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Movin' On Up
October 18, 2012 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Have you had success in changing your Metafilter persona in some way? Have you taught yourself to be kinder, gentler, fairer, less angry, or less bullheaded toward other Mefites? If so, how?

I've been thinking about this lately, since it's sort of a theme for me on this site – has been since pretty much the first day I signed up.

I know we've had some sort of side-discussions about the stuff people do to get past their old habits and try to become better at good discussion here, but usually those discussions about specific people and their struggles are downplayed for good reasons.

So I thought it might be interesting to hear if people felt they'd had success in this area. If you've managed to change for the better, how? By taking time off using the close-account switch? By switching to a "clean" username and pulling a Brand New Day? By incorporating certain habits when you get online?
posted by koeselitz to MetaFilter-Related at 11:13 AM (382 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

I kill switched and came back less angry. I feel like my life in general has been on that same trajectory.
posted by schyler523 at 11:14 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Turning off favorites made me a lot nicer and less likely to post short favorite-bait gotcha comments, both in AskMe and on the blue.

I know I've mentioned this before, but I give myself voluntary time-outs sometimes, too. I just decide, like, "Okay, you can't post until Friday." And it turns out that no one dies and the sun still rises and I don't shrivel up into a dessicated husk if I don't crack a somewhat mean-spirited joke for three days. It's a good reminder that the world does not in fact revolve around me.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:23 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I stopped participating in political threads.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:28 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you'd believe it, at one point I was reticent to post an FPP or comment because I thought that, no matter what I said, there was someone on the site who knew better than I did about any subject I enjoy and wouldn't hesitate to correct me. Well, I wasn't wrong, but it turns out that my reaction is "oh, hey, how about that, thanks!" rather than embarrassment. So I started posting and commenting more because if I was wrong, someone would step up and correct me, and if they were a dick about it, it would be the exception, rather than the rule, and I could disregard it.

Also, I try my very, very best to stay out of contentious sociopolitical threads where I have an opinion that I feel like it is my Sworn Duty to defend.
posted by griphus at 11:31 AM on October 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'm fairly nice and chill in real life, and pretty good at walking away from arguments that are swiftly descending into grar, so I didn't have very far to go. I have learned to stop and think more about my comments before I post them though, mostly just to consider how they would be interpreted by someone who doesn't know me, doesn't share all my little inwardly held assumptions, and can't pick up on my body language or tone of voice. So, MeFi has been a bit like an empathy training class at times, even if the lesson is often "don't hit the post comment button."

My spelling and grammar have both improved in the past month, for some reason.
posted by Panjandrum at 11:31 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]



Unlike my participation on some forums/usenet earlier in my internet career, I avoided making an account on Metafilter just so I wouldn't douche out and ruin everything.

Once I did make an account, the rule for me to post anything is "Does this add to the discussion ?"

It's hard, and I've had my fair share of snarks and misunderstandings - but I think I've been doing OK.

But, too - I'm a lot older now and I've raised a teenager. Both of those things will teach you how to just shake your head and walk away.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:31 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Whenever I feel like I'm getting angry, I just voluntarily stop reading/posting for a while. I do the same if things in my personal life start getting to me and the urge to take it out on someone else becomes overwhelming.

Often, I will type out a comment and then ask myself "will anyone care what I think?" A lot of times I end up hitting Back on the browser. Sometimes it's okay to not say anything at all.
posted by tommasz at 11:32 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel I've mostly just grown up a bit and gotten through the whole "I am Right and must Win All The Arguments" phase (I hope!). I closed my account for a couple of months back in 2010 and maybe that helped a little bit? I also practice being more proactive about three things:

(1) Not commenting or deleting comments that are essentially, "Listen to my brilliance."
(2) Removing threads from my Recent Activity page when I have nothing more to say or to read, hopefully before it descends into back-and-forth bullshit.
(3) Actually previewing and reading comments, even if I'm all het up and want to post Right Now. ESPECIALLY when I'm all het up and want to post right now.

Maybe I'm not any different, but back before I closed my account I told someone to 'fuck off,' which is pretty unacceptable and inconceivable.

Two urges I'm still struggling with are to play Devil's advocate and to act as a White Knight for celebrities who neither know us nor care what we think of them.
posted by muddgirl at 11:33 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I started making my own designer drugs.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:36 AM on October 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


I turned favorites off (actually I use a script to see them approximately). I always edit the "So in closing, fuck YOU" part of my comments out before I post them. I avoid all zingers at the expense of aggravated people, even if they are wrong (on the internet). I use the WAIT strategy which stands for "Why am I talking?" and can help me give some thought to what I hope to add to a discussion and not just liking to watch myself type. I turn off all the admin notifiers including MeMail when I am not working which really helps me be a little more clear when I've got the mod hat on. My mantras are

- everyone's hardest struggle is their hardest struggle [i.e. don't get all eye roll-y because the things people have trouble with or that irritate them are things that I don't think are worth it or so bad or whatever]
- being irritable may not be something I can change, but acting irritable sure as hell is
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:38 AM on October 18, 2012 [109 favorites]


I did a Brand New Day. When I came back I decided to avoid making multi-paragraph comments and to avoid quoting other posters. I don't post comments that make me feel "clever".
posted by deo rei at 11:43 AM on October 18, 2012


I starting using (mostly) proper capitalization somewhere along the line. I also use the CTRL-A → BACKSPACE key combo much more these days.

While I haven't participated much in the MeTa discussions on interpersonal site norms (bullying, feminism, general respect issues, etc.) I've certainly increased my understanding and awareness by reading them, and changed the way I treat people in real life.
posted by carsonb at 11:45 AM on October 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


I've cut waaaaaay back on my participation, especially when it comes to interaction with other members--I'll make a comment here and there, but I don't engage much in back-and-forth conversations any more. I found I was caring too much about the deletions, and my complaints were falling on deaf ears, so I basically just shut up. I realized that this ain't the metafilter I fell in love with, no, but it ain't changing back, so I can adapt, or leave.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:47 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Turned favorites off.

Tend to stay out of threads about certain subjects.

Stopped getting involved in Mefi related projects.

Spend more time off site doing interesting or fun things.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:51 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


A couple times, I've asked the mods to cut me off for a few days when I think I'm getting a little too grar-prone. That helped.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:53 AM on October 18, 2012


What are people getting out of turning favorites off? I guess the question would be, what is it about favorites that bothers you? This is the one thing I keep seeing that I’m not quite understanding.
posted by bongo_x at 11:58 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm one of the (probably) few people that pipe the front page and Ask into RSS and Google Reader, and where I used to pore over every question and FPP to see if it was something I was even remotely in, sometimes after a long day away from the internet, that Mark All As Read button does it's job a couple of times.
posted by deezil at 11:58 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


koeselitz, I've always had a positive association with your username. You seem nice enough. Maybe this is your place you go to blow off steam so you can be even nicer in person? You certainly never strike me as mean or vicious here.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:02 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think I'm better than I was when I arrived. I've learned to read ALL the links first, to read all the comments, to favorite someone who made my point instead of repeating it, to FIAMO, and most of all to really respect the preview window. I ask myself a lot of questions about how my comment will look and read, and whether it will advance the discussion, before I hit post.

Sadly, only the new edit feature has saved me from being typo prone, though.
posted by bearwife at 12:02 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


What are people getting out of turning favorites off? I guess the question would be, what is it about favorites that bothers you? This is the one thing I keep seeing that I’m not quite understanding.

I can no longer be in a contest (that only I know about) to "win" a thread by accumulating the most favorites, and I can no longer cheat at said contest by posting a cheap one-liner. For a while, I felt like favorites were points in a game called "Who Is The Best At Metafilter?" and I had to get the most points, even if it meant being kind of harsh to someone.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:03 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


What are people getting out of turning favorites off? I guess the question would be, what is it about favorites that bothers you?

I can't speak for others but I've found that with them off, you can more easily ignore comments you find annoying because you don't have to immediately see how many people have agreed with it (or, of course, maybe bookmarked for later)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:04 PM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, I think along with many other influences, MetaFilter has helped to make me a nicer person generally. I totally let loose in political threads though.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:05 PM on October 18, 2012


Any growth I've made is not metafilter specific, but I have a cohesive psudonym which goes back to 1996, so I'd imagine I'm a bit off the bell curve.

I actually ramped up in terms of "discussion forum" and "debate forum" over time. My first contencious community was Fandom Wank, which is high on the laughs and mockery and low on the actual analysis (though you did get some). From there, I graduated to the Religion and Morality forum on Gaia Online, where I was a major forum figure and a moderator for several years. I started out very much in the FW tradition - a lot of mockery, a little valid argument - but was shaped by other people in the forum who were extremely scholarly (in particular, a gentleman getting his Masters in Religion and training to be a priest who was working through a biblical argument that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, but there were a lot of smart people there). I walked out of Gaia with a growing appreciation for clear, cogent argumentation which was finalized by realtime discussions with online "philosophers" where I got a chance to see how poisonous a "gotcha so I'm right" mindset can be to the discussion actually being interesting.

Then I got a Masters, and wrote a lot of arguments that were only semi-reactive, and started working in situations were the worst thing I could do was be argumentative, and I started really seeing the power of stating your point of view clearly, cohesively, and cogently with as little insult or shaming toward those you are discussing things with as possible. I'd say my job led to the greatest shifts. Though I'm still trying different forms of argumentation on MetaFiler and seeing what people do and what works effectively, this is closer to refining of technique than learning new skills.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:05 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sadly, only the new edit feature has saved me from being typo prone, though.

Oh, if only that were true for me! Any comment/post longer than a few sentences has enough typos and ruptured or interrupted thoughts that several read-throughs and five minutes with an edit window isn't enough. Incentive to pithiness, I guess.
posted by carsonb at 12:07 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know if I've improved or not, but the way I consciously interact with other people here has changed.

I make a concerted effort to:

* not comment or make posts when I'm tired
* walk away from contentious threads
* follow iamkimiam's three tries rule. If a meeting of the minds isn't happening after three attempts, bow out of the conversation.
* ask questions before jumping to conclusions or responding in anger. ('Is this what you meant? If not, could you please clarify?'
* assume good faith. And assume people mean well.
* read what other people say more carefully, and apologize sincerely when I don't and misinterpret them.
* rise to the bait less. Especially in religion threads. Especially in MetaTalk.
* not make "look at these assholes" FPP's. (IOW, not posting outrage for outrage's sake. If I think something will spark an interesting discussion, then I'll post it. But I'm deliberately setting the bar higher.)
* recognize that people have their own biases, and so do I. I try to keep an open mind and see both sides, especially regarding topics on which I hold strong opinions. I might learn something new.
* remember that I spent years trying to eliminate drama from my life, and I don't want to create it here.

It's a constant work in progress. But making an effort has made me a lot happier.
posted by zarq at 12:08 PM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


There is no persona.

but if there was, i wanted to be miguel but i turned into crunchland :)
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:10 PM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I guess the question would be, what is it about favorites that bothers you?

The community pile-ons were disquieting.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:11 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: "Stopped getting involved in Mefi related projects."

Oh, does that mean the magazine is dead, then?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:11 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Based on observing my own behavior and the behavior of others, I've learned the following things since I started posting on Metafilter. Although I often slip up for the most part I think I'm pretty good at following them.

In no particular order:
posted by bondcliff at 12:11 PM on October 18, 2012 [92 favorites]


Fucked if I know; you tell me.
posted by Eideteker at 12:20 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Although I think I have a way to go yet, I am trying to stick to just explaining why I feel the way I do rather than going down the U R ALL WRONG path. A lot of that has to do with reasoned, calm commenting by folks like you, koeselitz, and also Dysk and muddgirl, who helped educate me on the use of the word "cisgender". Even when I don't agree with you, I appreciate the measured way in which you state your case, so I am trying to model my own behavior to be more like that.

I also try to edit out more of the negative stuff, or refrain from making negative comments altogether. I close a lot more tabs without ever replying.

BUT I am also continually reminding myself to take the time to post the positive stuff instead of just lazily favoriting when I agree with something! I've learned that, even though it might seem like it goes without saying, or like everyone else has already said it, it really does make a difference to the person reading that thread (maybe a new user seeing it for the first time!) to know you have their back, too.

Gotta say, though, that this is probably one of those things that other people could judge about us better than we could about ourselves. We don't have a, "Brand new day account: how am I doing now?" phone number to call.

Unless pb has already magically coded it since this thread went up, which is entirely possible.
posted by misha at 12:21 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


everyone's hardest struggle is their hardest struggle

I'm writing that on the inside of my t-shirt collars.
posted by carsonb at 12:22 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I try to do better at tuning out the noisy, self-indulgent snark machines who act like this is their blog and they're getting paid by the word.
posted by ambient2 at 12:28 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Constantly remind myself that its not necessary to respond to people who take FPPs badly - either 1) everyone else ignores it or 2) someone makes a better, smarter statement of what I was trying to get at.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:32 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stop thinking about it as a persona and start thinking about it as how you treat and react to other people. You're not a character, you're a human being. The more detached you are from what you're responsible for, the less responsible the output, I feel.
posted by inturnaround at 12:32 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm still not very good at it yet, but the main thing I'm trying to remember is to check and see whether I'm adding anything to the conversation or just trying to be impressive. The funny thing is, the better I am at remembering to check, the less often I post anything at all.

Damn it.
posted by Mooski at 12:36 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I did a lot of "must answer all comments in someone else's fpp" thing here, but a habit that I've changed in general here: In a contentious thread, I don't have to be the person answering everything - I can sit back and wait for other people to weigh in and then see if they say everything I wanted to, or (as is often the case) if they've gone and said it better than me.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:48 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've learned that trying to be funny for the sake of being funny rarely works. Either I look like an idiot or people misinterpret my post. I still do it on occasion, but I'm much better about not leaving lame one-liners in threads in an attempt to get the lulz.
posted by asnider at 12:49 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I stay 100% out of political posts and relationshipfilter. it's better for everyone that way.
posted by pullayup at 12:50 PM on October 18, 2012


You don't have to answer every question in AskMe.

Absolutely. If I find myself guessing, or spending more than thirty seconds googling, I step away from the thread and trust that someone that actually knows something about it will be along presently.
posted by zamboni at 1:02 PM on October 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


One thing to consider is putting a limit on the number of comments made in a single thread. Start thinking about whether it really benefits the conversation to post more than five times, or maybe even three times.
posted by grouse at 1:03 PM on October 18, 2012


I used to have a post-it note on my laptop that said "DO NOT READ METAFILTER. It only pisses you off." Honestly, back then (2005) I found that the tone in a lot of AskMe answers was rather rude. I'd been an AskMe lurker for a long time and had only recently posted (an admittedly crappy, in hindsight) my first Blue post.

Of course, that self-imposed exile didn't last long. Maybe a week. I learned to take the site less seriously. I also used to check it religiously, but now I work a lot more and only dip in when I have time.
posted by Brittanie at 1:03 PM on October 18, 2012


I am almost 8 Years older, not sure about wiser. I have been impressed by the expertise that some MeFites share with those who lack knowledge of their discipline.
posted by Cranberry at 1:04 PM on October 18, 2012


I used to have a post-it note on my laptop that said "DO NOT READ METAFILTER. It only pisses you off."

I do the same thing, but with MetaTalk. It's the one place where attacking users on a deeply ugly and personal level is tolerated (perhaps even encouraged) when the victim is not well-liked, and so staying away from participating in this subsite has greatly improved my enjoyment of rest of MetaFilter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:09 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think I've got much better. I try to be a lot nicer and not attack people, especially specific people who really torque my screws. (I told a friend once I didn't think I was a mean sarcastic person and his eyes got really big. I'm better than I was back then I think... I don't want to be that because I don't like the people who are like that to me.)

Over the years I've refined my image of the typical MeFite, and more often than not I think I don't quite like that person and they don't quite like me. I'm not sure how to give a shit about people who don't give a shit about me. I just try not to think about it in those terms and just do my thing, though I'm not sure I do it here. I'm too insecure and desperate-to-be-liked, I need a three wolf moon shirt.

My response was originally going to be, "I go for the legs instead of the throat," so there's that at least.
posted by fleacircus at 1:11 PM on October 18, 2012


I certainly hope so.

My behaviour when I first joined the site was dreadful. I would post when angry, and I was pretty rude to people. A lot. I don't know why I thought that was ok. It wasn't.

I now try never to post when angry and not to be rude to people.

I'm probably not 100% there yet but I'm getting a lot better at deleting the angry or rude comments before actually posting them; also, now that I am more able to accept the fact that people will be Wrong On The Internet all the time and that's the end of it, there aren't so many of those comments to delete unposted in the first place.

Thinking about it, that xkcd cartoon has probably helped more than I realise.
posted by motty at 1:12 PM on October 18, 2012


I burn my genitals with a clothes iron every time someone favorites a comment of mine. I don't know if this helps me to be kinder, gentler, fairer, less angry, or less bullheaded, but it certainly hurts.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:24 PM on October 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


I have gotten really apathetic about what happens here, which actually makes me a better member of the community. "Someone is wrong on the internet? Ah, so what?"*

*Unless of course they are wrong about some historical matter, in which case I MUST CORRECT THE RECORD AT ALL COSTS.
posted by LarryC at 1:25 PM on October 18, 2012


"I burn my genitals with a clothes iron every time someone favorites a comment of mine. I don't know if this helps me to be kinder, gentler, fairer, less angry, or less bullheaded, but it certainly hurts."

This is like a neo-Milgram test right?
posted by Blasdelb at 1:31 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I burn my genitals with a clothes iron every time someone favorites a comment of mine. I don't know if this helps me to be kinder, gentler, fairer, less angry, or less bullheaded, but it certainly hurts.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:24 PM on October 18 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!] [quote]


Ah, the sizzle of freshly-ironed genitals in the morning.
posted by zarq at 1:34 PM on October 18, 2012


I actually used favorites to wipe out grar-y feelings/thoughts/emotions that I was having towards a certain user. They were expressing ideas that I found repellent on threads that I was following. My opinion of them kept sinking lower and lower and I was becoming convinced that they were a troll, or even worse, a plant placed here by nefarious forces.

I clicked on their profile to see when they had joined and to review their posting history, expecting to confirm my worst suspicions.

"Hunh... They sure have a lot more favorites than I was expecting."

I clicked on "Favorited by others", then on "Popular" and started reading several dozen of their most highly favorited comments on the blue and answers on the green.

Wow, some really insightful, thoughtful stuff. Really wise and compassionate. Wasn't expecting that.

Went away with a whole new impression of them.

I STILL HATE their objectionable ideas every bit as much as before, but I no longer hate them.

It has made me re-think how I can/should try to view people that I strenuously disagree with, as this struggle to think well of others with different viewpoints has been a lifelong problem. I'm a long way from being where I want to be with this. But it was a definite light-bulb moment.

Thanks Meta-Filter (and 'favorites') for moving me a little farther down the road to being a better grown-up.
posted by marsha56 at 1:42 PM on October 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


I just try to respect people. Posters and commentors.

I certainly worry that people think I think I'm a know it all. Many a time I've gone into a askme thread after I've posted to see that someone has subtly told the OP to disregard my advice.

These are times I want to be like, "Hey! My advice is valid because of A)... B)... C)..." - most of the time, just before I post them, I ask myself if I really need to explain myself. Oftentimes I delete them or close metafilter's tab and walk away.

I very much try to spread calm and peace, even if I think (Or it's obvious that) someone has insulted me.
posted by royalsong at 1:47 PM on October 18, 2012


I got older.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:49 PM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


"I clicked on "Favorited by others", then on "Popular" and started reading several dozen of their most highly favorited comments on the blue and answers on the green."

Ha I just tried that with one of the prolific posters who often gets me riled. I don't like them any better, but I like the MeFite masses a little less.

I am aiming to get better at not vaguely insulting MeFites in particular and less vaguely insulting MeFites in general.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:51 PM on October 18, 2012


Actually, now that I think about it, a lot of the times I stop and walk away is because I ask myself if jessamyn is going to delete it. Determine that the answer is yes, and decide not to post.

I really really want her to like me. Or.. maybe just not hate me. I don't want her to see my name, roll her eyes and go: Gah, it's royalsong, again. Can't she ever learn?!

Even posting questions, I pause and ask myself what jessamyn would do.
posted by royalsong at 1:54 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been trying to represent myself in such a way that people might have an experience similar to the one that marsha56 just related-- that is, to be insightful, compassionate, make decent contributions, etc., and maybe turn some people's opinion of me around, because early on I posted a hell of a lot of grar-fueled, opinionated stuff. I joined with a very incomplete and blurry impression of the culture here, and I imagine I stomped on lots of toes.

Beyond that, I keep refusing to get treatment for my tagline addiction, though I know not everyone is crazy about it.

I also stay out of political threads, and don't post in religion-related ones.

...& I actually find that reading MetaTalk helps overall with all of this, for some reason.
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:55 PM on October 18, 2012


I ask myself before hitting the post button: "Do I really need to post this comment? Does it add anything truly positive to the conversation?" I still am working on that.

I also try to remember that real people work hard to moderate this site, and for me to just add to the noise in a grararar thread is only making their job tougher. So I stay out of the contentious threads, don't make lulzy jokes or unneccesary posts on MeTa, etc.

Also, I have minimized the amount of schmoop that I publicly post to my SO. HI SWEETIE!! <3
posted by not_on_display at 2:00 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't believe in the Brand New Day: on the contrary, I feel like having a record of the very dumb things I said when I first joined makes me less likely to repeat similar instances. It's also a little humbling, which is helpful. I think that 90% of the problems that arise here are caused by people who lack humility and talk down to those with different viewpoints. Realizing that you can be wrong about something you believe in - even something that you believe in strongly! - is key to having a more reasonable online persona.

Also, one of the things I have observed is that it's a lot easier for analytical people to tear ideas down than to generate good ideas of their own, so by reducing the amount of content in what I say and keeping it more negative, I give the criticism brigade more difficult targets to aim at. For example, there's plenty of room for people to snipe at comments like "This current solution is terrible: I believe that a better solution to X is Y" but if you simply say "I think our current solution is sub-optimal" then there's very few people who can realistically argue, because practically every system in life is sub-optimal.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:04 PM on October 18, 2012


homemade carbonation system.

it rules FYI, I got a big thing of fizzy cold-brew coffee in my fridge at home and it rules, it rules
posted by Greg Nog at 2:15 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


You probably wouldn't guess from my current posting habits, but I've cut way back on grar. I still have my Wrong On The Internet moments but manage now some portion of the time to think: it is not my job to step in here. If I do step in, I'll be pent up awaiting the inevitable pushback until it occurs and probably beyond. Someone else may take this on, and if they don't, oh well.

A self-imposed timeout helped a great deal with this.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:16 PM on October 18, 2012


I keep a lot more to myself now. Over the last few years I feel as though we've had more and more threads which end in deletions, callouts, insults, pile-ons, or flame-outs. Likewise, dissent is often dealt with by ignoring others' points and/or hurling hyperbole or outrage at them in lieu of good-faith argument. I've noticed that fewer people are willing to comment/post against the grain as a result. I came here from an internet background (first Usenet, then Plastic.com through to 2002-era mefi) which valued reasoned argument for its own sake, and I've found that the metafilter community has increasingly moved in favor of developing agreement/lack of tension instead. I'm not interested in that, and have been not-posting accordingly... which, of course, makes me one of those people who are less willing to comment or post against the grain.

It's sort of sad that that's the way it is, but it is. "I realized that this ain't the metafilter I fell in love with" about sums it up, as does "spend more time off site doing interesting or fun things".
posted by vorfeed at 2:20 PM on October 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I told a friend once I didn't think I was a mean sarcastic person and his eyes got really big.

Friend: Have you ever noticed everyone we hang around with -- we're all assholes?
Me: I'm an asshole?
Friend: [extreme sarcasm] No, you're not an asshole. [/extreme sarcasm]
Me: You're an asshole.
Friend: I am! You, too.

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:24 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I mean, this thread is a great example. Being "kinder, gentler, fairer, less angry, or less bullheaded" may be fine guidelines for improving your blood pressure, but they only mean "becoming better at good discussion" if by good discussion you mean agreeable discussion.

The number of people above who said "I stopped participating in/posting X" indicates a trend which cuts both ways.
posted by vorfeed at 2:29 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


A lot of what I would have brought up has already been mentioned, but I'll add one other thing I've learned with time:

Don't repeat yourself.

Consider:

Other MeFite: Argument X.
Young Me: Response to argument X.
Other MeFite: Argument X, perhaps somewhat reworded, but at its core still argument X, and not taking into account my response.
Young Me: Repetition of my response, along with pointer to my previous comment, and a swipe at Other MeFite's lack of critical thinking skills and/or reading comprehension.

vs.

Other MeFite: Argument X.
Wiser Me: Response to argument X.
Other MeFite: Argument X, perhaps somewhat reworded, but at its core still argument X, and not taking into account my response.
Wiser Me: [re-read my previous comment critically: was I unclear? Could my comment have been mis-interpreted? If so, re-state more clearly and assume the problem was my poor writing and not the other person's reading comprehension. But if it was clear in the first place, realize I should just shut the hell up and not respond.]

I try not to get into heated debates in the first place, but when I do I try to take the attitude that I'm trying to convince anonymous readers, not the person I'm debating. Which means if I've made my point, I don't have to have the last word.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:42 PM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


It seems kind of pre-school-ish but I've tried hard to conciously ask myself, before posting in general but especially in contentious threads, "Is anyone but me going to benefit from this being posted?" It's a helpful frame for me.
posted by Wretch729 at 2:52 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always planned on lurking, so much so that despite MeFi becoming a daily read somewhere around 2002, I didn't register until 2006. I never thought I'd feel comfortable enough to add my voice to the (in my mind) far more articulate voices that always get there before me. I still feel this way in threads about issues I feel passionately about; by the time I get to them, someone else has said what I would say, except with greater skill and with fewer holes in their logic. So I happily + to agree and move on keep reading.
It took me almost exactly four years to work up the nerve to make a FPP, and although I'm trying to participate more, I often find that my drafts fail my preview test:
1. Did someone else already say this?
2. Are you sure you want to make this information public? (AskMe, mostly)
3. Would you say this to someone's face, or in person?
4. Do you think this will get at least 1 favorite? (My measure of quality as to whether or not what I said helped, or made a valuable contribution to the conversation. I try for a 1:1 ratio of posts comments:favorites.)
I definitely pay attention to MeTa, callouts in particular, to guide my interactions here - which also probably keeps me from posting more often. So in that sense, my behavior has changed, through examples of what not to do.

Seeing everyone else's answers to this has been really interesting! Thanks for asking the question, koeselitz!
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:01 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a really long history (pre-Metafilter) of being extremely ridiculously polarizing in a crazy-making way that causes social diviseness, which I hate because I am a group hug kind of person. When I saw signs of this disease from the get go here, I ended up hanging out on the blue where the worst of those types of behaviors are forbidden. After I saw signs of that die down, I took advantage of a unique-ish opportunity to ask for feedback on how to do it MeFi-style. I felt that went well. I am now dipping my toesies back in other areas I was avoiding. It is still early, but so far, hell hath not broke out.
posted by Michele in California at 3:12 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Predditors thread is making me want to be much, much nicer to our mods.
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've gone from posting a little tiny bit on AskMe occasionally to posting way too damned much in MeFi and MeTa, and I've noticed that the amount of time I spend posting is almost always related to how my offline life is going. Getting obsessive and grar and mad at how a thread is going makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something--I wrote a long essay about why this thing that I think is good is actually good! I sure showed them!--and it's almost always easier than dealing with the scary stresses of my real life.

So when I notice myself obsessing over something happening on site, that's generally a pretty good indicator that something is not going well off site. When that happens, I add all the MeFi sites to my hosts file and take a break for a few weeks, figure my shit out, and then come back hopefully a less angry person.

I definitely agree that restricting how much you comment is helpful for reducing the amount of grar you feel. Don't comment if you feel angry or defensive - come back after a few hours, or else, don't come back at all. Your honour is not that important. Even if I think I have a unique and special viewpoint, chances are it's not that unique and special, and someone else will come along shortly to say what I wanted to say better than me anyway. (I'm not doing so well on the "shutting up" front with the liveblog and Predditors threads, though, heh. Mea culpa.)

Posting on MeFi has made me a better person in a thousand tiny little ways, from being more careful about my reasoning and logic, to being more resourceful with the internet, to giving people the benefit of the doubt, to teaching me to walk away from unpleasant things. But you don't want to hear about the schmoopy stuff.
posted by Phire at 3:22 PM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]



Predictors thread


I assume you mean the Predditors thread, as compared to the compassion we all feel to others forced to use crappy word prediction devices?
posted by Forktine at 3:22 PM on October 18, 2012


Predictors thread? Can you give a link? I don't know what you mean and can't figure it out alone.
posted by Michele in California at 3:23 PM on October 18, 2012


Forktine has it, but you may wish to wait a minute or so before leaping in with that.
posted by Artw at 3:25 PM on October 18, 2012


Predictors thread is making me want to be much, much nicer to our mods.

I am really liking that thread, actually. For a touchy-as-hell topic people have been mostly decent to each other, there are people on many sides of the issue and the discussion has been informative and interesting. It's the sort of conversation I feel like, possibly incorrectly, MetaFilter culture makes possible.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:25 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, this thread is a great example. Being "kinder, gentler, fairer, less angry, or less bullheaded" may be fine guidelines for improving your blood pressure, but they only mean "becoming better at good discussion" if by good discussion you mean agreeable discussion.

Looking just at myself, I disagree with this characterization. I think there's a big gulf between "I am less inflammatory" and "I am kind, gentle, fair." Good discussion does not need inflammatory comments.

Yes, sometimes when I am vastly outnumbered, I find myself becoming inflammatory. Yes, nowadays that's when I try to stop commenting. There's a whole wide world out there and it doesn't matter in the slightest whether or not every single opinion is hashed out on Metafilter.
posted by muddgirl at 3:26 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't (knowingly) leap in. I still can't find it, even with the new descriptor.

Linky? Clue? Something?
posted by Michele in California at 3:31 PM on October 18, 2012


I have a terrible tendency to try to "win" discussions, which lends itself to pointless and frustrating loops if the other participants are of the same mind. Metafilter has helped me recognize that, and recognize that it gets boring fast, and sometimes, just sometimes I am smart enough to back out of that.

Mostly I am the same snotty asshole though.
posted by Artw at 3:34 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Predditors thread
posted by mbrubeck at 3:35 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here's my test for whether or not I will post a comment: I ask myself, "Is this comment fighting or not?"

If my comment is debating (along the lines of, "Well, but what about X?") that's fine. If it's saying something funny, or enlightening, or topical, obviously that's fine too.

But if it's straight up "This is dumb and you are dumb for saying such a dumb thing," then I do everyone a favor (most of all myself) and just move on.

You will notice from my history that I don't post very many comments.
posted by ErikaB at 3:44 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everyone has opinions about issues that they formed in good faith, with good intentions, using whatever information or logical arguments they've been exposed to. If you disagree with their opinion, it's probably because you've been exposed to different information or arguments than they have.
If you want to change their opinion, find a nice way to share your knowledge with them, or calmly explain the errors in their facts or arguments. Be prepared to cite your references. Also be prepared to fail to change their mind.
Don't get angry, don't doubt their good intentions or their intelligence, and don't be upset if they don't come around to your way of thinking.
If you can't do those things, stay out of the thread.
posted by rocket88 at 3:45 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Turning off favorites made an enormous difference. I'm a better person when I don't know how many people disagree with me. (which, apparently, is most of them)
posted by Afroblanco at 3:45 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, and I stay the fuck away from I/P discussions. Nothing to be gained there.

And I guess I should mention the big one : I stopped making snarky, dismissive comments in the feminism threads. It just wasn't constructive. I still disagree with with a lot of MeFites over gender/feminist issues, but when I do, I take the time to phrase my thoughts intelligently. And I've actually had a number of good discussions on the subject here, so I guess it worked ;)
posted by Afroblanco at 3:49 PM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Two comments into this thread, I found myself doing something I never thought I'd do: I turned off favourites. Which meant, of course, as I read several neat comments here, I was torn: does this mean I shouldn't give out favourites / store favourites, either? And for now, yes, that's exactly what this means.

I may get back into favourites again some time, but for now I've right clicked on all the comments in this thread I found especially useful and bookmarked them to "mefi bookmarks", which I know may end up with a few subfolders soon. Other great posts and comments will go into a bunch of topical folders, the same as with anything else I find on the web.

I'll still look at the Popular pages daily, because while there is a fine line between crowdsourcing and piling on, it's usually a great way to find things I would otherwise miss, which I guess makes me a bit of a parasite. I'm sorry. But I think the next time I see a really great comment, or a string of really good comments from somebody, I'll just send them a nice MeFiMail. That beats being a competitive show-off, doesn't it?

(So, umm, does anyone have a script for hiding the favourites count on your profile page? If I had the cycles to spare right now, I'd try writing my first GM script, but I don't think that is even starting to happen until November. And I'm not quite sure I'm ready for this.)
posted by maudlin at 3:50 PM on October 18, 2012


I made never ever being first into a post with something negative a rule of thumb a few years back, and of you catch me at it feel free to call me out on it, because it annoys the hell out of me when I see someone do that on my own posts.
posted by Artw at 3:51 PM on October 18, 2012


The deletion of my comments has made it appear so.
posted by tilde at 3:55 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was my specific intent in shutting down wendell and using this ID (which I bought for $5 when paid memberships began and I wanted to contribute... no sock monkeying intended). On review a couple of times, I haven't changed much. Sigh.

I have pretty much stopped doing FPPs and cut way back on comments because the satisfaction/rewards seem not worth the bother (not just of posting, but of going back to see how the MeFiVerse reacted to it). Seems silly, but I remember over 30 years ago when a married firend said to single me "Sex just isn't worth the bother anymore" and I responded, outraged, "You have a partner in bed with you! How much bother can it be?!?" About 9 years into a bad marriage, I wanted to look him up to apologize.

Also, I get the RSS feed for "Most Favorited Comments" (I think the triggering number is 60-70) and rarely feel the need to scream "You're wrong! You're wrong! You're all wrong!!!" so I feel like my input is unnecessary, or at least the bulk of favorite-giving MeFites have come around to my way of thinking.

I did also notice the quality of my FPPs had declined (and number of typos and other errors increased) before I backed off, and even the Beloved Edit Button is not luring me back. (I even accidentally posted one using the wrong account... yes, I do have a sock puppet account, but rarely used it... it's interesting how the mods immediately knew it was me)

One thing about me that will never change... if I don't have a quick one-line 'drive-by' joke to make as a comment, my comments are as they always have been: long disjointed messes. Like this one.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:17 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I now completely avoid grar-filled topics, because they're filled with too much grar. It's a shame, too, because there's usually a good conversation to be had. But people do love their grar...
posted by LordSludge at 4:34 PM on October 18, 2012


Today is my 10th anniversary on Metafilter, so I can only imagine that this thread was posted especially for dear old me. Fortunately for everyone involved, I have to go cook dinner for me and the missus, so instead of pecking out a long-winded comment regarding all the lessons I've learned in the last decade, I'll have to sum my shit up thusly:

1. I'm now 35 instead of 25. There is a goddamn world of differences in the attitudes I've had between these two ages.
2. Though I've mentioned it a time or dozen, at some point during my stay here I quit doing heroin on a daily basis (and all other associated/not-associated/found-in-a-gutter drugs). Let me tell you, you wouldn't fucking believe how much nicer this has made me, on the internet and especially in the non-internet world. Or maybe you would believe it. Yeah, actually I suppose you'd probably be inclined to believe it.

Thanks for an interesting ten years, motherfuckers. Here's to at least another year and a half before I get permanently banhammered.
posted by item at 4:44 PM on October 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Metafilter: DO NOT READ METAFILTER. It only pisses you off
posted by pullayup at 5:04 PM on October 18, 2012


MetaFilter: post-it
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:10 PM on October 18, 2012


If I don't like something, I simply do not comment on it ie., posts about comedians, musicians, bands, companies, etc. I'm not PitchforkYelp and don't have half the energy to give a shit about that stuff anymore. Other than that, I'm pretty much the same person from 2001.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 5:23 PM on October 18, 2012


The mods let me change my username for which I will always be grateful. The story isn't all that important, really. Whether that made me a better person is for better people than I to judge.
posted by waraw at 5:33 PM on October 18, 2012


At some point, I stopped making FPPs. It wasn't a conscious decision; making an FPP -- and watching people savage it -- was always a pain in the ass. I think there was just a point where I stopped caring whether or not people thought of me as a "prominent" member of the community, and so I lost all incentive to make FPPs. Really, I have no idea why people make them. But I'm glad they do!
posted by Afroblanco at 5:38 PM on October 18, 2012


Ha, I'm a short 3 days away from my 10th anniversary on Metafilter. Let's see, how have I changed...? I feel like I've gotten stupider; so there's that. Although I can't say that I applied deliberate energy toward that goal.

To the extent I've gotten less belligerent or argumentative (and I'm not sure that's even correct), I credit my declining youthful vigor.

So, all in all what's my secret? Entropy. And you can too.
posted by dgaicun at 6:01 PM on October 18, 2012


Guide to metafilter posting
by AElfwine Evenstar

Disclaimer: don't take this too seriously I'm trying to be funny, if I fail too hard I apologize in advance.

1. Don't mention Obama.
2. Don't mention drones or any other instance of our government killing innocent people as that tends to harsh the meta buzz...so to speak.
3. Don't take yourself too seriously.
4. Don't take others too seriously.
5. Don't participate in I/P or religion threads.
6. Don't ask women questions about women...which is hard cause sometimes you just don't know.
7. Do provide sources (preferably academic ones) to back up your arguments.
8. Do comment on any Lord of the Rings or Tolkien related thread.
9. Do try and reference the Treaty of Westphalia at least once a week.
10. Post cool stuff you find on the internet.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:08 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have you taught yourself to be kinder, gentler, fairer, less angry, or less bullheaded toward other Mefites?

I think so.

If so, how?

By meditating on Duty Calls, and acquiring the habit of thinking on previously received criticism before clicking Post.
posted by flabdablet at 6:09 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


11. Don't abuse the edit button
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:09 PM on October 18, 2012


It's the oddest thing.

I'm very cranky with this currently unfolding MeTa. Yet Have you taught yourself to be kinder, gentler, fairer, less angry, or less bullheaded toward other Mefites? compels me to sit on my hands and refrain from indulging all the what-for and hows of my crankiness.

The tension is quite unbearable. Damn you.
posted by space_cookie at 6:21 PM on October 18, 2012


The first time I was aware of having one of my comments deleted made me think twice about my behaviour. It was a good deletion and it served to give me pause and consider if I was a good member of this community or not. I'm still endeavouring to do my best on that front.

First time I read Jessamyn's note about how everyone is fighting their own battles (must have been a few years ago now), it made me think about how I should stop trying to guess everyone's motivations and be nicer. Applies to my IRL existence too.
posted by arcticseal at 6:24 PM on October 18, 2012


Apart from getting older and slower (if not wiser), becoming a moderator on MetaChat was the final thing that made me realise how much drama even the smallest nasty comment can cause for other people. I realised that, if it can do that on a site with such a small volume of activity, it must be an absolute nightmare here. I still make lots of negative comments about things people here say but now the only one that they make work for is me in cleaning the spittle from my monitor.
posted by dg at 6:27 PM on October 18, 2012


I think I've become a much better writer.

The problem for me with Metafilter is that it isn't what I really need.
I need some kind of IRL cafe where intellectuals meet up, bounce ideas off each other and create social movements.

Metafilter for the most part has an NPR-level understanding of the world, which (while better than a USA Today or Daily Mail-level understanding) isn't especially nuanced. The shallowness of NPR and similar outlet reporting means that crucial details are often missed, in ways that often completely change interpretations of events. This is sometimes through the nature of the format, sometimes through negligence, and sometimes deliberate.

This would be well and good, except that discussions become clogged with people jumping in with their NPR-level understanding of an event, dragging the conversation off-track and into pointless derails because they've only been getting their information from NPR-like sources. They neither know the relevant facts nor care to get their facts straight, because they've been told that NPR is intelligent, in-depth reporting for middle-class, American moderates like them- so they see no reason to look anywhere else.

Because of these low-information commenters filling up threads, conversations go nowhere or in loops. I'm not saying that people get their information only from NPR necessarily, but that for the most part, the media in the US (where most Mefites live) is so piss-poor that NPR or the criminally negligent New York Times is the best most people get.

On a general-interest site like Metafilter, you're not necessarily going to get a ton of high-information commenters. This is where my disconnect with the site lies.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:27 PM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Ouch!
posted by space_cookie at 6:30 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you do feel like arguing, do it about stupid things like thin/thick crust pizza or the merits of a store-bought vs. homemade carbonation system.

Homemade. I am the goddamn John the Baptist of this topic. One trip to a welding supply shop plus 20 minutes of assembly and all your bullshit Sodastream headaches are DONE.

it rules FYI, I got a big thing of fizzy cold-brew coffee in my fridge at home and it rules, it rules

What did you just do you just changed my life
posted by middleclasstool at 6:34 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


dunkadunc. Oh. Wait. Okay. I get it. Nevermind. Hehehe.
posted by space_cookie at 6:41 PM on October 18, 2012


I think duncadunc says we don't know anything about 90s videogames. Ohmanwheretostart...
posted by Artw at 6:43 PM on October 18, 2012


Whenever I get that WHAT THE FUCK?!? Feeling, I wait for it to pass utterly and completely before I actually respond. I didn't used to always do that. I have tried hard to learn "pause when agitated" in real life, and I've worked harder on not reacting in anger online as well, the last few years. Four or five years ago, I might comment while het up about something someone said, or in reply to me, but now, I wait when I get the feeling. I'll just go do something else entirely until the feeling is just gone, then I'll come back, read it again, and see if it still looks the same. 99.5% of the time, it doesn't. Metafilter does not need my instantaneous response - it'll still be there in a few minutes, or maybe an hour. If I've missed out on an argument as a result, then yay me.

Also, I've learned with not a little dismay lately, that I really don't have too charitable an attitude about my fellow man a lot of the time, and have been trying to re-examine that part of my personality. Why do I look at a total stranger in line at the coffee shop and declare them in my mind almost instantaneously to be an asshole, just by appearances? I'm discovering that it's a very ingrained thing that I have to guard against, and it's getting better. I don't have to be judgmental about strangers on the Internet either, it turns out.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:52 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you are looking around for the asshole and you can't see the asshole, the asshole is you.

Also, I pretend we all live in this terrible old tenement style halfway house that smells like a bowling shoe and I'm light on the rent.

Also, I quit drinking and i eat breakfast every day.

Also I had a near death experience that contained exactly zero mystical revelations, but did cause a little patch of hair on the back of my head to fall out and it's shaped exactly like a slice of pizza, so obviously compassion for oneself and others is the foundation of psychospiritual fitness and I miss meatbomb and Jonmc.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:58 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jesus, I've been here a long. So getting mellower and more handsome with age helps.

It's really hard to explain certain things though. I mean, we used to have week-long ragers on Metatalk (some of which I was part of, hee-hee!) and it had a whiff of bloodsport about it. It was more clubby in those days and frankly, kind of crappy at times. Certain users could (and did) sway public debates through their force of personality, and that sucked.

I think the additional mods have done a very nice job of keeping a place for politicsfilter but also realizing that just because someone isn't a typical librul mefite doesn't mean their ideas are worthy -- e.g., just because someone is a Republican doesn't mean they might be an obvious troll, and we are under no obligation to "protect" them just because they have different ideas. Assholishness is universal that way.

This place definitely toughened my skin back in the day. Honestly, getting over that has more to do with just realizing it's the internet and you should never really invest many of your deeper personal feelings into it.
posted by bardic at 7:37 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


What also can help enormously is having back channels and email buddies. More windows, more sunlight so to speak.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:47 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I learned to nurture and protect my untrammeled contempt for all of you.

Oh, and I started posting a shit ton of "funny" one-liners because hey favorites.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:13 PM on October 18, 2012


I have a bunch of self-imposed rules that I try (successfully, or not -- you be the judge) to stick to:

-- no ad-hominems
-- I don't insult other MeFites
-- I don't impute motives to other MeFites
-- I don't accuse other MeFites
-- I try to scrupulously address comments not commenters

Unfortunately this doesn't stop other people accusing you of doing all those things, but at least you know you didn't.
posted by unSane at 8:18 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ooh, I have three rules that help!

1) This is a general life rule: I never post, e-mail, or say anything that requires me to begin the comment with "Look, crazypants ...." Sometimes when doing work e-mails that requires me to sit with my fingers hovering over the keyboard for AN AWFULLY LONG TIME before I can not say it.

2) I allow myself to read threads that are likely to let me get my rage on, where I know more than a lot of the people posting stupid shit filling me with rage. (For me, this is mostly religion threads. Rape culture type threads also fill me with rage but I don't feel an urge to post because I am not nearly as knowledgeable as a lot of our posters.) But these days I only allow myself to post in them if I have something factual (or a learned interpretation based on scholarly sources that others might not have access to) to add or correct. A lot of stupid arguing can be headed off by the injection of a little actual information, so if I think it'll help, I'll do that. Otherwise I stay out of it. But I maybe read it anyway to enjoy a little rage.

3) I have become super-willing to delete my own comments. I type them up, stare at them in the box, and go, "You know, this isn't quite on point." or "This isn't adding anything." or "I think I just want to tell this unrelated story." or "I think I talked for six paragraphs about a one-sentence sort of topic." And I delete it all. ALL.

I post a lot less stupid shit since I stopped arguing in religion threads and since I became willing to delete my comments when they were just not quite there.

I also think when I got here my attitude was "OMG, so much to argue about!" and now my attitude is "OMG, so much to LEARN!" It don't get sucked into politics threads as easily when I could be reading about SPACE comments by smart people.

Actually an interesting question for AskMe answerers would be how your attitudes towards types of questions have shifted. I have far more patience and compassion for some, and far less for others, over time, I've noticed.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:09 PM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I just try to remember that people are stupid and I can't cure that.
posted by mazola at 9:22 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I delete 98 percent of what I write.
posted by brina at 9:40 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are things that I used to do for the first few years I was here that I consciously no longer do.

I almost never post here after I've had some of my Friday night beers any more. I don't much post the kind of angry rants and screeds I used to -- mostly to exercise my writing muscles -- unless they are clearly meant to be humorous. I avoid fights and arguments, and if I do get drawn into some kind of shitfight, try to disengage as quickly and cleanly as possible. Winning an argument on the internet doesn't mean much to me any more. I am less quick to be aggressive, and less blunt. I am much more conscious of the variety of ways people can read things, and choose my words more carefully as a result. I am more sensitive to the feelings of others. I'm less inclined to just dismiss people with whom I have fundamental disagreements as fools or dupes or loons (although that impulse will never leave me entirely, I'm sure).

I still love a good debate, but I guess I'm more choosy about what and with whom I'm inclined to argue. I'm still given to pointing out the shit from the shinola, but I'm maybe more likely to take a few more investigative sniffs before I speak out.

Unfortunately, even though I'm much more careful to be reasonable and calm and evenhanded these days, I think I may take less care in the craft aspect of my actual writing than I used to, even if I do rip a few good sentences off the wall once in a while. For some reason in the last 5 years, 'writing' as a thing has gotten less important to me than actually having something to say that I feel is worth saying, which is probably a positive development.

Part of these changes (and other ones I'll probably remember after I hit post) have been learning and growing a bit through participation here, part of them have just been me mellowing out in the journey from my mid-30s to my mid-40s, and some come been as a result of learning how to admin MefightClub for the last 5 years, I think.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:47 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Over my years here, I've actually become less patient and forgiving. For me, this is truly a very healthy personal development. It means I no longer hold out a lot of hope for changing dug-in points of view or irascible people, which means picking discussions better, getting out earlier when they're unproductive, and just plain giving up on some entire individuals/topics.

Dunkadunc's onto something - not so much in the characterization of MeFi as NPR, which is up for quibble, but in recognizing that MeFi is not the be-all and end-all of discourse. It's one site, and it's organized around general interests, and it has a certain set of demographics and biases and shared understandings - it isn't evenly distributed across all realms of knowledge, opinion, demographics.

It doesn't provide something for everyone, and it doesn't provide an appropriate level of challenge for everyone on every subject. You'll get frustrated if you're seeking something here that the site isn't really strong in. There's only so much range and scope. Sometimes your POV will be tangential or way out ahead or behind the general cluster or just resonate with only a very few people, making for a very poor community discussion since only a few can participate meaningfully.

All that means is that

-there's nothing wrong with MeFi;
-there's nothing wrong with you;
-sometimes there's a mismatch between the kind of discourse you want, and what MeFi is.

And better diagnosing that match or mismatch is part of the recipe for satisfying participation.
posted by Miko at 9:48 PM on October 18, 2012 [21 favorites]


Stop arguing. Just fucking stop it.

Nah, I love a good argument. But definitely stop squabbling. That shit's annoying.
posted by philip-random at 10:07 PM on October 18, 2012


"Oh, does that mean the magazine is dead, then?"

There's a magazine?
posted by klangklangston at 10:23 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a great topic.

"OMG, so much to LEARN!"

This is the attitude I like to adopt as well.

If I feel offended by a comment I try to figure out:

1) Where is the person coming from? what do they think/feel about the issue?

2) Was my comment offensive, stupid, infantile, ignorant, hyperbole-ish, lulzy, or whatever? and if so, what is it about me that caused me to make such a comment in the first place? Can I fix it? If not, accept and move on. If yes, try to fix. If I conclude my comment was not in the wrong and the insult seems to be unmerited, it's a don't care. Also move on. Nothing to be learned here.

3) Getting back to the argument. Is there agreement on the data? If there is, why are we drawing different conclusions? Am I wrong? If they seem to be wrong, can I make it clear why that appears to be the case to me?

Of course, you learn that somethings are very complicated with inaccessible jargon and require a lot of background. But I tend to feel that if it is truly understood it can be broken down and explained simply. Maybe this is not the case in some situations, or would take eons. In any event, I hope following this process helps make me a better person.

One pet peeve I have are comments like this: "I am/have [insert credentials here] and I can tell you that you are [insert insult here] and don't know what you're talking about." Without providing any of the missing information that their credentials have provided them. This tends to shut down the conversation without adding anything. Perhaps that is the purpose. Often someone will ask for further information and the response will be "it's not my job to do your/MetaFilter's homework." This comment always cracks me up, and makes me glad to be alive.

I'm sure people don't want to waste their time with random internet idiots (like me), and that is perfectly understandable. I wish there were more knowledgeable people here as well. The threads I've valued most are those where an expert in something I'm interested in takes their time to share their understanding of it.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:26 PM on October 18, 2012


klangklangston: "There's a magazine?"

If it is dead, then I'm sorry to hear it. I thought it was pretty neat.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:32 PM on October 18, 2012


The three-and-out rule has made my life (here and elsewhere on the web) so much better. Also removing threads from Recent Activity and turning off favorites. Turning off favorites keeps my head from exploding in heated threads.
posted by immlass at 10:43 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


A little while ago, for just one week, I tried living my life with one rule: "What Would Greg Nog Do?" It's not for everyone. You have to be good with dogs. You might also lose your hearing for a couple days— don't panic, that's normal.
posted by yaymukund at 11:26 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hope that I'm making a slightly better effort than before of trying initially to be charitable and patient and polite instead of immediately going into fight mode as my first approach.
posted by Anything at 12:19 AM on October 19, 2012


Is it perhaps helpful to express views in the form of questions, rather than assertions?
posted by Segundus at 1:18 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't have a Metafilter persona. I'm the same in RL.
posted by Decani at 1:33 AM on October 19, 2012


It wasn't on MeFi specifically, but before I read the old "Someone on the Internet is Wrong" cartoon the absurdity of arguing with strangers at length had struck me.

As a general rule, I've found that if I've debated/argued twice to the same person in a thread then the argument will go nowhere other than downhill. So two's the working limit. [I'm sure I break this rule, but I try not to].

I'm conscious that I want my MeFi persona to match my actual persona. Or to put it another way: when I finally go to a MeFi meetup I'd hope it wasn't an awkward affair where my posting history followed me around like a pet turd.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:38 AM on October 19, 2012


Judging from the thread, most of the ways people seemed to have changed on MetaFilter is by learning to divest themselves emotionally from it a bit more, which is where I think I'm ahead of y'all. Since I've only been here for a year, my only experience with the site is as a place that's big enough for me not to know everybody, not to know everything about it, which in turn means it feels a lot less like my personal club and more like just another website to hang out on. So it's not a big deal if somebody is wrong here, or a comment of mine is misunderstood, or a post gets deleted for not being good enough; been blogging for over a decade, you win some, you lose some.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:23 AM on October 19, 2012


Same as I ever was.

Not exactly, though... actually, I think I'm less likely to get into a nasty back-and-forth with some asshat or other, like I used to do more often here. But part of that is maybe cause a lot of those asshats have (I think) left Mefi. Haha!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:30 AM on October 19, 2012


jonmc left the site cause he thought there were too many asshats, though. Still, I dunno... I think there's less now.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:35 AM on October 19, 2012


I am just realizing that should have said "I ended up hanging out on the green" rather than "the blue".

Next, I work on being less of a tard, clearly. Duh.
posted by Michele in California at 3:57 AM on October 19, 2012


*cough*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:04 AM on October 19, 2012


I believe the preferred nomenclature is subhuman.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:21 AM on October 19, 2012


I used to be a republican who rolled his eyes at all the sensitive liberals here. Now I'm a liberal who rolls his eyes at all the sensitive liberals here.
posted by Mick at 4:38 AM on October 19, 2012 [17 favorites]


I almost never post here after I've had some of my Friday night beers any more.

This. I've learned that a few beers make me a fine conversationalist (and are perfect for helping with talking in a language you don't really speak) but don't make me a great writer. That slight lowering of impulse control and writing online just isn't a good combination for me. So if I'm drinking a beer or sipping wine, I'll read but not comment, and the world is a better place.
posted by Forktine at 5:10 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't have a conscious persona that differs meaningfully from IRL.

What I have done is:

Turned off favourites. The November experiment was a huge benefit to me personally. Seeing the site without the score keeping made me realize how much "idiotic" stuff getting positive affirmation made me all GRAR!!!!!!!. Now I see something like that and I can think "sure that user thinks that but no one can possibly agree with them" and I can move on.

Got a job that doesn't involve sitting at a desk all day. It has forced me to be more selective on what I read. So I skip most of the big back and forth threads.

Made a conscious effort not to be personally offended when people say "You aren't a foo therefor you can't make intelligent comments about foo related topic" or words to that effect. I just stop reading. Sadly this is a serious shift in how Metafilter works; the discounting of users comments because of who they are rather than what they say.

Finally I've also adopted an informal policy of saying my say and then letting it go. I still sometimes get involved in a back and forth but even then I stop sooner. I think the second point helps with this; it's harder to keep a GRAR on when you are forced to take a break.
posted by Mitheral at 6:12 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Golden Eternity: "One pet peeve I have are comments like this: "I am/have [insert credentials here] and I can tell you that you are [insert insult here] and don't know what you're talking about." "

Ooh, yes! The old I know more about this than you can possibly imagine drive-by.

I don't have a conscious persona that differs meaningfully from IRL.

I was going to say, "Me, too," but then I realized that I have this policy of not talking about really personal serious stuff online because I don't want ya'll to think I'm trying to be all emotionally manipulative and garner sympathy for oh poor little me, and that I cut way down on the schmoopy about my kids and my family so ya'll won't think I'm just this sappy soccer Mom. So, yeah.

You know how some kids feel like they don't really fit in? Some days on Metafilter I'm convinced that's me.

Maybe I really am adopted, like my big sister always said!

Or an alien.

At least if I was a mutant I would have superpowers.
posted by misha at 6:49 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to feel compelled, when I saw a fannish thread about X and X was something I didn't care for, to go in and start making comments explaining why I didn't think X was that good.

To be honest, I still sometimes feel that compulsion, but I rein it in.
posted by escabeche at 7:08 AM on October 19, 2012


I took nearly a year off to make myself believe that no Mefites other than those already resident in Texas have actually ever been to Texas ;-P
posted by PapaLobo at 7:11 AM on October 19, 2012


We have Arizona now.
posted by Artw at 7:17 AM on October 19, 2012


Oh man, you don't want that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:24 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a useful thread; as a relative MeFi newbie, I didn't realise some of the things one could do e.g. turn off favorites.

I don't know if long-term MetaFilter use will change my persona, but it would be good if it did. Personally, after two decades of abnormally heavy web use, it's often not healthy. It may (hopefully) help that, although there's apparently many librarians active on MetaFilter, it's not intimidating, hostile, argumentative or downright vicious as some online librarian forums and spaces are. And it's not as wearisome as many places (there's a hell of a long list) online in terms of the comments generated by posting something. I gave up posting content on YouTube very quickly...

But my main motivation for being active with MetaFilter, related to that last point, is the quality of writing of many of the posts and comments on here. People - a heck lot of people - who post and comment on MetaFilter write well. Damned well. Engaging, witty, interesting, compelling, well thought out, well constructed, unpredictable, involving writing. MetaFilter is never dull to read. I come on here several to many times a day. Every single time I've read something new and interesting, and also read some excellent writing. Every time.

As someone who wants to improve as a writer (quantity is not a personal problem; quality is), reading MetaFilter is hopefully a useful thing. The tips that successful writers give out have one thing in common, over and over. If you want to write well, then read good writing. Lots and lots and lots of it. That's what I'm hoping to get out of MetaFilter over the next 5, 10, 20, 30 years.

Side point: if MetaFilter really did give out hugs, then everyone's persona would probably change for the better. Maybe this is where the entire Gamification industry has got it wrong? People don't need points and badges. They need hugs.
posted by Wordshore at 7:37 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I shit rainbows so I'm always less angry.
posted by stormpooper at 7:38 AM on October 19, 2012


Epoopysterical.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:40 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can you favorite a deletion? Hint: Anuphty-pay.
posted by unSane at 7:53 AM on October 19, 2012


Gone is the era of the Massive Flameout; in other words, the first 8 years of this place. I suppose it's a good thing that it doesn't really happen anymore, though it did make it a lot easier to figure out who's a buttmunch.

And yes, I was a buttmunch. I only ever really had one incident that resulted in a callout and subsequent timeout. To my credit an overwhelming number of community members came to my defense, saying that while I was acting like a drunken jerk I was at least acting like a correct drunken jerk. I actually ended up making several long-lasting allies that day. I will not be linking to the thread, but if you search Meta for a thread entitled "item for your attention" you'll find what I'm talking about.
posted by item at 8:09 AM on October 19, 2012


And I see zarq's found it.
posted by item at 8:19 AM on October 19, 2012


Gone is the era of the Massive Flameout; i

Really? I wouldn't have said so. The flames aren't as hot, maybe.

We still have a lot of what I tend to think of more as "flounce-outs" (fuck you, I never liked you people anyway, you suck, hair flip!) and red-buttoning, when people just feel they've had enough for some reason, for now or for forever.
posted by Miko at 8:47 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I turned off favorites the day that became an option.

I never send a MeMail regarding a post or a comment unless it's to say thanks or "wow, that thing you shared was amazing". Said another way, if I "take it to MeMail", it's never to keep fighting, it's to say kudos/thanks/you rock.

There are a couple users in Ask who participate heavily and continually "guess" instead of "answer" - it raises my blood pressure a bit, and I find myself wondering if I'd still be so annoyed if I didn't see their names. If there's a script to turn off names I'd be interested in trying it, because it bugs me that I get annoyed.
posted by ersatzkat at 8:49 AM on October 19, 2012


I'm not really tempted to get into arguments in general, but in the cases where I have been fished in, I have noticed a common theme: sarcasm.

It just doesn't work in text. Someone will misread it, guaranteed. Maybe that person is me, or maybe I've said something that was intended sarcastically and someone else misread it. So I made a rule to never use sarcasm in text. (or respond to it, which is harder)

Furthermore, I pretty much stopped with the sarcasm in real-life speech, too. Know what I learned? It's not as funny as you think, in the moment. It's so much nicer to have genuine conversations with genuine people who just go ahead and say what they mean, instead of implying it in a snide, asshole-ey way.
posted by ctmf at 9:20 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


item: "And I see zarq's found it."

I just wanna know what the epic trophy looks like.
posted by zarq at 9:21 AM on October 19, 2012


Interesting questions that call for self-reflection.

Have you had success in changing your Metafilter persona in some way?

That's a hard question to parse. I've never considered whether I had a "Metafilter persona" to change. I think a lot of people would say my contributions have changed, but I don't perceive that as something that was a "goal" with which to have "success" or as a result of an effort to change a persona. It just organically occurred.

Have you taught yourself to be kinder, gentler, fairer, less angry, or less bullheaded toward other Mefites?

I'm not sure my relationship with other members is the result of teaching myself one way or another but rather has to do with the changing importance of the community to me and the desire to make it a better place.

I was a reader long before I joined. When I first started participating, it was mostly at a personal entertainment level--like the peanut gallery. I did not have a real connection with the place and did not take it seriously, but I knew enough about certain members that I entertained myself by basically goosing those who came across as self-important and dogmatic. There was no malice involved; I just didn't take it seriously and was participating at a playful level without really considering the people on the other side of the screen names (who for too often seemed to me to be almost too comical in what they would argue about to be real people). When you feel like certain people are bots, it's easy to be flippant to them. But I readily concede it is (and was) not appropriate to treat people that way.

It did not take long for me to actually begin to value the community aspect of the place, to appreciate that others took it seriously, to feel a greater connection with the people behind the screen names, and to avoid flippancy. At that point, I started enjoying the community more, but I also started really caring about it and wanting to make it even better. My participation became serious and substantive, and I tried to earnestly add value with a high signal to noise ratio--which is more how I am in person at the personal level. However, ultimately I spent too much time and emotional energy trying to point out and combat the main problem with the community, which is its insular, cocooning and hostile nature to anything that it is not part of the ethos of the vocal minority. I truly believe this would be a better place if it wasn't so much of an echo chamber which causes so much of the dialogue to be predictable, uninteresting, and stale. But, after spending a long time trying to take arms against that sea of trouble and taking arrows from the loud people wanted to keep it the way it was, I gave up. It wasn't going to happen. And I was tired of trying and the unrelenting hostility from a loud group of users who always made things about me instead of the topic and who wanted an echo chamber. So I chose to quit participating a couple years ago. I didn't flame out or close my account. I just quit reading.

After a while, I started reading again on occasion, and I still do. But I just don't feel any attachment any more. I think the site still has value at time, but I feel it lost its chance to be something more--and lost a lot of good people in the process. I still enjoy the interesting things on the web that are posted about, and I'm willing to offer some substantive insight on legal threads when I see them, but I am largely detached now and only rarely participate.

So to the extent my participation has changed over the last decade, it mostly has to do with my emotional connection with the community which has changed over time as opposed to teaching myself how to interact, which is how your question is phrased.

If you've managed to change for the better, how? By taking time off using the close-account switch? By switching to a "clean" username and pulling a Brand New Day? By incorporating certain habits when you get online?

I do not know how to judge if any change is qualitatively "better" for me or the site. But my relative disengagement with the site--which could be called "incorporating" a certain disposition--is partly a concerted effort on my part of wanting to avoid drama but mostly because it seems such a different place with different people that I don't feel the connection I once had with the community. Some may say it is for the better; a real part of me think it is not because I consider the loss of the community unfortunate. But things change and the Metafilter beast moves on with more and more people filling the space.
posted by dios at 9:35 AM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Gone is the era of the Massive Flameout; i

Really? I wouldn't have said so. The flames aren't as hot, maybe.


This seems to have coincided with my arrival here, back in 2008. It seemed that METAs then were often as not great dramas, tending toward tragic conclusions. Now, not so much.

It's tempting to just assume that I brought about this change with my heightened sense of fairness, decency, empathy, combined with my willingness to question all of my assumptions, to in fact, cherish those moments when my assumptions were proved wrong.

But, of course, I wasn't like this back then, in 2008. I was a different man then, incomplete. So I guess, in answer to ...

Have you had success in changing your Metafilter persona in some way?

... the answer is obvious. Metafilter has completed me and I, it.

At which point, philip-random becomes a ghost himself much to his astonishment. Metafilter then watches in silence as the shadowy demons arrive and drag a screaming philip-random away into the darkness.
posted by philip-random at 9:54 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just wrote a GreaseMonkey script to block the MeFites that I find do not contribute well to the site. I expect this will have positive effects on my attitude towards the site in general.
posted by blue t-shirt at 10:06 AM on October 19, 2012


I didn't want to get hung up on the word 'persona.' MeFi me is pretty much exactly the same as me me: same exact faults, same exact good things. However, I'm not all that super talkative in real life. I write a lot more than I talk, across the board, so if you thought I was this long-winded person based on the way I write comments, that's probably the main thing that wouldn't translate into real life. I have a lot of interior monologue, a lot less exterior.

So in one way I want to say 'we aren't personas!' but it can't be denied that there's probably a de facto 'persona' for each of us which forms in the minds of other users as they put together a mental picture based on our participation choices. It's our image, the sum of our actions as those things strike a response in others. That may reflect reality more closely or less closely. But to me that's something a little different from having an intentionally adopted persona; something like that, I think, arises from setting a goal for a persona as if building a roleplaying character - like "I'm going to use this account for short humorous comments," or "I'm going to use this account for commenting on things I don't want associated with an IRL identity."

So I think of it more as 'have you changed your behavior' on the site. We're only in control of our personas in others' minds to the extent that we're in control of our own behavior, which produces the material these personas are built from. We can't control those fully because a lot depends on individuals' attitudes, preferences, proclivities; but we can control a lot of important things about them, such as how much we post and when, how combative or conciliatory we are, how fast we walk away, how much we use humor (or try to), how much editing we give our comments, etc.
posted by Miko at 10:07 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


"What Would Greg Nog Do?"

Like 90 percent of it is just cramming huge amounts of tuna salad in your mouth at any given time
posted by Greg Nog at 10:14 AM on October 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Mercury poisoning would explain it!
posted by Burhanistan at 10:18 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I once criticized on the grey something Jessamyn had said and done as a mod, in a deeply (and unrelated) grumpy mood, and then I got whacked upon by no other than flapjax a m, who called me "my friend" with that tone, and then I cringingly backpedaled, and I now step away from the computer when grumpy. Works fine. I'm more a hugs type anyway.
posted by Namlit at 10:23 AM on October 19, 2012


The other 10% is making things fizzy.
posted by elizardbits at 10:34 AM on October 19, 2012


I just flipped through the thread item is referring to, and I now have only one question --

My God, what the hell was up with davy?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:42 AM on October 19, 2012


My God, what the hell was up with davy?

He was naturally annoyed by a display of liberal sensitivity.
posted by muddgirl at 10:52 AM on October 19, 2012


I registered so that I could lurk more effectively. I was so intimidated by all the Very Smart Mefites and didn't think I'd have anything to add. But I wanted to, so I posted a little on the Green, and then a little more, and then branched out to the Blue and occasionally Grey, and *finally* startled the on-duty mod by posting my first FPP after seven years of not. Either the site as a whole has dumbed down to my level or I do have useful things to say.

The me on MeFi is the me everywhere else, more or less, except without, the the the, the damned stuttering when I'm trying to assemble a coherent thought. I try not to be mean, I try not to be fighty (unless it's with Really Good Fucking Cause, and then it's more a sense of putting my foot down and being all, yo, I will not be having with that), and I've learned that it can actually be good to share ideas I have and things that I've experienced. Y'all pulled me out of my shell a little.

My ability to assemble a zippy quip on the fly has gotten way better, though.
posted by cmyk at 10:54 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hm.

Well, I lurked for quite a while before joining up, so I was familiar with the conversational dynamics, but not really familiar enough. So my first real participation was getting into a slapfight snarkfest with another user over 9/11 conspiracy theories.

I won't blame favorites for my subsequent love of being cleverly snide, but over time, I started having more and more instances of Morning After Shame when reading some oh-so-witty riposte to another user that wasn't really serving the conversation so much as it was serve my own sense of self-satisfaction at "winning" the argument.

This recently came back to haunt me, actually, as another user here recently MeMailed me to explain why they were absolutely never going to discuss a particular subject with me again. I honestly had no recollection of ever tangling with this person, but when they provided linkage, I was deeply embarrassed by some of the things I said to them, six months ago.

I guess I experienced enough of this Morning After Shame to just make it a general rule to try and follow a couple simple steps:

1. Assume the best about the motivations of others. Listen.
2. Avoid shouty/fighty language.
3. If you disagree with someone, make your point and move on. Don't just retool the same point over and over.
4. Swim right past the worm on the hook.
5. Admitting you are wrong will not lead to people pointing and laughing at you.

I'm not a saint when it comes to this stuff, but I do try to push aside the urge to be a total jerk anyway, and hope my contributions are at least somewhat meaningful and/or entertaining.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:55 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Looking just at myself, I disagree with this characterization. I think there's a big gulf between "I am less inflammatory" and "I am kind, gentle, fair." Good discussion does not need inflammatory comments.

Yes, sometimes when I am vastly outnumbered, I find myself becoming inflammatory. Yes, nowadays that's when I try to stop commenting. There's a whole wide world out there and it doesn't matter in the slightest whether or not every single opinion is hashed out on Metafilter.


That was my point. "Not every single opinion is hashed out on Metafilter" means, for me and many others, commenting less and feeling less of a connection to this community. When entire swathes of opinion are dismissed as "inflammatory", you start to lose entire swathes of comments and even people -- and as dios pointed out above, that's exactly what's happened. This is where the echo chamber comes from.

It may be helpful on an individual level to just walk away whenever tempted to discuss "inflammatory" issues, but on a site-wide level it tends to kill the vigor and variety of the discussion, just as extra white blood cells start to die if there's no inflammation to attend to. I liked the site a lot better back when people were expected to follow the site rules and make solid arguments in favor of "inflammatory" points, rather than being expected to walk away in silence.

As for what-the-hell-was-up-with-davy: he saw the wave of "safe, pleasant, and non-controversial" blandness coming, as did many people back then. Look around and see if mefi still has a quarter of the joie de vivre of that thread.
posted by vorfeed at 11:07 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


As for what-the-hell-was-up-with-davy: he saw the wave of "safe, pleasant, and non-controversial" blandness coming, as did many people back then. Look around and see if mefi still has a quarter of the joie de vivre of that thread.

See, I think it has more so. What you see as "joie de vivre" I see as "being an attention-grabby blowhard", and what you see as "blandness" I see as "everyone finally feeling like they can get a damn turn to talk when they want to without the Professionally Irate storming in to criticize them for not being radical enough".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:13 AM on October 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


hen entire swathes of opinion are dismissed as "inflammatory"...

..."inflammatory" issues...


I think any opinion can be, and has been, expressed in a non-inflammatory manner. Even racist/sexist/classist/ablist ones. I was talking about inflammatory expressions and it's curious that you change that to inflammatory issues. I don't think any issue is inherently inflammatory, and going into a conversation with that perspective is certainly something I personally try to avoid, either by changing my perspective or avoiding the conversation.

Look around and see if mefi still has a quarter of the joie de vivre of that thread.

The Metatalk thread? I thought it was a perfect example of 'the more things change, the more things stay the same.' In this very thread Blazecock Pileon was complaining about pileons, and if that thread about item isn't the perfect example of a pileon (not against item, but against the OP of the Metatalk thread) I don't know what is.
posted by muddgirl at 11:15 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


It may be helpful on an individual level to just walk away whenever tempted to discuss "inflammatory" issues, but on a site-wide level it tends to kill the vigor and variety of the discussion

Like EC, I think we have another kind of "vigor and variety" here now. There is a generally socially liberal outlook to the userbase, but there are Christian users, conservatives and libertarians who have most definitely incited some lively discussions.

If I want the kind of "liveliness" characterized by "no fuck YOU" comments to other users, I can always go to YouTube.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:18 AM on October 19, 2012


I learned never to say "It is not good for the children", even if I'm still absolutely convinced that overexposure to violence and horror from movies and games damages them.
posted by francesca too at 11:26 AM on October 19, 2012


The other thing I coach myself to never do is crap on something that a lot of other people are enjoying.

I think we have all had the experience of being in a thread and happily nerding out about something with a handful of other like-minded people. Then someone comes along and leaves a comment like "This is dumb, what is wrong with you people? Get a life!"

For me, it happens in font threads. I like fonts. I have Serious, Well-Considered, Deeply Held Opinions about fonts. We have a font thread, I'm like, "Yay! Let's all make fun of Mistral!" And inevitably every 10th comment is "Why would anyone possibly care about FONTS????"

These comments are tiresome and make you look like an asshole and a bully. And even though I have been tempted to leave them myself, I have to remember that one person's passion is another person's "Who the fuck cares about THAT????"

And you know what? Metafilter is a big place. Plenty of room for people to care about different things.
posted by ErikaB at 12:41 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find the equivocation of the former user who had legitimate mental health issues to joie de vivre to be misguided and kind of out of line, really.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:51 PM on October 19, 2012


I think any opinion can be, and has been, expressed in a non-inflammatory manner. Even racist/sexist/classist/ablist ones. I was talking about inflammatory expressions and it's curious that you change that to inflammatory issues.

You concluded your comment with "it doesn't matter in the slightest whether or not every single opinion is hashed out on Metafilter", and also mentioned that this happens "when I am vastly outnumbered". That sounds like this is at least partially about the content of certain opinions, not the expression thereof.

Talking about this is not curious at all, given that this is where the community values have gone. There are many comments above from people who stopped commenting or posting about certain issues, not in certain ways. Why is this such a common comment to make, if issues aren't part of the, um, issue? There have been callouts about the way certain opinions are openly and frequently attacked here, attracting a positive response from the community, even while comments which attack other opinions in the same way are piled-on or deleted... and that MeTa thread is chock-full of people claiming that certain ideas are inherently inflammatory. I've been told this over and over during my time on the site, and it's a large part of what davy was talking about: the opinion/expression boat has long since sailed on metafilter.

As for "we have another kind of "vigor and variety" here now": I get that's how you feel, but it's not how I feel, and the question is why we can't have a mefi which frowns upon "no fuck YOU" forms of personal interaction (which were against site rules to begin with) without carrying that over into community norms which pat members on the back for not commenting.

I find the equivocation of the former user who had legitimate mental health issues out to joie de vivre to be misguided and kind of out of line, really.

That wasn't referring to any one user, but to the thread overall. That's why I said "the joie de vivre of that thread" and not "the joie de vivre of whoever".
posted by vorfeed at 1:07 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was a pretty angry dude when I first joined MetaFilter, and that definitely came out in some embarrassing ways early on. In the years since I joined, I've sort of chilled out as a person, partially due to MetaFilter, which has had tremendous impacts on my online as well as real life.

That's not to say that I don't get opinionated now and again. But I try not to be an asshole about it. One thing MetaFilter really taught me was that being a dick about your opinion doesn't do you any favors in arguing your point. It's like that quote from Lebowski - you're not wrong, you're just an asshole.

And overall, I just don't comment as much. I read a lot and don't get involved in the thread unless I really have something interesting to contribute, or if I really love the post I'll let the OP know. I no longer have the urge to make a comment about something I don't personally like, just to say I don't like it.

I also don't generally get involved in MeTa threads anymore about deletions or call outs or the like. I only do the schmoopy and stuff.

I don't take things personally, and I don't hold grudges against other users.

I remember that even the smartest people here are just people. Everyone has good days and bad days and is right sometimes and wrong sometimes.

And like Griphus, I try to approach MetaFilter as a way to learn as opposed to a place to be right.

I try to remember that the best things on Metafilter are the interesting post and comments, and try to make posts/comments accordingly.

I also started going to meet-ups. Not only are they awesome and fun, but it sort of helps you put a face on the place and remember that people are just people, they shouldn't make you nervous.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:42 PM on October 19, 2012


Talking about this is not curious at all, given that this is where the community values have gone. There are many comments above from people who stopped commenting or posting about certain issues, not in certain ways. Why is this such a common comment to make, if issues aren't part of the, um, issue?

I wonder if any of those same people have stopped commenting on certain issues because they know that they themselves are liable to fall into the frowned-upon behavior when they do.

....that MeTa thread is chock-full of people claiming that certain ideas are inherently inflammatory. I've been told this over and over during my time on the site, and it's a large part of what davy was talking about: the opinion/expression boat has long since sailed on metafilter.

Again, it seems you're confusing the "watch HOW you speak on this issue" with "watch the issues you speak ABOUT". I suspect that when people speak about how some ideas are inherantly inflammatory, it is not a warning to avoid discussion of those topics altogether - it is a warning to double-check how you speak of them, because you are that much more likely to anger someone when it comes to a topic about which they may be much more sensitive.

If you're still skeptical, consider - there are only three topics that I can recall off the top of my head that are generally considered to be overall no-fly zones - and only one of them is political (Israel/Palestine). One of them (circumcison) I've still seen posts about, which indicates that even the "no-fly zones" are sometimes allowed to stand. (The third topic - which I mention only for completeness' sake - is cat declawing.)

If the mods truly were trying to control the topics the community discusses, don't you think there would be more than those three? I do. So if that's the case, isn't it possible that people's claims that "topic [foo] is inflammatory" is actually more about a "watch your step when discussing this" rather than "avoid discussing this altogether"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:53 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gone is the era of the Massive Flameout
The existence of the Big Red Button probably helped with that, I think. Before it was possible to easily kick yourself out, a combination of being angry, a lack of willpower and no easy way to stop yourself meant that people were drawn back again and again into shitfights, resulting in an ever-increasing level of GRAR until someone inevitably snapped. Now, people can fairly easily pevent themselves from being able to instantly respond and the bar of having to contact the mod squal and ask for the account to be restored may be just enough to let things cool down a bit.
posted by dg at 1:58 PM on October 19, 2012


I'm way rantier on MeFi than IRL, and this is often probably at some level part of my motivation for commenting, and probably I should stop being this way.
posted by kengraham at 2:10 PM on October 19, 2012


I've shifted from the green to the blue. It took me maybe 2.5 years to get up the guts to make an FPP and, while I'm certainly not a frequent poster, the inner argument about whether it's a "good enough" topic has diminished greatly.

Eyebrows McGee asked this above: an interesting question for AskMe answerers would be how your attitudes towards types of questions have shifted

I used to love human relations and therapy questions, but now that I'm on the provider side of the divide I find myself typing out responses and then hitting the back button; I'm trying to stop reading those questions altogether lest I end up like those who have disabled in the past for related reasons. These days, I'm either reading the grab bag category or I'm just scanning for a question that hooks me into clicking the [more inside].

I still spend most of my reading time on the grey, though. I am an old USENET hand, and the vibe in here is comforting.

(Oh, and I love MeMail but I'm always a little loth to contact someone privately. I think it's a USENET culture hangover.)
posted by catlet at 2:23 PM on October 19, 2012


vorfeed: " It may be helpful on an individual level to just walk away whenever tempted to discuss "inflammatory" issues, but on a site-wide level it tends to kill the vigor and variety of the discussion, just as extra white blood cells start to die if there's no inflammation to attend to. I liked the site a lot better back when people were expected to follow the site rules and make solid arguments in favor of "inflammatory" points, rather than being expected to walk away in silence."

There are certain issues that people just Lose Their Freakin' Minds over and seem incapable of discussing rationally. Circumcision is one. Israel / The Occupation is another. We still have posts about them and some positive discussions. But take the "wrong side" from the community majority in those thread and you'll be flamed out of existence. What sane person would put themselves through that twice?

I think this isn't so much a moderation issue or a community attempt to silence folks as a realization on the part of the participants that it just isn't worth the hassle and vitriol.

Plenty of us still try to make cogent (hopefully evidence-based) arguments on a variety of topics, to varying degrees of success. If those comments are met with irrational emotion and personal attacks rather than good faith discussion, then it is only logical to draw the conclusion that there's No Point.

For example: I posted this comment in June, and the response I got back was: "I don't have to convince you. I don't have to."

I am no longer commenting in threads on circumcision for any reason. Why bother trying to chat with people who have decided to use Metafilter as a bullhorn rather than as a discussion group? This ain't Thunderdome and I'm quite sure no one will notice my absence.
posted by zarq at 2:28 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I mean, this thread is a great example. Being "kinder, gentler, fairer, less angry, or less bullheaded" may be fine guidelines for improving your blood pressure, but they only mean "becoming better at good discussion" if by good discussion you mean agreeable discussion.

There have been callouts about the way certain opinions are openly and frequently attacked here, attracting a positive response from the community, even while comments which attack other opinions in the same way are piled-on or deleted

There is a bit of a contradiction here. If MetaFilter is a kinder gentler place, how could it be that people don't feel they can comment on certain issues for fear of being attacked? I wonder if the calm is partly because particular issues have been hashed out already at great length and there's nothing new to be said, not that the minority opinion has silenced itself. I know I'm in the minority (if not entirely my own world) with a few of my opinions, and it doesn't prevent me from expressing them when I'm convinced I'm right. If I'm wrong, maybe someone will finally get through to me.

because you are that much more likely to anger someone when it comes to a topic about which they may be much more sensitive.

I agree that some posts are unfairly deleted, and this creates less diversity of opinion. Personally, I think the deciding factor should be if a post could be legitimately hurtful to someone, not if it may anger someone. One thing I have learned from MetaFilter is that words can be - when they 'trigger' memories of real abuse/hardship in particular. Maybe "inflammatory" is not the right word, but certainly there are some issues that need to be moderated more closely than others because of the possibility of hurtfulness.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:35 PM on October 19, 2012


I wonder if any of those same people have stopped commenting on certain issues because they know that they themselves are liable to fall into the frowned-upon behavior when they do.

Sure. Every site has to balance (self-)censorship with the development of community norms. I've always liked the way mefi enforces on-topic, personal-insult-free discussion, and that's simply not possible without some level of policing, self and otherwise. I just can't help but notice that we've moved the community-norms/open-participation slider to the point where people -- even some of our own long-term members -- are becoming reluctant to participate here.

The amount and volume of shaming, morality-policing, over-thinking, and norm-enforcing which goes on here makes the site very unforgiving, especially to new users and those who don't fit the zeitgeist. This is true elsewhere, of course (see reddit, which enforces a mirror-image of mefi's standards), but it's gotten to the point where it's not a healthy thing for mefi nor a good thing for discussion here. It's a toxic dynamic, and it's only getting worse.

If the mods truly were trying to control the topics the community discusses, don't you think there would be more than those three?

There are far more than those three, and this is not about the mods (it's mainly about user behavior; if anything, the mods have been staunch in the face of requests for more censorship). If you watch what's being posted and what isn't, I think it's pretty obvious that there's a general trend toward not-posting things which the userbase finds inflammatory (aka "grar"), simply because it finds them inflammatory, no matter what the topic. This thread is full of examples of people who've said that thinking-better-of-posting-X based on content is a wonderful way to improve discussion, so clearly watch your step when discussing this is not being properly communicated as a norm... probably because people do so and still get their heads chewed off for having the "wrong" opinion. And again: my point is that "a community attempt to silence folks" and "a realization on the part of the participants that it just isn't worth the hassle and vitriol" end up in exactly the same place, and are functionally equivalent with regards to their effect on discussion here.

The I/P, circumcision, and cat-declawing thing is a great example -- that started out as a knowing joke about topics mefi doesn't "do well", and now it's increasingly being treated as if it really is a list of topics we've trained ourselves to avoid. Awesome! A+++ WOULD STOP DISCUSSING AGAIN

There is a bit of a contradiction here. If MetaFilter is a kinder gentler place, how could it be that people don't feel they can comment on certain issues for fear of being attacked?

Because attacking "inflammatory" opinions is conflated with being kinder/gentler/etc. There is most certainly a bit of a contradiction there, but it isn't with me.
posted by vorfeed at 2:47 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I learned not to read ask.me questions that go:
- I have a pet, what should I name it?
- I am going to visit Vladivostok for a week. I have no idea why. Tell me what to do while I'm there.
- What present should I buy for my mother/father-in-law/brood sibling?

My fingers quiver wanting to type HOW THE HELL SHOULD WE KNOW and then I take a small breath, do not flag, and move on.
posted by zadcat at 2:58 PM on October 19, 2012


This is true elsewhere, of course (see reddit, which enforces a mirror-image of mefi's standards), but it's gotten to the point where it's not a healthy thing for mefi nor a good thing for discussion here. It's a toxic dynamic, and it's only getting worse.

General question to everyone: What discussions in the past year do you think have been particularly good and/or interesting?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:00 PM on October 19, 2012


My fingers quiver wanting to type HOW THE HELL SHOULD WE KNOW and then I take a small breath, do not flag, and move on.

I suspect the point of CrowdSourcing is to distribute the question widely enough that someone will know the answer. And failing that there are people who think they know everything, so you're bound to get an answer from them.
posted by Grangousier at 3:02 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Plenty of us still try to make cogent (hopefully evidence-based) arguments on a variety of topics, to varying degrees of success. If those comments are met with irrational emotion and personal attacks rather than good faith discussion, then it is only logical to draw the conclusion that there's No Point.

It's not even a small list of topics, or even topic-based, necessarily. It's pretty easy to read the early tone of a thread and deduce that nuance, nevermind dissent, is not welcome.

When I first saw the "Bible Verse Banners" thread, it had just gotten started. papercrane asked: "If schools can ban "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" signs at school events why can't they ban this? (Seriously, I'm not asking rhetorically.)"

Now I'm not a constitutional scholar, but I work closely with them (in Canada). My serious answer would be "I don't know about in the States, but here, not all speech is equally worthy of protection, and a genuine religious sentiment would draw a different legal analysis than one that is determined to be off-the-cuff or otherwise not genuinely representative of political or religious speech." Did I post that? No I did not. I posted nothing at all, because no one there (with the possible exception of papercrane) was looking for an opposing opinion (even widely construing "opposing").

My contribution to a "kinder, gentler Mefi" is not contributing to threads where I know my comments will not be welcome. I have had enough of being lumped in with a "side" because I haven't accepted every half-baked, ill-conceived argument advanced in pursuit of a cause I, often too, believe in.

And everyone is happier for it. I know I am.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:27 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Durn Bronzefist, I think that answer would have improved the thread and I can't imagine that anyone would have reacted badly to it.
posted by escabeche at 3:31 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


zadcat writes "I learned not to read ask.me questions that go:
- I have a pet, what should I name it?
- I am going to visit Vladivostok for a week. I have no idea why. Tell me what to do while I'm there.
- What present should I buy for my mother/father-in-law/brood sibling?

My fingers quiver wanting to type HOW THE HELL SHOULD WE KNOW and then I take a small breath, do not flag, and move on.
"

The middle question seems unlike the first and last. Presumably a Vladivostok native or resident could shine a lot of light on points of interest in the town.
posted by Mitheral at 3:31 PM on October 19, 2012


Presumably a Vladivostok native or resident could shine a lot of light on points of interest in the town.

My point is that if you don't know what's there and have planned your trip in utter ignorance of the features of the place, WHY ARE YOU GOING?
posted by zadcat at 3:37 PM on October 19, 2012


The only reason I cite a specific example is that that thread is old enough that no one's blood is probably still up over the event itself and looking to vent at a potential adversary. Had I not thought it worthwhile, I would not have considered posting for that reason alone. But that certainly wasn't the reason. In any case, just one example of many.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:38 PM on October 19, 2012


My point is that if you don't know what's there and have planned your trip in utter ignorance of the features of the place, WHY ARE YOU GOING?

Because you know people who say that Vladivostok is awesome and you should totally go there.
posted by grouse at 3:40 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


vorfeed: "This thread is full of examples of people who've said that thinking-better-of-posting-X based on content is a wonderful way to improve discussion"

I have a slightly different take on that. I don't know if this example will quite jibe, so bear with me.

I've read lots of complaints recently about MeFi becoming too PC, too sanitized, too concerned with not offending people, etc. We've had a few big MeTas recently where there were accusations of the "feminist brigade" silencing discussions.

Now, from the perspective of people who worry about the PC police turning MeFi into a milquetoast echo chamber, I'm sure my general feelings about how we should handle feminism and sensitive language and trigger warnings would be classified under "things that are ruining Metafilter". In other words, I don't fall within the portion of the userbase that consistently has dissenting opinions from the majority. (If anything, I think MeFi isn't progressive enough.)

But even so, or especially so, I still think it's wise to think twice before posting, and consider whether the discussion is worth having. And that's evidently not because I'm silencing myself for fear of pile-ons, but because I'm trying to learn that it's just not that important to be heard all the time. I used to get so boiling mad when I read feminism discussions on here, and posted angry screeds about why concept X, Y, or Z should be self-evident and omg why don't you get it yet?! I got mad (usually in my head) at posters whose idea of equity didn't align with mine, and I took it personally that someone I got along with in one context is now--in my view--being a jerk in another context.

I still occasionally get mad when I read feminism discussions, but I don't feel the need to respond to every comment that I disagree with anymore. I don't need to fight with every person whose personal morality differs from mine. Like I said above, someone else will come along and say it, and if they don't, no big deal. (I am sometimes more successful at this than at other times.)

So even though I am usually in general agreement with the so-called orthodoxy, I still think stepping away from the keyboard more often than not is a good policy to have, and a gentler way of interacting with the site. Not just because the vitriol and bad feelings aren't worth it for me or anyone else, but also because I would be contributing to the kind of environment that makes it difficult for dissenting opinions to speak up.

I don't deny that when a lot of people are really passionately aligned about something, sometimes it's easy to get shouty when others disagree. There are lots of discussions where, even if I am on the side of the majority, I am frustrated with how the sentiment is being expressed. My point is that "be careful about what you say, and maybe think twice before posting" is not, in and of itself, an endorsement for silencing dissent. For me, at least, it's a way to dial back on the mutual cheerleading so that interesting (but civil) disagreements can take place.

Apologies if none of that made sense.
posted by Phire at 3:44 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, years and years ago now, when the Contribution Index (pre-Infodump) first came out, I found out I was the #1 commenter on the site. Partly this was being here almost from the beginning, but it was also being prolific. I'd had some belligerent exchanges on politics, one of which resulted -- due to my choice of physical stressbusters -- in an actual scar on my finger, and the combination made me decide to pull back. I actually went cold turkey at first, then I used a ridiculously wonkish spreadsheet to manage the number of comments I allowed myself. Eventually I settled into a much less prolific happy space and stopped counting. And look! I'm still #12 commenter (at least last time that software was run, which may have been last year?). I also joined metachat (hi guys!) and that helped moderate my whole social approach to the site.

At one point I decided I should try making posts instead of comments, but that never got off the ground as life kept getting, variously, in the way.
posted by dhartung at 3:49 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Plenty of us still try to make cogent (hopefully evidence-based) arguments on a variety of topics, to varying degrees of success. If those comments are met with irrational emotion and personal attacks rather than good faith discussion, then it is only logical to draw the conclusion that there's No Point.

There's something to be said for sticking to reality-based facts and — in the long term — being vindicated by them. That feels pretty good. Giving up simply reinforces bullies who do not operate on that level of reality, and who wants to give them any satisfaction?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:50 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are certain issues that people just Lose Their Freakin' Minds over and seem incapable of discussing rationally. [...] But take the "wrong side" from the community majority in those thread and you'll be flamed out of existence. What sane person would put themselves through that twice?

(snerk) When it comes to a couple of topics, I guess that makes me crazy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:43 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


zadcat writes "My point is that if you don't know what's there and have planned your trip in utter ignorance of the features of the place, WHY ARE YOU GOING?"

This is tipping into derail and I'll concede your point but heck I do this all the time. Jump in the car and just keep going until I manage to find a road I haven't traveled and then proceed down it until I reach the limit of either my time or my finances. I've taken multi day trips to places just because of the name (seriously Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump; ya gotta know there is something interesting there). Who wouldn't take their first opportunity to visit Skookumchuck or Vulcan.
posted by Mitheral at 6:28 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I deleted an old, fairly long-standing account, took a few months off, and tried again as a new person (this one), and significantly changed how I interact with the site in the transition. I'm way less interested in debating than I was in my old identity and it's made my experience here much more enjoyable.
posted by latkes at 7:46 PM on October 19, 2012


There's something to be said for sticking to reality-based facts and

I try to do this, except for certain religious and/or psychedelic drug related threads. Then I have to expand my pallet to include unreality-based facts ... or at least allow for their presentation. But I draw the line at chemtrails.
posted by philip-random at 9:41 PM on October 19, 2012


I'm breaking one of my posting rules to do this (I try to read all the comments), but....
everyone's hardest struggle is their hardest struggle by jessamyn way at the top of this thread is one of my biggest life lessons.

I do tech support, and it's mostly about being kind and understanding. Don't add crap to someone's day if you don't have to. Make someone's day better if you can. You'll feel better at the end of the day.
posted by lilywing13 at 2:47 AM on October 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


AElfwine Evenstar: "

9. Do try and reference the Treaty of Westphalia at least once a week.
"

Sage advice indeed, friend.

Just don't post me too often. The sighs of annoyance as people scroll past me hurt my feelings. Getting deleted at the click of a moderator's mouse after centuries of being lovingly hand-quilled onto vellum breaks my heart. I've always feared becoming a palimpsest; being replaced on a hard drive with links to cat videos is an indignity that no one should have to bear.
posted by Treaty of Westphalia at 9:13 AM on October 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I stopped posting in threads that are less than 2 days old.
posted by shmegegge at 10:04 AM on October 20, 2012


Miko: So in one way I want to say 'we aren't personas!' but it can't be denied that there's probably a de facto 'persona' for each of us which forms in the minds of other users as they put together a mental picture based on our participation choices. It's our image, the sum of our actions as those things strike a response in others. That may reflect reality more closely or less closely. But to me that's something a little different from having an intentionally adopted persona; something like that, I think, arises from setting a goal for a persona as if building a roleplaying character - like "I'm going to use this account for short humorous comments," or "I'm going to use this account for commenting on things I don't want associated with an IRL identity."

As far as I know, the word "persona" entered common usage in modern English language via Jung, and since I'm a devout Jungian I must now provide exposition. Hee hee.

When Freud, Jung, and the other early European doctors interested in the mind got into it, they thought of people as existing with lots of different parts that somehow interacted -a reasonable conclusion if you recall they were used to working with the body, which is made up that way. To a certain extent, this has been backed up by our current understanding of neurology - e.g. we do have different areas of the brain which are not equipped with access to language which nevertheless exert influence (the limbic system is a really easy one to reference in this manner). Freud got caught up in drives and sex (a lot of people go that way...) while Jung began to move into ever-refining the weird areas of mind that involve how we act, how we view ourselves, how we view others, etc.

The Persona was one of these theorized "parts" of an adults psyche (soul/mind depending on the translator), specifically the one which "faced others" so to speak. Jung believed we had just one (and had a very prescriptivist approach to these structures in the mind without a real appreciation of changes between cultures) but depending on the complexity of the culture is is feasible for an individual to have several - one for work, one for family, a third on the internet, forth and fifth ones for different social groups - or a single, largely cohesive one. One way of viewing the formulation of the personality in adolescence (especially for individuals who rapidly shift through a variety of subcultures with dramatic ways of expressing themselves) is to view this as the individual adopting and setting away personas in the search for which fits them the most naturally.

Persona has now taken on connotations of being somehow a "lie" or "false", possibly due to the pressure to be "authentic" and "honest" in the contemporary US and Internet cultures I've experienced. The whole "not PC" flow of response comes from a similar place of "stop hiding what you really think" with the unspoken assumption that under it all we agree but some of us are lying about it. It's origins, however, are less of something which is false and closer to something which is partial - that is, it is an authentic part of ourselves which is also fit for public consumption and thus it appears in social environments where being our entire self would cause discomfort or pain to others.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:48 PM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do the review-review-review, usually followed by a walk-time, possibly followed by sleep to test if it still seems a decent post in the morning. Often by then I realize that the thread has wound down, and I send the discarded post to the sacred burial site of my mailbox, where it can compare and cominserate with the other non-posts. This excessive care often means that my post has a high probability of being last, and lastpost! seems to me like talking to an empty room. But sometimes I'm the only one with the documented, correct answer, so I figure I might as well post it -- it's barely possible that the OP hasn't completely lost interest after two days..

I also read posts in the most charitable way I possibly can (this is actually fairly fun & easy; if the post initially rubs me the wrong way, I just go into Tevye the milkman mode), but the downside is that I miss the transitions when an ok phrase becomes a not-great phrase, because some people build up crankiness -- and a term that was fine 6 months or a year ago has become a bit of a hot button for some.

And still that is not enough -- in the last kerfuffle, I posted what I thought was a pretty Metafilter-mainstream-consensus, carefully distancing the language so (I thought) it was clear I was speaking in generalities, and that any specific examples were from my personal experience & completely outside any Mefits experiences, then took my typical after-post walk. When I got back, I found that it actually had a couple favorites. What a surprise(!) -- that's very rare for me. Not only that, the favorites were by well known & respected Mefites; I felt proud and humbled at the same time. Then I scrolled down, and realized the favorites were to insure that they posted a take-down of my post, and then I see that there are about half a dozen dozen posts, all managing to interpret my post in a uniquely hostile way, typically leading with a rhetorical question to present their main point, which would be fine except I'd already either addressed their point, or the point was one that I figured everyone more-or-less agreed on -- eg. "Don't you see that 2 + 2 = 4?" or "You may not realize that the sea is salty".

So, I'm faced with over half a dozen hostile responses, some of which do raise points that deserve a bit of discussion (assuming I can somehow make the case that I'm a not a liar &/or idiot &/or worse). "Hmm.. Everyone seems to think I was criticizing them personally. Must have accidently hit a nerve", thinks I. In the time it took to write anything that remotely resembled an appropriate response (and at least one seemed to strongly *want* an actual response), the thread had galloped and careened several hundred comments on. I decided to comment on a different topic while I weighed the options of responding respectfully to the half dozen+ against the consequences of prolonging a train-wreck thread. It was about this time that a couple other well-known and respected members went near-ballistic about my use of excessive periods (oh, and also mention of the fact that there were at least a half-dozen meanings of "mansplain" in the real world, vs. the One True Definition they wanted used on Metafilter)

After a quick calibration with the mods, I decide that I'll be happiest and healthiest if I quit so they win. It's kind of unfortunate that what they win is my complete disinterest in any related topics in Metafilter for the forseeable future, but this is starting to affect my sleep. Now, nearly 6 weeks into the aftermath, I've mostly decided that:
(1) I need to divest myself of interest in anything controversial on Metafilter, especially anything where people are emotionally invested; especially-especially anything that I'm emotionally invested in
(2) Picking a conspicuous username was a mistake.

My almost-plan at this point is to basically let this account become dormant (disabling the account seems both melodramatic and counterproductive), and if -- repeat, *if* -- I ever want to post something, to get a inconspicuously named sock puppet account. Also to change my posting style: at this point, I realize that posting feels too much like public speaking, and takes way too much time & energy -- energy that could be better spent with people I actually know, or learning or practicing skills, or actually, almost anything..
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 6:37 PM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The whole "not PC" flow of response comes from a similar place of "stop hiding what you really think" with the unspoken assumption that under it all we agree but some of us are lying about it. It's origins, however, are less of something which is false and closer to something which is partial - that is, it is an authentic part of ourselves which is also fit for public consumption and thus it appears in social environments where being our entire self would cause discomfort or pain to others.

Sometimes it is false. When a major part of one's entire self (like, for instance, the fact that one is gay) "would cause discomfort or pain to others", then people are expected to lie about it, or at the very least not to mention it. They are expected to present something self-contradictory, something false (a veneer of straightness, or at least not-gayness) as a major part of their public persona. Contrast this with people whose public selves are allowed to encompass aspects of their true sexuality, or their true political or religious views, or whatever it is that others are expected to hide.

The idea that one's public persona is always just a partial, authentic part of one's entire self is nice, though. I wish it really could work that way for everyone.
posted by vorfeed at 10:46 PM on October 20, 2012


When a major part of one's entire self (like, for instance, the fact that one is gay) "would cause discomfort or pain to others", then people are expected to lie about it, or at the very least not to mention it.

People were expected to. A while ago, pushback against this assumption began and there's been a major cultural shift since then, within my lifetime and certainly within my mothers' (we've talked about it, specifically in regards to sexuality). A lot of personal-characteristic civil rights movements are based on the idea that their persona should not be required to exclude major parts of themselves, and that is an idea which is growing momentum as time goes on, near as I can see.

What I was specifically referencing, however, was the idea that because I am white I must believe that black people are inferior, and the fact I agitate for social justice for black people (or even just refuse to use or imply slurs) means I want to be "PC" instead of my actually holding social justice as a central tenet to my morality. There si a difference between concealing aspects of the SELF as part of a persona (which may or may not be valid - I conceal most of my homicidal ideation for example, and I think rightly so; I've also tempered some of my language so that I don't get audible gasps and people backing away from me, as I really didn't enjoy that) and the assumption that everyone with a set characteristic (say white) actually believes that those "other people" are inferior (without being racist, of course) but concealing it for a secondary gain.

I can understand why you thought I was including both, but I am not. In the case of concealing personal characteristics, I would support an individual's right to seek civil rights to publicly share who they are in defiance of bigotry. In the case of bigotry, I would support an individual's right to shut up about other people's personal characteristics and maybe work on those irrational assumptions.

I consider personal characteristics and prejudices to be different classes of things.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:24 PM on October 21, 2012


People were expected to. A while ago, pushback against this assumption began and there's been a major cultural shift since then, within my lifetime and certainly within my mothers' (we've talked about it, specifically in regards to sexuality).

My point is that pushback against this assumption necessarily involved causing a lot of "discomfort or pain" to others -- people whose discomfort and pain at encountering gay people was no less real to them than your discomfort and pain at encountering bigoted people. In and of itself, this kind of discomfort and pain is not a good justification for requiring others to experience the discomfort and pain involved in staying silent.

To me, the "pain" of having to see or hear things you don't like in public is something everyone ought to share, not something which should be dumped on certain classes of people solely for the benefit of others. I think so partly because it is way, way too early to say that gay people used to be expected to shut up. Engines of shame and silence tend to used against the unpopular... and minorities are easily made unpopular.

I consider personal characteristics and prejudices to be different classes of things.

I don't think the line is nearly that bright. You resent being told that a central tenet to your morality means you're just being PC instead of actually believing in it, yet you turn around and tell others that a central tenet to their morality (racism or anti-gay or what have you) means they're just being irrational rather than actually believing in it. I find it hard to justify the idea that X can be a central part of one's morality, whereas the reverse of X never can -- this would seem to contradict the very idea that X is a moral position.

In fact, the idea that some people have the right to express themselves and other people have the "right to shut up" strikes me as one of the nastiest prejudices I've seen in a while. I bet that doesn't make you want to stop posting and go "work on that", does it?
posted by vorfeed at 3:38 PM on October 21, 2012


My point is that pushback against this assumption necessarily involved causing a lot of "discomfort or pain" to others -- people whose discomfort and pain at encountering gay people was no less real to them than your discomfort and pain at encountering bigoted people.

This kind of ethical equivalency seems to contradict the reality that in any community, there are social norms in terms of attitudes, with some points of view being more welcome than others. It's the same here. Removing the chilling effect just isn't going to happen, as it's a pretty central part of any community dynamic that there are majority norms. To balance that out, people are free to express their minority viewpoint, others are free to disagree with them, and no one among them is going to be banned or timed-out for their opinion.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:44 PM on October 21, 2012


Yes, there are always majority norms, but some of them lead to far less shaming and silence than others. I think it behooves us to find them. "People are free to express their minority viewpoint, others are free to disagree with them, and no one among them is going to be banned or timed-out for their opinion" sounds like a good start; we still have a long way to go.
posted by vorfeed at 4:18 PM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, I think it goes both ways. Every community having its majority norms doesn't give them a free pass to shout minority viewpoints down, and by the same token, those with minority viewpoints ought exercise their ability to post those opinions more often.

There's two dynamics at work there: a majority norm that exists, and minority viewpoints practicing self-censorship. People exercise self-censorship over their minority viewpoints in their daily lives for a lot of reasons. The community doesn't have to necessarily be hostile for those with minority viewpoints to feel uncomfortable about expressing themselves; just be virtue of being in the minority, people will tend to self-edit and clam up more. It's human nature, I think.

What I've noticed on Metafilter is that yeah, there are a few knee-jerkish folks who will wheel out the usual tired responses to conservatives, Christians and libertarians, even if these posters are speaking to others with the amount of respect expected of members of this site. However, I do not think this is for the most part the case - people coming from a minority viewpoint here who act in good faith are treated with respect by most people on this site, from my observation.

In other words, I don't think people practicing self-censorship necessarily means Metafilter is hostile towards minority viewpoints. But that also doesn't mean those who do act jerkish to respectful, good faith actors from the minority should, or do, get a pass.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:34 PM on October 21, 2012


I don't think people practicing self-censorship necessarily means Metafilter is hostile towards minority viewpoints, no. As I said earlier, some degree of self-censorship is always to be expected, and some of it is positive (askme, for instance, could probably use more of it).

That said, I think the repeated complaints from people who say they don't comment anymore because they feel obligated to shut up -- not because they just happen to feel that way, but because of specific things that have happened and are still happening on the site -- indicate that Metafilter is hostile towards minority viewpoints. You can have community norms which tolerate and even reward participation by all, or you can have community norms which not only tolerate, but reward people who come here to feel good about shitting on people with "bad" opinions. A pile-on does not refer to what happens to people who jump into threads with the kinds of scoffing, moralistic put-downs you often see in pile-ons, and to me that says a lot about which side mefi tends to be on.

Righteous outrage is a hell of a drug.
posted by vorfeed at 5:02 PM on October 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


You can have community norms which tolerate and even reward participation by all, or you can have community norms which not only tolerate, but reward people who come here to feel good about shitting on people with "bad" opinions.

See, here we disagree. I do not see evidence that people who are being shitty to good-faith posters with minority viewpoints are rewarded for this behavior. On the contrary, I repeatedly see mods telling such offenders to cool it. Unfortunately, all it takes is one or two bad experiences with a user or two on a certain subject to make people steer clear of that subject matter for good. I agree it's a shame, but then I do think both other members of the community and the staff alike are doing what they can to make sure even heated arguments are being made in good faith. It's not perfect, and never will be, but I don't see rewards handed out for someone being a dick to a good-faith poster with a minority viewpoint.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:10 PM on October 21, 2012


no one among them is going to be banned or timed-out for their opinion

I guess I'm curious about this, because we really believe it. The other things you mentioned are just community norms but banning and timing out are mod-only decisions. No one gets banned or time-outed for unpopular opinions, but they might for being assholes about them. Did you have something or someone in mind here?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:11 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not perfect, and never will be, but I don't see rewards handed out for someone being a dick to a good-faith poster with a minority viewpoint.

The callout I linked to above is a great example of this happening with respect to libertarians (along with the repeated insistence that they're not really posting in good faith). You can pick just about any political thread and see people getting mega-favorites for saying things about Republicans and the like which would be crushed out of existence by the sheer weight of the pile-on if someone said it about another group. The double-standard is very obvious.

I guess I'm curious about this, because we really believe it. The other things you mentioned are just community norms but banning and timing out are mod-only decisions. No one gets banned or time-outed for unpopular opinions, but they might for being assholes about them. Did you have something or someone in mind here?

Not sure if you're asking me or MSTPT, but if it's me, I already said that I think you guys do a good job with this. Sometimes I'm annoyed by comment deletions and situations where the person at the bottom of a pile-on is told to stop posting about it, but this usually seems fair enough given the focus on preventing derails. The problem here is user behavior.
posted by vorfeed at 5:48 PM on October 21, 2012


Over time I've learned to recognize the little quiver of adrenaline that means I'm going to spend the next day reloading the page dreading the moment that whoever I was talking to responds to what I said. Sometimes I even recognize it before I hit the "post comment" button.

Another factor is that I simply don't feel as much sense of the importance of my own opinions or of the value of trying to communicate them that I did ten years or whatever ago; I abandon dozens of comments midsentence because who the fuck cares what I think and why should they and why do I care if they do or not. It's even odds whether this one makes it as far as the post button: the thread's already reached skim-to-the-end length and the conversation's already wandered off into site moderation policy as it always does so what am I bothering for.

I don't know if this has made me a nicer or better persona but certainly a quieter one.

This is not limited to MeFi. I talk infrequently these days.
posted by ook at 9:22 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


central tenet to their morality (racism or anti-gay or what have you) means they're just being irrational rather than actually believing in it

Urm.... I said personal characteristics and prejudices were different things, not that someone couldn't have racism as a central tenet of their morality.

Personal characteristics =/= morality, they equal... sex, race, age, weight, etc...

I am not sure how I could have been clearer.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:58 AM on October 22, 2012


I guess I'm curious about this, because we really believe it. The other things you mentioned are just community norms but banning and timing out are mod-only decisions. No one gets banned or time-outed for unpopular opinions, but they might for being assholes about them. Did you have something or someone in mind here?

I was just making the overall point that, as you said, unpopular opinions do not result in time-outs and bannenings; being a jerk and not discussing things in good faith can. This I see made towards everyone, whether their opinions are "popular" or not, and I wholly support this policy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:48 AM on October 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: " (snerk) When it comes to a couple of topics, I guess that makes me crazy."

For whatever it's worth, I do have a lot of respect for your tenacity and patience. You consistently participate in threads on topics in which you've previously been subjected to personal attacks and some nasty rhetoric. I've done so in the past, to some extent.

Have you never considered whether speaking up is worthwhile in the face of what has been said to you? I certainly have and suspect you have too. Increasingly, that awareness is guiding not only whether I comment, but what I say and what I post here.
posted by zarq at 9:18 AM on October 22, 2012


Personal characteristics =/= morality, they equal... sex, race, age, weight, etc

I can see "characteristics" being vague enough to include "prejudices." For the kind of age/race/sex info you were aiming at I think, I'd use "demographics." But I agree with you generally and am just making a suggestion about a word that would be less open to wide interpretation.
posted by Miko at 9:22 AM on October 22, 2012


Have you never considered whether speaking up is worthwhile in the face of what has been said to you? I certainly have and suspect you have too.

Oh, trust me, that is not something I struggle with - there's an element of "someone is wrong on the internet" about it, and what I have to consider is more "hang on, is my continuing to talk actually dragging out the argument?" I'm making baby steps into recognizing that more.

I'm definitely my father's daughter in the sense of continuing to hammer away at a debate until both sides have at least definitely come through to a better understanding of each other's position. I grew up with he and I getting into epic spirited lively debates about things like politics and ethics, but also about oddball things like food purity and the scientific nature of radio waves. So in my house, this determination was normal; my problem is forgetting that this is not my parents' house and that Patercallipygos is not a member here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:29 AM on October 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm definitely my father's daughter in the sense of continuing to hammer away at a debate until both sides have at least definitely come through to a better understanding of each other's position. I grew up with he and I getting into epic spirited lively debates about things like politics and ethics, but also about oddball things like food purity and the scientific nature of radio waves. So in my house, this determination was normal; my problem is forgetting that this is not my parents' house and that Patercallipygos is not a member here.

I can relate to this, except the spirited and lively. I have a lot of trouble realizing/remember that other people are actually getting angry or personally upset about an internet debate (and that for some people that happens really quickly). I find it hard to get upset about the comments of someone I don’t even know, and usually don’t take debate personally.
posted by bongo_x at 9:57 AM on October 22, 2012


I think it's wise to try to take debate less personally yourself as much as you can, but never wise to assume all debates are academic for everyone.

As far as I can see, when it's something close to a person's life, they'll get a bit more passionate about it. Not all argument is just for the sake of argument, and taking the "cool and bloodless" approach is just as possibly a gambit to subtly push buttons or claim a superior position as it is a sincere legitimate stance.

I think it's best to understand that we all have different topics which we can be more objective and cool about, but also we all have topics about which we can be very personally invested and quick to engage - and just because you're not invested in a topic definitely does not mean that others are crazy, selfish, or out of line if they are.
posted by Miko at 11:21 AM on October 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the note about demographics, Miko. I'm not sure it quite has the connotations I was aiming for, but it is likely more accurate for the denotations. I like characteristics because it sounds less mechanical and experimental, and because there's a connocation of "the essential nature of a person" to it, which appeals to me, especially when talking about Jungian psychology, which was so much about exploring what it is to be a sentient and sapient being in a world we largely define by our assumptions. Also, it honestly never occured to me someone would want to consider being prejudiced as part of their essential nature (usually, people seem to want to deny this even whent heir actions and words belie their claims), though it's clear now that I was wrong.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:56 PM on October 23, 2012


You can't expect people to shut up about something in public and then act surprised when they "want to deny this even when their actions and words belie their claims". Prejudice has become such a pejorative that we now have a massively prejudiced system which can never be admitted to be prejudiced -- as long as there's some remotely plausible alternate explanation as to why the system always seems to be rigged against minorities, we'll continue to assume that it must be true, since our own country could not possibly be so awful as to ~be prejudiced~.

This is exactly why I oppose this kind of moralism. If we spoke in terms of unequal outcomes it would be entirely obvious that the system is rigged, regardless of the usual excuses. If we concentrated on outcomes it would be easy to point out that it doesn't matter why a given outcome is vastly unequal, only that it is. Likewise, if people who defend such outcomes still spoke in the terms Lee Atwater pointed out in 1981, what's going on would be equally obvious. Instead we point fingers over feelings and motivations and "bad" ideas/language, all of which can be easily denied or deflected... while the world's largest prison system keeps on eating people of color. After all, it's not like that's racist or anything. Why, they probably just commit more crimes!

Honesty is essential. Openness is essential. The freedom to say what you want to say in public without being pilloried is essential, because without it "offensive" ideas fade out of the public sphere even though they are still at work there. Dog-whistles and things-we-don't-talk-about are obstacles to a healthy society.
posted by vorfeed at 3:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


characteristics...sounds less mechanical and experimental, and because there's a connocation of "the essential nature of a person" to it

It's a funny thing and probably results from different disciplines, but when I come across the word it's about visitor statistics ("characteristics of frequent visitors include a positive orientation toward learning as a leisure activity...") and usually denotes something less observable than a/s/r and is less essential than all that.
posted by Miko at 3:02 PM on October 23, 2012


There's a difference between MetaFilter and "society," though. For me, this isn't the place I expect to bring all my ACLU guarantees. It's a community that's about discussion, and has an ethos, and like all privately managed communities whether they are beach clubs or Rotary clubs or sex clubs or language classes, the leadership is entitled to manage it the way they want. I don't want to confuse that with the same set of values I'd be arguing for in the civil sphere.
posted by Miko at 3:05 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honesty is essential. Openness is essential. The freedom to say what you want to say in public without being pilloried is essential, because without it "offensive" ideas fade out of the public sphere even though they are still at work there.

You know, I really don't buy the contention that all ideas all the time should be always expressed. People don't even practice this with friends and family. We develop internal filters for the sake of mutual respect and harmony, and with that, some beliefs get marginalized. I don't think there exists any real world example of a community where there aren't marginalized beliefs. It kind of swims against human nature. To hold an internet community - where, of course, this isn't a perfect democracy and never will be - to a standard that not even flesh-based communities can live up to is a bit unfair, I think. And to be perfectly honest, I'm aware that there are people all around me who carry with them some pig ignorant beliefs about race, sex, religion and ethnicity, and I'm glad these people for the most part keep that shit to themselves, because I don't want to hear it, and not only do I doubt most everyone around them wants to, either, I can't imagine what benefit would arise from everyone walking around barking out whatever ridiculousness they believe all the time.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:43 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd add as well that it's a big internet out there - there's probably a community for every stripe of belief system. I don't understand why Metafilter needs to accommodate all or most of them.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:49 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, I really don't buy the contention that all ideas all the time should be always expressed. [...] I can't imagine what benefit would arise from everyone walking around barking out whatever ridiculousness they believe all the time.

This ad-absurdum is obviously not what I meant, especially since I pointed out multiple times that self-censorship can be positive.

I'm talking about making more space for reasonable discussion of "offensive" ideas in society, not creating a society where everyone yells BEEP BIIIIIP on streetcorners. Obviously there's a balance involved; I simply think what we've got now, on mefi and in society at large, is not it. There are too many things we can't (or don't) talk about in any depth, especially on the level of the media, and our willingness to defend this silence is a problem.

Besides, internal filters for the sake of mutual respect and harmony would fine and dandy in a society which isn't using them to excuse the abuse of both the citizenry and the very concept of mutual respect and harmony. When we get to live in such a society, perhaps I'll care about what it thinks respect and harmony mean, but until then I'll make my own determination about when, where, and what to speak.
posted by vorfeed at 10:08 PM on October 23, 2012


There are too many things we can't (or don't) talk about in any depth

What, in your opinion, vorfeed, are some of the things we can't (or don't) talk about in any depth?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:25 PM on October 23, 2012


"I'd add as well that it's a big internet out there - there's probably a community for every stripe of belief system. I don't understand why Metafilter needs to accommodate all or most of them."

Because this is a place where we share neat things on the internet, and benefit immensely from different perspectives? Because its not about you, or whatever your belief system happens to be? Because not being a dick to or excluding people who feel feel differently is actually a much better way to live in general?

This is the kind of place that has medical professionals that come in to medical AskMe threads, workers on the Daily Show who come into answer Daily Show questions, farmers who want to provide food for low income folks in those threads, South African artists who can give a bit of background, history, and insider perspective on the band Die Antwoord, a vocal school board member for threads about education, a sonascope for everything he does, a snake venin pharmacist to talk about snake venin, a bootblack for leather threads, various kinds of scientists for those threads, an ex-pastor with a lot of love for evangelicals for religious threads, and all sorts of people with all sorts of perspectives that I come here for. If we emphasize the religious, political, and cultural orthodoxy that the metafilter community does already do a lot to enforce; we only have these kinds of folks to lose when it turns out that there is some kind of way where they don't quite fit enough.

I think I agree that there probably is a community for just about every stripe of belief system, I just don't see why this place has to be about yours.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:18 AM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


It doesn't. I never contended it did. I just think it's unreasonable to expect this community to act any differently than every other community in the world. There are going to be community norms and minority opinions here, just like anywhere else.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:20 AM on October 24, 2012


There are always going to be community norms and minority opinions here, just like anywhere else, but I'm failing to see the argument for making no effort to respect or accommodate them. They are, if anything, especially valuable to us as a community of people who like to learn things and see neat things on the internet in different and new ways. I for one have always learned more from the folks who come into threads on topics metafilter does not do well with heterodox opinions than the folks who make the same damn race to pile-on ever more snarkily or viciously over and over again.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:16 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I actually spent a lot of time upthread arguing that we ought to be respectful and accommodating; that people with "majority opinions" who act in bad faith and are shitty to those with minority opinions do quite rightly get talked to by the mods. Did you miss that bit?

Because my essential point is that I do not see the potential for a perfect world situation where we can accommodate any and all comers here; that if being a minority voice on Metafilter is a personal problem, there's lots more internet out there. This is not mutually exclusive to talking to people you disagree with with respect.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:30 AM on October 24, 2012


Again, you're the only one talking about a perfect world situation. You might as well make the same response to every single suggestion about "stuff people do to get past their old habits and try to become better at good discussion here" -- oh, but we can't be perfect, so why try?

I personally remember when this community was able to discuss "offensive" opinions without driving people into shutting up because "I don't want to hear it". I personally remember posting comments I would not be comfortable posting today, and having them work out just fine, even when the community disagreed with me. I learned a lot, changed many of my opinions, and had lots of great discussions that way, but I doubt I'd have bothered to sign up if today's mefi had existed when I started here. "There's lots more internet out there" about sums it up -- say this long enough and everyone will start to agree with you. How's plastic.com doing? Kuro5hin? Digg?

Metafilter was not a perfect world in 2002, yet more open discussions took place; therefore a perfect world is not required for more open discussion. We can each choose to stop enforcing the echo chamber, the same way we can each choose to start being kinder/gentler/more careful about what we post. We can choose to engage other people's arguments even when we strongly disagree with them, rather than jumping in with the tenth comment in a row which amounts to "you're wrong because you're bad and wrong!" We can even choose to discourage the latter behavior rather than discouraging the expression of "bad" opinions... and if we do we'll be better for it.

I think this is the last thing I need to say in this thread. flapjax, I'll be happy to memail you with the answer to your question if you like, just let me know. I think most of us agree that there are topics mefi doesn't "do well", so dropping a list of them into the thread will just give everyone a bunch of minutiae to argue over. It doesn't really matter which issues we're not talking about; not when every discussion can be improved if we each try to "do better" at speaking up in a reasonable manner, and rewarding those who do.
posted by vorfeed at 11:26 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm talking about making more space for reasonable discussion of "offensive" ideas in society

Well, go ahead. But MetaFilter doesn't have to be the place the offensive ideas are discussed.

Metafilter was not a perfect world in 2002, yet more open discussions took place

Open to whom? Because I felt that my views were pretty darn unwelcome at the time. People who saw certain things my way got shouted down or sneered at or just plain told to go away. Those weren't halcyon days in my book, and I'd really hesitate to hold them up as an ideal. Certain slurs were totally fine to use. Certain hurtful "jokes" and opinions were considered funny, fine, unremarkable. I guess it made you feel more welcome, but it made me feel less welcome. If we both now feel about equally welcome, the site is probably growing in a good direction.

I was just rambling in the 2002 archives and the really striking thing is how few people there are talking. It was a tiny community then, comparatively. Different kinds of things happen when communities scale.

I would really be interested also in hearing what the opinions are that are so offensive they can simply not be discussed. This is the kind of argument where, since there are no specifics whatever, we're all probably talking about different phenomena without realizing it. I can't offer an opinion about whether an opinion is or isn't too offensive for MetaFilter without knowing the opinion. I can imagine some pretty terrible opinions that I don't ever want to see here, and I can imagine reasonable but personally offensive-to-me opinions which are still fine to express here, but I really can't guess which ones you think should be perfectly welcome here but aren't.
posted by Miko at 11:41 AM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


We can choose to engage other people's arguments even when we strongly disagree with them, rather than jumping in with the tenth comment in a row which amounts to "you're wrong because you're bad and wrong!"

Isn't this....exactly what the mods are trying to enforce? I see the "you're wrong because you're bad and wrong" comments are the ones that get yanked, and the sincere engaging in other people's arguments are the comments that stand.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:50 AM on October 24, 2012


People who saw certain things my way got shouted down or sneered at or just plain told to go away. Those weren't halcyon days in my book, and I'd really hesitate to hold them up as an ideal. Certain slurs were totally fine to use. Certain hurtful "jokes" and opinions were considered funny, fine, unremarkable. I guess it made you feel more welcome, but it made me feel less welcome. If we both now feel about equally welcome, the site is probably growing in a good direction.

As I implied above, encouraging good argument would have been a solution to the pile-ons and insults we had in 2002, and would have been a better solution than a new set of pile-ons and insults which have merely made (some) people feel equally unwelcome. I reject the idea that we have to have this behavior on the site.

Likewise, the idea that we need to know which opinions we're talking about before we can decide whether they're "pretty terrible opinions that I don't ever want to see here" or "reasonable but personally offensive-to-me opinions which are still fine to express here" assumes that opinions should be suppressed based on content. Since that's the idea I'm arguing against, I see no reason to lend it approval by playing is-it-or-isn't-it-offensive-enough.

The echo chamber may be worse with respect to some issues and practically nonexistent with respect to others, but it doesn't matter which is which, because it's hurting participation site-wide. Blasdelb's comment on this was very astute. I see this as a problem which affects every discussion on the site.
posted by vorfeed at 1:07 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Since that's the idea I'm arguing against, I see no reason to lend it approval by playing is-it-or-isn't-it-offensive-enough. "

Which is silly, and ignores the reality of the community. It's not like we're suffering for lack of Bevets, and a legion of Stormfront trolls is something that MeFi has both dealt with and decided that we don't want.

Fundamentally, your position is incoherent in that you cannot simultaneously have some views/opinions that are wrong and simultaneously have tolerance for all views and opinions, and appealing to some fantasy of teaching people better argument skills is a hand-wavey response.

I know that you've ridden your hobbyhorse before about how atheists should be able to be offensive here because some views and art needs to be offensive, but the answer that you're always going to get is that it's a balance. Since you can't concede that, you, ironically, can't muster the mythical better argument that would redeem your position.
posted by klangklangston at 1:27 PM on October 24, 2012


Seriously, it's the fallacious "tolerate intolerance" argument all over again.
posted by klangklangston at 1:28 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


encouraging good argument would have been a solution to the pile-ons and insults we had in 2002

Um, well...we got ten years of good argument and now we have a better site because of it. So, your recommendation worked.

opinions should be suppressed based on content

That's all opinions are. Their content. I don't understand any other basis on which we would want to encourage or suppress the expression of opinions. Their grammatical structure? Their combination of letterforms?

it's hurting participation site-wide

And yet the site has never been bigger or busier. So it's hard to agree that you have found a problem to diagnose.
posted by Miko at 1:47 PM on October 24, 2012


Guido Invites You Thus

‘Lappo I leave behind and Dante too,
Lo, I would sail the seas with thee alone!
Talk me no love talk, no bought-cheap fiddl’ry,
Mine is the ship and thine the merchandise,
All the blind earth knows not th'emprise
Whereto thou calledst and whereto I call.

Lo, I have seen thee bound about with dreams,
Lo, I have known thy heart and its desire;
Life, all of it, my sea, and all men's streams
Are fused in it as flames of an altar fire !
Lo, thou hast voyaged not! The ship is mine.'

-Ezra Pound
posted by clavdivs at 1:59 PM on October 24, 2012


you cannot simultaneously have some views/opinions that are wrong and simultaneously have tolerance for all views and opinions

Of course you can. You simply have to let go of the idea that one shouldn't explore ideas that are wrong, nor tolerate their expression. Since you brought it up, I do believe that religion is wrong, but that has not kept me from tolerating its expression here. As far as I'm concerned, challenging your own morality is paramount, even (especially) if you're sure it's correct. I believe that exposure to opposing ideas is positive. It would be self-validating for me to hang out solely in places religious people don't go, but I am not interested in living my life in a self-imposed box.

the answer that you're always going to get is that it's a balance

Yes. I pointed this out above, not once but several times. I still think we have a poor balance. Again, framing what I'm saying as all-or-nothing is not going to work.

appealing to some fantasy of teaching people better argument skills is a hand-wavey response.

Nonsense. It is clearly possible to encourage good discussion and discourage bad -- otherwise mefi would have the discussion quality of Youtube comments. Asking people to refuse to join in pile-ons and to reach out to reward good discussion here is not a "hand-wavey response"; these are specific things people can do which will encourage people to adopt better argument skills.

Since you can't concede that, you, ironically, can't muster the mythical better argument that would redeem your position.

Last time we spoke you accused me of arguing politely as a false tactic. Which is it? Am I incapable of "mustering the mythical better argument", or am I consistently doing so, but doing so falsely? Pick one: you can't have both.
posted by vorfeed at 2:03 PM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


>>"The echo chamber may be worse with respect to some issues and practically nonexistent with respect to others, but it doesn't matter which is which, because it's hurting participation site-wide."

>"And yet the site has never been bigger or busier. So it's hard to agree that you have found a problem to diagnose."

If either bigger or busier really constituted better in terms of the ethos of metafilter, matthowie would have made some very different decisions. I think it would take some really selective memory to not remember the many amazing members we've lost because of the vicious echo chamber that metafilter can become, or the many amazing members who go absolutely nowhere near the subjects they know best. I see this silencing effect as a problem that needs both naming and addressing.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:03 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Of course you can. You simply have to let go of the idea that one shouldn't explore ideas that are wrong, nor tolerate their expression. Since you brought it up, I do believe that religion is wrong, but that has not kept me from tolerating its expression here. As far as I'm concerned, challenging your own morality is paramount, even (especially) if you're sure it's correct. I believe that exposure to opposing ideas is positive. It would be self-validating for me to hang out solely in places religious people don't go, but I am not interested in living my life in a self-imposed box."

You misunderstand me. You've complained about the soft effects of the echo chamber driving people away, however, you can't have a place where no one will be driven away by the expression of ideas. If hypothetically, now misogynists are driven away by the upswing in feminism here (such as it is), you cannot simultaneously have both feeling comfortable to express themselves.

"Yes. I pointed this out above, not once but several times. I still think we have a poor balance. Again, framing what I'm saying as all-or-nothing is not going to work. "

You can't reject the argument that certain opinions may be more offensive or too disruptive to have, then accuse others of trying to paint this as all or nothing.

"Asking people to refuse to join in pile-ons and to reach out to reward good discussion here is not a "hand-wavey response"; these are specific things people can do which will encourage people to adopt better argument skills."

Yeah, they are as you're using them, as there's not a reasonable standard of when a person may feel piled on as distinguishable prior from vigorous disagreement.

"Last time we spoke you accused me of arguing politely as a false tactic. Which is it? Am I incapable of "mustering the mythical better argument", or am I consistently doing so, but doing so falsely? Pick one: you can't have both."

I'm pretty sure you've misunderstood me. Did I misunderstand you when you said that offensive things are necessary to expression?
posted by klangklangston at 2:26 PM on October 24, 2012


"I think it would take some really selective memory to not remember the many amazing members we've lost because of the vicious echo chamber that metafilter can become, or the many amazing members who go absolutely nowhere near the subjects they know best. I see this silencing effect as a problem that needs both naming and addressing."

You've conflated two issues, and I think you're appealing to a false history. I can't think of any members that we've lost due to specifically this being a "vicious echo chamber." (I'll gladly withdraw that objection if you can think of some — it may be totally a failure of my memory.) However, I can think of many people who we've lost because MeFi was explicitly sexist — some of them have come back, some haven't. Further, I can't think of any "amazing members who go absolutely nowhere near the subjects they know best" outside of doctors and lawyers, who have real world consequences for going into the subjects they know best.
posted by klangklangston at 2:29 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


you can't have a place where no one will be driven away by the expression of ideas

Perhaps you can't have a place where no one will be driven away by the expression of ideas, but that doesn't mean you can't have a place where it happens to fewer people, nor a place where the range of permitted expression is wider.

You can't reject the argument that certain opinions may be more offensive or too disruptive to have, then accuse others of trying to paint this as all or nothing.

You're conflating my personal beliefs on the matter with what I'm asking of the community. The former is all or nothing -- according to my personal morality, there are no opinions which are universally out of bounds -- but the latter is not. All I'm really asking is for people to let up a little, and to err on the side of encouraging people to talk.

My point was that I refuse to let the discussion devolve into squabbling over which opinions should be part of the echo chamber. It doesn't matter which: the echo chamber was a negative part of the site in 2002, and it's still negative now, even though the opinions we're enforcing have arguably changed, and will surely change further in the future.

Yeah, they are as you're using them, as there's not a reasonable standard of when a person may feel piled on as distinguishable prior from vigorous disagreement.

I gave such a standard above. To me, vigorous disagreement involves engaging with people's points, and discussing them in good faith even as you reject them. Some comments in a pile-on may be like this, but in my experience most are not.

Did I misunderstand you when you said that offensive things are necessary to expression?

This is exactly what I'm talking about. The fact that I believe that "offensive" ideas are a necessary part of free expression does not make it impossible for me to be making the better argument I say I am. Again, the form of better argument I am calling for has nothing to do with whether or not something is "offensive". It's about the way people argue, not what they're arguing for/against.
posted by vorfeed at 3:13 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Perhaps you can't have a place where no one will be driven away by the expression of ideas, but that doesn't mean you can't have a place where it happens to fewer people, nor a place where the range of permitted expression is wider. "

Please support with numbers your contention that the current moderation scheme has driven off more people than the counterfactual.

"You're conflating my personal beliefs on the matter with what I'm asking of the community. The former is all or nothing -- according to my personal morality, there are no opinions which are universally out of bounds -- but the latter is not. All I'm really asking is for people to let up a little, and to err on the side of encouraging people to talk. "

Fair enough, I apologize for misconstruing them. I don't think that request is out of line, just that the parameters you've set up and the argument you're supporting it with aren't accurate.

"This is exactly what I'm talking about. The fact that I believe that "offensive" ideas are a necessary part of free expression does not make it impossible for me to be making the better argument I say I am. Again, the form of better argument I am calling for has nothing to do with whether or not something is "offensive". It's about the way people argue, not what they're arguing for/against."

You're actually missing my point — That construction of free speech is incredibly fraught to proceed with in the actual world, and that some ideas, no matter how politely and grammatically executed, have the possibility to become toxic enough that they shut down other conversation and drive people away. There isn't a strict rules-based approach that can resolve this, and putting it all on the mode with which offended people respond ends up doing just as much damage if not more to the idea of civil discussion.
posted by klangklangston at 3:58 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please support with numbers your contention that the current moderation scheme has driven off more people than the counterfactual.

I'm not talking about a moderation scheme. I'm talking about user behavior. As for numbers, I can't provide that and neither can anyone else. I think it's self-evident that one can have a community which drives away fewer people than are currently being driven away, though. Whether you think that would be positive is another question.

You're actually missing my point — That construction of free speech is incredibly fraught to proceed with in the actual world, and that some ideas, no matter how politely and grammatically executed, have the possibility to become toxic enough that they shut down other conversation and drive people away.

I'm not missing the point. I simply disagree with it. To my mind, your approach to free speech is also incredibly fraught to proceed with; it suggests that we can know with certainty which opinions are "toxic" (we can't, at least not in the absence of a universal morality), and it suggests that actively shutting down conversation is preferable to allowing the mere possibility that it might be shut down. This amounts to little more than "these people's ideas are acceptable and those other people's ideas are not", and as far as I'm concerned there can be no objective standard of evidence for that. Open discussion is how we decide which ideas we should accept -- without this continuous process we'd be stuck in a feedback loop of old, safe ideas. You seem to think that we've reached a pinnacle of understanding, and are therefore safe to set aside ideas which strike us as offensive, but I think we have a long way yet to go... if we keep talking.

I would also point out that normalizing idea-suppression because of toxic ideas ignores the fact that not everything (or even most things) which get suppressed due to offense will be toxic, rather than merely offensive-to-some. Neither side of the cat-declawing debate is necessarily a toxic opinion; neither side of the circumcision debate is necessarily a toxic opinion. The fact that we can't talk about these things in a reasonable manner is, however, very toxic. Again, if we must have a balance then we should strive for a much better one than this. The fact that more and more subjects -- and often relatively trivial, mainstream subjects! -- are driving people to stop commenting suggests that something is wrong with the dominant mode of expression on the site.

putting it all on the mode with which offended people respond

It's not all on the mode with which offended people respond. You're acting as if "offended people" and "offensive people" are completely non-overlapping sets, but they aren't; rewarding reasoned debate ought to lead to better discussion on everyone's part, including people with "offensive" things to say.
posted by vorfeed at 5:22 PM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


you can't have a place where no one will be driven away by the expression of ideas.

. I think it would take some really selective memory to not remember the many amazing members we've lost because of the vicious echo chamber that metafilter can become

I think the userbase now is really interesting, diverse, smart, and responsible. I'm sorry that some folks have left, but time and change have brought us a pretty awesome group of people, and I'm not interested in trading them out for some memory of how things were better and people were more awesome 10 years ago. Some of those people turned out to be serious assholes. Buh-bye.

I am still stuck trying to understand what ideas you feel are being suppressed here? What is this stuff that is so shocking and terrible you can't say it? And why do you imagine that people here haven't actually heard it, dealt with it, and now feel like we'd all be just as happy to move on from grinding that axe again? Because I am having trouble imagining that these "offensive" opinions are brand new, utterly shocking ideas never before aired in human history. I suspect that mm-hmm, we get it, and just are really thoroughly done talking about them in the circular fashion of revisiting the same tired points. I don't think it's the subject itself so much as the fact that there is no new light to be shed. Is there really something new to say about circumcision that will unite formerly disparate camps? Is there new research about cat declawing? I doubt it. But if there was, and if it had the potential to lead us in new directions that weren't rehashes, there might be some reason to discuss them. But you know, I sincerely doubt there is.

. I think it's self-evident that one can have a community which drives away fewer people than are currently being driven away, though

Sure, unmoderated sites have that. They don't overtly drive anyone away. However, there are lots of people who aren't the least willing to engage on an unmoderated site. So their voices are never heard.

If either bigger or busier really constituted better in terms of the ethos of metafilter, matthowie would have made some very different decisions.

Really? mathowie actually did make the decisions that have allowed the site to become bigger and busier. So I guess that he is interested in it being both bigger and busier than it was in 2002. Ten years ago.
posted by Miko at 6:26 PM on October 24, 2012


"I'm not talking about a moderation scheme. I'm talking about user behavior. As for numbers, I can't provide that and neither can anyone else. I think it's self-evident that one can have a community which drives away fewer people than are currently being driven away, though. Whether you think that would be positive is another question. "

I think that appeals to self-evident principles are lazy and the domain of theology, not reason (Declaration of Independence included).

So while I'd be open to having that demonstrated to me, that this moderation style drives away more than a similar one, an appeal to something being "self-evident" is nonsense.

"I'm not missing the point. I simply disagree with it. To my mind, your approach to free speech is also incredibly fraught to proceed with; it suggests that we can know with certainty which opinions are "toxic" (we can't, at least not in the absence of a universal morality), and it suggests that actively shutting down conversation is preferable to allowing the mere possibility that it might be shut down."

No, you're missing the point and making an appeal to ignorance. We can — based on a ten year history here — know pretty well that some opinions are toxic to discourse and that an appeal to the polity's better nature is doomed to fail, and will end up actually driving people away that expect to be able to converse without having to wade through, say, racism to get there. We can say definitively that casually dropping racism does actually do more harm than letting it stand does good. There are obviously always going to be edge cases, but there's no reason to make this all some sort of bizarre first principles philosophical exercise.

"Open discussion is how we decide which ideas we should accept -- without this continuous process we'd be stuck in a feedback loop of old, safe ideas."

However, again, there's been ten years of open discussion on which ideas we should accept. And I haven't suggested closing MetaTalk, so this would continue. But we don't need to reinvent the wheel every time there's some sexist bullshit dropped and it dearly seems like that's what you're proposing.

"I would also point out that normalizing idea-suppression because of toxic ideas ignores the fact that not everything (or even most things) which get suppressed due to offense will be toxic, rather than merely offensive-to-some."

That's silly. Stormfront racism isn't offensive to all — it's not offensive to them. However, while there will always be edge cases, most things that are suppressed here as toxic are toxic. If you have some examples of things that you'd like to talk about in specific, I'm happy to consider them.

"Neither side of the cat-declawing debate is necessarily a toxic opinion; neither side of the circumcision debate is necessarily a toxic opinion."

Right. Which is why you don't see blanket bans on those topics. You do, however, see them held to a higher standard because they tend to contain toxic rhetoric.

"The fact that we can't talk about these things in a reasonable manner is, however, very toxic."

So, what I'm going to assume from here on out is that we agree that it's the mode of opinions expressed that makes them "toxic" for most discussions. However, I'm still going to hold that there are certain opinions which, no matter how politely expressed, end up being toxic to discussion — for example, "Black people are inferior to white people," is a perfectly polite phrasing, but is a toxic opinion.

Further, there's no sitewide ban on circumcision or cat declawing. But it's worth recognizing that they often go badly because people take the things said personally, and moderation generally errs on the side of calming people down so that doesn't happen as much, not banning opinions. You can state — even stridently — a position on either side of either of those issues. You shouldn't, however, be a dick about it.

"Again, if we must have a balance then we should strive for a much better one than this. The fact that more and more subjects -- and often relatively trivial, mainstream subjects! -- are driving people to stop commenting suggests that something is wrong with the dominant mode of expression on the site. "

And what is this better balance?

I'd also say that while it may suggest that, considering it on its merits doesn't actually lead to that conclusion. Implications are weaker than proofs, and the arguments that 1) this is driving more people to stop commenting than a different (heretofore unspecified) balance would, and 2) that this means that the dominant mode of expression has something wrong with it are unsupported.

"It's not all on the mode with which offended people respond. You're acting as if "offended people" and "offensive people" are completely non-overlapping sets, but they aren't; rewarding reasoned debate ought to lead to better discussion on everyone's part, including people with "offensive" things to say."

On any given offense, they are. And you, again, missed the point of the longer statement, which was that by focusing purely on how people argue in the way that you have, you're going to get to a standard where, in order to not exclude those with "offensive" statements that they wish to make that now get censure, you're going to have to restrain people who are offended from censuring. That locates the action with those offended, and people are often offended over legitimate things that make them personally angry.

I still think that your complaint is vague and ungrounded, that you've been asked for specifics many times and danced around giving them, and that you're ignoring the ample evidence of MetaFilter discussions as a whole based on an appeal to ideals that translates poorly into real life.
posted by klangklangston at 10:11 PM on October 24, 2012


it suggests that we can know with certainty which opinions are "toxic" (we can't, at least not in the absence of a universal morality), and it suggests that actively shutting down conversation is preferable to allowing the mere possibility that it might be shut down.

It seems to me it is really only the mods that shut down conversations, and we rely on them to decide what transgresses the guidelines and what is "toxic" enough to be squashed. Maybe FAMO should be emphasized more if there is too much self policing? It is not required that the mods "know with certainty" what is toxic, just that they make their best judgement. I'm not really buying that people are leaving because they are being shut down by other members. Maybe some of the feminist threads could be seen this way, but I see a lot of women pointing out unfair gender bias, and men denying or not seeing it. Or women pointing out misogyny or worse (sometimes in possibly "mean" ways), and men feeling offended. Then, mainly women leaving out of frustration. This certainly seems like a topic that needs more discussion or 'consciousness raising,' or 'progress,' not less. It does seem like libertarianism/conservatism and religion/mysticism are generally received with contempt and snark, and it is too bad, IMO, that there aren't more members making good arguments in favor of both. I'm sure there are other cases of this.

Maybe people have left because they don't like the zeitgeist, or it is not intellectually interesting enough, or something. If true, that sucks. I'm not really sure what the answer to that is, except to value quality posts and quality members as much as possible.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:19 PM on October 24, 2012


So while I'd be open to having that demonstrated to me, that this moderation style drives away more than a similar one, an appeal to something being "self-evident" is nonsense.

You kept demanding numbers even though you know that no one can give any, so my point was that it is mathematically self-evident that it is possible to reduce the current number of people being driven away (assuming the number is greater than zero, which seems reasonable). Whether you think my suggestions will do that is up to you, since neither of us can prove it either way.

We can — based on a ten year history here — know pretty well that some opinions are toxic to discourse and that an appeal to the polity's better nature is doomed to fail, and will end up actually driving people away that expect to be able to converse without having to wade through, say, racism to get there

Some of the best discussions on this site have taken place around members who had toxic opinions on things like race and sex. I understand that discussions like these get frustrating for people -- they get frustrating for me, too -- but I disagree that appeals to the polity's better nature are doomed to fail. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't; sometimes things really work.

That said, I'm not going to weep if racist comments or threads do get deleted/closed. As I've said before, we have rules here, and the mods are free to enforce them. Opinions which aren't against the rules but get slammed down as if they were are more of a problem, because the slamming-down discourages people from talking.

And you, again, missed the point of the longer statement, which was that by focusing purely on how people argue in the way that you have, you're going to get to a standard where, in order to not exclude those with "offensive" statements that they wish to make that now get censure, you're going to have to restrain people who are offended from censuring.

As you just pointed out, "You can state — even stridently — a position on either side of either of those issues. You shouldn't, however, be a dick about it." That's all I've asked of anyone here: to state their position in a reasonable manner. So no, I'm not going to have to restrain anyone from censuring anything. It's more than possible to censure people's ideas while still engaging with those ideas, and it is also possible to censure people's ideas while treating them as though they are welcome to speak.

If you have some examples of things that you'd like to talk about in specific, I'm happy to consider them.

People get piled-on on this site for having the wrong opinion about hats. We've told questioners that wearing fedoras will make them dateless and friendless douchebags who ride Honda Goldwings and collect swords, in askme. Again, this is not just about specific issues, though I do think specific issues show it more (and you can ctrl-f vorfeed if you really need more specifics than I've listed here, as I've mentioned more than one in this thread); it's about a willingness to jump up and down on people with the "wrong" opinions which is increasingly offputting to members new and old.

And what is this better balance?

The better balance would be a mefi in which people save most of their pile-on powers for those toxic opinions of yours, instead of aiming them at, say, people with mainstream political positions, or people who declaw/don't declaw cats, or people who support/don't support suicide or euthanasia, or people who do/don't like organic food. It's more than possible to discuss all these things reasonably, so the fact that so many people above feel driven away from threads about, say, politics -- not this-and-that politics, just politics -- is a problem.

Implications are weaker than proofs, and the arguments that 1) this is driving more people to stop commenting than a different (heretofore unspecified) balance would, and 2) that this means that the dominant mode of expression has something wrong with it are unsupported.

Didn't you just say we could know certain things "pretty well based on a ten year history here"? You're free to disagree that something's gone wrong with user behavior here, but demanding proof is a bit much. I have a different take on the ample evidence of MetaFilter discussions as a whole than you do, that's all.
posted by vorfeed at 12:33 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


This discussion is fascinating, and since it's been brought up, I can tell you what I have noticed has changed here in just the last five years, since I came onboard.

To me, the unwritten but accepted guidelines have always been, as vorfeed says, more about behavior than topics. Don't be a dick, everyone needs a hug. We have guidelines and flagging so that the community can let the mods know when something crosses a line, or at least that's the way I've always felt it worked. Then the mods come into a thread and check it out and basically make sure the discourse is civil.

But--here, let me use myself as an example, because I screw up all the time and I've made myself unpopular before--say there are people in a thread whom I disagree with. Now, I'm fine debating a point all day long, and so are a lot of people, but we shouldn't dominate the thread to the point where no one else can get a word in, people who just want to have a discussion without all the pedantry and the contention. I know that I have had to really dial it back because I was in danger of doing this in the past, commenting too much in a thread, going back and forth with someone when what we should have done is let it go or take it to MefiMail.

Okay, lesson learned. But there are still some of the same people dominating certain threads a lot. And generally there are topics where this happens, like clockwork. Apple vs Windows threads, sexism threads, political threads, threads about copyright laws, etc.

So what happens is, when those threads come up, people who might otherwise have enjoyed them just don't want to even go into them any more. I can name several Mefites who have said they've done this, and if you are being honest so can you. I avoid certain threads myself more now.

What I think that vorfeed is saying is that we shouldn't be discouraging threads on those subjects, because the subjects aren't the problem. It's those few people who just cannot help themselves from going into those threads and dominating them that are the problem. And their behavior is what we should be doing something about. And I agree with that.

Using myself again as an example, my personal bugaboo, the thing that drives me up the wall, is hypocrisy. But I can't just go off and start calling people out for being the dirty lying hypocrites I feel they are in a thread; I have to make my case rationally that, hey, you are coming down hard on people you disagree with for being X and yet, if you look at a, b and c, you have been X yourself in this thread.

Once I have made my point, I also have to not keep hammering at that person. That's another thing I have to watch out for. if I do, hopefully the mods are going to step in, because now I am bullying another member, who has just as much right to be here as I do. And that's the way it should be.

Those standards apply to everyone, not just me, and I think a lot of the frustration that leads to people leaving or keeps them away from some threads comes from them feeling that those standards aren't being upheld in an equal way across the board. I know I feel that frustration a lot.

That's not the mods fault; they can't follow every member around the site. We kinda have to rely on an honor system where people call out the bad behavior and flag it and then let the mods do their jobs.

But we have users that have become popular, and that popularity sometimes allows them to take advantage of that honor system. Maybe they see an FPP they don't like. It doesn't break the guidelines, they just personally don't care for the subject matter. But they flag it, and then go and make a Meta about it, and because they are popular their friends get behind them and that thread gets taken down. I've seen this happen, too.

I'm down in Florida, and there's maybe a handful of Mefites around me, and my opinion doesn't really count for much more than me just mouthing off. But in places like New York and London where they have meetups all the time, there are Mefites that know each other personally. It's only natural they are going to back their friends up. And they do.

But now we have these cliques of people deciding what stays and what goes and who's right and who's wrong, and those people who dominate the threads are leading them, more often than not. And it gets ugly sometimes.

So what do we do about that? I feel like, and I'm sure someone who has actual statistics can tell me if I am way off base on this, but I seem to remember a time when we saw more temporary time-outs, where a couple users who got into it would both get a cooling off period, just a day off. I feel like we see more thread deletions now, which makes sense because the site is bigger. So why do we see less of these time outs? Frankly, I'd rather see more users take a break than more threads go down.

Temporary time-outs are not going to kill any of us. Like I said, I've screwed up myself, and if I deserve a timeout, I should get one. I'd like people to be held accountable not by how popular or unpopular their opinions are, but by how their actions are affecting the site, and other users around them. I think a lot of the Metas we've seen, with people complaining about Metafilter being unfriendly, happen because they feel that some of these cliques are not being held accountable. Maybe we're just seeing a shift in how the site is going to work, and the community will decide they want those cliques in charge. I don't personally like that idea, though.

I'm just not really sure how, with the site grown so big, and the mods being so busy, we can change that.
posted by misha at 3:40 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


But they flag it, and then go and make a Meta about it, and because they are popular their friends get behind them and that thread gets taken down. I've seen this happen, too.


Well the good news is that since all the MeTa threads and deletions on this site are public, it should be fairly easy for you to point to an example of this happening? I mean I totally understand how it can feel that this is what's happening sometimes, but it's a fairly serious allegation that the mods ignore the guidelines in favor of what either our friends or some posse of users thinks, in full view of everyone. That would be sort of a shitty thing to do.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:24 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


But there are still some of the same people dominating certain threads a lot.

I know, I know... you're talking about me, right? The way I dominate threads about jew's harps and Al Green and African xylophones and obscure German improvisors and clawhammer banjo, right? Well, I'm sorry, pal, but I STARTED those threads, so just get fuckin USED to it!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:57 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


misha: " So what do we do about that? I feel like, and I'm sure someone who has actual statistics can tell me if I am way off base on this, but I seem to remember a time when we saw more temporary time-outs, where a couple users who got into it would both get a cooling off period, just a day off. I feel like we see more thread deletions now, which makes sense because the site is bigger. So why do we see less of these time outs? Frankly, I'd rather see more users take a break than more threads go down. "

The time outs still happen, but my impression is they're happening behind the scenes. I suspect that's done so they do not initiate a public debate, but also Jessamyn commented back in June that timing someone out is "...literally pressing a button, but it comes with a lot of baggage on our side and for the person timed out so we take it pretty seriously." furiousxgeorge and trurl both were given timeouts before they were banned. I know of a couple of other users who were timed out back in June.
posted by zarq at 8:08 AM on October 25, 2012


"You kept demanding numbers even though you know that no one can give any, so my point was that it is mathematically self-evident that it is possible to reduce the current number of people being driven away (assuming the number is greater than zero, which seems reasonable). Whether you think my suggestions will do that is up to you, since neither of us can prove it either way. "

I asked for numbers because quantitative proof is easier to discuss than qualitative. However, your contention that this is mathematically self evident is not true — there may be some constant number of people "driven away" regardless of policy. So, no, it is not self-evident. It may be possible, it may not be possible.

"That's all I've asked of anyone here: to state their position in a reasonable manner. So no, I'm not going to have to restrain anyone from censuring anything. It's more than possible to censure people's ideas while still engaging with those ideas, and it is also possible to censure people's ideas while treating them as though they are welcome to speak. "

Some people will inevitably be dicks about things, and more to the point, when people feel personally insulted, as many do over sexism or racism, that's a dickery that precedes tone, and asking people to respond without (subjective) dickery is something that's good, but broad and hard to tie in a concrete way to changes in policy or communication here.

"People get piled-on on this site for having the wrong opinion about hats. We've told questioners that wearing fedoras will make them dateless and friendless douchebags who ride Honda Goldwings and collect swords, in askme."

That's an Achewood joke. Like many things in Achewood, it's not really serious life advice. And in the blue, plenty of people pushed back (I don't remember the AskMe).

"it's about a willingness to jump up and down on people with the "wrong" opinions which is increasingly offputting to members new and old. "

Which, again, has decreased over time. People are notably more polite now than they were even five years back.

"The better balance would be a mefi in which people save most of their pile-on powers for those toxic opinions of yours, instead of aiming them at, say, people with mainstream political positions, or people who declaw/don't declaw cats, or people who support/don't support suicide or euthanasia, or people who do/don't like organic food. It's more than possible to discuss all these things reasonably, so the fact that so many people above feel driven away from threads about, say, politics -- not this-and-that politics, just politics -- is a problem."

Aww, thanks. So, you're for pile-ons, provided they happen to me? Great policy! Vorfeed 2012!

"Didn't you just say we could know certain things "pretty well based on a ten year history here"? You're free to disagree that something's gone wrong with user behavior here, but demanding proof is a bit much. I have a different take on the ample evidence of MetaFilter discussions as a whole than you do, that's all."

Fair enough, you can't prove it — it's just a feeling you have, a feeling that's not reflected in the numbers of people here, a feeling that's not reflected in the number of active members, and a feeling not necessarily shared except in the most vague terms by the rest of the members. You can see how that's not convincing, right? All you've really got is some thin appeals to a better discussion mode, which everyone is for, but no real actionable ideas except, what, people piling on me instead of those poor fedora wearers. It just reads like the nebulous nostalgia of conservatives, honestly, where things were better in the past because reasons and we should be better but really it's this guy you've got a grudge against that's the problem, and there's no way to prove anything but it should be self-evident for all right thinking people, etc. etc.
posted by klangklangston at 8:41 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


vorfeed: "We've told questioners that wearing fedoras will make them dateless and friendless douchebags who ride Honda Goldwings and collect swords, in askme."

Is this a specific reference to something? That's not what happened in the Fedora Guy thread. Nor did that happen in at least two subsequent fedora-related threads.

Fedora Guy came off as being incredibly self-obsessed, braggy and full of himself, and the comments pushed back against that.
posted by zarq at 9:01 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd also be interested in seeing an example of a posse pile-on, misha. I know a handful of MeFites in real life but I don't perceive there's any kind of clique or posse action going on. Some of the people whose contributions I like best occasionally post a MeTa or make a comment that I think is just way off base. It isn't like I rush to defend them because of a relationship we have or would count on them defending me when I screw up. I can also see how that perception can take hold but I'm not sure it describes an objective reality. Where there are real-life concentrations of MeFites (SF, NYC) it seems that the likelihood of more personal animosities and divisions is just as high as the likelihood of alliances. I don't really see that effect but maybe you can point to one or two.
posted by Miko at 9:09 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this a specific reference to something? That's not what happened in the Fedora Guy thread. Nor did that happen in at least two subsequent fedora-related threads.

Here's the three direct AskMe mentions I could find.
Avoid fedoras at all costs. As Onstad established six years ago, you don't look like bogart. You look like you ride a Honda Goldwing and collect swords.
Ah, yes, the debonair sysadmin. The stereotype is absolutely true, although most of the people I know who wear it are programmers and not sysadmins.
You could always try the Debonair Sysadmin model.
posted by zamboni at 9:28 AM on October 25, 2012


Thanx flapjax, but you've got memail blocked so I can't thank you in kind ;)
posted by klangklangston at 9:34 AM on October 25, 2012


zamboni: "
Here's the three direct AskMe mentions I could find.


Ah, thanks. So a joke, and not a thing that happens frequently.
posted by zarq at 10:00 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I turned on "Hide Favorites" a couple days ago (recommended upthread), and wow what a difference. I can express a perhaps-unpopular opinion without feeling like I'm getting piled on and bullied, then potentially responding with heat rather than light. There's a huge difference between somebody disagreeing and somebody disagreeing with 42 favorites! Suddenly you feel like you're battling this massive mob...

The downside is that it largely removes social pressure, so there's more opportunity for somebody (including myself) to be a total asshole and not called on it by the community.

I'm only a few days into it, but it seems like a pretty positive thing for me. I suggest that people who feel bullied to avoid certain threads give it a try.
posted by LordSludge at 11:18 AM on October 25, 2012


It's a good suggestion. I've had favorites hidden for a while now, though I look at them from time time. I think they do a lot of good on the site but that's no reason to see them in your face.

I also find I can read threads better without thinking about whether to favorite or not or who already has. if there's a downside, I'm probably back to responding more, which might actually create an unintentional comment-pile-on effect, because if you don't realize something already has 75 favorites you might feel the need to back up that argument with your own comment, etc. In general if one person is saying something I want to counter, and one other person maybe countered it a few comments down, without favorites, that looks like I might want to still add my voice in and counter it too. But if that one person a few comments down already got 75 favorites for saying what they said, and I can see that, I'm more likely to be like "well, that's a lot of weight" and probably won't add as much of my own. So it's a little harder to tell without favorites whether to jump in on a side point.

So I suppose it can cut both ways. But there's something about not seeing them that's less stressful.
posted by Miko at 12:17 PM on October 25, 2012


jessamyn, I wasn't suggesting that you or the other mods were leaving threads up because your friends made them! The mods are just responding to the flags, that's not on you. You are literally dealing with thousands of users on a daily basis.

I must not be explaining myself well. What I was trying to say is that I think the system is a good one, but its major flaw is that it counts on users not abusing it. I would rather see specific users who are continually in the mix when things go all pear-shaped get taken to task than lose threads and thoughtful discussion because those users have made the threads hell to moderate. Does that make more sense?

I doubt there is a mechanism in place to alert the mods if the same group of people start flagging FPPs together. With so many users I imagine that'd be a hard thing to track, anyway. That's why I'm not sure if there is anything that can be done, or should be changed.

I have learned through the years that it is productive to have someone take the role of devil's advocate. I've been known to stand up for users with unpopular positions, even when I don't agree with them, because I don't like pile-ons or what I see as dirty tactics being used against them. Maybe, because of this tendency of mine, I feel like this clique thing is more of a site problem than it is?

LordSludge, turning off favorites is a good suggestion. I considered that after koeselitz's recent Meta where users said it worked well for them. Maybe I wil try that now.

This is an example of the system working the way it is supposed to work, in my opinion. A user didn't like something, went through the system, emailing the mods and making a Meta saying why. She participated in good faith, got the feedback that the rest of the community disagreed with her, Bob's your uncle, the system worked.

Now let me check the deleted stuff and maybe I can find some examples where maybe it didn't work (and maybe you all will just show me that my perception is totally skewed. I'm open to that possibility, too).
posted by misha at 12:35 PM on October 25, 2012


I asked for numbers because quantitative proof is easier to discuss than qualitative. However, your contention that this is mathematically self evident is not true — there may be some constant number of people "driven away" regardless of policy. So, no, it is not self-evident. It may be possible, it may not be possible.

You claimed that we can "say definitively" that racism drives people away, and that getting rid of it drives fewer people away. Thus, the idea that the number of people being driven away may be constant no matter what we do is neither consistent with your argument nor reasonable.

What it comes down to is this: neither of us has numbers on who has and has not left the site, or why. Yet you want to be able to declare that you can know that hostility to minorities drives people off, while also declaring that I cannot know whether hostility to minority opinions does. This is bizarre: either we can each draw conclusions from what we see happening and what people are telling us about their participation on the site, or we can't.

asking people to respond without (subjective) dickery is something that's good, but broad and hard to tie in a concrete way to changes in policy or communication here.

I did not ask for any change in policy. I asked people to make two specific changes in the way they argue here. Engaging with people's points and reaching out to approve of good comments are not things which are hard to tie in a concrete way to individual participation here; certainly not more so than things like "teach yourself to be kinder, gentler, fairer, less angry, or less bullheaded". Refusing to jump into pile-ons with content-free comments is not and should not be too difficult to ask for, and it would go a long way to make this place more welcoming for everyone.

Aww, thanks. So, you're for pile-ons, provided they happen to me? Great policy! Vorfeed 2012!

I was referring to "the toxic opinions you just described", not "the toxic opinions you yourself hold", and I think this should be obvious from context. It never even occurred to me that you could read that paragraph as an attack on you... guess you must've been motivated.

Fair enough, you can't prove it — it's just a feeling you have, a feeling that's not reflected in the numbers of people here, a feeling that's not reflected in the number of active members, and a feeling not necessarily shared except in the most vague terms by the rest of the members. You can see how that's not convincing, right?

Are you kidding? I know it's not convincing you. People have been complaining about this for a dog's age, and the problem has only gotten worse since then, because their complaints are dismissed as "a feeling not necessarily shared except in the most vague terms by the rest of the members" rather than something "we can — based on a ten year history here — know pretty well". The userbase took action to make minorities feel more welcome here simply because they asked, without dismissing their ideas as "a feeling they had" which was "not reflected in the numbers of people here", but it has consistently refused to do anything to welcome minority opinions. Even when long-term members have complained, they've been told that no such problem exists. So they stop participating, because they know they are not welcome. That's the word we use for when people are ignored and rebuffed even when they ask the community for better treatment.

I expect that the userbase will continue to stare at its own reflection until it finally turns into a flower, and those who aren't interested in that will continue to dial their participation down.

where things were better in the past because reasons and we should be better but really it's this guy you've got a grudge against that's the problem

This is exactly why I don't want to make this about specific people or even specific ideas; not when the problem exists across the site. I don't have a grudge against anyone, though it sometimes seems as if you do.
posted by vorfeed at 12:42 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Does that make more sense?

Not really, no. You know that we can see who flags everything right? And that we never delete something on the basis of flagging alone? And that if we see someone who seems to be consistently flagging the same stuff that is non-actionable [swearing comes to mind] we'll often email them and let them know? And the same is true for MetaTalk, we see who is commenting, we know if they do this sort of thing a lot. We still have to independently assess how we feel about that sort of thing.

I think what you were implying is that we delete stuff on the basis of flagging and complaints but that those flags and complaints may come from a small set of users who may not represent the zeitgeist of the site as a whole but the mods act as if they do?

This is what you said.

But we have users that have become popular, and that popularity sometimes allows them to take advantage of that honor system. Maybe they see an FPP they don't like. It doesn't break the guidelines, they just personally don't care for the subject matter. But they flag it, and then go and make a Meta about it, and because they are popular their friends get behind them and that thread gets taken down. I've seen this happen, too.

If there is another meaning I am supposed to be getting from that, I'd like to know what it is.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:43 PM on October 25, 2012


I was thinking more that the mods do, in fact, think those users represent the zeitgeist (great word!) of the site, BECAUSE their friends get behind them and flag things as a group.

You know that we can see who flags everything right?. And that we never delete something on the basis of flagging alone? And that if we see someone who seems to be consistently flagging the same stuff that is non-actionable [swearing comes to mind] we'll often email them and let them know?

I guess you are telling me that there is, in fact, a mechanism in place to make sure that kind of stuff is not going on. Good to know.

Thanks.
posted by misha at 12:52 PM on October 25, 2012


it has consistently refused to do anything to welcome minority opinions

I see minority opinions here every day. That's why I'm having just a really hard time understanding exactly what opinions you think are so unwelcome here, other than the obvious ones that are explicitly either out of bounds or require more careful framing. What is it we're missing, when I still feel like there are a lot of interesting different views on the site? It's starting to feel like one of those things where you want not to see opinions aired, but opinions shared - or at least agreed with. One of the things about opinions, though, is that a lot of people might not agree with them. That doesn't make them go out of existence. Opinions are still everywhere around here.

it's kind of interesting that both the critiques here result from a perception that a powerful cluster of people in a majority is intangibly creating a hostile climate for others in a minority. But it's just wicked hard to demonstrate that. I can see it when someone is saying something that's, say, white supremacist. I can point to that and go "hey, that sucks, can we not have it on the site?" and if most other people agree we don't want that on the site, sometimes we agree that it shouldn't be on the site (though sometimes we agree to just live with it, or the mods basically say 'live with it or maybe this isn't your favorite site). All visible.

But it seems like you, vorfeed, are asking for us to act on something invisible - people who aren't here, things that aren'tsaid. It's not so easy to react to something that isn't there. Comments like:

I expect that the userbase will continue to stare at its own reflection until it finally turns into a flower, and those who aren't interested in that will continue to dial their participation down.

seem to indicate that there is a silent attrition going on that's below the level of observation. But that's always gone on through time. People who aren't interested in whatever the atmosphere is have always dialed their participation down. Everybody has the right to do this. It's not a tragedy. For instance, I'm getting sick of Facebook; I de-linked 50% of my 'friends' and spend a lot less time on it. That was all me. I got tired of encountering a lot of the crap you find there. My opinion is distinctly not welcome all across everyone on Facebook and I learned that the hard way. But I don't harbor illusions of me alone convincing 600 other people to change the way they use Facebook; I had to change the way I used it.

It's kind of tricky to see this in the way you want - as though there's a specific community of members being oppressed who are silent about it - when I can't see any evidence of that. And then we ask for the evidence of the kinds of opinions that are frozen out and oppressed, you don't want to give any. So in the end, there's no action really that can be taken because there's absolutely no way to tell what it is we'd be acting on and when.

This is pretty different from the other ways in which the site shifted on the opinion consensus. People could see racist/sexist/cisgender/anti-kink/anti-atheism/anti-theism (or whatever) opinions. And they could, and did, speak up and say "hey, expressing that opinion here makes the site suckier." And you could see what they wrote in response. And there could be a discussion. All of that could be seen.

You seem to be asking us to change....something...based on...something that can't be seen. That's really not the same thing at all as pointing to the legions of users who gave up on the site because of a specific reason which they elaborated clearly, or the discussions that resulted in some slow, small site changes that help facilitate wider discussion and make it possible to moderate the site. I can see the evidence of that. What is the evidence of people who have left the site because their opinions were really unwelcome? What's your evidence that "offensive" opinions aren't welcome if you can't tell us what they are?

And what happens if we all look at those opinions and 85% of us who weigh in are still like, "yeah, this site is better without us all having to look at that opinion?" You're trying to mount an argument that an opinion is good to have around for opinion's sake. But that's an overly facile argument, and you won't produce any supporting evidence.
posted by Miko at 2:56 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eh, I was gonna reply again, but Miko just said pretty much what I was going to, only nicer.

I do think that it's misleading to conflate minorities with minority opinions, because it both ignores a lot of structural baggage and relies upon an incredibly weak definition for "minority opinions;" that women should be subservient to men is a minority opinion here, and that people who hold that opinion feel uncomfortable voicing it because many people will tell them that it's wrong and foolish is a feature, not a bug.
posted by klangklangston at 3:03 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


And that we never delete something on the basis of flagging alone?

Really? I could have sworn that there have been a bunch of times where "that FPP got the crap flagged out of it" gets used as a proxy of community sentiment and hence deletion. I'm not going to go back and dig around to parse out old explanations in cranky MeTa threads, but I'm pretty sure of my memory on this. I don't have a dog in this fight either way, but it's something that I've always noticed in a "huh..." kind of way, because of how it makes me think about how tricky it is to use crude proxy data (eg flagging) to get a measurement of something as complex as community sentiment.

I have also noticed a marked improvement in the last year, maybe year and a half, in how religion gets discussed here. Maybe that's a community improvement, or more vigorous moderation, or even just me learning to avoid certain discussions, but every time religion comes up and I don't have to wade through a bunch of "sky wizard LULZ" crappy comments I am a happy person. So I'd say that things are definitely improving on at least some fronts for how discussions get handled, while at the same time I think the moderation has been getting outflanked in some sexism-related threads by sneakier derailments.

Two steps forward, one step sideways, I guess.
posted by Forktine at 5:19 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Really? I could have sworn that there have been a bunch of times where "that FPP got the crap flagged out of it" gets used as a proxy of community sentiment and hence deletion.

It's one of the indicators we use that the community dislikes something, sure. At the same time if there were not any other reason, if it were just "Wow, that's odd, people are flagging the heck out of this flash game and we can't really figure out why... Oh well, let's axe it" we probably wouldn't kill it. It comes up in MeTa because people say things like "Well *I* liked it" and our response to that is "You are one of many people here and we were getting strong indicators that other people did not like it"

I know it's all a little hand-wavey if you don't watch the flags come in, but there can be two posts about nearly identical issues with very similar links but if one of them takes a really strident tone and/or used inflammatory pullquotes or whatever, it's likely to get a lot of flags while the other post will get none. This is why we're sort of fussy about people not being axe-grindy in their posts, because it makes a big difference to how a post is received.

And, to misha's other point, if in addition to the head scratching we looked at the people who had flagged the post and noticed "Oh gee, these people all know each other and show up to support each other en masse in MetaTalk" we would assume something is up. And yeah we had to make an affirmative "hey man not cool" decision about the sky wizard lulzy comments which has been assisted by people pointing them out to us via flagging.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:52 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


It comes up in MeTa because people say things like "Well *I* liked it" and our response to that is "You are one of many people here and we were getting strong indicators that other people did not like it"

I totally get that, thanks. Just out of curiosity, what kind of flagging numbers are we talking about if people are "flagging the heck" out of it? Is that twenty flags, two hundred, more? I've been really startled recently when magazines (Harpers maybe, and I think the NYTimes Sunday Magazine as well) have started mentioned the numbers of letters they get in response to controversial topics, and what to them feels like a huge response can seem miniscule from the outside.

nd yeah we had to make an affirmative "hey man not cool" decision about the sky wizard lulzy comments

I remember those MeTa threads well; I just thought that it was worth mentioning some of the ways that through moderation and/or community norms changing things have tangibly improved and that example came immediately to mind. Complaining is fun but recognizing change is better.
posted by Forktine at 6:28 PM on October 25, 2012


what to them feels like a huge response can seem miniscule from the outside.

I can't talk about Harpers but I have some loose basis for talking about the NYT and much more basis for talking about what happens at other newspapers, and I can say that what might not seem like many letters to an outsider is a really huge number to a media outlet. The fact is that most people grumble about things they don't like, but they don't do anything about it. To actually look up an email address and write a direct email to someone about an issue is a degree of activity that most people can't find time for, or don't think to do. There are always cranks that write the same letter on the same issue every week, and there are random drive-bys. Getting 1 or 2 letters on a hot button issue is below the regristration level. But when you receive many multiples repeating a point of view - which, for the NYT, might only be like 25 - it is a good indicator that that problably represents 10-100x that number of readers in terms of shared sentiment. It takes a lot to get readers excited enough to write, and even then only a few will actually follow through on their intention to write.

This one reason that you can very often see me being all "write 'em a letter!" in threads about some sort of outrage by a media outlet (or a politician, same goes for them, you'd think they get giant bags of mail/email every day from constituents but they don't). Not only do they read the letters, they actually consider them to be a pretty good indication of popular feeling. Also, almost every time I do write a media outlet or politician, I get a response, and not just a form letter, but one that indicates somebody read what I had to say.

I have no idea how this relates to flags, and flagging is easier than writing an email, but a lot of people still don't think to do it. I've been trying to teach myself to flag and I still hardly ever do so. My first instinct is just to comment. But I suspect that a bunch of flags arriving rapidfire from across a wide swath of users is a pretty good indication that a bunch more people also feel that way and just aren't habitual flaggers.
posted by Miko at 6:40 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


[T]hat women should be subservient to men is a minority opinion here, and that people who hold that opinion feel uncomfortable voicing it because many people will tell them that it's wrong and foolish is a feature, not a bug.

I, for one, would rather see the wrong/foolish opinion expressed, then reasonably rebutted by saner minds rather than drowned in a pile-on of grar or withheld entirely. This is especially true of conservative/political opinions -- yeah, I'm pretty liberal, and I generally think conservative opinions are wrong/foolish, but let's break down exactly *why* they're wrong rather than build a nice tidy liberal echo chamber.
posted by LordSludge at 6:49 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I, for one, would rather see the wrong/foolish opinion expressed

Yeah, how many times? How much of your MetaFilter life are you willing to devote to doing this to the same tired old-school opinions? How much do you think others should give to that effort? How often can we afford to do this? 12 times a year? 24? 50? 100?

How much collective MeFi energy should go to hashing out why the same old dumb opinions are dumb rather than moving on to other new and interesting topics that we haven't done yet? Which of those two activities is likelier to actually reveal a greater diversity of ideas?
posted by Miko at 7:06 PM on October 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


I do think that it's misleading to conflate minorities with minority opinions, because it both ignores a lot of structural baggage and relies upon an incredibly weak definition for "minority opinions; that women should be subservient to men is a minority opinion here, and that people who hold that opinion feel uncomfortable voicing it because many people will tell them that it's wrong and foolish is a feature, not a bug.

I did not mean to conflate minorities with minority opinions. I meant to point out that the evidence you've rejected as insufficient is exactly the same evidence you yourself have. I think structural baggage does need to be taken into account, but frankly, I also think the concept of "offensive" speech is chock full of it.

Likewise, I have "an incredibly weak definition for minority opinions" for a reason. All "offense" means is violation of propriety, and we cannot make propriety forever safe for minorities; it belongs to the majority by definition, and the majority is not always made up of the same people with the same agenda. I do not trust this majority -- any majority -- to keep offense from shifting onto people whose opinions and lifestyles are not at all "toxic", and I do not trust that the normalization of speech-suppression and socially-validated disgust will always be harmless. You guys keep asking for examples, so here's one: last time I checked the "offense" argument was still being thrown at trans folk regarding the word 'cis' on this site. I am not all that interested in hearing about how women on metafilter (as far as I'm concerned, I can take care of myself) benefit oh so much from a "feature" which is being aimed at other minorities, to the point where it derails discussion about their issues right out of the gate.

And no, this sort of thing does not serve the diversity of ideas. The diversity of ideas is diverse, as in spanning the spectrum of human thought; what you are asking for is a curated collection of ideas which are rejected whenever they don't strike the userbase as being comfortable enough. Comfort != diversity, almost by definition.
posted by vorfeed at 9:14 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just out of curiosity, what kind of flagging numbers are we talking about if people are "flagging the heck" out of it?

I think the most flagged post ever [on a holiday weekend, totally inappropriate] may have just crossed the three digit line. Usually anything that gets into double digits on MeFi is worth seriously checking out and/or talking about, though we regularly have posts that also get that many if they're on a weird subject or have a weird presentation and they are fine. In AskMe anything that gets more than a few flags is usually something we check out, but that's also because staying on topic is more important there and something people seem to sometimes have some trouble with.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:24 PM on October 25, 2012


"I did not mean to conflate minorities with minority opinions. I meant to point out that the evidence you've rejected as insufficient is exactly the same evidence you yourself have."

… which is only true if you consider "minorities" and "minority opinions" to be functionally equal, which doesn't hold in part because of the over-broad definition of "minority opinions."

So, yes, you're making a mistaken mixture of two concepts and trying to reason from there. This is because you're complaining about a qualitative loss that you cannot demonstrate, and you are confusing some minority opinions with all minority opinions.

"I do not trust this majority -- any majority -- to keep offense from shifting onto people whose opinions and lifestyles are not at all "toxic", and I do not trust that the normalization of speech-suppression and socially-validated disgust will always be harmless."

Right. And I'm not sure why you're treating this like a bone of contention — it's not. What is being said is that while that general skepticism is warranted, MetaFilter does not currently have a harmful discourse on the balance. You've claimed that it self-evidently does, because people quit. I don't believe that's true — I think it's over-broad, and that there are too many confounding factors to make a broad statement like that, however I do feel comfortable talking about instances of harmful rhetoric. I'd even be comfortable talking about instances when MetaFilter moderation choices have stifled minority voices. But making a general claim about harmful rhetoric as a defining feature of MetaFilter discourse is something you haven't supported, and seem annoyed that people keep pointing that out.

"You guys keep asking for examples, so here's one: last time I checked the "offense" argument was still being thrown at trans folk regarding the word 'cis' on this site. I am not all that interested in hearing about how women on metafilter (as far as I'm concerned, I can take care of myself) benefit oh so much from a "feature" which is being aimed at other minorities, to the point where it derails discussion about their issues right out of the gate."

Sure, but you realize a criterion that's legitimate to consider in some contexts doesn't mean that it's universally legitimate, right? But … that derail is part of "the diversity of human thought."

"And no, this sort of thing does not serve the diversity of ideas. The diversity of ideas is diverse, as in spanning the spectrum of human thought; what you are asking for is a curated collection of ideas which are rejected whenever they don't strike the userbase as being comfortable enough. Comfort != diversity, almost by definition."

Again, that's absurd when you follow the necessary implications, something that you've already admitted when you talked about balance. The whole spectrum of human thought includes spamming the Treaty of Westphalia; "comfort" is a bullshit metric in this particular argument; the idea of curation is in the name MetaFilter.
posted by klangklangston at 10:49 PM on October 25, 2012


Sorry, that's all a little more disjointed than I wanted. Time to go to sleep.
posted by klangklangston at 11:10 PM on October 25, 2012


How much collective MeFi energy should go to hashing out why the same old dumb opinions are dumb rather than moving on to other new and interesting topics that we haven't done yet? Which of those two activities is likelier to actually reveal a greater diversity of ideas?

This idea - that MetaFilter's majority has already come to the correct conclusion and thus no more time needs to be spent on an issue - presupposes that MeFites are more intelligent than other people, and thus capable of coming to better conclusions than them. But here's the thing: we're totally not. This false perception stems from a circular feedback loop: people on MetaFilter share a lot of similar opinions with each other, so you tend to respect each other more and have a higher impression of each other's intelligence, and demonstrate that through your actions. Those people likewise respect you for the same commonalities and return the favor, causing you to have a higher impression of your own intelligence as well. And now that you have established this shared consensus of mutual intelligence, anybody who doesn't buy into that consensus and says something that might shatter the pleasant illusion gets piled on until they stop, so that you never need to question your own certitude.

That's not a collective opinion reached through better reasoning: it's more of a highly articulate circle-jerk.

At this point several people with fragile egos will now attack me, and one of those attacks will likely take the form "Well then, why are you on Metafilter if you consider yourself smarter than that?" The answer is that 1) I don't consider myself smarter; I just laugh at any of you who do, 2) because the mods do a great job of filtering out unproductive arguments, 3) because there are some highly intelligent people on MetaFilter, even though the "collective opinion" is no more intelligent than any other, and 4) because even though MeFites are no smarter than any other community, nobody can deny that they are much more articulate, and I've become a bit more articulate myself from being here. But having articulate opinions does not make those opinions any more correct, and it's important not to lose sight of that - and to be open to the idea that the majority views can be wrong.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:00 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


At this point several people with fragile egos will now attack me,

You make some good points here (including some I agree with, some I don't but still enjoy reading), but this was a kind of crappy thing to say. I get the frustration, but conversations go better when no one pulls the "I know overly sensitive dumbasses will disagree with my obviously correct and smart point, but..." routine.
posted by Forktine at 7:07 AM on October 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sorry, Forktine - you're right about that, and I withdraw that specific portion of my comment. It was just my way of emotionally preparing for the barrage of unreasoning hostility that you'll soon see me on the receiving end of. :-\
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:11 AM on October 26, 2012


the barrage of inane hostility

Sad trombone is playing.
posted by Forktine at 7:14 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


It was just my way of emotionally preparing for the barrage of unreasoning hostility that you'll soon see me on the receiving end of.

If you would like to talk to us about strategies for dealing with this sort of thing better, we'll be happy to talk to you about it. It's sort of A Thing that we see happening with some people, you included.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:21 AM on October 26, 2012


he evidence you've rejected as insufficient is exactly the same evidence you yourself have.

No, it's not. If you want to keep denying this, you're not playing with the same deck of reality that I am. As I said - I can see the evidence for people objecting to certain kinds of content, and I can see the evidence for them leaving. Please show your evidence for a significant number of individuals leaving for the explicit reason that discourse became too narrow.

This idea - that MetaFilter's majority has already come to the correct conclusion and thus no more time needs to be spent on an issue

I'm totally willing to go on record saying that MetaFilter's majority has come to the correct conclusion in disallowing things like white supremacist posts. I recognize that white supremacy is part of the "diversity of ideas," but also assert that that is one minority viewpoint which is minority in the human aggregate for a very good reason: it is a rhetorical structure which justifies impinging on other people's human rights and equal access to resources. MetaFilter as a community has a lot of characteristics. it may or may not be "smarter" in the aggregate than other communities. I don't think that matters in the least. What matters to me is that we can discuss topics that have abundant merit and a high degree of general interest without our attention being demanded by a petulant provocateur who wants to try once again to see if we can tolerate a racist opinion. Substitute whatever issue you wish.

If, as you say, one of the reasons MetaFilter is good is that "the mods do a great job of filtering out unproductive arguments," then you implicity agree that some arguments are unproductive and don't belong on the site.

I am in full agreement with you on that.

That a majority can sometimes be wrong is uncontroversial, a truism. We're all laboring under the assumptions and prejduces of our time. Sure.

But since we're not talking about a single specific incident in which a majority here is currently wrong about something - since no one can produce even a single example - then I think that while that truism will remain ever true, it's not something to wring our hands over here at this time.

The cisgender discussion is a counterexample to the argument that tried to enlist it: the site has been debating back and forth about whether the term makes sense, is acceptable, will catch on. The discussion is very much alive, and cis- has gained enough traction that objections to it seem to have dramatically fallen off. How many years must pass before nobody says "What the hell is this cis- crap" and we rehash the conversation over again, again, or again, I don't know. I do know that at some point it will become a more settled discussion, until maybe at some farther future point new terms emerge and it doesn't again (see: 'colored').

This is all normal stuff that happens in communities. We aren't living in a time of excess and aren't in danger of having no interesting discussion.
posted by Miko at 10:01 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't like playing this framing game - since it was evidently wrong to frame any response as that of a "fragile ego," it doesn't make sense in the apology for that to frame any response as an "inane barrage of unreasoning hostility."

Proceeding on good faith means listening to the response without deciding what it is beforehand.
posted by Miko at 10:24 AM on October 26, 2012


I, for one, would rather see the wrong/foolish opinion expressed

Yeah, how many times? How much of your MetaFilter life are you willing to devote to doing this to the same tired old-school opinions? How much do you think others should give to that effort? How often can we afford to do this? 12 times a year? 24? 50? 100?


That's a fantastic question, Miko, and a good point, because of course a lot of the same arguments do get touted out again and again, and it is exhausting to keep having them.

But suppressing wrong/foolish opinions is kind of a hard line to walk, isn't it? How far do you go with that?

It's easy to make a call to get rid of something when it's obviously crazy, like "some girls, they rape so easy," or how women who are "legitimately raped" don't get pregnant. We can look at that stuff and (I think) agree, without feeling we are all superior and right about everything, that those sentiments are hateful and wrong by pretty much any measure we can come up with.

And yet, these men were elected to office to begin with, so you would think they'd be more educated in general about women's issues. And this stuff they're saying, they got these ideas from somewhere.

Even old-school arguments that make your blood boil can arise from ignorance, rather than hate or misogyny. An unfamiliarity with diverse populations easily lends itself to stereotyping people who are Other.

When I was in school, we had a class where various stereotypes were brought up and discussed. I'm in this heated debate, contesting obviously crazy (to me) ideas like Jewish people have big noses*, and how harmful they are. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But the lesson was in a psychology class, and the point of the lesson was how research showed that stereotypes prevail because studies back them up(!).

That blew my mind AND pissed me off, of course. Come on, are you telling me hateful stereotypes are basically TRUE?

The reality, like most things. is more complex than that, and has to do with the way people's perceptions are influenced and affected by bias. Scientists are just as bound by their innate biases as everyone else. Any number of pseudo-scientific studies exist to bolster truly ridiculous claims--an entire "field of study" that purported to show black people had smaller brains than white people is one notable example.

So, those people were just ignorant bigots to begin with, yes? Aren't we past all this stuff now? Well, the way you get past these "old school" arguments is by debunking them. When people are misinformed or uninformed, their reasoning becomes based on those misperceptions. Recent research shows that a significant majority of people make biased decisions based on gender and race without consciously realizing they are doing so. Bigotry and intolerance is not just a thing of the past, and neither is pseudo-science, actually. There's been an alarming rise in scientific illiteracy in recent years; we are seeing a resurgence of people who think Creationism should be taught in schools, in science classes, alongside Evolution. Women's rights are taking huge steps backwards. I think we should care about that.

Still doesn't mean we have to hash this stuff out over and over again, like Miko said, right? Again, debunking misperceptions is, I think, worthwhile, and I think Metafilter is perhaps the best site there is for doing that. People here tend to write well, and persuasively. I've had my own misperceptions debunked.

One example: I am a gay rights activist, but I didn't particularly like the term cisgender (which, by the way, I first heard on Metafilter). It just seemed like a way to Other me, and group me with anti-gay bigots. But now I understand the history behind the coining of the term better, and I support that movement. And I learned all that from some very patient Mefites, hashing that out for what was certainly not their first time. And at least I won't be derailing threads to argue that any more. So that's progress!

*My maiden surname is German, but is frequently assumed to be Jewish. Teachers, in particular, made this assumption as I was growing up. For instance, in my (public) elementary school we would make Christmas ornaments and Dreidels for Hannukah (because that was seen as being inclusive**); and I was once pulled up to dance the Hora with other Jewish students, to show the rest of the class how it was done. I didn't know how, of course, and remember saying so. My teacher replied to my protests with a hearty, bracing, "Well, of COURSE you know how!" as if I was just being modest. So, I danced. Fortunately, I'm a quick study and only tripped over my feet a few times. I still like the Hora; it was easy to learn.

**No one ever even mentioned Buddhism, Islamism, or any other -isms outside of the Judeo-Christian purview.
posted by misha at 11:30 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


As I said - I can see the evidence for people objecting to certain kinds of content, and I can see the evidence for them leaving. Please show your evidence for a significant number of individuals leaving for the explicit reason that discourse became too narrow.

Here are some examples: dios "chose to quit participating a couple years ago" over this, and had been complaining about it for years prior. zarq doesn't post about certain issues anymore, explicitly because people just pile-on rather than discussing them reasonably. I've seen many, many others say the same over the years. Here is a short list of people who were banned, arguably because they couldn't/wouldn't find a site-acceptable way to deal with the whole thing. Of the well-known members I can think of who've complained about this in the past, orthogonality and Ivan Fyodorovich come to mind.

What is being said is that while that general skepticism is warranted, MetaFilter does not currently have a harmful discourse on the balance. You've claimed that it self-evidently does, because people quit. I don't believe that's true

No, I've claimed that MetaFilter has a harmful discourse on the balance because people quit, and they tell us why they're quitting; because people stop commenting, and they tell us why they're stopping; because we've had consistent complaints about the echo chamber and the site's outlook toward people with the "wrong" opinions; and because I've personally seen what it's doing to my own participation here.

If you "don't believe that's true", that's fine, but it involves ignoring a lot of different voices, apparently because you've decided that they must be wrong. Which is also fine, except that everyone's experience here is subjective. People's feelings regarding the site matter to their participation, whether they are proved to your satisfaction or not.

If you're pretty happy with the site on balance and you agree that you "don't think [requests regarding letting up on the pile-ons and encouraging people to speak] is out of line", then I don't see why you can't acknowledge that hey, if lots of different people felt strongly enough to mention this in many different ways over the years, then maybe it is a real and honest problem, at least to them. I don't think it'll take much to pull way back on the echo chamber, just as we pulled way back on the dumb sexist/racist one-liners... if we decide we care.

Again, that's absurd when you follow the necessary implications, something that you've already admitted when you talked about balance. The whole spectrum of human thought includes spamming the Treaty of Westphalia; "comfort" is a bullshit metric in this particular argument; the idea of curation is in the name MetaFilter.

Metafilter's stated goal in that curation is "best of the web", not "best of things which center-left people aren't too offended by". There are light-years worth of wider discussions we can have before we get anywhere close to opening stormfront.metafilter.com or spamming the Treaty of Westphalia while wearing funny hats and rubbing our fingers over our lips going phtbbbbbb, so maybe we should give them a try. The current balance is not the only possible balance.

Besides, it's kinda fun when people do silly shit like post the Treaty of Westphalia every once in a while. I miss the img tag, too.

But … that derail is part of "the diversity of human thought."

Yes. Exactly. Note that the people in that thread who did what I suggested changed minds. Think of a mefi that does more of that and less of the content-free piling-on, and is big-hearted enough to do it with a wider circle of ideas and people, not just the ones which sit best with us... and tremble.
posted by vorfeed at 11:33 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Again, debunking misperceptions is, I think, worthwhile, and I think Metafilter is perhaps the best site there is for doing that. People here tend to write well, and persuasively. I've had my own misperceptions debunked.

In some cases, it's a good place for debunking. But if that's all we did, we'd be Snopes. There's already a Snopes. There's already a high school psychology class. There's actually already a web, and a much bigger and better and more informative and wider web than there was when MeFi started. There are a lot of places to learn new things and have conversations.

People learn a lot on MeFi, and that's awesome. It's also fine by me if one of the things they learn is "we've discussed sexism here for 10 years and don't encourage it, we don't call each other 'cunts' any more, and though you may need a lot of consciousness raising before you learn why, you still can't do it here." We don't need a constant review of why these things are the way they are. That's the way they are.

Am I afraid that people won't learn the things they need and want to learn about bias and discrimination? No, not really. MetaFilter is one place that happens, but it's not central to or instrumental to the far broader cultural project of combating bias and discrimination. Heavens, there are benighted people in the hinterlands who will never visit MeFi. We don't have to depend upon it to do all this for people. Besides which, if this were an important function of MeFi, and yet letting sexist epithets be aired on MeFi drove away the people who would presumably provide that education, then the educational effort would fail, and it would revert to a place where people used sexist epithets and become a different flavor of narrow echo chamber. I know a lot of people liked that flavor of echo chamber better, where you could just behave badly and let people who don't want to be around people behaving badly either put up with it or leave. That's really not my idea of encouraging a wide diversity of ideas.

Your examples are not great. Dios says

ultimately I spent too much time and emotional energy trying to point out and combat the main problem with the community, which is its insular, cocooning and hostile nature to anything that it is not part of the ethos of the vocal minority.

So he seems to locate the problem not in a majority pile-on, but in a "vocal minority," whereas I think you are trying to speak up on behalf of a vocal minority and/or a silent minority. Zarq seems to locate the problem in the vociferousness with which people disagreed. The only common denominator is that the opinions expressed met with a lot of disagreement. Some opinions do! It's not crazy to reassess your participation based on your changing feelings or the reception of your opinion on a topic. Zarq is not saying "no one should discuss this," and the mods are not saying "this should not ever be discussed on MeFi" so I'm having a hard time spotting a problem that isn't zarq's individual decision to opt out of discussions that get stressful for him. I certainly have a few opinions I don't share here, because I know they're not really going to be a catalyst for great discussion and in some cases they're just not relevant or would even be found disrespectful by some and stressful by me. Managing your participation in a given site climate once you understand that climate makes sense; it's not an indicator of a nonfunctioning site, it's an indicator of functioning emotional resilience.

I don't see the point of enlisting people who were banned as evidence.First of all, I know for sure that sometimes what we think caused someone's banning is something quite a bit different from what actually happened. Unless you were one of the people involved in the banning, you really can't say what the precipitating incidents were or how they went down. It takes a lot to get banned and there is a lot of work that goes into encouraging appropriate site participation, to the point that if someone can't do that with all that help, the site is definitely better off without their participation. I also can't say that it would make any sense at all to design a site policy based on the experiences of the people who were so unable to work with the site that they ultimately opted themselves out. Health is more than the absence of pathologies.

I don't think it'll take much to pull way back on the echo chamber,

What would that look like? Can you give an example of what behavior I, as a user, would do to accomplish this?
posted by Miko at 12:01 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your examples are not great.

This is why I hate playing the example game with people. Examples are rarely "great" when they're given in favor of something someone doesn't want to accept. Again, if you think these are poor examples then you can choose (or not) to take how these people feel about these instances of user behavior at face value, even if you don't think they support my particular perception of the problem.

I said at the beginning that I see this not as a problem with one particular population, issue, or part of the site, but as a site-wide issue with the way we debate. I don't care who is jumping up and down on whom or why. I care that the jumping-up-and-down is not seen as a problem, and is even encouraged.

So he seems to locate the problem not in a majority pile-on, but in a "vocal minority,"

Well, it does seem obvious that the people who pile-on are not literally the numerical majority of metafilter members. The vast majority of metafilter's members never even comment, and I think that's what dios was attempting to point out: there are many people who read this site but are lurkers, don't mention certain opinions, or otherwise rarely post, and a majority of them may actually share the opinions which are jumped-on here. Which makes the whole thing even sadder, really.

The only common denominator is that the opinions expressed met with a lot of disagreement.

No, the common denominator is the manner of disagreement, particularly the way disagreement is permitted (encouraged?) to snowball to the point where people feel like they're standing at the Hot Gates under the shade of arrows.

What would that look like? Can you give an example of what behavior I, as a user, would do to accomplish this?

From above: "We can choose to engage other people's arguments even when we strongly disagree with them, rather than jumping in with the tenth comment in a row which amounts to "you're wrong because you're bad and wrong!" We can even choose to discourage the latter behavior rather than discouraging the expression of "bad" opinions [...] All I'm really asking is for people to let up a little, and to err on the side of encouraging people to talk".
posted by vorfeed at 1:10 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't like playing this framing game - since it was evidently wrong to frame any response as that of a "fragile ego," it doesn't make sense in the apology for that to frame any response as an "inane barrage of unreasoning hostility."

Proceeding on good faith means listening to the response without deciding what it is beforehand.


Miko, I already apologized for that mild snarkiness in my comment. Can we just drop it, instead of playing around with the semantics of my apology? I don't think that's where your real issue with me lies, and it's disingenuous to bring that up. I was just trying to anticipate some of the challenges that I would receive so that we could bypass that part of the argument. My goal was efficiency, nothing more.


I recognize that white supremacy is part of the "diversity of ideas," but also assert that that is one minority viewpoint which is minority in the human aggregate for a very good reason: it is a rhetorical structure which justifies impinging on other people's human rights and equal access to resources. MetaFilter as a community has a lot of characteristics. it may or may not be "smarter" in the aggregate than other communities. I don't think that matters in the least. What matters to me is that we can discuss topics that have abundant merit and a high degree of general interest without our attention being demanded by a petulant provocateur who wants to try once again to see if we can tolerate a racist opinion.


Miko, I'm pretty sure nobody here is arguing for white supremacy groups to be allowed on Metafilter, so I'd appreciate if we could stay away from such obviously incindiary and misleading framing.


What would that look like? Can you give an example of what behavior I, as a user, would do to accomplish this?


My perception is this: you claim that it's just dumb ideas that you want to eliminate - which is great in theory - but in practice the only dumb ideas subject to pile-ons are the ones that are right of center, whereas dumb ideas that are left of center get ignored. For example, on a recent post about rape somebody made the completely inane suggestion that when it comes to rape cases, instead of having the assumption of innocence, the burden of proof should be on the accused rapist to prove that he didn't do it, so a woman could simply put somebody in jail by saying he raped her. Completely insane, right? If I posted something that stupid but with a conservative slant, I'd be piled on by so many people that I'd still be digging myself out years later. Yet when this piece of insanity came out, almost nobody criticized the idea - instead, they supported the commenter's other points, while studiously ignoring the insane parts of her thesis. You know why? Because she was a feminist, and because most of the rest of what she said was very much in line with MetaFilter gospel.

This is part of the hypocrisy of MetaFilter: people like you say they want to only filter out "dumb" ideas, which is great in theory, but in practice it's only the dumb right-wing ideas that you pick on. Dumb left-wing ideas, on the other hand, seem to get a free pass from you.

What you as a user can do to fix this is to try to be more fair in your criticisms and apply them to people who are left of center also. For example, when a feminist crosses the line into misandry, you have an ethical responsibility to call them out on it, not turn a blind eye simply because you share a lot of the other values. (Yes, misandry is a real thing, and we do occasionally see it on MetaFilter.) How would you feel if one of your male friends ignored misogynist statements simply because it was one of his friends who said it? Because that's how I feel when I see this double standard applied here.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:11 PM on October 26, 2012


What you as a user can do to fix this is to try to be more fair in your criticisms and apply them to people who are left of center also. For example, when a feminist crosses the line into misandry, you have an ethical responsibility to call them out on it, not turn a blind eye simply because you share a lot of the other values.

I see plenty of instances of this happening.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:22 PM on October 26, 2012


Another thing people might do to help is to flag the most egregious examples of pile-on behavior (however they personally define 'em) with "noise", "derail", or "other". I've seen the mods drop cool-it-guys warnings into threads before, so getting their attention when things start to go awry may help.
posted by vorfeed at 1:31 PM on October 26, 2012


vorfeed: "zarq doesn't post about certain issues anymore, explicitly because people just pile-on rather than discussing them reasonably."

Miko: "Zarq seems to locate the problem in the vociferousness with which people disagreed. The only common denominator is that the opinions expressed met with a lot of disagreement. Some opinions do! It's not crazy to reassess your participation based on your changing feelings or the reception of your opinion on a topic. Zarq is not saying "no one should discuss this," and the mods are not saying "this should not ever be discussed on MeFi" so I'm having a hard time spotting a problem that isn't zarq's individual decision to opt out of discussions that get stressful for him."

Miko, vorfeed is (mostly) correct. Please know that y'all can always ask me to expand upon any comment I've made, rather than make assumptions.

My problem is not with "the vociferousness with which people disagreed." That makes it sound like I have a problem with heated discussions, and I don't as long as they're not devolving into personal attacks.

Nor did I say in that comment or any other in this thread that I am opting out of discussions about circumcision because they are "too stressful" to me. Is that something someone else said in this thread? Because I didn't say that at all. I complained that people are using Metafilter as a bullhorn instead of as a discussion board. Of broadcasting their opinions in comments unidirectionally and deliberately not listening to others. Which I think is a terrible way to participate here.

Regarding, "opinions expressed met with a lot of disagreement": I don't have a problem speaking with and discussing ideas with folks who disagree with me. I've had my mind changed on many things by the discussions on this website. I've learned, honed, adjusted and changed opinions on countless topics. I don't want to live in a bubble. It would be horribly boring in there. :)

I am opting out of discussions about circumcision (and will no longer create posts on the subject) because to many mefites those threads are not places to discuss the topic, but rather a space where they can rant about 'baby mutilation' to the exclusion of all other opinions and perspectives. Where they can depict folks like me as caricatures rather than listen and have a conversation.

You're right that I'm not saying, "no one should discuss this" or "this should not ever be discussed on Mefi." And yes, I've made a personal decision about this which is not necessarily representative of all of MeFi. But I'm not the only one, either.
posted by zarq at 1:37 PM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I see plenty of instances of this happening.

In that case, can you please link to some here? I'm not saying that you're lying, EmpressCallipygos (although I disagree with you frequently, I respect the fact that you always try to argue in good faith), but it's hard for me to believe that Miko has ever called out a feminist for misandry, so I hope you can understand my skepticism. I would be happy to be proven wrong, however - in fact, it would make me feel more positive about MetaFilter as a whole.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:37 PM on October 26, 2012


in practice the only dumb ideas subject to pile-ons are the ones that are right of center, whereas dumb ideas that are left of center get ignored.

Most recently, you can search the site for reactions to "Jill Stein" or "Green Party" to see people getting real mad about left-wingers.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:40 PM on October 26, 2012


I can join with you in agreeing that most pile-ons should be cut short.

But I think I'm just not convinced that the site has a problem with silencing diverse voices. The argument isn't convincing, the evidence is ambiguous, I don't share your point of view, I haven't been swayed toward sharing it.

Completely insane, right? If I posted something that stupid but with a conservative slant, I'd be piled on by so many people that I'd still be digging myself out years later.

Iit's a hypothetical so no one can prove what would happen, but I think you could perfectly reasonably object to that idea for all the obvious practical reasons, and I would agree with you. It is a terrible idea; I don't even think it's a 'left of center' idea because it's just not the way our system of law works no matter what your political views are. I don't think you can argue that you would be deleted for a reasonably phrased and non-insulting comment critiquing that idea, and I don't even think you would be piled on for it. I think you would have people, like me, agree with you on it.

It's things like this -- "imagine if I said something like THIS! I'd be pilloried!" that I just tend not to buy. Either you could try saying something like that in a calm and reasoned manner, and find out what happens, which is in this case would definitely not be being pilloried, or you can lob accusations that this is a place these things could never be said. Well, this isn't that place. That critique can be said. So I still don't think you've demonstrated a problem.

I can imagine ways to phrase that critique that would cross the boundaries of MetaFilter discourse into being personally insulting or generally sexist or what have you. But there are plenty of ways you could phrase it that wouldn't, so this isn't the case where the content of the idea is a problem in and of itself. We have to differentiate between opinion and choices made in the expression of the opinion.

when a feminist crosses the line into misandry, you have an ethical responsibility to call them out on it

This happens frequently. It just happened a bunch in the Simple Question? thread, where people were calling out misandry in comments characterizing men as sex-crazed, and similar. Happens all the time. I think it's debatable whether a given person has an "ethical responsibility" (how do you know what my ethics are?), but it is a good idea and laudable, if you are an egalitarian, to call out misandry when others use it. It might be a bit of a leap from "good idea" to "ethical obligation," especially when you're only obligating someone else to behave ethically, rather than yourself.
posted by Miko at 1:45 PM on October 26, 2012


I'm not saying that you're lying, EmpressCallipygos (although I disagree with you frequently, I respect the fact that you always try to argue in good faith), but it's hard for me to believe that Miko has ever called out a feminist for misandry, so I hope you can understand my skepticism.

Miko literally just beat me to mentioning a thread when many people were called out for misandry. I was called out for misandry in a MeTa a few threads down.

Although, I find it curious that when I say that I've seen plenty of cases of people calling out other people for misndry, you challenge me to provide examples of when a specific person has done that. If you want specific exampes of when Miko has done that, perhaps you should ask her.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:48 PM on October 26, 2012


I also want to know if miko has called a feminist out for sperm jacking, which is a totally serious real-life problem that needs to be criticized just as much as other real-life problems.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:48 PM on October 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Of broadcasting their opinions in comments unidirectionally and deliberately not listening to others. Which I think is a terrible way to participate here.

I'm still unclear how this relates to vorfeed's ideas. Vorfeed would seem to want a place where those people are free and encouraged to continue to bullhorn opinions, with or without listening to others. Listening, and the reaction of others, seem unimportant to him - his critiques seem to actually be about the reactions of others, not the person stating those opinions. He would, then, want your reaction to those bullhorn opinions to continue trying to engage with them, to take them seriously each new time they are mounted and patiently explain your point of view, and welcome this opportunity to be exposed to diverse views, each and every time it's offered.

So I do think I understand your objections, but the fact that you would rather have a cumulative discourse governed by reasoned argument doesn't jibe well with the idea that people should be able to repeatedly trumpet opinions of any kind, even when no one wants to engage in reasoned discourse about them, or perhaps encounter them at all.
posted by Miko at 1:50 PM on October 26, 2012


it's hard for me to believe that Miko has ever called out a feminist for misandry, so I hope you can understand my skepticism.

I'm sorry your impression of me is that shallow, but of course I've done that. For ages, on and offline. You don't know me very well.
posted by Miko at 1:51 PM on October 26, 2012


MIKO IT'S ALL COME DOWN TO YOU, IF YOU CAN PROVE YOURSELF BY LINKING TO YOU BERATING A MISANDRIST THEN FEMINISM WINS FOREVER

DON'T LET US DOWN MIKO
posted by Greg Nog at 1:57 PM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Too late, Greg Nog, I already fell for it...
August 17, 2012: I would personally be very comfortable with people calling out misandry when they see it. Even though it rankles a little bit to have to set the example all the time or be called a hypocrite, and even though getting combatively legalistic about all following the same new rules is sort of a classic response to having to change behavior, it's fair to expect people committed to egalitarianism to join you in condemning misandry.

January 3, 2005: [In a thread talking about blue collar men] There is so much stereotyping in this thread...it's no wonder that most of you express frustration with relationships. You're thinking about gender relations in such simplistic ways. Better to act as individual, and relate to other in the world as the individual that you are, than explain your relationship experience away with "women want this" and "men always that".

July 17, 2008: I often think our culture does men a real disservice in not defining manliness as something more on the order of those qualities [Respectful of his wife and his marriage, good father, hardworking, reflective, principled, well connected to others, sense of humor, impulse toward constant growth, humble, and strong in self-knowledge] and something less on the order of "inarticulate gorilla handyman."
I am sure I can find more calling-out of misandry, but I don't want to devote a lot of time to the project of revisting my more than 15,000 comments in eight years of participation to re-locate them. I make some mistakes now and then - was properly called out in that same thread for making an unsupportable generalization about womens' experience - but I've never been anything other than a committed egalitarian feminist.
posted by Miko at 2:12 PM on October 26, 2012


Although, I find it curious that when I say that I've seen plenty of cases of people calling out other people for misndry, you challenge me to provide examples of when a specific person has done that.

Well, I'm confused also. For example, here Miko is talking about specifics here:

It's a hypothetical so no one can prove what would happen, but I think you could perfectly reasonably object to that idea for all the obvious practical reasons, and I would agree with you. It is a terrible idea; I don't even think it's a 'left of center' idea because it's just not the way our system of law works no matter what your political views are.

So if I understand this right, Miko's hypothesis seems to be that it's okay to have somebody make an insane left-wing misandrist comment on metafilter and not get called out on it because Miko - one specific person - would agree with me, and if she had been there, she would have called out that person. I find that to be a curious conflation, because my example was meant to illustrate a general problem in Metafilter - namely, the fact that liberal claptrap is allowed to exist virtually unchallenged, while conservative claptrap is roundly mocked. It seems illogical to let Miko use the case of what she - one specific individual - would hypothetically have done as a rebuttal for an example of a systemic problem.

So fine, I can play that game too. If we're going to focus on specific individuals rather than general-case behaviors, then I challenge anybody to find one example of Miko calling out a feminist for misandry, to substantiate her claim that she would not have turned a blind eye to this. However, you apparently can't seem to do that either - when I try to drill down to Miko's specific track record on the subject, you instead change the subject to generalities and talk about other Mefites who have called out misandrists.

So which is it? Do you want to talk about specifics or generalities? Because when I talk about general issues and you say they're not a problem because of Miko's specific behavior, and then I switch to focusing on Miko's specific behavior and you mock me for focusing on specific people instead of looking at general issues, it comes off to me as very evasive.

If we're talking about specifics, then I want an example - just one example - of Miko calling somebody out for misandry.

If we're talking about generalities, then I'd like to know why somebody could make an insanely misandrist suggestion and have it go almost unchallenged. Or does this not seem like a problem to you?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:22 PM on October 26, 2012


nope.
posted by elizardbits at 2:30 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did this really turn into a conversation about misandry? Wow.
posted by koeselitz at 2:38 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


inorite? wasn't it supposed to be a huggy thread about how we've all become better people?

guess we should go die forever from irony now.
posted by elizardbits at 2:40 PM on October 26, 2012


Wow like you're surprised it took so long?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:40 PM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Miko, in none of these examples do you appear to be calling out another user for misandry (or even a specific person). All you're doing is making general observations about men.

What I'm talking about is something more along the lines of how a user says something misandrist and you tell them "No, that is bigoted and it is not OK to say that."

You know, exactly the same thing you would want a man to say if somebody said something misogynist in his presence.

As for you, Elizardbits, thank you for exemplifying the problem so succinctly.

Anyway, koeselitz is right - this is turning into a derail. I'm out, but you can feel free to follow up with me through memail if you want to pursue this.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:41 PM on October 26, 2012


I decided to be the change I wanted to see in the world, so I started Jackin' Sprem and Killin' Men. And Miko ain't said shit about it, which is kind of messed up.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:41 PM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


LIST OF ITEMS FOREVER DENIED TO METAFILTER:

01. nice things
02. img tag
03. dinosaur shirts apparently (sob)
posted by elizardbits at 2:41 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


almost nobody criticized the idea - instead, they supported the commenter's other points, while studiously ignoring the insane parts of her thesis. You know why?

No, I don't like to guess at people's motivations. What did the people in that thread say was the reason for ignoring comments like that?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:41 PM on October 26, 2012


Miko: "I'm still unclear how this relates to vorfeed's ideas. Vorfeed would seem to want a place where those people are free and encouraged to continue to bullhorn opinions, with or without listening to others. Listening, and the reaction of others, seem unimportant to him - his critiques seem to actually be about the reactions of others, not the person stating those opinions. He would, then, want your reaction to those bullhorn opinions to continue trying to engage with them, to take them seriously each new time they are mounted and patiently explain your point of view, and welcome this opportunity to be exposed to diverse views, each and every time it's offered.

So I do think I understand your objections, but the fact that you would rather have a cumulative discourse governed by reasoned argument doesn't jibe well with the idea that people should be able to repeatedly trumpet opinions of any kind, even when no one wants to engage in reasoned discourse about them, or perhaps encounter them at all.
"

I could be wrong, but I'm not convinced that's what she's saying. She's said at least twice that we should encourage discussion, even on topics we might find offensive, rather than shouting people down, piling on them and silencing them for having an opinion we disagree with.

If so, that definitely relates to my original point.

See: "Open discussion is how we decide which ideas we should accept -- without this continuous process we'd be stuck in a feedback loop of old, safe ideas. You seem to think that we've reached a pinnacle of understanding, and are therefore safe to set aside ideas which strike us as offensive, but I think we have a long way yet to go... if we keep talking."

and

"We can choose to engage other people's arguments even when we strongly disagree with them, rather than jumping in with the tenth comment in a row which amounts to "you're wrong because you're bad and wrong!" We can even choose to discourage the latter behavior rather than discouraging the expression of "bad" opinions [...] All I'm really asking is for people to let up a little, and to err on the side of encouraging people to talk"."

Now, I don't know if necessarily agree with her in all cases. I definitely think there are opinions that we shouldn't treat respectfully or give the time of day. Blatant racism sexism or antisemitism, for example.
posted by zarq at 2:43 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


elizardbits: have I got the shirt for you
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:45 PM on October 26, 2012


that is not a good shirt for ladies though.

well, not unless my national non-fatal stabbing amnesty day bill passes in congress
posted by elizardbits at 2:46 PM on October 26, 2012


wolfdreams01: “Anyway, koeselitz is right - this is turning into a derail. I'm out, but you can feel free to follow up with me through memail if you want to pursue this.”

I didn't really mean that; sorry if it sounded like disapprobation. I was just surprised, that's all. I'm actually interested to read this thread to see how we got here. When I have time later tonight, that's what I'll do. I'd been generally following this in Recent Activity, but kind of lost the plot some time yesterday.
posted by koeselitz at 2:50 PM on October 26, 2012


I'm still unclear how this relates to vorfeed's ideas. Vorfeed would seem to want a place where those people are free and encouraged to continue to bullhorn opinions, with or without listening to others. Listening, and the reaction of others, seem unimportant to him - his critiques seem to actually be about the reactions of others, not the person stating those opinions. He would, then, want your reaction to those bullhorn opinions to continue trying to engage with them, to take them seriously each new time they are mounted and patiently explain your point of view, and welcome this opportunity to be exposed to diverse views, each and every time it's offered.

In this case zarq is the one with the minority opinion, and the bullhorn people are the ones who are piling on. So they are the ones who are expected to engage with zarq and to take his opinions seriously, rather than just yelling at him until he quits talking. One person is not a pile-on.

Second, like I said above, I don't think there's a good way to draw bright lines between offended people and offensive people. We are all both (and the worst messes seem to happen when both sides feel offended). I do think the site would be a lot better if everyone tried to present disagreement and react to it in a reasonable manner, no matter what "side" they're on. I've locked horns with zarq plenty of times, and I think he has been pretty good at doing exactly that.

the fact that you would rather have a cumulative discourse governed by reasoned argument doesn't jibe well with the idea that people should be able to repeatedly trumpet opinions of any kind, even when no one wants to engage in reasoned discourse about them, or perhaps encounter them at all.

If you really don't want to talk about something, there is a very easy remedy for that. Piling-on does nothing but drag the conversation out, and is just a reward of attention for those who truly are just trolling.

btw, I am female.
posted by vorfeed at 2:52 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Guys I missed what happened did Miko successfully Feminism or can these men get freed from the Sperm Mines yet
posted by shakespeherian at 2:58 PM on October 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


"What I'm talking about is something more along the lines of how a user says something misandrist and you tell them "No, that is bigoted and it is not OK to say that.""

I was totally about to post a snarky comment saying, "Miko, wolfdreams01's not going to be happy unless you're running around threads shouting, "STOP IT! THAT'S MISANDRIST BIGOTRY!" Attempting to challenge people's points-of-view as incorrect without calling them names isn't going to count."

I guess what I mean to say is, life imitates sarcasm, I win the MeTa for being psychic, and BINGO!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:02 PM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


To possibly derail the derail and theoretically get back on topi-ish, given the snarky humor not deleted in this thread, would I have been okay to suggest the IRL be at Starbucks in shit parade's MeTa thread?
(when people were joking about writing a song for it, etc, and blanketing all parts of metafilter)

Just honestly wondering. My sense of humor has gotten me into trouble elsewhere.
posted by Michele in California at 3:25 PM on October 26, 2012


Yeah, how many times? How much of your MetaFilter life are you willing to devote to doing this to the same tired old-school opinions? How much do you think others should give to that effort? How often can we afford to do this? 12 times a year? 24? 50? 100?

I did the math and the answer is 522.

Seriously, if you're sick of seeing the same old arguments, you're free to ignore them. I don't know that responding with SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUPGRARRRRRR!! with 20 of your buddies is any better. Actually, I do know that it's not better. It's worse: It derails threads, starts Metas, and generally accomplishes nothing but making the pile-on-ers feel good about themselves at the expense of the poor fool who stepped in somebody's sacred cow pie. Just start a different line of discussion if you're sick of the same old same old. Why is that difficult?

How much collective MeFi energy should go to hashing out why the same old dumb opinions are dumb rather than moving on to other new and interesting topics that we haven't done yet? Which of those two activities is likelier to actually reveal a greater diversity of ideas?

How much GRAR must be stoked? Actually, I do think being able to "rehash" arguments already made, understanding that not every member is present for every argument, can lead to a greater diversity of discussion, as opposed to sticking to some agenda of pre-approved, "safe" opinions on safe topics, whatever those are -- can we get a list??

There are many folks here, myself included, who believe that the GRAR pile-ons not only lead to a chilling effect on controversial topics but also engender a lot of hurt feelings.

Sure you want your clubhouse of like-minded individuals. It's human nature -- tribalism and all that. But it's not good for Metafilter.
posted by LordSludge at 3:30 PM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Miko: "He would, then, want your reaction to those bullhorn opinions to continue trying to engage with them, to take them seriously each new time they are mounted and patiently explain your point of view, and welcome this opportunity to be exposed to diverse views, each and every time it's offered. "

I do this on Mefi on a regular basis on several topics with people who are not treating threads like a bullhorn. Some aspects of Judaism. Israel and the Palestinians. Sexual and domestic abuse. Some aspects of feminism, gender equality and women's rights. Abortion. Rather than repeating the same arguments over and over, I will sometimes link to comments I've made previously and try to expand upon them.

I do try to be patient. I'm not always successful. And yeah, I know I come across as an asshole sometimes. I hope it's not too often, but I know it happens because sometimes I look back at my comments and cringe. I've sent quiet notes to folks in memail over the years when I've felt in retrospect that I was being too much of an ass. But more importantly, I've learned a lot by trying to be patient and doing my best to listen to people, even when I disagree with them. An unexamined life isn't worth living, imo.

So yes, the sexism discussions (for example) happen every few months. In part because not everyone was present when the last ones happened. Or they weren't convinced by previous arguments. Or because a given situation is different this time around. Or simply because reasonable people are gonna disagree and that's the nature of a diverse community. But in my humble opinion, that's a feature, not a bug.
posted by zarq at 3:38 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


So fine, I can play that game too. If we're going to focus on specific individuals rather than general-case behaviors, then I challenge anybody to find one example of Miko calling out a feminist for misandry, to substantiate her claim that she would not have turned a blind eye to this. However, you apparently can't seem to do that either - when I try to drill down to Miko's specific track record on the subject, you instead change the subject to generalities and talk about other Mefites who have called out misandrists.

....Um, because I didn't know you WERE talking about someone specific.

If we're talking about generalities, then I'd like to know why somebody could make an insanely misandrist suggestion and have it go almost unchallenged. Or does this not seem like a problem to you?

Of course it's a problem if someone said something misandrist and it doesn't get challenged. But that is a thing that doesn't happen. And we've given you examples of when it has happened.

So which is it? Do you want to talk about specifics or generalities?

Actually, I'd rather go make some beet soup and cheese pasties.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:43 PM on October 26, 2012


Ugh. I don't even know what we're talking about any more. I doubt we have even a little bit of agreement about who "them" is. But "they" should definitely stop it. Because it's terrible! All of it!

Some people are always engaging earnestly, and some people are always trying to draw attention to themselves and stir up trouble. I guess the world will always be with us, late and soon. Maybe things never really will get any better than they are now.

But if anyone sees some misandry, send up the bat-signal, 'cause I am so on that shit!
posted by Miko at 3:53 PM on October 26, 2012


I think we are talking about the lack of union representation in the sperm mines.
posted by elizardbits at 4:09 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think we are talking about the lack of union representation in the sperm mines.

I believe there is a team of the Brotherhood of Onanists International tunneling into the Transovarian Mountains as we speak.
posted by Forktine at 4:17 PM on October 26, 2012


I love the old sperm mining songs. So haunting.
posted by Miko at 4:24 PM on October 26, 2012


DON'T FAP, ORGANIZE!
posted by elizardbits at 4:28 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love the old sperm mining songs. So haunting.

I am so offended that the music of my people's struggles has been appropriated as entertainment by women.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:31 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


See, this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. If a woman mentions misogyny on MetaFilter, it's taken seriously and generally supported with a ton of GRAR towards the offender. But when a man mentions misandry, it's met with derision and jokes involving genitals. (Which would be completely unacceptable if the genders were reversed.)

Nope, no double standards here! None whatsoever.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 4:31 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


frysquint
posted by elizardbits at 4:36 PM on October 26, 2012


I hate men. They are terrible.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:40 PM on October 26, 2012


I love the old sperm mining songs. So haunting.

Like this one?

come and listen, you fellers,
so young and so fine
and seek not your fortune
in the sticky sperm mines
it'll form as a habit
in your brain like a worm
til the blood in your veins
runs as white as the sperm...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:40 PM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, but to answer the question originally posed in this thread: I have recently stopped spending time laying out patient arguments to people who have demonstrated a lack of desire to listen to arguments.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:44 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


See, this is the kind of thing I'm talking about.

...So....when you say "misandry"....you're talking about goofy jokes?

You equate several millennia of institutional suppression of the lives of an entire class of people with jokes about "the sperm mines"?

Um. Okay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:58 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Systematic oppression by Big Vagina.
posted by elizardbits at 5:00 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


What, no sense of humor? Smile!
posted by Miko at 5:03 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Which would be completely unacceptable if the genders were reversed.)

[facepalm]

But they AREN'T reversed. They AREN'T. As in... ARE NOT.

yeesh.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:06 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Systematic oppression by Big Vagina.

I don't think I have ever laughed harder at something on this site.

Those poor sperm miners, trudging home from work with white-stained faces, forced to shop at the Big Vag company store.
posted by Forktine at 5:21 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't see what's so difficult to understand about "Treat others the way you would want to be treated." Or "If you want respect, you have to give it."

I came onto this thread, treated everybody respectfully, and even apologized the one time that I accidentally said something snarky. In return I get mocked and made fun of, simply because the issue I referenced involved disrespect towards men rather than women.

Yes, this is exactly what misandry is. It's just misogyny with the gender reversed. And Miko, I don't exactly see you calling anybody out for it. Quite the opposite, in fact - you joined in.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 5:25 PM on October 26, 2012


I don't see what's so difficult to understand about "Treat others the way you would want to be treated."

There's nothing difficult to understand. That's a totally great way to be.

treated everybody respectfully

No you didn't, and you know it. You presumed bad faith and you were nasty about it and made a bunch of accusatory comments. Now you're trying to take the high road. Pffft.

Miko, I don't exactly see you calling anybody out for it

There is fun being made, but the fun being made is of people who make exaggerated claims of misandry.

Or if this is the bat signal, No, that is bigoted and it is not OK to say that.
posted by Miko at 5:31 PM on October 26, 2012


Yes, this is exactly what misandry is.

It's really not, though. It is a bunch of people taking you, personally, and the claims you are making not all that seriously. Disrespect is not hate, and disrespect towards an individual is not hating a class of individuals. You've made a bunch of broad claims, not really engaged with any of the counter-arguments, and you've done this with a history of being condescending and contemptuous on this site. People are responding accordingly.

(And since it was the concrete example you mentioned (although you didn't link it, so I am not sure I've seen it,) we have had the occasional people make overbroad assertions about burden of proof before, and they've been challenged. When they've been sincere, that is, and not a deliberate mischaracterization of what the claimant seems to believe is the Official Feminist Position. Since you didn't cite the more recent example, I can't talk about it in any more detail.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:34 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


vorfeed: ""What I'm talking about is something more along the lines of how a user says something misandrist and you tell them "No, that is bigoted and it is not OK to say that.""

Oooh oooh ooh! I DO THAT! I do that all the time. And I get flack for it, too.

the young rope-rider: "I also want to know if miko has called a feminist out for sperm jacking, which is a totally serious real-life problem that needs to be criticized just as much as other real-life problems."

OMG, thank you for injecting that humor, it was much needed and appreciated. I had to clean my monitor after I read it because I spit out my Coke Zero, but it was worth it.

Seriously, though, Miko, you are a great debater, but you certainly weren't being very fair upthread. I mean, you repeatedly asked vorfeed for specific examples of people that left :

As I said - I can see the evidence for people objecting to certain kinds of content, and I can see the evidence for them leaving. Please show your evidence for a significant number of individuals leaving for the explicit reason that discourse became too narrow.

What is the evidence of people who have left the site because their opinions were really unwelcome? What's your evidence that "offensive" opinions aren't welcome if you can't tell us what they are?

But then, when she gave you some, you misrepresented zarq's position (thank you, zarq, for coming into the thread and setting that straight!), and you said this:

I don't see the point of enlisting people who were banned as evidence.

Well, then, why did you ask for them in the first place?!

Making fun of vorfeed for doing essentially the same thing you just did with the specific examples was just sucky behavior. This is me, calling you on it

And then, with this summation:

Miko: "I'm still unclear how this relates to vorfeed's ideas. Vorfeed would seem to want a place where those people are free and encouraged to continue to bullhorn opinions, with or without listening to others. Listening, and the reaction of others, seem unimportant to him - his critiques seem to actually be about the reactions of others, not the person stating those opinions."

That's not at all a fair representation of what vorfeed has said in this thread! She's been asking for respect, civil discourse and people being mindful of pile-ons by ANY majority, so that we can feel free to discuss ANY topic, or ANY opinion, without worrying about bullying or derailing. I agree with that. It may be a pipe dream, but it's our pipe dream, damn it.

Where has she ever suggested we shouldn't listen to others? Where has she said she doesn't care how people react? Come on.

And finally, could you stop referring to vorfeed as HE and HIM? She's a woman that identifies as a woman, and all you have to do is check her profile to get the pronoun right. Is that so hard?

Now feel free to go ahead and get back to all the sperm jacking, ya'll, because I love the term but I honestly have no clue what it means.
posted by misha at 5:39 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those poor sperm miners, trudging home from work with white-stained faces, forced to shop at the Big Vag company store.

YES exhausted and slimy and they smell like a thousand jock straps, and they just want food for their families and little jimmy needs a new cane because there was no money for polio vaccinations and ALL THEY HAVE IS THIS WORTHLESS VAGINA SCRIP.
posted by elizardbits at 5:42 PM on October 26, 2012


wolfdreams01: “I came onto this thread, treated everybody respectfully, and even apologized the one time that I accidentally said something snarky. In return I get mocked and made fun of, simply because the issue I referenced involved disrespect towards men rather than women. Yes, this is exactly what misandry is. It's just misogyny with the gender reversed.”

So, look – still working my way through this thread, but just a brief note:

The idea of a "double standard" is an interestingly complex thing. This is because "standards" themselves have different levels of application. They're dependent on circumstances; context matters. Things that are wrong in once situation might be right in another. A good example of this dynamic is the relationship between the n word and the word "whitey." They're both racial slurs, and racial slurs are wrong; but because the standard involves the context of historical use, one of those words is a lot more serious than the other. I might, in some circumstances, jokingly use the word "whitey" to refer to myself or to someone else; and I wouldn't even be bothered much if someone else did. But I would never do the same thing with the n word.

I think that's fairly intuitive to a lot of people; this is just part of human nature. We pick up on these things. In simple terms, it's a double standard – using one racial slur is worse than using another one – but the double standard is a natural and rational one based in context. The n word has the weight of history behind it. That matters.

I feel as though that relates to what's happening here. From what I can tell, people are riffing on the historical treatment women have had to put up with and the sometimes ridiculous things one hears from the men's rights movement about misandry. There is some laxity about such riffing, and I think that's necessary because of where the weight of history lies.

What's happening here is not what misandry is. It's mockery of the hue and cry about 'misandry' that often goes up in these conversations; it's not mockery of men in general, and I don't even think it's really directed toward you principally, for what it's worth. Yes, if this were about women, it would be different; that's because the weight of history is behind misogyny.
posted by koeselitz at 6:01 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


At this point I get a distinctly pot-stirring feeling. And my eyes are throbbing from all the bold type!!! In case you didn't see it here it is again!!! But,

when she gave you some, you misrepresented zarq's position

I still think zarq's position isn't exactly vorfeed's position, unless I really misunderstand vorfeed. Zarq said

I do this on Mefi on a regular basis on several topics with people who are not treating threads like a bullhorn.

While I continue to see vorfeed as speaking NOT for people who are offering calm and reasoned points of view which are just divergent, but people who are using the proverbial bullhorn: offering statements which are intended to rile, and not listening to the arguments. I may be wrong that vorfeed is defending those people. If vorfeed just wants a calm, reasoned MetaFilter with a decent range of points of view, I also want that. I pressed for examples because I was unclear whether that was what she wanted.

My perception was that what she wanted was a place where bullhorns were welcome, where people with strong unpopular opinions could continue to interject them without regard for the conversation going on around them, and expect only quiet engagement in response, but not a pile-on, because that would unfairly stifle the bullhorn opinion. I have a hard time understanding exactly how many people can quietly and respectfully engage an odious opinion before it is considered a pile-on - three? twenty? fifty? - but this is what I think is being suggested would be a good response to a bullhorn.

Well, then, why did you ask for them in the first place?!

I didn't; I asked for people who had left.

She's been asking for respect, civil discourse and people being mindful of pile-ons by ANY majority, so that we can feel free to discuss ANY topic, or ANY opinion, without worrying about bullying or derailing

I'm in agreement with that entire sentence except for the ANY part. Like zarq, who said

I definitely think there are opinions that we shouldn't treat respectfully or give the time of day. Blatant racism sexism or antisemitism, for example.

...I don't think ANY opinion at all is worth including, defending, or engaging with on MetaFilter. And I am perceiving vorfeed as arguing that racist, sexist, and antisemetic opinions should be allowed on MetaFilter, and just calmly talked back to, no matter how often or where they appear. They should not be subjected to pile-ons but should be patiently engaged by other users, who will peacefully attempt to explain why Jews are human beings, for instance. This is not a vision of MetaFilter I can embrace or promote.

There are some opinions I think are unworthy of being on MetaFilter, and I think the community is justified in declaring some of them out of bounds. That is my entire point in this thread: that I can certainly imagine many opinions that do not belong here and do not make the site better. I'm not in favor of a completely open, no-holds-barred speech policy on MetaFilter because it seems to make the site worse and, in fact, less diverse than it otherwise might be. That's my view and my argument.

The difference between vorfeed's point of view and mine is the ANY.

I like to think that, despite my growing impatience, most of the time I take the zarq angle. I've actually spent more hours and words engaged with people whose opinions I find offensive than I think most others on this site have; it'd be hard to argue that I haven't. Most of the time I'm downright civil. I don't swear at people, I don't lob insults, and the worst that happens is I give a little snark if I'm getting dissed. I'm pretty patient, and I've done a lot of careful explaining.

And finally, could you stop referring to vorfeed as HE and HIM?

What do you mean, "stop?" I didn't know what gender vorfeed identifies with until she said it. I learned it, and I no longer called vorfeed "he," or "him." Problem solved, I think. Right? As she said, she can take care of herself.

I love the term but I honestly have no clue what it means.

I didn't either. I had to Google it, and the kinds of sites I had to read to find out what it was reminded me exactly why I keep sticking my neck out.
posted by Miko at 6:01 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


FWIW, misha, the comment misinterpretation thing is not a big deal to me. It happened, I clarified myself and corrected the record, and that's the end of that as far as I'm concerned. Miko doesn't misrepresent people on a regular basis that I know of, and in a long thread like this it's easy to mix up people's comments. I've done it myself.
posted by zarq at 6:37 PM on October 26, 2012


No, zarq, you're right. I know that Miko doesn't represent anyone on a regular basis. I called her out on this thread here tonight because I felt she was being unfair in this instance.

And I apologize for the bold, Miko, but with the thread this long I know things get lost, and sometimes it is unclear who is addressing whom, so I wanted to make sure you knew I was referring you, and what my deal was, so that you could respond to it if you wanted to. I recently referred to stoneandstar in a comment and people were asking who I meant.

I still disagree with your interpretation of vorfeed's stance. I think you are reading it uncharitably. I read it as her saying she's more concerned about how users behave toward each other than whether or not their opinions match her personal world view.

That makes sense to me. I know you think that means we will have ugly anti-Semitic comments or hateful misogynist stuff , but I honestly doubt that will happen because I don't think we have many, if any, people here who hold those views in the first place. I really don't. I have more faith in the userbase than that.

But even if we did, making sure that everyone treats others as they would like to be treated ensures that the haters with the ugly views will not be attacking other users, which seems to me to be the salient point.

I suppose we could have trolls, but I doubt that, too. Trolls are rarely willing to cough up that initial $5 and patiently wait before commenting, and then behave civilly toward others. That's kinda the antithesis of what trolls do. Besides, I was always told that actually the best way to get rid of a troll is to ignore them, anyway.
posted by misha at 7:40 PM on October 26, 2012


BEcause I wasn't completely sure any more whether I understood vorfeed's point, I went back and reread very very carefully.

Her earliest comments certainly led me to believe she was looking to create more space and permission for people to behave like jerks. She critiqued a MetaFilter that aimed to be "kinder, gentler, fairer, less angry, or less bullheaded" as a bad thing, and was promoting "vigor" and "inflammation" of the kind found on early Usenet as positive qualities of discourse. She critiqued "safe, pleasant, and non-controversial blandness" and recommended that no opinions should be suppressed "based on content."

There are things about this with which I really do disagree. I think early, small MetaFilter was hostile in different ways than it might be now. Many of my comments in the thread were in reaction to this: I can't agree that MetaFilter was "better" back then.

But I also can't disagree with the more moderate points she makes later. Once she got around to it, she made clear she wasn't interested in moderation changes, and says she "asked people to make two specific changes in the way they argue here. Engaging with people's points and reaching out to approve of good comments" and "refusing to jump into pile-ons with content-free comments." Those are good practices no matter what you think about people whose intent in participating is to inflame.

So in a way, I feel I have been interacting with two vorfeeds. I feel there is a logical inconsistency in wanting more people to air more ideas which include inflammatory ones, but expecting the entire community to resist "piling on" when it's a given that on many issues, a very large majority is going to deplore the inflammatory opinion. Some of what people are condemning as "piling on" is indeed one-off, snarky comments equivalent to everyone getting a punch in when somebody's on the ropes. But there are always going to be times when the opinion aired, because of its own nature, draws a large number of people who disagree and want to say so. Those people are also each entitled to speak, as long as it's substantive, not directly insulting, not snark, etc. But when that's the case you may still have plenty of incidents where the ratio of supporters of the opinion versus detractors is 50:1 or 100:1 or even more asymmetrical. That may be percevied as "pile-on," but it's also just a bunch of reasonable disagreeing and saying so. If the person who was the "1" in that ratio feels that their opinion was "unwelcome" by virtue of hearing from 50, 100 or more people a rejection of their opinion, that's entirely an individual perception, and not something the site community can do anything about.

I agree we're mostly not to that point where 100 rejections are all going to be substantive and respectful, but I point it out just to note that even on the perfect MeFi where all users behave as the angels, and either continue to respectfully engage or increasingly ignore that opinion when it shows up again, it will still be possible for a person with an unpopular opinion to feel frozen out. I think we need to be comfortable saying "that's on you."

Finally, there's also a fatigue that sets in. Even if everyone is angelic, it's true that many of us have dealt with the same arguments over and over during 10 years, and lose either the patience for or the relish of that particular discussion. Earlier this fall, for instance,I made the final decision that I will no longer engage seriously arguments for full civil libertarianism. It's patently not a viable political philosophy and I have no further interest in breaking that down, as it's an entirely repetitive exercise. However, new generations of people will continue to become infatuated with the topic and will want to bring it up and discuss it energetically. While it's predictable that will happen, I won't engage. I offer this as just a recognition that people grow out of discussing certain topics at the freshman level. There are many people over the years who have left the site, and at least some of those have done so, or just dropped off in frequency, not because of the nature of discourse or the range of opnions but because they've just outgrown the discussion of these topics at this level. Freshman-level discourse on a topic is no longer energizing, vigorous, or fascinating when you are familiar already with the litany of classic arguments and counterarguments on each side, a rich historiography, the works of thinkers on the topic, yadda yadda yadda. Sometimes users are just ready for a more serious challenge in these debates than what will be available, generally, here. And that is a completely valid reason to move on or reduce participation. It's fine. I don't see that as reason for angst, and I think it's helpful to actually acknowledge that it happens. We don't stay the same forever, and we're not fascinated or surprised forever about arguments on familiar topics. People will leave just because the more repetition they see, the less interested they get.

So in sum, yes, we agree on a lot, but there will still be emergent norms, and there will still be asymmetric divisions of opinion, and that's normal for any human community. Those symmetries will possibly change gradually over time as new opinions are slowly accepted and old opinions recur less and less. I don't see the sky falling here, and no emergency, and don't really accept a decline narrative, but it can't hurt to say that people should not be assholes or bullies when they comment, which is what this seems to boil down to.
posted by Miko at 7:52 PM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


the thread this long I know things get lost

Don't worry about me; I'm very good at reading.

Miko doesn't represent anyone

Zarq said misrepresent. I guess you knew that.

There are different kinds of trolls. Some people are community members who also enjoy getting people het up and hopping around. It's not hard to do in a place where people are being earnest. I agree our userbase is mostly pretty chill, but in my years here I'm afraid I have seen some nasty things aired, so I'm not as completely sanguine as you.
posted by Miko at 7:52 PM on October 26, 2012


But even if we did, making sure that everyone treats others as they would like to be treated ensures that the haters with the ugly views will not be attacking other users, which seems to me to be the salient point

The problem with this, in the drier community-management sense, is that there are whole classes of views that people, rightly or wrongly, believe are inherently attacking other users. And those are the ones we're talking about here - the ones that are so tightly tied to people's life experience of harm that espousing them tends to get the same reaction as explicit threats of harm. That's why "this wouldn't be allowed if it were about women/gay people/black people/whatever" is a flawed and usually useless argument - of course it wouldn't, because those conversations provoke wildly different responses for inarguable reasons.

And so at some point we have to decide where the line is between allowing a variety of viewpoints and permitting an environment that feels actively hostile to groups of people. It's not a bright line, and it's one we're constantly negotiating. But for me, personally, I tend to fall on the side of preferring to ensure historically disadvantaged groups rather than, say, Republicans. This is no doubt at least in part because I'm a member of at least a couple of historically disadvantaged groups - I can't see it from a neutral perspective.

All that is separate from the piling-on issue, which is at least in part a function, as I have said, of having a linear asynchronous conversation between rather a lot of people. I haven't figured out a solution for that one at all.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:58 PM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, ewww, I just googled sperm jacking! Why do I do these things?

Miko doesn't represent anyone

Zarq said misrepresent.


Yep, I typoed the crap out of that one, didn't I? And even with the 5 minute edit window I didn't see it! ARrrrgggh.

I'm right with you on pretty much everything you said in your last comment though, Miko.

Do we get an Achievement Unlocked badge now? I think we could both use one. Woot! Cyber ^5 to us!
posted by misha at 8:02 PM on October 26, 2012


Please, no.
posted by Miko at 8:07 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to thank koeselitz, who, with this comment, expressed much more thoughtfully and articulately what I wished to express in this comment.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:28 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Much obliged, friend. Much obliged.
posted by koeselitz at 10:31 PM on October 26, 2012


I am utterly surprised to see a MeTa I made quoted as "an example of the system working the way it is supposed to work": A user didn't like something, went through the system, emailing the mods and making a Meta saying why. She participated in good faith, got the feedback that the rest of the community disagreed with her, Bob's your uncle, the system worked.

--from the member who posted these comments in that MeTa I made here and here - that second one was one of the most inflammatory comments in that thread. It was especially uncharitable, and let's be frank: it was mean.

So, you know, I'm beyond confused. You seem to be quite often preaching all over MeFi/MeTa what you do not practice. If your idea of "the system working" is to personally pile-on, pick apart, assume what you want to read instead of what is actually there, and miscontrue someone who is, in your own words "participat[ing] in good faith", I will have to disagree with you.
posted by flex at 11:35 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


So in a way, I feel I have been interacting with two vorfeeds. I feel there is a logical inconsistency in wanting more people to air more ideas which include inflammatory ones, but expecting the entire community to resist "piling on" when it's a given that on many issues, a very large majority is going to deplore the inflammatory opinion.

It's not a logical inconsistency at all. One can deplore something and still choose to either ignore it or disagree with it in a reasonable manner, especially when doing so ensures the ability to speak one's own opinions in turn. I agree with LordSludge -- grar accomplishes nothing.

As I said above, my personal views on whether opinions should be suppressed based on content go a lot further than what I've asked of the site... but that's because Metafilter is Not My Fucking Blog™, not because there are "two vorfeeds".
posted by vorfeed at 1:17 AM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jeebus H. Christ on a popsicle stick in the rain, at this point I wish vorfeed would just go ahead and AIR these opinions (Suppressable, Based On Content™), and then we'll start to see whether or not they're even worthy of discussing, much less piling onto. I mean, honestly, this has become an argument with absolutely nothing at the center.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:24 AM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


making sure that everyone treats others as they would like to be treated

Holy high ambition! That's a lofty goal of which even Jesus would approve. I am humbled to be even peripherally involved in a discussion where such phrasing gets dropped ... and better yet, nobody seems to take issue.
posted by philip-random at 1:38 AM on October 27, 2012


I think two things are true: Metafilter can't really be all things to all people, and if you participate here long enough, it is almost certain that you personally will be offended by either some isolated remarks or popular sentiments (I certainly have). We do have people who leave, often because of arguments about feminism/sexism, for example, and they are on both sides of the fence. Some feminists leave because they feel that discussion here is too sexist or welcoming of anti-feminist viewpoints, and some people leave because they feel that discussion here is too feminist and unwelcoming of dissenting viewpoints. Neither are wrong. For them, the balance here doesn't feel fair or welcoming or safe, or whatever the specific thing is that they are seeking in a community site.

With rare exceptions, we don't like to see people leave, but also feel like it's a perfectly valid choice to make for people who feel frustrated here. We are comfortable being a site that is expressly welcoming to many groups that are often marginalized and oppressed in society, while yet never promising to be a "safe site" where one will never be exposed to ideas, arguments or remarks that are antithetical or challenging to a given ideology or belief.

I think that the idea of all viewpoints being respectfully and productively expressed, examined and engaged is a wonderful one, but one I've not see play out anywhere that doesn't have some specific limiting factor regarding membership. In reality, completely open communities that don't establish specific guidelines or expectations regarding diversity tend to reflect the demographics of their society, which means that feminist, GLBT, PoC, viewpoints, among others, are likely to be ignored, silenced, smothered or attacked. So, it becomes confusing to talk about minority voices on Metafilter, because this is a group that often represents the majority voice that wields the most power in the real world and/or larger internet. These are not voices that are unwelcome here, but they may suffer some culture shock by not necessarily being the assumptive audience in every discussion, or the standard by which all things are judged... and this can be confusing, and even sort of enraging if it's a new experience.

Some of these people will not ever settle in here, and some will find it easier to adjust over time and become valued participants. It would be great if we gave people the chance to get over bumpy beginnings when that is the case. I think that we can do that without either sacrificing every discussion to 101 levels, or piling on to such a degree that every thread becomes about that one person who isn't on the same page.

And as I said earlier, just about everyone will feel offended here at some point; nobody with feelings is immune from that. There's not necessarily much of an upside when it happens, but I try to view it instructively, to understand how others feel when they are on the dumped-on side of an issue or assumption. It's easier to understand the defensiveness, anger, and exasperation that some people will express when you recall those moments when something you believe or care about is viciously attacked or belittled.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:29 AM on October 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Damn, taz, well said!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:04 AM on October 27, 2012


It's not a logical inconsistency at all. One can deplore something and still choose to either ignore it or disagree with it in a reasonable manner, especially when doing so ensures the ability to speak one's own opinions in turn. I agree with LordSludge -- grar accomplishes nothing.

All due respect, this response doesn't address the charge. The charge is that your two stated desires (tolerance for potentially inflammatory comments in vigorous, sometimes "bullheaded" debate and a diverse user community that continues to want to engage and stays reasonable and calm about it) are functionally incompatible with one another. Taz' comment actually addresses beautifully why it's not usually possible to both have completely open conversation with no boundaries, and also encourage and respect the widest participation. Those are the two things I think are inconsistent.

But only at their extremes. There is a wide swath of good interaction that can happen when there are, in the moderator's toolkit, basic low-end boundaries on both statements that can be made and moderation on participation that helps to prevent a worsening pile-on effect, and in the user's toolkit, self-discipline and respect for others, including judicious decisions about what and what not to bring to MetaFilter.
posted by Miko at 5:29 AM on October 27, 2012


come and listen, you fellers,
so young and so fine
and seek not your fortune
in the sticky sperm mines
it'll form as a habit
in your brain like a worm
til the blood in your veins
runs as white as the sperm...


This machine kills fappists.
posted by kengraham at 9:59 AM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


In reality, completely open communities that don't establish specific guidelines or expectations regarding diversity tend to reflect the demographics of their society, which means that feminist, GLBT, PoC, viewpoints, among others, are likely to be ignored, silenced, smothered or attacked. So, it becomes confusing to talk about minority voices on Metafilter, because this is a group that often represents the majority voice that wields the most power in the real world and/or larger internet.

I know this, but I also know that the cycle of ignoring, silencing, smothering, and attacking will never, ever stop unless we start letting go of the idea that some viewpoints should rightfully be ignored, silenced, smothered, and attacked. This is the assumption which lies behind the idea that open discussion and a diverse userbase are "functionally incompatible" and "inconsistent": people can't agree, and when they don't agree hard enough then they must and even should stop others from talking.

It's a shame that we value this assumption over the things everyone -- especially disliked minorities -- might gain in trying to build a place (and, ultimately, a society) which looks beyond it. This is the engine which drives and validates all forms of oppression, and the extent to which even the left has signed onto it is painful.

You guys seem to think that I brought this up because I sit at home weeping over people who can't come here and say "huh huh make me a sandwich bitch" or "gay people can't marry because then people will start marrying dogs and ice-cream", but those viewpoints are only the most obvious examples of things the userbase doesn't want to hear; they're no more than the price of admission to open discussion, superficial and easily dealt with. It's minority ideas -- and ideas which lie beyond those, ideas which don't even exist yet -- which I'm trying to champion, and that's why I can't just give you a list. I know what some of these ideas are ("cis", for example, or the rejection of anthropocentrism), but for every one I can identify there will always be thousands of ideas which are out past the borders of the map, and can only be discovered by people willing to face dragons.
posted by vorfeed at 1:41 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I respect that position, vorfeed, but as a matter of practicality if you refuse to impose limits on the speech in your community then you end up with Reddit. Which is not... well, ok, it's kind of a knock on Reddit, because I Have Opinions, but Reddit is there, and it is not Metafilter, and they are not intended to be the same thing.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:49 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do we get an Achievement Unlocked badge now? I think we could both use one. Woot! Cyber ^5 to us!

Please, no.


Heh. Okay.

Hey, flex, I went back and read what I wrote in that thread, you know those two comments you linked to? The only two I had in a monstrous thread of some 450 comments?

I stand by them. I was thanked in thread for giving them, and I don't feel they were out of line.

I doubt it was a surprise that so many people disagreed with you, seeing as how you had already run your issue past the mods and they'd already said the same thing.

And I think people were trying to engage with you throughout that thread, not just piling on.
posted by misha at 2:04 PM on October 27, 2012


I would have flagged the same post as flex, I was really grossed out by the way that metatalk thread went, and I do feel your comment was, by your standards, bullying (although I don't subscribe to your standards, which seem to generally only be applied to mean feminists). I guess I didn't round up my imaginary NYC flagging posse in time to get that one deleted, which is a shame.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:02 PM on October 27, 2012


To be clear, I meant the second comment linked to.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:03 PM on October 27, 2012


we formed a posse union and no longer have to bow to your unreasonable flagging demands!
posted by elizardbits at 5:17 PM on October 27, 2012


I don't have a posse but I had a giant baked potato for dinner.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:24 PM on October 27, 2012


respect that position, vorfeed, but as a matter of practicality if you refuse to impose limits on the speech in your community then you end up with Reddit.

I still have to agree with this position. And I'd build on restless_nomad's response by saying that I very much respect your position philosophically, but can't accept it pragmatically. I also think that discussions promoting the neologism "cis" or kink/polyamory or critiques of anthropocentrism, which are not yet majority views here I don't think, are doing well here; they are challenging but interesting and appropriate and not placing a target on anyone for an essential characteristic; and other more currently outré ideas have a future here as well. I don't think that by drawing the line at "make me a sandwich bitch" we're in any way discouraging reasoned presentations of very unusual ideas. On the contrary, in fact. If I go away because someone wanted to make me a sandwich, I won't be around to learn about anthropocentrism.
posted by Miko at 7:35 PM on October 27, 2012


Mods: Turned-off favorites still show for mobile phones -- well at least for my iPhone. Teeny tiny little pony request to fix that?
posted by LordSludge at 8:21 PM on October 27, 2012


Probably best to either drop them a note via the contact form or post a feature request/bug report. Bug reports at the end of 350+ comments threads from a week ago have a strong chance of getting overlooked.
posted by Mitheral at 8:40 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Haha good point, thnx
posted by LordSludge at 8:42 PM on October 27, 2012


Log out then log back in and your new Favorites settings should work.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:58 PM on October 27, 2012


What Burhanistan said. Many parts of mefi user preferences are stored at the cookie level, which means changing the setting from one browser client will not effect a different browser client if it was already logged in.

That said, yes, contact form is a better bet if you want to be sure we see something like this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:31 PM on October 27, 2012


misha: I stand by them. I was thanked in thread for giving them, and I don't feel they were out of line.

I've no idea how you manage to reconcile these statements - all quoted from this very thread we're in right now:
...I have learned through the years that it is productive to have someone take the role of devil's advocate. I've been known to stand up for users with unpopular positions, even when I don't agree with them, because I don't like pile-ons or what I see as dirty tactics being used against them.

...Once I have made my point, I also have to not keep hammering at that person. That's another thing I have to watch out for. if I do, hopefully the mods are going to step in, because now I am bullying another member, who has just as much right to be here as I do. And that's the way it should be.

...That's not at all a fair representation of what vorfeed has said in this thread! She's been asking for respect, civil discourse and people being mindful of pile-ons by ANY majority, so that we can feel free to discuss ANY topic, or ANY opinion, without worrying about bullying or derailing. I agree with that. It may be a pipe dream, but it's our pipe dream, damn it. (emphasis mine)
...with the comments you made in that MeTa thread that you say is an example of "the system working"?

I'll point out in case it isn't clear: I was definitely holding the minority position in that thread. Plenty of people had stated their disagreement, which was fine. People did try to engage with me, I agree. Other people did not. I don't think you did. Your comments were lecturing, and focused on getting to my so-called "real" motives instead of what I actually said. You also took the position that since it wasn't flagged by anyone else, I should never have brought it up at all for discussion - even, again, "in good faith" as you yourself characterized it - and I might add, when I asked the mod on duty if I could take it to MeTa she said that was fine, and I stated I'd asked right up front.

And I wouldn't call that second comment "respectful" or "civil discourse" or "being mindful of pile-ons" by any stretch. It's flat-out bullying.

You say "I was thanked in thread for giving them" but you also say here in this thread:
But now we have these cliques of people deciding what stays and what goes and who's right and who's wrong... And it gets ugly sometimes.
So what I'm concluding is that you're on the side of airing unpopular opinions as long as you agree with them; that you have no problem joining in a majority against an unpopular opinion you don't agree with (that majority thoroughly stated before you added your comments), that even though you made your point in the first comment I linked it was okay to go ahead and hammer it home in the second comment I linked (especially because people agreed with you)?

Let me quote you one more time, from this thread:
Using myself again as an example, my personal bugaboo, the thing that drives me up the wall, is hypocrisy. But I can't just go off and start calling people out for being the dirty lying hypocrites I feel they are in a thread; I have to make my case rationally that, hey, you are coming down hard on people you disagree with for being X and yet, if you look at a, b and c, you have been X yourself in this thread.
...oh. Really?
posted by flex at 8:48 AM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, zarq, you're right. I know that Miko doesn't [mis]represent anyone on a regular basis. I called her out on this thread here tonight because I felt she was being unfair in this instance.

Which is your right, but you used my comment to fuel your personal call out and I really wish you hadn't.

I spent a lot of time wording my two responses to Miko, because I didn't want to give her the impression that I was doing so with any animosity. I could conceivably have come out with both guns blazing, yelling "WTF?" and tried to start an argument. But I didn't. On purpose. What possible good would overwrought language have brought to the table? Especially since I didn't think she misrepresented me deliberately.

My comment was just as strong as I wanted it to be. And covered the exact scope I wanted it to.
posted by zarq at 2:21 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't think that, zarq. It was one of the things that made me go back and review to clarify my understanding.
posted by Miko at 3:15 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm glad.
posted by zarq at 10:14 PM on October 28, 2012


Flex, in that thread, I did try to engage with you, and so did many, many other people, and your reaction was to accuse gman of sexism because you had some weird personal issue with him, something you certainly didn't disclose before you, and ONLY you, flagged his post, erroneously called it not once but several times pornography to try to get people to agree with you, and made a number of passive aggressive attacks against several other people in the thread.

When people asked you what you wanted, and you continued to insist you didn't want any change made to the site while ALSO saying that you thought the post should not link to the front page, objected to the wording, and claimed it had no context to justify it even being posted, grossly misrepresenting your case.

You had also, as I recall, recently just made a Meta, which came up during this one, which asked people to view others' contributions to the site in the most charitable light possible, which I only knew because another Mefite you had a grudge with happened to mention it in the thread.

Oh, and naturally one of the feminist clique I referred to earlier who dominates any thread that so much as mentions sexism made a disparaging, sexist remark to support your position, to the tune of accusing gman of making the post solely because it gave him "a chubbie." That's the kind of laudable behavior the people who are supposedly against sexism engage in, is it?

All of that happened prior to the second comment I made. You may have been in the minority, but it wasn't you getting bullied in that thread.

And yet you will note that, as advertised, I STILL did not call you a filthy, lying hypocrite, or in fact any names, and stated only that I felt you were arrogant, not just for making that post but continuing to go on and on and belabor the point AFTER EVERYONE, INCLUDING THE MODS had already civilly told you that the post didn't break any guidelines and was staying.

There, now that we have compared each other's activity in that thread, if you have a personal problem with me you want to discuss further, take it to MefiMail.
posted by misha at 12:37 AM on October 29, 2012


Does the feminist clique overlap with the NYC clique? Who all is in these cliques? I am dying of curiosity.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:01 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, this is getting confusing and weird, and needs to be directed toward something that we can have a productive site conversation about if we are going to continue with it at all. I don't even know why the old post was brought up here to begin with; apparently something to do with the charge that cliques are determining what is deleted and what isn't – except not in that one case? I still can't really puzzle that out.

Misha, I'd like to ask you to figure out exactly what you are trying to assert in regards to the clique thing which you've mentioned frequently in this discussion, and go ahead and maybe post a clearly stated Metatalk about that instead of making a lot of different unspecified accusations here. It seemed as though you understood Jessamyn's earlier response to that, but I'll be more specific now: The logistical planning, timing, and implementation that would have to be in place for people to mobflag and get things deleted would be pretty stunning. Yet still unsuccessful. Maybe if it were Mechanical Turk figuring out what to do about flags it would be easier, but we can see who flags what. If anything is oddly flagged we look at it a lot, and something like that would stand out in a big way. We know what the rhythms and reactions are usually like on the site and actions that break the pattern stand out as starkly different, and pretty much always get a lot of discussion among moderators.

Choose what you wish to believe, obviously, but I can promise you there are no cliques running flag operations on Metafilter. As to your complaint about a feminist clique, this may be a thing in the same way that there are cliques of people who ride bikes, people who are Apple users, people who support third party voting, etc. in that they will tend to agree with people who agree with them and also tend to comment in threads that are on that topic. If you think there's a geographic overlay that means that users from some cities are banding together to push people out of certain conversations, maybe we can discuss that, but I didn't see it in the "Simple Question" thread that this somehow became a big fight about, for example, so it would be helpful to get examples of that, which I think is what we asked earlier... that then turned into another big fight about an old Metatalk post that was not an example of that.

So, yeah, if you'd like to pursue the clique thing further, I think a new Metatalk on that would definitely be the way to go.

Finally, I'd just like to ask everyone to dial back the hostility and attacks. Please. We aren't Lord of Flies in here.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:11 AM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am a proud member for the ARETHA FRANKLIN clique. And we will flag the FUCK out of any comment that disrespects the Queen of Soul.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:47 AM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


R-E-S-P-E-C-T
posted by unSane at 2:07 PM on October 29, 2012


That's spelled respek.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:10 AM on November 7, 2012


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