What happened to quality comment/ discussion threads? December 10, 2013 7:25 PM   Subscribe

I don't know if perhaps I've reached a point in my life where I'm becoming something of a Grinch or grumpy old man but I've noticed to much dismay that the quality of discussion in many fpps has plummeted, leaving me hesitant to read through what was previously my favorite part of metafilter.

Perhaps it should be expected for this thread to become a pun war reminiscent of reddit...

...but as I find I have less time to visit and can't browse every (or even most) fpps I'm finding myself disgruntled more and more consistently at the (lacking) quality of discussion.


One might argue that it is within me to help improve the quality of discussion by asking significant questions but I do tend to lean towards lurking, and I miss stumbling upon a discussion where suddenly a professional in the field is giving their perspective, rather than the majority of comments seemingly being throwaway jokes or one liners.


I feel like I want to backtrack and not post this for fear of not being agreed with but in some ways I think that in itself shows how I've had high expectations of metafilter for quite a while which really just aren't being met recently - so I'd like to get some input from more active mefites.
posted by ~Bert to MetaFilter-Related at 7:25 PM (178 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Sic transit gloria Metafilter, AMIRITE?!?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:39 PM on December 10, 2013 [14 favorites]


[Insert throwaway one liner to prove your point but somehow win the debate by its glorious wit]
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:41 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It was inevitable that some PUNdant would find fault with that thread.
posted by HuronBob at 7:42 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I learned a lot from that thread. For instance, in Uruguay, Funyons are illegal.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:42 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like anyone, I have my pet peeves. There are certainly things I would love to see people refrain from around here, although I guess I mostly don't think there is an overall negative longterm trend. Some pet peeves go and are replaced by others.

Though in fairness, I like jokey threads, and I think it's not too surprising that a thread about marijuana legalization would become jokey.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:43 PM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


There's probably not much recourse for lurkers who are unhappy with how the conversation is going--seems to be one of those things where if you want there to be more high quality comments, step one is make some high quality comments.

Also, you're a grinch--the puns were funny.

Well, some of them.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:44 PM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Plummeted? I don't know, you can visit MeFi from 5 or 10 years ago, using the widget on the main page, and find pretty much the same style of comment as you find in the Uruguay FPP.

One might argue that it is within me to help improve the quality of discussion by asking significant questions but I do tend to lean towards lurking, and I miss stumbling upon a discussion where suddenly a professional in the field is giving their perspective, rather than the majority of comments seemingly being throwaway jokes or one liners.

These are also pretty much the reason why I ever read MeFi comments: it's always so wonderful to see a detailed, informative, educational comment from an expert, whether the subject is first-person shooters or genes encoding transcription factors.

These comments are far and away in the extreme minority. They are difficult to find, and when I go for a long stretch without finding one, I start thinking that MeFi is "on the decline." But that's just probability playing tricks. It's really easy to miss the extremely rare, interesting comments.

But 99.5% of comments on MeFi, as elsewhere, is just people passing time. Whether they're worth reading is debatable.
posted by Nomyte at 7:44 PM on December 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


seems to be one of those things where if you want there to be more high quality comments, step one is make some high quality comments

I never understood this sentiment. It seems dismissive. For example, I've posted a number of very long, detailed, niche FPPs of exactly the kind that I like seeing. That kind of FPP is pretty much the only thing I favorite on MeFi.

I don't have any delusions at all about having led to more content of the same sort to show up on MeFi for me to read. And the site definitely isn't mine and mine alone, my FPPs can't crowd out the stuff I don't want to see. Similarly, I shouldn't go into a thread and be the loudest voice because I want people to talk the talk I want to hear. As a whole, the site will go on behaving as it does, with or without any one person's involvement.
posted by Nomyte at 7:55 PM on December 10, 2013


Sometimes when I'm feeling cranky -- which I do (and this is hard even for me to believe) with ever-increasing frequency in my dotage -- I can feel like things are falling apart and the center cannot hold, on MeFi or elsewhere.

But then I perk up a bit, and I realize I was just a bit cranky. And I have some coffee. Which I will do right now, because any time's coffee time!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:03 PM on December 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's weird you point out that Uruguay thread, it definitely stood out as a departure from usual threads, but I liked it and thought everyone was just letting off a little steam and made me laugh. If you look at the five threads before and after it, I'm sure you'll find the mostly serious discussions you normally find on this site, that one was an outlier.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:09 PM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I actually wish there was a way to self-label my own comments as "Jokey", and then people who want a more serious conversation could automatically filter to see only "Serious" or "Jokey" or "All" comments in a thread. Because I get how grating my bullshit gets sometimes to some people, and I really wish there was a middle ground between shutting the fuck up entirely and just being there annoying people. I already participate less frequently here because there have been complaints and I get it, I really do, and I don't want to wear out my welcome. It would be nice if there was a way to have both.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:11 PM on December 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


You are being kind of grinchy, but in a totally understandable way. It's frustrating when a topic you were interested in reading some deep discussion on winds up being mostly jokes, or everyone zeroes in on aspect A of the thread when really you clicked because you wanted to discuss aspect B.

Anyway, I think everyone likes a question-asker, if for no other reason than it gives us someone to expound at. And for "limited time to read and no topics of particular interest, but want a thread that's kind of meaty"--the Popular page is helpful for that, as is adding interesting people to Contacts and clicking through when they have a high-favorites comment. Pick some folks who you find participate in the kinds of threads you like and add them.
posted by kagredon at 8:16 PM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Out of all the stupid, terrible "discussions" in the few weeks, I'm surprised you picked a pun thread as the example of MetaFilter-on-the-decline.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:19 PM on December 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


I dunno, I'm grateful for the occasional silly thread because a lot of the time this place is so serious and earnest it can be a little overwhelming.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:19 PM on December 10, 2013 [22 favorites]


I feel like I want to backtrack and not post this for fear of not being agreed with...

Since you said that, I'll chime in to agree with you. I've been participating less for other reasons, but yeah, the throwaway jokes and one-liners have worn on me. I feel ambivalent complaining about it, because there's obviously a large contingent that wants to use the site that way (just look at the favorite counts), and that's totally valid. On the other hand, it's equally valid for me—and apparently you—to feel that stuff makes MetaFilter less enjoyable.

I think you're getting some disagreement based on your characterization. The word "plummeted," for instance, suggests there was some period on MetaFilter where intellectual discussion reigned and jocularity was discouraged. I don't think that's accurate. (Shudder to remember the IMG tag...) What I do think is that the tenor of this site has shifted periodically as it has grown, and one aspect of the current tone is a fondness for Twitter-ish engagement.

For those of us who feel it's a prevalent aspect, it could be interesting to run an experiment with toggling-off favorites. In other words, maybe the one-liners just feel more prevalent because they're commonly appended with double-digit favorites. I'm not sure if that matters either way, but it's a thought.
posted by cribcage at 8:28 PM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I will not favorite cribcage's comment out of solidarity.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:31 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Be the change you want to see in the world.
posted by empath at 8:35 PM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I already participate less frequently here because there have been complaints and I get it, I really do, and I don't want to wear out my welcome.

Booooooooo.

Well, OK, fine, maybe not everyone has my sense of humor, or my sense of when humor is appropriate, but as far as I'm concerned, IRFH, you're always welcome.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:35 PM on December 10, 2013 [23 favorites]


I have mixed feelings about this. There are certainly some people - not you, IRFH - who seem to feel the need to pop up in most every thread and make a few dozen jokes. Sometimes this gets tiresome. On the other hand, Matt is correct there is still a lot of solid serious discussion on most threads - outright jokey threads are rarer.

In conclusion, I dunno. Get some fresh air, maybe?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:41 PM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


So we've got people ramping back on their jokery and people ramping back on their sober, level-headed commentary. Sounds less like there's a problem with the site being out of balance and just the standard issue that people's participation on any forum will wax and wane.

~Bert, just out of curiosity, what discussion were you expecting out of "Uruguay is legalizing marijuana"? The four MeFites with any experience in Uruguay nodding soberly that yes, in fact, this is a thing that is happening in Uruguay right now?
posted by Etrigan at 8:44 PM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Thanks, soundguy99, I appreciate that.

~Bert and cribcage, I also appreciate your points, though. You aren't hostile to fun, you just feel that the current balance doesn't seem to favor the kinds of conversations you prefer. Not sure if there's really anything to be done about it in the long run, but I wanted to go on record that I, for one, do listen and try to Rain in my own behavior on the site based in part on threads like this and comments like yours. So, if nothing else, consider this a reminder successfully delivered.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:57 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


a pun war reminiscent of reddit...

MetaFilter predates Reddit by six years. Who taught them how to do that stuff?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:59 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


IRFH, to me at least, your jokes are some of the few that actually further discussion rather than derail it or cut it off. I've long admired your ability to use sarcasm and humor in ways that illuminate the issue rather than just display your cleverness (though you are also clever).

So while I also tend to prefer in-depth discussion to one-liners, I don't think of you as any part of the problem.
posted by jaguar at 9:02 PM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I never understood this sentiment. It seems dismissive. For example, I've posted a number of very long, detailed, niche FPPs of exactly the kind that I like seeing. That kind of FPP is pretty much the only thing I favorite on MeFi.

Nomyte, from my point of view, there is room in threads both for serious discussion and for jokey comments. They're not mutually exclusive. If what you are hoping for is more of the former, if you actually post the kind of comment you're interested in seeing, you're more likely to get people to engage in that level of discussion than if you do nothing.

Does that help you see it as less dismissive?
posted by MoonOrb at 9:03 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who taught them how to do that stuff?

Not only that, but we taught people how to fry a perfect brain egg.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:04 PM on December 10, 2013


I find myself spending most of my time on megafiller.com these days.
posted by bleep-blop at 9:08 PM on December 10, 2013


Thanks, jaguar. I don't want to make this thread about me, so I'll just finish up by saying that I'll try to live up to that.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:11 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think jokey comments crowd out serious discussions. Not at all. If anything the jokes help to keep more people reading the thread, and that means there are more people around to say something serious if the mood strikes them. Any good FPP is going to have comments of all types, from dead serious explication to the most horrible, horrible puns.

As to ~Bert's assertion that the quality of discussion has gone down - that's an argument as old as MetaFilter. Quality is a highly personal thing, and with the large, diverse userbase that frequents this site it's probable that one person's drought is another person's MeFi renaissance.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:13 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


> what discussion were you expecting out of "Uruguay is legalizing marijuana"? The four MeFites with any experience in Uruguay nodding soberly that yes, in fact, this is a thing that is happening in Uruguay right now?

If you look closely, you will find out interesting stuff being mentioned and linked — Uruguay's human rights tradition, with legalized gay marriage, abortion, secular schools... things not usually associated with Latin America. Not to mention their kickass VW Beetle driving president, "the world's poorest president", further down a comment that's a mini road movie story... I've seen worse threads!
posted by Tom-B at 9:17 PM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I don't consider myself a member of long standing here, but for what it's worth, I often do think discussions have declined in quality compared to what I enjoyed when I first signed up.

There are a few members here whose main role seems to be to spew jokey nonsense.
posted by jayder at 9:21 PM on December 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


i would take a thousand joke threads and pun threads over total pig wallow threads like this, or this or a number of other recent examples i could come up with.

People being presumptuous assholes or strongly defensive of a position of ignorance is the problem here, not smart ass remarks.
posted by emptythought at 9:29 PM on December 10, 2013


I don't think the tenor of the debate has gotten any jokier. I mean, there aren't images of shitting elephants getting posted into every thread these days so that's a step forward. And I have declared MISSION ACCOMPLISHED in the war against @ symbol responses. So we have that going for us, which is nice.
posted by Justinian at 9:32 PM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I hear what you're saying ~Bert, but I would say, I don't think the tone of discussion has gone down - at least, not in the four odd years I've been regularly reading. I think it's a perennial issue.

I know how frustrating it is, when you want to read something substantive by the many erudite mefites and it gets crowded out by facile one-liners, funny or not. Indeed, sometimes I love it when there's a small thread that's only of interest to a few people; the comments are usually great!

By the same token, I don't mind a joke. I have been known to favourite something that elicits a good snort. What does bother me is - as alluded above - the competitive nature of it. Somebody posts a funny one-liner in a thread. Ha ha, we can all have a chuckle and move on. Alas, no. There appears to be a significant proportion of the commenting user base that feels an irresistible urge to one-up the joker and prove that they, too, are funny. And then you get a waterfall of progressively shittier jokes that quickly crowd out interesting discussion in a way that one actually funny bon mot does not.

I confess, this shits me quite a bit when it happens in well put-together posts about interesting and at least semi-serious subject matters. I feel that the Uruguay thread is a pretty typical example of this phenomenon. And I do feel it can be tone deaf and narcissistic, and detrimental.

But, I think it's *relatively* rare. Generally, substantive FPPs don't attract jokesters, and those with an urge for concise inanity generally get stamped on at the start of those threads. Alternately, you can tune out a few, it's when there's a torrent, and that's genuinely rare, in my opinion.

Finally, some people like the site for the jokes, in-celebrity culture and one-liners the same way I like it for other stuff - neither of us are wrong, it's just different preferences - and I feel a little reluctant to argue everyone should experience/enjoy the site the same way that I do.
posted by smoke at 9:34 PM on December 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


On the one hand, I'm disappointed that we missed out on a genuine discussion of an important world event. On the other hand, the FPP consisted of a Reuters link, a Forbes.com link, and a link to what appears to be the blog of a new Disney-owned TV station. I'm trying to think of the appropriate paraphrase here of "you get what you pay for".
posted by threeants at 9:51 PM on December 10, 2013


i would take a thousand joke threads and pun threads over total pig wallow threads like this, or this or a number of other recent examples i could come up with.

-- emptythought

See, that sort of brings up another aspect of the deterioration here. There seems to be more ideological nitpicking going on like you did in your comment on the BBT thread. Pompous pontificating about why people aren't thinking like you, rather than just shaking your head and moving on and just accepting that people are going to disagree. There are a lot of people here, it's kind of like a city, and maybe you should accept that part of the diversity here is people having different views.

So, in addition to the jokey threads, there really seems to be a lot of nastiness about people deviating from one's favored ideological commitments. Just pure, hateful nastiness by people who seem to have way too much time on their hands.
posted by jayder at 10:04 PM on December 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


we may never again achieve the lofty heights of pissing elephants and chicken fucking that distinguished us from our unlettered peers
posted by klangklangston at 10:05 PM on December 10, 2013 [31 favorites]


wow, that's a really assy place to take this thread, jayder.
posted by kagredon at 10:08 PM on December 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


I stopped updating THE DECLINE OF METAFILTER several years ago, but I might make an exception for this thread.
posted by carsonb at 10:11 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Came to lurk in the presence of my learned community, stayed for the humor. IRFH long may you reign in your jokes.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:25 PM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why should he rein in his jokes?
posted by MoonOrb at 10:40 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's raining jokes!
posted by klangklangston at 10:43 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


what discussion were you expecting out of "Uruguay is legalizing marijuana"?

Welp. The "drug war" is probably the single most wrong, evil thing happening in the world right now- it's certainly longer-running and arguably more destructive than the "war on terror."

So a first sign of approaching sanity in a region that has been absolutely devastated by insane U.S. drug policy for the last hundred years or so seems like it would give us quite a few things to discuss.

I haven't seen many threads like that, but yeah, those comments should be removed. It's embarrassing for the site, and I'd be pissed if it was my post.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:49 PM on December 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


drjimmy11, I agree with everything you say except the part about the comments being removed. Sometimes you just need to keep the dumb stuff so it can be pointed at later ... maybe five years from now when somebody is convinced the site has hit a nadir of idiocracy.

nah, we've been there already
posted by philip-random at 11:53 PM on December 10, 2013


"wow, that's a really assy place to take this thread, jayder."

I disagree.

I mean, looking at the two threads that emptythought links to, I find that I'm in agreement with his position in the first, and he didn't participate in the second, so I'll assume that I probably agree with him about what is and isn't "people being presumptuous assholes or strongly defensive of a position of ignorance".

But I think his comment that jayder was responding to was very needlessly combative and provocative, and even though I agree with his position in that first thread he linked to, I find that his comment there was also needlessly combative and provocative. So, yeah, I think that on balance, jokey threads are preferred over how emptythought himself is participating in both this thread and one of the threads he linked to as an example of what he deplores.

Like emptythought, I think there's a number of people here who I think are very, very wrong about important things. And a small number of them are disruptive on certain issues.

But a much bigger problem is the sort of unprovoked belligerence that emptythought displays in his comment here, because it spreads. It provokes other people, they respond in kind, and that provokes more people. It's extremely toxic to productive discussion in a way that jokes are not.

I'm not defending jokes and one-liners and snark. I tilt very strongly in the "serious discussion" direction, both in what I prefer to read and how I participate. And I disagree with ~Bert. I think that MeFi is notably more tolerant of serious discussion, and there's more of it, than there was when I was here from 2004-2008. Maybe while I was away there was some golden age, but I don't think it's gone downhill in the two years I've been back.

There is much more thoughtful, sustained, productive discussion here among numerous people, and notably less snarky jokes and just plain drive-by rudeness than there used to be. For a community this large and this general-interest, I think it's the highest quality discourse on the web. You only do better with smaller size or much narrower interest. Otherwise, it tilts very, very heavily toward snark and belligerence and just basic crap.

One big reason why it's gotten better here is because there's less assholerly tolerated here than there used to be. Drive-by assholish comments that do nothing but antagonize other people are often deleted. And that's caused the community itself to alter its ethos, there's less tolerance for that kind of interaction.

The problems never really were the jokes. The problem was partly a widely shared sentiment that anyone being serious and trying to have some intense, substantive discussion was taking themselves too seriously and was boring, etc., and part of it was a culture of put-downs and such. The problem never really was good-natured joking, it's not that the good-natured joking crowded out serious discussion. What crowded out serious discussion was people being actively hostile to serious discussion, either that it simply was present, or against the people participating.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:16 AM on December 11, 2013 [20 favorites]


but I've noticed to much dismay that the quality of discussion in many fpps has plummeted, leaving me hesitant to read through what was previously my favorite part of metafilter.

As someone who's been around for close to ten years, I believe you're on to something.

But I don't think quality discussion has plummeted, but rather that the signal to noise ratio has widen. Most posts seem to start off wither with idiotic jokes or arguing with the content of the post. That usually has to settle down a bit, before more interesting discussion or comments occur. So what you're looking for is still there and arguably in greater quantity (based on the fact that site has grown) but it's also harder to find amidst the ever growing number of posts and comments.

For me, this means I put less effort into making long, multi link posts. Who wants to create such a labor of love, on a subject near and dear to you, only to see it become a riffing contest, a cesspool of one liners or the target of someone or several someones who are angry and bitter at that particular moment?

I think the fundamental problem is a human one, the inability to think and act as member of a community, instead of as an individual who's comments can and do set a tone. It's easy to forget that what we do and say effects others and in ways we don't intend. That doesn't mean we shouldn't crack jokes and express dismay or anger, but a more thoughtful approach would be helpful.

Rather writing declarative statements that pass judgement, ask questions that seek to understand where that other point of view is coming from.

Instead of going for the easy pun or one liner, pause and ask is this good for community, for myself. If you think it is, go ahead and resist the urge every 1 out of 5 times, just to be different.

Realize that you're on a global stage and you and your experiences are not the only one on stage. Sometimes it's better to listen and give others the spotlight, instead of rushing to claim it for yourself.

Have fun, but be interesting.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:26 AM on December 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


One might argue that it is within me to help improve the quality of discussion by asking significant questions but I do tend to lean towards lurking,

I’m afraid I don’t really understand the complaint; you don’t want to be part of the discussion, but you’d like the ones who do to know they’re doing it wrong? You’d prefer that they conduct their conversation in a way that’s more pleasing to you as a spectator?
posted by bongo_x at 1:34 AM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


But I think his comment that jayder was responding to was very needlessly combative and provocative, and even though I agree with his position in that first thread he linked to, I find that his comment there was also needlessly combative and provocative. So, yeah, I think that on balance, jokey threads are preferred over how emptythought himself is participating in both this thread and one of the threads he linked to as an example of what he deplores. ...

But a much bigger problem is the sort of unprovoked belligerence that emptythought displays in his comment here, because it spreads. It provokes other people, they respond in kind, and that provokes more people. It's extremely toxic to productive discussion in a way that jokes are not.

I think at least part of the problem with my replies outside of this thread, when addressed that way, is almost a tone argument thing. I'm not accusing you of such, but more saying that you wouldn't have a hard time finding a lot of posts by me that aren't in that tone. That is not my standard way of interacting with the community. When i reply in that way, it's because someone(or, usually, multiple someones) were being seriously out of line and either the same point was being repeated or they were pretty much playing tennis with something that's actually pretty messed up or offensive.

And as for this thread, i approached it the way i did both because i had pretty much tabbed over here from a discussion on the front page that was also along those lines... and because this struck me as a bit of a "Hey, is anyone else upset the teakettle is gone?" when half the windows in the house are smashed out. Punny joke replies can be tiresome, yea. But as i said, i'd take a trainload of those over some of the other stuff that regularly pops up on here. I realize that may be a bit "starving children in africa" in that yea, a problems a problem... but it just really doesn't strike me as That Big of a Deal.

To get in to the meat of the second paragraph though, i really think that by the time i've replied like that the people or miasma of opinions i'm addressing have already taken the discussion into a nosedive through the clouds that it's not pulling up from anyways. I go out of my way to avoid threadshitting, and while combative generally approaching it as "This is wrong/bad/offensive, this is why. These are other reasons why" and unless someone wants to go "NUH UH" or "But it's not, because XYZ!" the thread often moves on. If people were already brawling in there, that usually just cruises on right by my post. I haven't seen a whole lot of the "respond in kind" you're talking about, but more of a post>reply single link chain and the rest of the discussion flows right on past it. Look at the first thread i linked, it just flows right around me like a rock in a river. Some people read it, some people favorited... but a lot just replied like it never existed.

If you're saying that posts like that can add a certain tone or energy to the "room" of the thread, then i could maybe get behind that argument. But at the same time, this is not a physical space in reality where a couple people talking louder raise the volume of everyone in the room. Conversations pass right by each other.

There is much more thoughtful, sustained, productive discussion here among numerous people, and notably less snarky jokes and just plain drive-by rudeness than there used to be. For a community this large and this general-interest, I think it's the highest quality discourse on the web. You only do better with smaller size or much narrower interest. Otherwise, it tilts very, very heavily toward snark and belligerence and just basic crap.

For what it's worth i agree with this. And i think a big part of it is that there's no real way for any one side of a discussion or argument to bury the other side, or truly amass a bunch of troops to go "NO UR WRONG SHUT UP". Especially since, on a lot of the rest of the internet this tends to happen on the "wrong" side of the argument in the sense that it's generally the "you can't tell me not to say f****t!" crowd shouting everyone else down.

There is absolutely a lot of high quality discussion here, and more than anywhere else i've seen. I agree with everything you wrote there. But if there's less drive by rudeness and snark now than there was "back in the day" then i can't imagine what a hive of assholes farting at each other that this used to be.

I'll also agree that this is one of the only places where you don't get the "Serious, well thought out comment" > "LOL STUPID JOKE BREAK THE ICE AMIRITE, LOOK AT POINDEXTER THERE". And jeeze, am i thankful for that if nothing else.

As a side note, Brandon Blatcher, i really really super duper hate that "you should be ashamed of yourselves" comment with a pile of favorites and the way it derailed the entire thread in to "uh huh, jeeze, this is terrible, why does the internet think this is cute" above-it-all shit. Are the people in the video enjoying themselves? sure looks like it.
posted by emptythought at 1:53 AM on December 11, 2013


"I’m afraid I don’t really understand the complaint; you don’t want to be part of the discussion, but you’d like the ones who do to know they’re doing it wrong? You’d prefer that they conduct their conversation in a way that’s more pleasing to you as a spectator?"

I half agree and half disagree about this.

I agree insofar as lurkers are part of MeFi, too, most especially those who are members. I guess that some people would disagree, especially in that I think that this applies, a little bit, to lurkers who aren't even members. A little bit. But much more so with members who are mostly lurkers. They ponied up the five bucks, too, and they use the site. The rule of thumb about this stuff has always been that there's something like a ten-to-one ratio of lurkers to participants. Who knows how many it really is, but you can almost always be sure that there's at least as many people reading but not participating, and usually several times that number.

Those people are important.

But I also disagree with Nomyte's comment above, where he contests the "be the change you want" argument. What we individually do does matter, our individual participation is one piece of the whole and it affects the other pieces. Putting my own experience aside, where I'm inevitably going to be biased, I'll say that I've observed this about other people, that their public behavior influences others, that being an example of a kind of behavior they want to promote is actually a very effective way to promote it. More effective than lecturing, or correcting the bad behavior of others.

"If you're saying that posts like that can add a certain tone or energy to the "room" of the thread, then i could maybe get behind that argument. But at the same time, this is not a physical space in reality where a couple people talking louder raise the volume of everyone in the room. Conversations pass right by each other."

First of all, emptythought, I want to say that I really appreciate how thoughtful is your response to my comment. I feel like you do lose your temper fairly often, and I expected you to do so here.

And, second of all, I sympathize strongly with the fact that you lose your temper and the reasons that you do so. There were a bunch of interacting reasons why I left MeFi at the end of 2007, but not least among them was that I had regressed in my ability to hold my temper and to be civil and productive — I didn't like the person I had become on MeFi. For whatever combination of reasons, I just don't get as upset these days and often when I do, I'll write a comment and then never actually post it. The point is, while I think that it's very important to not contribute to a combative atmosphere, I am well aware of how difficult this can be to actually do, especially on issues that one feels strongly about and which one believes to be important.

Anyway, I do strongly disagree with your one contention in that quote above. I read every comment in every thread in which I participate in, and I feel certain that I'm not alone or unusual in this. The ethos and nature of the discussion here is that it's not even implicitly threaded, it is one big room and two people arguing will provoke other people into argument. It's just not the case that "conversations pass right by each other". I'm surprised that you'd assert that.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:13 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I do strongly disagree with your one contention in that quote above. I read every comment in every thread in which I participate in, and I feel certain that I'm not alone or unusual in this. The ethos and nature of the discussion here is that it's not even implicitly threaded, it is one big room and two people arguing will provoke other people into argument. It's just not the case that "conversations pass right by each other". I'm surprised that you'd assert that.

You read every comment in the thread, but do you reply to every comment? Do you even address the points or outriggers to the general path of discussion that the comments have brought up?

I know i don't, and scrolling through threads i see you in you don't seem to either. I mean, if everyone did that every comment would be massive. I'm not saying you don't read, parse, and consider every comment for a moment... but my point was that there's an awful lot of comments that exhibit the problems you're describing that just sit on the plate.

That was my point with the "tone of the room" statement. I think will is a very strong word to use there, and more definitive and case-closed than it really has any right to be. Can, or could is more the territory i was thinking of.

It's not hard to find examples of what i'm talking about here, because people just don't jump on the horse and ride out of town into battle full speed every time someone writes a reply that isn't completely calm and collected. A lot of people just favorite comments* that say what they were thinking, or at least part of it and move on.

So i'm asserting that because regardless of how the site looks to you, or to me it seems to be demonstrably true that people don't approach it in the way that you're describing. They might not quite approach it in the way i'm describing either, and i'd absolutely agree that everyone approaches it a little bit differently... but i'm just not seeing what you're describing happening as much as you do. And especially not enough to use a big old battle axe of a word like will to describe it. To me, that feels like saying "this hurricane will knock these houses down" or something.

I guess i'm just a bit confused as to what the ideal response to some of the pretty offensive comments that get laid down here is. I'm talking about stuff i didn't even engage, like the comparisons of protests to fred phelps and the klan in the google bus FPP. Should everyone approach that kind of stuff in some sort of slow walked, NVC kind of manner? I guess i'm just confused as to what your ideal mefi, and what your ideal interaction style with mefi is. Because people are going to threadshit. How do you think best to approach that sort of thing? "ignore it" often isn't an answer, especially in threads like the aspergers one where if someone doesn't plug the leak entire riffs of comments repeating the bad side of things will flood the thread.

Is engaging and going "Hey, you're being an asshole, this is offensive and here's why" a bad thing? Is being upset by someone who is doing upsetting things somehow wrong? I mean, i'm a strong believer in "take a 20, go take a piss, get a glass of water, maybe have a snack and do something else for a minute and THEN decide if you want to reply" but there is absolutely stuff that's behind the pale. And it especially rubs me the wrong way when it gets approached as some sort of thing where they're being the prick, but if you get upset at all you lose and you're part of the problem. That, is where it kind of comes back to the tone argument thing for me.

I don't know, i just have a bad association with people telling me or other people not to get upset or passionate about things that, well, deserve that sort of response in my opinion and in which limiting that always feels like a tool of the bully, or at least just offensive side. The wronger should not get to dictate how the wronged responds. And this is completely ignoring the fact that while i may sometimes lose my temper as you put it, i do my absolute best to write well thought out, explicit replies that explain exactly why i'm upset and avoid ad hominems or just generally attacking the poster entirely.

In the end, i feel like i am being the change i want to see a lot of the time. Saying "hey, this is wrong, and this is why" at least leaves the discussion not in an open-circuit state where someone said something crappy, misinformed, etc and it was just left as record with no opposition or further information, the other side, whatever.

Not entirely sure where i was going with this at this point, and i may have done some donuts over my point... but i think what i was trying to say made it across? i can hope, at least.

*And yes, i'm aware that everyone doesn't use favorites in the same way.
posted by emptythought at 2:41 AM on December 11, 2013


I enjoyed the comments in that thread, putting it on the distinctive MetaFilter humor spectrum, more towards the Statler and Waldorf end than the sharp humor end. There's plenty of good debates on MetaFilter; one's where you find yourself agreeing with both side of an emerging argument, as both sets of supporters often write persuasively. It's this mix of the serious, and the seriously funny, that keeps me at MetaFilter as opposed to that other place people keep mentioning.

We'll maybe disagree, but so far this December is turning into my favorite month on MetaFilter. Anyway, it's okay to be a grumpy old man. Do what I did on the wrong side of 40: grow out your beard for a few years to see what it looks like; visit Iowa and stay a while, possibly fall in love with a midwestern gal there; listen to some gentle Icelandic music (there's a lot); watch some quality videos (again, there's a lot) on Vimeo; read good MetaFilter posts (yet again, there's a lot), of the serious and the seriously funny kind. Admire the beauty of a well-constructed post. Visit Iowa again, and use their rest stops on the journey. The sun will come up in your mind every morning, then.
posted by Wordshore at 3:23 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is engaging and going "Hey, you're being an asshole, this is offensive and here's why" a bad thing?

Yes. Yes, it absolutely is, and it is categorically the single worst thing on Metafilter.

Saying, "This offends me, and here's why" is not necessarily offensive, depending on how you phrase it. But the additional pairing of "You're being an asshole" seems to be something that some people always feel the need to add onto their posts, and it makes threads into fighty shitfests that they do not need to be. There's never a need to add any variant of "You're bad and you should feel bad" to commentary. By all means, point out where you're offended, how it makes you feel, and why, but it'd be great if people could leave behind their moral judgments of other users for their opinions. You may feel that this doesn't count as a "personal attack", but I'm not sure how it possibly could not be one.
posted by corb at 3:27 AM on December 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


Lately when I have wanted to posta throwaway one-liner, I stop myself until I can also think of something to add to it that will move the conversation forward. And then I get to make my joke, but I also compensate for it with something of substance.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:27 AM on December 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


"I think will is a very strong word to use there, and more definitive and case-closed than it really has any right to be. Can, or could is more the territory i was thinking of."

You're right that "will" was a strong word. But I don't want to back away from it very much because it's truly my observation over decades of experience with online discussion (I've been online in one form or another since 1984) that a combative, belligerent tone nudges in that direction many of the people who read it even when they don't respond to it, ever. The temperature just goes up.

I think it's partly a natural, biological response (aggression displays prime people present to respond to an environment of conflict) and partly because we take our cues about what is and isn't acceptable social behavior from what other people are doing.

"And it especially rubs me the wrong way when it gets approached as some sort of thing where they're being the prick, but if you get upset at all you lose and you're part of the problem. That, is where it kind of comes back to the tone argument thing for me."

I deeply understand this. I really do.

I have two different responses to your point.

The first is that you're making the argument I made quite often here back in 2004 and 2005. I deeply empathize with your complaint that a) people say deeply offensive things and those things ought to piss people off; and b) people say deeply offensive things but in a plausibly deniable way, or otherwise in a way that makes it look like they're being civil even though their argument is, say, that we should kill and eat small children (not really, but you get my point) and, here again, the totally reasonable response is to be pissed off and tell them in no uncertain terms that they are terrible, terrible people.

Okay, even though all that's true, what's also true is that responding this way is almost always more destructive than productive. Maybe it shouldn't be that way, but that's the way that it is. Although it's the case that you're almost never going to convince someone you're that opposed to of your position (and so being nice to them doesn't matter in this regard), it is the case that neutral observers are generally turned off by combative and insulting responses, so you're at the very least not helping your argument with them, and likely hurting it.

A good portion of like-minded folk will respond positively to it and there's a limited argument to be made that getting those people riled up is productive. I think it's limited, though, because it's really only productive if being riled up results in something more than just being riled up. If it gets them to vote when they otherwise wouldn't have voted, for example, that's productive. I'm quite unsure how often that's true.

So I think there's a cost in one respect (neutral observers) and only a limited benefit in another respect (like-minded observers). But there's the additional cost that I am asserting: that everyone present, collectively, ends up being more likely to be combative and insulting when some people present are combative and insulting. And I think there's a considerable cost associated with that, as I wrote. I think there's a feedback loop that amplifies bad behavior immediately, and then also in the longer term by influence evolving community norms of behavior.

The second response I have was brought to mind by your mention of bullying. You're right that it's the tool of the bully (saying outrageous things and then arguing that you're in the wrong because you were outraged). But there's absolutely no avoiding it.

This is something that I've struggled with for my entire lifetime of interacting both offline and online. I am deeply sensitive to bullies and bullying, they really piss me off, and I instinctively fight back. And I don't mean just when I'm being bullied. I'm very sensitive to when I think other people are being bullied. And my deepest and strongest instinct is to hit back, hard. Not so much because I think that other people need me to intervene, but simply because I really, really hate bullies.

And the thing that I've very, very slowly had to learn is that people, in general, and by that I mean all the people "present", never, ever appreciate it or are happy when you stand up to a bully. Because, basically, they don't really give a shit who is wrong, all they know is that people are fighting and being jerks. One person being a jerk is bad, another person being a jerk in response is worse. Whether the second person is "right" makes almost no difference. This offends mine and other people's sense of justice, but that's just human nature. Getting into a fight with a bully is just compounding the problem, people don't perceive it as a solution, they don't thank you for it, and, honestly, it's not the solution because it changes absolutely nothing. In fact, because people respond negatively to a widening of conflict, regardless of who is right and who is wrong, what it ends up doing is discrediting the response and nudging people in the direction of a relativistic "pox on both their houses" reaction, which serves the bully's purposes quite well.

The bottom line is that in this context, attacking an opponent directly is almost never productive. You're pretty much never going to "win", you're not going to change their mind and, more importantly, your dream of roundly destroying their credibility and their argument by bluntly explaining how noxious they really are is a fantasy, it just doesn't happen that way. That doesn't mean that they can only be ignored. You can bring other people to your point of view and the more that this is true, the more that your opponent will be ignored or just dismissed. Long and heated responses paradoxically give your opponent more implicit credibility than ignoring them or minimal, passionless dismissals do.

Again, I'm not saying that ignoring them or taking them seriously and implicitly giving them more credibility than they deserve is the only possible responses. I think that it's possible to push back vigorously, but that's not the same thing as being belligerent and insulting. Do they deserve insult? Sure. But attempting to mete out justice doesn't actually result in it, it doesn't end up doing anything productive, and other people often pay a cost associated with your (our) need to tell someone they're being an asshole when they're being an asshole.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:02 AM on December 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


The thing I'm getting annoyed at as of late is what looks like an increase in frequency in the "your favorite band sucks" type of comments. I'm not able to find anything by way of example at this exact point, however, so it may have just been a temporary blip I noticed that is passing.

Which is, I think, part of what may be going on here too. It is December, in a lot of parts of the world there are people tearing hair out preparing for The Big December Holiday Season, and that causes a lot of stress from financial outlay and looming Familial Obligations, and for some people that also means studying for and taking exams, and it's close to the end of the year when some people also get into a What Am I Doing With My Life thought loop, and if you're walking around with all that in your head and someone offers you the chance to make pot jokes then HELL yeah you may take it.

So this may not be in your head, but it may not be the Enduring Trend you may fear.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:35 AM on December 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


there are people tearing hair out preparing for The Big December Holiday Season

Oh heavens, yes. And in the US, with Thanksgiving just about as late as it can be, the season is really short, and the end of the semester was royally screwed up, and my kitten won't let me grade at home, so, really, a joke is a good outcome. Mostly, I count to ten before hitting post, whether serious, sharp, or jokey, and, more often than not, delete instead of hitting post. Because this month is ridiculous.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:46 AM on December 11, 2013


~Bert:

that the quality of discussion in many fpps has plummeted

I don't see this on the whole.

it is within me to help improve the quality of discussion
Yes, it is.

I feel like I want to backtrack and not post this for fear of not being agreed with
Herein lies the issue. I recognise this trepidation of entering a thread with a distinctly different tone than the one you see going on (some threads skyrocket into complicated quantum spaghetti, others role around in deliciously awful punnage). Really, the only resolution, as you say, is to speak up and shift the conversation. I really enjoy threads where I see this happening. It defines MF from other point-based forums, where opinions are ranked and sorted into worth, depending on how many others agree with them. As a fellow user, I'd encourage you to get stuck in more.
posted by 0 answers at 4:47 AM on December 11, 2013


So a first sign of approaching sanity in a region that has been absolutely devastated by insane U.S. drug policy for the last hundred years or so seems like it would give us quite a few things to discuss.

That would be a nice discussion, but would it be about Uruguay?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:43 AM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think a concise one-liner is often a more valuable contribution than a wall of text.
posted by empath at 5:58 AM on December 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


I like to keep this image around to remind myself of an essential truth.
posted by charred husk at 6:10 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing I'm getting annoyed at as of late is what looks like an increase in frequency in the "your favorite band sucks" type of comments. I'm not able to find anything by way of example at this exact point, however, so it may have just been a temporary blip I noticed that is passing.

I just typed up a longish comment in the Radiolab thread that came down to basically "your favorite show sucks," so in the end I deleted it instead of clicking "post." I think there's a way to engage with a subject both critically and substantively, but honestly I was being more critical of people who like the show, rather than the show itself, and so I closed that tab.

If there's a combination of proactive moderation and more people choosing not to post the "your favorite thing sucks" comments in the first place that keep those early derails from happening, then we all benefit.

I think individual jokes can add a lot to a discussion, but I'm a lot less fond of a thread that's just becoming a riffing session. I looked at the Uruguay FPP yesterday and closed it before reading more than half of the comments once I saw it was mostly a series of jokes. As long as that's a fairly rare thing, I don't have an issue, but if it becomes really common or a tool to derail specific types of discussions then I hope it gets shut down in the future.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:20 AM on December 11, 2013


The thing I'm getting annoyed at as of late is what looks like an increase in frequency in the "your favorite band sucks" type of comments.

As a counterpoint, I feel that, while there may be an uptick, it's still waaay better than it used to be, especially in TV and sports discussions. The story about the NYT 4th down Twitterbot, for instance, was blessedly free of "Oh, you mean American 'football'... How cute."
posted by Etrigan at 6:29 AM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The wronger should not get to dictate how the wronged responds

I can understand that feeling. But ought there not to be some daylight between "someone who has wronged me" and "someone who has expressed an opinion different from my own"? I get that the instances you're talking about are ones in which you find the opinions expressed ignorant and bigoted, appalling, even. And I see that, inasmuch as the fact that people hold such ignorant and bigotd opinions helps to create an unjust society, you might find reading them distressing or offensive. But I still don't see how someone saying "man, I think those Google bus protestors were out of line" wrongs you, no matter how strongly you might disagree with them.

I'm trying to explain better in a neutral way why I feel this way, and coming up short.
posted by Diablevert at 6:44 AM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Punny and jokey threads are quite a tradition around here. Behold Problems with posts tagged with cheese. Or the legendary Tom Swifties thread (RIP bradlands). In fact, if it weren't for threads like these, I don't know if I'd have hung around here as long as I have (which, some could argue, might not be a bad thing).
posted by slogger at 6:57 AM on December 11, 2013


When metafilter isn't like you remembered it, chances are you got old. Also, I find it funny you thought there would be serious discussion in a pot thread.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:59 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, you know where discussions have really plummeted around here? Goddamn MetaTalk. That's right, the grey. There is hardly a flameout or a bannination anymore. Narry a lawn chair or a bag of popcorn. Long gone are the days of ye olde pitch forks and torches. It's almost as if our crest doesn't mean anything anymore.
posted by slogger at 7:04 AM on December 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's almost as if our crest doesn't mean anything anymore.

A duster and a fork crossed over a pile of CDs? That means... something... to me....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:11 AM on December 11, 2013


So looks like ~Bert posted this meta and went to bed.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:18 AM on December 11, 2013


Did people actually read the links years ago?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:23 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

So we've got people ramping back on their jokery and people ramping back on their sober, level-headed commentary.
Indeed, there has been a great leveling. The comment deletions keep the lows from being very low, but they have the same effect on the highs, too. I know I don't bother making deep, considered posts anymore, because there's no telling what will stand. I mean, how many Mandela posts were deleted before Matt decided to post his own? Whose standards are being enforced here?
When metafilter isn't like you remembered it, chances are you got old.
Indeed. I have gotten older, and the user base here has gotten younger. The love-it-or-leave-it attitude I see in this thread (and that I see every time these sorts of things are discussed at meetups) shows pretty clearly that I'm in the minority. Metafilter is what you make it, and it looks like most folks want light, jokey discussion with heavy moderation, and a generally congenial atmosphere. Chat away.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:24 AM on December 11, 2013


My understanding is the historical problem was if anyone read the comments down here.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:24 AM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The answer's
two liners
posted by Namlit at 7:36 AM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


The comment deletions keep the lows from being very low, but they have the same effect on the highs, too.

Long, thoughtful, well-reasoned, informative comments are being deleted?

I know I don't bother making deep, considered posts anymore, because there's no telling what will stand. I mean, how many Mandela posts were deleted before Matt decided to post his own?

Four: three words, two sentences, nine words, three words and two dates. Which of these do you feel was "deep, considered"?
posted by Etrigan at 7:38 AM on December 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


More elaborately (since I feel bad leaving a one-liner in a thread complaining about riffing), back when MetaFilter was Matt and his colleagues, links were essentially the whole point, and the comments were almost totally superfluous. Most of those early comment threads are very, very short. Obviously over time comments have become a more important part of the MetaFilter Experience, to the point where only reading the comments and not the links is a common problem in some threads.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:40 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ehhh, everybody always thinks Metafilter went downhill compared to when they first read the site, because that's when it's all new and interesting and strange and you're on a wonderful voyage of discovery. Stick around a couple of years and you find it's largely full of the same people writing the same sort of thing they always write.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:47 AM on December 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


A duster and a fork crossed over a pile of CDs?

Those are pancakes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:53 AM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's a torch and a pitchf—

*checks user number*

Oh, just forget it.
posted by slogger at 7:57 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know I don't bother making deep, considered posts anymore, because there's no telling what will stand. I mean, how many Mandela posts were deleted before Matt decided to post his own? Whose standards are being enforced here?

The answer is four, three of which were the kind of single-link obits that always get deleted. The fourth had two links, of which one was a generic link to works by Shakespeare. So, the usual standards of making obit posts more than "X [19xx-2013]. RIP" and nothing else about them.

Or, on preview, what Etrigan said.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:59 AM on December 11, 2013


Eh, single-link obits stand. Not really a consistent standard there.
posted by lalex at 8:15 AM on December 11, 2013


If you read the rainbow gravity thread, you'll see that it is full of jokes and science and philosophy and intellectual inquiry. And stars. Mygoditsfullofstars.

So, you know, we can have a serious discussion about weighty matters while also injecting some humor to keep things from getting too heavy. And that's how I likes it!
posted by Mister_A at 8:16 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eh, single-link obits stand. Not really a consistent standard there.

It's an aspirational standard as much as anything; it's not always workable to do the full-on whackamole thing and with e.g. shocking deaths (see your Paul Walker link) the problem's often exacerbated by a lack of good prepared material vs. something like Mandela having been ill. I think we end up letting some relatively meh obits stand sometimes but it's not out a lack of desire to see people do better, and generally speaking we've been more active about trying to enforce that slightly higher bar on 'em the last couple years. It'll never be perfect or consistent, nothing ever is.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:21 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed the comments in that thread, putting it on the distinctive MetaFilter humor spectrum, more towards the Statler and Waldorf end than the sharp humor end.

Does that make this thread's OP this guy?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:21 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


My take is that the conversations have always been this way, and Nomyte is right--just look at stuff from 5 and 10 years ago for reference (wasn't there a button that did that somewhere? Why can't I find it right now? Also where's my keys?).

BUT

It's December, between American Thanksgiving and Christmas. My observation has been that this time of year is when stress and crankiness are running high and people fight and complain more than usual. I could be wrong here, it's something that's true for me and maybe it's confirmation bias. But it seems like there's an internet seasonal affective disorder or something.
posted by Hoopo at 8:28 AM on December 11, 2013


it's not always workable to do the full-on whackamole thing and with e.g. shocking deaths (see your Paul Walker link) the problem's often exacerbated by a lack of good prepared material vs. something like Mandela having been ill.

To be clear I don't mind the single-link obits anymore, and I often think they should just stand so people who want to discuss the deceased don't have to make the same comment in 4 or 5 different threads.

Or, more annoyingly, try and figure out whether the post is going to stand because, depending on various factors, the bar for an acceptable obit thread is anywhere from a press release (Jobs) to a CNN "breaking news"-type bulletin (Walker) to a brief but well-written obituary (Reed) to an informative multi-link post with materials the average user may not have seen (Mandela).

IMO most of the value in obit threads comes from commenters who fill the post in with informative links or stories and anecdotes.
posted by lalex at 8:34 AM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the problem with good obit posts is nobody wants to spend the time crafting a good one and risk it being deleted as a double to the other really good one that was posted right before you hit [Post.]
posted by entropicamericana at 8:47 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Despite my comment above, I think that obituary posts should have an inverse relationship between length and notoriety of the deceased. Frankly, a one-link "Nelson Mandela has died" would have been okay with me -- the value is below the fold as we discuss and share stories and kick in links that pop up after the obligatory obits that were written years ago by people who may themselves not even be alive anymore (viz. Elizabeth Taylor's NYT obit).

Some jazz drummer who had a couple of records in the '70s but lived an interesting life? Sure, bulk that one up. But Nelson Mandela? Neil Armstrong? The value in those is the discussion of the life, not the discovery of it.
posted by Etrigan at 8:52 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


There were pre-prepared obit posts on the mefi wiki. Are they still there?
posted by subbes at 8:52 AM on December 11, 2013


The wronger should not get to dictate how the wronged responds.

-- emptythought

It's funny that you say this, because in the Big Bang Theory thread you were explicitly telling abused/wronged/ostracized/marginalized people how they should and shouldn't describe their experience. Now I know you are not the "wronger" of those people, but I find it interesting that you absolutely will dictate how people describe their hurt at the hands of others, but you resent people criticizing your response to perceived wrongs.
posted by jayder at 8:58 AM on December 11, 2013


I have an obligation, then, to warn OP to steer very clear of the Nazi-themed musical ideas in the Sound of Music thread, which I am still chuckling about a day later. I love it when these riff sessions spawn out of nowhere -- it's just an extra reason to love Mefi.
posted by mochapickle at 9:02 AM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was going to apologize for starting that, but then I remembered that you came up with "Greaß," which is so perfectly stupid that I'm happy to have had a hand in it.
posted by Etrigan at 9:04 AM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


It was cool that you did. These eddies and streams of nonsense are a feature, not a bug.
posted by mochapickle at 9:12 AM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, it was going to be an entirely ironic apology. Something in the vein of John Cleese's apology while hanging out a window in A Fish Called Wanda.
posted by Etrigan at 9:19 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reddit, in at least one sub, has a [SERIOUS] tag that OPs can use to tamp down the jokey. I don't think that would work here but it does show that even Redditors can find a way to raise the level of discourse.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:23 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, the Time POTY award thread has turned into a quite interesting thread on religion.
posted by ersatz at 9:44 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


subbes: "There were pre-prepared obit posts on the mefi wiki. Are they still there?"

Yes. But the only two people who ever worked on it were Mitheral and goodnewsfortheinsane. Pronoiac and I cleaned it up in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
posted by zarq at 9:49 AM on December 11, 2013


If you think that punfests are a new thing here on MetaFilter (or that they were invented by Reddit) you must not have been around for as long as you think you have. Pun riffs are a time-honored nerd tradition going back to pre-internet days. Nerd cavemen were making puns around the campfire about antelope hunts. When Tiktaliik, the first ancestor of humans to crawl out of the sea, heaved its proto-tetrapod body up onto land, it probably shouted something to the effect of "Elbows? More like ElbOWs, amirite? My rudimentary limbs are aching!" (Not very funny, but keep in mind that Tiktaliik's brain was probably about the size of a pebble.)
posted by Scientist at 9:54 AM on December 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


I agree with Jayder about the ideological stuff but a key phrase is, "in addition to the jokey threads." I realize that issue arose because other people responded to this MeTa by arguing that the problem isn't X, it's Y, but I think they are separate problems that don't have much to do with each other. For the most part, there's not much crossover between the hateful nastiness and the jokey nonsense.

~Bert and cribcage, I also appreciate your points, though. You aren't hostile to fun, you just feel that the current balance doesn't seem to favor the kinds of conversations you prefer.

That's basically accurate. But I'll add, I'm sorry if you feel wary of wearing out your welcome here. First, because it's not my place to drive off jokiness; but also because in my solitary personal two-cent opinion, you're a positive weight on the balance. Some of that is because you do it well: you're not overdoing it with early quips in every fifth thread, and I never find myself thinking, "Like 20% of these comments are by IRFH." It's also not the singular weight of your participation here.

I hope nobody reads this thread and feels less welcome. I think Bert did a good job of raising the issue without it being a personalized callout. I may be a curmudgeon, IRFH, but you're one of the few people on the Internet who has made me literally LOL.
posted by cribcage at 10:15 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Primordial oohs, evolved ahs.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:16 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I miss stumbling upon a discussion where suddenly a professional in the field is giving their perspective, rather than the majority of comments seemingly being throwaway jokes or one liners.

I realize that it can't all be cats in scanners, but the jokes and one liners have always been here. Longboat threads (one from 2001), alphabet threads, taglines. Nonsense has always abounded. Not to say that everything was all jokey back then, but this sort of thing goes back to the beginning of the site. I'm not sure that there has been a huge shift in the tenor of the comments. On the other hand, the Boyzone/"I'd hit it" stuff doesn't really show up anymore.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:45 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, the Time POTY award thread has turned into a quite interesting thread on religion.

Similarly, the currently active sign language interpreter thread is maybe one of the best threads we have had all year long.
posted by elizardbits at 10:53 AM on December 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm just sitting here missing this rabbit now.

Oh Oolong.....we remember you.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:03 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a counterpoint, I feel that, while there may be an uptick, it's still waaay better than it used to be, especially in TV and sports discussions. The story about the NYT 4th down Twitterbot, for instance, was blessedly free of "Oh, you mean American 'football'... How cute."
posted by Etrigan at 9:29 AM on December 11


Sports threads are a way in which the community seems to have gotten consistently better. The people coming in to shit on the sport in question or sports in general seems to have gone down.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:07 AM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think that's partially due to increased mod vigilance, and not just in sports threads. I'll still see early threadshits every so often, but they disappear quickly. If that happening reduces the frequency with which they actually occur (because people don't see those comments sitting there as examples of acceptable behavior), that's good too. Putting a stop to that kind of stuff seems to have been a big mod push for quite a few years now.
posted by LionIndex at 11:24 AM on December 11, 2013


Early threadsshits getting stomped on fast has been a huge improvement to thread quality, IMHO. Great work from the mods there.
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on December 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


Sorry I did go to bed after posting. I assure you I have valid excuses.

As far as what I expected in the Uruguay thread, well what I rather hoped for (as I do in most threads) was perhaps to find questions I am not sure of asking, or answers to questions like such before they were asked. I've seen this before where suddenly the who/what/where/why/hows are being elaborated upon in great detail and suddenly I'm learning something I wasn't even aware I didn't know...

Perhaps part of my problem is I don't feel capable of expressing what I want to know or eliciting an appropriate response - and similarly not having the time to participate in an ongoing discussion even such as this which I've created - hence the lurker status...? Secondary to this is that I have transitioned to a living room entertainment set up where I only use a wireless mouse (no keyboard). If I want to type something I either use an onscreen keyboard which is painful, or have to think whatever I'm about to say is important enough for me to get up and move to my desktop pc to say it (which is rare).

I think cribcage brought up a good point which I didn't make clear which is it wasn't just joke strings that initiated this topic but I feel that perhaps I'm suddenly more aware of comments which seem to be more redundant, less conversational and more aggressive or argumentative as well? This has the effect of making me not want to read every single comment - so I glaze over a few then I see the X-teenth comment was similar, and I give up on the conversation all together.

You aren't hostile to fun, you just feel that the current balance doesn't seem to favor the kinds of conversations you prefer.
Exactly. I think.
posted by ~Bert at 11:47 AM on December 11, 2013


Yeah, I've made several sports threads and thought the discussions were pretty interesting with a minimum of LOL SPORTSBALL HANDEGG stuff.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:06 PM on December 11, 2013


If I want to type something I either use an onscreen keyboard which is painful, or have to think whatever I'm about to say is important enough for me to get up and move to my desktop pc to say it (which is rare).

So you don't engage with MetaFilter very often because you haven't got time and when you do read the site, you read it in a way where you can't contribute to ongoing discussions - and then you complain that other peoples' participation in the site is not up to your standards?

This has the effect of making me not want to read every single comment - so I glaze over a few then I see the X-teenth comment was similar, and I give up on the conversation all together.

You don't have to read all the comments. No one is forcing you to. And there are plenty of discussions every day that are helpful and interesting and entertaining - as far as I'm concerned.

There have been so many sites over the years that have changed into places where I don't want to participate in the discussion. And it's a general web rule now - "don't read the comments". For me, MetaFilter has avoided both of those things. Sure, sometimes the discussion isn't as interesting as I wish it were - but it's still much higher quality here than most other places.
posted by crossoverman at 12:11 PM on December 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


Early threadsshits getting stomped on fast has been a huge improvement to thread quality, IMHO. Great work from the mods there.

And prompt flagging is super helpful on that front, so we appreciate that folks have been doing that when they can. If anything, more of that would be handy, I still come across stuff a couple hours later that's like, three people in this thread were annoyed enough with that dumb thing to gripe about it but zero flagged it? Gah!
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:27 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know it hurts but we won't change until we've hit bottom.
posted by Miko at 12:30 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do wish I could learn to flag. I totally intellectually understand how flagging works and why it's important to flag. But I'm still extremely reluctant to flag and only very, very rarely do so because a) it feels to like I'm saying "I think this comment should be deleted" and that seems like an extreme judgment that I'm almost never comfortable making, and b) it also feels like running to an authority figure to report to them bad behavior, which from earliest childhood was something I internalized as being not good.

Of course, I hear about people who just flag all the time so I figure that it evens out. It's not like my failure to use flags the way they are intended to be used means that the whole flagging system is broken.

So I guess I'm saying "thanks!" to all the folks who flag early threadshitting comments. Thanks for taking up my slack.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:40 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


But I think his comment that jayder was responding to was very needlessly combative and provocative, and even though I agree with his position in that first thread he linked to, I find that his comment there was also needlessly combative and provocative. So, yeah, I think that on balance, jokey threads are preferred over how emptythought himself is participating in both this thread and one of the threads he linked to as an example of what he deplores.

Late coming back, but my main gripe was not about the merits or failings of that comment; it was that jayder was essentially derailing ~Bert's Meta about a general community issue into a callout of one specific comment by one specific user, which then briefly derailed the thread into a mini-Meta-referendum on emptythought. I felt like that was unfair to the OP of this Meta (which is not about emptythought's comment), to emptythought, and hell, even to people who maybe also had problems with emptythought's comment or participation in that thread that they would've wanted to address in its own Metatalk thread, but won't see this. But that derail seems to have run its course, so it all works out.
posted by kagredon at 12:48 PM on December 11, 2013


(and I think the resulting discussion that the callout eventually morphed into about assholishness was a really good one, so it wound up being a net win)
posted by kagredon at 12:52 PM on December 11, 2013


"Late coming back, but my main gripe was not about the merits or failings of that comment; it was that jayder was essentially derailing ~Bert's Meta about a general community issue into a callout of one specific comment by one specific user..."

Yeah, I see that. I agree that it's a bad thing to do, pretty much always, really.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:55 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


kagredon --

Huh? Emptythought brought up that other thread and referred to it as "pig wallow" and an example of bad stuff on Metafilter. So no, I didn't derail shit and I don't appreciate you saying I did. I was addressing something that emptythought said.
posted by jayder at 12:59 PM on December 11, 2013


I really hope the mods don't decide to limit one liners, there are so many outpourings of Wildean genius on here that could benefit future generations and world culture in general.
posted by sgt.serenity at 1:17 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


He brought up two threads, and didn't use it to call out specific comments or users. That, in my mind, is different.
posted by kagredon at 1:20 PM on December 11, 2013


I agree with kagredon that it's an important distinction. As evidenced by my earlier comment, I also don't like emptythought's provocative description of and linking to those threads.

I struggle with this myself and obviously I had the same reaction to emptythought's comment as you did, jayder. But on reflection, I agree with kagredon.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:28 PM on December 11, 2013


I always thought that the main cause of Metafilter's decline was Christianity, along with an eroding tax base and Diocletian's decision to tie the coloni to the lands they worked.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:29 PM on December 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


it feels to like I'm saying "I think this comment should be deleted" and that seems like an extreme judgment that I'm almost never comfortable making

I sort of wish there was a "fuck you, that's why" flag that, unlike regular flags, didn't show up in the mod console until there's a critical mass of them.
posted by griphus at 1:32 PM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


TheWhiteSkull: "I always thought that the main cause of Metafilter's decline was Christianity, along with an eroding tax base and Diocletian's decision to tie the coloni to the lands they worked."

There are a couple of other possible reasons.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:34 PM on December 11, 2013


I've toyed with the idea of making a Greasemonkey script that replaces the tag menu with options like "why the fuck would you post this?" and "what."

As is, I usually flag those as "breaks the guidelines" or "noise"
posted by kagredon at 1:37 PM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I guess the answer to the question is that all sorts of people do all sorts of things differently. Life is weird that way. Sometimes it's just making fart noises at the back of the bus.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:09 PM on December 11, 2013


But I'm still extremely reluctant to flag and only very, very rarely do so because a) it feels to like I'm saying "I think this comment should be deleted"

Think of it as a "you're an arsehole and I could tell you in great detail why and how you are an arsehole, but instead I let somebody who's paid to do so take a look at it avoiding myself grief" flagging instead.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:09 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Flagging's natural, flagging's good / Not everybody does it, but everybody should.
posted by mochapickle at 2:21 PM on December 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Life is weird that way. Sometimes it's just making fart noises at the back of the bus.

My first reaction was to say "no, that's gas," but now I'm getting curious about what kind of bus you're using.
posted by Namlit at 2:30 PM on December 11, 2013


It's interesting to me to see how other people think/feel about flagging. I don't feel like I flag more or less than 'average'. When I do flag stuff, I think of it more as a "hey, mods, this seems to be something that violates my understanding of how things are supposed to work - just wanted to bring it to your attention" sort of thing.

That being said, I tend to read (and thus flag) mostly in AskMe, and that has slightly more specific guidelines than the other areas of the site, so perhaps that's part of it.
posted by dotgirl at 2:38 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sometimes it's just making fart noises at the back of the bus.

I totally initially parsed that as "at the back of the bar."
posted by Kitteh at 2:47 PM on December 11, 2013


> When I do flag stuff, I think of it more as a "hey, mods, this seems to be something that violates my understanding of how things are supposed to work - just wanted to bring it to your attention" sort of thing.

That's how I flag as well.
posted by languagehat at 2:49 PM on December 11, 2013


Ivan Fyodorovich: "…I'm still extremely reluctant to flag and only very, very rarely do so because a) it feels to like I'm saying "I think this comment should be deleted" and that seems like an extreme judgment that I'm almost never comfortable making, and b) it also feels like running to an authority figure to report to them bad behavior…."

I don't really see it that way. I just see flagging (and the contact form) as the community side of moderation here on MetaFilter. This is a fairly large site that's run by a small number of mods, only one or two of whom are on duty at any given moment; they can't be everywhere all the time. Therefore, a large portion of moderation is by necessity the job of community members. Ideally this is done through self-moderation and modeling of good behavior, but when that fails the only real options are to either alert the mods or engage the problem directly.

Of the two, alerting the mods usually does a lot less damage to the conversation at hand. Nobody likes a fight in a thread; it tends to ruin the discussion for everyone else. Alerting the mods will put somebody on the scene who has the tools and the mission to make sure that the situation gets handled in the least-disruptive appropriate way. (Which means that often, flagged comments or posts don't end up getting deleted. A flag isn't a "delete this please", it's more of a "take a look at this and see if you think something should be done about it".)

Mods also have a more consistent vision for how MetaFilter should look and how it should operate than the general userbase. I don't always agree with that vision in every instance, but since there's no reason to privilege my own view over anyone else's, I think it's a good thing that the people executing the moderation are all pretty much on the same page even if I personally would run things slightly differently. And we all know that the vision for moderation on MetaFilter is at least a very intentional and thought-out one, because the mods spend so much time here in MetaTalk explaining that vision to us and one thing that always comes across is that they've thought very hard about how they do their jobs, and also that they're open to reconsidering their policies over time (though that reconsideration often ends up in a "no change" decision, as one might expect).

Anyway, I don't see flagging as either a call for deletion or as tattling. Flagging something does not always result in deletion. Heck, at least half of my flags are probably "HTML/display error" and the usual result is something like a link or a linebreak getting repaired, which is good for everyone. Even content-related flags ("noise", "derail", etc) will often result in a note, or nothing, or presumably sometimes a private conversation with a user rather than an outright deletion. The mods have often said that flags merely draw their attention to an issue, after which they make their own decision about what if anything to do. Large numbers of flags can become a factor in making that decision, but in no case are flags the only factor. So if your expectation for a flag is that it will result in a deletion, you are likely to be somewhat disappointed and probably have the wrong idea about how the mods react to flags.

And rather than tattling, I see flagging as just doing my duty to help make moderation in general work here on MetaFilter. Unless you're one of those members who would rather see the site totally unmoderated (in which case you presumably don't want to give Team Mod any help) all you're doing is alerting someone to the presence of a comment or post that you think might not be right for MetaFilter in some way, based either on your personal vision for the site, the stated preferences of Team Mod, or (like me, and like most flaggers I assume) a bit of both. I see it as a duty, as part of being an active citizen of MeFi – sort of like voting or serving on a jury. Part of the contract that members have with the rest of the community is to do what they can to make MetaFilter a better place, and one of the ways we can do that is by flagging.

So I think you (and those who think about flagging the way you do, of which I know there are a goodly number) sort of have the wrong end of the stick here. Flagging is not tattling, it's just part of the moderation paradigm of the site – which like most things around here, relies heavily on good-faith community participation in order to work. And it isn't really a call for deletion. It's just, well, a flag – something that draws attention to a point where you think that attention ought to be focused, so that one of the pro mods can take a look at it and make a final call. That call could be any number of things, and we as members don't have a lot of control over what it ends up being. A flag just says "Hey, I think there's a problem here. Come take a look."

That was pretty longwinded; I had no idea that I had so many feelings about flags. In any case though I think they're a good thing. Since they're clearly a major part of the moderation scheme, and since the moderation here is in my view totally peerless compared to the rest of what I've seen of the web, I think they work well. The only reasons not to flag would be if one either had a misunderstanding about what flags mean, or if one saw Team Mod and Team Member as being somehow in conflict. I don't think Team Mod sees it that way, and I don't see it that way either.
posted by Scientist at 3:02 PM on December 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


"So I think you (and those who think about flagging the way you do, of which I know there are a goodly number) sort of have the wrong end of the stick here."

Well, perhaps I wasn't very clear. It's not that this is how I think about flagging — how I understand flagging intellectually is as you describe it. I totally understand how it is designed to work and how it works in practice and I think it makes a lot of sense. My problem is just with my emotional relationship to the act of flagging. What I described is how I feel about flagging, which isn't the same as how I think of it.

And my failure is that can't really seem to get my deliberative belief to override that deeper, internalized sense of what flagging is. I've sort of tried, and I should try harder. But it really stresses me out to flag something, it's unpleasant for me even if I know that it shouldn't be. And, like I said, it's not as if my failure to overcome this bias means that I'm breaking MetaFilter. Other people are taking up my slack. So, again, thanks for doing that. :)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:47 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, fair enough. Feelings are harder to change than thoughts. I suppose you can take comfort in the fact that not everybody has to flag for the system to work well, though probably as many people should do it as possible as long as they are flagging in good faith. It's not one of those things that people absolutely must do even if it makes them uncomfortable.
posted by Scientist at 4:03 PM on December 11, 2013


I use flagging for four reasons: 1) clear violations of site rules; 2) html problems that haven't been cleaned up yet and are in the last couple comments so I might be the first one to notice; 3) something that is making me ARGLE BARGLE in anger so probably I should not post to that thread and someone else should see if it's actually rule-breaking or if I am just incoherent with rage; and 4) something that isn't a rule violation, and doesn't bother me personally, but I can see it might turn the thread into a shitstorm (which I flag as "other"). If #4 is unclear I'll use the contact form to say "mods, I think this thread is taking a weird turn, here's why" but often it's pretty clear why a particular comment MIGHT trigger a shitstorm and sometimes by having the mods look at it early they can help steer the discussion in a positive direction rather than coming in after people are already screaming at each other and having to delete derails.

I think I'm a little more likely to flag in threads I'm not personally involved in, since it does seem a bit like tattling if someone's behavior is borderline in a thread where you're big into the argument, but better flagging than flaming people.

I also try to be conscious of flagging things as fantastic when they are fantastic since you have to be the sidebar you wish to see in the world.

Also one time I tried to flag something as "html error" and accidentally hit "racist/sexist/offensive" and went quick to the contact form and said WHOOPS MY BAD and I think it was taz who e-mailed me back like 30 seconds later saying "Oh, okay, I was sort-of wondering what was wrong with that comment!" But whoever it was said, Don't worry about misclicks, we go look at it and see what's wrong with it, we know sometimes people misclick or drunk flag or spite flag or whatever, it's just an alert.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:11 PM on December 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I totally want to flag "fantastic" much more often, and have no problem with doing so except that I keep forgetting that flag exists.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:20 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


html errors are offensive, to both typer and reader, so I think you were okay on that one.
posted by elizardbits at 4:41 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this MeTa, ~Bert. I think I make too many short, jokey comments. If I were an IRFH (for instance), I think my comment rate would be just right, but I'm no IRFH. Twitter has given me an outlet for that kind of thing, but I do think I should cut down on it, since I'm not especially good at it in the first place. If I weren't joking, I'd probably be lurking: I rarely have much of real substance to add. What I could say, others say better and with more experience behind it besides.

On flags, I understand where Ivan's coming from. I don't like to feel like I'm running to Teacher because of what the bad kids said. But I do tend to flag stuff I dislike. Since I often can't express what bothers me about a comment, I just flag it as "noise" or "other" (when it isn't a weird HTML mess, which I don't often see) and hope a mod senses what I'm sensing.

The nice thing is that, if the comment doesn't get deleted, or if a mod doesn't come in to tell people to cool it, then someone wittier will come along and point out what exactly it gets wrong, and they'll do it with more style than I can muster.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:44 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's funny that you say this, because in the Big Bang Theory thread you were explicitly telling abused/wronged/ostracized/marginalized people how they should and shouldn't describe their experience. Now I know you are not the "wronger" of those people, but I find it interesting that you absolutely will dictate how people describe their hurt at the hands of others, but you resent people criticizing your response to perceived wrongs.

I was writing that post as someone within that group, as someone who has aspergers. I think i'm absolutely someone who gets to point out that there's some shittiness on the "wronged" side of the table going on as well. I realize that i'm just one person, and that i can't universalize my experience obviously in some kind of "i think this therefor you all should" way, but going "hey, i think this is shitty and this is why i wish people wouldn't do it" isn't that out of line. I think it would be a LOT more out of line if it was some random neurotypical person saying it, however.

Saying, "This offends me, and here's why" is not necessarily offensive, depending on how you phrase it. But the additional pairing of "You're being an asshole" seems to be something that some people always feel the need to add onto their posts, and it makes threads into fighty shitfests that they do not need to be. There's never a need to add any variant of "You're bad and you should feel bad" to commentary. By all means, point out where you're offended, how it makes you feel, and why, but it'd be great if people could leave behind their moral judgments of other users for their opinions. You may feel that this doesn't count as a "personal attack", but I'm not sure how it possibly could not be one.

You should really think long and hard, and maybe go look back at your most recent MeTa before you go around passing judgement on people for this kind of thing. Really. I let this one sit in preview for a long time before i was un-astonished enough to write anything more than "you're one to talk".

That said, I think that there is ABSOLUTELY a time and a place for "check yourself, you're being an ass". This comes right back to my complaint about the NVC stuff, where it's like are we supposed to just let people who are loudly, rudely saying offensive things be pricks without acknowledging that? are we supposed to be like androids responding only to the content and not the way the poster presented it or themselves?

Because i think that "hey, you're being a dick with this" is not zero value content unless it's presented alone. It's something that i think everyone needs to hear from time to time, and it's absolutely made me and many people iv'e talked to stop and check themselves when they really needed to.

Do people "take the bait" too often on here? maybe. I also think there's quite a bit of shirt removing, "come at me bro!" going on in some of the recent shitfest threads in which someone just drops a stinky little bomb and waits. Not necessarily anything report-worthy, but just well... being a dick. And quite often, not going "hey, you're being a dick" and acknowledging it feels like just letting a bratty little kid get away with some kind of "but i'm saying ass like donkey, not butt mom!. And is that really the standard of behavior we want to just accept and go "meh, boys will be boys" as a community?

I don't know. If "this is the cancer that is killing mefi" is really the generally held opinion about not-super-calm responses that include any personal judgement in response to dickish comments(and seriously, that protesters are like fred phelps and the klan shit?) then i'll reconsider how i'm interacting with the site. But i really get the feeling that the general opinion isn't that the responses from upset people are the problem, but that the shit comments that start it all are. Ignoring them isn't going to make them go away, and it's a sort of tacit approval.

See what i'm saying at all there? This isn't some kind of "eh, that's weird uncle joe, he's like that"(which wouldn't be cool anyways) or even "there's a place for all opinions" sort of thing. It's people saying offensive stuff, other people parroting it or adding to the pile, and then when someone finally challenges it the fact that they pointed out they were being a dick cheapens or invalidates it? or, at the very least, you're saying it's just adding to the shitpile? I mean, i could maybe agree with the last one. But it's still a 99% of the damage was done and shit is already messed up kind of situation.

I mean, i'm making an effort to be less vitriolic about my responses. But do you understand that it's extremely hard to see this as anything but "don't get mad at the people being assholes" which is a completely obtuse statement to me.

I don't even know. This got a lot of favorites though, so if that's really how the community feels i make an effort to shelve it. Hell of a person to be saying this though.

The first is that you're making the argument I made quite often here back in 2004 and 2005. I deeply empathize with your complaint that a) people say deeply offensive things and those things ought to piss people off; and b) people say deeply offensive things but in a plausibly deniable way, or otherwise in a way that makes it look like they're being civil even though their argument is, say, that we should kill and eat small children (not really, but you get my point) and, here again, the totally reasonable response is to be pissed off and tell them in no uncertain terms that they are terrible, terrible people. and this entire response, ridiculously long to requote

You know, i deeply like this response. I read it right after you posted it, and read it again at work. It really made me think, and the more i think about it the more it really resonates with me. This part especially

Again, I'm not saying that ignoring them or taking them seriously and implicitly giving them more credibility than they deserve is the only possible responses. I think that it's possible to push back vigorously, but that's not the same thing as being belligerent and insulting. Do they deserve insult? Sure. But attempting to mete out justice doesn't actually result in it, it doesn't end up doing anything productive, and other people often pay a cost associated with your (our) need to tell someone they're being an asshole when they're being an asshole.

Seems like it says what needs to be said better than anything else i've read.

I don't know, i need to reflect on this. I think we are quite similar in our approaches and reasons for approaching this sort of thing the way we have and did though.

And i think you're right, in everything you said. Even if it contradicts what i just wrote. I almost deleted most of the rest of my post, but meh. I felt like it needed to be said, and i took the time to write it. Unlike a lot of the posts i delete without ever submitting, i still think there's some worthwhile stuff up the scrollbar of this white box even if i'll change my mind soon.

As a little closing note, i think it's worth saying that a lot of the times i've engaged people it's because i got the feeling that i was saying something that needed to be said not just from within myself. People would reply to or quote my responses or favorite them and i got the feeling that the community agreed with what i was saying, or what behavior i was calling out. Not that it's an automatic judgement of good value or positive contribution to the discourse, but it didn't just feel like i was throwing good words after bad or something.

I don't even know. Oh well.
posted by emptythought at 6:28 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Calling someone an asshole on metafilter is not okay and hasn't been for a very long time. I don't even think that's up for debate.
posted by empath at 6:34 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know. If "this is the cancer that is killing mefi" is really the generally held opinion about not-super-calm responses that include any personal judgement in response to dickish comments(and seriously, that protesters are like fred phelps and the klan shit?) then i'll reconsider how i'm interacting with the site. But i really get the feeling that the general opinion isn't that the responses from upset people are the problem, but that the shit comments that start it all are.

Honestly, though? I don't think visible mob approval for calling someone an asshole etc etc is a high enough bar. I don't care so much that people are like "right on!". Insulting others, deliberately, is not helpful in any context - regardless of how wrong you feel their opinions are, or how offended you may be.

I get it, there are people on this site, and I can guarantee their snide one-liner talking point bullshit will infuriate me. But going in all-guns-blazing resolves nothing.

Additionally, I think you are creating a much clearer definition of "offensive" than what actually exists. Offensive is a spectrum and people drop off all along it. I felt like the recent "deaf Obama signer" and "Sassy comebacks to street harrassment" threads illustrate this well.

In both threads, someone who didn't know very much about the topic at hand posted something that was largely incorrect/irrelevant. One did it politely, the other did it in a presumptuous manner.

In the first instance (deaf obama signer, for those following along at home), several people with more direct experience gently corrected the mefite, and explained where there assumption was wrong. Said mefite was happy to be corrected, and everyone in the thread was more informed.

In the second instance, several jumped on the mefite, escalated the initially pretty up tight tone with sarcasm and dismissal. Mefite responded in an aggrieved manner and was basically told to piss off, for better or worse, and promptly disabled their account (not without lobbing a few more bombs, I suspect), no one really learned anything, and we all got to pat our backs for laying into the chauvinist.

Obvs, there were more differences in that, initial tone and response from the mefite in question make a big difference - and the second instance was arguably more of a derail by nature - but nonetheless, I thought it was interesting to see the difference that tone and tone-of-response make, and I think the first instance is preferable by far.

I dunno, people sometimes love to ride high horses around here, and lash out when they're wounded. You can totally say "Actually, I find that a bit offensive, because X, Y, Z" without being "You're a dick and that's a dick thing to say" (I am guilty of the latter myself sometimes). I think it's a better outcome in every instance and turns the thread into being about Thing, rather than My Feelings About Thing.
posted by smoke at 6:43 PM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Calling someone an asshole on metafilter is not okay and hasn't been for a very long time. I don't even think that's up for debate.

I don't even think that's up for debate here. No one, including myself has been defending just directly calling someone an asshole. It's just like how you don't, and are not allowed to say "fuck you".

What people seem to be talking about to me, since it would be presumptuous to just say "what people are talking about, is saying things like "this is a shitty thing to say" or other things that heavily imply the person is being an ass.

I haven't seen any posts in a very long time that just straight up said "stop being an asshole" or something, so i really don't think that's what anyone is talking about. That's not really what goes on here.
posted by emptythought at 6:49 PM on December 11, 2013


I like the funny comments. I've poached/adapted a bunch for use in meatspace and the "book of faces". Keep it coming!

Every time you self-censor, you are denying a mod the opportunity to review your comment. Let them delete when necessary; that is their function and I'm sure they are grateful for it.
posted by Renoroc at 6:52 PM on December 11, 2013


I've poached/adapted a bunch for use in meatspace and the "book of faces". Keep it coming!

I can understand why you would do this

why would you admit to this
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:06 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't mind one-liners, but I don't like it when 3 or 4 people make a thread their own personal improv stage. It's just noise to me. But by the time I can sit down and read MeFi at the end of my workday, those comments are hours old. Since they're still there (and sometimes highly favorited to boot), I can only assume others aren't as bothered.

I bailed on the Uruguay thread about 15 comments in.
posted by kimberussell at 7:18 PM on December 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


(counts 15 comments down...)

Well, same to you, bub.
posted by Etrigan at 8:45 PM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Calling someone an asshole on metafilter is not okay and hasn't been for a very long time. I don't even think that's up for debate.

What does 'ok' mean?

Do you mean that it isn't done?
Do you mean that others frown enough upon it to deter others from doing it?
Do you mean that when it is done, the community rallies around the person who is called that?

Because none of those choices are consistent with what actually happens in metafilter on a regular basis.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:01 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


So Bert is slightly pessimistic about things? Quelle surprise says Ernie.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:54 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Shhh, he's not really Bert. He's just around Bert.

What does 'ok' mean?

It means it gets deleted when it happens and the person doing it gets a timeout or ban. That is pretty consistent.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:33 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


It means it gets deleted when it happens and the person doing it gets a timeout or ban. That is pretty consistent.

Nuh uh. Are you typing from the darkest timeline? No one gets banned or timedout for calling people an asshole, asshole.* I'm not even sure comments get deleted for that.


*Sorry, but I couldn't resist.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:19 AM on December 12, 2013


You should really think long and hard, and maybe go look back at your most recent MeTa before you go around passing judgement on people for this kind of thing.

I think it's important to remember that a lot of times, when people - not just me, but I think a lot of people - are talking about what they'd like to see in Metafilter, it's hardly a "I, from my place of superiority, think you other people should do this," and more, "This is a thing that I think is lowering the quality of Metafilter or making people feel bad, and I wish everyone, including myself, would do it less often." If I've made personal attacks on other posters, then I was wrong to do so - and if only the people who were always perfect were allowed to point out that stuff was bad, we'd have zero community feedback. I'm sure even the best of our best slip up sometimes.
posted by corb at 7:26 AM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I can understand why you would do this

why would you admit to this


No harm done I figure.
posted by Renoroc at 8:23 AM on December 12, 2013


In the second instance, several jumped on the mefite, escalated the initially pretty up tight tone with sarcasm and dismissal. Mefite responded in an aggrieved manner and was basically told to piss off, for better or worse, and promptly disabled their account (not without lobbing a few more bombs, I suspect), no one really learned anything, and we all got to pat our backs for laying into the chauvinist.

I'm not sure you necessarily meant it this way or if you were just using a kind of breezy tone and this was a side-effect, but this reminded me of something that I feel like I'm seeing more often recently. And since we've shifted to general "i think there's been an uptick in this, could we not do this so much", here is mine: could we cut way back "you're just saying that to be a good liberal" and all of its friends?
posted by kagredon at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


could we cut way back "you're just saying that to be a good liberal" and all of its friends?

As long as it's acknowledged that all of its friends include "You're saying that because you're a X", I think that's a great idea. I think there's a lot less assuming of good faith going on than there needs to be.

It's true that sometimes, someone's social circle and biases really influence what they feel it's necessary to say, necessary to challenge, or what the social mores compel them to do, but that applies to everyone. Sometimes it's easy to forget that, but we all sometimes say things because we're identified with our tribes too strongly. The trick is recognizing that, while also acknowledging that other people are doing the same.
posted by corb at 9:57 AM on December 12, 2013


Sometimes some people say critical things because the person whose words are being criticized is not only wrong, but repeatedly says the first wrong thing that pops into their head without first thinking carefully about it, and some people say critical things because they are perhaps tired of seeing threads being derailed by the same patterns of thoughtless, throwaway comments.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:19 AM on December 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


As long as it's acknowledged that all of its friends include "You're saying that because you're a X", I think that's a great idea.

It's true that sometimes, someone's social circle and biases really influence what they feel it's necessary to say, necessary to challenge, or what the social mores compel them to do, but that applies to everyone. Sometimes it's easy to forget that, but we all sometimes say things because we're identified with our tribes too strongly. The trick is recognizing that, while also acknowledging that other people are doing the same.


Respectfully, corb, that's not really the problem I have with the phrase. I agree that it's rude to toss out "of course you'd say that, you're an X" without any deeper analysis of why Xs might believe Y, but I think that it can be productive to say "I think if you're an X, you might believe Y because it's less likely you've experienced Z, but as an A who faces an unrelenting stream of Z, here are my thoughts...." That is, "of course you'd say that, you're an X" is rude, but it's rude mainly because it's not expanding on one's point in a way that the person you're arguing can respond constructively to.

I think "you're just saying that to be a good liberal" or "great, here comes the Mefi progressive one-up competition" (n.b. I am not referring to or quoting any specific comments, these are intended as a slightly exaggerated/fictionalized version of a general trend) or similar are shitty in a different way, because they kind of play into a broader internet pattern of saying "people who complain about racism/sexism/classism/etc. are just trying to score points", rather than being related to any thoughtful real-life discussion of internal biases or differences in experiences. The discussions of the term "SJW" in these Metatalk threads (1, 2) kind of cover the same ground that I'm trying to get at.
posted by kagredon at 10:22 AM on December 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Hmm. I see what you're saying, but I think "You're saying that to be a good liberal" is the same type of thing - rude because it's not expanding on its point in a way that can be responded constructively to, and it's a lazy shorthand. When people say "You're saying that to be a good liberal", what they're really saying is, "You are saying that because you are a member of a liberal society that takes any deviation from its rough gospel as a sign of out-group membership; whether or not you genuinely believe that, it appears that you might be anxious to confirm your in-group status as one of the people who think the right things, rather than having a constructive comment to add to the discussion."

The broader internet pattern of saying "people who complain about racism/sexism/classism are just saying that to score points" is a really awful and mean (and often incorrect) way of phrasing things, but I think it is also a shorthand for, "Sometimes people who complain about racism/sexism/classism seem to be doing so because they belong to the dominant class, and seek to establish a clear line of demarcation between themselves, the 'good' members of the dominant class, and those others, the 'bad, oppressive' members of the dominant class."

That is also confusing to some who are unfamiliar with a lot of activist principles - because you will have, for example, a man complaining about sexism which he does not experience, and that is hard to understand unless you have been in these circles and understand that it is viewed as a good thing for the dominant class to take the burden of pushback.
posted by corb at 10:31 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"... because they kind of play into a broader internet pattern of saying "people who complain about racism/sexism/classism/etc. are just trying to score points", rather than being related to any thoughtful real-life discussion of internal biases or differences in experiences."

Right. What you're complaining about is part of the larger tendency to criticism other people's opinions on the basis that it's just social posturing.

It drives me nuts. By which I mean that it makes me angry.

Which is a little bit weird because I do believe that, as a rule, people's beliefs are quite strongly determined by social affiliation. But that's not quite the same thing as accusing someone of expressing a belief as posturing — that implies at least a partial amount of deliberation and self-awareness. What I think is much more likely is that people genuinely believe the things they claim to believe and they have what they think are good reasons to believe those things, even though those beliefs correlate strongly to various demographic factors.

It's basically an accusation of bad-faith; and while I think that people do argue in bad-faith — most people very occasionally and some people much more often — I also think that accusations of bad-faith are very destructive. They're deeply insulting and in my opinion they require quite a bit of evidence to be justified. But many of the people who are inclined to accuse other of really only posturing (and that includes things like accusations that people are sucking up to the mods, or burnishing their progressive bonafides, or whatever) just toss those off because they feel sure that this is what such-and-such group does. They don't think they really need any evidence, they just know that this is how people behave. Of course that's why people say X. They're posturing.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:34 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


"...because you will have, for example, a man complaining about sexism which he does not experience, and that is hard to understand unless you have been in these circles and understand that it is viewed as a good thing for the dominant class to take the burden of pushback."

No, I complain about sexism because I think it's wrong. Do you limit your concerns to injustices that only you personally experience?

I really don't understand why people react this way to this kind of thing. But, as it happens, I hear it most often from libertarians, like yourself. Which is a clue, I guess.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:38 AM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


____ is a really awful and mean (and often incorrect) way of phrasing things, but I think it is also a shorthand for, ____

I think people understand what the expanded out version is saying. It's still a lazy ad hom kinda deal no matter how many words you use to write it out.

But I like when people include something like that; it's like they saved me the trouble of labeling their comment as stupid bullshit.
posted by bleep-blop at 10:40 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


that is their function and I'm sure they are grateful for it.

Really? Let me the first to say that we delete more troll-level bullshit here than I would like to deal with. the less time we spend cleaning up other people's "I wonder if they'll let me get away with this...?" comments, the less time we have to do things that benefit the larger community (Mall, contest, talking in MeTa, whatever) and even though it's my job I am not grateful for other people's inability to moderate themselves. Ideally MetaFilter could be the place most of us would like it to be without the need for full-time moderators. I love my job but I'd be just as happy if it weren't necessary.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:47 AM on December 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


But that's not quite the same thing as accusing someone of expressing a belief as posturing — that implies at least a partial amount of deliberation and self-awareness. What I think is much more likely is that people genuinely believe the things they claim to believe and they have what they think are good reasons to believe those things, even though those beliefs correlate strongly to various demographic factors.

Hmm. See, I actually agree with most of your comment, but I would say that the expression of a belief as posturing does not necessarily imply the deliberation and self-awareness that you seem to be suggesting. I'd say that it follows other unconscious group behavior patterns that people tend to do - like talking like each other, and dropping each other's phrases in. Thus, posturing for belief may actually be an expression of a sincere belief, and yet still expressed in the unconscious hope that it will gain them acclaim or cement them more solidly into the in-group.

while I think that people do argue in bad-faith — most people very occasionally and some people much more often — I also think that accusations of bad-faith are very destructive. They're deeply insulting and in my opinion they require quite a bit of evidence to be justified.

I completely agree with you, which is why I suggested that it'd be great if we all tried to reduce all of them - which includes the accusations of trolling, or that people are only saying something because they believe something else, or a host of other bad-faith-accusation behaviors.

No, I complain about sexism because I think it's wrong. Do you limit your concerns to injustices that only you personally experience?

No, I certainly don't! I think that some people do, but I think they're not even a large percentage of the population. What I'm thinking about is something more like this:

X says sexist thing in the presence of three men and three women.

Of the three men, some number of them happen to find it sexist, and say so. The women, being actually less likely to call out something as sexist because they are so tired of fighting the same fight uphill every single day, say nothing.

In this scenario, however, while X might understand if the women said something and the men said something, in the absence of the women saying something assumes that what he said was totally fine with the women, and thus the man is clearly complaining for his own ulterior purposes, as what he said could never be sexist if the women "weren't offended."
posted by corb at 10:49 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


What you're complaining about is part of the larger tendency to criticism other people's opinions on the basis that it's just social posturing.

For me, it's as simple as, "Don't critique the substance of the person, critique the substance of the idea." Across the board. And if it happens to be someone you know personally, and you're certain they're up to their regular bullshit -- that's what Me-Mail is for. Keep the personal stuff out of the threads, please, because there's thousands of us for whom it's just distracting and meaningless.
posted by philip-random at 10:57 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Count me in with the people who are saying I don't think it's ever a good idea to bring vitriol or insults or an overly aggressive attitude into a thread. It raises everybody else's hackles and the level of discourse goes down.

I do think it tends to get favorites, though, because people who are on your side will sometimes agree with you for making a forceful argument. I think when favorites first started I'd favorite positions I agreed with however they were written. Now I really try not to favorite if I don't agree with the tone, even if I agree with the position.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:34 AM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


You could reduce almost every contentious MeTa to, "It would be great if we could be more civil to each other."
posted by MoonOrb at 11:55 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that's overly facile, some of them could also be reduced to "I would like someone to die"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:09 PM on December 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


But they could at least say so civily.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:13 PM on December 12, 2013


Occasionally somebody just wants to buy a car, what is all this then?
posted by onlyconnect at 12:13 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


And if it happens to be someone you know personally, and you're certain they're up to their regular bullshit

it occurs to me that this should re-phrased to ...

And if it happens to be someone you know personally or you just have a history with here, and you're certain they're up to their regular bullshit
posted by philip-random at 12:14 PM on December 12, 2013


> It's embarrassing for the site, and I'd be pissed if it was my post.

That was my post, and I loved the thread!
"Note: Everyone needs a hug."
posted by Tom-B at 12:54 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


MoonOrb: "You could reduce almost every contentious MeTa to, "It would be great if we could be more civil to each other.""

jessamyn: "I think that's overly facile, some of them could also be reduced to "I would like someone to die""

*cough*

...so we can be more civil to each other.
posted by zarq at 1:10 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This thread reminds me of an old joke.

So this Good Old Boy is visiting Cambridge, Massachusetts for the first time in his life and he's looking around trying to find the main attraction.

He approaches a solid looking fellow in a tweed jacket with elbow patches smoking a pipe and reading a book while he strolls along Massachusetts Avenue.

"Pardon me, buddy, but can you tell me where Harvard Yard's at?" implored said Good Old Boy.

Prof. Tweed, aggrieved to be disturbed mid-sentence, looks up at his unwelcome interlocutor, sizes him up as proletarian scum, and says "Excuuuuse me? in a presumptuous tone.

Thinking he has been misunderstood, Good Old Boy says "I says, where's Harvard Yard at?"

Whereupon Prof. Tweed lets his glasses slide slightly down his nose in disdain and pronounces, "My good SIR, around here a preposition is simply not something with which we end a sentence."

Good Old Boy pauses a second to consider this response, while our erstwhile Prof. Tweed undertakes to exit the scenario in a huff. But before he can turn on his dainty heel, Good Old Boy recovers his poise and calmly rephrases himself:

"Beggin' your pardon, sir. My mistake. Can you tell me where Harvard Yard is at, ASSHOLE?"
posted by spitbull at 1:41 PM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's generally best if we can really try to divorce our interpretation of a comment from its source. Dismissing (or agreeing with) a statement because of the background of the person who's saying it is a version of the genetic fallacy (or the argument from authority, if you want to look at it that way) and is to be avoided if we want to have a productive discussion and not just talk over each other.

While it's inevitable that regular readers will develop opinions of each other based on each others' commenting history, we should strive to look past that as much as possible and judge comments on their merits rather than on their sources. Even if you're dealing with somebody whose comments and general outlook you really dislike, you're never going to reach that person if you don't engage with the substance of what they have to say.

That's not to say that unproductive shouting matches are the only way that debate happens around here. MetaFilter as a whole is much better about having productive discussions among people with varying points of view than almost anywhere else I can think of, and minds do get changed in the threads here. It's a beautiful thing, and I've experienced it myself – I've had my mind opened and my world illuminated by the perspectives and arguments of other members on this site, and I'm a better person for it. I'm sure most of us who have been regulars here for a while could say the same.

Unproductive arguments still happen, though. It's inevitable that they will do from time to time, in a community as large as this one – perfection in this regard is almost certainly unattainable. That's no reason to stop trying to better ourselves, though. If we can remind ourselves to up our game from time to time, to be less dismissive and less defensive, to give people's ideas more consideration and thought (even when this is very difficult because we find those ideas highly distasteful – in fact, these difficult situations are probably also the most important ones) then not only will we improve the quality of discourse on MetaFilter and stand a better chance of winning our ideological "opponents" over to our own side, but we'll also become better and more considerate people.

That probably sounds a bit Utopian of me, but I actually do see MetaFilter as a sort of perpetual Utopia-in-progress, at least within the realm of internet-based community discussion forums. We are a community that is striving toward a common goal: exposure to interesting stuff, and good conversation about that stuff. Part of being a good conversationalist is being a considerate debater, and being a considerate debater makes one a more considerate person in general. Consideration in turn is a big part of compassion, and compassion to me is the ultimate virtue. "Enlightenment" is not a dirty word. On the contrary it is something that we should all be striving for – each in our own way – and something that we should be striving to help others work toward as well, along whatever individual path they happen to be walking. One way to do that is through substantive, compassionate, considerate conversation – and that's an area where MetaFilter really shines, and can shine more and more the more we collectively work at it.
posted by Scientist at 2:31 PM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I, for one, resolve to Try Harder.
posted by 4ster at 4:20 PM on December 12, 2013


Scientist: It's generally best if we can really try to divorce our interpretation of a comment from its source.

This. Relatedly, I, for one, resolve to be more like the best of 4chan (where this is the rule).

>implying
posted by comealongpole at 5:09 PM on December 12, 2013


About a year and a half ago I became discouraged with the site for a number of reasons and locked my account for a bit. I decided to come back because I missed being an active participant. I decided to do two things to be a better community member when I came back, which I've mostly stuck to (and I apologize for exceptions):

1) Never comment without having read at least the major piece of content, or in the case of link-dump threads, being especially familiar with the topic at hand.

2) If something is posted that I hate, then I'll really, really try to hold back on hating on it in the thread. I imagine many people hate my stupid Youtube links and Videogame ephemera posts. It's a big site, and there's nothing forcing me to participate in a thread I can't meaningfully add to the discussion of.

I've also combined this with unfollowing threads that make my blood pressure rise when I read them. At a certain juncture I've made as much of a point as I'm going to make, and getting angry at something I can't change isn't good for anyone.

I've had a much more pleasant experience with the site since actively making these changes in my habits.
posted by codacorolla at 6:16 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've always liked that joke, spitbull. Here's House of Cards' version.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:12 AM on December 13, 2013


It means it gets deleted when it happens and the person doing it gets a timeout or ban. That is pretty consistent.

You're thinking of "fuck you", or calling someone the C word or something. Which does, yea, commonly result in a temporary disable.

It happens so rarely though anymore though that it doesn't surprise me that someone got them mixed up.

It's basically an accusation of bad-faith; and while I think that people do argue in bad-faith — most people very occasionally and some people much more often — I also think that accusations of bad-faith are very destructive. They're deeply insulting and in my opinion they require quite a bit of evidence to be justified. But many of the people who are inclined to accuse other of really only posturing (and that includes things like accusations that people are sucking up to the mods, or burnishing their progressive bonafides, or whatever) just toss those off because they feel sure that this is what such-and-such group does. They don't think they really need any evidence, they just know that this is how people behave. Of course that's why people say X. They're posturing.

My opinion on this sort of thing is that it's not just everything you stated, but that the reason why people like to do it is that it's such a cheap shot. Accusing someone of that is a loaded question; it's like telling someone they have a drinking problem. You're expending close to zero effort while simultaneously putting them in a position that is nearly Kobayashi Maru in caliber. One in which nearly any response they give can be turned against them in a really bully-ish way along the lines of "Yea, that sounds exactly like what someone who was just posturing would say".

It's very similar, and very closely related to the whole "white knight" thing but just a little more dog-whistle. It's a cheap shot fired off by people who have just enough self awareness to read and play to the rest of the audience around them and know that saying something blatant along those lines would be a tell, and an instant disqualification.

So, It's basically an advanced, tuned-up version of the "attention whore" argument but with more substance and tweaked so it can also be aimed at men. And whenever i see someone pull it out, i know i'm dealing with a truly dedicated iron-clad butthead that's probably not worth engaging for more than one reply, because they'll fight to the death and absolutely never change their mind.

It's generally best if we can really try to divorce our interpretation of a comment from its source. Dismissing (or agreeing with) a statement because of the background of the person who's saying it is a version of the genetic fallacy (or the argument from authority, if you want to look at it that way) and is to be avoided if we want to have a productive discussion and not just talk over each other.

How about... No?

I don't really know how you could sell me on this. It's one of those things that sounds excellent on paper, but is regularly used as a club against anyone who isn't a straight white dude. the exchange usually goes like this.
Person A: Yea, i have experience with this sort of thing. It sucks, and seems to happen especially bad if you're XYZ

Dude: are you sure it has anything to do with XYZ? why haven't you tried ABC? That kind of thing happens to everyone anyways!

Person B: Yea, no i'm also XYZ. This is a huge problem, you don't know what you're talking about.
So now, we're splitting off in to two parallel universes. In your universe, this would be an acceptable response
Dude: But how does just being XYZ make you the expert on this sort of thing? I have all these good thoughts and suggestions and you're dismissing me just because i don't share your experiences and bla bla bla
In reality, who is saying what matters. Take a look at like, this thread. Especially fingerbang's responses and lots of peoples responses to him.

This is a flawed, reductionist way to view the world and social interaction that would only make sense if reality didn't completely suck ass for a lot of people.

If this isn't entirely what you meant, and it was more of a "based on the reputation of posters and don't treat certain people like power users because that leads to digg and failure and cronyism assholefest stuff" then uh... sorry. But it really quacks like a duck, especially the genetic fallacy bit.
posted by emptythought at 2:13 AM on December 13, 2013


Yeah, I'm about as gung-ho on the whole academic, civil discourse thing as anyone, anywhere, and partly because I have some really powerful experience proving that it works.

But that hasn't reduced my sense that reputation and prior experience with someone matters, it's only increased it, actually. I find all arguments about "don't think about who wrote something, only what they wrote" to be almost baffling, because my experience is that the "who" is a hugely important part of evaluation.

I understand where it's coming from, partly from an idealized (and academic) notion of letting an argument speak for itself and avoiding bias that gets in the way of properly evaluating the argument. And it's partly about the simple truth that a very large number of people err extremely in the other direction, and evaluate stuff wholly on the basis of who said it (or what group they belong to).

But with regard to the first part, the truth is that this isn't how actual academic discourse works, and it shouldn't. That view of it is sort of like the naive view of the scientific method. It's sort of a kind of folklore we tell about how things are done, when in fact the real story is much, much more complicated (and the better for it).

With regard to the second part, there's no real refutation. It is how most people think. But thinking that the opposite extreme is necessarily correct because that extreme is wrong, is a fallacy. The right way to go about it is to include source and reputation as part of the evaluation, one thing among the others.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:22 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


...but as I find I have less time to visit and can't browse every (or even most) fpps I'm finding myself disgruntled more and more consistently at the (lacking) quality of discussion.

~Bert, with your time constraints you may improve your chances of finding something satisfying by approaching Metafilter through the Meta-Metafilters: My MeFi (which you customise if only for exclusions) and Popular Posts. Both are reached from tabs on the front page.
posted by de at 2:56 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Puerile and scatological posts seem to be more of thing on MeFi of late. It's a little worrying.
posted by Bwithh at 8:01 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yay! A post about Baby's Got Back - its a Christmas Miracle!
posted by Artw at 8:31 PM on December 20, 2013


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