That's really small of you! May 4, 2014 9:01 AM   Subscribe

I was recently called out by another user for the style I use when quoting others. The criticism was that, by wrapping the other person's comments in <small> tags, I was engaging in a deliberate effort to diminish the importance of what they said. Is this a legitimate criticism?

My real purpose for using <small> tags was simply to provide more of a visual distinction between my own words and the quoted text than is provided by italics alone, and to reduce the "wall of text" effect that can come with quoting a long section of another user's post for additional context, especially when quoting someone several times from the same comment, which is sometimes necessary when having a long-running conversation where people are making multiple independent points. I figured shrinking the size of the quote font would let me use more of the original quote in context without cluttering the thread, and besides, since MeFiquote links back to the user's original comment, I figured there was no harm in making the text smaller, since if anyone wanted to see the original, they can do so easily.

I took my cue for this change from this recent MeTa where people were talking about quoting style, and from many online forums I visit regularly that use smaller fonts for quotes. Some people use <blockquote> for quoting others, but I found that my experiments using blockquote in conjunction with the Mefiquote style of linking to the other user's comments with their nickname didn't look quite right, and since I tend to use blockquote for quoting text from external links, I didn't want to also use it for quoting other users.

Anyway, I'd like to know what other folks think about this, because, while it was definitely not my intent to engage in any kind of propaganda, I want to be mindful of what other people think, and if this rubs a lot of people the wrong way, I'll switch back to the default MeFiquote style of just italics, and just quote less context from the original comment if need be.
posted by tonycpsu to Etiquette/Policy at 9:01 AM (175 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I get your logic behind trying this, but I can see a lot of people getting offended for just that reason. I think the small tag is kind of there for a tiny aside/post script sort of thing at the bottom of your post, and using it for quotes is probably not worth the pain and drama you're going to get for it.

I just use italics and quote marks when quoting someone else here. Seems to work fine.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:05 AM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't read any specific ill intent into small tags, but I find reading more than very little text in small tags to be super duper annoying and find use of the tag for quotation of other users in particular to be conspicuous in a way that pulls me out of reading it naturally as a conversational exchange.

At the end of the day, if you're quoting a wall of text, you're quoting a wall of text. A harder-to-read wall of text is not an improvement. If you need to quote less, quote less; if you need to quote that much, accept that you are quoting that much.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:10 AM on May 4, 2014 [16 favorites]


I use italics for quoting people in-thread and blockquotes for quoting linked material. I don't see using small tags on quotations as an insult. It reads to me as you intended, as an attempt to shrink a wall of text. That said, it is harder to read. To avoid the problem in the first place, I avoid quoting long comments or excerpts from comments if I can.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:13 AM on May 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


Eh, I prefer when people link back to the original comment with a > and use italics, but have to admit I don't always use the ">".

You could also use blockquote.

This said, I don't mind when people use the small tag other than from a usability standpoint. The other day my optometrist said, "We're getting to a point where we probably need to discuss the b-word." I was frantically replaying my mental tapes thinking, "What the fuck did I say?" Then I realized she meant bifocals. I have enough trouble with text at the size it is now.

I really wish the was a shortcut button that grabbed the text, formatted it to a convention, and put it in the text field when highlighting and quoting.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:14 AM on May 4, 2014 [13 favorites]

You could also use blockquote.
I thought he explained pretty clearly why he didn't like blockquote for this purpose.
posted by dfan at 9:22 AM on May 4, 2014


The small tags help a lot.
posted by anemone of the state at 9:33 AM on May 4, 2014


I think tonycpsu has missed a nuance to MetaFilter conventions. Or maybe I have. Anyway, my take is that quotes of comments in the thread are put in italics, and quotes from other sources, including TFAs, are in blockquotes. If someone puts comment excerpts in blockquotes, it makes me think the quote is from off-site.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:53 AM on May 4, 2014 [12 favorites]


Also, I would rather not see big blocks of comment repeated in-thread. If you need more than a few lines of the original comment to make your point, link to it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:55 AM on May 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think that accusing someone of demeaning another by using small text is pretty far out there. What?!

That said, I prefer the italics approach to quoting someone, because smaller text is harder to read. There have been previous discussions about small text being a problem for some users. There are instances where it works for the comment to make the text smaller, but quoting isn't one of them, for me.
posted by annsunny at 10:15 AM on May 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Small tags are the worst. I can't read 'em easily on my desktop computer (without zooming) and I can't read 'em at all on my iPhone (without zooming). So I rarely read anything that's wrapped in small tags and I don't really get why people use them in the first place. This isn't germane to the specific question of using them to quote other users, but my plea would be that, in general, if you want someone (me) to read anything you're posting, please don't put it in small tags.
posted by Mothlight at 10:18 AM on May 4, 2014 [10 favorites]


I don't read any specific ill intent into small tags, but I find reading more than very little text in small tags to be super duper annoying and find use of the tag for quotation of other users in particular to be conspicuous in a way that pulls me out of reading it naturally as a conversational exchange.

This is exactly my feeling. Its conspicuous and it's hard to read. In AskMe people sometimes will put a wall of small text at the end of an otherwise okay comment to include something that probably shouldn't be there, that's annoying. I don't take the "diminishing importance" read to it at all but I do wish people would basically not use small text most of the time.

Italics is site convention. If you're having a long back and forth with another user such that normal conventions don't seem to work, considering taking the exchange to MeMail.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:25 AM on May 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Fair enough, folks. I'd considered that small might be too small to read for some, but thought the links back to the original took care of that. I hadn't thought about the "conspicuous" bit, except that a different visual style would be helpful in differentiating it from my response. I've reverted my script back to the default mefiquote behavior of italics, and will use that from now on. Thanks for the feedback.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:35 AM on May 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Its conspicuous and it's hard to read.

This is my feeling on it too.

Also comments without capitalization. Those drive me up the wall.
posted by ODiV at 10:36 AM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Small text on Metafilter denotes one of two things: a humorous aside or administrative comment.

Seeing it used otherwise always throws me a bit. It would take me a while to arrive at hostile intentions however...
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:59 AM on May 4, 2014 [10 favorites]


I wouldn't take offence at having my comments made smaller, but italics works better for ease of legibility.
posted by arcticseal at 11:20 AM on May 4, 2014


Immediately after this thread we're all gonna go out and get really small ...
posted by octobersurprise at 11:28 AM on May 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I use italics for quoting pretty much everything, although I sometimes fall back on using blockquote if it sets it off better (I don't really like how blockquote looks on my phone, though). The claim that using small diminishes the speaker seems like a really fighty claim (I guess I can see where they would get it, but it's really reaching for offense). However, I oppose small on the grounds that I have a lot of trouble reading it. My vision has been kind of rotten for the last couple of months, and small tags are not the worst thing I'm dealing with, but they are pain in the ass. Pretty much, if it's so much of an aside that you want to ensmall it, maybe ask yourself if it could just be ommitted?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:33 AM on May 4, 2014


Italics is site convention.

And it's worth adding, readability depends on convention. For example, proper capitalization and punctuation help you to read faster. By contrast, if each comment appeared in a different font, that would slow your reading. Whatever your feelings about italics they're used all across this site, so when your brain spots italics at the top of a comment, it instantly recognizes the convention. That's useful.

When I first joined the site, I used blockquotes and small text when responding to comments. That was a habit I'd picked up elsewhere. It made sense to me for exactly some of the reasons you've laid out. But eventually I switched over because, well, convention. Having tried both, I sided with conformity. I recommend it. The advantages outweigh.

And yeah, nix the long quotes. It isn't necessary—even when you're quoting several times, even when people are discussing multiple independent points. Instead, work the necessary references into your own prose. You'll end up writing a cleaner, smarter comment.
posted by cribcage at 11:37 AM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Speaking entirely as an individual, I don't think I'd be too baffled if I encountered a combo of italics and blockquote - I'd figure "italics = quoting another comment" with the blockquote being possibly added for additional readability if someone's quoting a large section of a comment.

But I could live without the blockquote part, and since small tags are so widely used for asides (jokey or not) and Official Mod Comments, I think I'd find "italics" + "small" kind of weird.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:41 AM on May 4, 2014


I use the Mefiquote Greasemonkey script. It works really well.*

Here's how I understand the convention to work here:

So, a quote from another user using the script:

tonycpsu: "I was recently called out by another user for the style I use when quoting others. The criticism was that, by wrapping the other person's comments in <small> tags, I was engaging in a deliberate effort to diminish the importance of what they said. Is this a legitimate criticism?

A quote from TFA with blockquotes:
Luptatum nonummy feugait tincidunt esse autem neo singularis. Lucidus augue ludus illum suscipit vulputate. Turpis vulpes augue nostrud gemino veniam abluo loquor nobis decet. Quibus utinam ut roto multo valetudo eros at pecus gravis jugis. Sed jugis camur huic humo quidne esse adsum delenit amet lenis diam.
A footnote or funny aside:

*- If you use Mefiquote with the Metafilter Comment Numbering script, don't forget to remove the comment number from your quote!
posted by double block and bleed at 12:00 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I also try to abbreviate quotes to the most pertinent part. If it needs to be longer to make your point, you can combine that with a link so that the reader can read the other person's words for themselves. If it turns into a huge back-and-forth, maybe it needs to go to MeMail.
posted by double block and bleed at 12:04 PM on May 4, 2014


I usually use the (dick) dick talking (/dick) tags when I'm trying to diminish the power of someone's words. Works well. Easier to read, too.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:11 PM on May 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I use "quotes" or italics, but I welcome variety. No, not the showbiz news.
posted by Cranberry at 12:12 PM on May 4, 2014


hal_c_on: "I usually use the (dick) dick talking (/dick) tags when I'm trying to diminish the power of someone's words. Works well. Easier to read, too."

Does that fare better than the "User X is a lying fucking asshole" that always seems to get deleted?
posted by double block and bleed at 12:15 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's me with aging and probably diminishing eyesight, but I find more than a few words in small font can be a strain to read on a few of my devices. It's possibly worth always bearing in mind that MeFites use all manner of browsers and hardware and configurations to read stuff? And, by its very nature, being active on MetaFilter makes for a lot of reading.

And also, returning to original point, the mean/median age on here is guessing significantly older than participants of other social media e.g. those young people who do the things on the Tumblr, so there are probably others who have a physical tiredness thing with lots of small text.
posted by Wordshore at 12:47 PM on May 4, 2014


I think that accusing someone of demeaning another by using small text is pretty far out there. What?!

What about all the comments he didn't quote? By implying that those words are beneath notice, he is totally excluding them from the discourse.

I am not an animal!
posted by thelonius at 12:58 PM on May 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


The small tags help a lot.

We've had multiple discussions on the gray in which folks have pointed out that many MeFites find small tags extremely hard to read:

Jan 2013: Concerning small text, from Miko
Sep 2012: I don't want to get reading glasses yet! from EmpressCallipygos

And lots more. I used to use them regularly for the [aside] aspect, which I thought was cool, but stopped after one MetaTalk thread where a number of folks pointed out that the small tag makes reading particularly difficult for people who have a visual disability. That seemed important.

I just use parentheses now, and don't miss the small tag at all.
posted by mediareport at 1:02 PM on May 4, 2014


tonycpsu: " I was recently called out by another user for the style I use when quoting others. The criticism was that, by wrapping the other person's comments in [small] tags, I was engaging in a deliberate effort to diminish the importance of what they said. Is this a legitimate criticism? "

I think that once someone is in a mental state where they're accusing people of trying to attack them by using smalltext, they're probably in need of a breather.

However, since metafilter is a text-only site, we're often put in a position where we need to try to determine emotional intent behind a person's words. Sometimes, it's easy to read intent behind a comment where none actually exists.

Also:

With respect to the folks who are saying, 'Metafilter has accepted quoting conventions' it really doesn't. Okay, yes, italics. But still. Even though the MefiQuote script is used by quite a few folks, people use a few different styles to quote other comments -- I use at least 2 or 3 on a regular basis myself. The only quoting convention I've ever seen disparaged was referring to people as @screen name.
posted by zarq at 1:09 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


As an interesting aside, when I browse the site logged out all the text seems to be about the same size as [small] text is when logged in. Does MetaFilter get complaints from people about the text size when people aren't logged in or don't have accounts?
posted by ODiV at 1:10 PM on May 4, 2014


the way I see it, the standard MeFi text box includes three automated HTML options ...

BOLD
italic
and link

... so if we're discussing site wide conventions, I figure they should be limited to these three options.

not that other occasional flourishes can't be utilized for effect
posted by philip-random at 1:11 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Now the Blink Tag, on the other hand...
posted by Wordshore at 1:12 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


While we're discussing conventions, what's with quotes and italics in that MeFiQuote thing? Do we really need both to indicate that we're quoting someone?
posted by Etrigan at 1:15 PM on May 4, 2014


Can't speak for anyone else, but I prefer it that way. Helps them stand out.
posted by zarq at 1:16 PM on May 4, 2014


I like to remind people that their opinions are slanted.
posted by ODiV at 1:16 PM on May 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


Site needs a quote button to automate this and clean up the different styles.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:32 PM on May 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


Also, the proper way to quote my words is with the blink tag.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:33 PM on May 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Anyway, I'd like to know what other folks think about this, because, while it was definitely not my intent to engage in any kind of propaganda, I want to be mindful of what other people think, and if this rubs a lot of people the wrong way, I'll switch back to the default MeFiquote style of just italics, and just quote less context from the original comment if need be.

PUNY HUMAN TALK SQUEAKY NOISES

OKAY THERE'S PROBABLY A POINT WHERE YOU CAN OVERDO IT

posted by furiousthought at 1:53 PM on May 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


I wouldn't miss small text a bit if it were not an option here.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:54 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I got bifocals when my arms became too short to hold things far enough away to read. They help a lot.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:55 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, the proper way to quote my words is with the blink tag.

I want my own script where it changes every letter to a different color, makes the font super extra large, glitters or glows like a neon sign and generally gives off the same aura as The Hollywood sign. Plus, it needs to end with the comment "Above all, I am HUMBLE!" (for multiple levels of irony, of course).

I just came in to say some folks, like me, are old and have terrible, terrible eyesight and small can be a pain. I can read it but I can't read the super-small text and...someone already covered this. But add my vote to "I (sometimes) just can't read it." (I get floaters and stuff because of my medical condition, so my eyesight is crappier on some days than on others.)

Also, you might think it is convenient enough to go back and reread the earlier stuff because you link to it, but that isn't always true. It depends on things like what platform the person is using to log in. Some folks are on their phone or a tablet or whatever and things just may not be as nice and easy as you are assuming.

I think you should probably try to quote more sparingly. If it was a comment made like 50 comments back, linking to it so folks know what the heck you are reply to can help. If it was two or three comments back, give a snippet so folks know more specifically what you are referring to. But, honestly, either we are actually reading the comments (in which case you are annoying us) or we aren't (in which case, we are skimming and glossing over your comments along with everyone else's). I think long and many quotes in a comment are mostly not necessary and frequently comes across to me personally as part of an attempt to nail someone to the wall and nitpick rather than communicate.

I had the highest SAT score of my graduating high school class. My ex had a lower overall score but his verbal score beat mine by a good bit. We were both well read, articulate people, both white Americans and all that good stuff. We used to routinely argue for four to six hours and we did this "lawyering" crap of "You SAID..." Neither of us was very good at understanding the other person. It took me many years to figure that out. We just did not understand each other. Being articulate and all that did not foster understanding.

During my divorce, most of the men I spent time with were just as intelligent, educated, etc as the ex but they spoke English as a second language (or third, or fourth). When they would go off on me and start accusing me of something ugly, I typically replied with "I have no idea what you are talking about. None. I never said that. I never thought that. I don't know where you are getting that. I think this is a terrible misunderstanding. I am hurting. You are hurting. Can we please not do this?" Those relationships were generally much, much more pleasant than my marriage ever had been.

When I first got online, I used to think that if I just explained and clarified, people would finally understand me and we would hug and dance in the streets and the fighting would stop. I would write long replies to people arguing with me, just trying to be understood. I was often hated on all the more for it. It came across as argumentative, egomaniacal, etc. These days, I often just do not bother to reply. I try to skip the "digging my grave deeper" part of internet life, as much as possible. If they didn't understand me the first time and are mad, the odds are good it won't get better with explanation number two, three, four....

So I will suggest that if you are quoting a whole lot and at great length, maybe there is a bigger communication problem than the words per se. Like in my marriage. At least some of the time.

Offered as food for thought.
posted by Michele in California at 1:56 PM on May 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


All of my devices allow me to pinch and zoom the text in Metafilter so the small tag is a non-issue for me. I will often zoom in to read regular sized text when my eyes are tired or the cat is sitting on my reading glasses. my cat loves to sit on my reading glasses and/or TV remotes
posted by birdherder at 2:10 PM on May 4, 2014


If you have a hard time reading small text, the Embiggen the Smallest Metafilter greasemonkey script is great. It makes small text normal size on mouse-over.

"But, Double!", you exclaim. "I can't use scripts on my phone, and it's driving me blind!" My answer is to get the damn bifocals. It's actually less embarrassing than holding things at arm's length and squinting at them. Progressive bifocals don't have the tell-tale line across them like the ones your grandpa wore.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:14 PM on May 4, 2014


My base font size for mefi is ridiculously large (24/20/16) so even the <smallest> text is readable :D

I love that mefi lets me increase the font size as a setting, and I wish more websites would do that.
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 2:26 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I like small quote as a rare aside, but not for much else. It provides an emphasis that I quite like at times, as long as it isn't overused.

Something that I've found helpful (for those whose eyesight is getting worse, like mine), a quick ctrl-scrollwheelup two clicks to read something that is a bit too small, and then a quick ctrl-scrollwheeldown two clicks to put it back in place, and it's a nice solution to reading small text that isn't very disruptive. It doesn't work on phones, of course.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:35 PM on May 4, 2014


I use SUP to indicate elevated respect for what I'm quoting and SUB to indicate my deepest contempt.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:39 PM on May 4, 2014 [17 favorites]


That is so great. Really, I love it. ...
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:57 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just don't marginalize me with your filthy blockquotes.
posted by bleep-blop at 3:01 PM on May 4, 2014


I like that while we have a quoting convention we don't have a quote button. The variety of quotes within the convention are interesting and it allows one to change it up on occasion without incurring the wrath of formatarians.
posted by Mitheral at 3:28 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Okay I looked at a comment where you used the style you are talking about and that is some ugly stuff. I hate Mefiquote's names convention in the first place, but you probably don't need to use it four times to pull four different quotes from a single comment.

For that kind of response I think it's okay to just quote one part of the person's comment, then give your entire response even if you're addressing things that are technically not in the one part you quoted. People who care will get it, and the link is still there at the top. You can use such phrases as "by the way" or "as you say" to indicate you're responding to something you're not quoting. (And maybe use the > style MeFi quote which I find less gross than making a link out of someone's name THAT DOESN'T LEAD TO THEIR PROFILE PAGE AARRRRGHGHGHGG ok better now.)

I think it's probably more that Usenet point by point takedown style that was the problem. It can lead to annoyance and antagonistic squaring off and someone hating the way you chew quote. I'm saying... you shouldn't use small like that, but that wasn't the real problem here.
posted by bleep-blop at 3:39 PM on May 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Offered as food for thought.

Devoured.
posted by cashman at 4:32 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why isn't the size of small text customizable like the other kinds of text are? My eyesight is not even all that bad (yet) and I would definitely increase it.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:38 PM on May 4, 2014


With respect to the folks who are saying, 'Metafilter has accepted quoting conventions' it really doesn't. Okay, yes, italics. But still. Even though the MefiQuote script is used by quite a few folks, people use a few different styles to quote other comments [...]

A convention does not require that everyone follow it rigidly. I just poked through all of the threads with more than 30 comments on the front page and there can be no doubt what the standard commenting style is on this site.

True, you won't be ostracized if you don't do it that way, but I'm pretty sure that's not what defines a convention1.



1Unless it involves pants.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:11 PM on May 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


Fair enough. :)
posted by zarq at 5:56 PM on May 4, 2014


This is a very small, very sad plate of beans. Jesus, some people will bitch about anything.
posted by codswallop at 6:32 PM on May 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


Every plate of beans needs a hug?
posted by beryllium at 6:49 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


If only we still had the <big> tag. (Yes, I know it doesn't work in html 5. That doesn't make me miss it any less.)
posted by double block and bleed at 7:04 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: a very small, very sad plate of beans.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:05 PM on May 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


Does that fare better than the "User X is a lying fucking asshole" that always seems to get deleted?

posted by double block and bleed at 9:15 on May 5 [+] [!]


Did you accuse me of having written that, and then getting it deleted? Or were you saying that other users say that and it gets deleted?

If the former, thats a pretty bold accusation. I'm going to watch some Clint Eastwood movies and figure out what to do.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:59 PM on May 4, 2014


Offered as food for thought.

Food? It's a veritable Shoney's buffet.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:17 PM on May 4, 2014


Small text is harder to read, but someone who thinks you're diminishing his/her comments by using might be happier back on Tumblr.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:27 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Offered as food for thought.

Food? It's a veritable Shoney's buffet.

Just like Shoney's, it'll make you sick for days afterwards because you know there's feces everywhere.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:28 PM on May 4, 2014


Jesus, some people will bitch about anything.

Pretty sure Jesus knows that, you don't have to nag him about it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:25 PM on May 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


> Why isn't the size of small text customizable like the other kinds of text are?

Your browser may allow you to set a minimum size for text.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:38 AM on May 5, 2014


Could we trade small for blink ?
posted by Cranberry at 1:32 AM on May 5, 2014


Heh -- don't feel bad. At MefightClub, the convention tends to be blockquote/cite (because that's what's generated by the handy quote button), but cortex always uses MeFi italics (just out of force of habit, I'm sure. Hell, I even do it occasionally).

if this rubs a lot of people the wrong way, I'll switch back to the default MeFiquote style of just italics

If the overwhelming majority of people in a group do something mechanical like this in a certain way, it tends to come off (even when not intended to be so) as deliberately contrarian to do something different, so I guess it depends on how much you want to aggravate the contingent of folks who are going to be aggravated.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:02 AM on May 5, 2014


Based on my internal reaction to somebody bolding everything they quoted in a recent thread I dropped in on, I'm probably going to be one of the Mildly Aggravated Contingent, for what little it's worth.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:20 AM on May 5, 2014


I was recently called out by another user for the style I use when quoting others. The criticism was that, by wrapping the other person's comments in tags, I was engaging in a deliberate effort to diminish the importance of what they said. Is this a legitimate criticism?

No, that's idiotic. However, small text is really, really annyoing. I generally won't read it. If you are quoting something in small text and responding to it, I'm not going to read the main part of the comment either because I can't read the context.
posted by spaltavian at 7:07 AM on May 5, 2014


Certainly, how you've framed this leads one to a seemingly obvious answer, but the lack of context makes me curious about what you chose to leave out of this particular audience poll. Were you otherwise behaving in a way that would lead the person in question to suspect you did not respect their opinion?
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:23 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think the "insult by metaphor" objection is sublimely ridiculous. But the small text is also annoying to read, as are long sidebar dialogues in threads. If you want to have a conversation with another poster (or multiple posters) and rehash multiple objections or readings of their comments, take it off the thread. Responding to a single quote seems fine, but multi-point responses are unnecessary.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:42 AM on May 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


the young rope-rider: but the lack of context makes me curious about what you chose to leave out of this particular audience poll

My commenting history is available for anyone who's interested in the particulars of that discussion to read. I'll let others judge the content -- some already have -- and you're free to speculate on what my motivation might have been, but $DEITY as my witness, the only reason I left the context of that specific interaction out of this MeTa was because I was asked to do so by the mods when I emailed them prior to this MeTa to ask whether I was doing something wrong with my use of <small> tags.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:50 AM on May 5, 2014


I was recently called out by another user for the style I use when quoting others. The criticism was that, by wrapping the other person's comments in <small> tags, I was engaging in a deliberate effort to diminish the importance of what they said. Is this a legitimate criticism?

I slept on this before answering, and here's my take: it is a legitimate criticism, if you remove the accusatory portion. Our goal in communicating is to communicate effectively, and the user who called you out presumably felt diminished by your formatting choice.

A face-to-face equivalent might be "when you raise your voice, I feel like you're angry at me." That's obviously a legitimate thing to say, even if you weren't actually angry. The right response is to consider what they've shared, and consider changing your communication style accordingly in the future (at least with that person, and perhaps with others.)

Is it an absolute thing? No; there are likely many people who don't feel diminished by your formatting choice, as there are many who wouldn't feel like you were angry if you raised your voice at them. Nevertheless, that user felt that way, enough so that they took a risk in communicating it to you directly, so you should at least give it some consideration.

As to the accusatory portion: you may not have meant to make them feel diminished, and so that's the only part of the callout that's potentially invalid. Keep doing it in the future, at least to that user, and now that portion of the callout becomes valid (because you know how it makes that person feel, yet you persist.)
posted by davejay at 8:02 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


davejay: "Nevertheless, that user felt that way, enough so that they took a risk in communicating it to you directly, so you should at least give it some consideration."

What risk was taken here?
posted by zarq at 8:08 AM on May 5, 2014


I use at least 2 or 3 [different styles of quoting other members] on a regular basis myself.

Just curious: Why do you do that, zarq?

I've learned to be ok with MefiQuote, since it generally follows the main site convention of using italics for quoting other MeFites, but I wonder why anyone would use "2 or 3" other styles of quoting as well.
posted by mediareport at 8:18 AM on May 5, 2014


If the overwhelming majority of people in a group do something mechanical like this in a certain way, it tends to come off (even when not intended to be so) as deliberately contrarian to do something different, so I guess it depends on how much you want to aggravate the contingent of folks who are going to be aggravated.

I don't know about your first point -- I do say that people who quote using a style other than italics sometimes confuse me, since I need to stop and parse out their comment, but I don't assume that they are being contrarian, just that they have a not-very-helpful-to-me style.

I have to agree with your second point. Aggregations of agravatees agitate to alleviate their aggravations. Allegedly.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:35 AM on May 5, 2014


I never noticed. But then I've been diminished all my life
posted by Decani at 8:48 AM on May 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


mediareport: " Just curious: Why do you do that, zarq?"

Depending on where I am when I have time to surf Mefi, I might comment from any of a number of different devices. My phone, a tablet, a couple of desktop computers, a laptop, a netbook... many of which have different browsers and operating systems.

The two computers I use the most have Firefox and MeFiQuote installed. None of the other devices do. So I reply in whatever way is easiest. I do try to be consistent and put anything I'm quoting in italics though.
posted by zarq at 8:48 AM on May 5, 2014


I do try to be consistent and put anything I'm quoting in italics though.

I suspect that's all most people see. The eye spots italicized text at the top of a comment and recognizes it by convention. Quotation marks may or may not even register. In fact, I'd guess that if somebody began adding quotation marks to signal something different, the attempt would be lost on most readers.

Keep doing it in the future, at least to that user, and now that portion of the callout becomes valid (because you know how it makes that person feel, yet you persist.)

No. This has been suggested in other contexts, and it's invalid. Of course you're perfectly welcome to announce how something makes you feel, but your announcement carries no consequence for anyone else. It is simply how you feel. Other people may have completely unrelated reasons for their behavior, reasons that your individual feelings have no bearing upon.
posted by cribcage at 9:03 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Although I've never seen a formal MeFi Style Guide, the way I've always seen small text used here is for text intended as an aside, an afterthought, or a "by the way." So, I can understand how a user might have felt that that putting his words in small text diminished their importance.

I'm not sure I would have felt that way myself, but I can understand it.

We've been in the middle of solidifying the style guide for our journal, so I know how teeth-gnashing it can be coming up with a procedure in advance for every conceivable eventuality. But spending a little time reading MeFi will tell you that using italics, or possible italics plus quotation marks or blockquote framing, is the convention for quoting someone else's post.

It's what I used when I started posting simply because it was the formatting convention and it was what everybody understood without having to put any thought into what I meant or what I was doing. I didn't think about whether it would keep me from offending anyone, but it WOULD have kept me from offending anyone, because there could have been no misunderstanding about what I was doing with their words.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:39 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Were you otherwise behaving in a way that would lead the person in question to suspect you did not respect their opinion?

I think this is probably the crux of the matter. Tonycpsu, you're a good guy, but sometimes you can be a bit of a dick - overbearing, high-handed, and completely dismissive of someone's opinion. Sometimes you don't respect people's opinion, and you let it show. I suspect when you're already doing stuff like that, your formatting choices get read into overly much. This wouldn't really be that much of a problem otherwise other than minorly annoying purists. If you have your heart set on quoting like that, I'd try focusing on being more neutral on those comments so it doesn't seem like you're slapping people in the face.

Part of the problem is also I suspect that you don't always do that and frequently use italics, so it could well lead someone to the idea that you are doing it just for them.
posted by corb at 9:53 AM on May 5, 2014


What risk was taken here?

The same social risk taken whenever anyone gives unsolicited feedback: everything from risk of embarrassing, upsetting or humiliating the person to whom the feedback is given, to risk of embarrassment or personal attack if the person to whom you're giving the feedback takes it badly.

For instance, suppose the person who originated this thread linked to that person's comment directly, and some folks here started mocking or attacking that person's comment? It's not a huge risk -- nobody's going to literally catch on fire -- but just shutting up and quietly rejecting/avoiding a person whose behavior you don't like is always a safer social bet than pushing back on it.
posted by davejay at 10:09 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


No. This has been suggested in other contexts, and it's invalid. Of course you're perfectly welcome to announce how something makes you feel, but your announcement carries no consequence for anyone else. It is simply how you feel. Other people may have completely unrelated reasons for their behavior, reasons that your individual feelings have no bearing upon.

I disagree. To explain my view, I'll start by making the intention of my original comment as clear as I can. I said:

Keep doing it in the future, at least to that user, and now that portion of the callout becomes valid (because you know how it makes that person feel, yet you persist.)

"that portion of the callout" was referring specifically to this part of the poster's original question:

...that I was engaging in a deliberate effort to diminish the importance of what they said.

If you do something, and it makes another person feel a certain way, and they tell you this, and you don't change your behavior with that person, then you are knowingly and willingly choosing to make that person feel a certain way. Where previously you had an impact that you were not aware of and likely could not predict, you now have the knowledge that your specific behavior has this impact. If you persist, they now have a legitimate basis to claim that you are doing it deliberately -- that is, that you are aware of the impact your behavior has, you have the power and opportunity to avoid that behavior, and yet you choose not to. I think "deliberate" is a reasonable definition of that choice.

Similar: you raise your voice to me. It makes me feel that you are angry. I share this with you. A reasonable person acting in good faith would make an effort not to raise their voice with me any longer, unless they actually wanted me to think they were angry. Therefore, if you continue to raise your voice with me, you are making a deliberate choice to make me think you are angry.

Of course, you might also not care about the impact it has on me, but that's splitting hairs; you may not care enough to lower your voice, but you still know that raising your voice has that impact. You may not intend to provoke that response, but you have the power to avoid provoking that response, and you choose not to exercise it. You may be completely in the right to do so -- perhaps my fear is completely irrational and unimportant, and I am not to be coddled -- but you're still choosing to dismiss my feelings (albeit for good reasons) and you do so with full awareness of how it will make me feel. Therefore, deliberate.

And if someone continues to quote me in small text after I've asked them not to and made it clear how it makes me feel, then it is now legitimate for me to call it a deliberate act.

...and Zarq, this is what I mean by taking a social risk by commenting on something. I responded to the OP's question, and someone else stepped up to say "No" rather than "I disagree", which felt very dismissive. Now I have to decide whether to engage that person's seemingly dismissive attitude, explain myself better, act equally dismissive back, or some other action -- and take the time to do so, and risk it devolving further into a pointless exchange -- or keep quiet. It's hardly a big deal, but it certainly would have been easier to simply keep my mouth shut and not provided my answer to the OP's question. Normally I'd not have bothered responding, but I thought this was a great illustration of how providing feedback introduces social risk; the person who responded to my comment dismissively wasn't even the person I was providing the feedback to.
posted by davejay at 10:25 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


> If you do something, and it makes another person feel a certain way, and they tell you this, and you don't change your behavior with that person, then you are knowingly and willingly choosing to make that person feel a certain way.

No. (Sorry, but you're wrong.) There are of course situations in which your point is valid, like raising your voice—but, crucially, those are situations where the possibility of making somebody feel bad should have been apparent without anyone having to say it explicitly. The idea that using small type is diminishing someone is ludicrous and could not reasonably be anticipated, and the idea that tonycpsu should spend the rest of his life (or at any rate career at MeFi) bearing in mind the fact that some random user has a silly objection to small type is equally ludicrous. I have a decent memory for usernames, but unless someone is vocal about something pretty much every day I'm not going to remember that X likes itals and Y likes bold and Z likes Zalgo. I'm going to use my favorite quoting convention and not worry about it. (Seriously, what a silly thing to get upset about.)

> And if someone continues to quote me in small text after I've asked them not to and made it clear how it makes me feel, then it is now legitimate for me to call it a deliberate act.

Only if "I" have an absurd amount of self-importance and think everyone should be constantly thinking about me me me.
posted by languagehat at 10:33 AM on May 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


I agree with Languagehat. In fact, I'd go one step further and dispute the voice-raising analogy, too. There could be a thousand reasons why I am raising my voice, at least 800 of which would likely have nothing to do with you as an individual. What you have done is to create a situation where I am raising my voice in the context of having been notified of your feelings. That's all. From there you are making unreasonable leaps of inference and consequence. You are certainly free to declare your feelings, and now they're out there on the table like the contents of Ally Sheedy's purse. But nobody's world revolves around you.

[Wherein "you" is this hypothetical individual we're discussing in a friendly manner. Not "you, Davejay."]
posted by cribcage at 10:50 AM on May 5, 2014


corb: I think this is probably the crux of the matter. Tonycpsu, you're a good guy, but sometimes you can be a bit of a dick - overbearing, high-handed, and completely dismissive of someone's opinion. Sometimes you don't respect people's opinion, and you let it show. I suspect when you're already doing stuff like that, your formatting choices get read into overly much.

Opinions by themselves do not automatically deserve respect by default. People do, of course, and I respect anyone who takes the time to support their opinions with a reasoned argument, even if I don't agree with their conclusions, but I don't see why anyone should be required to respect the opinions if they feel those opinions haven't been supported with a good argument.

Part of the problem is also I suspect that you don't always do that and frequently use italics, so it could well lead someone to the idea that you are doing it just for them.

Where would you ever get that idea? A cursory glance at my recent comment history would have confirmed what I said in the third paragraph of this MeTa post, which is that, about a month ago (specifically on March 26th: before, after), I made a change to my Mefiquote script to add small tags to the default style of italics. I used that style until yesterday, where, based on the fact that some people take offense, others find it hard to read, and still others simply don't like how it looks, I changed the style to the one I'm using now, with just italics, only quoting each person's username once, and trying to do less point-by-point quote-and-response. (I feel I had to quote twice in this particular case because I don't want to conflate whether or not I'm a dick with your unwarranted allegation about selectively using different styles for different situations.)
posted by tonycpsu at 11:18 AM on May 5, 2014


I have also been thinking that most likely people are saying to you "I feel belittled" or "I feel you are belittling people" full stop. Blaming it on the text size is probably not very relevant. It is probably more an issue of substance than style.

Still, as I said earlier, I suggest you quote more sparingly. I don't think your quoting convention is the problem per se but my experience is that when I am quoting someone a whole lot, I am usually doing a dismissive point-by-point rebuttal. And when I have written a few dismissive paragraphs and start feeling not comfortable with it, I find it works well to trash most or all of my first draft, trim my quoting of the other comment back to a line or two and start over. It forces me to write differently.

There is a very thin line between not respecting a particular opinion and not respecting the person giving it. It sounds like you are probably crossing the hell out of it.
posted by Michele in California at 11:43 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I respect anyone who takes the time to support their opinions with a reasoned argument

I would suggest that's a problem right there, respecting people "who...", and then exercising your own subjective judgment about whether somebody is doing the thing you think he or she should be doing. Instead, just respect people.

I don't see why anyone should be required to respect the opinions

It's not a question of requirement. It's about what kind of interactions you want to have and what kind of site you want this to be. Because we interact by typing into boxes, often a person's opinion is all you've got. Without addressing whether you're crossing a line, I'd say this setting makes it particularly difficult to convey disrespect for an opinion without being read as disrespecting the person.

There's also the more obvious response, which is that another person's comment doesn't require anything of you. You can ignore it and address other parts of the conversation. You can close the browser tab. Posting a comment that leaks disrespect is just one arrow in your quiver. If you choose to fire it, make sure that's a conscious decision: "This is how I want to interact. This is the kind of site I want this to be."
posted by cribcage at 11:49 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Where would you ever get that idea?

Mostly because I know you've quoted me with italics lately? I haven't really gone too deep into it. But then - probably no one else has either. They've seen you do it one way, now they see you do it another, it's hard not to think there's a reason.
posted by corb at 11:51 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've... always used italics. The accusation that I've switched my style for specific people is what I'm having trouble wrapping my head around, especially when I've been very clear about when I started using one style (in March) and when I changed the style back (yesterday). It's just a very strange accusation that goes against very easily-verifiable facts.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:54 AM on May 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Only if "I" have an absurd amount of self-importance and think everyone should be constantly thinking about me me me.

From there you are making unreasonable leaps of inference and consequence.

Um, are we reading the same website? People here get all het up about all sorts of "tone" things all. the. time. Whether or not they should, or that people should spend time worrying about or anticipating it is a different issue.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 11:58 AM on May 5, 2014


The accusation that I've switched my style for specific people is what I'm having trouble wrapping my head around

It wasn't meant with malice. I actually assumed that you probably used small for longer quotes, and italics for shorter ones. You're, you know...not exactly shy about making your feelings hear such that you would need passive-aggressive quoting changes. I was talking more about what perception would be like.
posted by corb at 12:00 PM on May 5, 2014


davejay: " The same social risk taken whenever anyone gives unsolicited feedback: everything from risk of embarrassing, upsetting or humiliating the person to whom the feedback is given, to risk of embarrassment or personal attack if the person to whom you're giving the feedback takes it badly."

" ...and Zarq, this is what I mean by taking a social risk by commenting on something. I responded to the OP's question, and someone else stepped up to say "No" rather than "I disagree", which felt very dismissive. Now I have to decide whether to engage that person's seemingly dismissive attitude, explain myself better, act equally dismissive back, or some other action -- and take the time to do so, and risk it devolving further into a pointless exchange -- or keep quiet. It's hardly a big deal, but it certainly would have been easier to simply keep my mouth shut and not provided my answer to the OP's question. Normally I'd not have bothered responding, but I thought this was a great illustration of how providing feedback introduces social risk; the person who responded to my comment dismissively wasn't even the person I was providing the feedback to."

Okay. I understand.
posted by zarq at 12:25 PM on May 5, 2014


Opinions by themselves do not automatically deserve respect by default. People do, of course, and I respect anyone who takes the time to support their opinions with a reasoned argument, even if I don't agree with their conclusions, but I don't see why anyone should be required to respect the opinions if they feel those opinions haven't been supported with a good argument.

I don't believe you, which is (ironically) to your credit. It's naive, or perhaps morally bankrupt, to think that a "reasoned argument" is inherently respectable. It's not. Making a "reasoned" argument is a morally neutral skill* that, like many skills, can be used in ways both respectable and despicable.


*the amount of skill that is required to have your argument generally accepted as "reasonable" varies widely based on things like race and gender, which is another huge issue with using it to determine the relative respect you accord a given writer
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:47 PM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


the young rope-rider: Making a "reasoned" argument is a morally neutral skill* that, like many skills, can be used in ways both respectable and despicable.

I get that everyone comes into a debate with different set of rhetorical skills, but if someone uses flawed reasoning, there is no personal attack involved in pointing that out, no matter what their natural abilities are. They're then free to respond with a better argument, but if it's evident that they're only interested in repeating their premise or their flawed arguments, then I'm sorry, but I will lose respect for them as a participant on MetaFilter. They may in fact be a fine person in real life -- someone I'd want to have a beer or catch a movie with -- but I'm not seeing them in real life, so my judgement is based on what I can see on this end of the series of tubes.

Look, I grew up with online communities where you can't see the carbon units behind the pixels. I ran a dial-up BBS in the early 1990s as a 14 year-old kid who didn't know his head from his ass. I argued online with people who I'd eventually meet in real life to find out they're not the assholes I thought they were. I met people who I loved to talk to online, only to find out they're jerks in real life. I learned all of these lessons 25 years ago, so when I'm talking about losing respect for someone, I'm not talking about them as a person in real life, I'm talking about the tip of the iceberg that I can see through this medium. I'm not passing judgement on them as human beings, only on how they express themselves here.

That's the kind of loss of respect I'm talking about. If you think that makes me a bad member of the community, then I'll accept that judgement, but that's how I see things.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:37 PM on May 5, 2014


Why are we still using <I> isn't it time to use cite and blockquote as the gods intend.
posted by humanfont at 4:31 PM on May 5, 2014


This is incorrect usage, because cite is not for quotes
posted by Roger Dodger at 4:55 PM on May 5, 2014


For the record I agree with you about that part, Tony. One of my pet peeves on MetaTalk is when somebody is called out for shitty behavior and a bunch of people instantly rally around him or her with the defense of, "I've met him at a bunch of meetups and he's a great guy." So what, who cares. If Mother Teresa was constantly stirring up trouble on MetaFilter then I'd want her banned, too.

And I don't mean to suggest that you should have infallible respect for everybody always and it should be made out of rainbows and cupcakes. There are participants on MetaFilter for whom I've lost respect, as participants on MetaFilter. I wish them no ill will, I hope their parents love them and their children admire them, but I do wish they'd button and begone.

For me, what works is to ignore them. If they show up in a conversation that interests me, I'll talk around them. They might respond to my comments, but I won't respond to theirs. I keep this to myself. That I'm ignoring [user] is my business and no one else's. It's a big site and stepping around a handful of users can be easy, simple, and (I think) inconspicuous.

Part of my reason for doing this was watching other users' behavior. There are a handful of users who seem to look for reasons to fight with their favorite sparring partners. I got tired of reading that, and so I assume people would get tired of reading me doing it, too.
posted by cribcage at 4:59 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why are we still using isn't it time to use cite and blockquote as the gods intend.

You still use <I>? No wonder your quotations are so hard to read.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:06 PM on May 5, 2014


It's naive, or perhaps morally bankrupt, to think that a "reasoned argument" is inherently respectable.

It's the most unrespectable type of argument there is, except for every other type of argument.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:08 PM on May 5, 2014


hal_c_on: "Does that fare better than the "User X is a lying fucking asshole" that always seems to get deleted?

posted by double block and bleed at 9:15 on May 5 [+] [!]


Did you accuse me of having written that, and then getting it deleted? Or were you saying that other users say that and it gets deleted?

If the former, thats a pretty bold accusation. I'm going to watch some Clint Eastwood movies and figure out what to do.
"

No, I wasn't accusing you of any such thing. I see now, as I re-read my comment, that it could easily be construed as such. Sorry about that. I was talking about the few times I've seen it done (by other users and not lately) and it always, as a matter of well-settled policy, get nuked with a quickness.

---

Be careful with the Clint Eastwood movies. I like them, too, but I often find myself yelling angrily at an empty chair afterwards.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:13 PM on May 5, 2014


<small>
The word "accuse" and its derivatives appear 15 times in this post so far. Someone should query the infodump to see what the average is per Metatalk post. Bonus points for a graph over time.
</small>
posted by double block and bleed at 5:19 PM on May 5, 2014


The idea that using small type is diminishing someone is ludicrous and could not reasonably be anticipated, and the idea that tonycpsu should spend the rest of his life (or at any rate career at MeFi) bearing in mind the fact that some random user has a silly objection to small type is equally ludicrous.

IF I TYPE IN ALL CAPS AND SOMEONE TELLS ME THAT THEY INTERPRET IT AS YELLING, SHOULD I CONSIDER WHAT THEY'VE SAID AND TAKE A MOMENT TO REVIEW THE SITE NORMS AND ADJUST MY BEHAVIOR ACCORDINGLY, OR SHOULD I DELIBERATELY CHOOSE TO DISMISS THEIR COMMENT AS A SILLY OBJECTION BY SOME RANDOM USER UNTIL/UNLESS A SUBSTANTIAL NUMBER OF PEOPLE PILE ON?

I have a decent memory for usernames, but unless someone is vocal about something pretty much every day I'm not going to remember that X likes itals and Y likes bold and Z likes Zalgo. I'm going to use my favorite quoting convention and not worry about it. (Seriously, what a silly thing to get upset about.)

That is a deliberate choice, though, isn't it?

Only if "I" have an absurd amount of self-importance and think everyone should be constantly thinking about me me me.

On the other side of that coin, it takes a similar amount of self-importance to deliberately ignore feedback they've received in good faith about how they're being perceived, preferring to believe that their own preferences are appropriate and acceptable and the preferences of another are the silly objections of a random user.

Which, by the way, the OP didn't do; they got the feedback, considered it, and took a moment to query us about site norms. Still, if after all this the OP elects to go right on quoting in small type (which I think is clearly acknowledged here as being somewhat unusual) I think we could safely say that's a deliberate choice.

Incidentally, I used to make a lot of post-comment tangential follow-ups in small type, until one person said "hey, that's really annoying and hard to read." Since then, when I find myself doing it, I (mostly, nobody's perfect) catch myself and think "better not, that's annoying and hard to read." I don't need to remember the specific user who didn't like it; I just need to remember that's a habit that at least one member found annoying enough to comment on, and it's not like I don't have other ways to express myself, so why not do it another way? And if that particular user was someone whose opinion I didn't agree with on other things, or if I otherwise felt their opinion wasn't representative, I'd just go on doing what I was doing...but that would be a deliberate choice, to discard their opinion and experience as not being typical or valuable or worth consideration.
posted by davejay at 5:43 PM on May 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


Cranberry: "Could we trade small for blink ?"

Blink is still supported by Metafilter but I don't think any current versions of browsers show it.

: "I wonder why anyone would use "2 or 3" other styles of quoting as well."

I'll sometimes reformat the MefiQuote default to remove the username if I want to reduce the potential fightyness of my response. Makes the response more about the comment and less about who said it. (not that this comment was fighty just using it as an example)

And of course quotes from outside metafilter are italicized block quotes.
posted by Mitheral at 6:04 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: the contents of Ally Sheedy's purse.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 7:14 PM on May 5, 2014


Cite in combination with blockquote or cite in combination with q. As in the following examples.
<blockquote>
This is incorrect usage, because cite is not for quotes <cite> — Roger Doger May 5, 2014</cite>
</blockquote>

Alternatively we could write it as

<cite>Roger Doger</cite> said, <q>This is incorrect usage, because cite is not for quotes</q>

The text editor in Metafilter shows icons for bold and italics, but uses the em and strong elements for these purposes.
According to The W3C HTML5 documentation
The em element isn't a generic "italics" element. Sometimes, text is intended to stand out from the rest of the paragraph, as if it was in a different mood or voice. For this, the i element is more appropriate.
In discussing the use of the strong element the W3C states
The strong element represents strong importance, seriousness, or urgency for its contents.
In many cases on Metafilter users would be better served by using the mark element to highlight a section of text or using the b element.

My interpretation of this would be to suggest that the i element would be a better choice than the em element when quoting another person. If i is used for quoting a user would be good to have site wide conventions to add class names specifying that it is a quotation e.g.

<i class="quotation">The strong element represents strong importance, seriousness, or urgency for its contents.</i>
posted by humanfont at 7:37 PM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


holy crap
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:52 PM on May 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


Surely, this...
posted by tonycpsu at 7:57 PM on May 5, 2014


This. Changes. EVERYTHING!
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:58 PM on May 5, 2014


Holy crap! Will it work on posts??
posted by zarq at 8:02 PM on May 5, 2014


I'm guessing it won't work anywhere in about 10 minutes.
posted by ODiV at 8:06 PM on May 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


That is a very good guess.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:10 PM on May 5, 2014 [21 favorites]


Hopefully not. One of the great, abiding characteristics of this site is the great wall of text. Without images, flourishes, aggrandizements, or diminishings.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 8:11 PM on May 5, 2014


NO KILL I

PLEASE?
posted by zarq at 8:11 PM on May 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:11 PM on May 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


all this will be lost liek mark tags on Metafilter
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:16 PM on May 5, 2014


It's neat, but we can't be trusted. Burn it with fire.
posted by cribcage at 8:17 PM on May 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Well, this is an intersting development.
posted by cashman at 8:24 PM on May 5, 2014


Am I doing this right?!

It's like a golden pony!
posted by misha at 8:24 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


So....shiny...
posted by corb at 8:26 PM on May 5, 2014


I hope you mean that in the Firefly way.
posted by cashman at 8:27 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Whee! There's a pony we didn't know we had! Been nice knowing you, pony.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:35 PM on May 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I was on the fence about posting this MeTa, but if nothing else, I'm glad it's led to this moment that we can all look back on fondly when we're old and gray.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:02 PM on May 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've always regretted not using Marquee when we still had it so I'm commenting here to ward off the regret fairies. Also to remember what mark does, there are all sorts of places I post that allow html.
posted by Mitheral at 9:22 PM on May 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


What happens when you combine small with mark?

small mark
posted by Mitheral at 9:24 PM on May 5, 2014


Agree:                  
Oppose:      
Consider the bar chart possibilities.
posted by humanfont at 9:32 PM on May 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


Consider also the               this holds for self-          .
Now I can        the             sections of my comments in advance.
Hmm, incidentally it looks like the pre tag breaks the live preview a little bit.
posted by ODiV at 9:39 PM on May 5, 2014


Sorry, Lobstermitten. I couldn't resist.
posted by zarq at 9:45 PM on May 5, 2014


No worries, let's just keep the unexpected yellow ponies corralled in here.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:46 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


But good lord, it was the coolest thing ever for section titles.

Since you've removed the tag, could I trouble you to make the word "Background" bold, or underline or something so it's set apart? Thanks, and sorry again.
posted by zarq at 9:47 PM on May 5, 2014


Okie doke. Will do.
posted by zarq at 9:47 PM on May 5, 2014


Sure thing; made it bold.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:48 PM on May 5, 2014


Thanks! :)
posted by zarq at 9:49 PM on May 5, 2014


It went wee wee wee, all the way home
posted by Kabanos at 9:54 PM on May 5, 2014


OMG
posted by juv3nal at 9:56 PM on May 5, 2014


As we live a life of ease
Everyone of us has all we need
MeFi blue, and Ask of green
And this Meta, our submarine
posted by Kabanos at 10:11 PM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


When I'm old I'm gonna put highlights in my grey.
posted by rtha at 10:17 PM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Four legs good.
Two legs bad.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:19 PM on May 5, 2014


Electrical banana is gonna be a sudden craze.
posted by various at 10:26 PM on May 5, 2014


Our long international mark tag nightmare is over. We added it to the HTML filter.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:06 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just want to get this in before pb wakes up.
posted by double block and bleed at 11:06 PM on May 5, 2014


Too late.
posted by double block and bleed at 11:07 PM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


And that's why this thread exploded with activity again.

Sadly, I'm too late to <mark>mark</mark> something myself. Aww…
posted by JiBB at 11:35 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Will no one mark my words?
posted by Gyan at 12:55 AM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


For whatever reason my tablet (chrome on a samsungized android) doesn't like to render italics, so I do occasionally get confused about when something is a quote...
posted by nat at 1:49 AM on May 6, 2014


142 comments and nobody has mentioned the correct way to cite and earlier comment is twitter style, right @tonycpsu
posted by bystander at 2:02 AM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


And I'm too late to warn you all to not eat mark>snow</mark.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:47 AM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


So we're up to CGA level graphics now?
posted by blue_beetle at 4:53 AM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Really?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 5:06 AM on May 6, 2014


Crap, and I had an ascii art smiley all cued up...
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 5:07 AM on May 6, 2014


LIGHTS OUT PEOPLE
posted by Kabanos at 5:17 AM on May 6, 2014


Wouldn't it be better to modify how the mark element is displayed through CSS rather than filter it entirely?
posted by humanfont at 5:38 AM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I imagine that would accomplish the same result but only with more room for confusion on the part of the user. Am I missing something?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 5:43 AM on May 6, 2014


Well, that was a mark of the Beast....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:31 AM on May 6, 2014


bystander: 142 comments and nobody has mentioned the correct way to cite and earlier comment is twitter style, right @tonycpsu

If the <mark> tag still worked, I'd use it to mark my lawn for purposes of keeping you off of it.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:53 AM on May 6, 2014


bystander: 142 comments and nobody has mentioned the correct way to cite and earlier comment is twitter style, right @tonycpsu

Ahem.

zarq: The only quoting convention I've ever seen disparaged was referring to people as @screen name.


I generally just do the italics tag for all quoting, I hadn't noticed/realized blockquote was a thing. I only included the usernames and links here because I was quoting two different users.

And I do the italics reflexively by hand with the I rather than the EM that the text editor button uses because that's how I've been doing it forever and find it quicker. Though I guess these tags are not always used the same so hmmm.
posted by mountmccabe at 6:56 AM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Once again the joy-killing archons of this website snatch the longed-for golden prize from the outstretched hands of their famished populace.

These fun-hating despots have cast down the very sun of a new day, a day that had been filled with hope and wonder, a day of infinite possibility and potential.

And just as Phaethon, who longed to grasp the reins of Helios' chariot, was utterly destroyed by Zeus' unjust thunderbolt, so too have the tryannous mods destroyed OUR freedom - and all our love and light is thereby lost.

Haven't we finally reached the point where the only sensible policy is revolution against these Olympean mods - to cleanse the heavens of their unlawful dictatorship?

Sure, some people say that our desire for the mark tag is simply hubris - that it is a gift so subtle and numinous that mortal beings cannot be trusted with its safekeeping. But to those people I say: your cowardice - your lack of faith in your fellow citizens - is a betrayal of all humankind.

So if you value freedom and hate injustice, vote #1 quidnunc kid and together we shall defy these immortal mods - we'll all buy our OWN highlighters, and highlight whatever we want to - by drawing on our computer, tablet or smart-phone screens. And the mods won't be able to do anything about it!!! And if I just happen to have a major shareholding in the Stabilo Boss highlighter company, what the hell difference does THAT make? The important thing here is to vote #1 quidnunc kid to obtain ALL your stationery-supply requirements at a single low price.

And also to utterly destroy the mods. That is also included in the low price.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:32 AM on May 6, 2014 [20 favorites]


Tonight: no more mister nice kid? The campaign takes a turn for the nasty as the candidate widely regarded to be "number one in friendly" goes negative. Find out who — right after this.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 8:34 AM on May 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


I demand an all-expenses paid junket to the Netherlands for a debate on the ISSUES with goodnewsfortheinsane, which debate will be held in the Grasshopper Cafe in Amsterdam so I can be stoned at all relevant times. Please send money to my Super PAC, and also some Rizlas.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:50 AM on May 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Possible debate questions:

1. Dude, are you hungry? I am sooo hungry right now.
2. Wait a minute what if I'm the only one stoned in here? Do you think that maybe everyone is looking at me, and actually they know I'm really wasted right now???
3. So ... did you ever really just LOOK at your hand? I mean - wow. Just look at ... wait, what were we talking about?

... now tell me that wouldn't make a great episode of MeFi TV.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:00 AM on May 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I generally just do the italics tag for all quoting, I hadn't noticed/realized blockquote was a thing. I only included the usernames and links here because I was quoting two different users

I use blockquote tag to quote the linked material, or other text sources, rather than the italics tag that I use to quote other Mefi users, because that's what I noticed other users doing during my long educational lurk.

I dunno; maybe working in academic publishing has made me extra-sensitive to the idea of house styles.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:08 AM on May 6, 2014


Italics for quoting previous comments within a thread are a site norm here.

to reduce the "wall of text" effect that can come with quoting a long section of another user's post for additional context

you can just italicize a snippet and put a link in it.
posted by flabdablet at 10:11 AM on May 6, 2014


These fun-hating despots have cast down the very sun of a new day, a day that had been filled with hope and wonder, a day of infinite possibility and potential.

And also to utterly destroy the mods. That is also included in the low price.



I propose the founding of an opposing party.

VAQK: Vampires against quidunc kid.

For those who hate the sun and don't want the mods destroyed. Now, you have an alternative.
posted by Michele in California at 11:56 AM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


> I use blockquote tag to quote the linked material, or other text sources, rather than the italics tag that I use to quote other Mefi users

That's exactly what I do, and I support this style of quoting, as well as of course the quidnunc kid #1.
posted by languagehat at 12:12 PM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Okay, now Ive noticed that the highlight is used in MeFi search results. Is this new? Or is it just jumping out at me now that I've tasted the forbidden fruit??
posted by Kabanos at 7:27 PM on May 6, 2014


Pretty sure that has always been there.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:51 PM on May 6, 2014


I support this style of quoting, as well as of course the quidnunc kid #1.

If we just had a quidnunc /quidnunc tag to wrap the whole comment in, it would sort everything out.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:36 AM on May 7, 2014


I am of no fixed opinion in regards to this matter.
posted by y2karl at 7:59 AM on May 7, 2014


I think the default CSS for Metafilter should style the q element with font-style:italics and this element should be the preferred one for quoting other users. Perhaps we could even have a quote button added to the text editor. This would preserve the traditional visual cue of italics to denote a quotation of another user while also using a modern, more responsive html syntax.
posted by humanfont at 3:25 PM on May 7, 2014


I am all for banning the <small> tag altogether, really. It's a pain in the ass to read at the default font size, which means using browser resize and then re-finding your place in the thread, and most of the time it just isn't worth it. So I usually just skip reading those comments entirely.

Realistically, I'd settle for a custom CSS that embiggens the <small>est font to more reasonable proportions. Anyone have one?
posted by indubitable at 5:06 PM on May 7, 2014


The following should probably work. Append to your existing custom style sheet.


.small {
font-size:medium;
}

posted by humanfont at 5:15 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


It would have to be this instead:

small {
font-size: medium;
}


`.small` is a css class named "small", which is different from the tag named "small".
posted by wayland at 12:16 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


> I think the default CSS for Metafilter should style the q element with font-style:italics

At first I thought you were proposing a styling for the quidnunc tag and I was very sad when I discovered you were talking about quotes. vote #1 quidnunc kid
posted by languagehat at 7:25 AM on May 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I was recently called out by another user for the style I use when quoting others. The criticism was that, by wrapping the other person's comments in tags, I was engaging in a deliberate effort to diminish the importance of what they said. Is this a legitimate criticism?

If it wasn't your intent, then it wasn't your intent. Period. End of story. Criticism fails on account of unsoundness.

One of MeFi's greatest weaknesses, IMO, is the prevalence of certain argument forms common in the weaker regions of the humanities, where many "arguments" don't rise about the level of free-association. Make up a story about what somebody might be doing, and then assert that that is what they're doing. One problem with a lot of what is sometimes called "studying in a literary spirit" is that there's often no very diligent effort to weed out weak hypotheses. And, in fact, there are prominent theories in those parts according to which every hypothesis (i.e. interpretation) is exactly as good as every other...

Does your way of quoting have the effect of diminishing what your interlocutor is saying? Hard to tell without actual studies. Without them, we're more-or-less just making shit up. I wouldn't be that surprised if it did and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it didn't. But this isn't the kind of question you can really answer by speculating.

If you wanted to, you could play it safe and us italics.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:42 PM on May 8, 2014


I think a quidnunc tag would be an awesome Easter egg.
posted by humanfont at 6:42 PM on May 8, 2014


I think it would be even better if it came with a matching closing tag.
posted by flabdablet at 5:35 AM on May 9, 2014


<quidnunc type="kid">Vote 1</quidnunc>
posted by flabdablet at 5:36 AM on May 9, 2014


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