The MetaTalk queue, how it works, and possible policy change November 10, 2015 6:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm not clear on how the queue is working for MetaTalk, and was also wanting to revisit the queue system and how it's currently being used in order to gauge if policy changes should be enacted.

It seems like a recurring comment on MetaTalk is 'why do we have a queue if this MetaTalk post is let through?'/'what is the point of a queue if the mods let this through?' and variations on this, and I wanted to discuss it again with mods and community and see if the queue system should be re-thought out in terms of how it's intended to function.

My understanding was:
-after an inflammatory MetaTalk post, mathowie (and team) imposed a queue system in order to safeguard the community from further extremely inflammatory Metas.
- the queue system at that point was just a formality, most Metas were rubber-stamped and put through (published to the site) within 10 minutes after submission and probably sooner than that.
-the queue wasn't meant to filter out or edit in any way, except for those extreme (and rare) MetaTalk posts (which would not be published to the grey)

As it stands now it seems like there's confusion over what the function of the queue system is for, and how it should best be used. Should it be used to edit out MetaTalks where the mods recognize a flameout/trainwreck is going to happen? What is the responsibility of the mods, if any, to do so?

Timing: Are MetaTalks posts that are submitted delayed in any way nowadays? I ask because I submitted one the day the most recent podcast came out and it took ever so long to post, and I'm wondering if maybe it was delayed in order to give the podcast more visibility as the most recent Meta.

There are probably other issues people can raise if they want. Also, just to drop this in - I appreciate the hard work the mods put into running this community.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome to Etiquette/Policy at 6:13 PM (297 comments total)

Some bullet points to start us off:

- The queue was imposed originally to control mod-heavy MeTas when staffing was light (the original impetus was a very rough Thanksgiving Day MeTa that made celebrating the holiday, shall we say, exciting.) With the staffing changes last year, we made it permanent as staffing was (and is) lighter all the time. The link goes to the original announcement of the permanent queue, and is still a reasonable statement of intent. (It's linked in the FAQ as well.)

- The queue is a formality for MeTas that do not require much if any mod input. For anything policy-related or likely to be contentious, we use it to make sure we have enough coverage to encourage a productive conversation. Anything technical is routinely held until pb is around to address it - he's available a ridiculous percentage of the time, but not literally every second. This was the reason for the 3-hour-ish delay on joseph conrad is fully awesome's last MeTa.

- We do not hold posts to get eyes on the podcast. We sometimes hold posts if there is a volume issue - multiple high-engagement posts, or several posts on related topics, do no favors for either the mods or the posts themselves, so we'll often try to space those out. We also often will hold that kind of post over the weekend, since staffing is still quite light on the weekends.

- The queue is a filter in that posts that would have been closed or deleted immediately don't get put through at all now. As the community thinking changes about what MeTas are productive, that filter shifts. These days, we're clamping down more on personal callouts and unfeasibly inflammatorily-framed MeTas, and trying to work with people to get to a draft that leads to a more successful thread.

A lot of the queue management is purely logistical from our angle, so the only thing that's really subject to change is that last point - what makes a deleteworthy MetaTalk? Skimming the deleted posts, most of the ones that don't make it through are ones we can answer with a quick email (at which point the poster declares themself satisfied) or new-user slightly confused posts that belong elsewhere, or just require a bit of de-confusifying also via email. The tricky stuff, well, that's always worth discussing.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:14 PM on November 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


I don't think the issue is that the queue system isn't working or doesn't work. I think the issue is that for any MetaTalk thread that even has the possibility of pushing some button for some person, some subset of people feel entitled to point out that letting the post through the queue is not the decision they would have made if they were moderators. (And oddly, that subset of people doesn't even seem to be the people who have the greatest likelihood of having their buttons pushed. Rather, it's the ones who stand off to the side in potentially contentious threads and question why anyone would even want to have the discussion, because they personally are not invested in it.) It's more of an "I'd run your site better than you run your site" thing, to me.

I think we also have to be aware of the fact that we have no idea which posts don't get through, and if we saw that list, we might better appreciate the ones that do.

Not saying this is gospel truth, and I don't want to be dismissive of anyone who's questioned the queue publicly, but it's the impression I've almost always walked away with when "Why did this even get through the queue?" gets thrown out.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:32 PM on November 10, 2015 [34 favorites]


I've had mods contact me to arrange time-shifting the posting of my MeTa to a day that worked better for their staff coverage and overall workload. IMO that's a great use the queue.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:33 PM on November 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Same here. It was just a post saying something nice about someone, so I was fine waiting a few days.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:04 PM on November 10, 2015


Is this is about the last meta? I knew it would be a trainwreck as soon as I read it and noped out after about 10 comments. Even so, I'm not comfortable with the idea of the mods silently squelching such posts. It probably would have been a good idea, though not an obligation, to warn the poster that they might not get a positive response. I don't know if that happened or not. (I'm definitely not trying to rehash that post here.)
posted by double block and bleed at 7:14 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I also want to add: For every "Why did you let this through?" there is a potential equal and opposite "Why didn't you let this through you censorship-happy, dictatorial dialogue killers?!"

At the end of the day, the mods can't win. We always talk about operating in good faith here, so I think there's something to be said for trusting them to try their best, and respecting them enough to be okay when they get it a little (or even a lot) wrong every once in a while.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:15 PM on November 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


...Or not trusting them and not respecting them. But that's another conversation. And as we say in my day-to-day job, that's a personnel issue, and it needs to be dealt with by the manager, not aired in public.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:17 PM on November 10, 2015


I get really annoyed by the queue related derails in just about every single meta post these days. It takes up so much time and is so distracting, and it never actually leads to a beneficial discussion.
posted by meese at 7:20 PM on November 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


Anything technical is routinely held until pb is around to address it - he's available a ridiculous percentage of the time, but not literally every second.

This is the real policy change that needs to happen. We need literally-every-second access to pb.
posted by Jpfed at 7:21 PM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I didn't want this to turn into a trust thing - always tricky when you're talking policy on MetaTalk. I think taking the trust frame away helps me, at least, to have a conversation with the mods (raising the stakes by interpreting this meta as a trust issue makes me want to go hide in a shell!).

Thanks for clarifying how the queue works, r_n. I had no idea why it was on hold and I was scrabbling around for ideas, the podcast one was the only thing I could come up with but it didn't sound very plausible to my ears.

I guess my concern is that the metatalks are now being sort of handled, or massaged, in a way that they weren't previously, and I'm wondering if this is a good/bad/indifferent thing. I didn't put that in my meta because it sort of came to mind after I submitted it, and I thought of it in the bath.

My main concern: more editorial control over metatalks as they are proposed, leading to some sort of stifling of conversation/difficult issues being talked about. I appreciate the 'we're working with people' angle, to avoid problems, but I just don't want that to increase to some sort of party-line or what have you. Also - the working with people angle: it's made me throw up my hands at a couple of proposed metatalks now. I wonder - if it's happened with me, has it happened to others?

I mean, maybe they were daft MetaTalks and it was for the best to have them scrapped, but it does make me wonder if proposed metatalks can be *hindered* through 'we're working with you' lines. (Wow that does sound like trust issues! I don't know how to express it but it does have to do with more transparency about the queue.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:24 PM on November 10, 2015


(Maybe a memail to let people know when their Meta will have to wait? Like, say, over x amount of time before appearing. I didn't receive anything for the meta I referred to above, but I did receive one for this Meta delay, which I truly appreciate!)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:26 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had the mods delete a MetaTalk I submitted. There was a contentious thread running and someone made some interesting, semi-related points, which I had thought about at length, so I spent about 45 minutes composing a glorious 6-paragraph metatalk describing how we as a community did a certain thing, might do a that thing better, offering suggestions I'd had while considering the topic at length, and soliciting feedback. I happily hit post, and then went back to the originating thread.

To my horror, in the intervening 45 minutes people had gotten VERY UPSET at the side comment that spurred my six-paragraph comment and were now busy flaming each other for all they were worth, and I hit the contact button as fast as humanly possible and I was like, "PLEASE DON'T POST MY METATALK I WILL LOOK LIKE AN ASSHOLE."

At the exact same moment I had an e-mail cross in the ether from the mods, saying, "Hey, we're not going to post your metatalk right now because you'll look like an asshole. It's a really good metatalk! But people are very fighty on this topic in the last 45 minutes, can you wait a week?"

I was like, "PLEASE DO NOT REPOST EVER I AM TRAUMATIZED BY THIS THREAD."

Anyway, the queue works.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:26 PM on November 10, 2015 [67 favorites]


There were one or two MeTas a little while back that seemed like they should not at all have been allowed through the queue. I hope one of the outcomes is to produce a bit more scrutiny of transparently bad posts and to set the bar higher in terms of hitting a minimal level of clarity and care in writing so as to avoid the most predictable of shit shows.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:35 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think the issue is that the queue system isn't working or doesn't work. I think the issue is that for any MetaTalk thread that even has the possibility of pushing some button for some person, some subset of people feel entitled to point out that letting the post through the queue is not the decision they would have made if they were moderators.

This. Worse, since the queue is essentially invisible, we the community are generally doomed to lack evidence of how it’s been effectively deployed. Maybe it’d be good for this thread to become testimonials about examples of positive queue usage, which seems to be the current direction.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:37 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, right in this very thread, we seem to have people asking for more and less moderation. It's not something where everyone can be satisfied.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:40 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the issue is that for any MetaTalk thread that even has the possibility of pushing some button for some person, some subset of people feel entitled to point out that letting the post through the queue is not the decision they would have made if they were moderators.

Indeed, I do feel entitled to comment on site policy issues in the part of the site made for site policy issues. I know it's a bad habit, but I can't stop myself. Thank you ever so much for pointing it out.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:49 PM on November 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think the queue is generally working just fine, though there have been a few MeTas that made me wonder if the OP was warned or advised that their post was likely to toss a stick of dynamite into the air. Maybe a bit more pre-launch conversation would help. I don't know. Fully realizing you can't please everyone, I think a little more talking to OPs of lit-fuse MeTas would go a long way. Though naturally that entire process is behind closed doors, but the results would speak for themselves.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:49 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Indeed, I do feel entitled to comment on site policy issues in the part of the site made for site policy issues. I know it's a bad habit, but I can't stop myself. Thank you ever so much for pointing it out.

Not exactly the point I was trying to make, which I think you probably know, but you're welcome!
posted by mudpuppie at 7:54 PM on November 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think a little more talking to OPs of lit-fuse MeTas would go a long way. Though naturally that entire process is behind closed doors, but the results would speak for themselves.

I don't know. Some people are just bound and determined to set off the dynamite in their own face. And for anything short of, "[USER X] is a fascist who murders puppies and should be banned immediately," the mods should let people do what they want, after a good faith effort at cooling off and re-writing and so forth.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:58 PM on November 10, 2015


Anyway, since I seem to have been bothering people by bringing up the queue, perhaps I should make myself more clear:

1) I don't like the queue being used for filtering at all. I think it imposes a very high cost on the site. There is much less transparency, and that is costly to the moderators and to us. There is more room for the mods to be biased about certain posters or certain topics (but again, we have no way of really evaluating this because of the lack of transparency.)

2) If we are going to deal with that particular cost, then I want the benefits that come with filtering/moderation. We could argue about what kind of filtering we want, but it at least needs to be a real conversation where the community's needs and wants are considered. Currently, this is a very top-down process with very little transparency. We have been given little to no opportunity to provide feedback or suggestions about what content we do and don't want to see on metatalk.

Tl;dr: if we are resigned to having a queue that filters for content, then I want us, as a community, to have some kind of say in what content is getting filtered.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:02 PM on November 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's awfully tricky to make someone who is mad at the mods (and people making angry MeTas are usually at least partly mad at the mods) take our editorial advice. Sometimes it works, sometimes we offer our suggestions and then just have to go "...so that stick of dynamite in your hand is lit, then? And you're... hanging on to it, right. Ok." It's tough, because I hate to see someone do something that will fail so predictably, but we weight the freedom to post in MeTa more heavily than the right to have your MeTa only ever go well, so posts that could have been framed better still go up.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:03 PM on November 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


you made a meta because your last meta took 3 hours to post? is this a real thing that is happening right now for reals
posted by poffin boffin at 8:03 PM on November 10, 2015 [24 favorites]


Not exactly the point I was trying to make, which I think you probably know, but you're welcome!

Ok, I will dial down the sarcasm. Your comment was basically a 5 sentences of insulting insinuations about the people who complained about the queue and then you essentially did the equivalent of "no offense." Well, I'm kinda offended. I care about the site and I don't appreciate the backhanded implication that I think I'm better than a mod or whatever.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:09 PM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


we weight the freedom to post in MeTa more heavily than the right to have your MeTa only ever go well

What about the community's interest in not having shitshow metatalks?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:12 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I felt like the metatalk you're referencing came to a reasonable conclusion that I am satisfied with, despite your opinion that it was a shitshow, as well as the numerous queue complaints (among other derails) in the thread.
posted by Karaage at 8:16 PM on November 10, 2015


It's a balancing act for sure. We're always interested in refining our aim.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:19 PM on November 10, 2015


It sounds like something really productive could come of what you're saying, ifdssn9, but (maybe due to sleep deprivation...?) I'm having some difficulty connecting the dots. How do you envision the increased transparency you're advocating for going down, and how do you foresee that preventing shitshow metatalks?
posted by Jpfed at 8:20 PM on November 10, 2015


you made a meta because your last meta took 3 hours to post? is this a real thing that is happening right now for reals

Don't want to speak for jcifa, but I'm thinking it's because the issue of whether the queue is being used well comes up extensively in every MetaTalk thread (fortunately not the Secret Quonsar one yet, though), so people might as well talk about it directly.
posted by thetortoise at 8:23 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


What about the community's interest in not having shitshow metatalks?

MeTas don't make shitshows, MeFites do. "Shitshow"'s subjective, anyhow.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:25 PM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks for asking, Jpfed. I think we should pick between two different scenarios.

One, the mods completely avoid editorial control/input, and use the queue for timing issues only. Meaning no back and forth with OPs or not letting things through; instead, they let things through and then immediately delete them so that there's a record. This, of course, would be barring some extreme outlier (like something harassing, threatening, illegal, etc.).

Two, we have actual discussion with community input about what we do and don't want metatalk to contain, what our preferences are as a community, what we see as useful for metatalk, &etc. so that the queue's use as a filter/editorial device is a reflection of community standards and wishes.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:30 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


THREE HOURS?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:31 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


MeTas don't make shitshows, MeFites do. "Shitshow"'s subjective, anyhow.

Exactly, but the mods are already using their judgment about this to do things like make editorial suggestions, delay certain posts, require that people edit their posts, and things like that. Given that that's the case, I think that we should have much more input about what we want metatalk to look like and what posts do and don't work for us, as a community.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:37 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


you made a meta because your last meta took 3 hours to post? is this a real thing that is happening right now for reals

People make metas for all sorts of reasons. People have the right to feel aggrieved with the site for all sorts of reasons. I’ve never had any of my (very low stakes) posts queued for longer than maybe ten minutes, and it'd be surprising to me if that were done without comment from the mods.

(Publishing some distributions of queue hold durations on the post page might help with this?)
posted by Going To Maine at 8:41 PM on November 10, 2015


hope i'm not doing the thread wrong but this is a complicated question so i have no coherent thing i want to say but a specific meta that unfortunately didn't go through:

went into the queue because I was pissed off about how Metafilter treats rural/Southern folk, mods basically asked me "hey, this okay? I worry it's going to set off a bunch of grar in the community because of existing discussions and also points XYZ about human nature," and I... walked away from the computer and right into a bunch of family stuff that required attention and energy from me. And so I didn't follow up--I was exhausted and distracted!--but I did talk about the topic as I was writing the MeTa and so I think it got sort of lost in the shuffle.

sure there was a lack of followup from the user but there are perhaps exceptional cases where tough conversations need to be had. the site has a gaping problem with flyover/southern states so of course "human nature" is going to screw it up-- that's what needs to be addressed after all. but i see sciatrix and nadawi and others pull a lot of weight responding to basic shit and i flag when i see it (people just love their secession jokes). the mods have stepped it up over the years and i appreciate that too, but the consciousness raising sidebars are tiring and don't appear to be working.

there should be some distinction between difficult conversations that are productive and those that aren't. i don't know if i'm idealizing but i would think any ridiculous digging in like "no, i will keep on using regional insults and here's why" wouldn't be allowed in a meta like this and would make it easier to moderate. if we can pull it together for (picking some threads in recent-ish memory that i felt were necessary but potentially hard and still turned out to be helpful at least in my memory) anti-semitism, wiccans/lolreligion, islamophobia, and of course feminism, we should be able to do that here. the recent long thread about racism you guys did well too, i think.

(not a fan of the closed apology thread today and these two badly phrased ones. i mean sciatrix certainly would've written a much better lolsouth meta than those 2 that got through. if you're going to send someone back to the drawing board let it be the obvious crap posts.)
posted by twist my arm at 8:49 PM on November 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


ifds,sn9, I liked your idea, broached in another thread, about not having threads with a callout of a single individual, instead asking people to use several carefully chosen examples. (And to consider whether callouts are in fact necessary to support the point in the first place. I know they are sometimes; wonder whether it's always true.) To that I'd add, ideally, asking people to take pains to carefully dissociate comments from users, and constraining their complaint to the issue at hand (as much as possible) - e.g. focusing on the problematic language or behaviour. (That's the sort of thing I'd prefer to see, anyway. If the queue could be a holding place where a bit of back and forth about the framing of callouts could happen, I'd be for it, though in reality, this would probably require an additional moderator just for this.)

For the record, I hugely appreciated Taz and LobsterMitten taking no guff wrt oblique insults, and asking people to either be explicit or keep mum. That passive aggressive stuff is toxic, and I'm glad to see it stopped.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:56 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]



MeTas don't make shitshows, MeFites do. "Shitshow"'s subjective, anyhow.

Exactly, but the mods are already using their judgment about this to do things like make editorial suggestions, delay certain posts, require that people edit their posts, and things like that. Given that that's the case, I think that we should have much more input about what we want metatalk to look like and what posts do and don't work for us, as a community


I didn't have an opinion about this topic but now this is my opinion.
posted by sweetkid at 8:59 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I should note that providing multiple examples could be especially useful for heading off the community tendency, given a post about a general tendency without examples, to try to find just the most recent possible exemplar and treat the MeTa as if it were secretly really just about that exemplar.
posted by Jpfed at 8:59 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


As restless_nomad says, the Metatalk queue was originally envisioned as a temporary break for the mods, so they could spend time with their families over certain holidays. Historically, some of the worst derails on Mefi had happened when there was minimal mod team coverage. When the mods were away, or sleeping. One of the reasons Taz and RN were brought on board was to address the gaps in coverage. And that's why the queue was instituted. It sucked for the sole mod on duty to have to deal with a nasty thread on say, Christmas, when no other mods were available for backup. Especially since those holidays are difficult for some folks, and a few would inevitably give voice to their real-life frustrations on MeFi and in Meta. The queue was a way to give the mods some much needed downtime.

When the queue first went full time, we were told that this was a necessary measure because the mod team did not have the resources to cover the site as well as contentious metatalk posts. Of course this made perfect sense. The site was dealing with financial problems. Jessamyn resigned. Two mods were let go. The queue was required to keep things on an even keel. And for the most part it has. Metatalk is a noticeably calmer and more polite place with a full-time queue. We've been told Metafilter is better off financially than it was. But we still hear here and there that cortex has been putting in 16 hour days as the sole mod, so clearly there are still coverage gaps that have not yet been filled.

I raised a concern about the lack of transparency inherent to the queue back when we were told it would always be active. That has not changed: there is still no transparency for the community -- which to me very much feels like it goes against the grain of metatalk. The mods have traditionally been quite open with us about site issues. But that's not the case with the queue. We do not know what posts are not allowed through or why.

However, we do know that the queue has been used at least a couple of times as a kind of censor by the mods. I do not believe that the only posts that are being killed are those which would have been insta-deleted. Posts that in the past might have been time shifted and allowed through are killed. On the one hand, we could say that the community has been deprived a chance to address them. On the other hand, a potential trainwreck may have been avoided. I say "may" because there's never any certainty that a given post will or will not turn into an argument. My own posting history on the Blue is proof of that.

We've lost at least one member whose contributions I valued quite highly because she was upset that her metatalk post (about boyzone issues on the site) was killed in the queue by cortex: NoraReed. She left the site in the middle of July, and if her Twitter posts on the subject are any indication, it seems unlikely she will return to Metafilter. Personally, I think that's a fucking tragedy. Moreso because I am also convinced it was avoidable.

Yet, there's clearly a need for some form of queue. Frustrating.
posted by zarq at 9:01 PM on November 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


Just to be clear, LM, cortex, and I all work a sixteen-hour day two weeks out of three. We're still noticeably short of where we were pre-layoffs.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:03 PM on November 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Just to be clear, LM, cortex, and I all work a sixteen-hour day two weeks out of three. We're still noticeably short of where we were pre-layoffs.

Ugh. That's awful. :( I'm sorry, RN.
posted by zarq at 9:05 PM on November 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'll never love more-modded MeTa, but the motivations and circumstances have been explained, and if I'm being honest, the Grey is probably a healthier and more constructive environment as a result. Seems to me 'we as a community' are well-served by the current policy.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:05 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


One, the mods completely avoid editorial control/input, and use the queue for timing issues only. Meaning no back and forth with OPs or not letting things through; instead, they let things through and then immediately delete them so that there's a record. This, of course, would be barring some extreme outlier (like something harassing, threatening, illegal, etc.).

This would roughly be my preference, except that I think back and forth for reframing is ok, as long as we know things will eventually go through if the poster insists (barring harassing, threatening, etc).

I think there are a few examples in this thread of times when a little reframing or rethought was useful from the perspective of the poster as well as the mods (and likely the community as a whole). But sometimes people want to hold that stick of dynamite, and I think it's generally useful to let them do so. I still wish they wouldn't (yes, this includes some of the recent MeTas).

My viewpoint on this comes mostly from thinking the site is a better place for women than it used to be, and it got here at least partially through some really quite painful MeTas. Would there have been a better way? I'm not sure, but I'm glad there was *a* way.
posted by nat at 9:09 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just to be clear, LM, cortex, and I all work a sixteen-hour day two weeks out of three. We're still noticeably short of where we were pre-layoffs

Awful. I’d suggest a Kickstarter to get the funds to hire another moderator, but since we can’t post about active Kickstarters it might be self-defeating.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:15 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


As someone involved with this site since 2001 (that is, when some of our more vocal commentators were literally children), I don't want to be part of a MeFi that calls into question the motives of someone like joseph conrad is fully awesome.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 9:16 PM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I had once asked if it would be possible for some members to volunteer for low-level mod duties. Still wish there was a way for us to help with that part of the burden.
posted by zarq at 9:17 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I volunteer to handle all of the smartass quips.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:25 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


we could be a more easily moddable site by being less difficult people to mod.
posted by twist my arm at 9:26 PM on November 10, 2015 [31 favorites]


NO YOU
posted by shakespeherian at 9:29 PM on November 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


they let things through and then immediately delete them so that there's a record. This, of course, would be barring some extreme outlier (like something harassing, threatening, illegal, etc.).

This differs from the current system only in degree, not kind. You're still trusting the moderators to only hold back the worst posts, with no way to verify that those are in fact harassing, threatening, illegal, etc. If you're willing to do that, why not trust that they're being transparent now?

MeFi is full of smart and observant people; if the mods begin to act sketchy then it won't be long before widespread pushback occurs. To date I have not seen any evidence that the mods aren't being completely open with the members.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:37 PM on November 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


How about a mandatory waiting period of ~48 hours on ALL Metatalk posts? This might help with backlog, allow for poster regret to kick in, help cool the hotness of whatever buttons are present and, perhaps most importantly, make it a lot less gratifying to start the ill-thought out parameter drawing of a flame war battlefield that I believe some posters are actively designing. I think actual and meaningful issues could survive this length of time, while more frivolous ones might not. It might even allow for some much needed distance if a specific post needs to be addressed for whatever reason.

Hell, make it 72 hours. None of us are curing fucking cancer with this shit.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 9:37 PM on November 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


the queue is bad and should be ended but i guess i'm not in charge
posted by Greg Nog at 9:42 PM on November 10, 2015


GREG NOG: BACKS RUINED HOLIDAYS FOR MODS
posted by Chrysostom at 9:43 PM on November 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Why do you hate Gregnogica?!
posted by Xavier Xavier at 9:47 PM on November 10, 2015


I support our troops. I mean mods.

Uh, how much would it cost anyhow to add another mod (even just to not have the 16hr days.. ugh!)? Maybe I just feel this way because I'm up at almost 7 am still due to a (minor) life crisis and yet *again* reading MeFi is what's kept me approximately sane.. but y'all are saving my sanity and occasionally my life on a regular basis. (Don't eat that!) So if we need more mod coverage, and if community contributions could help with this.. yeah, I'd be up for helping.
posted by nat at 9:51 PM on November 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


joseph conrad posts a lot of metas, which is not fully awesome.
posted by michaelh at 9:52 PM on November 10, 2015


Personal attacks seem out of place here.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:54 PM on November 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


Personal attacks seem out of place here.


Yet, somehow, wholly expected.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 9:57 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also Joseph Conrad is not the correct username.
posted by sweetkid at 9:59 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry for the crappy wording, I just meant to criticize the behavior since it contributes to the mod overwork being discussed and I can't think of another user who does it right now. I'm certainly forgetting others.
posted by michaelh at 10:02 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not a queue fan.

Are there really so many posts to MetaTalk that it is even necessary? It isn't always a US holiday and extending the policy after the holiday "trial run" smacks of bait-and-switch. I generally (although silently) support most mod decisions, but this whole queue thing has never felt right to me.

There isn't much room for self-policing when it is all being done prophylactically behind the scenes.

The lack of transparency and failure to provide metrics (not that you are under obligation to do so, but data dumps aren't exactly unheard of around here) leaves us all guessing and subsequently prone to these long dissections of a poorly articulated policy.

I don't mean bait-and-switch in any nasty salesman sense, I just couldn't think of a better way to express myself.
posted by cedar at 10:05 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have 2 fewer MeTas than JCIFA overall, but have posted 4 MeTas since July. I'm happy to be in her company as a person who has a deep and abiding affinity for the MeTa Post button.
posted by julen at 10:09 PM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


We've got the data - we'll see what we can do with it. It's not in an easily-digestible format and I may let cortex sort it out. He's better at that.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:10 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


This would roughly be my preference, except that I think back and forth for reframing is ok, as long as we know things will eventually go through if the poster insists (barring harassing, threatening, etc).

My understanding is that this is already the case. The mods will attempt to work with the poster to craft a better post, and might even suggest that the post is not a good idea at all, but if the poster insists, it will get posted (though might potentially be time-shifted).
posted by Rock Steady at 10:12 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The mods will attempt to work with the poster to craft a better post, and might even suggest that the post is not a good idea at all, but if the poster insists, it will get posted (though might potentially be time-shifted).

Mostly. There have been a couple that we've insisted on edits for, which edits were refused, and nothing ended up making it to post. (Or, in at least one case, we requested edits and never heard anything back one way or the other.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:14 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


And that's a pretty unpleasant attitude and an unnecessarily personal attack, michaelh.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:14 PM on November 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


There have been a couple that we've insisted on edits for, which edits were refused, and nothing ended up making it to post.

Maybe a partial solution would be to ensure the community that, if they insist, their MeTa will (eventually) be posted, for better or worse?
posted by Rock Steady at 10:19 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry for the crappy wording, I just meant to criticize the behavior since it contributes to the mod overwork being discussed and I can't think of another user who does it right now. I'm certainly forgetting others.

You are forgetting SO MANY others; this is a result of confirmation bias. Besides, you pays yer $5, you gets to make yer posts. A good meta is a chance for the community to assess itself, and if a user doesn’t want to participate in that assessment they can just not show up.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:21 PM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't think we can make that blanket statement. We've always deleted MeTas, and it's not a freeform venting space. There are posts that do more harm than good to the larger community, and that's where our priority has to be.

That said, I get that it's the invisibility of queued deletions that bugs people, and there may be a better way to handle that. I just don't know if letting fundamentally unworkable posts into the public space (even pre-closed) is worth the general increase in temperature that they'd cause. Worth thinking about.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:24 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


One, the mods completely avoid editorial control/input, and use the queue for timing issues only. Meaning no back and forth with OPs or not letting things through; instead, they let things through and then immediately delete them so that there's a record. This, of course, would be barring some extreme outlier (like something harassing, threatening, illegal, etc.).

Still requires a personal opinion as to what counts as an extreme outlier, 'why was this post allowed when mine was deleted?' questions, etc.

The mods get regularly called out no matter what they do. "More moderation in MeTa! That's the wrong kind of moderation in MeTa! Less moderation in MeTa!" is but one example where a number of people can be counted all over the place on the topic, and there's people upset no matter how you do it.

I trust the mods. They do very good work, acknowledge their mistakes, and are very good at keeping an even tone when all around is grar and poisonous discourse. They work hard within their limitations and must field numerous suggestions that would provide a small number of users with a benefit at the cost of at exponential increase in their workload and amount of anger they'd receive. My vote is they do what keeps their workload manageable.

And honestly, even in amongst the well-deserved praise for the mods there are people, many times the same people, who question and distrust any decision by a mod that's not to their immediate benefit like a toddler being offered new food. Going beyond alleged constructive criticism into frequent complaining makes me wonder why some people (not anyone in this thread, mind, but much more general than that) stick around if they think it's really as bad as they say.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:30 PM on November 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Personal attacks seem out of place here.

Are you new?

Anyways, if there is one thing reading waaay too much of metatalk (although I've skipped plenty of threads when they are stupid long) I've figured out, it's this: if you post a metatalk thread, there is a 98% chance it'll get real fighty. It's something I've kept in mind (I memailed the mods earlier asking why the heck a particular post was allowed to stand; it crossed my mind to make it a metatalk thread, but I was pretty certain it would end badly... Even though the mods had apparently considered deleting the post).

Anyway, if a bit of a queue can sometimes help protect users from themselves (oh wait, please don't post that thing I was going to post), it's probably a good and healthy thing.

The one danger I can imagine from a queue (that hasn't happened to me yet) is that when it gets posted the original poster isn't around... And then folks in the discussion may accuse the person of throwing a bomb and running away (when they might have thrown a bomb and when it didn't go off right away went grocery shopping or watched a movie or whatever). I don't know if this really happens, but I certainly can imagine it.
posted by el io at 10:47 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are you new?

August 2001, thanks.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:57 PM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


i don't like the queue, i wish it were gone. That being said, a decision has been made and there are two options for all members here:

1. Respect the decision and the way that it arrived knowing that you have no effect on the decision.
2. Fight the decision and the way that it arrived knowing that you have no effect on the decision.

It should be an easy choice seeing all possible outcomes outlined above.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:59 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are you new?

August 2001, thanks.


Someone just made this dude's day.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:01 PM on November 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Every MetaTalk post - every single precious one of them - should be published immediately after the author presses the Post button, without editing or intervention. But once posted, the thread should not allow commenting for 1 week. Each thread should display a countdown timer to let readers know exactly when they can finally comment. Then, only one comment should be allowed to post every 6 minutes. If an hour passes with no new comments submitted, the thread times out for 6 hours. After 6 time outs, the thread auto closes.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:07 PM on November 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


MetaFilter used to pride itself on self-policing. Now a lot of the policing is handled by mods. I see very little evidence that this has made things worse, and a lot of evidence that it has made things better.
posted by Bugbread at 11:26 PM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


"That said, I get that it's the invisibility of queued deletions that bugs people, and there may be a better way to handle that."

This. This is what irks me.

I wonder if invisibly deleting transgressive MeTa's fosters, or detracts, from community building. I don't know, my personal little community is quite dysfunctional -- although we have come to embrace our deviance and even revel in it -- that's not the point. The point is: I don't know squat about the social dynamics going on around here and wouldn't presume to advise anyone on how to best manage them.

That said, I will anyway. My gut feeling is that memory holing what are deemed "inappropriate" posts, posts made to a sub-section of the site specifically devoted to discussion of site policy is counter-productive. This isn't opaque, it's jet black and the exact opposite of transparent. I understand it isn't a free for all and you have to draw the line somewhere, but maybe that line should be "obvious trolly hate speech garbage" rather than "poorly worded post that might upset people".

As it is now, the MetaTalk queue isn't really a queue. It isn't a chronologically ordered line where everyone eventually gets a turn. It is a place where phrasing and ideas are massaged for public consumption and some ideas are deemed worthy, and others... not so much.
posted by cedar at 11:31 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the mods have made pretty clear that the bar is, in fact, higher than '"poorly worded post that might upset people"', though. There's certainly plenty of evidence of that sort of post making it through the queue, too...
posted by sagc at 11:42 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


What if there were a way to view posts that didn't make it through the queue and a mod comment as to the reasons, sort of like the extension that shows deleted posts on the blue? It seems like it would improve transparency while still keeping GRAR to a minimum.
posted by peppermind at 1:11 AM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I trust the mods. They do very good work, acknowledge their mistakes, and are very good at keeping an even tone when all around is grar and poisonous discourse.

Indeed, and also - critically, in my opinion - they see everything (it sounds creepy when I type it out!), something no other mefite can claim or get close to claiming. In addition, they are a) super experienced as mefites, and b) super experienced as community moderators.

So the question, for me, is, do I trust someone with lots of experience, a proven track record, reams of knowledge and visibility of things I have no access - do I trust an expert to make expert decision in essence? Yes, yes I do. I think they make good decisions, better decisions than me, and the site has improved markedly in the last 12 monthish - despite the resource drain - because of it.

I'm not trying to belittle anyone who disagrees with this, at all. I do wonder, though, if there's a cultural aspect at play here. I'm Australian, and a big state fan, lol - I'm happy, generally, to have someone qualified mucking about in my freedoms, whereas most Americans I know, even the liberal ones, tend to take a more dim view of "illiberal" stuff - the censorship/defamation posts show this difference starkly, I think.
posted by smoke at 2:39 AM on November 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


poffin boffin: you made a meta because your last meta took 3 hours to post? is this a real thing that is happening right now for reals

It feels like incredibly bad faith to make this comment less than twenty-four hours after a separate MeTa thread, which both you and JCIFA participated in, involved considerable derails in which people complained about the queueing system.

This thread, moreover, was wonderfully polite. Lots of questions, lots of explaining behind the question, lots of "here's how I think things work, please tell me if I'm wrong." What's the point of attacking its poster?
posted by rorgy at 2:40 AM on November 11, 2015 [22 favorites]


So many interesting and conflicting comments on a MetaTalk subject that is at once both vitally important and inherently unsolvable. As such, isn't it obvious that we have reached a point where MetaTalk has completely broken down? The conversation-and-consensus based model for decision making and decision-making-process-reviewing has been revealed as unweildy, inefficient and incapable of producing outcomes.

As a tech-sector innovator, gleaming the very cube of industry disruption, MeFi should immediately jettison the conversation-dependent MeTa dynamic, and implement a paradigm shift in ergonomic interface. In other words, taking our lead from twitter: "MeFi Polls".

By reframing every MeTa into a poll on two mutually-exclusive options, the requirement for "talking" would be completely obliterated, and every user could simply click on the option they agree with. Majority rule, the very foundation of our democracy, would be instantly gratified, and the site's metadata scientists could gain valuable insights by counting which of the two options is the more biggest in terms of vote-number-largity. Every community decision could then be automatically implemented with a silicon fist, and the virus of dissent would be painlessly amputated with fire, from orbit.

To take an example, this MeTa post is framed in a polite, but potentially open-ended manner. Using the MeFi Poll function, we could have had this, instead:

A. Should we all be mindless servants of the Q?
B. Should we all be mindless servants of the Q, u, i, d, n, u, n, c, k, i and d, in that order?

... and everyone could have a vote, and once we totted up those votes we would finally have "closure". Unless you voted for the wrong option in which case "someone" else could immediately make a MeTa post to give you another chance to vote for the right thing.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:11 AM on November 11, 2015 [27 favorites]


he said "jettison".
posted by clavdivs at 3:19 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Which was the BETTER family?

A. The Jettisons?
B. The Flinttistones?

MEFI POLLS -- THE QUESTION TO EVERY ANSWER. IN CINEMAS THIS DECEMBER. VISIT WWW.MEFI-POLLS-THE-MOVIE.COM TO WATCH THE NEWEST TRAILERS AND KEEP UP WITH THE LATEST NEWS. AND WHY NOT TRY THE NEW MEFI-POLLS-O-FISH AT YOUR LOCAL MACDONALDS? IT'S THE FRESH NEW TASTE THAT ONLY YOUR MOTHER CAN TELL APART. MEFI-POLLS VII: THE POLLS AWAKEN. © 2015 20TH CUNIMOUNT DISNER BRO.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:41 AM on November 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


L.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:00 AM on November 11, 2015


Protecting posters from themselves shouldn't be the primary concern, assuming it's a concern at all, but rather protecting the community from corrosive threads. Good often is achieved from those threads, but we often pay a high price for it and it's very unclear to me whether it's a price we have to be paying or, indeed, whether the benefit is worth it. I think I'm about as familiar with MetaTalk over its history as anyone here, excepting the mods.

Someone mentioned how much MetaFilter has changed for the better with regard to sexism and that this came from the difficult MetaTalk threads. And that's (partly) true. But what people may forget is that most of those threads involved women leaving the site, often because the nature of such threads brings out some very bad behavior and people who defend it. My impression is often that such threads can be an immediate step backward followed eventually by two steps forward. So things do get better over time because of them, but we pay a high price in the short-term.

I just don't believe that this is the only way we can accomplish this improvement. I think it's a mistake to assume that this is the only choice we have as a community. There are other possibilities.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:19 AM on November 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


You know, I'm horrified of the knowledge that three of the mods have to pull 16 hour days two out of every three weeks. If they wanted to put up a notice at the top of the site that said "This is one of the 16 hour days, please be kind" I'd be ok with that.

Because while I have issues with this or that about the site or moderation policy, I have no wish to make someone's job harder, when they're under such stress. Hell, sometimes I have to pull 10 hour days because of weekly deadlines, and I'm a bit batty by the end of it. 16 hours of dealing with all of us would drive me to drink, smoke, snort and eat every bad thing that gave temporary relief.

So yeah, queue it up how you like it mods and if ya'll manage to get another full time mod, then let's talk about transparency of the queue. Otherwise, rock on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:52 AM on November 11, 2015 [29 favorites]


I wonder if setting up a blog for deleted MeTas to show up elsewhere might help ease the visibility concerns like we already have for askmefi and mefi.

Personally, I can't say that I'm super concerned about that lack of visibility, but I do think it is something that has caused some tension ever since the queue was first introduced, and it also seems to be something that gets brought up in many MeTas, so it seems like it would be good to try to find something that might help ease the friction a bit.

Of course, maybe allowing the deleted MeTas to show up on a deleted blog would just lead to people contacting the mods or trying to post MeTas about "Why was this post deleted???" and that might defeat the whole purpose of the queue so...yeah. Maybe a trial period to see whether it helps or just causes more problems?
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:01 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


A few comments deleted. Under no circumstances are we going to get into a personal discussion of any member or former member. Drop it totally.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:05 AM on November 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


What if we created a Users' Advocate or Ombudsperson type position? This would be a person that would not have Mod powers, but would be able to see the MeTa queue as well as deleted posts and comments. In a case where a user felt strongly about posting a MeTa that the Mods did not want to allow, this person could serve as a mediator. They could also provide a point of contact for "Why was my post/comment deleted?" type questions if people were unhappy with the explanations of the Mods.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:11 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


A few comments deleted. Under no circumstances are we going to get into a personal discussion of any member or former member. Drop it totally.

I think that is a good policy and you should enforce it immediately in the future.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:15 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


taz: "A few comments deleted. Under no circumstances are we going to get into a personal discussion of any member or former member. Drop it totally."

I agree about dropping it. You missed one of the comments, though.
posted by Bugbread at 5:15 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Or, what Drinky Die said. ^_^
posted by Bugbread at 5:16 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm horrified of the knowledge that three of the mods have to pull 16 hour days two out of every three weeks. If they wanted to put up a notice at the top of the site that said "This is one of the 16 hour days, please be kind" I'd be ok with that.

That's a work schedule that works for a short time as a crisis or tight deadline thing, but long term isn't viable. I guess I had thought that the finances/staffing were in a place where people were working fairly normal schedules, and apparently that is not the case.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:21 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


What if we created a Users' Advocate or Ombudsperson type position?

That's an interesting idea.
posted by zarq at 5:29 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I nominate Clavdivs.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:30 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess I had thought that the finances/staffing were in a place where people were working fairly normal schedules, and apparently that is not the case.

We aren't at comfortable staff levels, especially for US daytime hours where we lost two full time people (Jess and Matt), and one previously part-time person (LobsterMitten) then became full time. So yeah, definitely not up to previous staffing margins. It's very tight.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:39 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I know this is petty but I feel very strongly about it. If we're going to start an emotionally charged conversation with bullet points I think it's absolutely incumbent upon all of us to use actual bullets. Those were hyphens, maybe en dashes at best, and that's not okay. HTML thoughtfully provides the appropriate tools for unordered lists, so let's use them people. I can not be expected to concentrate on the conversation at hand when I'm distracted by the inappropriate application of list ornamentation. Thank you, please carry on.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:44 AM on November 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


What if we created a Users' Advocate or Ombudsperson type position

Wow. I've had exactly this sitting in my notepad for a couple months. Was deliberating MeTaing it.

I really think it could help.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:59 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


They could also provide a point of contact for "Why was my post/comment deleted?" type questions if people were unhappy with the explanations of the Mods.

How much will this position pay in an already tight budget? Because otherwise you're asking someone to work for free and that's not right.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:05 AM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


How much will this position pay in an already tight budget? Because otherwise you're asking someone to work for free and that's not right.

Why not? Why can't it be a volunteer position?

Were you and Klang paid to do MeFi Mag?
posted by zarq at 6:11 AM on November 11, 2015


It is my understanding that the MeFi advocate/warlord idea had been settled.
posted by clavdivs at 6:12 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why not? Why can't it be a volunteer position?

It can, but it doesn't seem right to have people volunteering to do a paid position.

Were you and Klang paid to do MeFi Mag?

No, and that's one of the reasons we stopped, it was turning into a full-time job. Well, that and Klang's terrible Butterfinger addiction.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:19 AM on November 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


What if we created a Users' Advocate or Ombudsperson type position

If nominated, I will run for the border. If elected, I will fight extradition.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:24 AM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


It can, but it doesn't seem right to have people volunteering to do a paid position.

I suspect many of people would volunteer if given the opportunity. Especially since it would be a way to give back without a financial outlay. And if so, a small team could be created, so the time and effort involved could be shared.

Honestly, it's the sort of thing I'd volunteer for, if I didn't know I'd be terrible at it.
posted by zarq at 6:28 AM on November 11, 2015


The emotional and mental labor inherent in such a position being done WELL is so great that I'd rather chew my own hands off at the wrists than get involved even if I got paid, let alone taking it on as an unpaid position. Done poorly, and I think it's a sinecure at best and a source of axe grinding, petty conflicts, and even more sore feelings between users and mods at worst.

I completely agree with Brandon on this one. It's immoral to put that position up without making it a paid one, and we do not have the funds. I'd rather hire another mod than that.
posted by sciatrix at 6:30 AM on November 11, 2015 [21 favorites]


I suspect many of people would volunteer if given the opportunity. Especially since it would be a way to give back without a financial outlay. And if so, a small team could be created, so the time and effort involved could be shared.

I'm sure some would volunteer. Then you have to sort though the volunteers, decided who's qualified, train them and then create a schedule and manage them.

Volunteering is still a job.Managing volunteers is still a job. Getting consistently good results from volunteers is still a job. I'd rather another mod be added and at least get some professional results, than dealing with the haphazardness of volunteers.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:34 AM on November 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


It feels like incredibly bad faith to make this comment less than twenty-four hours after a separate MeTa thread, which both you and JCIFA participated in, involved considerable derails in which people complained about the queueing system.

Neither JCIFA nor poffin boffin commented in the MeTa thread previous to this one. In fact it does not appear that either of them has commented in MeTa since Dec 7th prior to this thread.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:35 AM on November 11, 2015


Here's a wacky idea that attempts to combine both transparency and waiting periods. What about posting up all pending MeTas in poll form. And the poll question is "How soon do you think we can productively discuss this proposed MeTa? The poll answers are limited to time periods "Now", "1 hour", "6 hours", "6 days", "Never". The topic is seen and the temperature of the room is taken.
posted by puddledork at 6:36 AM on November 11, 2015


I feel like that would lead to as much 'silenced all my life' as the current queue, if not more.
posted by dismas at 6:49 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Volunteering is still a job.Managing volunteers is still a job. Getting consistently good results from volunteers is still a job. I'd rather another mod be added and at least get some professional results, than dealing with the haphazardness of volunteers.

Ok. Down the road that would be great. But if the site had money to hire another mod, they'd do so. Since they don't, your ideal scenario isn't possible right now.

Something has to give: the current situation is not only unfair to the mod team, it's a recipe for burnout.

Do you have an alternate idea that works within the site's current financial capabilities?
posted by zarq at 6:54 AM on November 11, 2015


Trying to think outside the box a little.... Perhaps there are ways a volunteer could pitch in that do not involve taking on a huge, energy-intensive, should-really-get-paid job?

A question for cortex:

The site has had an intern at least once before. Dominic kept a blog. Could any of Dominic's responsibilities be farmed out to one or more volunteers? Or was his role primarily "learning to code?"
posted by zarq at 7:01 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


This seems like it might be something that deserves its own post. Not that I'm the Topic Police or anything. I'm just thinking that both of these things -- the queue and staffing (and related) -- are kind of big things that don't actually overlap that much and therefore it doesn't make much sense to combine them into one MetaTalk thread.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:02 AM on November 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


Do you have an alternate idea that works within the site's current financial capabilities?

Yep, cut down on the resourced hogging threads. Each subshite gets one or two a week (or whatever works for the mods) and that's it. As users, we'll just have to live with that, as implicitly asking someone else to spend those long days managing intense threads is a bit much.

Mind you, I don't expect that to happen, but you asked for alternate option and here we are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:06 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


This seems like it might be something that deserves its own post. Not that I'm the Topic Police or anything. I'm just thinking that both of these things -- the queue and staffing (and related) -- are kind of big things that don't actually overlap that much and therefore it doesn't make much sense to combine them into one MetaTalk thread.

Good point.
posted by zarq at 7:26 AM on November 11, 2015


I question whether it would be easier for mods to manage two MeTa threads, rather than one.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:45 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was under the impression that the queue system was put into place to help the mods manage the burden of managing unruly MeTas. As such, whether it is or is not working seems like something that is entirely up to them to decide.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:45 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do you have an alternate idea that works within the site's current financial capabilities?

This might be expected coming from me but ... status quo? I get that people are or have been confused at how the queue works and haven't been clear how stretched thin the current mod team is, but now that those things are clear, alternative suggestions that take these things into account might be useful.

Because really the big deal is that with a thin mod team it's appropriate to hold MeTa posts until a time when there are staff available to keep an eye on them (because people otherwise ruin holidays), it's appropriate that there may be more MeTa deletions (if people insist on turning things into a shitshow which some people seem to) and it's appropriate that some MeTa posts don't get posted. However all of these things are being done by staff who you've known forever and who care about the site in general more than they are catering to any one person's feeling in specific. This is tough if you are that one person (or small set of people) but there's always the option of "Why wasn't my MeTa posted?" posts if you really think things are squirrely.

I've had the benefit of being on the back end of this site and it's been a little weird to transition into not having that access and intel but honestly the relief I feel about not having to answer to everyone's very niche example special snowflake concerns (and watching mods aptly handle it) is a wonderous thing. So getting back to the topic: what is the specific problem to be solved?

- Lack of transparency?
- Lack of timeliness for Metas?
- Lack of coverage for trainwreck/shitshow MeTas?
- Crappiness of MeTa posts allowed through? (this was a recent concern in another thread)
- Lack of heavy moderation for shitshow MeTa posts?

The site has had an intern at least once before.

Just to head this off, Dom got paid probably more than most website moderators back in the MeFi Salad Days and he didn't do any moderation type work on the site. I'm personally against having people do unpaid work (as a personal values thing) if you think that the job they are being asked to do is professional level stuff requiring experience and judgment.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:48 AM on November 11, 2015 [41 favorites]


It feels like incredibly bad faith to make this comment less than twenty-four hours after a separate MeTa thread, which both you and JCIFA participated in, involved considerable derails in which people complained about the queueing system.

my last comment in MeTa prior to this thread was on november 3rd. stop making up weird shit about me please.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:55 AM on November 11, 2015


Just to be clear, LM, cortex, and I all work a sixteen-hour day two weeks out of three. We're still noticeably short of where we were pre-layoffs.

*stands on workshop table, holding up a sign that reads UNION*
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:18 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


So one thing that I would like to bring up is tma's comment here about the older MeTa I submitted about how this site deals with the US South. I've been pretty open in discussing that a big part of why it didn't go through is because I was already pretty emotionally tired and suddenly had to deal with a personal issue that meant I couldn't give it enough attention to push it past a mod response that was effectively (as I remember) "this seems like it's going to be.... fighty, because the US South is a sore spot for a lot of posters in the same way that organized religion is. That is, some people have bad personal histories that underly a lot of the dismissiveness and that drives the fightiness, which makes it hard to deal with."

Which is totally true. If it had gone up, I imagine it would have been an involved discussion that would have been uncomfortable for many people. I imagine it would have involved a lot of conflict about the exact comments I was complaining about, and hard discussion about what constitutes dismissiveness of the South that's justified and what doesn't constitute those things. There is no way to frame a discussion about site behavior on that topic that isn't going to be some level of fighty.

(I sort of want to re-put it through, although I haven't emailed mods to this effect or privately contacted them since originally letting it drop. I may do that sometime this week; I may not. I just want to be very open about the fact that they haven't intentionally blocked it from going up past asking "is this what you want? It's gonna be fighty, and not in a simple way to deal with" which is well within the realm of current policy. Part of the reason I let it drop, though, was because I wanted to not stress the mods out; I remember thinking "oh, okay, I don't want to burden the mods more" at the time, even though that's.... kind of their job.)

Anyway. I think one side effect of the mods being underfunded and understaffed, and therefore exhausted, is that mods look at posts that will cause conflict and go "oh, please no." The problem with that is that there's conflict and conflict. Some of it's not productive and is going to make things worse for the site; that conflict should definitely be headed off at the pass. Some of it, though, is productive, and I'm not sure how that's being weighted in the way that mods look at potential MeTas in the queue.

We've got several broad classes of MeTas, right? We have innocuous stuff like Quonsmas planning which is definitely going to be a net increase in schmoop, and those usually go through. We have fighty stuff which is definitely going to be a net increase in conflict, like the posts that tma linked--I think it was obvious to everyone that that stuff was never going to go particularly well. (I'd actually argue that this week's apology MeTa fell into that category, but your mileage may vary on that one.)

Then there's MeTas which are about a contentious topic--racism on MeFi, say, or sexism, or the thread on not mocking pagan religions we had a while back. Those are definitely going to be conflicty while the discussion is going on, but they're also aimed at making the culture of MeFi better and figuring out how to make the site more welcoming to a more diverse set of people.

What I'd like to know is this: are mods treating both Category 2 and Category 3 as the same category when they talk about letting things through the queue and try to discourage people from posting? Or are they mostly trying to warn people who will post conflict-heavy posts that the posts will be conflict heavy, letting them know that the grey threads will be hard to moderate, and then washing their hands of it and going with the user's judgement on whether to put the thread through? I'm just curious about what's happening with your collective thought process.
posted by sciatrix at 8:25 AM on November 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


I saw lack of transparency and lack of timeliness (and communication) as the main problems.

It would be great to receive some communication about when you can expect to see your meta published so that you can be present at that time to discuss.

There's is lots of deserved love for the mods on a personal level and as experts and professionals; I get that and I agree they are great! Not disputing that. Only - a small voice inside me says that the lack of transparency with regards to the drafting of metas is a minefield that could potentially be abused EVEN if people are experts, even if they have the best intentions. I think it's a good thing, too, when you can air these things - this is MetaTalk working well (imho).

I've really appreciated the level of discourse in this meta, thanks for that - this is a wonderful community that I'm very proud to be a part of.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:26 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


(I was responding to jessamyn's comment.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:26 AM on November 11, 2015


What if we created a Users' Advocate or Ombudsperson type position

Vote #1 quidnunc kid!
posted by billiebee at 8:34 AM on November 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think the queue is doing good service to the community and the mods. I don't need to see backchannel communication about potential posts. I don't need to see posts that the mods decline to allow through the queue, and I trust their judgment about what's being allowed through and what's not being allowed. They are in the best position to know, after all.

Transparency should exist, absolutely, between the mods and a potential Metatalk poster, specifically regarding timing about when it's going up and that sort of thing, but I don't need to be involved in that.

The queue reduces mod workload. It reduces the fight-level of the subsite. It gives the mods a chance to consider a post, especially when it may involve them or their work, before having to deal with the community about whatever issue is being raised.
posted by disclaimer at 8:38 AM on November 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


I always forget the last sentence when I post:
The queue and how it currently operates are fine with me. I see no need to change it up.
posted by disclaimer at 8:40 AM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm strongly against the idea of creating a users' advocate / ombudsman role. The mods listen to the community as a whole already, and even in situations where they go against the will of the community, I don't see how some kind of pseudo-elected representative(s) would change that dynamic in a significant way. There will just be more rules-lawyering and more politics, neither of which we really need.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:40 AM on November 11, 2015 [26 favorites]


joseph conrad is fully awesome:"It would be great to receive some communication about when you can expect to see your meta published so that you can be present at that time to discuss."

FWIW - On my delayed MeTa, I got a note from the mods asking if I could hold off for a while. A few days later, I got another note asking if I was good to go with it being posted now.

If that's the system in general, I think that works well.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:48 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Good morning, catching up on a bunch of stuff, here's some of it.

So here's the core dilemma of queue vs no-queue:

What unfiltered/unqueued gets us:
- no question of transparency, because every metatalk hits the page and deletion/closure is the available tool for cleaning the shitty stuff up

What filter/queue gets us:
- less chance of specific users or groups to have to encounter a super-specific shitty rant
- mods who are less likely to get burnt out by constant worry about, and administration of, Surprise Shitstorms
- a less shitty MetaTalk experience in general

So, that's where I look at the transparency concern and have trouble making it the top priority. Not because it doesn't matter at all, but because it's one of several things in tension here rather than the only thing. Doesn't mean like "discussion over, nothing to discuss", but it's a context that exists and I feel like sometimes the arguments to change the current setup involve setting that context aside and then forgetting that it's been set aside.

Are there really so many posts to MetaTalk that it is even necessary?

It's not a matter of how many there are but of the outsized impact they have on the site, on users, and particularly on the attention of mods when they do happen. Moderation is a hurry-up-and-wait sort of job; there are busy days and there are quiet days and we functionally spend each shift in a reactive on-call sort of mode (which is why it's so important that we have shifts rather than the older Matt/Jess/Josh model of "let's all just always be near a computer if we can").

If the mod staff are metaphorical firefighters, then most of the random day-to-day flagging and moderation that happens is answering calls about smoldering trash cans or where to get an extinguisher recharged or someone letting us know there's a scratch on Engine 5 that probably needs buffing, and the occasional small structure fire caught early. But the specific kind of difficult MetaTalks that land in "this is where the queue gets active use" territory are (potential) warehouse fires, great big four-alarm things that are going to require constant attention and distract from our ability to deal with other stuff.

The queue means we can at least say (a) hey, use a little less gasoline there and (b) let me put this other fire out first and we'll light this one up in a couple hours or tomorrow or in the rarer cases next week. It's not about the volume of warehouse fires, it's about how resource intensive they are when they do come along, and the value in removing some of the uncertainty from when those resources will have to be dedicated.

Protecting posters from themselves shouldn't be the primary concern, assuming it's a concern at all, but rather protecting the community from corrosive threads.

The two aren't trivially separable; in most cases the one goes with the other in a pretty tightly-bound way. Cases where both "this is going to go horribly for you as framed" and "the community is going to be okay with and happy about this being posted" generally do not exist.

You know, I'm horrified of the knowledge that three of the mods have to pull 16 hour days two out of every three weeks.

It's not a great setup, but it's also not comparable to 16 hour days handling a holiday rush in retail or whatever. The long shifts are by and large the function of wanting people also to have some full weekend days off, rather than having everybody always working 8 hour shifts spread throughout their weekend. So I work a full Saturday shift, LM works a Sunday, r_n gets the weekend off, and then we rotate. Weekends are generally far quieter than weekday workday shifts in particular on the site, so 16 hours of that is a lower-impact shift by a good margin than the average weekday morning shift. I run errands, get shit done, etc and have encouraged LM and r_n to do likewise and accept that a weekend is just (barring the occasional exception because what is MeFi without exceptions) a relatively chill, low-response shift. And the queue contributes to keeping those long weekend shifts more on the unfucked side—not that we'll never approve or have to keep working on a tricky Metatalk on a weekend, but we can at least throttle if it's like a IT'S SUNDAY AND I AM CRISPY, LET'S HOLD OFF ON THIS PLEASE situation internally.

That said, I'd very much like to be able to make it a non-thing by bringing on another part-timer, and financially we may be at the point where we can get that done soon. I can't really say anything more definitive about that until I know exactly what the end of the year looks like, and this is still year one of me balancing taking stuff over from Matt with having my own probably somewhat more conservative policy towards revenue and savings and spending than he had, so it's a little slower going than it'd be if I were willing to just say fuck it and do a nice thing in the short term that could end up being bad with a little luck in the long term.

we could be a more easily moddable site by being less difficult people to mod.

In all honestly this is kind of a ha-ha-but-serious thing. I love this place, I love you people, I love the general level of passion about stuff and attachment to this place that drives a lot of behavior here, but there is I think a degree of expectation at times within the community that exceeds what anybody would from a distance say "yeah, that's reasonable for a handful of people to make possible for ten thousand". That we will somehow thread all the needles and contradictory but deeply-held wants people tend to proffer and not always patiently or generously in discussions about where the site is and was and will be.

Ultimately it's part of the job, and is even part of why it's as engaging as it is, and I think all of us (hijacked-by-his-own-success Matt as maybe the exception) went into it with eyes more or less wide open on that front when we said "yes, I'll do it". But y'all can be a real fuckin' handful on a regular basis.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:48 AM on November 11, 2015 [41 favorites]


Metafilter: a real fuckin' handful on a regular basis.
posted by dogwalker at 8:54 AM on November 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: a real fuckin' handful on a regular basis.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:55 AM on November 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Look the scratch on Engine 5 isn't that big of deal. But do we really want to go the traditional route and continue using red on it or it is time for a fresh coat of paint? How about a nice blue?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:55 AM on November 11, 2015


DAMN
posted by Chrysostom at 8:55 AM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm in favour of retaining the queue, sometimes sitting a while helps me avoid making bad decisions, I think the queue fulfils the same function.

y'all can be a real fuckin' handful on a regular basis.

This may be a bit of an understatement.
posted by arcticseal at 9:12 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like the queue and I think it's going well. But for those who hate it, I would happily up my monthly donation or contribute a one-time donation to a fund to pay for a part-timer whose presence would get rid of or largely replace the queue.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:13 AM on November 11, 2015


I think one side effect of the mods being underfunded and understaffed, and therefore exhausted, is that mods look at posts that will cause conflict and go "oh, please no."

A mod handles the queue.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:17 AM on November 11, 2015


So I don't know exactly how much the mods get paid but they're paid and I assume they're happy with their pay or they'd go do something else with their time. As for being overworked, it's basically a worker's collective so pretty much by definition they work when they want to work. That we would all rather frolic in the fields as opposed to working is both true and irrelevant. Relative to ye olde days there is a lot more mod activity than before so I get the impression the mods, collectively, are doing what they want. Everyone would like their business to make twice as much money and while MetaFilter is perhaps more akin to a co-op or non-profit rather than a business per se, it still has revenue and expenses and all that sort of stuff and its revenue is what it is. I appreciate the work the mods do but I think people should go easy on the "woe the poor mods" line of thought. As a user I'd rather have "overworked" mods and the current setup rather than having mods trying crazy schemes to generate extra revenue (please no Outbrain ad units, thanks)

The queue is fine as conceived and implemented. I had to wait a few days to get my last Metatalk post approved but it had zero urgency. The previous Thanksgiving shitshow was bad news for everyone but especially the mods and a lack of Metatalk posts when the mods are all simultaneously off (major western holidays) is a net positive. We don't need to delete more Metatalk posts in utero - moderated crapstorm posts are fine and are pretty much why metatalk exists, so they have their own special place and don't stink up the blue. I think the queue was a good solution to the problem and I have a lot of faith in the whole team that they will continue to find good solutions to actual problems.
posted by GuyZero at 9:25 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't like blue. It should be yellow, and you are a horrible person if you disagree. In fact, ALL the engines should be yellow. SOMEBODY MAKE THEM YELLOW
posted by disclaimer at 9:26 AM on November 11, 2015


On volunteer stuff:

I'm personally against having people do unpaid work

Ditto. And I think it's a really important thing, more important than folks necessarily realize when their heart is in the right place and they're trying to help a place they care about work well. Moderating MeFi is a great and fulfilling and stressful and bizarre job, but that it is a job is a hugely important part of keeping it sane and workable.

Volunteering to run fun events, or work on little non-mod things like wiki wrangling or building user scripts or so on, is the sort of thing I'm totally comfortable with mefites doing. That stuff is great and I think just the right level of community involvement without an expectation of duty. But that's not going to solve any major mod resource problems, and I don't think there's an idea of volunteer mod-duty-handling that is really workable on this particular site, with its level of expectations of and accountability by the paid mod staff.

I suspect many of people would volunteer if given the opportunity. Especially since it would be a way to give back without a financial outlay. And if so, a small team could be created, so the time and effort involved could be shared.

I'm sure many people would volunteer. Some of them would have accurately done a self-assessment about how well they'd do at it, some of them would not. Some of them would have a good skillset and also some significant community-interaction problems or inter-user history that makes it a really bad idea. Some of them would be great and also not actually be reliably available nearly as much as they'd like or we'd like because life is busy. Some of them would be great right until they melted the fuck down in an awful way.

All of them would need to be managed. Managing a federated staff of volunteers would be a lot of work and a new set of headaches. We'd, essentially, need to hire someone to run our cost-saving volunteer staff. This is the sort of conversation I think of as "if shit gets really, really bad financially" territory, not something that fits into a discussion of how to improve the things-are-actually-okayish status quo we're in.

What if we created a Users' Advocate or Ombudsperson type position?

I follow you on the spirit of the idea but I think it's a bad idea. Modding is a hard, complicated job, and one of the things that makes it doable is that we have a small, manageable team who are all on the same page, have the same duties and expectations, and are unambiguously tasked with both the responsibility and the power to take moderation action within the community.

Creating a middle space where someone is expected to facilitate with both mods and users but be neither, and given access to moderator work and tools but a fuzzy mandate to decide whether or not that work or those tools are okay, is in practice laying out a real mess for everybody, all good intentions aside.

It would be far, far better logistically and organizationally to just hire another actual mod. Working on concerns about transparency and communication is something that is already on the mod staff (and the community) to do, and given how important both of those things are to me, to us, to the whole site, it's not something I can imagine "let's add a liaison layer" being a better solution for than the much more familiar and MeFi-like plan of "let's keep talking about what mods and users want and expect".

The site has had an intern at least once before. Dominic kept a blog. Could any of Dominic's responsibilities be farmed out to one or more volunteers? Or was his role primarily "learning to code?"

Jess covered this well, but, yeah: Dominic had zero actual MetaFilter responsibilities and was paid a generous stipend. It was a (hopefully) fun thing for him and a nice solid Matt did a young person and an amusing deal all around on the site to have a Summer Intern to chatter with and about, and was predicated entirely on MetaFilter being financially flush as hell at the time. But it provides absolutely no useful analogue to our current situation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:27 AM on November 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


great right until they melted the fuck down in an awful way

If you make me the Volunteer Ombudsperson Advocate Mod, I promise to melt the fuck down in an awful way during somebody else's shift. You'll have full Mod coverage for the event and plenty of advance notice, is all I'm saying. Can anyone else promise to be so thoughtful? I think not.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:36 AM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Did I mention that I'm made of brown sugar? Probably should add that to my resume.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:40 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


So Mick Jagger was singing about you, IRFH?
posted by GuyZero at 9:41 AM on November 11, 2015


He wishes.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:45 AM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: a real fuckin’ handful on a regular basis.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:54 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Matefilter: a real handin' fuckful on a begular rasis.
posted by selfnoise at 9:55 AM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


My vote is keep the queue as is.
posted by josher71 at 9:59 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Given the overall work ethic of most interns I am lolling pretty hard at the idea of getting one to manage angry Metatalk posts.

"Hey Josh I told people they can't post any Metatalks today because I got gingivitis but they're being really unchill about it. Anyways I put them all into one post and posted them all at once like you said to do. Is it cool if I take off? my parents are in town and I haven't eaten in a week in preparation."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:10 AM on November 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


My vote is for #1 quidnunc kid!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:13 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


How about this. If there needs to be more transparency in how the queue is managed then a counsel of trusted users is set up who can review rejected posts and presents them back to the mods on some sort of regular basis, if necessary. If there is no disagreement, no contact with the mods is necessary. Maybe the OP gets a quick note stating the decision of this group.

If you really think your rejected post needs a day in court, then there's this review process. Members of this group would be unpaid, volunteer, and doing it out of the goodness of their collective, or individual, hearts. There would be no guarantees on timelines. This seems doable over Memail without involving the mods. Unless an exception is identified. Arguments for or against would be made within the group, again, without the mods.

If the mods are contacted, they are under no obligation to abide. But hey, somebody tried on your behalf.

So what kind of numbers are we really talking about here? How many of these posts get rejected per day? That will help determine how big this needs to be.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 10:19 AM on November 11, 2015


I just can't imagine what that group of "trusted" users would look like, how they would be chosen, the shitshow about who they are, their influence on the site, the politicking.

Uck.
posted by disclaimer at 10:25 AM on November 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


So what kind of numbers are we really talking about here?

I'm gonna sit down and go through the last while and tally stuff up to give an idea of what it looks like and how the kind of post gets partitioned out between stuff like "this is a quickie contact form question", "this is okay with some reframing", "this is a person who is just confused about metatalk", "this is a non-starter", etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:26 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just can't imagine what that group of "trusted" users would look like, how they would be chosen, the shitshow about who they are, their influence on the site, the politicking.


Oh god. I can imagine and it's horrible.
posted by josher71 at 10:28 AM on November 11, 2015 [15 favorites]


I think if someone actually wanted to be the MeFite Ombudsman Member Rep Sash-Wearer they should be immediately disqualified from assuming the position. Unless some sort of either literal or MeTaphorical lunar-cycle-based sacrificial ritual could also be incorporated into the role.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:30 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


My God: It's full of scars!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:30 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


After reading the MeTa that immediately preceded this one, I'm in favor of removing the grey entirely.
posted by schmod at 10:32 AM on November 11, 2015


cortex: So, that's where I look at the transparency concern and have trouble making it the top priority. Not because it doesn't matter at all, but because it's one of several things in tension here rather than the only thing. Doesn't mean like "discussion over, nothing to discuss", but it's a context that exists and I feel like sometimes the arguments to change the current setup involve setting that context aside and then forgetting that it's been set aside.

I know you know this as well as if not better than anyone else here, but Metafilter was built as a transparent forum. That ethos is an inherent part of both the site and this community. Deleted posts on all subsites remain accessible to us, the end users. Spammers and people trying to scam or monetize users get insta-banned with a public-facing note. Data dumps are available to all, and open to analysis. Comment deletions were always traditionally kept to a bare minimum, so the mods were perhaps steering discussions by trying to keep them on topic, but not forcing them down specific conversational paths. Mod decisions can be questioned and talked out in Metatalk and on email, where your team remains publicly and privately accessible when needed.

Mefi's transparency serves multiple purposes. It builds a cohesive sense of community. It builds trust between the community and the mod team. It allows members of the community to (if they are inclined) become better participants by learning from their and other people's mistakes. It helps everyone understand how the site's moderation works, since the section of the FAQ devoted to moderation guidelines is deliberately non-specific about anything but the most extreme examples.

Two areas of the site that are opaque to the user base are comment deletions and the functioning of the queue. The comment deletions help prevent threads from becoming large messes.

The queue, though... MetaTalk is the only place on this site where users can publicly talk about site moderation with the mods and userbase. On a site where nearly everything has deliberately been made as transparent and open as possible, it feels against the grain to have Meta be a gated system. Especially since a requirement is being made that some posts be workshopped before they will be accepted.

I hear you and understand completely that the queue has had a positive influence on the way meta threads go. And maybe this is just the brave new world of meta that I'm going to have to get used to.

But it does feel like a fundamental shift.
posted by zarq at 10:33 AM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


then a counsel of trusted users is set up who can review rejected posts and presents them back to the mods on some sort of regular basis

But they should be robots so they'll be inhumanly impartial and wise.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:34 AM on November 11, 2015


We could call it "The Council."
posted by octobersurprise at 10:35 AM on November 11, 2015


I mean, "The Cabal" is sitting right there.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:36 AM on November 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Wouldn't any type of inhuman be eligible?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:36 AM on November 11, 2015


then a counsel of trusted users is set up who can review rejected posts and presents them back to the mods on some sort of regular basis

Excellent idea, if you want to increase the volume of the already loud set of users who repeatedly complain there's some kind of sociopolitical groupthink at work on this site that silences those brave Free Speech Warriors who buck the trend and fight against the powers of censorship and "political correctness".
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:37 AM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't any type of inhuman be eligible?

Well, they could be, but they'd have to be inhumanly impartial and wise. And how could we judge that? That's why we need the robots.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:42 AM on November 11, 2015


Metafilter: keeping those long weekend shifts more on the unfucked side.
posted by Melismata at 10:42 AM on November 11, 2015


That's why we need the robots.

"So you'd like to be a part of the volunteer Metafilter mod team?"

"Yes, very much."

"Excellent. Just a few questions, then. First, you're in a desert, walking along in the sand, when all of a sudden you look down, and see a tortoise. It's crawling toward you..."
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:46 AM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


"I'd kill the tortoise. It is slow, and clogging up the queue. NEXT!"
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:48 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's good eating on one of those...
posted by zarq at 10:49 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


"You're hired."
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:50 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's hard to read a thread like this, and all of the hand-wringing over "transparancy" and heavy handed moderation and not do a combination face-palm/eye roll. For cryin out loud people, this community is large, and the number of people who come to MetaTalk to rehash these gripes is small. get over yourselves.
Cortex made the point twice in an earlier comment:

It's not a matter of how many there are but of the outsized impact they have on the site, on users, and particularly on the attention of mods when they do happen

and
In all honestly this is kind of a ha-ha-but-serious thing. I love this place, I love you people, I love the general level of passion about stuff and attachment to this place that drives a lot of behavior here, but there is I think a degree of expectation at times within the community that exceeds what anybody would from a distance say "yeah, that's reasonable for a handful of people to make possible for ten thousand".

take the hint.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:55 AM on November 11, 2015 [20 favorites]


I know you know this as well as if not better than anyone else here, but Metafilter was built as a transparent forum.

I do. And (to Matt's occasional ire on small points over the years) have pushed to keep it transparent, and make it more so where possible, as a big part of my approach to the work I've done since I came on staff years ago.

And one big thing that frankly bums me out, and this isn't primarily in response to you or this comment but on the larger subject of a lot of talk in that general vein but it's something I've started to broach a lot of times and then generally put back down in an effort to not distract from some other central discussion topic, is that a "but transparency!" argument depends so much to have actual weight to it on the assumption that we are as a mod team taking advantage of a lack of transparency to further goals other than what we talk to the community about. That it's not just a lack of transparency (which we do have for some other things as well, for good reason) but a problematic lack of transparency, a lack of transparency that amounts to some sort of obfuscation.

Because that's not something we do; it's not something I find even philosophically acceptable. I wouldn't work here, let alone manage a team of other mods, in a context where that kind of rubric were in play.

And I know the obvious counter is that stated intentions are all well and good but a lack of transparency means they can't be verified, so... But it bums me out because the thing that has traditionally filled that gap is trust. The generally held belief that, whatever bumps and disagreements are tied up in the day-to-day moderation stuff that happens here, people on MetaFilter trust us to be communicating honestly about our goals, our decision-making processes, our explanations on the site and in email about what's happened and what's happening and so on. That they trust us to, for those things that aren't directly fully transparent, to communicate about them in an open and clear way as a second-order sort of deal. Which, for all the queue has been a matter of debate, we have tried very hard to do.

I don't expect everyone to trust us implicitly all the time—MetaTalk has famously been home to any number of angry anti-mod/anti-policy shitstorms in the past, along with a lot of far more minor and reasonably civil stuff along those lines—but as a general atmosphere it's what I think of as how MetaFilter is, as a community space, as a space where the moderators are users and have zero outside financial incentive to misrepresent their acts and intentions and we're all long-time, well-known entities. Where it is, to folks who like it here and have spent time here understanding how the site works and how moderation plays into that, an obvious and unambiguous fact that the mods are on the community's side and are as transparent as they can practically manage while balancing all the weird wrinkles and contradictions that come with this place.

And it's a huge bummer to contemplate an evaporation of that expectation of trust just as a random process, in the absence of some major violation, to think that this could just turn into a place where not trusting the mods to keep doing the work we've been doing all these years just becomes the ambient normal. Where "yeah but what if they are hiding something" becomes a plausible baseline question to be asking, or a reasonable counterfactual to build a policy argument on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:55 AM on November 11, 2015 [53 favorites]


Speaking personally, I don't know how much I agree with the argument that "transparency" regarding submitted MetaTalk posts is either a need or an entitlement.

Zarq says "Metafilter was built as a transparent forum." Okay, yes. But Metafilter was built when the internet was much smaller, and the internet's userbase was very different from what it is now. Metafilter itself was much smaller, and its userbase is very different then from what it is now (which can sometimes be easy to forget when you've been around here for a long time). So, respectfully, I'm don't think you can argue that all of the various qualities Metafilter had in its early days -- when it had a much smaller population (and I also want to say a more homogeneous population, but I can't back that up with anything other than how I remember seeing the userbase 10 or 12 years ago) -- are all still feasible today.

Metatalk back in the day was really, really awful. Go back through some of the old threads. I quit a couple of times with a couple of old usernames because it was like, man, I don't want to be anywhere near this viper pit. I know others did too. Why would we want to go back to that? Things are much, much better now, even if they aren't perfect and even as we, as a community, continue to improve ourselves and our words and actions towards each other.

Calls for "transparency" still, to me, come implicit with a lack of trust in the moderators (even if you didn't want or mean to bring trust into it, jcifa). In demanding transparency, you are saying that you don't trust the decisions the mods are making on the back end. So call it what it is and address that. Why is there a lack of trust? And why do some people think that there needs to be an extra filter of special elected user/omsbud between the userbase and the mods? That just creates more distance, more layers. I don't see how that's a beneficial thing.

Metafilter is a "community" in the Webster sense of the word: "1. A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. 2. A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals." It's a community, yes, but it's not a co-op. We don't run the place. We don't share ownership of it. The mods are very good at accepting feedback, but the site is theirs to run in a way that makes the most sense for the smaller mod corps while making sure that it remains an enjoyable hangout for its users.

I donate monthly like a lot of other people do, and I'd understand if there were calls for transparency about how that money gets put to use. (Hopefully that hasn't become an issue.) But for me, that's the kind of issue where "transparency" is important -- balance sheets and campaign contributions and stuff like that. Potential MetaTalk posts? Not so much.

I would also be really interested to know how many of the people who long for more transparency also use the deleted posts script/blog. Could part of it be that, well, we have access to that information on every other part of the site, why won't you let us have access to it here?
posted by mudpuppie at 10:58 AM on November 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


I think that a transparent queue would, if anything, only lead to MeTa posts asking "Why was this post not allowed through the queue?", seeing how we already get posts asking "Why what this FPP deleted?" despite a functioning contact form and publicly viewable deletion reasons.

Considering what r_n and cortex have said in this thread about the value they place on balancing posting freedom and community harmony, I think we're in good hands. Queue transparency would just be more fuel for more fires.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:01 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mumble mumble regular fuckin'.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:08 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


And it's a huge bummer to contemplate an evaporation of that expectation of trust just as a random process, in the absence of some major violation

Well, we did notably (and somewhat acrimoniously) lose at least one community member over this process. I also feel pretty uncomfortable about the response to sciatrix's post, and would have been quite angry if I had been the one to put all that effort into crafting a MeTa only to be told that it needed to be further workshopped (with even more investment of emotional labor) before it could be posted - especially when the bar for other posts with plenty of fightiness potential, e.g. the apology post from a few days ago, seems to be set so much lower.

It's the inconsistent application that rankles me, personally; we're being told that mods have to prevent certain MeTas from being posted to prevent fightiness, but then when other potentially fighty/offensive MeTas are posted, the policy is stated as if Free Speech was the most important principle and we don't really have a good reason to hold it back. So given that we've never had a big community discussion on what constitutes a "good enough" reason to require a MeTa to be workshopped, even in the most general terms, it seems perfectly cromulent to ask for a little more transparency so that we can even have that conversation in the first place.
posted by dialetheia at 11:11 AM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


And yet - doesn't the fact that you already know about all of those instances suggest that the transparency is, to a real and practical degree, already there?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:15 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


For me, I think the need for more transparency is not that I don't trust the mods - I do, very much indeed - but that the shadows provide lurking places for people to denigrate ("Why did this make it through the queue at all?") and insinuate ("I'm sure there are others that agree with me, but who knows, because the mods delete all their MeTas!") and otherwise derail the good and necessary discussions that happen here.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:21 AM on November 11, 2015


"Why did this make it through the queue at all?"

I would guess the queue provides the means to prevent this?
posted by clavdivs at 11:23 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


And yet - doesn't the fact that you already know about all of those instances suggest that the transparency is, to a real and practical degree, already there?

No, because a) those are just the instances that people have volunteered, for all we know there are more; and b) at least with regard to the member that left, all mentions of that situation in this thread have been deleted (for good reasons, probably, given the dynamic) and I had to hear about it on twitter instead. I would love to know if more members have had MeTas scuttled because they weren't willing to do the workshopping that was an apparent prerequisite to getting certain posts through the queue.

Most of all, I'd really like to see sciatrix's questions addressed about the handling of her own MeTa. There's clearly been a policy change around "workshopping" posts since the queue was instituted, and we haven't had a community discussion at all about what circumstances might warrant that kind of workshopping requirement. I would really like for us to have that conversation.
posted by dialetheia at 11:24 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


we did notably (and somewhat acrimoniously) lose at least one community member over this process.

Community members should, by design, come and go. Unless a community members' leaving is because of a fundamental flaw in how the site operates (as determined by other community members, not just pronouncement by the mods) then it's seen as part of the general ebb and flow of the place. I know your heart is in the right place in asking these questions and I think the points you make are generally valid. And I mean that, strongly, because lack of transparency (over the site's finances and Matt's demands that we keep silent over it while he ruminated over laying off some or all of us and schemed on the back end) was one of the main reasons I left. But the site is, and should be, fine without me even if it's slightly different. I get that people feel uncomfortable with what they feel is the lack of knowing what posts have maybe not been approved, but there maybe needs to be a direct response to that issue and not "Down with the queue!" if that's the primary issue here.

There is a huge amount of non-transparency here and a lot of it is for good reasons

- what mods get paid (though there are reasons you might want to know)
- who got banned for spamming (unless you saw it when it was happening or caught it other ways)
- who is here on a Brand New Day
- the sex or gender of posters unless they self-identify (though mods keep people from actually misleading people)

And all of these have a certain amount of utility in people not knowing them. It's really not appropriate (and not done anywhere) to have all mod decisions made public and nitpicked, not just because it implies a lack of trust but also because it actually increases the work for the mods which is one of the reasons the queue exists in the first place. I don't mean to be all "Like it or lump it" about the queue and I disagreed with having it for all but holiday weekends when I worked here, but I think people need to find constructive ways to approach the situation without just saying "Let's get rid of this whole system!" because that's obfuscating that there's a (good) reason for the system to exist.

Matt wasn't that gung ho on transparency, actually. He is a great guy with many fine qualities and he wanted people to understand why the rules were the way they were and how and why he made decisions that he made, but he was very protective about the things he didn't want to talk about and that is also a foundational pillar of this site and the way it evolved like it did.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:24 AM on November 11, 2015 [26 favorites]


It's the inconsistent application that rankles me, personally

Which I can totally understand, and to be super clear here I think the process of figuring out what people's collective expectations are about how and when the queue is used, and where those expectations approach consensus and where they are contradictory, is an important one worth doing out loud in MetaTalk. I also think it's one we have as a community and as mods been doing; there's been a whole lot of discussion of it, of the general idea and of specific instances, over the last year and a half in particular and even before that when the queue was a part time thing or prior to that just a pony request that came up occasionally.

I'd like for folks to feel like they have reasonable consistent ideas of how the queue will work. And continuing to refine our approach and to talk about our thinking on it and listen to folks' feedback on that is important to me as a way to help that happen.

But I don't think we can get away from the inconsistency thing entirely, for a couple of reasons: partly because by virtue of being something we're tweaking over time the thinking that applied to one decision happened in a different context than that applied on another occasion, setting aside even the human variability of taking stuff case-by-case under a single status quo; partly because different users have preferences and opinions about how the queue is/should/might be used that contradict one another, such that it'll be impossible for both people to simultaneously hear a satisfactory and consistent-with-their-preferences explanation.

There's a very real aspect of You Can't Unrankle Everybody All Of The Time to this that is no one's fault but does make the process of working toward an optimized gestalt nonranklerly much harder than it might look from any one person's view of the situation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:26 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's clearly been a policy change around "workshopping" posts since the queue was instituted

Maybe something has changed dramatically, but I've always felt like that was part of the process and one of the potential outcomes from having the queue since the beginning.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:26 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Look the scratch on Engine 5 isn't that big of deal. But do we really want to go the traditional route and continue using red on it or it is time for a fresh coat of paint? How about a nice blue?

I don't like blue. It should be yellow, and you are a horrible person if you disagree. In fact, ALL the engines should be yellow. SOMEBODY MAKE THEM YELLOW


Hello?? Professional white.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:33 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Most of all, I'd really like to see sciatrix's questions addressed about the handling of her own MeTa.

This bit, linked above in twist my arm's comment last night?

I responded at the time to the concern about that LOL SOUTH metatalk not getting followed up on proactively by mods here, but to reiterate I think the falling-by-the-wayside of an otherwise good Metatalk post where there's just a framing or timing problem is one of the downsides of the queue, and one that had been a little bit of a blindspot for as we got accustomed to it but which I've been thinking more actively about in terms of trying to see that we follow up with folks if there's an unintended radio-silence effect going on.

There's clearly been a policy change around "workshopping" posts since the queue was instituted, and we haven't had a community discussion at all about what circumstances might warrant that kind of workshopping requirement.

But, again, we have talked about some of this stuff several times. I'm fine with having more of that discussion, and here we are doing it, but it's not true that it's been something happening with mod radio silence. I don't expect most non-mod folks to read all of MetaTalk, but it's still happening even if a given person doesn't see it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:34 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


cortex: And it's a huge bummer to contemplate an evaporation of that expectation of trust just as a random process, in the absence of some major violation, to think that this could just turn into a place where not trusting the mods to keep doing the work we've been doing all these years just becomes the ambient normal. Where "yeah but what if they are hiding something" becomes a plausible baseline question to be asking, or a reasonable counterfactual to build a policy argument on.

I wholeheartedly believe you and the mod team have the site's best interests at heart. Truly, I do.

But I no longer believe that the team will automatically be on the same page as me or as other members regarding problematic stuff. Or necessarily be aware of why something may be an issue.

I know I shouldn't have assumed that in the first place.

My personal tipping point was being told by a mod last year that if I wanted them to say something about something antisemitic, I should gather a bunch of Jews together and lobby for change. That kind of shocked me. And it had to happen months later, when Joe made a metatalk post and a bunch of Jewish mefites came out of the proverbial woodwork to say, "Yes, this is a problem and it bugs me." I think of that as similar (but in much smaller scope) to the experiences that women have had on mefi over the years regarding Mefi being a boyzone. And I see clear parallels in a number of the trans-related metas.

There is not a single question in my mind that you and the rest of the mod team will always do what you think is best for the site, cortex. None whatsoever.

But sometimes you've collectively needed people to explain why something needs to be addressed -- and increased transparency helps with that.

That isn't a critique of whether you're being honest with us. It comes from a mutual desire to make this place better for everyone.

Again, I do get that this is where things are now. I understand and acknowledge that the queue is necessary.
posted by zarq at 11:37 AM on November 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter: ebb and flow
posted by Going To Maine at 11:38 AM on November 11, 2015


Well, okay, but I'm not asking you to Unrankle Everyone Always here, cortex, or even for a policy about what gets let through and where. I've been trying to be careful to a) presume good faith on behalf of the mods (and I really and truly do think you are doing your best) and also to b) not demand anything hard and fast with respect to my MeTas or with respect to listening to how you guys are handing other contentious-but-moving-forward MeTas. I acknowledge that context is important, and I've actually tried to be extremely transparent myself about that MeTa and the role that my lack of follow-up had on it not going through. I just want to know a little more about the workshopping side of things with respect to putting through MeTas like that and how you guys are thinking about potentially contentious MeTas.

I do think that dialethia's point about further investment of emotional labor is really germane to this conversation, though. Speaking personally, one of my frustrations is that... both with that MeTa and with others, if I'm going to submit a MeTa, I spend a whole lot of time and energy and emotional labor into trying to craft it to minimize fightiness. It's kind of depressing to have to try and punch through and justify why yes, we do have to have this conversation, right as I've spent a day trying to anticipate points of contention and make a point to acknowledge other people's feelings and defuse potential tensions and... well, not start a fight that generates more heat than light!

Speaking for myself, it's actually pretty hard to switch from defusing mode to advocating mode on a project like that--I get into a headspace where I'm mediating my responses to another person and if I'm not being very careful I'm going to let my rhetorical tactics and sensitivities to other people's emotional signals bleed over from one mode to another. So one unintentional consequence of the queue that I'm seeing is that the posts you do get on MeTa on those issues might be the ones that are less conciliatory, that are more angry, while posts that come from users who are trying to come off as softer might not make it through.
posted by sciatrix at 11:41 AM on November 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


My personal tipping point was being told by a mod last year that if I wanted them to say something about something antisemitic, I should gather a bunch of Jews together and lobby for change.

Wait, what?
posted by lalex at 11:41 AM on November 11, 2015


lalex, i will memail you. I didn't include links in my comment on purpose. The last thing I want to do is rehash what happened.
posted by zarq at 11:42 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The last thing I want to do is rehash what happened.

Well, but honestly - isn't that what "more transparency" ultimately buys us? The opportunity to second guess and Monday Morning quarterback every Mod decision?

Because we're not getting preemptive public queue rights.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:48 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, but honestly - isn't that what "more transparency" ultimately buys us? The opportunity to second guess and Monday Morning quarterback every Mod decision?

Possibly. Jessamyn's assessment of the site's transparency levels has given me a lot to consider this afternoon.

I don't want to rehash the antisemitism thing here because the topic has been debated to death, (we had a productive 770 comment metatalk post back in January on the topic) and going into too much detail would derail this thread.
posted by zarq at 12:00 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


This bit, linked above in twist my arm's comment last night?

I meant this part:
What I'd like to know is this: are mods treating both Category 2 and Category 3 as the same category when they talk about letting things through the queue and try to discourage people from posting? Or are they mostly trying to warn people who will post conflict-heavy posts that the posts will be conflict heavy, letting them know that the grey threads will be hard to moderate, and then washing their hands of it and going with the user's judgement on whether to put the thread through? I'm just curious about what's happening with your collective thought process.
It's the chilling effect that I feel when I read this from sciatrix that really concerns me.
I just want to be very open about the fact that they haven't intentionally blocked it from going up past asking "is this what you want? It's gonna be fighty, and not in a simple way to deal with" which is well within the realm of current policy. Part of the reason I let it drop, though, was because I wanted to not stress the mods out; I remember thinking "oh, okay, I don't want to burden the mods more" at the time, even though that's.... kind of their job.)
Speaking personally, one of my frustrations is that... both with that MeTa and with others, if I'm going to submit a MeTa, I spend a whole lot of time and energy and emotional labor into trying to craft it to minimize fightiness. It's kind of depressing to have to try and punch through and justify why yes, we do have to have this conversation, right as I've spent a day trying to anticipate points of contention and make a point to acknowledge other people's feelings and defuse potential tensions and... well, not start a fight that generates more heat than light!

Yes, exactly! And it's the fact that this labor-intensive workshopping was not asked of e.g. the other posts that TMA linked to that makes it feel like an unfair burden to impose on certain fighty MeTas but not others. And I do read nearly every word posted on MeTa, god help me; while we've had a number of snipes about "what is the queue for if not to prevent this", we haven't talked in much detail about where we're actually drawing the line re: whether a post is deemed too fighty/poorly framed to even be posted without substantial edits. I'm glad we're having this conversation and I would love to hear more discussion about what makes a post so contentious that it requires even more workshopping.

To me, the real issue isn't even transparency - it's that sciatrix's post is sent back to the drawing board and seemingly requires a bunch more emotional work from her, while e.g. this post goes up with no problems after making sure that an email didn't explain the situation. I'm not trying to do the "gotcha" thing about inconsistency here, I swear - I get that these aren't hard-and-fast policies, that things change, that there are judgment calls that might go differently on a different day - but that certainly isn't the only really poorly-framed post that's come through the queue without required edits. That seems like an incredibly big discrepancy to me, beyond just a "judgment call" kind of situation, and it's one that seems to put a greater burden on users engaging in good faith than on users engaging in bad faith.
posted by dialetheia at 12:06 PM on November 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


My one big area of concern is that people who are focused on their own emotions and not considering the effect what they post will have on others are privileged in this system to be heard more often and more readily than people who take the site and the moderators into consideration. I see this as a fundamental flaw to the reactive nature of the queue illustrated by the contrast between sciatrix pulling back her (valuable and important) post on MetaFilter prejudice against the South, contrasted with one's standard, drive by "why was my post deleted" issue.

I don't have an easy solution to this. Cortex spoke about being more pro-active in reaching out to users when the timing is poor, rather than the quality of post was poor, which is in a direction I agree with. There is a quality of "hanging out to dry" which the present management of the queue has which I think disadvantages people who are less privileged and punishes people for engaging in emotional labor, and I'd like to see moderator focus turned to trying to bridge that gap rather than let the obliviousness of the most privileged carry them smoothly over to start another fight.

The shift from reactive-clipping to active-encouragement pushes against the MetaFilter standard of quasi-impartiality, but I think we've been pushing back against that for a while because actual impartiality doesn't exist. To make any kind of decision, one must have standards one has accepted as axiomic, and MetaFilter's community axioms are still very much in line with the "transparency, equality, free speech" axioms of the early 'net that depend upon privilege to remain untarnished. Cortex already discussed how inaccurate the sense people have of MetaFilter's transparency was, and I argue here that our senses of the other two in how MetaFilter had been run are also inaccurate; I think the site will get more diverse if we can collectively become less racist, sexist, classist, transphobic, etc... and I think more people will feel more free to speak about more things if it's understood that being insulting and dismissive is not acceptable.

I think it's a lot easier to talk about these things than actually enforce them, though. People tend to support restrictions of these kinds when they will be on the receiving end of the support, but not support it when they won't, and if I knew how to translate that for people I would be very rich and Queen of the World. Sometimes, making things less shitty for someone else means we have to deal with our own shittiness and fix it - I am heartened that MetaFilter seems to be going in that direction overall; I'd like to see it baked into the queue process so that valuable posts don't get lost in the shuffle and people who put in the time and effort to be thoughtful are encouraged.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:15 PM on November 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


My personal tipping point was being told by a mod last year that if I wanted them to say something about something antisemitic, I should gather a bunch of Jews together and lobby for change.

Wait, wh


He probably means this comment, and you can scroll up to get the full context.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:15 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


And it's the fact that this labor-intensive workshopping was not asked of e.g. the other posts that TMA linked to that makes it feel like an unfair burden to impose on certain fighty MeTas but not others.

Do we know this? I don't think it's clear what workshopping was requested on what MeTas.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:18 PM on November 11, 2015


I just want to know a little more about the workshopping side of things with respect to putting through MeTas like that and how you guys are thinking about potentially contentious MeTas.

Sure, I hear ya. And I feel silly now because I realize I got caught up chasing down the link to the old thread and failed to get back to your long comment in this thread initially. So:

Anyway. I think one side effect of the mods being underfunded and understaffed, and therefore exhausted, is that mods look at posts that will cause conflict and go "oh, please no." The problem with that is that there's conflict and conflict. Some of it's not productive and is going to make things worse for the site; that conflict should definitely be headed off at the pass. Some of it, though, is productive, and I'm not sure how that's being weighted in the way that mods look at potential MeTas in the queue.

We aim to keep "oh, please no" to the exception cases of either really awful posts (yours was not) or sometimes people coming to us at the contact form pre-post to ask for a "do you think I should start work on this right now" thing when it is in fact an especially bad time, in which case it's more "please not right now".

But I definitely don't want it to be something where folks are deciding they shouldn't broach something productive just because it might also be a pain, and I thought your post was very much in the worth-broaching territory and think coming back around to it at some point (whether you or someone else) would be worth doing. Figuring out the best way to help make that work for both mods and posters is something we've got to keep working on, for sure.

What I'd like to know is this: are mods treating both Category 2 and Category 3 as the same category when they talk about letting things through the queue and try to discourage people from posting? Or are they mostly trying to warn people who will post conflict-heavy posts that the posts will be conflict heavy, letting them know that the grey threads will be hard to moderate, and then washing their hands of it and going with the user's judgement on whether to put the thread through? I'm just curious about what's happening with your collective thought process.

So, taking this as Category 2 as basically "this is a terrible idea/construction for a post" vs Category 3 as "this is a worthwhile post that will likely be difficult/heated":

I see those as mostly two different things in practice, where the Category 2 stuff is unlikely to ever see the light of day because a reworking of a super bad idea is unlikely to become not bad, and the Category 3 stuff is generally really reworkable or even okay as-is if the poster feels strongly about it though might need confirmation of the "yes I really really mean it" sort and/or a delay if the timing is bad.

The two might flow together a little bit sometimes—we've had a couple posts that looked a bit Cat 2 but then the poster responded reasonably well to an explanation of why and managed to turn it around significantly—but they're generally two different kinds of things. Cat 2 stuff is stuff that without a queue would have been pretty likely to get promptly deleted or closed anyway; Cat 3 stuff is mostly stuff that'd stand and we'd just have to hold onto our butts and potentially have a night/weekend/ruined because of bad timing.

As a general thing, anything in Category 3 is something I think can and should go through but might need either (a) a delay for mod-resources reasons or (b) a bit of reframing if it's really good but has some bit that's gonna tank the discussion or get the poster a lot of heat in an unnecessary way. And the timing thing is pretty much mod fiat because essentially nothing is really so time-critical in MetaTalk that it happen Right Now; the reframing thing is often more of a fair-warning issue than an absolute no go, and "fair warning" is I think what gnfti and LM were saying in response to your aforementioned metatalk for example.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:31 PM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


> To date I have not seen any evidence that the mods aren't being completely open with the members.

> So the question, for me, is, do I trust someone with lots of experience, a proven track record, reams of knowledge and visibility of things I have no access - do I trust an expert to make expert decision in essence? Yes, yes I do. I think they make good decisions, better decisions than me, and the site has improved markedly in the last 12 monthish - despite the resource drain - because of it.

I heartily agree with the above comments. I am certainly not saying the mods are perfect and we should trust them implicitly about everything (and they're not saying that either), but there's a huge gap between "the mods are not perfect" and "the mods are probably getting up to who knows what behind our backs, we need to be able to see everything they do," which seems to be the default assumption of some people here. Of course if you disagree with some aspect of the site, you should feel free to bring it up, but for Pete's sake frame it in a context of appreciating that the mods have the best interest of the site at heart and are doing the best they can—which most people in this thread are doing! I'm not reacting to this thread in isolation so much as to the hostile, suspicious comments that are all too common in many MetaTalk threads that deal with moderation issues.

Also, I fully support sciatrix's concern about how Metafilter treats rural/Southern folk, and I hope we get a chance to hash that out at some point when the mod on duty is well rested and has access to refreshing beverages.
posted by languagehat at 12:45 PM on November 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm sorry to interrupt again but now two mods and a retired mod (twice) have all utilized unordered lists using hyphens or en dashes for the items, as has the OP. I'm trying not to take it personally but it feels kind of personal, especially after I suggested earlier we all just take a minute for proper formatting when we're listing items. I'm just going to check out of this thread because it's too difficult to read and it's really rubbing me the wrong way, but I'm kind of hurt. Clearly my feelings about proper list ornamentation aren't important right now, certainly not to the power elite of the site.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:50 PM on November 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


And it's the fact that this labor-intensive workshopping was not asked of e.g. the other posts that TMA linked to that makes it feel like an unfair burden to impose on certain fighty MeTas but not others.

To be clear, the examples of sciatrix's MetaTalk and this linked one don't really have the contrast being suggested here: both got essentially the same treatment, communication with the user by mods about potential issues. Post comes in, mod contacts user about issues, user responds, we go from there.

The difference in practice was in sciatrix's case she ended up not following up at the time (which is totally fine and wholly understandable for reasons she wasn't even under any obligation to explain), and the other poster did. The other's poster's answer wasn't "okay, I'll rework it", it was "no, I want it to go through as is".

That's aside from the question of whether that other thread was a great idea, since it clearly wasn't, not as-is and more generally it became the impetus for a discussion about changing a bit what kinds metatalk posts should get a closer look and more mod pressure and, roughly speaking, what's a Cat 2 vs. a Cat 3 post. But it's not a case where we were telling one person their good post was bad and telling another that their bad post was good; it's a case where a basically consistent approach produced inconsistent results because of complicating factors outside of that idea of consistent queue processes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:55 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: the mod on duty is well rested and has access to refreshing beverages.
posted by Melismata at 12:56 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Watch closely for removal of this sign.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:00 PM on November 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


You know, I'm horrified of the knowledge that three of the mods have to pull 16 hour days two out of every three weeks.

Me too; that sounds burnout-inducingly unsustainable. And even those "light" weekend shifts are presumably still equivalent to 16 hours of being on-call.

Not my site to run, obviously, but I do wonder if MeFi could do more in the way of annual pledge-driving for support. It reminds me of two things:

(a) how Matt sat on the financial issues here for so long, and the outpouring of support from the membership when he revealed them, and
(b) how Roman Mars has very successfully run annual campaigns to support 99% Invisible / Radiotopia, which have included salarying / benefiting / health-insuring a production team.

I think Matt shied away from this sort of thing as being maybe a bit crass and/or tacky. But maybe longer-term MeFi needs to take a more pragmatic and/or disciplined approach to member-funding?

[deliberately not <ol>-ing that list just to annoy Toekneesan]
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:01 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, I fully support sciatrix's concern about how Metafilter treats rural/Southern folk, and I hope we get a chance to hash that out at some point when the mod on duty is well rested and has access to refreshing beverages.

I support it too, as someone who grew up in the South and abhors so much of what comes out of it, but who also has a desperate, knee-jerk #notallsoutherners reaction anytime a thread comes along that will it inevitably result in people going "Ugh, what do you expect, it's the south." I think it's something that needs to be talked about, but I absolutely dread the thread in which will eventually happen. That's not because I don't trust the mods to adequately moderate the thread -- it's because I don't trust the users who will invariably "yeah, but, South" their way through the discussion.

I was never able to articulate it until just now, but I feel way more comfortable here as a gay person than I do as a person from Texas.

Seconding refreshing beverages, I guess.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:07 PM on November 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


I was never able to articulate it until just now, but I feel way more comfortable here as a gay person than I do as a person from Texas.

yup. i don't mean to equate any of these things irl but on mefi as a woman and gay person, pretty good. as a texan and PoC, not!
posted by twist my arm at 1:10 PM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Drinky Die: "Watch closely for removal of this sign."

Nah, Jessamyn said those don't work.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:11 PM on November 11, 2015


Regarding the 16-hour thing, I would be totally good with a "blackout" period on MeTa during particular times (certain weekend hours? holidays?) where posts and comments on MeTa would be locked, if it helped reduce the burden. Nothing in MeTa should really require 24/7/365 coverage.
posted by Mid at 1:12 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think Matt shied away from this sort of thing as being maybe a bit crass and/or tacky. But maybe longer-term MeFi needs to take a more pragmatic and/or disciplined approach to member-funding?

That is the plan, yeah; I did a big state-of-the-site post back in June, and talked in there some about intending to make that a regular thing, along with working to build up and regularize our communications and tools for managing user financial support of the site.

I'm planning another update post for some time around the new year, I think a check-in every six months is a good baseline for that sort of thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:13 PM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


And it's supremely ironic that the very thing sciatrix is complaining about, about how Metafilter does The South, just happened in the (wonderful) thread she posted today about the South. :(
posted by mudpuppie at 1:17 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


It really went south.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:18 PM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


not anymore.

it remains a beautiful post.
posted by twist my arm at 1:23 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yay!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:24 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks mods. That was the perfect example. Almost like a gift.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:40 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think it's something that needs to be talked about, but I absolutely dread the thread in which will eventually happen.

There are a lot of pretty stupid American prejudices about the American south but then there are a lot of pretty stupid things about the American south. As a American southerner, I have a lot of affection for my region and many of its people—even many of the weird, dumb ones—but I've never been too offended by the Yee-Haw-isms embraced by much of the rest of the country. They is my cousins.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:43 PM on November 11, 2015


Anyway, I think having a love/hate relationship with the region and its people is part of what's so great about being an American southerner. Or that's what I learned from Quentin Compson.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:46 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Trying being from Maryland: too Dixie for Northerners, too Yankee for the Southerners. You get to hear both sides of the talk about the South all around you, all the time. Yeehaw/Woohoo!
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:51 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks mods. That was the perfect example. Almost like a gift.

Yeah, I saw the flags and blinked at it and was like, really? Synchronicity, what do you do.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:01 PM on November 11, 2015


....do I even want to know what happened?
posted by sciatrix at 2:01 PM on November 11, 2015


Just a Fuck-The-Southism, flagged and bagged.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:03 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Trying being from Maryland: too Dixie for Northerners, too Yankee for the Southerners.

Yeah, but the crabs!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:03 PM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


(Technically, insofar as I'm from anywhere it's... northern Virginia, since I grew up in Fairfax County and that's still my record for Longest Time In One Place. So I feel you on that one, Aya Hirano.)
posted by sciatrix at 2:06 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter used to pride itself on self-policing. Now a lot of the policing is handled by mods. I see very little evidence that this has made things worse, and a lot of evidence that it has made things better.

Not wanting to argue about it or anything, but 'worse' and 'better' are pretty broad metrics to pin down. The site has certainly changed, and that's good, because the alternative is stagnation. I think I'd argue that these days, though, there is far more policing of members by other members than there ever was before, in addition to the able and skilled but also more-intrusive moderation done administratively.

Part of that comes as a result of needs introduced by simple scaling of the userbase, some of it through good-intentioned attempts to create a more inclusive community, some of it, well, I'm not sure.

Not complaining about it -- but I would push back against the narrative that moderation has supplanted the 'self-policing' of yore. It may have done so for a while in the early days of MeFi moderation expansion, but I think we've got a very active two tier thing going on these days, for better or for worse.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:10 PM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "Yeah, but the crabs!"

At least you can eat your crabs. Here in the Hippie West, our crabs are poisonous and trying to kill us.
posted by scrump at 2:11 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Trying being from Maryland

Try being from DC (because DC is better than Maryland).
BOOM roasted DMV styel
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:12 PM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just a Fuck-The-Southism, flagged and bagged.

Like a fucking nutria, yo.

But seriously, it was a fuck-the-southism that was actually preceded by some more thoughtful stuff, and that's the problem with how MF handles the topic. It's not a subject in which people tolerate much gray area, or at least they're not able to examine the gray areas without also throwing in a fuck-the-south just so no one thinks they're actually advocating for the ways of the south or anything.

I don't want to turn this into a proxy, so I'll shut about it now, but yeah, synchronicity.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:13 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Trying being from Maryland

Try being from DC (because DC is better than Maryland).
BOOM roasted DMV styel


Here in Northern Virginia we know how to spell "style" in addition to having it.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:19 PM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Im also from NoVa

that's all
posted by sweetkid at 2:19 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


👒
👀
👃
👄
🙌
👕
👖
👞👞
🌍

Hey I can do these little picture things. Did you know that? Someone should make a MetaFilter post because it seems pretty webby. I did it on my Apple PC-phone (just in case it's a bug feature) using the WiFi program. I have 29 percentage.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:26 PM on November 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


I lived in Alexandria in the early 2000s (I moved in a week before Sept 11, fun times), and I don't remember this DMV nonsense at all. Is this some neologism pushed by the tourism board?
posted by Chrysostom at 2:28 PM on November 11, 2015


Northern Virginia here too. I think DMV is for carpetbaggers.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:30 PM on November 11, 2015


(Or rather, I never heard that until like two or three years ago so I think it's a newish thing.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:36 PM on November 11, 2015


We’re all from NoVA down here.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:37 PM on November 11, 2015


It's about to be a rumble in this thread the bamma % has gotten far too elevated.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:45 PM on November 11, 2015


DMV is a gogo term from the 80s clearly some bammas from VA would be confused about that.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:49 PM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


What's this upper/lower Maryland thing.
posted by clavdivs at 2:56 PM on November 11, 2015


I both trust the mods to make mostly good decisions and think sciatrix has a great point about the burdens of the system currently in place.
posted by Jpfed at 2:56 PM on November 11, 2015


What's this upper/lower Maryland thing.

Well, there's Baltimore County, the Eastern shore, the boot-shaped area down there with St. Mary's and whatnot, and then the scrappy panhandle out west. It's a rich tapestry. And by that I mean it's like a rug, laying at the doorstep between North and South, stepped over and/or on by both.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:17 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


From Potomac Ave's link, WaPo 2010:
"A nickname has recently emerged that could put the Washington area on the regional nickname map: the DMV. As in, D for the District, M for Maryland, and V for Virginia. Sleek, succinct and inclusive, the name has been in common use for several years among the area's -- ahem, the DMV's -- hip-hop and go-go music crowd. It's familiar to listeners of black-oriented radio stations [...] It's safe to say, however, that most of the rest of the DMV's populace is unaware [...]. Although the phrase has appeared irregularly in The Washington Post, most mainstream news sources haven't picked up on it. At least not yet. "


Cool, thank you, this is something I had been wondering about. I retract my carpetbaggers claim.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:23 PM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


And one big thing that frankly bums me out, and this isn't primarily in response to you or this comment but on the larger subject of a lot of talk in that general vein but it's something I've started to broach a lot of times and then generally put back down in an effort to not distract from some other central discussion topic, is that a "but transparency!" argument depends so much to have actual weight to it on the assumption that we are as a mod team taking advantage of a lack of transparency to further goals other than what we talk to the community about.

No, it really doesn't.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:24 PM on November 11, 2015 [6 favorites]




"No, it really doesn't."

Right, it doesn't. This notion that transparency is only necessary when there's a lack of trust is fundamentally false. And folding that argument within a wrapper of hurt at feeling distrusted in response to requests for transparency is not a fair or productive approach to take, no matter how sincere.

That some things shouldn't be transparent is certainly true -- but it's not a valid response to requests for some kind of transparency in something (the queue) about which a significant minority of people have expressed both confusion and concern. Sure, one reason people would have concerns is that they are mistrusting. But there are other reasons. They may dislike being at the mercy of a process that they don't understand and which is opaque. They may trust the mods' general good intentions, but not that they will be consistent in their specific decisions. They may trust the mods' general good intentions and alignment of goals, but disagree about emphasis and therefore would like to know how this disagreement results in real-world consequences.

Transparency can act as a check on bad behavior, but that's only one portion of its utility. More than anything else, transparency facilitates the dissemination of crucial information concerning important social functions. I believe that the people here who raise concerns about the queue and suggest more transparency as a solution are largely doing so not because they believe that the mods are behaving badly, but rather because they are aware that the queue does sometimes act as a filter, does sometimes involve the revision of posts, does sometimes involve the postponement of posts -- and they don't understand when, how, and why such decisions are made and, crucially, those decisions affect them. It affects the people who write posts and it affects those of us who read (or don't read) posts.

I, myself, don't have much of an investment in the idea of more transparency about the queue. When the queue became permanent, I made then the argument zarq is making now, but mostly because I feared the kind of growing worry and questions about the queue that we see in this thread. But at this point, I'm far more inclined to favor a different kind of transparency than what has been discussed -- namely, just that the mods somehow manage to clarify exactly how they use the queue, as they have already attempted to do in this thread, and more importantly successfully promulgate this information. I'm very surprised that many people haven't even been aware of why the queue was instituted in the first place. In my opinion, if we're having a transparency problem, it's really more a communication problem than anything else.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:46 PM on November 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Trying being from Maryland

Try being from DC (because DC is better than Maryland).


Try telling everyone you're from DC, because if you say Maryland they'll be all "oh, I went to Baltimore once!" and you have to explain exactly where in the state you're from and why you're not a Ravens fan. And then you meet someone from DC, and you're in hot water all over again.
posted by teponaztli at 4:51 PM on November 11, 2015


zarq: "We've lost at least one member whose contributions I valued quite highly because she was upset that her metatalk post (about boyzone issues on the site) was killed in the queue by cortex: "

I have no idea what the issue was nor do I have any particular impression of NoraReed. However from what I've seen usually these red button events are merely final straws. . It's highly likely a user who will quit the site over something like this would have left anyways when the next straw comes along. Metafilter can not be all things for all people and sometimes people leave (or take a break) for good and vaild reasons.

I speak from personal experience that sometimes people just need to step back for a while or step away. While that is regrettable if it is someone you value (a moment for amberglow ... ) and the site should try to be inclusive it's not always possible to head these things off.

SinisterPurpose: "How about a mandatory waiting period of ~48 hours on ALL Metatalk posts? "

Please no. Not only are most threads not shit shows a mandatory waiting period removes the metatalk utility of acting as a relief valve for policy discussions happening on the blue. If you think a flaming meta is messy consider the discussion instead igniting posts on the front page instead. Having metatalk allows the discussion to be concentrated and dealt with in one manageable place. The flexible queue allows that to happen at an operationally good time. The non-shitshow meta's I've had since the queue have been posted very quickly. Once so fast it was posted before I could report a bug that surfaced with the posting process.

peppermind: "What if there were a way to view posts that didn't make it through the queue and a mod comment as to the reasons, sort of like the extension that shows deleted posts on the blue? It seems like it would improve transparency while still keeping GRAR to a minimum."

litera scripta manet: "I wonder if setting up a blog for deleted MeTas to show up elsewhere might help ease the visibility concerns like we already have for askmefi and mefi."

Guaranteeing all rejected metatalk posts would be posted just allows frustrated or axe girinding users to have an unrefuteable forum for their grindstone. I'm thinking about the user who was banned for equating the mod team in general and jessamyn in particular to a bunch of brown shirts at length in his profile. He was banned, his profile excised and the site is better for it. Allowing him to make the same equivelancy undeleted and uncommentable on Metatalk for forever serves no one.

zarq: "I suspect many of people would volunteer if given the opportunity. Especially since it would be a way to give back without a financial outlay. And if so, a small team could be created, so the time and effort involved could be shared. Honestly, it's the sort of thing I'd volunteer for, if I didn't know I'd be terrible at it."

No only should no one be doing this sort of work for free, especially at a stand up place like metafilter; an arbitrator should be impartial and I can't imagine anyone willing to volunteer to perform a thankless job for the site to be impartial where the site is involved. They are going to come in with biases and just give the people who rail against the mods another target for their ire.
posted by Mitheral at 5:11 PM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


stavrosthewonderchicken: I think I'd argue that these days, though, there is far more policing of members by other members than there ever was before, in addition to the able and skilled but also more-intrusive moderation done administratively.

Part of that comes as a result of needs introduced by simple scaling of the userbase, some of it through good-intentioned attempts to create a more inclusive community, some of it, well, I'm not sure.


This is a really interesting phenomenon to me, because I think you're definitely right—there are more call-outs, or at least the call-outs that occur are more along the lines of "hey that's not cool" and less along the lines of "you suck" "no YOU suck" than they were back in the bad ol' days. The ones that happen, moreover, are sustained for far longer. From my perspective, lone voices that used to get shouted down have instead been able to attract likeminded members saying, "Yes, there is an issue here, please let's talk about it," and moderators have been willing to listen to those people and work out ways of reducing the factors that silenced those voices in the first place.

To my eye, as a longtime MeTa popcorn-muncher, this has resulted in two major, and related, occurrences.

Thing #1:
The users who're getting that's-not-cool'd at now perceive themselves to be the lone, silenced voices, and are mounting their own attempted stands. These amass many new voices saying "yup that's right MeFi's gone all commie as of late", many of whom are long-time users who're so accustomed to not hearing the other side of this argument that they don't perceive it as an argument in the first place.

Thing #2:
Meanwhile, the various users who've started speaking up about the things they find problematic see each other speaking out, and reach out to one another via MeMail or on Twitter or through IRL meetings, and form ad hoc groups. They develop inside jokes, discuss things that happen on the site, form their collective takes on assorted issues, and a group memory forms.

I've seen a lot of complaints, especially over the last years (post-Twitter going mainstream? post-IRL becoming a subsite? who knows), that there's something problematic with this second part—that it's leading to gang-ups and offsite shenanigans. Which... it's not that I don't think that doesn't happen? In fact, it absolutely does. But all of that is happening in response to the greater systemic problems that've caused the need for this speaking-out in the first place. If we think that the strived-for inclusiveness is a part of what makes this web site so good, that needs to happen.

As early as the Schrödinger’s Rapist, possibly even as far back as Jenny Diski's Discussion Point thread in 2007, users who've spoken out against the unconscious bias and oppression that occurs within community setups here have talked about how one of the most difficult things about speaking up is the expectation that they are required to explain, in nuanced and reasonable detail, what they feel about everything, and put themselves in quite vulnerable conditions as they do so. For this they are given... what? A blasé titling of "good faith" by the sorts of users who weren't reading their posts very closely in the first place, and a bunch more users piling on them anyway because of that Thing #1 that I mentioned above. (This happened literally two days ago, and a user wrote passionately about how terrible it feels to be on the receiving end of that backlash.)

The only way that that stops is when users who previously felt silenced and incapable of participating to get to feel like they have space to belong in the community. That means having the freedom to react naturally to things as they happen, to form their own takes on what this site is like and how it works, and to push in the direction of the culture they think the site needs to embody. Sometimes, that culture isn't gonna be strictly civil, both because MetaFilter as a whole is not really that polite of a place and because civility can be incredibly draining. Feathers are gonna be ruffled.

You can't get around that if you're going to have a public forum, one in which all participants are weighted evenly, and all participants can see each other's words. Either the culture changes or it doesn't. In this case, I think change is good.

But that brings us back again to Thing #1, the people who react negatively to being told that they're doing a bad thing. The absolutely fantastic Doug Muder refers to this as the distress of the privileged, and I think he succinctly captures both why the people complaining to the so-called "policing" aren't quite as correct about how bad they've got it as they think, and why the Thing #2 people often don't help things with their responses. Muder calls for an approach that "acknowledg[es] the distress while continuing to point out the difference in scale"; while I'd love that in theory, and try to contribute that to the world when I feel able, in practice there's simply still too much pressure on the people who've been dealing with this the most for me to feel mad at them when they can't meet that theoretical ideal.

Where do the moderators sit in all this?

I think that, in theory, the mods serve as the balance between these two opposing forces. (I feel "forces" is more appropriate than "sides"; we all tend to get caught up somewhere between Thing #1 and Thing #2 in our idiosyncratic ways.) In practice, however, the moderators are required to exert time and energy on any confrontation on the site. I think that this puts them squarely in the (pardon) meta-Thing #2 territory. Literally nobody puts more energy into this site than they do. No matter what the issue raised is, they're going to be the ones sinking entire days into managing its outcome.

So tools like the queue are introduced, and a backlash ensues. I think that, so long as MetaFilter continues to not be made of money, it only makes sense that moderators are going to compromise, as cortex said above, between a number of different competing forces, one of which is just that there isn't enough modpower to function effectively without efforts being taken to avoid everything falling apart all the time. This seems reasonable to me, as a person who has belonged to literally any community for any period of time.

"Transparency" as an issue feels problematic, to me. Partly that's because there are plenty of aspects of this site that aren't "transparent". If I write a moderator via the contact form, you don't get to see what I say. When mods discuss things in Super Secret Funtime Modland, we don't get to know what they've been discussing. Seeing as extraordinarily simple surface-level subjects frequently dissolve into ugly thousand-comment threads, I think it's pretty darn self-evident why a certain amount of "non-transparency" is a good thing.

A part of it, though, is that "transparency" as a value is too often used, the way that "free speech" is, as a cudgel, as a way of keeping certain extraordinarily unpleasant parts of a culture alive for the sake of something that calls itself idealism. Not every thousand-comment MetaTalk thread is a shining example of democracy in action. Too often they serve more as proofs that democracy has to be more nuanced than simply putting everybody in a room and letting them shout it out, in part because "transparency" often involves people saying and doing things that are enormously hurtful to one another. That MetaTalk, by far the most "transparent" part of this site, should have a queue preventing even a fraction of that enormously hurtful nonsense, seems only sensible to me—and frankly, we would have benefitted from it years before the staffing cutback.

This goes back to Thing #2 again. If we want to have a more inclusive culture, we need to be honest about the stuff that keeps one from being possible, and we have to recognize that tendency in ourselves to get hurt by a thing that isn't "intruding on our freedoms/culture/rights/what-have-you" at all—it's just finding a slightly better balance between a number of different ideals, all of which conflict on different levels.
posted by rorgy at 5:16 PM on November 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


a "but transparency!" argument depends so much to have actual weight to it on the assumption that we are as a mod team taking advantage of a lack of transparency to further goals other than what we talk to the community about.

You have this backwards. Transparency is the norm for donation-supported enterprises in the U.S. That many people are still willing to give you the benefit of the doubt despite an absence of transparency or a binding commitment to a particular purpose is actually quite exceptional.
posted by grouse at 5:25 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Alright, time for some datawankery. I've gone through the last six months of MetaTalk posts that were deleted from the queue, and done some brief annotation for each while avoiding any identifying details. I'm sure close MetaTalk readers can piece some stuff together based on context but I'd appreciate folks taking this in the spirit it's intended and not using this as a jumping-off point to relitigate specific stuff on that basis.


So: between May 11 and November 11 2015, we've had a total of 56 Metatalk submissions hit the queue and then not go through; for clarity I'll call these "rejected" posts, since they're not deleted in the traditional after-the-fact sense.

Those 56 break down into several different sorts of post/rejection situations; I've assigned them ad hoc categories to sort them by general circumstance, with a count of the number of rejected posts in each category.

3: Cleanup -- post about a problematic comment/post we were on board with deleting)
7: Contact Form -- could/should have been email, not post, answered via email (bug reports or minor site feature confusion)
3: Deletion -- complaint/query about a given deletion or deletions, mod followed up
2: Double -- someone else had already made a post recently about subject
2: Framing Problems -- potentially workable post, framing problems that needed addressing
10: Misplaced -- post that should have been on MetaFilter or Ask instead
2: Misuse -- not something MetaTalk is for (in this case a couple of "someone post about x for me" requests)
6: No Followup -- post needed reframing or was unclear, but user never followed up with us about it
3: Nope -- total non-starter stuff like angry rants or bullshitty use of a spare account to complain
2: Open Thread -- request for a post on something there's a post about already
1: Repost Advice -- deletion complaint, mod followup about how a repost could work okay
2: Revived -- query about deletion of a post, mods decided to go ahead and bring post back up
2: Search -- asking about where comment/thread x was, mod knew answer and let them know
7: Spotlight -- post that would throw a bunch of driveby attention at a sensitive Ask thread
4: Timing -- okay post but bad timing (subject needed to breath, or planned post superceded it)

The categories are a little muddy -- main issue is that some things we wrote to the user about and didn't get a response but I used a different category than "No Followup" that seemed more relevant to the nature of the thing than the lack of a reply from the user. But for an informal survey I don't want to create some sort of multivector labeling system, so let's leave it at that for now.


Of these specific categories, there's a few higher-level groups I'd put these into, again with total count of each:

16: Technical Rejections -- posts that were moot from the get go, because they were in the wrong place or based on a misunderstanding about some function or state of the site. That include Double, Misplaced, Misuse, Open Thread.

15: Quick Answers -- posts that could be resolved quickly via email such that putting the post through became moot. That includes Cleanup, Contact Form, Repost Advice, Revived, Search

14: Non-Starters -- posts that (usually innocently) were an unresolvably bad idea for MetaTalk. That includes Spotlight, Timing, and Nope.

5: Needs Confirmation -- posts that, while not Nope-style non-starters, did need some kind of reframing and/or a really clear "yes, this needs to go through and I understand that might go badly for me" clarification before they could go through, and for which that reworking/confirmation didn't come through or was refused. That includes Framing Problems and Deletion.

6: Left Hanging -- posts where some more general sort of followup from the user was needed before it could go through but that followup just didn't arrive. That includes just No Followup.


Some things that tie into the stuff we've talked about upthread:

- the 14 Non-Starters are roughly what Category 2 stuff is about, though perhaps without a "seriously wtf" valence that maybe that characterization has had in context; that e.g. we aren't going to put through a "where is/here is a really sensitive Ask" isn't a judgement on the poster, it's just something they didn't know we weren't going to do. But they're posts that were never gonna happen, not things that could be reworked.

- the Needs Confirmation and Left Hanging stuff is where Category 3 is, by that same token; threads that could in theory work but need a close look as is and probably reframing or some breathing room to not be a disaster. These are also the only areas where I have a real sense of ambiguity about how best to proceed; the rest of the stuff is generally pretty rote admin stuff rather than MetaTalk/community stuff.

- Left Hanging stuff is something I've been thinking about and trying to be mindful about followups on, cf. the discussion of sciatrix's deferred post. That said, hers is an unusually nuanced example there; most of the others were the flip side, very terse stuff and/or grumpy stuff that seemed like it needed a lot more work on the first draft, vs. a well-drafted thing that just got waylaid by timing and circumstance. About half of them are things I could see following up on at least minimally, the other half feel like a momentary impulse move by the user where the lack of followup isn't any surprise. We get a fair amount of Just Ventin' contact form email that they'd have worked as well as, basically. The good news here is the following up we have done on some others is why there aren't more Left Hanging items in this list. Work in progress, but work is, uh, progressing.

On that last point: one of the tricky things here is I have no good easy way of searching for and annotating posts that were explicitly deferred for timing/reworking but subsequently put through, since once they go through they're just normal live MetaTalk posts. So there are a number of things that ran into some aspect of timing or confirmation or reframing issues that subsequently had those resolved and went live, but short of manually reviewing six months of email records that's not something I can quantify.


Here's a tabled-up rendering of the chart I put together while reviewing all this stuff today. I stopped at six months because that was a lot of work, though in principle we could look at this back through the start of the full-time queue last May; I don't know whether we retained rejected posts long term from the earlier occasional-use period of the queue, though pb would know.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:25 PM on November 11, 2015 [30 favorites]


This is very interesting and useful to see, cortex, thank you.
posted by sciatrix at 5:31 PM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't know, it seems to me the logical overflow of the constant push-and-pull between the "This is IMPORTANT! It must be read and DISCUSSED!" crowd that wants to discuss deep social issues, and everyone else on the site. Perhaps the purpose of the site has changed from sharing the best of the web to being an all-inclusive safe space for people to discuss delicate issues. And I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but I do think a lot of the moderation would have to change to accommodate that considering the foundation of the site was "Sharing interesting things online." Contentious issues are by nature harder to moderate than pictures of cats stuck in scanners, so perhaps there needs to be, I don't know, Social Justice Metafilter presided over by a more robust crew of mods for the discussion of All Caps Important issues and the inevitable hurt feelings and fightiness that springs forth.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:43 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel like that question has been asked before, and the response has been that you can't really separate the two. A lot of very interesting things are going to be serious, if not to some people, than to others. I mean, I personally don't like the idea that delicate social issues can't be the best of the web, because the stuff I study and read about all the time is things like the archeology of 19th century racial categories, or homoeroticism in military settings. That kind of stuff is the best of the web for me, and it's obviously going to have a lot of relevance for very delicate problems today.

You also can't really anticipate what's going to hurt someone (see: how this site deals with the South, or religion), and so even a post about, say, something goofy might end up being personally relevant to someone here. And anyway, there's no requirement for any one user to click on and participate in a thread on something sensitive and fighty. I have ignored quite a few threads that I just didn't want to get involved with, and that solved the problem on my end.
posted by teponaztli at 1:17 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am personally not at all into the idea of separating out the "this is a safe space" parts of the site. I've enjoyed being able to discuss various best-of-the-web things without driveby "i'd hit that" crap whenever said stuff happens to involve a woman.

Social justice is a full time thing, and honestly explicitly declaring some threads to be "safe spaces" and others "not safe spaces" seems like it'll just lead to really crappy behavior in the "not safe spaces" threads. Yuck.

So even if you could separate the two, why would you? I think the site should, and can, be best-of-the-web, with non-asshole commentary.
posted by nat at 5:08 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mitheral: "Guaranteeing all rejected metatalk posts would be posted just allows frustrated or axe girinding users to have an unrefuteable forum for their grindstone. "

Also, as someone who had a metatalk deleted as either a Non-Starter or Left Hanging, the idea of list of deleted MeTas makes me start to have a panic attack. I began my MeTa in good faith (it was about how we discuss certain diversity issues, and a couple of things I'd noticed that go reliably wrong, and some thoughts I wanted to kick around about how to approach them better, I refuse to get more specific than that), but in the forty-five minutes I was writing it, the tone of the conversation in the related thread took an unbelievably ugly turn and there was no possible way I wouldn't be perceived as throwing gasoline on the fire to start more fights, and I was afraid that it might look like I was attacking one or two users in particular in a passive-aggressive callout (which I wasn't! I hadn't seen their comments yet when I wrote it!). I was literally panicking when I e-mailed the mods saying "OH GOD DON'T LET THAT THROUGH THE QUEUE" (and learned an important lesson about previewing where a conversation has gone if it takes you 45 minutes to type up a response to that conversation).

I know people want queue transparency because they want to see what's being "censored," but keep in mind that a "transparent" queue would not only give the axe-grinders a way to post fly-by complaints, but it would expose posters like me who made a genuine error in judgment or timing, AND I'm quite sure that it would have been unpleasant for the couple of posters whom I appeared to be calling out, who didn't deserve the ugliness either. I honestly don't think ANYTHING about the site would be served by people being able to read the title or the text of my MeTa -- it would just make me look like an asshat, give people something to be fighty about, and make some people feel targeted.

I mean, now, months later, I think you'd be like, "Huh, interesting ideas, worth discussing," (I still have the text of it saved) but if we were "seeing" the queue within a week or a month of its deletion -- or GOD FORBID in real time -- it would have just been a tire fire.

(I haven't reposted it because other people posted similar MeTas that addressed the same ideas within a couple of weeks, and I thought did so more clearly than mine, so I just contributed my thoughts in those threads as appropriate.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:36 AM on November 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


E McGee makes some really good points there. I see the value in transparency but that is more theoretical to me compared to some situations I've seen where there would have been concrete damage from a Meta being publicly viewable in the queue immediately. If the mods make what is generally considered to be a major misstep related to the lack of transparency I would look at that again but for now it seems like the system (mostly) is a good compromise.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:54 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


[Comment removed; seriously drop it with discussing absent users, this is not something that can have a discussion in here about in way that isn't going to get unworkably ugly.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:09 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here's a tabled-up rendering of the chart I put together while reviewing all this stuff today. I stopped at six months because that was a lot of work, though in principle we could look at this back through the start of the full-time queue last May; I don't know whether we retained rejected posts long term from the earlier occasional-use period of the queue, though pb would know.

This is exceptional. Thank you!!

I appreciated that you made this anonymous. Out of curiosity, would it be a strain on the mods' workload to keep a log file like this moving forward, in the moment? Perhaps only noting rejected posts?
posted by zarq at 6:18 AM on November 12, 2015


I think a log file is reasonable, and might slightly defuse people's concerns - just like when we were able to combat the "COMMENT DELETIONS ARE WAY OUT OF LINE" meme with the fact that they were at about 1%, and always had been.

I don't think showing non-posted MeTa details is any good, because then we'll just get posts about "why wasn't this posted?" (or hijacking of active posts).
posted by Chrysostom at 6:23 AM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think a log file is reasonable, and might slightly defuse people's concerns -

how would this work?

would there be a posted report every now and then, akin to what Cortex just did? would this only happen on demand, or would it be be every week or month? Everything You Didn't Get To See This Month In Meta ... or whatever.
posted by philip-random at 7:59 AM on November 12, 2015


A log file would not defuse the concerns of those who are fiercest about transparency because it still requires trust that the mods aren't just Making Shit Up to placate the users. Trust or trust not; there is no "try."
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:18 AM on November 12, 2015


When the queue was made permanent, I proposed some basic automated system that presented a minimal view of what was happening with the queue that didn't violate privacy or encourage additional controversy. Personally, I think this would be relatively trivial and would probably assuage some of the concerns people have about the queue that have arisen because presently we know nothing about how it's being used (well, prior to cortex's recent comment).

But I am a little nonplussed at people going in this direction and talking about this sort of transparency of the queue when it seems somewhat obvious to me that the vast majority of the present concerns about the queue are motivated by ignorance and confusion about the basic function of the queue -- not so much about it in more detail. People haven't known that the queue was instituted and has existed primarily as a time-management device, not a filtering device. People haven't known that any posts were ever filtered, while others have thought that it was a common occurrence.

As I wrote earlier, I think that more than anything else, somehow the community needs to know the basics about the queue, the things that the mods wrote early in the thread. I really appreciate cortex going to the trouble to do the accounting he did yesterday and to post it in the thread, but at this point in time I don't even think that level of detail was actually necessary. You'd think that the basic knowledge about the queue would be promulgated simply by the existence of this thread and those early mod comments, but I'm not convinced that's the case given that all this basic information about the queue has been presented by the mods in all the previous discussions of the queue, as well as here and there in other MetaTalk threads. There's a weird failure to successfully communicate this basic information, and until that's resolved, I think that any of this other discussion about transparency in the queue is premature. It's probably unnecessary.

I don't think it would hurt because I think some level of transparency is important for this aspect of MetaTalk, which is itself the very sort of thing within a community where transparency as a functional value is useful and important (as distinct from the site as a whole). This is where we talk about policy and moderation and community values and such. But the mods aren't keen on implementing some formal transparency on the regular function of the queue and, anyway, I think that 80% of the concerns that people have about the queue could be resolved more simply by successfully communicating what it is and how it's used.

I mean, sure, there are a few suspicious people who will always be suspicious, just as in the case of the few who think there's some coordinated and nefarious bias in deletions. But I'm really seeing very little of that in this or other threads. Those usual few are there, but what I see is a larger and more diffused concern about the queue that isn't suspicion, really, just a low-level worry that is the natural product of people not knowing about how it's being used. Not in the specifics, just the general policy. Again, I know I'm repeating myself, but while you'd think there wouldn't be such confusion because the mods have explained this a number of times, nevertheless it exists. Solve that issue first, and then see if anything else needs to be done. I suspect there won't be.

That's independent of the discussion about whether the queue should be used to more or less filter posts, of course, which we're going to have (and keep having) regardless.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:30 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I fully understand why the invisibility of "rejected" MeTas is a departure from how the site currently works; deleted comments are also inaccessible. Could those of you who are calling for greater queue transparency explain the difference? Is it a matter of magnitude (posts vs comments; inviting/opening discussion vs. participating in discussion)? Is it because of MeTa's history as being a less strictly modded subsite? Is it a topicality difference (discussing our community rather than something external)? Or do you view the lack of transparency for deleted comments and rejected MeTas as equally problematic, but are focusing on the queue because that's the topic at hand?

Also this seems like as good a place as any to mention that the official Maryland state song has the words "Northern scum."
posted by Westringia F. at 10:14 AM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd say the concern is that MetaTalk is the specific place where we can discuss/question site governance. The "silenced all my life" thing gets more traction when you can say, "The mods won't even let me complain about moderation now!"

Not that I agree, but I can see the viewpoint.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:37 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also this seems like as good a place as any to mention that the official Maryland state song has the words "Northern scum."
"Due to its origin in support of the Confederacy, it includes lyrics that refer to President Lincoln as a "tyrant," "despot," and "Vandal," and to the Union as "Northern scum," as well as referring to the phrase "sic semper," which was the slogan later shouted by Marylander John Wilkes Booth while assassinating Lincoln. For these reasons occasional attempts have been made to replace it as Maryland's state song, but to date all such attempts have met with failure."
*jaw drops*

Wow.
posted by zarq at 11:17 AM on November 12, 2015


(If you think that's bad, try Carry Me Back to Old Virginny. Warning, horrible.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:23 AM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


At least we have a song, unlike DC. Ha ha ha! Ha ha! ha never mind
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:27 PM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


> referring to the phrase "sic semper," which was the slogan later shouted by Marylander John Wilkes Booth while assassinating Lincoln.

Not to let Maryland take all the credit, that's a quote from the Virginia state motto, "Sic Semper Tyrannus" -- "thus always to tyrants," originally a reference to the American Revolution but turned to other ends during the War of Northern Aggression Civil War.

And which I thought was a reference to dinosaurs when I was a small child.
posted by gingerbeer at 1:35 PM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


omg me too! *fistbumps gingerbeer*
posted by sciatrix at 2:00 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


And actually "tyrannis" not "tyrannus."
posted by gingerbeer at 3:05 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Six Emptor Tyrannus Auris Rex
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:06 PM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Man, I thought they replaced the state anthem with "Thong Song" a few years back. I mean the state motto is bad enough.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:22 PM on November 12, 2015


Carry Me Back to Old Virginny was retired as the state song in 1997. It's been replaced by two? songs? I am not arguing that the Thong Song wouldn't be better.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:52 PM on November 12, 2015


this is how i can tell you've never seen That One Glee Episode, the one that has traumatized literally everyone i know until the end of time
posted by poffin boffin at 6:39 PM on November 12, 2015


I grew up in Virginia and don't remember anything about that song, which is weird because we had to learn state history and stuff like the dogwood tree, cardinals, Mother of Presidents, red clay....
posted by sweetkid at 6:43 PM on November 12, 2015


You what the state song is for Connecticut?

"Yankee Doodle".

I don't even know what the fuck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:09 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]




Oh cool, we're talking state songs now?

Texas' has the expected amount of pride and hubris. There's a second verse that has a mention of how Texas is no longer under the thumb of a tyrant, but it's never clear who that tyrant is. Or at least they didn't teach us about that part of it in 7th grade history, when (at least in my school) part of our final grade was based on how well we remembered the song when we had to stand in front of the class, individually, and sing it.

Whereas Oklahoma's state song -- they had to crib it from Rodgers and Hammerstein! From the musical! And the song, it kinda makes fun of the way Oklahomans talk, but they still chose it to represent them! Plus, the very best things it can say about Oklahoma is that Oklahoma is "fine," and "ok"! Ringing endorsement!

I realize I made an argument earlier in this thread against making fun of the south, but I'm claiming that this one falls under the category of sibling rivalry. I can say it because I've lived it. No offense to any of the Sooners among us.

Also, hook 'em.

Also, I love the musical Oklahoma without irony or embarrassment.

posted by mudpuppie at 8:29 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


p sure the ny state song is just a medley of neil diamond's greatest hits
posted by poffin boffin at 8:33 PM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also Billy Joel.
posted by jaguar at 8:41 PM on November 12, 2015


When it should be.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:43 PM on November 12, 2015


The official version of the NY state song was actually meant to be recorded by the Starland Vocal Band, but there was a contract dispute or a cocaine overdose or something that caused a hiccup, so it was recorded by an on-spec Muzak chorus instead.

Oh, it's so on.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:48 PM on November 12, 2015


The California state song is possible the least interesting song ever written about this state. Which takes some doing.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:52 PM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


You have to admit, though, that's it's cute that both the Oklahoma and California state songs include lyrics that try very hard to ensure that their respective populations know how to spell the states' names. I mean, that's a commitment to education and literacy right there.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:00 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]




Is that really the California state song? I've lived here for ten years and I had no idea. The part of that song that's in that Jeep commercial keeps getting stuck in my head, though.
posted by jaguar at 9:12 PM on November 12, 2015


Poffinstan has some awesome swimwear plus men in suits who can keep a beat and I would like to subscribe to its newsletter.
posted by jaguar at 9:14 PM on November 12, 2015


Do you all know that not only is Scotland's official animal imaginary (unicorn) they aren't even unusual in having imaginary creatures as official animals/birds.
posted by Mitheral at 9:23 PM on November 12, 2015


Whereas Oklahoma’s state song -- they had to crib it from Rodgers and Hammerstein! From the musical! And the song, it kinda makes fun of the way Oklahomans talk, but they still chose it to represent them! Plus, the very best things it can say about Oklahoma is that Oklahoma is “fine,” and “ok”! Ringing endorsement!

Oklahoma does get “Do You Realize??” as its state rock song, so presumably the residents have all come to terms with the inevitability of death.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:26 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like our short and dippy state song.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:33 PM on November 12, 2015


There are so many great actual songs written about California, from the Beach Boys to Joni Mitchell to Led Zeppelin to Red Hot Chili Peppers to Old 97s to the Eagles to the Mamas and the Papas to Tupac to Ll Cool J to freaking Katy Perry ffs. Ridiculous.

It makes me want to work on legislation to make California Girls the state song.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:36 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


It makes me want to work on legislation to make California Girls the state song.

This is a fine argument against California’s proposition system, because once you do this thing it will be impossible to fix.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:39 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Beach Boys or Katy Perry?
posted by Chrysostom at 9:40 PM on November 12, 2015


I recently made a concerted study of every Beach Boys song Mike Love sings lead on. (All 140 something of them.) I can say with certainty that "California Girls" is not the most misogynist song in their catalog, and it is catchy, but it also makes me cringe.

I vote no for California song.


As for the queue... I've resigned to it like I've resigned to people still liking Mike Love.
posted by kendrak at 9:45 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


We need more transparency in choosing our state songs.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:46 PM on November 12, 2015


the real fun is when jersey has to fight it out in the thunderdome on whether their state song is a springsteen medley or a bon jovi one
posted by poffin boffin at 9:50 PM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Beach Boys or Katy Perry?

Yes.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:59 PM on November 12, 2015


HOT TAKE: The David Lee Roth version of "California Girls" is much superior to the Beach Boys' version.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:53 AM on November 13, 2015


Poffin boffin, any showdown between those two ends in Springsteen winning. And not for the reasons you may think. Because Springsteen gives out much better Halloween candy than Bon Jovi. Or used to. My information is out of date by now.
posted by Stacey at 6:08 AM on November 13, 2015


this is how i can tell you've never seen That One Glee Episode

"That One"? I have yet to see any episode of Glee. Learning they did a version of Thong Song only cements my position on this.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:12 AM on November 13, 2015


And California's state song could be any number of songs. I can't think of a single state so in love with itself that it can't stop writing songs about how awesome it is.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:16 AM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


In fairness, 78% of those songs are by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:22 AM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


like I've resigned to people still liking Mike Love.

I used to know a guy named Mike Love, not the Beach Boy. Usually, in the first ten or fifteen minutes of meeting someone, he'd say, "Don't mind me, I'm an asshole." Must go with the name.
posted by philip-random at 9:31 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the datawankery cortex- that was fantastic.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:15 PM on November 15, 2015


>HOT TAKE: The David Lee Roth version of "California Girls" is much superior to the Beach Boys' version.

But it can't hold a candle to the great Can Halen...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:01 AM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


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