deleting derails & off-topic comments July 14, 2014 8:31 AM   Subscribe

I was under the impression that derailing & off-topic comments (especially at the beginning of a thread) were going to be automatically deleted more often now that mod staffing is decreased. Do we have a community consensus backing up that standard?

I made a post yesterday about how internet memes are reframing women leaders in US politics in a positive light. A initial kneejerk comment about Hillary Clinton turned into an off-topic derail. I flagged the comments, and the mod dropped a note but didn't delete. I followed up through the contact form & was told simply that they'd remove any further responses (but the comments already there were left up).

Is the concern here about removing a comment that's already been up for a little while and responded to? Since there were a lot of favorites on comments & the mod note pushing back against the first comment, I could easily make the assumption that MeFites are probably fine with comments of that type being removed even in that circumstance.

There's been many discussions about how kneejerk comments at the top of threads (particularly about women's issues & other more-sensitive topics - but just in general too) are discouraging & offputting to both posters and other commenters. A substantial portion of the comments in that thread yesterday ended up being off-topic to the post and my impression is that was exacerbated by the initial threadshits not being deleted. (I do feel early comments in a thread absolutely affect the tone of a comment thread.)

Would it help if we had a community consensus that we're fine with clearly over-the-line comments being deleted no matter how long they've been up or how much response they've gotten - instead of being left to stink up a thread, cause negative feelings, and take up mod time in pruning the derails?

Do we have a clear community consensus that we're fine with comments like that being deleted?
posted by flex to Etiquette/Policy at 8:31 AM (111 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Is the concern here about removing a comment that's already been up for a little while and responded to?

I imagine so - if it's one stinkbomb, deleting it won't leave a gap. But if there's a bad comment and a series of responses, and more complicated, comments that touch on the bad comment but get back on topic, I think the mods take more of a hands-off approach instead of burn-it-all scorched earth tactic that would be required to remove any reference to the discussion.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:35 AM on July 14, 2014


But looking at that thread again, it seems that 6 comments could have been deleted and that line of discussion could have been stopped, or at least postponed.

I don't think the rest of the thread was particularly a derail, but I can see how it wasn't as focused on the topic as you would have liked.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:38 AM on July 14, 2014


I'm interested in the immunity consensus here, for sure. I will observe, however, that the structural problems inherent in pruning many responses to a comment are difficult to overcome. It tends to have the side effect of killing perfectly constructive comments with asides that make no sense when the earlier comments are deleted.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:42 AM on July 14, 2014


That thread was a mess, and I was also surprised/disappointed that that comment was not deleted.

And, even though I understand that it would have been more difficult to delete the comment after a lot of people responded to it, it seemed like even after the mod note, the conversation centered around HRC's merits as a future president, rather than the actual content of the post (in which HRC was one example of a larger phenomenon). Which was really frustrating, and I think the result of letting the comment stand and steer the discussion.

Tangentally (a bit), it made me think that Metafilter is just basically kind of bad over the weekend. But YMMV.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:44 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Actually, looking at it now, I guess some comments were deleted since I looked at it last, so nevermind?)
posted by likeatoaster at 8:48 AM on July 14, 2014


No one is immune to the consensus.
posted by gman at 8:52 AM on July 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


As always, there are two types of problem comments. Comments that I think should have been deleted and weren't, and comments that I think shouldn't have been deleted and were.
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:54 AM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


perfectly constructive comments with asides that make no sense

All sorts of comments that make no sense stay up. There are users whose entire corpus of comments make no sense.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:54 AM on July 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


Could OPs just keep an eye on their own posts for a while after they first go up and immediately flag any early thread-shitting comments? It seems like when things are flagged immediately (instead of once the derail is already several comments long) that the mods take care of them pretty quickly and start keeping an eye on the thread as well.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:56 AM on July 14, 2014


This happened not to long ago in one on the trans* threads about the concept of a 'biological sex'. Someone came in, not with a kneejerky comment but a comment that was somewhat off topic. there were a lot of comments addrdessing it, and they and the initial comment were all deleted. It was pretty weird to see play out in real time but ultimately it was a good call on the mods part.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:56 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Do we have a clear community consensus...

On very few things.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:00 AM on July 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's a real shame because TFA in that post is incredibly interesting and just glancing at the thread it appears a lot of people didn't get beyond reading the pullquote before commenting. I know that's a long-standing & widespread issue and I'm just reacting to it particularly in this situation because I really liked the article but it's still irritating when people just say 'Why is this only about Americans' or whatever.

Re: the larger issue of this MeTa, I totally agree that early threadshits should be deleted with extreme prejudice even if there are several comments responding to the threadshits. The several responses don't make that threadshit the legitimate topic of the thread.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:04 AM on July 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


The worst part about the first set of comments that could have (in my eyes) been deleted as off-topic, was that there were then later comments that built upon the tangent. There were a number of good, on-topic comments, and I don't think the thread went up in flames or anything, but I agree it could have been pruned a bit within a 40 minute window of that first derail and the subsequent replies.

As for community consensus, there will almost always be someone who claims that the deleted comments were A-OK, or reflected their personal thoughts on the topic, even if they were derails.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:11 AM on July 14, 2014


I was really glad that the 7 or 8 comments in response to the derail in that intersex post were deleted. It went on to be an incredibly interesting thread that I don't think would have happened had the derail remained. I think something similar could have rerailed the thread in question.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:13 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


People don't always talk about the OP wants them to talk about. I personally like making posts about space, but sometimes people want to veer off and make jokes about whether we really landed on the Moon or some other minor aspect. If we're doing community guidelines here, does that mean we're doing them across the board on comments that do obviously don't adhere to the topic?

'cause I'm not seeing a problem in the the particular self created single thread you're citing. People like to take about Hillary, be it good or bad. Calling those comments off topic gets into a subjective point of view that can easily get into micro managing instead of pruning.

Would it help if we had a community consensus that we're fine with clearly over-the-line comments being deleted no matter how long they've been up or how much response they've gotten - instead of being left to stink up a thread, cause negative feelings, and take up mod time in pruning the derails?

We already have the community consensus of don't be an ass, not sure what more you're looking for here. I thought Taz's note was a bit odd at first, but it was nice subtle touch of attempting to focus people without being obnoxious about it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:30 AM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: a lot of people didn't get beyond reading the pullquote before commenting
posted by ODiV at 9:30 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


It was a superlative post, by the way. The content was clearly framed and interesting, and the links are worth reading. I hope a discussion about the links, which seems to be starting, continues.
posted by maxsparber at 9:33 AM on July 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's a tough game all around. flex, I think our message was, less mod time means we might side more with deleting first, asking questions later, not that we'd be generally be on top of every early thread derail because obviously we have less mods around less often.

The toughest part is this is all in hindsight now. You can say one comment ruined a thread days later but you never know in the moment.

I was the person that deleted the trans* derail and I felt sketchy about it the whole time. I hated deleting 7 replies and had to nurse it for an hour as people continued to reply to deleted comments. In hindsight, it saved the thread but was a fraught decision at the time and we rarely delete that much.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:35 AM on July 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


This may have been the wrong choice, but there were a few variables: a) there had been several responses; b) it was right at shift change, and it's usually better to let the next person do anything semi-drastic (slash and burn and bunch of comments, for example), since they are the ones who are going to have to deal with the blowback from that; c) sometimes it's better to leave the comment that seems like the most likely *persistent* derail (ie, you can keep deleting individual comments, but it's going to keep cropping up if that modding is invisible) and add a note that addresses it ("let's not do this particular thing"); d) the level of moderation requested may be beyond the level we feel comfortable with (I felt fine about deleting stuff that was just trashtalking [Woman Leader] since that was just opportunistic "oh NAME is mentioned here; I hate NAME and will now spew about that", and not at all fine with deleting comments about why non-US women leaders were not a part of the conversation, for example).

Also, I know the perception is that we are reading every comment in any touchy thread, but we can't possibly do that, so we are still relying on flags, even if we've been in the thread and taken action of one kind or another. We try to stay on top of any "problem" thread, but when there several going at once, we aren't reading comment by comment. We still need the flags to see if people are keeping on doing whatever we asked them specifically not to do. We also can't force people to read links, or engage in a specific way.

All that said, if I had seen the second comment when it was posted, I would have deleted it immediately, and despite the explanations above, maybe it would have been better to delete even later, but there's a whole lot of evaluating and acting (in various ways) with regard to moderation that happens hundreds of times a day for us, but only one person at a time, and if we get 90% right, we still fail somewhere.
posted by taz (staff) at 9:49 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


mathowie, that's understandable - and I did take your message as you explained here and not any other way.

I am pointing this particular instance out because I strongly felt (and still feel) that the initial Clinton comment and the followups could have been deleted quite cleanly without loss of constructive commentary. Therefore, I was surprised it was left to stand.

I did flag it pretty quickly and it did take a while for the mod on duty to get to it, so I was absolutely given the impression it stayed because it had been up for a while and there were responses (considering the mod note was pretty strongly worded against the initial comment).

So this was to ask if that really needs to be the overriding criteria in leaving marginal comments up, and if the community in general would like/is okay with pruning clearly over-the-line off-topic stuff (even if it's been up for a while & has responses).

I know the moderation is often in reaction to community preferences so I thought it would be helpful for the community to weigh in on what level of moderation it's comfortable with in instances like these.
posted by flex at 9:56 AM on July 14, 2014


I just wanted to add another voice saying that the main article in the FPP was great, and it was too bad that so many people kneejerked to the pullquote and didn't actually read it because they wanted to say how much they don't want Clinton to be president. I definitely agree with flex that the early derail killed the thread, although it's not too late if folks want to go back and actually read that awesome article and talk about cool memes involving Ginsberg and Davis (as well as Clinton) instead.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:03 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


As a fan of neither Hillary Clinton nor epic memes, I would have been totally fine with that derail getting axed at the root.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:07 AM on July 14, 2014


Do you guys keep a list of deleted comments? It'd be pretty cool to see a word frequency for deleted comments vs. flagged but not deleted comments vs. non-deleted comments.
posted by rebent at 10:11 AM on July 14, 2014


I recognize that I am probably in the minority but I am in favor of aggressive derail pruning, replies or no.
posted by Jpfed at 10:13 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I feel like the problem is that there are two things that conflict

- deleting early comments was said to be a thing that might happen more often with fewer mods to not let things get out of hand. Even though this was stated as a possible side effect of staff members spread thinner, it might not practical because...
- staff members spread thinner means that there's actually less likelihood that comments like this (which I think should have been deleted but I understand the reasoning of why it wasn't) will be seen early enough to have their deletions be non-trivial

Knee-jerk early "I didn't read the article" comments that take things in shitty predictable directions should, in an ideal world, be dealt with with extreme prejudice. At the same time, this is going to be tough to enforce and was one of the primary concerns that I personally had about working in a lower-staffing model here. This is the specific statement that was made which I think was more aspirational than "This is actually the plan"
Fewer people will be working longer shifts and the current response times to contact form emails of less than a few minutes will increase. There’s a chance a bad post on the front page might sit for an hour on a weekend when people are out and about instead of being deleted more quickly. In the future, borderline comments that derail a conversation and require multiple moderators nursing a thread along for days on end may instead end more often in a deleted comment. We may give users a night off more often if they’re being problematic in multiple places in a short period of time instead of emailing individual users asking them what’s up and waiting to see if they dial things back.
It's one thing to say "OK we're going to be hardass about derails" and it's entirely another to figure out how that will work with a lower-residency mod model. I've just started using the contact form when I think something needs dealing with right now. We may need to change our feelings as a community about how we feel about the balance between "Removing this stuff makes the thread look weird" versus "leaving this comment up makes the community look bad"
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:13 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's probably a non-starter now given how long it's been up (plus this MeTa) but is there any chance of deleting that whole derail in the thread now? It's still getting responses.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:15 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


If it's still getting responses maybe it isn't a detail.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:20 AM on July 14, 2014


If it's still getting responses maybe it isn't a derail.

The definition of a derail is that it's off-topic, not that it doesn't get responses. Derails usually get at least one response.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:22 AM on July 14, 2014 [12 favorites]


I think I had a comment get deleted in the trans thread and that's fine, in retrospect I should have flagged instead of (constructively) replying.

If it's still getting responses maybe it isn't a detail.

I disagree. Some of the shittiest, derailiest comments work so well as derails precisely because they predictably spark a flurry of responses.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:27 AM on July 14, 2014 [12 favorites]


The whole purpose of the 'rail' metaphor is that it implies responses and that the conversation has been thrown off of its course. A single off-topic comment does not constitute a derail.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:30 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


The implicit rhetorical question there seems to be "Would people keep commenting on a supposed derail in a thread if it weren't truly on-topic?" with the expected answer being "no," but it seems pretty clear to me that you could easily have a loud/interesting/whatever conversation in a thread that was still only related to it by a tangent.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:30 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Have you considered a trusted cadre of users that have elevated flagging? Kindof like hacker news not allowing down votes without a certain level? So the if an elevated user flags a comment (always for the right reasons, sigh ;) it would be vanished immediately if its within the 3 most recent comments.
posted by sammyo at 10:32 AM on July 14, 2014


Obviously I am part of the trusted cadre. I mean, I'm wearing a crown.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:35 AM on July 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I believe it would be best if posters were to explicitly lay out the "rails" the conversation is allowed to follow. This post could have contained a disclaimer that the topic here is a celebration of politicians, not criticism.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:35 AM on July 14, 2014


Have you considered a trusted cadre of users that have elevated flagging?

MeFi Blue™ users have had this functionality for years. That's why you hardly see any posts about beluga whales who play the trombone. The cabal* has had a vendetta against them for years.

*TINC
posted by phunniemee at 10:36 AM on July 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


THEY ONLY DO IT SO THEY LOOK LIKE NARWHALS
posted by shakespeherian at 10:37 AM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


AND THEIR SONGS ARE SAD ENOUGH ALREADY, WHY THEY GOTTA ADD A SAD TROMBONE?
posted by filthy light thief at 10:40 AM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thank you, google.
posted by phunniemee at 10:43 AM on July 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


Have you considered a trusted cadre of users that have elevated flagging?

oh please God no
posted by threeants at 10:45 AM on July 14, 2014 [16 favorites]


The whole purpose of the 'rail' metaphor is that it implies responses and that the conversation has been thrown off of its course. A single off-topic comment does not constitute a derail.

That gets into a question of what the course of the conversation is. It's not unheard for the topic of conversation to go in a direction different from what the OP intends or what seems obvious. So it goes.


I believe it would be best if posters were to explicitly lay out the "rails" the conversation is allowed to follow. This post could have contained a disclaimer that the topic here is a celebration of politicians, not criticism.

Not a bad idea at all.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:47 AM on July 14, 2014


That gets into a question of what the course of the conversation is.

The topic of a thread is laid out in the post. The post in question was about the use of new forms of communication made possible by the internet to draw attention to and praise powerful women. There is no way that the topic of that thread is which dude politicians cheated on their wives and how we feel about it.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:58 AM on July 14, 2014 [14 favorites]


I believe it would be best if posters were to explicitly lay out the "rails" the conversation is allowed to follow. This post could have contained a disclaimer that the topic here is a celebration of politicians, not criticism.

Wow, I sort of really disagree with this. I think an FPP is sort of like the OP's gift to the site, and the conversation can go where the conversation goes. Setting the expectation here that the OP should be the person saying "conversation should be about this and not that would be unnecessarily inhibiting and would, in my mind, contribute towards more posting of "this is really important" kind of topics, where OPs have a lot invested in the discussion that flows from the FPP. I've never really felt this is a great thing.

I'm very comfortable with the status quo where the community and mods, and not the OP, have the primary role in deciding the course of conversation. The OP has such a substantial impact on determining the course of conversation anyway by virtue of the choice of the FPP to begin with and in its framing. I've noticed in the OP in this case, a lot of people were reacting to the pull quote, for instance.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:59 AM on July 14, 2014 [12 favorites]


I believe it would be best if posters were to explicitly lay out the "rails" the conversation is allowed to follow.

No, you don't.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:03 AM on July 14, 2014 [33 favorites]


I could be wrong, but I think that was sarcasm, specifically this part: "This post could have contained a disclaimer that the topic here is a celebration of politicians, not criticism."

Trying to set the goal of the thread is so very anti-MetaFilter (and not in the least bit feasible in any situation, short of a totalitarian regime) that I took the rest of the suggestion as a joke.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:05 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wow, that was a neat article, and that comment from MikeWarot was really dumb! Like, prize-winningly dumb.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:07 AM on July 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


I've noticed in the OP in this case, a lot of people were reacting to the pull quote, for instance.

Frankly it seems like a lot of people were just reacting to the word 'Hillary.'
posted by shakespeherian at 11:07 AM on July 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


Without commenting on the linked post, I agree that shitty comments (noise, derails, etc) should be removed no matter how long they've been up and no matter how many people have responded to them.

The current moderation policy relies on people to Flag It And Move On. If everybody subscribes to FIAMO, then this works fine. Occasionally something will slip through the cracks and get entrenched, but mostly not. The problem is, not everybody subscribes to FIAMO. This isn't new. It has nothing to do with staff cuts. Moderators have been talking for years about how the userbase needs to be more proactive about FIAMO.

It ain't gonna happen. There are people here who like Internet squabbling. For whatever reason, and judgment aside, certain people enjoy watching touchy threads for predictable, low-hanging derails and flamebait that they can snarkily pounce on. And with that reality in place, the current moderation policy is effectively a race: will enough people flag the comment so that a moderator removes it, before enough people respond to it that a moderator feels he or she can't remove it?

That's a hole in current policy that causes real problems. It's not the only hole. We all know that if you type enough paragraphs, you can get away with saying pretty much anything. One fighty, derail-bait sentence in a three-paragraph comment will be ironclad. I don't see that hole abused too much. But the race? The race is a problem. It should be addressed by nixing the time limit. If you have to prune 20 comments in order to prune something that you definitely would have deleted if you'd seen it an hour earlier, then go for it.
posted by cribcage at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Frankly it seems like a lot of people were just reacting to the word 'Hillary.'

And Hillary ensued?
posted by flabdablet at 11:47 AM on July 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


I believe it would be best if posters were to explicitly lay out the "rails" the conversation is allowed to follow. This post could have contained a disclaimer that the topic here is a celebration of politicians, not criticism.

I think this is my favorite form of satire; the comment when you read it you are not sure if the person writing it is serious or not.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:09 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


We all know that if you type enough paragraphs, you can get away with saying pretty much anything.

Treaty of Westphalia aside, this is still not true IME. Not long ago I wrote a couple of—I thought—uncontroversial paragraphs and concluded with—I thought—only a mildly facetious concluding observation and it was deleted. Now I'm not complaining about it; them's the breaks. But I admit that it's finally discouraged me from making more than an innocuous comment here or there. It just isn't worth the effort. Indeed, I can barely rouse myself from my torpor to type this.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:29 PM on July 14, 2014


You can say one comment ruined a thread days later but you never know in the moment.

This is what the flagging and comment form are for. Users are able to recognize which comment is highly likely to fuck up a thread, and signal that to the staff.

Some problems have resulted when users apply the FIAMO model, and the staff ignores those flags, or when users send a message on the contact form, and get brushed off.

Moderators have been talking for years about how the userbase needs to be more proactive about FIAMO.

It's very difficult to FIAMO when, for example, I consistently flag troll comments that the staff consistently give the 'Benefit Of The Doubt' to.

These things are predictable. Members of this site are predicting them.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:36 PM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I figure that you have to choose whether you want to make a point or want to make a joke.

These days, if I spend the time to write an (even mildly) complicated argument, I usually end up deleting that last sentence that is nothing more than a cute little fillip. It'd be the only thing that anyone payed attention to.

(responding to octobersurprise)
posted by benito.strauss at 12:37 PM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I mean it probably depends on the nature of the throw-away one-liner at the end, yeah? Because you could have a very coherent, thought-provoking and intelligent comment which takes its time to lay out all of its arguments and carefully answer potential rebuttals and if then at the end you throw in a #hitlerdidntgofarenough it's not really likely to go well.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:47 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's been a while since I got a chance to pet my little pony.

I thought the post dealt with a tactical aspect of feminism. It's a short move to the personalities involved in--well living, actually--the life of a powerful woman. I guess the chances to derail are manifold. Since the derails were generally (I suppose) pruned it's hard to analyze them for myself.

Women networking: this is an interesting topic, especially since we aren't talking about a hobby, but a life's journey. I wouldn't have minded seeing the discussion evolve into other areas of feminist strategy, because topics generated under the umbrella of feminist thought relate to other aspects of the human condition, for example, racism, and chauvinism. This goes along with a theory I picked up long ago: "We are all Bozos on this bus." It's beginning to seem as though MeFites aren't willing to consult me before they respond to a post.

Anyhow, I'm not real comfortable with the "I don't like it (and here's why), so delete it" school of thought. I do believe the "like" button is useful, yet I don't want to see a "dislike" button installed.

In my view, anytime a mod steps to chastise a commenter for a remark, the default response is "oh yeah?--well fuck you too." Then, after time lets you think it over, you can appreciate the mod's decision, even if you never get around to agreeing with it. In itself, this response can be useful for picking up on, and examining some under-defined issues (hooray), or it can be simply a tail-chasing event, which the mods can quickly bring to a crashing halt

I would rather see a commenter chastised on-line, with a brief stock phrase, than see the comment deleted. The mods seem to try to make contact with the individual by email for a more reasoned exchange. Maybe the recent staff pruning has made this system more problematic, but still, I like it better than discovering that a comment has evaporated. We ought not to hide our fools and assholes, and our legitimate dissenters and wool-gatherers ought to get at least a brief moment in the sun.

Also, different standards apply to the blue and green an gray. I was not comfortable with that at first, but as time passed I began to see the logic in it. Even so, the notion that comments will evaporate rubs me the wrong way.

Someone asked if deleted comments evaporate into cyber-heaven, or if they are in a read-only folder somewhere on the site. Perhaps this folder could be installed, and readers could go there to review the sins of their fellows. They might still choose to communicate with the mods in any of the accepted ways, or even take their brief to MetaTalk.

The folder could be time-limited to, say, a few weeks, to give any serious discussions a chance to evolve: the discussion may warrant space on the gray, or maybe just a few private exchanges with the mods.
posted by mule98J at 1:10 PM on July 14, 2014


Members of this site are predicting them.

Maybe things have changed, but members of the site also call many many people trolls who are just having a bad day/week/month. I get that particular situation didn't resolve itself quickly enough for you, but part of this is calibrating your expectations with what the site is likely to provide you. We have many people accused of trolling who still contribute in mostly decent ways on the site.

The mod team is very slow to ban, especially for behavior reasons. I don't know if you are talking about anyone else besides yourself in your comment but it's possible that you have expectations that aren't in line with how things are going to work? I know that I don't, personally, and I've had to model my flagging behavior on what I think is likely to work in a general sense, for the site, and not for me personally.

If you're not flagging because you don't like it when your flags get "ignored" that's your prerogative, but no one's ignoring them, they're just disagreeing with you about what needs to happen. Sometimes I flag or email just to make sure someone's seen something (a thing I do more now when I'm actually not sure) and that has to be something you make your peace with. If you see a thing and don't flag it (a nearly zero-friction action that mods have said they appreciate) because it's going to bother you if the comment doesn't get deleted or the user doesn't get sanctioned, that's not a problem with the flagging system.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:30 PM on July 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


I personally think that there should be a higher standard for the first few comments on a thread. so yes I don't think a slightly disjointed conversation (as if the no threading model of metafilter has ever promoted totally unified conversations) would be a good price to pay for stricter enforcement on the first few posts
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:37 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


if then at the end you throw in a #hitlerdidntgofarenough it's not really likely to go well.

Similarly, if at the end of your front-page post about a more general topic you throw in a link to an article that's all about the public image of Hillary Clinton, it shouldn't be entirely unexpected when the resulting discussion turns to peoples' opinions of Hillary Clinton.
posted by sfenders at 1:43 PM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have an observation, about the effect of derails, that has been clunking around in my head for a while. I've hesitated to mention it as I'm not sure that it's a bug, and even if it was, probably couldn't be corrected anyway.

In some threads, especially contentions ones, people will to fly in and make early comments that aren't in proportion with the scope of the linked article(s). This sets a wide boundary around the direction of the following discussion. This isn't inherently a bad thing, but has the effect of allowing some members to frame comments, that refer specifically to pieces of the original article, as nitpicking, fussy fault-finding, or trying to use a detail as evidence to dismiss the Larger Issue that community as decided to focus on. Many comments that get labeled and scorned like this appear to me to be more of an attempt to make comment on the content of the article within the same scope of the information provided in the links, but since the discussion was setup early on to include the broadest of strokes, the smaller scaled comments are dismissed as noise or even derails themselves.

It sounds like I'm trying to suggest that larger issues aren’t important, or that a conversation shouldn't evolve in that direction, and I'm really not. I just personally find it frustrating when I read through a linked article, say on a pro-feminist thing that someone did, and want to comment on the actual event described in the article, but since the conversation is now on World Wide Feminism, my comment is taken to be a nitpicky-dissmissive-derail to the Larger And More Important Issue. This appears to happen more in the longboat threads, though I could kind of see signs of it happening in Flex's post.

Again, I'm not trying to make a call for change or anything, as I'm not even sure that this is an issue. I just want to make note that this seems, to me, to be a thing that exists as an after effect of broad scope derails that are posted early in a thread.
posted by Shouraku at 1:47 PM on July 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you're not flagging because you don't like it when your flags get "ignored" that's your prerogative, but no one's ignoring them, they're just disagreeing with you about what needs to happen. Sometimes I flag or email just to make sure someone's seen something (a thing I do more now when I'm actually not sure) and that has to be something you make your peace with.

I'm flagging much more now than I used to, but not because I think it will materially effect the staff's decisions. It feels useful, though, and that's important.

As far as "ignored" goes, I was thinking more about an instance back in mid-March when I used the comment form to warn the staff about an impending problem.

We saw how that played out.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:49 PM on July 14, 2014


Maybe things have changed, but members of the site also call many many people trolls who are just having a bad day/week/month.

Oh man, obviously by nature you have a way deeper and more nuanced perspective on the community than I do, but from my point of view, people on the site call many people key community members who are actually just trolls.
posted by threeants at 1:53 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Or maybe I'd rather opt for "people who consistently exhibit trolling-like behavior" than the essentialistic "trolls".)
posted by threeants at 1:55 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


PWCETLBs, as they are most often referred to in the literature
posted by threeants at 1:59 PM on July 14, 2014


Similarly, if at the end of your front-page post about a more general topic you throw in a link to an article that's all about the public image of Hillary Clinton, it shouldn't be entirely unexpected when the resulting discussion turns to peoples' opinions of Hillary Clinton's husband's affair
posted by shakespeherian at 2:28 PM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think it's a delusion, albeit a widely shared one, that Mefi actually has very firm and detailed policies and standards about such matters. These things are generally too complex to be anything other than matters of judgement by the mods on the day.
posted by Segundus at 3:03 PM on July 14, 2014


people on the site call many people key community members who are actually just trolls.

It sounds like what you're saying is that the moderators don't know who the trolls are, or don't think they are trolls? I guess that's possible and I'll let them speak for themselves.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:09 PM on July 14, 2014


(Or maybe I'd rather opt for "people who consistently exhibit trolling-like behavior" than the essentialistic "trolls".)

It's probably the better, if less pithy, formulation, yeah. And part of the problem is there's a subjectivity to this that make it tricky to navigate individual people's conflicting expectations about stuff on the site—for any given user, different people have different opinions about what consistently means and what trolling means, for starters.

Like Jess says, I'm not sure what the specific thrust of that comment is supposed to be; I totally agree that, yes, there are people that some people think are really valuable members here that other people think are drags on the site, and that's a weird thing to try and navigate from a policy/mod side especially when it gets to being a lightning rod kind of issue with someone's presence. But policy here forever has been more about trying to make things work by working with people, being responsive to concerns about behavior patterns, and not moving toward the "enough people are annoyed so we have to ban you now" approach in anything but extreme conditions.

Not everybody agrees with that (either holding off for extremes or ever banning at all even in such a case), but it's been the Metafilter approach for as long as the site has had an approach and we sort of need folks to work with us within those constraints.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:43 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sorry if my comment was unclear. I'm not implying that the mods make poor decisions or should come down harder. I generally favor a light mod touch, which you all do very well. It frustrates me that the community doesn't go a little further in censuring people who are clearly around just to get their rocks off on provocation, but in a relatively diverse community I suppose that will always be an issue.
posted by threeants at 3:49 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


How often do users (aside from drive-by spammers) get banned? Is it a common occurrence or a once in a blue moon kind of thing?
posted by double block and bleed at 3:50 PM on July 14, 2014


Basically I guess I'm just annoyed that people like that exist, but I'm not smart enough to offer solutions.
posted by threeants at 3:50 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


the man of twists and turns: " It's very difficult to FIAMO when, for example, I consistently flag troll comments that the staff consistently give the 'Benefit Of The Doubt' to."

Slightly different situation than what happened here, but when people make outraged or deraily comments that show they didn't RTFA article, I've taken to replying to them with something along the lines of: "This was addressed pretty thoroughly in the article." And perhaps inviting them to read it themselves.

I've done it a few times over the years and have learned that replying calmly and gently usually works best and is least disruptive. A sarcastic, insulting response might be more emotionally satisfying, ("YOU FOOL! RTFA!") but let's face it, the goal is to defuse things and maintain a healthy thread rather than escalate a derail. Plus, my comment shows the mods why I flagged. Let them delete both our comments if they have to. Who cares? Obviously not a perfect analogy, but perhaps we can think of it as a queen sacrifice for a better thread. Or more accurately, a pawn sacrifice. Whatever.

That's not to say I'm the voice of calm and reason all the time because I'm sure as hell not. But a little nudge in the right direction can sometimes re-rail a thread without mod intervention.
posted by zarq at 3:51 PM on July 14, 2014 [10 favorites]


How often do users (aside from drive-by spammers) get banned? Is it a common occurrence or a once in a blue moon kind of thing?

Blue moon. It's the last stop on the line, after the train's already passed through usual stops like "see if it's a pattern", "talk to and hope they turn it around", and "warn that they need to show an effort or that's it". Sometimes a maildrop at Timeoutsville. Mostly for someone who has been around at all and seems to want to be here and is acknowledging there's an issue, our priority is to work with them to get things ironed out into a behavior compromise as long as that seems like it's actually got some element of reasonable hope to it.

I know not everybody agrees with that approach; I don't even always agree with myself about it. But I also am doubtful that most of the folks who have ever nodded toward the idea of a much more weapons-free approach to banning would end up being happy with the practical consequences of it, and I am regardless pretty sure that I wouldn't be all that happy with the different Metafilter culture it'd lead to.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:03 PM on July 14, 2014


With regard to the discussion of derails...

It seems to me that a distinction should be made, and which I think we all mostly intuitively assume, between thinking in terms of a conversation being on rails where any sort of digression or divergence from what's expected is a "derail", and how I think "derail" is actually meant when the term is used, which alludes to something like a train crash. That is, it's not that we expect conversations here to be highly structured and only go where expected, it's that sometimes/often things explode and crash into fiery devastation.

The latter is what we want to avoid.

I suppose that there are probably some people here who do want to more strongly limit how a conversation can evolve. I know that it's often the case that posters make a post, hoping that the discussion will be about whatever in particular so motivated them to make the post — but then most people end up talking about other things. And that's frustrating. But it's never been the case that the poster is thought to own the conversation and it absolutely should never be the case. That's why it's understood to be bad to participate so much in your own thread that you are effectively moderating it. People should be able to talk about what they want to talk about.

Except when it's stuff that is likely to cause a disaster.

In practice, what happens is that the mods, who have a lot of experience with this stuff, will modulate their shepherding of the thread in very context-dependent ways. Some topics basically demand a very narrowly constrained discussion simply because there's so many potential ways in which it could easily go very badly wrong. Different people with different histories here mean that an okay comment from one person may be too provocative from another. And, of course, the very beginnings of threads have a profound influence on the tone of the whole thread; a lot of stuff is set in motion right there at the beginning.

It's best that the mods are more hands-on with the beginnings of threads. But, as jessamyn explained, in practice with lower staffing they're not always going to be able to do this. I think the community should try to be productive about this. We should deliberately be careful about what we post at the beginnings of threads and try to avoid things that are more likely to set it off in a bad direction. It's quite possibly the case that a comment might be less problematic later when the thread has evolved and so it's not too much to ask that we just wait for the thread to get going before we post things that we do think are important/interesting/relevant but which seem likely to lead to some difficulties. It is often worth it to try to navigate those difficulties. But right at the beginning of the thread is one of the worst places to attempt this.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:26 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, you don't.

I think this is my favorite form of satire; the comment when you read it you are not sure if the person writing it is serious or not.

It was not without a certain tone, but it is an option. (Shakesville, for ex., does this very often. There was just recently and I've seen before trans* posts here including smalltext 101 links to guide the discussion, an informal implementation.) I should say more pedantically I see it as best within the constraints I expect the community and moderators wish to maintain. I myself think a loosening of the "derail" restrictions would truly be better but I see that as very unlikely. Like Jessamyn said about her flagging, Metafilter does not exist solely to be what I want it to be and I cannot expect that.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:48 PM on July 14, 2014


You could parse it out much more finely, but at a minimum there are two kinds of derails. I'll call them "clueless" and "malicious" as shorthand, though you could pick nicer or worse names for either.

Clueless is misreading the room and saying something that might be true, but just isn't really the right thing to say in that context at that moment. I did that earlier today, in my comment in the Pinboard FPP. My comment was true about the mischaracterization of poor people and burnout, but it was also totally tangential to the article and to where the discussion wanted to go. It didn't get deleted and probably didn't rise to the level of needing to be, but I'm also happy that the discussion organically returned to Pinboard itself and the actual main points of the piece.

Malicious is dropping a provocative comment into a discussion, knowing it will produce a flurry of response and in the process derail the discussion. I notice it most in discussions of things like gender and sexual violence, but I am sure that with some care this tactic will work in almost any topic. FPP about furries? Guaranteed someone will drop a deuce about furries and dirty sex, even if the FPP is just about the fun costumes. (This can reach meta levels, like that insanely stupid Atlantic article about the lack of men in Orange is the New Black -- it's not a derail when the call is coming from within the house, and yet even there it was proven that it can be done.)

This very basic distinction matters because when there's grumbling about the kinds of people described in this parenthetical remark:

(Or maybe I'd rather opt for "people who consistently exhibit trolling-like behavior" than the essentialistic "trolls".)

It's very much about people with a repeated history of the second kind of derailment. People who make the first kind (including myself!) can get tiresome and irritating, but it doesn't chap my ass like the people doing the repeated malicious derailments do.

However, the bar to stopping a pattern of those kinds of derailments has long been higher than it should be, and with the reduced moderation staffing I don't see that magically improving. Partly that is a correct reading of the community mood on their part -- a lot of people, a lot of the time, enjoy a certain amount of heat and lightning, and this kind of friction provides it. But maybe it's just less visible from different perspectives, while the cost of the tiresomeness is being born by people whose burnout harms the site over the long term, but the loss is quiet and largely invisible.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:22 PM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think we need a very long meta thread involving extremely detailed and incredibly lengthy answers from every single mod in triplicate about how scarce these resources are, whilst we hint that they're not up to it.

I think that would be really great for the community.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:24 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Jesus, you're not in bed yet?
posted by shakespeherian at 5:34 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Malicious is dropping a provocative comment into a discussion, knowing it will produce a flurry of response and in the process derail the discussion. I notice it most in discussions of things like gender and sexual violence, but I am sure that with some care this tactic will work in almost any topic.

In other words, in gender threads, "derail" just means "a comment that several people express their disagreement with." As long as the thread is just an echo chamber where everyone is agreeing, it's fine, but if anyone has a different perspective, that's a "derail." And if the person responds to the comments, they're "taking all comers," which is another violation.
posted by John Cohen at 5:44 PM on July 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yes, those certainly are other words.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:50 PM on July 14, 2014 [20 favorites]


In other words, in gender threads, "derail" just means "a comment that several people express their disagreement with." As long as the thread is just an echo chamber where everyone is agreeing, it's fine, but if anyone has a different perspective, that's a "derail." And if the person responds to the comments, they're "taking all comers," which is another violation.

This is a very uncharitable reading of the comment.
posted by Shouraku at 5:51 PM on July 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


In other words

Maybe paraphrasing is not something you have a particular skill for.
posted by maxsparber at 6:18 PM on July 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


In other words, yakka foob mog. Grug pubbawup zink wattoom gazork. Chumble spuzz.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:21 PM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


man way to bring your own personal bullshit into this.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:22 PM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


oh and we all know that trans* threads rarely have disagreements in them i mean lol wtf
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:23 PM on July 14, 2014


I'm definitely part of the Delete More Brigade. It is very frustrating when a thread gets sidetracked from the substantive, into the ignorant, soap boxy, or speculative.

That all said my own personal experience is that framing is so critically important to this.

I've found that there are certain topics mefites have strong opinions on, and are very comfortable holding forth about - in complete disregard to ostensible topic, or tone etc. I once posted what I thought was a very interesting article, but I framed it in such a way that it had a very "dinner party" hypothetical embedded in the post. No surprises, practically no one read the article and the article and the whole thread was basically people debating a stupid hypothetical that was only there for illustrative purposes. It was kinda irritating.

I think there are quite a few topics like this, a lot of US centric stuff, especially politics for example. Including them often triggers silly hyperbole, deraily stuff, where people try to outdo each other and the thread starts feeling like something from, I don't know, a politics forum or something - and I love politics!

So I avoid those threads, and I avoid framing my stuff in ways that encourage it. Sometimes that means making my threads a bit less sexy or accessible, so it goes.

I hope this doesn't sound like blaming the victim here, I don't intend it to, and I think it sucks that people can't resist glib throwaway bullshit in substantive threads when there are plenty of other threads for that debased standard of debate that they obviously enjoy.

But I have found being careful with my framing has made me a lot more relaxed. And that means I don't post sometimes cause I know it won't go what I feel is a good way. So be it.
posted by smoke at 6:28 PM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Probably confirmation bias, but it seems to me there's a lot less discussion on an FPP's actual subject and far more noise about a post's framing, or a quote or excerpt, etc., by people who can't seem to be arsed to read the fucking article but still have an overwhelming urge to yammer.

Stop it, yammerheads.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:36 PM on July 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


There's no question that the early derailing comment in the post I made, referred to here in MeTa, was delete-worthy. Both taz and jessamyn said in this thread that they would have deleted it.

The concern I had with that incident (and the reason I opened this MeTa) is that the comment wasn't deleted since it had been up for a while by the time the mod-on-duty saw it & it had gathered responses. Historically that's been criteria the mods have used to rule out deleting derails so as not to leave weird gaps in the discussion, etc.

But because now we have less mods, who are spread thinner - who can't always be on top of derails as soon as they happen, or sit on top of them doing judicious pruning - I wondered if the community opinion favors the mod team going ahead and deleting over-the-line comments (and subsequent responses) even if they haven't gotten to them right away. This might actually conserve mod resources since they can't keep as close an eye on threads anymore.

Since mathowie already mentioned this as a thing that might happen now with less staff ("we might side more with deleting first, asking questions later"), I felt it would be helpful to get the community take on it, since historically the moderation is often reactive to what the community is asking for. If the community in general favors it, it might make it easier on the mods. It might also be more encouraging to new posters (#JulyByWomen, for instance) and promote less negativity on the site overall if members see that sort of thing isn't tolerated simply because it exceeded a time limit or didn't get ignored by other members well enough.
posted by flex at 6:42 PM on July 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


^ I couldn't agree more with you: a turd that's four hours old doesn't smell any better, and of twenty other people also decide to take a shit beside it, it smells even worse.

I feel like currently there is no disincentive for people to stop rising to the bait, or rephrasing one pithy rebuttal (all that's needed) in wordier and often angrier ways. This is what turns one threadshit into an open sewer.

I am pretty optimistic that if mods deleted the follow on comments more aggressively, as well as initial comments, site behaviour would shift to moving on.

For me, those follow ups are just as disruptive as the original derail, however less offensive they may be.
posted by smoke at 7:04 PM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


There’s a chance a bad post on the front page might sit for an hour on a weekend when people are out and about instead of being deleted more quickly

Really don't have a problem with this.
posted by dmh at 7:07 PM on July 14, 2014


I wondered if the community opinion favors the mod team going ahead and deleting over-the-line comments (and subsequent responses) even if they haven't gotten to them right away.

This community member favors deletion of delete-worthy comments even if they have garnered responses, yes.
posted by jaguar at 9:32 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


This one too.
posted by sweetkid at 9:58 PM on July 14, 2014


Deleted comments do occasionally get referred back to in ways that would make no sense unless the reader realizes that deleting comments is a thing that happens here. That's kind of jarring when it happens, but since a reduction in mod numbers must inevitably mean less timely mod activity, there is an unavoidable tradeoff between that kind of jarring happening more often and the quality of MeFi comment threads heading YouTube-wards.

Jar away.
posted by flabdablet at 11:26 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Malicious is dropping a provocative comment into a discussion, knowing it will produce a flurry of response and in the process derail the discussion. I notice it most in discussions of things like gender and sexual violence, but I am sure that with some care this tactic will work in almost any topic.

The problem with this premise is it begins with a very uncharitable standpoint:
1) a comment provokes you, or someone in the thread, so
2) you assume the commenter knows the comment will be provocative, and so
3) you assume the commenter is intentionally malicious and
4) that this is a deliberate tactic meant to derail the thread.

Not everything you (or I) would like to see deleted goes away. People disagree on the internet. Technically, we are supposed to just FIAMO instead of reacting with "a flurry of response and in the process derail the discussion" anyway.

That said, I think the flagging system itself is flawed, in part because it is also so subjective, and users are inconsistent. Some users flag comments just because they don't like them. Some flag because they think a comment might cause a problem. Others only flag egregious abuses. And some users believe that flagging comments at all is mean.

Which leaves us with Metatalk, and constant discussions on etiquette.
posted by misha at 12:43 AM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


The problem with this premise is it begins with a very uncharitable standpoint:

It's possible to believe that there are some comments that are intended to lob a bomb into a thread (and some users who habitually engage in this practice in threads on certain topics), without believing that all comments you dislike or think are bad for the discussion follow all of steps 1-4.
posted by kagredon at 2:00 AM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


(and, in fact, Dip Flash was pretty careful to make the distinction in his original post about "clueless" and "malicious" derailing comments.)
posted by kagredon at 2:09 AM on July 15, 2014


there should be a higher standard for the first few comments on a thread

Yes. There are always going to be derails (the clichéd "But Nixon was a Quaker!" early in the recent Uganda Underground thread was both annoying and not delete-worthy), but if keeping the relatively smart reputation of Metafilter discussion intact is a priority, then ruthlessly pruning the garbage that some users routinely jump to toss into the beginning of a thread needs to be a priority too.

A really high priority, it seems to me.
posted by mediareport at 8:16 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]



That said, I think the flagging system itself is flawed, in part because it is also so subjective, and users are inconsistent. Some users flag comments just because they don't like them. Some flag because they think a comment might cause a problem. Others only flag egregious abuses. And some users believe that flagging comments at all is mean.


I think this is a feature, not a bug.
posted by sweetkid at 8:22 AM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's useful to remember that the flags are not a mechanical system. A flag alerts mods to take a look at a thing. That doesn't mean it'll get deleted, even if it has a hundred flags. Flags mean 'HEY GUYS LOOK AT THIS PLEASE.' So inconsistency doesn't really matter much.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:36 AM on July 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


i was told that flagging was a rube goldberg where pressing a mouse button leads to a pellet of kibble knocking cortex's finger into the delete button miles away
posted by klangklangston at 3:48 PM on July 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


I thought flagging delivered electrical shocks of increasing discomfort to an anonymous test subject
posted by threeants at 6:37 PM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


/r/askreddit lets you tag a question as serious. If you do, jokes and trolls are heavily moderated. If you don't, people can respond as divergently as they like. I think having the creator of a blue post decide if they want the heavy modding is the way to go, and seeing the serious (or whatever) tag or lack of tag would help members choose the comment style they prefer. And on the mod end, flags from serious threads could maybe be prioritized to help them out.
posted by michaelh at 8:54 AM on July 16, 2014


I think having the creator of a blue post decide if they want the heavy modding is the way to go

this runs counter to the whole idea we have here that your post is not your own once you hit the Post button.
posted by sweetkid at 9:17 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


The personal back-and-forth bits from the derail in this thread have mostly been removed, but now it looks like it's in danger from "let's talk about America instead".
posted by ODiV at 10:25 AM on July 16, 2014


It seems tough though because what do you do? Remove that first comment because everyone will just keep latching on to that specific part of it?
posted by ODiV at 10:26 AM on July 16, 2014


this runs counter to the whole idea we have here that your post is not your own once you hit the Post button.

Yes, but this whole idea of keeping a discussion on track is based on the idea that you have the right to choose what bits of your post/links are to be discussed.
posted by michaelh at 12:18 PM on July 16, 2014


not really, no.
posted by sweetkid at 1:03 PM on July 16, 2014


Yes, but this whole idea of keeping a discussion on track is based on the idea that you have the right to choose what bits of your post/links are to be discussed.

The idea of keeping things on track isn't really based on the OP's "right to choose what bits of your post/links are to be discussed." Once the post is out there, it's up to the mods and the community to determine what is on or off track. Not the OP. The best influence the OP has is in the choosing and the framing of the post itself.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:07 PM on July 16, 2014


Maybe I should say that the mods and community have decided that the OP can choose which parts can't be discussed by making a high enough percentage of the links and text about the thing they want to be discussed.

When we propose to auto-delete the first post if it's off-topic, we're saying that the topic was set before the first comment was made and there's only one other thing on the page that can do that.

And the reason that I proposed the serious/not-serious option is because I understand the need to control the really contentious topics, but I'd like to let conversation range a lot more if the post can handle it and a visible way for people know they're in more divergent territory would be an easy way to set expectations.
posted by michaelh at 1:41 PM on July 16, 2014


Mega-Proton theory: there is no dark energy, galaxies are accelerating apart due to aggregated electromagnetic force as they shed negative charge and become increasingly proton-like (positively charged) via the loss electrons converted into photons including gamma rays, through basic physics, chemistry, and the time's arrow of entropy. Each galaxy is becoming a mega-proton, as it were, and repelling other galaxies at an increasingly rate. You heard it here first, don't bite my TOE yo, and yeah I'm working on the TOE yo, the theory of everything
posted by aydeejones at 4:17 PM on July 16, 2014


1. Conservation of charge though bruh
2. wait what
posted by kagredon at 4:24 PM on July 16, 2014


michaelh: " Yes, but this whole idea of keeping a discussion on track is based on the idea that you have the right to choose what bits of your post/links are to be discussed."

Not really. The point is to keep conversations on track, and not to have them turn into angry, off-topic discussions.

Let's take a hypothetical post about the role the Catholic Church played in the Italian Renaissance of the 14th century. A derail would be a comment attacking the Church over its modern day pedophilia scandal. The post includes the Church as a topic, but since it's not actually about priest pedophilia, the comment will by design raise ire without actually being on topic. That's a derail.

People who post have little control over what direction a conversation will go. They can try to steer the conversation slightly but that's about it. But it's better for everyone if someone doesn't destroy what could be a productive thread because they have an axe to grind. That includes the OP, too.
posted by zarq at 6:49 AM on July 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


There are users whose entire corpus of comments make no sense.

damn proud of it, too.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:01 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


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