bullshit April 17, 2013 9:16 PM   Subscribe

The moderation around here has officially become fucking ridiculous.

In the Waco disaster post I tried to link this comment by Professor Erik Loomis (via Lawyers, Guns, and Money): " Hopefully, it is not this bad. Yes, that’s right, a fertilizer plant was placed in a neighborhood. Or a neighborhood grew up around a fertilizer plant. In any case, there are already lessons we can draw from this developing story. First, non-union states often have terrible working conditions that can lead to horrible accidents. They might rarely be this bad, but they kill. Second, a state with notoriously bad zoning and where capitalists are effectively allowed to do whatever they want is going to be a state where terrible things happen."

The deletion of so-called "political" material from Mefi threads, in this case pretty mild and pointing out the obvious, is just as political an act as linking to informed commentary.

Discuss.
posted by bardic to Etiquette/Policy at 9:16 PM (644 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

Yow, forgot to link. Sorry.

Yes, LGM is a "leftie" website (that happens to be composed of fairly accomplished academics) but if I can't drop a link to them this place is no longer for me.
posted by bardic at 9:18 PM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well that comment/quote sure looks ripe to fuck a thread up with a nasty derail, so I'm glad it's gone.
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:19 PM on April 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


After seeing the news out of Texas, I came over to the grey to see if it was the end of the world, and if so, would anyone be interested in a NYC meetup. But then I saw that bardic is complaining about moderation, so it can't possibly be the end of the world, just a very bad week for everyone.

Hugs all around.
posted by brina at 9:23 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Was it literally just a link that was deleted? Was there a quote? Was there commentary?
posted by gerryblog at 9:25 PM on April 17, 2013


It's the end of the world as I know it, so feel up Chris Pine.
posted by The Whelk at 9:25 PM on April 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


TBH, I'm sorta surprised the post stayed up. I understand an American site with lots of Americans etc, but it seemed like classic newsfilter to me, esp given the lack of info, context, and potentially affected mefites, but so it goes.

I think your quote was pretty mild, but then, I tend to stay out of those newsfiltery threads, as there's nothing I can usually contribute to them anyway.
posted by smoke at 9:26 PM on April 17, 2013 [14 favorites]


I gave the quotation above and a link, nothing else.
posted by bardic at 9:27 PM on April 17, 2013


I will add I don't think the aggressive, swearing, emotional framing of the MeTa is very helpful to your case, though dude. Doesn't read like a lot of good-faith assuming etc of the moderators.

I understand you may not have the faith, but if you're trying to change people's minds about something, best not to tell them they're bullshit, fucking ridiculous etc, I think.
posted by smoke at 9:28 PM on April 17, 2013 [30 favorites]


Removing that comment was the right call, not much else to talk about here. You could argue every industrial disaster ever recorded was a result of capitalism, and even if you were absolutely right, it still wouldn't add anything to that thread.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:29 PM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Really, isn't every disaster the result of agriculture? * makes finger teepee and nods slowly*
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 PM on April 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


bardic, my reply to your comment was also deleted, but it was something to the effect of:
Can you please wait until the fires are put out and the casualties are treated before you start to cast blame on an entire state for this tragedy?

This happened near my hometown and in a place that I love and this has been a stressful week and I'm fucking tired of seeing people casually bash Texas in that thread and the Boston thread. There are 25 million people in this state, and we are grieving tonight. Can it wait until tomorrow? Or next week? Or never?
posted by donajo at 9:33 PM on April 17, 2013 [26 favorites]


Removing that comment was the right call, not much else to talk about here. You could argue every industrial disaster ever recorded was a result of capitalism, and even if you were absolutely right, it still wouldn't add anything to that thread.

I don't like the idea that the only thing we can do in disaster threads is coo over how terrible it is and ask 'why does this keep happening to us' instead of trying to figure out how to actually stop it from happening again.
posted by empath at 9:33 PM on April 17, 2013 [67 favorites]


It was deleted due to the second half of it: "Second, a state with notoriously bad zoning and where capitalists are effectively allowed to do whatever they want is going to be a state where terrible things happen."

That's a huge flame bait fireball to be dropped into a thread on an event where they don't even know how many people have died yet, and it would have turned the current event sharing aspects of the thread into a huge Texas hate-a-thon when it doesn't need to be at this time.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:35 PM on April 17, 2013 [45 favorites]


it still wouldn't add anything to that thread.

That seems necessarily - and inconsistently - restrictive, to me. There are plenty of comments in that, and every thread on the blue, that don't objectively "add" anything. Didn't we have this discussion with regards to obituaries recently?
posted by smoke at 9:36 PM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


If Metafilter re: disaster threads is now only a place for sympathy and direct links to information (local news, people offering beds, etc.) the mods certainly should make that fact clear to us plebes.
posted by bardic at 9:37 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't like the idea that the only thing we can do in disaster threads is coo over how terrible it is

I don't really like breaking news type threads myself, but it seems the most appropriate thing to do in them is share links to more information or share stuff you know about the area/event/type of disaster. Getting into why things are the way they are is a little premature when an event is still unfolding.

It'd be like arguing about weak airport security at 11am on September 11, 2001. Probably best to wait until we know more about the story before we start casting blame.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:38 PM on April 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't like the idea that the only thing we can do in disaster threads is coo over how terrible it is and ask 'why does this keep happening to us' instead of trying to figure out how to actually stop it from happening again.

Loomis doesn't present any actual evidence that the lack of unions were a factor here, though. It's basically the equivalent of #falseflagging five minutes after a disaster. When you're pontificating that fast the facts don't matter.
posted by gerryblog at 9:39 PM on April 17, 2013 [14 favorites]


Hmm, also I think it's understandable because of Americans/mefites involved, I'm not sure I agree with an approach that is so markedly different when the disaster/event is international in nature, where analysis and speculation is certainly not frowned upon and in fact regularly discussed from the get-go.

Certainly, there are fewer people on here with an emotional stake in those issues, but I don't know, it just doesn't really sit right with me. The Fukushima thread illustrates this difference fairly clearly, I feel.
posted by smoke at 9:41 PM on April 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


I linked the above quotation with a link, nothing else.

You included the full quotation as you have here, with a link to the rest of the short blog post which seemed to me to be basically using the occasion of a horrible tragedy to score political points talking about how lousy (or absent) the unions and zoning regulations are in Texas with no actual facts or data or anything, just button-pushing. Your including it in the thread about an unfolding industrial disaster (and then reposting it after I deleted it and left a note the first time) was problematic from a "I am trying to keep everyone on this website from exploding at each other in grief and pain" perspective.

I don't like the idea that the only thing we can do in disaster threads is coo over how terrible it is and ask 'why does this keep happening to us' instead of trying to figure out how to actually stop it from happening again.

Excellent, then you and the mod team are in total agreement. However, there is a wide range of things people can talk about that are between "cooing over the terrible tragedy" and basically appearing to blame the injured and maimed for living in a state with bad regulations.

Over the past five years or so we've been a little more hardass about people tossing their lazy "Fuck Texas/Alabama/US/China/Somalia/Libya and everyone in it" comments around. They're toxic to the community discussion and tend to stop threads dead.

bardic, if you want to actually discuss this as if you are actually curious about how we run this place and make the decisions we do, we're here to listen. I'm not getting the feeling that's what you want.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:41 PM on April 17, 2013 [27 favorites]


It'd be like arguing about weak airport security at 11am on September 11, 2001. Probably
best to wait until we know more about the story before we start casting blame.


Yeah, but here is the thing -- people with an agenda to push aren't going to wait. People in the white house were trying to figure out how to get us into war with Iraq a few hours after 9/11. The narrative gets set in the media before all the facts are out, and I don't think it helps to tell people to stop thinking about the repercussions and causes and effects and all of that before the media and pundits tells us what to think.

It's pretty clear that houses were built criminally close to the plant, and trying to figure out why that happened is important to know.
posted by empath at 9:41 PM on April 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


Agree with bardic. I am disturbed that the only correct responses to tragedies as they unfold seem to be the ones that are emotionally based: prayers, sympathies, shock, horror, etc. Don't know when that convention was established here and elsewhere, but I think it's a dangerous trend when political commentary is deemed impolite or inappropriate.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:41 PM on April 17, 2013 [34 favorites]


That said, I don't think it was a good deletion. It's obviously relevant to the topic, and not offensive in any way. It's mission creep if mods are now expected to police the reasonability and timeliness of discussions.
posted by gerryblog at 9:42 PM on April 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


"#falseflagging"

That has a specific meaning (government did it and covered it up) and that's not at all what Loomis was saying.

An industrial fertilizer plant was in a residential area. It blew up and maybe, just maybe, industrial fertilizer plants shouldn't be in residential areas. And oh yeah, there are specific reasons why some states have industrial fertilizer plants in residential areas and other don't.

If pointing that out isn't worthy of the blue, then yeah, fuck this place.

If it was a tone issue than I kind of see the point, but I honestly feel that our delicate feelings can handle a neutrally framed link to LGM.
posted by bardic at 9:45 PM on April 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's pretty clear that houses were built criminally close to the plant, and trying to figure out why that happened is important to know.

True, and there's a way to bring up that point without mocking and laying blame on the entire state.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:45 PM on April 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


By #falseflagging I just meant trying to spin an event immediately after it happened before anything is known. (Hence the #.) Obviously Loomis isn't making a conspiratorial claim.
posted by gerryblog at 9:49 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


score political points

Wow.
posted by heyho at 9:50 PM on April 17, 2013


"appearing to blame the injured and maimed for living in a state with bad regulations"

Jessamyn, this is not at all what the link said.
posted by bardic at 9:51 PM on April 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


It is what you quoted said.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:52 PM on April 17, 2013


"if you want to actually discuss this as if you are actually curious about how we run this place and make the decisions we do, we're here to listen. I'm not getting the feeling that's what you want."

Oh, and fuck you very much.

Try and check your condescension for once.
posted by bardic at 9:52 PM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, and fuck you very much.

That's not exactly proving your interest in a civil discussion here. If you just wanted to get your hostility out in public, we don't need to leave the thread open any longer.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:55 PM on April 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


Second, a state with notoriously bad zoning and where capitalists are effectively allowed to do whatever they want is going to be a state where terrible things happen.

Pick a state and I'll post a link to a critical vulnerability that exists in its infrastructure.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:55 PM on April 17, 2013 [24 favorites]


You make it hard to support a homie's broader point, what with the abuse and stuff Bardic.
posted by smoke at 9:55 PM on April 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


He says as if he's ever checked anything...
posted by carsonb at 9:56 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


bardic, no condescension, but it does seem like something else is going on in your approach to this.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:58 PM on April 17, 2013


bardic, what if we waited at least 24 hours before using the dead to score points for our personal political causes? That way we might actually have a number and that looks so much more impressive in our blog posts.
posted by schroedinger at 10:07 PM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


My two cents:

1) I think the comment was mostly OK. The only real reason I can see to delete it is timing — like, if that comment had come a couple hours later, after things had settled down, it'd be entirely fine.

2) Bardic, I think you've got a good point and the way you're getting incensed is going to detract from how persuasive you're able to be.

Especially realize that on the heels of Boston and Gun Control that Waco is gonna be touchy as hell.
posted by klangklangston at 10:09 PM on April 17, 2013 [20 favorites]


I have friends in Austin and friends in DFW. It seems insensitive to discuss Texas' ideologically (un)motivated zoning problems in a thread devoted to figuring out what the hell is going on during a major disaster.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:13 PM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow, the fire is still fucking burning and you want to make political hay out of it.

Just, wow.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:14 PM on April 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm personally not in favor of deleting comments, but I see the point in these situations. MetaFilter is first and foremost a community, we aren't law enforcement or a congressional committee or part of some spin machine, we don't have to face up to the cold hard facts at the expense of the emotional pain of other members.

I mean it is like someone dies of lung cancer after smoking for 30 years, doesn't matter if you think he brought it on himself, you don't show up to the funeral and make eulogy about how dumb it is to smoke. You save that conversation for after the kids are in bed and everyone has had a few drinks.

It isn't really hard to read the link that way. That the victims brought it on themselves either with their votes or their inaction.

It isn't like having the conversation right fucking now is going to bring anyone back.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:15 PM on April 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


I mean, look, everyone said "Now is not the time" after Newtown, while the NRA dove in headfirst staking out a hard-line position in the media. The New York Times and all the 'respectable people' tut-tutted about it while the NRA went to war. And they won. You can talk about not sinking down to their level all you want, but taking the high-ground doesn't change anything.

The time to start acting is while people are still upset and angry. The time to demand that things change is now.
posted by empath at 10:22 PM on April 17, 2013 [29 favorites]


Bardic, Why not post something on the blue that could start a separate discussion of the issues that you want to raise? It could be linked to this discussion but not be in this thread.

I personally need lots of cooing this week. I cannot watch the news because it makes me cry so I come to metafliter to read about it....somehow it feels a little farther away when I read rather than when i look at graphic pictures. It also helps to know others are experiencing all of this is the same way I am.
posted by cairnoflore at 10:23 PM on April 17, 2013


Why not post something on the blue that could start a separate discussion of the issues that you want to raise?

It would get deleted immediately.
posted by empath at 10:24 PM on April 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


And they won. You can talk about not sinking down to their level all you want, but taking the high-ground doesn't change anything

Dude, this is MetaFilter. It's not Congress. It's not "the media". Scoring points here against the NRA doesn't actually cause any change for the better in the real world.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:28 PM on April 17, 2013 [86 favorites]


I mean, look, everyone said "Now is not the time" after Newtown, while the NRA dove in headfirst staking out a hard-line position in the media. The New York Times and all the 'respectable people' tut-tutted about it while the NRA went to war. And they won. You can talk about not sinking down to their level all you want, but taking the high-ground doesn't change anything.

The time to start acting is while people are still upset and angry. The time to demand that things change is now.


Screw that, dude. Never is it the time for the promotion of groundless speculation and the denigration of particular ideologies or practices in the aftermath of a tragedy the cause of which is unknown. Maybe the explosion happened because of capitalism and lack of unions and republicans. Or maybe it happened because a new employee made a terrible mistake, or maybe someone started a fire or planted an explosive device. Do we know that it was not one of those things? Hmmmmm? Well maybe better not to dump giant flaming turds into a thread that is otherwise a perfectly reasonable discussion of what's going on in Texas.
posted by pdq at 10:28 PM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not "the media".

Matt, you should know as well as anyone that we're all the media. There are facebook posts that get more views than CNN on a regular basis.
posted by empath at 10:30 PM on April 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


If Metafilter re: disaster threads is now only a place for sympathy and direct links to information (local news, people offering beds, etc.) the mods certainly should make that fact clear to us plebes.

I believe, through moderation of your comment, they've sent you that message.
posted by davejay at 10:31 PM on April 17, 2013


It would get deleted immediately.
I'm tempted to prove you wrong, but I'm still clearing my Reader "starred" cache.

How I Would Do It:
1) Good analytical piece about right-to-work state's safety records
2) Editorial on infill around industrial zones
3) Quick note on state and country level regulatory capture, the grandfathering of existing structures, and city/towns trying to attract business through "relaxed" zoning.
4) Data on current housing around potentially-dangerous industries (chem. plants, oil refineries, seaports, grain silos, et al.)
5) Leaven with wildfire data (last year) and housing ordnance enforcement
6) NO MENTION OF RECENT EVENTS. Let your readers come to that conclusion themselves, it makes them feel smarter.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:32 PM on April 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


Also, all evidence points to your "wearenotchildren" tag being unintentionally ironic.
posted by davejay at 10:32 PM on April 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Could we please have a little room in these threads about policy choices that seem to have magnified the disaster?
posted by humanfont at 10:42 PM on April 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


The moderation around here has officially become fucking ridiculous.

"Officially"? Did the Senate actually pass something today?
posted by dersins at 10:43 PM on April 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think if we are doing newsfilter like this and bardic has a link that provides evidence for his speculations (beyond "maybe, just maybe") that would be a stunning addition to the conversation. If an event happens, even a tragic event, and a mefite can provide some deep context for why it happened, I think that would add immeasurably to the conversation. Then we really could discuss causes.

But bardic's comment does not reveal causes, it speculates on broad generalizations. In that respect it IS a derail, It takes the conversation away from the links in the FPP and reroutes them to a discussion of Texas labour law that may or may not have anything to do with the fertilizer plant.

Was the plant unionized? had it been recently decertified? Was it written up for safety violations? Did the plant owners bribe the city for planning permission? Links to any of these facts would have been good context.

And then, in watching this MeTa unfold, I am reminded how important it is to be polite if we are going to have a conversation about our community standards. A deleted comment is not a personal attack even though it can feel like that in the moment. Nothing that happens here at Metafilter is likely to be the worst thing that could ever happen to you.
posted by salishsea at 10:44 PM on April 17, 2013 [33 favorites]


esp given the lack of info, context, and potentially affected mefites

(Emphasis mine.)

The fuck?
posted by kmz at 10:48 PM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


And now having followed the link I see that there actually IS some evidence of a previous fire at the plant that caused the nearby school to be evacuated, even though that was not what bardic shose to share. This, to me, is interesting.
posted by salishsea at 10:49 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem with the OP is twofold. One is the nature of breaking news posts. There's a site-wide custom of sharing one's personal connection to an unfolding tragedy. It's not my thing and I skim or avoid. So these posts tend to draw people who want to share why they have an interest in the story rather than information. So you're coming into a thread full of people invested personally in an ongoing event. This one has massive casualties.

The other problem here is that people who want to talk about what's wrong with Texas conflate the state, Texans as a people and Texans as individuals. Most of the Texans on Metafilter probably agree with you about what's wrong with Texas. You're preaching to the choir. You're preaching to the choir at an inappropriate time.
posted by vincele at 10:51 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


We're sorry, all the ambulances related to west explosion are currently TENDING TO THE INJURED, the first responders do not have any excess capacity to tend to waahmbulance duty at this time.
posted by roboton666 at 10:52 PM on April 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I agree that bardic could have handled the meta better, but I have also noticed an increasing trend in news-y posts to delete opinionated comments of all kinds, which is a little bit frustrating. And to be clear, I've only had like a couple of comments of mine deleted recently that I know of, which didn't really bother me that much, so this isn't really about me. I'd just like there to be a little bit of loosening of the moderation to allow a greater range of conversational topics, beyond the strictly factual and expressions of grief/sympathy/etc. I'm not really going to say anything more.
posted by empath at 10:52 PM on April 17, 2013 [26 favorites]


There's also already a "Texas is terrible" thread that's fairly recent where that kind of link would fit in fine.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:54 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I want it too empath, but I think we also can do better than a newspaper comments section and run those conversations on good evidence and credible sources. It is one of the things that distinguishes this place.
posted by salishsea at 10:56 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Having been here since the era of "Surely, this...", I don't think MetaFilter ever was the best place to plant seeds for political/social causes, no matter how obviously important they may be. If it were, by now we Bleeding Heart MeFites would have clear majorities in both houses of the U.S. Congress (not to legislatures of every state and most English-speaking countries).
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:00 PM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


The fuck?

If you have a question that you can ask with words and without profanity I will attempt to answer it. If you are merely trying to demonstrate your outrage to everyone, then forgo the question mark.
posted by smoke at 11:00 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


mathowie: "True, and there's a way to bring up that point without mocking and laying blame on the entire state."

jessamyn: "appearing to blame the injured and maimed for living in a state with bad regulations"

Personally, I don't see these implications, either in the quote or in the linked blog post. The blog post, in particular, seems to be doing the opposite of mocking--it raises the topic of the area's heritage in a respectful and interested manner, even if the point of interest seems trivial.

I can see how the quote is a political statement, introduced early and too conclusively in a thread about a tragedy, but the gist of it is bog-standard sociological commentary. I'm not saying it's super insightful (non-union!!1! capitalism!#$&!), but if you ask a sociology 101 professor about this tomorrow, and they don't mention basic issues of land use planning and environmental justice as potentially being at stake then I'm not sure they're doing their jobs.

Incidentally, I have plenty of warm, personal feeling toward Texas, but things like this and this happen, and I think it's reasonable to expect a ... robust presentation of that angle at some point or another.

If it was just too soon, fine, but I think it's not accurate to say it was mockery or victim-blaming.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:01 PM on April 17, 2013 [24 favorites]


Oh, I was just sorta amazed at your ability to intuit all Metafilter users' locations, the locations of their family and friends, and their levels of empathy.
posted by kmz at 11:03 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


kmz, that was just bad phrasing:

read it as: 1) Lack of info and context, and 2) the possibility of personally affected mefites.
posted by empath at 11:05 PM on April 17, 2013


Honestly, I think that the conflict here is more a result of some things found only in the larger context and not in the proximate stuff that bardic is concerned with.

That is to say, there's a lot of impulsive, thoughtless, indiscriminately hateful stuff that progressives write about Texas that conflates the bad things about Texas with, you know, all individual Texans. And, on the other side of that debate, there's a lot of chauvinistic, ideologically-drenched praise of Texas (and implicitly all Texans!). This creates a discursive atmosphere that's over-rich for conflict and hurt feelings.

Specifically, that's the context that Loomis was implicitly addressing with his post. He was responding to all that right-wing Texas is the best place EVAR stuff and, that being the case, his post had some implicit opposing hostility.

If this had been about some low-regulation state that no one much talks about, the context would have been different, Loomis's post would have been different, and the reaction to bardic's comment would have been different.

It's just not the case that we can't talk about the causes and legal/political/cultural environments related to such disasters and tragedies. We can, and even when they peripherally involve mefites. Sure, the closer mefites are involved, the more we have to step carefully and be considerate, but I think that it's not at all the case that we can't talk about these things.

But similar to how it matters whether actual mefites have some connection to the tragedy in terms of how we ought to talk about it (in terms of tone and consideration and whatnot), it also matters where different tragedies exist within the larger contexts. Shooting and gun control are a good example, the whole thing is extremely politically charged and almost anything could be very provocative to one or the other side, and in such a context it becomes even more important to step carefully. Not just because it does matter that other people also have strong opinions and stakes in some of these things and those interests are no less important than mine; but just as a practical matter, about whether a discussion can be had at all without it turning into a huge GRAR match.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:08 PM on April 17, 2013


Empath, I agree with you. From my perspective it's not about moderation. It's about the way the site has grown and the way the community has shaped its customs for etiquette. I feel constrained and like I am always about to say the wrong thing. I feel like the community expects a little too much from posters and that as a result the community has grown to accommodate users who are very intelligent and very aware of their feelings and put feelings before substance sometimes.

If the community were made of people like myself there would not be as much concern about feelings getting hurt. I like being able to debate and discuss topics with people beyond those who are drawn to metafilter. However, this isn't the place for that kind of debate. It is not a site for debate at all. So I go elsewhere for those conversations. That doesn't mean Metafilter is not a great site for links and asking questions.
posted by vincele at 11:08 PM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


bardic: "Jessamyn, this is not at all what the link said."

To kind of spell it out as well as I can in a careful way - this is the conclusion of the quote you posted:
"... a state with notoriously bad zoning and where capitalists are effectively allowed to do whatever they want is going to be a state where terrible things happen."
To parse this - terrible things happen in a state. Why? Because certain causes of those things are allowed to happen. Allowed to happen by whom? The most obvious answer to this in the context, I think, is "by the residents of that state." And anyone reading this quote is likely to leap to the same conclusion: it's saying that, if terrible things happen in Texas, it's because of the residents of Texas.

In short: 'it's your own damned fault.' That may not be what the article says, and it may not be what you intended, but it's the clear message for those of us who are reading along in the thread and get to that sentence. Personally, I think a comment that basically says 'it's your own damned fault' (or even quotes someone who says that) is not likely to help a thread go well. And, probably more to the point, it's pretty insulting and hurtful, even if you totally didn't mean it that way.
posted by koeselitz at 11:08 PM on April 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


For what it's worth, I'm not sure it was a good deletion, but I very much understand and agree with the reasoning behind doing it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:16 PM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


"It is not a site for debate at all."

Wow, do I think this is untrue. My entire life's experience is that the quantity of productive debate is always inversely proportional to the quantity of overt hostility and insensitivity.

That the mods enforce some civility and that the community ethos encourages it is precisely why we have arguments here where there is disagreement that leads to more understanding, as opposed to an exchange of insults. Granted, the latter still happens quite a bit. But the former happens more here than most of the rest of the discursive web.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:22 PM on April 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


Allowed to happen by whom? The most obvious answer to this in the context, I think, is "by the residents of that state." And anyone reading this quote is likely to leap to the same conclusion: it's saying that, if terrible things happen in Texas, it's because of the residents of Texas.

And yet, that is not what was said, nor did everyone leap to such a simplistic conclusion.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:24 PM on April 17, 2013 [22 favorites]


Enough people did that a ton of them were hurt and upset by the quote, including a number of Texans here.
posted by koeselitz at 11:27 PM on April 17, 2013


Also, I'd like it if you parsed that sentence in isolation for me and told me who the subject of the verb "allowed" would seem to be to someone who hasn't read the article yet.
posted by koeselitz at 11:31 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Enough people did that a ton of them were hurt and upset by the quote, including a number of Texans here.

Today is very likely not the best day for it, but in the end, I hope my fellow Texans eventually look at this issue dispassionately and take the time to understand where a professor of environmental history is really coming from on this.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:31 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I'd like it if you parsed that sentence in isolation for me and told me who the subject of the verb "allowed" would seem to be to someone who hasn't read the article yet.

Capitalist oligarchs seems to be the clear implication to me, though I'd hate having to defend a point that simplistic too.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:33 PM on April 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


With a little luck the West, TX thread can turn into our own little Encyclopedia Brown back-office / an endless scroll of gore porn and mythologizing, just like the Boston thread. Come on guys!
posted by threeants at 11:33 PM on April 17, 2013


Monsieur Caution: "Today is very likely not the best day for it..."

Yeah, that's kind of the point. You may have the term "capitalist oligarchs" on the tip of your tongue, but I feel like my sense - that Texas-bashing is common enough that it's assumed when something so closely matches the profile without anything to distinguish it - is a common one.

I mean: at some point we have to meet people where they are, and do what we can to minimize how much we hurt them. There's also a time for letting go of inhibitions and attempting to be honest and clear. I think that, when hundreds are injured and we don't even know if anyone has died yet, it's probably a time for the minimizing-hurt thing. And I think that in this kind of situation, when a quote can so easily be mistaken for an insulting condescension, it's probably a good idea to delete it.
posted by koeselitz at 11:39 PM on April 17, 2013


I was (and am) planning to put something up on MeTa about these kind of deletions. I've been here a while, but don't post a lot. Originally I came here partly for the debate. Lately it seems that via moderation to the point that if a post might be inflammatory, or incense, then there's a high chance of deletion. If there are comments that could be considered against the grain, there's a high chance of deletion, and the worst part is that the discussion is truncated. The true nature of how a conversation passed between multiple people is lost to time, unless you're using a script, possibly.

This is the most distressing thing to me lately. Sometimes conversations turn nasty. Sometimes they go places you would rather they not. But that is life. And what I'm regretting to see lately is the snap judgement to see confrontation, conversation at potentially its most heated become lost, disrupted. How many times in ones life does a confrontation lead to greater understanding. Maybe not always, but possibly sometimes.

I think we all lose as members when the conversation is just stopped.

Why do MeTa posts get closed, but stay, while MeFi posts get deleted, lost to the average user?

I understand moderation in the sense that postings along the lines of "LOL BUTTS" get removed, but if someone wants to post in a manner that we may disagree with intellectually, but is not blatantly trash, get deleted?
posted by efalk at 11:39 PM on April 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


I really have to hand it to the mods. It really seems like it'd be tempting to just say "Dammit, not now." and lock things down. This must be a legendarily tough week for them. So...

They're better people than I, I guess?

"Note: Everyone needs a hug." Yes, we all do.
posted by CrystalDave at 11:52 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


efalk, it's probably helpful for you to know that most if not all of the thorny debate stuff you might see deleted is flagged by other members. A big part of why there are more deletions these days is we are trying to keep things civil and let people continue to discuss things without too many or too big of derails, but we're mostly responding to flagging. So it's not like five hooded figures with the power to delete deciding what stays and goes in their image, but mostly in response to much of the userbase asking us to look at problematic stuff.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:52 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know I said I wasn't going to say anything else, but I wanted to add that I'm mostly very happy with the moderation here. I'd just like a little bit more space for contentious conversation in news threads. I'm totally fine with mods stepping in and saying 'enough' after the topic is hashed out or if it turns into a one person vs metafilter thing. I just think mods are getting too active with deleting possibly problematic comments just because people flag them. I know when I flag comments that I don't always want them deleted, only that I think the mods should watch the thread more closely.
posted by empath at 11:59 PM on April 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


Oh, I was just sorta amazed at your ability to intuit all Metafilter users' locations, the locations of their family and friends, and their levels of empathy.

Well, I gave you an opportunity to engage but you chose sarcasm and pissery instead.
posted by smoke at 12:47 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The moderation around here has officially become fucking ridiculous.

"Officially"? Did the Senate actually pass something today?

Congratulations to the moderators and to the users. This is a team effort.


I don't know where I really fall on this. Too much speculation is really, really bad. Every time there is a domestic attack recently people jump to blame the tea party and it just doesn't make sense and derails the discussion. The stuff going on at Reddit and 4chan right now hunting through pictures and pointing at random people is terrible. During other incidents people have posted social network accounts for people who turned out just to have the same name as the person who did it.

When and when not to delete this stuff is a judgement call I'm happy not to have to make. I don't want to see politics and speculation out entirely, but I definitely don't want to see it run rampant.

bardic's comment is on the borderline, and when you post on the borderline sometimes the mods have to make a call. We are a long way from being totally sterile from political content in these threads.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:51 AM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think we all lose as members when the conversation is just stopped.

My impression is the opposite. It seems to me that moderation has evolved in response to the growth of the user base. Although the mods do consistently remind members that Metafilter is not a safe space, people use Metatalk to make demands along those lines.

The downside of what people want for Metafilter is that Metafilter consists only of people who agree on the ground rules, which are harder to follow compared to 2005. So there is only so much diversity here compared to the full majesty of the internet. Neoconservatives or Alex Jones' followers would find the etiquette here difficult to understand or accept. Conversation with people like that, whose values genuinely differ from your own, is hard and it's more important in the long run. Very few of us on Metafilter will dispute Texas' piss-poor business regulation. Go try telling a neoconservative on FreeRepublic. There's a challenge-- and a site designed for it.

tldr: the etiquette seems to encourage more new people to participate. It's just that people here generally share the same values, interests, and expectations of other users.
posted by vincele at 12:52 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


He didn't say metafilter loses members because of moderation.
posted by ryanrs at 1:00 AM on April 18, 2013


I've found the transition to more users being steered by more mods to be remarkably graceful. Been silenced a few times, all of them totally my fault.
posted by Wolof at 1:05 AM on April 18, 2013


I appreciate that Metafilter is making an effort to discourage kneejerk conservative/libertarian bashing.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:06 AM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Actually bardic, the thread seems fine. There are some comments about Texas and zoning, they were addressed and people have moved on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:12 AM on April 18, 2013


The fact that we don't do threaded discussion (love it or hate it) means that logistically we are more constrained in terms of derails. In a similar post on Reddit, I suppose you might have the instant "and this is why Texas sucks" side conversations, the "is this child abuse" conversation, the "haha the suspect is a brown man" jokes conversation, the "false flag" conversation, the "what about Iraq/Afhanistan," conversation, "here's something nicer and completely off-topic to take your mind off this" conversation, etc. I understand that some people would like all those things to co-exist in a single linear discussion on Metafilter, but even aside from the question of what is or isn't appropriate here, it simply isn't feasible. It's not possible to participate on Mefi in exactly the way one would on Reddit, or Twitter, or many other sites, and some see that as a good option to have in addition to other ways of communicating online, while others wish we would be more like something else.

That said, what typically happens is that after the first flush of getting the details of the story and focusing on the actual events or issue, there comes a more natural period where discussion begins to stretch out a bit more. Even in earlier stages, there is room for reasonable tangents presented reasonably. Quick comments that appear to be snark, lulz, political haymaking, axe-grinding, and similar in fast-moving threads involving tragic circumstances cause huge problems, and would make such posts a complete non-starter.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:16 AM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's not that those discussions are excluded from the thread. It's that they're excluded from the site entirely. You can't actually talk to other mefites about those related topics since those topics are not allowed in the main thread, and parallel threads are not allowed either.
posted by ryanrs at 2:01 AM on April 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


{Notes the title, text above the fold, and tag}

{Notes that this is posted to "Etiquette"}

So (still finding my way around this community) this is irony or some kind of weird MetaFilter in-joke, yes? Not my kind of humor, but whatever floats your boat.

In the remote chance that this is a serious post, then.
posted by Wordshore at 2:07 AM on April 18, 2013


Agree with bardic. I am disturbed that the only correct responses to tragedies as they unfold seem to be the ones that are emotionally based: prayers, sympathies, shock, horror, etc. Don't know when that convention was established here and elsewhere, but I think it's a dangerous trend when political commentary is deemed impolite or inappropriate.

Agreed. It's depressing that calm, rational discussion of the political context surrounding traumatic current events here (and anywhere else) can be silenced by this 'now is not the time' stuff getting in the way.

Not that that's happening in this case, particularly - it seems a bit odd that bardic's contribution was culled when the top of that thread is all 'Because Texas, motherfuckers.' and random wittering about tasty Czech food.
posted by jack_mo at 2:08 AM on April 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


The food thing is a bit bizarre. I get the 'talk about something tangentially related as a way of dealing with stress, but it's pretty much non-stop, and essentially noise. Note after note was left in the Boston thread about noise, and not continuing on derails.

Meanwhile, Bardic's link is talking about things related to the explosion. If it were any other state than Texas, and the comment was about that state, would people have reacted so strongly? It seems people are hyper-quick to shout down anything remotely negative about the state. Meanwhile, the picking apart of the placing of blame is a bit absurd. The people living near the plant aren't living next to a chemical plant because it's fun. They didn't demand lax zoning laws. How many times have we seen state legislatures pass laws detrimental to everyone except the lawmakers and their cronies.

Things like factories dealing with hazardous materials in the middle of a city don't happen in places where people are connected or wealthy enough to claim NIMBY. Pointing that out is deletion worthy, taking up the thread with a derail about which place to stop on your road trip? No worries.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:49 AM on April 18, 2013 [17 favorites]


It's depressing that calm, rational discussion of the political context surrounding traumatic current events here (and anywhere else) can be silenced by this 'now is not the time' stuff getting in the way.

Worse is the assumption of bad faith. I can see why bardic would be upset.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:02 AM on April 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


To parse this - terrible things happen in a state. Why? Because certain causes of those things are allowed to happen. Allowed to happen by whom? The most obvious answer to this in the context, I think, is "by the residents of that state." And anyone reading this quote is likely to leap to the same conclusion: it's saying that, if terrible things happen in Texas, it's because of the residents of Texas.

I don't know if this is accurate. When people talk about big business being able to do what they like in a state, my immediate response is not to assume that the people they are saying are primarily responsible for this are the people who live in the immediate vicinity of heavy industry run by big business. Those people tend to be subject to the actions of large, vested interests aimed at maximizing their profits, and politicians who are not representing the interests of the people they represent.

"This would lead to a huge and exhausting fight in a highly emotionally charged thread" seems like a perfectly good reason to delete something, especially if it doesn't contain any useful further information, but the further argument that left-wingers are secretly blaming the working classes when they talk about the dangers of unfettered capitalism seems like an unnecessary next step.

It feels like "zoning regulations and land use may well be part of the bigger story, but that comment is going to be needlessly inflammatory at this point, and is not shining any light on the specifics of this case" is enough, without going on to "this person is blaming the victims, and by linking to their comment you are endorsing and promoting this view".

If nothing else, it's much harder to get people to agree that they've done something bad (not fit for purpose) rather than something bad (evil).
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:06 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


When is the right time after a tragedy to start talking about issues you see to be problematic?

I mean, using the 9/11 example mentioned earlier, does an alarm go off a week later saying "Now is the time when you can start talking about increased safety at airports".

We see the NRA and other conservatives saying after a mass shooting that the immediate aftermath is no time to talk about gun control. Well, if not then, when?

There's more than one way to react to a tragedy. Being sad is fine. But so is being angry that people who may have seen something coming and did nothing to stop it. While I disagree with bardic's presentation (and choice of argument style here), I do agree with his basic premise.

And if his comment in the FPP was a derail, then it shouldn't be wrong if he, or someone else, came up with a FPP addressing these issues. Different rails, you see.
posted by inturnaround at 3:42 AM on April 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


You could argue every industrial disaster ever recorded was a result of capitalism, and even if you were absolutely right, it still wouldn't add anything to that thread.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 5:29 AM on April 18


If the mods removed every comment that didn't "add anything" to a thread, most threads would be very short indeed. This is just a rubbish justification for a deletion.

I sympathise with bardic's frustration. I think the moderation here has been far too heavy-handed and politically capricious for far too long, and I think the site is duller and more anodyne because of it. I think that if you go back and look at some threads and discussions from pre-2006 (ish) this becomes depressingly obvious. Now, there seems to be a tendency to try to police the discussion in advance on the basis of pandering to the most delicate sensibilities and those most given to hair-trigger offence-taking; and through swift deletion to pre-empt any development that might involve argument, passion, strong disagreement with the consensus, or heated interaction. The result is a site that sometimes feels like a bunch of adults being nannied.

I am also aware that that is simply how it is, that this is how the site has evolved, and many people here - including many of the most regular and vocal contributors - seem to like it that way. I find that depressing, but as long as I feel in the minority I try to keep quiet about it unless the subject is on the table for discussion, as it is here. Then I'll say it again. Pointlessly, perhaps, but these threads just seem like an opportunity for those of us who disagree with the prevailing attitude to moderation to stick our grubby hands up and say we're still here and we still feel that way.
posted by Decani at 3:57 AM on April 18, 2013 [31 favorites]


NewsFilter sucks. Good deletion from a NewsFilter FPP, especially if it was getting flagged.

And to all the people asking "If not now, when?" -- after you know anything about the cause. That's when you can start asking "How do we prevent this?" So, not yet.
posted by Etrigan at 4:33 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


And to all the people asking "If not now, when?" -- after you know anything about the cause.

It's pretty clear that the cause of all the death and destruction is building houses across the street from a fertilizer factory. It doesn't really matter why the thing blew up.
posted by empath at 4:48 AM on April 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Scoring points here against the NRA doesn't actually cause any change for the better in the real world.

I just want to state the following as calmly as possible.

I think it would be impossible to deny that over the past couple of years the moderation on MetaFilter has gotten a lot tighter. Are the mods overwhelmed? I don't know, only they can tell us. What I can glean though is that they have been doing this long enough that they are either:

A. Getting really good at nipping problems at the bud, or
B. Sick of your shit.

I'm not even a moderator, and there's only so many walls of text that I can intake. I think questions posed in good faith are: are the moderators burned out? Do they overmoderate because there is too much content to go through? Is there anything we can do about this - as a user, or on a community level?

Now on a different note, I personally believe it's better to let users get the anger out of their system by letting them fall into flame wars. That's what people want to do, mathowie, score points. People are heavily invested in their opinions and they come here to comment and contribute and argue. I have to say part of the beauty of MetaFilter is watching bad opinions get trumped by beautiful ones. I love it when a derailed thread gets back on its rails on its own organically, and I feel that moderation prevents this from happening.

Having said that, bardic, I appreciate your comments on this site. I think you have to accept that some of your opinions will have a certain cost that the moderators do not want to pay, and that if you want to continue to stay active on this site, you have to calm down and accept this reality in order to remain a productive contributor. It's called boundaries. You should take some satisfaction in the fact that if this were any other forum, you'd be handed your papers, booted into the stratosphere and that would be the end of it. I think people care here.

I'm not going to name names, but there are a number of users with disabled accounts on this site that were personality phenoms and great at pulling a lot of attention. And I used to love getting into it with them. But now, I'm actually kind of glad they're gone.
posted by phaedon at 5:01 AM on April 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think this was a mildly aggressive deletion and one that there could be a productive conversation about, a possibility foreclosed the moment you typed "bullshit" into the title bar. If you can't express your grievances with any more dignity than an angry teenager screaming at his parents, you don't deserve to get them heard.

I swear to God, I don't understand what people think the stakes are here that they have to get so angry.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:09 AM on April 18, 2013 [35 favorites]


Well that comment/quote sure looks ripe to fuck a thread up with a nasty derail, so I'm glad it's gone.

Define 'derail'. For people not personally involved in breaking news or tragedies, the discussion of larger issues around them is the most interesting part, and the most useful function of the site. I noticed similar things were deleted from the Boston thread, too, and its decreasing the fun of Metafilter.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:11 AM on April 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


I will add I don't think the aggressive, swearing, emotional framing of the MeTa is very helpful to your case, though dude. Doesn't read like a lot of good-faith assuming etc of the moderators.

I think the unemotional, passive, 'everyone get along and never raise your voice above a smooth NPR register' tone of some people on this site is lifeles and annoying.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:13 AM on April 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


bardic, what if we waited at least 24 hours before using the dead to score points for our personal political causes? That way we might actually have a number and that looks so much more impressive in our blog posts.

Pretty much every event is a tragedy to someone. When deaths happen overseas or as the result of government actions they're immediately politicized. When they happen on US soil or to people we might know they're mourned.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:18 AM on April 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think the unemotional, passive, 'everyone get along and never raise your voice above a smooth NPR register' tone of some people on this site is lifeles and annoying

Frankly dude your track record re: tone on mefi is not stellar. Telling people to go fuck themselves etc isn't really an indicator of "personality" in my opinion. You can be extremely vehement and colourful without insulting people and/or their beliefs.
posted by smoke at 5:22 AM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


As for people saying 'this doesn't matter' - people's reactions to tragedy are what cause change. Look at the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. If we can link tragedies to their causes, enough people can change those causes.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:26 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


And to all the people asking "If not now, when?" -- after you know anything about the cause. That's when you can start asking "How do we prevent this?" So, not yet.

The cause is immaterial to the effect that a neighborhood built so close to a potentially dangerous plant blew up.

Why was that allowed to happen? How do you prevent this? Why can't I be angry about this now? Why do I have to wait until a report is filed by OSHA to find out that it was specific form of carelessness that allowed some chemicals to explode in a factory in the middle of a residential neighborhood before I can question why a factory was in the middle of a flipping residential neighborhood in the first place?
posted by inturnaround at 5:31 AM on April 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


Back in the good old days, there would be a bunch of comments accusing other members of posting while drunk.

We've come a long way.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:36 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The deletion of so-called "political" material from Mefi threads, in this case pretty mild and pointing out the obvious, is just as political an act as linking to informed commentary.

This. So hard.

The only way change happens is to get the fixes linked to the problems. If you can't mention the fixes next to the problems, change won't happen.
posted by DU at 5:39 AM on April 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


We don't actually know what caused the explosion yet.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:42 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Charlemagne: Nobody knows what happened at the factory yet. There seems a pretty consistent policy on Mefi that tends to prune out groundless speculation that's not backed up by any real information, especially if it's politicized, even if it's unpopular.

And comparing an explosion at a fertilizer factory that is yet unexplained to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire to this is ignorant. There's a qualified difference between chaining the doors closed to keep the immigrant women from leaving before they've finished their 9-hour shifts five days a week for $10 and whatever's happened now.
posted by dubusadus at 5:43 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


We don't actually know what caused the explosion yet.

Does it matter? There's going to be more than one discussion about this: 1) Workplace safety and how better to improve it and 2) Unregulated zoning and its impact on safety.

I think a discussion about 2 is perfectly appropriate now regardless of the reason why the explosion happened. The fact is it did.
posted by inturnaround at 5:47 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Unless there's something substantial to back it up, it's just empty calorie 'Texas, Amirite?' speculation, lazily pandering to people's prejudices. A similar event, though fortunately on a much smaller and less destructive scale, happened last year in Winnipeg. That's not to say 'Hey, these things just happen,' but rather, until something more concrete is known, it's wrong-headed noise to chalk this up as 'typical of how those people do things'.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:49 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


A. Getting really good at nipping problems at the bud, or
B. Sick of your shit.


There exists the possibility that both of these things are true.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:50 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


My looove, there's only yoooou in my li-ife, the only thing that's right ...

Dateline: today. As the furious gangs of Metafilter spill onto the streets of MetaTalk and engage in pitched battles over site etiquette, Website Commander Matthew Howie realises that only one voice can calm the broiling sea of violence.

... my first love, you're every breath that I take - you're every step I make ...

Howie rushes to his MetaCopter, flying off with the speed of justice to enlist the only man whose soothing tones can heal MetaFilter's wounds.

... and I-yi-yi-yi-yi, I want to share, all my love with you - no-one else wil do-o-o-o-o ...

CMDR HOWIE: Lionel? - we need you. Only you can give the users of MetaFilter the succour they require in these troubled times.

... and your eyes (your eyes, your eyes): they tell me how much you care - ooh yes, you will always be ...

Will MeFi finally get the moderation it so desperately craves?

Vote #1 Lionel Ritchie for Chief Moderator.

VOTE #1 ENDLESS LOVE
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:52 AM on April 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


An industrial fertilizer plant was in a residential area. It blew up and maybe, just maybe, industrial fertilizer plants shouldn't be in residential areas. And oh yeah, there are specific reasons why some states have industrial fertilizer plants in residential areas and other don't.

My understanding is that West Fertilizer is a retailer - not a manufacturer. It's a small business (5 to 9 employees) that has been in business for 55 years. I believe it is a family-owned business, although I don't know that for sure. There's no telling what kind of problems may have existed there, but arguments about unions and corrupt corporations may not be terribly relevant.
posted by Dojie at 5:55 AM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Does it matter? There's going to be more than one discussion about this: 1) Workplace safety and how better to improve it and 2) Unregulated zoning and its impact on safety.

But it is impossible to have meaningful discussions about these things in that thread without knowing details.

They're good topics, but we should not be shoehorning them into tragedies as they happen until the facts dictate that those discussion are germane.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:09 AM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


And to all the people asking "If not now, when?" -- after you know anything about the cause.

It's pretty clear that the cause of all the death and destruction is building houses across the street from a fertilizer factory.

The cause is immaterial to the effect that a neighborhood built so close to a potentially dangerous plant blew up.

My understanding is that West Fertilizer is a retailer - not a manufacturer.


I'm not usually one to gloat, but I just can't resist. This is why we wait. This. Right. Here.
posted by Etrigan at 6:17 AM on April 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


I really don't get the "red states with no regulations let dangerous industries live where people do" is any kind of point at all. The Chevron refinery fire last year in Richmond, CA happened at a place surrounded by residential areas, within spitting distance of Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco.

On topic of the link being deleted: it seemed pointlessly pointy in that thread, so I shrug at the deletion.
posted by rtha at 6:17 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't really like breaking news type threads myself

Then as owner and editor-in-chief of metafilter, Matt, put a moratorium on news threads for some length of time after the event. Or prohibit them entirely. It's your call. Either of those avenues seem a lot more likely to make metafilter what you want it to be and a lot less frustrating to everyone involved than this (frankly) penny-ante nitpicking over precisely what topics can be raised precisely where and what words can be used at what time and place.

to all the people asking "If not now, when?" -- after you know anything about the cause. That's when you can start asking "How do we prevent this?" So, not yet.

The spirit behind this is admirable, but site dynamics may prohibit this. Do the mods want two discussions of the same event? One for appropriate demonstrations of sympathy and one for a discussion of the madness that puts a nursing home and a middle school next to a fertilizer plant? Do readers want to see two? Probably not.

Now, it's not like anyone needs to have those discussions here. As is frequently remarked, there are plenty of places on the internet to have such discussions. But granting that discussions of catastrophic events that go beyond demonstrations of sympathy are welcome here, then I'd like to know where.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:21 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


...huge Texas hate-a-thon when it doesn't need to be at this time.

Yes, absolutely. One of the small positives from this is that I learned about a very cool little town, with amazing food, friendly people and charming local customs.

There will be a follow-up post, either to the thread or the FPP, which identifies what went wrong and how. That might be an appropriate "Fuckin' Texas!" opportunity - and then we can demolish that argument as parochial and dishonest.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:22 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]




A more immediate question is how high the death toll will rise.

It could be between five and 15, Swanton said. Dr. George Smith, the city's emergency management system director, said it could spike to 60 or 70.


"We have two EMS personnel that are dead for sure, and there may be three firefighters that are dead," Smith said.

"There are a lot of people that will not be here tomorrow," Mayor Tommy Muska warned late Wednesday.

posted by zarq at 6:24 AM on April 18, 2013


As for people saying 'this doesn't matter' - people's reactions to tragedy are what cause change. Look at the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. If we can link tragedies to their causes, enough people can change those causes.

This is true; but, speaking as someone who actually was a first-hand witness to a huge disastrous event, the odds are very high that the people who are most strongly affected by that tragedy aren't going to be in the right headspace to talk about it the same day it happened, because they're either trying to figure out if their families are alive or they're huddled in the corner with a blankie and whimpering.

I was totally on board with discussions about "how to respond to 9/11" and was in fact a very active particpant in a couple of anti-war demonstrations that October. But that was in October. On September 11th, I spent the day alternating between a daze of "what the fucking fuck" and frantically calling people I knew as I remembered them shrieking "omigod are YOU OKAY???" If you tried to engage me in a talk about how US aggression may have triggered this I'd have responded by pushing you aside and saying "whatever, gimme the phone, I just realized my uncle works at Equitable GET OUT OF MY FACE." It's kind of like how in AskMe we advice people to take care of themselves before they try taking care of someone else - "make sure the mask is on your face first before you tend to others." I needed to make sure me and mine were all okay and tended to before I could step out of that into the larger world.

Now, this is not to say that such discussions shouldn't happen at all, or that there is any Official Time Stamp for when such discussions are permissible. It's important to note, however, that many of the people responding that same day to such news threads most likely include people who do have a personal level of connection to the event - they live there, their family lives there, they grew up there - and so odds are greater that the people in a same-day news post are going to be in that same state of "what the fuck wait is my family okay what do i do now". They just need a chance to come out of that state is all; and assuming they're ready to discuss the Larger Abstract Concepts around such an event that same day is naive at best, tone-deaf at worst.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:27 AM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, I gave you an opportunity to engage but you chose sarcasm and pissery instead.

Sorry. Seriously, emotions were running high last night (I do have family in that area, though as far as I know nobody was hurt in the incident) and I tend to resort to sarcasm and/or raw anger when that happens.
posted by kmz at 6:29 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the speculation that gets me. If people want to have the conversation about unregulated zoning and workplace safety in the thread lets have it. Post a link showing that West TX is unregulated or that the factory was an unsafe workplace and we can talk about it.

But without that it's just speculation. As a Canadian I could come in and say, "see this is the kind of thing that happens in America" and it would be a substantial derail and inflammatory even with a weak link to make the case. This is the same thing except on a smaller scale. I WANT to read about these things and in the thread to boot. But so far no one has provided links to good sources so that we can discuss it.
posted by salishsea at 6:31 AM on April 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


The food thing is a bit bizarre. I get the 'talk about something tangentially related as a way of dealing with stress, but it's pretty much non-stop, and essentially noise.

I had a different response, and that was that these food- and wedding-related details kept the humanity of West, Texas in focus for me. That town might be just a dot on a map to me, but when I hear about kolaches and polkas, it reminds me that there are real people, real traditions, real tears at stake.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:32 AM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm not usually one to gloat, but I just can't resist. This is why we wait. This. Right. Here.

I guess your point got lost in the gloating. Is there a reason it matters whether its a manufacturer or a retailer? This seems like a pretty insignificant detail to get all excited about. Place still blew the fuck up. Houses were still built right up against something that was obviously explosive.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:33 AM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Then as owner and editor-in-chief of metafilter, Matt, put a moratorium on news threads for some length of time after the event. Or prohibit them entirely. It's your call.

Seriously, this call to arms is ridiculous. Some of you people are trying to establish a universal protocol, and it has been stated over and over again that this is not the way things are done here. This was a situational call and it will remain that way. If you have a weak stomach when it comes to moving targets, then by all means hang up your jersey and start your own web community, where things are super clear and rigid.

Having said this, I'm not entirely sure I understand what was wrong with the link bardic posted, I really don't have a ton of interest parsing where exactly it fell in the thread, but like, if you guys are saying that people aren't allowed to speculate in threads, I think that's a little much.
posted by phaedon at 6:36 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It may help if you don't take the deletion personally, but see it objectively.

Yes, your comment was deleted (and god knows that can be infuriating. Potentially leading one to compare the mods to heavy-handed communist leaders, in an unfortunate moment of anger) but try to see the deletion from the point of the discussion.

Mods shape the discussion around what is best for that discussion and the community at large. There seem to be some rules, and a lot of art. It reminds of the quote the Supreme Court man said about pornography. The mods know something needs to be deleted when they see it.

In this case, I have no feelings about the deletion either way. But try to see it objectively, and realise that the comment is not an extension of you, it's a comment on a discussion. There are endless opportunities to comment again.
posted by nickrussell at 6:38 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would posit that the compulsion to hastily post some fighty-sounding sweeping generalizations from a blog (that, if the facts in Orb's comment are accurate, are totally and utterly irrelevant to this particular case) is just as much a stress-induced response as are emotional outpourings, hyper-analytical rationality, conspiracy theorist paranoia, bad jokes, stepped-up moderation, excessive hug-dispensing, etc.*

So I'm perfectly ready to cut bardic et al. a little slack here on that basis but would respectfully request that they try to extend the same latitude to other MeFites who process stressful events differently.

Except for the annoying fuckers who WILL NOT STOP quoting T.S. Eliot out of context; they can go straight to hell (I kid; I kid because I love). April is not the cruelest month because bad shit happens; it's the cruelest month because it taunts us by making it appear that good shit is happening, thus falsely raising our hopes that the world can be anything but an arid, infertile husk of awfulness.

*Aka the Bones Crisis Theory®, which asserts that when stressful events occur, people cope by becoming one or more of the characters on the TV show Bones. I'm a Brennan.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:38 AM on April 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


The saddest thing about the moderation in this place is it's defence and the hordes of brown-nosers that always follow.

The main thread is full of magic thinkers crying "make it stop" or variations of it. Well you idiots, this is how it stops. You look for the causes and eliminate them. Daddy-god won't reassemble those poor bastards that died.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 6:38 AM on April 18, 2013 [7 favorites]



I think moderation has been a touch overzealous lately.

But I also think that the mods are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Often, those small derails can be interesting or enlightening, or otherwise harmless. Or they devlove into a pigpile and get ugly and fighty fast, and so there is an incentive to nip it in the bud and try to keep things from spiraling out of control. And there isn't much way to tell beforehand which way it might go.

I feel for the mod team.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:38 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm reading this conversation and I'm reading the Metafilter thread about the explosion and I could swear they're happening in different universes. There is plenty of talk about the possible role of corporate wrong doing and or zoning issues in letting something like this happen. There isn't any significant suppression of political topics nor is the thread limited to people saying how sad it is.

One comment got deleted because it seemed likely to produce a derail about Texas bashing; otherwise, I'd say the topics people are talking about here are being discussed in the thread.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:40 AM on April 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


Decani: "I think the moderation here has been far too heavy-handed and politically capricious for far too long, and I think the site is duller and more anodyne because of it. I think that if you go back and look at some threads and discussions from pre-2006 (ish) this becomes depressingly obvious. Now, there seems to be a tendency to try to police the discussion in advance on the basis of pandering to the most delicate sensibilities and those most given to hair-trigger offence-taking; and through swift deletion to pre-empt any development that might involve argument, passion, strong disagreement with the consensus, or heated interaction."

I really don't miss the days of people screaming profanities at each other.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:42 AM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


The main thread is full of magic thinkers crying "make it stop" or variations of it. Well you idiots, this is how it stops. You look for the causes and eliminate them. Daddy-god won't reassemble those poor bastards that died.

CautionToTheWind, your compassion for the vulnerability of people who've received a shock may need some tuning.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:43 AM on April 18, 2013 [32 favorites]


I'm less of a firecracker nowadays. Maybe it makes me less exciting, but I'm not actually that interested in screaming at strangers on the Internet.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:44 AM on April 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


There should be a mandatory MetaChat buffer*:

When a newsfilter event gets posted for a tragic event such as this, the first 6 hours go directly to MetaChat where people can emote/scramble in unison.

6 hours+ the thread is open for comments and 'normal' posting rules apply.

-----
*Note: my ideas never work.
posted by mazola at 6:44 AM on April 18, 2013


This was a situational call and it will remain that way. If you have a weak stomach with moving targets, then by all means hang up your jersey and start your own web community.

Eh. I don't much care either way. I just raise the alternative.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:45 AM on April 18, 2013


Well, not really. You address the head of the site personally and tell him a choice has to be made, when it doesn't.
posted by phaedon at 6:48 AM on April 18, 2013


The saddest thing about the moderation in this place is it's defence and the hordes of brown-nosers that always follow.

When people stand up and say "This is a bad thing!", it's not brown-nosing for other people to stand up and say "This is not a bad thing!" We're discussing community standards, and it's not unimportant for the moderators to hear that people agree with them.
posted by Etrigan at 6:49 AM on April 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


Well, not really.

If you want to have argument over what I really meant, I could try to find time to oblige.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:51 AM on April 18, 2013


Is there a reason it matters whether its a manufacturer or a retailer? This seems like a pretty insignificant detail to get all excited about. Place still blew the fuck up. Houses were still built right up against something that was obviously explosive.

For one thing, "something that was obviously explosive" also describes things found in hospitals, police stations and a host of other things that most people wouldn't say need to be relocated away from houses.

For another, the fact that people are getting basic details like "manufacturer" vs. "retailer" wrong is indicative of the rush to judgment that I personally would like to not see as much of in NewsFilter posts.
posted by Etrigan at 6:54 AM on April 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


If you want to have argument over what I really meant, I could try to find time to oblige.

I'm not sure why you're massaging my balls in this particular manner, but if you need some time to reformulate your thoughts, by all means take some. Feel free to start with clarifying what the alternative is that you raised in your previous comment. Beyond that, I'm not sure what the problem is. I'll be sure to catch up with you later today.
posted by phaedon at 6:57 AM on April 18, 2013


I think I'd rather not. It doesn't sound like much fun.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:05 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Post a link showing [...] the factory was an unsafe workplace and we can talk about it.

I think this is fairly well established at this point.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:06 AM on April 18, 2013


Given the history of Texas bashing on the site, I'm not surprised the mods are taking a hard line on deleting anything that smacks of Texas or redneck bashing in that thread, and I'm glad they're doing it.

The mods have already stated that they deleted the comment because of the lol Texas angle, not because it discussed zoning. There are a number other comments in the thread discussing the zoning issue, so mods are clearly not deleting discussions of related zoning or safety issues from the thread, just lol Texas crap.


If you're going to discuss moderation policy on MetaFilter, please, make some attempt to do so good faith, instead of arguing against imaginary straw-man policies that don't actually exist.
posted by nangar at 7:15 AM on April 18, 2013


Do safe workplaces blow up that often?
posted by inturnaround at 7:15 AM on April 18, 2013


I hate it when people call for hard and fast rules on here. You know when something isn't working when your comment gets deleted. As mentioned, it's the flags by other users on your comments that are taken into account by the mods, along with their innate sense of what works and what doesn't, when it comes to comment deletions. That's an important thing to remember; you are being read and possibly flagged by every other user on this site.

This is a moderated site. That fact is not hidden. There was a run of Metatalk threads a while ago calling for threadshitting comments to be deleted post haste. There was a lot of support for this along with many people who did not agree in the slightest. That is the way this place is. That is why we have Metatalk. A fascist mod thing wouldn't be actively calling for people to air their opinions. You are not always going to get to say what you want at a particular time. Doesn't mean your comment is wrong. Try again later, no-one's silencing you.

That ol' cliche about right time and right place is not so stupid. You're more likely to have your thought heard when everyone isn't freaking out about the terrible thing that just happened. You want your link to be read and thought about properly, right? Give it some time and post it later. The link isn't going anywhere.
posted by h00py at 7:18 AM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't know, my workplace is pretty safe and there was recently a team meeting where we were talking about whether or not some of the labs need explosion-proof phones. I think the takeaway here is that that's an awesome conversation to have to have.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:18 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, late in the thread there's some pretty informative discussion of the siting of the plant and how it got that way; it definitely made me check some of my assumptions. I'm not sure the deleted link would have led to this more quickly. That is, I don't object to the deletion myself, and I think it may have made the thread go better, and it eventually got to the core issue in a less tendentious way.

I wonder if we shouldn't expect a high number of comment deletions early on in newsfilter posts, and just accept it. On the other hand, people obviously vent in different ways and react in different ways, so it seems like a judgment call when one of us reacts with outrage to something: will that specific comment derail or poison the thread? Or will it be seen as a human reaction, that could be responded to with something like "I see why you have that reaction, but here's what I think [about how chemical plants wind up in residential areas]". The important factor in making that second outcome possible, it seems to me, is the way the initial comment is phrased. "Here's how this makes me feel" is likely to be more successful in promoting a good discussion than declaring the truth or amirite framing.
posted by Mngo at 7:23 AM on April 18, 2013


Well, this was a needlessly ugly thread to start the day with.
posted by jonmc at 7:23 AM on April 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter's userbase is growing and in response, the moderators have a choice. They can let threads percolate in a state of semi-controlled chaos, the way they used to, and run the risk of periodic shitstorms, or they can lock everything down and turn the site into Singapore.

It looks like they're choosing Singapore.

Singapore seems like a nice, clean place to visit, but I certainly wouldn't want to live there. But then again, I don't know where I want to live online these days. Reddit is full of stuff that's interesting, but the comment threads are depressing and full of stupidity. Facebook is so facebooky, I can hardly stand it. I'm half-convinced Zuckerberg is going to find a way to monetize the kinetic energy of keystrokes to generate revenue. MetaFilter used to me by default home on the web, but it's less and less so these days. When the bombs went off, I thought about the big community-supporting thread on 9/11, and dropped in briefly. Then it just felt weird and contrived. So I went outside.

I'm going outside a lot these days. Maybe that's not a bad thing.
posted by R. Schlock at 7:23 AM on April 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


You know people are talking in the thread right now about the lack of good emergency services due to cutbacks being a possible aspect of one of the things that may make this such a disaster. The comment is personal, thoughtful, acknowledges that it's not a great time for it, but also makes a point about the disaster that is on topic and to the point.

Doing the "I'm just going to leave this here" inflammatory blog link works fine at the ends of long threads (or even in the middle, heck there are a lot of various ones in the epic Marathon thread), but not so great at the beginning of really touchy ones.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:23 AM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm a leftie, I read LGM frequently, and I think they've got a great collection of bloggers over there, but I do think it was a bit of a reach for Loomis to imply a direct connection to working conditions and zoning issues while the fire is still burning.

IMHO, Loomis' writing gets a bit sloppy if he gets too far outside his wheelhouse of labor issues, and he's been at the center of a couple of other online shitstorms in the last year or so, including being reprimanded by his University administration for (figuratively) saying that he wanted Wayne LaPierre's "head on a stick" in the aftermath of Newtown, and more recently for suggesting that anyone who voted against Obama based on the drone program must be doing so from a position of white male privilege. The former was clearly a case of the wingnut wolfpack being all too happy to willfully misinterpret the obvious metaphor to gain political advantage, but the latter was a total whiff on Loomis' part, and he later had to walk some of his commentary back a bit when he realized he overstated his case.

Given this history, it doesn't surprise me that he raised labor/zoning issues in connection to this incident, but by doing it so early, and by phrasing it as "there are already lessons we can draw from this developing story" (as if it's already a foregone conclusion that working conditions and zoning issues are to blame for the explosion) he loses credibility in my view.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:34 AM on April 18, 2013


I wonder if anyone has run the numbers on MeTa posts complaining about onerous moderation versus MeTa posts complaining about how something should have been deleted? They sure seem roughly at parity to me.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:42 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but here is the thing -- people with an agenda to push aren't going to wait. People in the white house were trying to figure out how to get us into war with Iraq a few hours after 9/11.

Happily, we are not the 2001 White House.

Dude, this is MetaFilter. It's not Congress. It's not "the media".
Do not underestimate the power of Metafilter to educate and influence people.
Don't overestimate either, of course, but give the place a little credit.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:01 AM on April 18, 2013


People process tragedy in different ways and at different speeds. Given the difficulties of navigating that I think the mods overall do very well.

This is pure speculation on my part but as a regular LGM reader I suspect Loomis was having a bad day (Senate killing the gun legislation, a pet issue of his). Yes he's a professor and blogger and whatever, but I think he sometimes responds just as emotionally to stuff as your average mefite. It's clear the post was made late at night. Point being, the same issues we face here in the mefi thread are also present at LGM.

A little understanding from both sides could go a long way, and that's not false equivalence dangit.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:01 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The saddest thing about the moderation in this place is it's defence and the hordes of brown-nosers that always follow.

I think you're referring to people who don't agree with you? Maybe just say that instead of impugning their motives.

This thread was framed very poorly. I'm not sure why people think that calling the moderators fuckers or whatever is an appropriate response to disagreements with them.
posted by OmieWise at 8:16 AM on April 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


Don't know about the accompanying comment, but I do think discussion of the zoning that puts a neighborhood, nursing home and middle school near 200 tons of ammonia nitrate is totally appropriate.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:18 AM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think I can hold these 2 thoughts and not be contradictory:

1) This was an edge case deletion, it could have stayed and been OK.
2) bardic didn't help his case any by being so confrontational in this MeTa.

Discussion is good, inflammatory language not so much. Everyone's on edge this week, been lots of bad news. Hugs to all.
posted by arcticseal at 8:27 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Question is, who's doing all of the flagging that's causing all the deletions? And are they flagging way more now then they did before or are there so many moderators now that flagged posts can be deleted before they become part of the conversation. Moderation on Metafilter didn't bother me much in the past, but since the advent of professional moderation and 24/7 coverage it does seem that comments get deleted left and right nowadays.

Seriously, how many flags can comments get in the few minutes they exist before some mod comes along and deletes them. How many flags does it take to get a deletion?
posted by zengargoyle at 8:35 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


This thread was framed very poorly. I'm not sure why people think that calling the moderators fuckers or whatever is an appropriate response to disagreements with them.

No one said that. One can agree with the reason why the OP was angry, but not agree with the way he expressed it.
posted by inturnaround at 8:43 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Question is, who's doing all of the flagging that's causing all the deletions?

It's not that cause-and-effect simple and never has been.
posted by rtha at 8:45 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do not underestimate the power of Metafilter to educate and influence people.
Don't overestimate either, of course, but give the place a little credit.


Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.
posted by Melismata at 8:46 AM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Doing the "I'm just going to leave this here" inflammatory blog link works fine at the ends of long threads (or even in the middle, heck there are a lot of various ones in the epic Marathon thread), but not so great at the beginning of really touchy ones.

But when they left the comment it was at the end of the thread!


I'll see myself out.
posted by mazola at 8:49 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was pretty sure I wouldn't like some of the semi-random speculation that was more about people's preconceived notions than facts on the ground that went on in the Boston thread if it were about a disaster in Texas, and you know what? I was right. I'm not even against discussing the secondary causes of the disaster, particularly once we have some idea of what they were, but that LGM post was inflammatory and wouldn't have advanced any discussion. And I generally like LGM, fwiw.

(And sometimes well-run industries do have industrial accidents that are just that, accidents.)
posted by immlass at 8:53 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Moderation on Metafilter didn't bother me much in the past, but since the advent of professional moderation and 24/7 coverage it does seem that comments get deleted left and right nowadays.

My understanding is that the rate of comment deletion has not changed much in years.
posted by shothotbot at 8:54 AM on April 18, 2013


Seriously, how many flags can comments get in the few minutes they exist before some mod comes along and deletes them. How many flags does it take to get a deletion?

We've discussed this in the past. All the flags do is draw our attention to things and say "You should take a look at this" in a general sense with some variables for whether that needs to happen quickly or less quickly (or just with an eye to fixing something). You know we've had professional moderation (i.e. paid people more than just mathowie) since 2005, right? I think the biggest change was having mods for the US-overnight shifts and even that's been in place for a few years at this point. But people have definitely noticed that. It used to be that weird shit might stick around for hours only to be deleted when someone woke up. That doesn't really happen anymore--we look at all flags and email within 15 minutes pretty much--and for people who enjoyed that atmosphere, it's really not here anymore. That's a change, for sure, with good and bad aspects to it, but it doesn't come up in exactly that way in these sorts of discussions but maybe it should.

To my mind, the biggest deal is that we have more monster fast-moving threads than we used to, mainly just because the community has grown and the number of people who access MeFi from mobile devices means more MeFites more of the time. People flag the hell out of contentious comments in these threads and react very quickly to things so a troublesome comment that might get a few flags and be deleted after 10-15 minutes with only one response is now a comment that gets five flags and five angry responses in just a few minutes. So as mods we're trying to respond to that stuff fairly quickly and trying to be accurate about what's likely to be a huge problem (with the guidance of the community feedback) but there is an aspect of precogging to it (if I leave this will it be a problem in five minutes?) which I know bothers some people. And at the same time we have other people who are flagging comments from 500-800 comments ago for whatever reason and we still need to check them all out. So when there are big news events (especially when there are a few, and they each spawn fast moving MeTa threads) we get overwhelmed sort of quickly.

And let me be clear: I am not complaining, just explaining. I am saying there are stresses on the infrastructure that we have that are particularly noteworthy and noticeable in times like these, particularly when tempers are running high on the site generally. And if we were a news site we'd find a way, somehow, to scale up to accommodate this. We are not and we don't. We reconsider that approach from time to time, but when we do it's more along the lines of "We should just delete more breaking news posts earlier because they bring out the worst in the community and become mod nightmares" and not "We should find a way to make the fifty angriest commenters more comfortable here" but also not "We should find a way to make the fifty top flaggers more comfortable here" To again be clear: we are not seriously discussing any of these changes, but just acknowledging that we see the essential dichtomy here too, but aiming for the middle means that people on both sides (delete more! delete less!) feel equally ignored and aggravated.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:56 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not that that's happening in this case, particularly - it seems a bit odd that bardic's contribution was culled when the top of that thread is all 'Because Texas, motherfuckers.' and random wittering about tasty Czech food.

I had a comment admonishing the repeated comments about the Czech restaurant deleted. The comment was "Fertilizer factory explodes - foodies hit hardest" with links to a few of the Czech food comments.

People here like to talk about "tone deaf" a lot, but I do not see the appropriateness of "dude, that kolache place rules" where people were blown apart and their houses leveled. I must confess that I did not read all 2800 comments in the Boston Marathon thread, but I missed any comments regarding favorite food trucks.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:57 AM on April 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


most if not all of the thorny debate stuff you might see deleted is flagged by other members.
I think this might be part of the problem and not the solution.
Now people are going to hate me for the next two words. American Parochialism.
If shit goes down in your back yard say Texas or Boston it's personal. If shit goes down half a world away it tends to just be another day at the office.
Bardic's link was good. How many people would be bothered to read it, probably not a lot. Many people want to get in on the Oh my god I am so upset I drove through that town 5 years ago and the lady who sold me the ice cream was kinda nice or similar (probably not a good example but you know what i mean).
And as for being left wing, if you come from outside USA this would frequently be a laughable statement.
All disasters have a cause so what other peoples not so personally involved are often looking for is a reason for that disaster and how to possibly avoid something similar in the future. This may upset the sensitive types who seem to have proliferated here over the years. It used to be quite a rough and tumble site where people were frequently told to ''get over it'' or grow a pair''. And everything changed as the site got bigger and more mods came along. The fact that looking for a reason / solution has a political bias is probably impossible to avoid. We live in a political society.
Metafilter is supposed to be self policing; are the mods now doing our self policing for us? Would not more mod comment along the lines of ''stop it or else'' or '' not the best thing to do here so we will watch that it doesn't lead to a derail/ shitfest'' would not that be more effective that shutting down the conversation completely.
Or maybe metafilter doesn't want some conversations as has been mentioned previously , which would be a great pity because metafilter is very good at that.
posted by adamvasco at 9:02 AM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think it's pretty normal and understandable to connect to a disaster like this by connecting to the place. The Boston thread didn't feature comments about food trucks, but it did include people talking about the things like they liked about Boston or marathons. To the extent that these threads are like funerals (which isn't a perfect analogy, obviously, because neither Boston nor West are dead) it's the telling fun stories about the deceased part.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:02 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Before the comment in question was deleted I had made a similar pint in the Marathon thread. It was before anyone had written about the extent of the Waco fire or that people had died. I regret it now and wish I had shown far more empathy and discretion.

Part of being an adult is knowing that being right isn't enough.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:04 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now people are going to hate me for the next two words. American Parochialism.
If shit goes down in your back yard say Texas or Boston it's personal. If shit goes down half a world away it tends to just be another day at the office.


I wouldn't call that "American Parochialism," I'd call it "human nature." I wouldn't call the Margaret Thatcher thread "another day at the office" - if memory serves, there were a couple of early deletions of "ding dong the witch is dead" one-liners, but then it gave way to a real outpouring of real and impassioned conversation, which I'd hardly call "another day at the office"; in fact, it felt a lot like the conversation in the Boston thread, only the participants were mainly from the UK rather than the US. I'd wager that this happens in threads that happen to be about big news events in those countries.

It's human nature to care more about the shit going down in your own back yard than the shit in others' back yards.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


No one said that. One can agree with the reason why the OP was angry, but not agree with the way he expressed it.

We may have to disagree about semantics. The title of the thread is "bullshit," the post calls moderation around here "fucking ridiculous," then later bardic said "fuck you very much" to jessamyn. I think my comment was reflective of the tone, general and specific, of the post here.
posted by OmieWise at 9:07 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


From what I see, there seems to be a bit of (dare I say) overzealous moderation of comments by mods in response to (dare I say) overzealous commenting by users. The reasons why it exists and the manner in which it is dealt with seems well into chicken/egg territory by now. It feels like MF is in a möbius strip of site management/participation in the recent months. Not sure if the InfoDump will bear that out (in whatever way that could be quantified), but it seems that way to me. I just feel this place has been weird in the past year.

One thing seems apparent: people seem to be falling into the Grumpy McGrumpster Zone more often than in the past. Maybe because of an increased number of hot-button issues going on in the world, that driftage on to the site, that people really care about these issues and that the MF staff really cares about a well run site - it has all contributed to a collision of wishes and left people feeling non-plussed when events do not work out how they expected them to. Whatever the reason, my hope is that those GMcGs don’t go huffing off in anger, because that would really suck. I would love to offer a possible solution to satisfy all these ends of the issue, but I think that best left for others. These are just my observations.

Now, I will go and order a Metafilter t-shirt…..in grumpy black of course.
posted by lampshade at 9:10 AM on April 18, 2013


It used to be quite a rough and tumble site where people were frequently told to ''get over it'' or grow a pair''. And everything changed as the site got bigger and more mods came along.

Thank goodness.
posted by kmz at 9:10 AM on April 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Metafilter is supposed to be self policing; are the mods now doing our self policing for us?

Is it? I've never thought this was 100% the case. Sure it's somewhat self policing, in the same way that life is, but the mods have been doing "policing" for quite some time.

Bardic's link was good. How many people would be bothered to read it, probably not a lot. Many people want to get in on the Oh my god I am so upset I drove through that town 5 years ago and the lady who sold me the ice cream was kinda nice or similar (probably not a good example but you know what i mean)

That discussion is happening in the thread without any problem. Bardic's comment was framed in a way that was fairly likely to result in a "fuck Texas" conversation rather than a conversation about the causes and issues around industrial accidents that was productive or interesting. The thread is emphatically not just "I drove through that town once" and isn't that horrible, and the repeated implication in this thread that it is confuses the point.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:11 AM on April 18, 2013


Now people are going to hate me for the next two words. American Parochialism.

We are just not that special or exceptional. This is not an American-specific condition.
posted by rtha at 9:12 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


And at the same time we have other people who are flagging comments from 500-800 comments ago for whatever reason and we still need to check them all out. So when there are big news events (especially when there are a few, and they each spawn fast moving MeTa threads) we get overwhelmed sort of quickly.

I was wondering the other day whether there's a way admin could selectively (and temporarily) turn off flagging for specific flag-bait threads. NOT in the user view -- we could still be FIAMO like mad. But in terms of ergonomics, since these speedy monster potential-shitstorm threads are simple to identify and are automatically going to have one or more mods sitting in them watching the thread evolve in real-time, on the mod-view end, flags and the need to manually clear the queue are just a big-ass time-wasting labor-intensifying stressor and distraction, aren't they?
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:16 AM on April 18, 2013


Tanizaki, you may be mis-reading those comments. Millions of people drive up and down I-35, and I'll bet every single one of them is at least aware of West...because of the Czech Stop. It's a funny name, it's right there (I believe it's exit 352) by the highway, it's the biggest easy-on-easy-off gas station between Hillsboro and Waco (and Waco's a bitch to stop in), and the bathrooms are generally pretty clean. Plus it's one of the few non-fast-food-chain places to stop and eat.

People in the Boston thread talked about the library, and how they worked/visited/have a friend near the area of the bombing, or about past or hopeful future visits to the marathon. Boston is big, there's lots to know there. West is 2600 people and yet gets hundreds of visitors a day, because of a little string of gas station-bakeries next to the interstate. I have stopped there probably 70 times in 20 years of Texan adulthood, sometimes twice in one long-ass workday.

Nobody's worried about their foodie supply-line being cut off. But a disproportionate number of people here have had contact with the people of West because of this one thing. We know this place, even if we've never visited longer than 20 minutes. It's not a massive library or anything, but it's a huge touchstone, and that's why people are bringing it up.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:19 AM on April 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


If shit goes down in your back yard say Texas or Boston it's personal. If shit goes down half a world away it tends to just be another day at the office.

I would encourage people who think this to re-read the Japan tsunami threads.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:22 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


People here like to talk about "tone deaf" a lot, but I do not see the appropriateness of "dude, that kolache place rules" where people were blown apart and their houses leveled. I must confess that I did not read all 2800 comments in the Boston Marathon thread, but I missed any comments regarding favorite food trucks.

People were commenting on Copley square and the places to be found there, memories of the way it was, all throughout the thread, as well as memories and commentary on the Marathon itself. Please pay closer attention.

This is about something that happened to people, and it allows us to better empathize with them and to understand the magnitude of what has happened to know something of what they and the place they're from are like.

This is a small town well known for it's dining and culture by people throughout Texas... I really appreciate getting to know what life was like in that town.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:22 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]




It's also useful to know that Texans often have a very strong "sense of place," as cultural geographers call it. So does Boston. Local landmarks have a lot of meaning, because they provide people with a sense of belonging, and a sense of their uniqueness. So does other institutions -- regional food, for example. It's part of the reason both the bombing in Boston and the explosion outside of Waco were so disruptive -- not just because they cost lives, but also affected places and institutions that provide locals with a sense of the uniqueness of their own environment.

The loss of physical spaces or cultural institutions may seem small in comparison to the loss of human life, but, if those places or institutions help create your sense of the uniqueness of your environment and your own place in it, it can be enormously upsetting.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:30 AM on April 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


I suppose I agree with phaedon and decani - but the explanations of how things have scaled up and the number of flags has gone up is really helpful in understanding the challenges people face, cause thats not really something we would know or think about.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:32 AM on April 18, 2013


Some of the kolach discussion started because Texans wanted to tell people that West wasn't Waco and isn't just some blip on the map, it is its own town with a distinctive local culture and cuisine.

As for the deletion, I think the blog post in question was nothing but speculation and political axe-grinding, but I don't buy that it was a post (or quotation from the post) that was blaming the victims of the disaster. I think it probably should have been allowed to stay, though I get that the period when the thread is young and the fire is still burning is the time when the mods are most alert for derails. Fortunately, the deletion didn't stop people in the thread from having a decent (and more informed) discussion of the substantive issues.
posted by Area Man at 9:34 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I'd rather not. It doesn't sound like much fun.

I pulled an all-nighter. Pay no attention to me.
posted by phaedon at 9:39 AM on April 18, 2013


"...and the need to manually clear the queue are just a big-ass time-wasting labor-intensifying stressor and distraction, aren't they?"

The mods are really, really careful to make it clear that they're paid for this, they choose to do it, and all that, but it's worth considering how different in many respects and in negative ways their experience of this place is relative to ours. Unlike us, and particularly here in MeTa, they can't skip comments from frequently annoying or upsetting people — a big part of the job is the worst parts of MeFi. I'm pretty sure that I couldn't do it.

That said, most of the things they are doing are the things they need to be doing, it's just necessity for keeping this place functioning. The flags, even when they're carefully monitoring a thread and reading all the comments, are an important barometer. They've said that it's data that they use to make judgments, not data that determines their judgments, and that seems about right to me. They probably have a better intuition about what's problematic and what isn't than all or most of the users, but that doesn't mean that they're never surprised by how much (or little) something is flagged and/or ends up causing grief.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:40 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean as I understand it the goal of moderation is to keep threads from turning into shit-fire-hailstorms. So comments about moderation choices should at least attempt to address whether or not the comment in question might have precipitated that kind of, er, precipitation.

Also, the mods are all real people doing a real job. To be rude to them is to shame yourself, IMO. If you think saying that makes me a (really?) "brownnoser" then I guess I'll just admit that I do not care at all how you cast me in your metafilter melodrama.
posted by kavasa at 9:51 AM on April 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Speaking as someone who has recently been deleted in one of these fast-moving threads (Hitler nonsense, that was me!) I think part of the hostility here is that there is a feeling that the moderator is ascribing some sort of valuation of motive. Be assured, I'm not posting something to be a jerk, I'm posting something because it made sense in my reality at the time. My reality may differ from yours at any given moment, apologies in advance.

Believe it or not, I do try and moderate my own comments before hitting post. If you could see the quantity and quality of things that I don't post you would flag my judgement as 'Fucking Fantastic!' so hard and so often it would make your head spin.

I suspect some of barbic's reaction is there's an assumption that he was not posting in good faith. To tell someone that their comment is being deleted because it is 'political' is odd because we talk politics all the time on MeFi. To delete it and say 'too soon' would be more accurate and recognize both the poster's good faith and the objective of the moderator.
posted by mazola at 9:52 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I, too, prefer a more rough-and-tumble kind of site but titling your Meta "bullshit" is no sort of constructive criticism and not helping the cause.
posted by Justinian at 9:52 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, yes, bardic needs to watch his tone.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:00 AM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh please.
posted by OmieWise at 10:02 AM on April 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


To tell someone that their comment is being deleted because it is 'political' is odd because we talk politics all the time on MeFi.

What I said in the MeFi thread after deleting the comment was was "Time and place folks, time and place. If you need to have a discussion in MetaTalk, we totally understand but try to be cool here at MetaFilter." Did not mention bardic. Did not mention politics. After which bardic posted his link again. After which I deleted it again. After which he came here, titled his MeTa thread "bullshit" and reposted his comment a third time, called the comment deletion(s) "fucking ridiculous" and called it political himself. My only mention of politics was that i thought the blog post he linked to seemed to be a point-scoring weird (and short) button pushing blog post. You can read what I said.

I don't know many other forums where you can say "fuck you" to the mods and still have people who work at the site stick around to try to understand your side of the whole issue, but that's where we're coming from. Save the "tone argument" stuff for somewhere where it applies.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:03 AM on April 18, 2013 [33 favorites]


I don't understand why that "fuck you" comment wasn't deleted, since I thought it was clearly against the rules. But then I don't understand why bardic is still around this place.
posted by languagehat at 10:04 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh please, yourself, OmieWise.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:04 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you mean that "tone argument" comment seriously, perhaps you could elaborate on what you mean, as it does not seem to fit the facts here. If you did not mean it seriously, then I am curious as to how you thought it would help this discussion.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:07 AM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


MrMoonPie: "Yes, yes, bardic needs to watch his tone."

*snort*

He titled the post "bullshit," announced that "The moderation around here has officially become fucking ridiculous" then said, " If pointing that out isn't worthy of the blue, then yeah, fuck this place" and said " Oh, and fuck you very much" to a mod.

I'm thinking yes, his tone definitely matters.
posted by zarq at 10:15 AM on April 18, 2013 [20 favorites]


What I said in the MeFi thread after deleting the comment was was...

Welp, you did everything I would reasonably expect from a moderator. We have good mods here.
posted by mazola at 10:15 AM on April 18, 2013


MrMoonPie: “Yes, yes, bardic needs to watch his tone.”

Have you read that link? It is useful and informative. Here's the part that I think applies to this conversation:
The key to understanding whether a request for civility is sincere or not is to ask whether the person asking for civility has more power along whatever axes are contextually relevant (see Intersectionality) than the person being called "incivil", less power, or equal power.
In this case, it's pretty clear that the answer to this question is "no." Those of us here who've said it was kind of jerkish for bardic to say "fuck you very much" are just users like he is. Even when the mods say that, they're doing so from the position of being users, too; his comments here haven't been deleted, and they're working hard to meet him on the same level.
posted by koeselitz at 10:16 AM on April 18, 2013


Is there any amount of feedback that will make the mods a little less pre-crime-y, or is this something that is not really up for discussion and everyone who disagrees is just venting into a void? I respect the mods for engaging with the conversation, but I get the distinct impression that the latter is true.
posted by forgetful snow at 10:18 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


"pre-crime-y"? The mods didn't pre-delete bardic's link, what do you mean?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on April 18, 2013


Deleting things because it looks like they might have the potential to cause bad discussions, rather than because of the problems they have actually caused.
posted by forgetful snow at 10:26 AM on April 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Deleting things because it looks like they might have the potential to cause bad discussions, rather than because of the problems they have actually caused.

We should only worry about the barn-door if the horse has actually left, otherwise OMG teh orwellz!
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:31 AM on April 18, 2013


Is there any amount of feedback that will make the mods a little less pre-crime-y, or is this something that is not really up for discussion and everyone who disagrees is just venting into a void?

The problem is that that sort of issue is exponential - one problematic comment leads to five angry replies, which each spur more replies, and rapidly the thread is one huge fight that can't be stopped without deletions on a scale that does not happen here. So deleting the first comment fast is actually the smallest and least intrusive action we can take - and sometimes the only action we can take beyond just shrugging and letting a thread go to hell, which we aren't really inclined to do, as it makes more work and stress and grief for everyone in the long run.

In specific cases, reasonable people can certainly disagree with our predictions, but in the general sense, we don't really have better tools to manage shitty derails than to stop them before they start.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:32 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think precrime is actually a Philip K. Dick reference.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:33 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


My personal feel is that we are at about the right level of comment moderation. That said, there was an earlier suggestion that we could go to a model of warning first. I.e.:

* Flame-y, derail-y comment
* [If there is any more along these lines, we're going to start deleting. No more flames or replies to this flame -- the mods]

Rather than deletion of the comment.

I think that might give people an insight into the actual workings and cut off the complaints about stealth deletions/I am being silenced, etc.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:33 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


languagehat: "But then I don't understand why bardic is still around this place."

Perhaps they're taking into consideration that he's an old-timer who has been active for years? He's a $5 n00b.
posted by zarq at 10:33 AM on April 18, 2013


Yes, yes, bardic needs to watch his tone.

The "tone argument" is a way of foreclosing on discussion by classifying criticism of groups with more social power as inherently (more) rude or confrontational. Acknowledging this dynamic does not mean we all get carte blanche to tell people to go fuck themselves.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:34 AM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


snow, that's what I was trying to say. If you think it's a bad deletion, you should try to make an effort to argue that the deleted comment(s) wouldn't really have led to a terrible thread.
posted by kavasa at 10:36 AM on April 18, 2013


Teh Dickz!
posted by josher71 at 10:36 AM on April 18, 2013


I think it might be time to raise prices. Isn't part of the problem the size of the community and number of new entrants. Also maybe we need to have an online course on how to be a good mefi participant, you know some structured interaction and conflict resolution training.
posted by humanfont at 10:36 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


When is the right time after a tragedy to start talking about issues you see to be problematic?

Adding my own bit to what fellow mods have said already, this is a hard question because there's no pat answer. There's no schedule, there's no fixed staging of topics that anybody can just refer to a checklist and work off. It's not that easy, it can't be.

The best answer I think we have is: "read the room". You can't look at a clock or a comment count; you just have to stop and sort of ask yourself where things are, how new the thread is, how tense it is, how far people are into having a sense of what has gone on, what's still happening, who knows what. You have to size things up and try and figure out whether cranking the discussion a notch wider or introducing a challenging-but-worthwhile sidebar is going to work best right now or should sit until later.

And there's always later, especially when we're talking about threads on the scale of having been open for just a few hours about something upsetting. There's always room to let people catch their breath a bit more first.

So it's difficult. In a sense it's really a lot to ask, to have everybody do that level of assessment of a thread before they decide whether to broach something new. But it's what folks by and large do a pretty good job of here and it's part of why conversations don't constantly explode immediately and terribly. That process of reading the room is incredibly valuable and creates a lot of the social lubricant that helps this place work and makes the conversations interesting instead of just incendiary.

But it's difficult, and even when folks are making their best effort or something close to it it's totally possible to read the room wrong. And that's part of why we delete stuff, especially early in the threads and especially in threads that are inherently charged. It's one of the more important functions of attentive, more-or-less realtime moderation in a big crowd like this, because its very very easy for large groups of good, well-meaning people to read each other a little wrong about something difficult and just set up a bad, escalating dynamic.

So: read the room. Don't feel like there's a rush to crack a conversation wide open if it's a hard thing; know that it's totally fine to go there a little later, and that going there later is almost certainly in fact going to be welcome and part of the conversation over its lifecycle. And know that sometimes you just don't quite hit the mark, and that's not a big deal but we delete stuff because it'll help minimize the damage to the conversation that those missed marks might otherwise stir up. Be okay with something getting nixed, check in with us via the contact form or something if you want to talk about it or make a case for whatever was deleted. This is all fine, it's part of the process.

It's a process, it's complicated, and it'll never be perfect. But remembering that there's no rush on this stuff and that deletions aren't personal helps a lot.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:37 AM on April 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "I think precrime is actually a Philip K. Dick reference."

Yes, in Dick's story, "The Minority Report," mutants with precognitive powers look into the future to see what crimes are going to be committed. The criminals are then arrested, prior to having actually committed the act. The system is known as Precrime. The story was loosely adapted as the Tom Cruise film "Minority Report."
posted by Chrysostom at 10:37 AM on April 18, 2013


Dude, this is MetaFilter. It's not Congress. It's not "the media". Scoring points here against the NRA doesn't actually cause any change for the better in the real world.

While I'm generally loath to contradict the man behind mefi about mefi... I think this is off base. A lot of people who read and contribute to metafilter are really smart, thoughtful people. Some of us have policy jobs, or positions in government or the media. Some of us are teachers, nonprofit founders, or writers. All of us have lives outside of mefi (I hope).

There's a lot of valuable information here. And it's not just about the facts or the posts--though FPPs have certainly made me aware of issues that never would have been in my zone of interest otherwise. Every once in a while, a comment will completely turn my world upside down with a new way of looking at a problem. Suddenly, something I thought was black or white is gray. You can bet your ass that I'm going to digest that valuable info like any other information I consume-- and I'm going to take it to work, to the ballot box, to my family, and to my community.

Sure, fighty "points scoring" comments on heated topics aren't the most persuasive or enlightening contributions to the site. And it's not every day that something from Metafilter worms its way into my world view. But essentially dismissing contributions to this site -- about gun control or not -- as not "actually caus[ing] change in the real world" is just plain wrong. And frankly, coming from you of all people, it's downright insulting.
posted by murfed13 at 10:41 AM on April 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think precrime is actually a Philip K. Dick reference.

Oh, I got that part. I just wasn't seeing how it related, as even in Minority Report they dealt with things before they happened as opposed to after; and, forgetful snow's comment about "pre-crime" referring to a subsequent discussion aside, the mods still had to actually wait for bardic to make his comment as opposed to sending Tom Cruise back in time to take his keyboard away or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:47 AM on April 18, 2013


there was an earlier suggestion that we could go to a model of warning first.

We discussed that after the last time this came up in a similar fashion and have been trying to do more of that. More "Hey folks cool it" and less mystery meat vanished comments. On the whole I think it's working well.

The one issue (and again, just being thorough, not complaining...) is that if you leave a vague comment you wind up with a bunch of email asking "Did you mean me?" "What did you mean?" or people going on as if you didn't mean them when you really did. If you leave a specific comment you get people very unhappy that you "called them out" especially after leaving their possibly intemperate comment up there. Or that you called one person in a negative interaction out and not the other.

Sometimes we try to leave a vague comment but send a specific email/MeMail but sometimes this just starts a sidebar angry conversation with someone responding like bardic did above. And over MeMail all that abuse gets heaped privately on one person, not put out in public where other people can see it and also reply. I have reached a limit of how many nasty MeMails I want to deal with in the interests of keeping a thread flowing smoothly. And I can't in good conscience tell the other mods that getting lots of abusive email is considered part of their job, not if there are alternatives. This is, admittedly, a selfish move possibly.

I originally deleted those comments because bardic seemed like he was steeling for a fight by making them when he did. I'm not so sure I was off in that assessment. I am concerned with the "pre-crime aspect", trust me, and I know that guessing right doesn't make it okay. That said, there's no crime and no criminal here. The goal is more smoothly running threads. And we should all, nominally, share that goal.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:47 AM on April 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


. I just wasn't seeing how it related, as even in Minority Report they dealt with things before they happened as opposed to after

It is an inapt metaphor. There should be a book where a crime causes a succession of related crimes, and so cops delete the first crime. I mean, not just for the sake of us have an appropriate literary metaphor, but also because I think that would be pretty cool.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:52 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


EC, it's really more of pre-disaster than pre-crime. The crime (flame) has been committed, but is rapidly removed so as to prevent the blowup. It's not a perfect analogy, but precrime is a catchy phrase.

Jessamyn, thanks for the explanation. I agree that no model of moderation is ideal.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:53 AM on April 18, 2013


Deleting things because it looks like they might have the potential to cause bad discussions, rather than because of the problems they have actually caused.

bardic's comment was deleted because his pull quote was interpreted as Texas bashing, and it was getting flagged a lot. Sure, it might have stimulated other people to chime in with redneck or Texan baiting comments, and there seem to have been at least a few of these even without the extra encouragement, but bardic's comment had problems on it's own.
posted by nangar at 10:54 AM on April 18, 2013


The hole in the metaphor was actually my point, but now that daisy-chain-of-crime-prevention book idea's got me even more intrigued.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:54 AM on April 18, 2013


humanfont: "I think it might be time to raise prices."

The last time Matt tried that, the site went straight to hell.
posted by zarq at 10:58 AM on April 18, 2013


Wake me up when September ends.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:01 AM on April 18, 2013


Given that today is September 7170th, 2013 you might be waiting a while.
posted by Justinian at 11:10 AM on April 18, 2013


Yes, yes, bardic needs to watch his tone.

Yes, he does. Yes, we all do. It's not a fallacy to say so. It's a fallacy to say that someone's argument isn't legitimate because of tone. It's not wrong to say that conversations go better if people are nicer to each other.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:58 AM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


the mods still had to actually wait for bardic to make his comment as opposed to sending Tom Cruise back in time to take his keyboard away or something.

That was Timecop, a different movie, and it starred Jean-Claude van Damme, not Tom Cruise. Your confusion is understandable.

But I agree with forgetful snow's comment (and adamvasco's related one earlier) that a lot of this MetaTalk discussion seems to reflect the classroom strategy of "let them talk it out and the problem will go away, because it's ultimately all in their heads."

MetaTalk has been getting these threads pretty regularly lately. Users come in feeling stung, they explain what they're feeling, others weigh in for and against, the moderators reiterate their stance from a position of absolute authority, the conversation goes around and around for a bit, and then that's it. When a presenter does this at a workshop ("let's write your question down and come back to it after we're finished"), I find it pretty disrespectful.

I guess the main point is, are the moderators here to manage and supervise users, or help users enjoy the site? Because a position of uncompromising authority is not very compatible with the latter. Most of us paid our $5, but it's not as though that pays all of MetaFilter's expenses. Mefites aren't buying matt's, jessamyn's, and cortex's services. We're not the site's clients or customers. And, even more than the predictable parochialism of groups, that raises some unpleasant questions about the relationship between Mefites and the moderators, and what the nature of the value exchange between the site and its users actually is.
posted by Nomyte at 11:58 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Frankly dude your track record re: tone on mefi is not stellar.

I can see two related ways to parse this comment. Either you are casting doubt on CiS's good faith, or you are making a very frank ad hominem argument. Neither one is flattering to the reasonable and intelligent smoke that I'm glad to have as a contact. Please correct me if I misunderstood your comment.
posted by Nomyte at 12:05 PM on April 18, 2013


When a disaster happens some people can't wait to assign blame for it. Not an attack--that's obviously got a human cause of some kind, but in case of an industrial disaster or natural disaster, the answer is almost never going to be some easy efficient cause. It's usually a conglomeration of factors that lead to a situation in which an occurrence occured.

And these people CAN NOT handle that. They MUST have a scapegoat in order to sleep at night. Even in minor disasters "Oh my sister got in a fender bender--WHY WAS SHE DRIVING IN THE MORNING?" *is mad at sister for months*. This is because they are afraid. Life is unpredictable, and chaos is always trying to kill you and everyone you love, and that fact scares the bejesus out of some people to the point that they have to blame victims in order to feel some sense of control. "Oh of course you got mugged you were in a bad neighborhood. Well, kind of a bad neighborhood. Anyway, I never take the train after 4pm."

So when someone makes a blog post like the one that started this thread off, I feel more pity than annoyance. No, your assumptions about unions and regulations probably don't have anything to do with the reality of the situation, and no, most people are not interested in hearing stuff like that because we're not petrified that if we don't figure out why it could NEVER HAPPEN IN MY STATE we will be blown up in the night. Fear sucks, but there's got to be a better way to alleviate it than to let everyone know whose fault it is. Get some sleep.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:09 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


In what way do the mods display "absolute" or "uncompromising" authority, and would they have to compromise on every thing someone wanted them to compromise on in order to not be displaying that kind of authority?

That's a serious question.

I find the mod team here, whether I agree with them or not, to be responsive, solicitous, and to weigh the widely expressed interests of users. Certainly they can't please every user because there are a variety of different incommensurate desires expressed by users here.

Most of us paid our $5, but it's not as though that pays all of MetaFilter's expenses. Mefites aren't buying matt's, jessamyn's, and cortex's services. We're not the site's clients or customers. And, even more than the predictable parochialism of groups, that raises some unpleasant questions about the relationship between Mefites and the moderators, and what the nature of the value exchange between the site and its users actually is.

This is an odd comment to me. People use the site for a variety of reasons, but, crucially, people are always free to stop using it. If Matt's desires for how to see moderation proceed here end up hurting the bottom line, it isn't users who will be the losers.
posted by OmieWise at 12:09 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I imagine that the guy who cracked a joke about dropping a bomb on east Texas "because they're all just inbred rednecks, poor black people and hispanics" in a MeFi thread about a year or so ago is pretty stoked right now, as are people who've made similar 'stupid inbred trash like you deserve to die' comments across MeFi over the years. I appreciate the moderators' efforts to keep that type of shit in check in the "Major explosion rocks West, Texas" thread. Thank you for doing that. I'm sorry you're getting so much shit about it.
posted by nangar at 12:14 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure, fighty "points scoring" comments on heated topics aren't the most persuasive or enlightening contributions to the site. And it's not every day that something from Metafilter worms its way into my world view. But essentially dismissing contributions to this site -- about gun control or not -- as not "actually caus[ing] change in the real world" is just plain wrong. And frankly, coming from you of all people, it's downright insulting.

I disagree. If Metafilter was a place for truly open debate, then you might have a point. But it's not. Moderators have openly stated on several occasions that Metafilter prioritizes "community" over the search for intellectual truth. Conservative comments get deleted far more often than liberal comments, not necessarily for rudeness or even for being unfactual but simply because they run a high risk of making threads fighty and causing a derail.

And hey, that's a valid methodology. If you value "community" above all things, then deleting comments that may lead to incendiary debate is definitely the best way to go about preserving it. However, if you value intellectual inquiry and getting to the truth of an issue via argument and evidence-based methods, this system causes problems, because no sensible person is going to respect the outcome of a debate where one side effectively has a giant buzzer that they can press all the time to drown out the other side whenever they make a good comment. When "scoring points" in a environment like that, you're generally not winning hearts and minds - the only people you're convincing of your point are the people who are already believers. It's sort of like winning a fight with somebody who has one hand tied behind their back, and then thinking that somehow proves you're a tough guy. It might impress your friends, but it's sure not going to change your popularity among voter demographics.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:14 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


MetaTalk has been getting these threads pretty regularly lately.

Metatalk has been getting these threads pretty regularly for thirteen years. I've worked here for six and it was a very familiar dynamic before I took the job. It's part of how this place has always worked.

I guess the main point is, are the moderators here to manage and supervise users, or help users enjoy the site?

They aren't distinct roles, but what we do of the former is pretty much in service to the latter wherever possible. I don't show up for work in the morning thinking "oh boy, time to manage some users!" as some sort of end in itself; I like this place, I like my fellow mefites, I like the stuff people ask and the links people post and all the fun and interesting and challenging and surprising conversations we manage collectively to have. I and every other person on Team Mod has first and foremost in their minds the goal of helping this place stay more or less what it's always been, a place that is interesting where people can have a good/meaningful/engaging time together.

the moderators reiterate their stance from a position of absolute authority

We delete stuff, and leave notes, and write emails, and talk stuff out in Metatalk, in service of that idea of having this be a good place for people to spend time. That's the whole goal: helping this place work as best we know how, using the tools we have.

One of those tools is conversation, and it's honestly the one I like best and the one that I think we get the most actual productive use out of, but not every conversation we have in metatalk is going to be a consensus-building exercise; just as there's been "why was/wasn't this deleted" threads here since Metatalk came into being in early 2000, there's been stuff that was up for debate and stuff that wasn't so much since then as well. And things were more up in the air in the earliest days because a lot of these things were not very well talked out yet and the site was still more experiment than established community with guidelines and stable mechanics.

We speak as mods from a position of authority in a lot of stuff where that's actually our job. It is what we do here: we gather feedback, make decisions, and talk about what went down and why when people ask. We try, really sort of exceptionally hard in my experience with the entire rest of the internet, to be open and transparent and forthcoming about how we approach stuff, and open to feedback on that, but we can't work as a team or get stuff done around here if everything is taken to be up for grabs. I appreciate that for some folks that might be too much of a firm stance, too much like being stuck under someone's thumb, but it's not by intent and practically speaking it's not something we can go out of our way to avoid and still have a site with this size and vigorousness of userbase be manageable.

that raises some unpleasant questions about the relationship between Mefites and the moderators

Beyond whatever the above may have addressed, you'll need to be explicit about what those questions are because I am not clear on what you're suggesting here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:15 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


one side effectively has a giant buzzer that they can press all the time to drown out the other side whenever they make a good comment.

If this is your impression of how moderation works here, even possibly could work here, you are incorrect.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:19 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


wolfdreams01: "Conservative comments get deleted far more often than liberal comments, not necessarily for rudeness or even for being unfactual but simply because they run a high risk of making threads fighty and causing a derail."

[citation needed]

We've already had this conversation. You... didn't exactly make a good case that this liberal bias in the number of deletions exists then, either.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:21 PM on April 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


That was Timecop, a different movie, and it starred Jean-Claude van Damme, not Tom Cruise. Your confusion is understandable.

Minority Report is a 2002 American neo-noir science fiction film directed by Steven Spielberg and loosely based on the short story "The Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick. It is set primarily in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia in the year 2054, where "PreCrime", a specialized police department, apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics called "precogs". The cast includes Tom Cruise as PreCrime captain John Anderton, Colin Farrell as Department of Justice agent Danny Witwer, Samantha Morton as the senior precog Agatha, and Max von Sydow as Anderton's superior Lamar Burgess.

Timecop is a 1994 science-fiction thriller film directed by Peter Hyams and co-written by Mike Richardson and Mark Verheiden. Richardson also served as executive producer. The film is based on Time Cop, a story written by Verheiden and drawn by Phil Hester and Chris Warner which appeared in the anthology comic Dark Horse Comics, published by Dark Horse Comics. The film stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as a police officer in 1994 and a U.S. Federal agent in 2004, when time travel has been made possible.

As we were referencing Philip K. Dick in the discussion, I would think it would have been apparent which of the two films we were discussing. But as they both involve time travel, I understand your confusion.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:23 PM on April 18, 2013


Just wanted to note I completely disagree with bardic's framing here, but I do think he was right that this deletion didn't seem to be the right call. Preventing fightyness is fine, but I do think what he was posting was a good faith contribution (which I think is more important to determining whether it remained than the fact that it may have caused conflict).

That said, the mods do a bang-up job in general and it's not an easy one, so I think they're entitled to a lot more respect than the way this meta was framed, obviously.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:24 PM on April 18, 2013


What metafilter needs is an ombudsman.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:24 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Minority Report is not about time travel, but rather precognition and free will.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:24 PM on April 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


Not sure if it's true or not, but threads about plane crashes have seemed to me to delve quite quickly into speculation/analysis of what might of happened and what contributing factors may have been at play, yet they seem to go fine. Example, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Not sure what my point is either except that we seem to treat air disasters differently (or have different expectations) than other events.
posted by mazola at 12:28 PM on April 18, 2013


"Conservative comments get deleted far more often than liberal comments, not necessarily for rudeness or even for being unfactual but simply because they run a high risk of making threads fighty and causing a derail."

Could you provide some cites, because personally, I like to educate myself and expand my knowledge by studying real data, regardless of whether the conclusion of said data agrees with my views.
posted by OmieWise at 12:28 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, how cool would it be if there was an actual giant buzzer? And possibly also a giant penny. And a robot tyrannosaur.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:29 PM on April 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


I imagine that the guy who cracked a joke about dropping a bomb on east Texas "because they're all just inbred rednecks, poor black people and hispanics" in a MeFi thread about a year or so ago is pretty stoked right now, as are people who've made similar 'stupid inbred trash like you deserve to die' comments across MeFi over the years. I appreciate the moderators' efforts to keep that type of shit in check in the "Major explosion rocks West, Texas" thread. Thank you for doing that. I'm sorry you're getting so much shit about it.

I got really angry last night due a comment (which is still there by the way) downplaying the significance of "a fertilizer explosion in some backwater Texas town" and dropped a steaming turd in the thread sarcastically repeating it which was deleted. That was dumb and I've since had a (self-initiated) conversation with a mod about it where I apologized. Either way it was meant in defense of the town but could have been taken in a way the comment above illustrates, and might have been.

This has probably been gone over in this thread (I haven't read it all) but it would be great if people remembered that when stuff like this happens, regardless of how "responsible" you think people are for their governance or supposed lack of intelligence that these are people. Just like you. Just like me. Some facility two blocks away from me could blow up right now due to some error or just plan freak accident. It happens.
posted by Big_B at 12:31 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Minority Report is not about time travel, but rather precognition and free will.

But that's the one that starred Tom Cruise and was by Philip K. Dick.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:33 PM on April 18, 2013


Could you provide some cites...

Pretty difficult burden. How does one cite deleted material?
posted by cjorgensen at 12:34 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, if one can't, how can we evaluate the truth of the claim, which is fairly inflammatory?
posted by OmieWise at 12:35 PM on April 18, 2013


cjorgensen: " Pretty difficult burden. How does one cite deleted material?"

Deleted posts are still available, and deleted comments are usually accompanied by a notice from the moderator who deleted it speaking in mod-voice.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:36 PM on April 18, 2013


[citation needed]

Sure, here you go.

"You seem to act like the purpose of MetaFilter is to find the Actual Truth in all the things, and I think for most people it's not. For many people, they hang out here to learn things about the world and other people and get some social time with people whose company they enjoy or who they find interesting."

This is from Jessamyn's comment. I think that statement and the way it is phrased makes it sound like MetaFilter prioritizes a sense of community over the search for actual truth. Am I wrong about that, Jessamyn?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:37 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


But that's the one that starred Tom Cruise and was by Philip K. Dick.

"Loosely based on the short story...by Philip K. Dick."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:40 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


> I think that statement and the way it is phrased makes it pretty clear that MetaFilter prioritizes a sense of community over the search for actual truth.

Your assumption sure sounds wrong to me.

Further, your use of terms like "intellectual truth" and "actual truth" make it pretty clear that you believe you -- or people you agree with -- are bearers of a high standard of truth, or that you believe others are not acting as honest and rational people.

If you can't extend the presumption that those you disagree with have come to their opinions or facts with at least as much honesty and rigor as you allow yourself, you will never be able to conduct an argument in good faith here.
posted by ardgedee at 12:44 PM on April 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


What metafilter needs is an ombudsman.

Actually I think what we need is a Public Advocate. Which is essentially the same thing. This town needs an enema!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:44 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Brandon, you clearly want the last word, so I'll just drop out here and let you have it. Go nuts.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:44 PM on April 18, 2013


Your assumption sure sounds wrong to me.

My question wasn't directed at you, it was directed at Jessamyn. She was the one who made the comment, so she is the only one who can interpret what it means. The rest of us can only speculate.

If it helps, perhaps I can clarify my question. Jessamyn, the statement you made (which I cited above) left me with the impression that if a comment had the potential to get a lot of people angry, you would delete it, even if the substance of the comment was perfectly true. Is that correct? If I misspoke, I apologize, but I do wish you would clarify.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:49 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brandon, you clearly want the last word, so I'll just drop out here and let you have it. Go nuts.

Nah, just love movies and believe descriptions of them should be accurate. Sue me.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:51 PM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Am I wrong about that, Jessamyn?

The thing people are asking you for a cite for is not that part. The part they were asking about was this part "Conservative comments get deleted far more often than liberal comments."

And I really don't know what you mean about searching for "actual truth." To most people truth has some level of relativity to other things. I think people on MeFi work towards understanding the cultural truths of the events and things we talk about, but that may be different from determining any actual SRS BZNS objective reality to any given thing. At the point at which you involve humans in your calculus, the idea of objective reality is a much slipperier thing.

You seem to have a personal morality that believes in this sort of "there are absolute truths" thing, which is fine, you think how you think and feel how you feel. However, many people here do not share your approach. That is also true. They are not wrong, they are simply different from you. Insisting that only your own approach to community discussions is valid means you are bad at community discussions, at least here. Not a bad person, not a bad scholar, not a bad friend, just that you have some unyielding ways of interaction that you seem to insist are the only valid ones.

So yeah if you need discussions--and more importantly, moderation policies--to stick to searching for absolute truths, you are unlikely to find that here. I set expectations, this is me setting one.

if a comment had the potential to get a lot of people angry, you would delete it, even if the substance of the comment was perfectly true.

Yes, with the caveat that it's not as simple as that and that the group pf "some people" who might be angry isn't always "liberals". Truth is not a defense for being an asshole here. It may be in other places.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:51 PM on April 18, 2013 [28 favorites]


Wolf, I don't think Jessamyn's comment negates my earlier comment.

I think that mefi can be a place for intellectual debate and learning without being a place for "intellectual truth." To start off with, some people, such as myself, don't even believe there always is a discoverable "truth." (Then again, I'm a lawyer.) Others might learn a thing or two from another perspective, but not abandon their position altogether. That's ok. Disagreement doesn't mean a community is anti-knowledge.
posted by murfed13 at 12:59 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nah, just love movies and believe descriptions of them should be accurate. Sue me.

Minority Report: A very small man goes swimming with a bald woman as a result of an unpainted cue ball.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:00 PM on April 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


Thank you Jessamyn. That is exactly the response that I was looking for.

As far as proving that conservative opinions get deleted a lot more than liberal opinions, I fully concede that that's subjective and impossible to prove without mod powers or some way to calculate where a comment falls on the political spectrum. I retract that part of my statement. (And to be fair, even from my own subjective viewpoint I think that this is an area that Metafilter has gotten a lot better at in recent months, so kudos for that.)

The only point I wanted to prove is that on MetaFilter, "not rocking the boat" can and will take precedence over "establishing factual truth" in situations where there is a conflict. So the argument made way upthread that Metafilter is somehow a reputable media source that bears a significant influence on shaping real world opinion feels like an untrue comment. The hallmark of reputable media outlets prioritize accurate reporting over "avoiding getting people angry." (Or at least they used to...)

This is not a criticism of MetaFilter, which is very good at what it does. I just want to make sure we all have a similar understanding about what MetaFilter is and what it is not, and I think Jessamyn's comment helped clarify that.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:01 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reputable media outlets prioritize accurate reporting over "avoiding getting people angry."

I'd say that there are an increasingly large number of media outlets that prioritize "getting people angry" over "accurate reporting," frankly.
posted by KathrynT at 1:04 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Minority Report: A very small man goes swimming with a bald woman as a result of an unpainted cue ball.

ACTUAL TRUTH!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:04 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I retract that part of my statement.

You see, I think we've gotten a little closer to actual truth here.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:06 PM on April 18, 2013


I just want to make sure we all have a similar understanding about what it is and what it is not

Uh.. thanks?

Regarding the Metafilter community, I guess I'm lucky because I have a Mr. Rodger's type stance on things.

"There's no [community] in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are."
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:07 PM on April 18, 2013


So the claim above that Metafilter is somehow a reputable media source that bears a significant influence on shaping real world opinion feels like an untrue comment

Are you referring to my comment? I hardly said mefi was a "reputable news source." I said that I read and digest the opinions and perspectives of others -- along with my diet of "actual" news and other info -- to inform my world view. That's not unusual, whether those opinions be from an internet community or a real life community.

Then I shape "reputable real world opinion" by voting, donating, and advocating in my community.
posted by murfed13 at 1:08 PM on April 18, 2013


So the claim made way upthread that Metafilter is somehow a reputable media source that bears a significant influence on shaping real world opinion feels like an untrue comment.

Of course it is. mathowie specifically said MeFi is not "the media" and a few people responded that he should give the site a little more credit for having some influence. However we have never moderated this site as if we were a newspaper, media outlet or a court of law, nor implied that we were doing that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:09 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


This debate over deleted comments is one of the main reasons I think comments should not be deleted but should be hidden in a div with a display:none style, and a button added to display hidden comments. So there is no mystery about the moderation choices. The whole thing is pretty opaque, I am a compulsive refresher and I see comments disappear all the time with no note.

I've even seen comments disappear from Meta, they were always over the top crazy shit though.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:13 PM on April 18, 2013


matthowie: it's probably helpful for you to know that most if not all of the thorny debate stuff you might see deleted is flagged by other members.

This has come up in a number of these discussions, and I am kind of getting tired of hearing this as a justification for deletions -- it kind of feels like passing the buck on who's making the decision to delete things.

I get that it's often difficult to make those decisions, and that there's a lot of gray area, and that reasonable people may disagree on what needs to go and what doesn't, and I absolutely do not envy the mods their jobs because none of this is easy. I like that this is handled case-by-case rather than as some sort of automated mob-rule downvote system -- which is why I find it increasingly irksome to see the number of flags something has received cited as even partial justification for why it was deleted. Flags aren't downvotes, which is a good thing. So own the decision, don't tell us well it got a lot of flags so we deleted it.


I think bardic has a valid beef here, though I certainly wish he'd handled the meta a lot better than he did. It does feel like moderation has been gradually getting more and more aggressive, ratcheting up from "just delete the spammers and obvious trolls" towards the "delete anything people might get fighty about" end of the spectrum:

restless_nomad: The problem is that that sort of issue is exponential - one problematic comment leads to five angry replies, which each spur more replies, and rapidly the thread is one huge fight that can't be stopped without deletions on a scale that does not happen here. So deleting the first comment fast is actually the smallest and least intrusive action we can take[...] in the general sense, we don't really have better tools to manage shitty derails than to stop them before they start.

...but the problem with that is that it becomes incentive to quickly prune out anything that might be at all controversial, just in case. I wouldn't want to read that hypothetical fluffy sanitized version of MeFi any more than I'd want to read the all-flames-all-the-time version, and it does increasingly feel like we're headed in that direction.

On preview:

wolfdreams01: if a comment had the potential to get a lot of people angry, you would delete it, even if the substance of the comment was perfectly true.

jessamyn: Yes, with the caveat that it's not as simple as that and that the group pf "some people" who might be angry isn't always "liberals". Truth is not a defense for being an asshole here. It may be in other places.


is much the sort of thing I'm talking about. If something's true, and posted in good faith, and is on topic, yet is likely to make some people angry, I don't think it should be deleted -- nor do I think the person posting it should be characterized as an "asshole" or the comment as a "shitty derail" (per restless_nomad above.)

Not my call, obviously, and it's easy for me to say we should maybe go ahead and let some fights happen when I don't have the job of dealing with the fallout, and I totally get why the mods would prefer not to have to. Just a data point, one more guy who wishes the bar for deletions was a bit higher than it is.
posted by ook at 1:13 PM on April 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


Ad hominem: "This debate over deleted comments is one of the main reasons I think comments should not be deleted but should be hidden in a div with a display:none style, and a button added to display hidden comments. So there is no mystery about the moderation choices. "

This fails because of the old adage "if you want to be overheard, whisper." People will see that it's been deleted and click to open it and see what the fuss was about, and then get their rage on if they don't like the content.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:15 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Perhaps they're taking into consideration that he's an old-timer who has been active for years? He's a $5 n00b.

Oh, I wasn't suggesting he be banned—heaven forfend! I just meant that to me he falls into the category of people who keep complaining about how lousy the food is here and how awful the service is and yet keep coming back for more.
posted by languagehat at 1:17 PM on April 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


This fails because of the old adage "if you want to be overheard, whisper." People will see that it's been deleted and click to open it and see what the fuss was about, and then get their rage on if they don't like the content.

Yeah but that happens anyway, I load the page and get all the comments, mods delete a comment, I still have it in my browser and get all mad and reply to a deleted comment.

I guess there is no real solution.

Anyway, thanks for all the hard work guys this week has been pretty rough on you too without all the pissing and moaning from guys like me.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:18 PM on April 18, 2013


Mods get shit if they pay attention to flags and they get shit if they don't instadelete some shitty thing that no one has yet flagged, or is perhaps not as shitty as someone is complaining about. Not enough Scotch in the world for me to want a job like that.
posted by rtha at 1:20 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ad hominem: " Yeah but that happens anyway, I load the page and get all the comments, mods delete a comment, I still have it in my browser and get all mad and reply to a deleted comment."

Yeah, but in one case you have to see it before it's deleted, and in the other case you don't...
posted by tonycpsu at 1:21 PM on April 18, 2013


running order squabble fest: "Also, how cool would it be if there was an actual giant buzzer? And possibly also a giant penny. And a robot tyrannosaur."

Smite Button.

jessamyn: "However we have never moderated this site as if we were a newspaper, media outlet

A good thing, too. The comments sections on most of 'em are cesspools.

or a court of law"

Mefi moderators only wear "bench" wigs on special occasions. Each are given the opportunity to choose between a more modern professional white style, or a traditional blue and green.
posted by zarq at 1:22 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


This has come up in a number of these discussions, and I am kind of getting tired of hearing this as a justification for deletions -- it kind of feels like passing the buck on who's making the decision to delete things.

This is a core operating principle of the site: it is a community and thus community members indicate actions they'd like to see taken. Flags indicate displeasure and a desire for a conversation to go in a certain way (or not). A big part of the mods' raison d'etre is to see the community's will enacted.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 1:24 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not enough Scotch in the world for me to want a job like that.

I am in complete agreement.
posted by ook at 1:26 PM on April 18, 2013


Meta threads are a good reminder that no matter how clear a statement seems to me, it can be read wiiiiiiiildly different ways.
posted by kavasa at 1:27 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


The only point I wanted to prove is that on MetaFilter, "not rocking the boat" can and will take precedence over "establishing factual truth" in situations where there is a conflict.

I think you are confusing "being an asshole" for "rocking the boat."

For example, when the Twin Towers fell it is statistically at least one of the victims was a rapist, or drug addict, or child molester, or atheist, or hated their mother, blah blah blah. I could go into the thread at that time and post this while everyone is in shock and mourning.

Or when someone is upset about the mass bombing of civilians in Syria, I could say sure there are a lot of dead civilians, but how many of those civilians were jerks?

ACTUAL TRUTH? Yes. Being an asshole who is contributes nothing relevant to the conversation in favor of instigating controversy? Oh very yes.
posted by schroedinger at 1:28 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


languagehat: "he falls into the category of people who keep complaining about how lousy the food is here"

And such small portions!
posted by scrump at 1:30 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


As we go through life, we often learn lessons that become so self-evident, so inarguable that it becomes difficult to understand how we could have even not known them fully.

For reasons that are not important, in my life I have learned one truth about tragedy: people who use the immediate aftermath of tragedy as an excuse to make political points--no matter the sincerity or blandness political point--are so lacking in basic humanity that I do not care to hear what they have to say. For why should I be at all interested or inclined to consider points embraced by those who lack such humanity?

Instant politicization of tragedy is repellent in all regards. Not because of the politics of it. But because the lack of humanity. If I can look at someone under the lash and have no or such little sympathy or empathy that I can turn my attention to political thoughts, then I have lost my way some place.

I'm all for forensically reviewing things post mortem and looking for ways to fix them. I believe that full justice after accidents almost always must entail change to prevent further tragedies. But while the suffering is on-going....while the the bleeding has not yet stopped... it is not the time.

Good deletion for a number of reasons.
posted by dios at 1:36 PM on April 18, 2013 [18 favorites]


Ok, serious suggestion here:

I think what the moderators don't recognize is the emotional impact it has when one's comment is deleted. From their perspective, comment deletion is the thin blue line between civility and crapflood. Problematic comments are abstract from users because they've been flagged as objectionable. From a user's perspective though, words are the sum total of one's identity on the site. Deleting them feels, especially when you're passionate, like being rejected from and by the site itself. Even if you think this is a bullshit claim, I think you'll probably agree that this sort of emotion lurks behind every one of these protest threads.

Now, if the moderators are serious in sustaining a dialogue on this issue, and there's a general consensus that comment deletion is a crude tool but the only one they have, then I think it's worth considering alternatives. Blanking out comments and making them accessible with a "show all" button seems clumsy to me. And disemvowelling or whatever it is they call it at boingboing is passive aggressive and lame.

But why couldn't there be a sitewide convention that heavily flagged comments get darkened and reduced in size? Still there, but diminished in their impact. After repeat offenses by people who are clearly just trying to stir the pot, MetaTalk redirects, deletions and time-outs could commence. But as a first gesture, physically reducing the impact of a comment on site would be a way of signifying to a user that their contribution is generally perceived as hurting the tone of a thread and would mark to other commenters that these sorts of comments are problematic and not worth entertaining lest things get off the rails.

Something like this would be a good-faith way of respecting the contributions of the userbase without abandoning the principle of moderation entirely.
posted by R. Schlock at 1:40 PM on April 18, 2013


This was a highly disturbing deletion, IMO. A deletion that tells me the mods would rather this be a place for swapping bland cliches and small talk than trying to collectively figure out what's happening in our world.

Mods, you keep saying that one of the reasons for the overzealous moderation in advance of "problematic" comments like bardic's is that they picked up one or two flags and that they cause drama.

Can't you at least acknowledge that in this case, as in the Thacher thread, you are actually pissing off massively more users than if the comment had been allowed to stay? You've got scores of long time users in here telling you they are either angry or depressed about what this kind of deletion says about Metafilter today.
posted by dontjumplarry at 1:42 PM on April 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


For whatever it's worth, count me as someone who is not at all pissed off about this deletion. Nor am I angry or depressed about what it says about Metafilter.

The only mildly upsetting thing to me was that I sort of twinged my shoulder a bit when I shrugged a little overzealously.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:46 PM on April 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Flags indicate displeasure and a desire for a conversation to go in a certain way (or not). A big part of the mods' raison d'etre is to see the community's will enacted.

I'm having trouble searching for evidence of it -- "flag" is a singularly useless search term for metatalk -- but ISTR the mods saying pretty frequently that flags are explicitly not a downvote system or a tool to enact the "community's will", just a way to bring something to their attention for them to review on a case-by-case basis*. That combined with the 'it got lots of flags so we deleted it' stuff feels like trying to have it both ways, a bit.

But like I said I can't find any cites to link to; if I've misremembered or imagined that, then I withdraw that part of my comment with apologies.

* Which is very much as it should be; I'll take benevolent dictatorship over mob rule any day of the week, and sincerely hope we never adopt any sort of automated system a la R. Schlock's suggestion (not that I have any fear that that we'd ever go down that road.)
posted by ook at 1:48 PM on April 18, 2013


R. Schlock: "I think what the moderators don't recognize is the emotional impact it has when one's comment is deleted. "

There have been dozens if not hundreds of MetaTalk posts over the years complaining "WHY WAS MY POST/COMMENT DELETED!?!" (usually with an "HOW DARE YOU" accusation thrown in,) and the mods probably get additional hundreds of complaint emails along the same theme on top of that annually.

They'd have to be completely disconnected from reality not to recognize that comment/post deletion has an emotional impact on the deletee.
posted by zarq at 1:49 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Obviously. But set against keeping MetaFilter running, this emotion clearly counts for very little.

How about some engagement with my actual suggestion, instead of splitting hairs?
posted by R. Schlock at 1:51 PM on April 18, 2013


dontjumplarry: "Can't you at least acknowledge that in this case, as in the Thacher thread, you are actually pissing off massively more users than if the comment had been allowed to stay? You've got scores of long time users in here telling you they are either angry or depressed about what this kind of deletion says about Metafilter today."

When stacked up against the number of users here, those "long time users" aren't even a rounding error.

MetaFilter is not a special, privileged playground for a select few people who have been here longer than everyone else. It is a community that adds members daily, and those members may have different values than the early adopters.

There is a vocal minority making a stink about this. They represent themselves.
posted by scrump at 1:56 PM on April 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think what the moderators don't recognize is the emotional impact it has when one's comment is deleted.

Should they do a survey? Because I have had comments deleted and rarely felt more than a momentary emotion, usually one of "Well, I was shitty to say that thing the way I did, and I am kind of embarrassed I hit 'post' and made corjessrestazgoodmatt delete it."
posted by rtha at 1:58 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


But why couldn't there be a sitewide convention that heavily flagged comments get darkened and reduced in size?

All that would do is draw attention to the comments. Particularly to the pedantic bunch.

If you really want to change what the visual look of flagging, you need to convince the mods that the current system isn't working. Saying don't understand the emotional impact of deleting comments is not a good start.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:58 PM on April 18, 2013


I complained when my parrot singing Flo-Rida video link was deleted and I am still fucking furious. Obama's big brother tax and spend nanny state won't even let you watch parrots singing "Apple bottom jeans, boots wit da fur" over and over for 20 minutes. I don't want to live in this country any more.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:59 PM on April 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm more of a lurker than anything else, and I don't know that I count as a long-time user, but I like the current level of moderation.

In the Thatcher thread, for instance, I learned a lot about why people hated her so much. If it had been much more emotional, I probably wouldn't have bothered reading it.
posted by bitterpants at 1:59 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


R. Schlock: "Obviously. But set against keeping MetaFilter running, this emotion clearly counts for very little.

How about some engagement with my actual suggestion, instead of splitting hairs?
"

I was. You began with a sentence that I think it's wrong. That's not hairsplitting. It's a refutation.

With so much feedback from the userbase, and especially considering that the volume of responses to deletions (both in quantity and force) is so high, it seems obvious the mods are deliberately making a risk/benefit decision here.

They have repeatedly said in MeTa that they're not going to go with a threaded style, like say that of Reddit or Slashdot. They're not going to allow up/downvoting or any comment threshold style, or allow deleted comments to remain visible in any way. It seems unlikely they're going to change their minds now. But you never know. But if you're going to make an argument for a new style, you'll probably have to do better than to point out something they're obviously already aware of and have probably talked about for years.
posted by zarq at 2:00 PM on April 18, 2013


I'm having trouble searching for evidence of it -- "flag" is a singularly useless search term for metatalk -- but ISTR the mods saying pretty frequently that flags are explicitly not a downvote system or a tool to enact the "community's will", just a way to bring something to their attention for them to review on a case-by-case basis*. That combined with the 'it got lots of flags so we deleted it' feels like trying to have it both ways, a bit.

I don't entirely disagree that in practice it can feel a bit like trying to have it both ways. But my overarching interpretation is that while the mods have said they do first simply notice that something has been flagged (in terms of whether or not they should give the comment/post specific attention), as users we are given flag options: fantastic, double, display error, offensive/sexism/racism, noise, derail, etc. - that indicate, at least to me, that we are in the position to send a message re: our judgement about a particular comment/post. Those reasons use words that connote value. Now, maybe the mods don't even pay attention to those words and just tally up flags. But when I do flag something I, as a community member, am trying to send a message about what type of interactions I value in this community.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 2:01 PM on April 18, 2013


I think what the moderators don't recognize is the emotional impact it has when one's comment is deleted.

It's not that we don't recognize it or don't empathize. We do. We're all users too, and we have all spent and continue to spend time in other places on the internet where we've got zero administrative power or influence beyond putting words in someone else's comment form. I know it can feel frustrating to have something nixed, because I've found it frustrating myself.

It's that that doesn't overrule the utility of comment deletion as a moderation tool. It's something that we've used here forever, since years before "we" was anyone but Matt, and it's a basic and baked-in part of how the site works. It's not personal; it's not an attack on the commenter. It has consistently never been presented as being so, and we take that very seriously and are pretty communicative about that fact.

That having something deleted can be frustrated is totally understandable, and I will hug it out with anyone who wants to because I feel you on that. But that's not a sufficient reason to abandon or fundamentally rework the system. This is not a site where not-having-a-comment-deleted should be anyone's expectation or be what they expect the moderator's priorities to be.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:02 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you really want to change what the visual look of flagging, you need to convince the mods that the current system isn't working.

I honestly don't give a shit, Brandon. I was just trying to make a good-faith suggestion that would split the difference between those who are irritated about what they perceive as overzealous deletions and the moderators who, at least ostensibly, would like to address the community's concern on this topic.

If you care to, check my comment above. The sitewide changes MetaFilter is going through make this place far less interesting to me than it used to be. Perhaps from their perspective, users who pine for the old days are just an irritation by the side of the road to the brave new MetaFilter they're creating.

Speaking only for myself, as I said above, Singapore is a place I visit, but hardly somewhere I'd like to live.
posted by R. Schlock at 2:03 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Would you agree that adding a warning note is a better first solution than deletion, at least? I think it keeps things transparent and encourages more self-policing and community feeling. Even if it does take more work.
posted by forgetful snow at 2:05 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I honestly don't give a shit, Brandon.

Well, it's been typing past each other, take care!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:10 PM on April 18, 2013


Would you agree that adding a warning note is a better first solution than deletion, at least?

I dunno. I can see this:

mefite: shitty comment

mod: hey, cool it with [shitty comment], okay? Let's give this thread a chance to do its thing. Thanks.

othermefite: That comment is shitty. Why are you just warning them instead of deleting?

otherothermefite: Moderation has gone nuts

mefite: a snarky apology for [shitty comment]

othermefite: oh that's really helpful

mod: /drinks
posted by rtha at 2:11 PM on April 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


When stacked up against the number of users here, those "long time users" aren't even a rounding error.

OK so there aren't all that many people pissed about the deletion and no it's not the end of Metafilter as we know it. I apologise for the histrionic tone of my previous comments, just woken up, pre-coffee. Mods here are pretty excellent all round.

However, while there may not be all that many users worrying about the deletion, equally I think, there probably weren't too many users flagging bardic's comment.

They, too, were a "rounding error" as you put it.

I guess what I'm saying is that the total sum of consternation caused by the deletion is greater than the total sum of consternation caused by just leaving the comment be.
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:12 PM on April 18, 2013


"If I can look at someone under the lash and have no or such little sympathy or empathy that I can turn my attention to political thoughts, then I have lost my way some place."

I think that's a tenuous misreading of a common impulse. When I see someone under the lash, it's sympathy and empathy that makes me say, "How can we stop this person from being lashed?" That's a political statement that comes from politics, and can be hard to distinguish from empty point scoring. However, the two things aren't the same, and it diminishes you to not recognize that.
posted by klangklangston at 2:13 PM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


This was a highly disturbing deletion, IMO. A deletion that tells me the mods would rather this be a place for swapping bland cliches and small talk than trying to collectively figure out what's happening in our world.

Anecdotally, it appears to me that there's been more of this going on recently (by which I mean generally over the past six months or year; a bit of a slippery slope) and an increase in the number of relatively arbitrary categorical "please don't talk about [x] here" rulings from mods. These rulings & deletions appear to be less about responding to actual shitstorms, than they are about going (IMHO) a bit overboard in the other direction of trying to preemptively avoid any chance of even shitstorms in teacups from happening.

I feel that this does detract from the spirit of the site, going as it does against open debate & self-policing, and adds an element of walking on eggshells that I feel was less present in previous years.

It's a slight swing of the pendulum; nothing to get massively upset about though. I'd go along the lines of dontjumplarry's framing "the total sum of consternation caused by the deletion [or "don't talk about [x] here" ruling] is greater than the total sum of consternation caused by just leaving the comment be", but adding the proviso that the total sum of either consternation is objectively & proportionally not very much anyway in either case.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:17 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


But as a first gesture, physically reducing the impact of a comment on site would be a way of signifying to a user that their contribution is generally perceived as hurting the tone of a thread and would mark to other commenters that these sorts of comments are problematic and not worth entertaining lest things get off the rails.

I dig the intent, but I think it'd be a bad idea for a few of significant reasons:

1. It would create an automated system on a site where moderation and community self-policy has always, always been fundamentally about human agents handling things carefully instead of rules or robots checking boxes. We don't let people vote comments or posts or users off the island; we have feedback channels and work with what comes over those and our own judgement to deal with situations case-by-case. This'd be subverting that practice and that community expectation.

2. It would be far, far less effective for derail management. As neat as the idea of having something be visually altered a bit to communicate some sort of issue might be, it doesn't make the thing invisibile, and doesn't cut off derails at the knees the way a deletion does. If people can see it, people are likely to respond to it, period. And a copy and paste of a dim, small sentence or paragraph isn't going to be dim and small in quotation. We delete stuff because we think the thread will go better with it not being there, not to send some sort of message to the commenter or bystanders in its own right.

3. Deletions aren't about highlighting bad behavior; this would do just that. Right now we can deal with situations where something seems like it can be left-but-addressed by doing that anyway: leaving it in the thread but leaving a mod note or allowing people to respond to it constructively. That's a judgement call, and not always an easy one, but halfway fading out an unpopular comment won't improve that situation.

4. Crowds can make bad decisions sometimes. Again, this is why we don't automate stuff on the site. Right now, that's not a problem; if we look at the flags and think it's not actionable, we don't take action and no one's the wiser. With a fading gimmick, that's out of our hands: a few people don't like a comment even though it's fine, and that comment gets clearly marked with anonymous community approbation.

5. It specifically makes flagging a part of the discourse in a way that we have traditionally discouraged. Flagging and moving on is good practice; flagging and then declaring that you flagged is not. We have metatalk and the contact form for meta-discussions about what's gone on in threads, and we don't want those discussions derailing threads themselves. So making the results of flagging conspicuous gets in the way of that, and raises the specter of who flagged something and why.

This stuff is complicated. Like I said, I dig the intent. But the system is the way it is now for a lot of reasons, and this isn't the first time some variant of this idea has been brought up so it's something we've chewed on before.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:20 PM on April 18, 2013


Would you agree that adding a warning note is a better first solution than deletion, at least?

I mentioned above that's something we've been leaning more towards when we think it will be effective, so yes. It has downsides associated with it, so there is some contextual assessment that needs to happen, but yes. The real downside is trying to leave a moderator note in mod-style and someone responds to it in the thread and we have to make a choice whether to delete that response (suboptimal), delete and email the user (sometimes backfires terribly), respond again in mod-style (silly) or respond as a user (awkward) when really what we want is for people who have issues to go to the contact form or MetaTalk. And this happens regularly, it's not just one or two people who don't get it. I prefer leaving notes to just mystery deletions, but it's got some fine tuning for it to work the way we all hope it will. And really, we would prefer this method but it requires more buy in from users than we can get sometimes.

the total sum of consternation caused by the deletion is greater than the total sum of consternation caused by just leaving the comment be.

Totally hear what you're saying, this is just an unknowable thing. There are huge Why WASN'T this deleted" fights in MeTa pretty much as often as "Why WAS this deleted?" We've mostly all been doing this a long time and we make our assessments based on flagging and what we think is going to happen. And angry users don't really fall at any particular point in the political spectrum, so we get the backlash no matter what but we especially get it when there are horrible things happening and being talked about here and a lot of people are engaged but also feel helpless about what's going on. The negativity (over email, other flags, general mod abuse) spikes, people are just more upset over everything.

Also up for "hug it out" for anyone. And I loved that stupid parrot video, but it was definitely misplaced.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:21 PM on April 18, 2013


cortex, I'm not suggesting this be automated. Sorry if it came across this way. I'm suggesting it's moderators who pull this trigger in response to flags, as before.
posted by R. Schlock at 2:22 PM on April 18, 2013


And as regards #2, I'd suggest that this thread and others like it are a sign that some sector of the userbase thinks you guys aren't calibrated in a way that is respecting user contributions adequately. That there is general consensus that deletions are happening more often lately and in response to sitewide growth might speak in favor of a reconsideration of options.
posted by R. Schlock at 2:25 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I see someone under the lash, it's sympathy and empathy that makes me say, "How can we stop this person from being lashed?"

klang: I think a charitable reading of what I actually wrote would agree with that. Of course sympathy and empathy should compel people to think how we can make the person's suffering stop. I think it should be evident, but perhaps needs to be clarified, the distinction is between being motivated by concern for the person under the lash and ameliorating that person's suffering, as opposed to making some point detached from those suffering or using that suffering for an occasion to make some point one otherwise wants to make. I don't think it is at all difficult to distinguish between the two and I think most reasonable people can distinguish the difference, as well as understand my point.
posted by dios at 2:26 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everybody needs a hug. Let's hope today's a day where the biggest breaking news is that a whole brood of kittens were rescued from a tree, then everybody ate pizza and cake.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:32 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


That there is general consensus that deletions are happening more often lately

Now that you mention it... are deletions happening more often, per active-user capita, than they used to? Or have a bunch of us (me included) just got our heads wedged up in the Golden Age Fallacy?

I believe this'd be infodump-gettable data for posts; not sure for comments, though?
posted by ook at 2:32 PM on April 18, 2013


cortex, I'm not suggesting this be automated. Sorry if it came across this way.

Ah, my misunderstanding. I probably folded in someone else's response into my thinking about the breakdown. Disregard points one and four and give point five a little sideways handwave thing.

And as regards #2, I'd suggest that this thread and others like it are a sign that some sector of the userbase thinks you guys aren't calibrated in a way that is respecting user contributions adequately.

I am sure some folks feel that way. I am sure that some other folks feel similarly but in the other direction, that we don't do nearly enough or are too permissive or light-handed with dealing with obnoxious or offensive stuff. We get feedback all the time, I'd be worried if there were none; this is a large, heterogeneous userbase full of people who do not agree on this stuff, and we will never, ever please everybody with any approach because not everybody wants the same thing.

the total sum of consternation caused by the deletion is greater than the total sum of consternation caused by just leaving the comment be.

That's gonna be the case for most deletions from which there is any public consternation; the case for the vast majority of deletions is the opposite because there isn't any. And then some borderline stuff is pretty much damned-either-way stuff, or bound to cause some consternation by deletion but probably less than the alternative.

We use the toolset we have and our best judgment to deal with all potential deletions. There's gonna be consternation sometimes; that's the cost of doing business. The flip side here is we can't concretely cite the lack of consternation that comes from the process because it's an absence rather than a presence. I very much believe that absence is a meaningful and worthwhile product of what we do, but ultimately folks will have to trust our judgement on that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:33 PM on April 18, 2013


Now that you mention it... are deletions happening more often, per active-user capita, than they used to?

I am not sure about per-user. As a total proportion of comments, I think there's been marginal growth but the rate has remained down in the very low single digits proportion of comments made. I'm personally deeply skeptical of the idea that it's a rate of change that would be casually observable, and the recurrence of "deletions are out of control" arguments over the entire life of the site suggest that that's mostly an observational bias thing rather than a practical survey of overall activity on the site, but that's me.

A couple people have produced graphs via the Infodump but I don't think anyone's done an overly detailed breakdown by e.g. subsite + date/time to try and isolate deletion rates to that degree. It's doable if you're into futzing with stats, though the challenge from there is accounting as well for things that can't be distinguished, like whether a deleted comment was deleted as problematic or as a mispaste, or by poster's request, or as a response to an earlier deletion, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:41 PM on April 18, 2013


Specifically, with comments, we don't list deleted comments but you can get deletion rates over time indirectly by identifying gaps in the comment data table row ids.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:43 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good information, thanks. I may do some stats-futzing-with just for fun, but I'm open to the idea that my impression that there are more deletions These Days is because I don't remember Those Days very well.
posted by ook at 2:52 PM on April 18, 2013


It might be nice if people stopped viewing comments as fragile gems whose existence in the world is an entitlement -- like a property right -- and whose elimination is a deprivation of that right that justifies outrage and disgust towards other humans. Quite frankly, I find the disconnect between what actually happened here -- the deletion of a quote and a link to another website -- and the reaction that it generated in bardic so extreme that it borders on unbelievable. I'm not talking about the merit of the comment or lack thereof -- it could be a perfect distillation of a complex issue with the ability to change the minds of millions, and its deletion still wouldn't justify bardic's ridiculous, juvenile reaction. That is not how people behave in any sort of civilized society, and the fact that the mods have (as usual) responded in such a thoughtful, courteous manner -- rather than responding in kind even though they receive this sort of abuse on a daily basis -- is nothing short of miraculous.

Of course, my comment will be dismissed as that of a brown-noser* who is simply too thick to take into account the vast power dynamics implicit in the mod-commenter relationship. Maybe that's it. Or maybe it's just not wrong to expect people to be kind to each other.

*This is true -- I'm trying to make sure that the mods look favorably upon my dozen or so comments each year. My comments are, after all, my babies -- each and every one.
posted by pardonyou? at 3:15 PM on April 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


Decani: I think the moderation here has been far too heavy-handed and politically capricious for far too long, and I think the site is duller and more anodyne because of it. I think that if you go back and look at some threads and discussions from pre-2006 (ish) this becomes depressingly obvious. Now, there seems to be a tendency to try to police the discussion in advance on the basis of pandering to the most delicate sensibilities and those most given to hair-trigger offence-taking; and through swift deletion to pre-empt any development that might involve argument, passion, strong disagreement with the consensus, or heated interaction. The result is a site that sometimes feels like a bunch of adults being nannied.

I'm always disappointed when an interesting, albeit controversial, post that could generate interesting discussion is deleted for no other reason than that it might provoke fighting. Drama is pre-empted (most of the time, anyway), but at the expense of those capable of civil discussion. I would prefer that controversial topics be permitted to stand, and moderation energy be focused solely on obnoxious/uncivil comments. Deleting posts simply because people might be jerky tends to punish the good citizens for the behavior of the bad. It's like cutting down the entire fruit tree because some of the fruit might go bad.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:17 PM on April 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


Partially relevant, maybe, partially derail. This commentary piece, today, about Samsung allegedly hiring "...students to troll the comments sections of rival products, specifically those of HTC" on ITProPortal. In the piece, there's this paragraph:

This sort of thing planted by the competition will indeed kill sales no matter what others say in the thread. Commenters make all sorts of wild claims and they cannot be controlled. I used to think that Yelp had an effective review system, but I don’t think so anymore. Functioning comment sections must be vetted and have monitored "members" like MetaFilter.com does.
posted by Wordshore at 3:24 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The 'if (user with a complaint) is so angry, why are they even here' comments are tiresome. Metafilter is a community, one that we've all chosen to join. For whatever reason, some people have been a member of the community for a very, very long time. They've formed enough of an attachment to the community that they remain here. That they are upset about perceived changes in the community shows that they are concerned and wondering why it's changed so much. 'If you don't like Metafilter, leave' is just as shitty as 'America, love it or leave it.'

To put it another way, in other threads, where people have said they want to leave America, other members say that running away isn't the answer, that staying and fighting for change is the 'right' thing to do.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:37 PM on April 18, 2013 [9 favorites]

CiS: "I think the unemotional, passive, 'everyone get along and never raise your voice above a smooth NPR register' tone of some people on this site is lifeles and annoying."
Smoke: "Frankly dude your track record re: tone on mefi is not stellar."
And yet, CiS's comment is probably the single most incisive and insightful evaluation of the so-called "moderation problem" that I've ever seen come out of one of these metatalk threads.
posted by Pinback at 3:40 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


People here like to talk about "tone deaf" a lot, but I do not see the appropriateness of "dude, that kolache place rules" where people were blown apart and their houses leveled. I must confess that I did not read all 2800 comments in the Boston Marathon thread, but I missed any comments regarding favorite food trucks.

We all relate to tragedies in our own way. If we're not personally effected that might be through the lens of pop culture or food or whatnot.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:40 PM on April 18, 2013


You misunderstand what was said.

It's possible to have a complaint about mefi without giving the mods - who are actually human beings - a big "fuck you." So if you're THAT ANGRY about things that being a dick feels like the only course of action available to you, then why are you still hanging out.

Also "a website" is not "the nation you're a citizen of." They are just not the same.
And yet, CiS's comment is probably the single most incisive and insightful evaluation of the so-called "moderation problem" that I've ever seen come out of one of these metatalk threads.
Incisive and insightful are not words I'd apply to those comments.
posted by kavasa at 3:42 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


> In what way do the mods display "absolute" or "uncompromising" authority, and would they have to compromise on every thing someone wanted them to compromise on in order to not be displaying that kind of authority?

That's a serious question.


Here's one simple example. The site rolled out the somewhat questionable "painful goiter" video pretty much unilaterally. There was some discussion, but it was mostly "you can talk about if you like, but the video is staying up."

On the other hand, it took years of lobbying by users to get a trial run of the five-minute edit window, to the point that it became a byword for something vanishingly unlikely to happen.

These aren't examples related to moderation of users, because I don't make a point of keeping a record of moderator activity. These are my impressions, I am reporting on them. But this is exactly what I meant by questioning the role of the moderator on a site built for adults to show each other cool stuff and talk about it.

A decade ago, I patronized a popular video game-related web forum. The site was heavily moderated. Four-letter profanity was automatically filtered. You couldn't talk about Philip K. Dick without resorting to creative spelling, for example. The filtering sort of made, because the site's user policy set a "PG-13" standard for language (ignoring the fact that PG-13 movies actually have some leeway on profanity).

The site rule discussing profanity didn't include any "live" examples, and used a four-letter nonword. Use of this nonword in the forums was also heavily moderated, even in isolation. This clearly had nothing to do with maintaining PG-13 language standards. I guess it was technically moderated under "use of inflammatory or upsetting language," but more realistically it was moderated under "trolling the mods."

In other words, it was agreed upon by users and site moderators that a meaningless, inoffensive nonword was actually extremely offensive to the site's moderators, whose sensibilities were for some reason privileged over regular users. This aspect of the moderation contributed nothing positive to the user experience on the site. It just became an element of the site's customary hierarchical structure.

By the same token, I'm happy to imagine that the mods at Metafilter have "my best interests" in mind in some abstract, distant sense. But I think it's perfectly possible that the "best interests" they sometimes have in mind are less concerned with what I actually want, and more about a doctor's "best interests" for his non-complying patient or a teacher's "best interests" for an obstreperous student. I'm on Metafilter to learn, to talk, and to have fun. I am emphatically not on Metafilter to be doctored or disciplined.

> As we were referencing Philip K. Dick in the discussion, I would think it would have been apparent which of the two films we were discussing. But as they both involve time travel, I understand your confusion.

As explained by others, Minority Report does not involve time travel. I am not actually arguing that you confused Minority Report with Timecop. Please consider it a joke.
posted by Nomyte at 3:45 PM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's a two-way street. The moderation gets more heavy-handed partly in response to users who complain about anything that upsets them and use words like 'schmoopy'. I'm not asking for MeFi to turn into 4chan, but I do like vigorous debate. The Thatcher thread is fun to read because people were actually allowed to express anger. In many other threads that no longer happens, and intelligent people debating gets neutered into an extended Portlandia sketch.

I go here because people are, mostly, intelligent and they should be allowed to express themselves without worrying that they might offend somebody.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:48 PM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I go here because people are, mostly, intelligent and they should be allowed to express themselves without worrying that they might offend somebody.

I would prefer if you considered how you might offend your fellow community members when you post something. This is a community, not just a personal soapbox.
posted by humanfont at 3:53 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do, and most people do. We don't use racist, sexist, transphobic or ableist language. We broadly agree on most things. Beyond that posts and comments shouldn't be nitpicked to death or deleted if they might insult somebody's sensibilities. And MeFi can work as users' soapboxes - a massive wall of text smackdown, comment fable; or explanation is a long tradition and one of the best parts of the site.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:59 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


"I think it should be evident, but perhaps needs to be clarified, the distinction is between being motivated by concern for the person under the lash and ameliorating that person's suffering, as opposed to making some point detached from those suffering or using that suffering for an occasion to make some point one otherwise wants to make. I don't think it is at all difficult to distinguish between the two and I think most reasonable people can distinguish the difference, as well as understand my point."

Apologies for misreading you, then. I do think that it can be difficult to distinguish between the two, and I think it can be a subjective call, and that within that there can be legitimate disagreements. And because of that, I'm tentative about declaring someone lacks humanity unless it's particularly obvious and egregious.

And I also think that a statement can be both political and come from a place of empathy and sympathy; I don't think the two are inherently opposed.

But like I said way upthread, I think the comment was basically fine except for timing. I do think timing matters, though.
posted by klangklangston at 4:06 PM on April 18, 2013


Beyond that posts and comments shouldn't be nitpicked to death or deleted if they might insult somebody's sensibilities.

My impression is that many deletions (or some? a bunch?) are because of nitpicking to death some thread or person's comments so that everyone else in the thread can talk about whatever the thread's about without the derailing nitpickery.

And re The 'if (user with a complaint) is so angry, why are they even here' comments are tiresome - I sort of agree, and sort of don't. It's a thing I wonder, though I rarely say it. And in the case of this particular meTa, bardic said out loud that this place was no longer for them if they can't put in the link that got deleted. So, yeah, wondering.
posted by rtha at 4:07 PM on April 18, 2013

Beyond that posts and comments shouldn't be nitpicked to death or deleted if they might insult somebody's sensibilities
good god

If you want to have this fight a-freaking-gain, make a new meta thread please? It literally does not have anything to do with the subject of the thread.

Also it's nauseatingly tedious.
posted by kavasa at 4:17 PM on April 18, 2013


'If you don't like Metafilter, leave' is just as shitty as 'America, love it or leave it.'

Thank you for saying this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:26 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Count me in as another $5 noob who thinks the site has been slipping into draconian banality. The "let's all talk about only the things we all agree on" approach is also nauseatingly tedious.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:27 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Perhaps the cyclical "mods are crazy" comments give the mods pause to think and reign in their heavy handed ways.

Is Bardic out of order? maybe
Is the moderation parochial or heavy-handed? maybe
Has the current method been working pretty damn good for over a decade and does this place continue to be a beacon of sanity on the ocean of stupidity that is The Internet? maaaaybe

Perhaps we need some more mods, I'm assuming Matt has to be a dot-com squazzillionaire by now, or at least can tap up some of the cabal for the cash.
posted by fullerine at 4:32 PM on April 18, 2013


By the same token, I'm happy to imagine that the mods at Metafilter have "my best interests" in mind in some abstract, distant sense. But I think it's perfectly possible that the "best interests" they sometimes have in mind are less concerned with what I actually want, and more about a doctor's "best interests" for his non-complying patient or a teacher's "best interests" for an obstreperous student. I'm on Metafilter to learn, to talk, and to have fun. I am emphatically not on Metafilter to be doctored or disciplined.


I agree with you - BUT I guess they do the best they can, i'm sure they're not logging on in the morning secretly trying to destroy the site.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:46 PM on April 18, 2013


Here's one simple example. The site rolled out the somewhat questionable "painful goiter" video pretty much unilaterally. There was some discussion, but it was mostly "you can talk about if you like, but the video is staying up."

On the other hand, it took years of lobbying by users to get a trial run of the five-minute edit window, to the point that it became a byword for something vanishingly unlikely to happen.


These are a couple of really weird examples. On the one hand, although I pay a lot of attention to the site, I have no idea the video you're talking about. It can't have changed site culture too much if I don't even know what it is. On the other hand, the you are a) completely misremembering the edit window discussion, because there were many users against implementing an edit feature. I was among them; and, b) confusing a serious and substantial change to site coding and considering the ramifications of that with being autocratic. And, ultimately, users who wanted it got the edit window.

I think titles are a much better example of whether or not autocracy is the way things are typically done at Metafilter. In that case, users raised what, I'll be frank, were a bunch of whiny non-reasons for objecting to an innocuous site change. It was a minority of the users who commented on the change, and certainly that was a minority of the users who frequent the site. Yet the mods listened to it all, the guy who built the website that everyone loves, and seems to know a thing or two about what works and what doesn't listened, and people were offered the option first for changing how titles display and later for turning them off. It's hard for me to see that as anything other than exemplary responsiveness.

There must be a way to object to comment deletions without impugning the motives of the mods or suggesting that their thirst for unmitigated power is making the world a worse place.

If you don't like Metafilter, leave' is just as shitty as 'America, love it or leave it.

Yeah, bullshit.

It's fine to disagree, and disagree vehemently with how things are going at Metafilter, and to argue for changing that. Once you get to telling the mods to "fuck off," or start talking about how much Metafilter sucks these days, it's legitimate to question why you would want to be here at all. Because, and this should be obvious to anyone with a grain of sense, Metafilter is not a polity, it's a fucking website. If you don't like it, and you can't argue for changing it constructively, then you are a fool to waste your time here. And, further, you are bad for the community of those who do want to waste their time here. Comparing this to suggesting that someone leave their fucking country is idiotic.
posted by OmieWise at 4:49 PM on April 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


In that case, users raised what, I'll be frank, were a bunch of whiny non-reasons for objecting to an innocuous site change. It was a minority of the users

Your example is kind of flawed by framing it that way. The readability concerns were valid criticisms and there was no data collected to see what the majority view on those changes was.

That is why they were addressed, not because the mods are saints who display exemplary patience for whiners. (though they do have great patience for that sort of thing) The amount of patience people have to exercise sometimes to resist reacting to this sort of condescension towards their concerns is sometimes impressive though.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:57 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Count me in as another $5 noob who thinks the site has been slipping into draconian banality. The "let's all talk about only the things we all agree on" approach is also nauseatingly tedious."

This is so weird to me — In the past couple of days, I've disagreed with people on The Strokes, organic labeling, gun control, income inequality, drug abuse, standardized testing, pictures of people (maybe) gawking at a fat woman, New Atheism and moderation decisions on MeFi. Sometimes sharply, sometimes not, but the idea that we're all in agreement about everything here just strikes me as flatly wrong. I disagree with a lot of people about a lot of things, and while sometimes I get the ziggy, far more often, I don't. I've made an effort to be less of a dickfor about disagreeing, in part because I want to be less of a jerk in general, and in part because I've been asked to tone it down, but that hasn't meant that I agree with everyone or that this place is anodyne or banal. I may think that people still need to be told to "Get fucked" every now and then, but I can recognize that it's rarely a contribution to a conversation to just tell someone that.
posted by klangklangston at 4:57 PM on April 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


The goiter video thread, which had about zero complaints, and a lot of folks going "Huh, OK." In part because you didn't see it if you were logged in.

Still kinda baffled on comparing that and edit windows.
posted by klangklangston at 5:07 PM on April 18, 2013


Metafilter is not a polity, it's a fucking website.

Yes, that's why there's no protected freedom of speech, even though the site is owned & predominantly run from within the specific nation that most conspicously gets all het up about constitutionally protected freedom of speech. Just sayin'.

OUCH, my face!
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:09 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your example is kind of flawed by framing it that way.

No it isn't. It doesn't matter how it's framed, it illustrates their responsiveness in the face of claims that this is an autocracy.

That is why they were addressed, not because the mods are saints who display exemplary patience for whiners.

I didn't say they were saints. I said they were responsive and not autocratic.
posted by OmieWise at 5:16 PM on April 18, 2013


The goiter video was what logged-out users saw at the top of the AskMe page. It was (a) potentially the first thing new users saw on AskMe, (b) didn't do a very good job explaining the actual purpose of AskMe, and (c) sort of invited personal medical questions, which is one of the things that AskMe is really poorly equipped to handle.
posted by Nomyte at 5:18 PM on April 18, 2013


Still kinda baffled on comparing that and edit windows.

Yeah, that's weird as shit to use it as an example of mods gone wild.
posted by OmieWise at 5:18 PM on April 18, 2013


It was (a) potentially the first thing new users saw on AskMe, (b) didn't do a very good job explaining the actual purpose of AskMe, and (c) sort of invited personal medical questions, which is one of the things that AskMe is really poorly equipped to handle.

So?
posted by OmieWise at 5:19 PM on April 18, 2013


Oh, that wasn't a serious point trying to argue for absolute freedom of speech above. Just highlighting one way that the site should not be confused with the world at large, and looking to inject some slapstick into proceedings.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:19 PM on April 18, 2013


I got your slapstick, "Just sayin'."

*RAKE---FACE*
posted by OmieWise at 5:22 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Logged out? What is that?
posted by rtha at 5:31 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


mods gone wild

Can someone please send Jean-Claude Van Damme back in time so he can make me un-read this phrase?
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:37 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can someone please send Jean-Claude Van Damme back in time so he can make me un-read this phrase?

Seconded.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:41 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've done nothing but type it into my text editor since I posted that comment. Is that wrong?
posted by OmieWise at 5:43 PM on April 18, 2013


Bring back disemvoweling.
posted by Bruce H. at 5:44 PM on April 18, 2013


Yes, that's why there's no protected freedom of speech, even though the site is owned & predominantly run from within the specific nation that most conspicously gets all het up about constitutionally protected freedom of speech. Just sayin'.

This a dig?

We get all het up about government infringing on our right to free speech. You go into a private place and spout stupid shit and we expect the owner of said place to put a boot in your ass.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:45 PM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


When I see folks on the lefty/liberal side of things putting forth the proposition that MetaFilter is hostile to their political worldview, I kinda tilt my head sideways like a confused dog.

Yes, like you just did after you read that. That's what I do.
posted by DWRoelands at 5:49 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I didn't say they were saints. I said they were responsive and not autocratic.

It was a paraphrase, I agree with you they are responsive to criticism. I disagree with your choice to frame it with calling people whiners. Calling moderators responsive to whining is more like a criticism than a compliment.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:55 PM on April 18, 2013


So?

This looks like bait. Is this bait?
posted by Nomyte at 5:56 PM on April 18, 2013


it seems important to some people how long they've been here and how their opinion should be weighted differently because of that, so let me just say as a pre-$5 mefite, i'm a big fan of the moderation here. if i were making my perfect metafilter there's some things i would change and i've certainly disagreed with mod decisions before, but as an overall thing i think it's one of the best moderated places online. comparisons to things like singapore are ridiculous.
posted by nadawi at 5:59 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


This looks like bait. Is this bait?"

There were two complaints in that thread, neither of which was yours, and as they were more vague concerns, the mods stated their reasons and that was pretty much it.

So, yeah, probably not a great example of anything except maybe that actually looking at threads is better than vaguely remembering them.

It's not so much bait as pointing out that you may not be the best judge of mod or community behavior if your go-to is the goiter video and edit window.
posted by klangklangston at 6:06 PM on April 18, 2013


nadawi: "it seems important to some people how long they've been here and how their opinion should be weighted differently because of that, so let me just say as a pre-$5 mefite, i'm a big fan of the moderation here. if i were making my perfect metafilter there's some things i would change and i've certainly disagreed with mod decisions before, but as an overall thing i think it's one of the best moderated places online. "

I didn't register until 2004, but I've been reading the site since pre-911, and I'm a rare duck in that I don't recall ever disagreeing with a mod decision, in either direction (disagreeing with a decision to delete, or disagreeing with a decision to not delete). I've disagreed about other non-deletion-related decisions mods have made (though not particularly vehemently), but when it comes to deletion decisions, their mental wavelengths and mine correspond almost 1 to 1. So, yeah, go mod team!
posted by Bugbread at 6:10 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


at least one of the victims was a rapist, or drug addict, or child molester, or atheist, or hated their mother, blah blah blah.

One of these things is not like the other.
posted by bq at 6:15 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


It was a paraphrase, I agree with you they are responsive to criticism. I disagree with your choice to frame it with calling people whiners. Calling moderators responsive to whining is more like a criticism than a compliment.

Yes, we disagree about titles.
posted by OmieWise at 6:16 PM on April 18, 2013


This looks like bait. Is this bait?

I don't know what this means, but I also don't know why you think the things you listed equate to autocracy on the part of the mods.
posted by OmieWise at 6:17 PM on April 18, 2013


This a dig?

We get all het up about government infringing on our right to free speech. You go into a private place and spout stupid shit and we expect the owner of said place to put a boot in your ass.


Yes, exactly. I was agreeing with an earlier point about MetaFilter not being a polity, and providing an example that supports the idea that the two are different.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:25 PM on April 18, 2013


I have a personal rule of thumb that has served me well over the years.

It is "if I feel compelled to compare an entirely private enterprise in which I voluntarily participate to a government organization attempting to abridge my civil liberties, I have lost all perspective and should probably stop typing".

Hasn't failed me yet.
posted by scrump at 6:47 PM on April 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yes, we disagree about titles.

We disagree and you can't express it without taking an immature dig at people who have a differing view, yeah.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:48 PM on April 18, 2013


Please, lecture me on maturity. I still remember your exemplary maturity in those threads. You should be proud.
posted by OmieWise at 6:53 PM on April 18, 2013


This looks like bait. Is this bait?

If it is deep-fried bait I will eat it. Anyone got any lemons?
posted by rtha at 6:55 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please, lecture me on maturity. I still remember your exemplary maturity in those threads. You should be proud.

I apologize for my severely immature decision to have a different opinion than you.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:57 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


[dudes, chill out please]
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:58 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe ease off the throttle some, guys?
posted by scrump at 6:58 PM on April 18, 2013

If it is deep-fried bait I will eat it. Anyone got any lemons?
I have a troubling existential question.

Why am I okay eating calamari but not octopus? IT JUST FEELS WRONG, RTHA.
posted by scrump at 7:02 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a dog curled up beside me and a cat just off to the other side, purring so loudly I can't actually hear the TV.

I am prescribing this antidote for everyone. If you don't have the requisite animals, come on over. I have plenty to share.
posted by cooker girl at 7:03 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know you are, but what am I?
posted by cjorgensen at 7:10 PM on April 18, 2013


scrump, you should really try tako-karaage. It's essentially deep-fried chunks of octopus, done in the same style as Japanese fried chicken (tori-karaage). It's unbelievably good. Great with beer.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:15 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you don't have the requisite animals, come on over. I have plenty to share.

It's a trap!
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:19 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just chiming in to say that I really appreciate the moderation system and moderators here. I've participated in and run enough communities to appreciate just how well this works and how few other good options there are for a community of this type and size. Rules are brittle.

Also, while I my first reaction to reading the comment in the OP is to be all "grar" about social blindness, manners, etc., I've come to realize that isn't fair, either. It's not something I would've posted; it's not something I think is good for the thread; it is, though, from good faith and an apparent desire to do good. Thus inspired by other commenters, this will remind me, when I have some future comment deleted, to listen.
posted by introp at 7:20 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a trap!

THERE IS NO CABAL!

Wait, what?
posted by cooker girl at 7:20 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ghidorah, I totally believe you, but all jokes aside, I just can't eat octopus. It's apparently a moral thing that I didn't realize I had until after my first Tokyo trip. On which, it bears saying, I had basashi and enjoyed it. But, for some reason, the idea of eating octopus filled me with horror. Haven't been able to get over it.

HYPOCRITE R ME.
posted by scrump at 7:50 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I often think of the site's moderation policies and interpersonal disagreements between its users in the same way I think of my experience attending a super-conservative private religious university: I learned that it was possible to foster productive, respectful debate amongst people with conflicting viewpoints while encouraging them to avoid using personal attacks as a last resort when their opinions aren't echoed unanimously.

And while "fuck" is probably my favorite word -- like, ever -- I know better than to post "fuck you" to anyone (mod or not) on this site. It's disrespectful, and frankly, overarching hostility brings the entire community down to a less intelligent, more reactionary level.

Plenty of us have had posts/comments/flamebait wars deleted before and gotten over it, and did so without posting a MeTa about it; part of that's just adhering to the clearly posted community guidelines, and part of it's learning how to be mature and not take everything quite so personally or literally. You can agree or disagree with someone without openly fawning over or hating each other; that's the beauty of the Internet.

Of course, tragedy's always an opportunity for philosophical exercise, provided you're now the one who's currently caught in the crosshairs.

Also, I'm down with calamari or octopus, but if you haven't tried breading your be-suckered sea tentacles of choice in corn meal, you haven't lived, my friend!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:55 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


That just makes sense scrump, when the octopuses take over they'll look kindly on those of us who didn't eat them and let us live in very nice jars they will unscrew for their own amusement.

Seriously though they are too smart for me to eat and I eat pig.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:57 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Looking at my posting history, I'm kind of upset that more of it didn't find its way to the bit-bucket. I get a little weird and aggro when the chronic insomnia sets in.

Also, octopus is notoriously hard to cook right. I've had it done right once as tempura, and many times as a greasy, rubbery mess labeled tempura. I've also had it charcoal-grilled many times, by greek cooks, and it was perfect each time, even in the backyard by a guy who lifts busses for a living (long story, but he does, with his bare hands, and not for show-biz. He was also the DJ at our wedding.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:59 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I get a little weird and aggro when the chronic insomnia sets in.
posted by Slap*Happy


yes
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:07 PM on April 18, 2013


Also, while I my first reaction to reading the comment in the OP is to be all "grar" about social blindness, manners, etc.,

This sentence is everything wrong with the site.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:09 PM on April 18, 2013


five hooded figures with the power to delete . . .

cooker girl beat me to it, because I was reading through the thread, and was intending to post when I got to the end, but yeah, There is no cabal, indeed.

Like Bugbread, I got in with the 18k+ crowd, but I had been coming here for a long time before that, just breathing shallowly and waiting patiently (creepy! I know!) for the time when signups would be reopened . . .

I have watched the site for a long time, watched the disappearance of the /img tag (a good thing, but I miss those days), seen the growth of membership and the addition of new moderators, and watched a lot of members move on, accounts disabled . . .

MetaFilter isn't an echo chamber--various and sundry viewpoints are tolerated, nay, encouraged . . .

But yeah, context and framing counts for a lot; "only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."

The mods are acutely aware of this, and do their best to moderate the conversation here. And I agree, they do a pretty damn good job of it. They're not perfect, but they are--all of them--judicious and not capricious, thoughtful, not arbitrary, and often in contact with each other, trying to decide what the best course of action is in a given thread. There are occasionally questionable deletions, but it's not as if the mods aren't accountable--this whole Meta consists of members engaged in a discussion about a deletion.

I'm not sure where I stand on this particular case, but I know that the intention of the deletion was based in a good-faith attempt to modulate a conversation about an event in its early stages, and limit the possibility of a derail that was potentially upsetting to many.

As noted earlier, that same link might've been better-received later in the conversation . . .

At any rate, this is just my 2¢.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:11 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


yes
posted by UbuRoivas


“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”
― Oscar Wilde
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:22 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The greatest victory is to forgive one's enemies"

Hadrat Ali (PBUH)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:31 PM on April 18, 2013


“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

I thought Jesus said that.
posted by mazola at 8:34 PM on April 18, 2013


We are all adults and we don't need a bowdlerised conversation, which I feel is somtimes enforced my the Mods.

I just wish people could be able to argue with one another, without the mods intervening to stop 'GRAR', as oppsoed to letting there be a free flow of discourse.
posted by BlueMarble72 at 8:38 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I'm down with calamari or octopus, but if you haven't tried breading your be-suckered sea tentacles of choice in corn meal, you haven't lived, my friend!

As This American Life proved with their recent pig rectum episode, anything breaded and deep friend is delicious.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:44 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


deep friend is delicious.

typolarious.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:48 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

This sentence is everything wrong with the site.
When someone is trying to explain that they're trying to learn someone else's form of communication, be less judgemental, and not acting on their first emotions... well, perhaps this response isn't the best way to encourage that.
posted by introp at 8:59 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


BlueMarble72: "We are all adults and we don't need a bowdlerised conversation, which I feel is somtimes enforced my the Mods."

I don't know if I'd call it "bowdlerization", but "moderation". And as far as moderation, I don't need it, but boy do I enjoy it. Plus, I find that moderation corresponds more highly with adults than it does with juveniles.
posted by Bugbread at 9:04 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter isn't all things to all people.

MetaTalk is a great place to talk about and solicit feedback on how you feel about the thing that is MetaFilter, and how that we might collectively choose to alter or not alter that thing.

It is rare that the thing that is MetaFilter, in the place that is MetaTalk, will be affected constructively if you choose to raise these questions in a manner that is aggressive, profanity laden, and insulting.

It's been a tough week. Hugs for you all, even (and especially) the mad ones.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:11 PM on April 18, 2013


I thought Jesus said that.

Right religious tradition: "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head" (Proverbs 25:21-22).
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:36 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm glad that, having achieved nothing, we are all friends again.
posted by Nomyte at 9:43 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you can't love the enemy you're with, love your enemy's spouse.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:44 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like it here. I like the way it's moderated. I like the whole set up. I like how it learns and grows and has room for different ways of doing things from time to time. I like that our mods are human beings. I like that the founder is active and involved. I like that we have people who believe different things. I like the mix of ages, walks of life, cultures, and everything else. I like the way we get to learn on multiple levels about each other and the world. I like that we don't always get it right, individually or as a group, and it ends up working out over time. I like that we believe in being supportive but not enabling. I like the MeFi experience.

What I do not like is people freaking out and over-investing the day-to-day operations with drama and conspiracy theories. I don't like people cussing out other people who are just doing their jobs and are not here for any of us to abuse, no matter how much of a stake we think we have in the place.

From the opening of the post to a disappointingly hefty percentage of the comments that followed, it just seems like a lot of stressed, angry, and/or confused people aren't able to separate the big stuff from the little stuff and are then choosing to indulge in foulness to make their points. It just seems so sad and unnecessary. And, in some cases, so needlessly mean.

What needs to happen for you to relax? If it's something that you've been told can't happen, what will it take for you to accept that and quit trying to force this place and its people into the mould you believe fits best? Do you need a hug?

I'll assume "yes" on the last bit. Here you go: (((((((hug)))))))
posted by batmonkey at 9:47 PM on April 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


If we're keeping tallies, count me as another longish-term user who thinks the moderation here is just fine. Sometimes it seems a little tighter, other times a little looser, but that's okay because the mods are humans making subjective calls on an incredibly heterogenous and complex community dynamic.

I would actually prefer it if more of my comments had been deleted, instead of festering away in my history reminding me of how dumb I can be. (Hint: very.)
posted by Phire at 9:53 PM on April 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


If there is one change I've seen (as a long time lurker) it's a sense that comes from the mods that they are "white-knuckling" the moderation. Hanging on to a moderation "style" that's causing more problems than it's fixing.
Comments and users are "problematic" and issues must be "headed off" before they become bigger problems. All of which is indicated to the mods by flags.

I think hanging your hats on those flags is a problem for you mods, and the methodology around them could probably use a rethink.
Is it possible that flagging is perhaps more problematic than not? What can be done about that? Give yourselves the abiliity to get some 500,000 foot objectivity toward the current system and you may see that the current flagging system could be modified a bit to ease the pressure.

Bear with me a moment: In my business, I train IT staff in seeing fellow users as clients, and not as problems. It's about not seeing an IT issue that a user has on a PC as a pain in the ass to be dealt with as a problem, but seeing it as helping a user get their work done. It's a way to get the IT staff to not roll their eyes when someone's word processor won't open, or whatever the issue.

A key factor in this is that IT people often white-knuckle their current, often outdated processes without analyzing why they're holding on so hard. Especially when it's often the process that causes the white-knuckling in the first place. And looking at why the user base is forcing them into that position. IT staff, by the nature of their work, tend to be in a "behind the eight ball" position, and so - is there a process problem at Metafilter Moderation Central that is causing the white-knuckling?

Why is the user base at Metafilter forcing the mods to work so hard to keep a certain "tone" to the site? Is it a user base problem? Is it a process problem? Is it a tone problem? Those are questions the mods should be asking each other.

So, as a possible consideration:

Is it possible that not every flag needs a review? How can you judge this?

Isn't there some kind of programmatic magic that can happen at the mod dashboard that takes into account
- The number of flags a post/comment has
- The amount of time it's taken to get to that flag count
- The number of comments/size/weight of the thread
- The number of flagged comments in the thread

...and come up with a ratio/number that allows the mod to filter down the flag queue into a manageable thing?
For example, a thread with 300 comments, and 3 flags = 0 - "no action needed" or "look at this when there is time". Or a thread with 300 comments that's 1 day old and has 28 flags thrown in less than 30 minutes = 5 - "keep an eye on this"
Or a thread with 25 flags and 36 comments = 10 - "OH SHIT"

Just some thoughts.
posted by disclaimer at 10:05 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you can't love the enemy you're with, love your enemy's spouse.

Time to make Brandon Blatcher my enemy.

Sorry, Brandon. It's not about you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:47 PM on April 18, 2013


...and come up with a ratio/number that allows the mod to filter down the flag queue into a manageable thing?

This is something we basically do manage a bit already, through a combination of tools and human heuristics.

On the tool side, we monitor incoming flags in real time with an auto-updating flag hotspots queue that displays flag count and recency of flags graphically, so we can tell at a galnce the difference between e.g. something that's gotten one flag in the last hour and something that's gotten five flags in the last hour and something that's gotten five flags over the last 12 hours, one of those in the last hour. This view also tells us which subsite and content type (post vs. comment); it lists post/comment id as well, which makes it pretty easy to see when someone has just flagged several comments from the same thread. Mouseover on the link in this view will tell us the thread as well, which makes it reasonably quick to tell if it's something from a thread we're already closely monitoring or something from a thread we haven't been. And watching this stuff throughout the day, it's actually pretty easy to ballpark the age of a comment being flagged just off the progression of comment ids.

We also have an automated flag alert for things that manage to rack up a dozen flags while no one was looking, though that rarely actually manages to fire these days since we've basically always got someone watching the site and likely to catch something picking up flags quickly before it hits that threshold.

On the heuristic side, see some of what's mentioned about, combined with general situational awareness based on previous incoming flags, contact form and mefimail heads ups, and whatever random bits of stuff we might come across just in our pleasure reading of the site in the mean time. Being aware of what's hopping on the site is one of the most useful general things because it allows us to (a) actively monitor any particularly tricky threads via the autoloading "x new comments" stuff and (b) prioritize our review of flags during busy periods. We also make a point of handing off the What's Going On highlights to one another at shift changes to pass some of this info on instead of requiring everybody to figure it out from scratch every time, and do heads ups over the general mod email list about anything brewing or burbling or whatever.

The flag system isn't perfect and it's something we continually refine—the toolset has gotten more and more robust over the last several years, as we've said "hey, what about x/y/z" and gamed out possible improvements to our approach (something pb is wonderfully supportive of on the implementation side), but it's pretty solid. So, I hear you in general, and I'm sure we will continue to improve it as improvements that will actively help the way we work become clear to us. But it's actually a really helpful, really solid system that has had a lot of thought and care and willingness to amend/improve put into it, specifically because we don't want to be married to some dumb way of doing things just because That's How We Do Things or whatever.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:47 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


what's all of this $5 noob talk? how much does it cost to sign up here nowadays?
posted by dogwalker at 10:59 PM on April 18, 2013


It's cost me plenty.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:12 PM on April 18, 2013


Same as in town.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:19 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


$10 to make a metafilter hollah.. .
posted by buzzman at 12:01 AM on April 19, 2013


This may be slightly unnecessary, but since this thread is effectively about critiquing mods, I'd like to mention that I really like Lobstermittens's style and think she's been doing a wonderful job. Lobstermittens manages to avoid using "command voice" in all of her moderation and somehow manages to guide people with a light touch while at the same time getting solid results. I recognize that this may not be the most helpful suggestion in the world, nor am I necessarily representing anyone other than myself, but this lone data point here would like to suggest that whatever she's doing might be worth observing and replicating across the board.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:02 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think all the mods avoid "command voice". But then I regularly lurk Television Without Pity as a nonmember and the mods there still regularly infuriate me with their high-handed arbitrariness. It's like once a week a mod there, in one of the few boards I read, will slap people down and/or make Voice of God prohibitions that literally (literally!) make my jaw drop open. And not just that, they're often bullies. It makes me itchy.

It's really a good comparative case-study for this conversation. Because they have a very thoroughly articulated rationale for their moderation style and it clearly works — there's not anywhere comparable AFAIK for quality discussion about television.

But, like many are arguing here about MeFi moderation, I feel that they've gone as far as they need to go in that direction to accomplish this and then have gone a considerable distance farther. As well as being weirdly belligerent. People there are self-evidently fearful of the mods and therefore step very carefully but, even so, they will slap or ban people with dripping contempt. It's, I dunno, like their company culture. The opposite of MeFi's "we try to engage even with people who say 'fuck you' to us".

So my point is that TVWoP is a good example of a place where things really are hellish like how some are claiming it is here. But because of that, I have a hard time taking seriously the idea that MeFi is even remotely hellish. I sort of feel like if you said to one of the TVWoP mods what bardic said in this thread to the mods here, those TVWoP mods would figure out your home address and invade you home and work you over for twelve hours with a rubber hose.

You think I'm joking.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:25 AM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


What people fail to recognise is that the very structure of MetaFilter contributes to the anti-mod mindset.

MetaFilter is a wholly text-based medium of interaction, where access to text-production (in the form of making comments) is ostensibly available to all, and each "user" itself exists purely in text form!

The mods, who are given powers of text-deletion (and it is irrelevant how they exercise this prerogative) can, therefore, alter the pure equivalence of all texts - and their power of deletion challenges the very existence of (other) text/user entities.

In that context, the text/user entities can only attempt to respond to their lack of control/power with "text violence" - in the form of harsh words, angry-emails and so on - desperately trying to reproduce the very (textual) cells of their "bodies" with ever-more outrageous outbursts of writing. The cycle of text/deleted-text continues until the most "offended" text-user is banned, and can produce text no more - a notion analogous to death!

That's why we should all vote #1 quidnunc kid for President of MetaFilter, as I will break the dependence on text (and thus the cycle of “text violence”) by turning the img tag back on. And as each picture is worth a thousand words, so will the value and happiness of every member increase a thousand-fold, and instead of just writing "bullshit" on your metatalk post, you can actually post an animated gif of me fucking a pig. So remember that a vote for quidnunc kid is a vote for self-empowerment. And pig fucking.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:08 AM on April 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


Turning the img tag back on for the regular public Metafilter would kill the bandwidth for our private version of the site where images fly thick and fast. We cannot allow this.
posted by the Cabal at 3:14 AM on April 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


...and each "user" itself exists purely in text form!

{Looks at still-expanded stomach, unopened dietary advice book on table, and opened and half-empty bag of grated mature cheddar cheese next to it}

I wish. I really wish.
posted by Wordshore at 3:56 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dogwalker, details.

Bardic and I both signed up on that day. So did a lot of other folks. Our "generation" are all $5 n00bs.

It's still that much to become a member. But signups are open now.
posted by zarq at 4:12 AM on April 19, 2013


And pig fucking.

Caligvla.
posted by zarq at 4:15 AM on April 19, 2013


How dare v!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 4:20 AM on April 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Spectacular troll, bardic. I applaud your efficiency.

You linked one inflammatory blog post in a sensitive thread (twice) then posted a relatively short MeTa with a high ratio of profanity. That didn't quite take off so you stirred the pot a little more, threw a "fuck you" out at a mod, and bailed.

The MeTa thread ballooned to 400+ comments without any further effort on your part. Nice work.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 6:07 AM on April 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Noþing compareſ 2 v.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:09 AM on April 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


OF COURSE bardic has the right to his opinion

BUT MAYBE I'll just start flagging all his stuff automatically in the hope of provoking another amusing meltdown
posted by flabdablet at 6:29 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thou shalt not stir up shit shall be the whole of the Law.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:45 AM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


zarq: "Our "generation" are all $5 n00bs. "

Represent!
posted by Bugbread at 6:47 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


After the town of Joplin, MO was destroyed by a tornado, the thread about it included multiple comments basically saying "why did these people live in cheap wood frame homes in the middle of a tornado-prone zone?" which were left standing. I know because I responded to them.

And you know what? I was all right with having that conversation, even though this disaster was in my home state, and affected people I knew, and was part of an awful tornado season that affected me and my family directly. People learned something.

I do wonder why this comment was deleted when the Joplin comments were not.

(I also wonder why bardic thinks yelling and cursing about it is the best way to address the issue.)
posted by BlueJae at 6:59 AM on April 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


By #falseflagging I just meant trying to spin an event immediately after it happened before anything is known.

By #saladforking I mean using the non-salad fork on the salad, like those guys on Twitter who did that.
posted by fleacircus at 7:00 AM on April 19, 2013


I do wonder why this comment was deleted when the Joplin comments were not.

Because in Joplin, wood frame houses had clearly been demolished by a tornado. This comment was about unions, working conditions, states with bad zoning, and unrestrained capitalists without any evidence that any of that was relevant.
posted by Dojie at 7:13 AM on April 19, 2013


the Cabal, I deny your existence!
posted by exlotuseater at 11:04 AM on April 19, 2013


Among other things BlueJae, you were responding at noon the next day to things that had been posted that morning about an event that had happened the day before.

If that conversation had gone on while tornadoes were still smashing through cities and people were still trying to contact their loved ones in Joplin I suspect it would have gone otherwise.

12 hours and/or a night's sleep can change the tenor of a conversation tremendously.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:44 PM on April 19, 2013


The moderation around here has officially become fucking ridiculous.

I couldn't agree more.

It's likely that this post will be deleted.

Date of Departure: April 20, 2012

I’m out’ta here.

I agree with others that the moderation has gotten way out of hand these days.

In yesterday's FPP regarding the search for the remaining Boston bombing suspect I posted links to the published address of the aerial and street views of the location of the house and boat where the remaining suspect was hiding. This information was approved for release by the government to media outlets which promptly reported it with images of the locale.

My post was deleted and in a memail I was falsely accused of broadcasting information gleaned from listening to police scanners. I WAS NOT LISTENING TO SCANNER CHAT. I was watching live television and providing links that other websites had already posted.

For my “false transgression” I was given a suspension.

__________

My response:
A previous comment of mine was deleted for identifying the actual address of the current incident. It was deleted. A follow-up post explaining that the press had been declared/cleared to identify the house and backyard boat as being located at 67 Franklin Street, Watertown, MA. was subsequently deleted.*

The press has published aerial and street level views of the property since then. You can see them here and here and here ... etc.**

* -- I know that I could bring this up in MetaTalk, but I have memailed the mod responsible for the deletion.

** -- I consider this post as a contribution to this thread, so that MeFites can view aerial and street views of the house, property and backyard boat.
__________

ACCOUNT SUSPENDED
__________

External e-mail exchange:
Sent: Friday, April 19, 2013 9:16 PM
Subject: Re: [MeFi Contact] Why ...

Why shouldn't it be posted? I am honestly curious. Not to be argumentative and combative. I thought my contribution was akin to providing links to photos of the suspects at the SHELL station and the ATM surveillance videos [which I had done prior to posting links to publicly broadcast aerial and street views of 67 Franklin Street, Watertown]. FWIW -- I did not receive a memail from anyone to tell me to not post the info. I made an inquiry to [moderator]... and [he/she] said [he/she] was not responsible for the deletion [and he/she identified the moderator who he/she thought had]. I then memailed [moderator], seeking an understanding. Then … I am suspended. Again ... I am not being confrontational, just a bit confused. As you can understand I am in the midst of this current crisis and would appreciate the ability to continue contributing to the community's discussion of such. I ask that you please consider lifting my suspension.

My Best,

Eric
_____

Sent: Friday, April 19, 2013 10:05 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: [MeFi Contact] Why ...

I don't care where the info came from. I care that I asked you not to post it and you posted it anyway. If I lift your suspension and you post it *again*, it'll be a week off. Are we clear?
_____
End of external e-mail exchange


My reaction to that is:
“Are we clear?” How condescending. WTF – am I a child?
posted by ericb at 6:41 PM on April 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ooh, that's a bad cop, mods. Ericb was a great contributor here; I was in the thread when he was posting that and it was already all over the TV channels and official twitter feeds for reporters.

That was a bad deletion and even worse suspension.
posted by klangklangston at 6:49 PM on April 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


Why does the source of the information matter? When has the public availability of information ever made something ok to post on the site over the mods' objections? Doxxing, photos of people's houses, member's facebook pages, cross-site drama, these are all fairly public, right?

Continuing to repost deleted content over the mods' objections is pretty dumb given their policy of never being wrong and never undeleting anything, ever.
posted by ryanrs at 7:17 PM on April 20, 2013


We have a pretty consistent policy of not posting private info on Metafilter. The source was very much not the issue - the issue was we would generally rather not be a place linking a completely innocent person's address with this issue to be Googleable for all time. I'm not sure why ericb didn't understand that, and I'm also not totally thrilled he chose to post a cherrypicked sample of our conversation as his last post, but what can you do?

For future reference, posting the same thing four times after deletion on one of the busiest nights Metafilter has ever had, after being asked both publicly and privately to knock it off, is in fact one of the few ways to reliably get a night off.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:35 PM on April 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was in the thread when he was posting that and it was already all over the TV channels and official twitter feeds for reporters.

I'm not sure how this is related to whether the mods would like to exercise a different standard than the general media and have also asked someone to do not do a very specific thing that runs counter to that decision.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:50 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"We have a pretty consistent policy of not posting private info on Metafilter."

This was public safety information, posted without any substantive risk to that innocent person. That was a bad call. I can understand being het up in a hot thread and understand time-outs when people aren't giving you the time to evaluate that fairly, but, again, that was a bad call. That was a bad call that cost us a fantastic contributor to the community. The way that played out made MetaFilter substantively worse for no real gain.

"I'm not sure how this is related to whether the mods would like to exercise a different standard than the general media and have also asked someone to do not do a very specific thing that runs counter to that decision."

Because, honestly, the embargo on that information was a bad call, and so the decisions made stemming from that bad call are thus less supportable.

In the specific context, that was information that the law enforcement officers had specifically released to the public and confirmed. It was also the sort of information that anyone in the neighborhood would want to learn. I'm not a huge fan of breaking news posts or threads in general, but allow the community to filter reports serves a significant beneficial purpose on Metafilter.

Mods can be wrong; mods were wrong; that mistake had a real cost, and I'm upset by it.
posted by klangklangston at 8:16 PM on April 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


Mods can be wrong; mods were wrong; that mistake had a real cost, and I'm upset by it.

That may be the case. But the point, from my perspective, is that we have channels for discussing mod decisions you don't agree with, both public and private, and ericb decided not to use those. Instead, he decided unilaterally that our decision was wrong and therefore our requests didn't need to be heeded. That is not a path that works out for any of us.

I specifically invited him to a) get a second mod opinion or b) come to MetaTalk. He declined both of those options in favor of reposting the info multiple times. That's not a dialogue, and it's not something I had the bandwidth to deal with last night.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:37 PM on April 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


And to be totally clear, he's not banned, and he's welcome to come back whenever he feels like it. He got a 24-hour time out, which is (obviously) over.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:37 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Instead, he decided unilaterally that our decision was wrong and therefore our requests didn't need to be heeded."

… and your decision was wrong.

Can you see how "My wrong decision needs to be heeded" is falling back on empty authority? I understand that you have limited tools in a hot thread, and that it sucks to have people publicly second-guessing your decisions that were made in the heat of the moment, especially in the midst of this shitty week. But for the moment, your bad decision cost us the participation of a pretty great member, whose contributions have been noted again and again, and I hope you're working behind the scenes to make this better instead of ending your interaction with a more mannered version of "Respect mah authoritie." You're a better mod than that.
posted by klangklangston at 8:51 PM on April 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Can you see how "My wrong decision needs to be heeded" is falling back on empty authority?

This is a site with a variety of ways to challenge mod decisions. People who want to do that need to use them instead of disrupting the rest of the community. That's not a defense of the decision, it's a defense of the process.

Members, even great members, who reject the site's processes are going to get static here one way or the other. Ericb is a great member who has some difficulty taking feedback once he's decided on a course of action. That's not something I can really do much about. The door is open when he wants to come back.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:58 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's likely that this post will be deleted.

For this and this alone, I'm not sorry to see you gone, ericb.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:00 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was a goddamn timeout. I will be very sad if ericb carries it into permanence. It doesn't matter if the info was everywhere else; it matters that it is not allowed here.
posted by rtha at 9:01 PM on April 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're told by a mod not to do something, and you then choose to do that thing not once but four times, then a timeout is probably inevitable. Posting private memail conversations is also against the rules.

Whatever his reasons, he chose to do both of those things. The mods did not force that choice upon him.
posted by zarq at 9:08 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And for the record, I like, respect and appreciate the hell out of ericb. But restless_nomad's timeout doesn't strike me as unusual, surprising or particularly inappropriate.
posted by zarq at 9:13 PM on April 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"This is a site with a variety of ways to challenge mod decisions. People who want to do that need to use them instead of disrupting the rest of the community. That's not a defense of the decision, it's a defense of the process."

That's a cop out. You are responsible for the process, and the process clearly did not work here if it served to arbitrarily support a bad decision and led to the timeout of someone over a mistake.

"Members, even great members, who reject the site's processes are going to get static here one way or the other."

Yup. And mods who make crappy decisions and don't understand why that's a legitimate gripe get static back. You made a bad call; casting it in the passive voice is further galling.

"It was a goddamn timeout. I will be very sad if ericb carries it into permanence. It doesn't matter if the info was everywhere else; it matters that it is not allowed here."

If you're allowed to post to the NY Times map that shows the location, but not post the location, that's absurd and stupid. Declaring that it's not allowed here is not a justification, it's a fiat.

"If you're told by a mod not to do something, and you then choose to do that thing not once but four times, then a timeout is probably inevitable. Posting private memail conversations is also against the rules. "

Fine, sure. Timeout. But if you get timed out for bucking a bad decision from the mods, the decent thing to do is for the mod to apologize over that, to admit their mistake and to work to rectify it. Not to retreat into "the process."

As for posting memail? Ericb posted what HE said in memail and an external email exchange. You can argue about the private emails, but interpreting that guideline to mean not posting your own statements? That's absurd.
posted by klangklangston at 9:14 PM on April 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Oh boy. I hesitate to wade in after this contentious week, and I'm not often critical of the mods, but I agree this was a bad deletion. This was entirely public information, and it's available in links even if not in posts. What's the distinction between the two? If you're not going to delete the link, why delete the post that has the same content?

Ericb knows his way around private vs. public information and has not had any history that I'm aware of of playing fast and loose with that. I get that this site is different from major media, but I just find this strange, almost a suppression, and I'm not used to saying that here.

I know it's been a really difficult week. I've had a difficult week too. But it's not something that is sitting well - being able to share public information here makes sense to me, and I'm really at a loss for why this wouldn't have been OK. This wasn't a torch and pitchfork situation, it was a way of accurately reporting an incident going on. This one really confuses me.
posted by Miko at 9:19 PM on April 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I completely agree with klang. This was arbitrary and uncalled for and schoolmarmish.

Come back, ericb, I value your contributions.
posted by Rumple at 9:24 PM on April 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you're allowed to post to the NY Times map that shows the location, but not post the location, that's absurd and stupid.

We have a pretty long track record of deleting anything that looks like someone trying to do some doxing on another. Phone numbers, addresses, and contact info is regularly deleted when people are trying to use it against another person. In this case, the exact address of that location feels a bit like doxing to me. The guy involved in the bombing didn't live there, it was just some random guy's house with a boat that happened to be a small part of the overall story. Throwing that full address up on a comment means it is going to be there forever thanks to google. I'm ok if the NYT wants to publish an address in a story and stand behind it, they have editors and lawyers on staff, but we don't generally let people post specifics that can lead to losses of privacy.

I feel like ericb overreacted a bit, he was told not to post and kept doing it, a quick 24hr timeout is totally normal when someone refuses to listen to us.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:26 PM on April 20, 2013


klang, whether a mod is wrong has little to do with whether a request should have been repeatedly disregarded. It's entirely consistent morally for someone to disagree with a person in authority and also for the community to expect that person to abide by the decisions of the authority, despite the disagreement, or to go through the proper channels to fix it. Whether or not civil disobedience is encouraged is entirely an issue of the seriousness of the situation. So, the burden falls on anyone who think that this rises to that level, and I'm not sure that this situation successfully bears that burden.

Serious questions: do you think that everyone who thinks that the mods are wrong on something should push back by disregarding requests, or is this just a special case?
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:27 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


the decent thing to do is for the mod to apologize over that

I watched the deleted comments come and go in realtime. It was incredibly obvious ericb was acting like a petulant child and throwing a tantrum. A timeout was inevitable.
posted by ryanrs at 9:34 PM on April 20, 2013


It's a timeout, not a ban. Choosing to post the info after clear communication that it was against site guidelines is not helpful. I hope ericb comes back but the timeout was merited.
posted by arcticseal at 9:37 PM on April 20, 2013


Also, it appears from ericb's goodbye note that he wants to leave the site because he felt he was timed out for repeating things from a police scanner, when that was never the case. I don't know where he got that idea, it was simply ignoring requests and reposting something we asked him not to.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:37 PM on April 20, 2013


"In this case, the exact address of that location feels a bit like doxing to me."

While it may feel like doxing to you, if you think about it, you'll understand why it's significantly different. It has no malicious intent, it doesn't connect multiple points of identity, it's publicly reported information from a current crisis. It's as much doxxing as saying that the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, which is at One World Trade Center.

"The guy involved in the bombing didn't live there, it was just some random guy's house with a boat that happened to be a small part of the overall story."

A small part of the overall story of a bomber engaged in a violent flight from the police and ensuing manhunt is where the guy actually is? What? All due respect, but you don't seem to know much about stories.

"but we don't generally let people post specifics that can lead to losses of privacy."

There is absolutely zero loss of privacy from that posting. Absolutely zero. C'mon.
posted by klangklangston at 9:39 PM on April 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


For contrast, Sunil got more doxxed.
posted by klangklangston at 9:42 PM on April 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think klangklangston is right about it not being what people mean when they talk about "doxxing" (a relatively new term), which really means digging for information to ID and out a private individual without their consent or participation. I just Googled "Watertown boat suspect address" and got over 100,000 results, many of which, including front page results, give the exact address. Some include a map. The homeowner gave his name and some quotes to the press. He participated in the reporting and gave his identity. This is 100%, on record, widely reported public information. It's as odd not to report it as part of this story as it would be not to report a lot of the other details.

Coming from a jouralistic perspective, there is nothing to be concerned about in either linking to or expliciting copying that information onto MeFi.

I get that MeFi doesn't have editors and lawyers like a big paper. But MeFi is not the source of the information and ericb isn't the source of the information. He provided the source, and the source is responsible for the accountability. Not MeFi. Ericb's source is stable, vetted, and accurate, unlike a whole bunch of other information totally falsely reported in that thread.

I get that there's another dimension in that he was recalcitrant about being deleted. I can't speak to that, didn't see the comment stream and don't know how many times he tried to repost. Maybe that's really the bigger factor. But from a free-speech point of view, something that's been reported in the mainstream press, with the explicit consent of the person involved, seems like it should be fair game as content to be reposted here on MeFi, especially when a source is given.
posted by Miko at 9:46 PM on April 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just as a data point, so far, I agree with Klang and Miko. If I was Eric, I'd be gone too.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:06 PM on April 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's as much doxxing as saying that the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, which is at One World Trade Center

You and I both know there's a huge difference between the address of a guy's private home and a world famous skyscraper where business is conducted. Sure that guy may be doing interviews today, but he might want to sell the house someday and future owners might not want 100,000 results for a notorious event there.

Also, keep in mind the story was moving fast and people were repeating things (like the missing Brown student was one of the attackers) without taking time to double-check facts. At first I was trying to stop the entire derail about a 7/11 robbery because it seemed really far-fetched that it would have anything to do with a bombing five days before.

Throwing out an address while a very fast moving story is going on looks ok now in hindsight, but in the moment it seemed unnecessary and a loss of privacy for someone's private residence.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:07 PM on April 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe that's really the bigger factor.

It really is the bigger factor. We all appreciate and respect ericb's contributions here. At the same time, we tried to open a backchannel line of conversation with him which was totally unfruitful and we don't have a lot of options at that point. I get that this was frustrating and suboptimal at many levels. I also think r_n did the best she could with the information available and with the tools available. We need the users to work with us and saying "Hey, linking is okay but printing the address is not, right now" was an okay line to draw. Ericb only got a time out at the point at which he was ignoring our request and continuing to post the same information in the thread repeatedly.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:11 PM on April 20, 2013


I will admit the question of whether someone's home address of a location involved in this huge manhunt is public info or not is a gray area, but generally we don't like people posting specific details involved in a news story. Frequently we see stuff like "hey everyone who hates this city council guy that voted out those gay scouts, here's his phone number and email to complain to!" and that's definitely where having a guidelines against doxxing come from.

If you look at those whole story of chasing those two guys down, they did stuff at a 7/11, on MIT's campus, and eventually in some guy's backyard. People posting street view links to a public place like 7/11 or MIT doesn't seem like it is crossing any privacy lines, but someone's home starts to be kind of a gray area. Couple this gray area with a week of steady misinformation churned out by reddit and 4chan, repeated endlessly on Twitter and debunked soon after and you might see why we'd error on the side of safety this week.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:11 PM on April 20, 2013


Sure that guy may be doing interviews today, but he might want to sell the house someday and future owners might not want 100,000 results for a notorious event there."

The difference between 100,000 results and 100,001 results seems pretty well outweighed by the MeFites in the neighborhood who were getting their information here. That's a bad argument.

"Also, keep in mind the story was moving fast and people were repeating things (like the missing Brown student was one of the attackers) without taking time to double-check facts. At first I was trying to stop the entire derail about a 7/11 robbery because it seemed really far-fetched that it would have anything to do with a bombing five days before."

And the 7-11 robbery ended up not having anything to do with the bombings. But the Brown student, who I linked to directly above, did not get deleted.

"Throwing out an address while a very fast moving story is going on looks ok now in hindsight, but in the moment it seemed unnecessary and a loss of privacy for someone's private residence."

…and when, in hindsight, we realize that we made the wrong call, we apologize and work to make it right. We do not double down on the mistake, because that shows that we don't understand why people are upset nor our role in the process. Wrong in hindsight is still wrong.

"Frequently we see stuff like "hey everyone who hates this city council guy that voted out those gay scouts, here's his phone number and email to complain to!" and that's definitely where having a guidelines against doxxing come from. "

I understand that. I'm hoping that by continuing to discuss this, you can understand that there're significant distinctions between that example and this one.

"If you look at those whole story of chasing those two guys down, they did stuff at a 7/11, on MIT's campus, and eventually in some guy's backyard."

No, the 7-Eleven robbery was unconnected. That was corrected within the thread.

"Couple this gray area with a week of steady misinformation churned out by reddit and 4chan, repeated endlessly on Twitter and debunked soon after and you might see why we'd error on the side of safety this week."

Then fix the error. Recognize why it was the wrong call, apologize for making it, think about that the next time it comes up.

And understand that thread was just as hot for the members as it was for the mods.

I've said my piece. I understand why Eric is pissed. I hope you reach out to him as people, instead of digging your heels in here.
posted by klangklangston at 10:31 PM on April 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Sure that guy may be doing interviews today, but he might want to sell the house someday and future owners might not want 100,000 results for a notorious event there

Quoting it on MeFi adds a very small straw to a very big pile. The information was completely public already and it's already engraved on the web and in print forever, readily available. And people live at MIT too. If we're not the "paper of record" on something, not the original source presenting unique new information available nowhere else on the web or anywhere for that matter, we have a large degree of insulation.

Also, keep in mind the story was moving fast and people were repeating things (like the missing Brown student was one of the attackers) without taking time to double-check facts. At first I was trying to stop the entire derail about a 7/11 robbery because it seemed really far-fetched that it would have anything to do with a bombing five days before.

I know. And in time that turned out to be a more complicated story and the Brown student tangent was utterly false. And that and most of the other facts that turned out to be 100% erroneous are still in the thread. Ad even if people attempted to double-check their "facts," there was precious little to check them against. Ericb was actually using much better sources of information than most of us and providing backup for what he was saying, setting a pretty solid example. Much of what appeared was acknowledged or understood as hearsay.

Throwing out an address while a very fast moving story is going on looks ok now in hindsight, but in the moment it seemed unnecessary and a loss of privacy for someone's private residence.

I think I can understand the "let's wait" impulse on that.

he was ignoring our request and continuing to post the same information in the thread repeatedly.

I'm sympathetic to how crazy it was and everybody did a really good job with the most nutso situation in 10 years. Probably more nutso in fact than 9/11 due to the fact that we just plain have way more data, good and bad, than anybody had 10 years ago, and it goes back and forth in way more directions. Still, as I understand it, ericb wasn't posting the same information over and over, but was trying to improve the information by providing new links and sources to contextualize that what he was putting up wasn't just another Twitter mistake. Obviously it got beyond that, and I have to be honest that I didn't see it unfold, but it might not have been exactly "the same" information each time, but an attempt to come back with something you might presumably have found more post-able. I guess the central issue really is one of being responsive to mod requests even when you disagree with them or think you can do something to get around them.

I see the gray area argument for caution. It's been very very difficult all around. It is a little muddled how it got applied, since we had all but tried and sentenced Sunil and shared his entire life around before being persuaded that he was not involved at all, and sent up a few dozen other trial balloons that were just erroneous fog-of-war stuff. Honestly it was mostly a trainwreck of mixed information, little of it useful or accurate, that is recorded in those threads. It is a startling document testifying to the essential uselessness of realtime media "reporting" that I will probably be pointing and thinking about in future.

But I also know that there's a pretty good commitment to press and speech freedom here and I think we can pretty much agree that using an address in this case was not doxxing, was not malicious, did not encourage an attack on the person involved, and was already widely public and being reported by major media who have responsibility for its accuracy in any kind of legal situation.

I don't know if ericb will come back and appreciate the difficulty of the situation. I'm speaking up not just because I value him, like we all do, but mainly because this information is not secret and I want to feel comfortable posting information already reported in mainstream media here.
posted by Miko at 10:32 PM on April 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a huge difference between being able to take the time to work out, for instance, which addresses should be allowed once we've said please don't publish addresses, and having to deal with a thread in which comments are a firehose, coming in every second, with hundreds of people posting and and you have to literally read every single comment and deal with all the possible problems in that thread, as well as try to answer email and mefi mail, and whatever situations may arise on the rest of the site, and you are doing all this alone.

In the usual situation, you can spend more time going back and forth with the person, and you can put out a general mod mail saying, hey guys, what do you think about this situation, should we do allow this particular address, or what? Can somebody check out what's going on with this at other sites and make sure it's been cleared and perfectly fine so we don't have to go back through this massive thread later and try to delete every reference if we need to?

I had problems the night before with ericb wanting to discuss meta stuff in the thread about Matt asking earlier to hold off on the 7-11/MIT stuff until it was clear it was connected (and at this point it was clear that it was, and it was actively being talked about in comments with no problem), and I spoke with him via Mefimail asking him to stop posting the same thing over and over, and open a Metatalk if he needed to talk about that more... but it was really hard to take the time to do that, and I literally couldn't continue with the private conversation. Restless_nomad also several back and forths in mail with him, and I know how difficult that is. Write one email and come back to 60 comments and 10 flags to catch up with.

So additionally taking the time out to make policy decisions on the fly about this one particular address on your own in the heat of the moment is asking a lot.

I mentioned in another Metatalk, I think, that we aren't a news site, though we try to accommodate what people want by allowing some news stuff, including these incredibly stressful breaking-news things, and stretch ourselves to the absolute limit to be able to do that at all in terms of staff and site load, and people get really, really angry with us over every single big news post that happens on Metafilter, because nearly any decision we make about anything is going to bitterly contested and argued as though we had a big staff on duty at all times to handle this stuff (instead of usually one person at a time) and had already worked out all the possible things that might come up in a heated, insanely fast-moving thread, and foreseen and decided every single policy point for anything that might arise, and be able to debate and respond endlessly over email and in Metatalk at the same time as everything else.

It's fine to do a post-mortem and discuss things, and possibly helpful if the same situation comes up again, but please keep in mind the reality of we're actually dealing with on the moderation end, and try not to ascribe the worst possible motivations to every decision. And I also really hope ericb comes back, because we all absolutely do value him highly as a member.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:49 PM on April 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


This really sucks. ericb is a great guy and was a generous contributor. MeFi will be much poorer without him.

I agree with pretty much everything klangklangston has said here.

ericb, I don't blame you for leaving (WTF indeed), but I hope you come back someday. If not, take care, and so long and thanks for all the links.
posted by homunculus at 12:51 AM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


But for the moment, your bad decision cost us the participation of a pretty great member, whose contributions have been noted again and again

Disagree. Our pretty great member's little tanty cost us the participation of a pretty great member.

There is nothing at all unsound about respect for authority when that authority is based on competence and has a long history of being exercised with care and consideration - which moderation here clearly does have, disputes about individual decisions notwithstanding. And there is a dispute resolution process here, and it works.

“Are we clear?” How condescending. WTF – am I a child?

I never thought so until I saw you throw your cookie on the floor and storm off in a huff.

[NOT BROWN-NOSIST]
posted by flabdablet at 1:02 AM on April 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


I know we'd like to have all the (reasonable*) true facts in a thread, none of the untrue facts, and also abide by site norms of privacy and welfare for all those involved, as well as official requests. But hundreds of people were posting all these things at an overwhelming rate, and in most instances only one person was moderating to try to tease out what was what.

One thing that was decided was not to publish addresses. Addresses were published and deleted. If I had been working alone at that time, I would not have been able to vet other sites to make sure that they were specifically okayed to give out an exact address on the boat or were doing it despite requests not to, or in ignorance of the request not to. The first comment was just the address, and was deleted. The second comment could have been reposted without giving the specific address:
The specific address has been cleared by police ... and Boston media are allowed to publicize it, according to the local stations I am watching.

GOOGLE view of
[redacted address] the location (zoom in ... you can see the boat in the backyard).
This would both give information, and not publish the specific address, as requested. The third and fourth comments also giving the specific address were also deleted, but either could have stayed in the same way, basically, "here are (trustworthy) links about where this is happening." Those sites could possibly redact the address at any time if they chose, or let them stand if it was okay. On our site, we were asking people not to post specific addresses.

Relatedly (and specifically in this situation, the reports about the Brown student), one thing that would be generally helpful to discuss is the question of comments based on scanner reports. We were deleting mentions of the Brown student's name, until the comment that said "The dispatcher just said suspect 2 is the missing Brown student, [NAME]." I was on at that time, and in retrospect, I regret leaving it, because though it sounded official and definite, was this directly from the scanner, or was this from some intermediary "reporting" something from the scanner, plus many things from the scanner turned out to be just wrong – though we didn't have a clear idea at that time. The police scanner can seem like the direct voice of authoritative info, but obviously it's a very problematic reporting situation.

Yet, if I had said "look, let's not publish this person's name until it's bulletproof that this is the person," I would have been facing no doubt even worse wrath than restless for not allowing the specific address of the boat – up until the point that this info was formally retracted or denied. It was the wrong decision to allow it, but if I had not allowed it and it was that person, I would have been flayed alive, and that exercise would still be ongoing at this moment.

But we have not had to come up with policies about publishing info based on scanner news. And I do think we need to resolve how/if we do that in the future.

* (for example, we asked people not to speculate about the possible girlfriend(s) of the suspects, which is something that could a true thing that is reported, yet not reasonable from our point of view.)
posted by taz (staff) at 2:23 AM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


FWIW -- I did not receive a memail from anyone to tell me to not post the info. I made an inquiry to [moderator]... and [he/she] said [he/she] was not responsible for the deletion [and he/she identified the moderator who he/she thought had]. I then memailed [moderator], seeking an understanding. Then … I am suspended.

So, just to be clear, while ericb was making inquiries and not receiving memails about the deletions of his comment(s), he was also reposting that comment repeatedly? I get that it must have been annoying, but this response does seem a bit over the line:

I don't care where the info came from. I care that I asked you not to post it and you posted it anyway.

ericb was (apparently) asking for clarification, and got an argument from authority instead. That was a mistake, restless_nomad, and shouldn't happen again.
posted by mediareport at 7:13 AM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


> ericb was (apparently) asking for clarification, and got an argument from authority instead. That was a mistake, restless_nomad, and shouldn't happen again.

Exactly. I've frequently defended the mods against wild accusations of fascist repression, and I know perfectly well that they have the best intentions and do a great job, but we all make mistakes, and the thing to do when you've made a mistake is to say "You're right, I screwed up, I apologize, and I'll try not to let it happen again." I'm quite bothered by the "wall of blue" mentality exhibited here, where all the mods are chiming in to say "no, really, it had to be done, it's too bad because we all love ericb and hope he comes back but it was the right call and we're standing by it." I can understand overreacting in the hectic atmosphere of a fast-moving thread, but in the cold light of day you should be able to rethink things better than this.
posted by languagehat at 7:23 AM on April 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


You know, "hey, please cut that out for now" is not an argument from authority, it's a straightforward request. "Because we need you to" is the backup for that because that's what we actually needed from him. And unless they thing we're requesting someone hold off on is "where Ted's insulin is", that is not a hard thing to deal with or an unreasonable thing to ask.

I do not understand why ericb ended up in the "I must post this, I must complain in-thread about moderation" mode he's been in the last couple days, but it was weird and is exactly the sort of thing folks get rare timeouts for because it gets to the point where we can't trust you to meet us halfway on something even with a clear signal that we need you to. It's happened once or twice before with him and so we try to keep in mind that this is maybe a hard thing for him to deal with sometimes for whatever reason and something we gave him some leeway on over a couple days and a couple unrelated YES BUT NOW I WILL POST AGAIN ANYWAY incidents complete with directly needling the mods in thread, but it's really gotta be a thing where after two or three times butting heads with us on something you figure it out and say, okay, I'll cut it out for now.

ericb is a smart and attentive guy and I very much hope he decides to come back. People get timeouts every once in a while when we feel like we can't trust them to hear what we're saying and cool it on some specific thing on the short term. I know those two things butt up against each other in a way that's not super comfortable, but that was all that happened on our end and it's a basic part of the job.

I'm quite bothered by the "wall of blue" mentality exhibited here

Again, this is really normal stuff on the site. Both being not so comfortable about pasting personal/identifying stuff into a thread (to which "yeah but other information and misinformation got posted earlier!" is not a great rebuttal because that stuff actually kinda sucked as well even if we didn't shut it down completely at the time) and needing folks to be willing to say "okay, I'll drop it for now / take it to Metatalk / discuss it via email" about a repeated request regardless of whether or not they personally agree with the reasoning.

It's not like we haven't discussed a bunch of times the way the "please cut it out so we don't have to cut it out for you" thing flows when it comes up, when someone's just hammering on something in a thread or making something into a spat with the mods in the middle of a discussion. A timeout's not a public excoriation, it's a "please cool off for the moment" thing. ericb ramped up instead of cooling off, cursed us out over email, left a kiss-off note in here, and closed his own account.

It sucks that that happened and none of us is happy that he felt that frustrated by the situation, I'd rather he had in fact cooled down and come back and had an actual conversation here about it and talked out the details of where he was coming from, why he was insisting on the repeated posting, why he felt like removing the plain text address was problematic, etc. That's the sort of thing that Metatalk works well for and would have been the best way to have the "this is why I don't agree with the moderation decisions you guys were making" thing. But I don't think it's fair to treat the fact that as a team we all basically agree that how moderation has always worked here is how moderation should've worked in this case too as some Wall Of Blue bullshit rather than us doing the job we normally do.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:54 AM on April 21, 2013 [7 favorites]




because it gets to the point where we can't trust you to meet us halfway on something even with a clear signal that we need you to.

Trust goes both ways.

Telling the guy who is posting factual safety information that you need to repress the facts, while simultaneously allowing harmful falsehoods and bad conjecture to stand, would certainly bend the guy out of shape.

It also destroys trust.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:15 AM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I lean toward the opinion that deletion of the address was probably excessive (it was information I was extremely grateful to have), but I certainly understand the concerns that led to that decision being made, in the white hot frenzy of that breaking-news thread. What's unquestionable to me though is that it's a decision that the mods are well within their authority to make, and that it should be obvious to any user as longstanding as ericb what the result would be of repeatedly reposting something he's been told not to.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:15 AM on April 21, 2013


"You're right, I screwed up, I apologize, and I'll try not to let it happen again."

We're all pretty good apologizers and I'd like to personally extend a "That got crazy. I'm sorry we didn't have time or attention to spare on your particular issue at the time. Now that we do, let's talk about it" invitation to public or private discussion with ericb.

People have differing impressions of what went on and who should have done what at what time and we're here to talk about that. If people need explanations about what actually happened and the time frame during which it happened, our explanations are naturally going to sound like "This is what happened because of $REASONS" and I'm not sure we can make a good faith statement that yes, next time when there is an emergency at this level and a thread moving at the rate it did, that we will do something different. We can discuss details if people want to get into them but I'm not totally sure they help.

We'd like people to not be so upset and frustrated that they leave the site. We've also had similar exchanges with ericb in the past where asking/telling him to do a thing he did not want to do resulted in him closing his account. We're mindful that he feels this way about things. We can't always take that into special account while we're moderating, though we often do. The guidelines for taking metacommentary to MetaTalk and/or meeting us where we're available to talk are there because they're important to keep things running especially when things are crazy and folks are telling us that the thing they need to do is more important than the things we need to do. I get that, it's an awkward and frustrating collision on an awkward and frustrating day.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:34 AM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Trust goes both ways.

That's in direct response to my talking about needing folks to meet us in the middle. Which we were willing to do—there were a ton of options available to ericb other than just refusing to acknowledge the "please cool it with that for now" request and repeatedly reposting the same comment multiple times. Meeting in the middle doesn't mean "just keep doing what you want to do and ignore us", it means finding some sort of middle ground. We did not get any of that from him, just reposts and needling, in the middle of what was already a tremendously taxing situation on the site.

I feel like the argument here is that the only correct approach would have been to throw our hands up and not do our job because otherwise ericb might get frustrated. That's not a workable rubric. I don't want him to have gotten bent out of shape and I can completely empathize with the frustration he was feeling but sometimes people are going to end up feeling that way here and there are way more productive approaches than cursing us out over email and flaming out in metatalk.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:39 AM on April 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I feel like the argument here is that the only correct approach would have been to throw our hands up and not do our job because otherwise ericb might get frustrated.

No, just that maybe a little more effort than "because I said so" would have worked better. Again, I understand I don't have full access to the interaction, and the reports from ericb and the mods conflict a bit, but it does seem that jessamyn's "That got crazy. I'm sorry we didn't have time or attention to spare on your particular issue at the time" is a little closer to addressing how I feel than what you just offered.
posted by mediareport at 8:57 AM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I understand I don't have full access to the interaction, and the reports from ericb and the mods conflict a bit, but it does seem that jessamyn's "That got crazy. I'm sorry we didn't have time or attention to spare on your particular issue at the time" is a little closer to addressing how I feel than what you just offered.

They read to me to be the same thing. When the mods don't have time to discuss something and ask somebody not to do something, and the person keeps doing the thing they asked him not to do, what are they supposed to do? There were open MeTas on moderation at the time. Ericb could have come over here and asked/raised his ruckus/whatever.

I'm sad that ericb is gone (or taking a timeout of his own or whatever), and maybe I wish the mods had handled it a little better, but I'm not at all convinced they did anything wrong. And I'm really sorry they're all up in here on their weekend off to deal with this.
posted by immlass at 9:04 AM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Again, I understand I don't have full access to the interaction, and the reports from ericb and the mods conflict a bit

They very much do. We sent several memails back and forth, and a couple of additional emails that he chose not to paste, the gist of all of them being "I am super busy right now, please take this to MeTa and don't keep reposting the info." Of course the one he actually posted was my very last, "I am super frustrated right now but actually willing to consider rescinding the timeout if I can get a sign that you have heard what I need" attempt. Which went over... not so well, as you can see.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:05 AM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's a useful clarification, thanks.
posted by mediareport at 9:12 AM on April 21, 2013


It feels odd to me that this is being portrayed as vital safety information being suppressed. I mean, was anyone in the Boston area relying on Metafilter for information on where to go and not go, rather than local radio and TV, for example?

Personally, leaving aside the specifics of this case, I don't think the existence of information elsewhere on the web means that it should necessarily be posted here. Some bright spark decided to share photos of one of the suspect's girlfriend, and that was removed, rightly, as taz mentioned above. The extensive stretch of confidently naming a Brown (and indeed brown) student was awful, and again taz has touched on it above.

However, when Klangklangston says that this Brown student got more doxxed, that does not seem to me to be a good argument, because that was awful, and therefore it probably shouldn't be seen as a validating precedent.

So, I can see how the address where the boat was is kind of an edge case, but its removal doesn't seem likely to have endangered any Boston-area MeFites, and if a link to a news site containing the address would have been OK, I'm not wholly sure why this is a huge problem. Is it setting a precedent of some sort?
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:19 AM on April 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


In the heat of that moment there is no doubt that miscalls/mistakes were made on both sides of this fence. Time to let it go...

And, it's a shame we have to talk about this now that the individual has disabled his account and can't respond.
posted by HuronBob at 10:41 AM on April 21, 2013


Relatedly (and specifically in this situation, the reports about the Brown student), one thing that would be generally helpful to discuss is the question of comments based on scanner reports. We were deleting mentions of the Brown student's name, until the comment that said "The dispatcher just said suspect 2 is the missing Brown student, [NAME]." I was on at that time, and in retrospect, I regret leaving it, because though it sounded official and definite, was this directly from the scanner, or was this from some intermediary "reporting" something from the scanner, plus many things from the scanner turned out to be just wrong – though we didn't have a clear idea at that time. The police scanner can seem like the direct voice of authoritative info, but obviously it's a very problematic reporting situation.

Most of you know I am a bit of a journalism geek, and this whole episode has been an incredibly fascinating and, I think, ground-shifting look at the state of the information media (including the "vernacular" information media that we and redditors and Twitter are a part of) right now. Our current systems were tested and they performed very poorly - our current assumptions were challenged and they got fairly crumbled.

First, the scanner. Ericb's information didn't come from the scanner because he was only drawing on edited sources (especially WHDH which was consistently pretty accurate from very early on, well well before anyone else, to the point where I thought they were doing a a New York post because no one else could confirm what they were reporting. All I can think is that someone at WHDH has a pretty good BPD cell phone number). But I can understand the argument that there was not time to verify that WHDH had cleared this information with the BPD for reporting, which they had. So a big part of this condition came not from the fact that ericb relayed information from a public, edited, cleared source, but that it came in the midst of a nonstop, 2-day barrage of inaccurate, sloppy, drib-and-drab, piecemeal, disorganized stream of chatter that was based mostly on platforms with the greatest volume of unreliable, uninvestigated information - Twitter and reddit, but also scanners.

Among the observations I've made are that people don't know how to treat scanners. The FPP in question included the suggestion that you could get "realtime reports" from police scanners, and people flocked to do just that. But you can't get "reports" from scanners. You get raw, unprocessed stuff, not reports as we understand them. Taz is right that people who aren't familiar with them can imagine that they are "the voice of authoritative info," but they're terrible for that - what you hear is often incomplete, confused, conjectural, and comes from multiple perspectives (in this case, hundreds of individuals). You're listening to only one frequency of more than 20 being used by the authorities. I've just been Googling around for some Scanner 101 and found this piece in the New Yorker that says everything I was going to say:
One of the more fascinating aspects of the manhunt for Boston Marathon bombing suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev is the speed with which ordinary citizens on the Internet’s bleeding edge discovered the old, analog law-enforcement tool...For those who’ve never “covered cops,” scanner chatter can pass for solid information. It’s not. The scanner, for reporters who use one, is a tool, no more. “Note of caution: police scanners are often inaccurate or mistaken—they’re a conversation, not a source,” the New York Times’s Ravi Somaiya rightly told his twelve thousand-plus Twitter followers at four in the morning. By then, it was too late to stop an uncountable number of different bits of misinformation being bandied about. The M.I.T. officer was shot inside a campus building—no, wait, it happened outside; the F.B.I. is not yet on the scene—hang on, yes they are; cell phones were okay to use—no, strike that, too. Sunil Tripathi, a student at Brown University who disappeared almost a month ago, is one of the suspects, confirming Reddit’s suspicions; except, of course, that he’s not.

Even the authorities were reporting getting conflicting information, as they almost always do in such situations. When it’s dark and someone is shooting at them, even the best, most experienced officers are not immune from being confused and scared and seeing threats that don’t exist, or missing ones that do. But anyone with decent Internet access could publicize the miked utterances between officers and dispatch, accurate or not. Police codes could be obtained and deciphered. The languages of law enforcement could be learned. And it seemed that the audience could not get enough. “When I was listening to the BPD scanner last night it started w/6,000 listeners and jumped to 59,000 within minutes,” one person tweeted as the numbers climbed.

At 8:52 A.M. on Friday, with thousands of officers now going door to door as they deepened their hunt, the Boston Police Department tweeted, “WARNING: Do Not Compromise Officer Safety by Broadcasting Tactical Positions of Homes Being Searched.” The request was directed at the media. The public, though, had become part of the media.

Admonitions went out again and again—“The problem with citizen journalism is that they’re citizens, not trained, educated journalists,” one former reporter wrote—but the self-deputized scanneristas just kept generating content. What drives this behavior? Access, for sure, but what else? A desire to contribute? To feel needed? To bear witness? To be seen? To participate in an historic drama? Human impulses, all, if considered in the most generous terms.
So, setting aside the issues/history that the mods and ericb may have had with communication or responsiveness, the biggest problem was not really ericb's information itself, but with the context of rapidly inflowing information ranging the quality gamut from good but unverified to lousy and utterly false, and the lack of skill and understanding of the observers for working with the nature of the content they were hearing. It was the forest, not the trees, causing a problem.

I sure hope this kind of incident doesn't happen again. But I'm also not naive enough to bet on it. Even while I was participating in the whole shit show, I was really stepping back to think about the ways in which this isn't good. I don't know if there's really a viable way to keep this from happening on MeFi. We now have access to all these tools. Even though it's "not really a news site," as we've seen, big news inevitably finds its way here. Blanket prohibitions on discussing breaking news probably(?) won't work. But I wonder if there is a discussion we could helpfully have about dealing with breaking news. Maybe "breaking news" threads need their own set of rules, a color coded style to remind you that those rules are place, and a clearly different set of moderation policies and user understandings. Maybe all chatter purporting to give new information that doesn't link to a published source or come from direct personal observation should be deleted. I really don't have a solution but I wonder if it can be discussed. Another MeFi thing that people noted was the sheer length of the threads and lack of substance of most of the comments. It's essentially become chat. Folks had some discussion comparing the 9/11 thread to this one, and you can see how the environment has changed so much that we treat this place differently now. Not only are the tubes faster, but we have more 2.0 stuff where we can cull information from hundreds of different platforms and reshare it here rather than gather major news reports, add eyewitness accounts, and discuss that. But perhaps even more important - we're used to chat. Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else mean that we expect to kibitz in real time even if we don't have a lot to say. That, more than anything else, lengthened the comment stream in a way that's sort of nutty.

If there's any plus side, I think people who watched this go down had the opportunity to see a couple things. One is about the role of the reporter. The major media were appallingly bad because they had such failures of reporting. On the one hand, people castigated them for being so far "behind" - when in fact, in some cases at least, "behind" represents the amount of time it takes to sort through a chaotic flood of data, find a fact, verify that fact, and place that fact in a narrative. People don't actually have the information faster via Twitter, Reddit, or a scanner - they have it at the same time it's available to the professional media, probably even later in some cases - but they just care less about sharing it before it's been checked out. Finding and verifying information takes time and no small amount of skill, plus really good contacts (without the good contacts you have to wait for the official press briefing - with good contacts, you get that same content earlier). On the other hand, when they tried not to be "behind" by reporting the stuff people saw on Twitter or wherever, they were as likely to be 100% wrong as the people and the Twitter feed. There was nothing to be gained by reporting low-quality information besides, in the case of the networks, the opportunity to keep your eyeballs glued to their corporate channel. But because people think they have access to information faster than the professional media do, that puts the professional media in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation of either reporting crap to look up-to-the-minute, or looking like they are "behind" because they are trying to compile good information.

Another is about the importance of maintaining a skilled local news infrastructure, not handing it over the national networks and a gaggle of "citizen journalists." The local news performed really very well, much better than the networks. However, there are not enough local outlets and reporters any more, especially for the print-based media. Had we had twice the number of personnel with twice the number of contacts and some more geographical diversity, no doubt we'd have had more accurate stuff earlier from local sources. But the local TV and WBUR did pretty well, given the events, and were usually the fastest and most reliable source of the newest breaking information. That shouldn't be surprising: someone who lives and works locally is going to have a better set of local contacts and a stronger set of relationships than someone who just landed from network HQ and knows little of the area. We need to keep these skills alive and supported at a professional level in every community, or we face an even poorer array of sources - and also, the local impact will be less well covered after the networks pack up and leave.

A third is about narrative and organization. Having facts is one thing. Making sure they are true is a second thing. But laying them out in a clear coherent narrative is a third thing entirely, and it was frankly not easy to do based on scanner traffic. It's not easy for reporters to do - all they do is use it as a way to get hints, grab a location, formulate some questions, get a general sense of the action. There's no way you can develop a real narrative around a scanner transmission, and I don't care if it's a fender bender on a little local street or a bombing, pursuit, and firefight in a major city. The raw information alone is not enough, and even the crowdsourcing did not create a better, more reliable narrative more quickly than the reporting did. We didn't have a clear outline of events emerge until professional media started to provide it.

So it's a lot of stuff on my mind, and this was one issue that I just wanted to speak up on. Because I really appreciate that ericb was one of few people making a solid attempt to post good, vetted information and avoid unfounded speculation based on scraps of overheard, poorly sourced content. I wish we had more of that as a standard (and I do implicate myself, I was as hopped on adrenaline as anyone and did not hold myself to that standard). Putting that in the larger context of "how do we handle breaking news in future, without completely inundating the mods and having to put some fairly arbitrary rules in place" is still something of interest to me. I'm sure it won't be the last time, but can we take another one of these weeks? What can we do to handle it all better?
posted by Miko at 10:46 AM on April 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


ericB can contact the mods and re-up his account.

He also has full agency over his emotional regulation, and how he chooses to react to events that take place on this site. He made a choice to exit, which should be respected -- it's what he felt was best for himself at that time.

It's actually a bit disrespectful for people who are not ericB to come into this thread and try to argue his case. He is the person best positioned to do so, if he so chooses. For now, he's chosen privacy and distance.
posted by nacho fries at 10:47 AM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's actually a bit disrespectful for people who are not ericB to come into this thread and try to argue his case.

I'm not going to argue his personal case with the mods, because as everyone says he is free to do that and they all have more information than I do about it. What I'm doing is talking about the ways in which this is related to general issues of sharing information on MeFi, which affects everybody and is an entirely legitimate topic.
posted by Miko at 10:50 AM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


My comment was not directed at you.
posted by nacho fries at 10:51 AM on April 21, 2013


Sorry, here's the link to the New Yorker piece about the scanners.
posted by Miko at 10:52 AM on April 21, 2013


“Are we clear?” How condescending. WTF – am I a child?

Yeah I can see where the moderators are coming from here but I do get sick of seeing the talking down that goes on in these situations. It's just taking an angry person and making them angrier. "Time Out" is a punishment for a child, it implies their concerns are not valid. In this case there is reasonable room for dispute on if the content should have been allowed so it's not going to be productive to imply otherwise. I wish moderators would consider using different language when they have to suspend accounts.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:52 AM on April 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


[trust goes both ways] That's in direct response to my talking about needing folks to meet us in the middle.

It is. It's also about moderation and community in general. When well-established, well-respected users start talking about a Blue Wall and question the mod tone of voice, it is perhaps a sign that trust has been broken. It marks a significant change in the community. This may be a problem.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:55 AM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


What drives this behavior? Access, for sure, but what else? A desire to contribute? To feel needed? To bear witness? To be seen? To participate in an historic drama? Human impulses, all, if considered in the most generous terms.

This, definitely. I think there's a huge question about what was actually being achieved by the thread (and the Internet discussion in general) and by and for whom. I saw something similar, on a smaller scale, after the London tube bombings - for a lot of people, it's just exciting to be a part of a developing story, so there's a race to get in first with breaking information, to speculate about suspects and motives and generally to be a part of things, even when its by recirculating rumors. And then for others there's community, and catharsis, and all sorts of other reasons. But I don't think that one could read an online community and only that and get a complete and accurate picture of events - reporting is not their function, or something they necessarily do very well.

(Public service is probably another of these "emotional motivations". One can certainly believe that one is doing something useful and important by providing "public safety information", just as one might believe that one is helping the FBI to find the culprits by contributing to r/findthebostonbombers - but that doesn't necessarily make it so.)

And meanwhile innocent people get broken down to be used as fuel to keep that involvement engine running, just as they get broken down to keep the media engines running - although the media at least theoretically has standards and practices, whereas communities are reliant on moderators often working without direct precedents.

Honestly, I don't know what the right answer to that is. During 9/11, I found the online community I belonged to invaluable - but that was to a considerable extent because all the news sites had gone down, and there was almost no information available, so even hearing from somebody in NY that they were safe, that this is what they could see and that these roads looked closed was important. Whereas here the problem was not a lack of media coverage - quite the reverse, really...
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:13 AM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Are we clear?"

I would never write or say these words to a student, even though the student-professor relationship has a much clearer hierarchy than a user-mod relationship. I have expelled disruptive students from class, but never with the condescension that those words express.

It's an immoderate response. Delete the comment, suspend the user, sure. But apologize for the framing of that email, I think.

Are we clear?

It's peevish. It responds to disobedience as if it was a threat to one's authority. But we don't have authority over each other in this way.

Are we clear?

Those are fighting words. They're a status challenge. They're an assertion that it's the user's job to obey without question, that when you say jump, we say how high.

Are we clear?

It gets on your nerves, doesn't it? How would you respond, if a user used that phrase with you?

Are we clear?
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:14 AM on April 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


“Are we clear?”

Comments like this are sort of what I mean when I talk about mods occasionally using "command voice." Cortex, just out of curiousity, was the cited statement something you wrote? I know you've used a similar tone to me in the past (in particular, the email to the mods where I privately mentioned that I was upset about a member making a sexual comment about me that I found disgusting, and instead of responding to what I said, you started criticizing me on wildly different issues). That "are we clear" statement reads to me like something you might make, though I don't know what your interaction with other users has been like and it's possible you're much nicer to them.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:18 AM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did you intend that to be a private MeMail to Cortex, wolfsdreams01? It reads as such.
posted by nacho fries at 11:25 AM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


If a thread in which information has genuinely life-and-death potential consequences is moving so fast that moderation can't realistically keep up with it and problematic info is being posted, then either there needs to be a comment-moderation queue for that thread or the whole thread needs to get nuked.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:26 AM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


While I am not a 'well-established, well-respected user,' I've been reading Metafilter long enough to know that complaints about the moderation are not a change in the community at all. That's kind of a ridiculous thing to say. I believe "Blue Wall" is a new term, but it's not even remotely a new complaint.
posted by Dojie at 11:28 AM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


re: Scanners. They also take an understanding of the language being spoken on them. And no, I don't mean English. Cops and firefighters and dispatchers speak a language that takes a lot of listening to understand. When they refer to a "burner," or a "bus," it doesn't mean the same thing as you or I mean by this, well, unless it does.

I was listening to one when a guy poured chorine and I think ammonia together while cleaning a pool. Basically the hotel had to be evacuated and the police called for a bus, and I was all, "They mean an ambulance!" but then the busses started pulling up and people got on them to go to the hospital. I guess that's what you do when you have more people than ambulances.

Add in the regional dialects and the things specific to that police department and listening in at a time of massive crisis and I bet most first time listeners would be totally lost.

I didn't even bother.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:32 AM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, 'well-established, well-respected' users can sometimes forget that the site -- its membership and moderation -- changes over time, and that just because things were done one way back in the early days, doesn't mean they are still the best way to do things. A little humbleness and beginner's mind on the part of the old timers, to see the site with fresh eyes, might be helpful.
posted by nacho fries at 11:32 AM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It gets on your nerves, doesn't it? How would you respond, if a user used that phrase with you?

Are we clear?


As restless_nomad said, this was coming at the end of an email exchange that was not intended to be public and which was elided to not include a bunch of other back and forth that started out significantly more reasonable. I think moving forward we'd like to be more measured in our responses to upset users, even to users who are saying "fuck you" to us over email and in MetaTalk. Realistically, that is not what happened this time, and stating a desire to do things differently in the future is something I see as more along the lines of us wanting to be our best selves/mods and not "Oh yeah I can totally see how we should have done that whole thing a lot differently at the time" I'm aware that won't sit okay with everyone.

Yes we'd like to be able to handle stressful situations with even more grace than we do now. The intense moderator attention these threads and situations require (I was the other moderator who ericb MeMailed, I was not working at the time and wasn't able to get back to him until after this had all gone down (maybe a two hour window?), this is one of the reason we tell people to use the contact form and/or MetaTalk so messages don't get caught in these eddies) means that users who need to make a stand about particular issues may not reach us when we have the time to spare to attend to them. This is literally a once-or-twice-a-year sort of thing. And people who don't, won't or can't use the contact channels we have for whatever reason (contact form, MetaTalk) are going to have a more difficult time getting ahold of us and/or getting satisfaction for whatever they may need.

I'd be more than happy, personally, to discuss sharing information on MetaFilter at a time when it can maybe be divorced from this particular example so that we don't go over and over this one "Was this instance okay?" example. It's a rare situation when requests are made to "social media" outlets in terms of posting breaking news, and assessing how our own moderation policies interrelate to those sort of edicts would be a very worthwhile conversation to have.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:35 AM on April 21, 2013


Comment-by-comment moderation in breaking news threads is an interesting idea. So what if a thread either starts out as, or becomes, a "breaking news" thread, and it receives a bright and obvious tag. And up under the FPP itself is a set of comment criteria (I know that's not so easy to determine, but say we had it). And mods take turns sitting in and moderating just that thread, using a queue.
posted by Miko at 11:46 AM on April 21, 2013


"Time Out" is a punishment for a child, it implies their concerns are not valid.

I don't see how it implies that. The concerns may be perfectly valid, and mods may be perfectly willing to engage with you on them, but if you refuse to take it it meTa when you know that is where discussion of moderation goes, then temporarily preventing you from continuing to disrupt a non-meTa thread is not a refusal to acknowledge the concerns as valid. There were memails back and forth; there was explicit invitation to bring the discussion to meTa and apparent refusal to do so. This does not sound to me like being treated like a child. ericb was not given a timeout with no warning and no discussion.

Timeouts are also given as penalties in hockey.
posted by rtha at 11:47 AM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


even to users who are saying "fuck you" to us over email

Uffda.

It gives me the creeps to think that some of the people I'm interacting with on the site are doing this behind-the-scenes thuggery. I know the mods are adept at handling it, but still, it's disturbing. It makes me wonder who is playing all nicey-nice to the crowd, and then sticking the shank in offstage.

Yuck.
posted by nacho fries at 11:47 AM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Cortex, just out of curiousity, was the cited statement something you wrote?

Nope, I wasn't on shift or really around at all during that window of time. Though I'm also seeing a lot reading into the phrase "are we clear?" in here in a way that I find personally confusing. Sometimes you actually need to know if someone is clear on a straightforward either/or proposition, especially if so far you haven't been getting great signals from them on that front, which we hadn't been from ericb during that. At the tail end of an extended sequence of that kind of thing, asking if someone is clear about the boundaries you're trying to communicate to them seems pretty sensible.

So, "are we clear", I don't know if that's a very special fixed phrase that people have encountered from special kinds of jerks on a recurring basis elsewhere in the world or something to the point where's it's legitimately and profoundly and inherently charged for people and I've just somehow missed, but to me "are we clear" means "are we clear" and that's about all it means. I can imagine someone asking it in a jerky or unjustified way, but that goes for just about anything I can imagine someone asking or saying. Context seems to be just about everything there, and the context here was ericb insisting on doing something after we'd repeatedly asked him not to, seeming to insist on the right to go right back to doing it, and us really, really not getting a clear message from him that he was hearing what we were saying about letting it drop.

"Time Out" is a punishment for a child, it implies their concerns are not valid.

That it's a phrase that gets used in parenting does not mean that it's a phrase that can only be used by parents toward children. It's also used in sports, in a way that's maybe more apt for this. In any case, it's absolutely not meant in an infantilizing way in this context, it's a phrase we've used here for years and years, and it means "account temporarily disabled", nothing more. It exists mostly to note that it's different from actually for-reals banning someone from the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:50 AM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think a certain amount of the scanner sharing info on MeFi was intended merely as transcription in response to requests from folks who couldn't access the audio scanner feeds. Which doesn't make the repercussions of posting it any less problematic.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:52 AM on April 21, 2013


Yeah, FelliniBlank, I think that was very much part of the dynamic: not just people volunteering unprompted to toss scanner chatter into the thread but a sense of helping someone out in response to other folks basically in a "i have shit internet / no TV / am stuck in meetings" position really sort of asking in a thankful way for people to update with news in the thread. Definitely created some feedback effects there from what was basically well-meaning community-minded instincts, whatever the practical effect.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:56 AM on April 21, 2013


Sucks all around. We only have a handful of mods working 24 hours a day and thousands of users all flagging and commenting. Damn users, if it wasn't for them this place would be great.

"are we clear" typically means shut the fuck up and do what I say. You should say something like "do we have an understanding" or "are we in agreement" makes it sound like you are in it together trying to come up with a solution.

This is for ericb
posted by Ad hominem at 11:58 AM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, did ericb say "fuck you"? That's what you've implied, but as you say, it's not included in the emails we can see. It seems uncharacteristic for him, but maybe he has offered a self-serving and deceptive version of events. On the other hand, "fuck you" seems kind of like the thing one would say after someone asked you, "Are we clear?" As in: "Fuck you, don't talk to me like that."

I don't know if that's a very special fixed phrase that people have encountered from special kinds of jerks on a recurring basis

A Few Good Men has it.

to me "are we clear" means "are we clear" and that's about all it means.

Yes, A = A. But in this case, "are we clear?" looks like: "I have spoken, and your job now is to evince understanding. Questions should be of the 'how high?' genre of clarifying questions, so as to better obey my 'jump' command, not questioning the validity of my commands as such."

Does that interpretation really not resonate with you cortex?
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:01 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I agree that "are we clear" has an authoritarian tone.
posted by Miko at 12:01 PM on April 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


See, for me, "do we have an understanding" sounds pompous and "are we in agreement" is a weird thing to say to someone who has not been indicating any kind of agreement so far. But again it feels like it'd depend on context. I can totally appreciate that other people may have a default reading/context for some of this than I do.

Does that interpretation really not resonate with you cortex?

I can see it resonating if it was being bitten off at me by Nicholson, for sure. But it's not there inherently for me, no.

Yeah, did ericb say "fuck you"?

Yes, he did.

It seems uncharacteristic for him

It does, and it was weird. I appreciate that he was upset, but still.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:05 PM on April 21, 2013


"Are we clear" in this case was shorthand for "I have not yet heard you acknowledging in any way my request to not post this information and I need that before we can move forward." It was a frustrating conversation and I'm sorry that I was more brusque than I would have preferred.

I do want to reiterate that the email flow posted above was *not* the actual sequence of emails. There was another much more explanatory email in the middle, plus a concurrent MeMail conversation. This is a really good illustration of why we have a rule about not posting private correspondence - it's far too easy to cherrypick.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:09 PM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not cool that he said that; doubly not cool that he chose to omit that from the private exchange he chose to publicly air.

You write it, you own it, man. After-the-fact editing to spin-doctor one's online persona is weak.
posted by nacho fries at 12:09 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ok, then I'll bow out. I don't think it's a defusing thing to say, but I think it's okay to be peevish when people are being peevish with you. I mean, ideally we'd all have Buddha-like stoic serenity, but Friday was one of those days where Epictetus himself would have been tested.

The events will get a bit older and people won't be quite so raw. Hopefully ericb will be back and there will be a nice (private) reconciliation.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:10 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, "are we clear" sounds kind of authoritarian to me, too, but I think it's an appropriate phrase given the behavior described here. And I'm not even talking about whatever back channel issues were going on. To my mind, if you've posted the same deleted information four times, during a period when you know the mods are pressed, you're not engaging in good faith. I personally would rather the mods be allowed expressions of frustration at that kind of behavior. I may be an asshole, or, since I know I am sometimes an asshole, this may be one if those times, but I can't really see what's wrong with deploying that phrase at the end of a string of confrontational behavior.
posted by OmieWise at 12:14 PM on April 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


See, for me, "do we have an understanding" sounds pompous and "are we in agreement" is a weird thing to say to someone who has not been indicating any kind of agreement so far

Maybe you are right. All I know is that in a corporate setting saying "are we clear" is a good way to make someone resent you forever and spend the rest of their time at the company looking for a new job.

Whatever, I'll STFU because I don't know the whole story and this is between y'all.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:18 PM on April 21, 2013


"Time Out" is a punishment for a child, it implies their concerns are not valid.

That it's a phrase that gets used in parenting does not mean that it's a phrase that can only be used by parents toward children. It's also used in sports, in a way that's maybe more apt for this. In any case, it's absolutely not meant in an infantilizing way in this context, it's a phrase we've used here for years and years, and it means "account temporarily disabled", nothing more. It exists mostly to note that it's different from actually for-reals banning someone from the site.


The way it is used here is closest to the parenting context. An authority figure using their authority to silence someone for misbehavior so they can cool down and reconsider their actions. Outside of Metafilter, you don't give adults a time out like that. I am aware the phrase has a long history here, but that history includes things like helping to piss off an already pissed off ericb. If it means a temporary ban, call it that. Or take a page from SA and call it a probation which means much the same thing without the infantalizing baggage.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:24 PM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I did not at any point use the phrase "time out" to ericb, and we usually don't. We usually talk about it as "a night off" in direct conversation. (It's always a night, for whatever reason...) It's only really described as a "time out" when we're specifically distinguishing it from a ban.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:28 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fair enough, I have seen it in other cases. Please consider just using the phrase "temporary ban", it does all the distinguishing you need.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:32 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is far from the most sensitive moderation decision I've ever seen on Metafilter (although also far from the least sympathetic), but I really appreciate the willingness to be transparent about this stuff, particularly when you have to balance privacy concerns towards one user with transparency towards the userbase as a whole. Just thought I'd say that.
posted by KathrynT at 12:33 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just a day's worth of timeout? Posting of private info should be a life time ban.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 12:37 PM on April 21, 2013


I don't even see how this site can handle posts like that any more. Do you realize that Boston thread is six going on seven times the size of the 9/11 thread? And that was the smaller of the two threads this week? I'm surprised there was only one forum casualty from all that. You gotta do something different, guys, you'll explode.
posted by furiousthought at 12:38 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


i was just wondering if any of the mods had actually written to ericb recently.
something along the lines of this was all a giant misunderstanding which escaled totally because of the circumstances and tensions on both our sides. As a valued member of Metafilter we would like you to return and reactivate your account and maybe try and see in Meta if we can better our processes so that this won't happen again.
Every time the mods take a stance it has always taken a lot of banging on the wall to get things changed. Titles was the last big battle I remember. There may have been others since.
The questionable decisions are obviously not being helped by the fact that the mods are overworked in such threads as they are reading every comment. ( as has been stated upthread).
Why not turn flagging off in that thread beacause you are modding the thread in real time and flags are just a distraction. Then there are the emails to cope with so another posssibility is that you might coopt a few deputies from the more established and trusted membership and pin a staff tag on them for that thread only.
These fast moving news threads will happen again, the world being what it is and America being America and it would be good if team mod could hone their already good skills a bit more to ensure that maybe a shit storm like this is less likely to happen again both with bardic's original comment deletion and now the unprofessional finger wagging at ericb with it's subsequent timeout and selfban by red button. The user base is getting larger so I can't really see the problem getting any smaller even if it is only two or three times a year at present.
posted by adamvasco at 12:59 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


adamvasco, I think you're begging the question. I don't think there's any indication that the mods think there was any "questionable decision" here. Nor do I see why they should have to reach out to ericb.
posted by OmieWise at 1:06 PM on April 21, 2013


another posssibility is that you might coopt a few deputies from the more established and trusted membership and pin a staff tag on them for that thread only.

I can't think of a worse idea than asking anyone to help out with moderation for the first time in the most difficult moderation situation imaginable.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:06 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


The idea of Deputy Mods seems like an interesting one. Even if it's just on a level of filtering between "Obviously needs to go, racist/html error" and "Uncertain, forward up to an actual mod".

It seems like given that megathreads are going to get bigger and worse on the mod staff (much like hurricanes) as the user base expands, something to remove at least some of the cognitive load on them should be looked into.
posted by CrystalDave at 1:08 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


We could call it... ModFilter
posted by CrystalDave at 1:09 PM on April 21, 2013


Can you imagine how little respect the acts of deputy mods would get? It would be awful.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:13 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


something along the lines of this was all a giant misunderstanding

What was a misunderstanding?
posted by rtha at 1:20 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Personally, I think that this bit from Matt is pretty definitive:
The guy involved in the bombing didn't live there, it was just some random guy's house with a boat that happened to be a small part of the overall story. Throwing that full address up on a comment means it is going to be there forever thanks to google. I'm ok if the NYT wants to publish an address in a story and stand behind it, they have editors and lawyers on staff, but we don't generally let people post specifics that can lead to losses of privacy.
...with regard to the point in contention. And it's worth repeating that ericb was, well, doing something not right when he kept carping in the thread about how the MIT shooting really was connected and Matt's injunction against discussing it was proven wrong. It wasn't in response to the ongoing discussion, he just kept dropping it in, over, like, hours. It's not a big deal and I sympathized with him, but it was a bit petulant and while on its own it's no big thing, it does some provide context for what happened later.

I also feel a bit, I don't know, uncomfortable about ericb's post in this thread. It's about 180 degrees away from my sensibilities. (Not what he expresses, but that he is making his complaint public.) But the resulting discussion has been sort of an eye-opener for me, because as uncomfortable as it is, the resulting discussion has been good and it makes me think that these sorts of things really need to be talked about. Because...

...there's similar stuff, far more serious stuff, that happen that people don't know about.

With the extreme, a lifetime ban, when they stick, obviously the people involved can't raise the issue. True, there's the presumption that anything really big like that is something that the community knows about because it's the result of some big conflict in the thread. And that seems very much true, it's certainly my impression. Or that it's the invisible spammers which are unambiguous situations and we don't care about those anyway. But we have no way of knowing about the other cases, even if they happen almost never.

Does it matter? Well, it does matter because when we do have these discussions, a really big factor is our perceptions of how the site has been moderated and we evaluate conflicts and the mods' explanations with this in mind.

As uncomfortable as it is to read this exchange here, it provides insight. If I had been ericb (and in the wrong frame of mind in the wrong moment, I could have been ericb in this situation) I would never have spoken about it publicly. I'm sure I'm not alone in this inclination.

I don't intend to darkly imply that there's regularly secret moderation that is unjust, because I'm pretty sure that's not the case. I do think that there's certainly very occasional lapses in judgment, because that's only human. But to the degree to which we don't know about those is the degree to which we will inflate our confidence in the correctness of the moderation here.

So, I dunno. I think the bias toward transparency here is actually a very productive one. The transparency ends up being disturbing in that I am uncomfortable reading ericb's resentful comment and, while doing so, I was basically pre-emptively cringing from conflict that I was sure would follow. I'm pleasantly surprised that it didn't.

I guess what I'm getting at is that it's not just the sensibilities of people like me that push on not raising issues that otherwise no one would know about. I think there's some community pressure, too, in that the community has the same inclination as I do to automatically suspect people airing their complaints about moderation, to feel that they're whining or revealing themselves to be one of those people who can never accept that perhaps they were in the wrong, or whatever. That's basically my automatic judgment — which is sort of weird because I have a strong anti-authoritarian streak. Maybe it's because the moderation here really is, as far as we've seen, remarkably fair and so any individual complaint just seems like it's probably whining.

And yet, I think it's been a good thing that ericb posted his comment here.

All that said, this is like the worst week and weekend ever to hash this sort of thing out.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:27 PM on April 21, 2013


I have no problem with the homeowner's house being published as he was apparantly the guy telling the media all they wanted to know and more, being happy in his fifteen minutes of fame.
I am unhappy about the dictat that you shall not post this especially if ericb showed he was posting info readily in the public domain.
That ericb then shared part of a shitty email exchange on meta is fine by me. His correspondence is his; he can share it. Mods should realize that their correspondence is only private untill the corespondent wants transparency.
What did surprise me was that some users say fuck you to the mods by email or call them a bunch of cunts or similar and are still on the site. That should definitely result in $5 for a brand new day. User known as xyz is totally disrespectful and offensive then user xyz can be retired.

Ivan I believe it is never to soon to start to try and make the site a better place.
posted by adamvasco at 1:53 PM on April 21, 2013


It might be worth reminding folks that ericb was in Boston, and posted this Friday morning:

Damn ... this is exhausting. Had 3 hours of sleep and would like to get breakfast/lunch, but locked down and relegated to TV and MeFi. In good company, though, here.
posted by mediareport at 2:02 PM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


So, instead of "Are we clear?", would "Do you understand?" work? "Are you hearing what I'm saying?" "Please acknowledge that you understand my request / directive / statement"? Are any of these constructions better?
posted by exlotuseater at 2:21 PM on April 21, 2013


I don't understand how some people keep going back to "are we clear?" and "time out" while blithely ignoring everything said about how there was a very long back and forth of impulsive, disruptive behavior that led up to this being said. As if yeah, we should all grow thicker skins about whatever gets posted in the thread, but in terms of mod response to re-posting a deleted comment, over and over, while ignoring mod contact or MetaTalk, that's when we need to walk on eggshells.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:28 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I dunno, under the circumstances "Are we clear?" seems to be more along the lines of asking if we, the moderator team are articulating our intent well and if you, the person we are articulating it to, is clear on that intent, given the context of a multi message, multi person discussion.

The stress of the last week seems to have people (I'm certainly included in this) reading things ungenerously, in aggregate, and maybe it would be a nice idea of we stopped doing that and started being a little more generous, all the way around.
posted by iamabot at 2:43 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand how some people keep going back to "are we clear?" and "time out" while blithely ignoring everything said about how there was a very long back and forth of impulsive, disruptive behavior that led up to this being said.

Well, in my case I'm not commenting in depth on that because I don't dispute that it happened. Disagreeing with one aspect of how the moderators may handle something should not be read as disagreeing with every aspect of how they handled something. My feeling is that a temporary ban was entirely warranted here.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:53 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


How should Metafilter distinguish itself from other community driven sites when real time news is under discussion? Shouldn't the experience and community structure be different from other places. It seems like we should more towards using the chat for real time things and rumors like street addresses and scanner links. The comments should be for more in depth points and discussion.
posted by humanfont at 2:59 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, in my case I'm not commenting in depth on that because I don't dispute that it happened. Disagreeing with one aspect of how the moderators may handle something should not be read as disagreeing with every aspect of how they handled something. My feeling is that a temporary ban was entirely warranted here.

This is a great comment that should preface many of these kinds of discussions.
posted by OmieWise at 3:04 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Outside of Metafilter, you don't give adults a time out like that

Hockey's Top 10 Penalty Box Moments

"Do you understand?" is just as confrontational as "Are we clear," but sometimes it has to be established that the other person is in fact listening and engaged.

to automatically suspect people airing their complaints about moderation

That when users complain about moderation, they do so in deceptive and underhanded ways, relying on the moderators discretion to adhere to the site guidelines while revealing only part of the correspondence, feeds my distrust of MeTas like this one.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:42 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


How should Metafilter distinguish itself from other community driven sites when real time news is under discussion? Shouldn't the experience and community structure be different from other places. It seems like we should more towards using the chat for real time things and rumors like street addresses and scanner links. The comments should be for more in depth points and discussion.

I'm wary of any diversion to chat as a policy, if only because it's not as easy to get to as the rest of the site.
posted by Etrigan at 3:43 PM on April 21, 2013


Just on the point of "he might want to sell that house one day," I thought of this thread when I read this in the Times:
On Saturday morning, Sunny McDonough, 34, a hairstylist and accountant who lives in Watertown, brought her 3-year-old daughter to Dunkin’ Donuts for a treat after having been cooped up for so long.

Ms. McDonough said she expected the ordeal to bring more people to Watertown. “Now we’re on the map,” she said. “And I think our property values are going to go up by 10 percent. Everyone knows where we are now, and they might be more inclined to visit and go to the diner and the stores.

“We’re really a safe, suburban community,” she said — and then caught herself and smiled. “Except for the terrorist hiding in the boat.”
posted by Miko at 4:33 PM on April 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm wary of any diversion to chat as a policy, if only because it's not as easy to get to as the rest of the site.

So, this came up in the thread too. I did see people object to it, but I'm not sure I agree. Chat is chat, and a thread is a thread. I'm not sure people who are not in chat are really missing out on anything. Certainly that night, the activity of bridging chat and the thread (and the freaking scanner) only made all the muddle a lot worse. Some were only in the thread, some only in chat, some both, and [mis]information was flying in all directions.

Some folks seem to feel it's wrong to provide a chat channel as an option when not everyone can/wants to access it. I don't share that feeling. Maybe we really just should't have chat at all. I actually think it exacerbated the problems ad made the thread feel more like chat, because there was so much content crossing over into it from chat. It blurs the boundaries of MetaFilter, actually.
posted by Miko at 4:37 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe we really just should't have chat at all.

In many lesser-than-disaster situations, having the chat channel available has been very useful and we're not considering getting rid of it. We should probably make it more official and have some loose guidelines for how it's used. It's great for threads where some people want to bullshit about stuff (election results and sports are two notable examples, some disaster threads go this way, others don't) and other people want to discuss the topic of the thread. In "unfolding drama in real life" types of threads which are very few and far between, there is definitely more of a grey area. And chat is and will continue to be an unmoderated space unless there's some community-abuse-level stuff going on.

I think as mods we really would have preferred more of the "folks repeating verbatim stuff from scanner/tv/twitter" stuff to maybe be on chat and for the thread to be for more people talking to each other. However, it was clear that we weren't going to be able to maintain that from a moderation perspective in the thread without being more hardass than we felt that it was appropriate to be when everyone was already feeling pretty terrible and personally affected by what was happening.

And, again we return to the fact that we're mostly trying to facilitate the conversation the community seems to want to have and making best guesses when there's not a clear move in a singular direction.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:49 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it both unpleasant and unhelpful to read and think in chat, and find the chat room significantly less interesting/useful than even the most fast-moving threads.
posted by mediareport at 4:50 PM on April 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I agree with Miko. At least in a MeFi thread, there are accountability-encouraging elements such as the "permanent record," moderation, flagging, established community standards, MeTa access, etc. In unmoderated chat, people can (and did) say any damn thing with impunity and may be even more reckless since they think of it as "ephemeral," but the fact that words scroll off the screen doesn't mean they have no lasting impact.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:52 PM on April 21, 2013


My own feeling about chat (not speaking as a mod here, just musing as a user) is that when we have events like Sandy or similar, where people are going to be sitting at the keyboard and have a lot of restless energy to blow off, we end up with a lot of goofing around or comments that are just things like "holy shit" or whatever... all of which is kind of... just chatter. I totally understand the impulse to chatter in those circumstances and I share that impulse myself.

But I also sympathize with people who get frustrated with chattery comments, and that these mega-threads get so long that they're hard to load, and I think it's good to drain some of the really chattery chatter from main site if we can. I think chat has the potential to be a really useful outlet in those chattery circumstances, so that people can still gab but we can keep the main thread to a better signal-to-noise ratio.

(This is neither here nor there on the police-scanner or spreading-false-rumors issue. Just talking about one of the other benefits I see of chat.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:54 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a bummer all around. I like ericb and have always valued his contribution. It also sucks that a valued member ended up treating mods like this. The marathon was a stressful time for many - especially those living in the area or with strong ties there.

I mentioned above that I wasn't happy with how I behaved at all times and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Blame assignment post-traumatic experiences usually isn't the most helpful way to move forward - I'm sorry to lose a great member and I can't imagine how stressful this must have been for the mods.
posted by allen.spaulding at 4:58 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ad hominem: ""are we clear" typically means shut the fuck up and do what I say."

"Are we clear" typically means "I understand what you're saying. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
posted by Bugbread at 5:07 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Are we clear" typically means "Welcome to Scientology; please give me your credit card number."

I am FIRMLY AGAINST moderators serving as auditors.
posted by Etrigan at 5:30 PM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Outside of Metafilter, you don't give adults a time out like that

Hockey's Top 10 Penalty Box Moments yt


I'm not a huge hockey fan but I've never really heard serving a penalty called a time out all that often. There is already something else called a time out in that game. I am not disagreeing that some people need to temporarily be banned, just suggesting a way to approach it less likely to flare up the problems trying to be put down.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:32 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one here who sees this as being kind of a tone argument? MeFites are largely anti-authoritarian, and I'm seeing a lot of folks who are criticizing the mods largely for not taking the proper tone.
posted by Bugbread at 5:45 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, some people think this could have been approached in a better tone. In general maintaining the right tone for the audience is a necessary part of effective interpersonal communication. Everybody blows it sometimes.

Discussing tone has a bad reputation because it has been used in some contexts as a trolly derailing tactic, but there are valid ways to approach the topic outside those contexts.

I'm not a huge hockey fan but I've never really heard serving a penalty called a time out all that often.

(for instance, I didn't hear it said once in the video you linked. I think "put in the penalty box" would be a better phrase than "time out" if just calling it a temp ban isn't workable)
posted by Drinky Die at 5:57 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Discussing tone has a bad reputation because it has been used in some contexts as a trolly derailing tactic...

And was used in this context as a trolly derailing tactic, too. ericb knew that what he did was wrong but was determined to be angry about it, so he threw a tone argument.
posted by Etrigan at 6:04 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Drinky Die: "Discussing tone has a bad reputation because it has been used in some contexts as a trolly derailing tactic, but there are valid ways to approach the topic outside those contexts."

Yeah, and that's what I'm seeing here. "Okay, sure, fine, ericb did this, and did that, and did the third, but what's really important here is that you mods used the wrong tone. If you'd used the right tone, we might agree with your actions, but because of your tone, we don't."
posted by Bugbread at 6:08 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Howzabout we just don't do real-time events in MeFi? It's always a godawful mess. It's the worst of MeFi.

There were plenty of places to get real-time updates. For example, Reddit did a stellar job on its root-post updates (even though the comment threads were heinous).

This would leave MeFi for post-event summarization, resource collection, and informed discussion. Which is much more like the best of MeFi.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:13 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish: "Howzabout we just don't do real-time events in MeFi? It's always a godawful mess. It's the worst of MeFi."

I don't remember it all that well, but a lot of people have praised the 911 thread for being excellent.
posted by Bugbread at 6:25 PM on April 21, 2013


None of us knows what the first few memails the mods sent to ericb looked like, but I'm betting that the first couple mod memails to ericb were of the "Hey, could you please not with this link, thanks," variety. If the first couple memails were nice and reasonable, and ericb did not respond to them, then why assume he would've not buttoned if only no one had said "are we clear"?
posted by rtha at 6:28 PM on April 21, 2013


"Yeah, and that's what I'm seeing here. 'Okay, sure, fine, ericb did this, and did that, and did the third, but what's really important here is that you mods used the wrong tone. If you'd used the right tone, we might agree with your actions, but because of your tone, we don't.'"

Really? I saw some people defending ericb on the merits.

And I think the discussion was valuable because it made it clear what the rationale was — that the personal information thing isn't dependent upon it not being widely publicly released elsewhere — which ericb might have been unclear on but, more importantly, I think many of us were unclear on. It makes sense when I think about it; but, offhand, I would have thought just as ericb did — that the address was in the major media so it would be totally okay to post.

I sort of doubt that this standard is adhered to consistently, though. I wouldn't expect it to be. It just sort of seems uncool to put that person's address up because of the timing and the particular event where other things I can imagine probably wouldn't be treated the same way (for example, "here's a famous murder case where the scene of the crime was this house, such-and-such an address").

The comment here by ericb sort of rubs me the wrong way for various reasons, but despite that I feel like it's better that he posted it, than not. Perhaps not for him. But for the community.

Finally, the irony about invalidating a criticism of the mods' tone on the basis that it's a trivial, diversionary tactic, is that whenever a member feels badly done-by and posts to MeTa, they usually are angry and, though it's a mistake, have lots of problems with their tone. And yet, that's almost always what the whole community focuses most strongly upon, not the merits of their complaint. That's happening here, too; the tone of ericb's comment is getting in the way of me being able to fairly evaluate his complaint.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:46 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not a huge hockey fan but I've never really heard serving a penalty called a time out all that often.

You said "give," not "called."

Howzabout we just don't do real-time events in MeFi?
People insist on posting them, because apparently MetaFilter is a news site.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:48 PM on April 21, 2013


humanfont: I think it might be time to raise prices. Isn't part of the problem the size of the community and number of new entrants. Also maybe we need to have an online course on how to be a good mefi participant, you know some structured interaction and conflict resolution training.

Ouch. As a new entrant, I am part of some sort of problem? I plunked down my $5 very recently, true; however, I do not think that makes me any more likely to commit some sort of blunder.

Has the idea ever been tossed around to have some sort of obscuring placeholder programmed in, in which you would see a comment as "blocked" or "mod-flagged", but still be able to read the comment of your own volition? Assuming here it wouldn't cause the discussion itself to spiral out of control, and maybe instead cause people to PM about it if needed? I can totally understand why someone may feel silenced for what they thought was innocuous.


I have to say that I do not personally find what bardic wrote to be offensive. I do believe some moderation is necessary, but one of the reasons I recently joined was that I really like thoughtful discussion. I do not feel that what was posted was posted in a mocking or accusatory tone.

...but then, what do I know? I'm a bear. I suck the heads off of fish.
posted by nohaybanda at 6:55 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ivan Fyodorovich: "Really? I saw some people defending ericb on the merits."

Yeah, after I typed that, I realized I underspoke. I didn't mean to imply that everyone, or even the solid majority, are just focusing on tone. Some people are focused entirely on ericb's and the mods' actions. I just meant that I was/am getting the impression that there were many people making tone arguments.
posted by Bugbread at 7:00 PM on April 21, 2013


Yeah, and that's what I'm seeing here. "Okay, sure, fine, ericb did this, and did that, and did the third, but what's really important here is that you mods used the wrong tone. If you'd used the right tone, we might agree with your actions, but because of your tone, we don't."

Well, I have specifically pointed out that I agree his actions merited a temp ban and my lack of discussion on that doesn't mean it isn't important, just not in dispute. When discussing what is and is not trolly behavior you might want to consider the merits of calling people liars based on nothing.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:06 PM on April 21, 2013


I'm not a huge hockey fan but I've never really heard serving a penalty called a time out all that often.

You said "give," not "called."


If I have miscommunicated what I am trying to say here, allow me to clarify. Temp Bans are a good thing and a necessary moderator tool. My comments are aimed at making a suggestion on how presenting them differently may make them easier to swallow and improve their efficacy as a corrective method.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:11 PM on April 21, 2013


I don't remember it all that well, but a lot of people have praised the 911 thread for being excellent.

That was in a world without Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, widespread broadband access, or ubiquitous smartphones.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:24 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I may be remembering things wrong - that happens sometimes - but hasn't ericb done this before? I feel like one mod a while back wrote that he could have done things a little better, and he was really offended and took off for a while. Then came back.

Look, I think that mods sometimes make bad calls. I am often talking abut them in MeTa, even!

But opting on the side of "no disruptions" during a thread the size and emotional intensity of Boston is not a bad call.

Should their tone have been better? Maybe. But it's not like any of us were at our best. Everyone was freaking out over a terror attack in our (sometimes literal) backyard. I think the mods did the best they could under the circumstances, and we need to - we all need to - cut them some slack for a few days.
posted by corb at 7:25 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


That was in a world without Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, widespread broadband access, or ubiquitous smartphones.

I'm trying to imagine a quarter of a million people in 2001 all watching the same RealPlayer video stream of a police scanner while posting updates on their MySpace.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:29 PM on April 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


"But opting on the side of 'no disruptions' during a thread the size and emotional intensity of Boston is not a bad call."

Yeah. I think that re-posting something that has been deleted and when you've been told privately not to re-post it is ... egregious. He did a lot of things wrong, no question.

And I totally agree that these threads created extraordinary moderating burdens on the staff and that both we should keep that in mind and they actually did a pretty good job in very difficult circumstances.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:29 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die: "When discussing what is and is not trolly behavior you might want to consider the merits of calling people liars based on nothing."

I never mentioned trolly behavior, nor did I call anyone a liar. You're either misreading me or mixing me up with someone else.
posted by Bugbread at 7:32 PM on April 21, 2013


I think chat has the potential to be a really useful outlet in those chattery circumstances, so that people can still gab but we can keep the main thread to a better signal-to-noise ratio.

The problem right seems to be that no clear distinction is being made. If we have chat, do we need a main thread? Or can all conversation on that topic just go to chat? Since some people complain about being referred to chat, do we just not listen to them? If there's no real difference between main thread and chat, why have both? Especially when "chat" content is problematic in a million ways listed above (people don't consider it permanent, etc.)
posted by Miko at 7:33 PM on April 21, 2013


I'm surprised that anyone thinks a message saying "are we clear?" is an unreasonable response to a willful disregard of moderator direction and a "fuck you" from a user in response to that direction.

And I say this as a user who also thinks that (i) site moderation has been a little excessive in recent months, and (ii) ericb is a valuable member of the site who has earned himself the benefit of the doubt.
posted by brain_drain at 7:55 PM on April 21, 2013


I never mentioned trolly behavior, nor did I call anyone a liar. You're either misreading me or mixing me up with someone else.

My bad. When I pointed out it had been used as a trolly derailing tactic and you replied "Yeah, that is what I'm seeing here." I misinterpreted which portion of my comment you were referring to.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:57 PM on April 21, 2013


Ah, ok, that makes sense, and I should probably have phrased myself better.
posted by Bugbread at 7:58 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now that Amanda Palmer has written a Poem for Dzhokhar, she needs to write one for the metafilter mods:

You don't know how your week will be filled with pointless bickering on the internet.

You don't know how your dinner will get cold while looking at another of those goddamn flags in the queue.

You don't know how much more perfect an Amanda Palmer poem about terrorism could be for metafilter, unless somehow Cory Doctorow joined her in two-part harmony while declawing cats at an NRA fundraiser ...
posted by octobersurprise at 8:01 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


We're mindful that he feels this way about things. We can't always take that into special account while we're moderating, though we often do.

That is a far, far more generous attitude than I would ever be able to muster in anything like these circumstances.

"Time Out" is a punishment for a child, it implies their concerns are not valid.

No, "time out" is a last resort for dealing with obnoxious behavior. It is possible to have perfectly valid concerns and still avoid the kind of carry-on that makes imposition of time out the only reasonable response.

It is unreasonable to demand to be treated like a responsible adult while behaving like a petulant five-year-old.

I have expelled disruptive students from class, but never with the condescension that those words express.

Some behavior absolutely deserves condescension. Also, people who don't want to end up covered in piss need to learn not to piss into the wind.
posted by flabdablet at 12:44 AM on April 22, 2013


You can't really say "No, it isn't" to a suggestion that it is a punishment for a child and follow it up with calling people it is applied to petulant five year olds. Adults get angry and make bad choices sometimes, you've done it. It doesn't make you a child, it makes you someone acting in a passionate moment.

When someone is angry intentionally condescending to them will make them more angry, it's unnecessary and as much a sign of lack of control as getting angry is. It's something you do when you are angry too. If you do it on purpose, maybe you need to take a break yourself.

Moderators do not give out temporary bans because people deserve to be condescended to sometimes, I think they would tell you, they do it because sometimes people need to cool off and work with them.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:23 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I'm trying to imagine a quarter of a million people in 2001 all watching the same RealPlayer video stream of a police scanner while posting updates on their MySpace.

Especially since MySpace was founded in 2003.
posted by ardgedee at 5:47 AM on April 22, 2013


You can't really say "No, it isn't" to a suggestion that it is a punishment for a child and follow it up with calling people it is applied to petulant five year olds.

Didn't do that. My claim is that the person concerned was acting like a petulant five year old, and that the same kind of response is equally appropriate for both.

Adults get angry and make bad choices sometimes, you've done it. It doesn't make you a child, it makes you someone acting in a passionate moment.

Getting passionate has occasionally caused me to act like a child in the sense of displaying poor emotional self-regulation.

When someone is angry intentionally condescending to them will make them more angry

Sure. Which is sometimes exactly what needs to be done to get a person throwing a tantrum to pay any attention at all to anything other than whatever it was that set them off in the first place.

it's unnecessary

But occasionally fully deserved and completely appropriate.

and as much a sign of lack of control as getting angry is.

Not necessarily. If you believe, as I do, that people behaving badly absolutely ought to feel awful about it afterwards, then the delivery of a goodly dollop of truly enraging condescension is most effectively done completely deliberately while remaining totally in control.

It's something you do when you are angry too.

No, it's something I might occasionally resort to after all attempts to go the polite and compassionate road have completely failed to achieve the desired result.

If you do it on purpose, maybe you need to take a break yourself.

If I put anything in writing when I'm cranky, it's generally true that I do need to take a break before hitting Post or Send. That's certainly the lesson I've taken away from the many appropriately condescending responses to my own regrettable outbursts here.

Moderators do not give out temporary bans because people deserve to be condescended to sometimes, I think they would tell you, they do it because sometimes people need to cool off and work with them.

And having tried repeatedly to communicate that position to a person who fails repeatedly to show any sign at all of being willing to consider it, then in my view the delivery of a swift verbal kick to the dignity is a perfectly valid next step.

Which is not, by the way, what I believe restless_nomad actually did. "Are we clear?" strikes me as nowhere near condescending enough. I would have gone for "You've been acting out like a bratty little kid whose mummy wouldn't buy him sweeties in the checkout queue. Knock it off or take a time out."
posted by flabdablet at 7:18 AM on April 22, 2013


You can't really say "No, it isn't" to a suggestion that it is a punishment for a child and follow it up with calling people it is applied to petulant five year olds.

Didn't do that. My claim is that the person concerned was acting like a petulant five year old, and that the same kind of response is equally appropriate for both.

It feels like you are just quibbling and playing semantics there. It's very clear you think these people should be spoken to like children, you aren't at all hiding that. That is the crux of my disagreement regardless of how you try and phrase it.

Getting passionate has occasionally caused me to act like a child in the sense of displaying poor emotional self-regulation.

No, it has gotten you to act like every adult in the history of the species has occasionally acted. That does not mean your concerns should be dismissed. People have freakouts for good reasons and for bad ones. Treating them like a child implies their concerns are not valid as much as it condemns their behavior regarding those concerns. You should approach handling these disputes with both perspectives in mind.

When someone is angry intentionally condescending to them will make them more angry

Sure. Which is sometimes exactly what needs to be done to get a person throwing a tantrum to pay any attention at all to anything other than whatever it was that set them off in the first place.


I'm really not getting how you make the leap from making people more angry by insulting them to focusing their attention in the right places. My experience is that condescendingly insulting someone to make them more angry has the opposite result. ericb's perception of condescension certainly did not yield him or the community positive results.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:47 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would just like to say publicly, since I was a little hard on the mods up there somewhere, that I have lost most of my sympathy for ericb since learning he hauled out the ol' "fuck you," and I now think they handled the situation appropriately. Sorry about the grar; it's been a hard week.
posted by languagehat at 8:01 AM on April 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


Yeah, I'm with languagehat. I've been trying to think of any conceivable circumstance from the mods where a "fuck you" would be warranted, and just...coming up with nothing. I cannot imagine something awful enough to get that response. Not cool, period.
posted by corb at 8:11 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


languagehat: "I would just like to say publicly, since I was a little hard on the mods up there somewhere, that I have lost most of my sympathy for ericb since learning he hauled out the ol' "fuck you," and I now think they handled the situation appropriately"

That's great (for me) to hear. I often use languagehat and Ivan Fyodorovich as my calibrating barometers in MeTas: if I find myself in disagreement with them, I suspect that either I, or they, are missing something, and since I don't know whether it's me or them, it makes me uneasy. Being back in agreement puts me at ease.
posted by Bugbread at 8:17 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would just like to say publicly, since I was a little hard on the mods up there somewhere, that I have lost most of my sympathy for ericb since learning he hauled out the ol' "fuck you," and I now think they handled the situation appropriately. Sorry about the grar; it's been a hard week.

Agreed; the 'Are we clear?' rankled me too, but considering the circumstances, it was a pretty understandable and reasonable response.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:39 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's very clear you think these people should be spoken to like children, you aren't at all hiding that.

A tanty is a tanty regardless of whether the person throwing it is five or fifty. I don't think somebody throwing a tantrum should be spoken to "like a child"; I think somebody throwing a tantrum should be dealt with and spoken to like somebody throwing a tantrum, and that the appropriate forms apply regardless of age.

In other words, the point is not to treat the adult as if he were a child, but to treat any out-of-control person in a way that clearly demonstrates that (a) throwing tantrums is inappropriate and not to be tolerated in adult company and (b) if you do bung one on you will be encouraged to feel completely wretched, maximizing your disincentive to do it again.

Perhaps you and I should simply agree to disagree on whether the difference between what you're suggesting I believe and what I know I actually do believe is a difference that makes a difference.

I'm really not getting how you make the leap from making people more angry by insulting them to focusing their attention in the right places.

A person in the grip of a temper tantrum will typically be focused almost entirely on their own frustrated desires. To have somebody in a position of power display complete disdain for the tantrum makes that frustration much, much worse and adds a bit of shame for spice. The conscious lesson is that the particular person in power is an arrogant prick; the unconscious lesson is that having a tantrum (a) achieves nothing useful and (b) feels really, really terrible.

My own internal experience from being on the receiving end of this is that the tantrum-avoidance incentive prompted by the unconscious lesson persists for much longer than any resentment due to the conscious one.

I think there's a valid distinction between respect due to the person, which generally ought to be given by default, and the respect due to obnoxious behaviour which generally ought to be none at all. All of us, from time to time, display behaviour completely unworthy of respect. We all need to be mercilessly mocked for that, lest we get into the habit of taking ourselves way too seriously.

Being back in agreement puts me at ease

Fucking Metafilter groupthink echo chamber bullshit. Wake up sheeple google Ron Paul I'm out.
posted by flabdablet at 9:13 AM on April 22, 2013


It's approrpriate in my view that ericb chose to insert his own situation into this MeTa since it has so many parallels with bardic's.

I thought in both situations bardic and ericb started out with very reasonable positions. I thought bardic's link to the LGM blog was appropriate and should have stayed, and I also thought that ericb's posting of the street address of the standoff was appropriate and should have stayed.

But, the mods' positions in both situations were reasonable, too, and while I think there is plenty of room for disagreement on the first layer of these situations--whether bardic's and ericb's comments should have been deleted--I'm stunned that there's much to discuss about what happened afterwards. When we find ourselves disagreeing with moderation decisions, there's a process for that--but bardic and ericb seemingly did not want to avail themselves of the process, deciding that they needed to post those things RIGHT NOW even though the mods had asked them not to.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:14 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have lost most of my sympathy for ericb since learning he hauled out the ol' "fuck you,"

FWIW, while the insistence on not publishing an address that was clearly already public information, seems like over-caution simply for the sake of over-caution, it's pointless to get too invested in such a spat. At some point before the fuck yous start flying, you just need to sigh, say "SOMEBODY IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET!!," and go do something else for a change.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:35 AM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't think somebody throwing a tantrum should be spoken to "like a child"

You think they should be spoken to like this: "You've been acting out like a bratty little kid whose mummy wouldn't buy him sweeties in the checkout queue."

A tanty is a tanty regardless of whether the person throwing it is five or fifty.

Let's say it's a wife who is upset her husband is cheating on her. Having a screaming angry fit about it in certain contexts will be entirely inappropriate. However, it's a legitimate complaint. Now, in order to address this situation you call her a bratty little child upset she didn't get candy. Hey, a tanty is a tanty, ya know?

No, there are many different reasons adults may become emotional, some legitimate and some not so legitimate. You have to diffuse the situation while still maintaining respect for your peers instead of resorting to schoolyard name calling tactics. Seriously, all that talk of shaming people for being emotional just sounds like a bullying tactic to me. That isn't the way to wield authority.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:39 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not that you two can't game this out between you for the sake of discussing conflict resolution methods or whatever, but it's maybe worth noting that there's no moderation momentum behind the "people should be shamed for tantrums" thing in the first place so you're kind of having a lengthy public argument about a what-if here. Maybe take it to email if you want to keep having it out?
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:46 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Are we clear" typically means "I understand what you're saying. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

You ever watch a cop show where the superior tells them to drop the case because the brass is putting pressure on them? It always goes like this "You need to drop the case. Are were clear?" "But sarge, people are dying out there"."I said are we clear?"

This is well beyond the original discussion but my boss once said that to one of my contractors and it took me two days to calm the guy down.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:46 AM on April 22, 2013


(Yeah, to be clear I definitely don't think moderators try to shame people intentionally. Will drop it there.)
posted by Drinky Die at 9:50 AM on April 22, 2013


At some point before the fuck yous start flying, you just need to sigh, say "SOMEBODY IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET!!," and go do something else for a change.

That sounds like a sensible strategy for just about everything online. As well as the huge chunk of your life you'll free up to do ... whatever else you want to ... there's avoiding the long term, serious, and difficult to reverse, effects on your health e.g. high blood pressure, from epic online arguing. Pyrrhic victory is pyrrhic.

And as one of the seniors I introduced to social media said a few years back, "Just because there's a box on the screen doesn't mean you have to type something into it." He had a point...
posted by Wordshore at 9:58 AM on April 22, 2013


A tanty is a tanty regardless of whether the person throwing it is five or fifty.
Is "tanty" a widespread thing? Or a flabdablet thing?
posted by atomicstone at 10:01 AM on April 22, 2013


I thought bardic's link to the LGM blog was appropriate and should have stayed

People keep saying that, but it was a piece of shit link. There are actual substantive links being thrown up on the environmental and regulatory issues involved in the West explosion in the thread now. I'd much rather see links about the problems with the EPA not having inspected the facility since 1985 than some axe-grindy flamebait wankery with no evidence for the assertions it made.
posted by immlass at 10:22 AM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is "tanty" a widespread thing? Or a flabdablet thing?

I have the same question.
posted by OmieWise at 10:52 AM on April 22, 2013


Is "tanty" a widespread thing? Or a flabdablet thing?

I've heard it before, but I wouldn't call it a widespread thing.
posted by Etrigan at 10:55 AM on April 22, 2013


It's an Australian thing.
posted by h00py at 11:13 AM on April 22, 2013


You ever watch a cop show where the superior tells them to drop the case because the brass is putting pressure on them? It always goes like this "You need to drop the case. Are were clear?" "But sarge, people are dying out there"."I said are we clear?"

Yeah, but that's on cop shows, it is not necessarily a universal constant for real life. Your average cops don't all look like Chris Meloni either.

And in the interest of introducing a more lighthearted topic of conversation, I have a question: can anyone tell me why in the hell scrump's comment about octopus has gotten the Fruity Oaty Bars ad stuck in my head?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:29 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, ericb contacted me and showed me the email chain. It turns out that, as I had originally thought, ericb responded to restless_nomad's "Are we clear?" with "Fuck you -- asshole."

I've gotten permission from cortex to post this here, and he confirms that basic narrative.

I'm not sure this matters to everyone in the thread, but it had looked like cortex and restless_nomad were saying that he was being fighty and so r_n responded in kind. He wasn't: he was not complying, but he was doing it respectfully while explaining that the deletion was based on a misunderstanding. (Which we now know that it was.) ericb broke out the salty language in response to restless_nomad's authoritarian tone, not the deletions themselves.

Not a big deal, unless you're one of the participants, and I keep coming back to the fact that he's a great member, and that he is in Boston and was locked down with nothing but wall-to-wall media coverage and us. We were supposed to offer solace, and we let him down or it just didn't work right or something. I don't know if that matters to folks, but it matters to me and I know it matters to the mods, too.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:36 AM on April 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, fuck.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:38 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, ericb contacted me and showed me the email chain.

You're apparently not the only one. I know of a couple other mefites he's sent it to.
posted by rtha at 11:40 AM on April 22, 2013


Out of curiosity, was he also sending the memail chain?
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:45 AM on April 22, 2013


He didn't have it, since he's not a member right now. Cortex confirmed on gchat that the salty language was just in that last message.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:47 AM on April 22, 2013


"Are we clear?" much like "Fixed that for you" and "Use your words" is obviously problematic for many people.
Might I suggest the more playful "Capisce?" as a less condescending way of getting your Mod point across?
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:47 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Might I suggest the more playful "Capisce?" as a less condescending way of getting your Mod point across?

This is actually already a resolved issue, in communication. Use "I" statements and focus on feelings, and ask to be mirrored.

So you don't say, "Are we clear?" You say: "I feel like I'm not getting through to you. Could you please let me know that you're hearing what I'm saying?"

It's long form, but it takes the sting out of it. Make a key-macro for it: Shift-Ctrl-A-W-C, maybe.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:51 AM on April 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


but it had looked like cortex and restless_nomad were saying that he was being fighty and so r_n responded in kind.

To be clear, it was in no way my intent to convey that. I thought it was out of character and pretty out of line that he ended up going the "Fuck you, asshole" route on the tail end of that email exchange, but I was confirming that it happened when you asked us to clarify. If he had opened with something like that I think we would have sent him a short "seriously, cool off and talk to us tomorrow" note and left it at that instead of trying to have a conversation with him about it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:57 AM on April 22, 2013


this is the problem with over-analyzing every word (an honored mefi pastime, i'm aware) - to me "Capisce" is in no way more playful. it is several steps further down condescending line.

i think everyone can agree that were the mods given some sort of tool that froze time there are other ways this could have gone down, other words chosen, etc. but, at the same time, ericb had full agency to take other steps. the mods were desperately trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities during an incredibly trying time. ericb was probably very fraught and stressed. no one was able to come to that exchange with their best selves. while different actions by the mods might have brought him back from the edge, he ended up making this a much bigger deal than it was.
posted by nadawi at 12:00 PM on April 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


He wasn't: he was not complying, but he was doing it respectfully while explaining that the deletion was based on a misunderstanding.

I'm not entirely sure we're disagreeing here, though maybe I have the sequence of events wrong. Being non-compliant when we're first asking and then telling you to stop doing a thing that we need you to stop doing is actually problematic in and of itself. Emailing us a long list of "Here it is why it is okay that I am doing the things that I am doing that you are telling me to stop doing, check these links" when we're reading a comment nearly every second in a single thread is a thing we can't, in extreme circumstances, take time to do. Posting stuff to a hotbutton MeFi thread that needs to be in MeTa (and that you are aware needs to be in MeTa) is garden-variety delete time. We expect users to be understanding about this sort of thing on the rare times that it happens that we're too busy to be more personable. For the most part, they are.

Might I suggest the more playful "Capisce?"

Playful is the wrong tone with angry users. Making sure you're being understood from a mod perspective--when we get misunderstood a lot and every nuance of our public and private conversations can be held up to scrutiny and people nitpick our individual words to death--is very important. Again, if we had had more time, fewer other fires to put out and if things had been different, they would have been different. We are now crystal clear that some people find "Are we clear?" problematic. It's what r_n said at the time and it's not so out of bounds that we're feeling like "Gee she shouldn't have said that" At the same time, it obviously affected ericb in a strong way and we're sorry for that. However this "I'm going to send this email exchange around to random people" thing that is happening is really getting far afield and not cool.

ericb got the night off. He was offered, given the nature of the situation, to get the night not-off in exchange for an "I need to know you've heard me about what the problem was" agreement. He decided to close his account instead of contacting any of the the other mods (except me who didn't see the MeMail until later - we have a large warning on our MeMail pages for specifically that reason) or coming to MetaTalk with his concerns. Those are choices he's welcome to make, but they are a set of choices. If, for some reason, he doesn't want to contact us directly, there's a limit to what we can do.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:01 PM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Might I suggest the more playful "Capisce?" as a less condescending way of getting your Mod point across?

Absolutely not. "Are we clear?" is mildly annoying. "Capsice?" is just fuck right off. This isn't a mob movie.
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:02 PM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is a suggestion I've made privately, but I think it is an idea whose time has come:

Metafilter should have a no-comments mode.

Comments hurt understanding, spread misinformation, and create situations in which users leave. Clearly, comments are the problem.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:07 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


You say: "I feel like I'm not getting through to you. Could you please let me know that you're hearing what I'm saying?"

This is a closer sketch of our typical framing of this stuff as it already, really. After three or four emails back and forth some of the please and feel is more likely to drain out just for a diminishing of patience and time, but for all that we tend to go in the "this is what I need from you, can I hear from you that you are hearing that?" route in general. As much as I don't read nearly so much into "are we clear" as other folks apparently do, it's not even the model of our mod communications to begin with.

Might I suggest the more playful "Capisce?"

Like Jess said, playful is rarely helpful when someone's steamed, and I would in any case think that that of all things would read much more unambiguously as I'm A Tough Guy, Listen Up. Like, we're mobsters now? Take the cannoli? I don't know.

The go-long-form thing is our general approach where possible/practical specifically because it tends to be least likely to trip things up. And "Are we clear" was at the tail end of a lot of words on a day that we didn't really have time to spend that much time on it with one user but tried to do so anyway.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:10 PM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not a big deal, unless you're one of the participants, and I keep coming back to the fact that he's a great member, and that he is in Boston and was locked down with nothing but wall-to-wall media coverage and us. We were supposed to offer solace, and we let him down or it just didn't work right or something.

As a brief resident of Cambridge, I truly sympathize with how ericb as a native Bostonian must have been feeling during this week, even though my ties to the city are nominal at most. I hope that once Boston returns to normal, he will reconsider his membership here.

Since MeFi is a "community blog", and not any one member's, much less a newspaper, however, it's unfair for Matt & Co. to have to assume the risk of an individual post's content when it comes to publishing private information (to say nothing of defamation or similarly actionable content). Having had to deal with libel reads for magazine articles and books leaves me with considerable sympathy for the mod team's task when it comes to fast-moving hot-button newsfilter.

Metafilter should have a no-comments mode.

MeFites always have the option of walking away from a burning thread if it gets too hot for them while the mods have to stay at their keyboards. The membership requirement here is a one-time $5 fee, not a regular word count.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:19 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry it took such a lousy turn. I also saw the chain and it was reasonable and fairly respectful right up until the end. I really don't want to comment about the user/mod interaction end of things, I just wanted to stand up for the general right to cite things that have been published here. I hope that ericb and the mods can see a way toward resolving the problems they each experienced with that interchange.

Did anybody want to talk about the issue of sheer volume and how that played in (not having time to check links, etc) and how we can reduce volume next time?
posted by Miko at 1:31 PM on April 22, 2013


Did anybody want to talk about the issue of sheer volume and how that played in (not having time to check links, etc) and how we can reduce volume next time?

I don't know about the bulk of the users, but in modland we are very much in "this time" still. I think saving this til we don't have a still-fairly-active nearly-4000 comment thread and everyone isn't exhausted and sad might be a better plan. Clean slate and all that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:36 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


the man of twists and turns: "This is a suggestion I've made privately, but I think it is an idea whose time has come:

Metafilter should have a no-comments mode.
"

There is a no comments mode. Just read via RSS and only click on the links and not the main post. Voila!
posted by Karmakaze at 1:41 PM on April 22, 2013


Miko: Did anybody want to talk about the issue of sheer volume and how that played in (not having time to check links, etc) and how we can reduce volume next time?"

Well, I'd kinda like to address this. 4000+ comments is a metric shit-ton of comments. Understandably, with the way the site and the flagging mechanisms work now, the mods are exhausted from dealing with that thread.

A couple of suggestions have been made in other Metatalk threads about paginating longboat threads for the mobile site, since they end up overwhelming peoples' phones.

I favor doing something like this site-wide. I think 1000 comments per thread "page" seems optimum; even the oldest, slowest devices don't seem to have problems until the threads crawl up close to the 2000 mark, so most of us should be able to handle 1K comments with no problem. Many of us have the unofficial comment-counting GreaseMonkey script; if there were some way to automatically alert the mods to start a new page, or even automatically generate a new page link so that we could click on it to start in with comment #1001 in a second page also topped by the original post content, I would strongly be in favor of that!

I think that practice would help cut down on the mod workload, because people are less likely to keep flagging comments early in the first "page" once the second one comes up, and my understanding is that the mods have to keeping checking each flag before the flag pool can be cleared out.

I also think it might help curtail another site issue. With these long threads, lots of times someone will come in to ask questions or repeat points already made many times over in the thread. People say they just can't read a long, unwieldy thread before commenting (a personal bugbear of mine, because you don't HAVE to comment, after all).

I think this policy would would also help to counter that tendency, because if you are the type to just scroll down to the bottom to make your comment, (hopefully) you would see that second page link at the bottom of the initial thread and either click it, or decide you didn't want to go to the trouble. If you click it, you might go ahead and read that shorter second page because it is not so very onerous, which strikes me as a good thing, before you make that comment.

But even if you don't read that second page, you've just gone to a little extra trouble before commenting by clicking that link, which is not such a bad thing either.

And if you can't even be bothered to click that link, you won't be able to just toss out a throwaway comment once the first page has reached its comment limit. Which is all to the good.

So, that's my first suggestion.

My second suggestion is to sincerely ask if maybe the flag system should be re-assessed, made more specific maybe with the number of choices for flags being winnowed down and the reasons more narrowly defined, or, conversely, opened up to more explanation from users as to why they are flagging given content?

I'm thinking the system as it is now may not accurately take into account and provide for the greater number of users coming to the site, the greater number of mods dealing with the flags, and the higher likelihood of 500+ comment threads showing up on the site these days than back in those $5 noob days. It may even get in the way of the discussion and make unnecessary work for the mods. And the point could be made that a small percentage of members can too easily skew the moderation of the site to the point where it does not accurately reflect the preferences of the majority.

But if that's too much of a side issue to be covered in this thread, I can put together a Metatalk of my own to add to the queue for when we're ready to talk about that instead.
posted by misha at 3:04 PM on April 22, 2013


but it had looked like cortex and restless_nomad were saying that he was being fighty and so r_n responded in kind. He wasn't: he was not complying, but he was doing it respectfully while explaining that the deletion was based on a misunderstanding. (Which we now know that it was.)

Now wait a second here. Posting the same thing multiple times after it's been deleted isn't being respectful. It's a great big heap of "you're not the boss of me." In this case, he was saying it to a person that is in fact the boss of what he is and isn't allowed to post on Metafilter. He might have been polite, but Bartleby wasn't a model employee. I don't know what the e-mail exchange entailed, but I think it's clear that what caused ericb being given the night off was his behavior in the thread, not what what he said via e-mail, and you know what, I think that people who continue to post something after being asked not to SHOULD be given the night off.

Further more, the deletion wasn't based on a misunderstanding. It was based on a long standing policy of "No private addresses on Metafilter." Ericb was in fact, posting an address. You may think there should've been an exception in this case, but that doesn't mean there was any sort of misunderstanding.

ericb broke out the salty language in response to restless_nomad's authoritarian tone, not the deletions themselves.


Well, r_n is in fact in a position of authority, and was exercising it to enforce a long established rule. It's not like this whole thing was based on some whim of hers that couldn't be predicted.

It was a tense situation and I hope that ericb returns, but you know, having a really really really bad day doesn't mean you're exempt from the rules.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:17 PM on April 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


flabdablet: "Fucking Metafilter groupthink echo chamber bullshit. Wake up sheeple google Ron Paul I'm out."

Seriously? I'm not talking about being agreement with everyone, or even the majority, or even a strong minority. I mean that, after being a MeFi reader for over a decade, I've noticed that there are two people who I have happened to agree with on moderation issues just around 100%, and so when there's disagreement, it sticks out mightily, and I think that either I or they are missing something. Since I would rather be right than wrong, this translates into worrying that I am missing something. The odds of all three of us missing the exact same thing are really low, so when we're all in agreement, I worry less that I'm missing something.

Yeah, yeah, I know, Wikipedia sucks, but Wikipedia defines Groupthink as "a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome." I never change my opinion to match theirs, nor they mine, so, ipso facto hippity dippity, not groupthink.
posted by Bugbread at 4:22 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm flattered to be one of those two, Bugbread. But I think the utility of that metric is limited. You're right that it's very useful specifically for identifying ignorance — that is, a difference of opinion that results from one or two of the three of us having much less information than the others. So it's a good nudge for "wait, maybe I've missed something".

Otherwise, though, it's no surprise that a) there's a few people who closely share your sensibilities about these things and that b) we'll agree.

I always find such situations — either tightly as in your example of the three of us and moderation, or loosely, as with the majority of this community in general — to be both comforting and worrying. Like-minded agreement can be useful in exactly the sense you describe — a reality check on the possibility of being ignorant of something everyone else knows, or that one is having a bad day and that's affecting judgment, or similar. And when there's agreement, one is comforted that these things aren't the case.

On the other hand, I always worry that this agreement means I'm not challenging myself as much as I should. I like consensus, but too much of it makes me itchy.

I have a kind of a hair-trigger in their somewhere that I really can't pin down — but I'm totally down with agreement and consensus until suddenly I'm not and I begin to feel like the consensus is suppressing dissent and heading toward self-delusion. I don't know when that line is crossed, but it often happens right around the time that dissenters are being attacked and ridiculed. Right now, flapdablet is an outlier in his "hooray for mockery!" stance, but it's making me uncomfortable and when a consensus begins to move in that sort of direction, is pretty much about when I start to dislike the consensus.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:42 PM on April 22, 2013


> Seriously?

I took it as a joke; isn't the second sentence kind of a giveaway?

> I like consensus, but too much of it makes me itchy.

Man, I completely agree with you!
posted by languagehat at 5:31 PM on April 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think that ericb looks pretty bad in this. I'm sympathetic that he had very little sleep and was under incredible stress. The mods did him a favor in asking him to step away. I hope with a little sleep and distance from this he will come back to us a little wiser.
posted by humanfont at 5:41 PM on April 22, 2013


languagehat: "I took it as a joke; isn't the second sentence kind of a giveaway?"

I took it as the fairly common MeFi thing of expressing your opinion, but making it self-deprecating by adding a joking caricature of your position at the end, like when an older MeFite says they don't like some new hobby/music/whatever (and they honestly don't like it), and then end their comment with something like "grumble grumble get off my lawn". But if it was pure straight-up humor by flabdablet, and he wasn't really accusing me of groupthink, then I apologize for getting het up.
posted by Bugbread at 5:49 PM on April 22, 2013


I hesitate to express an opinion on this matter at this precise point.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:59 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think saying 'are we clear?' is problematic. Like with a lot of MeTa attempts to suggest a word or phrase is inappropriate, most of the negative implications come from readers bringing their own baggage to a meaning. Stripped of thinking of cop movies or bullish bosses, 'are we clear?' is terse and to the point, and the idea that it's worthy of a 'fuck you asshole' response is ludicrous. This isn't a Rage Against the Machine song.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:52 PM on April 22, 2013


I posted upthread about some ways that flagging could be tweaked, and I've thought a little more about it.

I think there needs to be a delay of sorts on comments in fast moving threads, and an emphasis on flags for users to see and use in that case - possibly a header for the thread that states it's a thread that's in "review" mode. The function would be turned on by mods on a thread-by-thread basis. And it's something like "if a comment gets x number of flags in x period", dump the comment into a queue and hide it from the thread, with a "comment held for review" placeholder.
This could also apply to a user - if a user is repeatedly reposting within the thread, or indulging in other non-approved ways - that user's comments are also dumped to the queue, with some kind of reminder to them that their comments are not going to be immediately seen. How the comments are resolved/reviewed/dealt with is an internal matter for the mods to determine.

And I also think there needs to be a way for mods to not have to read every comment in a fast moving thread. That's not how you curate fast moving content.

Again, just thoughts, and hopefully worth consideration for the mods after things settle a a bit.
posted by disclaimer at 7:02 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


What about a limit per user on comments - like, you can only make one comment every 10 minutes.

Comments might get longer, but they wouldn't pile up and avalanche the way they do now.
posted by Miko at 7:03 PM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


gadge emeritus: "I don't think saying 'are we clear?' is problematic. Like with a lot of MeTa attempts to suggest a word or phrase is inappropriate, most of the negative implications come from readers bringing their own baggage to a meaning."

I think the problem is that the mods have to find an expression that communicates the following: "I have made repeated attempts to communicate my position, and what I wrote above was yet another attempt to communicate it. Do you understand what we're trying to communicate?" Now, there are a lot of ways to say that, but, probably, for any particular phrasing, there is at least one MeFite, and probably more, who have heard it used by an asshole teacher/boss/parent/administrator/etc. in the past, and who will therefore find it condescending/heavy-handed.
posted by Bugbread at 7:06 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Comments might get longer, but they wouldn't pile up and avalanche the way they do now.

Exhibit #1: UMass Dartmouth: Ivy or Not?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:23 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hear you Miko, and a per-user limit is certainly a consideration. In my thinking, I looked at the Boston thread a bit and it doesn't appear to me that the "firehose" of comments is a bad thing. It's sometimes necessary to have that firehose.
The question is - are repeat commenters who are commenting under the ten minute threshold hurting the thread, or helping it? Some commenters in the Boston thread were posting every few minutes with valuable data. Many were not posting so frequently. So, finding that threshold is something that should be discussed.

Where it seems to fall down is that there is an apparent need to review/assess every comment. And that the prevalent way that this is currently handled is causing mods to "white knuckle" - overmoderate - the thread, rather than concentrating on problems in the thread.

It seems to me that in a "review mode" thread, you'd only have two flags, Good, and Bad. If a certain number of flags - determined in software - is thrown for "bad", then it adds to a count that puts the comment (or commenter) into a queued mode.

I don't think this "review mode" should be applied site-wide. It should be a specific thing put in place by the mods for specific threads only, and only used in specific circumstances.

And I think this is a programming fix. The issue here is to provide the mods some kind of breathing room, and the ability to ease the pressure, without adding any burden to the mods to handle.

I think this is a discussion for a later day and probably for another thread, when things have eased and there's time for people to think about ways to help the mods when they're under the gun, when they're not, uh, under the gun.
posted by disclaimer at 7:23 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the problem is that the mods have to find an expression that communicates the following: "I have made repeated attempts to communicate my position, and what I wrote above was yet another attempt to communicate it. Do you understand what we're trying to communicate?" Now, there are a lot of ways to say that, but, probably, for any particular phrasing, there is at least one MeFite, and probably more, who have heard it used by an asshole teacher/boss/parent/administrator/etc. in the past, and who will therefore find it condescending/heavy-handed.

Yup, and those people I think need to, respectfully, get over themselves so as to not read into the phrase more than was intended. Give the benefit of the doubt that just because it brings up connotations in your own head, doesn't mean that those connotations were intended.

I know the mods have annotations, and I'm imagining them having to put notes on the verbal quirks ('doesn't like moist', 'is insulted by the passive voice', 'swears when reading adverbs') of each individual in the large MeFi userbase, and I'm getting tired and fed up for them. Of course, not that anyone's suggesting that.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:26 PM on April 22, 2013


I may be remembering things wrong - that happens sometimes - but hasn't ericb done this before? I feel like one mod a while back wrote that he could have done things a little better, and he was really offended and took off for a while. Then came back.

Are you thinking of this?
posted by homunculus at 7:27 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Give the benefit of the doubt that just because it brings up connotations in your own head, doesn't mean that those connotations were intended."

If you could actually get most people to do this, then three-quarters of all interpersonal conflicts in the world would be avoided. Good luck with that.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:46 PM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's weird to me that people are parsing out cherry-picked private mod correspondence with a retired member. I don't understand this conversation anymore. It seems so divorced from actual private reality as to be effectively meaningless.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:17 PM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some commenters in the Boston thread were posting every few minutes with valuable data. Many were not posting so frequently. So, finding that threshold is something that should be discussed.

I still think the 10-minute wait time would help with this, because if i can explain, no "valuable data" would be lost. What I would expect users to do in that situation, what I would do, is have my comment window open, write into it any new information or commentary I wanted to add as it comes up through my online searching or in response to comments going before, and hit post when my time was up. Then I'd have 10 more minutes to read, think, add and compose a comment before my next opportunity to post. ALl the data would still get in, just not automatic-trigger style.

What it would do is make comments longer, because people would consolidate all their "valuable data" from several minutes' worth of composing into a single comment, instead of a string of 10 comments a minute apart mixed with everyone else's string of 10 comments a minute apart.

So instead of encouraging the "chat" effect of quick, single-line comments going back and forth ("I just found an important article! I just found another relevant article! Here's a third relevant article!" all as separate comments) we'd be encouraging people to use their window to collate and arrange their information in a more coherent way ("here are three relevant articles" in one comment), thus reducing the overall number of individual comments. No data would be lost, though.
posted by Miko at 7:23 AM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I still think the 10-minute wait time would help with this

It would in the way you describe but would also change site culture in a large way that would have a bunch of other negative repercussions. Honestly we could have a 15 second wait time and it would achieve a lot of the same results with a lot less friction.

Note: we are not actually considering this at this time but if people feel good talking about this sort of thing right now, that's fine. We're all still catching up on sleep and interacting with our loved ones. The site takes longer to snap back to "normal" than many people's daily lives.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:50 AM on April 23, 2013


I know the mods have annotations, and I'm imagining them having to put notes on the verbal quirks ('doesn't like moist', 'is insulted by the passive voice', 'swears when reading adverbs') of each individual in the large MeFi userbase, and I'm getting tired and fed up for them.

Yeah - I've gotten too deep into a topic before and been asked/told to throttle back, and there are definitely approaches which are more or less irritating to my personal compositional aesthetics. But, you know, my compositional aesthetics are not really something which a sane group of moderators need to worry about, but rather how well I am going to take on board the message (which, either way, is generally "you're getting deeper into this topic than is comfortable for some of the board's members, which is by extension uncomfortable for us". AFAIK none of the mods are creative writing tutors at the Iowa Writers' Workshop or Cybot Galactica protocol droids - there shouldn't be an expectation that they reach into each troublesome situation and find the right words to reach the specific people involved in the most emollient fashion ...

If you're telling someone not to do something they want very much to do - and something that they want to do so much that they keep doing it even after you have asked them not to, to the point of suspending their account - then it's unlikely that there's a way to phrase the request which is going to make it seem welcome.The problems with moderation as it stands seem primarily structural rather than interpersonal, and use of "are we clear" doesn't feel like one of them.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:17 AM on April 23, 2013


in the most emollient fashion

This is one of the more unusual uses for the term "emollient" I've ever encountered.

I think I really like it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


jessamyn: "Note: we are not actually considering this at this time "

Thank you.
posted by zarq at 10:15 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


would also change site culture in a large way that would have a bunch of other negative repercussions

I should just note that this proposal would only be for threads already developing a runaway 'breaking news' pace - and would be put in place only after "breaking news" status was determined.

I don't know what all the other repercussions would be, though, and am probably overlooking some negative predictable reactions. It seems like a decent idea to me, but what do I know.
posted by Miko at 11:48 AM on April 23, 2013


What it would do is make comments longer, ...

While I definitely appreciate the thoughtfulness given to the entire premise, I'm not sure that longer comments would help, especially in a fast-moving thread. It's all we can do to scan and parse the comments as is; anything that requires an extensive reading is bound to be either skipped or skimmed.

I could always be wrong, but in years of usability testing websites, apps and software, one thing I've learned is that people scan, and everyone scans differently, i.e., looks for different things (e.g., words).
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:40 PM on April 23, 2013


Short comments good.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:41 PM on April 23, 2013


Bad comment, bad!
posted by carsonb at 12:00 AM on April 24, 2013


Then I guess we're stuck with thousands of one-line comments which the mods don't have time to review?

If anyone felt datawonky I wonder what you'd learn by taking the top 10 longest blue threads and looking at how far apart the comments are, how long they are, and the ratio of inthread commenters to the size of the active (or total) userbase at the time.
posted by Miko at 8:37 AM on April 24, 2013


Then I guess we're stuck with thousands of one-line comments which the mods don't have time to review?

We have time to read them. We don't have time to do after-the-fact assessment of whether they're accurate or a bunch of other things. And at some point, we don't do most of that anyhow. I think there's a decent conversation to have about better ways for managing breaking news (especially breaking news that is breaking over a long period of time) both from a community perspective and from a moderation perspective. We're thinking more of "traffic calming" sorts of ideas as well as more awareness of what chat is for from our perspective and figuring out how to get buy in from the userbase about some of that.

Employing technological solutions for comment limiting is a never-before-done thing here. This doesn't mean it's not something that we'd consider but unless it's something that solves a big cultural problem that the site has it's lower on the list of things to try than less invasive practices. And again, I'd like this discussion to happen in a thread that hasn't been full of a bunch of "fuck you" talk and other stuff so that people who want to chime on on that issue specifically can find it and be part of the conversation.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:47 AM on April 24, 2013


Dammit. I was briefly cheered up to see ericb in my Recent Activity before I realized it was an old comment and he's still gone. MeFi really isn't the same without him. Have any of you mods had any further contact with him?
posted by homunculus at 10:10 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


We haven't heard from him, no.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:51 PM on April 29, 2013


So, no idea how many people are still reading this or care, but I finally got around to the datawankery mentioned above.

Looking only at comments (not posts) on the blue, on a monthly basis, assuming all missing comment IDs represent deleted comments, and drawing no conclusions about whether those deletions were benevolent spam-pruning, oppressive totalitarianism, or anything in between:

* Prior to 2002 the data is really noisy.

* After that the percentage of comments deleted shows a relatively steady rise from about a quarter of one percent in 2002 to a bit under 1% today.

* In the same period the size of the active userbase (users who posted at least one comment during the month) roughly tripled. Comment deletions appear to be very slightly outpacing the size of the userbase, but not by a significant amount.

* I really thought I was onto something when I started adding up the number of users who had had at least one comment deleted during each month, which showed a steady increase from about 1.5% of the userbase in 2002 to a whopping 8% today! Wow!

But then I looked closer and realized that the infodump doesn't contain the user ids for deleted comments, so there was no way to be calculating what I thought I was calculating, and what I was actually adding up was the number of unique users per month who happened to post a comment right before another one was deleted (not necessarily in the same thread). Also, proper variable scoping is important. Anyway, the percentage of the active userbase who were, at least one time during each month, the last to comment just before a deletion somewhere else has increased from 1.5% to over 8%! Wow! Seriously I have no idea what that means.

So there's that. I spent a couple hours doing it so here it is. I can provide spreadsheets and perl scripts if anyone wants to check my work.
posted by ook at 3:52 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Prior to 2002 the data is really noisy.

Yeah, between the small volume of comments and the sort of very-in-development codebase for the first couple of years, it's hard to do much with that data without going in and doing some more detailed forensics on what's deleted-in-a-moderation-sense and deleted-in-a-debugging/defuckering-sense.

Anyway, the percentage of the active userbase who were, at least one time during each month, the last to comment just before a deletion somewhere else has increased from 1.5% to over 8%! Wow! Seriously I have no idea what that means.

Ha! Yeah, not sure how to unpack that exactly. One thing that could raise that with better around-the-clock coverage is the chance that people whose primary commenting activity falls during a specific previously-mostly-unmoderated portion of the site's daily heartbeat might be active when things are actually getting deleted these days. That might track pretty well to the significant increase in this graph in 2011; restless_nomad came on in April and taz in October of that year, which meant better weekend coverage and basically any nighttime coverage at all.

I suspect there's a pretty basic relationship between growing size of active userbase and growing percentage of, uh, deletion-preceders? but my brain isn't really in the right place right now to make that argument.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:32 PM on April 29, 2013


That one's easy. The broader the pool of your normal distribution, the broader the pool of your normal distribution. More individuals available to make comments (or more individuals commenting) means that you'd expect to see an increase in the number of individuals who commented prior to a comment being deleted even if the deletion rate remained constant.
posted by klangklangston at 4:36 PM on April 29, 2013


That'd account for part of it, certainly, but would you expect the proportion of deletion-dodgers to rise so much more than the increase in userbase? Though if you superimpose the charts and tweak the scales enough they do seem to track each other reasonably well. But I'm comparing percentages to straight numbers so maybe that's meaningless. Also, if you extrapolate the data into the future, in 144 years there will be 50,000 active users, 100% of whom will be deletion-adjacent. I suspect that at this point some actual knowledge of statistics would be useful. I find myself saying that surprisingly often.
posted by ook at 5:49 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


One possible explanation for this is that the number of members participating in threads on deletion-prone topics, like religion, gender and politics, has increased at a faster rate than the general growth in membership. I might be possible to roughly check this by seeing if the length of threads with tags like politics, religion, sexualharrassment or feminism has increased more than the general increase in thread length.
posted by nangar at 7:25 AM on April 30, 2013


That might not mean more members are participating in those threads; it could be the same number/proportion of members making more comments per person.
posted by Miko at 7:31 AM on April 30, 2013


the number of members participating in threads on deletion-prone topics

To clarify, what I was inadvertently adding up wasn't the people who were the last to post before a deletion in the same thread -- it was people who posted a comment anywhere on the blue immediately before someone posted a to-be-deleted comment anywhere else on the blue. There's no data in the infodump about which threads the comments were deleted from.
posted by ook at 8:01 AM on April 30, 2013


Ah, OK.
posted by nangar at 8:25 AM on April 30, 2013


* After that the percentage of comments deleted shows a relatively steady rise from about a quarter of one percent in 2002 to a bit under 1% today.

* In the same period the size of the active userbase (users who posted at least one comment during the month) roughly tripled. Comment deletions appear to be very slightly outpacing the size of the userbase, but not by a significant amount.


This doesn't seem right (mathematically, I don't mean morally.)

If comment deletion rose from .25% to 1%, then that's userbase and commentbase agnostic: if you triple the userbase and the commentbase, then you can still delete a quarter percent of comments and just have that be three times as many comments.

From your summary, it sounds like the ratio of comments to deleted comments has changed. This may have to do with more mods, or some sort of increased scrutiny from our various discussions of offensive comments, but probably has more to do with the diverging standards of the Green and the Blue, since AskMe started in 2003.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:34 AM on April 30, 2013


Looking at ook's graph it seems to me that the mean deletion rate increased from 0.6%ish in 2006/2011 to 0.9%ish in 2011-07/2013-04. Just guessing here, and it could reverse, but the mean looks higher to me recently.
posted by shothotbot at 8:47 AM on April 30, 2013


This may have to do with more mods, or some sort of increased scrutiny from our various discussions of offensive comments, but probably has more to do with the diverging standards of the Green and the Blue, since AskMe started in 2003.

The feeling that I get is that there are three main things happening here

1. AskMe vs MeFi deletions - more stuff gets deleted from AskMe by design, so in the early years especially that shift would be marked
2. Mod coverage going from 16 hours per day to 24 - this is a really big deal especially because we're a lot less likely to delete comments if they can't be reasonably extricated from a thread, this becomes less of a problem if people can see comments more or less when they're being made. Mod coverage increased 50% or more when r_n/taz came on and we had reliable weekend coverage and any night coverage at all.
3. Expanding userbase also means, or has meant here, a wider range of commenting behaviors some of which are not okay. The early MetaFilter just didn't have a lot of people who would come here just to take the piss and even though there's not a lot of trolling that happens here, there's still more than none. Stuff that was less of an issue in Old MetaFilter (envelope-pushing, ironically intended racism, prison rape jokes) are more of an issue with a bigger faster moving site and both show up more and are more problematic.

There are also a few minor things including

- edit window - I would almost think we'd have a slight downturn in deletions now that people can fix borked comments but maybe it's not significant
- mobile users - there are a few things that happen here including typos, "I didn't read the thread but..." and some hyperresponsive twitter-like commenting in some threads

I'd be really curious to know how much of the newer deletions are confined to a few megathreads or hotbutton threads (i.e. threads with more than 500 comments, let's say) since I suspect it's disproportionate.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:54 AM on April 30, 2013


Now let's figure out the proportion of each!

Data is fun.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:16 AM on April 30, 2013


From your summary, it sounds like the ratio of comments to deleted comments has changed.

That's correct. All I meant by "Comment deletions appear to be very slightly outpacing the size of the userbase" is that during the same time period, the active userbase (roughly) tripled in size while the percentage of deleted comments (roughly) quadrupled. Here's a closer view with the noisy data from the first year or two removed, and a linear trendline for the rest. I stress again that I am not a statistician; I have no idea whether that discrepancy is significant or just one of those things.

probably has more to do with the diverging standards of the Green and the Blue

I was only looking at data from the blue. I can run the same script over askme, too, for comparison. (Or do you mean that the stricter deletion policy in the green would have a side-effect of influencing deletion policy on the blue?)

Mod coverage going from 16 hours per day to 24
Definitely had an effect (the deletion ratio was steadily rising even before r_n and taz started, though).

I'd be really curious to know how much of the newer deletions are confined to a few megathreads or hotbutton threads (i.e. threads with more than 500 comments, let's say) since I suspect it's disproportionate.

Makes sense, and there are certainly some outlying months on the graph which would support that idea (what th'heck happened in August 2004 and November of 2011, for example?) I might have to try breaking this down by week or day instead of month, see if I can find spikes that match up with problem threads.
posted by ook at 10:01 AM on April 30, 2013


My personal theory, completely untested by, you know, *data*, is that the amount of moderator intervention is dictated by the number of interactions between users, not the number of users, so it goes up in an exponential rather than linear fashion as a userbase grows. This is based on my observations of successful staffing levels of different size communities, and I would really, really like to get my hands on some numbers to prove it someday.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:05 AM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can run the same script over askme, too, for comparison.

Grr. Actually, no, it looks like I can't: askme and metatalk appear to be sharing commentIDs, so there's no way to tell whether a given deletion was from the green or the gray.
posted by ook at 10:13 AM on April 30, 2013


Grr. Actually, no, it looks like I can't: askme and metatalk appear to be sharing commentIDs, so there's no way to tell whether a given deletion was from the green or the gray.

True, but metatalk only has about 10% of the comments as askme right? Still better than nothing.
posted by shothotbot at 10:21 AM on April 30, 2013


The commentid thing was only in the early days, so you'd have to throw away (or do some correction for) some of that early stuff but eventually the two data streams became separate. I'd guess that happened by some point in 2005; Ask got a couple of makeovers between launch and the end of that year.

It'd be easy enough to figure out where, probably, just by checking for the point in time where the rate of gaps in either or both of the metatalk and askme datafiles' commentids drop precipitously.

I thought I had some details on that on the wiki page for the Infodump, but apparently not. If you end up doing a little work to figure out where the overlap ends, feel free to update that page or just lay it out in here and I'll do so.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:55 AM on April 30, 2013


Aha! Ok then, June of 2004 is where the first duplicate ID shows up (156241) so I guess that's when the tables were separated; AskMe was introduced 2003-12-08 (id 91309) so those six months are the only span for which deletions and total comments per subsite can't be calculated.

So:

Active users per subsite
Comment deletions per subsite
Lots and lots of numbers

In terms of deletions, looks like AskMe had some serious growing pains but since has been quite stable, and MeTa is just inexplicably noisy. As always.
posted by ook at 12:06 PM on April 30, 2013


I am surprised to see the drop in askme deletions in 2013.
posted by shothotbot at 12:18 PM on April 30, 2013


My personal theory, completely untested by, you know, *data*, is that the amount of moderator intervention is dictated by the number of interactions between users, not the number of users, so it goes up in an exponential rather than linear fashion as a userbase grows. This is based on my observations of successful staffing levels of different size communities, and I would really, really like to get my hands on some numbers to prove it someday.

This has actually been shown to be important in research on classroom size and student/teacher ratios, so if you ever feel like digging in educational research, you will find this to be borne out in a roughly analogous situation.
posted by Miko at 1:31 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, that makes total sense. I feel validated even though I am too lazy to do the homework!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:40 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I missed most of this thread, but I'll weigh in on the language. Stuff like 'time out' and the emphasis on containing issues from the mods feels very paternalistic, and it leads to a childlike userbase who use cutsey words like 'fighty' and 'grrar'.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:04 AM on May 1, 2013


...childlike userbase...

One of the hallmarks of diplomacy (and by extension, persuasion) is learning when a lighthearted tone is called for versus a more serious one. This, and many other aspects of adult conversation, vary depending on the medium being used to communicate as well as a given situation.

Text is a notoriously difficult medium to convey subtle emotions, especially across cultural divides. Some folks use emoticons to emphasize intent. Others modify their language so it becomes less ambiguous.

Moderators on a web forum -- any web forum, will by their nature be authority figures and a bit paternalistic or maternalistic. That's their role in their community. Their management style is revealed by their words. Are they authoritarian? Laid back? Somewhere in-between?

The moderation style here at mefi can best be described as "flexible." Incidents are addressed on a case by case basis. A firm or relaxed tone is applied depending on what sort of guidance is needed. It's a more mature method than most, but for some users it may take time to get used to.

My .02$: Don't mistake tone for immaturity or acquiescence. Or lightheartedness for superficial intent
posted by zarq at 4:27 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


« Older Dwarf Pony Sought - "My Activity"   |   Chuck P. Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments