#GlobalVoices / #NonWestNov / #GlobalSouthSept August 5, 2014 11:09 PM   Subscribe

In the spirit of the success of #JulyByWomen, and with viggorlijah's permission, I would like to propose another month dedicated to Mefi posts from outside the West.

We's talked before about how Metafilter isn't the strongest at handling posts relating to issues outside the US. There was some discussion about how it would be good to have more posts from Mefites that were not so US-centric. After seeing the success of #JulyByWomen I would like to propose the same concept for this space.

The posts that would get this tag could be any combination of:

1. Posts by Mefites that are outside the White Western norm, especially those outside the US
2. Posts about people, places, and so on that take place outside the West

While talking to viggorlijah about it, we noticed that there could be a problem in trying to figure out statistics:

1. Who do you count in this project? First Nations/Indigenous/Aboriginal people in Western countries? Westerners living overseas? Non-Westerners in the West? People who are married to non-Westerners?
2. If we're going for Third World or Global South, you'd end up having to eliminate some countries that intuitively feel like they'd count - Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Phillippines, South Korea, Japan, and East Timor could all be disqualified for different reasons, but you don't really associate them with "The West"
3. Are we counting Australia and New Zealand?

Also Mefites don't always report ethnicity or location in their profiles, so trying to figure out where people are posting from could be tricky.

That said, I don't know if this project needs strong statistical analysis. We saw how diverse and rich #JulyByWomen made Mefi, and I think encouraging people to post things that weren't so US-centric would further develop that richness. I'm reminded of when I posted an obituary to Malaysian filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad and got a comment about being "suddenly devastated by the death of someone I had never even heard of until a half hour ago". I'd love to see more moments like this.

I'm partial to September since that's my birthday month, and also because it's soon enough that it won't be forgotten when it shows up, but I'm told that this could be difficult for parents. (Then again, given that many countries don't follow the September-start model for schools, this likely won't be as big a problem.) November is potentially out because of NaNoWriMo, so October got suggested as a possible month.

Suggestions for tags, parameters, etc all welcome!
posted by divabat to MetaFilter-Related at 11:09 PM (240 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

This sounds like an interesting idea, about the only thing I'm not totally keen on it is that the theme for the month might dictate the subject matter of posts. You mention encouraging more posts about things outside the US, but the great thing about the July By Women project was it just encouraged females to post more, didn't dictate or suggest what anyone post about, and it worked out great to just having more posts and voices by women, not necessarily about any specific subjects.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:23 PM on August 5, 2014 [13 favorites]


People are still free to post whatever. The thing that kept being brought up in Mefi posts about US-centrism is the content, so having part of the focus be about highlighting content that comes from outside the US is pretty important. Mefites from outside the US would be best placed to post about things outside the US, since they have more exposure to whatever is near them, but I didn't want it to be a situation of "Americans can't post about non-American things".
posted by divabat at 11:39 PM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I like this idea, I think we should aim for inclusive and not get bogged down in who/where/what, which could feel a bit exclusionary. Given the user proportions, I think "outside the US" is as narrow as it needs to be.
posted by smoke at 11:49 PM on August 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think you're missing what mathowie was getting at: July by Women was all about the posters, not the content. Anything a woman posted was (if she designated it so) "July by Women" content. But with the parameters you laid out, a post by a Ugandan or Namibian or Icelander about gerrymandering in Florida or the rising popularity of corndogs in Utah or the like would not count as a "Global Voices" post, right?

I'm not saying that's a good thing or a bad thing, just that the focus (on posters vs. on content matter) between the two projects is very different.
posted by Bugbread at 11:53 PM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


But with the parameters you laid out, a post by a Ugandan or Namibian or Icelander about gerrymandering in Florida or the rising popularity of corndogs in Utah or the like would not count as a "Global Voices" post, right?

I'd say it would, but I can see why that would be confusing. Hmm.
posted by divabat at 11:54 PM on August 5, 2014


Could you define 'the West'? I live in Western Europe, does that count as 'the West'?
Am I a Westerner living overseas? Overseas from what?
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:05 AM on August 6, 2014


The thing that kept being brought up in Mefi posts about US-centrism is the content

Also that any discussion about anything not about the US would immediately turn into how that thing is in the US.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:10 AM on August 6, 2014 [11 favorites]


Yeah. That second part is the really hard part. What makes MeFi feel US-centric isn't so much "all the posts are about the US" but "any post about another country is used as a springboard to discuss the situation in the US".
posted by Bugbread at 12:14 AM on August 6, 2014 [13 favorites]


I'm in the UK - so do I qualify as I'm outside the US, or not because I live within the white western norm? If I don't qualify that's ok, I think this is a good idea and it would make for an interesting front page to see posts from a wider range of voices.
posted by billiebee at 12:36 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Too-Ticky: The dark blue area is what I had in mind and is usually what comes to mind when I hear people say "the West".

billiebee: I'm not sure where POC voices in Western countries fit into this, hoping the Metatalk thread could help hash it out!
posted by divabat at 12:38 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


So I'm in the West then. But I'm not overseas. Y'all are.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:45 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Too-Ticky: I think "overseas" in this case means "not in a Western country" (not literally "over a sea"). So folks in America are not "overseas", nor are folks in the Netherlands. But an American living in Panama would be "overseas" (despite not having crossed anything wider than a canal) and a Dutch person living in Pakistan would be "overseas", despite perhaps not having crossed any body of water.

At least, I think that's how it's being used.
posted by Bugbread at 12:52 AM on August 6, 2014


Bugbread: I generally user "overseas" to mean "not in the country I am currently in", so in a way Too-Ticky is right - they're pointing out my overgeneralisation. Which just points to the difficulty of finding a non-negative to indicate "Not USA!".
posted by divabat at 12:58 AM on August 6, 2014


#RestOfTheWorld sounds good to me.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:26 AM on August 6, 2014


I'd go for non-Anglo-Saxon rather than non-Western.
posted by Segundus at 1:27 AM on August 6, 2014


That's right... I really think if you want to say 'outside of the USA', the best way to say it is by saying 'outside of the USA'.
I don't think there is another good way to say that. I also don't think there is anything wrong with saying it that way. It is, after all, about a negative. There's nothing negative about that!

"RestOfTheWorld" is inherently very much US-centric, but MetaFilter is US-centric, we can't really deny that. That's the whole point after all.
Maybe that's not such a bad term, I like the irony.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:29 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's just because my son has been in smart-alec mode for about six months now, and I spend every day arguing against his excessive literality, but how about just "TheWorld"?

Sure, the US is literally part of the world. But when we say "hold on a minute" people (other than my son) don't make a big deal about the wait not being an actual minute, and likewise "don't do anything" isn't interpreted to mean "stop breathing and existing", nor do people take "there's nothing in the box" to mean "the box is a perfect vacuum with no air in it", etc. etc. etc.

Ok, now I'm starting to think I'm venting about my son more than contributing to this idea. Sorry.
posted by Bugbread at 1:44 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think a few people hit the nail on the head here - the July by Women thing worked, in my opinion, because it was about "allowing" people who didn't normally post anything to post on any subject they felt was appropriate, in a safe and supportive atmosphere. I hope the spirit of that continues into August and beyond, because there were some fantastic posts during July.

As someone who lives in Britain, I don't think it's very helpful to lump us in as 'the West' when that term in the context of this thread appears to mean 'the same as the USA, with the same issues, the same culture and the same politics.' We're really not - there are more differences than there are similarities. But I also don't think there'd be a great deal of interest if I was to start posting about our small local and regional issues.

I have very little interest in the latest partisan US political fight, so I just don't click on the posts about those because it has no relevance to my life. What I would like to see is fewer posts about non-US stuff turning into posts about US politics as they compare to the subject of the post, but I don't know how you'd avoid that on a site where most of the membership is in the United States.

This idea's from a positive and well-meaning place, but I don't think it's the same as the July by Women thing - I would like to see MeFi become a more international community and less US-centric, but that's not going to happen while those of us outside the US are a tiny minority.
posted by winterhill at 1:51 AM on August 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


It's definitely not the same, but that doesn't mean it couldn't possibly turn out well and be interesting. Because it could. Or it could not. We can try, can't we?
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:08 AM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


but that's not going to happen while those of us outside the US are a tiny minority

If there was a way to actually figure out useful numbers for this I'd think we wouldn't be as tiny as we think we are.

And ditto what Too-Ticky said.
posted by divabat at 2:10 AM on August 6, 2014


#6point8billion ?
posted by superfish at 3:33 AM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


smoke: "I like this idea, I think we should aim for inclusive and not get bogged down in who/where/what, which could feel a bit exclusionary. Given the user proportions, I think "outside the US" is as narrow as it needs to be."

This is pretty much how I feel (regarding content, not the physical location of the user). I propose a tag like "BeyondUSA". I further propose that everyone (from within and outside the US) is welcome to post FPPs that deal with stuff that happens not-in-America. I would not bring ethnicity or skin color or any other metric into this. This way it could help everyone to become more aware of their own behavior on the site (posting and commenting habits being US-centric).

Pyrogenesis: "Also that any discussion about anything not about the US would immediately turn into how that thing is in the US."

This is a thing I notice as well, it is irritating and I will call it out going forward.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:57 AM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am sorry, but I do not see how the idea would work in the way #JulyByWomen did. I find the notion that the "rest of the world" should be lumped together indiscriminately for the sake of promoting diversity on a US website to be depressing. It feels like this will not so much facilitate participation by non-Westerners but rather function as a somewhat ostentatious display of the eclectic and cosmopolitan tastes of our Western overlords.
posted by dmh at 5:16 AM on August 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


1. Posts by Mefites that are outside the White Western norm, especially those outside the US

As a non-white Westerner, where do I fit in on this? Is anything I post outside the norm or only particular subjects. I can pass pretty easily, does that matter?

Could white westerners use the tag if they're posting about something that isn't the White Western norm?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:19 AM on August 6, 2014


Also, what if we did a month that didn't have any links about New York City and/or to the New York Times or magazine?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:20 AM on August 6, 2014 [16 favorites]


July By Women worked because it was simple: do you identify as a woman and you're posting to MeFi? Tag it.

If we do want to do a similar project to make the site less US-centric, I think we'd need to keep it simple as well. Here the easiest thing to do is probably not to do it by poster, because that's just asking for trouble, but by subject and to keep it easy, make it non-US topics to take part, possibly also non-UK.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:39 AM on August 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: Also, what if we did a month that didn't have any links about New York City and/or to the New York Times or magazine?

#NOvemberNY
posted by gman at 5:40 AM on August 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


If there was a way to actually figure out useful numbers for this I'd think we wouldn't be as tiny as we think we are.

Honestly I think this needs some clarification/refinement (which this discussion will hopefully help provide). What is the key problem? JulyByWomen had the clear problem statement of a consistent mismatch between site demographics and who was making FPPs, for example.

In this case is the problem the consistent conversion of all discussions to a US framework? A disproportionate lack of FPPs by the non-US membership? A disproportionate lack of non-US FPPs, including by US members? I don't want to belabor this; the point is that for at least myself the underlying problem is still a little fuzzy and the solution is going to vary depending on what is the exact problem.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:54 AM on August 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


Actually, the problem is the way you spelled "belabour".
posted by gman at 5:57 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Perhaps it would be less complicated if we divided it in two. "Global Voices" one month for posts by users outside the US (I wouldn't get into the complications of West/South/Whatever. Let people decide for themselves what "outside the US" means. Post from Puerto Rico? Sure! You consider "The People's Republic of Your Basement" to be outside the US? Whatever, I guess!) and then "Posters Of Color" another month. I agree that the best thing about JulyByWomen was that it was about the posters not the posts.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:57 AM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I agree that the best thing about JulyByWomen was that it was about the posters not the posts.

This is my feeling as well. There are a few generalized problems that are different

- lack of general diversity of posters
- lack of general diversity of posting topics
- lack of general diversity of posting discussion

While I sympathize that we wind up with a bunch of "Well this is why it matters to the US" or "How does this affect me in the US?" sorts of comments, I think it's going to be difficult to address this head on with a sort of theme month approach. People talk about what they know. People speak inside their own comfort zones in many cases. There may be ways to address this but maybe not in this way. However the first two options can handle small corrections or adjustments with being positive about doing a thing while not being negative about the thing people are already doing. The best part of JulybyWomen besides the obvious, for this crowd, was that there was no way to do it wrong. Everyone already posting could post. New people were encouraged to post in whatever way they felt like. Win win.

So, ways to frame this as getting something positive done would likely have the best results across the board here. I am aware there are people who do feel like some people are doing it wrong vis-a-vis MeFi but that's a larger and more knotty topic and maybe not the best issue to take up via this sort of response.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:05 AM on August 6, 2014 [16 favorites]


Yeah, trying to classify what is and is not the White Western Norm bogs everything. Call it #GlobalOutlook month or something and encourge people who don't usually post at all (or much) to post about global topics and call it a day.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:15 AM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


1. The thing about July by Women is that visible contributions by women were (are) very much not in proportion to their presence; not in Mefi membership nor in the world. I'm pretty sure this isn't so in the case of members not belonging to 'The West'. And I'm sure most Mefi members are in the States anyway.

2. There's a lot of ambivalence and compromise anyway about personal and group identity, more especially for people from complex, mixed origins. Trying to do the work, which would inevitably come up, of explaining the nuances of this over and over again, strikes me as hard and unpleasant and annoying, and not really something to be done in leisure time. It smacks of the equivalent of setting up a whole month of asking certain posters to volunteer-explain racism or feminism 101. No fun at all. Also, it would be happening against the background of a shifting and contested definition of who would get volunteered/volunteer themselves into it.

3. There's enough of a variety of posters that a sudden interjection of a differently informed point of view does happen fairly consistently. Not all the time, but some of the time. It is a great pleasure when it does, and truly enlightening. ChuraChura's take on the cocoa farmers' video is an example. I don't think stuff like that can be programmed (God knows there are enough times when I find the discussion here tends towards the extremely culturally determined, but ... it's not by force I'm on here. It's not like it's work, or we're all neighbours or anything. It's not like there aren't other things to do.)

4. IMO the idea as it stands can't be easily transferred from July by Women. The contexts are not equivalent at all. The obstructions to participation are also different. The numbers of people on Mefi not part of 'The West' are nowhere near half. Being not part of 'The West' while still being enough a part of it to post on here is in no way an uncomplicated or easily defined thing. Just thinking of ways to design criteria around that is giving me hackles and making me think about tokenism.

Now that very well may be simply my own conceptual weakness, but I think foregrounding non-Western voices on here - which I am very much in favour of - needs a different approach than a version of July by Women. It needs more sophisticated thinking. Like, I don't know, having a month where people can submit ideas for games or quizzes that force players into a new point of view or a new set of references. It could go in Projects. /top of head

Thank you divabat for opening the discussion.
posted by glasseyes at 6:18 AM on August 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


While it may be true that non-US participation on MetaFilter is proportional, that still means that this is a US-centric site. As such, it's less welcoming to non-US posters than it could be.

This is limiting, and makes the site less varied and less great than it could be, and I believe that it would be a positive for everyone who participates in the site to change that.
A less US-centric site would, in my view, lead to more influx of non-US posters and non-US subjects, and that would make the site more interesting for all of us.

I'm not sure what the right method to do this would be, but if we are asking 'what is the problem that we're trying to solve here?' (which I consider to be a very good question) then this is my answer.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:38 AM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I thought the whole point was to provide encouragement to people who otherwise might not have made posts about topics they care about. This is just speculation, but I wonder how much of a language barrier exists for some users who would otherwise be posting more often. Can anyone admit to this being a problem for them?

I don't really have a solution for that besides volunteer FPP translators or something.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 7:01 AM on August 6, 2014


I don't see why you think an English-language US centric site is such a problem? Logistically it's bound to have most users from the US. And possibly the rest of the world doesn't want to come on Metafilter and widen everybody's perspectives.

Also, I used to work in widening access (education, tech) and successful schemes tend to start by asking the targeted user group what they want to see, and being very open to hearing the various answers. So, yay! this Meta, I guess.

Not trying to be snarky, just trying to be analytic. Is the problem Mefi members want to be exposed to more global voices? Or is the problem Mefi members who aren't part of the Western hegemony want to be more visible on the site, or more respected, or be better understood as being grounded in a different set of assumptions than the average (whatever that is) member? Or are some members expressing support for the latter through the former?

How could the site be less US-centric, given who it's owned by, where it's hosted and who the membership consists of? I suppose there's a number of initiatives one could look at that take place in organisations that make links across borders. Guest writers, posting residencies, twinning, stuff like that. Inviting writers from other sites to make a monthly post? Like say, photographer George Oshodi, previously featured on the blue, being invited to make a post at some time.

Art and education outreach does this sort of thing all the time - perhaps members with experience of this sort of work might consider ways to adapt such practices? It would take admin, and might not be possible, and might take money that isn't there, but maybe it's a way to start thinking of possibilities.
posted by glasseyes at 7:25 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


One way would be to encourage posts that are not in English.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:28 AM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


1. Posts by Mefites that are outside the White Western norm, especially those outside the US
2. Posts about people, places, and so on that take place outside the West


I'm currently working on an obit post for Hawaiian actor James Shigeta.

Most of his obits have identified him as the CEO of Nakatomi corporation in the original Die Hard movie, who gets shot in the head by Alan Rickman. And perhaps that's how a generation of moviegoers are aware of him. But 50 years ago he was one of the last products of the studio star system, and one of, if not the first Asian romantic leading man in Hollywood. During the post-WWII era.

I'd like to say he helped change the way Asians were depicted in American movies. No longer as the butt of jokes or mustache-twirling villains, but as suave, self-confident men who could save the day and get the girl. I'd like to say that Shigeta proved once and for all that an Asian-American guy could carry a leading (non-villainous) role and achieve success at the box office.

But I can't, because 50 years later, the number of Asian / Asian-American men that are routinely cast as romantic leads in mainstream Hollywood movies can probably be counted on your fingers. So much for progress.

I would like to see the initiative proposed by divabat happen. Don't really care what tag it uses or what form it ultimately takes. If it allows non-Western members to be better represented on the site through increased participation and raised awareness, then great.
posted by zarq at 7:39 AM on August 6, 2014 [14 favorites]


Ok, what if there was a member vote based on the previous month's FPPs, to invite a person featured in a post, or a member who made a memorable contribution to the discussion (like the people who get featured in the sidebar, like ChuraChura or aubilenon or MissySedai) to make a featured post themselves, once a month, on the specified topic? And the specified topic to begin with, would be what members have identified as a concern, in this case, NotUSA?

People could vote for their favourite thing that fell into that category, and there would be one post a month as a result of the voting. And there could be 3 or 6 months where the category was NotUSA or something. And members could choose what the next topic would be...like if members voted one month to revisit July by Women and either someone featured in JbW post or someone who made a great contribution in the discussion was asked to make a new post on the topic.

Going by tags maybe. I dunno, did that make any sense? Sounds a bit like homework though, for whoever might get asked.
posted by glasseyes at 7:44 AM on August 6, 2014


zarq, sort of relatedly, steven yeun, the guy who plays glenn rhee on the walking dead, is starting a film project/consortium/thing to help young asian actors get more visibility and roles and whatnot.
posted by elizardbits at 7:45 AM on August 6, 2014 [10 favorites]


Nice!

Unfortunate he has to do it, but nevertheless it's good to see.
posted by zarq at 7:57 AM on August 6, 2014


If it allows non-Western members to be better represented on the site through increased participation and raised awareness, then great.

This is the bit I don't think transfers easily from JbW. I presume the obit post is for Metafilter? If so, how would the initiative under consideration make a difference to the post?

NotUSA would be an inaccurate tag for it as well. - not that a tag's been fixed on, I know.
posted by glasseyes at 7:59 AM on August 6, 2014


There were some objections to #julybywomen, along the lines of - will it really make mefi more diverse? how do we know the poster is really a woman, etc.? But the end result was a big increase in quality and diversity of posts. I think this could work the same way.

The tag could be as simple as #NotAmerican. Brazilian in the US on a student visa? American expat living in Brazil? Sure I think those would qualify. American posting about an American issue? Probably not an appropriate use of the tag. These particulars didn't bog down #julybywomen and they shouldn't bog down this effort either. It's a good idea.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 8:01 AM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm not really commenting on the goal of this project, but this:

Ok, what if there was a member vote based on the previous month's FPPs, to invite a person featured in a post, or a member who made a memorable contribution to the discussion (like the people who get featured in the sidebar, like ChuraChura or aubilenon or MissySedai) to make a featured post themselves, once a month, on the specified topic? And the specified topic to begin with, would be what members have identified as a concern, in this case, NotUSA?

Is totally beyond the function and ethos of MeFi, at least to me.
posted by Think_Long at 8:06 AM on August 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


The discussion would be more convincing if the people who ostensibly need to be prodded towards making more Mefi contributions were actually present in the room. If this must happen then something specific and topical like #AsianMovies or #LatinLiterature would seem least presumptuous.
posted by dmh at 8:09 AM on August 6, 2014


This is the bit I don't think transfers easily from JbW. I presume the obit post is for Metafilter? If so, how would the initiative under consideration make a difference to the post?

It wouldn't. I'm a white New Yorker. The post is about an Asian American. It would not qualify for the tag. The point I was making wasn't about that.
posted by zarq at 8:11 AM on August 6, 2014


The tag could be as simple as #NotAmerican. Brazilian in the US on a student visa? American expat living in Brazil? Sure I think those would qualify. American posting about an American issue? Probably not an appropriate use of the tag.

There are regular posters who are different ethnicities of American and often post about the nuance of their cultural experiences here (which adds greatly to the site's diversity) and those posts would not sit under a NotAmerican tag
posted by glasseyes at 8:12 AM on August 6, 2014


> The tag could be as simple as #NotAmerican. In the US on a student visa? American expat living in Brazil? Sure I think those would qualify. American posting about an American issue? Probably not an appropriate use of the tag. These particulars didn't bog down #julybywomen and they shouldn't bog down this effort either. It's a good idea.

I think it's up to the poster to decide whether their use of whatever tag is decided upon is appropriate. For example, in the case of July by Women, it didn't matter whether the poster was a cisgender woman, a trans woman, someone who identified themselves as off the gender binary but leaning towards the feminine side, whatever - it's up to the poster. The same goes here - if you feel that it's appropriate to use the tag, use it.
posted by winterhill at 8:13 AM on August 6, 2014


It's a mistake to get caught in up comparing this proposal with #JulyByWomen. I totally understand why divabat is working from the template of #JulyByWomen's success, but that she has done so doesn't mean that this proposal is dependent upon whether that's a good comparison. Whether it is or is not, there's a lot of merit in the idea of a focused and organized community effort to showcase non-US posts.

As for "non-US" versus "non-western", I'm quite ambivalent about that. I mean, honestly, I'm really torn. One part of me is thinking that the US-centrism is the biggest problem that is most amenable to improvement, while another part of me recoils from all that's implicit in saying "lots more Canadian and European posts and we'll call it a day". Isn't the latter how it always goes?

Even so, I guess I just feel that while, yes, mefites are mostly American, it's obviously the case that there are more Europeans and generally non-US anglophones from around the world here than most elsewhere on the general purpose US-centric web and we really ought to be, on the basis of numbers alone, hearing more from (and about) them than we have been. I think proportionally there's far fewer non-westerners and so issues of within-community representation are not as strong ... even though, as a general social issue, the absence of non-western voices and issues is as much a concern here as it is elsewhere in western media.

Hmm. Maybe what I'd propose is that it be nominally "non-US" but there be implicit emphasis on "non-western". The former would be great, but the latter would be even better.

"One way would be to encourage posts that are not in English."

This has been discussed numerous times in the past and IIRC there's been mod concern expressed primarily about mod accessibility for the purposes of the necessary moderation. There's also been some concern expressed by mods about community accessibility. I think the former is very much a valid concern, but I disagree with the latter. If possible, ideally, I think the site would greatly benefit by having posts in languages other than English. It would be a powerful signal.

"I don't see why you think an English-language US centric site is such a problem? Logistically it's bound to have most users from the US. And possibly the rest of the world doesn't want to come on Metafilter and widen everybody's perspectives."

There are (relatively) quite a few non-Americans here. In threads like this one, I get the impression that a lot of people don't realize just how many of their fellow mefites aren't American. I'm always interested in where people are from and where they live, so I look at profiles for the information and I pretty much always remember it when it comes up in discussions.

For example, having been formerly married to a Canadian, I still have a little bit of interest in Canadian topics and so I often read (and occasionally) participate in Canada-centric threads and there are always people in those threads who otherwise don't post that often or who otherwise don't talk about being Canadian. There's really quite a few non-American anglophones here and while they and their interests aren't invisible, it's still not proportional. As is the case with Canadians. I think Americans don't realize just how real American hegemony is and how much non-Americans end up just accepting it as business-as-usual. I think a lot of our non-American anglophones don't consider posting about their non-American interests because they mostly accept that MeFi is a US-centric community, like most of the rest of the web.

But the thing is, the US is huge and diverse, there's 300 million people here spread across nearly an entire continent. If I post about something particular to my own home of New Mexico, that's not much less remote, if it's less remote at all, to most other Americans than would a be a post about Northern Ireland from billiebee. But the former is much more likely than the latter. Part of this is because, as I've noticed in the Canadian threads, the Americans here (like everywhere) are very uninterested in the rest of the world and so they don't even pay attention at all. They'll read threads about, say, New Mexico even if, as I point out, most have as little connection to or awareness of New Mexico as they do Canada.

There's something aggressive about this; I've noticed it my entire life. But I think it's the kind of problem that the kinds of Americans that make up the MetaFilter community are mostly just oblivious to, unreflective about, and would be happy to improve in this respect were they more aware of it. As has been the case with some other things. You start to change things by getting people to see and think about the problem and I think this proposal would be a great step in doing that.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:14 AM on August 6, 2014 [10 favorites]


Ok then zarq, but then I don't see why it's relevant? What point were you making by mentioning it in this context?
posted by glasseyes at 8:14 AM on August 6, 2014


As an ethnic minority immigrant/refugee from a country that is picked-and-chosen when it is culturally and politically considered the West and when it isn't (and geographically spanning the continent of Asia) and, at the same time, as a almost totally acculturated American citizen who, in many ways, is just another white dude, I will be glad to just keep doing exactly what I've been doing.
posted by griphus at 8:23 AM on August 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


"Continents of Europe and Asia," I mean.
posted by griphus at 8:25 AM on August 6, 2014


I think Americans don't realize just how real American hegemony is and how much non-Americans end up just accepting it as business-as-usual. I think a lot of our non-American anglophones don't consider posting about their non-American interests because they mostly accept that MeFi is a US-centric community, like most of the rest of the web.

This is certainly my attitude, after getting quite aggressive pushback in my early days on metafilter. I think also there is quite a strong resistance to unfamiliar tone among Americans, and sometimes a failure to understand there are different cultural norms when it comes to expressing value judgements in the English-speaking world.

Ivan, with the phrase you quoted from me above I'm presuming you know (if you look up profiles) that I'm not American nor British nor white. And if the reason there should be more diversity in postings is because it would be good for Metafilter, that's one thing, but why should 'we the diverse' give a stuff for that?

I'm not nay-saying. I think it's a very unclear proposition and needs a lot of discussion.
posted by glasseyes at 8:37 AM on August 6, 2014


#JulyByWomen was good (inclusive)

#JulyNotMen would have been bad (exclusive)

#Non--- or #Not--- will just make people fighty.

Encouraging more global perspectives is good. #PostMoarGlobal

Defining what's global - what's in or out - will just make people fighty. That fight cannot be won.
posted by sidereal at 8:39 AM on August 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


Just to emphasize I think it's well worth discussing though.
posted by glasseyes at 8:41 AM on August 6, 2014


One thing surprised and delighted me in #JulyByWomen, and afaik from the deleted posts log held true, was that no-one trolled the tag - male posters using it to protest the project or anyone using it for a post about how awesome MRA is etc. Quite a few women used it on a single post in support, and then skipped it for their regular posts.

I think the community culture at metafilter is strong and credible enough that a broadly agreed tag like #MoreGlobal or #OutsideOctober would be applied in the spirit of the project without having to apply guidelines - people will do it themselves.

(I like #GlobalVoices but it's a well-known citizen news site.)
posted by viggorlijah at 8:49 AM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think it's up to the poster to decide whether their use of whatever tag is decided upon is appropriate.

Yeah, that was the whole point of my comment. That's why I said "These particulars didn't bog down #julybywomen and they shouldn't bog down this effort either." I wasn't laying down rules, I couldn't even if I so desired.

good point about not/non language. #postmoarglobal, is surely a better tag idea than mine.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 8:55 AM on August 6, 2014


"And if the reason there should be more diversity in postings is because it would be good for Metafilter, that's one thing, but why should 'we the diverse' give a stuff for that?"

You're part of the community, of course. Why did you attempt to post non-US stuff to MeFi early on unless you had the quite natural and justified expectation that you and your interests are just as valuable and interesting as anyone else's?

My sense from this and your other comment is that you bristle at the notion that you have some responsibility or something. Which you don't! I really dislike it when, in the interests of inclusion, people are herded into groups and then individually seen as representative of those groups. As a disabled person, I think disabled voices and issues should be more represented on the site, but I would bristle at the idea that I, as an individual disabled person, have some sort of responsibility to further this. So if that's where you're coming from, I agree and empathize.

But I do think that disabled perspectives should be more represented on the site and that a community effort to encourage this would be a good thing. It doesn't have to be paternalistic, or othering, or otherwise condescending, though. It damn well better not be. Just so in this case of proposing to encourage non-American posts.

It's pretty easy for well-intended people to end up being condescending about this sort of thing. And, sadly, it's very often the case that people don't have good motivations. So being sensitive to condescension and bad motivations is entirely reasonable. Again, thinking in terms of being disabled, with any given person who tries to be helpful, there's a too-large probability that they'll smarmily reinforce the idea that they think there's something wrong with you, or it'll be clear that it's all about them, about their self-esteem and self-image as a "generous" person. But those people shouldn't end up making it impossible for the other people to just be good, decent people.

As we always say, the perfect shouldn't be the enemy of the good. There are various problems and sensitivities related to the idea of promoting more non-American posts and it's important to recognize those as valid. But that we can't eliminate or avoid them entirely doesn't mean that we can't accomplish considerable improvement, anyway.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:14 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


#PostMoarGlobal

I like this approach. It's available to and accessible to anyone who wants to use it. Other posts are not discouraged. More "good" stuff (as you define good in this instance) will increase the ratio of good-to-notgood without having to have some sort of negative implication for the other stuff.

You guys know me and know I am not a "hey you're all winners!" person about this stuff but I think people need to be realistic about the optimal way to do this given this community that doesn't involve telling people not to be themselves. Better versions of themselves, sure, but that's a different request. I post on a wide variety of topics. A #postmoarglobal tag would encourage me to be more thoughtful about looking at more non-Western topics. A #non-US thing would not. I'm aware that I personally am not the focus of this so it doesn't matter especially what I think. There is also an argument to be made that taking some care to try to generally encourage people is likely to have better outcomes for the site as it is.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:24 AM on August 6, 2014 [17 favorites]


I think that at MeFi, in practice, #MoreGlobal is synonymous with #NotUSA but, as you say, the optics of it are very different. I'm totally in agreement that phrasing it positively rather than negatively would be more productive and wouldn't undermine the intent.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:30 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like this idea very much. It's already inspiring me to try to make a post about a region of the world I don't know much about. Thank you, divabat!
posted by Kattullus at 9:34 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


FPP posting should be restricted by Time Zone. MeFites in each time zone have a 1-hour window every day when they can post. After that its the next time zone's turn, until all 24 have had a chance. That's fair.

That leaves 13 hours a day without posts from the US.

Commenting allowed any time.
posted by Kabanos at 9:45 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is pretty much how I feel (regarding content, not the physical location of the user). I propose a tag like "BeyondUSA".

That's exactly the tag I was going to propose too; I think it's fine that MeFi not try to replicate the July by Women experiment exactly and instead take on a different sort of challenge (topical, not demographic). Plus I am like years overdue for a post about Silvio Rodriguez.
posted by psoas at 9:55 AM on August 6, 2014


To Ivan -
I think you have put your finger on something in a really insightful way. Two things, in fact! Three things! Er...

One of which is: in the interests of inclusion, people are herded into groups This also obscures the way some people occupy many categories, which is a complete blind spot for some others. Categories aren't simple. Global and local are mixed up with each other and seeing them as simple opposites is inaccurate and misleading. IMO.

And I feel I've been posting reactively and should shut up for a bit.

PostMoarGlobal is a good tag, and what viggorlijah said about good faith in the community is also true.



Why did you attempt to post non-US stuff to MeFi? No, no, commenting on American matters with European sensibility - hackles raised.
posted by glasseyes at 9:57 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


hey you're all winners
posted by shakespeherian at 10:00 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


#PostMoarGlobal +++ would read again.
posted by adamvasco at 10:03 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


All of us here at the Postmo Arglobal Corporation really appreciate your engagement with our brand.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:14 AM on August 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


Hey, you're all sinners.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:18 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


hey you're all winners
Hey, you're all sinners.


The American psyche summarized.
posted by spaltavian at 10:27 AM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


#PostMoarGlobal +++ would read again.

Me, too. "Non West/Non US" makes me uncomfortable partly because I feel like I don't think the general Metafilter attitude about "non Western culture" as it is arbitrarily defined in the heads of a lot of Metafilter members is a good one.

Like the AskMe about a single woman hanging out with a married man got a breathless "are you from a non Western World culture?" as if gossip about a single woman "stealing" a married man couldn't happen in the US - that's just one example.

It just seems very "you know, like THOSE people" and I start to associate "non Western" on this site with that attitude and wouldn't like a tag that might churn up that reaction - even though I understand this is designed to combat those attitudes to some degree at least.
posted by sweetkid at 10:30 AM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


But they're so exotic.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:34 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


the man of twists and turns: "One way would be to encourage posts that are not in English."

Oh man. Oh Man. Yes please. Very yes.

entschuldigung: sehr ja.

... Polyglottal Ploctober?
posted by boo_radley at 10:35 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Posting and commenting in languages that the moderation staff doesn't read would require a lot of trust in the flagging system, wouldn't it?
posted by Secretariat at 10:45 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah: fairly intensive moderation is kind of at the heart of what this site is, and I think that means that posting here has to be in English. Until there's a lot more money to hire moderators, I don't think that there can be round-the-clock coverage in other languages. And there will never be round-the-clock coverage in every language, because that would require a massive mod staff that just isn't feasible or maybe even desirable.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:58 AM on August 6, 2014


And the somewhat annoying thing, is the people of use this to take advantage of front page posting in foreign languages in the past to make axe-grindy posts that wouldn't normally be allowed. I don't think it's a bad idea, but would have to be approached with caution.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:58 AM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


From a purely selfish point of view, I want to be able to read all the posts, because I want to know what's going on- but I also think it would be keen for the site to have more non-western content. And an axe-grindy post is presumably only effective if someone else can read it- and if they can, I'd like to think it would get flagged? Maybe?

I would like to hear views from outside of my little western bubble, though. I wonder, would those who would make non-english posts be willing to also include a translation?
posted by Secretariat at 11:26 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I know it is an accepted thing, and certainly understandable given certain isolationist political stances, that Americans in general don't care about the rest of the world. Personally, though, I very much do care and want to learn about people whose lives experiences are different from mine.

Non-English posts with English translations would be awesome! Very time-consuming, though, I imagine, and asking a lot from our members to provide the dual language support.

Still, as someone who, I swear, took as many years of foreign languages as I could within the educational system where I live and yet still does not count herself as fluent in--well, any of them, really--such an effort would be incredibly appreciated.
posted by misha at 11:40 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Make pb incorporate some JavaScript Google translate wizardry into the front page.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:43 AM on August 6, 2014


I mean, that's what pb is for, right? Implementing every half-formed thought I have while procrastinating at work?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:44 AM on August 6, 2014 [13 favorites]


One way would be to encourage posts that are not in English.

Ach, ik kan wel in een andere taal gaan posten, maar ik kan uberhaupt maar 1 woord Duits.

#PostMoarGlobal

Like. Open to anybody who wants to post on global issues, flexible enough that like #julybywomen there's room for a broad scala of interests. A bit vague at the edges, but as others have set, we have plenty of people of good will here and few true jackasses who'd abuse a tag like this.

So yeah, if we could set up something like this in September, I'd been keen.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:46 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


zarq: I'm currently working on an obit post for Hawaiian actor James Shigeta.

Keen. He was interviewed in the just so-so documentary The Slanted Screen. (So-so in that it has a good coverage of the history of Asian American men in Hollywood films, but it's very focused on men, and the production quality is low - even harder, my wife and I watched it after Reel Injun, which was a really good documentary).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:52 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian: "I mean, that's what pb is for, right? Implementing every half-formed thought I have while procrastinating at work?"

I for one always assumed it stood for Procrastination Butler.
posted by mannequito at 11:53 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian: Make pb incorporate some JavaScript Google translate wizardry into the front page.

Or just insist that people browse the site in Chrome, which has a native translation feature/option.

[This post best read in Chrome]
posted by filthy light thief at 11:53 AM on August 6, 2014


PostMoarGlobal

I dig the tag, but should we start another meta about moar vs more? I can hear the twitching already. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:59 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


> I for one always assumed it stood for Procrastination Butler.

Or Peppermint Butler?
posted by Secretariat at 11:59 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I dig the tag, but should we start another meta about moar vs more? I can hear the twitching already. ;)

#PostLussMetas
posted by griphus at 12:04 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Count me in for #PostMoarGlobal in September. I don't post a lot, but 12/36 have been non-US/UK in focus, including one candidate for most absurdly global / linguistically-diverse. That was doubtless super hard to consume for obvious reasons (not most important but probably not least, the lack of a simplifying explanatory frame to reduce what all's going on). But my experience has been that non-US-centric posts actually do well here.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:05 PM on August 6, 2014


I dig the tag, but should we start another meta about moar vs more?

#PostMoarGlobal is cuter tho
posted by sweetkid at 12:28 PM on August 6, 2014


#LussVsFiwer
posted by shakespeherian at 12:40 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was going to suggest we write "more" above one door, "moar" above another, and have everybody vote by walking through the doorway that represents their preference, but then I remembered that one does not simply walk into Moar Door.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:43 PM on August 6, 2014 [80 favorites]


Dammit, Cortex. :P
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:11 PM on August 6, 2014


So it's legal to kill cortex now, right? I mean, he doesn't get to do that...and live, does he?
posted by cjorgensen at 1:25 PM on August 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


What point were you making by mentioning it in this context?

Western attitudes towards people and things we view as non-Westerner are filled with ingrained cultural biases. This is one of the reasons why threads of posts on non-Western topics become derailed.

A campaign to increase posts to the front page by non-Westerners and on non-Western topics could increase everyone's familiarity and raise awareness. I think that's a good thing.
posted by zarq at 1:41 PM on August 6, 2014


cortex: history's greatest monster.
posted by Errant at 1:42 PM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


*headdesk*

That's a paddlin', cortex.
posted by zarq at 1:42 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it's fine that MeFi not try to replicate the July by Women experiment exactly and instead take on a different sort of challenge (topical, not demographic).

Wait, just to double check -- the #postmoarglobal tag would be for posts with [XYZ] content, not by posters who identify as [ABC]?

And also, if the tag is appropriate for posts with [XYZ] content regardless of how the poster identifies, what *is* the kind of content that you're looking for?

I guess I feel kind of weird putting a #postmoarglobal tag on a post just because the links are written by or about people who aren't American, since that seems sort of exoticizing? If a post is about a subject or event that's specific to a certain country/region/culture, then the post can really be said to be about someTHING outside of the US and not immediately applicable to the US. But if the post is about an idea or a person or a group of people then it's about someONE(s) outside of the US and I feel weird labeling people as "global" (because that still seems to position the US/Americans as "normal" and everyone else as "exotic"). I didn't feel strange putting a #julybywomen tag on my (single, solitary -- sorry, guys) post that I made to support that initiative, because the tag seemed to be a reference to how *I* identified and that *I* supported that initiative. But I feel strange speaking for the writers or subjects of the articles within the post using an identity label in the same way.

I think the idea of having a less parochial outlook/culture on the site is a good one! And this specific initiative fundamentally seems like a good idea to me, too. I'm just wondering if the setup of #postmoarglobal, as it's being discussed now, is still too reliant on exoticizing perspectives and people, and is therefore going to be inadvertently reinforcing US-centrism? I'm wondering if there's a way to give it more of a focus?

The #julybywomen tag actually had very bright-line parameters (though it didn't have any gatekeepers to make sure nobody breached those parameters -- though it sounds like nobody did breach them anyway): 1. you could use it if you identified as a woman, and 2. you supported the idea of #julybywomen. I think it would be good if #postmoarglobal had similar bright-line parameters, and I personally am slightly uncomfortable with the idea of those parameters being based on how you (the person curating the post) thinks the writer or [human] subjects of the post identify? I think the former is more of a practical problem and the latter more of a theoretical problem, but I personally think that they're both problems that it would be good to get sussed out before a #postmoarglobal rollout. Though I completely support an eventual/September rollout, and will try to make at least one applicable post myself.
posted by rue72 at 1:46 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess that, while I totally understand that objection, I think it might be worth risking it in order to address the pretty glaring imbalances in post topics. We're already positioning the US as normal and everything else as exotic, just by virtue of what gets posted about and discussed. The tag would be acknowledging that, rather than creating the situation.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:53 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was going to suggest we write "more" above one door, "moar" above another, and have everybody vote by walking through the doorway that represents their preference, but then I remembered that one does not simply walk into Moar Door.

Soon as I saw those first two phrases, I thought to myself, "I can totally do a "Lady or the Tiger' pun here!"

Then I reached the end of the sentence.

I would say, "Well played, cortex!" but I am not in the hobbit of rewarding jokes with such a precious ring to them.

But really: "Well played, cortex!"
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:54 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's a paddlin', cortex.

Wait, is it a capital crime or a corporal crime?
posted by cjorgensen at 1:55 PM on August 6, 2014


I guess I feel kind of weird putting a #postmoarglobal tag on a post just because the links are written by or about people who aren't American, since that seems sort of exoticizing? If a post is about a subject or event that's specific to a certain country/region/culture, then the post can really be said to be about someTHING outside of the US and not immediately applicable to the US. But if the post is about an idea or a person or a group of people then it's about someONE(s) outside of the US and I feel weird labeling people as "global" (because that still seems to position the US/Americans as "normal" and everyone else as "exotic").

It's not wrong to mention the US in a non-US-centric context, so straight up othering is far from the characterization I hear in the word global. What I hear in it is a re-situation of perspective that takes global cultural flow as the norm, and as examples, I think it would be fair to call out many immigration-related or bi-cultural experiences as arising in a global scope, even if part of the story takes place in the US.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:03 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wait, is it a capital crime or a corporal crime?

Depends on how hard we hit 'im.
posted by zarq at 2:28 PM on August 6, 2014


I'm not sure another tag is the right solution to this problem. The #Julybywomen was about women not posting as much as men, in problematic proportions. This is about wanting to see more global (more non-anglophone-country, I think, more specifically) content on the front page and better discussions within them.

I would suggest that the glassboard part of the project might be more helpful than the tag part of the project, so that people have a place to kick around half-formed ideas for posts and get help framing them so that they'll have a positive response.

One way I've noticed that posts about non-anglophone current events can land with a thud is when they don't provide sufficient framing for mono-anglophone members. If I make a joke about Richard Nixon, or Margaret Thatcher, or Stephen Harper, in framing my American(UK/Canadian)-politics FPP, I can be pretty sure most readers will know what I'm referencing. But if I did the same thing with similarly-statured French-language politicians, recognition would fall considerably. I think because this is an English-speaking site, with I would guess a majority of monolingual English-speakers, with an American cultural slant and all that that entails, a post about events outside the English-speaking world is going to have to be BETTER than one about English-speaking events.

These "global" posts get more engagement and better conversations, I think, when they're framed as "here is a cool thing, and here is some explanation and context to help you understand why it's so cool!" or "Here is an important event, with some context to help you understand why the event is important and what outcomes are desirable and what interests are in play."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:42 PM on August 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


It occurs to me that I never clarified: divabat, I think you have a good idea, and I think everyone would benefit if MetaFilter had moadditional FPPs that were less US-centric. Additional. The tag angle may be a good way to raise awareness and spur positive change, or it may not. Either way, it's a good idea in itself.

Sometimes when I read MetaFilter I wonder how my non-US friends feel about the unintentional alienation. Likely they think, "Well, it's a US site, so no surprise there", as I might if I hung out on a metablog on Der Spiegel, but still. It would be easy to be better.

The only drawback I can think of regarding the tag approach, other than a guaranteed long tail of tag grammar nitpickers, is the precedent it sets: what's the next month's tag gonna be?

I'm pretty confident that it would become a perennial bone to fight over. People will line up for it. I don't mean to say that that's bad; a scenario wherein people present a candidate tag and argue its merits in reasonable debate could be very rewarding and enlightening for everyone. I can totally see that. But, like just about everything worthwhile, it will probably mean more work on the part of all of us.

If that's the way it goes, I'm game.
posted by sidereal at 2:50 PM on August 6, 2014


Some people brought up asking the target market about this. Well, I am the target market (an Asian international student currently floating between countries) and it would be great to be able to share and exchange things that arei mportant, interesting, nifty, etc to everyone else on Metafilter even if it's outisde the US.

I like the idea of keeping it to content, since personal identity gets complicated. I can see why the tag might be seen as exotifying, but as others point out, Mefi is already US-centric, this is just acknowledging the fact. Hopefully after a month of concentrated effort there'd be a lot more regular content from all over the place that helps neutralise Mefi's US-centrism.

I did want to also encourage posters from outside the US. hence the original thought about "if you identify this way then tag it", but after reading this thread I figure that that aspect will largely resolve itself: people from outside the US would feel more confident and welcome to post about things that they know.

As for "non-US" versus "non-western", I'm quite ambivalent about that. I mean, honestly, I'm really torn. One part of me is thinking that the US-centrism is the biggest problem that is most amenable to improvement, while another part of me recoils from all that's implicit in saying "lots more Canadian and European posts and we'll call it a day". Isn't the latter how it always goes?
[...]
Hmm. Maybe what I'd propose is that it be nominally "non-US" but there be implicit emphasis on "non-western". The former would be great, but the latter would be even better.


THIS is what I was grappling with with figuring out whether to just make this Outside USA or include countries culturally similar.

As mentioned way upthread, I don't want negative language in the tag for many of the same reasons you bring up (plus the fact that I distaste being identified in the negative - "not X"). #PostMoarGlobal or #BeyondUSA seem to be popular. I like #PostMoarGlobal but it's kinda cutesy, maybe #BeyondUSA would be better?
posted by divabat at 3:09 PM on August 6, 2014


I don't want negative language in the tag

Then I think you need to just "open it up" and not figure out what you don't want and start tossing up barriers.

I understand that you have very real and valid objections to MetaFilter being US-centric and I don't mean to downplay them. I think that's going to be a separate issue from "How do we get more points of view from around the world?" which is I think your goal here.

Again, the majority of the posters to this site are from the US and UK. And there is nothing wrong with that on its face, but it would be, many (including me) think, an improvement to have a wider variety of topics and a wider variety of viewpoints and voices here.

Having more posts on a variety of topics is a terrific idea and one that I think will get a lot of positive attention. Saying things or phrasing it like there is something wrong with people from the US who post about the things that interest them is going to be more of an uphill battle. I think the more the approach is "Post more about this" and not "Post less about this" it's going to be a successful approach.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:30 PM on August 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


If the goal is to engage people from around the world, than maybe using a piece of Anglophone-Internet slang like "moar" in the tag isn't a great idea? I mean, for a non-fluent English learner, I imagine that parsing out a hashtag where none of the words are spaced or capitalized is tough enough without throwing in a kind of linguistic inside joke that requires shared cultural context too.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:13 PM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]



Non us people: let's not get into any fighty barrier raising but choose instead to be kind here and envision ourselves as immigrant workers in a virtual care home for the terminally American.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:41 PM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


#USNay!USNay!USNay!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:14 PM on August 6, 2014


I've mentioned this before, but my preference for this would be that it isn't framed as tisk-tisking Americans (I would rather not use the term "Westerner," as it has been mentioned before that it's many times used to mean "white person who lives in the west").

Hopefully after a month of concentrated effort there'd be a lot more regular content from all over the place that helps neutralize Mefi's US-centrism.

I generally don't think that it's strange or unnatural for people to be interested in things that are familiar to them, or that affect them directly, so I really don't like the idea of framing US-centred posts as something that needs to be neutralized.* I personally would respond better to a theme month that wasn't framed as "you Americans need to be less self centred start paying more attention to the rest of the world." Not because it isn't true, but because it would feel too much like saying "do more of this instead of that, for your own good," and I don't feel like it's wise to promote that type of agenda on MeFi.

I think that having a #BeyondUSA month to encourage diversity in addition to the current content would be a good idea, but having a #BeyondUSA month as a way to neutralize the amount of US content on a site that has a large US membership? That I can't get behind.

*By neutralize, I'm assuming that you mean it's common definition: "render (something) ineffective or harmless by applying an opposite force or effect." Please feel free to disregard my post if that's not how the word was meant to be used.
posted by Shouraku at 5:22 PM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm just curious how many non-Westerners MeFi actually has. I can think of a lot of members who live in non-Western countries, but with only a very few exceptions, they're all Western expats.
posted by Bugbread at 5:25 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


HMCT: Cats like to knock stuff down.
posted by misha at 5:34 PM on August 6, 2014


By "neutralize" I mean "even out the type of topics on the Blue", not "eradicate US content entirely".
posted by divabat at 5:54 PM on August 6, 2014


Mefi is generally about people posting things that they find interesting. As long as this doesn’t turn into "this is what we think that you need to find interesting," then I am all for #BeyondUSA month.
posted by Shouraku at 6:19 PM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


More positive tag ideas:
Globetrotters
GlobalMeFi
MeFiGoesGlobal
AroundTheWorld
WorldTour
FreeYourGlobe
PassportMeFi
TodayTheWorld (a play on "today MeFi, tomorrow the world")
Globember (that sounds kind of silly)
YouMayFindYourself (too obscure)
posted by medusa at 7:56 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sometimes when I read MetaFilter I wonder how my non-US friends feel about the unintentional alienation. Likely they think, "Well, it's a US site, so no surprise there", as I might if I hung out on a metablog on Der Spiegel, but still.

Nope, I feel hurt and unwelcome. Der Speigel is a German newspaper, written by germans, published in germany for germans. I find the idea that someone would come to Metafilter and assume that it is American utterly bizzare. Yes, I paid in US dollars to join, but the content of site is user created. By anyone, from anywhere, with the only limit being that it has to be in English. I was really shocked when I discovered that some members were only writing for an audience of Americans.
posted by kjs4 at 8:59 PM on August 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


Numbers! I think cortext or matthowie probably have the best numbers for geo distribution from google analytics, but here are some numbers.

The main thing to remember is how many expats and immigrants are on Metafilter.com, higher than most places, but they probably balance each other out.

These are from statscrop which was the least skeevy of the free stat sites I could find quickly:

The U.S. is 49.2% of traffic. Next up? Move over UK, it's India with 13.7%!

Then it's the UK at 6.1%, Canada at 4.0% and Australia at 2.2%.

However, once you plug in population of the country, the numbers shift dramatically. The U.S. stays on top - if Metafilter was a party and every country had to send delegates proportionally, we'd have 852 people dancing in the room and while 154 of them would be Americans, 113 of them Canadian and 93 Australians and 93 Brits....

Singaporeans would be crowding round the buffet at 93, talking food with the 87 Kazakhstanis, and the Nigerians and the Dutch could make up a decent conga line at 47 and 42 respectively, with some big tables set aside for the South Africans (22), Germans (19), Indians (11), French (11), Japanese (10) and Italians (10). The other hundred-odd countries would be on the big sofas.

So sure, Americans dominate but they aren't the only crowd at the party any longer.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:22 PM on August 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


(Also, hello everyone from Kazakhstan! I assume this is mostly a routing thing so you include people bypassing Chinese and Russian firewalls, but hello! You have very good food I am told by my Russian friend who visits for work and comes back with a suitcase of fresh meat and refuses to tell us what animal until we have eaten it.)
posted by viggorlijah at 9:23 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


The U.S. is 49.2% of traffic.

Is this the majority-minority apocalypse that's been predicted? Can I start panicking?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:34 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


GlobalFilter?
posted by divabat at 9:47 PM on August 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


GlobalFilter is my favorite, so far.
posted by Shouraku at 9:57 PM on August 6, 2014


"One way would be to encourage posts that are not in English."

I've been doing my part for almost ten years.
posted by vapidave at 9:58 PM on August 6, 2014


As far as I know, MeFi has exactly three Estonians including me, and I know the other two personally. I wonder what that would make proportionally.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:55 AM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I like this idea very much. It's already inspiring me to try to make a post about a region of the world I don't know much about.

Wouldn't the point be for people to make posts about regions of the world that they do know about, but aren't posting at the moment because of the tiresome way it would would inevitably be turned into a discussion of how it relates to the US?

Wouldn't more posts by US members offering their perspective and takes on global issues and topics actually reinforce that pattern, rather than disrupt it, thus having the exact opposite effect to what's intended?

(Not meaning to pick on anyone in particular here, the quote just best distils a sentiment I've seen expressed a lot in this thread!)
posted by Dysk at 3:02 AM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'd be happy if US-based Mefites made posts about things outside the US. What would be annoying is "Person X wrote about Y in Zstan - WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR AMERICA?!"

though i notice that more in the comments than the FPPs themselves.
posted by divabat at 4:24 AM on August 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


hello everyone from Kazakhstan! I assume this is mostly a routing thing so you include people bypassing Chinese and Russian firewalls,

China's a different matter, but certainly 3 weeks ago, I had no problems accessing Metafilter from Russia, and didn't think at all that I would have had.
posted by ambrosen at 4:24 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm from the US and just about a third of my posts have been explicitly about countries I'm not from (though one post was about Kenya, where I've spent about 6 months). With one exception (71 comments), they don't elicit a whole lot of conversation, but I think they're interesting and hopefully some other folks think so as well.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:28 AM on August 7, 2014


#PostMoarGlobal is cuter tho

Not as cute as #PostMoarGlobey!
posted by octobersurprise at 5:55 AM on August 7, 2014


A couple of years ago I read Rebecca Solnit's wonderful 'Men explain things to me' essay from a link on Metafilter and it struck a chord with me. I sent the link on to a young non-Western female academic I'm close to, hoping that although she's someone who would be leery of self-describing as a feminist, she would recognise the phenomenon of mansplaining.

The next time we spoke, I asked her about the article and then shut up and listened. She said that she didn't really recognise it in her professional life, although maybe it had happened once or twice that less-informed men had tried to teach her about her area of expertise. However, she said she experienced the same phenomenon frequently from Westerners who believed they knew all about her country and culture and had Very Important Opinions about it to share with her.

I was very glad I'd shut up, because when I sent that article, it was with a set of assumptions about gender relations in her country that, if I'd spoken, I would have Westsplained to her. Her response also crystallised a problem I'd long had with Metafilter.

The last time we talked about Metafilter's treatment of non-US content, some users seemed quite upset at the suggestion that commenting from a US perspective on non-US topics could be problematic. People complained that it made them 'less likely to participate' in such threads, that it was 'pretty off putting' and that they were going to 'butt out' of such threads if their opinions weren't welcome. Of course, it's perfectly possible to comment respectfully and thoughtfully on a subject you're not very familiar with, but far more common are simplistic condemnations or comparisons with the USA, because no matter how ill-informed these are, they're always going to garner more favourites than a humble attempt to learn more about another culture.

So while I'd love to see more non-US and non-Western content on Metafilter, the key problem for me isn't about numbers of posts, it's about how the post and the conversation are framed.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 6:09 AM on August 7, 2014 [19 favorites]


"the key problem for me isn't about numbers of posts, it's about how the post and the conversation are framed."

I think this initiative and a designated tag (btw. there should be a new Meta once everything is sorted out) can lead to better framing and better commenting.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:17 AM on August 7, 2014


I'd be happy if US-based Mefites made posts about things outside the US. What would be annoying is "Person X wrote about Y in Zstan - WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR AMERICA?!"

though i notice that more in the comments than the FPPs themselves.


This is a really good example of how one person can derail a thread about a global topic into their US political hobbyhorses, and turn the Spanish housing crisis into a discussion of what kind of message Eric Holder is sending to the American people, explicitly justified in terms of "America having the biggest dick". No doubt there needs to be more flagging and moving on in situations like that too, but I for one would definitely like to see tighter moderation of this type of derail.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:01 AM on August 7, 2014 [17 favorites]


The last time we talked about Metafilter's treatment of non-US content, some users seemed quite upset at the suggestion that commenting from a US perspective on non-US topics could be problematic.

Yeah, that's precisely one (although I think not too frequent) problem - the belief that US standards, ethics, and beliefs are universal and therefore one can pass judgement based on those, with no further understanding needed. It was pretty clear in some of the threads discussed in that MeTa. "X as understood in the US is what X actually is, in the US it's bad, therefore anything that reminds me of X is bad!" is a type of post you can see quite often in contentious threads that are not about the US.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 8:01 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


People often extrapolate understanding from what they already know. This is normal. A tremendous pain in the ass sometimes, but normal.
posted by zarq at 8:10 AM on August 7, 2014


Yeah, I understand that. Perhaps somewhat paradoxically, it's also a situation where starting off with "well, but here in the US..." is actually a good thing.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 8:18 AM on August 7, 2014


True.
posted by zarq at 8:22 AM on August 7, 2014


I have a hypothesis that English-speaking people from Common Law countries (Americans, Brits, Canadians, etc.) are somewhat more likely to reason by analogy and to use analogy to illuminate unfamiliar situations, explain ideas, and learn new things.

When I was working up my preliminary thesis proposal, I thought about doing it on the differing theological underpinnings for British vs. Continental justifications of Freedom of Speech proposals when they first came about (because I think this illuminates an interesting difference in how Anglo-American people think about the nature of truth vs. how Continental Europeans do). I ended up picking a different topic, but it's remained interesting to me to see these threads run through law, theology, philosophy, and into political debates and public discourse.

Anyway, my hypothesis here is that Common Law reasons by analogy a LOT MORE OFTEN than Civil Law does, and when you want to understand something in Common Law, or a convince a judge of your argument, the entire process is asking, "Is this situation more like prior situation X or prior situation Y?" and making analogies. This crosses into public discourse and you quite often see American, Canadian, and British political commentators saying "This situation is like X, not like Y, because blah blah blah." It's a less-common tactic (as far as I can tell) in German-language publications, or Italian-language publications, who tend to take a more straightforward "A leads to B leads to C" construction in their persuasive arguments. When Americans (et al) want to learn new things, they start by comparing things to things they already know. It's a strategy for constructing new knowledge that they're very comfortable with. (In fact, when I taught world religions, a lot of the instructors guides and tips for teachers mentioned that American undergrads always want to know how X is like and unlike Christianity, and one of the things you have to deal with is that they want to scaffold their new knowledge through analogy to what they already know, and you have to be a little careful in how you let them do that so they don't end up with weird ideas, because it's very, very difficult to shake them out of their analogy-thinking.)

So, lots of people DO derail threads being like "Greece is having a meltdown, but let's talk about America's economic woes because that's what I want to talk about." But on several occasions I've seen someone ask something like, "So is the Greek economic meltdown sort-of like the situation in the Florida where these three things are happening?" and that is a good faith question not attempting to show cultural hegemony but rather personal humility -- the asker, knowing their own ignorance of world events, only attempts to analogize to a situation they know well, and they respectfully assume their wise, educated discussion partner will understand both the Greek situation and the US situation. If the discussion partner expresses no knowledge of the US situation, the US asker will then explain a little bit about their analogy, but to explain FIRST would be to rudely assume the other person is in a position of ignorance, and it's more polite to assume they have that knowledge and wait for them to say "I'm not sure, could you explain the situation in Florida?"

So this "Greece's meltdown seems like Florida's in these ways, is that right?" isn't an attempt to turn it into an America-discussion but rather an invitation for more knowledgeable people to explain how it is similar and different, and to have a fairly dialectical discussion exploring those similarities and differences. ("But X!" "But X-prime!" "But Y!" "No! Y-prime!") And often it breaks down at that point when someone gets exasperated and says, "LOOK IT IS JUST NOTHING LIKE FLORIDA WHY DO YOU KEEP SAYING THAT" or someone gets so wrapped up in the dialectical nature of the argument that they just argue for the sake of arguing.

But I do think that sometimes this relatively culturally-specific method of learning and discussion takes what an American means as a show of humility and desire to learn ("I don't know much about your country, so I will compare it to something I do know well, and wait for you to correct me, so that I can learn.") and take it as a show of cultural hegemony and desire to dismiss ("Your country is like my country in all important ways and it is impossible for me to discuss anything without making it about America."). I try to be aware of the fact that the "learn by analogy" system is not always welcome and phrase myself in different ways, but a few times I have wanted to ask a question in a "not-America" thread that, in the end, I didn't ask, because I couldn't come up with a way to clarify my question that didn't compare the thing I wanted to know about to something in America, and I didn't want to derail the thread or upset people by being overly-American, but I was bummed I couldn't ask my question without pushing those buttons. I think sometimes that's where people get defensive and upset, where someone says "Be respectful! Why does everything have to be about America?" and the American is like, "I was asking that in the most respectful, humble way I know how to!" and both parties feel disrespected and dismissed, because they're communicating past each other.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:27 AM on August 7, 2014 [28 favorites]


But I do think that sometimes this relatively culturally-specific method of learning and discussion takes what an American means as a show of humility and desire to learn ("I don't know much about your country, so I will compare it to something I do know well, and wait for you to correct me, so that I can learn.") and take it as a show of cultural hegemony and desire to dismiss ("Your country is like my country in all important ways and it is impossible for me to discuss anything without making it about America.")

See also: Kishore Mahbubani's provocatively-titled book "Can Asians Think? Understanding the Divide Between East and West". At least one or two of his essays discuss this difference in approach, and its application to world affairs.
posted by zarq at 8:36 AM on August 7, 2014


I dunno, just speaking personally I feel like this thread has gone from a decent idea with unclear implementation (divabats' OP) to a pretty diluted initiative that doesn't seem to add much value. The problem seems less a lack of coverage of non-US subjects than a dominance of US perspective on this issues. I mean, more OPs with global subject matter would be cool, but the idea as it's evolved in this thread doesn't seem particularly noteworthy beyond that.
posted by threeants at 9:00 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


GlobalFilter would be better than any variation of NotAmerican/BeyondUSA. Part of the problem with covering non-Anglo topics is that often interesting articles are written in other languages.
posted by ersatz at 9:23 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is a really good example of how one person can derail a thread about a global topic into their US political hobbyhorses, and turn the Spanish housing crisis into a discussion of what kind of message Eric Holder is sending to the American people, explicitly justified in terms of "America having the biggest dick".

Oh balls. Vibrissae is utterly and completely ill-informed in that thread, but s/he's making an argument that what happened in Spain happened as a result of US economic policy. That's not "hijacking" the discussion of a local Spanish issue--it's a claim about what caused that local Spanish issue. That it happens to be factually wrong is really neither here nor there. It's not like this was a discussion of some obscure Spanish musical form and Vibrissae jumped in with a conversation about US bluegrass or something.

This is like complaining that someone would be "derailing" a conversation about the US economy if they brought up the ways in which the Chinese economy affects US growth.
posted by yoink at 9:25 AM on August 7, 2014


I don't agree that the fact that his argument is factually wrong is not germane. Given the tendency of every discussion of world politics to be reframed in American terms, a specious argument that reframes the discussion to strip the Spaniards of agency and treat them as epiphenomena of the US is absolutely a derail.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:00 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's not "hijacking" the discussion of a local Spanish issue--it's a claim about what caused that local Spanish issue. It's not like this was a discussion of some obscure Spanish musical form and Vibrissae jumped in with a conversation about US bluegrass or something.

Part of the problem is that because the US is an enormous, populous place that's aggressively exported its culture, there's precious little, especially in fields like economics where the US is especially influential, where some aspect of a discussion couldn't be causally tied back to the US. You might think that Spanish musical form is indigenous to Galicia, but those chord progressions are pure Earl Monroe and some of the guitar sound is drawing heavily on early blues (or whatever). Sometimes it's more relevant to talk about a localized epiphenomenon that we don't talk about a whole lot here than the Big Issues that we always talk about (and usually at extreme length).

The other issue is that in this case, it seems pretty clear that Vibrissae mostly wanted to talk US politics and not about anything remotely related to Spanish politics or economics. An in-depth comment about how US political processes influenced Spanish home-building might have been much better received. As it was, the comment was 95% about the US and maybe 5% about Spain, and the followups were, if anything, worse in that regard. In that way, it starts to seem like a type of axe-grinding, where anything that can be linked to the thing you really want to talk about is immediately drawn into the discussion, leading to two simultaneous fights, one about the thing you wanted to fight about and another about whether your linking of the two is relevant in this case. You can see both of those happening in that thread, and getting bogged down in those fights sucks a lot of potential value out of threads, especially ones on more obscure topics that might not come up again for a while.
posted by Copronymus at 10:03 AM on August 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't agree that the fact that his argument is factually wrong is not germane

Vibrissae clearly believes the argument s/he is putting forward and it is not an inherently absurd argument. Economic developments in one part of the world are frequently--indeed typically--influenced by economic developments elsewhere. It is absurd to suggest that discussions on Metafilter of economic situations in X-country must always be confined solely to that country.
posted by yoink at 10:03 AM on August 7, 2014


Everyone on board the "epiphenomenon" epiphenomenon!
posted by Copronymus at 10:03 AM on August 7, 2014


Ooh, GlobalFilter is a great tag.
posted by medusa at 10:27 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have a hypothesis that English-speaking people from Common Law countries...

Frankly the problem is pure demographics: active US mefites largely outnumber non-US ones, so discussions favour the US perspective on pretty much any topic that's not about quantum entanglement or insect mouth parts. Feminism on Mefi is about US feminism. Intellectual property issues are about IP in the US, etc. One of the last Metas about this very topic was derailed into a giant fight about the word "USian" in spite of early mod intervention. And the last Meta was turned into this.

I've participated in international forums with a culturally diverse membership and this phenomenon did not happen, because everyone, including US members, was well aware that the other participants came from other backgrounds, and that you had to take this into account if you wanted 1) to be understood and 2) to have meaningful discussions. It certainly didn't prevent discussions about US topics, but the perspective was more global. This is totally feasible.

The only solution is to have more active non-US participants. Divabat's initiative is a step in the right direction, but "global-themed" FPPs won't help if they're derailed into "And now here's the US perspective on #GlobalTheme", because that can be off-putting for non-US mefites and discourage them from participating. In the Spanish housing FPP cited above, the role of the US banking system may be relevant, but now a big chunk of the discussion is about this, and that's not good because it's a FPP about the Spanish housing crisis, not about Eric Holder. We've had Metatalk discussions about this issue for the past 13 years with little progress, so I'm very cautiously optimistic.
posted by elgilito at 10:33 AM on August 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


It is absurd to suggest that discussions on Metafilter of economic situations in X-country must always be confined solely to that country.

It is, but no one has made that suggestion. They've pointed out how time and again threads that aren't about the USA end up containing discussions of American politics.

In a discussion space free from history and context and agendas, there would be nothing wrong with a post about an article on an empty town in Spain turning to the probity of Eric Holder. There's definitely a connection. In the same imaginary space, a thread about women's experiences of street harassment could turn into an interesting analysis of how men feel about the phrasing of women's complaints and that would be just fine. We don't exist in such a space. In reality, 'what about the men' is rightly seen as an unhelpful derail because it's brought up every blooming time women start to describe their experiences.

So, yes, it's definitely interesting to consider the extent to which the Attorney General of the United States may be compromised by his past connections with the financial world. But it needs to happen in another thread, if we want a Metafilter with greater cultural diversity.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 10:49 AM on August 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


elgilito: The only solution is to have more active non-US participants. Divabat's initiative is a step in the right direction, but "global-themed" FPPs won't help if they're derailed into "And now here's the US perspective on #GlobalTheme", because that can be off-putting for non-US mefites and discourage them from participating.

That's why I think the focus should be on encouraging MeFites from around the world to post on whatever topics they choose to, just as JulyByWomen was about encouraging women to post on any topic. The more active international users we have, the more global our focus will become, naturally.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:59 AM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


We did look at the numbers last year and a bit under 25% of active members were posting from outside the USA. So we make up aprox 1 in 4 of the people posting here, hardly a tiny minority. I'm sure this changes over time but maybe not that much?

The other striking thing about that graph is how nearly all the users are "western" based on the map divabat linked above. Probably not surprising given we're posting in English. So maybe we don't have a lot of diverse posts about non-western whatever because we just aren't that diverse in our members? I don't know what to think about this whole issue anyway except that probably my biases as a white Non-USA Westerner are probably getting in my way.

but it would be, many (including me) think, an improvement to have a wider variety of topics and a wider variety of viewpoints and voices here.

This is what I think too and I like the idea of #postmoarglobal as a positive way of encouraging that. The tag can go on any post anyone feels like it applies to, because of who's posting, because of what they're posting about, because they were draped in a flag while compiling it, whatever. In the end I'd just like to see more posts that aren't Americans Doing American Things (which I am beyond totally saturated with by now), not as a replacement or a neutralisation or in response to or anything to what's done now, just as more extra things for me to read. I like more! I also like that this tag doesn't refer to the USA at all. I can think of lots of fun things even in the USA which I would consider global or globally oriented. Lets not overthink it too much and be inclusive and happy.

If 1 in 4 of us are posting from outside of the USA then having 1 in 4 posts be about people or subjects or things that aren't in the USA seems like it would be a reasonable thing. Not that I'm suggesting any kind of quota or aim, just that this isn't really what I see so far. It might be interesting to run those numbers too?
posted by shelleycat at 11:07 AM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


9 and half years.
posted by infini at 11:35 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder if a tagging initiative would be more meaningful if it were broken down further geographically, maybe more or less by continent? I realize that we're then talking about five different months, but maybe separate focuses on Asia, Africa, South/Central America, Australia, and Eastern Europe? Add in Western Europe maybe, too? I think it might help fight against some of the tokenism, and give bigger voices to more underrepresented areas.
posted by jaguar at 11:37 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


And we're all greatly enriched, having you here.
posted by zarq at 11:38 AM on August 7, 2014


That was for infini.

Although the same goes for you too, jaguar. :)
posted by zarq at 11:38 AM on August 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


the asker, knowing their own ignorance of world events, only attempts to analogize to a situation they know well, and they respectfully assume their wise, educated discussion partner will understand both the Greek situation and the US situation

You're totally right about people talking past each other and miscommunicating in these situations. Because, as an outsider, the assumption that we know all about your (oh so large and important) country comes across as both arrogant and rude. (Note, that part in brackets there is to show how it comes across, not to imply that's what Eyebrows McGee is saying.) Why should we even care enough about you to have learned this stuff? Why should we be expected to have any kind of understanding of your culture and politics and economics when it's not part of our lives at all? I've even had people be surprised that I didn't learn American history in school, which kind of boggles my mind.

If the discussion partner expresses no knowledge of the US situation, the US asker will then explain a little bit about their analogy,

And so now we're talking about your country when the discussion was about mine. And to continue the discussion I need to learn stuff about your country, which again I didn't care about in the first place, and bleh. Except that I've never even got to this stage because I'm already feeling totally cut off by the person bringing up America, particularly as I've probably already heard more than once today from the media how important and central and the be all of everything America is, and that's the end of that conversation.

If you have a question just ask the question directly: "Tell me about the meltdown in Greece, I don't fully get it", leave the analogies out of it entirely. You might be asking a more broad question than you intended but you'll also get a more useful answer in the end I think.
posted by shelleycat at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


I wonder if a tagging initiative would be more meaningful if it were broken down further geographically, maybe more or less by continent?

Couldn't we just tag our posts like this anyway on all posts, all the time? It would make content easier to find over all and give that tiny moment of thought when making a post about what location and culture it's about. I don't know if these kinds of tags are commonly used in fpps now, but I can totally imagine using the tags when I'm bored and looking for things to read.
posted by shelleycat at 11:44 AM on August 7, 2014


Couldn't we just tag our posts like this anyway on all posts, all the time?

Definitely, and I hope people are doing so. I just wonder if encouraging more specifically-aimed geographically-based posting would eliminate a bit of the "Perform for the Americans, exotic dancing monkey!" aspect of the idea.
posted by jaguar at 12:04 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Enough of that with the Africa Summit going on.
posted by infini at 12:15 PM on August 7, 2014


This thread has actually made me feel a lot more insecure about my participation in ANY thread that isn't U.S.-specific, because what I'm getting from a lot of the comments here is that the problem is the volume of U.S. participation and that American members can't avoid commenting from a U.S.-centric position when commenting on non-U.S.-related posts -- which I certainly can't, I'm culturally very American, I can't really help that. And while approximately half of my FPPs have been about cultures and places foreign to me, apparently those were just coming from a US perspective -- which, again, I can't really avoid. But now I feel really bad that I made them and offended people.

There does not seem to be a way that I can contribute to making metafilter more global or a more welcoming place for global voices other than by shutting up, because the inherent Americanness of my voice is automatically hegemonic and shuts down other views. I feel like some people are saying that just participating in a discussion about other countries as an American constitutes threadjacking. I don't know, I guess that's fair; America is culturally hegemonic and I cannot escape being American. And I guess when you're a member of a majority group and you feel bad and like you're being told to shut up, it's because you really need to shut up and let other voices speak. I do feel like this has clarified to me that neither my voice nor my questions, no matter how respectful and humble I try to be, is going to be offensive, arrogant, and rude in those threads, because of my American "accent" in my ideas, thinking, and self-expression.

I will try to participate less. I'm sorry particularly to shellycat for being unable to think outside my cultural bounds, I'm tearing up that I'm trying to be polite to people in the way that is appropriate in my culture and it's coming across so horrifically offensive. I feel really bad at how many people at metafilter that I like and respect that I've offended this way, and I'll try to stay out of those threads in the future.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:07 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


There does not seem to be a way that I can contribute to making metafilter more global or a more welcoming place for global voices other than by shutting up, because the inherent Americanness of my voice is automatically hegemonic and shuts down other views.

Me, I just try to avoid analogies in general. I find when making them, I either:
  1. Don't understand the first thing as well as I thought
  2. Don't understand the second thing as well as I thought
  3. don't understand both.
shelleycat even provided a way of engagement: If you have a question just ask the question directly: "Tell me about the meltdown in Greece, I don't fully get it", leave the analogies out of it entirely. You might be asking a more broad question than you intended but you'll also get a more useful answer in the end I think.

Also without analogies.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:15 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


the man of twists and turns: "shelleycat even provided a way of engagement: ... Also without analogies."

Yes, I was giving a simplistic example. Sometimes it is not possible for me to ask the question I want to ask without an analogy. So, as noted, I don't ask them, because I don't want to offend people. Now I feel like I'm intellectually defective on top of everything else because my mode of thinking is analogical and apparently other people don't have this problem.

Again, I'M SORRY that I've engaged this way in the past and I will stop engaging in the future, because it is not possible for me to avoid thinking the way that I think. I'm 36, I have two graduate degrees, I don't think I'm going to "outgrow" it. Sometimes that's just the way I need to understand things. I get it now that that mode of engagement is a bad one that makes other people feel excluded and bad, so rather than make others feel excluded, I will just not participate when I can't participate without an analogy.

I don't know what else I can do besides apologize and promise not to do it again. I can't be a different person, I'm sorry.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:22 PM on August 7, 2014


I just want to say that I for one have always found Eyebrows to be a really thoughtful commenter in the several years I've been on the site (some in a different incarnation) and I hope she and others don't take this thread to mean, essentially, just shut up and listen whenever you don't know everything about a topic. I think that it's great to try to encourage more voices, but it sucks when Meta is used to guilt people away from talking.
posted by ferret branca at 1:23 PM on August 7, 2014 [20 favorites]


Me, I just try to avoid analogies in general.

Just like how when I'm on the Kennedy I try to avoid the area surrounding the California exit! Man, car culture, let me tell you
posted by shakespeherian at 1:25 PM on August 7, 2014


Don't even go down that road, shakespeherian!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:28 PM on August 7, 2014


Just like how when I'm on the Kennedy

With respect, this is not really the place to talk about USian sexual practices.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:45 PM on August 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't know what made me check back into this thread; I skimmed it last night and didn't have anything constructive to add, so I moved on. But for whatever reason I checked back, and now I see Eyebrows McGee saying, "I will try to participate less." Okay. Now I have something to say: Fuck that.

I will freely admit that most of the time when the community bemoans someone dialing back or leaving, I roll my eyes. Most of the people who leave visibly (as opposed to just quietly not posting anymore) are people who, in my opinion, bring the site more harm than good. They tend to be the fighty, snarky people who come to MetaFilter to be angry about things. If you are also a person who comes to MetaFilter to be angry about things and you share that person's opinions, then I get wanting them to stick around. Someone stormed off a few months ago and there was a flurry of "we miss you" comments, and then the person returned to post angrily in some thread and was met with a bunch of "we're so happy you're back!" Ugh. Dislike.

Eyebrows McGee, however, is consistently one of the best contributors to this site. She posts comments that are informative, not just opinionated. I don't always agree with her opinions, but I have never read one of her comments and thought to myself, "Eh, she's wrong, what does she know." She is the epitome of what I want from a website with a comments section. I could give a fuck about random strangers' uninformed reactions to this article or that. What Eyebrows McGee consistently brings to the table is, "I have some experience that might be relevant. I'd like to share it." That's hugely valuable. It is how the Internet makes our world smaller and brings us closer to each other.

I have also never seen Eyebrows McGee so much as snark at anyone, let alone be outright rude. This is an underappreciated trait on MetaFilter. For a community that canonizes Jessamyn, MetaFilter does a remarkably poor job of learning by example from Jessamyn's temperament, to say nothing of her repeated and explicit suggestions that people be kinder to each other. You know who does a great job of emulating Jessamyn in that regard? Eyebrows McGee.

I'm not wading into the conversation about globalness and culture and what not. I'm confident I am the only one present who holds my particular view of it, so I'll keep that to myself and let folks have the conversation they want to have. Knock yourselves out. But the moment the conversation hits a note where Eyebrows McGee, of all the contributors on this website, says she will try to participate less...yeah, I have an opinion on that one. I've been here for ten years and your participation is one of my favorite parts of MetaFilter. I don't want you to participate less. That's my voice.
posted by cribcage at 2:06 PM on August 7, 2014 [30 favorites]


> I just want to say that I for one have always found Eyebrows to be a really thoughtful commenter in the several years I've been on the site (some in a different incarnation) and I hope she and others don't take this thread to mean, essentially, just shut up and listen whenever you don't know everything about a topic.

Yes, I heartily agree about Eyebrows, and her (basically) being told to shut up has pretty much poisoned this thread for me. I'm aware (as I think the majority of us are) that the non-US contributors are frequently annoyed and alienated by the (in part inevitable) omnipresence of US news, attitudes, etc. on this site, and it would certainly be nice to have more non-US-centric content, but beating up on US members is not the way to go.
posted by languagehat at 2:06 PM on August 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


*stands and applauds cribcage*
posted by lalex at 2:26 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


As someone who sometimes gets annoyed by MeFi's US-centrism, I must say I don't share shelleycat's view at all. For what it's worth, here's another shot at it: what is sometimes annoying is that US is often taken as the default; it's the moments when the US is thought to be able to inform situations elsewhere, but not the other way around; it's about believing that US is as if non-cultural, while the rest of the world can be explained by reference to their own particular cultural quirks or beliefs or whatever. That's the thing I see as a problem, and as such, it doesn't happen that often.

In conclusion, I demand that Eyebrows McGee post moar.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:29 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


and her (basically) being told to shut up

I'm not sure how you get there. Could you expand on this?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:30 PM on August 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


I find it very interesting that shelleycat is so very dismissive and disdainful of the US point of view while at the same time condemning US users for being dismissive and disdainful.

Shouldn't an irony vortex have opened up and swallowed this MeTa?

(Also I heart Eyebrows and am very sad at the idea of losing her voice.)
posted by dotgirl at 2:32 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Jesus. Getting other Mefites to shut up is as far away as you can get from what I'm trying to achieve with this. I don't want posts about non-US content to be comment black holes, I want people to engage with them!

But I want people to engage with them in their own terms. I can see the example by analogy, in small doses I think that's great - it's when the ENTIRE FOCUS becomes "this only matters if it has an American connection" that it gets frustrating.

Part of the problem with covering non-Anglo topics is that often interesting articles are written in other languages.

People keep saying that, and it baffles me. Do you think other countries don't have plenty of interesting content published in English? Do you think they're only saving the good stuff for their native language? In many places English is a major business language and people are multilingual.
posted by divabat at 2:33 PM on August 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


No, no, no, no, no.

No. Don't do this.

I favorited and agree strongly with ferret branca's comment ... except for the last sentence. And I think that it's that last sentence which is most likely to poison the discussion, not shellycat's comment. Shelleycat wasn't trying to "guilt" anyone from participating and she wasn't "beating up on US members". Casting their interaction in those terms is destructive.

We Americans make it All About Us all the time and if shelleycat expresses some frustration with that in an unambiguous and forceful way, she has every right to do so. She has cause to do so. Is Eyebrows McGee an appropriate target for it? Definitely not. But if you're reading shelleycat's comment as targeting Eyebrows McGee specifically, then you're misreading her.

There is absolutely nothing productive that will come of picking innocents and villains in that particular interaction and, also, jumping right from your reaction to it toward generalizing about this discussion and the people involved as "beating up on US members", or not.

We're talking about an example of privilege here and what happens whenever the underlying issue is about privilege is that the people who lack the privilege will quite naturally express some anger and frustration about this while, also, the people who have the privilege will variously feel defensive about the discussion, or feel insecure and frustrated that they can't disavow the privilege, or want to find some secret solution that will mean they don't have to live with the practical reality of being someone who has that privilege (like a clear set of rules to follow), or make it about how they feel about having that privilege. Some of these reactions are more appropriate and defensible than others, but they're all human, they're all normal. People can only do the best they can do and, over time, you can sort of discern who the people are who are trying.

I'm pretty sure that both Eyebrows McGee and shelleycat are trying, they're talking about and grappling with the things involved in this in a way that is honest and well-intended and, at this point, the real danger of people not trying, of being wilfully disruptive, is that of people who are reacting to this small, perfectly normal and understandable interaction.

Please, as tempting as it is to cast that interaction in terms that are supposed to symbolize larger issues (about MeFi, about whatever), it's only going to be destructive. Let's not do this, I beg you all.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:35 PM on August 7, 2014 [16 favorites]


"The other issue is that in this case, it seems pretty clear that Vibrissae mostly wanted to talk US politics and not about anything remotely related to Spanish politics or economics."

Wrong assumption.

Opinions were offered based on prior information gleaned; there are many opinions about what led the financial dominoes to fall.

What gets me about mefi is that whenever strong opinions are outed, and defended, they are looked on as a "derail". Sometimes there ARE derails, but what is too often observed is that when someone wants to exclude an argument, or doesn't agree with an observation that appears not to fit *someone else* idea of where a discussion should go, it's considered a "derail". It's too often a passive-aggressive way of shutting people down, who are not AT ALL trying to derail anything, but rather offer up information from their perspective, and learning.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:42 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


> I'm not sure how you get there. Could you expand on this?

Here:

> If the discussion partner expresses no knowledge of the US situation, the US asker will then explain a little bit about their analogy,

And so now we're talking about your country when the discussion was about mine. And to continue the discussion I need to learn stuff about your country, which again I didn't care about in the first place, and bleh.


Eyebrows McGee (quoted in the first paragraph there), in the course of a typically thoughtful comment, explains how analogy is useful to her; shelleycat reponds by telling her "I didn't care about in the first place, and bleh," which to me (and obviously to Eyebrows) equates to "shut up."

> and if shelleycat expresses some frustration with that in an unambiguous and forceful way, she has every right to do so

And if some of us think it was a harmful way to express herself, we have every right to say so.
posted by languagehat at 2:58 PM on August 7, 2014


I imagine that shelleycat had threads in mind like this one, where are a large number of people were literally incapable of engaging with the topic as presented. I am in no way discouraging Eyebrows from posting as much as she likes, but her initially stated impulse to not post sometimes is, I think, sometimes the right one, for everyone.

I also find it interesting that a community which prides itself for being responsive with regards to chauvinism - even mildly or unconsciously expressed - has such a big blind spot when it comes to cultural chauvinism. This is not a call to participate less ; but to participate better. The aggrieved, "well why should I, I don't see a problem, it's your problem etc" tone is often employed in chauvinist discussions, too, though the response is definitely frostier. Look at that, my own western analogising, heh.

I think it's a shame that an idea that could be positive for the site and members is getting buried under a mountain of nitpicking, defensiveness, and acrimony.
posted by smoke at 3:10 PM on August 7, 2014 [12 favorites]


"I think it's a shame that an idea that could be positive for the site and members is getting buried under a mountain of nitpicking, defensiveness, and acrimony."

QFT.
posted by travelwithcats at 3:19 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee (quoted in the first paragraph there), in the course of a typically thoughtful comment, explains how analogy is useful to her; shelleycat reponds by telling her "I didn't care about in the first place, and bleh," which to me (and obviously to Eyebrows) equates to "shut up."

In the course of the imaginary conversation in an imaginary non-USA thread which Eyebrows McGee and Shelleycat were developing together, Shelleycat explained why using analogies with the USA could come across badly. As part of this, she said that she, as a non-American, didn't care about whatever aspect of the USA ('stuff') was being used in this hypothetical analogy. Thus 'I didn't care about in the first place, and bleh' I can't read that as any sort of 'shut up', but instead an explanation of why this approach can be frustrating. She concluded that same comment by saying 'If you have a question just ask the question directly' which makes it clear she was asking for a different style of communicating, not for an end to communication.

Eyebrows McGee's distress is clearly real and unfortunate, but I don't see any comments which were, especially by MetaTalk standards, rude or dismissive enough to be blamed for it.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 3:24 PM on August 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


I know shelleycat doesn't need defending by me but I really don't think she was trying to single out Eyebrows McGee for anything negative (she specifically said "not to imply that's what Eyebrows McGee is saying"). I really hope this doesn't lead to either of them speaking up less in MeFi because that would be such a loss.
posted by misozaki at 3:34 PM on August 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


It's regretful that Eyebrows McGee might want to participate less, but that seems sort of like her decision to make and her issue to manage.

A non-American expresses a critical opinion of the site and a user takes it personally: in most other contexts when this happens, isn't the takeaway supposed to be something like "this isn't all about just your feelings, you know"?
posted by MoonOrb at 3:51 PM on August 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


Speaking of global voices, is anyone else here frustrated about how much of the Danish Tourists Write About Canada thread was taken up with a discussion about American urban form and urban policy and "our republican system" (hint: both Denmark and Canada, the countries under discussion in the post, are parliamentary constitutional monarchies). This may particularly annoy me because I work in urban transportation policy in both Canada and the US and there are substantial differences in the way politics motivates decisions, although there are certainly many similarities, especially with regard to the outcomes.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:54 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


"A non-American expresses a critical opinion of the site and a user takes it personally: in most other contexts when this happens, isn't the takeaway supposed to be something like 'this isn't all about just your feelings, you know'?"

Yes, that's true, but Eyebrows McGee herself isn't really in any danger of doing that.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:25 PM on August 7, 2014


Well, a quick google/wiki is generally a good idea. If you need an analogy, you can also google/wiki the topic you were going to compare it to.

The way I'm viewing it is that people want to make good discussion, but for the uninformed Americans in non-American topics, it's much easier to respond to comments which tie in American situations, which may crowd out the other comments. Personally, I'm loving that the comments of Eyebrows McGee and Shelleycat have sparked more conversation, because it's what I read MetaFilter for.

Keep posting intelligent, self-aware stuff, sometimes allow others to (tactfully) expose their ignorance in a welcoming environment.
posted by halifix at 5:01 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh hey, I just noticed the "everyone needs a hug" line. That's pretty great.
posted by halifix at 5:04 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


And pretty true.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:06 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Me, I just try to avoid analogies in general. I find when making them, I either:

Don't understand the first thing as well as I thought
Don't understand the second thing as well as I thought
don't understand both.


It's funny, I really value empathy, and I feel like for a lot of people analogy is a stepping stone to being empathetic, but in a way it seems like some form of false empathy. Kind of like that thing in a recent FPP criticizing the pseudo-feminist "she's somebody's daughter/wife/mother/sister"; you're technically arriving at a rightful conclusion but you're building your foundation on sand. Empathy is much more solidly constructed, I think, when it's seen as something inherently deserved rather than arrived at by analogy.
posted by threeants at 5:13 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


This discussion of "how to comment as an American on non-American topics" is reminding me very strongly of "how to comment on feminist topics as a man" debates - are there any best practices from that angle that would be useful in this context?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:20 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


This discussion of "how to comment as an American on non-American topics" is reminding me very strongly of "how to comment on feminist topics as a man" debates - are there any best practices from that angle that would be useful in this context?

I constantly look back at my comments, and one of the things I did wrong there was trying to rationalize stuff instead of just saying "Hey, hugs?" Trying to get that fistbump of respect is better than just trying to be right, but getting a hug of recognition of being human. Continue snarking if you want, but be prepared to make up with that person later, even if they don't want to.

Hooopefully I'm not painting myself into a corner again.
posted by halifix at 5:33 PM on August 7, 2014


> She concluded that same comment by saying 'If you have a question just ask the question directly' which makes it clear she was asking for a different style of communicating, not for an end to communication.

She wasn't asking, she was telling, and doing so quite rudely, and Eyebrows reacted as a normal person would react.

> Eyebrows McGee's distress is clearly real and unfortunate, but I don't see any comments which were, especially by MetaTalk standards, rude or dismissive enough to be blamed for it.

You're missing the point. No, shelleycat wasn't being especially rude or dismissive by MetaTalk standards, but what's the point of being rude or dismissive at all? Go check out viggorlijah's original July by Women thread; do you see anything remotely like that? I can pretty much guarantee you if women had started saying "I'm sick of all the men putting out their male viewpoints and they should shut up and let the women talk," things would have gone very differently.

Look, I can understand the frustration of non-Americans in a US-dominated world. I'm frustrated myself, and I'm a citizen and denizen. Furthermore, I don't think anyone can accuse me of being uninterested in life beyond the borders; I spend a fair amount of time lamenting the ignorance of my fellow Americans and trying to correct it. But US hegemony is not the fault of American MeFites, and while it may feel good to take this opportunity to let us have it for the general sins of our country, it is poisonous for MeFi in general and this thread in particular. I think everyone is on board with the idea of a wider range of topics and viewpoints, but once you start venting about how US MeFites talk too much and impose their American views on every thread and they should have some humility and blah blah blah, you're just going to repel a lot of people (and likely produce threads where a lot of people are afraid to talk). MetaFilter began as a largely US site and will likely continue to have a majority of American members for quite some time; it's ridiculous to expect it to magically become equivalent to a Burmese or Estonian site. Not gonna happen. So instead of trying to make Americans feel bad about being Americans, post interesting stuff about other places and let the discussion develop as it will. If people are making unhelpful analogies or uncalled-for points about the US, call it out in-thread. Trying to preempt it here is completely counterproductive.
posted by languagehat at 5:36 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


divabat: "People keep saying that, and it baffles me. Do you think other countries don't have plenty of interesting content published in English? Do you think they're only saving the good stuff for their native language? In many places English is a major business language and people are multilingual."

Just in case you're truly "baffled": Perhaps they're thinking of the many other places where that's not the case? There are many countries which are very multilingual, and many countries which are very monolingual.
posted by Bugbread at 5:55 PM on August 7, 2014


"I can pretty much guarantee you if women had started saying 'I'm sick of all the men putting out their male viewpoints and they should shut up and let the women talk,' things would have gone very differently."

That's ... uh ... wow.

I don't think you really intend to be making the argument that you're actually making about that thread; I don't think that when you have time to think about it you'll be comfortable making that argument about this thread; but, additionally, shelleycat's comment is in no way comparable to "I"m sick of all the [Americans] putting out their [American] viewpoints and they should shut up and let the [non-Americans] talk". You're reacting to something light-years away from anything that any real person wrote in this real thread.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:11 PM on August 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


This thread has actually made me feel a lot more insecure about my participation in ANY thread that isn't U.S.-specific

Welcome to the last 50 years of American cultural anthropology--if you don't mind the, uh, analogy, you are in good company. It's hard to boil down all of what happened as American anthropologists became aware of similar problems in the constitution of the discipline. I mean, there've been so many, many problems and so many, many people proposing things anthropologists should do to improve.

But one thing that might make you feel better about this analogy business is that one idea that came out of all that was that American anthropologists should both focus more on the US as a research target but also conceive of projects where instead of misplaced analogies between stuff in the US and stuff happening elsewhere they'd find ways to juxtapose things in language that explicitly acknowledged a mismatch in the subject matter with the less argumentative goal of nudging a reader's thoughts down less well-trodden paths.

So, not analogies, not direct comparisons or connections, not anything that makes an argument someone needs to spend effort on countering, but simply side-by-side imagery could maybe be a way for you to get your thoughts out in the hope that someone can say whether these things illuminate each other or whether you're just way off (or, less likely, so far off it should be flagged). And I'd guess it's very possible you're already doing that and calling it an analogy where the folks who're not fond of them have stronger arguments in mind.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:18 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


instead of trying to make Americans feel bad about being Americans

This is a quite uncharitable interpretation that demonstrates the dangers of paraphrasing. I don't think anyone has been close to saying that. Nor do I think anyone is expecting or hoping that the site will become Estonian overnight. I don't know that hyperbole is very helpful in somewhat fraught conversions like this.
posted by smoke at 6:29 PM on August 7, 2014 [12 favorites]


languagehat: "I can pretty much guarantee you if women had started saying "I'm sick of all the men putting out their male viewpoints and they should shut up and let the women talk," things would have gone very differently."

I think the closer analogy would have been if someone said "Don't come into a thread about women and try to make it all about the mens".

But even then, it's hard to draw a meaningful analogy between this thread and the JulyByWomen thread. The JulyByWomen was almost entirely about "women posting on Mefi", not "posting about women on Mefi". This thread started off with (at least) two focii, "Non-Westerners posting on Mefi" and "posting about non-Western stuff on Mefi". The discussion has focused on the latter, and "Westerners" has shifted to "the US". So while JulyByWomen was about who posted, this discussion has been about what to post about and what to discuss. So, of course, people will be discussing a lot more about what can and cannot be posted and discussed. Which means analogies will break down, because the situations aren't analogous to start with.
posted by Bugbread at 6:43 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Personally I enjoy hearing from Americans about their perspectives on a wide variety of issues, and I don't have a problem with Americans relating any "foreign issues" to their domestic equivalents, or processing overseas concepts in terms of local experiences they may be more familiar with.

After all, how will we members of the League of Foreign Evildoers ever infiltrate your democracy, utterly destroy your society and eat the flesh of your children without the "inside baseballs" we need to pass ourselves off as regular folks like you?

So please Vote #1 quidnunc kid - "a regular rootin' tootin' homie-joe six-pack bada bing bada boom, oi vey already to yo mama". And God Bless America.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:45 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Comments like languagehat's come off to me as one part tone policing, one part #NotAllUSMefites.

Also i really dislike and disagree with the defeatist "Americans gonna American" attitude. The comment about cultural chauvinism vs other kinds of chauvinism is spot on. When I signed up to Mefi in 2005 after lurking for a year, there was nothing in there that said this was an American site. It's only our attitudes that would make it that way.

I'm thinking of other community sites (Autostraddle comes to mind) which was founded in the US, has a majority US readership and modship - and still manages to be global in its content. How? The community was dedicated to showcasing and supporting material from outside the US and made concerted efforts to do so. It wasn't immediate but it makes a big impact. And we have an advantage over AS and the like in that we don't have to go through editors to post.

As for language: even places where English is not a primary or common language has English speakers & mediamakers. Plenty of their output is interesting enough for Metafilter. "But it's not in English!" is a fallacious excuse.
posted by divabat at 9:06 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


There are many countries which are very multilingual, and many countries which are very monolingual.

Yes! This! I'd deleted a rambling paragraph going on about how anything written in English about Japan is going to be from a Western viewpoint to a certain extent just from the fact that it's written in English, even if it's written by a Japanese person like me, since the majority of Japanese people don't understand English. And I got sick of my run-on sentences.

But you just sort of nailed it for me in so many words, as you're wont to do.

Maybe I just don't feel as strongly about this as I should, but I've always felt from before I joined that MetaFilter is firmly a US site and that participating here means that I'll be a minority. I don't feel excluded, per se, but I am kind of resigned to it. I felt it again recently when FanFare began, but I won't get into that here.

I suppose I agree with languagehat in that sense, and really can't see MetaFilter ever changing dramatically to become flatly international. I do agree that discussing how to change that is a good thing, but I wish the back-and-forth didn't have to be so... aggressive? Argumentative?

Ah, on preview... divabat, this thread has been interesting and I'm glad you posted it. I wrote up the above before I saw your comment. I hope you don't think I'm being defeatist but this is how I feel about it.
posted by misozaki at 9:18 PM on August 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry particularly to shellycat for being unable to think outside my cultural bounds, I'm tearing up that I'm trying to be polite to people in the way that is appropriate in my culture and it's coming across so horrifically offensive.

I never said you specifically offended me and I tried to make it clear I was commenting on your general strategy rather than about you particularly. As I already said, it's a clear miscommunication when that kind of situation happens because on the American side it sees like X (which I wasn't aware of and had never heard of even as someone from an Anglo country) so I pointed out how on my side it really sounds like Y. It's not your fault we get so much of this shit from the media but sadly it taints the situation, for me anyway.

If anyone is unable to ask a question about other people's cultures without bringing their country into it then yeah, I'm not sure what else to say about that? It's certainly never been an issue I've had.

I'm not American and I am a scientist and yes, I'm quite straight forward in how I talk and express myself, in person too. But I'm not trying to be rude or aggressive, I'm not angry, I don't really like arguing a lot, and am in fact a very cheerful person. If people want to read into my writing things I didn't put there because I'm not falling over myself with caveats and hugs then I've come to terms with that.
posted by shelleycat at 11:34 PM on August 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


shelleycat: "If anyone is unable to ask a question about other people's cultures without bringing their country into it then yeah, I'm not sure what else to say about that?"

I think folks may be overthinking and underthinking this point.

On the far end is the analogy style which Eyebrows discussed, where one really explicitly brings America into a non-America situation to ask a question. "How is this different from the situation in Florida?" That can vary between slightly annoying and extraordinarily annoying, depending on the particulars. On the other end is the idea that this includes all of the unconscious value decisions that come with just being part of any human culture. Talking about a country being hot (as opposed to considering it regular temperature and your own country being cold), etc. For example, there's a thread right now about suicide in Japan. People are discussing why the suicide rate is so high in Japan. Nobody's discussing why the suicide rate in Japan is normal, but is so low in other countries.

The first one, the "hey, I can only ask questions by explicitly turning the topic of conversation to America" approach: if that's the only way you can engage, then, yeah, maybe you should engage less.

The second one, that's just human nature. All you can do is be aware of it and try not to trip over it. It shouldn't preclude you from engaging in conversation, because otherwise nobody would be able to talk about pretty much anything.

Eyebrows brought up the first one, the "what about Florida" situation, but when I think of that question style, "Eyebrows McGee!" is not what pops to mind. So, I dunno, Eyebrows, maybe you've done that a few times in your life, and you're doing that thing where you can remember with crystal clarity some personally embarrassing event that absolutely nobody else remembers, but you don't need to refrain from participating, because this is nothing close to your standard modus operandi.
posted by Bugbread at 12:00 AM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


> MetaFilter began as a largely US site and will likely continue to have a majority of American members for quite some time; it's ridiculous to expect it to magically become equivalent to a Burmese or Estonian site.

No one expects that. No one actually wants that. I'm Dutch and I do not want to see this turn into a Dutch site.
But wouldn't it be nice if it eventually became a global site? Wouldn't that make it more interesting than it already is today?
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:05 AM on August 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


I did not tell anyone to shut up, I would never do that, and if that's what Eyebrows McGee took away from this then I'm sorry. But jumping to feeling defective because you think and learn one way due to your culture while people from other cultures think and learn another way, and have different outside influences informing their world view as well, seems like such an extreme leap to me. Different is not bad it just is, we all try to work within what we have in an international forum such as this one. Assuming good faith is a large part of that, a part that we can all try to remember a bit more.

I specifically said I'm interested in seeing more content in addition to what we already have, not in reaction to it or to neutralise it or whatever. I'm not trying to shut down or get rid of American voices or issues. Just because I often don't care about America doesn't make it a bad country or make my opinion about it at all important to those that live there. If anyone is upset that I don't care about their country or culture then that's kind of on them, because why should I? I'm bored by lots of things. There is still plenty to keep me amused, I'm just saying that more of them would be welcome to me, I always like more.

Aaaand now I'm late for work. Totally my own fault that one.
posted by shelleycat at 12:07 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Part of the problem with covering non-Anglo topics is that often interesting articles are written in other languages.

>People keep saying that, and it baffles me. Do you think other countries don't have plenty of interesting content published in English? Do you think they're only saving the good stuff for their native language? In many places English is a major business language and people are multilingual."

As for language: even places where English is not a primary or common language has English speakers & mediamakers. Plenty of their output is interesting enough for Metafilter. "But it's not in English!" is a fallacious excuse.

There is plenty of international content in English for Metafilter that isn't getting posted —that doesn't necessarily contradict what I said. There's a higher bar for making an FPP about non-Anglo content: if I'm reading an article in the Guardian/NYT/Atlantic, I can post it immediately, but if I'm reading about a Costa Rican topic in La Nación, I have to see if something equivalent has been written in English. And yes, some of the good stuff will be in other languages. I read a fantastic essay on poetics by someone who speaks four languages, but since they didn't write it in English, it couldn't be posted here. Lingua francas are fantastic, but they aren't all encompassing either. There's something gained and something lost.

That said, Mefi isn't exactly being flooded by articles from other countries where English is an official language either and I'll try to find something interesting for GlobalOctober.
posted by ersatz at 12:09 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


From a moderator perspective, I don't see anything wrong with using analogy to either explain or ask about something less familiar to most of the people reading or participating in the discussion. The problem is much more with what often arises from that, wherein someone asks the question "is Unfamiliar-X similar to US-Y?" and someone else answers "it's similar to US-Y in [these ways] but not [these ways]," and then someone else is like, "actuallllly, US-Y is more blah blah," and then someone else is like, "no, US-Y is clearly bleeblopbloop," etc., and then the conversation is all about US-Y.

The person who asked the question didn't do something bad. The person who answered didn't do something bad. The collective will of the thread participants to turn the discussion over to the more familiar "US-Y" is the problem, but not one that will be solved by a theme month.

One problem that I see in a lot of threads (because I end up spending more time in more contentious threads), are the axe-grindy comments that insist on bringing up the commenters favorite thing to hate, so even if the discussion is about, say, corruption in another country, someone's going to rush in with some sort of "THANKS OBAMA," and if it's about military or war, someone will be like, yeah but WHO SOLD THEM THOSE WEAPONS, and BUT U.S. MORE WARLIKE THAN ANYONE. etc.

To me, it seems a lot less likely for cultural topics to be sidetracked in the same way (though maybe I'm missing such instances), so a post about traditional Balinese dance, for example, wouldn't be likely to be derailed by "what about Fred and Ginger?????".

Sociological, demographic, economic, political, military and government posts are probably more prone to the revert-to-US/Western-PoV problem, either because the subject matter invites comparisons (demographic data), or high emotion, anger, and grindy grindy axes mean that some people want to jump onto and/or beat their favorite hobbyhorses anywhere they can wedge them in.

Again, not really an issue that a theme month can resolve.

I feel like the best thing we can do here is try to encourage more good interesting posts on a wider variety of global topics, calmly discuss possible productive ways to discourage or disrupt derailing (for example, by stepping in to turn the conversation back to the original topic, since discussions can't be derailed if people insist on discussing TFA originally posted), and resolve to flag/contact us about derails. We can't control commenting on a line item basis to make sure no one ever strays, but we can keep an eye on threads where it seems to be veering this way, and try to redirect things back to the original topic as well as generally try to discourage the impulse.

This is the community discussion area, so you guys can discuss how you wish, but to me it seems that focusing on positive, inclusive outcomes that make the site better overall is a good way to go, and a big part of what made the JulyByWomen idea work so well.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:25 AM on August 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


I don't see the theme month as being a fix or a cure-all, but a step in the right direction, as many people have noted. Just because it won't fix ALL THE THINGS doesn't mean it can't do some good - in this case, encouraging a broader scope of material for Metafilter. JulyByWomen was sparked from discussions of on-site misogyny, and while it hasn't Solved Misogyny, it still did a lot of good for the site overall.

Let's not dismiss any ideas simply because they don't Solve All The Things.

The discussion about what merits as interesting reminded me of a point I wanted to make in my earlier comment but forgot: I wonder if there's an assumption (unspoken or not) that non-US content has to be amazingly or extraordinarily interesting/unique/awesome to be worth an FPP, a bar that doesn't have to be reached by US-based content. It's a similar problem that plagues other types of marginalisations - having to be better than usual to get any sot of respect - and I wonder if that's adding to the US-centric feel of the place: "oh, too many people here won't find it interesting or cool, they won't understand, I won't bother".

I would like GlobalFilter (or whatever the tag ends up being) to be a space for people to not have to worry so much about whether their potential FPP is extra-interesting. If it's interesting to you it probably will be to others. And to the rest of us: yes, I know there's a lot of discussion about how you can't force someone to be interested in something, but it would behoove all of us to at least approach the unfamiliar with open curiosity.
posted by divabat at 2:45 AM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


I wonder if there's an assumption (unspoken or not) that non-US content has to be amazingly or extraordinarily interesting/unique/awesome to be worth an FPP

I am so on board the "US discussion in US threads" train I'm practically the conductor, but I personally don't see any evidence for this assumption, at all - I say this as someone who both posts and mostly participates in posts with subjects that usually lie outside the US.

I see great non-US, and US, posts, I see weak-ass-sauce non-US, and US, posts. I would be extremely reluctant to draw any conclusions about this, given the nature of outliers to stick in the memory and the number of confounding factors involved - though I would be interested to hear if anyone else feels this way, lest I'm projecting my own blase attitude.

I definitely don't think we should be encouraging people to make shitty(er) or more thoughtless, reflexive posts, regardless of whether it's for a good cause. One of the best things about July By Women was the huge number of incredibly interesting, well-thought-out and original posts it motivated. Frankly, I wish every month had the post quality that July had, it was frigging awesome. People didn't feel that they had to make great posts, it just kinda happened.

I'm inclined to agree with Bugbread at this point - it would be nice to have a month where people were encouraged to make posts that in some way reflected a more global outlook. Whether that's because of subject, or where it's posted from, or how subsequent discussion goes, it really makes no matter. Quality posts beget quality comments.

I don't know that there's a lot of utility in further analysing or explicating the way we feel people are failing to measure up, and the relative morality or possible-racism of that. It's just gonna make peeps feel hurt and disengaged. If we're about fostering engagement (and I'm all about that, all the time, when I'm trying to be the best I can be), then let's encourage that engagement; let's keep the church broad. Let's foster participation, creativity, charity, and open-mindedness rather than dwelling on negatives or letting details stymie an attempt to do something positive.

I know that sounds hella corny, but I kinda feel a bit of corniness can often be a welcome thing.
posted by smoke at 3:51 AM on August 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


bugbread: This thread started off with (at least) two focii, "Non-Westerners posting on Mefi" and "posting about non-Western stuff on Mefi". The discussion has focused on the latter, and "Westerners" has shifted to "the US". So while JulyByWomen was about who posted, this discussion has been about what to post about and what to discuss. So, of course, people will be discussing a lot more about what can and cannot be posted and discussed. Which means analogies will break down, because the situations aren't analogous to start with.

As a few people have noted upthread, one of the reasons why the #JulyByWomen initiative worked well is there were few if any restrictions. It was opt-in. The only requirement was that a poster must self-identify as a woman.

This conversation has spun off in many directions. Encouraging people who don't normally post topics familiar to them because the site feels too US/Western-centric isn't going to be solved by us getting bogged down like this.

The initial proposal is still valid and viable: Live outside the West? Feel free to use the tag. If you also want to post something that isn't about Western culture/society? Feel free to use the tag. Not sure if you and/or your post's content qualify as "non-Western?" Why not use it anyway? Who's gonna stop you?

I say, let it be as inclusive as possible and sort it all out later. Sometimes, we can get so wrapped up in rules-lawyering that we may lose sight of the bigger picture. This doesn't have to be perfect, folks.

If y'all would like to see posts on MeFi that have a more international focus (as I do) you can do that in two ways: make them yourselves or support others who might like to do so. Why not simply do both? Can't we just keep the bar low, say "we'd welcome your efforts" and let the posts flourish?

--

smoke: Quality posts beget quality comments.

Sometimes. Not always.
posted by zarq at 7:07 AM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


FWIW, it's definitely possible to engage with posts about other countries and cultures without reflexively making comparisons and analogies to one's own—and the evidence is that most of the non-American Metafilter users seem to manage it.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 10:10 AM on August 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


> FWIW, it's definitely possible to engage with posts about other countries and cultures without reflexively making comparisons and analogies to one's own—and the evidence is that most of the non-American Metafilter users seem to manage it.

1) How do you know? Have you done a statistical comparison?

2) You're insulting American MeFites. What's the point of this?
posted by languagehat at 3:04 PM on August 8, 2014


The turn this thread took towards being about whether Americans could post in threads about non-US matters was weird to me. It seems obvious to me that there isn't a binary yes/no answer to this question. There's a gradient of issues where different levels of sensitivity are required.

For example, in posts about Eurovision, all comments are welcome because no one takes Eurovision seriously enough to care about bad jokes or ill informed opinions.

On the other hand (to use a personal example) when the terrorist attack in Norway happened in 2011, I made a MetaTalk post asking that people showed a bit more care in the thread about the massacre.

Those two examples are at opposing ends of a continuum of required sensitivity. All anyone is asking is that MeFites show appropriate empathy when commenting in threads about difficult issues affecting regions of the world they don't have a direct connection to. Of course, it can be difficult to judge how sensitive to be, but it's not an imposition to ask people to consider the feelings of other human beings, even if they're culturally distant.
posted by Kattullus at 3:07 PM on August 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


> 2) You're insulting American MeFites. What's the point of this?

The acoustics are very weird in this room, because my comment wasn't meant in any way to be insulting.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 3:13 PM on August 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


languagehat: I don't see how "US Mefites can stand to be less self-centered in posts about non-US topics and indeed other people have shown this to be possible" is insulting. Unless the idea of critiquing US Mefites as a class is somehow insulting.
posted by divabat at 3:23 PM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


zarq:
The initial proposal is still valid and viable: Live outside the West? Feel free to use the tag. If you also want to post something that isn't about Western culture/society? Feel free to use the tag. Not sure if you and/or your post's content qualify as "non-Western?" Why not use it anyway? Who's gonna stop you?

I say, let it be as inclusive as possible and sort it all out later. Sometimes, we can get so wrapped up in rules-lawyering that we may lose sight of the bigger picture. This doesn't have to be perfect, folks.

If y'all would like to see posts on MeFi that have a more international focus (as I do) you can do that in two ways: make them yourselves or support others who might like to do so. Why not simply do both? Can't we just keep the bar low, say "we'd welcome your efforts" and let the posts flourish?


What they said.
posted by divabat at 3:24 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


languagehat: "You're insulting American MeFites. What's the point of this?"

#NotAllAmericans

(Literally, I guess. I'm American, and I didn't find that remotely insulting.)
posted by Bugbread at 3:37 PM on August 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm not trying to shut down or get rid of American voices or issues. Just because I often don't care about America doesn't make it a bad country or make my opinion about it at all important to those that live there. If anyone is upset that I don't care about their country or culture then that's kind of on them, because why should I?

This highlights one of the things that I think is so difficult about the use of American analogies when folks from the US are trying to learn about something outside of their own experience. It's generally well-intended, but it puts the onus on the non-American to be familiar enough with the US context in order to provide an answer. Often we don't have sufficient knowledge or even sufficient interest in the American situation to be able to give a good answer. This puts the non-American in the unfortunate position of either having to be silent, in which case the conversation inevitably drifts back to a discussion of the American analog by Americans, or having to make a good faith attempt to answer the question based on minimal knowledge of the American context which (in my case at least) leaves me feeling stupid and ill-informed. As well-intentioned as the original analogy was, it genuinely can cause some outsiders to withdraw from the conversation.

A rather trivial example that I've experienced a few times even as an Australian (hardly a truly "foreign" speaker) is getting asked to explain Australian rules football to a mostly-American audience. Most often people ask me questions based on American football, questions I simply don't know how to handle because I don't understand American football at all. I've never watched an NFL game, I don't really know how the NCAA works, etc. But because I know slightly more about US sports than vice versa, the onus still falls on me to try to make the conversation work. Worse, people will sometimes try to be helpful and make broader analogies to rugby or soccer, often based on the naive assumption that I'll know more about those "foreign" sports, which in my case are just as far outside my experience as American football. The only sport I understand is my own. So what happens is, because of my inability to cross this (tiny!) cultural divide, a conversation that began about Australian rules drifts back towards American sports. In my experience this effect is huge, and my suspicion is that if it can be this difficult to communicate on an equal footing when the barrier is something as trivial as the difference between Australian and American perspectives about football, it must be unimaginably difficult when you add genuine linguistic and cultural differences to the mix.

The thing I find slightly frustrating about this little side discussion is that I think that Eyebrows McGee's instinct to try to be quieter is a good one: it's not that an American voice is unwelcome in conversations about non-American topics, especially not when that voice comes from someone like Eyebrows, who has of course been one of the most consistently thoughtful and considerate of commenters on this site. It's just that there are so many American voices on a site like this, and non-Americans often lack the expertise or desire to try to respond to all of them. Taking it easy and waiting to hear what others have to say before asking your own questions is often a wise move in such situations, I think.

In the bigger picture of discussing what this project is about, it seems unproductive to spend so much of the thread talking about whether Americans in general or Eyebrows McGee in particular are being insulted when non-Americans express dissatisfaction with how the site is functioning. Especially when the entire point of this project is supposed be about trying to encourage non-Americans to speak up and contribute more to the site, and especially when folks like shelleycat keep trying to explain that their lack of knowledge or interest in the US isn't usually about you. It's not directed at you, nor it's not a comment on you: it's an attempt to explain why many well-intentioned conversations go awry, and why it can have the effect of driving outsiders away.

Personally, I like the idea of picking a somewhat vague tag like the #MoarGlobal suggestion, and allowing people to interpret it as they may. Don't spend time trying to figure out whether white Australians are "too Western" to be included. Don't worry about whether "too many" or the "wrong kinds" of Americans will post. The attempt to define who or what is authentically #MoarGlobal is fraught with danger, especially in a MeTa thread that is mostly populated by Americans. On this front, trust in the community: people approached #JulyByWomen with an open mind, and without any shitty stunt posting or nitpicking that I saw. Even in the worst case scenario, in which the tag gets dominated by American posters googling stuff about the rest of the world, the content of the site ends up with a lot of new posts on non-American topics. That can't be a bad thing, and if people work hard at trying to keep the focus on the actual topic of the posts, I'd like to think it would encourage more non-Americans to participate more on the site. If so, the end result might still be the desired one: more posts by non-Americans, about the things that interest them, which may or may not be the same ones that Americans would choose to post about themselves.
posted by langtonsant at 4:10 PM on August 8, 2014 [17 favorites]




Google wouldn't think twice about removing an american site, discussing american things in an american way.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:49 PM on August 8, 2014


sgt.serenity: "Google wouldn't think twice about removing an american site, discussing american things in an american way."

???
posted by Bugbread at 5:23 PM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


So, how many people would be potentially interested in participating? And how do we keep the momentum until October?
posted by ersatz at 4:33 AM on August 9, 2014


Is there a good reason not to tag posts starting now?
posted by ChuraChura at 5:38 AM on August 9, 2014


Honestly, after this shitshow of a thread, I'm probably not going to participate after all. I'm interested in seeing links and discussion about issues/ideas/people/events from around the world, but even though I think that this theme month idea was started in the spirit of encouraging more of those links and discussions, judging from the this thread, I don't think that's how people are trying to run with it. Instead, it seems to be shaping up so that the initiative is mostly an excuse for yet another boring Americans Are Doing It Wrong ax-grinding, and it's just going to be all about the US under a TOTALLY !US!!!! facade. That take on the theme month idea seems unproductive and honestly rude as hell to me, so I'm going to be sitting it out.
posted by rue72 at 6:13 AM on August 9, 2014


Can't you just read and enjoy posts by users who may not post as much/posts on topics that don't get as much airtime here without feeling like each time you see one it's actually about how you, as an American, are doing it wrong?

Or are you saying you are just not going to comment in these threads?

If every American here shared the same point of view--that their participation in these threads was less welcome or would invite anti-American ax grinding--that would indeed be an unfortunate result, one would think. The project would wind up excluding many voices from the site and its stated purpose is to expand contribution.

But on the other hand, this pattern is one we've seen many times before on this site. A member of a majority group feels frustrated by criticism, complains in a "but what about my feelings kind of way," and then escalates to a "well I won't participate here at all as I'm obviously not welcome" type of overreaction when given pushback.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:13 AM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Can't you just read and enjoy posts by users who may not post as much/posts on topics that don't get as much airtime here without feeling like each time you see one it's actually about how you, as an American, are doing it wrong?

Sure I can read and enjoy those posts, and I do. Which is why I specifically said:

"I'm interested in seeing links and discussion about issues/ideas/people/events from around the world, but even though I think that this theme month idea was started in the spirit of encouraging more of those links and discussions"

But *this* thread has become just yet another ax-grinding about Americans Doing it Wrong and Let's Talk About the US. That discussion is old and boring and comes up really frequently, and if that's what people want to use the tag to rehash then I probably am not going to use the tag because UGH WHO GIVES A FUCK.

Or are you saying you are just not going to comment in these threads?

No, I'm saying that I'll continue posting or not posting as I feel like, and commenting or not commenting as I feel like, instead of trying specifically to be supportive of this theme month by adding a post with this tag or by specifically going into threads I otherwise might not have taken the time to that share the tag (which are two things I did during #julybywomen, both to be supportive of the idea and for my own enjoyment/enrichment).

A member of a majority group feels frustrated by criticism, complains in a "but what about my feelings kind of way," and then escalates to a "well I won't participate here at all as I'm obviously not welcome" type of overreaction when given pushback.

I'm not complaining about My Poor Hurt American Feelings, I'm complaining about the trepidations I brought up wayyyyyyy earlier in the thread apparently being justified, about this initiative becoming All About the US and Everybody's Feelings about the US when it's SPECIFICALLY supposed to NOT be about the US.
posted by rue72 at 7:42 AM on August 9, 2014


For the life of me I don't understand how it is that people who don't like the direction a thread is going will angrily and provocatively post how they don't like the way it's going, thus adding more fuel to the fire and doing their part to make it exactly what they claim to not want it to be.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:51 AM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Another tag suggestion: in the spirit of trying to imagine this project broadly, would a tag like #SeptemberForTheWorld work?

Like the #JulyByWomen tag, it picks out the time frame for the initiative, and it makes clear that it has a positive focus on "The World" rather than a negative "not USA" one. Picking a broad term like "The World" sidesteps questions of what counts as "non Western" or "global south" or "non American", and allows everyone to determine for themselves whether they see their post as being part of the project.

The part I'm least confident about is the choice to use "for the world" rather than "by the world" or "about the world", but I did think about it a bit. To me, the word "for" is ambiguous: it deliberately doesn't specify whether the focus is on the poster or the post. As I see it, this is a good thing. The way I read it, this is one respect in which a #SeptemberForTheWorld initiative is actually quite different from #JulyByWomen. The #JulyByWomen project was clearly about the poster and not the post. That's not necessarily the case here. Sure, if an Indian MeFite wants to post about politics in Nebraska, they can use the tag if they want to because the poster identifies with the world outside the US. But on the other hand, if an American MeFite wants to put together a well-researched post about the construction sector in Chile and feels the post fits the tag, why not let them use it too? Would that really be a problem?

I don't see why we need to be prescriptive about this: if the poster feels that either they personally or the topic of their post itself bring a more global view of the world than the one MeFi typically presents on the front page, then they ought to feel welcome to be part of #SeptemberForTheWorld.
posted by langtonsant at 10:53 AM on August 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


The part I'm least confident about is the choice to use "for the world"

I sort of love SeptemberFTW for exactly this reason.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:55 AM on August 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


The thing is, if I hadn’t read this thread, I would have interpreted SeptemberFTW as September For The Win!* The nice thing about GlobalFilter is that it's self explanatory. You don't have to read MeTa to figure it out; the context is clear.

*In MMORPG chat slang, FTW = For The Win.
posted by Shouraku at 2:02 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think jessamyn liked the ambiguity of the acronym.
posted by nangar at 2:33 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think jessamyn liked the ambiguity of the acronym.

I get that, and think that it's cute. However, to participate in this event people still need to know what the tag means. Ambiguous tags may not serve that goal as not everyone reads MeTa. JulyByWomen wasn't cute or ambiguous, but had the benefit of clearly conveying what it stood for without the need for supplemental reading.
posted by Shouraku at 2:48 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


We've got a winner (tag, that is)!
posted by travelwithcats at 5:14 AM on August 10, 2014


What about switching from a month-long boost project with clear metrics to a widely shared tag #GlobalFilter that basically says "This is a post about a particular regional topic and hey, let's try to avoid derails to American/WesternConglomerate topics."

Like the NZ post up now - it's got two very short comments ruefully comparing the very high election participation rates in NZ vs the U.S. and Canada, both of which add to the conversation. However, it'd be daft if those blew up into a long thread about US or Canadian politics, instead of the NZ elections.

So the #GlobalFilter tag means hey, keep the broader American/WesternConglomerate stuff as a garnish, not the main course and encourage more local to the post's topic discussion.

A nudge, rather than a boundary?
posted by viggorlijah at 6:30 AM on August 10, 2014


What about switching from a month-long boost project with clear metrics to a widely shared tag #GlobalFilter

I really like this idea. It'd be great to cultivate a commenting norm for posts tagged GlobalFilter, in which we try to view the "lets talk about the US instead" effect as a derail rather than accepting it as the inevitable consequence of MeFi demographics. The NZ election thread seems to be going well so far, which is pretty encouraging.
posted by langtonsant at 8:12 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Having it just be a "use this tag when you're talking about stuff outside the US" kind of defeats the purpose of this project, which is to make a concentrated effort to highlight and showcase material from all around the world. It can continute past the month, but right now just having it as a general-purpose tag feels like it's siloing off those posts even more.
posted by divabat at 4:40 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Okay, so re-reading the thread, there's a fairly broad agreement that yes, Metafilter doesn't have enough posts coming about matters outside the Western Conglomerate (I can't think of a better phrase that isn't sarcastic in some way - basically the rich anglo-ish nations), and that the few discussions that do happen are often derailed to focus back on the Western Congolmerate.

So the question is: more posts about the non-WC world, or more activity, both posts and conversation, from non-WC world users?

I did some back of envelope numbers again because I already have the detailed spreadsheet on July 2014 posting. I checked the country location for the top 100 posters that month, a notably diverse month already. I did not factor in anyone's ethnicity, purely where they currently live on their profile.

It's 74% WC, 23% unknown and a sparse 3% non-WC.

Because location is not as sensitive as listing gender online, I think it's pretty safe to apply the same breakdown to people without a location listed, so the top 100 posters for a diverse month are 91% coming from a WC location.

That doesn't match with traffic (which is generally about 35% non-WC from the various traffic sites I checked, although those are broad external stats), so either the non-WC people are less active participants on the site, or lots of the WC people travel and post while abroad.

So there does appear to be a bunch of non-WC people who read the site but don't post. I didn't check comments by location, but my observation from looking at June and July's stats is that posting and commenting overlap a lot - heavy posters comment a lot, although there are way more non-posting commentators than the other way round.

My personal vote is for a month specifically encouraging posts by non-WC people, that has broadly inclusive guidelines.

The dilemma now is to get more posts by non-WC people who aren't currently actively posting, similar to #JulyBYWomen? Or to get more posts about non-WC topics by either everyone in general or by only non-WC people?

Edge cases:
A post about Quinceañera celebrations in Mexico by a Mexican-American.
A post about Perankan (Malaysia) languages by a white woman born in Singapore and married to a Peranakanish dude (that would be me :-) a friend is about to do his thesis on them, so I've been reading up)
A post about Japanese elections by a Brazilian

What would fit #GlobalFilter?

And I love the NZ post, but is New Zealand non-WC for this project?
posted by viggorlijah at 5:58 PM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


And I love the NZ post, but is New Zealand non-WC for this project?

I dunno. For what little my opinion is worth, I feel like that might be the wrong question to ask. Yes, I'd say that NZ is definitely a Western nation and the thread reflects that. So if the project aims to highlight "non Western" voices and content, it doesn't seem to fit. But to my mind, this starts to lead back down the path of trying to narrow down the scope of the project to the "ideal" kind of posters and posts we'd like to encourage. And I don't know how we can do that without tying ourselves in knots.

A specific example: on the back of the "football" example I used earlier, I thought I'd finally make a front page post, and cobbled together something about the history of Australian rules football and the (disputed) links to the indigenous game of marngrook (and, to be honest, thinking about this thread is what made me highlight the indigenous links).

If the project were under way, should I be using #GlobalFilter (or #SeptemberForTheWorld or whatever) here? I'm Australian but not indigenous, and the content of the post is a mix of material related to both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. If the project is defined broadly I'd think it counts and would use the tag. Based on your framing I'd say it absolutely doesn't fit, since it's even more of an edge case than the ones you listed. The fact is I'm about as western as it gets and my take on the marngrook discussions reflects that perspective. So I can certainly see why we might not want to include posts like that one in the project, since ultimately it's Yet Another Post By A Westerner. But on the other hand, it's also a very long way from being Yet Another Post About New York, and there's very little content on MetaFilter that relates to indigenous Australia.

My initial instinct was to define the project broadly. Let as many edge cases through as possible, in order to encourage anything that makes MeFi a little less of an American website. Yes, that probably means that the tag will reflect voices from other rich western-ish countries, and that's a pretty serious downside. Personally, my intuition was that trying to narrow it down to discourage non-American Westerners from using the tag has the feel of "letting perfect be the enemy of good". But that's just me and I'm happy to be shown to be wrong on this.
posted by langtonsant at 7:02 PM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


The major problem I see is that even after all this discussion, we still have people trying to solve THREE problems at once:

1. Americans being provincial, tending to frustrate some people from other places, mostly it seems other Western people from Australia, the UK, or elsewhere in the Commonwealth;

2. We don't have that many non-"WC" posters, maybe having a theme month would encourage them to post more?

3. We need more posts about Non-Western/non-US topics.

3 is really easy to get going, and would be as popular as JulyByWomen. I think if we restricted the focus to 2, which is what I suppose divabat's original focus was, it would fizzle out pretty fast unless more non-WC people signed up to post: I'm just not sure we have enough non-WC posters here to make a serious mark, although I could be wrong. Solving 1 would be a non-starter requiring a permanent shift in site demographics.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:04 PM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


My focus was a mix of 2 and 3, with a slightly heavier emphasis on 2 since that would contribute a lot to 3. And I think those efforts would go a long way towards resolving 1 because it'll help diversify the overall Mefi demographic.

I'm down with the idea of keeping it broad for now.
posted by divabat at 7:28 PM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Having it just be a "use this tag when you're talking about stuff outside the US" kind of defeats the purpose of this project,

I know it was like your idea, but I disagree ; I think that's a totally worthy goal, and getting narrower will feel like an attack, rightly or wrongly, by some users, and puts the focus back into negative territory. Let's do something positive but also achievable.
posted by smoke at 7:43 PM on August 10, 2014


smoke: in case my objection wasn't clear or I'm misreading you, I was referring to just having it as a tag that exists, like NewsFilter or SLYT. I want a month of concentrated activity just like JulyByWomen, to really emphasize the content and users from all around the world.
posted by divabat at 8:16 PM on August 10, 2014


Oh right, I totally agree in that case.
posted by smoke at 10:42 PM on August 10, 2014


There may not be enough users who fit the non-WC category to make a dent. Women made up 40-50% of metafilter's userbase, while non-WC seems a much smaller base. You could increase it by adding in ethnic minorities and immigrants from non-WC or to non-WC areas, but then it becomes even more porous a boundary with a lot of edge cases.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:54 PM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


This seems appropriate (British-centric).
posted by divabat at 4:10 AM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Okay, so I want to be clear. If I make posts about subjects from outside the Anglophone world, will that fit the criteria for the tag?

Or does the post have to be about a subject that's neither Anglophone nor European?

Basically, I'm asking if the initiative includes the Nordic countries, France, Germany, Albania, Lithuania, Armenia, etc. or if the focus is on Asia, Africa (outside of South Africa) and South-America.

Basically, say I would be making two posts, one about the history of Poland, and the other about the history of Madagascar... should I put the tag on both or just the one about Madagascar?
posted by Kattullus at 4:38 AM on August 11, 2014


At this point, the safest best seems to be that if you think the tag could fit, use it, we'll figure it out later.
posted by divabat at 6:49 AM on August 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


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