Metafilter's Community Guide to Discussions? January 15, 2014 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Could we have a permanent sidebar to guide people towards previous threads or comments about class/race/sex/gender/identity issues, to foster better discussions without having to repeat meta-discussions?

This recent thread, among other ones in the past, got me thinking:

I've learned a lot of things through Metafilter, especially about subjects or topics that I am not as familiar with, personally. I'm mostly talking about discussions relating to identity or privilege -- class, race, sex, gender, (dis)abilities, and many more. And for that I am very thankful.

Often times during a thread discussion, someone (well intentioned, or not) will make a comment that is offensive to a specific community, sometimes because they simply do not know what they don't know. The entire thread then becomes focused into a meta-discussion about how to discuss these topics. Because there is a certain amount of knowledge or communal 'consensus' about how to discuss these things, the thread is spent getting people up to speed, by which point, the point of the original post is lost.

Threeants's comment here summarized it pretty well for me here:
It must just be thoroughly exhausting to be a trans user and know that anything posted here that touches on the experience of being trans will almost inevitably turn into someone's weird quibble crusade. Like if you wanted to post about an awesome band you just discovered and you got 10% germane discussion and 90% "is music real?" "why do people insist on listening to music?" "why can't I just call it air wave farts?"

Yet at the same time, I did learn a lot of things from the trans Meta that I didn't know that I didn't know, and I'm very grateful to have done so, and to be able to participate in discussion with a little bit more knowledge.

So - I think a great resource would be a (constantly accumulating) side-bar reserved for star comments about these issues, as a kind of communal archive of information. Maybe it could be called the Meta-bar?

When someone starts posting something that the community finds offensive, a response could thus be: "Hey _____, we've had this discussion already; go check out the comments on the Meta-bar about race, and hopefully you can understand why your comment was offensive." Threads wouldn't have to derail into repeating the same discussions over and over again. It would be a great way to actually understand the communal consensus, because otherwise it's pretty hard to understand without having been part of MeFi for a long time.
posted by suedehead to Etiquette/Policy at 2:40 PM (91 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I'm not a mod, but I think this is unlikely. The wiki is supposed to serve this function as much as anything does, and I personally feel that it's unlikely to be too effective as a permanent sidebar item. It's hard enough getting people to read the contents of links in posts, much less small links set off to the side and ignored 99% of the time.
posted by kavasa at 2:53 PM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


It would have to be very very well written in an inclusive way, that a maximal audience could relate with and learn from. Also, I think besides the idea of local consensus, there's alternate idea of a dialectic. That our understanding of issues is always in flux; it's the negotiation and re-negotiation that gets people to think and learn. In that context, what would it really mean, to have something written down a sidebar?
posted by polymodus at 2:55 PM on January 15, 2014 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I think this is very well-intentioned but not really a workable plan. Folks trying to collect good resources on the wiki and mentioning those in context at times where it's especially apropos is totally fine and melds pretty well with how Metafilter discussion actually works; canonizing a given instance of metadiscussion as The Official Thing To Read seems a lot more problematic in a bunch of ways.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:01 PM on January 15, 2014 [9 favorites]


Since this has been Mod Answered, can I just say I like the sound of "Air Wave Farts"?
posted by Night_owl at 3:15 PM on January 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Metafilter Wiki. Anyone can edit.
posted by zarq at 3:18 PM on January 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think an addition to the Wiki that people can reference during discussions would be a better idea - people don't always read side-bars and pointing to old discussions seems problematic.
posted by crossoverman at 3:25 PM on January 15, 2014


Quite often (and, in my opinion, frequently in scenarios that fall short of good faith) things the mods say, content of the FAQs and basically any missive that can be tied to authority tends to be taken as ex cathedra pronouncements of How MetaFilter Is. This line of thinking ignores quite a lot of history and procedure, but hoo-boy does it come up like clockwork in MeTas where the conscientiousness is the issue. So formalizing opinions in comments even as Opinions You Should Mind is the proverbial good-intention-paved road. You can put all the disclaimers you want, but in threads so prone to disingenous, contrarian arguments, it would be fuel to the fire.

Not that you can rely on people looking for a fight to RTFA, but Juliet Banana's linking to 101 stuff in trans-related FPPs is a smart idea. Not one that should be enforced as a rule, but a smart way to head at least some nonsense off the pass.
posted by griphus at 3:32 PM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


As long as we're asking for sidebar ponies, I'd like one that explains if you use FTFY, the person you've "corrected" is entitled to come burn down your house.
posted by gingerest at 3:35 PM on January 15, 2014 [28 favorites]


Perhaps, as a compromise, we could move the link to the Wiki up to the sidebar? Where it is now, it's a little easy to overlook and I tend to forget it's there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:44 PM on January 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


As long as we're asking for sidebar ponies, I'd like one that explains if you use FTDFYM, the person you've "corrected" is entitled to come burn down your house Fix Dinner For them.

FDFM
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:45 PM on January 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't think it's a horrible idea on its face, but it leads pretty immediately to the question "then what?"

I mean, suppose you put in the FAQ/101-type page the meaning of "cis" along with all of the etymology from "cisalpine" to "cislunar" to organic chem. Great! And then someone comes along and doesn't pay attention to the sidebar. You point him to it and he comes back and says "Yeah, I read that. But no one I know in real life talks in that politically correct way, and it's incomprehensible to Joe Sixpack without a scorecard, and so, I'm not going to use it."

What then? What gets done with that comment? Is it enough that the poster has self-identified as an ass at that point? Is the answer "do nothing," but you're just hoping to reduce the occurrence of it?
posted by tyllwin at 4:07 PM on January 15, 2014


I like the sentiment of the idea, but I can't see it having any real impact. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink, etc.
posted by COD at 4:12 PM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Essentially, there is one resource at our disposal, the wiki, like zarq said. I think there is a conversation to be had about how it can best be used. I can sort of see two parallel uses: providing basic information and stashing links to brilliant comments so they're easy to locate (rather than having to try and dig through your favorites) so you can mention them. Frankly, I don't know how many perfectly reasonable people are going to read the wiki before participating in a threat about trans issues. What I hope it would be good for would be a way to point the people asking questions to somewhere that might answer questions they didn't know they had (but point them there after/while answering whatever their question was, which seems to be a distinction some people are missing in the other thread). If they then start clicking through the list of most-brilliant-comments-ever, then all the better.

This is not going to solve the problem of people being jerks, but I don't think anyone expects it to. In tyllwin's example, I can read that hypothetical response two ways: being an asshole or being really new to social justice-y things. It might take one more comment to figure it out, but that's it. And if the answer's "being an asshole", all we've got is to hope for mod action.
posted by hoyland at 4:37 PM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


COD, I resent the implication that all horses are male.
posted by janey47 at 4:50 PM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just memail me before you say anything about anything and I'll let you know if it's cool to post or not.
posted by planetesimal at 4:58 PM on January 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


you raise a good point is music real?
posted by klangklangston at 6:03 PM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just memail me before you say anything about anything and I'll let you know if it's cool to post or not.

And I'll know if it's cool when you post it first, right?
posted by crossoverman at 6:15 PM on January 15, 2014


All rights reserved.
posted by planetesimal at 6:16 PM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


You see, this is exactly what happens when you abandon net neutrality.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:33 PM on January 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


In my ideal universe, this would work really beautifully. But I don't think it's a workable plan for this site.

I just said this over in the other meTa, but my personal plan is to try to be much better about not participating in those derails/meta conversations in the fpp, but to flag or make a meTa instead. Sometimes the meta discussion is really good and necessary, but it shouldn't have to suck all the air out of the fpp.

I like the idea of a sticky wiki in the sidebar.
posted by rtha at 6:46 PM on January 15, 2014


I wonder if it could be done as an satellite (like the Infodumpster) wiki; not directly linked to the site as such, but putting together 101s for various MeFi-contentious subjects that can be linked as a matter of course in the relevant threads.
posted by solarion at 6:49 PM on January 15, 2014


I think the way to get at this would be a comic incorporating some key ideas along the lines of 'be safe and be smart on metafilter!'
posted by kaibutsu at 6:54 PM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Or add a flag for "helpful comment" or "enlightening" or something like that. I know flags are not public data, but it may help the mods get a better feel for what really goes above the bar. I dunno. Just pontificating, trying to be useful.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:55 PM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I like the sentiment of the idea, but I can't see it having any real impact. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink, etc.

There aren't like...horse feeding tubes or something?
posted by Drinky Die at 6:56 PM on January 15, 2014


Annika Cicada: "Or add a flag for "helpful comment" or "enlightening" or something like that. I know flags are not public data, but it may help the mods get a better feel for what really goes above the bar. I dunno. Just pontificating, trying to be useful."

In theory, isn't this sort of what 'fantastic' is for? (I am so the last person who should be talking about meanings of flags.)
posted by hoyland at 6:57 PM on January 15, 2014


God I accidentally flagged my own comment, sheesh.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:35 PM on January 15, 2014


Yeah, there's fantastic
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:35 PM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fantastic will generally do what you want it to there, yes. (I will point out, sort of apropos of nothing, that while we use fantastic flags as a pointer to stuff that should be sidebarred/Best Ofed, we do not generally sidebar stuff in contentious political threads.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:40 PM on January 15, 2014


Perhaps, as a compromise, we could move the link to the Wiki up to the sidebar? Where it is now, it's a little easy to overlook and I tend to forget it's there.

This seems to me like a really great idea, a simple tweak that might prove surprisingly productive, like putting the coffee machine closer to the sink.
posted by Miko at 7:48 PM on January 15, 2014


can I just say I like the sound of "Air Wave Farts"?

I prefer Air Supply Farts. It's a underrated album, IMO, and vastly superior to their better known work.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:50 PM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Really bad idea. Next thing you know we will all be grad students.
posted by spitbull at 7:57 PM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


HOW TO DO GOOD COMMENTS ON METAFILTER:

1. remember that there are Problems and listen to people who know about them
2. say the good things
3. you can be kind and you should do that
4. please do a respect
5. i love you goodnight
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:09 PM on January 15, 2014 [18 favorites]


6. I'm sorry earlier this week I seemed like I was super-worried about people taking to babies to fancy restaurants in Chicsgo because, in actuality, as another local legend, Drunk Jay Cutler, would say, I (throws head back) DOOOOOOOOON'T CARE.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:40 PM on January 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


This seems to me like a really great idea, a simple tweak that might prove surprisingly productive, like putting the coffee machine closer to the sink.

If you do that, you'll have to move the toaster and Kathy will have a fit.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:54 PM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh god Brandon there is a Kathy in my office and she is TOTALLY THE ONE who would throw a fit if we moved the toaster. She barged into my office today (while I was on the phone) to have a closed-door meeting about how we need to order more of a particular flavor of coffee creamer because in her opinion it seems like people like that flavor better than another one and it would be better for morale if we had more of the one she thinks people like better and it's like christ lady you've only been here a month chill the fuck out.

Kathys.
posted by phunniemee at 9:02 PM on January 15, 2014 [13 favorites]


The coffee maker belongs recessed in the wall with its own drain, like civilized people do.
posted by planetesimal at 9:03 PM on January 15, 2014


How about: if the Live Preview detects someone writing a post or comment involving particular keywords for the first time, they get shunted into a game-tutorial-type simulated thread where they're prompted to make all the standard obtuse statements about the subject and receive all the usual responses from Markov-like simulated Mefites, and can't return to the real thread until they've run through it all once. I'm sure pb can code that up in a jiff.
posted by XMLicious at 10:04 PM on January 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


The nice thing about pointing to 101s is that, if somebody really is just a well-intentioned newbie, a noble-hearted fawn with the dew-laden eyes and shaky hooven-legs of the just-recently-birthed, then they'll just go, "oh, okay, thanks for that."

Whereas, if somebody really is just an asshole, then they can just twist in the wind, because you can't get into an argument with a 101.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:19 PM on January 15, 2014


So if this happened everyone would just fight over the contents of the Guide, also rules lawyer whatever it says. Furthermore there would have to be a very contentious and continual update process - give it like 20 years and I'm sure the most advanced transnormative Metatalks will seem v. cisnormative by the future standards.

The nice thing about pointing to 101s is that, if somebody really is just a well-intentioned newbie, a noble-hearted fawn with the dew-laden eyes and shaky hooven-legs of the just-recently-birthed, then they'll just go, "oh, okay, thanks for that."

Sometimes social justice reminds me of certain Christians who seem convinced that the problem is I have not yet heard some very convincing arguments: Christ died for my sins, and He has an awesome love for me.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:29 PM on January 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Since this has been Mod Answered, can I just say I like the sound of "Air Wave Farts"?

Sure, they sound good at first. But wait till you hear how they're related to the underwater fire monkeys.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:41 PM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sometimes social justice reminds me of certain Christians who seem convinced that the problem is I have not yet heard some very convincing arguments: Christ died for my sins, and He has an awesome love for me.

Yeah, this isn't the place for people to generally vent about their frustration with "social justice" or religion. We're just talking about trying to avoid Metafilter discussions getting mucked down by the same old circular questions and arguments about terminology, on the part of the site that we use to talk about that sort of thing. Unlike people who show up at your door to ask about the state of your soul, we don't demand that you participate here if it's something you aren't interested in participating in.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:47 PM on January 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


...because you can't get into an argument with a 101.

You're not my supervisor.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:38 AM on January 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


Really bad idea. Next thing you know we will all be grad students.

Waking up to learn I dreamed my dissertation and I am actually still in grad school is a recurring nightmare of mine. *shiver*
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:28 AM on January 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh god Brandon there is a Kathy in my office and she is TOTALLY THE ONE who would throw a fit if we moved the toaster.
Also in my office.
posted by dg at 5:14 AM on January 16, 2014


How about: if the Live Preview detects someone writing a post or comment involving particular keywords for the first time, they get shunted into a game-tutorial-type simulated thread where they're prompted to make all the standard obtuse statements about the subject and receive all the usual responses from Markov-like simulated Mefites, and can't return to the real thread until they've run through it all once.

Or members who gum up more than a certain number of threads on a subject get shunted into "virtual threads" that no one else gets to see the moment they post a comment in a thread on that topic?

Sigh. It's an attractive thought, but it would be wrong. Much like the way that, while listening to the Revolutions podcast on the English Civil War, I found myself sympathizing with Cromwell's problems with Parliaments and rather envied his ability to use the army to close them. How I would have liked that during the days of faculty governance! But, attractive as the fantasy is, the reality would have been less... workable.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:33 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Perhaps, as a compromise, we could move the link to the Wiki up to the sidebar? Where it is now, it's a little easy to overlook and I tend to forget it's there.

This is a great idea. I think I might have looked at the wiki twice in the past five years, both times after someone mentioned it here, and I would've googled "metafilter wiki" to reach it. It's a complete surprise to me that there is even a link to it on the front page - I just assumed it was some unofficial thing. I doubt most people know it exists at all.
posted by cincinnatus c at 5:42 AM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Kathys.

ACK!
posted by zombieflanders at 6:57 AM on January 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


hoyland: "What I hope it would be good for would be a way to point the people asking questions to somewhere that might answer questions they didn't know they had (but point them there after/while answering whatever their question was, which seems to be a distinction some people are missing in the other thread). If they then start clicking through the list of most-brilliant-comments-ever, then all the better.

Just to expand upon this slightly, the wiki can also serve a more subtle purpose. Ideally, it's a dispassionate response.

What I mean by this is often when contentious topics are raised, people's tempers flare. Willingness to give the benefit of the doubt evaporates. The "right" FPP might mean that people start out pissed off, which is never good. Responses to basic questions might be given in a way that escalates bad will or puts the asker on the defensive.

A good wiki page presents facts without that emotional component. It can't answer every question, but it might be able to cover ones that have been raised and answered in the past.

It could also conceivably elevate the detail of conversation past the point where people are explaining the same basic facts over and over again to different people. Which, when you're talking about something as simple as say, self-identity, can be kinda wearying and depressing.
posted by zarq at 8:09 AM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


So if this happened everyone would just fight over the contents of the Guide, also rules lawyer whatever it says.

I don't think this is true. The hardest part of building a wiki is getting people to participate. Those who make the effort to contribute will, I think, be able to make editorial decisions together.
posted by Miko at 8:28 AM on January 16, 2014


I have no objection to people creating something that helps people have good discussions, sort of like how we have pages for what makes a good post or what makes a bad comment. I think it would be a great idea. Codifying this in any sort of official way is going to be super problematic but that doesn't mean that having it as an option for people isn't a constructive way to move forward.

As usual, however, it's a technological solution for a social problem. The same people who get stuck in the same circular arguments are less likely to avail themselves of wiki resources (either as creators or as potential educatees). This doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a great thing to have, just that part of the solution to the issues needs to come from within the discussion itself (non-engagement, avoiding tendencies to hyperbolize, knowing when to step away &c).

So I could envision something working like this, kind of a two-parter

User 1: "But isn't this just blabla circular argument again I don't understand why my "Christians have Passover too" sidebar discussion is getting people so annoyed...." (paraphrasing from an example I've seen that isn't too recent)
User 2: This has been asked and answered on this wiki page: why religious appropriations are problematic to people
User 1: But I really want to talk about it because I think people here are just being sensitive about this and blablabla
User 3: Seriously, asked and answered, move on or join the discussion that is in progress here.

Non-engagement with the "I want to have this circular argument again" with "No." is the best starting point.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:52 AM on January 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


As usual, however, it's a technological solution for a social problem

Yeah, that is what I see as the central sticking point as well - not an argument against it, but a caveat about expecting it to be magic. It would be nice to have the resource, but it's still going to exist in the context of real life.
posted by Miko at 8:54 AM on January 16, 2014


Non-engagement with the "I want to have this circular argument again" with "No." is the best starting point.

This is an excellent point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:57 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


The visual image I get with that is one of those railroad sidelines where they drive up the disused car to park it, so that the rest of the train traffic can move through.
posted by Miko at 8:59 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this isn't the place for people to generally vent about their frustration with "social justice" or religion.

I think relevant to the proposal on the table ... I do not gather the intent is to present these documents as explicit rules which could be followed or broken with some objectivity, which would have disadvantages: implying that comments which follow the rules are acceptable and highlighting any differential enforcement when exceptions either blatantly show unevenness or are explicitly codified in the rules.

Rather it would depend on the power of the 101 - the reader must accept the Good News into their heart and moderate themselves accordingly, and any resistance or disagreement indicates the reader is unclean and outlaw.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:06 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what you mean, exactly, save alive nothing that breatheth, but I think you want to reserve to yourself your right to shit in the punchbowl.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:12 AM on January 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think relevant to the proposal on the table

In the spirit of jessamyn's suggestion:

No.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:14 AM on January 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


jessamyn: "The same people who get stuck in the same circular arguments are less likely to avail themselves of wiki resources (either as creators or as potential educatees). "

I'm sort of envisioning this less as a resource for people who are having a lot of difficulty with the topic and more for people for whom it is new. Cover the basics, give background to some of the questions that have been raised and then answered with personal experience by trans mefites in the past. That sort of thing. Nothing codified/set in stone as "you must do this." A possible stepping stone to deeper discussions. Other people might feel differently about what the purpose of the wiki page should be, though.

Consider the wiki page on the period. When members see a flood of dots in obit threads and ask "What the hell are all these dots?" we can point them to the wiki for background. It gives a history of the periods on the site, the thinking behind 'em, a few anecdotes, links to past discussions and even quotes a few mefites who criticize the tradition. A relatively even-handed presentation.
posted by zarq at 9:14 AM on January 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


jessamyn: "Non-engagement with the "I want to have this circular argument again" with "No." is the best starting point."

I will note that I tried that in the trans women in sport thread and got all kinds of insulted for my trouble. Even included a supporting link.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:28 AM on January 16, 2014


zarq: I'm sort of envisioning this less as a resource for people who are having a lot of difficulty with the topic and more for people for whom it is new. Cover the basics, give background to some of the questions that have been raised and then answered with personal experience by trans mefites in the past. That sort of thing. Nothing codified/set in stone as "you must do this." A possible stepping stone to deeper discussions.

Yes, this was exactly what I was envisioning.

I don't mean to suggest a canonical, This Is What Mefi Is solution to a social problem. Rather, I think it helps people who are new to the site, or new to certain issues, get gradually introduced -- especially if it's a topic that has often been discussed on Metafilter.

jessamyn: "Non-engagement with the "I want to have this circular argument again" with "No." is the best starting point."

Well, I kind of disagree. If the commenter has been bringing this topic over and over, that's deliberate shit-stirring. But if the commenter is new to MeFi, or new to the topic, the argument in question may be of genuine interest to them. This is what I see happening with commenters new to the topic, or new to Mefi:

USER: Well, that seemed to me like a case of reverse racism, etc etc

(to the user, what appears to be a unified COMMUNITY): Reverse racism is a loaded term, let's not use it.

USER: Why? Isn't lorem ipsum etc etc?

COMMUNITY: Let's not have this conversation again.

USER: (feels piled-on-upon) I don't understand - I think it makes a lot of sense that this that etc etc reverse racism etc etc.

COMMUNITY: No, not again.

etc. etc.

An alternative being:

USER 1: Well, that seemed to me like a case of reverse racism, etc etc

USER 2: Reverse racism is a loaded term, and I don't think we should use it. See this wiki page that has these previous comments in previous discussions. that better illustrate why.

USER 1: Why? Isn't lorem ipsum etc etc?

USER 3: Read this comment, this comment, and this comment.

USER 1: Oh.

(USERS 1, 2, and 3 all hug and dance)

posted by suedehead at 9:45 AM on January 16, 2014


....and the mefites rejoice. :D
posted by zarq at 9:51 AM on January 16, 2014


I did learn a lot of things from the trans Meta that I didn't know that I didn't know

Would you have been as likely to learn these things if you were given a link to the sidebar or the wiki rather than participate in an active live discussion about them? I think many people would not. There are a lot of people out there who don't know that they don't know what you now know, and it would be really, really great for that to change over time. I think this is were MetaFilter provides an invaluable service to the world. Unfortunately, that may mean having these "101" discussions over and over again.

One thing I've learned from that and other threads is some of the more amazing MeFites I've come across happen to be trans*.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:01 AM on January 16, 2014


I will note that I tried that in the trans women in sport thread and got all kinds of insulted for my trouble.

Feel free to toss in a link if you'd like. I'm not saying that this approach isn't without consequence but that if it becomes a social norm, tehn

1. that may help the blowback from being less of a problem
2. you'll have more support from people who agree with the tactic which means that more people than you can step up and feel like it's the appropriate thing to do.

I'm sorry if I'm being vague and hand-wavey and not discussing specifics but

- if some people are directly insulting you, that's it's own problem to be dealt with
- deliberate shit stirrers will be shut down more quickly and not be rewarded with stirred shit
- anyone who wants to debate side issues like whether reverse racism is loaded or whether this or that phrasing is a dog whistle can take it up someplace not the thread and it's a more clear derail when the general thread conversation doesn't become about that

I know I'm sort of stating the obvious but there's not going to be an end to people making one-off weird comments on a generalist site. What we can try to do is keep them limited in scope and can keep them from taking over threads but that requires buy-in from more people than just the mods, absent a new moderation policy which is not really something we're looking into.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:07 AM on January 16, 2014


I'm not sure what you mean, exactly, save alive nothing that breatheth, but I think you want to reserve to yourself your right to shit in the punchbowl.

I think the oversight is failure to consider that someone might read the 101 but not buy into it.

The content is irrelevant - All my political shits such as they are are taken up by issues much more than ideologies, so don't get up to this as much, but if you tried to 101 / community guideline people against stuff I don't like, like arguing in defense of NSA, I would also think that counterproductive.

I would certainly never argue that I have rights on Metafilter - maybe on Reddit, where they hold themselves out for free speech and a minimalist rule of law, not here, where there is no such representation.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:11 AM on January 16, 2014


save alive nothing that breatheth: " I think the oversight is failure to consider that someone might read the 101 but not buy into it."

It doesn't matter if they "buy into it" — if the 101/FAQ says (for example) "here's the history of the term 'trans*' with an explanation of why the space is commonly considered necessary; MeFi practice is to use the space unless somebody personally identifies as not using it" it doesn't matter whether the commenter "buys into" the necessity of the space. All they need to do is understand that site practice is to use the space and (importantly) that it's not up for being discussed and rediscussed and rerediscussed ad nauseam.

save alive nothing that breatheth: " I would certainly never argue that I have rights on Metafilter - maybe on Reddit, where they hold themselves out for free speech and a minimalist rule of law, not here, where there is no such representation."

No.
posted by Lexica at 10:18 AM on January 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


I would certainly never argue that I have rights on Metafilter - maybe on Reddit

Stickin' it to the Man!
posted by octobersurprise at 10:34 AM on January 16, 2014


I know I'm sort of stating the obvious but there's not going to be an end to people making one-off weird comments on a generalist site. What we can try to do is keep them limited in scope and can keep them from taking over threads but that requires buy-in from more people than just the mods, absent a new moderation policy which is not really something we're looking into.

Mods, is it helpful if we flag those one-off weird comments as "derail," even if we don't necessarily think they rise to the level of needing to be deleted, just as a sort of heads-up that a derail is potentially brewing and you may want to keep an eye on it?
posted by jaguar at 10:38 AM on January 16, 2014


Yeah totally. Flagging is really mostly helpful. The short list of flagging things that are not helpful

- Flagging things from yesterday or last month
- Going back through a thread that is bothering you and flagging a dozen comments from the last three hours that are bothering you (once we see a few flags in a thread we probably have it open in a tab and are reading all the comments as the come in)
- Grudge flagging all comments by a certain user that is being a pain even if their comments aren't really needing mod attention just to say "I don't like this person"
- Flagging in MetaTalk unless something really egregious is going on, ask yourself what you are expecting us to do
- Flagging and then commenting that you flagged something
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:46 AM on January 16, 2014


I think the oversight is failure to consider that someone might read the 101 but not buy into it.

As Lexica points out above, whether someone "buys in" or not is kind of irrelevant. The 101 would function essentially as "here are the critical terms and concepts you need to participate in this topic on this site"

Someone who really opposes those concepts should think three or four times before posting; their participation in the thread is not likely to go well, leading to derails, MeTas, more work for the mods, and a general lowering and coarsening of discussion. It's a more elaborate version of the common mod note that "Invisible Sky Wizard" comments are generally not so great in most religion threads.

Is this restrictive? I guess so, but I am getting pretty tired of the way that a couple of topics get continually dragged down by the efforts of a very few people, and I am especially tired, in this specific case, of the way our trans* members are regularly harassed and belittled with disingenuous arguments.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:55 AM on January 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


The problem with not engaging that I have noticed is that, in a trans thread, if a cis person says something that shouldn't be engaged, and I don't engage it, another less-informed cis person will come along and engage it and then everything is just worse all around for everybody.

In that trans thread on the blue, I flagged something as off-topic instead of engaging. That comment remained up (because while I saw where it was going, it maybe wasn't enough for a mod to step in yet), but then other people came along and engaged. And I really don't want to just sit there not engaging while these few cis people are engaging really goofily with each other, or sit there not engaging while a friend (in that case hoyland) is stuck out in weird territory beset on all sides by nonsense.
posted by Corinth at 11:51 AM on January 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


Well, this MeTa saved me from making an ass of myself by posting it. (NB: I am not at all in any way saying you are an ass for creating this MeTa; I mean very specifically that I very likely would have made an ass of myself).

I contacted the mods the other day and asked about the feasibility of making a Trans* 101 page here on MeFi. The short version of the response was "No this is not something that the mod team will officially endorse or be a part of, but theoretically it's something you could do."

I read that as an incredibly polite and very gentle way of saying "This is not on the list of Best Ideas Ever; probably a good idea not to."

Still, I dithered. I considered MeMailing users here who have stated they are trans*. I considered starting a MeTa. But after much thought, I came to the same point stated above:
So if this happened everyone would just fight over the contents of the Guide, also rules lawyer whatever it says.
I think that's probably an astute observation, given the amount of tension and drama (and I am not erasing or ignoring my own part in creating both of those things; I would like to apologize but I feel it would come across as mealy-mouthed and self-serving) that trans* issues raise around here. I feel that creating such a guide would/could just shift (some of) the endless bickering from trans* threads to the wiki and create more ill will on all sides.

In a nutshell, it seems to me that Juliet Banana's solution is best: every time she makes a trans post, she includes a link to a Trans* 101 article which is not only well written, it also has the benefit of not being written by anyone here, meaning the emotional investment is about actual issues and not about who contributed what bit(s) to such a guide and how attached they are to them, or how they can split rhetorical hairs. (Yes, I have been guilty of that. Again, I am sorry.)

It's not an optimal solution, obviously. But I think at the end of the day there is no way to resolve, on a permanent basis, some of the circular arguments that beset trans* (and certain other) threads.

Perhaps the best solution is:

User 1: Blah blah trans wut? Blah
User 2: We have covered a lot of this stuff before. The Trans* 101 link contained in the post will answer all or most of your basic questions, so we can all proceed to have a conversation founded on the same bedrock.
User 1: Blah blah blah haven't read it, trans wut? Blah blah.
User 2+n: follows jessamyn's advice and ignores the derail

Or something like that anyway.

I'd also note that arguments coming from ignorance can be textually indistinguishable from arguments coming from disingenuousness. Luckily, both of those birds can be killed with the stone of "Well, we've discussed this stuff a lot before, and that handy Trans* 101 link in the post will give you a really good background of where we're coming from, so why don't you go read it, and if there are still unanswered questions relevant to the subject of the post, we can all discuss them in good faith."

BUT

and this is an important BUT

I am not trans*, so I don't get to dictate what trans* people need and want. If the consensus of trans* people here is that a Mefi-specific Trans* 101 page on the wiki or wherever is a good idea, please ignore what I have said above, and I hope I can contribute positively if it happens.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:56 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


And, embarrassingly, I just realized that I gendered Juliet Banana on the basis of a username without looking at their profile. Sorry.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:00 PM on January 16, 2014


I read that as an incredibly polite and very gentle way of saying "This is not on the list of Best Ideas Ever; probably a good idea not to."

I think the impression we were trying to give was "If you are inspired to do this, you should talk to some folks and go do it, but from an official perspective this will have to be a non-mod initiative" Sorry if it sounded otherwise.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:00 PM on January 16, 2014


No no, there is no apology necessary. Perhaps I misspoke. Maybe a better way of saying what I meant would be "...way of saying "Think more before acting on this idea.""

I didn't take any offence at all if that's what you're thinking. The response I got made me think a lot and question some stuff in my head about what's best for the community here generally, and best for the trans* part of the community specifically, and maybe a cismale spearheading such a thing could come across less as "How can I help you get what you need?" so much as it would read as "I am Privilege Man! I will help the downtrodden! Noblesse oblige!"

Point being the response I got made me think before acting, so thank you[mod team] for that.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:05 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


And actually I do have one concrete idea: what if some/many/all of us put a link to that Trans* 101 article in our profiles? People click through to profiles all the time, and maybe the best time to entice people to read that article is not when it's a current fraught subject of discussion.

Trans* members of MeFi: Is that a partial solution that would be one small step on the road to helping?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:09 PM on January 16, 2014


I got a few already.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:29 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


If we wanted to constantly advertise that we're trans, then yes. For some people, that can be kind of a problem sometimes, what with it not being even slightly relevant 99% of the time...
posted by Dysk at 12:29 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sorry, Dysk, I didn't mean "Hey trans* members, put this in your profile." I meant more Random User X could put in their profile "Trans* issues come up a lot on MetaFilter. Here's a handy primer." Sorry for the lack of clarity. The thinking behind this is basically if we create a kind of grassroots awareness for anyone who clicks on (hopefully lots of) profiles, they'll see this link and hopefully at least a percentage of them will read through. Am I making any sense?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:34 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd do it. Mine has a link to the wiki's There Is Help page, in case someone randomly decides to click on my profile.
posted by zarq at 12:37 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Actually now that I think about it, all the links on my profile were placed there just in case someone randomly decides to click over there.
posted by zarq at 12:37 PM on January 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Added. Thanks for the idea, fffm.
posted by zarq at 1:04 PM on January 16, 2014


Updated mine too. Who else is in on this? (Assuming it's a good idea. If the trans* folk here feel it's a bad idea, or not enough, or not quite the right way, please please please tell me what would be better and I will change it.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:13 PM on January 16, 2014


I added it, and I want to scare up some other resources when I get a chance (maybe over the weekend).
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:25 AM on January 17, 2014


People don't read explanations like this when they're in the actual thread they're posting to, never mind linked from the sidebar.
posted by Segundus at 5:31 AM on January 17, 2014


If they were in the sidebar it would be 10 times easier to find the link, grab it, and put it in a response comment where they would see it, though.
posted by Miko at 1:13 PM on January 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's really not something we are going to put on the sidebar. People can grab it from other people's profile pages or the wiki.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:54 PM on January 17, 2014


I thought we were talking about putting the wiki on the sidebar. Let alone the fact that it's already there. So never mind.
posted by Miko at 6:50 PM on January 17, 2014


I thought we were talking about putting the wiki on the sidebar. Let alone the fact that it's already there.

....It is? I don't see the Wiki mentioned on the sidebar....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:36 AM on January 18, 2014


Music is my passion, and I think it would be great if people constantly questioned the point of music. I'd like to encourage more of this kind of thing.
posted by John Cohen at 5:22 AM on January 18, 2014


It's on the MetaTalk sidebar, under "Helpful Links." Which, for me, is under a giant long list of upcoming meetups.
posted by Miko at 6:19 AM on January 18, 2014


Oh sorry, since we were talking about FPPs I thought you meant the main page sidebar. In any case we are not looking at additions to either sidebar at this time.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:51 AM on January 18, 2014


As a side-thought: it feels like this thread and the "deletion over minor issues" thread have been been approaching from different angles the issues facing trans* users of MetaFilter, and the extent to which they are or are not getting a reasonable deal. It feels like maybe it would be worth tackling that question head-on in a dedicated, no-arguments-about-what-its-about thread - I mean, a lot of it could pretty much be a cut and paste of the concerns raised in these two threads.

On the other hand, the trans* membership might be kind of exhausted right now, and the issues are unlikely to go away, so we could probably just leave it until the next time. I don't know.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:34 AM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


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