Allow turning off favourites for specific posts February 6, 2014 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Although favourites are certainly a nice feature for a lot of things, I worry that there's a tendency for them to water down more nuanced discussions. As a way to preempt this, perhaps people who make posts could have the option to disallow favouriting of comments on that post?

Although I'm not exactly expecting this to happen, I am very interested in hearing how other mefites feel about this. This is idea driven purely by how I personally interpret favourites, and so perhaps has no relation how most people do. On the other hand, perhaps it does.

Where I'm coming from is that yah, in general, favourites are dandy. However, I've noticed that their existence makes me rather uncomfortable in posts which lend themselves to heated discussion. My sense is that favourites usually reflect a pretty quick emotional reaction. In humourous threads, if people are making quick funny comments, this is great. But for those threads where emotional responses tend to get in the way, I think they muddly the waters of productive discussion.

For posts on difficult topics such as sexism, abuse, or, on the other hand, with respect to perennial metafilter bugbears (Amanda Palmer, Penny Arcade, etc...), I know that if I see a few comments with triple digit favourites which seem to purport an accepted opinion, I feel much less inclined to comment if my opinion doesn't completely align, and I feel rather pushed out of the discussion. If someone posts a well reasoned response to one of these comments but doesn't get a lot of favourites, for me it can't help but seem that that person has in some sense lost, or at least that their response has been deemed less than relevant.

I worry that it really stifles debate on some of these topics. I'm getting pretty good at detecting these posts in advance, and I'm beginning to avoid these discussions because I don't feel their fruitful, and it saddens me to feel that people aren't really engaging with each other, except perhaps on the margins. Of course, maybe this is all in my head, but I do feel like in these threads it would be better if comments didn't have favourites, and every comment stood equally on its own. Perhaps a nice way to deal with this would be to allow posters to disable comments if they feel they'll hold back the discussion.
posted by Alex404 to Feature Requests at 9:05 AM (154 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

no way am i gonna favorite this.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:12 AM on February 6, 2014 [10 favorites]


I second this emotion. I know that the accepted wisdom is "well, turn them off if you don't like them!" But I think that would be great if it could apply to posts you create and are hoping will not turn into a shitstorm.
posted by corb at 9:15 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


While I understand your point, I'm not keen on the idea of individual posters getting to dictate if I'm able to use favourites in a post.
posted by dotgirl at 9:16 AM on February 6, 2014 [74 favorites]


I think the general idea is that everyone owns their own favorites. If you want to use them or see them, you can. If you don't, you don't have to. But nobody else can decide what you do with favorites.
posted by Houstonian at 9:17 AM on February 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


I foresee this as a non-starter, because that's providing post-writers with more power (of a sort) than they have currently, and that's a power to try and shape conversations. Posts should not be made to elicit response, and by allowing users to disallow favoriting in a post they make, they are clearly expecting a heated discussion, or at least flippant remarks that could be seen as striving to get favorites.

I know that if I see a few comments with triple digit favourites which seem to purport an accepted opinion, I feel much less inclined to comment if my opinion doesn't completely align, and I feel rather pushed out of the discussion. If someone posts a well reasoned response to one of these comments but doesn't get a lot of favourites, for me it can't help but seem that that person has in some sense lost, or at least that their response has been deemed less than relevant.

Given that users are already able to make favorites vague (mark that something "has favorites") or hide favorites all-together, you are personally empowered to minimize or mask their influence on you. Then you won't feel swayed to not make a comment because you're going against what you feel is the general consensus. Personally, if I see a comment that is heavily favorited and I do not agree with the statement, I feel more empowered to provide a response, assuming someone hasn't already provided a response or alternative viewpoint.

I worry that it really stifles debate on some of these topics. I'm getting pretty good at detecting these posts in advance, and I'm beginning to avoid these discussions because I don't feel their fruitful, and it saddens me to feel that people aren't really engaging with each other, except perhaps on the margins.

I would counter that the larger issue is that the sheer number of active and semi-active users makes it harder to have a more calm, personal discussion. When viewpoints become the stance of a group instead of an individual, it can definitely feel more like an us vs them scenario, less of my thoughts compared to yours.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:17 AM on February 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


I feel much less inclined to comment if my opinion doesn't completely align, and I feel rather pushed out of the discussion

This has much more to do with you than with the community. There are tons and tons and tons of threads where comments that make good points on all sorts of sides of a particular issue rack up tons of favorites. Great, thoughtful, respectful, well-written comments get favorites. If you feel you have a minority opinion, say it and say it well. You will be appreciated.

You can always turn off favorites on your end if they bother you.
posted by phunniemee at 9:21 AM on February 6, 2014 [23 favorites]


But I think that would be great if it could apply to posts you create and are hoping will not turn into a shitstorm.

If you are writing a post in a way that can easily turn into a shitstorm, you're doing it wrong. Favorites have nothing to do with why a deliberately shit-stirring post shouldn't be posted.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:22 AM on February 6, 2014 [13 favorites]


dotgirl: "While I understand your point, I'm not keen on the idea of individual posters getting to dictate if I'm able to use favourites in a post."

Same.
posted by zarq at 9:23 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


with respect to perennial metafilter bugbears (Amanda Palmer, Penny Arcade, etc...)

My staff of commenting is +4 against Bugbears.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:24 AM on February 6, 2014 [13 favorites]


If you are writing a post in a way that can easily turn into a shitstorm, you're doing it wrong.

I think the best-written I/P post in the world, for example, will probably still have issues. It's not always about the writing or framing.
posted by corb at 9:26 AM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I know that if I see a few comments with triple digit favourites which seem to purport an accepted opinion, I feel much less inclined to comment if my opinion doesn't completely align, and I feel rather pushed out of the discussion.

But turning off favorites solves this problem. Instead of trying to control how other people use the site, perhaps exercise some self-control.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:26 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


We don't currently offer any features that can be turned on or off by other people. For example, you can't set someone else's font sizes. You can't determine whether or not someone uses the inline YouTube player. Those are all choices that individual users make for themselves. I don't think we're going to change how that works for favorites. You can turn them off. And though it's a hassle, you can turn them off before you click into a contentious thread and then re-enable them if you want.

Setting that aside though, I'm not sure the feature as you're describing it would make the change you want to see. Favorites play a role in discussions, but I'm not sure they determine whether a discussion is contentious or inviting to dissenting opinion. Even so, giving the power to the poster means that favorites will often still be on in discussions where you don't want to see them. I think we're better off with the current system where a user determines how they want to use them.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:26 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I knew I should have written something about turning off seeing favourites...

Maybe that might help, but maybe it might not. If favourites are negatively shaping a discussion because most people aren't turning them off, it doesn't matter if I can't see them.
posted by Alex404 at 9:31 AM on February 6, 2014


In the really, really theoretical situation that this would be enacted, I think the outcry every time this feature is used -- because it is 100% a judgement call as to whether it should or shouldn't be -- would be so large that it certainly wouldn't do anything save immediately peg a thread as one where you go in with your dukes up and god knows the conversation is well enough alone to inspire that attitude.

"Why were favorites turned off in the post I made. It's innocuous!"

"Oh look favorites are turned off, we all know how THIS will go"

"I think the mods were wrong to turn off favorites in this post so let's have a hugely contentious MeTa about it."

"Why even have favorites if they are selectively turned off at the whim of the mods?"

...and so on, and so forth.
posted by griphus at 9:33 AM on February 6, 2014 [17 favorites]


There are tons and tons and tons of threads where comments that make good points on all sorts of sides of a particular issue rack up tons of favorites. Great, thoughtful, respectful, well-written comments get favorites. If you feel you have a minority opinion, say it and say it well. You will be appreciated.

Again, I think this is generally true, but I worry that for some of the most sensitive discussions, this is not happening.

I certainly can't prove that though.
posted by Alex404 at 9:33 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe that might help, but maybe it might not.

One of the hardest things about Metafilter is that you can't fix other people's behavior. I turned off favorites and it's helped my interaction with the site a lot, if only by lowering my blood pressure so I don't see what's favorited in contentious threads.

Favorites are not going away either per-post or generally; ignoring them is your best alternative.
posted by immlass at 9:36 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I turned off favorites and it's helped my interaction with the site a lot,

This is me also. You basically can't dictate other people's behavior outside of a pretty narrow band of "You can't do that here" stuff that affects the entire community equally. I can see why this idea is appealing, but I hope you can see why it's not really something that we could consider on a sitewide level.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:37 AM on February 6, 2014


Alex404: I think this is generally true, but I worry that for some of the most sensitive discussions, this is not happening.

Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd. I think some comments reach a few critical plateaus and get additional attention. At 12+ favorites, your comment will show up on your contact's sidebars. Around 80 or 90 favorites, you'll rise to be one of the popular favorites. And between there, people (like me) skim conversations or use some tool or bookmarklet like GraphFi to mark up popular comments in long threads, so those comments continue to get additional attention.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:40 AM on February 6, 2014


Again, I think this is generally true, but I worry that for some of the most sensitive discussions, this is not happening.

Be the change you want to see in the FPP. Seriously, post your comments. Unless you're going on some whackadoo rant about how the poors deserve it or that women just need to ____ and that'll solve their problems, or likewise say something abysmally dumb, everything will go just fine.
posted by phunniemee at 9:41 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


everything will go just fine.

This has not been my experience.
posted by 0 at 9:51 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


But... but... but...

Fair enough. The idea of shutting myself off to information seems insane in this day and age, but perhaps it really is a solution to simply turn off favourites.

I would counter that the larger issue is that the sheer number of active and semi-active users makes it harder to have a more calm, personal discussion. When viewpoints become the stance of a group instead of an individual, it can definitely feel more like an us vs them scenario, less of my thoughts compared to yours.


Filthy light thief gets at this issue which I can't quite articulate. My concern is simply when I feel like a thread becomes a pile on to anyone with a dissenting opinion. I just wished there was more 'I see your point, but...' and 'agree to disagree' in these sensitive threads, and less 'if you disagree with me you're a sexist/homophobic/pedophile/don't give a shit about these people anyway' type of comments. Ideally, even if someone is deeply, problematically wrong about something, someone will calmly walk them through as to why this is the case.

Nevertheless, I don't know how to control human behaviour, nor, in all fairness, should I really be allowed to. I'll just do what I can to add to and improve the discussions and hope that, even if they're my comments aren't getting slam dunked with favourites, they're still having some positive impact.
posted by Alex404 at 9:59 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


perhaps it really is a solution to simply turn off favourites.

Give it a try. Think of it as opening yourself up to a new experience rather than shutting yourself off from information.
posted by 0 at 10:02 AM on February 6, 2014


I mostly uses favourites as a means of noting posts I want to refer to later, as opposed to indicating that it's a comment I agree with or an 'ohsnap' moment. Pretty sure I'm not alone in this.

This pony has the potential to throw that use of favourites under the bus for what seems like very little meaningful change.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 10:04 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I’m not sure what the issue at hand is here. Is it the notion that, if something gets favorited too much, that the discussion derails into talking about that comment, or that the comment itself established a consensus, and no one really engages after that?

If someone favorites one of my posts, I am somewhat flattered. It would be the same as if I turned you on to a new album. It’s like I did a stranger a solid.

When I favorite a post, it is usually because it is something I am already interested in. When I favorite a comment, whether it is on my post others, it is usually because that person had just nailed it.. Crystallized every fact of the matter very concisely, and you sit there thinking “Now why the hell didn’t I just say THAT!”

Is it like an ego thing, where people equate their self worth to the number of “likes” they get?

Maybe some folks worry about that, but from my experience with MeFi it’s never been about that, and I sure hope it doesnt get that way.
posted by timsteil at 10:13 AM on February 6, 2014


Personally the only issue I have with 'favorites' is the name 'favorites', it kind of boxes a lot of use into it just being used as a favorite marker. I know not everyone, all the time does this and many use it for other reasons, still I think name drives function in the majority of cases. Just wish it was called something like 'marks'.
posted by edgeways at 10:14 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I foresee this as a non-starter

I agree with you, for many of the reasons you elucidated. And yet,

Posts should not be made to elicit response, and by allowing users to disallow favoriting in a post they make, they are clearly expecting a heated discussion, or at least flippant remarks that could be seen as striving to get favorites.

Posts should not seek to elicit a certain response? Or what's a Heaven for? There's definitely a gradient here, and the de jure policy is certainly "post because interesting, not because important" but I'd say the defacto practice is a lot closer to "post because I wanna talk about this Teapot Tempest with a bunch of smart people who basically agree with me already". There's tons of stuff posted to the front page every day Because Interesting, and if you looked at the sheer number of posts I'd bet the majority fall in that bucket. But the post that reliably get the most comments and favorites? The posts where the actual bulk of the conversation on the site is happening? They're largely Because Amirites.

I don't think you can cure the problem Alex sees with favorite censoring. But I agree the phenomena exists. Maybe deliberately blinkering oneself as to the state of majority opinion is enough to get oneself not to shy away from participation out of fear. But like a carriage horse you're still taking a desperate plunge into some heavy traffic.
posted by Diablevert at 10:15 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Shitstorms were not unheard of before favorites came along, so it's not simply that favorites drive or create shitstorms. Not that I'm arguing they have *no* effect.

I go through phases where I turn them off. Then I turn them back on.

Ideally, even if someone is deeply, problematically wrong about something, someone will calmly walk them through as to why this is the case.

This is a thing that happens, though. Not every single time in every single thread, but it does happen. And sometimes the person who is wrong just doubles-down on the being wrong because they are under the impression that....I don't know. They're speaking truth to power? They're not wrong? They don't care that they're both wrong and offensive? Some mix of all, possibly.
posted by rtha at 10:17 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Especially prior to using Evernote, I used favourites as a way to bookmark something I thought was insightful, reduced complex idea to a precise statement, was funny, or even just included a word or phrase I wanted to remember for later. Perhaps you could try seeing favourites as a bookmark and not a note of agreement.
posted by variella at 10:18 AM on February 6, 2014


As other people have suggested, turn off your favorites or at least set them to the fuzzy "has favorites" option. It makes metafilter a much nicer place to visit.
posted by aspo at 10:19 AM on February 6, 2014


Personally the only issue I have with 'favorites' is the name 'favorites', it kind of boxes a lot of use into it just being used as a favorite marker. I know not everyone, all the time does this and many use it for other reasons, still I think name drives function in the majority of cases. Just wish it was called something like 'marks'.

As others have pointed out as well, this is part of the problem. Favorites double as a bookmarking feature, or *are* a bookmarking feature depending on how you want to look at it. I do indeed use them in this way, especially for posts. I actually agree that it would be pretty cool if they would just be called bookmarks or some such. I also think how they get used for comments would change quite a bit as a result.
posted by Alex404 at 10:20 AM on February 6, 2014


I also think how they get used for comments would change quite a bit as a result.

Probably only for new users or light users. You could call them [CLICK HERE FOR PICS OF CLOWNS HAVING WEIRD SEX WITH HORSES] and I'd still use them in my preferred way.
posted by phunniemee at 10:22 AM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I might actually start using them if they were called that.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:26 AM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


My concern is simply when I feel like a thread becomes a pile on to anyone with a dissenting opinion. I just wished there was more 'I see your point, but...' and 'agree to disagree' in these sensitive threads, and less 'if you disagree with me you're a sexist/homophobic/pedophile/don't give a shit about these people anyway' type of comments. Ideally, even if someone is deeply, problematically wrong about something, someone will calmly walk them through as to why this is the case.

There's a couple of issues here. First, it's best practice to read to the bottom of the thread and decide if they really need to add your two cents to the responses to a particular comment. Unless I am actively involved in a thread, I often find that someone has already articulated what I want to say, especially when the comment being responded to is by "a poster with a history on that issue." Secondly, there are a lot of sexist/racist/homophobic/etc kinds of comments that get thrown around on the site, and they don't necessarily deserve a "calm walking-through." It's not the duty of oppressed people to educate others on that oppression, after all. If you find yourself getting a lot of heat for a comment (or for a series of comments), you might try educating yourself on the topic on your own. I have occasionally resorted in threads where I felt I was getting on thin ice memailing someone I felt had a better handle on the topic and saying "am I off base on this?" It doesn't always get me an answer, and I'm pretty selective about it, but it's save me embarrassment in the past. There's also the art of "reading the room." If there is a 500 comment contentious MeTa about a 1000 comment mess of an FPP about harassment, you might really think twice (or five or six times) about dropping that "witty comment" into the thread. If tempers are high, you are way more likely to get bitten. This goes back to "reading all the way to the bottom."
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:28 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


My concern is simply when I feel like a thread becomes a pile on to anyone with a dissenting opinion.

If dissenting opinions were correct, we wouldn't have to pile on. Maybe those people could be not-stupidheads.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:32 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that comment isn't satire!?
posted by 0 at 10:42 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think your goals are laudable, but I feel that favorites actually serve to reduce the noise in a contentious thread because users can add their weight to the side they agree with by favoriting an appropriate comment instead of having to contribute an actual, probably tediously repetitive comment.
posted by jamjam at 10:42 AM on February 6, 2014 [18 favorites]


My concern is simply when I feel like a thread becomes a pile on to anyone with a dissenting opinion. I just wished there was more 'I see your point, but...' and 'agree to disagree' in these sensitive threads, and less 'if you disagree with me you're a sexist/homophobic/pedophile/don't give a shit about these people anyway' type of comments.

I actually think that in contentious threads favorites can serve to limit the amount of piling-on that happens by providing an outlet for people to show their agreement with a side of the argument other than by making another comment. I know that I've been in situations where I felt like I needed to contribute to the argument somehow and, upon reading a comment I substantially agreed with, left it with just a favorite rather than writing my own similar comment to show my agreement/provide additional pushback to the side I disagreed with. Taking them away could well result in longer, angrier threads where everyone feels a need to contribute a full statement of their position, and in my experience as those threads go on the get not only slightly redundant but also even more divisive. People will tend to only engage with the most extreme counterarguments and the thread quickly gets locked in a cycle of more and more vitriol as each side doubles down on their arguments but with more anger and less of an attempt to build common ground.
posted by Copronymus at 10:43 AM on February 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


I favorite only to bookmark. This would wipe that out. I'm aware that some people use it as a way to agree with others in a discussion, but that is not the only use of favorites and many of us use the feature differently.

I think it would be a bad idea.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:43 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Obviously I would never find myself in a position of increasing the noise in a thread by contributing actual, probably tediously repetitive comments.
posted by Copronymus at 10:45 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I want the terminology to change. Favorites => Bookmarks. I think this would have a profound effect on how people think of them and use them, with minimal disruption to the site.
posted by jsturgill at 10:46 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Those are very good points jamjam and Copronymus. Cheers (but no favourites, suckers).
posted by Alex404 at 10:47 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I dislike that someone else would, on a whim, be able to turn off a feature that is useful to me and the way I use this web site.

As far as changing "favorite" to "bookmark" it seems like that would be a trivial GreaseMonkey script for someone who is motivated in that direction.
posted by grouse at 10:49 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


In addition to the existing three options (show number of favorites, show "has favorites," hide favorites) there should be an option to give every comment a completely random false number of favorites between 50 and 200 so it looks like everyone is just killing it postingwise all of the time
posted by theodolite at 10:49 AM on February 6, 2014 [16 favorites]


Certainly no MeFite would ever want to make threads more noisy by posting comments that merely repeat previous comments in a tiresome and possibly only slightly-rewritten way.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:53 AM on February 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


As far as changing "favorite" to "bookmark" it seems like that would be a trivial GreaseMonkey script for someone who is motivated in that direction.

Making it an optional enhancement people would have to seek out and implement themselves would rather destroy the social engineering aspect of the proposal that is the main appeal to me.
posted by jsturgill at 10:53 AM on February 6, 2014


pb: For example, you can't set someone else's font sizes.

April 1st is coming up though, so keep an eye on this comment...
posted by Rock Steady at 10:55 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am curious about whether the other mods have favorites turned off.

I feel that they're often used (and I have used them) as a feedback mechanism in MeTa to "agree" with other comments, and I assumed the mods saw this type of user feedback.

Not saying it's a bad thing, just surprised and curious.
posted by lalex at 10:57 AM on February 6, 2014


It would irritate me to have favorites disabled on select posts, on two levels.

One, because often I'll be thinking of making a comment, and there in the thread I'll find that someone has said it already, often better than I ever could. I add my favorite as a way of saying "me too" and then don't bother to post my comment unless I feel like I genuinely have something to add. If I'm silenced from adding my two cents with the click of a plus sign, I gotta add my me-too by hand or feel strangely unfulfilled.

Two, because I'm pretty sure lots of other people use favorites in this way, and if you shut them off you are opening yourself up to a ton of comments either saying the same damn thing over and over, or else basically saying "yeah, what he said!" And who wants to wade through a 300 comment thread predominantly made up of variations on "me too?"
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:58 AM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't know offhand (and wouldn't trust that all mods will see this) but I know that we all downplay the extent to which we feel it's appropriate for them to be used in decisionmaking on the site and we try pretty hard not to base moderator decisions on presence or absence of favorites.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:58 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Another option: upon the OP checking the box, a reader can only see their own bookmarks in that thread.

I'm sympathetic to the idea that groupthink should temper what people say, but I can also attest to the fact that there are many occasions that I've not *bookmarked* because I saw something was relatively disliked. And similarly I've occasionally not commented with relevant and non-enraging information simply because favorites demonstrated a subtext of emotion that I didn't want to be judged next to.

There's real tension between favorites and bookmarks. And the subtext of favorites definitely carries on an unspoken conversation of it's own that is not moderated. I don't know if it's worth getting rid of favorites, but I hope nobody here thinks they don't have an impact on our psychology.
posted by tychotesla at 11:03 AM on February 6, 2014


Favourites, and specifically favourites that can be seen by all users, have strongly impacted the site. I'm of the opinion in a bad way but the biggest shitstorm around here is the difference of opinion on that matter so thoughts differ. Turning them off allows me to use the site (seriously: absent a baked in or greasemonkey turn off I would have left long ago). So I'd strongly recommend turning them off if you haven't already and giving it a whirl. If nothing else it stops you from being tweaked by the score keeping unless someone quotes the byline with favourite count.
posted by Mitheral at 11:04 AM on February 6, 2014


And who wants to wade through a 300 comment thread predominantly made up of variations on "me too?"

THIS
posted by zombieflanders at 11:12 AM on February 6, 2014 [16 favorites]


I really like the favorites function, and, while I occasionally use them as bookmarks, I am far more likely to use them to indicate interest or appreciation. I also like the sidebar that reminds me to look at comments and posts by contacts, and that works better with favorites than I expect it would do without them. That's just my point of view, of course, but I think the site would be less rich without them. On the other hand, I don't pay that much attention to the number of favorites on a comment unless I am thinking of favoriting it myself, and then mostly because the number is right next to the little +.

I do think that disabling favorites on a thread by thread basis would lead to more pile-ons as everyone would want to "have their say."
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:14 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I do think that disabling favorites on a thread by thread basis would lead to more pile-ons as everyone would want to "have their say."

Oh god, I'm doing it right here! Why didn't I just use my little +?!
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:15 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Like others here, I favorite only to bookmark. Sometimes I feel a little awkward about that, because I occasionally favorite comments that are offensive or wrong-headed because I thought they were a particularly interesting example of dumbassity, nearing Platonic perfection in sheer thick-skulled idiocy, but I know that since favorites are typically interpreted as applause, I risk being seen as an accomplice to perverse ignorance. Sometimes here in Meta someone will write a comment to the tune of "And who are the twelve jackasses who favorited that crap?" I meekly raise my hand, and now I am likely permanently labeled a crap-favoriting jackass in someone's extensive MeFi database. That's a risk I am willing to take.

All of which is to say this: the kinds of threads where it would make sense to turn off favorites in order to keep things from turning into the online equivalent of a Jerry Springer crowd yelling "fight! fight! fight!" are precisely the kinds of threads where I am likely to spot interesting examples of very nicely phrased wrong-headedness that I would like to save for later. Why I save these, I don't really know. Perhaps for an eventual book about how to be an interesting wrong person on the internet, which is much, much better than being a dull wrong person.

In conclusion, favorites are a land of contrasts.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:16 AM on February 6, 2014 [10 favorites]


I would object to this. I use favourites basically for remembering stuff. It's fun to look back through them and rediscover good threads again.

I would love to see, however, either a blanket sitewide thing or an individual option: don't let the favourites I make be seen by others. I think that is a solution that would get at what the OP is aiming for without changing basic functionality of the site.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:19 AM on February 6, 2014


My favorites are like a cultivated garden or a wunderkammer. I add and I prune and mostly they're just things I like to look at. That's why they're favorites.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:25 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes, before favorites I remember a lot more "This." and "Quoted for truth." and "X wins the thread." I'd rather have favorites.
posted by grouse at 11:27 AM on February 6, 2014 [17 favorites]


I would love to see, however, either a blanket sitewide thing or an individual option: don't let the favourites I make be seen by others. I think that is a solution that would get at what the OP is aiming for without changing basic functionality of the site.

As a sitewide thing, this would completely remove favorites as a way to show approval. I get that it's sort of weird that people use favorites in different ways (while calling them favorites which strongly favors the "approve" camp), but, it seems to me that the current system allows both broad camps to coexists (although uneasily, as Pater Aletheias points out*), while most of the proposed changes in this thread would rule in favor of one approach or the other.

*Of course, I am now glumly considering any favorites received from PA to be a sign of dumbassery....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:30 AM on February 6, 2014


It is not my sense that Metafilter threads in the pre-favoriting era went especially better than the ones we have now.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:30 AM on February 6, 2014


My favorites are like a cultivated garden or a wunderkammer. I add and I prune and mostly they're just things I like to look at. That's why they're favorites.

Yeah, every now and then I read back through them to get a chuckle (I usually just favorite things that make me laugh or go "uh, what?"). I also take the opportunity to unfavorite some stuff Mr. Pterodactyl said because he has too many favorites from me and I don't want his opinion of himself to get too high.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:31 AM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

You can turn them off. And though it's a hassle, you can turn them off before you click into a contentious thread and then re-enable them if you want.
Please forgive my naive/possibly careworn question here: Why are favorites "opt out" instead of "opt in" anyway? Some of us log in infrequently and/or read Metafilter via dubious connections/browsers/computers. Why is the front-facing site filled with favorites by default, as opposed to being optionally visible only to logged-on users who seek them out?
posted by tyro urge at 11:38 AM on February 6, 2014


Favourites are just nature's way of telling you that your old, clumsy fingers are too sausage-like to accurately flag a comment as offensive, and you should probably get a "phablet", you old bastard, and also you'll soon be dead from terminal oldness. So fuck you, Father Time - maybe I WILL get a Samsung Note 3 with innovative S-pen technology, and then I'll set my MeFi font size to, like, a MILLION points, and then I'll favourite whatever the fuck I want to. So take THAT, "Chronos", you beardy old prick.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:40 AM on February 6, 2014 [10 favorites]


Also, I was actually thinking about stuff like this the other night and why some threads go badly and I think it's much more a user problem than a favorites problem.

At the risk of incurring some wrath, I think part of the problem is that we have a number of users who have similar conversations or thoughts very often or just contribute a lot and it is easy to feel unwelcome in threads because you can feel crowded-out or like there's not really space for you. We also just have a lot of users and, on certain issues, many many people have strong opinions and/or want to take on certain other perspectives. I don't know that there's a solution to this. I came up with a few unworkable ones -- I think the best was "if you have two days in a row with more than X comments, you can only post up to Y comments for the next three days". Clearly this isn't a great answer and I'm not actually proposing it but I think a lot of the problem is that we end up getting:

1) Axe-grinding on pet issues
2) The same people with strong opinions dominating certain threads
3) People coming in to offer their general opinion on the topic without really adding much to the discussion or just saying something for the sake of saying it
4) Pile-ons

I don't think disallowing favorites is really the answer to any of these; they are the problems I see (possibly this is just me) and I don't really think there's a good answer except "try to contribute meaningfully and don't make the thread all about you".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:40 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


tyro urge: "Why are favorites "opt out" instead of "opt in" anyway?"

Because then the social aspects don't work.
posted by Mitheral at 11:40 AM on February 6, 2014


There's an argument to be made that favourites have altered metafilter. Votes do have a strong effect on how readers perceive the site, I believe. How this affects perceptions of the site and site growth and participation would be an interesting master's topic, actually.

On the other hand, that ship has sailed, and turning back the clock is not possible. I think a greasemonkey extension to turn off favourites thread by thread is the best solution for Alex404.
posted by bonehead at 11:41 AM on February 6, 2014


Just to think a little more about what favorites are used for that isn't just side-taking in arguments: there's also a newish form of (maybe Facebook-derived) etiquette that I think is a growing secondary use of favoriting, which is using the favorite as a compact side-channel to communicate "read and acknowledged" or "thanks for the reply." At least in my experience this is now a very common use of the Facebook "like" button, and I think the etiquette is spreading from there. It's a little different from bookmarking and also a little different from approval/agreement — more of a simple gesture of appreciation that someone took the time to continue the conversation. I think that, in a change similar to what's been happening for a while with me-too commenting, the presence of a side channel that can be used for this communication causes the etiquette to shift slowly toward seeing it as slightly better manners to use the side channel than to use the main text of the thread to communicate that message.
posted by RogerB at 11:42 AM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why is the front-facing site filled with favorites by default, as opposed to being optionally visible only to logged-on users who seek them out?

I'm not sure I understand; I don't see any favorite counts on the less-outside portions of the front pages - I see the little plus sign, which isn't visible to logged-out people, but there's no number of favorites visible until I click the more inside.
posted by rtha at 11:45 AM on February 6, 2014


I would wholeheartedly support an option that allowed us to not see "favorited by others" on profile pages, very much like how we can opt to not make favorites visible in-thread. This way the only favorites I would ever come across were my own, and I could go about my business on the site blissfully pretending that favorites function only as bookmarks.

I've thought about doing a MeTa for this as a feature request, but haven't done it yet.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:46 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Actually favourites are Mathowie's way of giving MeFi users the illusion of democracy, the pretence that we all have a "vote". But let's face facts: only by getting rid of favourites will we FINALLY have a true vote in the running of this site, and instead of me having to tell you all to vote #1 quidnunc kid, I will be begging for you not to ban me for multiple crimes of aggravated stupidity. So, in summary, I have forgotten what this thread is about but I think AskMe should be coloured cyan, not green.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:46 AM on February 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


rtha, I think tyro urge's comment referred to viewing the whole site not logged in (front-facing) as opposed to logged in.
posted by 0 answers at 11:48 AM on February 6, 2014


How about an option that would turn off favourites on profile pages, as an opt out? No "Favorites: X; Favorited by others: X". Instead, a line that says "Show my favourites" going to the "Favorites from [username]" page.

To be clear, this would be for all users, not just you, a way of deliberately opting out of keeping score.
posted by bonehead at 11:51 AM on February 6, 2014


Ah, okay - that reading makes sense to me now. I somehow conflated "front-facing" with "front page" and was confused, thinking that maybe not-logged-in readers were presented with a different looking front page.
posted by rtha at 11:52 AM on February 6, 2014


Favourites? The REAL benefit of favourites is as an alternate web-based currency that is actually virtually realer than your fiat "meatspace" dollars. When the GOVERNMENT gets off our backs, we'll be able to use favourites to pay for goods and services much more efficientlier. So I say: hold on to your favourites for now, because the current FX rate of $1 = F0.0000000000000001 might get even better!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:54 AM on February 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


The REAL benefit of favourites is as an alternate web-based currency

Favorites are inherently inflationary and subject to moderator manipulation. We need to return to a sound money standard, the tried-and-true, the post count!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:00 PM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, 0 answers caught my meaning. Sorry for being unclear!
posted by tyro urge at 12:02 PM on February 6, 2014


Keeping favourites turned off really makes for a streamlined browsing experience, imho, the kid's investments notwithstanding.
posted by infini at 12:03 PM on February 6, 2014


Favorites are inherently inflationary and subject to moderator manipulation. We need to return to a sound money standard, the tried-and-true, the post count!

GOOGLE MATT HAUGHEY
posted by zombieflanders at 12:04 PM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


no wait

GOOGLE QUIDNUNC KID
posted by zombieflanders at 12:05 PM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Guys, favourites are a distraction here: what would be great is if posters had the ability to turn off flags, and then the mods couldn't even SEE what we're saying about them! Like I could be all, "Yo that Cortex thinks he's all that but NUH UH" and he wouldn't be able to ban m-wait a second, maybe he IS all that-? I mean he's pretty cute. I don't know if I want him to ask me to go to the MeFi Prom, but maybe you guys know if he's already got a date???
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:08 PM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you want to only turn favorites off for some threads, but not all (the way our preferences work), this sounds like a perfect job for something like greasemonkey. You could fairly easily make a button off on the side that only hid favorites for threads you noticed were about contentious topics, and it could keep track of which threads you didn't want to see favorite counts in. It'd only work for your own account though.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:09 PM on February 6, 2014


I think AskMe should be coloured cyan, not green.

I think we should leave the colors as they are until they come back in style again.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:10 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hi Matt!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:10 PM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I mean, I don't want to have to paint this place.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:11 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I want to turn off 'posted by' so every comment is just random profundity or ridiculousness from the void. Also 'buy a shirt'. I would also dearly like to be able to turn back on the img tag in posts I make.

Oh shit that last one is 100% serious let's do that.
posted by emmtee at 12:11 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Since this has already descended into random chaos, I would like a sparkle pony.

In a pinch, the img tag would do...eyes grow misty with nostalgia
posted by infini at 12:30 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


How about an option that would turn off favourites on profile pages, as an opt out? No "Favorites: X; Favorited by others: X". Instead, a line that says "Show my favourites" going to the "Favorites from [username]" page.

I'd be totally psyched about this as long as I could go to my profile page and see the things that I've favorited. Well, I guess I could just re-enable the option you suggest whenever I want to do it, and that would work for me.

I also sometimes think that it would be nice if we didn't have a link on our profile page that shows what we've favorited. It feels kind of creepy sometimes to think that people could trawl through profile pages looking at the things each of us chooses to bookmark/favorite. But I don't feel super-strongly about it, but that would also be a benefit to me of your proposal.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:31 PM on February 6, 2014


Since this has already descended into random chaos, I would like a sparkle pony.

It'll cost 20,000 favorites, same as in town.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:34 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Again, I am amazed that so many people keep track of, or notice, how many favorites comments get. But to get worked up about it to the point that "something needs to be done" is definitely a sign that some self reflection is in order. This is sort of a "how can I stop people from always starting fights with me when I go out to bars?" problem.

If favorites bother you turn them off.
posted by bongo_x at 12:36 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


For posts on difficult topics [...] I know that if I see a few comments with triple digit favourites which seem to purport an accepted opinion, I feel much less inclined to comment if my opinion doesn't completely align, and I feel rather pushed out of the discussion.

FWIW, I think this is a completely real dynamic and you're right to perceive it, but it actually has relatively little to do with favorites and much more to do with the tenor established by the early comments in a discussion. I certainly agree that there is a tendency to pile on — when early comments are in agreement, there's a tendency for later commenters to seem disinhibited, one-upping each other in vociferousness and becoming less and less nuanced — but I don't think favoriting is the cause, so much as the perception of one-sidedness when later commenters are "reading the room" or imagining the audience that they're talking to. Threads where a reasonable disagreement is established early on seem almost always to go much better. The more I reflect on what happens when discussions go well and go badly here, the more I think that how a thread begins is crucial to how it develops.
posted by RogerB at 12:41 PM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't give out favorites. Just assume I'm favoriting everything you say. Yes, you.
posted by bleep-blop at 12:51 PM on February 6, 2014


TOFAMO (Turn Off Favorites And Move On).
posted by maryr at 1:05 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


the current FX rate of $1 = F0.0000000000000001 might get even better!

I am not that great at math but doesn't that mean that 1 favorite = $1,000,000,000,000,000? If so, I'm okay with cashing out now. $100 bills are fine, Matt.
posted by desjardins at 1:05 PM on February 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


(Or a stunning new tomato-tofu hybrid.)
posted by maryr at 1:05 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


the quidnunc kid : instead of me having to tell you all to vote #1 quidnunc kid

Maybe something like this:
[+] [!] [#1]
posted by Room 641-A at 1:09 PM on February 6, 2014 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I want to cash in my favorites too if that's the exchange rate.

I will then buy Norway.
posted by winna at 1:16 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


GenjiandProust: "*Of course, I am now glumly considering any favorites received from PA to be a sign of dumbassery...."

Hey, not all of us in Pennsylvania are dumbasses!
posted by Chrysostom at 1:23 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am not that great at math but doesn't that mean that 1 favorite = $1,000,000,000,000,000?

Wow. It turns out that I am actually a far bigger idiot than I even pretend to be. You knew that of course, but ... Yeah. I mean, someone could have mentioned it to me or something. I'm just saying.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:23 PM on February 6, 2014


Is it gauche to admit that I fucking love favourites and get a little mental 'ding' whenever I get a fresh batch.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:39 PM on February 6, 2014 [15 favorites]


If favorites are such a massive, approach to the site changing thing to you, can you see that, for other people who use and actually like favorites, that suddenly having them turned off by the whim of another user might be just as disruptive, or more likely more disruptive to them, seeing as a feature they like is just gone?

Personally, I'm uncomfortable with the idea that, under your request, anyone can create conditions for me different than the standard conditions I normally use the site under. This is a pretty close cousin to saying 'I don't like this thing because it doesn't work for me, so we shouldn't have it' when 'it' is a pretty widespread, normally accepted thing. If you don't want to see them, you have options for you. You shouldn't have options for Metafilter.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:40 PM on February 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


how on earth did we get into a thread debating favourites of all things... its the grey equivalent of i/p or sarah palin
posted by infini at 1:42 PM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, the threadshitting thread had pretty much wound down, so....
posted by Chrysostom at 2:09 PM on February 6, 2014


I think favorites are the MeTa equivalent of the toilet paper orientation AskMe questions: everyone has firm opinions they will defend, but unlike politics, there's not a lot of contention because the "the thing you think is morally wrong and it is my job to right this wrong" reaction is silly in the context.
posted by griphus at 2:14 PM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Politely disagree? There has been A LOT of contention about favorites in the past. You don't see much of it at this point because the mods have been firm that favorites are not going anywhere. So, favorite haters have either left, or given it up as a lost cause.

There are fair number of users who feel that favorites have had a significant deleterious effect on the site, and I can think of a number of threads in past years when this opinion was expressed...strongly.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:17 PM on February 6, 2014


...there's not a lot of contention because the "the thing you think is morally wrong and it is my job to right this wrong" reaction is silly in the context.

Yeah, that's exactly what a favorite clicking, surrender monkey would say.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:20 PM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think the heated brawls over favorites were a growing-pains thing, just like the recent shit-fits people had about titles and the edit window and basically any major change to the status quo.

But contention over politics? Nothing tempers that.
posted by griphus at 2:27 PM on February 6, 2014


That reminds me, is there a Greasemonkey script that will silence the little voice in my head that says "you know, you spoke out strongly against this" every time I use the edit window to fix a typo?
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:32 PM on February 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


Is it gauche to admit that I fucking love favourites and get a little mental 'ding' whenever I get a fresh batch.

Me, too. I think they're a great way to get community feedback on how you interact with the site. In aggregate, favorites say to me "you are participating well with this site. The community perceives you as interesting/knowledgeable/funny/at-the-very-least-not-an-asshole. You are doing pretty ok." So yes, favorites make me happy. (But god forbid you ever say that out loud around here, or you get chimes of METAFILTER IS NOT A CONTEST from all corners.) Do I think they're the only indicator of having a healthy metafilter presence? Aaaabsolutely not. But I like them and find them useful to me for my own reasons. Basically, Sebmojo, you're not alone.

posted by phunniemee at 2:34 PM on February 6, 2014 [21 favorites]


I'm really glad that this feature request is DOA. I've been given to understand that Team Mod has a general policy that favorites are likely going to stay the way they are for the foreseeable future, for better or for worse, and I'm OK with that. This change, if it occurred, would seem really weird and kludgy to me and would only serve to make favorites even more contentious than they already have been. I say leave well enough alone.
posted by Scientist at 2:37 PM on February 6, 2014


I only favorited that comment because I'm live-action roleplaying BF Skinner.
posted by Diablevert at 2:38 PM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't care much about my own favorite count anymore, but when I first joined and was nervous about participating, receiving a favorite was like a little gift of encouragement.

Also, I remember in the Great Favesperiment, multiple people spoke up and said that they had been too intimidated to participate in some of the heated boyzone threads, where we really started discussing sexism in this community, but that they were happy to be able to lend their support to other users through favorites.

So those are a couple of the positive aspects of the favorites system.
posted by lalex at 2:43 PM on February 6, 2014 [18 favorites]


The real benefit of favorites is not to the individual giver or receiver: favorites function as a site-wide metric to pick out notable events. Thus seeing a comment (we are not talking about posts here) with 5 or 10 or 50 favorites means nothing. But a comment with 500 favorites is truly notable for MeFi as a whole, and it is these peaks of favouriting, the ability to demonstrate numerically the notability of (e.g.) Greg Nog's "two birds" theory - that is the reason why we at the NSA want you all to keep using favorites, so we can just look at the top 10 favourited comments of all time and then decide whether or not we should arrest you all. At the moment we are tending toward a "yes", just in case you were wondering. Ok, NSA out!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:54 PM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Are you in cahoots with the real thing, or just a filthy imposter?
posted by zombieflanders at 3:00 PM on February 6, 2014


You are right - it does happen that some threads become echoe-chambery because people who aren't entirely like-minded decide to go away.

This doesn't stop you from saying your piece or asking questions. And, on the plus
side, you can see your piece in peace without being subjected to eye-rolls and dismissive snorts and other visceral hostility.

If you really feel the favorites pressure, turn them off.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:30 PM on February 6, 2014


Yeah, I'm still not super crazy about favourites, but have made my peace with them. I mostly use them for bookmarking, if at all.

What I find funniest about these threads about favourites themselves is that I find myself assuming that comments with more obviously have more community support, which is a little nonsensical.
posted by ODiV at 3:44 PM on February 6, 2014


I'm terrible in that I use favourites for everything, "Me too!" comments, bookmarking something I responded to, bookmarking something I might want to find/re-read later, quickly acknowledging having read a response and, yeah, a lot of "THIS IS AWESOME" upvotes.

Since I don't synchronise browser bookmarks across devices my preferred way of finding things that I've bookmarked on my phone when I'm on the computer is through the wonder of favourites-as-bookmarks. Would be sad to have that use-case break. I definitely wouldn't want posters to be able to disable favourites for all, but it sounds like that idea's explicitly a non-starter for the mods anyway.

That all said, I do get where you're coming from about the weird, lumpy texture some discussion strands seem to take on when there are "[n]nn favorites" alternating with "n favorite[s]" though, Alex404. Maybe I should try turning them off myself sometime.
posted by comealongpole at 4:25 PM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ghidorah: "This is a pretty close cousin to saying 'I don't like this thing because it doesn't work for me, so we shouldn't have it' when 'it' is a pretty widespread, normally accepted thing."

It's this why it is important to express any negative opinions of site changes when they first happen; otherwise they become widespread, normally accepted things which are nearly impossible to change.
posted by Mitheral at 5:26 PM on February 6, 2014


I'd love it if favorites were hidden for everyone, and used as a personal bookmarking system in lieu of upvotes.

I think this would help eliminate some of the quick one-liners that, while often clever, are sometimes are off point or tend to derail.
posted by mightshould at 5:59 PM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


But heck, how else will you know who wins "King of the Snark"?
posted by sammyo at 6:06 PM on February 6, 2014


I think this would help eliminate some of the quick one-liners that, while often clever, are sometimes are off point or tend to derail.

Are you seriously suggesting that quick one-liners weren't already common here before favorites?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 6:29 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would wholeheartedly support an option that allowed us to not see "favorited by others" on profile pages, very much like how we can opt to not make favorites visible in-thread. This way the only favorites I would ever come across were my own, and I could go about my business on the site blissfully pretending that favorites function only as bookmarks.

Is there some fix for this already?

I would like to hide the "Favorited by others" count (from myself).
posted by rue72 at 6:54 PM on February 6, 2014


rue72: "I would like to hide the "Favorited by others" count (from myself)."

Yes, it's in your settings, right above the theme.

As I've said before, my experience here has been much improved since I hid favorites, as I can't get worked up about people favoriting stupid shit.
posted by exogenous at 7:38 PM on February 6, 2014


I think this would help eliminate some of the quick one-liners that, while often clever, are sometimes are off point or tend to derail.

Nope. There were plenty of these before favorites.
posted by grouse at 7:40 PM on February 6, 2014


Yes, it's in your settings, right above the theme.

This doesn't allow you to opt out of seeing favorites on people's profile pages (or one's own). I'd love to be able to opt out of seeing those, too. I want a MetaFilter where I see no favorites at all, unless I change the settings so I can see them.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:44 PM on February 6, 2014


I think someone may have made a greasemonkey script that would hide that, but I can't scare it up.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:46 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


My true favorite is when I honestly like comments on both sides of a discussion. That's when I know I'm going to have learned something new and formed a new opinion on something.
posted by dogwalker at 8:51 PM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


jessamyn: I think someone may have made a greasemonkey script that would hide that, but I can't scare it up.

That was me. I think Lorin archived this script at userscripts.org with a mefi tag.
posted by curious.jp at 9:42 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Serene Empress Dork: “I add my favorite as a way of saying 'me too' and then don't bother to post my comment unless I feel like I genuinely have something to add. If I'm silenced from adding my two cents with the click of a plus sign, I gotta add my me-too by hand or feel strangely unfulfilled... if you shut them off you are opening yourself up to a ton of comments either saying the same damn thing over and over, or else basically saying 'yeah, what he said!' And who wants to wade through a 300 comment thread predominantly made up of variations on 'me too?'”

I was very, very against favorites a while ago. I have to confess that, at this point, I use favorites exactly in this way: to say "me too!" And I feel pretty crappy about it, because it's a measure of how terribly I interact with the world and how compulsive I am about it that I must add my input to every single conversation I am aware of even if I have nothing whatsoever of value to say. I'd much prefer it if I were capable of sitting silently and thinking: "I agree. That was a good way to say that." – or, if I was so inclined, sending the commenter or poster a note saying I liked what they said.

But I guess that's not the world we live in now. There are worse things about it, but it seems like it'd be a nice exercise in awareness and serenity to try to live without favorites for a long time. Maybe I should look for a Greasemonkey script to remove the "favorite" button.

jsturgill: “I want the terminology to change. Favorites => Bookmarks. I think this would have a profound effect on how people think of them and use them, with minimal disruption to the site.”

But they are nothing like bookmarks. That is not how bookmarks are. Other people cannot see my bookmarks. I cannot see the bookmarks of other people. "Favorites" are like another thing, a thing we pretend are like bookmarks all while we are holding them up for everyone to see.

It would be more of a useful change to make "Favorites" completely private. But it would be such a drastic change that I don't know if it would happen; I'm not sure it'd even be a good idea, at this point. I've kind of given up on changing anyone but myself.
posted by koeselitz at 10:07 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Sorry, Serene Empress Dork – the first part of that comment might have seemed like I was judging you by proxy by judging myself. But the fact that you use favorites that way doesn't mean you use them terribly or anything. I just use them in this compulsive way, scrolling through threads and click, click, clicking. It annoys me when I'm self-aware. I don't know that anyone else does that.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:09 PM on February 6, 2014


Hey, thanks for the discussion everyone. I wasn't exactly expecting this request to be accepted, but I was very interested in how people think favourites affect discussions. Cheers.
posted by Alex404 at 2:08 AM on February 7, 2014


No, I understand what you mean, koeselitz. I feel the same way sometimes about the compulsion to comment in every thread I find interesting. Sometimes I stop mid-comment and delete because it occurs to me that my input on the particular topic is not really adding much value.

But I never, ever think of favorites in this way. It's a low-noise way to participate. And participation is the name of the game here, for me at least. I don't want to be that person bloviating all over the site just to hear myself talk, but I also don't want to overthink my contributions so much that I fade away into lurkerdom (which is fine for those who want to lurk, but for me having a bit of social give-and-take is important.) Favoriting helps me keep the bloviation to a non-embarrassing level.

And from the other side of things, having a comment of mine favorited is a small bit of validation that I appreciate. I generally assume it is a sign of agreement or appreciation, but even if someone is marking my comment because they find it remarkably awful, at least it shows that someone is listening and spent at least a moment considering what I said. Back and forth conversation in threads here is fairly limited, so without favorites there is a good chance no one is going to acknowledge what any given user says at all, which over time starts to feel like posting into a void, which is pretty unrewarding as online experiences go.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:27 AM on February 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'd like an option that stops other people being able to flag my comments, please.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:09 AM on February 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh, except for the 'fantastic comment' option. You can leave that in there if you like.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:10 AM on February 7, 2014


I am here for the quick one liners that, far more often than not, put things in perspective and also quite frequently move the tone of a conversation back to smoothly.

Save the quick one liners!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:43 AM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I totally agree with Serene Empress Dork (even if I AM going to go ahead and bloviate a little now anyway). The only time I ever feel sort of vaguely and briefly embarrassed about using favorites as a sign of agreement/appreciation is when I read threads like this. The favorites feature does not exist in a vacuum, and I think there are enough other factors at play - moderation style, individual MeFites, probably other things I'm not thinking of - that help to mitigate whatever negative impact favorites have, in much the same way that the presence of upvotes/downvotes over at AskHistorians doesn't quite shit up that subreddit the same way that it probably does in some other subreddits. Granted, I wasn't here before favorites were implemented so I don't have an on-the-ground sense of how things were different, but personally I'm more or less happy with the level of discourse here, favorites and all, even if I recognize that it's not perfect.

Anyway, I like favorites.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:17 AM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am curious about whether the other mods have favorites turned off.

I have them set to the default visibility, since I find they don't particularly distract me and I tend to like to keep my internet browsing experience as vanilla as possible. I'm also one of those "doesn't use adblock" people; I mostly just don't go back to sites that do stupid things with ads, and apparently am pretty good at just zonally ignoring less offensive ads on the sites I do read regularly. But I'm glad those tools do exist for the folks they're useful for.

Like Jess said, we don't factor favorite counts on stuff into our moderation decisions in any case; as deletions go, something that needs to go needs to go even if it's been favorited heavily, and neither a plenitude nor a dearth of favorites on e.g. a metatalk comment drives policy. So us seeing one or another view of favorites is basically immaterial to the mod side of things.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:23 AM on February 7, 2014


it would be such a drastic change that I don't know if it would happen

I'd be a little more certain about this: it is not going to happen.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:41 AM on February 7, 2014


Like Jess said, we don't factor favorite counts on stuff into our moderation decisions in any case

This is a key point. The mods get (I don't doubt) complaints and view flags all day: they are being presented with endless negative messages about MeFi, i.e. that users dislike this or that feature, post or comment.

Favourites, however, can function as positive feedback, both for users and for the mods as well - which can create a much more balanced working environment for the moderators, and relieve some of the anguish of their stressful jobs.

So vote #1 tiresome and repititious joke, and let's force the mods to stroke a puppy every time someone favourites something on this site. It's good for health and safety and good for MeFi, and the puppies will just have to deal with it.

Tiresome and repetitious joker out.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:49 AM on February 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


I tend to like to keep my internet browsing experience as vanilla as possible.

How does this translate to background color: is vanilla the default splashy or professional white?
posted by 0 at 10:03 AM on February 7, 2014


Sometimes I wonder if Jessamyn is the quidnunc kid's Clark Kent.

(By day gentle but firm enforcer of temperance, by night a scrawler of surrealist japes across the walls of MeFi in protest against the absurdist joke of the universe against us all. An incognito tab her telephone booth, a blank comment box the glassy wall which somehow shields her innocent who me gaze from the hivemind's scrutiny.)
posted by Diablevert at 10:04 AM on February 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


... and another thing: I listened to that podcast and the mods were having FUN. Yet MetaTalk is otherwise bereft of the sound of laughter - we go: "snark, hate-on, bile, reasonable comment but a bit too long frankly, snark, bad pun, flame out, complaint, anti-snark". Why are we allowing the mods, a small group of elites - the 1%, if you will - to monopolize the having-a-good-time??? That's why we need an alternate MeFi podcast of our OWN, so WE can have a good time on MetaTalk and all pal-around like buddies and our intro-music will be even BETTER and we'll have good bits like "Poetry Corner" and a "MeFi mailbag" and even an "audio crossword puzzle". That is my proposition to y-oh hang on, time to go to the pub. OK, have a nice weekend everyone!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:09 AM on February 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Figurative, not chromatic, vanilla. I used the white background for a while when I started working here, because I was moonlighting from a desk job and it looked less obviously like goofing around, but I've never really liked it and they ol' blue and grey and green is what feels like home to me.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:16 AM on February 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


The other day, at the place where I hangout during working hours, all full of hotshot young entrepreneurs working mightily hard on their startup pitches, I had the blue screen of death open, all old fashioned and decidedly unflat and texty, they jumped when I answered I hadn't learned any coding since DOS 1.0 and BASIC.

Young network guru in squeaky voice "DOS what?"

Ancient crone at keyboard "DOS 1.0, young 'un, with two floppy drives to boot."

If then, so...

I noticed the whole startup hurriedly get up leave for lunch after that.

otoh since that day, been getting respeck when i trundle in with my cane and granny walker
posted by infini at 11:14 AM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Favorites, no favorites - shit gonna storm, shit gonna storm. I'd flagnore.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:17 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't at all like the proposed solution but I have definitely seen some situations where it might be possible big favorite numbers on early comments may have contributed to the contention in a thread. If one person says something dumb or offensive, it's easier just to roll your eyes and move on than if you perceive that it is a widely held opinion. Aside from asking people to moderate their responses regardless, I don't think there is anything to do about it though.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:12 AM on February 8, 2014


You don't see much of it at this point because the mods have been firm that favorites are not going anywhere. So, favorite haters have either left, or given it up as a lost cause.

Absolutely. They arrived in May of 2006, and by July there were requests to turn off the score-keeping. Matt originally described them as "an internal bookmark system", but in the second post I linked noted "it's distracting for a reason, so you can see noteworthy things at a quick glance".

So the scoring aspect was a feature and not a bug from the beginning in the eyes of the developer. It's certainly worked to bring in the sort of user who likes to score points in a discussion (and the need for a team of mods around the globe). I've always felt that it hurt MetaFilter overall, but it's clear that we're stuck with them.

(It would be nice if people would stop trotting out the "Just turn them off for yourself" line, as if that would change the behavior they reward in others.)
posted by bitmage at 8:58 PM on February 8, 2014


So, are you positing that we DIDN'T have point-scoring people prior to favorites? And that we wouldn't need more mods at this point? Because I would argue strongly against those suppositions.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:21 PM on February 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Of course not, snark and dismissive comments have always been present. The addition of the favorites display further encouraged them with a visible reward, and (imho) attracts users who seek that.

The quick put-down or cutting remark tends to garner more of them, and those comments lead to the more-heat-than-light situations that need mod intervention.

The userbase is much larger and would need more mod action anyway, but I think it would be less without the negative influence of the favorites score. (And I'm just clarifying my thoughts for Chrysostom, I'm not expecting this to change.)
posted by bitmage at 3:32 PM on February 9, 2014


If anything there is far less snark and nastiness than there was before the introduction of favorites. When people argue that there is more, I generally think they either don't remember things that well or are projecting.
posted by grouse at 4:36 PM on February 9, 2014


I think it makes very little sense to say there was "less snark" or "more snark," as if this were a simple parameter that was easy to gauge. The community changes in the years since favorites were instituted have been huge, and don't really lend themselves to such basic categories.
posted by koeselitz at 5:03 AM on February 10, 2014


That's an good point, koeselitz. It's not as if we can run a controlled experiment and go back to 2006 and not add favorites and see what the difference is.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:08 AM on February 10, 2014


All we can really do is try to refine our subjective experiences of it. My personal experience of the difference between olden-time and new-time is that it was more insular back then, more of the same several dozen or so commenters in every thread, which made it more familiar but (I think) probably slightly more daunting for outsiders. The core commenters enforced a kind of sitewide policy themselves – no hatefulness, no intolerance, be open to old books, be skeptical of pop culture, don't be prescriptivist, etc. This worked pretty well, although it was generally done by the grandstanding that was the centerpiece of a lot of threads and generated a lot of great comments as well as a lot of unnecessary heat and strife. I think that when people express reverence or fondness for those days, or say that there was less snark, what they mean is that there was probably more of an obvious sense of a cohesive community, so drive-by mockery or attacks could be enforced out of the equation much more easily by community members themselves. When people say there was more snark, they generally are pointing to the fact that most of this "enforcement" came via a kind of communal grandstanding which bordered on an attack (sometimes actually became an attack) but stopped just short of actual personal insult.

Of course, what I don't think we workaday users thought much about (but I have a feeling management thought about a hell of a lot – in fact I'm almost certain they thought about it constantly, to our great benefit) is that that system really couldn't scale at all. The userbase grew, and there was no way the same smallish group of people was going to keep being a constant in all threads – there is still to some degree a core of commenters, but others play a major role in discussions a lot more often these days, and I think that's a good thing, even beyond just the scalability of the site. Thinking about it that way, it might be that favorites are an added piece of communicative information that allows these broader-based conversations to go more smoothly by giving the larger community a way to make community norms and values seen and felt. They've certainly been a big part of the transition from smaller to bigger, and that transition has been remarkably and laudably smooth.

But I'm not sure I've got all this right. And anyway, my user number's barely under 20k, so I'm hardly what would count as an old-timer around here, as that other thread about that will attest.
posted by koeselitz at 8:33 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


The core commenters enforced a kind of sitewide policy themselves – no hatefulness, no intolerance, be open to old books, be skeptical of pop culture, don't be prescriptivist, etc.

Wow, really not my experience, based on occasional random swims through the archives.
posted by rtha at 8:54 AM on February 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'm probably making it sound more rosy than it was. Certainly on the point of progressive inclusivity and tolerance.
posted by koeselitz at 9:11 AM on February 10, 2014


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