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An improvement to how obituaries are done?
November 24, 2012 7:44 AM   Subscribe

It might be time to consider how obituaries are posted on the Blue.

The most beloved and complemented entries on metafilter are the ones where somebody researches a subject thoroughly, provides significant links, and also gives a more reasoned view of a subject.

Except for obituaries. Then, it's a race to the bottom, as people post one or two lines about a person, and if you get the feed for metafilter, you can see how many duplicates are posted in a short period of time.

So, might it be possible in the case of breaking obituaries, to post a placeholder text with the date, and then people work elsewhere for a more refined, link-filled and respectful obituary that takes its place later?
posted by jscott to Feature Requests at 7:44 AM (114 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Really, it seems to me the problem is people being in a hurry to get the link up. I'm not totally sure we want to reward that behavior in general. We already do delete bad, rushed breaking-news obits when we can (as we delete bad, rushed, breaking-news posts) but I personally am in favor of figuring out a way to see less of those and get more fleshed-out, solid, readable obits.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:54 AM on November 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've never been real sure obituaries are a necessary thing on Metafilter. It's a 'best of the web' aggregator, not just a news aggregator. I would agree that if we're going to have them, they certainly ought to be more than just a link to a single newspaper article (assuming this is indeed prompted by the Larry Hagman obit).
posted by Hargrimm at 7:54 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've never been real sure obituaries are a necessary thing on Metafilter.

They're one of those situations where the ensuing discussion is regularly better than the post and the threads become really interesting. That said, there's no reason to make do with rushed obits and over the past year or so we've been axing ones that just seem like "Soandso died, let's talk about it!" without any real attention.

For a lot of people on MetaFilter, obit posts are their first posts. I think it's because it's an obvious "This is okay for MetaFilter" topic so that you're usually not going to get a bunch of "Who cares" responses, your personal tastes won't be questioned or snarked at. So, I can see a place for obit posts, and I've made a few of them myself, for people who I felt deserved them and who wouldn't otherwise merit posts here otherwise, but yeah the rushrushNEWS posts aren't so great.

There was a push a while back to get some pre-obit writing space on the wiki but I don't think it's been taken advantage of as much as it could be.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:02 AM on November 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


I agree with everything you have to say, jscott, and I'd honestly dig seeing an overhaul of Mefi obits. I know a few feeble attempts to do something about this issue have been made before (the prewritten obits on the wiki were one such failure), but I just don't see the Powers That Be changing things. Or maybe I'll be proved completely wrong. Sometimes that's fun, to be proved completely wrong. Funny thing: even though I do think that over the last couple of years, the Mighty Hand of Deletion has grown swifter and heavier than I personally think it should have, I'd be all for heavier moderation on obit posts. Maybe a queue for anything that'll be categorized as an obit? Yeah, I'd be all for that. Or something else. I don't know, and in the end I suppose I don't care much one way or the other. Or maybe I do. Christ, I need to pull it together this morning.
posted by item at 8:03 AM on November 24, 2012


Would it be possible to have a queue for anything tagged 'obit' or 'obituary', or is this all really just a solution in search of a problem?
posted by item at 8:04 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


You said pull it.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:05 AM on November 24, 2012


Personally, I think the mods do a pretty good job of vetting the obit posts.

Any other system becomes an obit post contest, judged by the mods, and, by the time the post would have hit the front page on MetaFilter, anyone who wants to talk about it has moved to some other online forum to do so.
posted by HuronBob at 8:06 AM on November 24, 2012


by the time the post would have hit the front page on MetaFilter, anyone who wants to talk about it has moved to some other online forum to do so.

The thing is, this is fine. Metafilter is not for breaking news - never has been. If people want to talk about the latest headlines, they should be doing it on other sites. They should be able to come here for context and depth of discussion, not timeliness.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:09 AM on November 24, 2012 [33 favorites]


Not that I remember ever disagreeing with HuronBob, but I'm finding myself agreeing with HuronBob.

HuronBob is a fun word to type.
posted by item at 8:11 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The post announcing Neil Armstrong's death was just a single link, to what was then a lightly written article (I think).

Yet the thread went along just fine and the article was later fleshed out, so today everything seems just right. In short, I'm not sure there's a specific problem here, especially one that needs a technical solution.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:15 AM on November 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


I enjoy the discussion that usually comes out of an obit post, but I enjoy it even more when I learn something new about the deceased person because of really interesting links in the original post. If I just wanted to read the NYT obit, I could just click over there.

The idea of an obit queue sounds like it might be workable, not so the mods have to judge the best entry, but to give them time to delete one link obits before the discussion gets too far to delete the thread. Another possibility could be to have a requirement of 3-5 links in an obit. That again gives the mods objective rather than subjective criteria for deletion.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 8:22 AM on November 24, 2012


I agree with the OP here, and I don't think the fact that obituary threads generally go okay means there isn't something that could be changed to vastly improve them.

The basic obituary-thread policy is inconsistent with MetaFilter in general. As has been stated, MetaFilter isn't a breaking-news site. Yet the historical policy has been, "First obit post wins, unless there are two nearly simultaneous and a clear preference for the latter." I understand why that policy makes sense from a moderation standpoint, but it does encourage race-to-post behavior and that's inconsistent with the general mission of the site.
posted by cribcage at 8:26 AM on November 24, 2012


Look, everyone should try to make a decent obit post, which can be subjective sure, but generally something more than link to news article announcing is good. However, if it's not a decent post, by whatever individual standards one has, then there's nothing wrong with putting in a few better links within the comments.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:29 AM on November 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


How about "Mad Libs" templates for obit posts to make sure they aren't just one line?
posted by XMLicious at 9:03 AM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


When there are doubles within a reasonable time period, the mods do tend to favor the more researched obit - I ended up with the official obit once because I'd taken the extra 15 minutes to add a couple Wikipedia links and a link to the deceased's last interview. I can't say it was the most thoroughly researched post evar, but when given a choice and a little more context, that ended up as what got kept.
posted by maryr at 9:09 AM on November 24, 2012


Larry Hagman was alive?
posted by spitbull at 9:14 AM on November 24, 2012


I was hoping this would be a call for the abolition of the single dot post.
posted by michaelh at 9:33 AM on November 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


I sorta feel like the point of an FPP is to bring everyone more or less up to speed on the topic enough to have a reasonable conversation. No one particularly needs to be brought up to speed on Larry Hagman beyond "J.R. on 'Dallas,' Major Nelson on 'I Dream of Jeannie'" (and that just because he's not in the news much these days), or on Neil Armstrong beyond "Neil Armstrong." Barry Commoner, yeah, that's a guy we need to have a little background on.

Just like with every topic -- do we need more than a paragraph on people faking illness on the Internet? No, but we do need more than that on a guy who recorded one album in the '60s.
posted by Etrigan at 9:34 AM on November 24, 2012


Really there are three classes of obit post:

Class 1: The Micheal Jackson, James Brown and other crazily famous people who's death, especially if unexpected will generate multiple weak posts as people try to get that (favourite capturing) post up before anyone else. These posts probably do not need much fleshing out though as the Walter Cronkite FPP showed overwhelming celebrity can be regional. Those latter regionally famous are one of the people whose FPPs I thought would be helped with the prewrites.

Class 2: Crazily famous person but only in within a particular cultural group. These people will also generate a post storm but their posts, IMO, really deserve fleshing out. I've learned a lot from well written posts like these and the subsequent threads. Also in the group who obit posts could be helped by pre writing.

Class 3: Someone who is somewhat obscure in their fame or noteworthiness. The deaths generally generate no post storm. They also benefit from a well written post but there isn't much competition to get the post up. You see single link, so-and-so died posts in this class too but I generally don't read low context posts so I'm not sure how those obit threads go.

I'm starting to think that newsfilter is bad for Metafilter. It is clouding the goals of the part of Metafilter I like (interesting stuff on the web). For example the multiple recent calls for a fix for "excessively long" threads. Suggested fixes usually including fundamental changes to the nature of the site like pagination or, OMG, threading. They also, and I'll admit this is probably pet peeve territory, tend to include a lot of twitterific, stream of consciousness comments.

But obit filters can redeem newsfilter. Well written posts or comment threads that go well can be like watching a biography and I find that pretty cool. They can also be the worst of newsfilter.

SweetTeaAndABiscuit writes "Another possibility could be to have a requirement of 3-5 links in an obit."

This isn't going to make any difference; anyone for whom there is a rush to post the obit is going to have blurbs posted on news sites all over plus wikipedia. 10 seconds of google will give the padding links without substantially improving the post.
posted by Mitheral at 9:37 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brandon has it. If an obit post is thin, just add more links in the comments.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:47 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've seen thin posts become good threads based on the discussion in the comments. No special rules for obits, same rulings should apply to them as other FPPs - if it's weak, then it's deleted.
posted by arcticseal at 9:55 AM on November 24, 2012


True, there is nothing wrong with adding good links to an FPP in the comments. But again, that's inconsistent with how other types of posts are handled. With another post we'd say, "Try again tomorrow with a better FPP."
posted by cribcage at 9:56 AM on November 24, 2012


Well, and I think where we're coming from is that we kind of do that same thing with obit posts—if it's thin (and, especially, if it's thin and people bother to flag it as such) there's a pretty good chance it'll get deleted with a "someone can try and do a better job than this" note in the deletion reason. Doesn't always happen but it's something I don't think we really disagree on.

Basically I don't see it as an obit vs. non-obit post thing so much as a subset of breaking news vs. other types of posts, much like a few folks have touched on already. It's easy for us to look at obits like some discrete entity because of the obvious thematic thing there, but they aren't treated particularly differently from other posts on that basis and it's really more a "don't make a bad post in a rush to be first" issue at heart. Plenty of obits are done with time and care and don't resemble breaking news stuff in the least.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:04 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brandon has it. If an obit post is thin, just add more links in the comments.

Not everyone is on the Neil Armstrong level of culture-shaping fame. To me, Metafilter obit threads generally suck because about 75% of the time I have no clue who the person was. I also find the thin posts a bit disrespectful.
posted by zennie at 10:33 AM on November 24, 2012


I hear ya, I thought the Armstrong post was remarkably thin and disrespectful. So I added links and information to it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:36 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was hoping this would be a call for the abolition of the single dot post.

Me too. I don't bother to read the comments in obit threads because of the pages full of dots. Yeah, I know why people do it, but it still is annoying. I see the comment count in the hundreds and would hope there would be insightful comments about the subject of the obit. There's a handful of good comments but hundreds of dots.

The obit posts themselves --like posts in general-- tend to go from thin to great. I don't think this class of post needs special treatment because it is about someone who died.

Now if you'll excuse me, there are a bunch of kids on my lawn.
posted by birdherder at 10:46 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know this isn't consistent with Metafilter style, but what about Obit posts (and obits alone) having the option of mods adding links to the OP based on user suggestion, in the more inside. I realize this would be more work but it would mean no matter who got it out first the post would be a fitting, detailed record of the persons life.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:49 AM on November 24, 2012


zennie: To me, Metafilter obit threads generally suck because about 75% of the time I have no clue who the person was

See, those are the obit posts that I get the most out of. I'll see headlines in every single news source that a Michael Jackson or a Beastie Boy has died and aside from maybe one or two interesting anecdotes about the deceased there's really not much to say and the thread ends up being a garden planted full of periods. When it's someone I'm not familiar with it can be nice to learn about the guy/gal/celebrity animal, to learn a bit about their (hopefully) interesting existences. I'd rather find out a little about an obscure experimental composer's career or an actor that appeared in small roles in dozens of B-movies I've seen (or not seen) than read that Thriller was the first album purchased by 47 people in a thread.

(note: Thriller was the first record I bought.)
posted by item at 11:01 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think obit posts are in a class by themselves and that the current policy of letting lightly linked posts through is fine. Of all the types of posts they are the most likely to have commenters provide new links to their favorite interviews, etc. and flush things out considerably. In that sense they almost become group posts with the initial FPP just being the seed.

Scrolling through a bunch of "." comments has got to be the easiest visual search ever. It's not like you're going to confuse them with actual content. Spotting links is only slightly harder.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:03 AM on November 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


birdherder writes "I don't bother to read the comments in obit threads because of the pages full of dots. Yeah, I know why people do it, but it still is annoying. I see the comment count in the hundreds and would hope there would be insightful comments about the subject of the obit. There's a handful of good comments but hundreds of dots. "

You should see the dots as a feature not a bug. There are going to be hundreds of comments anyways but a dot is easy to skip. The alternative would be most dots being replaced by short comments remembering the person that would be much harder to filter when looking for good non-rememberative informational comments.
posted by Mitheral at 11:17 AM on November 24, 2012



I think obit posts are in a class by themselves and that the current policy of letting lightly linked posts through is fine. Of all the types of posts they are the most likely to have commenters provide new links to their favorite interviews, etc. and flush things out considerably. In that sense they almost become group posts with the initial FPP just being the seed.


Agreed.

To my taste, the idea that any FPP is going to sum it up gets into another whole territory of potential discontent. Better to have a variety of contributions.
posted by BibiRose at 11:31 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was a push a while back to get some pre-obit writing space on the wiki but I don't think it's been taken advantage of as much as it could be.

"Just covering our bases."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:50 AM on November 24, 2012


True, there is nothing wrong with adding good links to an FPP in the comments. But again, that's inconsistent with how other types of posts are handled. With another post we'd say, "Try again tomorrow with a better FPP."

It's not inconsistent at all. There's lots of posts that are thin that don't get deleted.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:18 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


as people try to get that (favourite capturing) post up before anyone else

if you start having these sorts of shitty thoughts about the motivations of others, maybe it's time to turn off favorite counts or step back a little.

i think obits are fine and interesting, even if the original post is thin. i think the mods do a good job of whack-a-mole when it make sense. i don't mind the dots. i am opposed to the (to me) overly engineered solutions of a queue or number of link requirements. i do sort of wish any obit with a wiki link would be deleted, but sometimes it really is the best place for a quick sum up.
posted by nadawi at 1:29 PM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Obit posts, for better or for worse, are going to be "OMG, this person is gone!! I'm shocked, saddened and want Metafilter to know". I agree that if we move as a community to add links, articles, etc. to the original FPP, the end result will be meta worthy. Someone is always going to be shocked, amazed, saddened, etc that someone has died and the fast, SL, FPP is going to be hard to avoid but if the core of the community agrees to bulk up the post that the mods let live, we can make obit posts MF worthy. Other members will catch on and that will be the way MF does Obit posts.....hopefully.
posted by pearlybob at 2:07 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mrs 4ster: "So how do you always know about all these famous people dying, anyway?"

Me: "Metafilter."
posted by 4ster at 3:12 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


They're one of those situations where the ensuing discussion is regularly better than the post and the threads become really interesting.

Really? I almost always give up on obit posts after scrolling down past an interminable series of dots and variations on "oh no!" statements. The only ones that seem to get substantive are controversial figures--and then we get the endless variations on the "de mortuis nil nisi bonum" argument.

They always seem to me to be threads that privilege witnessing ("Here is how I FEEL about this") over actual discussion ("here is my reasoned assessment of this person's contribution to their field"). That's fine, of course, and if one doesn't wish to participate in the general Hamlet v. Laertes competition to show who feels the loss most bitterly one can just pass on to other threads--but they seem like pretty low-quality threads by Metafilter's normal standards of "quality."
posted by yoink at 4:13 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


We already do delete bad, rushed breaking-news obits when we can

Probably fair to say the mods should have deleted that Neil Armstrong obit post in favor of a better one. The comments and discussion would certainly have been just as if not more rich had the obit been a thoughtful one instead of a simple news announcement.

That said, I remember rushing to post the Alex Chilton obit here and doing a half-assed job of it just so I could be first, mostly because I loved the man's music/career so much while I was growing into cool music. It was stupid and I felt immediately embarrassed and rushed to find better links I should have found before posting but OH NO WHAT IF SOMEONE ELSE POSTS IT FIRST and well, I swore off obits after that.
posted by mediareport at 4:23 PM on November 24, 2012


I've done a couple of obit posts, and I've had to balance my desire to add as many links as possible against the knowledge that the obit post starts the conversation.

One of my favorite things about obit posts is the way in which new links and stories and bits of information are layered onto the original post. It happens more in obituary posts than it does in regular FPPs, and it's something I value about the way we do obits here.
posted by catlet at 4:31 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd prefer thoughtful obits, but as Jessamyn says, the discussion usually adds more no matter what the quality of the original post.

As thin as the Neil Armstrong post was, the community added some fascinating links and discussion that fleshed it all out to be a remarkable reflection on the man and his life.

And while "Soandso is dead" single link posts are thin, I'd almost prefer that to, say, the David Foster Wallace obit where there was a solid paragraph from the man himself before the link announcing his passing. (But, again, that thread was amazing.)

But I often find out about these people's passing from Metafilter, so I'd rather thin than nothing. The discussion is what it become about then.
posted by crossoverman at 4:45 PM on November 24, 2012


The most recent obit post I saw was Larry Hagman's. Which was pretty thin. But it had a discussion that was full of interesting information which I hadn't known, and I spent a great deal of time there and I learned some things and gained an appreciation for a good man.

I don't want much more than that I think.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:47 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


SLC Mom: "The most recent obit post I saw was Larry Hagman's. Which was pretty thin."

The link to the Dallas News' obit page for him was a nice touch though.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:00 PM on November 24, 2012


To me, Metafilter obit threads generally suck because about 75% of the time I have no clue who the person was.

Ehh, that's the same for very many MeFi posts. the last post I put up was very clear for me, but had a couple of people scratching their heads nonetheless.

For obituary posts in general, when it comes to Hagman level of fame, all a post needs is a link to a decent obituary plus one or two sentences prodding people's memories. Those posts are all about sharing memories and speaking your admiration. Yeah, this could be done elsewhere but the community is the point.

People less famous or only famous in a niche should be fleshed out more, but then again they're less likely to get an obit rush happening anyway. I've posted obits of various comics people some days after their death had been reporting frex.

I'm not sure the average obituary post needs to become a dense linkfest or an essay on the dearly departed's life.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:01 PM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Turn off faves for obit posts? That way, somebody will only post to be the one who posts for the deceased's honour. They'll be the hero we've been dreaming of. The post will live forever, and we'll know together they they did it all for the glory of love.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:24 PM on November 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


I know people hate tweaking with the favorites, but that's an interesting idea.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:42 PM on November 24, 2012


Turn off faves for obit posts?

Turn it off for posts. Leave it for comments. Good idea.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:51 PM on November 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


People, this is not ever going to change and I'm not sure why we are having this discussion now for the umpteenth time.

Despite not really being "best of the web" Mefites repeatedly have registered their desire to create and participate in obit threads. These threads usually go really well and by and large add to the quality of the site. Sure, well fleshed out posts I guess are better, but even if there is a mod-approval queue or a 10 link minimum, there's very little chance the best Neil Armstrong link isn't going to be buried deep inside the thread. I don't get what's "disrespectful" of a thin FPP -- that Metafilter in general doesn't appreciate the importance of Neil Armstrong, or that the deceased's family will be offended?? I don't think I would have the balls to post a single link to CNN if someone who was important to me suddenly died; it would be trivial to find links that illustrate the person's importance. but if someone beats me to the FPP, it doesn't really diminish the quality of my links which will end up down in the thread and i could give a shit that my name doesn't appear on the front page. If I feel entitled to vicarious fame because Larry Hagman died that's the fucking stupidest thing ever.

To summarize, there's really no reason to get so upset here, and the problem isn't so severe that it warrants a massive culture changing solution.

IMO, YMMV, etc etc
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:06 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


For some folks having favorites removed from the obits post category might be a disincentive to post them.

Also, I don't know my own breakdown, but it wouldn't surprise me if I had more favorites on posts than comments.
posted by zarq at 7:19 PM on November 24, 2012


Separate section for news filter, including obits.

Please.
posted by LarryC at 7:29 PM on November 24, 2012


For some folks having favorites removed from the obits post category might be a disincentive to post them.

If someone is worth remembering, the memorial need not flatter the living.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:44 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


When it's someone I'm not familiar with it can be nice to learn about the guy/gal/celebrity animal, to learn a bit about their (hopefully) interesting existences.

This is actually what I meant; my comment wasn't clear. I think it's slightly more palatable for Neil Armstrong to have a thin obit post because nearly everyone knows who Neil Armstrong is. But if it was a lesser known person, it would be better to have some kind of context around who this person was and what they contributed to the world while they were still around. This is not a tall order.
posted by zennie at 7:44 PM on November 24, 2012


michaelh: "I was hoping this would be a call for the abolition of the single dot post."

I would guess that there has never ever been even one example of a single dot post.

...Oh! You meant a single dot COMMENT.

Not to be all prescriptivist, but that's as bad as calling a blog post a "blog". Gah!
posted by Chrysostom at 8:05 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


If someone is worth remembering, the memorial need not flatter the living.

Of course. Sure. I'm just saying that some people may not be motivated to post obit threads in order to honor the person who has passed, or to memorialize them. As Jessamyn said earlier, most people's first FPPs are obits, and that's likely because there is an expectation that they will meet less resistance from the community.

It seems apparent that -- at least for some subset of the community -- favorites are a metric which connote worth. They're probably an incentive to post or comment for some folks.
posted by zarq at 8:29 PM on November 24, 2012


i think there are far more people claiming others do things for favorites than there are people doing things for favorites. i think turning favorites off for any kind of post gives into that crappy whining.
posted by nadawi at 8:56 PM on November 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


favorites are a metric which connote worth

I agree, but thought it was clever to remove that valuation from obit posts, which are often rushed in a get-there-first manner. Generally, I agree that favorites have been a good thing, in spite of their excessively vociferous detractors.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:26 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Favorites are also bookmarks, for me anyway, and when obit posts end up being full of good stuff, it's nice to be able to bookmark them.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:30 PM on November 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Chrysostom writes "I would guess that there has never ever been even one example of a single dot post."

Sadly you'd be wrong.
posted by Mitheral at 9:30 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"People rush to post obit threads so that they'll get the inevitable favorites" seems pretty specious to me. Is there a scrap of evidence to back this theory up?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:28 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Turn off faves for obit posts? That way, somebody will only post to be the one who posts for the deceased's honour.

Turning favourites off entirely loses the bookmark functionality. Making them private to the favouriter would have the same de-incentivizing effect without completely losing the functionality.

And, if we're brainstorming, then: remove the attribution of obit posts.
posted by stebulus at 10:32 PM on November 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ooh, sneaky.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:35 PM on November 24, 2012


Whenever someone [famous] dies, it's the best of the web.
posted by Eideteker at 10:37 PM on November 24, 2012


Why has no one made a compliment/complement joke yet? Especially after people have mentioned that one-line obit posts should be 'complemented' with links in the comments?

C'MON PEOPLE
posted by graventy at 10:42 PM on November 24, 2012


Here's one possible answer: once an obit FPP is made the "official" one by the mods, there's a 48-hour window in which anyone who wants to can put together a better-considered FPP for the obit, and the mods will pick the best and append it to the "official" one-link obit FPP (prefaced with "user [name] adds: ")

So the people who care to curate something can do so without rushing it, and if nobody cares to, then life goes on.
posted by davejay at 11:31 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


well, that pun was totally not intended
posted by davejay at 11:31 PM on November 24, 2012


also I just killed the last of the thanksgiving pumpkin pie, so this is now an obit thread for that pie.
posted by davejay at 11:32 PM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I do feel there's something pretty creepy about the hearse-chasing instant obituary posts. "Yay, a human being has died, now I can get a cheap and easy boost to my MeFi post and favorite counts!"

I don't think there's really a technical solution though.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:14 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


maybe people post obits because they're interested in the discussion mefites would have. do you know anyone who has posted obits for an easy boost to their post or favorite counts or are you just thinking the worst of people for the hell of it?
posted by nadawi at 12:48 AM on November 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


RIP Klaus Kinski
posted by homunculus at 12:59 AM on November 25, 2012


So, I can see a place for obit posts, and I've made a few of them myself, for people who I felt deserved them and who wouldn't otherwise merit posts here...

As have I.

But then an elegant and informative obituary for person important but not Entertainment Tonight noteworthy -- by the way, in that category, the BBC just reported that Gangnam Style is the most watched YouTube video ever: take that Age of Information! -- is something that can be done at one's leisure.

And even if people are climbing over each like drowning welldiggers in a cave to post some lightweight link to breaking news, homunculus will be along to fill in the blanks and then some...
posted by y2karl at 1:02 AM on November 25, 2012


Original Poster.

It sounds to me like it splits into two camps of thought: Is having a thin post disrespectful or respectful when considering the fleshing-out comments beneath it?

On a visceral level, I see a one-line or one-sentence obit post, and it grates me. I know some people said "Well, if they're famous enough, you don't need it longer" and I disagree. We get Neil Armstrong, moon man, and the guy was so much more than that. Michael Jackson. Even Larry Hagman - it takes someone posting below to flesh in his significant other film work, and I don't know if anyone linked to his being a Burner, etc.

Other people, it seems not to grate.

If people agree it's a problem, there's a simple solution that requires no technical changes: Moderators agree (and announce) to be more hard-ass on the obit posts. Don't green-light the one-liners, say "come back with a fleshed out obit", and one comes along. After a while, people see "MARTON FILBRANSTER, 1949-2012" doesn't work, and seriously, it's less than 30 minutes of work to put together a crazy insane detailed post, and less than that to do a really decent one. But if a one-liner gets posted, the work stops.

I guess that's my input to this. Wonderful discussions, thanks to everyone hopping in.
posted by jscott at 1:29 AM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is no greenlighting on posts, only deleting after the fact.
posted by nadawi at 1:45 AM on November 25, 2012


Raises hand for "more hardass on obit posts," and maybe we can add a line about it in the FAQ. I also agree that pretty much any news post needs more than just a quick cut-n-paste headline link.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:33 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd be happy to be more hardass on obit posts. This has always been tough for me because sometimes it means deleting posts by new users, but having consistent standards about how we do things should be something we strive towards and we can always write nice notes to the n00bs. I think sometimes we just get tired on the back end after seeing the set of posted-in-a-hurry posts we get and we feel bad if there's a good discussion developing in a terrible post. So, sometimes we play the "well is this good enough?" game which I know is what we did with Armstrong, and maybe we should be a bit more resolute. That and set up a Google alert for notable obits so that we can maybe be a little proactive on when this stuff is likely to happen.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:36 AM on November 25, 2012


Not entirely on topic - my grandfather's obit was finally published and I'm twitching because they got the date of his death wrong.
posted by sonika at 5:39 AM on November 25, 2012


Every post, including obits, should have a really great link, or many great links telling a story. It's rare that a major event would not make the front page. There is no reason to hurry; in cases of doubles on obits, the better post usually survives.
posted by theora55 at 6:30 AM on November 25, 2012


Turn off faves for obit posts?

Turn it off for posts.


Don't do that. I use favorites to mark posts I want to come back and visit later, music and art recco threads or stuff I think I'll find directly relevant to something in my life in the future.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:50 AM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love obituaries and obit posts. I use a dot in a obit post often to keep it in my recent activity so I don't miss jewels like evilcolonel's coment in the Larry Hagman thread. Or merocet's link to the Larry bringing Keith Moon to rehab story. All part of life's rich pageant. The interesting stuff often comes up in the days following the initial news story.

I didn't get why older people read obits in the same way I thought wakes were creepy until I lived a little. A couple of people showed up at my dad's wake that were unknown to us with stories of kindnesses he had done that we found so moving.
posted by readery at 8:49 AM on November 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


nadawi writes "do you know anyone who has posted obits for an easy boost to their post or favorite counts"

This is basically impossible to search for however in past favourite discussions people have admitted to posting for this reason.

If there isn't some sort of gain for personally making the post (whether that is public like favourites; just having your name attached to a post or some personal score keeping (like the people who are on a quest to make a post every day) then what is the rush?

Surely most metafites have an attention span that exceeds that of a ferret after a couple cappuccinos. We'll still be able to talk about the very important death in ten minutes or an hour after your post explains why the heck we should care that this person died.
posted by Mitheral at 8:55 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's like the MeFi equivalent of counting coup.
posted by XMLicious at 9:10 AM on November 25, 2012


If there isn't some sort of gain for personally making the post (whether that is public like favourites; just having your name attached to a post or some personal score keeping (like the people who are on a quest to make a post every day) then what is the rush?

When people in my life have died I have not worried too much about prestige or personal gain in passing the word along. I think it's important that everyone know so that we an grieve as a family/community.

A similar instinct would drive me to slap up an obituary post. I'm grieving and I'm certain there are those in my online community who will grieve with me.

That doesn't make it a good post for Metafilter, but I don't think it is necessary to assume someone is playing silly games with favorites or post counts to explain why they decided to share the word that a public figure has died.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:11 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's important that everyone know so that we an grieve as a family/community.

Thanks for pointing out this motivation. It's completely alien to me and I should take that into account when interpreting obit threads.
posted by stebulus at 9:21 AM on November 25, 2012


There are only a few obit threads in which I participate, and when I do it's generally because a) it is a person I already knew and cared about and b) that person was involved in something that I already talk to people on Mefi about.

Given that, I mostly don't need to see an in-depth post about the person in question. What I do like having is a place to share the moment with like-minded people.

A case in point: Elizabeth Sladen.
posted by philipy at 9:49 AM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


If people agree it's a problem, there's a simple solution that requires no technical changes: Moderators agree (and announce) to be more hard-ass on the obit posts. Don't green-light the one-liners,

Having the mods "green-light" anything would require a technical change.
posted by John Cohen at 10:51 AM on November 25, 2012


I can see that Tell Me No Lies; can you see that some posters might be in it for score keeping.
posted by Mitheral at 10:54 AM on November 25, 2012


Quick point of order: I am using "greenlight" in the same way that a cat 'greenlights' letting a mouse it has caught go. Sorry for the colloquialism. I realize part of Metafilter's vibrancy is that stories are cut down after the fact, and not queued.

I read through my RSS feed for the site, then read a lot of the stories, seeing in many cases they're deleted but reading the comments anyway. So I think of them as "greenlit" to survive. Didn't want this minor word misuse to derail the idea.
posted by jscott at 10:59 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


however in past favourite discussions people have admitted to posting for this reason.

or are you just saying that to get favorites?
(see what a shitty accusation that is?)

I can see that Tell Me No Lies; can you see that some posters might be in it for score keeping.

even if that's the case, i'm betting is far, far more the former than the later.
posted by nadawi at 11:10 AM on November 25, 2012


A person's motives for posting something don't make the least difference to how we as mods respond to it or to how the community responds to it. If you, in your own head, care about score-keeping and pay attention to favorites, no one else will ever know, and it's not going to make anything more or less likely to be deleted.

I think it's much more common for people to see big news and think "I want to talk about this with mefites!" and rush to post without thinking in much depth about the post itself, rather than "I need my name to be attached to this subject" for favorites-related reasons or anything else. That leads to less-great posts, and they often get deleted. Obits are only unique in that they tend to automatically be more emotionally charged than many other topics - whether because people have a personal connection to the subject or her work or because death in general is, if you'll pardon the phrase, triggery. It makes them a bit trickier to work with, but they're still (usually) news posts in timing and format.

I personally prefer obits that are used as an opportunity to discuss the life and work of someone who has not gotten focused attention, and those discussions are enhanced by a solid, detailed post. One-line obits really only allow people who already know about the decedent to discuss them, so they're not a great jumping-off point.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:32 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


can you see that some posters might be in it for score keeping.

Some? Sure. There are 10,000 active users around here.

The question is if there are enough score keepers to warrant a major policy change. I would say no.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:01 PM on November 25, 2012


I'm not sure that is the question. The discussion about score-keeping is tangential to the original request for a policy change. Score-keeping may or may not be a motive for some of the problems we've seen with obituary posts, but as just one random user I'd agree with Restless Nomad in that I don't really care about motive there.

If score-keeping motivates Bob to post a single-link newspaper obituary as fast as he can, that sucks. If score-keeping motivates Jim to wait a few days and collect some of the better obituaries and remembrances into a thoughtful FPP, that's awesome.

I use favorites as bookmarks, so suspending the feature on obituary posts isn't ideal for me. That said, I would support trying it as an experiment. I can use my browser's bookmarking instead, or favorite a good comment inside the post. I'd also support the more general sentiment of cracking-down to treat obituary posts in line with how other posts are treated.
posted by cribcage at 12:34 PM on November 25, 2012


As Jessamyn said earlier, most people's first FPPs are obits

That's not what jessamyn said; she said "For a lot of people on MetaFilter, obit posts are their first posts." That's very different from claiming most people's first posts are obits, which is certainly not true.
posted by mediareport at 12:52 PM on November 25, 2012


I realize part of Metafilter's vibrancy is that stories are cut down after the fact, and not queued.

OK, I thought you might have been referring to the possibility of queuing the obit FFPs, which several people have discussed in this thread.
posted by John Cohen at 12:53 PM on November 25, 2012


That's not what jessamyn said; she said "For a lot of people on MetaFilter, obit posts are their first posts." That's very different from claiming most people's first posts are obits, which is certainly not true.

Just to nail down this detail: In recent history, about 2% of user's first posts have been obit posts (73 out of 3628), whereas about 1.2% of posts generally are obit posts (622 out of 52157).

"Recent history" means posts since post #70000, which was in March 2008; "obit post" means a post having a tag that starts "obit" or "Obit". (Code.)
posted by stebulus at 2:34 PM on November 25, 2012


Either posts need to be queued for moderator approval, or there's discussion that's being deleted when the single link post is axed (and I think people are justified in their annoyance at having their lengthy comments erased).

Is it workable to have the mods edit the obit as newer better links are posted (either in thread or in double posts)? Attribution would be a problem I guess, but my opinion is that everyone takes the "favorites as score keeping" too seriously anyway.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:47 PM on November 25, 2012


No, editing isn't a scorekeeping issue, it's an authorship issue. We are pretty firmly on the side of clear attribution and unambiguous authorship, and we're not going to change that at this late date.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:52 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


One-line obits really only allow people who already know about the decedent to discuss them, so they're not a great jumping-off point.

Many people are saying this sort of thing, and I don’t totally get it. Don’t we all have the same search engines? If a post lists the basic information and a link to a Wikipedia or New York Times obit or something it seems like that’s pretty much enough to figure out if you want to know more, in which case DuckDuckGo is nice.

I tend to think long posts are mostly filler and noise though. The Prog Rock of MF posts.
posted by bongo_x at 5:18 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


We do all have the same search engines, but that line of reasoning eventually (and quickly, in my opinion) erodes the "filter" in MetaFilter. I don't need MetaFilter to tell me that Larry Hagman died. That isn't why I come here. I come here because while CNN will have the headline and NYTimes will have a good obituary, MetaFilter might/should have an FPP with some really interesting Larry Hagman-related links: information about early works he did that many people don't know about, a collection of especially good write-ups and remembrances, etc.

MetaFilter should be the "if you want to know more." Otherwise it's just an announcement and it is the absolute barest and least informative type of newsfilter.
posted by cribcage at 6:23 PM on November 25, 2012


That's not what jessamyn said; she said "For a lot of people on MetaFilter, obit posts are their first posts." That's very different from claiming most people's first posts are obits, which is certainly not true.

I stand corrected.

Although that doesn't affect my overall point. :)
posted by zarq at 6:34 PM on November 25, 2012


If there isn't some sort of gain for personally making the post (whether that is public like favourites; just having your name attached to a post or some personal score keeping (like the people who are on a quest to make a post every day) then what is the rush?

Obit posts are not likely to wind up part of a meta callout. They're less likely to see threadshitting. In the case of people who are well-known, they're likely to attract a lot of comments and perhaps discussion. I suspect (although I have no evidence of this,) that they might be more likely than other types of posts to host a comment which would wind up on the sidebar. Maybe this makes them seem like a more desirable kind of post to make?

I've made a few obit posts. Because of the way I decide if something is worth posting here, most of those have been at least somewhat fleshed out and taken some time to prepare. As a result, I often wind up dumping the links I've found into a comment in a post that was made before I was ready. I don't mind -- I make a lot of posts -- but I can see why some folks might find that less than satisfying, especially if they've worked hard on a post of their own.
posted by zarq at 6:46 PM on November 25, 2012


Many people are saying this sort of thing, and I don’t totally get it. Don’t we all have the same search engines?

Using those same search engines a person could link to the Neil Armstrong Wiki page, or a big name newspaper's obituary of him.

Or they could link to a musical tribute, how he became first man on the moon, his background, archive footage of him during the Apollo 11 mission or at press conference, etc, etc.

Yes, we all have the same search engines, but everyone doesn't use them in the same way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:59 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


A person's motives for posting something don't make the least difference to how we as mods respond to it or to how the community responds to it.

In the more general sense I do not believe that to be the case. Many deletions are specifically because "stunt post" or "this was posted in reaction to the comments from $other_thread".

So motives and intent can and do count.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:46 PM on November 25, 2012


in incredibly specific circumstances that don't relate to the topic of this thread, sure.
posted by nadawi at 9:20 PM on November 25, 2012


(Code.)

You use Make as your scripting language?

I . . . I don't know what to think about that. :-)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:34 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd be happy to see a 24-hour post-death moratorium on obituary posts. Someone died? We can learn that from Twitter. Spend a day putting together your post and come back tomorrow with something meaty. The only trick would be making the policy widely known enough that the mods wouldn't have to delete a hundred or so posts in that 24-hour window.
posted by 256 at 6:14 AM on November 26, 2012


You use Make as your scripting language?

Sometimes, yes. It seemed convenient in this case, but it turned out there weren't any lengthy steps that I really wanted to avoid re-running (except the wget), so it would've been just as convenient in a monolithic shell script. One day I'll get around to loading the infodump into a SQL database engine — I understand FishBike has some scripts for that — and my technique will become a lot more sensible.
posted by stebulus at 6:33 AM on November 26, 2012


Many people, possibly even the majority, prefer brief posts generally.

I don't know where the idea that brief is bad or single-link is worse than multi-link came about. And clearly being brief and single-link is not per se a reason for deletion, as many such posts stand, and rightly so.

Plus if I'm interested enough in the subject to want to read many links, I am not going to care very much if they were put in the FPP itself, or contributed to the discussion by various commenters. The latter are often more interesting because not added just for the sake of form.
posted by philipy at 9:47 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Many people, possibly even the majority, prefer brief posts generally.

Then why do mega-link posts routinely get ridiculous amounts of favorites? I think it's more accurate to say that many people, possibly even the majority, like some longer posts along with some briefer posts, depending on the content of the posts, and a few people, possibly a very small and vocal minority, insist on either one or the other.
posted by mediareport at 9:53 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then why do mega-link posts routinely get ridiculous amounts of favorites?

Because people use favorites like bookmarks for stuff they want to come back to.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:02 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems apparent that -- at least for some subset of the community -- favorites are a metric which connote worth.

Some, I'm sure, but I think far fewer than some people seem to think.

My evidence: recipe questions in Ask. Want some favorites? "Dear AskMetafilter, please give me your best recipes for [certain ingredient(s), certain limitation(s), certain cooking method(s), etc.]" Very likely to get a few dozen favorites, possibly many more. But I don't see that there's a huge excess of recipe questions in AskMetafilter, nor do I have reason to believe that those who ask such questions are asking them primarily to garner favorites rather than because they legitimately want such recipes. (It's probably the case that those favorites are more likely to be favorites-as-bookmarks than favorites on most posts, but the hypothetical MeFite who links favorites to worth neither knows nor cares about the number of favorites-as-bookmarks vs. favorites-as-approval).
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:10 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


DevilsAdvocate, that makes a lot of sense. A while back I posted a request for cholent recipes. Got a small number of great answers, but (I just checked) only 3 favorites. Most readers of AskMe will probably never need to make cholent -- so the pattern probably better fits faves-as-bookmarks, rather than faves-as-approval.
posted by zarq at 10:26 AM on November 26, 2012


Because people use favorites like bookmarks for stuff they want to come back to.

Yeah, exactly. Or part of exactly. When I see a mega-link post about a subject I'm interested in, that's how I use them. The point is that the statement "Many people, possibly even the majority, prefer brief posts generally" isn't being offered with any evidence, and is almost certainly not even close to being true, in my opinion. I've always liked making mulit-link posts here, and will continue to like when others make them, along with all the cool one-link gems. What I *don't* get is the need some folks seem to have for dividing the site into Those Who Like and Those Who Don't Like multi-link posts.

It just doesn't work that way, and never has.
posted by mediareport at 11:15 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Many people, possibly even the majority, prefer brief posts generally" isn't being offered with any evidence

"Many people" is a fact in that there are many people in the linked thread said who said they did. I listed a few notable examples, but there were many many more. Albeit people said various nuanced things that work out to "On the whole, I tend to like and read X rather than Y."

"A majority" is qualified by the word "possibly". As in: "Given the evidence we have it is plausible that even this could be the case". Meaning: "In contrast to what everyone is assuming, the patchy evidence we have could easily fit the very opposite conclusion."

almost certainly not even close to being true

If we're talking about statements offered without any evidence, this one would seem to qualify however.

The basic situation here is we don't have anything like solid evidence to be sure that there is a majority preference for long and detailed FPPs, yet we are having a discussion here as if that is the gold standard.

I'm perfectly fine with the existence of those long multi-links posts.

What I'm not so fine with is the assumption that short posts are worse, less valuable or less liked, or that brevity should tend to make a post more delete-worthy whereas length is automatically considered a virtue in itself.

I agree that there are a multiplicity of different kinds of good posts, but the point is that multiplicity includes a lot of kinds of short posts also, including many brief obit posts, like some of the ones mentioned upthread.
posted by philipy at 1:53 PM on November 26, 2012


The basic situation here is we don't have anything like solid evidence to be sure that there is a majority preference for long and detailed FPPs, yet we are having a discussion here as if that is the gold standard.

I think this is another example of the discussion getting sidetracked by a tangent. I don't really think the discussion is about volume of links. It's about the quality of FPP, wherein the number of links is one factor.

Let's say Larry Hagman had a website. He takes ill and he begins posting updates on his website about his health, his general thoughts and feelings, retrospective on his career, etc. Then he passes away and the website's front page fills with prepared remembrances by fellow actors and his friends and family. Now, an obituary FPP consisting of a single link to that website might make perfect sense.

But if the single link is just the local newspaper of record's obituary, that's a different story. The quality of link is (probably) much lower, the rarity of that link is much lower, the need for MetaFilter as a place to bring members' attention to that link is much lower. So we start looking at different factors, including whether you have other links or just that one.
posted by cribcage at 2:07 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


cribcage: " But if the single link is just the local newspaper of record's obituary, that's a different story. The quality of link is (probably) much lower, the rarity of that link is much lower, the need for MetaFilter as a place to bring members' attention to that link is much lower. So we start looking at different factors, including whether you have other links or just that one."

A remembrance wall/site would be a nice one-link FPP. But the one advantage an official obituary has is it won't be a one-sided lionization of the deceased. That's something to watch out for, too.

A while back, there was an Indian guru who passed away. He was a controversial figure. Had been at the center of several scandals, including pedophilia accusations. His official obits mentioned it, but none of the sites created by his devotees (which were filled with the very sort of personal anecdotes you mention) did. Heck, many of them worshiped the guy as a god. When putting together the post about his death, I included the good and the bad. Sometimes, to get the full perspective, you have to go to an objective source.
posted by zarq at 2:52 PM on November 26, 2012


What I'm not so fine with is the assumption that short posts are worse, less valuable or less liked

I don't know anyone, mod or otherwise, who believes that as a general rule, except with regard to short breaking news or op-ed posts, which have long been frowned upon as thin and less valuable. Seriously, Matt's been saying MeFi's not a breaking news site for over a decade now.

Obits definitely fall under the breaking news category, and given that, I think it's more than fair to say that a single link to a breaking news obituary is less valuable than a more thoughtful post about the breaking news would be. Beyond these limited examples, I'd agree with you: short posts are clearly not worse, less valuable or less liked here, and never have been.
posted by mediareport at 5:44 PM on November 26, 2012


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