Talking about rape too much December 9, 2014 12:32 PM   Subscribe

The deletion reason for this post states that we've had 'a ton' of rape-related posts lately; this would have been the fourth in the last month. I understand that this is a topic which is psychically taxing and can result in threads which require disproportionate levels of mod attention; however, the suggestion that 'we'd really like the site to do other things, too' rubs me the wrong way.

I mean, in that same timeframe we've had the same number of Star Wars posts, and I'm not worried about the site not being able to do things other than Star Wars. We've had something like twenty posts on video games. A dozen and a half obituary posts. Twenty-one posts since the beginning of November have used the 'movie' tag; this would have been the fourth to use the 'rape' tag.

Again, I understand that things like 'movies' are broad categories and do not often lead to conversations requiring a lot of moderation; with some exceptions, obituaries do not result in long heated arguments. I am mostly discouraged by the implication that we've talked about rape too much, and that the apparent existential threat of website pigeonholing constitutes grounds for deletion of a good post. The idea that a post a week, or so -- even 'a solid post' as the deletion reason refers to this one -- threatens to define Metafilter to the exclusion of other topics.
posted by shakespeherian to Etiquette/Policy at 12:32 PM (421 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite

I'd like to cosign this. From looking at it, the post wasn't framed around current events (newsfilter), had good depth, didn't seem inflammatory or provocative, and was a different framing and issue from other recent rape discussions here. I can understand mod burnout, but I agree that the phrasing of the deletion reason means that it was a bad deletion if true and a bad phrasing if something else was meant.
posted by klangklangston at 12:40 PM on December 9, 2014 [51 favorites]


Yeah I dunno, seemed like a very well put together op. If people don't like rape related threads, they could just stay out of them. I feel like this was a bad call, focused overmuch perhaps on mod workload and not community purpose.
posted by smoke at 12:42 PM on December 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


shakespeherian: "I am mostly discouraged by the implication that we've talked about rape too much"

I sort of imagined a lot of people who get triggered by rape flagged it or emailed the mods about it. I don't know why I think that. MeFi is usually a sane place for the topic.
posted by boo_radley at 12:47 PM on December 9, 2014


Bad deletion, worse reason.

Hey, this is a solid post - True.
but we've had a ton of rape-related posts lately - False.
and we'd really like the site to do other things, too. - It does.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:47 PM on December 9, 2014 [27 favorites]


Wow. REALLY bad deletion. Wrong call, mod team.
posted by palomar at 12:49 PM on December 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


I was also somewhat surprised by this deletion.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:50 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Nthing that this was a really thoughtful, well-put-together post, and that I was very surprised by the deletion and even more so by the deletion reason. Thanks for posting this, shakespeherian.
posted by dialetheia at 12:52 PM on December 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


You know, I do NOT want to be the person who says, or even implies, that there have been "too many" rape, gender, feminism, or related posts on MetaFilter over the past several months, or that these posts threaten to define the community to the exclusion of other topics, because to do so is to risk holding myself up to, if not real, to perceived criticism for being insensitive to these topics (I believe there was recently a very long MetaTalk thread on this topic as well, that is, the discomfort one may feel in bringing up something on the site), but I will if I absolutely have to.
posted by Curious Artificer at 12:53 PM on December 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


and we'd really like the site to do other things, too. - It does.

Yeah, cosigning. I seem to recall that when we had that semi-contentious #JulyByWomen MeTa, the complaint "it's going to make the site be all about ThingX" was met overwhelmingly by a response of "then make your own posts about ThingsNotX," "There's not a cap on FPPs," "If you don't like ThingX don't read ThreadX."

That was a very well-constructed post that was not even remotely a retread of the highly event-specific discussions of rape and sexual assault already open.

FWIW, from the perspective of a female MeFite who's actually not super-fond of reading about rape, I feel confident in saying that MeFi is in no danger whatsoever of somehow becoming pigeonholed as something like "that site that's all about rape all the time."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:55 PM on December 9, 2014 [27 favorites]


If the "we" in "we'd really like the site to do other things, too" refers to the community, then my portion of "we" appreciates thorough posts on important social issues.
posted by Etrigan at 12:55 PM on December 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


I will if I absolutely have to.

You don't.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:55 PM on December 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


You know, maybe it was the wrong call. I have to read the worst parts of every single thread about rape, and there are a lot of threads and a whole bunch of worst parts, and possibly I'm just too burned out on the subject to see the community perspective on this one. I'm going to let my colleagues weigh in on this one.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:56 PM on December 9, 2014 [84 favorites]


but we've had a ton of rape-related posts lately - False.

Hm. Statistics anyone? Also, how many other rape-related posts got axed lately?
posted by Namlit at 12:56 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


We do not have mods. We have editors. This was an editorial decision, based on the editors' preferences about what the site should be, not based on what we, the readers and content providers and paying customers, want. I'm sad that this is the case, but happy that more and more people are realizing it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:58 PM on December 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


Thank you to divined by radio for the post.

Thank you to shakespeherian for mentioning it here.

Thank you to the site for letting the deleted post still be readable.

Maybe it can be posted when a mod is ready to moderate it, not too burned out.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 12:59 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I have rape fatigue - but I looked over the post, and it seemed like it was really well crafted; I don't think we should delete well-crafted stuff!

Besides, as noted above, I can just skip the post. I'd rather have it out there and it would be my decision to skip it, than to cut a good post.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:01 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


this would have been the fourth in the last month

I'm neutral on the deletion (I swear!), but this would have 8th post since November 18 if you include the sexualassault tag as well
posted by 0 at 1:02 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


For myself, as a woman not a mod, I appreciate people's good intent with these posts but I also find it exhausting on a personal psychic-balance level to see rape stories (what feels like) all the time. They are not easy to ignore or skip, to me. I won't say they are triggering, but for people who find this stuff either desirable to read a lot about, or easy to simply ignore, I just want to register that it is really not like that for others. Not that we shouldn't ever talk about upsetting subjects, but that talking about them all the time isn't cost-free.

I didn't delete the thread but I agree that we have had a whoooole lot of rape discussions lately, and that's not a slight on this particular post itself. Rape is having a cultural moment. This happens periodically, and then articles come out on the Slates and other bloggy essayish sites and people are thinking about it and so are inclined to post about it more. But boy, to me, what comes to mind is jessamyn's comment that part of rape culture is having to talk about rape all the time.

Maybe this is partly a perception issue since those threads are often so heated and mods have to read them, so they are front-and-center for us, and maybe other people aren't seeing them as much? Do you really feel like we haven't been talking about rape much? It feels to me like we've been talking about it an awful lot.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:03 PM on December 9, 2014 [27 favorites]


I agree with you, shakespeherian.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:03 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


You don't.

You really don't.

That aside, thanks, shakespeherian, for linking to the post, which is good on its own, and thanks, divined by radio, for writing it.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:03 PM on December 9, 2014


but we've had a ton of rape-related posts lately - False.

I can tell you that the subjective feeling from moderating the site is that there has been a ton of rape-related discussion management lately, at the very least. I don't know what that looks like in hard numbers and don't really want to do a armchair stats project about it on my day off, but "false" as a characterization of how much of a thing this has been in practice is way too pat and easy an answer.

That's not to say we can't have another post, and if restless_nomad is feeling like it's a reversible call and it's something that in general folks feel strongly should be up, then that's fine with me too. But it's not a costless thing; folks who don't particularly want to read the post can skip it, but folks who have to moderate the resulting thread can't. I share r_n's current sense of weariness on that front, all else aside.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:03 PM on December 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


Are we allowed to post well-crafted I/P posts this often?
posted by Melismata at 1:03 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


(Ugh - "rape fatigue" is a horrible phrase, sorry.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:03 PM on December 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


paying customers

This is a really unfortunate consequence of the generosity people have shown to support this site. I think it would be neat if we'd not expect that any input we have to the site's content is based on 'paying customer' status.

Also: I disagree with the decision to delete the post.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:04 PM on December 9, 2014 [49 favorites]


they are front-and-center for us, and maybe other people aren't seeing them as much? Do you really feel like we haven't been talking about rape much?

Subjectively, as a non-mod, I don't really feel that way. I wasn't super-interested in reading the article, but I was fine with just skipping past it in the same way I skip past "Legendary Ocarina Player Hal Grimston Dies At Age 78 - His Biggest Hits Under The Fold". Again as a non-mod who doesn't have to keep a close eye on these threads, I haven't really noticed more or less posts about sexual violence than in previous months.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:12 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Speaking only for myself, I guess, but perhaps others would agree: if moderator mental health is the motivating factor behind the deletion, that is fine. But it was not the deletion reason given, and as readers we don't really have much else to go by.

(Even if, being charitable folks, we do wonder briefly if maybe "we want the site to do other things" is code for "we, the mods, would like to do other things right now because we are still bleaching our brains from the last time.")
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:13 PM on December 9, 2014 [23 favorites]


It was an excellent FPP and I'd like to see it reposted.... next month, maybe. I flagged it and moved on. There's just been too much rape here lately. Too much Star Wars too, but Star Wars doesn't cause my PTSD to kick in.

I'm only speaking for myself here. There are plenty of open posts where people can talk about rape all they want. I'd like to see the post again, just later.
posted by merelyglib at 1:13 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I feel like there's a disconnect here between what readers of the site see and what mods see on the back-end. Rape-related threads cast a big shadow over the site for mods, where every single thread that mentions rape in any context will become The Thread You Have To Moderate For Eight Hours on your shift for many days after they are posted. They gather hundreds of flags and we have to read them all, including all the comments you don't see that we have to delete (along with the difficult decisions you have to make that boil down to "is this awful enough that I should remove it?" which is mentally taxing). Each thread gathers email as well, as was this case, when someone emailed to say we already have a couple active rape threads still going and maybe it could wait/be reposted another time. The thread about the Rolling Stone UVA story is still kicking after weeks (along with recent revisions of the story coming to light) and is basically taking up loads of mod time currently, even though it's a few weeks old. There's also the ongoing awful story of Bill Cosby.

As a reader, I could see how you might only catch one thread a month on the subject, but there are at least one posted each week that end up watched 24/7 by a rotating team for days to weeks afterwards and it's incredibly difficult to run the site with this kind of overhead. There are probably more threads about Star Wars than Israel/Palestine for a similar reason -- a thread about a movie most people enjoy is going to go smoother than a thread where people are often yelling past each other. That's not to say the issues in contentious threads aren't important, because they most certainly are, but there are definite limits to what we can handle as a mod team, and though we have no hard rules set in place and we're not "editors" I would say having one thread a week is about all the site can handle in terms of mod time as well as the site's well-being for covering a broad range of interesting things on the web.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:22 PM on December 9, 2014 [55 favorites]


(Welcome back, shakes.)
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:24 PM on December 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


If that's the case, I think making that ultra clear and being transparent and honest in the deletion reason is called for.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:25 PM on December 9, 2014 [34 favorites]


Nthing that I think this post is distinct enough from other, currently-open threads in the rape or sexual assault tag to foster an interesting discussion. The currently running threads are:

1. The latest Uber dust-up, where the discussion has mostly centered around privacy and harassment of (female) journalists; it's tagged with sexual assault because one of the journalists involved mentioned it in a story critical of Uber, but I don't think it's really been a primary focus of the thread.
2. The UVA-Rolling Stone thread, which has been rolling on because of late-breaking news about the reporting of the piece
3. This thread, concerning rape and sexual assault in the alt-lit community
4. This post about interventional methods in preventing campus sexual assault
5. One about the AF prosecutor retiring in protest of the military's handling of sexual assault
6. Multi-link post to CHE's feature issue on campus alcohol abuse

That's 6 open posts, two of which(#3 and #5) haven't been posted in for over a week. If dbr's deleted post had been specifically about campus sexual assault, I'd agree that it might be overkill/better posted in one of the open threads, but it wasn't.

You know, I do NOT want to be the person who says, or even implies, that there have been "too many" rape, gender, feminism, or related posts on MetaFilter over the past several months, or that these posts threaten to define the community to the exclusion of other topics, because to do so is to risk holding myself up to, if not real, to perceived criticism for being insensitive to these topics (I believe there was recently a very long MetaTalk thread on this topic as well, that is, the discomfort one may feel in bringing up something on the site), but I will if I absolutely have to.

Well, say it or don't say it, but don't do this tired halfway the-scary-feminists-will-get-me-if-I-dare-speak-the-truth shit.
posted by kagredon at 1:26 PM on December 9, 2014 [41 favorites]


It also sucks that an incredibly well written and balanced post is the one that's a no go. Who knows what the next outragefilter rape post is going to be that gets through because this one didn't. I don't want the mods to burn out (really!), but the way this is coming up isn't the best. I'd like to see this post appear when the mods do have the bandwidth for it, instead of the newsfilter post that will inevitably be posted. (Which is not to say that I stay out of those threads and/or hate them. Just that it's a shame the "timely" one will get through instead.)
posted by stoneweaver at 1:30 PM on December 9, 2014 [17 favorites]


stoneweaver: "It also sucks that an incredibly well written and balanced post is the one that's a no go. Who knows what the next outragefilter rape post is going to be that gets through because this one didn't. "

Doesn't this deletion sort of indicate how high the bar needs to be now? That the next outragefilter post is going to get summarily deleted because we've "got one in the hopper", so to speak?
posted by boo_radley at 1:32 PM on December 9, 2014


Yeah, it does seem like an above-average post about this topic, and I'd be fine if it was reposted in a week or so.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:33 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Man, I can imagine that rape posts belong to a whole class of posts that Become a Moderation Thing, and that's a totally legitimate reason to have to draw a line and say, sorry, there's been to many of these lately. Metafilter doesn't have to be all things to all people, and even though this posted is well crafted, it just happens to come at a bad time in the calculus of mod patience. But maybe next time just say so; especially on a post with this level of sincerity, where maybe a less-pithy (and truer) deletion reason would be welcome.
posted by axiom at 1:33 PM on December 9, 2014 [33 favorites]


I can't stand that everything that gets posted to The Toast gets a FPP on the blue, but I just avoid them.
posted by GrapeApiary at 1:34 PM on December 9, 2014 [18 favorites]


Yeah, it does seem like an above-average post about this topic, and I'd be fine if it was reposted in a week or so.

I would agree with those who'd like to see this deletion reversed now, but failing that I guess I'm glad to know it can at least be re-posted. However, a week or so from now we'll be even closer to all the craziness of the holidays; I hope if it does get reposted that it doesn't get re-deleted because of that.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:39 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


So I get the sense that there are a lot of posts on these threads that I don't see because the mods delete them. If this happens every time what is the level of bans, suspensions, etc that comes from this? Or is it random users each time? I feel like mods here are really hesistant to deploy the banhammer but it seems like a frequently used tool to correct repetitive issues on other large webforums.
posted by selfnoise at 1:40 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


We don't ban people for subject matter of their posts. An extreme example (that I don't think is equivalent to the subject of rape but just as an illustration here) would be the I/P posts, which I'd say we probably only let about 50% of posts through that get posted, because we want them to not just be outragefilter of "Hey this terrible thing happened on the west bank today" which lots of them end up being, and we ask that people post only big significant things on the subject instead of the daily awful thing that happened, which is why there are only a handful per month staying up.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:43 PM on December 9, 2014


It also sucks that an incredibly well written and balanced post is the one that's a no go.

That's how I feel, too. With respect to restless_nomad, and also understanding where she's coming from 100%, even if rape's "cultural moment" is getting tiresome, the deletion reason made my jaw drop a little bit.

I'm in favor of well thought-out posts like this one. Because of its breadth and depth, it feels to me like it could contribute to the breadth and depth of the current dialogue, and that is absolutely a net good. Some of the other threads we've had are more akin to outrage fuel. Personally, I have plenty of outrage, and I'm able to source it on my own when I start to run low. What I don't have is a place on the internet where there's intelligent and mostly measured conversation on the subject.

I recognize that the only reason the conversation seems intelligent and measured to me is because the mods have to do a hell of a lot of work when the topic comes up. I'm sorry about that, and it makes me angry that it's the case (angry because it means people are being asshats). I think putting a cap on the dialogue is a bad reaction, though. I agree with boo_radley -- instead of eliminating the high jump because it's become a ho-hum event, let's just raise the bar.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:45 PM on December 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


The last rape post that was deleted (recently) was deleted because the thread devolved into discussion about weather the rape actually occurred. Many people accused the victim of lying, essentially.

I was disappointed in metafilter for that deletion, and thought about posting to metatalk about it; but I thought if the original thread went awfully, then the discussion of the deletion went awfully as well.
posted by el io at 1:46 PM on December 9, 2014


I have to admit, part of me likes this post existing without comments. I want to read everything as I have time, but I'm personally feeling like I'm tired of reading people say things I find profoundly hurtful on MetaFilter, and anything attached to rape seems to just go there a lot. It's possible, but more difficult, to read the topic of a thread without going into the comments.

The last four months have been really brutal for me in terms of women, the internet, and the extent to which the deck is stacked against any woman who is even threatened with rape, much less actually raped. It feels like anything I put here about my perceptions of people, their discussions of women, and their discussions of rape and my expectation that they will be cruel and indifferent is overblown - but I feel something very much like that, with many visceral descriptors attached.

Ironically, I think a lot of that feeling is fueled not by the recent rape discussions, but by the recent discussions of black people explicitly getting no justice (at any level, even rhetorically) when they are shot. Emotionally, it feels all of a piece, and leaves me tired and wanting to weep and despair.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:53 PM on December 9, 2014 [38 favorites]


If it's a problem with the way these threads are conducted, or if the mods need to be more strident in putting that on us, the user base. That doesnt mean banning, though it could, but also a note at the start, "if you want this thread to stay, everyone on their best behaviour. Everyone." telling people to take a walk or stay of the thread etc, even twenty four hour holidays too, could all be effective maybe?

I do agree that there is a problem with people rising to the bait, as well as the baiting itself, so make it all our challenge to fix, I think.

I realise this won't enamour the silenced all my life brigade, but so what? They can take a walk too, if their shitty shit shits up the site, and no metas about it either.

I dunno, I hate the fact that some bad acting by a minority of users prevents substantive posts like this happening. Probably naive but maybe if you guys really called out what the community has to do to keep threads like this up, it might not be such a load on you guys?
posted by smoke at 1:56 PM on December 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


I'm sympathetic to the mod view, because reading those threads as a member is impossible for me. So having to not only read, but make constant judgements on comments to delete and read the flags and answers emails about the thread and/or subject sounds terrifyingly exhausting, like a small corner of hell.

That said, the wording of the deletion reason is pretty terrible and comes off as flippant and glib, though I'm sure restless_nomad didn't mean it that way. So being more careful about that would be awesome.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:57 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I know people have always liked the irreverent deleted post comments (I realize this wasn't in that category) but I have conversely felt that the site would benefit greatly from direct honest deleted post comments/reasons. Upon exposition, r_n's decision makes some sense, and I think that should have been the explanation give.

I do fully understand the desire for a brief reprieve, mod wise, and I even think that is legitimate. I do think re-posting the FPP in a week or two would be a wise thing.
posted by edgeways at 1:59 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


And I would strongly suggest a link to this meta or a revised deletion reason be posted. There are people that read the deletion reasons but not meta, and it would be nice to have this linked there. Normally, I don't feel like it's necessary but in this case it would be nice.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:02 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


(oh, and missed because it wasn't in the rape or sexualassault tags, but which should be factored in is the current Cosby thread)
posted by kagredon at 2:03 PM on December 9, 2014


I disagree with the deletion, but recognize the need to manage the very limited mod resources we have, and see that resource management as a legitimate reason for curtailing certain posts over others. However, that needs to be transparently stated in the deletion reason - as it is the mod note gives off a "we're done talking about this subject" vibe, which is very disconcerting. Especially since, as others have said, this post was well above average in quality and framing of content, and comes from a user who is consistently kind, thoughtful, and eloquent on these subjects.

I do feel like we've been talking about rape an awful lot lately, even as a reader. The last year has been bad, the last four months especially so. I've been trying super hard to not dip into every gender related thread I see, and even so I feel like way too much of my brain has been taken up by GamerGate and Ghomeshi and Cosby and UVA etc. etc. etc. I can see how that would be utterly exhausting and dispiriting if it were your job to read every single comment posted in those threads, some of which can be highly toxic for days on end.

I agree with Deoridhe - it's kind of nice to be able to read that thread without any comments attached. Feature, not a bug.
posted by Phire at 2:03 PM on December 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


I'm not happy about the deletion either, but assuming that this is reposted at a later date, would it be too much to ask that the usual noise about false allegations and "innocent until proven guilty," and any passive-aggressive pouting about feminism/Tumblr/etc is nixed from the get-go? That seems to be one of if not the biggest sources of mod headaches on the issue, but in this case the FPP is about women discussing their experiences and stories, not specific cases. Those that feel it's their moral imperative whatever to complain about who to believe or how ethical it is for someone to personally feel about a given case have several threads they can do that it in that will still be open.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:13 PM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


There are people that read the deletion reasons but not meta, and it would be nice to have this linked there.

You think? I feel like people reading deletion reasons, via script or blog, are probably the bigger meta users.
posted by smackfu at 2:25 PM on December 9, 2014


man yet another thing cosby ruined
posted by klangklangston at 2:32 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't agree with the deletion either, but at the same time I can totally understand how moderator mental health is a finite resource (and although hours have been increased I don't think staff levels are back up to what they once were), and how keeping difficult posts to a slower schedule could be a helpful move.

Personally, I almost always end up removing long-running political threads from my Recent Activity feed because the tail ends of those tend to devolve into the most uninteresting of contentious back-and-forth discussions, compared to the much more inclusive and interesting discussions that take place early in those threads. To be stuck reading and moderating those long-tail arguments must be its own form of hell.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:47 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


If the mods can't handle it, the mods can't handle it. That's a completely different beast than moderating for content and completely understandable.

Remember how the mods at... uhhh... Gawker (or something?) kept being forced to moderate threads where people were posting violent porn and such? Just because it's not malicious as in that case doesn't mean having to read about assaults every day for 8 hours at a time isn't problematic.
posted by Justinian at 2:51 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


"...not based on what we, the readers and content providers and paying customers, want."

I'll give you two out of three. You made a donation, not a payment. It went towards server up time, moderation and where ever else Matt saw fit. That's it. No quid pro quo. That's all.

I don't think this place will work well as a site or a community when entitled, "paying customers" are involved.
posted by klarck at 3:18 PM on December 9, 2014 [21 favorites]


This was a well-crafted and thoughtful post, much deeper than outragefilter, and I'd like to see it back at a time when the mods have mindshare to keep an eye on participation in it.
posted by matildaben at 3:19 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think this was my first deleted post ever. *puts a skull & crossbones sticker on her calendar*

As it was written, I agree with Phire; the original standalone deletion reason gave me a "MeFi is done talking about this subject" vibe that struck me as pretty unusual. I feel like I see deletion reasons akin to, "We're already taxed on bandwidth, and there are already multiple open threads about [topic], so maybe these links would go better in one of the existing posts" on a semi-regular basis, so it seems like if a mod is feeling (very understandably) overwhelmed as-is and like they don't want to deal with the possibility of a discussion that might go off the rails, it's totally OK for them to just say that plainly.

My aspiration was to write a solid, informative post that would provide a bunch of food for thought, hopefully enough that the usual folks would wait a few minutes before hopping onto the "innocent until proven guilty" train. But it wasn't supposed to be about rape, really, it was supposed to be about an aspect of women's lives that I don't think is discussed or even acknowledged very often. It's this gauntlet you have to make yourself run through immediately after someone does something horrible to you and you have to ask yourself, "Was it rape? If it was, am I going to the police? My family? My partner? My TA? My rapist? And am I really, truly ready for everything that's going to happen next? If it wasn't, what was it? How can I classify it? Where can I put it? And how can I even find the words to talk about it?"

So if I did a poor job at framing it that way, that's a 100% mea culpa, and it deserved to be deleted. If anyone was triggered by the existence of the post, I'm so sorry and I hope you know that wasn't my intent. I had a different lede originally (first paragraph at the 'main' link) but decided to go with the pullquote that included the phrase "content warning" to keep the above-the-fold text very brief and mild and also to try to get out in front of the need for TW/CW/etc.

If someone else wants to repost the FPP in a week or whatever, please feel free; I'm going to have to do a lot more thinking before I try to make another post that even touches on rape or sexual assault. Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful comments and thanks to the mods for all you do.
posted by divined by radio at 3:21 PM on December 9, 2014 [77 favorites]


Good middle ground here would be to wait a week or so for some of the UVA stuff to die down and maybe post again if mods are okay with it.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:22 PM on December 9, 2014


(And that's already the consensus with a nod from matt so why do I post before reading the thread?)
posted by Drinky Die at 3:24 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Adding to the pile of "bad deletion, bad reasons", and also, while I am sympathetic to mod bandwidth issues, I find myself doubtful that a week further into the holiday season will be a time when mods have that much more bandwidth available. I don't have an easy answer to any of the questions this deletion poses, but kicking the can down the road is not going to solve any of them either.
posted by immlass at 3:34 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


But boy, to me, what comes to mind is jessamyn's comment that part of rape culture is having to talk about rape all the time.

I feel strongly enough about this that it's one of the reason I'm happy I don't work here anymore. I also understand that it's a topic on which reasonable people disagree so I don't get fighty here or elsewhere about it. Since I don't work here anymore, my life is not full of moderating rape discussions (and the unpleasantness that comes along with that: from people being awful generally, to just being really sad for people who have experienced horrible things, to being upset at having to make a judgment call about ironic rape jokes). I don't have to wake up every day and talk about rape with my co-workers. I don't have people bitching at me for making the wrong decision about "how to discuss rape" and I don't have to decide how much to talk about the things I have personally experienced that fall out along sexual assault lines to defend choices I have made.

I respect and understand that these are important issues that people want to talk about and that MeFi is a good place (sometimes) for having difficult discussions. At the same time I sort of feel like this is one of the things you maybe don't get with a lighter moderation team. Threads that need constant babysitting can't always stay especially if there have been a lot on similar topics lately. And it's too bad that divined by radio's post was the straw that broke the camel's back in this case, but I absolutely respect the mods wanting to not moderate another rape thread. And even though this wasn't "supposed to be about rape" it's almost worse if it's about the nuance that surrounds assault and sexual assault because a large chunk of this community doesn't do nuance well. Not your fault, society's fault, but MeFi reflects (in some ways) society and to me it's absolutely part of rape culture that people want to talk about rape all the time, even as I agree that these are important topics that should get attention and thoughtful discussion.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:44 PM on December 9, 2014 [75 favorites]


So if I did a poor job at framing it that way, that's a 100% mea culpa, and it deserved to be deleted. If anyone was triggered by the existence of the post, I'm so sorry and I hope you know that wasn't my intent. I had a different lede originally (first paragraph at the 'main' link) but decided to go with the pullquote that included the phrase "content warning" to keep the above-the-fold text very brief and mild and also to try to get out in front of the need for TW/CW/etc.

For the record, I don't think you did a poor job of framing it at all. I still very much disagree with the deletion and I really appreciated your post.

I'm going to have to do a lot more thinking before I try to make another post that even touches on rape or sexual assault

This makes me really sad, that a deletion like this would have a chilling effect on how you or anyone else posts here, and this is exactly why I still oppose the deletion. I hate the fact that because lots of people are shitty in threads that involve sexual assault that now we have to limit the posts about it.

I'd still really like to see the deletion reason changed, too; as it stands, it reads to me as dismissive of rape and I think it reflects quite poorly on us as a community to leave it at "we're tired of hearing about all this rape all the time." The "we want the site to do other things too" sounds especially terrible, like there's some resentment toward users who want to talk about sexual assault issues with the community here and they're somehow taking over the site.

If the issue is that our mods are stretched too thin, is there any discussion of adding more moderators so that we can continue to have tough conversations here?
posted by dialetheia at 3:44 PM on December 9, 2014 [26 favorites]


> I disagree with the deletion, but recognize the need to manage the very limited mod resources we have, and see that resource management as a legitimate reason for curtailing certain posts over others. However, that needs to be transparently stated in the deletion reason

I agree with this, and I'm sorry divined by radio was made to feel that "I'm going to have to do a lot more thinking before I try to make another post that even touches on rape or sexual assault." It's a difficult topic for sure, and I know it's much harder on the mods, but please try your best to be upfront in deletion reasons and not sound like you're blaming either poster or userbase.
posted by languagehat at 3:45 PM on December 9, 2014 [18 favorites]


If we are a community supporting a business, then I propose the business figure out how to be accountable to to the community's needs and concerns . Probably not over the holiday season, but hopefully soon, because the response by the mods in this thread is not acceptable to me over the long term.
posted by Divine_Wino at 3:49 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


To bite Jay Smooth and change the meaning slightly, people have limits. Mods have limits. I can't thank the mods enough for all the reading and judging and deleting, because this place is positively the finest place on the web. One look at any other popular site I frequent is all the reminder I need. So could the deletion reason have stopped at "...posts lately", yes. But I get it.

I'm all for these posts staying, and remember when zarq made a post about that domestic violence video and it got deleted. I think these posts changes lives and opinions and spread awareness, and I have seen so many people who really need to learn, that I am in favor of the posts staying. But that's because I don't have to moderate the threads.

Great post, fine mod decision, plenty of options left for the future - I don't think anybody is in the wrong here.
posted by cashman at 3:51 PM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


I can't help but notice that most of the women in the thread, even when they've disagreed with the deletion, have been much more sympathetic with the mod fatigue on rape discussions than some of the male mefites.

This stuff is exhausting, as detailed by the mods above. I'm all for at least giving them a break before the next sexual assault thread (even if that's this one next week).
posted by ldthomps at 3:54 PM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


Divine_Wino:
"because the response by the mods in this thread is not acceptable to me over the long term."
It seems like a reasonable solution has already been put on the table.
Given that (a) moderation is a key aspect of Metafilter and (b) moderators are humans and not machines, the true deletion reason is ultimately valid (bandwidth problems, moderator exhaustion).
The only mistake that was made was to not post that plainly as the reason for the deletion of this post.
Solution: from now on post this type of reason plainly for similar deletions.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:56 PM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


I don't think that was a great deletion reason; it seems like a really solid post to me.

But I can understand that the emotional costs to the mods of constantly monitoring and moderating rape threads is high, and that these threads are an enormous timesink.

It seems to me that this could have been dealt with better by the mods explaining to divined by radio in the first instance that they would prefer that she put her post up in a week or two, rather than 'we've had a ton of rape-related posts lately and we'd really like the site to do other things'. This doesn't mean that the mods acted poorly, or are bad, or anything like that... I think it's just a misstep that, in hindsight, could have been avoided.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:57 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Aside from whether the post should have been deleted or not, I'd encourage everyone who's not totally fatigued with the subject to read the links that divined by radio put together. The first one really, really resonated with me, and I wouldn't have encountered it if it hadn't been posted here. They were all links to very good pieces. Thanks for trying, divined by radio.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:03 PM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


"because the response by the mods in this thread is not acceptable to me over the long term."

The obvious solution is to fund another two or three mods.

Bake Sale.

...
posted by sammyo at 4:06 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Solution: from now on post this type of reason plainly for similar deletions.

Agreed, and sprinkled with love for the mods and the community, but that is not a long-term solution from my perspective. I also have no idea what the long-term solution is, but I know it's not (peace to Karen Kilgariff) Irish Reggae, "Compartmentalize it!"
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:08 PM on December 9, 2014


I should also add that I've been called out before for having a bad deletion reason, and it's often tough to do one well. You only have a single line input, you're responding to flags and emails on the fly, and you have to write something down while you hit delete, so it's usually done really quick. I've been ham-fisted on deletion reasons a few times and called out here, and as a dozen or so people express concerns, I could better explain in more measured responses. It's tough to fit that all in one sentence, and think of the right things to say as flags are flying in.

I guess what I'm saying is we'll try to do better on mod deletion reasons but I totally understand the deletion reason (it's true, as we've stated we're monitoring several other similar threads simultaneously) and see how the last little bit of it sounded off, like an editorial decision was being made when it wasn't the intent.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:19 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


This has happened quite a bit over the years, right?

Or maybe it's just confirmation bias on my part? It seems like often posts on certain topics will hit some nebulous "limit" where even if it's a great post it's just "too much right now." Posts on US Elections, police brutality, Israel, etc, will get axed because there's still another thread open on the topic, even if the link is totally different. And I totally understand keeping some sort of balance. And I've definitely seen the exact same conversation happening in a couple different threads at once.

Beyond that, it sometimes feels that if you're linking to something that is at all kinda politically contentious, unless it's part of the current American media narrative and people are primed to talk about it, it's more likely to get deleted. If, for instance, I post a news article about police officer who has killed someone unjustly, but it's not something already talked about across the US, if it's not something that is a capital E event, it's much more likely to get deleted.

I'm not saying that's what should've happened in this case necessarily, but this feels at least somewhat common to me from deletions I've noticed. And of course my impression of the site (especially of deletions) is probably going to vary wildly from others'.
posted by ODiV at 4:21 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not talking about rape has been an integral part of the rape culture that currently exists, and I think that's undeniable.

It's possible to imagine a rape culture which is brazen and unashamed, battening on open talk about rape, and I see that as a logical extension of the worst of the Men's Rights/PUA movement -- and there is a case to be made that classical Greece embodied such a culture -- but that's not where we are.

Our rape culture seems to shrink and shrivel the more we talk about rape.
posted by jamjam at 4:22 PM on December 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


I guess what I'm saying is we'll try to do better on mod deletion reasons but I totally understand the deletion reason (it's true, as we've stated we're monitoring several other similar threads simultaneously) and see how the last little bit of it sounded off, like an editorial decision was being made when it wasn't the intent.

So can/will you guys change the deletion reason if the post doesn't get un-deleted? That seems like a small ask with a reasonable payoff, to me, but it's possible I don't understand what the actual drawbacks to it would be from your end.
posted by DingoMutt at 4:24 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's up to restless_nomad if she wants to change the reason, in the past I don't think I have because it was all hashed out in MetaTalk already and seemed like rewriting history a bit to change the reason for a MetaTalk post.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:28 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


you have to write something down while you hit delete, so it's usually done really quick

Maybe that's something that a technical fix could, um, fix. What if you could delete the post immediately, with some kind of placeholder "deletion reason is coming", and then write a deletion reason afterwards?

It seems to me that complaints about deletions frequently involve people being dissatisfied with the stated deletion reason, and sometimes, after discussions in MeTa to clarify the situation, even making accusations that the deletion reason was flat-out deceitful. If having more time to explain what's going on would short-circuit that, I think that'd make it worth a window of time where the post has been deleted but no reason has yet been given.
posted by stebulus at 4:41 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


My two cents: thinking about how not to get deleted doesn't really help, it just wastes time and increases tension and anxiety until your next post.

Get back on that horse and ride it!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:43 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's not just that the deletion reason isn't 'perfect,' it's that it could be actively hurtful to members of this community. I mean, imagine you were a rape survivor who had just finished pouring your heart out in one of the recent sexual assault threads, only to refresh the blue and find that the moderators feel there's been too much rape discussion and they "would really like the site to do other things" - how hurtful would that be? If it were me, I'd feel much less welcome in this community and much less likely to want to share my story or speak out about sexual assault next time.
posted by dialetheia at 4:53 PM on December 9, 2014 [32 favorites]


Maybe that's something that a technical fix could, um, fix. What if you could delete the post immediately, with some kind of placeholder "deletion reason is coming", and then write a deletion reason afterwards?

I agree. The deletion reason on that thread just isn't in line with the mods' comments in this MeTa thread. And saying "we'd like the site to do other things" just doesn't make sense: there's no limit to the total number of posts on Metafilter in any period of time, so a single post in a given week never prevents the site from doing other things.
posted by John Cohen at 4:55 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


That's the interesting thing. There is no limit of space on Metafilter but there are certainly limits on moderation ability.
posted by smackfu at 5:10 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I am mostly discouraged by the implication that we've talked about rape too much, and that the apparent existential threat of website pigeonholing constitutes grounds for deletion of a good post."

I feel you on this as I had a similar experience with another topic on metafilter lately, which resulted in a voluntary hiatus to get over my disappointment. There are topics which the mods censor more than others, and I don't like it.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:17 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


"And saying "we'd like the site to do other things" just doesn't make sense: there's no limit to the total number of posts on Metafilter in any period of time, so a single post in a given week never prevents the site from doing other things."

Irrespective of the merits of the underlying post, that's not true. Each post incrementally adds to the workload of the mods, and the mods don't have infinite capacity, so at some point there would be a limit to the amount of moderated posts on MetaFilter. I disagree with this deletion and the stated reason, so this comment is more just disagreeing with what I see as a faulty construction there.
posted by klangklangston at 5:24 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


There are topics which the mods censor more than others, and I don't like it.

That's kind of a loaded claim. We do tend to be more selective on contentious topics, stuff like gun control, obesity and diets, Israel/Palestine, etc, and ask that people try harder when making posts on those subjects.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:29 PM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


Wow. Super disappointed in this deletion. If we're going to have some sort of ambiguous limit on posts about contentious topics, then I think it ought to be formalized so as to avoid the perception of discrimination. 4 posts a month on Ferguson, 4 posts a month on rape, 4 posts a month on Israel/Palestine. Otherwise I can't think of any other way to see this as "stop talking about rape, Ladies, we get it."

Super, super disappointed in Metafilter here.
posted by yarly at 5:34 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah I can only see an upside to formalizing this - someone used the word "nebulous" above and I think that's about right; there's too much subjectivity built into this - although I trust the mods it would be better all-round to have it stated outright.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:36 PM on December 9, 2014


There are topics which the mods censor more than others, and I don't like it.

I don't think it's fair to put this all on the mods; the way the user base responds to threads drives those deletions, and I would also question any non mod user claiming to have a good visibility of what is deleted. I'm sure I don't see even five percent of it.
posted by smoke at 5:49 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah I can only see an upside to formalizing this... there's too much subjectivity built into this

I think bright line rules would lead to even more problems. Giving mods discretion means they can let the really outstanding posts that are worth the moderation hassle stand while asking that more marginal posts be rewritten / expanded to be better. If they're forced to delete the fifth post dealing with one of these topics, what if the fifth post is really excellent?

Plus, there's the possibility some posts will address the topic in a way that doesn't require as much moderation, or maybe the members who cause the most noise / angst take a break for a while and they're not as noisy. A hard limit means you have to anticipate the demand for moderation and limit posts accordingly, whereas without a hard limit, if the seas aren't as stormy, you can let more posts through.

If this is something the staff has to do, I'm against a hard limit. If there's a bad deletion, we come here to discuss it like always.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:50 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


"We do tend to be more selective on contentious topics, stuff like gun control, obesity and diets, Israel/Palestine, etc,"

The list of "contentious" topics seems to be growing - in my case it was related to environmental issues/ anthropogenic effects on the climate.

I appreciate that the mods might disagree with the various opinions mefites hold or simply be ignorant to certain aspects, however there should be solid reasons for deletions, not such as -I disagree- or -I don't want to read about it- (which can be inferred from the stated "we'd really like the site to do other things, too").
posted by travelwithcats at 5:51 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I get this, I guess, because I sometimes need to put myself on news media blackout so I don't get homicidal. But boy, this one hurt. There are precious few places on the Internet that handle issues of sexual violence with nuance and depth and I really think that the relative success Metafilter manages to do so would indicate that this is an issue that resonates with your userbase. Leaving aside the "rape is having a cultural moment" argument (which, yuck), what makes MetaFilter neat is that it reflects the life experiences of its users. Hell yes, it's a depressing experience to read account after account of instances of sexual violence. It's also hard to live it, and there's value in discussing it often.
posted by Pardon Our Dust at 5:51 PM on December 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


No, formalizing these things is a terrible idea, much like three strikes for sentencing people.

There six threads the post can be put in as a comment. Isn't it more important that people see the information rather than worrying about if its in a post?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:52 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


When I read this OP I immediately thought 'of course it seems skewed to the mods'. So it didn't seem odd to me, or nebulous, or 'stop talking about rape ladies'. It didn't help me that the post seemed to be a list of rape articles without a particularly strong narrative. That many links seems to me to require something more than 'rape sucks'.

Personal views ahoy: All of those articles are fine ones, good and incisive. I have been mulling over a post about pelvic floor reconstruction and rape after reading some horrifying/interesting posts about the way 'success' is measured and about the lived experience post-surgery. But dumping them in a post with a paragraph excerpted (if that) offers no clue, no context, no narrative. Particularly with the Rolling Stones, Jian Ghomeshi, Cosby, alt-lit stuff in the background.

Great links, but it was just a wall-o-shit to me, a wave of it. Like, 8 stories on rape, wow, awesome, this won't make me want to fucking shoot myself at all because there's nothing here but dismal fucking pain. The value of discussing it rapidly gets lost because there is nothing but the pain. What discussion could be had? Where the hell would the discussion go?

Or rather, there might be some gold here, some parts of the discussion that are great and useful and inspiring and incisive, but I need some waders to get to it without some sort of contextual framing going on. Names and articles and links are almost dead weight without something to hang on, for me.

Obviously the point could have been clearer since I'm apparently the only one who intuitively made the leap between the reason and the work that the mods do. But I don't think this is a case of 'stop talking about rape ladies' or 'no dissent lest the scary feminists get you' (self-harm in my case then). Good or bad, the deletion happened. People want more information. But I think the post could have had more context, more information beyond the links.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:56 PM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


Yeah I can only see an upside to formalizing this... there's too much subjectivity built into this

I think bright line rules would lead to even more problems.


Wow can I ever see problems with formalizing this. "So issue X is twice as important as issue Y, in your opinion?" "So my country gets 12 election threads a year, but the US gets 52!?" "This particular police homicide is worthy of a post a week, but this other one gets nothing?"

As with deletion of comments (and moderation in general on Metafilter), I think a lot of it has to do with reading the room and with the "feel" of things, rather with taking a formula and applying it. I think in general our mods are great at making these sorts of calls and we're not shy about calling them out when we think they're wrong.
posted by ODiV at 6:01 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yeah I can only see an upside to formalizing this - someone used the word "nebulous" above and I think that's about right; there's too much subjectivity built into this - although I trust the mods it would be better all-round to have it stated outright.

Except that this isn't how moderation's ever worked here. Other than "no self-links" there really aren't any bright-line rules; every time something like comes up the response is, and has always been, "we take things on a case-by-case basis".
posted by asterix at 6:34 PM on December 9, 2014


And I thought that divined by radio's post was outstanding. I also fully understand why it got deleted.
posted by asterix at 6:35 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Times like these I'm really glad my job doesn't get this much scrutiny.
posted by smackfu at 6:49 PM on December 9, 2014 [34 favorites]


Part of the issue may be a deeper question about the long-term identity of the site. Historically, "news filter" posts have been deleted, but this rule gets relaxed when the news in question meshes well with the overall socio-poltiical leanings of the average MeFite.

This relaxation then leads to the problem the mods have identified - we can become swamped in the same discussions again and again because they keep popping up as "news", rather than as something best of the web. A good and well-crafted FPP then gets deleted despite the fact that it might have led to a better discussion than some of the news-based posts did on similar topics, because of fatigue discussing the same issue again and again, with all the same talking points hashed out by all the usual suspects.

Is the identity of the site going to primarily be 'best of the web' things in the sense of 'you've probably not seen this before', or is it going to be that PLUS regular news-based posts which tend towards the 'social justice' side of things? Perhaps it's possible to straddle this line effectively, but with a thinned out moderating team I suspect it will be harder and harder to do without news filter swallowing the rest of MeFi or without provoking this kind of argument.

My own feeling is that if the mod team does not want to hive off news filter into a separate subsite (which I understand has been discussed and rejected in the past), then more effort needs to go into deleting outrage-worthy news posts that lack some particular angle that is not found elsewhere, or has not been widely discussed elsewhere on the web. That way there is room for posts like the deleted FPP to breathe.
posted by modernnomad at 6:55 PM on December 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


That way there is room for posts like the deleted FPP to breathe.

The mods asked that the post wait a week before being posted. That sounds like plenty of room to breathe There's nothing particularly timely about it that will cause harm and distress by waiting 7 (or 8!) days.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:15 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is no limit of space on Metafilter but there are certainly limits on moderation ability.

I know. But I didn't say: there's no reason to delete that thread.

I said: the reason stated in the deletion reason (Metafilter should cover other topics too) is not a plausible reason, and it's not the reason being given by the mods in this MeTa thread.
posted by John Cohen at 7:22 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm paying for the mods to have the ultimate say in these questions. I didn't see the post, but I am really turned off by the bad deletion posts.

This is the internet and people can get their own blogs. the point is this site is curated. If they responded to every bad deletion post, it would be terrible.

we have to let the "bad deletion" threads go. just message the mods.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:22 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Times like these I'm really glad my job doesn't get this much scrutiny.

You couldn't pay me enough.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:27 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I know. But I didn't say: there's no reason to delete that thread.

I said: the reason stated in the deletion reason (Metafilter should cover other topics too) is not a plausible reason, and it's not the reason being given by the mods in this MeTa thread.
"

I'm sorry for misinterpreting you; from the way you phrased it ("And saying "we'd like the site to do other things" just doesn't make sense"), it seemed like you were stating that wasn't a legitimate reason at all, rather than just not a legitimate argument in this case. I agree that it's not a legitimate argument in this case, but I do think that there are conceivable cases in which it is plausible or legitimate.
posted by klangklangston at 7:27 PM on December 9, 2014


Ironmouth: the post is linked in the OP, just in case you're curious about what you gave an opinion on.
posted by gilrain at 7:28 PM on December 9, 2014 [26 favorites]


"This is the internet and people can get their own blogs. the point is this site is curated. If they responded to every bad deletion post, it would be terrible. "

A quick perusal of the deleted threads blog would show that there is a MeTa thread only for a minuscule percentage of the total deleted posts. In general, I'm pro-deletion (of everything that besmirches the flawless beauty of an unmarked blue plane), but in this case, I'm against the deletion.
posted by klangklangston at 7:29 PM on December 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm paying for the mods to have the ultimate say in these questions.

how much are you paying them
posted by Greg Nog at 7:55 PM on December 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


It's a good set of essays.
posted by michaelh at 7:59 PM on December 9, 2014


I didn't see the post

wet_fart_noise.mp3
posted by poffin boffin at 8:12 PM on December 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Note: Moderators needs a hug.
posted by infini at 8:14 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm paying for the mods to have the ultimate say in these questions. I didn't see the post, but I am really turned off by the bad deletion posts.

Yeah, I was there too when Matt posted about the financial scare, and I donated as well. I admit that I have a shitty memory, but I'm pretty sure that when I voluntarily donated money -- an unsolicited donation, because he never asked for them -- there wasn't any form or checkbox or anything where I could specify what I was actually paying for.

Also, "I didn't see the post, but I am really turned off by the bad deletion posts" is a sentence that does not make sense.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:15 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think he meant, "I didn't read the Metafilter post in question, but I object on principle to 'this was a bad deletion' posts in MetaTalk."
posted by Chrysostom at 8:21 PM on December 9, 2014


FWIW, I agree with the deletion.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 8:21 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I read the main link and a few of the other ones when they were linked on The Toast, and I saw that they were posted here and was glad because they were incisive and important and lyrical and true.

But honestly, the UVA post and discussion left me so demoralized, disheartened, and unhappy that I truly can't take another metafilter discussion about rape and sexual assault right now. Especially when the frame for that first link was all about the nebulousness of calling rape rape or grey rape or regrettable sex (within a broader context). I could just see the judgment of experiences analogous to mine coming and could not stomach it.

I was perfectly fine letting the thread pass by without my input, but the mods can't do that. And so I understand where Restless_Nomad was coming from. These are important and necessary conversations, but each one takes a toll. Let the site take a breath and we'll dive back in soon enough.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:23 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't agree with the deletion but I absolutely understand and support the idea of moderator self-care. I agree with others that the deletion text should have reflected that reasoning.
posted by jaguar at 8:29 PM on December 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


It's just really sick that these types of posts even require extra modding. There should be nothing controversial going on in that thread. What is there left to say? What is there to disagree about and get fighty over in a post about people sharing and discussing their own horrible experiences? Basically everything about this matter is sad.
posted by bleep at 8:36 PM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


Yeaaah the "I am paying for" is, is, haughty? I mean, in my view, donations and such don't pay for deleted posts exercised by the mods but for the site itself. There were deleted posts before the Google scrub. "Paying for..."Like a sense of propriety without the proper and this my dearest friends, is why Clav don't post. It is my way of giving back...

R_N made a tough call. The fact that the mods and Matt have elaborated on the difficulty of this decision says a lot and that the post is good (it is, it should go up imo) and could be posted later shows compromise. I have to agree with r_ns' decision on an emotional level. I think this based on her read of the site as a whole in that point of time. If someone read the deleted post in the grey and found it helpful then that is something.
posted by clavdivs at 8:43 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I suppose its goes against all things MiFi related to let well-done posts stand but freeze comments?

So there's be:

1. Normal posts.
2. Deleted posts.
3. Frozen posts, that you can read but cannot comment on because the mods are exhausted/don't have bandwidth/it's a contentious topic that's been argued about X times in the past X days, enough already with the arguing!

Someone I love has been raped twice. Which means I'm in favour of people learning as much as they can about this stuff (if they want to).

I'm also very much in favour of the mods protecting themselves .

Finally, I'm in favour of being able to read potentially contentious or challenging postings, even without the ability to comment.

I may be the exception, of course. In any case, I'm sorry it got deleted, I understand the mods need to pace themselves, and I wish we had a category that allowed such posts to stand without comment when the system is overtaxed for comments.

Is that a weird idea?
posted by Bella Donna at 8:55 PM on December 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


It could work like the queueing system used to give the moderators a holiday in Meta Talk.

Frozen for X days, read it and scribble post its all over the your screen till we're back, suntanned and smiling after our Singapore Slings in the Sentosa sunshine.

you don't like my predilection to alliteration?
posted by infini at 9:14 PM on December 9, 2014


I could live with some posts going up without there being an opportunity to comment.

And I'm not one to genuflect in front of the mods and Matt, but there are moments when I could understand and support him if he sold the site to Rupert Murdoch.
posted by ambient2 at 9:26 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was saddened by that deletion too: it seemed like a fine post on a difficult subject, and it hurt that it got killed basically as "we hit our quota on this already".

It feels a little to me like moderation here is moving slightly towards pre-emptively deleting "difficult" posts rather than accepting the load of babysitting them. I've noticed a number of feminism-themed posts quickly deleted recently, and it feels like there's an underlying feeling of "it has to be a really good feminism post to clear the bar".

I understand the pragmatism here, that there's only so much mod time to go around. But I hate the result which is that the disruptive assholes get to suppress the discussion before it's even started, just by the inevitability of disruptive-assholes-gonna-disrupt.

As an aside, also, this:

the I/P posts, which I'd say we probably only let about 50% of posts through that get posted

As a watcher of both the MeFi RSS feed -- which tends to capture posts into TheOldReader before they get deleted -- and the @mefideleted Twitter account: that 50% figure seems very high to me; it's rare for any Israel/Palestine post to stand.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:26 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Is that a weird idea?

Close-to-comments is regularly done on MeTa, it could easily be done on the Front Page.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:35 PM on December 9, 2014


the man of twists and turns: " it could easily be done on the Front Page."

Man, do I not like that at all.
posted by boo_radley at 9:37 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


We're not going to change the entire structure of MetaFilter to introduce new commentless posts, sorry.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:51 PM on December 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


Just a thought. Hadn't thought of it as changing the entire structure of MetaFilter. Of course you're not going to do that.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:00 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like these rapid decision making scenarios with short chains of command, don't you? ;p
posted by infini at 10:37 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


So, so impressed with the discourse here. Praise and thanks to the mods, those who participate, and those like me who lurk and care passionately about this place.

Agree that this was a good post deleted for a good reason which was poorly reflected by the reason as cited.

I see allowing frozen posts as a solution that merits discussion, which could be inhibited by the immediate negative reaction of its founder.

Matt, it sounds like you had a big NO to this idea. I want us to understand where that's coming from.

Could you say more about why the idea of frozen posts seems at odds with the entire structure of Metafilter?
posted by ottereroticist at 12:01 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't want to try and speak for #1, but Metafilter is a page full of posts that have comments. If you have posts without comments, that's an extremely large departure from the established structure of the site.
posted by Alterscape at 12:20 AM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


It is a terrible idea, not least because it would instantly spawn a MeTa post which would serve as the proxy for discussion and remove what small point the commentless post had in the first place.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:40 AM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


As we wait for Matt to weigh in, I can offer my view: The spirit of Metafilter is based as much on the premise of discussion as it is on sharing links. It is a community weblog, not a bookmark directory or collection of op-eds/articles (after all editing is discouraged, so each mefite can make up their own mind).

Shutting off comments would deprive the site of a big part of its identity and I am happy to hear a categorical "no" from Matt on that idea.

I understand that the mods might have grown tired of certain topics, but there seems to be a need within the community to discuss those things if we have 4, 5, 6 or more threads relating to similar issues per month. I wonder if it would be helpful to drop a mod note at the very beginning of such threads instead of zapping them - something like: 'this is a sensitive topic, please take extra care to keep it civil. thx.'
I am also wondering about the option to close threads as is done in meta sometimes if they go poorly instead of deleting them as a precautionary measure.
posted by travelwithcats at 12:59 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't know how the moderators stand the constant criticism. I don't know a living soul who would put up with 1/100th of the crap that gets dished out to our mods on their job, no matter what their salary. So they get battle fatigue from reading every single comment on every single post that involves sexual assault/rape/violence from a psychological/physical/legal/relationship standpoint. Come on - that's not hard to understand. Could you spend your day watching reruns of SVU day in and day out?

I agree that the reason given for the deletion here is inadequate but clearly Restless Nomad is aware of that at this point, so give it a rest already. The mods don't have to please everyone all the time, even when ALL their comments come from "paying customers" (the sense of entitlement for a measly donation is incredible).

I hope MetaFilter doesn't change their policies at all, but I do think this is an interesting post and I'd probably read at least part of it if it did show up on the blue.
posted by aryma at 1:14 AM on December 10, 2014 [19 favorites]


"I don't know how the moderators stand the constant criticism."

BIG POOFY NERF BATS!
posted by clavdivs at 1:59 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


matthowie: You only have a single line input, you're responding to flags and emails on the fly, and you have to write something down while you hit delete, so it's usually done really quick.

Could it make sense use a short, temporary 'placeholder' deletion reason (like 'deletion reason forthcoming') when there's a need to quickly delete a post before it gets out of hand, then come back and flesh that out with something more thoughtful after the pressure to act quickly has subsided?
posted by syzygy at 2:18 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Completely agree with the deletion and the honesty of the reason- very contentious posts have the ability to bring mefi to a halt and I'm glad that avenue has been removed.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:20 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm off today and the next couple of days, so theoretically, my rape-free days in terms of constant bombardment of reading about it, but I didn't want to appear conspicuous by my absence, since I notice that this is often read as "mods disagreeing behind the scenes." So, I'll just say that for me, it's probably the #1 reason I would want to leave this job, because while it certainly doesn't rise to the level of what some moderators have to endure on other, larger sites that don't have our lovely little $5 gateway, I feel like I have to read "rape," "rape," "rape," "rape" over and over and over every single day I work, five days a week, and the absolute worst is when I also dream about it at night (something that only started after I began working here), so it all sort of becomes some horrible neverending hamster wheel of rape, and lately it's been extra-intense (and it always feels pretty intense), with the Woody Allen posts, the Bill Cosby posts, the Jian Ghomeshi post, the UVA post (and other college rape posts), the Gamergate posts (not exactly about rape, but not exactly not with the rape threats constantly mentioned (for obvious reasons), and some of the worst things I've seen have been in links from those threads.

Those certainly aren't all the recent rape-related posts, but those are some of the most active. And of course, nearly every feminism, sexism, and abortion post addresses rape (again, for obvious reasons), as well as many of the trans* related posts and other LGBT posts, many prison-related posts, as well as very many of the capital punishment threads, which include gruesome descriptions of rape and murder, and then there are also the domestic violence threads, games threads aside from the recent gamergate stuff (and the whole rape as entertainment trope in general -- and helllooo to you, too, "Game of Thrones" threads)... and more. Trust me, we have a whole lot of rape on Metafilter, pretty much all the time.

However, this comment is not in aid of special pleading for moderator mental/emotional welfare, because we can either manage this or find other jobs if we can't, it's to say that despite what feels like an overload on this topic from our point of view (since we have to spend a lot of time in every one of them, and every Metatalk that any of them spawn), I don't feel like deletions of rape posts have been overbearing at all. I can't prove that, though maybe (later! when he has time, if he feels like doing it!) cortex may be able to run some sort of clever search that can winnow it out. I tried a google search of the deleted posts blog, but sidebar stuff shows up there and messes up the results.

So, okay, let's talk about it, that's what we're here for. We usually do try to limit open threads on specific intense topics to two, maybe three at a time, but maybe rape is a different case. We can discuss. But I would ask that people try to make it about site standards and policies in general, and not about trying to punish restless_nomad, because she just happened to be the one to delete this, and it's a problem that every single moderator must juggle. So, if you do want to vent angrily, I'd personally appreciate it if you made it about all of us.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:22 AM on December 10, 2014 [75 favorites]


this comment is not in aid of special pleading for moderator mental/emotional welfare, because we can either manage this or find other jobs if we can't

This might sound bad, but until this thread I don't think I'd ever considered the ongoing emotional impact of moderating this place. I emailed one of the mods during one hideous MeTa just to say something like "how do you guys do this?" but I sort of considered it to be on rare occasions that the job would be overwhelming emotionally. So this discussion has made me genuinely concerned about people who, for a living, have to read about rape all day every day just so we all have a nice place to visit on the internet. I thought the deletion was a real shame, but I understand that mods have their limits too. The gang-rape thread made me physically shake halfway through reading the article and I had to click out because I was at work and I couldn't deal with it that day. It never occurred to me what it would be like to be basically compelled to read it, and all the ensuing comments, and all the followups, whether I wanted to deal with it or not.

In other jobs where you have to listen to traumatising material on a regular basis there is provision for supervision, debriefing etc because otherwise you run the risk of burnout at least and vicarious trauma at worst. Obviously I don't know what kind of employer protection policies MetaFilter has in place but I'd really hope that there is some formalised outlet for staff to deal with the fact that this is part of their working lives. I don't really want mods to have to get other jobs, and also great posts be nixed, because they can't take it anymore, just so I can pick and choose which painful threads to read or ignore and spend my time here being entertained while they're reaching breaking point.
posted by billiebee at 4:01 AM on December 10, 2014 [27 favorites]


I'm in favour of being able to read potentially contentious or challenging postings, even without the ability to comment.

We can do that: http://mefideleted.blogspot.nl/
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:09 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm almost always behind the mods on deletions, and I could definitely see that "we can't handle this one right now" might be a very valid reason, but I just want it said again that this looks like a really well put together post that's arguably on a quite specific dimension of the broader topic, and I hope it gets reposted eventually.
posted by Mngo at 4:57 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Just another woman who looked at the post, thought it looked well done, but had no interest in reading all the links and absolutely no interest in joining the discussion after the men's rights victim blaming rape apologia of the UVA thread. I have no clue how the mods do it, and I have absolutely no problem with this deletion.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:45 AM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I didn't want to appear conspicuous by my absence, since I notice that this is often read as "mods disagreeing behind the scenes."

Sorry for the derail, but this genuinely surprised me. Do people really keep tabs and read into which mods appear in which MetaTalk thread? I don't think I've ever heard anybody express this sentiment - maybe I'm naive, but I almost hope this is a mistaken assumption on your part, Taz, as it sucks to think you guys have to gird your modly loins and wade into the fray even on your days off.

Either way, I really appreciate the transparency and lack of defensiveness with which restless_nomad and the rest of the mods have operated in this thread. As others have already said, I don't know how you do this job but I'm grateful that you do.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:52 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Rape-related threads cast a big shadow over the site for mods, where every single thread that mentions rape in any context will become The Thread You Have To Moderate For Eight Hours on your shift for many days after they are posted.

I am so sorry for y'all having this kind of experience, seriously that sounds terrible. I actually think there was a post about this, some team of people hired at Facebook or whatever whose job it was to prune the worst of the worst. They had terrible mental health.
posted by odinsdream at 5:52 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm rather gobsmacked by some people's views that metafilter is strictly a business, especially now that they are accepting donations. I make a very small monthly contribution to support a cultural touchstone that I enjoy.

If metafilter existed solely to make money, it would be a completely different place and mathowie and the mods would have a much easier time deciding what's best for the customer base. Not community mind you, but the customer base. And what's best for the customer base is whatever keeps them paying and whatever makes metafilter the most money. Does anyone who has any fondness for this place think or feel that that's what metafilter is and/or should be? I doubt it.

The mods have given every indication that they are trying to do what's best for the community and metafilter as a whole, both in the short and long term. And they have done this in a thoughtful, fair, and sensitive manner 99% of the time. They make mistakes, but cast the first stone...

Special mention should be made of the patience the mods show. My god, I would have quit in disgust if I had to put up with some of the shit that goes on here. And the only reason I can think of that motivates them to act in the manner they do is because they love the site. It can't be money, because there are easier ways to make a buck.

There's nothing wrong with this meta, nothing wrong with the comments. Everyone has been civil. But I think that if enough people take the position that they are paying customers and should be treated as such, then this place is doomed. It won't last, or if it does it won't be the same place. So I engage with the mods in the spirit that they engage with the community. It's a process of give and take, and metafilter is always evolving.

I don't mean this to be argumentative in any way. It's more of a plea for patience and understanding. I would like this place to be around for a while.
posted by cwest at 5:59 AM on December 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


About to read the whole thread, but I have to say I'm *stunned* at the deletion reason.
posted by agregoli at 6:02 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the derail, but this genuinely surprised me. Do people really keep tabs and read into which mods appear in which MetaTalk thread?

In a discussion about moderator resources and the mental health impact of the job, it's not a derail to note how there has been a substantial history of weirdly aggressive (and predominantly gendered) responses to moderators in these MeTa threads. The gendered component is of particular relevance given that hostility towards moderators has (in my very unscientific observation) almost always been gendered, on top of noticing the direct statements of how taxing it can be to constantly moderate discussions about rape and sexual violence.

I do hope that part of the long term strategic plan for the site is to lessen this kind of burden on the moderators, perhaps by adding capacity, limiting the impact of the most problematic users, or whatever else might help.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:04 AM on December 10, 2014 [19 favorites]


Have a good few days off Taz.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:22 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


agregoli: "About to read the whole thread, but I have to say I'm *stunned* at the deletion reason."

Could people maybe not do this kind of thing? There was no value added by this comment, and as it happens, the thread revealed that things were considerably different than the deletion reason may have made it seem.

It's okay to take 20 minutes to read a thread. If you have something to add that hasn't been said, the thread will still be here for you to comment on.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:25 AM on December 10, 2014 [63 favorites]


About to read the whole thread, but I have to say I'm *stunned* at the deletion reason.

I'm always stunned that someone feels their input is so urgent as to comment first and read after the fact, especially in MeTa.

The deletion reason was poorly worded but the ensuing modly explanation and discussion thereof is more than satisfactory. I remember jessamyn's Cooter Clock and can only imagine that an analogous Rape Clock would have a ridonkulously short time span before being reset.
posted by romakimmy at 6:25 AM on December 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


DingoMutt: "Sorry for the derail, but this genuinely surprised me. Do people really keep tabs and read into which mods appear in which MetaTalk thread?"

Yes, this absolutely happens, although I haven't seen it quite as much as of late. When taz came on board, there was an entire thing about it, although to my observation, a) the criticisms were misplaced, and b) the rest of the mod team was entirely supportive.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:28 AM on December 10, 2014


Geez, sorry. Thanks for criticizing me twice about it. I'm still pretty stunned about the reason, even while I'm sympathetic to the mods for having to wade through all this. I can understand for them it's reading about rape all the time, as opposed to how we view it - which, as this post points out, there haven't been a "ton" of rape posts lately, even if that is people's perception.

I don't find any value in commenting on how much you don't like my comment, except for the opportunity to publicly shame. Thanks for adding to my shitty day!
posted by agregoli at 6:36 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


From the time stamps it seems that Chrysostom and I posted at the same time; their comment didn't turn up in my preview or I would have probably just refrained from making the same point. I'm sorry you're having a shitty day so, as the note below the comment box says, here's a hug ((()))
posted by romakimmy at 6:54 AM on December 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


I don't find any value in commenting on how much you don't like my comment, except for the opportunity to publicly shame. Thanks for adding to my shitty day!

Perhaps reflect on how you might be adding to the mods' shitty day, by choosing to comment without reading first.

There was nothing wrong with this deletion, or the deletion reason. The only thing I find shocking is how badly some people seem to be twisting themselves up to try to read the actions of the mods in the least charitable, most bad-faith-presuming way possible.
posted by tocts at 6:57 AM on December 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


About the money: if you buy a newspaper regularly, you're not a customer. You're a reader - or in old money "someone who takes the Guardian/Times/Telegraph"

So there is a precedent for "now some people contribute money" not meaning "this place is now just like Walmart". There are other relationships between people, even ones where money is involved.

I take Metafilter. The mods do some things I like, some things I don't, of course. That's fine, it's still My Place. I'm not a shareholder, employee, content provider or customer: I'm a reader.

And thanks for the honest comments about the stress of moderating. I'll certainly bear that in mind.
posted by alasdair at 6:59 AM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


That was an excellent post and I'm enjoying reading through the links. I wholeheartedly empathize with the actual deletion reason (and agree with the sense that the stated reason should reflect the actual reason). Hell, I come to MeFi for the comments, and I sometimes get burned out reading the already-moderated MeFi links and comments about rape and Ferguson.

I'm reminded of that "Moderation Exasperation" post on the blue just a few months ago, about the people hired to "scrub" the web of gross stuff. Yeah, presumably the mods aren't dealing with images of beheadings and dick picks (at least, not on MeFi), but there is also an expectation of the community to set the bar for itself and I imagine it is frustrating when the community does not reach that bar.

Virtual beers for the mods and divined by ratio!
posted by nicodine at 7:00 AM on December 10, 2014


Just another woman who looked at the post, thought it looked well done, but had no interest in reading all the links and absolutely no interest in joining the discussion after the men's rights victim blaming rape apologia of the UVA thread. I have no clue how the mods do it, and I have absolutely no problem with this deletion.

Since the UVA post went up almost a month ago and I never commented in it so it wasn't in my Recent Activity, I hadn't realized the thread was still in process until kagredon linked it above. If I'd been aware of the tone of the ongoing discussion there before I wrote the FPP, I wouldn't have tried to make my post at all; particularly in light of the recent developments in that thread, I absolutely shouldn't have.

So I don't feel remotely chilled or silenced by the prospect of having to put a lot more thought into FPPs that touch on euphemistically 'difficult' topics because I think the mods are basically saints for dealing with what they deal with already, and I don't want to make life more unpleasant for them, let alone knowingly expose them to vicarious trauma. Vicarious trauma (and specifically vicarious trauma related to sexual assault) has been very 'baked in' to my experience as a human, a woman, and a feminist, so I'm sure I'm not as sensitive as I could be to the viewpoint of people who might be less than comfortable with living and breathing in that space 24/7, and I'm very sorry for that. It's a known blind spot for me and this discussion has been a clear reminder of that.

Still, it's always disappointing to be reminded of the many ways that misogynists can, do, and will continue to control the development or cessation of discourse simply by virtue of existing, even if they remain completely silent (IBTP1). I hate that there are conversations we just can't have here, experiences we just can't share specifically because a bunch of people, mostly dudes, are going to do their level best to derail every single discussion that even touches on sexism or gendered violence because, I guess, they're just so uncomfortable with women talking honestly about their lives? MeFi isn't and can't be all things to all people, especially radical feminist people, but I'm still a bit bummed to know that I have to cede that ground to them here, in my most favorite internet room full of nerds, because damn, they have that ground ceded to them everywhere else in the known universe.
posted by divined by radio at 7:04 AM on December 10, 2014 [56 favorites]


I sincerely doubt I've made the mods have a worse day but you certainly have made mine worse, tocts! Congrats, I hope you feel cool for having done so. Thanks for the hug, romakimmy, I need it today.
posted by agregoli at 7:18 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


About to read the whole thread, but I have to say I'm *stunned* at the deletion reason.

And I am stunned at all the people who are stunned.

It's been stated repeatedly that the deletion reasons aren't some legal brief, nor are they engraved in stone by a prophet of Jibbers Crabst. They are a quick guidance as to why that post didn't make the cut. Rules lawyering of them has never been helpful.

There was a time when there was no reason at all given.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:22 AM on December 10, 2014


And I am stunned at all the people who are stunned.

*adjusts phaser setting to bewildered*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:25 AM on December 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


divined by radio: You are lovely and don't need to change a thing about yourself. I hate ceding MetaFilter to them, too, but I simply don't have it within me to struggle against the hatred, bile, and condescension on display in the UVA thread. They have worn out every bit of my soul.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:25 AM on December 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Deleting these types of posts simply for being these types of posts has a chilling effect on what people feel comfortable sharing here.

Deleting contributions from consistently excellent contributors - deleted through no fault of the contributor - has a chilling effect on these members' desire to put their effort into making contributions.

The fact that it doesn't seem thorough consideration of either of these points is a high priority at MetaFilter is quite discouraging.
posted by flex at 7:32 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


romakimmy: "From the time stamps it seems that Chrysostom and I posted at the same time; their comment didn't turn up in my preview or I would have probably just refrained from making the same point. "

Yes, sorry that came off as a dogpile, I think romakimmy and I were writing simultaneously.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:33 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Looks like we're responding to Moderator burn-out by creating a fire for them to walk through. How hard would it be to make the technical changes necessary so that deleted posts and comments are truly deleted, i.e. not visible?
posted by DanSachs at 7:33 AM on December 10, 2014


Timing is important.

I'm neither a dude nor a misogynist. I'm not a mod or even particularly renowned on this website which I love so much but I do believe that people need to be given a chance to process stuff, particularly when it's so full on and emotionally fraught. The good thing is we're given this forum to flesh out the deletion reason so that we're not just having to take that single line as being what the whole deletion was about; restless_nomad has had the opportunity to give the full reason for her deletion of the post. That is important and sorry agregoli, but a couple of comments asking you to read this thread before commenting shouldn't be taken as a vile insult.

divined by radio, it sucks to have a post that you've put effort into and which is obviously important be deleted, but it's also been stated plainly that the post is welcome to go up but not right now when there are so many fronts open on this particular subject.

Timing is important, mostly because it's important that your post be read and responded to without the baggage of the last however many posts hanging over it. I hope you post it again so that we get a chance to comment on it.
posted by h00py at 7:35 AM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Looks like we're responding to Moderator burn-out by creating a fire for them to walk through. How hard would it be to make the technical changes necessary so that deleted posts and comments are truly deleted, i.e. not visible?

Oh, no! Don't do that. Reading the deletion reasons is a big part of my day.
posted by Melismata at 7:41 AM on December 10, 2014


How hard would it be to make the technical changes necessary so that deleted posts and comments are truly deleted, i.e. not visible?

My impression is that deleted posts mostly really aren't visible to MeFites or non-members, like I don't think you can find them in member profiles or via tags or favorites or even via Google searches. There's a "MetaFilter Deleted" blog but I'm not sure how "official" or complete it is.

It just so happens that shakespeherian captured the URL of the post in a fairly narrow window of time, and then posted it here so people would know what he was talking about. Which raises the visibility of this particular deleted post, but I think that's a pretty rare occurrence.

I also get the impression that part of the reason that deleted posts aren't entirely nuked from orbit is so the mod team and a poster can have a common reference point if an FPP just needs some tweaks or alterations in order to become a valid post. Like the mods can say, "Get rid of [this] sentence, rearrange the order of the links like so, rephrase [this] point more like [this]", so on and so forth. Essentially so the mods can make editorial suggestions so a MeFite can keep the meat of a post as the basis for a new FPP that will stay up.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:55 AM on December 10, 2014


h00py - saying "sorry" before what you said didn't really make it better. Guess what? The point has been made! Leave it alone!

And we do need deletion reasons. Is there a technical reason the room to write a deletion reason is so small? Maybe the reason could be given by the mod as a comment at the end of the thread?
posted by agregoli at 7:56 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Perhaps it is time to consider taking on a moderator who is trained in dealing with discussions about sexual assault? I don't mean to imply that the job is not being done well, but perhaps someone who has a lot of specialized experience in this sort of thing might be a real asset to the moderator team (and metafilter at large).

I am so tired of the Internet as of late. I am tired of hearing about rape. I'm tired of thinking about my own rape when I hear other people's stories. I'm worn the fuck out. This society is a mysogonistic heap of garbage and I'm so, so tired of being a member of this "society" - one that is perfectly OK with violence against women. I can't even imagine being a moderator here and having to read all those threads over and over and being responsible for policing the apologists and the jerks and the rapists. That is a dirty job and it must impact how you feel about the world and about people in general.

This is a rough one. I wish it was not this way.
posted by sockermom at 7:57 AM on December 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


h00py - saying "sorry" before what you said didn't really make it better. Guess what? The point has been made! Leave it alone!

And that's the point people were making about your comment on the deletion reason. It had literally been made dozens of times already.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:01 AM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


I sincerely hope that everyone who came here to object to the deletion really appreciates and values what an open and transparent community this is. This is what human beings being very human and all* trying to get along, live their values and do their best looks like.

To the mods: what you do is profoundly appreciated.

To the rest: I keep seeing suggestions of how the apparently broken situation here could be better. But, I'm also curious of what other public sites on the internet do these discussions better and more frequently? Is there something we can learn from them? Or is it possible that any mis-steps here are just part of our collective learning process at making things a little bit better every day?

*except for those who don't and must be suffered with patience and dignity. The mods of metafilter quite clearly do not fall into this footnote.
posted by meinvt at 8:03 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Looks like we're responding to Moderator burn-out by creating a fire for them to walk through. How hard would it be to make the technical changes necessary so that deleted posts and comments are truly deleted, i.e. not visible?
Jesus. You're asking for less transparency.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:04 AM on December 10, 2014


I don't know a living soul who would put up with 1/100th of the crap that gets dished out to our mods on their job, no matter what their salary.

Do you not know anyone who works in customer-facing food service?
posted by Greg Nog at 8:05 AM on December 10, 2014 [17 favorites]


We do not have mods. We have editors. This was an editorial decision, based on the editors' preferences about what the site should be, not based on what we, the readers and content providers and paying customers, want. I'm sad that this is the case, but happy that more and more people are realizing it.

I want to go on record saying that I'm okay with moderation including an editorial component. Between Metafilter and a couple other sites, I've been around some online communities for more than a decade, and seen them drift from one group of dominant conversationalists to another, and how the long-term effect of not exercising a degree of editorial influence leads to community rudderlessness that ends in a small number of long-timers swapping "remember when"s.

because the response by the mods in this thread is not acceptable to me over the long term

Likewise to what I said above, their response here is acceptable to me, and even advisable. The primary component of Metafilter is the community, and the most obvious part of the current community is its history of being walked through difficult times and difficult topics by a moderation staff with an eye on the community's wellbeing and future. That's a good thing, and why I remain even though there are topics on which I won't participate anymore.

As Ironmouth said, "I'm paying for the mods to have the ultimate say in these questions."
posted by fatbird at 8:18 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Perhaps it is time to consider taking on a moderator who is trained in dealing with discussions about sexual assault?

That would make total sense if this were a site specifically about sexual assault. But realistically in a site with only five full-time moderators this isn't at all workable. I appreciate that people wish this post hadn't been deleted, and I understand that people want to fix that to address their discomfort with the process. But honestly, part of the issue is that MeFi is a thinly-staffed generalist site which happens to have a lot of people with a lot of specific experience (training, lived experience, lots of reading, whatever) and expecting mods to match that level in all contentious areas is impossible even though it may be desirable.

People need to be realistic about what is possible versus what is likely in a general sense and what is likely on MetaFilter. The userbase isn't going to change a lot, though it will probably slowly get more educated about certain topics. The mod team isn't likely to change dramatically; even bringing on a mod specifically trained in one area would only be as useful as that person's contributions during their shift and would otherwise make them The Rape Mod which isn't a job anyone would want (it's already really tough when mods get pinpointed as having some specific expertise and then they are expected to moderate all disputes on that topic even when it's not their shift, even when it's not their fight).

Speaking for myself again, I have a decent background in social services, though not sexual assault specifically, and this aspect of the job sucked for me. Arguing with users about whether their rape joke should have been deleted or not? Arguing with users that I must only be modding this way because I'd been/not been raped? Arguing with users that deleting ironic "she was asking for it" comments are infringing on people's right to free speech and make me a fascist? And all over email so it's not public? No thanks.

I get that people want to have informed discussions about difficult topics with this community that they care deeply about and that is admirable and should make people feel proud to be here, I know I am. At the same time, the costs associated with these sorts of posts are real, are difficult to limit, and bring out a lot of strong feelings in people that they don't always know what to do with, in good and bad ways. The site only exists insofar as there are talented caring people willing to work here. Listening when they are telling you there's something that is hard for them is important.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:21 AM on December 10, 2014 [70 favorites]


But, I'm also curious of what other public sites on the internet do these discussions better and more frequently? Is there something we can learn from them? Or is it possible that any mis-steps here are just part of our collective learning process at making things a little bit better every day?

I've seen a lot of sites turn off comments for a set period of time (generally overnight) if the blogger or moderator needs a bit of a break. I suspect that would not go over well here. Other sites I've read tend to be more of the "safe space" model where people are much more aggressively banned for saying anti-feminist things, which is not the model MetaFilter works on (or should, necessarily).

How long do threads stay open now? Is it worth thinking about closing threads more quickly? Or would that just encourage more front-page posts about the same topic, since the existing thread is closed?

I would, in any event, be supportive of measures taken to alleviate moderator compassion fatigue/burn-out/vicarious trauma.
posted by jaguar at 8:22 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


[I'm kind of off feminism for FPPs because I've had difficulties getting things posted - NOT the mods' fault they have been lovely and super-kind and patient with me! - but I'd rather put time and effort into something that won't get nuked. Having said that, I notice I cannot stay away from feminism, so there's that (to quote Breaking Bad).]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:24 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


There's a "MetaFilter Deleted" blog but I'm not sure how "official" or complete it is.

It's not official, but it's complete; it's trivial to find deleted posts, since all you need to identify a post is the number in the URL. E.g., the current latest post on the blue has this URL: http://www.metafilter.com/145212/Santa-as-you-may-never-have-seen-him-before, but just going to http://www.metafilter.com/145212 works just as well. All the deleted posts blog/scripts do is look for gaps in the IDs of posts on the page and present those URLs.
posted by asterix at 8:24 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


How long do threads stay open now? Is it worth thinking about closing threads more quickly?

I meant to flesh that out more -- it seems like discussions tend to get worse at the end of the thread, though I could be mistaken in that impression, so I wonder if closing threads earlier would curtail some of that fatigued hyperbolic fightiness.

But, again, I don't know if that would simply encourage more new posts on the same-ish topic.
posted by jaguar at 8:27 AM on December 10, 2014


I am allowed to make the same point others have made, and express my own thoughts. The point that I made anerror has been made over and over too, and I said it has made me feel bad. What is the point in keeping at it? I know this seems dramatic, and I know its not about me. But I wish you would think about why you need to make someone's life a little worse today. I'm out.
posted by agregoli at 8:29 AM on December 10, 2014


Metafilter threads stay open for 30 days, AskMetafilter for a year and MetaTalk for 30 days. Shortening the 30 day time frame will do little to change much, IMO. Sometimes things go great in longer thread, sometimes bad, usually it's a bit of both.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:30 AM on December 10, 2014


*hands out canapes*
posted by infini at 8:36 AM on December 10, 2014


It's possible that restless_nomad did not express herself well because she is tired. It's possible that some of the frustration about the deletion is because members are also tired. Tired and awash in Ferguson, torture, war, financial worries, job pressure, and the daily parade of cruelty the web brings into our homes and hands. Maybe we could all try not to add to that load?
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:40 AM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


As someone who actually is trained in moderating discussions about rape, I'll say this -

Secondary trauma is real and every single mod comment on this metatalk post is showing unmistakable signs of it. I thought Taz's comment was particularly eloquent about the lived experience of doing this work, and Jessamyn, aka the best moderator in the world, is saying quietly but pretty distinctly that she left over it. To me, this seems like a community emergency that goes way beyond the question of whether an individual post stays or goes. I cannot express enough how strongly I feel that my right to have a safe, well-moderated place on the internet to talk about rape must not come at the cost of someone else's mental health.

I also strongly disagree with Taz's statement that it's up to the mods to either suck it up or get new jobs. That's not how either a safe workplace or a healthy community functions. Ultimately, I think this is a problem that Matt, as the boss (with feedback from the community) has the responsibility to solve.

I don't think a moderator specifically trained in how to moderate this kinds of discussions is the answer. However, a training for the mods could be hugely useful. A large part of that training would consist of recognizing early signs of secondary trauma, and figuring out how to mitigate them. R_N's snappy deletion reason wasn't an accident or a slip of the tongue - it was an absolutely predictable sign of burnout, and the moment it happened, the rest of the team should have been ready to come together to support her and figure out what to do about it. Ideally, training would mean that there was an detailed plan in place about what to do when someone hits this point. Which they will. It's not a question. It's not about toughing it out. It is an inevitable consequence of doing this work.

After the training, the rules of site would have to change so that the mods are structurally supported in what they do and their inevitable need for recovery and self-care are built into the process of moderation. Maybe this means fewer posts about rape running at a given time. Maybe it means a queue for these posts. Maybe it means some other solution I haven't thought of yet. But the point is, that has to take priority.

If it doesn't - if the community's need to have these (powerful, moving, thought-provoking, but ultimately abstract) discussions continues to take precedence over the mods' need for practical and emotional support - then frankly I think every one of us who has ever commented in those threads should take a good long look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we are actually working against rape culture, or if we are, however inadvertently, contributing to it.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:43 AM on December 10, 2014 [122 favorites]


(To clarify: In the sense that we are in this MetaFilter thing together, could we please go a little more gently with one another?)
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:43 AM on December 10, 2014


I'm someone who thinks the moderation here can be fairly heavy-handed, but I also know the mods have said several times that this site is not a safe space. It's a site to talk about many things, not to serve as a protection for those of us--MOST of us--who are the victims of an unjust world.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:47 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


R_N's snappy deletion reason wasn't an accident or a slip of the tongue - it was an absolutely predictable sign of burnout, and the moment it happened, the rest of the team should have been ready to come together to support her and figure out what to do about it.

They seem to have done so and all agreed that the post can wait another week or (my suggestion) be added into one of the other posts currently about the subject. If people are arguing that waiting a week or having to put the information in a comment instead of post is problematic, then perhaps that's an issue they should address within themselves.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:50 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Perhaps it is time to consider taking on a moderator who is trained in dealing with discussions about sexual assault?

And let's be honest--how many times has someone gone into a contentious thread and attempted to use their professional expertise to grant a more neutral or nuanced view, to only have a chorus of people respond: we'll, that's your job! WE don't have to be neutral!
posted by girlmightlive at 8:57 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


jaguar: "I've seen a lot of sites turn off comments for a set period of time (generally overnight) if the blogger or moderator needs a bit of a break. I suspect that would not go over well here."

Well, it did happen once.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:59 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Brandon -

I agree that, informally, the mods appear to be working hard to support each other and I was impressed with the way they came together on this. I guess my question is whether an informal approach to this stuff is working or sustainable long-term. If there are practices in place behind the scenes to support them, and basically they're okay with the way things are going, then a lot of what I've said is irrelevant, or at least directed more to the community than the administration. But both the stuff Jessamyn has said, plus (not to be melodramatic) and the stress and pain that seemed evident in most of the moderator comments, makes me worry that it's not the case. I'd be happy to be proven wrong.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 9:04 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


pretentious illiterate: "As someone who actually is trained in moderating discussions about rape, I'll say this -

Secondary trauma is real and every single mod comment on this metatalk post is showing unmistakable signs of it. I thought Taz's comment was particularly eloquent about the lived experience of doing this work, and Jessamyn, aka the best moderator in the world, is saying quietly but pretty distinctly that she left over it. To me, this seems like a community emergency that goes way beyond the question of whether an individual post stays or goes. I cannot express enough how strongly I feel that my right to have a safe, well-moderated place on the internet to talk about rape must not come at the cost of someone else's mental health.

I also strongly disagree with Taz's statement that it's up to the mods to either suck it up or get new jobs. That's not how either a safe workplace or a healthy community functions. Ultimately, I think this is a problem that Matt, as the boss (with feedback from the community) has the responsibility to solve.

I don't think a moderator specifically trained in how to moderate this kinds of discussions is the answer. However, a training for the mods could be hugely useful. A large part of that training would consist of recognizing early signs of secondary trauma, and figuring out how to mitigate them. R_N's snappy deletion reason wasn't an accident or a slip of the tongue - it was an absolutely predictable sign of burnout, and the moment it happened, the rest of the team should have been ready to come together to support her and figure out what to do about it. Ideally, training would mean that there was an detailed plan in place about what to do when someone hits this point. Which they will. It's not a question. It's not about toughing it out. It is an inevitable consequence of doing this work.

After the training, the rules of site would have to change so that the mods are structurally supported in what they do and their inevitable need for recovery and self-care are built into the process of moderation. Maybe this means fewer posts about rape running at a given time. Maybe it means a queue for these posts. Maybe it means some other solution I haven't thought of yet. But the point is, that has to take priority.

If it doesn't - if the community's need to have these (powerful, moving, thought-provoking, but ultimately abstract) discussions continues to take precedence over the mods' need for practical and emotional support - then frankly I think every one of us who has ever commented in those threads should take a good long look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we are actually working against rape culture, or if we are, however inadvertently, contributing to it.
"

Let's all stop and read this again.
posted by boo_radley at 9:06 AM on December 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


Catching up, just wanted to register a mod response to a couple bits:

Looks like we're responding to Moderator burn-out by creating a fire for them to walk through. How hard would it be to make the technical changes necessary so that deleted posts and comments are truly deleted, i.e. not visible?

I get the spirit behind the suggestion, but this is definitely not gonna happen. Very little of the work or trouble that stems from deleted posts has to do with their visibility-if-you-know-where-to-look; folks bothered by a deletion enough to write in or start a new post on metatalk are overwhelmingly folks who saw the post before it got deleted or are otherwise close watchers of the site, rather than people who managed to somehow trip across a deletion after the fact, and so hiding rather than somewhat obscuring deleted threads wouldn't as a practical matter deter that kind of response.

But beyond that, we keep those visible because it feels like the correct thing to do. As someone said, there's value in folks being able to reference a post that got nixed, to talk about how it was framed and so on, and while that does definitely stand in tension to potentially aggro rehashing/fisking/etc of something it's a balance we prefer to stick with for posts in particular as one of the higher-effort aspects of community participation here.

Is there a technical reason the room to write a deletion reason is so small? Maybe the reason could be given by the mod as a comment at the end of the thread?

The limit on the length of deletion reasons is more a matter of practice and economy than of strict technical limitation, at this point. The reason field used to be actually pretty aggressively clamped down, back in the day—I think on the order of about a tweet or so, sometimes us having to trim down a thought to make it fit—but we actually got pb to widen it a while back to a much larger data field to make it easier to work out the occasional longer reason and to accommodate urls without having that markup eat into the expressive space.

Deletion reasons tend to be short more because we tend to want to keep them short; we don't want to write up a lengthy exegesis on each deletion, and don't expect the deletion reason text to represent a wholly-qualified take on all the contributing factors and context of a post and its deletion. That's what we've got the contact form and Metatalk for; those are avenues for discussion and detail. The deletion reason itself is a sign post, written generally quickly as an add-on bit of the process of deletion, which is the core thing.

You'll see the occasional paragraph-length reason, but it's not the norm and all else aside I don't think it's practical to expect that to change. There are better venues for digging into the detail of moderation practice than a small box that can't be replied to.

As for placement, I think it's important that the reason be set apart as a mod-only message at the top of the thread; that both makes it visible without having to plow through to the end of a thread, and makes it unambiguously not a comment in the thread, which makes it clearer that its coming from a mod and gets away from seeming like its at tension with the general expectation that folks will keep metacommentary out of discussion threads themselves.

How long do threads stay open now? Is it worth thinking about closing threads more quickly? Or would that just encourage more front-page posts about the same topic, since the existing thread is closed?

Most of the conversation that happens in busy threads happens early on, even in the ones that keep going after the fact. We have occasional long-haul contentious threads but I'd guess even the ones that are particularly active after a week represent a very small percentage of our workload. Not none, but not enough for it to make sense to curtail thread lifespans across the board just to try and avoid it.

And, yeah, I suspect that as you note it might make it harder to satisfy folks who really want to be talking about x still from pushing for new posts when there is that much less likelihood that there is an open thread touching on x.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:13 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


The mod comments in this thread are sobering, taz's specifically. Like in the holy shit can we fix this immediately kind of way.
posted by odinsdream at 9:31 AM on December 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


PretentiousIlliterate's comment about mod training is spot-on. I would be happy to help provide funds to make that happen if that is something that the moderators think they need.

And jessamyn, yeah, this is a generalist site and having a specialized moderator just for assault threads is not the best idea. I feel a bit silly for suggesting it now that I have thought about it a bit more! :)
posted by sockermom at 9:44 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Arguing with users about whether their rape joke should have been deleted or not? Arguing with users that I must only be modding this way because I'd been/not been raped? Arguing with users that deleting ironic "she was asking for it" comments are infringing on people's right to free speech and make me a fascist? And all over email so it's not public? No thanks.

This makes me really, really angry on your (and all the mods') behalf. It also makes me feel sad and kind of resigned to it, and I hate that.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:47 AM on December 10, 2014 [23 favorites]


I have not read every comment, but I wanted to add my voice to those saying this was a bad deletion. The problem is not that there are too many rape posts; the problem is that there are too many rapes. (hint: one is too many.)
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:02 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'd like to post a relevant article here: http://www.wired.com/2014/10/content-moderation. It's about people that are hired to moderate and delete objectionable content from facebook, twitter, and the like, meaning these people spend all day looking a pictures and videos of rapes and beheadings. It sounds to me like one of the worst ways to legally make a living, and it absolutely takes its toll on the people that endure it. I've been trying to keep it in mind lately when viewing the actions of moderators in difficult decisions.

There's what seems to be a common occurrence in online communities as they grow, which is an increasing mistrust in moderator actions. 4chan on the whole has gone through this cycle. And I see it often with various subreddits. Moderators have complete control on their own subreddits, and the early subscribers generally view this as a great thing; the mods have complete control to curate the subreddit as they see fit, and decide upon what content and language is allowed. But as subreddits get bigger, at some point there's a tipping point where the user sentiment changes to, "We are the subscribers, we submit content, so we should be the ones that should decide what stays and what goes (via upvotes/downvotes)". If the moderators then use their mod abilities to control the discussion/content in any way, it is seen as censorship, as if the mods are now doing something Wrong.

To me, some of the language used in the above comments sounds like the latter, and I disagree with it. I firmly believe that MetaFilter moderators should have final say in what is Right and Wrong to post. It's Matt's site, after all. And we can disagree here, offer alternative solutions, and/or leave, but ultimately, the mods get to decide what are the grounds for deletion.

To me, the fastest and simplest improvement is for everyone to be more mindful when posting, especially in contentious threads. I think it's 100% reasonable for the mods to delete any post they don't feel like currently moderating, but that only happens because those sorts of posts are magnets for the most emotional and objectionable responses. Post less, and when you do, post better. Try to raise the bar on the worst that gets posted here. I think the moderators would be thankful for that.
posted by Skephicles at 10:02 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


"...Is there a technical reason the room to write a deletion reason is so small? Maybe the reason could be given by the mod as a comment at the end of the thread?
posted by agregoli at 7:56 AM on December 10 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


I think this is a good point and one I meant to raise right after mathowie's comment about the limited space given for a deletion reason/explanation: could the space not be easily increased?
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:03 AM on December 10, 2014


Definitely never meant to suggest that the mods should sacrifice their mental health to the shittiness of the world and almost all of the people in it, and I really don't see anyone else on this thread suggesting as much either. People have in fact made a number of suggestions in good faith for ways (albeit not always feasible ones) to give the mods more support, more breathing room, more, yknow, mods.

As divined by radio said above, it is just tremendously sad and demoralizing to concede yet more ground (good, smart, energetically engaged ground!) to the misogynist shitstains of the world. To be sad about this is not the same as demanding our mods martyr themselves to the cause. It's just a goddamn, motherfucking, drinking-in-the-daytime-now shame.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:03 AM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


The moderators here don't ban quickly enough. They're not equipped to be anyone's personal guide through the deep, dark forest of Not Being Terrible, but it seems to be part of the job description. They don't seem empowered to set reasonable, healthy boundaries with site members who want to complain.

All of these problems are fixable.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:03 AM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


PretentiousIlliterate's comment about mod training is spot-on. I would be happy to help provide funds to make that happen if that is something that the moderators think they need.

Trauma Stewardship is the best book I've read on the subject (and I've been lucky to work in organizations where vicarious trauma was taken seriously and actively managed by staff and superiors). It looks like she does organizational consulting.
posted by jaguar at 10:04 AM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


To be clear, I'm not criticizing individual mods. This place has a culture of banning being an absolute last resort, and that's the problem, not the mods themselves.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:05 AM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


I mean, granted, you don't want mods to spend a lot of time writing reasons for deletions, but if someone's spent some blood, sweat, and tears on a post (voluntarily, yes, we all do this voluntarily as posters), I think they deserve as complete a response as possible, so *they* can do better with their next attempt at an FPP...

(I certainly need to adjust my expectations of what would make a good feminism post and I need to take that on board, fwiw.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:05 AM on December 10, 2014


This, to me, is unacceptable and a policy/management issue:
Arguing with users about whether their rape joke should have been deleted or not? Arguing with users that I must only be modding this way because I'd been/not been raped? Arguing with users that deleting ironic "she was asking for it" comments are infringing on people's right to free speech and make me a fascist? And all over email so it's not public? No thanks.
The expectation of this level of engagement seems really inappropriate to me.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:09 AM on December 10, 2014 [23 favorites]


I mean, granted, you don't want mods to spend a lot of time writing reasons for deletions, but if someone's spent some blood, sweat, and tears on a post (voluntarily, yes, we all do this voluntarily as posters), I think they deserve as complete a response as possible, so *they* can do better with their next attempt at an FPP...

I can't speak for the mods, but I've always gotten a very strong sense that they're more than happy to talk over deleted posts via e-mail/MeFiMail. (IMS they've even offered to vet posts prior to posting.) But the deletion note on a post itself really doesn't seem like the right place to have that dialog. Maybe an entry in the FAQ or the posting guidelines saying "hey, if your post gets deleted you can always talk to us about it" would be a solution?
posted by asterix at 10:12 AM on December 10, 2014


I joined metafiter in March 2010, and at first was appalled at how sexist it was. But over the years, the sexism has been lessening, and that was a good thing. This deletion, however, seems to signal a return to the days when it was ok to allow comments on a post to deteriorate rapidly into ogling a starlet's breasts and critiquing her body in general.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:18 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


This deletion, however, seems to signal a return to the days when it was ok to allow comments on a post to deteriorate rapidly into ogling a starlet's breasts and critiquing her body in general.

Oh I strenuously disagree with this. I would say this signals, instead, that many posts which could potentially devolve into shitshows like you linked above are simply not going to stand in the Blue anymore. Because the mods don't need to be exposed to a constant stream of human filth any more than you do, just by virtue of being mods.

When I say it feels like ceding ground to the misogynists, that is in the sense of "great, another thing we can't talk about because they'll use it as an excuse to bludgeon everyone's mental health with their insistence on being wastes of carbon." Not in the sense of "we're just going to let misogynists throw their nasty comments around undeleted."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:26 AM on December 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


MexicanYenta: "I joined metafiter in March 2010, and at first was appalled at how sexist it was. But over the years, the sexism has been lessening, and that was a good thing. This deletion, however, seems to signal a return to the days when it was ok to allow comments on a post to deteriorate rapidly into ogling a starlet's breasts and critiquing her body in general. "

I feel that this is as inaccurate read of what happened as is possible. It's not AT ALL what was communicated in this thread.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:32 AM on December 10, 2014 [24 favorites]


This deletion, however, seems to signal a return to the days when it was ok to allow comments on a post to deteriorate rapidly into ogling a starlet's breasts and critiquing her body in general.

Having read the entire thread, and in particular the mods' comments, I *really* don't understand where this is coming from.
posted by asterix at 10:32 AM on December 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


"Jessamyn, aka the best moderator in the world, is saying quietly but pretty distinctly that she left over it."

I don't think that's accurate. It was probably part of it, but there's a lot of other stuff there too. I don't want to speak for Jessamyn, but that's the impression that I've gotten.
posted by klangklangston at 10:49 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


One way that users can protect their mental health is to add triggering tags to their excluded tag cloud, then browse using My MeFi instead of going to the main page.

I think "we have too many open threads about rape already and we can't deal" is a perfectly good reason for a deletion. Mods need to take care of themselves too.
posted by chaiminda at 11:06 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Arguing with users about whether their rape joke should have been deleted or not? Arguing with users that I must only be modding this way because I'd been/not been raped? Arguing with users that deleting ironic "she was asking for it" comments are infringing on people's right to free speech and make me a fascist? And all over email so it's not public? No thanks.

Seconding that this is really, really something that should not have to happen. I understand engaging with users to discuss their problematic interactions with the site, but if someone suggests that a moderator is behaving in a certain way due to having been/not having been assaulted then the person making that accusation should be banned so hard the account numbers before and after it in the list have scorch marks.
posted by winna at 11:08 AM on December 10, 2014 [56 favorites]


I've read snippets here and there, and this may have been covered, but I'll chime in anyway:

1: It was not a post that was worthy of deletion in its own right. I think pretty much everyone is on that page, including the mods.

2: There *is* a viable and very real/justifiable need to limit the level of visiblity (not as in 'hide it' but 'lower it') in order to give modes a break on contentious issues/mode-heavy or stressful or downright exhausting threads for them. This is not a site that needs to handle all topics at all times and be moderated to the same standard. Sometimes there needs to be a break for sanity for all of us - users to calm down, mods to feel they have fresh eyes on a topic.

Which brings me to:
3: For threads that are deleted through no fault of the threads, but as a result of their topic, can they not be bumped to a queue? Instead of coming up in the 'deleted threads' feed where everyone can see it and it implies 'no for this topic/thread/issue' and all the various reading into it that is rife in this thread, do mods not need some time to interact with each other and the poster to fix things or -re-do things that would make it acceptable?

At present, there was no ability of the mod team to talk about that thread (privately), nor suggest a re-post in the future to the OP and so this attempt to spread the mod workload a little on this particular thread/topic created a massive extra workload here in this thread because (arguably) we have too much visibility too early in the process. I suggest a 'holding state' that mods can move the thread into, which would allow them some flexibility to remove a thread from the front page if some urgency in that is required without having to rush a deletion reason (or even the decision) if they feel they want to take a moment about it or get a second opinion or speak to the OP about a change. Only if it was hard-core deleted would it show in the deleted threads area. It should be simple enough to make the switch for 'deleted threads' on the mod side go to either 'full deletion' or 'holding pattern' (in UI - the back end may be harder obviously) and give people a chance to breathe.

Rather than total oblivion for deleted threads, some compromise may work. The workflow of either deleting or putting threads on hold takes the pressure off mods for decision making and also removes the instant second guessing we see here. It may even make all deletion/reinstatements totally invisible because we wouldn't see that process (nor should we).
posted by Brockles at 11:31 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


The problem isn't the mods. The problem is that we have a population of assholes on this site who routinely shit up threads on contentious topics. Without the dubious, po-faced "contributions" of these people, threads go well and people behave like adults.

We are now seeing a situation where the absolute inability of certain posters to behave like actual community members is damaging the moderators' ability to do their job.

Getting rid of the shitheads would solve a good 75% of this problem. As it is now, no amount of good faith on the part of the mods or the community is going to make the slightest bit of difference, because there's a coterie of people with diarrhea of the soul who are always, always going to come waltzing into a discussion about rape, or I/P, or racism, lob a fucking bomb, and sit back and laugh as everyone decent on the site tries to engage with a blatantly bad-faith argument.

Personally, I'm sick to death of it, because it strikes me as very much the same as the door-to-door solicitors who rely upon people being decent to pollute your life. Because decent people assume that everyone else is decent, which is the only way you get a community. And the assholes rely on this: no matter how shitty their behavior, they know that they'll always get some percentage of the community bending over backwards to try and turn their shitty little aside into actual communication.

These people do not care about the community. They care about themselves, and creating a fucking circus. They have no interest in changing their behavior, even a little, because there's no consequence to their repeated actions.

At some point we have to realize that we're all bending over so far to be fair that we're falling on our own ass. And, speaking strictly for myself, I think we're way past that point. The vast majority of users participate in good faith in this community, but a small, toxic group do not. We all know who they are. We all know what they do.

mathowie, I respect the hell out of you, and I'm contributing to supporting the site because this is a special place and deserves it. But, please, for the love of God, there's got to be a better way than this.
posted by scrump at 11:34 AM on December 10, 2014 [28 favorites]


> As divined by radio said above, it is just tremendously sad and demoralizing to concede yet more ground (good, smart, energetically engaged ground!) to the misogynist shitstains of the world. To be sad about this is not the same as demanding our mods martyr themselves to the cause. It's just a goddamn, motherfucking, drinking-in-the-daytime-now shame.

> This makes me really sad, that a deletion like this would have a chilling effect on how you or anyone else posts here, and this is exactly why I still oppose the deletion. I hate the fact that because lots of people are shitty in threads that involve sexual assault that now we have to limit the posts about it.

> Deleting these types of posts simply for being these types of posts has a chilling effect on what people feel comfortable sharing here.

Deleting contributions from consistently excellent contributors - deleted through no fault of the contributor - has a chilling effect on these members' desire to put their effort into making contributions.

The fact that it doesn't seem thorough consideration of either of these points is a high priority at MetaFilter is quite discouraging.


> But boy, this one hurt. There are precious few places on the Internet that handle issues of sexual violence with nuance and depth and I really think that the relative success Metafilter manages to do so would indicate that this is an issue that resonates with your userbase. Leaving aside the "rape is having a cultural moment" argument (which, yuck), what makes MetaFilter neat is that it reflects the life experiences of its users. Hell yes, it's a depressing experience to read account after account of instances of sexual violence. It's also hard to live it, and there's value in discussing it often.

> Still, it's always disappointing to be reminded of the many ways that misogynists can, do, and will continue to control the development or cessation of discourse simply by virtue of existing, even if they remain completely silent (IBTP1). I hate that there are conversations we just can't have here, experiences we just can't share specifically because a bunch of people, mostly dudes, are going to do their level best to derail every single discussion that even touches on sexism or gendered violence because, I guess, they're just so uncomfortable with women talking honestly about their lives? MeFi isn't and can't be all things to all people, especially radical feminist people, but I'm still a bit bummed to know that I have to cede that ground to them here, in my most favorite internet room full of nerds, because damn, they have that ground ceded to them everywhere else in the known universe.

Just want to chime in to say I agree with divined by radio, flex, Blast Hardcheese, others. I 100% see where the mods are coming from and that what they're dealing with is a real problem and I hope this thread helps people brainstorm ways to address it because it's not OK (and as mentioned upthread, this problem of moderating vileness on the internet as a work trauma issue seems to be picking up some steam in terms of growing awareness). Having said that, I am disheartened that the ones who get the short end of the stick as a result of those difficulties aren't the ones making problems for the mods, and if anything the opposite, people who are trying to talk about this issue because it affects them and change general public misconception through honesty and candidness in good faith. I don't like conflating the people making it impossible to have these conversations with the people trying to have them in good faith (which, something about "you don't get to have this" felt like it was doing that). Something about that really bothers me, not in an "I'm mad or upset with the community/mods" way but a "they win again and we give up and take our ball and go home, ugh, can't something be done" way. Because it isn't fair and it feels like just another reflection of how the detractors and deniers get to decide the terms of conversation everywhere anyone actually pays attention just by keeping up enough sheer noise, they decide whether we even get to have one or not. It makes me wonder if internet fraud detection squad... isn't onto something and the goal posts for bans/deletions need to be moved as the internet gets wider and wider, if we still want to be able to have these conversations (and actually I've been thinking about that in general too, stuff like how the Toast comments are so damn civil and thoughtful, what goes into keeping it that way, etc.).
posted by ifjuly at 11:51 AM on December 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


I think I honestly would vastly prefer that mods acknowledge their mental health concerns and that they are a limited team rather than mods getting to burnout frustration point. Everyone is sympathetic! There's no need not to put that down as the bare deletion reason.
posted by corb at 11:55 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


the ones who get the short end of the stick as a result of those difficulties aren't the ones making problems for the mods

Surely some responsibility lay with the people actually posting rape thread after rape thread.
posted by 0 at 12:01 PM on December 10, 2014


(Whoops, need to catch up on the thread before posting - thanks cortex.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:01 PM on December 10, 2014


Getting rid of the shitheads would solve a good 75% of this problem.

I suspect this undercounts the effect of the raw effort of policing those threads, even when they're going relatively well. There's a volume aspect to this problem as much as a shithead problem, and I suspect that what some view as shitheadedness is more about frustration with cluelessness or "not doing your 101" than trolling.

I hope this thread helps people brainstorm ways to address it

It would be great if some viable ideas were found, but sometimes the solution is for people to back off and demonstrate some empathy, even if it sucks a bit to do so.
posted by fatbird at 12:03 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Surely some responsibility lay with the people actually posting rape thread after rape thread.
Is this a goddamn joke? I think I need to step away from this thread. And maybe the whole Internet.
posted by sockermom at 12:04 PM on December 10, 2014 [35 favorites]


Surely some responsibility lay with the people actually posting rape thread after rape thread.

Good to see that you are concerned with people acknowledging their responsibility for increasing the mods' workload.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:04 PM on December 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


We are now seeing a situation where the absolute inability of certain posters to behave like actual community members is damaging the moderators' ability to do their job.

Hey, can the mods weigh in on this viewpoint? Because reading through their responses in this thread, it seems as though that's part of the problem from their end, but not the entire problem. Mostly it seems to be having to read about rape stories and having two many threads about it one time has grown exhausting.

So banning certain users doesn't seem like it'll fix the problem, as they'll still have to read about rape, over and over.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:05 PM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately, yeah, the "drowning out with noise" sort of posts have become more and more deliberate everywhere online as people realize what an effective technique it is. I'm not sure that's what "Sealioning" is, but it's similar. Moderation philosophies may have to shift as this stuff becomes widespread. I can't fault the mod team here as I've been scratching my head trying to figure out what you would do.
posted by selfnoise at 12:06 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


0 is just doing the same thing they did in the "biased moderation" MeTa thread.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:06 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm off today (and intend to mostly stay that way) bu I wanted to respond to a couple of things after a skim of this thread.

I don't think a moderator specifically trained in how to moderate this kinds of discussions is the answer. However, a training for the mods could be hugely useful.

Somewhat ironically, I think I probably *am* the moderator with the most training - I have a background in self-defense, and I'm also the mod with the broadest professional experience. (Whatever else happens, y'all will always be better than the Facebook comments on the official Everquest pages when the game goes down. Heh.) It doesn't really change the fact that we're lightly staffed and the world kind of sucks right now in ways people want to talk about, which makes the work shift mostly about how the world sucks in general and how some people suck in a wide variety of ways. There's a point at which even if the discussion is perfectly civil and polite, the topic is wearing just to have to encounter over and over and over again, and rape is definitely top of the list for me. I'm not particularly sensitive - quite the opposite, really - but it's tiring.

What would make life easier for me, personally, would be a swing back against newsfilter/outragefilter stuff - if the rest of the internet is actively freaking out about something, we can wait until that dies down to talk about it - if it remains worth talking about once some perspective has been gained. The "shirtstorm" subject was one that, to my eye, was an absolute tempest in a teapot, and a retrospective later about what the actual outcomes were would have been interesting in a way that the catalogue of Angry Internet People wasn't. I know that people who follow that kind of thing enjoy having a longer-form way to discuss the ongoing drama than Twitter, but I would prefer Metafilter not be the place for it. That would leave more community and moderator energy for the sort of thoughtful, curated collection of essays about sensitive topics that was the deleted post under discussion. (This is my opinion-as-mod, not an Official Pronouncement - something for people to think about and discuss.)

All that aside, I'm grateful as fuck I'm not still working in the game industry. I spent some time with an old boss of mine a couple of weeks ago, and she said that after she'd mentioned the current ongoing drama in public, she "only" got a couple of months of hang-up calls. Could be worse!

Jaguar, I requested that book from the library. Seems like something worth reading, for sure. Thanks for the recommendation!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:07 PM on December 10, 2014 [40 favorites]

Surely some responsibility lay with the people actually posting rape thread after rape thread.
This is the kind of thing I was talking about, more or less in a nutshell.

Your argument is nonsense. You know it's nonsense. We know it's nonsense. And, yet, here we are, again. You are one of the people I'm talking about, because you have a repeated pattern of disingenuous engagement with this site, most recently involving GamerGate.
posted by scrump at 12:08 PM on December 10, 2014 [33 favorites]


I do not know it's nonsense. It seems sensible to me that the "assholes" are not the ones putting up the threads. You may think I have an absurd take, but please grant that it is a sincere one.
posted by 0 at 12:12 PM on December 10, 2014


Surely some responsibility lay with the people actually posting rape thread after rape thread.

Really? You thought it was a good idea to go the "maybe they were asking for it" route in this thread?
posted by zombieflanders at 12:13 PM on December 10, 2014 [24 favorites]


Somewhat ironically, I think I probably *am* the moderator with the most training - I have a background in self-defense, and I'm also the mod with the broadest professional experience.

I don't think it was just general "training" that was intended, but specifically training in how to deal with and be sensitive to sexual assault and rape issues.

The "shirtstorm" subject was one that, to my eye, was an absolute tempest in a teapot, and a retrospective later about what the actual outcomes were would have been interesting in a way that the catalogue of Angry Internet People wasn't.

I'm really surprised you'd characterize it that way - most of those Angry Internet People were actual women in science who are affected by these issues every day. Don't want to start a derail though..

Anyway, r_n, any chance of getting the deletion reason changed? I continue to think that it could be very hurtful to vulnerable members of the community and that changing it is basically without cost, but there hasn't been much response to this from the mod side. Those reasons are very visible to anyone who reads the deleted threads blog or twitter feed, or who has the Deleted Threads script installed.
posted by dialetheia at 12:15 PM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


For threads that are deleted through no fault of the threads, but as a result of their topic, can they not be bumped to a queue?

I follow you on the good intentions behind it, but I think that's a lot of change for something that comes up relatively rarely: the number of times a year that we end up in a position of needing to say, in part, "this is a good post but the timing is bad" is I think pretty darned small, especially compared to the number of times we end up more in "this isn't a great post period".

We have a queue for metatalk as of the last half a years, and a queue for anonymous ask metafilter questions going back a lot longer, and both are there as trade-off solutions to major, central aspects of those functions of the site; they both generate their own issues and create some side work and coordination stuff for us as a mod team that in the end seems worth the balance but it is a balance. And that's core functionality. Adding another queuing process, with the overhead and logistics and user education involved in making it work, for only a very small subset of the stuff that gets posted to Metafilter, feels like it'd be taking a steamshovel to a scab in practice, basically.

It'd also be, unlike the others, a reactive queue: posts would go live, then be called by mods in real time as needing to be pulled back out of circulation, which doesn't sound like it'd be particularly smooth or fun to deal with.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:15 PM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Bluntly, no. I won't grant that. Because the way you engage with this site bears absolutely no resemblance to what you just said.

After a certain point, you don't get to play the "but I'm sincere in my shit-stirring" card any more, because you've been around long enough to see how the community actually works, and you've been coached by the mods, and, frankly, you know how things work.

So, no, I'm not going to grant your sincerity, because I don't even think that request is sincere. I think you know exactly what you're doing.
posted by scrump at 12:15 PM on December 10, 2014 [21 favorites]


I feel like it's necessary to point something out, which has been touched upon a little, but feels like it's being missed:

Even in a perfect world where every topic could be discussed with minimal effect on the mods and the site, there are always going to be limits on how frequently a given topic can show up. This is a generalist site. It is not meant to host ongoing, neverending discussions about every topic ever.

Obviously, the frequency that the site can deal with a given topic varies based on the difficulty of topic -- weightier, more contentious topics are more of a problem if they show up all the time. However, even easy topics for which there are no arguments and no contention have limits.

I know that a lot of the suggestions in this thread are well-intended, but I think it's worth making the effort to be mindful of this. Even if these threads can be made easier on the mods, you need to set your expectations appropriately. I'm fairly certain (based on the history of the site, and the comments from the mods) that for many people here, MeFi is never going to go as far as you want it to in hosting these sorts of discussions.
posted by tocts at 12:15 PM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


I do not know it's nonsense. It seems sensible to me that the "assholes" are not the ones putting up the threads. You may think I have an absurd take, but please grant that it is a sincere one.

It would be awesome if you can actually talk about the point you're making, rather than just throwing out a comment and expecting everyone to understand whatever you're trying to say on a sensitive subject.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:16 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would definitely support significantly raising the threshold for newsfilter posts of all sorts. In general, but especially if the reduction in assault-related newsfilter clears more room for thoughtful posts like the one under discussion.
posted by gilrain at 12:16 PM on December 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


I'm trying to say the same thing you said, Brandon. Obviously failing.
posted by 0 at 12:18 PM on December 10, 2014


0 is just doing the same thing they did in the "biased moderation" MeTa thread.

As of late, I personally have started mentally pronouncing their user name as 'flaccid ass sphincter' due to the ingenious amount of shit they tend to spray across a thread.
posted by romakimmy at 12:19 PM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Agreed, I think there is a strong case to be made for fewer newsfilter posts in general. Not a hard ban by any means but more consideration of, "Is this really something that is right for Metafilter?"
posted by Chrysostom at 12:20 PM on December 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


scrump: "Bluntly, no. I won't grant that. Because the way you engage with this site bears absolutely no resemblance to what you just said. "

Who are you replying to here?
posted by boo_radley at 12:24 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to say the same thing you said, Brandon. Obviously failing.

It's similar, sure. But if you want to talk about this highly charged and sensitive subject, take some to articulate your thoughts and don't just slam out statements that are going to piss people off. Try to be a contributing member
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:24 PM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I disagree with you, Brandon, because I look at the mod workload on toxic threads and I think to myself, man, it must be exhausting to have to not only deal with this topic, but deal with the same toxic "arguments" being brought up for the eleventy-billionth time, with the same shitstorm surrounding those toxic "arguments".

I like to imagine that moderating these threads would be made much easier by having to only moderate the actual discussion itself, versus relive the same bombthrowing bullshit comment, made by one of our group of assholes, creating the same shitstorm as last time, only in a different key.
posted by scrump at 12:25 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sorry for the lack of clarity: my comments are regarding 0's comment:
I do not know it's nonsense. It seems sensible to me that the "assholes" are not the ones putting up the threads. You may think I have an absurd take, but please grant that it is a sincere one.
posted by scrump at 12:27 PM on December 10, 2014


So this discussion has made me genuinely concerned about people who, for a living, have to read about rape all day every day just so we all have a nice place to visit on the internet.

The Ones Who Walk Away From Metafilter.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:30 PM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Surely some responsibility lay with the people actually posting rape thread after rape thread.

Making posts is generally a distributed, non-coordinated process; we're not primarily talking about some single user grinding an axe by posting about the same thing every week despite requests to the contrary or anything like that. I think it's very worth talking about the cumulative effect of posting on a given topic but I think it's important to recognize the distinction in cause and intent there, and your comment reads to me as failing to do so while being glib and tone deaf in context.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:30 PM on December 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


Ok. I didn't mean imply individual axe-grinding, but see how it could be read that way. Is the issue entirely the "assholes" though? That was the point.
posted by 0 at 12:34 PM on December 10, 2014


scrump: "Sorry for the lack of clarity"

Thank you. It's a fast moving thread.
posted by boo_radley at 12:35 PM on December 10, 2014


I guess I'd like a clarification if possible, that the issue for mods isn't just that there are the usual derails and vile what-have-you and until something can be done about that (assuming that's possible) that's the real problem, vs. some threshhold or limit on the topic in general, sexual assault talked about in any context whatsoever...that the fact/existence and acknowledgment of it on the site takes its toll no matter what and thus has to be limited, in a "let's be realistic, the mods are people" way. Reading through this thread the further it goes on it's sounding (and I may be misunderstanding, I'm genuinely asking because I'm not sure I'm reading correctly) like it's partly "sexual assault at all" (and this particular deletion speaks to that). And while I can understand that on the micro level of basic decency for mods as people, I am actually...personally upset and unsure what to think honestly, if that's the case, on a broader level. Given that one of my personal takeaways from finally having this stuff talked about in earnest so many places online and in person has been the fact it makes people uncomfortable and they don't want to have to think about it is part of the problem for survivors and whether they are even seen and believed at all. On the other hand, I know I shouldn't really be surprised--Mefi's "it can't be everything for all people, this is not a safe space" etc. approach is not a new one, and I respect why it's like that most of the time. And yeah, just on a basic "think of the mods" level I understand too. But it's still hard to handle knowing, if that is indeed the case, on a broader level. Hm.
posted by ifjuly at 12:41 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is the issue entirely the "assholes" though? That was the point.
Of course not, and I said as much when I said 75%. I don't think anyone here is saying that it's entirely the assholes.

And, once again: strawman. Nobody made the argument you're bringing up. Nobody's being that nitpicky about it in this thread except you.

You may wonder why I'm engaging, here. I'm engaging here to basically show how, despite repeated attempts by other members to get you to engage in good faith, despite one of the mods basically giving you a guide on how to engage in good faith, you're continuing to do the same old thing.

This is the definition of someone who either can't or won't learn to behave as part of the community. We're not obligated to put up with it, and my contention is that the moderators are well within their rights to get rid of you, and that getting rid of you would measurably improve the level of discourse here.
posted by scrump at 12:47 PM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


Is the issue entirely the "assholes" though? That was the point.

how badly do i want to procrastinate on work that i'm actually engaging with this?

In the sense that the mods have noted the difficulty of being exposed to the links and text of FPPs on rape and assault, even before the threads go south, then no. But the assholes who force the mods to continue to engage with the content, in addition to engaging with their shitfaced, troll behavior, are the infinitely worse problem.

As the mods have pointed out, in this very thread, users have no real way of knowing what level of onslaught the mods are facing on any given day. We don't necessarily see every thread that gets posted to the Blue; additionally, we don't see deleted threads unless we look for them.

Let's say when I post an FPP full of some feminism-in-astrophysics links, I've glanced back a couple of pages, and I don't see any other feminism posts, and I don't remember the last time I read a thread on MeFi that made me go "UGH, i'm out." So I think, okay, and go ahead and post. Now, in this scenario I've put a *lot* of thought into my post, and a *lot* of thought into the wisdom of posting it.

AND YET, maybe unbeknownst to me there's a 28-day-old thread on MRAs and it's a disaster and the mods are absolutely burned out on anything to do with feminism and women and maybe life.

You're either saying that the requirement for not being part of the problem is to comb 30 days worth of threads, the deleted twitter feed, and consult individually with mods before bringing up any potentially contentious topic,

or you're saying that the requirement to not be an part of a problem is "stop posting about feminism/rape/racism already."

Maybe the former requirement is fair, I don't know. But I feel like your comment is actually suggesting the latter, so...
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:47 PM on December 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


I disagree with you, Brandon, because I look at the mod workload on toxic threads and I think to myself, man, it must be exhausting to have to not only deal with this topic, but deal with the same toxic "arguments" being brought up for the eleventy-billionth time, with the same shitstorm surrounding those toxic "arguments".

Then we're seeing things differently, which is fine. Because to me, based on the multiple mod comments, it's a mixture of issues, from having to deal with asshole, to people reacting to sensitive topic to repeatedly having to read about rape as part of their job.

So to me, the solution sounds like it won't come easily or quickly, nor be definitive. Suggestions:

1. Tagging rape or sexual assault related threads, so folks can be more easily if similar posts have been recently made

2. The mods writing clearer deletion reasons when overwhelmed. These reasons would make it clear that site would like to take short break from the subject or post, but can be re-posted in a week or so.

3. Members shifting away from posting so many newsfilter or "something bad has happened" posts.

4. Everyone being patient and understanding when the inevitable bumps occur and not quickly jumping to the worst conclusions of the mods or other users.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:56 PM on December 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Blah. I think it was a good post, I'm sad it was deleted, and I'm irritated by the reason given for the deletion. I'm sympathetic to the mods, I know it's Matt's site to do with as he sees fit, and I totally agree with ifjuly:

I don't like conflating the people making it impossible to have these conversations with the people trying to have them in good faith (which, something about "you don't get to have this" felt like it was doing that). Something about that really bothers me, not in an "I'm mad or upset with the community/mods" way but a "they win again and we give up and take our ball and go home, ugh, can't something be done" way. Because it isn't fair and it feels like just another reflection of how the detractors and deniers get to decide the terms of conversation everywhere anyone actually pays attention just by keeping up enough sheer noise, they decide whether we even get to have one or not.

Yes. I think what we've seen here is that the problem isn't too many rape posts -- it's that when there are rape posts, they are hijacked by assholes who make the mods' lives miserable. (What jessamyn wrote.) I get why the mods need to bring down the noise level by curtailing the quantity of rape posts that go up, but we should be clear about what's happening: it's a small number of jerks ruining it for everybody.

It makes me sad because this kind of topic is exactly what I value about Metafilter. I'm not interested in outragefilter or echo chambers. I want nuanced discussions about tough topics with thoughtful people, I want to hear from people I wouldn't ordinarily hear from, and I want my own ideas and assumptions challenged by people who are smarter or more knowledgeable than me. I have learned a *ton* on Metafilter on topics I didn't previously know much about, and particularly in threads related to gender. If we're constrained in how much of that we can do here because some people want to spoil things, well I get that, but it totally sucks.
posted by Susan PG at 12:59 PM on December 10, 2014 [21 favorites]


I agree with kagredon that mods should've let divined by radio's post stand since it's not about campus sexual assault.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:01 PM on December 10, 2014


Is the issue entirely the "assholes" though? That was the point.

I'd say yes, in a global sense, the problem is entirely the assholes. It's the assholes who make slut-shaming, victim-blaming, rape- and rape-culture denying statements who are the problem -- not just on Metafilter, but in the media, and in life. The assholes make these comments and when the non-assholes respond -- whether angrily or snarkily or in an attempt to educate -- the non-assholes are suddenly shrill; or axe-grindy; or too radically feminist; or, in even responding, accused of keeping the conversation going when, come on, aren't we all tired of this already and haven't we discussed it to death??

The reason we need to keep having the conversation is to shut the assholes up. Either tire them out by remaining dedicated, or maybe -- oh my god, not that -- gradually (or suddenly, I'm fine with that too) show them why they're being assholes.

To make an extreme comparison, look at women's suffrage. If women stopped fighting for it when the bluster in the media got loud and hurtful, or when the editorial cartoons got really insulting, or when members of their families belittled their cute little cause at the dinner table, where would we be? If we roll our eyes and just let it go, the assholes win. We can't let the assholes win. The assholes are entirely the problem. That's pretty much fundamental.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:03 PM on December 10, 2014 [34 favorites]


I don't know if I'm totally parsing the question, ifjuly, so let me know if this is answering not quite what you're asking.

I'd break down my personal thinking on it like this:

1. There's going to be posts on mefi about hard topics, including sexual assault and abuse. That's a given because those topics aren't and won't ever be prohibited.

2. But mefi is a generalist site, not an issue-specific one; when there's a lot of posts in a given time-frame about a specific issue, that can get to be a source of conflict and friction on the site in part because most people coming here aren't coming here for that specific issue and yet the accumulation of threads and resulting metatalk discussions can lead to a kind of, I dunno, psychic spillover. I think for example it's safe to say that Ferguson being on people's mind on the site lately has left a stamp on more threads than just the ones very specifically about Ferguson/Brown/Wilson.

3. And, as we've been talking about in here, there's mental/emotional costs to having a lot of discussions about hard/ugly/laden topics. For the moderators, since we don't really get to take a break from it, and to an extent for folks wanting to use the site as something other than a place to be confronted for the nth time with a reminder about something ugly.

And so there's a conflict there, between that first item and the latter two. And the result of that conflict, historically and I don't see this as being likely to change significantly in the future, is that posts on hard subjects need to exist in a state of balance where while we do not want to ever have to say "this topic is out of bounds", we also need to not have people push the topic to the point where it becomes overwhelming or to expect that because it's an important topic that it must be posted on the front page or mustn't be deleted if stuff is thick on the ground.

How that conflict plays out from week to week depends a lot on the local conditions. If it's been an especially trying month for rape-related posts and discussion on the blue, it's likely the pendulum is gonna swing toward expecting a higher bar for posts or wanting people to keep stuff to existing threads or sit on something for a week or a month. If things have been especially calm/upbeat/low-stress, the pendulum will swing the other way some.

So, I think maybe you're asking whether the problem with a post about a given hard topic falls to either bad-behavior-in-hard-topic-threads vs. hard-topic-threads-themselves, like which of those is the driving issue. And I think the answer is some of both, with how much of the latter depending a lot on how stuff has been recently on the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:07 PM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm of the opinion that many topics surrounding rape, rape culture, sexual assault, pedophilia, et. al. tend to skew toward being negative and depressing...even if the commentary here were "frozen", just reading the links and articles in those posts is wearing on the soul. And there is the continuing conversation about sexism and misogyny. Those topics don't tend to skew to the positive side either.

I'm also of the opinion that Metafilter has a significant number of people that are vested in those topics, in one way or another. You could be someone with a vested Internet through personal experience, through activism, and through a desire to "push back" against the leftist slant this site has.

At some point earlier this year, I distinctly remember scanning down the front page and seeing no less than 15 topics all related in some fashion to topics I listed above (it was before July, I'm sure). Of maybe 25 topics showing. It was a lot, I remember thinking that the site really had started to show a bias in the FPPs toward (excuse my French - I'm not painting with a brush - I don't mean this in the negative sense) "social justice/activism" subjects.

Add the wide variety of viewpoints and the deep discussions that tend to happen here about these topics, and the shitty nature in which some members participate in them, and it got to the point where I was just skipping more than I was reading. I don't read metafilter with the goal of "let's see what depressing shit has been posted today".

And then when I DO find a post I want to dive into, something completely unrelated to social issues, someone either piles in with some sexist bullshit or, as happens equally as frequently, someone pops up with a social justice angle that disrupts the conversation. It's toxic from both angles, I think.

It happened today. Reading the post about the pirate bay, I'm interested in how the raid went down and the impact the site has on online culture, etc. - and enjoying a bit of schadenfreude over the bad day that the site owners are probably having today... and it derails into how Russian brides are being sold into slavery. Okay, I bet that's true. And it's really shitty. Point taken. But it continued, until a mod intervened to bring the discussion back on track. Cool. The system works.

Was it necessary to bring up how having ads for Russian dating services - however those services are utilized - in a post that had maybe a tangentially related aspect to that?

Was it necessary to do that, knowing that it was a derail, and knowing that mod intervention was likely? Did we, the community, need to waste the mod bandwidth in such a way?

The same is true when good topics are derailed by some sexist moron coming into a thread and dropping some turd about what's wrong with parenting because women, or what's wrong with Lego sets because not enough women, whatever. You may be seeing my point by now, I'm beleaguering it a bit.

I hope for metafilter posters that can read the front page, and see that multiples of a given "slant" are prevalent, and that after that reading, they can determine whether or not a given post is going to be (a) not overwhelmed by other similar posts (b) topical and (c) not going to exhaust already limited resources on the mod side. And I hope for a metafilter where people can participate in discussions without skewing them toward fixing the world's ills. Not every post is about that. Not every discussion needs to go there.

There's a lot of shitty stuff happening in the world. There are good reasons to discuss shitty things and get viewpoints from others about maybe fixing them. Yes, there are important, topical discussions about social issues, and they need to happen and this is a good site for them. But they don't need to happen daily.

I'd love people to use a little checklist before posting or commenting:

I realize that my perfect world is an utter fantasy. But it's nice to think about.
posted by disclaimer at 1:12 PM on December 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


Thanks for taking the time to respond to my request, cortex. I appreciate it. To be honest I feel bad right now, like upset, that it is both, not just "some people piss in the punchbowl". I'm not angry and I understand why it's both, how hard it must be in a straight up "real people are modding this site, and also real people from all over with different expectations are participating at this site" way. And the more I think about it the more I know really nothing's exactly changed, I should know this already, because the "it is a generalist site" has been true always, including for other issues. Maybe I'm just having a bad week (I was pretty shaken up elsewhere on the internet about vaguely similar issues, how these things in general culture are not always handled with victims' best interests in mind first always, and also, consensus about what that would look like varies).

And as always, thanks for gracefully responding my incoherence. The higher the stakes are, the more impossible it feels to form clear sentences.
posted by ifjuly at 1:14 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Surely some responsibility lay with the people actually posting rape thread after rape thread.

In the sense that emotionally difficult topics have an impact on the moderators, yes. In the sense that the same set of people feel the continued need to make toxic and derailing comments, no -- that fault lies on you and the people like you who make these kind of deliberately tone deaf comments with the thinnest veneer possible of deniability.

I agree with Ifjuly's comments above, and Scrump's and IFDS's as well, that the second aspect -- the pissers in the punchbowl -- seem to be taken as much as a constant as does the (very real) mental cost of having to read and moderate difficult topics. But it's not a constant, and when someone is that much a net negative to the site discussion culture I'd love to see them disappeared rather than stay around and continue being toxic.

The standard advice for getting mad about something on the internet is to take a break and go for a walk, so I'm going to do just that.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:19 PM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


It was a lot, I remember thinking that the site really had started to show a bias in the FPPs toward (excuse my French - I'm not painting with a brush - I don't mean this in the negative sense) "social justice/activism" subjects.

I can see where you're coming from, but I feel like there's a tendency to view these "women's issues*" as some niche interest or social justice thing when it's really just women talking about their lives. Having more women here contributing about their experiences means that there will be more posts about womens' experiences, basically, and if someone sees those posts as being special-interest or activism-related by nature, I'm not sure that's really fair to women.

*not that sexual assault is solely an issue for women, of course
posted by dialetheia at 1:26 PM on December 10, 2014 [46 favorites]


What would make life easier for me, personally, would be a swing back against newsfilter/outragefilter stuff - if the rest of the internet is actively freaking out about something, we can wait until that dies down to talk about it - if it remains worth talking about once some perspective has been gained.

As a reader I'd love this too. I think there has been a huge surge in the number of "horrible shitty things are happening" type posts on this site these last few years. I understand that horrible shitty things happen. I understand that horrible shitty things matter and are worth talking about. But unless the conversations are between people that fundamentally agree on all points, it's the sort of thing that the internet does poorly. The MetaFilter mods have made if very clear that, while MetaFilter is modded and has strong community guidelines, this isn't a "safe place" and they don't want to turn it into one, and I for one am thankful for that.

Why is it important that MetaFilter is the place where you have these discussions? I agree that there's some win to having them here. And I agree that they should happen, but I also think that it's easy to slip from discussion to outrage, and that's exhausting.
posted by aspo at 1:37 PM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


One last comment, and then I'm going off and playing Civ for a while: this post makes the very interesting point that highlighting the bad things that happen to underprivileged groups is actually counterproductive, and what would be better is highlighting their successes. I think it's a thesis worth thinking hard about. That's not to say that shining a light on bad stuff is a universal negative, but when the overwhelming narrative is "Being [x] is terrible because all of these terrible things will happen to you," it's not really improving the quality of life for [x] people.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:39 PM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think what we've seen here is that the problem isn't too many rape posts -- it's that when there are rape posts, they are hijacked by assholes who make the mods' lives miserable.

you aren't the only one saying this, but this seems to contradict what the mods have cited as being part of the problem. it IS having to read about rape all the time as part of their job even without the shitty interactions with problem mefites:

taz: while it certainly doesn't rise to the level of what some moderators have to endure on other, larger sites that don't have our lovely little $5 gateway, I feel like I have to read "rape," "rape," "rape," "rape" over and over and over every single day I work, five days a week, and the absolute worst is when I also dream about it at night (something that only started after I began working here), so it all sort of becomes some horrible neverending hamster wheel of rape, and lately it's been extra-intense (and it always feels pretty intense), with the Woody Allen posts, the Bill Cosby posts, the Jian Ghomeshi post, the UVA post (and other college rape posts), the Gamergate posts (not exactly about rape, but not exactly not with the rape threats constantly mentioned (for obvious reasons), and some of the worst things I've seen have been in links from those threads.

Those certainly aren't all the recent rape-related posts, but those are some of the most active. And of course, nearly every feminism, sexism, and abortion post addresses rape (again, for obvious reasons), as well as many of the trans* related posts and other LGBT posts, many prison-related posts, as well as very many of the capital punishment threads, which include gruesome descriptions of rape and murder, and then there are also the domestic violence threads, games threads aside from the recent gamergate stuff (and the whole rape as entertainment trope in general -- and helllooo to you, too, "Game of Thrones" threads)... and more. Trust me, we have a whole lot of rape on Metafilter, pretty much all the time.


LobsterMitten: For myself, as a woman not a mod, I appreciate people's good intent with these posts but I also find it exhausting on a personal psychic-balance level to see rape stories (what feels like) all the time. They are not easy to ignore or skip, to me. I won't say they are triggering, but for people who find this stuff either desirable to read a lot about, or easy to simply ignore, I just want to register that it is really not like that for others. Not that we shouldn't ever talk about upsetting subjects, but that talking about them all the time isn't cost-free.

jessamyn:(and the unpleasantness that comes along with that: from people being awful generally, to just being really sad for people who have experienced horrible things, to being upset at having to make a judgment call about ironic rape jokes). I don't have to wake up every day and talk about rape with my co-workers.

this all basically sounds terrible to me. it is not the fault of users with good FPPs on terrible topics, but the topics are still awful. i can see that the idea of tightening the amount of FPPs like I/P posts is upsetting to people, but the fact that metafilter has been a decent place to discuss these things came at a cost. i feel like it's only now that we're hearing about it, but it's been a thing for the staff probably this whole time.

i was a little floored by the idea that the UVA thread, which i only briefly skimmed the first day and backed away from in horror from the case itself and not even the comments, was still ongoing and had rape apologia (i don't know what is fuzzy about that case and i don't want to know, and who the fuck is even in that thread doing whatever they're doing, seriously??). i was stunned that of course the mods have been there the whole time with that story in their heads. of course i got to walk away from it whenever i want and they didn't. why hadn't i thought of this before? when from my own experience i know that rape threads make it harder to sleep and stay with me for a few days. of course they're fucking wrecked from having it on a burner somewhere at all times.

it is too easy to blame it solely on the problem users. women's issues, sexism, rape threads, this stuff is important to me and i read a fair amount of them. i give myself burnout when i choose to read terrible things. it's different to ask someone else to do it so that i can continue to have these things when i think i can handle them.

i support whatever the staff needs to do to make this better. higher bar for FPPs, higher bar for comments, higher bar for shitty back and forths with problem users.

Why is it important that MetaFilter is the place where you have these discussions? I agree that there's some win to having them here. And I agree that they should happen, but I also think that it's easy to slip from discussion to outrage, and that's exhausting.

the exhaustion i'm worried about is not that of the userbase. i just want to be clear that i'm not saying there's been too many posts on rape, it's that literally the staff emotionally cannot handle the pace of site-wide discussion on these issues.
posted by twist my arm at 1:47 PM on December 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


I can't think of anything more to contribute other than to say that I, too, would really like to see the staff take a look at their policy regarding repeatedly problematic users (and i use problematic in the "comes into threads and takes shits with bad-faith arguments, stirring the pot, etc" rather than the "disagrees with the prevailing politics of most of MefI users") being continually allowed to do what they do.

MeFi and the staff need not be nearly as permissive of this kind of crap in order to remain neutral.
posted by softlord at 1:53 PM on December 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


Why is it important that MetaFilter is the place where you have these discussions?

To be frank, it's not important that MetaFilter be the place so much as, Metafilter seems to be the only place where these discussions can BE discussions, and not just pages upon pages of verbal abuse, outright threats, and doxxing. If we have been wrong--if it cannot actually ever be that place, because the human/psychic cost to the people who make that civility possible is too high to justify, well, that is understandable.

But understand that there are not other places to go, not really. We're not sitting here insensitive to the feelings of the mods, we're not pissed off that they won't just deal with it or quit. We are not demanding anything. We are just sad.

It is not the mods' fault, and not Matt's fault, and yet it is still a real and painful shame. But the shame will never land on the people who own it, who caused it. It will just yet again land on the people who are already the victims of tremendous injustice, and on the people who want to shine light on that injustice, and even on the people who, like restless_nomad mentions, want to highlight the progress made instead of the pain inflicted.

And with that, I'm way the fuck out.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:54 PM on December 10, 2014 [30 favorites]


Ehhhh. For one thing, I'm not sure how "sexual assault has happened, is happening, and sometimes how it's dealt with (or rather, not dealt with, because it's horrible/uncomfortable) is shitty" is exactly in line with "let's look at racist tweets all day long" vs., say, "Ferguson is a thing that has happened, is happening, etc." And also, like a few posters in that thread, I don't get why the onus is on the person who's having things happen to react "appropriately" or effectively or whatnot (whatever that might be, and hint: usually there isn't one right way that will satisfy everybody and make everyone feel hearing from you is productive) for some greater abstract cause. Sometimes, and I can only speak for myself here I realize, it's enough to be allowed to say "this is what my life is like, and I gather it's not like that for everyone I meet to the point a lot of people have no idea or worse yet, refuse to believe me". Again personally, being able to finally say what it's like (whether it's about racism, sexism, whatever) is huge, and does make me feel better. Obviously things that highlight the good going on in communities I'm a member of is great too. But I don't think just highlighting the positive is a solution.
posted by ifjuly at 1:54 PM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


To be completely honest, I'm pretty frustrated by r_n's responses here. I would appreciate it if there could be some sort of answer about the deletion reason after it's been asked several times by several people - is there some reason we aren't changing it, since it could be hurtful to vulnerable members of the community? I wouldn't keep pressing this but people seem to be ignoring the question altogether unless I missed a response somewhere. It seems extra rough to ignore the question, leave the snippy deletion reason in place, then double-down and imply that people who want to talk about these issues openly are being "counterproductive," especially when you're speaking to people who have actually experienced this stuff.

the exhaustion i'm worried about is not that of the userbase. i just want to be clear that i'm not saying there's been too many posts on rape, it's that literally the staff emotionally cannot handle the pace of site-wide discussion on these issues.

Many people have suggested that maybe we need more moderators if our current mods are feeling emotionally burnt out. How much would we have to raise to hire another mod? Is this something anyone is considering?
posted by dialetheia at 1:56 PM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


I would appreciate it if there could be some sort of answer about the deletion reason after it's been asked several times by several people - is there some reason we aren't changing it, since it could be hurtful to vulnerable members of the community?

I think the closest thing is
It's up to restless_nomad if she wants to change the reason, in the past I don't think I have because it was all hashed out in MetaTalk already and seemed like rewriting history a bit to change the reason for a MetaTalk post.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 18:28 on December 9
which is pretty consistent with usual mod behavior- to avoid deleting/changing things which make subsequent conversation (e.g. this MeTa) make no sense.
posted by Jpfed at 2:05 PM on December 10, 2014


dialetheia: "To be completely honest, I'm pretty frustrated by r_n's responses here. I would appreciate it if there could be some sort of answer about the deletion reason after it's been asked several times by several people - is there some reason we aren't changing it, since it could be hurtful to vulnerable members of the community? I wouldn't keep pressing this but people seem to be ignoring the question altogether unless I missed a response somewhere. It seems extra rough to ignore the question, leave the snippy deletion reason in place, then double-down and imply that people who want to talk about these issues openly are being "counterproductive," especially when you're speaking to people who have actually experienced this stuff.
(...)
Many people have suggested that maybe we need more moderators if our current mods are feeling emotionally burnt out. How much would we have to raise to hire another mod? Is this something anyone is considering?
"

Many of these things have been covered, both by mods and by members. I feel like the post from pretentious illiterate is a compelling reason why more mods may not be the correct answer. I feel like there has been specific answers to the deletion reason, and that, despite the frustration of many, it will stand as it is. I feel that this is ameliorated by the idea that mods and members have come to consensus on that the post should get a second shot soon.

I believe that there has been no implication of those talking about the issue as counterproductive. I feel that there have been some members who have had some level of trauma around the topic who have shared their experiences and beliefs, and that their sharing has been praised, considered and has positively influenced the conversation.
posted by boo_radley at 2:15 PM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


Huh. I just realized that I/P is Metafilter jargon for Israel/Palestine, not Intellectual Property.
posted by General Tonic at 2:27 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


That terminology goes back at least 12 years.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:49 PM on December 10, 2014


Yeah, I haven't said anything about the idea of changing the deletion reason but more because there was other more explicitly unanswered stuff that caught my attention catching up on this today than out of any specific desire to stonewall. My preferences in these things lines up with what Matt stated already, that changing the thing after a bunch of discussion about the thing seems like it's more adding confusion to the historical record than anything.

If that was in service removing something actually vile from prominent display, I'd be much more inclined to consider making it a change; for a less visible, more niche bit of site content that's more in "that wasn't conveyed very well" territory not really so much. But I'm on record over the years at feeling like people sometimes assign too much weight to written deletion reasons on posts as self-contained things rather than as something to just, per this whole thread, talk about in Metatalk when needed, so that may not be a surprising position for me to be taking.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:56 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Just briefly, so folks don't feel we have been ignoring the question, mathowie did address changing the deletion reason yesterday.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:29 PM on December 10, 2014


Aaaand now I see that's what Jpfed just said. Always wear your seatbelts, kids.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:32 PM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


The problem isn't the mods. The problem is that we have a population of assholes on this site who routinely shit up threads on contentious topics. Without the dubious, po-faced "contributions" of these people, threads go well and people behave like adults.

Jesus, this times 1,000. The most depressing thing about reading these "bad deletion" threads is that it comes down to the same ridiculous thing each time: not enough moderator resources vs. shitheads who won't stop being shitheads. Whoever wins, the well-meaning, good-faith posters and commenters lose.

Metafilter would not need so much moderator attention if chronic assholism were suppressed.

Good thoughtful posts and mature discussions about sensitive issues could take place if chronic assholism were suppressed.

Decent, emotionally mature members wouldn't routinely be punished for the actions of chronic assholes if chronic assholism were suppressed.

The chronic assholes wouldn't essentially control what gets posted on the site if chronic assholism were suppressed.


Why not just try it out and see how it works. Make it a crowd-driven thing, maybe: enough downvotes/flags on a particular user's comments, and that user is automatically prevented from commenting for a period of time -- 48 hours? a week? -- and the offending comments deleted. Or make it a mod-controlled thing. Or something along those lines -- not permanent banning, but a time out.

Man, when I think about how monumentally more awesome Metafilter would be to read if you guys put something like this in place, it's just staggering that you haven't done so, or won't for whatever reason.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:37 PM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I did see that Matt addressed it but he said it was up to restless_nomad, which read to me as if it was still up in the air awaiting her response. I disagree strongly with the decision to let the reason stand since it reads as a pretty negative judgment on people who want to talk about their painful personal experiences with the community, and to me that harm outweighs procedural considerations, but I do appreciate the responses.

I feel like the post from pretentious illiterate is a compelling reason why more mods may not be the correct answer.

Fair enough, but that (fantastic!) post specifically addresses the idea of having a specific moderator to deal with these issues. I strongly agree with everything that pretentious illiterate (what's the opposite of eponysterical?) said about how training for mods on dealing with secondary trauma would likely be very helpful, and how just having one designated Horrible Stuff mod wouldn't really help.

But just having an additional moderator so that the emotional labor of moderating particularly affecting threads could get spread around a little more hasn't really been addressed, and I think it's a totally reasonable question considering the number of times the reduced modforce has been used as a reason why things are happening the way they are lately. Really it would just be a return to normal, since moderation coverage was quite reduced after the funding emergency.

I would really like to see the site get back to pre-emergency moderation levels, and I would love to know more about what kind of money we might need to raise to get things back to normal. That may be a topic for a different post, however - similar things came up at the tail end of the web bundle thread and it would be good to hash that stuff out with the whole community. I don't at all mean to sound all "paying customer" but I was under the impression that one of the things people were donating towards was maintaining more moderation staff and recovering from those cuts, so talking about how we might get back to those moderation levels someday seems like a totally reasonable thing to ask.
posted by dialetheia at 3:45 PM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Make it a crowd-driven thing, maybe: enough downvotes/flags on a particular user's comments, and that user is automatically prevented from commenting for a period of time -- 48 hours? a week? -- and the offending comments deleted.

god, that's a terrible idea - what will happen is that the people who are "assholes" will start gaming the system by ganging up on those they don't like and then we will have an even more toxic atmosphere as we get to argue about what an asshole is, which one of them should be voted off the island and whether this is asshole hunting or witch hunting - and there's already too much of both going on in this site - the recent "biased moderation" thread is an example of that

one thought keeps going on over and over in my head - "this isn't scaling well" - the site's getting too big and contentious for effective moderation - and it could well be that more moderation or more moderators could make the problem worse, not better

i've lurked in several threads recently but haven't commented - and these days, i see a rape thread and either skim through the first few comments or avoid it altogether

all this talk about moderator burnout makes me wonder if i'm perhaps suffering from a little burnout, too - and it's not just here - it's news sites, it's comments on other places, it's the feeling that there are other things i should be doing with my time, such as dealing with my own problems, which are real and ongoing

as a generalist site, this is a pretty good place to escape to

as a contention filled site that's embroiled more and more in arguments and exposes of truly terrible things, it's not

i'm not pushing that big red button, but i'm going to have to step back for awhile and limit my participation to musical things

(by the way, there are assholes here - we even have one posting in this thread)
posted by pyramid termite at 3:58 PM on December 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


On the topic of deletion reasons: I think there's probably a significant disconnect between a user's experience of deletion and a mod's experience. For each of us, who make one post a day and who are only allowed to make one post a day, a deletion is notable and disappointing, maybe even hurtful in some way. For the mods, it's #14 of the 76 deletions they have to make that day. Asking them to go back and flesh out deletion reasons in the thread strikes me as kind of ridiculous in this light.

This is my impression of about ten minutes in a mod's life: yeah that post is just too much right now but with my incredible ability to predict what the community likes i foresee that they'll want a lengthy reason for this specific one i'd better go back later and oops there's another fucking SEO spammer oops there's another one oh that's person's being a shitheel but it seems like good faith if tone-deaf I should probably just keep an eye on it hey wasn't there a post I wanted to oops there's another fucking SEO spammer AskMe's not for jokes i better prune this before oh good a post about GamerGate I think I'm going to take 5 minutes and take a walk oops there's another SEO spammer.

I appreciate that they offer deletion reasons. I think it goes a long way towards maintaining a community connection to the poster through the disappointment. But it is extra information, which I don't think we have a right to expect pro forma. If you're basically ok with the deletion in a "c'est la vie" kind of way, you don't really need the mods to give you a reason. If you're not and it's a problem, no deletion reason is going to keep it from ending up here, where the thought process can be fleshed out in precisely the desired manner. Deletions are a big deal to us. I don't think they're quite as big a deal to mods in the overall scheme of things.

Deletion reasons are very nice of them and I think they're one of the reasons that this community feels different and more special for a lot of us than other virtual places. But this isn't a requirement and it shouldn't be taken to communicate anything more significant than "nope, sorry, not this time." If deletion reasons really mattered, they wouldn't get to be so frequently funny or whimsical, they would have to be much more formal. They're things we get because the mods are cool. That's all they are. I don't think we should take them to be PR-approved pronouncements.
posted by Errant at 4:03 PM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

god, that's a terrible idea - what will happen is that the people who are "assholes" will start gaming the system by ganging up on those they don't like and then we will have an even more toxic atmosphere as we get to argue about what an asshole is, which one of them should be voted off the island and whether this is asshole hunting or witch hunting - and there's already too much of both going on in this site - the recent "biased moderation" thread is an example of that
There are going to be problems with any approach to bringing the hammer down on the assholes.

This is a major part of the issue. Because there will be problems with any solution, no solution is being tried. It's the perfect being the enemy of the good.

And, frankly, at this point? I'm betting that even the uproar about some sort of system for weeding out the assholes will still be less effort to moderate than the more-or-less continuous threadshitting that those assholes carry out on a daily basis.
posted by scrump at 4:05 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Eh, the current solution is to give it a rest for a week.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:09 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I share ifjuly's and dialetheia's concerns and frustrations.

"Mostly it seems to be having to read about rape stories and having two many threads about it one time has grown exhausting. So banning certain users doesn't seem like it'll fix the problem, as they'll still have to read about rape, over and over."

No. This needs to be made clear: the mods don't read every thread and every comment and they don't have to read stuff that upsets them unless it's been flagged and/or the discussion in the thread is a problem. (Or if it's in MetaTalk, which they do have to read entirely.)

This is a problem for the mods only insofar as people are making it a problem for the mods. The mods don't have to read even a single comment in a thread (outside MeTa) unless there's an issue that requires them to do so. But they do have to read comments that are flagged and threads that have lots of flagged comments which therefore require active moderation. It's a user problem, not a topic problem.

Granted, in practice, until there are no more rape apologists and other awful people there's going to be shitty comments in these threads and shitty emails to the mods and the mods are going to have to read threads and comments about sexual assault that upset them.

And so, yeah, I think the concerns about secondary trauma are extremely valid and it's something that is clearly happening here. It's a real problem for the mods and it does need to be addressed. Maybe the only practical solution will be to limit such threads. That's a terrible goddamn solution to the problem, but if the only two choices are continually traumatizing the mods or having fewer posts about sexual assault, the we should have fewer posts about sexual assault.

Not that I agree that those are the only two choices. There are better solutions.

Regardless, these two arguments -- that people talking about rape reinforces rape culture and that people talking about oppression reinforces the oppression -- are terribly damaging. It's true that they each point to real and subtle issues that deserve thought and examination, but as categorical statements they do far more damage than good. They're less likely to generate thought and examination of those subtle issues than they are of simply being more silencing of the oppressed, implicitly saying to people "we don't want to hear about it, you shouldn't talk about it, it's awful and shameful and should be ignored or suffered in silence". That's the dominant message about sexual violence in our culture, and that's the message that reinforces rape culture.

More specifically, since I don't think there's any avoiding having to clarify this, that so much public discussion of rape does, in practice, function as a reinforcing of rape culture is because there is a kind of public discussion of rape that rape culture approves of -- and that's all discussion that makes women feel fearful and threatened and that, one way or another, it's their fault. If a survivor feels empowered by talking about her experience publicly, or if activists are empowered by using public discussion to raise awareness and mobilize action, then rape culture's foot soldiers can be relied upon to show up and redirect the discussion so that it becomes about oppressive fear, powerlessness, and shame. That's why public discussions about rape so often make women feel shitty -- not because that's the inevitable outcome, but because rape apologists ensure that it is. The topic and the public discussion isn't the problem, the rape apologists are the problem.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:15 PM on December 10, 2014 [18 favorites]


To be frank, it's not important that MetaFilter be the place so much as, Metafilter seems to be the only place where these discussions can BE discussions, and not just pages upon pages of verbal abuse, outright threats, and doxxing

I get that you are upset by the deletion, but that's just not the case. I'm a rape survivor myself and while I appreciate the thoughtful threads on Metafilter, I know that it is a general interest site, not a forum for other rape survivors. Which, yes, are out there and are safe spaces where you can have those discussions.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't discuss sexual assault on the site, and I am glad we do. But it also means that it is not the only, or even the primary, focus of the site. Which I am also glad for, because sometimes I get overwhelmed and exhausted with all the awful stuff, and especially the outrage filter. Metafilter used to be an 'overthinking a plate of beans' only place, and now it is also a place for shared venting and supporting social activism. And that's overall a positive change, I think, but I don't want to give up that first part entirely, and if I wanted more of the latter I would head to Twitter, Tumblr or Jezebel.

Upthread, taz mentioned that there are already soft limits to how many ongoing, open threads on a subject are up at the same time, and that this was generally 3 or 4, whereas there are approximately twice as many threads dealing with sexual assault right now. I think it is reasonable to say, we are already devoting twice the resources to this subject and we are not prepared to devote more. If that means posting divinedbyradio's link into an existing thread, that seems reasonable. If it means waiting another week or so until another thread has closed to post it, that seems reasonable too.

What I don't think is reasonable is suggesting more training for an already overworked staff, or trying to raise more money to add more mods back specifically so that we can have more rape threads open .

And, just on a personal note, I think some of the comments about "rethinking" participation here based on this deletion are pretty emotionally manipulative in a not-good way.
posted by misha at 4:20 PM on December 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


Because there will be problems with any solution, no solution is being tried. It's the perfect being the enemy of the good.

well, scrump, it's really a case of the terrible being the enemy of the good - kuro5hin had a pretty similar idea for part of its moderation and it actually worked pretty well until the trolls figured out that they could game the system by downvoting comments and posts as a blok

saying x amount of flags is automatic deletion or taking time off is an open invitation for this kind of abuse - someone's judgement needs to be involved instead of a mere tabulation of numbers
posted by pyramid termite at 4:23 PM on December 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think some of the comments about "rethinking" participation here based on this deletion are pretty emotionally manipulative in a not-good way.

it's important for me to say that my comment about rethinking participation has nothing to do with this thread, except for the realization that i may be burning out, too - or the deletion
posted by pyramid termite at 4:26 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

well, scrump, it's really a case of the terrible being the enemy of the good - kuro5hin had a pretty similar idea for part of its moderation and it actually worked pretty well until the trolls figured out that they could game the system by downvoting comments and posts as a blok
Then it's a good thing this isn't kuro5hin, and there are other things that could be tried.

There is a long-standing cultural antipathy for the idea of banning users here. One which I share, actually. And I'm not particularly advocating a mechanical approach to banning. But we've got a bunch of people who are already gaming the system, in that they're taking repeated advantage of the nearly infinite patience of the mod staff to keep on shitting things up.

I'm saying, ban the known assholes. Ban the people who have repeatedly taken advantage of the goodwill of both the community and the mod staff.
posted by scrump at 4:37 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


"The chronic assholes wouldn't essentially control what gets posted on the site if chronic assholism were suppressed.

Why not just try it out and see how it works.
"

The problem is that no one agrees who the chronic assholes are; there's in fact an ongoing schism over which group is the actual assholes.
posted by klangklangston at 4:44 PM on December 10, 2014 [31 favorites]


Talking specifically about threads that dudes would call "social justice"-oriented but are actually just women talking about their lives, there are things that have happened to me that I wouldn't have even known ever happened to anyone else in the world if I hadn't read others' accounts of them here on MeFi. Like jaw-dropping, audibly-gasping, "oh god, I thought it was just me who was wrong and broken and awful because this person did this to me and spent years convincing me that I made them do it, but here you are, other people that this has happened to, YOU'RE MY PEOPLE" transformational, heart-opening experiences. "Hi. Whatcha reading?" (warning: 844 comments) was a for-real game-changer for me circa 2009.

And just speaking for myself, I don't post on or use or read (or understand) Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook or anything like that because the watchful eye of social media terrifies the living hell out of me. I read a moderate amount of internets, but I just haven't found any other text-only community remotely like this one, cat videos and insane technical/scientific/academic knowledge dropping and heartbreaking personal stories and all. It's to the point where when I think up AskMe questions in my mind, especially if it's stuff I secretly know the answer to already, the imaginary answers that volley back are true, thoughtful, kind, and occasionally cantankerous but ultimately quite helpful, in the precise style of AskMe.

So the amazing conversations that happen here are something I have a wellspring of gratitude for, and as far as I'm concerned, a huge part of the development of those amazing conversations comes down to the patience, good-naturedness, and humanity of the mods. They're a small handful of people tasked with trying to strike a balance between the viewpoints of thousands of nerds simultaneously. That's gotta be intense, at minimum. So while I'm sure hoping that wrangling MeFites probably has its occasional charms, in general, being the front line for a digital firehose of hurtful language, disgusting comments, and angry emails is clearly a bummer a lot of the time. I do want to keep reading and engaging in enlightening meaningful conversations with you wonderful nerds, but I absolutely do not want to contribute to the mods' vicarious trauma, and if that means fewer opportunities for enlightening and meaningful conversations, then imo, them's the breaks.

I'm always trying to remember that everyone behind a username here is a real person with a slew of real feelings and sensitivities, and that what people post here can have real-life effects on any and everyone who reads it. The mod commentary in this thread has been an enlightening (if depressing) reminder that moderating difficult discussions about highly charged topics is hard on the people who have to do it, harder than it is for those of us who are only privy to what gets filtered through the firehose, and I'm deeply appreciative of the work they do and the honesty they (you? you all? ahh!) have shown in talking about it here.

And, just on a personal note, I think some of the comments about "rethinking" participation here based on this deletion are pretty emotionally manipulative in a not-good way.

I'm not going to post any more comments in this MeTa because I feel gross and weird and sort of sick every time I do it, but just on a personal note, I think this comment is pretty passive aggressive in a not-good way.
posted by divined by radio at 4:53 PM on December 10, 2014 [44 favorites]


The mods have a pretty solid idea of which users are the problems.
posted by scrump at 5:08 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


The reluctance of the mods to arbitrarily decide who is "us" and who is "them" is one of the big reasons for Metafilter's success. There are plenty of echo chambery walled gardens out there, we don't need another one.
posted by Justinian at 5:13 PM on December 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


It's fairly easy to avoid being an asshole by simply not repeating yourself. Avoid going back and forth with people.

Post your story, link, interpretation, opinion, etc. once. It's fine if your opinion changes, refines, etc., after though, reading, etc., and you wish to clarify, but don't keep reposting exactly the same thing.

It's pretty hard to cause the mods any trouble if you follow that one simple rule. And you'll help the thread stay readable.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:22 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Agggh that XKCD annoys beyond past the point of all reason. The joke is "Someone on the internet is wrong!" not "Someone is wrong on the internet!". It was right there and he missed it! How?!!? Dying is easy, comedy is hard I guess.
posted by Justinian at 5:25 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm lost. Why is your punchline funnier?
posted by cjorgensen at 5:49 PM on December 10, 2014


It's not necessarily funnier, it's just how a punchline is structured! It flows better. The emphasis goes on the word "wrong" so it should come last. Putting it in the middle steps on the punchline! grumble. These things have a structure dammit.
posted by Justinian at 5:56 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just to follow up on the comment I posted this morning - while not quite eponysterical, I do tend to act like I know what I'm talking about a tad more than I actually do. I don't have a background in organizational consulting, and I've never been a moderator on a site like this one. I was a crisis counselor and a community advocate at a rape crisis center, and all my training was done by the staff there. What I was suggesting was a mix of the training I got and what I assume the people who trained me got, based on the way their workplace was structured. I did a little bit of research and found this:

AESP Workplace Series Recognizing the importance of workplace practice on sustaining staff, AESP offers agencies tailor-made workshops, training and technical assistance to those interested in creating awareness and developing strategies aimed at reducing the incidence of secondary traumatic stress in staff. Some of these services are offered at no cost. For more information, please contact kmanners@bidmc.harvard.edu.

I do not know if there is training available for people working online specifically; that seems like it poses a whole lot of unique challenges. I am sure there must be ongoing conversations about it. I bet as a community if we looked we could find them.

Because I'm not an expert, I don't want to say too much about what the training would or should look like. In general, though, it would involve a mixture of strategies for how to recognize burnout and maximize self-care, as well as a pretty rigorous self-assessment of how the site is functioning now, what it demands of its moderators, and what it can offer in sustainable way given its available resources. It would make explicit, in terms of site policy, the kind of emergency emotional triage that now seems like it takes place informally, behind the scenes. And those policies would be framed clearly and impersonally, and made available to users, so that people like divined by radio wouldn't feel like they'd accidentally done something wrong, and the mods wouldn't have to individually justify all these decisions to the user-base over and over again.

The site would shift in whatever ways it had to, small or large, so that the work of running the site isn't asking more of the mods than they can healthily give. And we would accept that gracefully, not just because we are nice people, but because we trust that it will actually result in better moderation on the site over the long term. I know that people will have lots of opinions about what ways are okay for the site to change and which ones aren't, but I think in the end, it's not our call. We have to trust that the mods care as much as anyone about the culture of the site, and they'll do their best to preserve it.

I know so little of what goes on behind the scenes here that it feels a little presumptuous giving so much advice about it. Maybe I'm making a lot of false suppositions, and if so, I'm sorry. But even if I'm way off-base in regards to the best way to solve this problem, I hope Matt takes this thread seriously, because the pain & stress in the mods' comments really shook me.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:58 PM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


These things have a structure dammit.

I thought the humor was that you were making a meta-joke that the internet cartoonist (whose punchline is about people on the internet being wrong) was wrong. That you appear to be for-real saying that someone on the internet is wrong is a lot funnier, though perhaps less intentionally so.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:01 PM on December 10, 2014 [19 favorites]


this post makes the very interesting point that highlighting the bad things that happen to underprivileged groups is actually counterproductive, and what would be better is highlighting their successes.

Around when GamerGate was really getting into full swing, I posted this FPP -- a queer woman writing reviews of video games that discuss the ways that those games impacted her life. I was really really psyched to be able to share something about ladies in video games that wasn't just "women as victims of shit men within a hobby", which I'd been seeing a lot of all over the internet. This is not to say that the Shit Men were not worth talking about, of course, but it filled me with such joy to be able to read this one woman's experiences without having to also address the topic of the aforementioned Shit Men.

That ideological charm, of course, was secondary to the main reason I posted it: I thought the writing was utterly, completely compelling. That's also why I'm linking it again now! Yo you should read it it's great it's so great
posted by Greg Nog at 6:54 PM on December 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


These things have a structure dammit.

Yes, the XKCD version is funny because it modifies the sentence in an unexpected way. We already know that the Internet is huge and has many wrong/weird/whatever things on it; we can see that the typist is using a computer; there's very little information added by saying "someone on the internet is wrong" versus "someone is wrong". Reversing the order of the phrases changes our perception halfway through: the typist isn't just correcting someone who is wrong; he's correcting someone who is being wrong on the Internet. So the typist (whom we previously just saw as someone obsessed with correcting others) has become a warrior on a quixotic and futile quest: curing "wrong" things on the Internet. This change in perception is what makes it funny.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:56 PM on December 10, 2014 [19 favorites]


meinvt: But, I'm also curious of what other public sites on the internet do these discussions better and more frequently?

There are a handful of places, and they are all either locked fairly strongly or incredibly heavily moderated. The upside is you can have fairly advanced discussions when everyone has similar-enough axioms. The downside is trying to make sure everyone has similar enough axioms, and it involves a lot of false negatives and a few painful false positives. These communities are prone to schism and falling into lockstep while losing their creativity; it's the shadow of the positives.

MetaFilter's policy is to try to avoid false negatives as much as possible. In ethical frame, it is similar to the ideal of "innocent until proven guilty", which is a higher standard placed for what is considered a higher level of punishment than social feedback. What it means is that, ideally, better a guilty person go free (keep their account / be able to comment) than an innocent person be punished. (For the moment, I'd ask that we avoid the topic of how much/little this conforms to reality.)

What this means in practice is that one is far more likely to encounter statements one vehemently disagrees with on MetaFilter. That has it's advantages and disadvantages - but it is a thematically and quintessentially a US and liberal ideal that appears baked into the site from the base. For all the accusations of MetaFilter being an echo chamber, the simple fact is that the echo chamber comments remain in place is evidence it is not an echo chamber; it's a fun sort of paradox.

There is some evidence I'm seeing out of social/cognitive psychology that setting higher standards for interactions - a moderator who stops people who are dominating the discussion and encourage the quiet ones to speak, standards about language, body language, and volume which are enforced, etc... - may actually hit a sweet spot of encouraging even more creativity and a wider ranging discussion without a lot of the downsides, but that would be impossible to do online, requires a certain level of moderation, and requires a particularly trustworthy moderator or some means of significant feedback.

A last somewhat related and somewhat not note - I listen to a lot of and have noticed conversational differences between podcasts with a lot of women and podcasts which are mostly men. The most polite, making sure everyone speaks, etc... podcasts are those with four to five people, majority women. One podcast I love and listen two regularly had a token woman, and it's surprising how often she simply - and very cheerfully and without any sign of distress - gives way to the men on the podcast to such an extent that I've heard fifteen or twenty minutes go by without her speaking (she is similarly reticent on the podcast she's on where the genders are inverted, but members of the group actively call on her to speak on a regular basis - it's a very different dynamic). This pairing is particularly fascinating to me since it's a single woman on two podcasts, one majority men and the other majority women, so as a means of studying very broad socialized mores it corrects for some of the usual confounds.

MetaFilter straddles the line, with a lot of people using both styles of relationship and discussion regardless of gender. I think it's interesting to sift through this thread in particular, looking for the two ways of engaging not only with the mods but with each other.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:18 PM on December 10, 2014 [17 favorites]


has become a warrior on a quixotic and futile quest: curing "wrong" things on the Internet

Yeah... as someone who falls prey to this, I would say the problem is definitely when people are are wrong on the Internet, not when people on the Internet are wrong. The latter happens a lot, it's true, but it's not nearly as maddening and doesn't keep me up at night.
posted by torticat at 8:36 PM on December 10, 2014


This is a problem for the mods only insofar as people are making it a problem for the mods. The mods don't have to read even a single comment in a thread (outside MeTa) unless there's an issue that requires them to do so. But they do have to read comments that are flagged and threads that have lots of flagged comments which therefore require active moderation. It's a user problem, not a topic problem.

I wonder how many users would have to be banned before there was a rape thread without multiple flags that required a mod to look at it.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:47 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Be careful. As soon as any group starts weeding out the assholes, pretty soon there's no one left in the group.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:49 PM on December 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


Metafilter: Bunch of weedy assholes
posted by Sebmojo at 10:31 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


A higher bar on newsfilter seems like a good way to go, especially when concerning mod burnout; they seem more prone to be high-volume, high-noise threads, and it could incidentally continue to cut down against outragefilter, which partly due to world events feels like it's been spiking a little.

It's also important to remember that what's being dealt with is a whole lot of subjectivity, so while one might agree that there should be a bit more banning of arseholes going on, there is no guarantee that your list of arseholes and the mod's list has much overlap. Most of the new rules or policies suggested after this one deletion (which has been explained thoroughly and also clearly stated that it will be put up again) are designed to stop only this one specific outlier case occurring again and ignoring that the mods aren't predisposed to making the same mistake twice.

I guess if threads are making a bunch of users post comments to the effect of how much they hate everything, maybe we could do less of them since they're also the threads that mods will inevitably have to end up reading, and it makes them hate everything too.
posted by gadge emeritus at 1:27 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Be careful. As soon as any group starts weeding out the assholes, pretty soon there's no one left in the group.

I can't help but think we could start by dealing with people who are being borderline abusive to the moderators in email without depopulating our community entirely.
posted by winna at 7:13 AM on December 11, 2014 [26 favorites]


"A higher bar on newsfilter seems like a good way to go, especially when concerning mod burnout..."

I would strongly favor this, but I argued against newsfilter posts ten years ago and it was a losing argument then. It seems to me that ship has sailed long ago. There are far more newsfilter posts now than there were then and if it was arguably a core part of the site's culture ten years ago, it's essential to it now. We had heated arguments here in MeTa about this, with quite a few ardent defenders of newsfilter posts. I can't imagine that this wouldn't be much more true today.

But I've always felt that current news items -- with the exception of rare disasters or tragedies like 9/11 or Katrina or the 2011 Earthquake -- don't fit with the site's format. I'd love to see an across-the-board reduction in newsfilter posts somehow, but topic-specific reductions in newsfilter posts seem to me like a very problematic proposal that would be extremely divisive. Topic-specific higher-standards-for-posts already causes a lot of grumbling and so although I agree that extending this to something more extreme with newsfilter variants would be quite effective at reducing the site grar produced by these especially difficult threads, it would, I think, really upset people when they couldn't post their very important news story in one of these topics. It's precisely when things are big news that people get most invested in being able to talk about these topics (even me), such as these recent big sexual-violence related stories.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:35 AM on December 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


dealing with people who are being borderline abusive to the moderators in email

It seems like you would end up banning people for stuff in email that wouldn't be bannable in MetaTalk proper.
posted by smackfu at 7:43 AM on December 11, 2014


I too would enjoy less newsfilter posts on the site.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:48 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


It seems like you would end up banning people for stuff in email that wouldn't be bannable in MetaTalk proper

Perhaps being offensive to someone in private where nobody else can see is a worse offense (or a more-worthy-of-bannination offense) than saying the same thing in the light of day, where other people can moderate or can join the discussion and disagree.
posted by emilyw at 8:12 AM on December 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I think the "mod fatigue" answer is a cop-out. If that's what Metafilter has become, then that's what it's become, so I can't really argue if everyone else is in agreement. But whatever happened to the "flag it and move on" ethos?

It seems to me that there's an inherent dilemma here. If the mods are paid professionals, then indeed they should be able and expected to moderate any posts that fit within general community standards. If there is a legitimate concern about any aspect of their working conditions then that should be dealt with without interrupting the site.

But if the mods are more like volunteers, then maybe the site needs to care a little bit less about rigorously adhering to moderation standards - delete the jerky comments pronto, maybe automatically based on flag numbers; and the mods don't need to anxiously oversee the threads policing them for tone or offense (or I/P, or fat shaming, or whatever else metafilter "does not do well.")

Basically, I DO think that moderation has gotten a little too intensive here over the 10 years I have been around, and this deletion really highlights that.

Again, maybe that's the new metafilter that everyone wants. But it's not the old metafilter.
posted by yarly at 8:20 AM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I get that you are upset by the deletion, but that's just not the case. I'm a rape survivor myself and while I appreciate the thoughtful threads on Metafilter, I know that it is a general interest site, not a forum for other rape survivors.

Nobody is asking Metafilter to become a forum exclusively devoted to sexual assault threads. I'm not "upset by the deletion," I am upset by what it signifies.

What people here have said is that for all the insistence that "Metafilter doesn't do X well" (where X is racism, food, weight, sexual assault, feminism, comics, I/P, you name it) Metafilter still does X better than 99% of the internet. And thus, it's a shame to lose that aspect of it, even if it may be necessary.

If the mods tomorrow said "sorry, there will no longer be any discussion of any of those topics permitted on this site" (which let me be clear, I am aware they haven't done and won't do), I wouldn't red-button myself off the site or anything, but I would feel that it had changed, for the worse, and I would be sad about it. And I resent the implication that somehow this is a cynical manipulation. Christ, is nobody allowed to be sad that the world ruins all good things anymore?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:37 AM on December 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


But whatever happened to the "flag it and move on" ethos?

Well, it's really "flag it and move on and trust that the mods will deal with it." And if you don't like how the mods deal with it, you're going to argue. Those arguments used to be in MetaTalk, but that got so toxic that most people now complain directly via the contact form, since they really just wanted to argue with the mods anyway.
posted by smackfu at 8:38 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


But whatever happened to the "flag it and move on" ethos?

The mods don't get to move on, though. The 'move on' part is for users to let mods deal with it, so mods still have to deal with it at that stage.

I'm sorry, but I think the "mod fatigue" answer is a cop-out.
Even for Metatalk, that's a pretty uncharitable response to a genuine, open and honest explanation from the small (and recently downsized through lack of funds, despite the site constantly growing) mod team.
posted by Brockles at 8:39 AM on December 11, 2014 [17 favorites]


(It would be interesting to see what happened if there was a new rule that said "do not use the contact form to complain about moderation decisions.")
posted by smackfu at 8:40 AM on December 11, 2014


I worked for a couple of years in a group home for women with various types of brain damage. The staff had to deal with empathy burnout, as a major part of the job was to figure out the feelings and mental states of the people we were helping, and after a while it gets very draining, even on easy days. The solution to empathy burnout is simultaneously quite hard and quite easy. The hard part is recognizing what it is, what's going on and treating it like the serious matter it is. The easy part is that once you've noticed it, the solution of taking it easy and stepping away from the situation is fairly simple. However, in my job I was lucky enough to be able to step away before coming back. I could leave and someone else would step into my shoes. The same would happen when another person left.

Luckily my workplace was quite aware of the issue of empathy burnout and so made sure to rotate people so that no one would have to shoulder the brunt of the stress. But the particulars of the formula were worked out after years of trial and error. Other similar group homes worked out their own patterns of rotation. And things had to be adjustable, based on the particulars of each and every staff member. It's not simple to figure out exactly how to help staff deal with empathy burnout, but with awareness of the issue and communication it's possible.

I do think that it's also something that we non-mod MeFites have to think about. And I don't mean this in an accusatory way, but that it's good for us to remember that being a mod here is an emotionally taxing job. Humans are, in general, adept at imagining themselves into the minds of others. It's something that happens automatically. Personally it took me a number of days to get over the alt-lit thread mentioned above (though it was something that wasn't in the thread itself that affected me so badly). Having to deal with those feelings on a daily basis is not healthy for anyone. I'm not going to prescribe any behavior or action, but I do think it's important we MeFites keep in mind when thinking about the mods that the note at the bottom of every MetaTalk thread applies to them too.
posted by Kattullus at 8:40 AM on December 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I think the "mod fatigue" answer is a cop-out.
Even for Metatalk, that's a pretty uncharitable response to a genuine, open and honest explanation from the small (and recently downsized through lack of funds, despite the site constantly growing) mod team.


Well, I guess you're right, but I felt the need to be blunt.

And I'm also coming from a personal perspective of having worked, as an attorney, with some of the more difficult types of cases, and burn-out was not really an excuse for not doing my job. Ultimately I don't think "I'm getting tired/sad/burned out from reading about this" is really a great moderation standard.
posted by yarly at 8:44 AM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


it's good for us to remember that being a mod here is an emotionally taxing job.

I don't think you can really compare moderating a website to working for a rape crisis hotline or with brain-damaged patients. If a moderator is so sensitive to a certain subject that they are overwhelmed by it, then maybe they should trade off with another moderator for those topics.
posted by yarly at 8:49 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


yarly: "It seems to me that there's an inherent dilemma here. If the mods are paid professionals, then indeed they should be able and expected to moderate any posts that fit within general community standards. If there is a legitimate concern about any aspect of their working conditions then that should be dealt with without interrupting the site.

But if the mods are more like volunteers, then maybe the site needs to care a little bit less about rigorously adhering to moderation standards - delete the jerky comments pronto, maybe automatically based on flag numbers; and the mods don't need to anxiously oversee the threads policing them for tone or offense (or I/P, or fat shaming, or whatever else metafilter "does not do well.")
"

Your dichotomy seems to result in the same answer regardless of how we get there: either the mods are professional enough to deal with trauma and violence laden threads (and the ramifications of that -- shitty emails, prolonged grudges, etc) or the moderation standards don't matter because the mods are volunteers, and we shouldn't have strong standards in the first place. This doesn't seem like a compelling argument either way to me. It seems like you worked from your conclusion and found two ways to get there.

I think the old metafilter was more tech-culture gee-whizzery of the old school, where nerds could post both neat internet things but also the art and music and humanities things that touched them in a real and meaningful way. New metafilter is the same, I suppose. Some of the issues that we've been drawn to as a community, though, are trickier to deal with than a new website in a new programming lanuage, or the digitization of the Vatican's libraries, or the things that both old and new metafilter take joy in. Rape is a human, emotional and traumatizing experience. I don't think that cats-in-scanners guidelines will apply evenly to the topic, or to any one where people are emotionally invested. Maybe I don't have a good handle on what "old metafilter" and "new metafilter" are.
posted by boo_radley at 8:50 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


yarly: "And I'm also coming from a personal perspective of having worked, as an attorney"

Ah, why am I not surprised.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:53 AM on December 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't think you can really compare moderating a website to working for a rape crisis hotline or with brain-damaged patients.

Er. I didn't think anyone was.

as an attorney

Ah, ok. Never mind. It all makes sense now.
posted by Brockles at 8:53 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Along with advice that is basically "man up."
posted by smackfu at 8:53 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


yarly: I don't think you can really compare moderating a website to working for a rape crisis hotline or with brain-damaged patients. If a moderator is so sensitive to a certain subject that they are overwhelmed by it, then maybe they should trade off with another moderator for those topics.

1. Insomuch as there is a difference, it's one of degree, not kind.

2. IIRC there's only one officially on duty at a time, so it's not really practical to leave comments pertaining to a certain topic sitting there until another mod sees them.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:53 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think you can really compare moderating a website to working for a rape crisis hotline or with brain-damaged patients.

And the people who do that specific kind of work have a mental and emotional wherewithal that impresses me and I would not want that job. None of us mods are working for a rape crisis center and none of us have claimed to think we are working for one. All that said, of all the jobs I've had that are nominally not in any way related to rape or trauma or suicide, this is by far the only one I've had that requires me to deal with that stuff on a regular basis anyway. It's a legitimately hard part of this job. Doesn't make this the hardest or most emotionally taxing job out there, it's just a real and sort of unexpected part of it.

If your contention is that because there are more emotionally taxing jobs out there, it doesn't matter that this one is somewhat emotionally taxing, I'm not sure what to say. We're not competing in the secondary trauma olympics, I'm not trying to get my ass up on a podium. Shit can be difficult without being a solo Everest climb.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:56 AM on December 11, 2014 [50 favorites]


I would also like less newsfilter in general. I don't really think this post was newsfilter, but as a general sentiment I think less newsfilter makes for a healthier MeFi.
posted by klangklangston at 8:57 AM on December 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


yarly: " it's good for us to remember that being a mod here is an emotionally taxing job.

I don't think you can really compare moderating a website to working for a rape crisis hotline or with brain-damaged patients. If a moderator is so sensitive to a certain subject that they are overwhelmed by it, then maybe they should trade off with another moderator for those topics.
"

Well, since we're being blunt: what in the actual fuck? One of the most important things that I've learned from listening to metafilter members is that microagressions are real and have an enormous impact over time. Just as people have (correctly, I think) argued that the deletion reason is a microagression, so too is having to moderate these threads and dealing with all of the follow-up noise and sniping.

This thread has been in part a discussion of how we balance moderator health with community needs. Contentious threads roll on for thirty days. You can't just swapsies for lunch for a while. Again, please go back and read pretentious illiterate's comment on the matter. It's more than just sacking up.

It's definitely not in the same arena as lawyering where people could lose property/ freedom/ whatever else from failure to execute. If you work in a culture that denies you the ability to feel and process your emotions, or encourages you to belittle those who need to, then I don't know what to tell you.
posted by boo_radley at 9:01 AM on December 11, 2014 [25 favorites]


I don't think you can really compare moderating a website to working for a rape crisis hotline or with brain-damaged patients.

And yet those of us who have worked in those jobs and have the most experience with vicarious trauma are the ones recognizing the similarities and saying that something needs to be done to alleviate the mods' compassion fatigue, because we understand that saying "Tough it out" is exactly the wrong way of fixing the problem. If we're not being all turf-war about it, why on earth would someone without that experience get all turf-war about it?
posted by jaguar at 9:10 AM on December 11, 2014 [24 favorites]


Former employee of a battered women's shelter here. I was bothered by the published deletion reason but when I read the further explanation it totally made sense to me, even if I'm still a little sad about losing the post. I have zero problem with the comparison. I hope the the moderators can make use of any resources developed by people who have experienced burnout/fatigue, whatever the source.
posted by colt45 at 9:27 AM on December 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


I'm on the "less NewsFilter" train, too. I personally manage to avoid a big chunk of the NewsFilter posts, so the strain on my own use of the site is something I can manage that way. But my hypothesis is that NewsFilter sites soak up a disproportionate amount of mod resources, and contribute disproportionately to the amount of interpersonal friction on the site; this has a carry on effect to other non-NewsFilter threads on the same topics.

I also don't think there's much to be done about making a "higher bar" for NewsFilter posts. Either something is NewsFilter or it's not, and including more links with some contextual information might make for nominally better posts, but the fundamental problem with NewsFilter posts remain: people arguing with very little information, jumping to conclusions, screaming at people who say "wait a minute let's learn more before we make judgments," and hardening positions and attitudes before there's meaningful time for reflection or analysis. In that sense, NewsFilter posts seem often to me to be one-sided venting spaces rather than open forums for discussion. I'd rather that posts like divined by radio's have a greater opportunity to see the light of day here instead of getting pushed aside in part because of NewsFilter threads.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:31 AM on December 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm a therapist. Compassion fatigue is a real thing. Secondary trauma is a real thing. You can get both from being on the internet and dealing with stressful and traumatizing information - it's one of the areas where activists are working to come up with better ways to handle things, since many of our best and brightest also hold to the "man up" mindset and so consider taking care of themselves weak.

It's not weak. It can be one of the hardest things a person does - because of the mindset that it must be weak because it is kind.

I have no problem with placing the mods on the same continuum I am on, and support them in finding ways to manage their compassion fatigue and secondary trauma. I applaud them for doing some of it publically so people like me, who have niche knowledge about this, can speak up and say that these things are real and we should be kind to and support people experiencing them - even if they're "just" moderators.

(For people who are in a traumatic field and don't think it's real, and are struggling to be kind to people who do - that is actually part of compassion fatigue. If you message me, I'll do my best to find you local resources for support so that you can take care of yourself, too. If you're in the USA, dialing 211 gets you to a number for local mental health resources. This is not a zero-sum game; everyone deserves care and support.)
posted by Deoridhe at 9:58 AM on December 11, 2014 [31 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I think the "mod fatigue" answer is a cop-out.

I completely disagree. The concerns the mods have shared here about their emotional well-being are important, alarming, and worth taking very seriously. I understand your frustration because being able to talk about heavy issues with the community here is really important to me too, but I hope it's clear that most people in this thread are trying to find ways to reduce the load on the mods so that we can keep having tough conversations, not trying to get them to power through their discomfort.

I agree strongly with winna that if mods are taking a bunch of abuse over email about this stuff, those people should be told to take a hike when they cross the line. Complaining is one thing, abuse is another, and if we're all making sacrifices because of the reduced moderation team, it would be nice if there could be some pushback on those people who make it so miserable and not just pushback on the people who want to continue to have tough, civil discussions. At the very least, it seems like people who send private abuse to you guys should have some "reduced moderation team" consequences too.

jessamyn: At the same time I sort of feel like this is one of the things you maybe don't get with a lighter moderation team.

Yes, to clarify, this is what I was responding to when I brought up restaffing and adding more moderators. In no way did I mean to imply that our current mods were not doing well enough or that they weren't up to the task or anything like that, just that I would love for the site to return to the normal moderation levels so that we can continue to have these conversations without undue hardship to the mods. I understand the calls for less newsfilter, but I've felt like the Blue is a little slower and lonelier than usual this year and it's sad to think that Mefi still needs to scale down even as it feels like it's already shrinking.
posted by dialetheia at 10:03 AM on December 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think you're all missing my point, which is that if moderators feel like they have to be so closely involved in these threads as to become clinically traumatized to the extent that we actually have to delete threads -- effectively silencing site members who would like to read and discuss those threads, and do not feel traumatized -- then maybe something is topsy-turvy and we should reconsider how we do moderation. Something is lost when the priority is making metafilter a safe space for moderators, despite the fact that metafilter is not a safe space.
posted by yarly at 10:31 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's a difference between "safe space" and "space that doesn't have ten posts about rape in three weeks."
posted by Etrigan at 10:37 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


The thread gets posted, people say horrible things which get flagged, and moderators are required to pay attention in order to deal with the flagging. Of course the moderators have to be closely involved in these threads, and in the most contentious and offensive parts of the thread, and thus apparently also triggering personal abuse via email.
posted by jaguar at 10:37 AM on December 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

The thread gets posted, people say horrible things which get flagged, and moderators are required to pay attention in order to deal with the flagging, which you can decide not to read, and go on about your life.
There is another solution to moderator fatigue, you know.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:42 AM on December 11, 2014


.... and then no one can make thoughtful comments without getting shouted down by misogynists. I've read the comments on my local newspaper's website, I know how that one goes.
posted by jaguar at 10:44 AM on December 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


There is another solution to moderator fatigue, you know.

Yes, a great solution for anyone who wishes MetaFilter were more like the comment section of your local newspaper's website.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:44 AM on December 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


D'oh.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:44 AM on December 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think you're all missing my point, which is that if moderators feel like they have to be so closely involved in these threads as to become clinically traumatized to the extent that we actually have to delete threads -- effectively silencing site members who would like to read and discuss those threads, and do not feel traumatized -- then maybe something is topsy-turvy and we should reconsider how we do moderation.

What's weird is how you and others objecting to this deletion is acting like it is this way forever and ever. The mods have explicitly said, "Give it a little while and repost." The creator has said, "Yeah, I'll repost in a bit." This is incredibly far from anyone being silenced - or even disapproved of.

Part of being a part of a working community is coming up with working compromises. One was worked out a bunch of comments ago, one which everyone materially affected seems to be fine with. A lot of women, like myself, have spoken about our own pain and fatigue - which isn't, by the way, "clinically traumatized"; trauma isn't clinical and it isn't a diagnosis, and it is something most people will experience in their lifetimes.

I hear that you're saying you're worried we'll loose voices, that we're not respecting all of the members of our community; I think in contrast that this discussion is about respecting all of the members of our community including the moderators, who are able to do the job they do because they are a part of the community and not separate. We may end up needing to agree to disagree on this point, but I do hear your fear about safe spaces being about silencing people. I just don't agree either that MetaFilter is a safe space for anyone, or that we are truly silencing anyone.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:57 AM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


"...then maybe something is topsy-turvy and we should reconsider how we do moderation."

No. To turn your own argument against you, this is their job and It's what they have to deal with, we don't, and what they have to deal with on a daily basis for their income, which isn't true for us. I think you're exactly wrong about this.

I agree with your fundamental premise that people take jobs that involve unpleasant things and dealing with those things is rightly expected. It's part of the agreement between they and their employers, and (in this context) between they and us. But there are limits to this and those limits are precisely where the unpleasant stuff degrades their ability to do those jobs.

In the later nineties, I managed a customer support staff at an ISP. I certainly did expect the staff to deal with unhappy and even angry customers. That was their job, what they were being paid to do. But I certainly did not expect them to deal with abusive customers and I actively intervened with abusive customers and would happily just cut them off from access to customer support entirely if necessary. Abuse wasn't part of the staffer's employment agreement and, not incidentally, the trauma associated with it cumulatively would interfere with their ability to do their jobs.

Furthermore, this was true for me in the early nineties when I worked in rape crisis. So, yeah, we signed up to listen to what survivors had to say. I did hospital work, so I signed up to actually be there with the survivors at the hospital. Our jobs were to listen and even see deeply upsetting stuff. But, you know, even in that context there were limits. I did this work at the height of the ritual satanic abuse era and people were calling the phone advocates and describing in detail for hours the most horrifying things you could ever imagine. For folk who were accustomed to hearing your more typical survivor's accounts of sexual assault, a lot of these RSA accounts were way, way beyond anything they'd heard and it was causing serious secondary trauma that was above and beyond anything that the center had seen before. We had meetings and discussions about it and, in the end, developed special protocols for dealing with RSA survivors specifically to control this secondary trauma problem we were having. It was painful, because we felt very strongly that our job was to listen and affirm and support and advocate -- that was our institutional responsibility specifically because there's no one else in our society that performs this function for survivors. Everywhere else, they are aggressively queried or silenced. No one wanted to risk making any survivor feel like they couldn't rely upon the center. But, even so, there are limits and these particular interactions were going beyond our ability to avoid expected secondary trauma and ultimately compromising our ability to do what we were supposed to be doing.

This particular situation here is and is not comparable to each of those in different respects -- this is its own thing. But the bottom-line is that there are limits, secondary trauma is real, and it both is the right thing to do and is pragmatically necessary to adjust for what they mods can and cannot deal with.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:59 AM on December 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


yarly: "Something is lost when the priority is making metafilter a safe space for moderators"

The way you discuss the moderators seems slightly dehumanizing. I'm not super-interested in accomodating people who treat this topic with the intellectual detachment of a sudoku above those affected by it directly. I don't think the priority here is the moderators. The discussion has been about balancing member needs and mod needs, so perhaps we think of the priority as maximizing empathy. I think that there's been good consensus from all about how to address the deleted post in a way that best satisfies everybody while minimizing harm and discomfort.
posted by boo_radley at 11:08 AM on December 11, 2014 [25 favorites]


Something is lost when the priority is making metafilter a safe space for moderators, despite the fact that metafilter is not a safe space.

Yeah, something is *clearly* wrong when a company makes somewhere a safer place for their employees.

Wtf?

It's not about a safe place - I think you're being deliberately argumentative/extreme in your presentation of your position (and those countering it) because you are pushing a general agenda of 'less moderation is good'. Lets just make it clear, this was not a deletion we're discussing here. It was a postponement of the topic for a little while, agreed by moderators and poster alike. Nothing has been silenced or removed. Nothing.

It is just not possible that this is a sufficiently terrible moderation based decision that you can start to hold it up as an example of how moderation should back right off unless you are bringing an existing agenda to the table.

In which case, stop it.
posted by Brockles at 11:11 AM on December 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


I never thought I'd actually get to see an unironic "SILENCED ALL MY LIFE" in the wild. This is a special day.
posted by Errant at 11:17 AM on December 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


ifds, sn9:

This, to me, is unacceptable and a policy/management issue:
Arguing with users about whether their rape joke should have been deleted or not? Arguing with users that I must only be modding this way because I'd been/not been raped? . . .


Absolutely. Why not put some kind of consequence into site policy for this kind of behaviour? When a mod recognizes that this back-and-forth pattern is shaping up (2 back and forths into it, or whatever), they should be empowered to warn a member, "This discussion is closed. If you persist, you get 1 week off the site" and then do it.* I suppose you'd have to write the specifics of this into the guideslines.

To me, it's clear that empathy-deficient members' private email haranguing of mods creates a fucked up workplace environment, and a mental health hazard, for our mods. I don't see why protecting those members' rights to be borderline abusive is worth that cost.

This has nothing to do with the larger OP issue of too-many-or-not rape threads (personally I hope to see the deleted thread posted again sometime), but at least it would deal with one piece of the fallout from rape threads. A piece that, in my opinion, constitutes unnecessary, unmitigated shit.

*reminds me of a talk I had yesterday with a breastfeeding friend whose kid has started biting her. 'He thinks it's funny,' she said, 'He has this heh-heh kind of smile when he does it and God dammit his teeth hurt.' One of the pieces of advice I passed on to her, picked up from here or another friend I can't remember where, was "He thinks it's fun or at least, how you feel about it isn't on his radar. You have to teach him there's unpleasant consequences to him doing it. Like, "NO!" instantly, and then the boob goes the fuck away and doesn't come out again for a long time."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:41 AM on December 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


But I certainly did not expect them to deal with abusive customers and I actively intervened with abusive customers and would happily just cut them off from access to customer support entirely if necessary.

This is what I would like to see, implemented like the comment by cybercoitus interruptus, but with the mods empowered to set personal boundaries even if a particular person only emailed something terrible once, for example.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:45 AM on December 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


There is another solution to moderator fatigue, you know.

Yeah, and I've been in the archives looking at threads from the days when it was just Matt, or Matt and jessamyn here and there, and I wonder why the hell you would want to go back to that, especially given the huge jump in membership we've had since then. This is an absurd "solution" to propose. This is not an area of theoretical "I wonder what would happen if": We have evidence, both from this site and other lightly/unmoderated sites. We don't have to guess.
posted by rtha at 11:47 AM on December 11, 2014 [19 favorites]


if moderators feel like they have to be so closely involved in these threads as to become clinically traumatized to the extent that we actually have to delete threads...then maybe something is topsy-turvy and we should reconsider how we do moderation.

And your two suggestion for how "we" should change moderation are 1) set an exact number of posts a controversial topic can get per month, and 2) have lower moderation standards for controversial topics?

You've been here long enough to know that neither of those suggestions are in line with the way Metafilter is run, and therefore are not particularly helpful.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:47 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


At the very least, it seems like people who send private abuse to you guys should have some "reduced moderation team" consequences too.

Yeah, the misplaced consequences are what kinda rankles about this, I think, even with the rationale for the deletion (and hopefully later reposting) that's been elaborated by the mods in-thread, even after thinking about it for a while and watching this discussion develop. It seems like this is ultimately a pretty successful deployment of the heckler's veto — like a good, thoughtful potential discussion, and a really great post, are being at least partly shut down by the anticipated, and actual, behavior of a relatively small, if rotating, cast of assholes which makes things so unpleasant for everyone else (mods very much included).

This is something worth discussing about the UVA/Rolling Stone thread as it's been evolving too. Several different people in this MeTa have already reported being driven away by the tone that that discussion assumed as it went on, and I've also been pretty bothered by how sour it went in the aftermath of the weird semi-retraction and ongoing re-reporting of the article. Several times I've had to take a walk rather than commenting because the discussion turned so unpleasantly toward carping. Even with a reasonable number of the shittiest comments deleted (and lord knows I've been flagging heavily as I read), and a number of mod notes, it still seems like the discussion has turned ugly enough that I can imagine it driving many of the people away who could otherwise contribute to a better discussion. I mean, even just demographically I really can't help noticing how male the thread's commenting population became over time, as a small number of tone-deaf and/or deliberately contentious commenters showed up to play a game of serial argumentative whack-a-mole.

I think we need to work on allocating more of the consequences of the heckler's veto back onto the hecklers. Not just on this topic, either, but especially on this topic. It seems bad for the site that there's such a clear strategy available allowing a handful of people to poison the well on a given topic of discussion.
posted by RogerB at 11:51 AM on December 11, 2014 [23 favorites]


When a mod recognizes that this back-and-forth pattern is shaping up (2 back and forths into it, or whatever), they should be empowered to warn a member, "This discussion is closed. If you persist, you get 1 week off the site" and then do it.*

I've seen the mods do that in various threads throughout the site, so I doubt they're gunshy people, accepting any and all forms of abuse. They all ready seem quite empowered and have been since forever.

There's a clear and established procedure that a person more or less has to repeatedly be a complete and utter asshole and had several timeouts before they're banned. As a person who is not a mod, that seems fine and in line with the site's long term and overall goals of being inclusive.

If the people who are mods feel that needs to change, that's fine too and totally understandable.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:52 AM on December 11, 2014


Why not put some kind of consequence into site policy for this kind of behaviour?

To be clear, we have been willing to ban people for outright abusive email stuff, and it has happened on a few occasions. And it's something that over the last few years we've been more willing to do, I think especially as we brought more people on staff and realized that shit that Matt and Jess and I sort of used to take in stride as just Part Of The Shitty Side Of The Job was stuff that we didn't really feel comfortable telling a newer moderator they just had to buck up and deal with. That having acclimated to a degree to that didn't mean we had to be totally stuck with it or stick other people with it. So there's been some progress over time there and a greater willingness to say, no, that was out of line and totally unacceptable and you're done here now.

But that's one piece of the whole thing. One of the consequences of working as visible and available staff-members of this site (on top of us varyingly being pretty open-book people on the internet in general) is that you don't need to be a member in good standing to email us directly, or write to the contact form, or tweet at us, or or or. It's great to say "well, ban someone who sends you shitty email", but we can't ban someone who's already banned. We can killfile future stuff from some asshole, but we can't preemptively filter shitty stuff from them before they establish that. Solving the problem of people being occasionally super shitty is trickier than solving the problem of them doing so while having a mefi account.

All that aside, there's a lot of grey area where someone who is not being a psycho or having a meltdown is still, and more strictly defensibly, asking a lot of us in terms of discussing/arguing/protesting something about the site or how its moderated or how a topic is handled. That stuff can still be trying while falling well within the territory of actually being the job, being kind of what we're here for. It contributes to the stress of the stressful parts of the job, but it's more in the expected territory than bizarro aggro spleenventing or whatnot.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:41 PM on December 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


I trust it hasn't escaped your notice that your metaphor infantilizes the entire user-base of Metafilter, cybercoitus interruptus, and identifies contrary mefites with malicious unweaned babies who bite the breast which feeds them, and by default, identifies the majority with babies who suck down what's offered to them, and then, presumably, drift off to contented sleep in their mods' loving arms.

I think it's very peculiar that Metafilter, which has always been of, by, and for the members, with moderators as support and more or less in the background, should -- at the bottom of this thread, and at a moment in its history when advertisers have proved less willing to support it than they have been, and members have stepped in to make up the shortfall -- now seem to be in danger of turning itself inside out, so that the membership and what it wants, individually and collectively, would recede into the background despite the fact that they're supporting the site as never before, and the moderators would come to the fore, and their tastes and sensitivities would determine tone and content as never before.
posted by jamjam at 12:47 PM on December 11, 2014


I trust it hasn't escaped your notice that your metaphor infantilizes the entire user-base of Metafilter, cybercoitus interruptus

You do seem to be acting in a way to make the metaphor appropriate.
posted by kagredon at 12:51 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I trust it hasn't escaped your notice that your metaphor infantilizes the entire user-base of Metafilter, cybercoitus interruptus,

I don't see how I could have specified any more clearly that I was talking strictly about ONE issue: members who argue via private emails to mods about whether or not a mod has been raped, their rights to have their rape jokes go undeleted, etc.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:55 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


It was just, like, a metaphor, which sometimes helps us think of situations in different ways, and not some passive aggressive argument that we are all babies here. Illustrating points via analogy can be troublesome at times, because you can almost always argue about whether the analogy is apt, but jam jam, it's like you're going out of your way both to see the comment in its least charitable light and simultaneously prove the truth of your interpretation through your own conduct.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:55 PM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've seen the mods do that in various threads throughout the site, so I doubt they're gunshy people, accepting any and all forms of abuse.

I was talking about their private email exchanges with members, which we members at large are not privy to. And I may be wrong, but reading the mods' comments above suggests to me that the kinds of emails they receive about rape threads are in that grey area of "superficially civil words + a message of MYrights-MYfeelings-should-be-your-first-priority + relentlessly aggressive delivery" = subtle fuckedupness that incrementally causes concrete damage. The subtlety and incrementalism meaning, that they may NOT have recognized these emails, before, as worthy of "Take 1 week off" responses. Particularly given Metafilter's general feather-light mod philosophy.

Optimally, in my opinion, there would be an official Metafilter lower threshold for taking shit from members in private emails, both for a harangue and, as ifds, sn9 suggests, for a single supremely shitty email. I agree that the mods probably don't currently accept any and all forms of abuse. But to reiterate, 1. the shit that jessamyn et al cited above is not explicitly abusive so there may be a tendency to give it a pass, and 2. I think the threshold for mods taking private email shit from members should be officially recognized as lower than the currently cobbled-together status quo.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:57 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


One of the consequences of working as visible and available staff-members of this site (on top of us varyingly being pretty open-book people on the internet in general) is that you don't need to be a member in good standing to email us directly, or write to the contact form, or tweet at us, or or or. It's great to say "well, ban someone who sends you shitty email", but we can't ban someone who's already banned. We can killfile future stuff from some asshole, but we can't preemptively filter shitty stuff from them before they establish that. Solving the problem of people being occasionally super shitty is trickier than solving the problem of them doing so while having a mefi account.

People are always more terrible than I expect they will be. Good lord.
posted by winna at 1:09 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Me: they may NOT have recognized these emails, before, as worthy of "Take 1 week off" responses.

and on reading your response, cortex, thank you. So Team Metafilter may not in fact consider such emails worthy of "Take 1 week off" responses.

I did not know of, and now understand, the larger problem of shitty people without mefi accounts being shitty.

However, I hope that y'all can at least do something concrete about people sending craptastic private Mefi emails to mods.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:18 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Optimally, in my opinion, there would be an official Metafilter lower threshold for taking shit from members in private emails, both for a harangue and, as ifds, sn9 suggests, for a single supremely shitty email.

Yeah, not sure why you're worrying about making this official (what exactly would that mean), when one of the philosophies of moderating the site is (and has been) that the official rules are few and they take things on a case by case basis.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:21 PM on December 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


there would be an official Metafilter lower threshold for taking shit from members in private emails

Well and the issue here is that the bulk of the people who we have (had) those interactions with are really trying to understand things. They're not setting out to harass anyone. They're hurt or they're confused, or they're misunderstanding things. And it can be really difficult, it was difficult for me, to see the line where the third or fourth email on the topic of "Why aren't rape jokes okay? I really do not get it..." or "You should have changed the way you said that, it was offensive to me..." was maybe over the line and I should have shut it down at the second exchange. But we'd get threatened with "Hey if you don't deal with this over email I will take it to MetaTalk and then you'll have a real problem" actions. Rarely, but that was a real concern back in the no MeTa queue days. And this was from people who I would not always consider "the usual assholes" but just people who were having a bad day, or a bad year. And it was from all (both?) sides. The "You don't do enough!" and the "You do too much!" sides. In hindsight, we put up with more shit than we should have and pushed back less than we could have.

And it can be difficult, again this was true for me, to deal with people's pain and deal with people who saw mod responses as part of the thing that was causing their pain. Now, I have a personal matrix of whose pain I will and will not feel responsible for at some real personal level, but that doesn't mean the person talking doesn't feel hurt or isn't having a real struggle. And some people are okay with boundaries with this sort of thing and some people aren't. Our "We are available to talk" mod stance means it might be harder to draw a line than it would be in a nameless/faceless moderator situation. Part of being so available is better for the user experience and not as great for the mod experience.

Again, I am not complaining. My life is fine and was fine when I was working here and when it wasn't, I changed something. But the things that made me very good as a moderator, made the job very difficult.

especially as we brought more people on staff and realized that shit that Matt and Jess and I sort of used to take in stride as just Part Of The Shitty Side Of The Job was stuff that we didn't really feel comfortable telling a newer moderator they just had to buck up and deal with.

This is very true. We only started getting schedules here because restless_nomad stepped in and said "I'm not working anywhere without a schedule. Why would you?" and we were like "Huh, she's right" and got better boundaries. And that was good. It's good to get perspective on other ways to do things.

And bringing it around to the main topic, this is mostly in defense of r_n's decision and even, honestly, her deletion reason. There are a lot of things that need to be balanced in a good community site and sometimes breathing room for the mods is part of that. There are ways of addressing that issue in the longer term, sure, but those are mostly technological solutions to what is actually a very human problem and one that time will actually mostly address. Sorry for the wall-of-text, I've mostly tried to keep myself to a post a day here.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:01 PM on December 11, 2014 [28 favorites]


This has already been said, but a great big thanks to the mods for the hard work they do, which I hadn't appreciated as distinctly until this thread.

Re: some of the newsfilter comments -- MetaFilter is my personal go-to site for commentary on the big news items of the day. I sometimes check Reddit as well (sorted by 'top posts') though here is where the good and thoughtful commentary is.

I would be sad if the major news stories didn't make it to MetaFilter as a matter of policy. I understand that the moderation is taxing, but it's also a real value to the community to have commentary on the big news stories in specific.

Which stories do I mean? The big ones everyone talks about that blow up the twittersphere, etc. It's great to have one site where the converesation is thoughtful and informative.
posted by htid at 2:17 PM on December 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Well and the issue here is that the bulk of the people who we have (had) those interactions with are really trying to understand things. They're not setting out to harass anyone. They're hurt or they're confused, or they're misunderstanding things... But we'd get threatened with "Hey if you don't deal with this over email I will take it to MetaTalk and then you'll have a real problem" actions.

I'm among the camp just gobsmacked by the insight into the type of mail you got, so that factors into what's obviously armchair moderating on my part. But...this right here leaped out at me as a pretty telling contrast in these allegedly majority just-trying-to-understand (the close cousin of the "I'm just raising the question!" plausible deniability defense every remotely successful participation-grade troll anywhere ever has in their playbook) actual good faith/bad faith ratio.

In hindsight, we put up with more shit than we should have and pushed back less than we could have.

That is a beautiful summary of the human condition.
posted by Drastic at 2:29 PM on December 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


you don't need to be a member in good standing to email us directly, or write to the contact form, or tweet at us, or or or.

I'm another person who's gobsmacked by the idea that people are harassing the mods from outside the community. Is this actually stuff like banned members, or outside people who are trying to get their links removed and being jerks, or people from [whichever site Metafilter is supposed to be feuding with this month], or randos from across the internet, or all of the above and then some? Is there anything we as users can do to ease things besides "don't be a jerk"?
posted by immlass at 3:42 PM on December 11, 2014


BB: not sure why you're worrying about making this official

Because if something is official policy, spelled out in, say, the MetaTalk FAQ or somewhere, then you can point to it to discourage threats like

jessamyn: "Hey if you don't deal with this over email I will take it to MetaTalk and then you'll have a real problem" actions.

Don't like your private back-and-forths with a mod being shut down at the mod's discretion? It's site policy. Want to open a MeTa about it? It's site policy to disallow MeTas on the topic of private modly email exchanges if mods see fit. Etc. I know that that latter one is extremely unlikely to happen, but the first one, in my opinion, at least gives more weight to mod discretion re their private email exchanges. If it's site policy, there may be fewer incidences of threats to make a big public stink. And more importantly, bearing in mind jessamyn's observation that

In hindsight, we put up with more shit than we should have and pushed back less than we could have

...I would think it would help mods put up with less shit than they need to, and push back accordingly. Or maybe merely this discussion is helping to do that, in which case, great.

the issue here is that the bulk of the people who we have (had) those interactions with are really trying to understand things. They're not setting out to harass anyone. They're hurt or they're confused, or

I understand. For me, somebody's good intentions, or the fact that they're having a crappy month or year or life, or are in genuinely awful pain, etc, make it much more difficult to guard my mental health against any shitty impact on me from their well-intentioned long-drawn-out confusion, or insistent questioning, or whatever. My default is to put their feelings and rights and mental health ahead of mine (still is, even now that I've figured out that this is what's happening). Maybe that's not the case for y'all, in which case, good. But I thought it was worth mentioning as something to maybe watch out for.

I won't be checking the thread for about eight hours, so if anybody replies to the above, I'll be back later.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:56 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is this actually stuff like banned members, or outside people who are trying to get their links removed and being jerks, or people from [whichever site Metafilter is supposed to be feuding with this month], or randos from across the internet, or all of the above and then some?

I'd say the bulk of awful stuff would be from banned/buttoned users, yeah, though little bits of the rest mixed in too. Banned folks tend to have more of a personal motivation for bothering to be especially shitty, I think; link removal stuff, when it's something that even needs a response, is when it's bad generally more of a stuffy or faux-stuffy kind of grandstanding (and lucky Matt gets to deal with all of that), and I'd say we actually get very, very little shitty mail from cross-site friction stuff since mostly if someone elsewhere has a beef with Metafilter they'll just complain about it at the other site, etc.

Is there anything we as users can do to ease things besides "don't be a jerk"?

Not being a jerk's pretty much the start and end of it. At a certain point there's nothing anybody can do about someone being an asshole except the asshole themself; we can ban 'em, plonk their emails, and refuse to engage if they keep looking for more avenues, but it's up to them ultimately to either have a moment of clarity or just run out of steam. Everybody else can just keep doing what most people do, which is not be that kind of unhinged day-ruining motherfucker, and that's enough.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:58 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

In hindsight, we put up with more shit than we should have and pushed back less than we could have.
And that reason, right there, is why I came very close to a complete nervous breakdown due to work. I'm still dealing with the fallout in terms of handling my depression 5 years later.

I get burned out on the rape threads. There's only so many times you can post 'how not to be a dick to women 101' without looking like a dick yourself. There's only so much of the hurtful crap from the clueless you can read in one go. And then you have the intentional trolls and assholes who do juuuuust enough to get given the benefit of the doubt, yet end up taking on all comers and causing a pile-on - making such threads about them and their opinions for big chunks. Which is bad enough, but also ends up causing a chilling effect for people posting their experiences of the subject. Some of the most effective and thoughtful stuff I've ever read has been from women posting on metafilter/metatalk about rape and sexual assault. In fact, I had no idea of the scale of what it was really like out there for women. Reading those stories here over the years, and seeing first hand how much of an asshole people can be to women, is what made me a feminist ally. For me, it has absolutely been a part of being the 'best of the web'.

And that's reading the sanitised version, after the mods have cleaned up.

So I truly have sympathy for the mods. Trying to stay on top of that every day, ending up thinking about rape and having it invade your non-work life, that's no good for anyone. And I can absolutely see it being literally dangerous to the mental health of the mod team. And take it from me, a stress burnout is no fun at all.

If you need to delete posts because you can't handle yet another post on a tough topic right now, then absolutely, that's what you need to do.

That said;
Since I don't work here anymore, my life is not full of moderating rape discussions (and the unpleasantness that comes along with that: from people being awful generally, to just being really sad for people who have experienced horrible things, to being upset at having to make a judgment call about ironic rape jokes). I don't have to wake up every day and talk about rape with my co-workers. I don't have people bitching at me for making the wrong decision about "how to discuss rape" and I don't have to decide how much to talk about the things I have personally experienced that fall out along sexual assault lines to defend choices I have made
Holy shit. That should not be part of the job description. It really, really, shouldn't.

The mods should not have to put up with that kind of bollocks from users. I've disagreed with some decisions of the mod team over the years, but I would never consider getting angry at the mods and giving them shit for it personally.

I don't know what needs to change on a technical/design/policy level to improve that, but it really, really shouldn't be that way. For a healthy work environment for the mods, for a better environment for us commenters in the cheap seats, and for there to be space for people to be able to share their pain and get support for it, there has to be more we can do, as a community, to make threads on tough topics less of a shitstorm.

Maybe it's that mods can't be emailed directly to contest decisions; only the mod contact form for the whole team to handle. I personally think it's definitely the case that the mods need to be more aggressive on the timeouts and possible bans for shitty behaviour, whether it's directed at them or other commentators.

divined by radio's post shouldn't have had to be deleted. I can understand why it was, and given the current circumstances, it may well be actually have been the best call. I hope it can be posted again later. But, in my opinion, there is a need to take a good long hard look at WHY such posts are so tough on the mod team, and what can be done to alleviate that other than just spacing them out some. And if that means getting rid of the commentators - temporarily or permanently - who make such threads such a shitstorm, I'm definitely on board with that.
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:09 PM on December 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


The difficulty isn't and never has been to deal with bad faith commentators who turn threads into a shitstorm, the difficulty is correctly identifying those commentators.
posted by Justinian at 5:33 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not being a jerk's pretty much the start and end of it."

You're suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuure that's the only way?
posted by klangklangston at 6:34 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


If the deletion reason is "why the mod chose to delete," it puts the mod on the defensive. But if the deletion reason is "what the contributor needs to do differently," it might lead to a better dynamic.

When it comes to deletion reasons, for me it's not so much wanting a mod to justify their decision. I think demanding a justification is assholish; we aren't entitled to justifications that satisfy us; it's not our site.

It's more wanting to know how to adjust my behavior as a contributor in the future: should this never be posted on Mefi, so I should give up on it and not post anything else like it? Or could this be (revised and) reposted, if so, under what conditions?

I wonder if the quick deletion reasons, instead of trying to defend the deletion, could focus on what the contributor can do differently. For a really crappy post, "try harder" or "check the FAQ." For a really good post, maybe "consider reposting after the UVA thread closes."
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 6:41 PM on December 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am relatively new to posting on the blue and have been getting a lot out of the rape threads as I am a survivor and it was good to learn that I wasn't alone after all the time but after three or four lately I found myself being triggered and burnt out at the people who kind of crap on them or treat them as an intellectual exercise not considering that words have real impact on others. It surprised me how triggered I got about words on the internet as before I scoffed at the idea that words could hurt.

So I just want to give big consensual hugs to the mods who have to read that stuff day after day. And to find out it can get worse via email really makes me want to invite you all over to my house for hot chocolate and cuddles with my dog.

I don't know the solution and have no suggestions but I never really thought of the impact on you in dealing with it. Never really thought about how I really do have the privilege of being able to shut the thread down and walk away and focus on other things to get rid of the grime that can stick with me after certain threads. Or how I can set up filters and just focus on happy puppy videos and you all are stuck having to monitor and stop the ugliness from spreading around this little garden on the net Matt has set up.

I credit this place for teaching me and opening my eyes to how things in my life are assault and worse. To being a place that spurred me on to starting the long road to healing. And while I treasure that and still look to this site to aid me and educate me further in dismantling the screwed up thoughts I had about rape culture and would hate for others to miss out on getting their eyes opened and support from hearing other stories I completely think that it is totally valid if a few less posts get put up about it.

Not having the luxury to not have to read rape discussions and it almost being mandated as part of your job must suck to the greatest degree some days. I haven't really been vocal in my admiration for what you all do to still make this site flow along smoothly because I am a 5 generations of repressed Canadian women who don't do such emotional displays and really only a casual user of the site and not a big presence but I really just want to say thank you.

So any time you are up on my little Island in the far reaches of Canadian you are more than welcome to sit under a comfy knitted blanket and drink tea and snuggle my dog who I consider a mefite by proxy since I got her cause Askme said I should. It isn't much but I can channel my comforting elderly aunt vibe and we can chat about nothing more taxing than the weather or what to puddle with in the garden.

And cause I am Canadian I offer an apology for all the idiots who make this place hard on you.
posted by kanata at 7:05 PM on December 11, 2014 [33 favorites]


Oh, shit, I just realized that I never retracted this comment from way up in the thread before the mods came in to talk about the psychic effort required to police these kinds of threads. Well, not retract precisely, but since y'all explained it, I'm cool with that FPP getting delayed.
posted by Etrigan at 7:08 PM on December 11, 2014


In addition to many other things, this thread is a great reminder of how articulate, thoughtful, and even-keeled our mods are, even in the face of what we now know to be very trying circumstances.

It's also a great reminder of what a loss it is to the site that Jessamyn has moved on. I'm very glad for her and am just as glad that she still drops in. One in a million.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:04 PM on December 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


Just for the record, I'd prefer a system where Joe IP warrior posts "Hey this terrible thing happened on the west bank today" whenever he wants, with minimal chance of deletion, but all the pro/anti I/P warriors were warned/banned quickly from the discussion quickly.

There isn't really any value to making the front page some prestine social calendar.

In fact, I'm confident the metafilter moderation model is overall wrong, in that it targets posts over comments. Comment are hard in that you need automation, which is hard.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:41 PM on December 11, 2014


Jeffburges: Isn't that what a newspaper is for? There are horrible things happening everywhere, all the time. The mods frequently delete threads specifically because it's just more bad news about something that happened; your proposal would encourage that, and also encourage "warriors" to get their shot in first by framing the post the way they want. Frankly, I'd prefer a rule of thumb that says no news can be posted until it's a month old, at least.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:29 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wish people would stop calling for rules of thumb.

I've been thinking a lot about this thread recently and how much it reflects what sexual assault is. It's relentless, it's ongoing and no-one can bear thinking (much less talking) about it every bloody day.

How the mods handle the sheer quantity of what is actually out there is up to them. Personally, I think cutting down on the Newsfilter side of things is the way to go, as mentioned by all those people up there but I trust that the mods will handle this in a way that makes the site work and also takes into account the fact that they are humans, not automatons.
posted by h00py at 4:42 AM on December 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


jeffburdges: "Comment are hard in that you need automation, which is hard."

Comments need automation? That doesn't follow.
posted by boo_radley at 10:04 AM on December 12, 2014


Just checking in to say that I've got a bit of conflicted feeling over this as well.

Not the deletion itself (although the deletion message was worded in kind of an ambiguously painful way but now we've had a MeTa and it's all good-- this seems like exactly the sort of situation that MeTa was designed for and I think it's worked well here.) If mods need emotional space and a break from what feels like to them the constant hammering of rape as a topic, well, I'm fine with that! I sometimes skip those threads because they're too exhausting to even look at and I can't imagine being a mod and having to wade through all of them.

That being said, I'm troubled by the implication that having to constantly talk about rape is part of rape culture (although Jessamyn isn't a mod anymore so that assertion less of an issue for me) and particularly by restless_nomad's suggestion that talking about oppression's negative consequences is harmful to marginalized groups. I realize that site policy isn't being based on those ideas or anything, so maybe it's of zero consequence, but those reasons seem like exactly the sorts of political reasons that it's not appropriate to use as a defense of mod behavior. It's nothing to do with the workings of the site, or of the feasibility of a particular post, or the Kind of Community We Want Metafilter to Be, it's this weird other thing that seems like politically-intentioned direction of behavior. Again, I realize I'm making kind of a mountain out of a molehill here in the sense that restless_nomad's view isn't something that is driving site policy, but I think the distinction between "we need to do X for site" and "you should do X because it's better for you" is a really important one. So yeah, I'm 100% onboard with 'the mods needed a break' as a reason to do anything (although in the future I hope that can be communicated more clearly up front, perhaps in an email to the original poster?) And if X or Y needs to happen for the good of the site, as determined by the mods, then I'm cool with that too. But my jimmies are a little rustled by restless_nomad's implication that the personal stories, deep reflection, and all-too-often heartbreaking sharing that happens in rape threads here is the same as shouting "Wow, being a woman really sucks!" from the rooftops, and that that's a sufficient reason to do or not do something.

I also think there's a fine line to walk with Newsfilter. I'm fine with having less Newsfilter, but sometimes Newsfilter is embedded in a large context (like Shirtgate.) I would totally understand deleting a single-link post about Shirtgate as Newsfilter and not a very good post, but a post that addresses Shirtgate within the larger context of women in science and the difficulties they face-- well, that's a whole other thing, and suggesting that we wait and have that discussion after the time period that Shirtgate could be called Newsfilter kind of doesn't make sense to me.

Also want to say that I hold the mods, and restless_nomad in particular, in the highest respect for the job they do, and that generally I find the moderation on this site clear-sighted, thoughtful, appropriate, and far more generous than I would probably be capable of, if put in that position. To some extent I think there's an inherent tension in what Metafilter has to balance; as more women users and people of color and other folks in marginalized positions come on to the site, there will be more and more posts about the kinds of things that are important to them, and unfortunately many of the things that are important are depressing and infuriating (which obviously is not their/our fault.) I think it's important to have space to discuss those issues, but I also certainly understand the need to protect moderators' sanity. Hopefully we can figure it out as we go along in a way that works for everybody.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:06 AM on December 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


I would totally understand deleting a single-link post about Shirtgate as Newsfilter and not a very good post, but a post that addresses Shirtgate within the larger context of women in science and the difficulties they face-- well, that's a whole other thing, and suggesting that we wait and have that discussion after the time period that Shirtgate could be called Newsfilter kind of doesn't make sense to me.

What's even weirder about using Shirtgate as an example is that the first newsy post was deleted (by restless_nomad, in fact, after misreading direct quotes from the article as 'editorializing'), and joseph conrad is fully awesome came back and wrote another fantastic post a few days later reflecting on what had happened, showing a bunch of constructive responses to it (like the women in science shirt), including a think piece or two, etc.

To use that as an example of an empty outrage post is a) honestly pretty disrespectful to women in science who are materially harmed by this sort of shit all the time, even if you don't understand it - this was a HUGE DEAL in my professional circles and I think the thoughtful response from women scientists absolutely counts as 'best of the web'; and b) totally ignores that r_n's preferred case is actually exactly what happened here: JCIFA had an initial newsy post deleted and came back with a much better one with positive framing.

The other thing that this case demonstrates pretty nicely is that waiting until 'all the data is in' doesn't actually make people any less outraged about things that are outrageous. There was still a big fight in that thread because some people are pretty upset about being objectified in their workplaces and other people still think that's not worth being angry about. Putting up the 'positive' 'all the data is in' post didn't help at all with the outrage because it's fundamentally an outrageous situation to many people. The thread probably went better than it would have otherwise but the wait-a-few-days and highlight-the-positive approach must not have helped all that much, because evidently r_n still thinks of it as an empty outrage post that should have been deleted.

But my jimmies are a little rustled by restless_nomad's implication that the personal stories, deep reflection, and all-too-often heartbreaking sharing that happens in rape threads here is the same as shouting "Wow, being a woman really sucks!" from the rooftops, and that that's a sufficient reason to do or not do something.

I completely agree with your comments about this and found those comments somewhat troubling as well, given that they were coming from a mod in a thread about a deletion related to those issues. If that was part of the mod-hat thinking, that's very different to me than if it was purely a bandwidth-related 'we just can't deal with this right now' issue. I'm very sympathetic to the latter reason and hope we can find some solutions for this going forward that don't boil down to "have fewer tough conversations here"; the former would be troubling and would deserve further discussion.
posted by dialetheia at 10:55 AM on December 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


She didn't say that, she said focusing solely or mostly on negative aspects might be counterproductive and that's worth thinking hard about.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:04 AM on December 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


To some extent I think there's an inherent tension in what Metafilter has to balance; as more women users and people of color and other folks in marginalized positions come on to the site, there will be more and more posts about the kinds of things that are important to them, and unfortunately many of the things that are important are depressing and infuriating.

I think you'll find that a lot of people from marginalized positions don't want to be restricted by people to only having to make posts that further ghettoise their position. If they had to, where does that leave them in respect to other users ? That's an extremely unhealthy dynamic for a community site. You don't know whats important to people who have lived on the sidelines - have you considered perhaps that they might quite like reading posts about cat scans? Having a joke ? Posting a recipe for a laugh?
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:00 PM on December 12, 2014


First, joseph conrad is fully awesome did just fine, and we talked about that post with her over email, and the following is no criticism of her or her post. But since you bring it up:

Shirtgate was of a form that often leads to posts that go badly. Here's the form:

1. There is a real problem (e.g. climate for women in STEM, or campus rape)
2. One event happens that is connected to this problem (STEM guy wears incredibly inappropriate shirt, Rolling Stone publishes this one woman's story)....
3. Tons of media coverage, bloggy essays, people having opinions on facebook and twitter - it's everywhere, it seems like big news....
4. So people feel like it should be a post here. All the other places people are talking about it, the conversation sucks, so surely bringing it here will yield a better conversation about it. Plus, it's connected to a real problem that's important...
5. The post centers on #2 and #3...
6. The comments devolve into fights about the details of the event, generating bad feelings and long fighty thread, and the discussion of the real problem is obscured.

Internet nerds want to pick apart anything that can be picked. So they'll pick apart the details of an event. (Was the guy's shirt so inappropriate after all? What about someone's response on Twitter, was it too harsh? Were there factual inconsistencies in the Rolling Stone story? Shouldn't we really reserve judgment about whether a story is true?)

People who want to focus on the Real Problem are super annoyed by this picking because it seems like willfully ignoring the main point. (And it's a truly important issue that's highly personal for people, it's not just some abstract thing, why are these jerks being so pedantic or even deliberately deflecting attention from it? They must not think Real Problem is a real problem.) But look, the post is inadvertently set up from the start to deflect attention from the main real-world problem, by centering on the specific event -- which has all kinds of distracting, possibly-arguable specific details, and which by now everyone's seen on their facebooks and twitters, and has opinions and emotions about already, and is ready to charge in and unload those opinions without reading any links.

In the grand scheme of things, the details of the one guy's shirt and the twitter response (did anyone overreact? did anyone say shitty things?) aren't what matters. Yes the shirt thing reflects a larger problem, but again the details of the shirt and ensuing kerfuffle don't matter. What matters is the larger problem.

Same for a lot of rape posts - we tend to get them when some event happens that focuses public attention, like the UVA thing, the Stubenville thing, the Cosby thing. And those discussions end up focusing on the details of the specific accounts, the reporting, the minutia of the conduct of people investigating or responding to it. In an event-oriented (newsfilter) post, that focus on the details is not a derail. It's perfectly on topic. So the whole thread can tilt in that direction, debating all the details in a way that feels callous and alienating to people who are affected by the real problem.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:40 PM on December 12, 2014 [40 favorites]


Please understand, I'm not saying the events themselves are unimportant. But they often set up threads that turn really fighty because of the dynamic I describe -- an emotionally-charged topic and a difference among commenters on how much nitpicking of details is appropriate.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:45 PM on December 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


"You don't know whats important to people who have lived on the sidelines - have you considered perhaps that they might quite like reading posts about cat scans? Having a joke ? Posting a recipe for a laugh?"

You might want to take off your cloak of +4 mansplain there
posted by klangklangston at 4:39 PM on December 12, 2014 [17 favorites]


Wow, that was pretty insightful LobsterMitten, thanks.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:48 PM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think you'll find that a lot of people from marginalized positions don't want to be restricted by people to only having to make posts that further ghettoise their position.... You don't know whats important to people who have lived on the sidelines - have you considered perhaps that they might quite like reading posts about cat scans? Having a joke ? Posting a recipe for a laugh?

Um, I am a member of several of those marginalized communities (bisexual woman who has worked and still does her research in extremely male dominated fields.) Of course they/we like other stuff too, and of course they/we post about other things too, I'm just saying that as Metafilter becomes more diverse, part of that diversity will probably include talking about the often emotionally draining experiences that come with being marginalized, and that I can see how that could cause secondary trauma in the mods, and that I hope we can protect modly sanity while also talking about topics that are depressing but worth discussion. Nowhere did I suggest that 'people restrict' what other folks post on, or that these people/me somehow don't enjoy other stuff (cats in scanners bridge all social distinctions!)

And that was a really interesting dissection, LobsterMitten. I see much more where restless_nomad was coming from on the Shirtgate thing now. I think again there's some level of unresolvable tension there, because to present a problem without the cognitve anchor of a specific narrative often means that it seems impersonal and unimportant (and sometimes means that it gets called out, "But does this really happen to [X group]?"), but to tie a larger issue to a particular narrative incident means that the incident can be picked over in the ways you describe, and that in turn then obscures the larger issues. No great solution there in either direction, it seems to me, but it may be better for this community specifically to err on the side of nebulous and impersonal rather than narrative-anchored and nit-pick-able.
posted by WidgetAlley at 5:02 PM on December 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


"No great solution there in either direction, it seems to me, but it may be better for this community specifically to err on the side of nebulous and impersonal rather than narrative-anchored and nit-pick-able."

It's interesting that you say that. Although I think that LobsterMitten makes some good points and I can see how that "pick apart the particular story" dynamic works, I tend to think that the more pervasive problem with discussions about these topics is that they're too often abstracted away into intellectual exercises in which people are just attempting to score rhetorical points. I mean, I think this is especially the case with sexism and racism when the discussion is being heavily influenced by people who aren't directly affected. My sense is that this almost always does more harm than good while, conversely, making it clear that this impacts real, individual people -- people present in the conversation -- in very real and personal ways tends to ground the conversation very quickly and force those disruptive contrarians to take a step back.

Mind you, this is sort of my thing. It's a core principle of mine that the abstract/general/impersonal and the concrete/particular/personal should always be kept in balance in many kinds of discussions and most particularly so about anything involving moral philosophy and justice. I think lots of really bad things arise when rhetoric and related action is greatly biased in one of those two directions at the expense of the other.

With that in mind, I tend to look a bit askance at posts on these topics that are framed in an especially generalized and abstracted way.

It may be that the ideal case is a post with a wider framing but a subsequent discussion that keeps itself grounded to actual experience.

The problem with all this, though, is that here again what we're really discussing is how inevitably such conversations are disrupted by people who are motivated to defend injustice. This is what they do, and they will happily argue about angels on the head of a pin if that is distracting and alienating, and they'll happily split hairs about specific facts if that is distracting and alienating. Whatever works. And lots of things work.

So again, it's not the topic and it's not really so much how those who are genuinely well-intentioned approach the topic, it's how easily the poorly-intentioned can disrupt the conversation and make it extremely unpleasant.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:40 PM on December 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


conversely, making it clear that this impacts real, individual people -- people present in the conversation -- in very real and personal ways tends to ground the conversation very quickly and force those disruptive contrarians to take a step back.

Ah! I totally agree with you there. I didn't make it at all clear in my comments, but what I actually meant was framing the post itself as less narrative/specific-incident driven, and more general. I absolutely applaud and appreciate and encourage the discussion to be grounded in experience, because I think that's a really valuable thing for everyone (both as an educational tool and as expressions of solidarity for those who need to hear them.) It's my possibly foolish hope that the worst-behaved commenters, who are willing to pick apart an incident that's the subject of an FPP (as LobsterMitten mentions), might be slightly less willing to barge into a thread full of people sharing experiences and go, "NOPE IT DIDN'T HAPPEN LIKE THAT." Or at least, if they do, they will do it in a way that makes it easier for the mods to say, "Hey, don't do this," instead of falling into that rhetorical grey zone of, "Well, when should we reserve judgement about whether a story is true or not?" that LobsterMitten mentions above.

It may be that the ideal case is a post with a wider framing but a subsequent discussion that keeps itself grounded to actual experience.

Yeah, this is definitely I was trying to suggest (only put much more concisely)-- and not at all that this is an optimal moral solution somehow, but just, what might work for us and the mods and let things keep functioning in a feasible way.

The problem with all this, though, is that here again what we're really discussing is how inevitably such conversations are disrupted by people who are motivated to defend injustice. This is what they do, and they will happily argue about angels on the head of a pin if that is distracting and alienating, and they'll happily split hairs about specific facts if that is distracting and alienating.

Oh lawdy, amen to that.
posted by WidgetAlley at 5:55 PM on December 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


"to present a problem without the cognitve anchor of a specific narrative often means that it seems impersonal and unimportant"
-WidgetAlley

Yes, absolutely. I totally understand why people post about these events in the way they do. But yeah, framing these things is very sensitive to small changes in presentation that tilt the emphasis away from the details of the event toward the larger problem. It's tricky. It can help to run a draft by us via the contact form, but even that is no guarantee.



I wanted to respond to a different point from your comment a bit earlier, since other people have commented on this also:

"I'm troubled by the implication that having to constantly talk about rape is part of rape culture [...] and particularly by restless_nomad's suggestion that talking about oppression's negative consequences is harmful to marginalized groups. I realize that site policy isn't being based on those ideas or anything, so maybe it's of zero consequence, but those reasons seem like exactly the sorts of political reasons that it's not appropriate to use as a defense of mod behavior. It's nothing to do with the workings of the site, or of the feasibility of a particular post, or the Kind of Community We Want Metafilter to Be, it's this weird other thing that seems like politically-intentioned direction of behavior. "
-WidgetAlley

I think it does have to do with the kind of community we want MetaFilter to be. I want it to be a place where people can come and find a range of interesting stuff, and I want it to be a place where we can have really heartfelt conversations on the hardest subjects that really matter to people here, and where people can be honest about things that are personal or hard for them. But I don't want it to feel like a place where those hard conversations are continual, or where members are so emotionally wrung-out from them that they're fighting in other threads, or quitting the site because of anger/despair over bad comments in a hard thread, etc. Hard threads add up, and past some threshold start to create problems on the site, which can be reduced if we can space them out a little more.



So - the phrase about rape culture. A few people have objected to this and I want to explain what the phrase means to me.

It's a part of rape culture that our culture never fucking shuts up about rape. Girls and women have our personhood defined by it through history and in stories that we hear from childhood (female characters are constantly getting raped, being protected from being raped, being coerced in other ways as the price of not being raped, being a man's reason to avenge a rape, being judged virtuous or unvirtuous in relation to having been raped, etc). As adults, we've had our every decision (clothes, career, living arrangement, commute, food and drink, hobbies) subjected to judgment from gossipy busybodies as to whether we've adequately factored in the risk of being raped ("the threat of rape is constant!"); then a second round with the busybodies if we do get raped, because we might be lying and maybe it wasn't so bad and probably it's a misunderstanding ("the reports of rape are overblown!"). News and entertainment and clickbait websites all love a rape story, the worse the details, the better. And (for me anyway) this stuff is hard to tune out because of a conditioned fight-or-flight response to even the word 'rape.'

My experience is that there is not silence about rape in our culture. Instead, there is a deafening level of bullshit cultural background noise about rape, that is constant and wearing and hard to avoid.

That's what I mean by "always having to talk about rape is part of rape culture."



I also want to say, this isn't just about the mods, to me. (Although I hugely appreciate people's compassion about the mod burnout thing. That has honestly been a bit unexpected and really wonderful to read. Thank you.)

Good conversations about rape can be really valuable, and often are here, and I appreciate all the people who contribute to making them that way. But I also think these conversations are just hard, even when they're rewarding, even when there are no jerks shitting them up. I disagree with Ivan here -- it's not just the jerks. It's that it is a hard subject. The real-world situation is shitty. It's hard to hear about bad things that happened to other people you care about, and to remember bad things that have happened to yourself. There is a limit to how much of even the best, most rewarding rape conversation, with my dearest friends in real life, is good for me in a given time period. I'm guessing that's true for most women, even though different people's limits will vary. Being honest that these conversations are hard doesn't mean they should stop happening! It doesn't mean survivors shouldn't speak or any of that. Hard things are worth taking on when they're important. But we can be honest that it's hard and it can be good to take a breather sometimes, to shake things off, reset perspective, rebuild our stores, etc. before jumping into the next hard conversation.

Moderation here is done by humans, so we have to use our own best judgment and experience as a guide in navigating judgment calls on the site. My own experience is that it is valuable to have these heartfelt conversations about rape, but it also reaches a point where my emotional reserves are empty and I need a break from it or it becomes psychologically unhealthy. And I think that's true of the site overall - I think these conversations are valuable and important for the site but I also think the site needs a break from them sometimes.

Judging where the limit is, is obviously a subjective judgment call and is based (as it must be) on the mods' own sense of the emotional temperature of the site as a whole. We can be wrong. It's totally fair for there to be debate about whether we've picked the right post/right time to draw a line and say "let's take a breather." But I do think being able to space out these really hard discussions can be an important thing for avoiding emotional burnout on a given topic, not only among mods but also among members.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:40 PM on December 12, 2014 [52 favorites]


LobsterMitten - you've done a great deal to make this and thread and site better with your extremely thoughtful and circumspect recent comments.

Thank you, and hugs, hugs, hugs.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:53 PM on December 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


WidgetAlley: But my jimmies are a little rustled by restless_nomad's implication that the personal stories, deep reflection, and all-too-often heartbreaking sharing that happens in rape threads here is the same as shouting "Wow, being a woman really sucks!" from the rooftops, and that that's a sufficient reason to do or not do something.

Speaking as someone who has shared those stories in the past, they are effectively "wow, being a woman really sucks!" Even the ones with positive endings (my story of the friend who didn't rape me, for example) are about the exhaustive and annoying and unending work I, as a woman, feel like I have to do even though I know when I'm raped I will still be blamed for it.

That's kinda "wow, being a woman really sucks!" all over the place.

Now, it's entirely possible you've been one of the women sharing our stories in these threads and watching people react to it, and you don't have the same feelings I do - women aren't all the same! - but personally I agree with restless_nomad as one of the women who spends a lot of my time saying "wow, being a woman really sucks!" all over the place in the hopes that enough people will read my stories that we can change this and being a woman can suck less.

If I was sharing my stories for support, instead of as the emotional aspect of an argument I'm making that contemporary society is profoundly fucked up, I wouldn't be sharing them on MetaFilter. There is no guarantee I will get a supportive response here, and a non-zero likelihood someone will pick apart my story to score rhetorical points; MetaFilter is NOT and will never be a safe space, and as far as I'm concerned it should not be. Safe spaces are and should be protected, limited, and rare.

As for this being a reason to do or to not do something - I think it's reasonable to limit the number of rape discussions we have, especially when they are heartbreakingly dovetailing with ample evidence, yet again, that Black Lives don't Matter the way they should. I think acknowledging that Right Now Is Not A Good Time for various reasons is a good thing - and part of MetaFilter being more than a "business". In many ways, if we as MeFites recognize the ubiquity of this, manage some flexibility and compromise, and have compassion for everyone involved (as this discussion has had - and I thank you all for that!) then maybe we can learn how to make a different kind of society in a place other than MetaFilter, as well.
posted by Deoridhe at 9:18 PM on December 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


But my jimmies are a little rustled by restless_nomad's implication that the personal stories, deep reflection, and all-too-often heartbreaking sharing that happens in rape threads here is the same as shouting "Wow, being a woman really sucks!" from the rooftops, and that that's a sufficient reason to do or not do something.

So I've been thinking about this and I think what actually rustled my jimmies about r_n's "calling out oppression harms marginalized groups" vein was that the actual post she linked to was about white people calling out racists. I wasn't clearly able to articulate at it at the time, but the reason that didn't sit well with me it is her whole comment, to me, seemed to come from a, "We are the privileged talking about the oppressed, and that might not be good for them," perspective, because of the link that was framed that way when in reality many of the posts made on sensitive topics are made by members of that group. So it was just weird and seemed kind of paternalistic to say, "Because we're THIS group, we need to stop talking about THAT group because it might hurt them," because many of us are, in fact, THAT group.

This isn't to say that there's not a lot to be said for examining how privileged groups discuss oppressed groups and their oppression, there totally is and yeah, it probably is damaging sometimes. But to have a mod throw out there a stance that, to me, seemed like it was assuming we were all in the privileged group talking about the unprivileged group and that maybe this had a bearing on site policy was jarring, and didn't seem in keeping with her general modly spirit, which I think usually acknowledges the diversity of the userbase in a really nice way.

That's sort of what I was trying to get at, that much of the sharing around rape is made by members of the in-group, which is not the same as someone NOT in the in-group standing around shouting "being a woman really sucks!" as per restless_nomad's link. (Whether or not members of the in-group standing around shouting is productive is an entirely different discussion.) What LobsterMitten talked about above seems fundamentally different-- LM talks about the mods being community guidance and barometers for how posts will and will not go, and how to keep the community thriving, which is all fine by me. I just didn't like the implication of r_n's link, which was that somehow we were outside these issues discussing them, when in fact many of us are inside them discussing them, which I think changes much of the context in a significant way. None of that has any bearing on what the Right Time for these posts is, or whether or not mods should be allowed to pull them if they think the water is too hot for things to go well, but it would bother me if folks were basing moderation decisions on an assumption about who's involved in the discourse on this site. It's obvious in follow-up posts that the diversity or nondiversity of the userbase enters into the discussion very little, and that it's mostly about not burning either users or mods out, which, hey, cool with me.

As far as rape culture means talking about rape all the time, well, there I'm fine just agreeing to disagree, because I see a huge difference between the type of discussion that is driven by rape culture (which sadly does sometimes get brought into the Blue), and the kind of discussion which is deconstructing and examining rape culture (which at our best I think is what mostly happens here.) However, I'm happy to let the mods lead there, because a.) I probably don't see a lot of the former because they catch it before I have to read anything especially awful; and b.) I thankfully have the option of bowing out of any thread that bothers me-- no one's forcing me to discuss rape/rape culture all day every day, and I can certainly see how that would be awful and start to seem like it was all of a piece regardless of the function of the discussion.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:45 PM on December 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's a part of rape culture that our culture never fucking shuts up about rape...News and entertainment and clickbait websites all love a rape story, the worse the details, the better.

Thank you so much for your last couple comments LobsterMitten, they were both fantastic. I just wanted to highlight how much I agree with this. I was just chatting about this exact thing with my husband the other day, how much I hate media coverage of systemically dis-empowered people . On the front page of New Zealand's biggest news website the other day, one of the top stories was about a little girl in (I think?) Tennessee who died after her parents forced her to drink too much soda. That's the sort of thing I mean. Like, why the fuck is that news in New Zealand? How is that relevant to anyone here? Did it lead to soul searching about the global welfare of children, or something like that? No, it was a gross story for people to fucking gawk at and then return to their lives with their morbid curiously itch temporarily scratched.

I feel like there's this constant media white noise about children being abused, women being raped and murdered, people of color being brutalized - and always in the most lurid depersonalizing ways, so that people read it all the time and get desensitized to it, and think it's normal and a part of how things are. And then on the other hand, when covering any story in depth the media will do that bullshit "both sides of the story" thing to make it seem like simultaneously all this violent hateful shit is going on, and that women and children and people of color are perpetual victims - but also maybe they're liars? Who are just doing it for attention, or because they're playing the "race card", or because people are looking for things to be outraged over, or on and on and on. I don't know, it's a bizarre twisted dynamic and it makes me sick honestly.

I'm not sure what sort of implications this has for how Metafilter functions as a community. I'm not suggesting people here do that rubbernecky shit. The posts on difficult topics are typically pretty even handed and fleshed our (or else they're axed). I think hard conversations here are possible and often done well. I do wonder whether the idea of spacing them out more doesn't have some merit though.
posted by supercrayon at 12:09 AM on December 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


Thank you, LobsterMitten and all the mods. I can't say it enough.

And please keep in mind that NO ONE has the right to say things to you like those Jessamyn described upthread. There are plenty of places online where a person gifted with a mouth but no knowledge of how to control it can rant to his/her heart's content, be as vulgar and enraged as he wants, but THAT PLACE IS NOT METAFILTER AND IT'S DEFINITELY NOT OKAY TO DIRECT THAT GARBAGE AT YOU.

Because, NO ONE has the right to speak to you that way, period. Ban 'em and don't feel bad about it for a second.

So says Granny.

Goodnite.
posted by aryma at 1:09 AM on December 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


Internet nerds want to pick apart anything that can be picked. So they'll pick apart the details of an event.

Maybe MeFi nerds needs to learn the difference between overthinking a plate of beans, and nitpicking someone's traumatic experience into a million tiny pieces.

I love the detailed nuances and hilarious jokes that get drawn out by patient discussion here. But there's a time and a place for everything; maybe nitpicking rapes, murders, and the like is not an appropriate response when so many of our members and mods find these conversations painful even when they're worthwhile.

Not that we shouldn't cast a critical eye over claims made in posts and comments, but we need to do so out of compassion not just for the rhetorical point-scoring or to pass time on a slow evening. I don't go into sports threads and bang on about my skepticism of organised sport, because a) that'd be threadshitting and b) I am confident that MeFite sports fans are already aware of the issues and are capable of having that discussion when it comes up as part of some broader topic, and are not waiting for me to enlighten them all while they're discussing the most recent finals series or whatever.

And now that I think about it, that's what's so annoying about the "wait for the facts" "but what if it's not sexism/racism/homophobia this time" stuff. It assumes that other MeFites are too stupid to question it themselves and need a Sensible Voice to come in and sort it all out.
posted by harriet vane at 2:34 AM on December 13, 2014 [30 favorites]


Where's the line between nitpicking and legitimate questions? As it turns out with the UVA thread, there were legitimate questions to be asked, but to ask them is to be accused of nitpickery, as well as being a right-wing troll and a gamergater and basically an MRA misogynist scumbag.

The UVA thread started as pure outragefilter that gradually (after the nuke them from orbit/tell us who the rapists are so they get at least some form of consequence comments) turned into an actual examination of the horrors of rape culture, especially in regards to university campuses. The only deletion I personally saw came late in the thread in the form of a deliberate personal attack, but from what stands, there is a bunch of 'horrific thing is horrific' that no-one challenges; indeed, when the questions about the article surfaced the users bringing it up seemed careful to say that they didn't think it invalidated the concept of rape culture or other women's statements about their experiences, just that this one article and this one story were turning out to be less accurate.

Though it's mentioned a number of times how this would become 'all rape claims are lies', that didn't happen here, or if it did it was deleted quickly, which again gives more traction to the idea that since the mods see the worst of things that the userbase is meant to miss, it would be better to listen to how they perceive things rather than take the presumption from how the final threads end up.

There's standard ways people react to something being revealed as a hoax (cf the Kaycee Nicole thread), and that's what the UVA thread, rather unwillingly, became about. Just with the added part where everybody wanted to make sure that this one outlier didn't affect the reality of the wider picture. Which wasn't at all how it was received elsewhere, according to the dark predictions, though again that depends on what was deleted.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:38 PM on December 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


I cannot read this entire thread because I hate everybody but just nthing that I'm fine with the idea that mods can't moderate 10 rape threads at one time, but that it would be much less hostile-feeling if it were explained that way, rather than with phrasing that leaves room for the "you women just want to talk about rape all the time" interpretation, which honestly did have a slightly chilling/don't-talk-about-it-here type vibe to me. On the one hand, I would not want to moderate rape threads all day; on the other hand, women (at least those who have the reserves to discuss rape at length) are always getting this kind of "why can't you just be decent?" pushback when they're honest and upfront about what rape culture is. So it is, to me, valuable to be a little more transparent about the deletion reasoning.

For once (and I'm guessing with limited lifespan and scope), in the greater culture, a woman can say "Bill Cosby is a creep" and the mainstream will actually support that conclusion rather than saying "why can't feminists let us have nice things?!?!!!" so it is a little weird to feel that culture at large would be more welcoming to open discussions about sexual assault than Metafilter. (Not saying that Metafilter has actually substantially changed, just that, while I accept that rape culture is the reason we talk about rape all the time, and racism is the reason we talk about race all the time, &c., I still think that stifling discussion of rape culture and race, &c., through the implication that those discussions are exhausting/signifying nothing is something to be careful about.)

It is complicated on both sides but I think I just value honesty from the mod team above all, and this was a good thread in terms of framing and mod response.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:50 PM on December 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


Where's the line between nitpicking and legitimate questions? As it turns out with the UVA thread, there were legitimate questions to be asked, but to ask them is to be accused of nitpickery

Yes, I have been wanting to ask about this too but not wanting to derail the really excellent, thoughtful discussion that's developed at the end of this thread.

But since we're here and discussing the topic, if someone could point me to some of the comments that led to that thread being described upthread here as full of hatred, bile, and condescension, or as RogerB said a bit later, I've also been pretty bothered by how sour it went in the aftermath of the weird semi-retraction and ongoing re-reporting of the article.

I'm not asking anyone who feels totally burned out to go digging back through for my sake. Just, is anyone who shares those feelings but maybe didn't find the thread as upsetting could explain to me, I'd appreciate it. Maybe a lot of stuff was deleted that I missed--I know cortex told people to cool it a couple times. But of course if that's the case it was an example of the system working (though perhaps another good example of the mods having to deal with a lot of shit).

My own feeling was that that thread was a fairly decent discussion, considering the horrific nature of the original story, and the heart-falling-into-your-shoes reaction to learning that the central narrative had some major flaws, and squaring all that with concern about the very real issues that were covered in the story, the impact of which has now been undermined by the shitty reporting.

I thought those questions were discussed pretty reasonably in the thread and would be interested to know how others saw it differently. I don't ask to be argumentative, but to be informed.
posted by torticat at 11:45 PM on December 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Where's the line between nitpicking and legitimate questions?

What I was trying to get at is that the line shouldn't be a bright-line rule, but one we keep in mind each time were posting in a contentious thread the same way we keep in mind other guidelines about using the site like not @-ing people or threadsitting your own post.

It's not just that your compassion should be given to the many members of this site who have been raped (or are dealing with racism, or mental illness, or poverty, etc etc) and the mods who have to read about shitty things all day in order to keep the site on an even keel.

It's also that there are many members of who have legal, medical, psychiatric or administrative expertise in these areas too, so if you (not you specifically gadge emeritus, the general commenter) have no experience in the matter either personal or professional, you're probably commenting out of general interest and shouldn't join the internet detective squad on that particular post.
posted by harriet vane at 6:41 AM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just to note that I never read any of the UVA post (the headlines were bad enough and it is not my job) but after reading what the mods have said in this thread I just assumed some heinous shit was deleted.
posted by harriet vane at 6:51 AM on December 14, 2014


I had a hard time with the end of that thread because Jackie's narrative does not seem far fetched and jibes with stories and experiences during my time in college, and many of my female friends' times in college. Watching it get gleefully picked apart by people who get angry about the consent laws in California and people who wish that in the case of sexual assault the default stance was not to believe the victim (and honestly - when is that the default stance?), and people who see this all as part of the great feminist conspiracy against penis-havers. Watching it get picked apart by people whose comments I generally appreciate is just another reminder that in the great cosmic "he-said, she-said," "his" words will almost always matter more. And that no matter how clear my story is, if Jackie's story is a lie - why wouldn't mine be a lie too?
posted by ChuraChura at 8:06 AM on December 14, 2014 [17 favorites]


(and it's entirely possible that that's not the fault of the thread and its participants per se, but part of that "rape culture means we always talk about rape" thing and my own hangups about stuff. But that was the dynamic that made me take it off my Recent Activity).
posted by ChuraChura at 8:24 AM on December 14, 2014


people who wish that in the case of sexual assault the default stance was not to believe the victim

Who in the UVA thread did that?
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:26 AM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, feel free to read the thread from about here; I don't think rehashing it here is going to be helpful.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:33 AM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


the impact of which has now been undermined by the shitty reporting.

Well, yes and no, since from what I've read, none of the details of that reporting have changed regarding the hideously inadequate institutional response to rape and sexual assault on campus and people who report it. To me - and to a lot of people - that's the center of the story: the systemic nature of how rape and its victims and perpetrators are treated. But everyone else wanted to talk about the one story that was falling apart so eh.
posted by rtha at 8:49 AM on December 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


Who in the UVA thread did that?

This comment, from higher up in the thread, certainly implies that position.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:56 AM on December 14, 2014


There were what seemed like a huge numbers of comments culled from that thread - a moderator could give a count.

What's there still isn't great. The Internet detective squad was out in full force going over ever jot and tittle of 'evidence' to prop up the idea that the one crime one must be an unspotted vestal virgin of flawless lifelong probity to be permitted to report is rape. Even then, of course, it's best to assume in any given reported rape case that the wench is lying because why wouldn't she lie; it's such a hoot to have the Internet doxx you and send death threats even apart from having to deal with a legal and social system that takes shoplifting more seriously than sexual assault.
posted by winna at 9:16 AM on December 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


In terms of whether or not these discussions have value, it's hard to imagine this review in the Times of the Netflix series Marco Polo without all of the critiques of Game of Thrones and other shows that have been published over the last year or two:
The show’s most egregious flaw, though, is its exploitation of female characters. In the first episode, almost the only time any women show up, it is to disrobe and be sexually ravaged. But hey, Episode 2 gives women a little more credit: In one scene, a lithe young woman kills three burly warriors who were intent on violating her. The thing is, she is stark naked when she does it; they, of course, are not.

Eventually a few female characters emerge as more than sex objects: Joan Chen as the khan’s empress; Zhu Zhu as a princess who infatuates Marco. But by then, the series has already shown its true colors. And just when you think it is escaping its sexism, along comes, in Episode 5, a ridiculous hallucinogenic orgy scene that looks as if it were filmed by a teenage boy who had just discovered the special-effects buttons in iMovie. Yes, perhaps women were nothing but sex objects in the real Kublai Khan’s empire, but this series is historically accurate only when it wants to be; the better examples of the costume genre have found ways to treat female characters less dismissively.
The criticisms have raised the bar, just as they have of how colleges should handle assault accusations. That doesn't negate how grueling they are or the very reasonable need to place limits for sustainable moderation, but I am still struck by how the overall discourse feels like it is (however partially and incompletely) shifting on this.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:28 AM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


The end of the UVA thread doesn't look particularly problematic to me? I mean, yeah, it's talking about the fact that the reporting of Jackie's story is falling apart but that's a problem with Rolling Stone's terrible journalism and not with the thread. Given the post was about the RS story it doesn't seem realistic or reasonable to believe the thread should ignore the fact that the RS story collapsed.
posted by Justinian at 5:32 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


bswinburn: What institutions should do is treat alleged rape victims seriously and with respect. That seriousness includes, despite what many people seem to think, investigating their claims with an open mind.

That's not saying 'default to not believing rape victims'. It implies that much less than other comments imply that the poster is going to commit physical harm against the frat accused in the article.

Again, I don't disagree with the larger picture, which means I agree with LobsterMitten's assessment of how NewsFilter threads go and how there is an endemic disregard in how rape is dealt with. However time and again expressing doubt after some serious questions have been raised about the accuracy of this one particular story (that has, amongst other aspects, rape as a hazing ritual, which is a step beyond even just the poor handling and reporting on rapes on campuses) - asking any questions gets called the equivalent of doxxing and harassing, nitpicking and demanding a perfect victim, of being a misogynist and rape apologist and emblematic of rape culture in the world and on MetaFilter.

It was a post about a specific event that is looking like it didn't happen at all like it was described in any detail, if it happened at all. That is relevant to the thread, not dismissing rape. It turns out when the university said it was looking into it, it wasn't sweeping it under the rug or trying to wash their hands of the problem, they were actually right to verify the circumstances rather than just reduce the fraternities to rubble.

I mean, bloody hell, you'd think at least people would be pleased that such a horrific thing didn't happen in this one instance, rather than getting upset. There's clearly no shortage of real crimes of rape to focus on, just as there will be no shortage of interesting, thoughtful posts about them when there's time for the mods to get out from under the psychic weight of the current ongoing threads.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:12 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


The thing that makes the reaction so predictable and wearying is that the response in-thread was no different than it would have been if the whole Three Inspectors routine had failed to locate flaws in the account of the incident. I need to dig up a post about a major theft and see if the whole thread is people vigorously trying to find ways to dispute whether or not there was a crime. I certainly can't recall one that went that way.
posted by winna at 8:43 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I mean, bloody hell, you'd think at least people would be pleased that

Goddamn but that's a low bar for "things to be happy about" to hop.

I maintain my right to be extremely unpleased about the same-old bullshit institutional non-response that was not disputed in the fucking least, and the focus on an incident rather than a system that allows people to let those systems (and their own individual responses) off the hook. That Jackie might not have been gang-raped but was maybe "only" forced to perform oral sex, or...I don't even know what else has been nitpicked into non-existence at this point - does not and cannot change the fact that UVA is one of many, many colleges and universities that has spent decades violating both the letter and the spirit of the law that requires the creation and enforcement of policies about preventing and responding to reports of sexual assault.
posted by rtha at 9:05 PM on December 14, 2014 [10 favorites]


That's definitely a weird way to phrase it. I don't think anybody should be happy that RS dropped the ball here. But I don't think it's fair to expect people to ignore that RS dropped the ball given the UVA post was about the RS article.
posted by Justinian at 10:38 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


The middle of the UVA thread, after the outragefilter had died down, was the part I found most interesting and valuable, as people talked and provided links about how, yes, UVA, like most Universities, has a poor track record with this sort of thing, and were getting into the depth of the issue. If the article hadn't been revealed to have a strongly fictional component, the thread would have evolved into something more than just 'horrible thing is horrible', and that's only a good thing. Considering the claims of the article, it's unsurprising how poorly people reacted to it, because it was a horrific incident in breadth and detail.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:33 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


The claims from the nitpickers tended to turn into "See? This isn't a problem," and then focus on pulling apart the story rather than continuing to focus on what you're calling the "most interesting and valuable" aspects of the story, the horrific response of most American universities to sexual assault on campus. As rtha has been persistently and patiently pointing out, that problem does not go away if what happened to Jackie is different from how it was presented by Rolling Stone, but everyone jumped all over that part of the story anyway.

Choosing where one places one's attention can absolutely reinforce a narrative in which women are assumed to be lying. The focus on scolding people for being upset with UVA was exhausting and fed right into the general "Women often lie about sexual assault" misogynist myth that gets trotted out regularly every time women attempt to talk about sexual assault. I found those comments tiring and depressing and it made me very much not want to continue participating in the thread, because it once again felt like the Truth Brigade had arrived to set all of us straight about what really happens, rather than having a thread in which people could actually talk about what really happens.

I agree with LobsterMitten that some of that happens when a story is framed around a single story, but it seems to occur when multiple stories are presented as well.
posted by jaguar at 6:48 AM on December 15, 2014 [10 favorites]


it once again felt like the Truth Brigade had arrived to set all of us straight about what really happens, rather than having a thread in which people could actually talk about what really happens.

The UVA thread was posted on November 19th. The "Truth Brigade" didn't arrive until December 3rd (AFAICT). That's two weeks later and the thread only had two comments in the 8 days prior to the 3rd. I think it's inaccurate to say the "brigade" came in and stopped people from having a conversation about "what really happens". Rather the questions about the RS article were raised off-site and brought up here after your preferred conversation was given space to occur.
posted by 0 at 7:52 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


people who wish that in the case of sexual assault the default stance was not to believe the victim....This comment, from higher up in the thread, certainly implies that position.

It does not at all imply that. It is making the point that 'believe the victim' should not be interpreted as 'taking the victims side without question' which is absolutely a valid perspective. People tend to knee-jerk the other way and a historical lack of belief/respect for victims shouldn't be fixed now by suddenly doubling down and taking the victim's word automatically as fact. It should be fixed by equal and fair investigation. Yes, the perspective needs to change, but to the position of fairness, not blind belief.

From the comment: "What institutions should do is treat alleged rape victims seriously and with respect. That seriousness includes, despite what many people seem to think, investigating their claims with an open mind."

That is not advocating 'don't believe the victim', it is advocating 'don't blindly believe either side and investigate it properly'. I fail to see why that should NOT be the default position, nor how it is anti-'believe the victim'.
posted by Brockles at 7:53 AM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


That's two weeks later and the thread only had two comments in the 8 days prior to the 3rd.

If we're talking about the cumulative weight of dealing with threads on sexual assault, especially on the moderators, then the timing doesn't really matter.

That is not advocating 'don't believe the victim', it is advocating 'don't blindly believe either side and investigate it properly'. I fail to see why that should NOT be the default position, nor how it is anti-'believe the victim'.

Institutions should investigate, yes. MetaFilter commenters should not assume that they're qualified to investigate any particular case of which they are not a part. And all individuals need to remember that "wait and see," in issues of systematic injustice, almost always reinforces the unjust system.
posted by jaguar at 8:28 AM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


The timing does matter in the case of the UVa thread because what you say happens regularly here ("the misogynist myth [of false accusations] that gets trotted out") didn't actually happen until questions were raised outside of MetaFilter. So it's not a good example of the thing you are asserting is a thing, unless you are advocating that we entirely ignore the existence of questions regarding that specific story. Perhaps other threads on sexual assault are examples, but the UVa is the one that has been primarily brought up.
posted by 0 at 9:24 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


0, the point is not that people should ignore the flimsiness of Rolling Stone's reporting about Jackie's story, the point is that people should not focus so hard on its bad reporting about Jackie's story that they lose focus on the larger picture, which, to my knowledge, no journalists are contesting: that UVA is remarkably bad about investigating sexual assault and rape on its campus. jaguar is right on here:

The claims from the nitpickers tended to turn into "See? This isn't a problem," and then focus on pulling apart the story rather than continuing to focus on what you're calling the "most interesting and valuable" aspects of the story, the horrific response of most American universities to sexual assault on campus. As rtha has been persistently and patiently pointing out, that problem does not go away if what happened to Jackie is different from how it was presented by Rolling Stone, but everyone jumped all over that part of the story anyway.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:32 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I need to dig up a post about a major theft and see if the whole thread is people vigorously trying to find ways to dispute whether or not there was a crime.

winna, I think the thing is, when there is news on other topics where journalists are over-credulous with their interview subjects and/or engaged in fabulism of one sort or another (cf NYT or TNR), people absolutely do go digging to try to sort out the truth from the fiction.

That apparently happened here (i.e. Erdely messed up). I think a lot of us think it's really unfortunate, not to say devastating, that it happened on the subject of rape, because it plays into MRA tropes.

However, this really is NOT a case where "it's about the journalism" is a bullshit coverup. The Washington Post is not covering the story because it has any interest in undermining rape reporting. Rolling Stone is not reeling from this because it had second thoughts about casting aspersions on the UVA administration--but because it fucked up the reporting.

That is absolutely something that ought to be able to be discussed on Metafilter. And my point in my earlier comment was that I did not see, in that thread, instances of people saying "See? This isn't a problem," or scolding people for being upset with UVA or anything else that might be construed as pushing the general "Women often lie about sexual assault" misogynist myth, to quote jaguar.

Indeed, the tone was pretty much
1st half of thread: "Fuck UVA"
2nd half of thread: "Fuck RS"
Many posters, I think, felt and still feel both.

I asked what the offensive comments were... don't think a mod answered that, but I'd still be interested to know if a lot of stuff was deleted. If it was, I'll retract my defense of the overall discussion. But as it stands now, it seems pretty reasonable to me, and I don't think it's cool to attribute MRA motivations to people on metafilter solely there is a lot of disgusting commentary on the internet in general about rape accusations.

on preview,
people should not focus so hard on its bad reporting about Jackie's story that they lose focus on the larger picture

Rustic, what is the evidence that people have done this, in that thread? People can care about/be interested in two things at once.
posted by torticat at 10:12 AM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Rtha: Well, yes and no, since from what I've read, none of the details of that reporting have changed regarding the hideously inadequate institutional response to rape and sexual assault on campus and people who report it.

Rustic_Etruscan: As rtha has been persistently and patiently pointing out, that problem does not go away if what happened to Jackie is different from how it was presented by Rolling Stone, but everyone jumped all over that part of the story anyway.

They jumped all over it, as you say, because that is the focus of the feature and the thread. There is nothing sinister about that. This story just doesn't support the conclusion you want others to make. The fault for that lies with the reporter, not with Metafilter or the people responding in that thread.

We know that many rape victims initially shy away from reporting rapes, and then, when they do, the traditional narrative we have come to expect is that the administration does nothing.

The problem with the UVA story is that the reporter assumed that narrative was true and so didn't bother to do any due diligence.

When Jackie eventually did go to UVA to tell them her account, though, the man she named as her "date" was someone who was not and had never been a student at the school, and was verifiably not on campus that night.

This case is not, in other words, a prime example of UVA not addressing the allegations or sweeping them under the rug to protect the school's reputation. It is a case of the allegations, as made, being dismissed due to a lack of foundation. Which is exactly what should happen.

Given that the reporter chose to make this account the central focus of a story purporting to be about heinous rapes being bungled by inept university officials or worse, systemically covered up by corrupt university officials, when it is obvious the facts of this case do not line up with that scenario, asking questions IS the proper response.

The pushback against Mefites doing just that in the thread is disappointing and counter-productive. While I don't think we should all be rejoicing that the gang rape as described did not take place (because obviously not being gang raped should be the default expectation), I don't think it is at all out of line to question sensationalistic narratives like this one--which, unlike ChuraChura, I do think seems far fetched.

There is also the legitimate question of whether choosing to focus on stories like Jackie's might be doing more harm than good. If there are rape victims whose authentic struggles with university politics have been ignored as a result of publicizing this [dubious but lurid ] narrative, that is a discussion worth having, too.
posted by misha at 10:22 AM on December 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


This case is not, in other words, a prime example of UVA not addressing the allegations or sweeping them under the rug to protect the school's reputation.

I thought otherwise (and continue to think otherwise) for many reasons, but specifically for the comments and links therein here and here.

It's very clear to me that a lot of people want the prime focus to be on whether or not Jackie's story is true in every detail; it's also clear to me that that is far from the only, or main issue.
posted by rtha at 10:30 AM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


This looks like it's turning into a MeTa about the UVA thread, which wasn't the initial point of the OP. This thread unearthed some strong feelings of burnout among the mods from having to read about rape a lot. Given the fact that they have to read all comments in MetaTalk it seems a bit ironic (bordering on unfair to them) to continue to argue about one rape FPP in a discussion about a different one, in a MeTa that's over 400 comments long already. Just my opinion fwiw.
posted by billiebee at 10:30 AM on December 15, 2014 [27 favorites]


it's kind of a perfect demonstration of how these threads end up perpetually on the mods' radars though.
posted by twist my arm at 12:02 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


True enough. There's no getting around the fact that these threads will always require a ton of mod attention and that the attention will be more affecting than the same amount of time and effort put into a thread about cars or technology. The only solutions seem to be less moderation on those threads (which I doubt people would be happy with), a lot more moderators (which isn't a realistic option financially), or spacing out contentious and emotionally loaded threads so that a bunch of them aren't happening at once or in short order.

How else could it be handled? There don't seem to be a lot of other options.
posted by Justinian at 2:57 PM on December 15, 2014


or spacing out contentious and emotionally loaded threads so that a bunch of them aren't happening at once or in short order

That seems to be the plan, and was what was intended by the deletion comment in the post this thread was about. Some people found that disquieting, and here we are.

The fuller explanation of what was meant, plus the assurance that it could be reposted in a week, seems to have calmed many of those who found the deletion reason unsatisfying, so I'm presuming that will simply be the plan going forward. I would hope the repeated suggestions of raising the bar a bit on newsfilter and keeping a close lid on outragefilter would similarly be adopted, as I think they are also good ways to help the mods not suffer from unnecessarily fiery threads.
posted by gadge emeritus at 3:39 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I believe that mod burnout on emotionally difficult topics is always a perfectly good reason for post deletion or deferral. Being up front about this will probably be good for the site as a whole.

Is anyone really in disagreement with this as a fundamental principle?

(Also, I think a lot of metafilter users were probably not really aware of the effect that just a few active posts on such topics would have on the mods: If things are getting to the point of having bad dreams about work, then something is wrong & I can't imagine any reasonable metafilter member expecting that to be OK.)
posted by pharm at 4:48 AM on December 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think everybody agrees with it in principle, it's the practical application where the problem will arise. We'll see how it goes I guess.
posted by Justinian at 2:41 PM on December 16, 2014


For an illustration of what I mean, just in the last 5 or 6 hours there is a new Ferguson thread, a new GamerGate thread, and a new international terrorism thread. They're all important topics and they seem like okay threads. But it does illustrate how difficult it is going to be to balance "this is important" with "this might be a contentious thread".

That's, of course, leaving aside the whole issue that your posts are supposed to be less "this is important and people should see this" and more "this is interesting and people will want to see this".
posted by Justinian at 2:45 PM on December 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think it is perfectly fine to have a gatekeeping process that puts a temporary limit on something based on staffing resources. It's an employee care issue for one (very important) thing, but it's also a quality control issue.

It's like the queue in an online game. It can be annoying sitting in the queue, but if the alternative is 3fps, you try to gain some understanding of reasonable accommodations being made to make sure things operate as intended. The answer isn't always to add more game servers.

On the upside, it also gives you time to develop questionable analogies.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:22 PM on December 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Let’s Have An Open Dialogue About Sexuality That Completely Validates My Point Of View
Let’s ask: When it comes to sex, what’s permitted? What’s off-limits? What should stay private? I have specific answers in mind for each of these questions, but until we start framing them in an indignant way that makes it impossible to differ with me, progress cannot and will not happen.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:47 PM on December 26, 2014


Yes, that is exactly what this thread needed after 10 days of dormancy.
posted by kagredon at 11:36 PM on December 26, 2014 [11 favorites]


Yeah, you're right. I meant it as a light-hearted poke at all of us who get so het up about this stuff, but I see it probably doesn't come off that way. My bad.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:56 PM on December 28, 2014


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