let to stand and underway isn't petty so much as sane-making, because a standard practice of nixing an under-way obit post every time an improved one came along would be it's own mess of weird incentives.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:26 AM on May 5, 2012


I like the Big Obits are Mod-Only creations idea, for some strange reason.
posted by batmonkey at 7:30 AM on May 5, 2012


I get the idea, and maybe some site will do that, but in this case probably the only thing this particular mod team likes less than having to do the weird stay-or-go whackamole game with mediocre obit posts is the idea of having to actually cobble together an obit any time someone sufficiently famous or sufficiently surprising dies. I'd work for a wire service if I wanted that job.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:35 AM on May 5, 2012


I get really tired of the idea that the post with the most links is the best one.

I don't think it's that, so much as that when a major figure dies, an obituary post consisting of just one link to a randomly selected news article about it is a poor post.
posted by cribcage at 8:15 AM on May 5, 2012


I'd work for a wire service if I wanted that job.

Ha. Ha. I don't blame you. You'd have to hire another mod just to write obits every day—as well as to adjudicate all the disputes that would inevitably arise when some worthy's obit was neglected, or when some unworthy's wasn't, for that matter.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:14 AM on May 5, 2012


You don't have to write anything, really. "So and so passed away today." Cut and paste, link the name to the BBC or NYT. Let the rest of us post the content in the comments.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:32 PM on May 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Again, these obit posts are rarely every a "conversation". 90% of posts are a single-tear, cancer or whatever illness is told to fuck off, and then there are a few remembrances. Personally I enjoy those stories or personal recollections the most, although I recognise the reason behind the single dots as well.

I think you're really asking for Metafilter to drop obit posts altogether. Because the whole point of obit posts seems to be for the community to expressits shared sense of loss/grief. It's really not the place for any kind of in-depth discussion of the deceased person's life and work--for one thing any such discussion is crippled by the fact that negative commentary is considered out of bounds. So long as the point of the obit post is "let us collectively react to the fact of this person's death" then really the only information the FPP needs to contain is "this person is dead."
posted by yoink at 1:10 PM on May 5, 2012


An obituary post consisting of just one link to a randomly selected news article about it is a poor post.

Why? Nobody who knows said figure is going to suddenly start reading a bunch of links about them. They just want to post '.' People who don't know said figure won't read a bunch of stuff either, because they don't care. You could almost get away with a standard obits.metafilter.com template:

Mary Jane, 01/01/1951 - 12/31/2012

And then let people post whatever they think is worthwhile inside. If enough people care, it'll turn into a good post. If they don't, no hurt feelings from deleted posts.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:57 PM on May 5, 2012


obiwanwasabi writes "Why? Nobody who knows said figure is going to suddenly start reading a bunch of links about them."

I do this all the time. Most recently with Junior Seau's obit who I'd never heard of before. I figure anyone I don't know who is important enough to a member to warrant a few minutes writing up an obit about them is might be worth reading about.
posted by Mitheral at 5:17 PM on May 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll read them sometimes too. Depends on what the links are, though.

And I've seen plenty of actual discussion on obit posts, not just "." posts. Okay, so maybe a third of them are "." posts, but still, if all there was to read were ".", then I wouldn't read through 149+ comments on most of 'em either.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:56 PM on May 5, 2012


obiwanwasabi: " Why? Nobody who knows said figure is going to suddenly start reading a bunch of links about them. They just want to post '.' People who don't know said figure won't read a bunch of stuff either, because they don't care. You could almost get away with a standard obits.metafilter.com template:"

So in November, I posted this obit post. 39 comments, and only one was of a single dot. Maybe that's an exception to the rule, I don't know. But I suspect people did read at least some of the links there.
posted by zarq at 10:01 PM on May 5, 2012


I'm quite proud of my obit post for Ellen Willis; it got two solo-dot comments out of 15, but most of the commenters seem to have read and appreciated the links, and comments like "I really, really wish I had known of this writer's work while she was alive, but I am very glad you've made me aware of her" show why obit posts are a good thing.
posted by languagehat at 8:24 AM on May 6, 2012


Not a single dot in this obit post for Frank Bender and very few in this obit for Ken Olsen or Hayden Carruth. I think well-crafted obit posts lead to better discussion. At the same time, there's nothing at all wrong with the obit-dot convention and if you don't like it you're more than welcome to skip obit threads and/or use whatever that dot-remover Greasemonkey script is to skip them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:31 AM on May 6, 2012


There aren’t any dots in those posts because people didn't know who they were. Learning who someone was at the same time that you’re told that they died isn’t a situation where you’re going to get a lot of emotional outpourings.
posted by bongo_x at 9:46 AM on May 6, 2012


Metafilter is about comments, not posts.
posted by bardic at 6:41 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, uh, someone posts an obit for someone that isn't completely half-assed. Someone else takes more time to generate additional, thoughtful content, sees that someone else's post is already up, and posts their additional, thoughtful content into the thread. MetaFilter isn't an FPP contest, is it?
posted by davejay at 12:00 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So the arguments on either side boil down to: I propose we satisfy both sides by waiting at least 48 hours after a death to make an obit post, and linking only to the briefest possible announcement of the death.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:08 PM on May 7, 2012


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