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December 15, 2012 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Especially with the new hires, it's getting a little harder for me to distinguish moderator comments. Sometimes there are typographical hints like small text or square brackets, but not always; sometimes the tone makes it apparent, but again, not always. What do people think about somehow marking moderator comments? This could be either automatic (like moderators get little tags appended to their usernames) or manual (moderators identify themselves when speaking as such); we can beanplate the details to any length. I just want to be less uncertain when I am and am not reading moderator comments.
posted by d. z. wang to Feature Requests at 11:21 AM (95 comments total)

Do you mean you know who's who, but you have a hard time telling if a person is speaking "officially"?
Or do you mean with the new people, you sometimes aren't sure who's who?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:23 AM on December 15, 2012


Maybe those "staff" tags we already see in MetaTalk could be switchable on/off in other subsites, so mods could activate the tag for an individual comment when speaking as a moderator and not just a member.
posted by cribcage at 11:27 AM on December 15, 2012 [32 favorites]


Yeah, this already happens in Metatalk. If you mean on the blue... probably not. They only get the tag when speaking Ex Cathedra.
posted by Justinian at 11:28 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tag On: official post.
Tag Off: just another bozo on this bus.
posted by mule98J at 11:35 AM on December 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


The [official moderator comments] are pretty obvious. The rest of the time, they're more like guidelines than actual rules.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:40 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sometimes there are typographical hints like small text or square brackets

I believe it is the convention that when posting to a non-metatalk subsite, small text and square-brackets mean that the post is directly in performance of their moderator duties, and normal text is them posting just as any other member of the site.

Is it your concern that there's nothing blocking a non-moderator average member from making a post formatted like an Official Moderator Voice post, or is it moderators taking off their mod hats and making the occasional average user post?

If it's the former and you notice it, feel free to flag it as "Breaks the guidelines" (the general "don't be an asshole" principle) and/or use the contact form.

If it's the latter, that's a different discussion.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:42 AM on December 15, 2012


well, the problem is that anyone can make what they write look like an official moderator comment, and sometimes people do so to spoof or whatever.

I can see wanting the mods to be tagged, but it's not like a whole slew of people have been added to the staff. What is it, three more names total?
posted by hippybear at 11:43 AM on December 15, 2012


Yes, the general rule we try to follow is that (other than in MeTa), we use small type and square brackets if speaking officially, and we ask non-mods not to use that type-treatment to avoid creating confusion.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:44 AM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Setting stuff off in small and brackets and making to clear in the tone is pretty much how we emphasize the "okay, this is a mod speaking as a mod" thing. The cases where it's less clear are mostly cases where it is, in fact, less of a clearcut thing.

We've talked about the idea of some official mod-or-not toggle to attach to all our comments before and haven't ever really found that to be an attractive change to make. That's how I continue to feel. The staff tags on Metatalk have been a contained experiment in compromise on that front specifically for this part of the site because it's where by far the most actual policy stuff gets casually discussed rather than brought up as mid-thread asides not meant for engagement.

well, the problem is that anyone can make what they write look like an official moderator comment, and sometimes people do so to spoof or whatever.

Thankfully, this doesn't seem to happen more than every once in a while, and in fact I feel like even among those rarities it's more often someone making an apparently non-cheeky choice to use small+brackets for emphasis than someone actively spoofing. I don't entirely understand it, but okay.

If we saw someone doing that sort of thing regularly we'd talk to them about it. Otherwise, generally not an issue.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:48 AM on December 15, 2012


because it's where by far the most actual policy stuff gets casually discussed rather than brought up as mid-thread asides not meant for engagement.

Not to mention that if all your official metatalk comments were to follow the small text convention of the other subsites, it'd drive quite a few people nuts trying to read them.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:51 AM on December 15, 2012


"...I can see wanting the mods to be tagged....".

I suggest leg bands like they use on birds, because those metal ear tags they use on larger animals are probably painful.
posted by HuronBob at 12:02 PM on December 15, 2012 [19 favorites]


Nah, radio collar, so we can remotely track their migration patterns.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:24 PM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Regardless of whether we use bands or ear tags or even some other technology, we could track them like sharks.

"Look! Cortex has stopped his southward path and is heading east, now."
posted by rmd1023 at 12:25 PM on December 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


Or their user numbers could be tattooed on their foreheads. Or people could just remember who they are.
posted by Cranberry at 12:26 PM on December 15, 2012


There are only a few of them, and when they comment "officially" they do the small text and square brackets. I tend to think that works well, and one of the things I like about it is that it prevents threads where mods are participating from becoming filled with "staff" tags.
posted by OmieWise at 12:54 PM on December 15, 2012


Nah, radio collar, so we can remotely track their migration patterns.

Amusingly, I was out doing the Chrismas Bird Count today and you could have "live-tracked" me if we're friends on MapMyWalk. No longer.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:54 PM on December 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


As a new mod I think it's important that I continue to interact with the site in ways that any user would. Not doing so would in my view isolate the mods from the community and lead to stilted communication, plus I simply like hanging out here too much not to.

Basically I think the "manual" option of your proposal covers a large part of what is already implemented: [small text in brackets] for "mod-speak" and staff tags in MeTa.

So I wouldn't be overly enthusiastic about having staff tags in places other than MetaTalk. In fact, having them here is enough as it is in my experience: MeTa has always been a place for discussing site policy, but also one for occasional silliness, in which I'll continue to indulge if I have a chance, staff tag or no.

(My main concern is whether the staff tags count towards our pieces of flair, but I can't seem to get Matt to give a straight answer.)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 1:00 PM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you really had the Mefotchkey's spirit, you wouldn't have to ask that.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:03 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


MeTa has always been a place for discussing site policy, but also one for occasional silliness, in which I'll continue to indulge if I have a chance, staff tag or no.

Maybe you could use large text with curly brackets for Metatalk sillyness?
posted by radwolf76 at 1:09 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah I wanted Comic Sans, but it was voted down somehow.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 1:11 PM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have a hard time distinguishing individual users on this site and keeping track of how much I agree and disagree with each one. When you post a comment in an FPP that I'm likely to read, would you mind quickly summarizing who you are and what kind of interactions we've had in the past? Many thanks!
posted by Nomyte at 1:27 PM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, there's jacalata's Grudgetracker Usernotes.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 1:48 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


In which flapjax wishes he'd gone to clown college.
posted by Nomyte at 1:51 PM on December 15, 2012


I'm on here a ton and I still get a little confused with the number of new mods and remembering that LobsterMitten and goodnewsfortheinsane are mods (no offense, guys). I like this pony, and I think switching on a staff tag when speaking in an official capacity (in addition to, or in place of, small text and brackets) is a good idea. It also doesn't limit the ability to interact in other capacities at all.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:55 PM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I admit that I originally installed the Usernotes thingy to keep track of my nemeses but in actual usage I have used it almost solely to remind myself of superawesome but infrequent commenters whose presence I enjoy on metafilter. I feel a little thwarted actually.

[insert gif here of grumpycat not sure about tummy rubs]
posted by elizardbits at 2:07 PM on December 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think switching on a staff tag when speaking in an official capacity (in addition to, or in place of, small text and brackets) is a good idea. It also doesn't limit the ability to interact in other capacities at all.

I guess I'm curious why that would be more useful than what we do now with the small text and brackets. Because for us, it's functionally the same, basically we have a mod-side button we can select that makes the text small and puts the brackets there and this is what we have been doing for years. So I guess I am not sure why a different stylistic change would be an improvement if people don't notice the one we have now?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:11 PM on December 15, 2012


There is a Greasemonkey script for this: mefi navigator.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 2:11 PM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm on here a ton and I still get a little confused with the number of new mods and remembering that LobsterMitten and goodnewsfortheinsane are mods (no offense, guys).

Ditto. I'm not on as much as some users, but I usually am lurking on the blue or interacting in the green on a more or less daily basis, and I've been pretty confused recently. I don't see any real downsides, particularly for folks who are NOT regular users of the site! I mean, we're all expected to remember and we're regular users - what about the casual readers of the blue or the green?

When I was a new user for the longest time I thought cortex was just some gal/guy who took it upon themselves to occasionally hop into threads and metaphorically separate combatants and give advice. If would have really helped if they had a tag of some sort when they were being official. Moreover, that gives them even more flexibility for being unofficial if they can toggle off the mod tag.
posted by arnicae at 2:12 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


what about the casual readers of the blue or the green?

They can always fall back on the FAQ?

Who is in charge here? Are there admins and moderators like other sites?
posted by radwolf76 at 2:15 PM on December 15, 2012


I guess I like the curretn way because it "feels" like it's less intrusive to me, just a little aside to all of us whispered in our ears to play nice.

I was a moderator on another site and always labeled as such, and while usually it wasn't a problem I did have several people I was debating with pull the "of course I'll lose because you're a mod" nonsense, and some of that seemed to be a function of visibility (very different forum, though, and many more moderators). I'd hate to see that happen to the mods here because they are awesomefunny and often have good insight on topics.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:25 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think we all have something about our mod status in our profiles, too.

I am less leery of a mod toggle (because the way we're discussing it, it really is just like using the style) but I am also not really sure how it will help more than the style currently does. I don't see people using it who aren't mods much at all.

I think part of it is just going to take some time. It was a month at least before my mod comments stopped being flagged, and probably closer to six before people really started to recognize me consistently. I'm not sure highlighting mod comments would have speeded that up all that much (and, frankly, as long as people do recognize the mod comments, I don't worry too much about them knowing I'm a mod when I'm not performing my function.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:26 PM on December 15, 2012


I think the selling point of wanting to see staff tags on Official Mod Voice posts on the blue and green is that it's more visually distinctive. Howerver that's directly counter to the current philosophy of small text to minimize disrupting the good parts of a thread in progress while trying to prune the bad ones.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:31 PM on December 15, 2012


I guess I'm curious why that would be more useful than what we do now with the small text and brackets. Because for us, it's functionally the same, basically we have a mod-side button we can select that makes the text small and puts the brackets there and this is what we have been doing for years. So I guess I am not sure why a different stylistic change would be an improvement if people don't notice the one we have now?

It's more visually distinctive and necessitates less of a familiarity with site culture. It would be clearer to newbs, to people who don't follow metatalk or know that the new mods were recently enmotted and might think they were just joking around. It's just clearer. I honestly always figured the current HTML-styled mod "tag" was something done because of early limitations to site coding or something like that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:50 PM on December 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


Just spray paint them red, or some other pleasing color that stands out from the blue background.... or make them wear root beer scented perfume....

I have a harder time remembering the people at a family reunion than I do knowing who's a mod on MeFi.... And, in all honesty, I care less about those people at the family reunion than I do you guys...
posted by HuronBob at 2:54 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's true. I'm not familiar with any other sites that distinguish by style rather than some sort of graphical button. But then, I'm not familiar with any sites that distinguish between mod comments and just-plain-folks comments for mods, which is part of the resistance - we don't want to be *too* distinctive.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:56 PM on December 15, 2012


PhoBWanKenobi and I are diverging a little here. I just want some simple, fixed test I can apply to figure out whether I'm reading a moderator comment. If the small text and brackets are an actual convention, that works for me.

However, I seem to remember it not being consistently followed. The only example I can track down right now is LobsterMitten's posting a an anonymous AskMe follow-up, which is a bad example and a good example both. It's a bad example because it's not terribly important to know LobsterMitten is a moderator, since I can't remember the last time someone impersonated the OP on an anonymous AskMe. It's also a good example because there was a legitimate ambiguity as to whether LobsterMitten is a moderator. On the topic of anonymous follow-ups, the FAQ does say, "Other MeFi users are often willing to do this too."

So, I guess I'm changing my feature request to, "if small text and brackets are the convention for marking MeFi moderator comments, could the moderators start following it more consistently?"

Cortex made an interesting point that I hadn't thought of before, which is that sometimes the ambiguity in presentation comes from actual ambiguity. I think his words were, "The cases where it's less clear are mostly cases where it is, in fact, less of a clearcut thing." Cortex, could you explain more or give an example of when it might not be clear-cut to you as a moderator whether or not you are writing a comment As A Moderator?
posted by d. z. wang at 3:05 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem with the "style" thing is that it's commonly misunderstood by new and non-regular users as a sotto voce stage-whisper instead of a mod-designation. I've pretty commonly seen people talk back to the mods also using the [convention]. If a mod toggle is technically feasible it seems like the obvious solution.
posted by gerryblog at 3:18 PM on December 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


The only example I can track down right now is LobsterMitten's posting a an anonymous AskMe follow-up, which is a bad example and a good example both.

That's actually a good point - we don't use mod style for that, because we actually have a separate button that does the "From the OP" and blockquotes. But for a casual user, it would definitely be confusing to see that and not know for sure that it was official. (Actually, sometimes it isn't a moderator - occasionally someone will have a private conversation with an anon poster and post a response by request. It's rare, but it happens.) So I'm not totally sure what the right way to sort that out would be.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:23 PM on December 15, 2012


But for a casual user, it would definitely be confusing to see that and not know for sure that it was official.

To my mind that's exactly why we don't use the mod style, because anyone can post an update from the OP. We don't know any more than anyone else whether the person asking us to make an update is the OP [though we could check] but sometimes people post updates via other users. So I know this isn't making it easier but it's actually intentional that those are different. The AskMe follow-ups are not something that is limited to mods only. The smalltext/brackets thing definitely is.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:27 PM on December 15, 2012


And here's a reasonable example of an ambiguous situation, where I was mostly participating in a conversation as a regular joe but wanted to preemptively clarify something from a mod angle, so I riffed on the mod format to make it clear. Which seemed to work just fine and be understandable to everyone. (There's also the time I *didn't* use mod style when I really should have, which... ended badly, shall we say.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:28 PM on December 15, 2012


could you explain more or give an example of when it might not be clear-cut to you as a moderator whether or not you are writing a comment As A Moderator?

There are definitely times in the past where I've mentioned in a thread that someone is dominating a discussion or that metacommentary should go in MetaTalk which was put in normal style because I was saying things that anyone could say, they just happened to be about community-level stuff. Sometimes people who felt singled out by these comments have complained that I was abusing my "position" as a regular community person to say things that had the force of a mod behind it. I've tried to be crystal clear with my commentary since then, but we do have a lot of site etiquette stuff that can be pointed out by individual non-mod users. Often now when I want to point something out like that, I'll just MeMail someone.

could the moderators start following it more consistently?

I'm not sure for anything that has a human hand behind it you're going to get more consistent than "nearly always" but we're definitely open to people pointing it out i we're not doing it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:31 PM on December 15, 2012


> "Look! Cortex has stopped his southward path and is heading east, now."

For god's sake watch out, Cortex. There's a dementor closing fast behind you, moot is approaching at 3 o'clock and the Slough of Slashfic is dead ahead.
posted by jfuller at 3:32 PM on December 15, 2012


This is a recent, potentially confusing, case of lack of "mod style" .
posted by Rumple at 4:50 PM on December 15, 2012


Yeah, I was actually going to pull that over. That was one were I felt like the context made it clear who I was, and the loss of readability (and the weirdness of quoting in style, which we never do) was too much to justify.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:57 PM on December 15, 2012


Cortex, could you explain more or give an example of when it might not be clear-cut to you as a moderator whether or not you are writing a comment As A Moderator?

I occasionally drop some gentle nudging into at a thread that's more "hey, seriously, maybe not with the x so much?" as more of a conversational aside if it's a thread I'm just hanging out in and isn't really a MOD IS HERE, CUT IT OUT sort of thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:59 PM on December 15, 2012


This is a recent, potentially confusing, case of lack of "mod style" .

The one time things get really problematic is where we leave a mod note and then people reply to it in the thread. This is supposed to be one of those "Seriously take it to MetaTalk, don't continue this discussion here" situations, but people don't always do that. And the people who don't do that are usually either brand new users or real old time users. five fresh fish knows better, he just doesn't really care. And so then it's awkward to keep sort of whispering at him "Hey man not cool" but at the same time axing his comment (which was my first thought, before r_n replied) seems not-totally-necessary. Tricky, but I'm not sure if it's actually confusing to people who read r_n's comment six comments up. Is it?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:06 PM on December 15, 2012


I would like to have a different colored star for each mod. I already have the one that gave Jessamyn her star back.

OH, OH, OH, or a different cute shape for each mod. That would be highly entertaining. Is there a tiny graphical dinosaur we could use? Or maybe the TOS-era Starfleet insignia?

(I already use the UserNotes script and you all have tiny little "i" things that say "MODERATOR" when I hover over them; this would just be fun.)
posted by SMPA at 5:13 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It wasn't really confusing, but then I have the usernames of all the mods on post-it notes all over my house.

But my reading of this thread is that mods, when speaking In The Voice of Mods, aim to use the font distinction convention, and that comment struck me as not adhering to what I was reading here as the strived-for style.

BTW, excellent job moderating that thread you guys.
posted by Rumple at 5:18 PM on December 15, 2012


I'm going to cop to being someone else who has been known to argue with mods when they're using mod style. It's not because I don't understand the protocol, or because I don't want to respect it; unfortunately, my combination of hyperlinear thinking and crankiness mean I just forget sometimes. So "people don't understand that small text plus brackets isn't a part of the conversation" may point to issues at the other end of the transactions from the mods, e.g. my sometimes unfortunate style of argument.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:19 PM on December 15, 2012


Different colored star for each mod:
check
posted by contrarian at 6:45 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The meaning of the mod style is obscure to anyone who isn't in the Cool Kids Club. I see it was added to the FAQ today, which is nice, but c'mon, the FAQ is 282 entries long and growing, and is somebody really going to think of looking at a FAQ for hidden meanings of typographical conventions?
posted by bac at 6:48 PM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I must profess to being the furthest thing from being a member of the cool kids club and the current mod style works for me fine. +1 vote for status quo, now please don't give me a noogie.
posted by arcticseal at 6:50 PM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think as you scroll past [Voice Of The Mods] comments they should autoplay audio of the comment being read in the Mac OSX Zarvox voice.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:51 PM on December 15, 2012


MetaFilter Platinum means I hear Handel's Messiah when I mouse past mod comments.
posted by arcticseal at 7:00 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had no idea that lobstermitten and gnfti became mods.
posted by BurnChao at 9:17 PM on December 15, 2012


Announcement post. They've also been interviewed on the last two podcasts.
posted by arcticseal at 9:39 PM on December 15, 2012


Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges.
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:04 PM on December 15, 2012


I have the names of the mods engraved on my heart.

(I'm beginning to run out of room -- gnfti is quite the space hog.)
posted by katemonster at 10:04 PM on December 15, 2012


I have their names tattooed but, well, not on my heart. Unfortunately, I've had to abbreviate them all (yes, even taz).
posted by dg at 10:37 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


No.
posted by disclaimer at 11:20 PM on December 15, 2012


Now I am fervently hoping that elizardbits has usernotes about me even if they are bad because I think she is AWESOME. Of course, my approbation may be of minimal value because all I ever do is get drunk and tweet about the episode of Charmed I am currently watching.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:22 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


NOT THAT I DID THIS TONIGHT.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:22 PM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait, you people don't get moderator comments projecting directly into your brain? Telling you you're bad? Because you masturbate too much? And you need to keep scrubbing to wash the filth away?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:50 AM on December 16, 2012


I guess I am not sure why a different stylistic change would be an improvement if people don't notice the one we have now?

I think it's somewhat understandable that people don't notice, or are confused by, the small text in brackets. That technique is a little esoteric. I think it's telling that we're here in MetaTalk, among presumably the most knowledgable users, and there are still some comments indicating confusion.

Using smaller text with brackets isn't as conspicuous on a (text-only) site where people are constantly tinkering with the typeface anyway. Every other comment switches to italics for quoting, for instance, which may not be the same but it contributes to the visual environment for readers: switching typefaces is not a cue that jumps out for being unusual. Moreover, many non-moderator members use a similar cue (smaller text, albeit without brackets) to indicate basically the opposite effect: to de-emphasize.

By contrast those "staff" tags are unusual sights in a thread, and they're bright yellow, and the word isn't particularly ambiguous. I would think they'd be both harder to miss, and easier to understand for people who are less conversant in site culture.
posted by cribcage at 9:25 AM on December 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


You know how you love Metafilter but there are also one or three things about it that you think it does completely wrong, but you shrug and move on and go "oh well guess I just have to deal with the ongoing unnecessary low-level wrongness" and keep on loving Metafilter despite those things?

Yeah. The lack of a clear toggled "staff" indicator when mods are speaking as mods in the blue is one of those things for me. It's my old tech writer persona coming back to haunt me, I'm sure, but none of the explanations the mods have given above (or ever, really) make a lick of sense when compared to the benefit to the userbase - both members and non-member readers who may be checking the site out for the first few times - of a clear indicator for who staff are on the blue and when those people are speaking as staff. I continue to be amazed staff don't see that as a benefit to them, too, but they say they don't, and so MeFi uses an unnecessarily fuzzy and idiosyncratic way to do something there is obviously a more precise and clear way of doing.

It's weird, but you get used to it.
posted by mediareport at 12:25 PM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I continue to be amazed staff don't see that as a benefit to them, too

What complicates it for me personally is that I don't see a ton of upside in putting even more emphasis on the idea that I am a mod and am speaking as the most important thing about me making a comment. When we say stuff as mods it's generally because it's something that needs saying, and if we need to delete something we can delete regardless of whether a casual reader totally understands the site policies around here.

If the situation was such that we were unable to do our jobs for lack of a MOD SPEAKING toggle, there'd be more of a problem. But that's not the case; we're able to do our jobs, we're able to redirect threads or cut off derails, we're able to send email and mefimail and point to the FAQ and metatalk, and when necessary we can get explicit with a new users about e.g. this is in fact one of the folks running the place talking to you right now.

To put it another way, I think that different approaches to this are a matter of degree, not kind; in general folks who hang around are going to get the gist of how things work here, and folks who are not very or at all familiar with the site are not going to have a good handle on how this place works in terms of moderation or policy. Being super explicit that a person speaking is a mod doesn't add much information to the conversation unless someone has a pretty solid handle on what it means to be a mefi mod, what the moderation culture and site zeitgeist is, etc. Witness conversations about mefi on different sites when web drama occasionally spills out; e.g. reddit folks often assume that "mod" here means what it means there, ubiquitous volunteer community deputies who make up a significant and basically non-cohesive chunk of the userbase; folks from a One Iron Fist Rules All sort of community often assume that a mod is the mod and that anything on the site that hasn't been deleted is that person's, and the site's, official stated opinion and policy; etc.

So, it's complicated. I'm not unsympathetic to the idea of trying to more clearly signpost stuff, I just don't think that the actual practical problems on Metafilter with the current approach are as significant, or the misunderstandings by folks not reading the site attentively as soluble, as the stated notion of a "just add a mod toggle/star/badge" suggestion supposes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:40 PM on December 16, 2012


Maybe all mod comments on every subsite should have an optional glitter gif background for emphasis.
posted by elizardbits at 1:26 PM on December 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Being super explicit that a person speaking is a mod doesn't add much information to the conversation unless someone has a pretty solid handle on what it means to be a mefi mod

I figured that's what the link to the FAQ in the "staff" button is for. I can see your point about it being a degree of difference rather than of kind, but think moving a few degrees in the direction of immediate transparency about who's a mod here when they're actively modding, instead of, well, kinda making new users guess about it and then sometimes get caught up short when folks (sometimes unpleasantly) point out who they're actually talking to, is not only the more user-friendly move but would also help folks get that "solid handle" more quickly.

I dunno, cortex, I just don't see much of a downside to clicking an "add staff button" checkbox when you're already adding small tags and brackets to an Official Thought, and see significant, if not enormous, upside in terms of transparency.
posted by mediareport at 3:52 PM on December 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think the argument is that it would be hard/extra work to click an "add staff button" checkbox. I think the argument is that having mod bylines be strongly marked is a double-edged sword. More visible and obvious for new people, yes, but also more intrusive, more A MOD IS WATCHING YOU, etc. I think the feel of the current system is more subtle, more a subtle nudge rather than a scolding. It doesn't make the mod comments seem like pronouncements from on high whose importance is greater than the main body of the thread.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:06 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I understand that, and didn't mean to suggest extra work was the issue. I was just emphasizing the "difference of degree" thing. The staff button doesn't strike me as that far removed from what you already do, but is definitely more transparent, which is generally a good thing.

I do get that for mods personally it might be a change that feels like you were setting yourself outside the userbase in a way that's odd and unnecessary, like scolding, although I'm not sure it would be felt by others that way. I guess I'm more (too?) focused on whatever minor costs there are from the subtle, less immediately transparent approach in this one specific aspect. It just feels off, somehow.
posted by mediareport at 4:36 PM on December 16, 2012


mediareport's done a really great job of pinpointing the reasons it feels off to me. Particularly for longstanding mods, I can understand why they don't want to be set apart from the general population--but I actually think that setting apart the newer mods from the general population is actually a good thing. It shows that their authority is real and not just the result of playing with HTML (in a way that anyone else could). I'm thinking particularly of the crap that certain newer mods had to put up with at first, and I wonder if more transparency could have helped avoid that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:23 PM on December 16, 2012


I totally understand the desire of the mods to be invisible and also the idea that having visible moderators in the conversation stifles expression somewhat.

However, most other communities I participate in online have visible moderator tags. Every now and then we something here where a mod says something like "cool it down folks" and some new user spouts off with "I have a good reason to be angry. who are you to tell me to cool it?"

On the one hand, maybe people who react like that aren't the people we want here. On the other hand, having a clear indication to everyone that something is an official message does help shape the conversation when it needs shaping.
posted by 256 at 7:52 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking particularly of the crap that certain newer mods had to put up with at first, and I wonder if more transparency could have helped avoid that.

That's generally been characterized by people who are established here and are aware that the new mod is a new mod and beefing specifically on that basis. Making it clearer who the mods are doesn't really intersect in a meaningful way with that phenomenon. Which, again, not saying I don't get where people are coming from on this but that's an example of a problem that nothing being proposed solves: it's not a lack of transparency about who a mod is that leads to complaints about mod work by someone known to be a mod from someone who is identifying them as a mod.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:40 PM on December 16, 2012


Since you have an automatic mod formatting button, couldn't you insert a white or gold star after the first bracket to highlight a modly utterance? That way you'd have an indicator that the interjection is Modly in tone but it wouldn't be there if you were speaking as a member o' the site?
posted by julen at 7:37 AM on December 17, 2012


That's generally been characterized by people who are established here and are aware that the new mod is a new mod and beefing specifically on that basis.

Not in the thread that restless_nomad linked to, where people started arguing with her even when she was using mod style.

I don't think anyone wants you guys to have to be identified as mods 100% of the time. But I still think that something besides simple HTML styling would be clearer, especially now that there are a bevy of newer, lesser-known mods.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:44 AM on December 17, 2012


It sounds like the decision has already been made on this, but I absolutely concur with PhoBWanKenobi and others - to me at this point hanging onto the current mod styling seems more like MeFi is trying to say "YES, we're that girl who deliberately makes her e's backwards and dots her i's with hearts, and we like it that way. If you don't want to embrace it, reddit/boingboing/fark are just a click away. Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out."

I love this site, and I'll admit, I enjoy being one of the ones in the know when people bring up old in-jokes or use styling and conventions unique to the site. It is fun to know the secret passwords (at least, the ones that I know...I know I miss a lot of the in jokes!). But, it does make me sad sometimes when we as a community appear cliquish and exclusive, not welcoming new folks until they read the FAQs and lurk for a while so they can "understand the site better".

Not using a mod button to me seems like a symptom of this - everyone in the know, knows, and hey, they COULD always click the FAQ button if they're confused. It's not a big deal, ultimately, but I'd like it if this wonderful, warm, loving community that organizes gift drives and helps find lost cats at national monuments and assists in emergency situations with human trafficking and is always willing to lend a hand was a little easier to join. The barrier to entry is low - just $5 and you're in, but it often seems the barriers to feeling part of the community are rather higher.
posted by arnicae at 11:00 AM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


restless_nomad: (There's also the time I *didn't* use mod style when I really should have, which... ended badly, shall we say.)

Looking back at that, I notice that your comments early in that thread (e.g.) don't have the (staff) annotation, though a later comment does. I guess y'all have your date of becoming staff as 2011 May 1 or so, though you were announced as such on April 10, were acting as a mod by April 14 at least (e.g., deleting this and that), and described yourself unambiguously as staff on April 30.

It's a little confusing, perhaps not so much in the thread you linked, but certainly in the rot13 thread on April 26, where you speak as a mod in MeTa, clarifying policy and explaining the modly view of the site norms — that is, doing exactly those things that the staff marker was introduced to mark — but there is no marker.

Maybe the date recorded for you becoming staff should be moved back a bit.

(Previously: similar issue for cortex, 2011-11-12.)
posted by stebulus at 12:31 PM on December 17, 2012


Good point. I'll see what date we're working with - I thought it was unambiguous, but now I don't remember what it was.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:33 PM on December 17, 2012


MetaFilter Platinum means I hear Handel's Messiah when I mouse past mod comments.

Please please please tell me it's the All we like sheep chorus.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:52 PM on December 17, 2012


Got the date set to April 10th, so everything from the announcement thread on should have me with staff tag attached. Thanks!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:39 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can see that the difference between a user-recreatable typographic style and an actual instantly credible "badge" is real - if I didn't know what was going on I would accept the words of a "staff" member without question, and likely would be suspicious of someone laying down the law (so to speak) without one.

It's like a marked cop car. You see one you know it's the fuzz. But if an unmarked car tries to pull you over (and you have not been in town long enough to know Officer Whoever's truck) you'll have a period of confusion. Especially since there ARE marked cop cars around. The official badge exists.

I guess to torture this metaphor even further, the "mod brackets" are like those suction cup blue plastic dome wigwag lights that sheriff Lobo would slap on top of his Oldsmobile when the prowler was in the shop. And yeah, it works, but if someone tried to pull me over with one of those I'd probably try to make my way carefully to a well-lit and populated area, because you can get them from JC Whitney for like $20, and who knows?

I don't have any problem understanding the convention here, but I've been farting around here for a long time. Using a clearly identifiable staff badge, when doing staffly things, seems like an easy concession to clarity and order for people who are newer. Without much of a downside.
posted by dirtdirt at 2:39 PM on December 17, 2012


I'm just going to close this up now.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:20 PM on December 17, 2012


I'm just going to close this up now. (exlotuseater)

I'm guessing that was a joke about how easy it is to impersonate a moderator?

Anyway, it looks like the answer from the mods is that they're going to stick with the current situation for now, although I wouldn't be surprised if this topic were revisited the next time some new moderators were brought on board.
posted by d. z. wang at 6:04 PM on December 17, 2012


Yeah part of it may be a failure of imagination on our part. For a long time there were only three moderators and then in a short time, relatively speaking, we got four more. And now it's hard for us to imagine getting any more. Like, now we feel like we have a normal staffing level and the site's not really expanding at a rate that would cause us to get more people. So it seems like this is an issue that will get simpler, not more difficult.

What we'd like to do is make it easier for people who want to know who the mods are, to find that information. We've got the FAQ and the MeTa stuff but we're also going to add a similar staff tag to our profiles so that anyone can click through and figure out "hey is this person a mod or not?" I know for people who wanted the "If you're speaking as a mod, you use the mod tag anywhere on the site" option, it's not that, but it seemed like a good way to cut out some ambiguity and have our profiles be a little more clear (instead of having us just write "Hi I'm a mod!" which anyone could do. This in addition to making sure we're using the smalltext/brackets thing clearly and that other people are clearly NOT using it are how far we feel like going with this for now.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:15 PM on December 17, 2012


And we just added the staff labels to profile pages. You'll find the staff tag after their name, just under the profile image.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:16 PM on December 17, 2012


That's a fine idea, but if I may, it's buried a bit low. It should probably be more obvious, as in just below the "jessamyn's profile" and above the "send MeFi Mail," and maybe make it a clear statement like "[username] is a staff member of Metafilter."

Putting the notice at what is essentially the 2nd mention of the person's name instead of at the first mention of the username that's their main handle at the site seems a bit less clear than it could be, for no discernable reason.
posted by mediareport at 9:03 PM on December 17, 2012


(Ok, that was anal.)
posted by mediareport at 9:04 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure the profile page banners are large enough. I just clicked through to jessamyn's page, and I knew what I as looking for, and it still took me two times through her page before I saw it.
posted by OmieWise at 2:47 AM on December 18, 2012


I mean, I'm not sure it's a necessary addition, but if you're going to make it, I think it should be more prominent.
posted by OmieWise at 2:48 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was quite noticeable on my android tablet layout. I am using professional white though, which means that I know how to change layouts in my profile and could be presumed to know a little about how the site works. How does it look in the default colours?
posted by arcticseal at 4:23 AM on December 18, 2012


It is more noticeable on my iPhone with the white background, I think because the page is more narrow so the name ( and therefore the staff badge) are front and center in the layout.
posted by OmieWise at 4:33 AM on December 18, 2012


It shows up better on my work computer with white background. This may well be an issue of my poor color sight (I'm colorblind), on the blue background.

It doesn't show up if there is no name in your profile, so it isn't on r_n's page.
posted by OmieWise at 6:27 AM on December 18, 2012


It doesn't show up if there is no name in your profile, so it isn't on r_n's page.

Thanks, we'll get that fixed up today.
posted by pb (staff) at 6:44 AM on December 18, 2012


The staff button should be right before or after the mod's username; if you're going to do it at all, it should be the first or second thing you see on the mod's page.

I understand the "[username]'s profile" thing makes it cumbersome to add there, but there's an easy solution to that: just eliminate the 's profile at the end of everyone's username at the top. It's always been an unnecessary part of the profile page template - you're obviously on that user's profile page - so just change it across the site. Instead of

[username]'s profile

just use

[username]

which is perfectly fine, more concise, less repetitive, and has the added benefit of making it very easy to put the staff button either right before or right after the mod's user name.

Ooookay. I'm going back to forgetting about this now.
posted by mediareport at 6:46 AM on December 18, 2012


It doesn't show up if there is no name in your profile, so it isn't on r_n's page.

I will solve this by adding my name, which I obviously thought was there because otherwise the Gender line makes no sense at all. How weird.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:15 AM on December 18, 2012


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