How is this awesome post and thread not chatfilter? September 19, 2015 11:30 PM   Subscribe

As much as I enjoyed participating in this thread about people's memories of 1985, and as much as everyone else seems to have enjoyed it (56 favorites and 121 comments on an AskMeFi thread -- is that some kind of record?), I have to wonder... how did it not get flagged as chatfilter?

"What do you remember about the mid-1980s?" seems like a pretty chatfilter topic to me. There's no "answer," just personal experience stories that span a lot of age ranges and geographic locations.

Don't get me wrong, that thread is great and truly interesting and I'm glad it exists. I just want to know what differentiates it from the standard chatfilter designation? Mods and MeFites, I ask you... What is chatfilter, really?
posted by erst to Etiquette/Policy at 11:30 PM (65 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Good question, and you aren't the only person wondering; it did get flagged several times, so I will explain our thinking on this one.

We squinted at it a bit, but we generally break it down for ourselves by seeing if there is a concrete question or problem, and if there is a way to answer aside from just "my opinion." In this case, "what were things like on this date," seems to us like a suitably concrete question.

For example, a question like, "What was life like for an ordinary French person in 1553; I'm asking because [reason]," is fine, and people would be answering with information from specific sources, rather than personal experience, but the fact that many people can answer the 1985 question with personal anecdotes doesn't automatically make it chatfilter.

On the other hand, a question like "Were things better or worse in 1985 than today" would be much more of a chatfilter question unless the OP narrowed it down quite a lot. So "do you think it was worse/better in 1985" = chattty. But, "In terms of economic security in England, were things better or worse for the typical person in 1985? Im writing blahblah and need to know blah..." = okay.

Does this help explain our logic on this one? Examples of similar things don't always help to make things clearer, but this is how I often examine these questions for myself when making a call.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:34 PM on September 19, 2015 [14 favorites]


Yeah, my thinking on this was, the poster is making a list of what they would tell a friend's baby about today, and by extension is thinking about what it was like to be an adult of the age they are now in 1985. They list a few examples of things they would tell this child, and those examples make it clearer what kind of things they're wondering about - current events, but other things too. I thought those aspects of the framing narrowed it down enough to be a reasonably answerable question.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:41 PM on September 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


That is, I was paraphrasing the question in my mind as "what entries would have been on a list like this, made from the perspective of 1985" and I think that's reasonably answerable.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:46 PM on September 19, 2015


I vehemently hate chatfilter and the site's line for what is permissible in that direction is far more generous than mine would be, but I've learned to just meh right on past it and let the smalltalk happen. People are lonely and want to chat, I guess.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:23 AM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Good question erst, and good answers taz and LM.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:12 AM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I looked at this a bit and don't know why I didn't flag it. It's chatfilter and I would have deleted it. It was indeed interesting, but most interesting things don't belong on Ask MetaFilter.
posted by escabeche at 5:41 AM on September 20, 2015


(56 favorites and 121 comments on an AskMeFi thread -- is that some kind of record?)

Not a record, not by a long shot.
posted by phunniemee at 5:56 AM on September 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


I would have called it chat-filter, but I can see how it made it past the review also. It's obvious that people love to tell anecdotes and love questions and FPPs that open the door to their stories, and when it is done right it adds a lot to the site. So I'm not at all in favor of banning all chat-filter, just that it should be curated, for lack of a better term, and limited to specific forms that work particularly well here.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:13 AM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I like the question and I further like that our mods can make decisions to allow things like this to stay instead of always deleting them. I appreciate stuff like this and reading about other people's experiences. I think it helps the community grow. Thanks for the thoughtful "modding" mods!
posted by pearlybob at 6:30 AM on September 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think the question itself can sometimes skirt the line of chatfilter but the answers all fall on the anecdote side thus making it appear to be chatfilter. I thought this question was a legit question that asked for chatty answers.

I was in my 20s in 1985. I remember 1985 and actually September of 1985 very well. I think with a lot of certainty I can tell you exactly what I was doing on September 15th too. However, I chose not to answer because I thought my answer would have been too chatty. What I found fascinating about the answers was how differently a lot of people viewed the world from me. How their experiences and perceptions of events differ.
posted by AugustWest at 6:31 AM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think the question itself can sometimes skirt the line of chatfilter but the answers all fall on the anecdote side thus making it appear to be chatfilter. I thought this question was a legit question that asked for chatty answers.

That's a good way to put it. I agree the answers from people that were tiny humans in 1985 are fine, it's the question that encompasses those answers that pushed this into FIAMO territory for me. I couldn't take this question seriously because it was soliciting purely anecdotal answers from anyone old enough to be alive. 1985 was actually an interesting year for me, but it's totally irrelevant to anyone's future. If the question asked what advice I'd give 1985 me, that answer might have some value.

I think this kind of question can be done. For example, there was a recent version that asked specifically what things we did in [year] that you can't or don't do anymore. That was a question that could benefit from a range of answers, like "I was in third grade and I could ride my bike without a helmet." But "There wasn't a movie theatre in my town" isn't inherently related to 1985, "You couldn't get movie tickets in advance, you had to wait in line and hope it didn't sell out" is. (I made up all those examples.)

But I wouldn't mind if the mods moved the chat filter bar a notch higher in precision.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:06 AM on September 20, 2015


I'd say even if it is chatfilter, it ought to stay under the "guidelines not rules" guideline.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:11 AM on September 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I like to think that that post was on the fence , then it fell over to one side, but it was such a beautiful day, everyone was like "eh, whatever".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:25 AM on September 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


Did you guys know that "what should I name my kitten" used to be listed in the faq as an example of an inappropriate and delete-worthy chatfilter question?
posted by phunniemee at 7:28 AM on September 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


Yep. Good ol days, &c.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:47 AM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait, isn't that still an inappropriate and delete-worthy chatfilter question?
posted by escabeche at 7:56 AM on September 20, 2015


Some questions, even if they might be a little chatty, are just going to generate interesting or compelling anecdotes (e.g. the Bitch in Business thread). Questions asking for memories of a specific time often pull out neat little facts and observations many may have forgotten (or never noticed). They're like little ethnographies, they're cool, I like them.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:00 AM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you remember 1985, you weren't really there. Or you're some kind of masochist.
posted by jonmc at 8:01 AM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you remember 1985, you weren't really there. Or you're some kind of masochist.

Interesting...I was there and I don't remember a damn thing. I'm not sure anything of note actually happened in 1985. I'm going to have to read that thread to find out what happened. I love solving a mystery!
posted by MikeMc at 8:11 AM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


what will happen when askme runs out of space because of all these chatfilters? how will we know if we can eat those chimichangas now? look how you people ruined everything, why don't you care about chimichangas
posted by poffin boffin at 9:02 AM on September 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


What should I name my declawed chimichanga? Asking for a friend.
posted by phunniemee at 9:08 AM on September 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Should I just DTDCA?
posted by poffin boffin at 9:38 AM on September 20, 2015


On topic: I can think of worse things to delete.
posted by y2karl at 9:57 AM on September 20, 2015


What taz and LM said, and, yeah, to an extent we're willing to look at some sorta-chatty stuff and just let it be if the intention seems good and there's a clearish goal we can read into it.

I think the anti-Chatfilter guideline was a really, really useful thing to help get Ask Metafilter off on the right foot (when HEY LET'S GO NUTS was, at the beginning in particular, kind of the spirit of a how folks kept trying to use the subsite) but it's always been sort of fuzzy and I worry sometimes that people want it to be more literal and codified than is really practical or necessary. Sometimes something a little lighter or goofy may get through or be let to stand and that's not a big deal.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:12 AM on September 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


Is this the place I can talk about that thread in a way that's not appropriate for AskMe itself? OK!

I really liked reading those answers. They did a good job of conveying the feeling of being in a time that looks a lot like now (unlike "The Sixties") but felt quite different to live inside.

But there were some responses that focused on what 1985 didn't have. "There were no iPhones, no cell network, no Google, no Internet." From my memories of 1985, it didn't feel like "no iPhone + cell + Google + internet." There was no sense of an unfilled lack. What's more, if you describe it that way to someone in 2015, it sounds more primitive than it really was, because so many things nowadays have become dependent on that infrastructure. Although there were a few instances where the presence of iPhone/cell/Google/internet would have solved some real problems in 1985 (solo travel to foreign places is a good example), mostly the entire social, cultural, and physical structure of the era had evolved to provide support for the services and you needed or wanted.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:35 AM on September 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think it's only natural to make comparisons to what's familiar now - it's hard to replicate the taken-for-grantedness of any time or place, the past is a foreign country, etc. Similarly, some people may only be able to provide generalized, non-specific memories, try as they might to pin down particular episodes (putting my hand up here). Some can summon up more precise details that can be validated by others, and are maybe more successful at evoking the texture and feel of a given time/place, but it's unfair, I think, to penalize those who can't (as often or well) - it's an attempt, anyway :/, and there might still be something interesting in it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:53 AM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Great point, cotton dress sock. I don't want to dump on anyone's answers, because the reason that thread worked was the sheer accumulated mass of perspectives that built a more complete picture. And what might be irrelevant for one reader could be the key insight for someone else.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:44 PM on September 20, 2015


Just added my recollections to that AskMe (includes link to possibly nerdiest picture of MeFi from 30 years ago ever). I interpreted the post as "List things you remember from 30 years ago". People don't seem to be discussing other peoples memories on there, so it seems less chat and more informal/qualitative data contributions to me.

And, heck, that is a great thread to read through. AskMeFi: unlike the rest of the web, DO read the comments.
posted by Wordshore at 2:26 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


In this case, "what were things like on this date," seems to us like a suitably concrete question.

Good call. There is a major difference between witnessing things as they relate to history, versus someone offering their experiences as it relates to things. Why do these recollections matter? For example, posters here can remember the flow of cocaine of the 80's, and this was directly related to Reagan's policy to target marijuana for his supply-side war on drugs, and his own CIA peddling cocaine to pay for a secret anti-communist insurgency in Nicaragua. The unrest there allowed the nearby pretext to engage in a massive arms race with the Soviet Union while campaigning on an anti-tax platform, for which he borrowed record amounts of money for generations to pay back. This is from a president who currently enjoys a nostalgic wave of popularity, but whose job approval highs (and lows) in office were even lower than Clinton's, Ford's and Johnson's. History always matters.
posted by Brian B. at 3:00 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I don't understand is why that question (which I think was great and totally suitable for AskMe) was permitted to be anonymous.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:10 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


If Lyndon Johnson asked, would it matter?
As a whole, the thread reads as a terrific mash-up and point specific aspect chronologically. I know, I didn't graduate from high school that year. Other then a beige Chevette, it has it all. The parachute pants and Hair gel I cannot explain. And ear rings, everybody pierced the ear.
*sighs
posted by clavdivs at 9:51 PM on September 20, 2015


why anonymous

I think because it included the poster's exact birth date.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:55 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's a question: Is there any kind of "answer" that would be deleted from that thread?

Here's another: I'm curious about what was afoot on the day of my birth. Can I ask about it?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:51 PM on September 20, 2015


That's correct, cotton dress sock!

Joseph Gurl, 1) yes, there are kinds of answers that would be deleted from that thread; 2) we're not going to allow dozens of "what happened on my birthday date" threads, but if you want to contact us we can discuss. If you are thinking that we shouldn't allow posts that can be replicated with slight differences, that is something that we're not really going to be making a guideline for, because it would cover vast swathes of questions. We will continue to evaluate things on a case by case basis, and if it becomes a problem, say with people making stunt posts trying to prove a point or something, we can deal with that.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:16 PM on September 20, 2015


Thanks, that makes sense. I certainly won't stunt post that any time soon, but if my curiosity doesn't subside, I'll get in touch with you before posting.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:40 PM on September 20, 2015


I don't need to ask this question because on the day I was born, a fucking volcano erupted. Everything else was just background noise.

Here is a picture of Mother Nature trumpeting my arrival.
posted by mannequito at 12:18 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huh. I was there, touring the Olympia brewery, when that happened. I still have a Flintstones vitamin jar full of ash (from the roof of our turtle-top VW camper).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:24 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would love to know the percentage of people taking issue with this who have had a probably-chatfilter question deleted. Maybe i'm just an ass, but it's always hard for me to think that people going "why does THIS person/post/thing get to break the rules?" or "how is this different?" are just mad they got busted when they tried to.
posted by emptythought at 1:55 AM on September 21, 2015


Well that's uncharitable
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:41 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or are you talking about Jessamyn, who occasionally expressed frustration with chatfilter that was deemed acceptable?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:42 AM on September 21, 2015


Nobody who has asked / had doubts about it here has had a chatfilter question deleted, and I think the question was asked very nicely and pleasantly just to get more info about how this fits in with that Ask guideline, which is great, fantastic, excellent, vunderbar! We're happy to answer, and it's a pefectly legit question and a good use of MetaTalk.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:45 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you remember 1985, you weren't really there.

I was ridiculously drunk for much of the summer of 1985, so, yes, this may be true.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:07 AM on September 21, 2015


I thought it was a little silly that people who were basically children (myself included) were included in the scope of the question, since what we experienced as five year olds in 1985 was probably not too different than what the OP experienced as a 5 year old in 1990.
posted by zutalors! at 7:36 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I thought it was a little silly that people who were basically children (myself included) were included in the scope of the question, since what we experienced as five year olds in 1985 was probably not too different than what the OP experienced as a 5 year old in 1990.

If nothing else, our episodes of Sesame Street were interrupted by breaking news reports of different completely boring adult scandals. (OK, so actually I wasn't quite 4 in 1985, but nonetheless.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:17 AM on September 21, 2015


People are lonely and want to chat, I guess.

That seems a little uncharitable. Can't people be interested in talking about stuff like this with each other without it being a symptom of loneliness?
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:31 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would love to know the percentage of people taking issue with this who have had a probably-chatfilter question deleted. Maybe i'm just an ass, but it's always hard for me to think that people going "why does THIS person/post/thing get to break the rules?" or "how is this different?" are just mad they got busted when they tried to.

No. Web boards are machines for a certain kind of discussion, and because of that for a certain kind of online society. The rules that make that discussion happen are directly linked to what sort of discussion board society we end up with. We can absolutely care about those rules as a way of caring about the society we're a part of.

I more-than-half seriously think of this entire board as a support system for AskMefi. AskMefi is rigorously policed for an incredibly good reason, which is because it's a treasure.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:50 PM on September 21, 2015


(and this was an excellent and correct decision)
posted by Sebmojo at 3:51 PM on September 21, 2015


I don't think the moderators can literally afford to delete questions like this on the green anymore. They bring in too much traffic and therefore ad revenue to the site.
posted by DrAmerica at 4:36 PM on September 21, 2015


Not sure if you're joking, but that's not a description of fact or of how we make decisions. There's no consideration of ad revenue in what gets deleted -- after all, horrible clickbait or offensive stuff would bring in more ad revenue (I assume).
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:51 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am pretty strongly Pro-ChatFilter, and I love it when edge cases like this slip through. It's really one of my favorite parts of Ask MetaFilter.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:36 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think the moderators can literally afford to delete questions like this on the green anymore. They bring in too much traffic and therefore ad revenue to the site.

WAKE UP, SHEEPLE.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:51 PM on September 21, 2015


yes those hot dirty 80's reminiscence $$ they feel so bad and so good
posted by Sebmojo at 6:38 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think the moderators can literally afford to delete questions like this on the green anymore. They bring in too much traffic and therefore ad revenue to the site.

No, they actually delete the questions so that they show up again linked in Metatalk threads about the questions and it all gets indexed. One delete, double the content. In their Slack channel, the mods call it "hydra teeth farming."
posted by michaelh at 8:42 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


See I'll bet this will get lots of interesting responses and will be helpful both to the asker and other readers. I don't care. I still wish it weren't on Ask because I don't think it's what Ask is for.
posted by escabeche at 9:34 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not a record, not by a long shot.

This is interesting. It seems as if these chatty threads seem to be very popular.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:06 PM on September 21, 2015


I don't think the moderators can literally afford to delete questions like this on the green anymore. They bring in too much traffic and therefore ad revenue to the site.

Are we going to talk about the site like this forever because of that one time metafilter scared everybody?
posted by hal_c_on at 11:08 PM on September 21, 2015


We have literally, not even once, not even close, not remotely, ever had a moderator conversation that was like, "hm, this should probably be deleted, but think of the ad revenue!" Not on the Green, not on the Blue. Not ever. If Matt had wanted to do things that way, we would have a completely different site than this one. (In fact, of the conversations we've had about specific Ask Me posts and ad revenue that I remember, it was pretty much exactly the opposite, when we were talking about Google dinging us for sexually explicit content or something (sex questions, body questions) and Jessamyn was like, "fuck that shit.")

And if the day came that we felt like we need to rework guidelines to include more chatty stuff because that's what would bring in enough revenue to keep it going, we'd say, "we're looking at changing some stuff in hopes of raising more ad money, and this is one thing we're thinking about," rather than secretly okaying or not deleting a edge case chatty post every few months.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:43 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, what taz said.

Ask Metafilter as a source of site revenue through AdSense is a sprawling thing made basically entirely of long tail. No individual thread is churning out big bucks on the daily, it's the sum total of wee incremental income across the now 285K-thread-large archive of questions and answers. Selectively letting a given weird question by just for the cash prospects would be approximately as efficiently as going through the couch for change.

If I wanted to make some structural or operational change to MetaFilter to help out revenue, that would never start with "how about we go against our better judgement because $$$", and it certainly wouldn't take the form of doing so on some undisclosed ad hoc nickle-chasing basis like that. We'd put together a sensible plan, and we'd talk about it on the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:40 PM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


mannequito, I too emerged on the day of said eruption. My parents gave me a statue made from the ash as a gift once. I'm sure they're easy to come by but I won't lose it
posted by aydeejones at 2:25 PM on September 22, 2015


Metafilter: Would be approximately as efficient as going through the couch for change.

Hey, we've all been there at some point.
posted by AugustWest at 5:08 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


cotton dress sock: "I think because it included the poster's exact birth date."

That's pretty far from a personally identifiable piece of information.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:16 PM on September 23, 2015


Can you help me understand how it wouldn't be, taken together with other information (e.g. gender, location)? I think it's ok just floating out there on its own, yeah.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:47 PM on September 25, 2015


I'm a little late on returning to this, but yes, having one's exact date of birth is one of the elements that people can use when aggregating info for ID theft or doxing / stalker abuse, etc. My personal advice is to not to make that info public, and it seems like a perfectly sensible reason to make this question anonymous.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:13 AM on September 27, 2015


Yes, one of the elements. But on its own? It's nothing.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:20 PM on October 11, 2015


mannequito, I too emerged on the day of said eruption. My parents gave me a statue made from the ash as a gift once. I'm sure they're easy to come by but I won't lose it

Just saw this comment now that the thread came up in my recent activity. Also, not to be a creeper, clicked on your profile and we've got almost exactly two months separating join dates here on MF.

Fist bump, birthday buddy!
posted by mannequito at 1:20 AM on October 12, 2015


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