Should FPPs be invisibly edited? February 9, 2016 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I am reliably informed that FPPs get modified with no notice to either the poster, or the rest of the sites' users, if they are deemed too lengthy for the Blue. How long is too long?

Often, framing is important, and the links might not draw the reader in if the context is removed.
Examples are here and here.
This was a MeTa where this was addressed as a guideline.
Thus, this thread is where the editing practice can be discussed directly, so please weigh in if you think such edits should be:
a) done in consultation with the poster,
b) marked as edited,
c) both, or
d) other.
posted by birdsquared to Etiquette/Policy at 1:26 PM (225 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Yup, we do sometimes edit posts to move part of a longer above-the-fold section to the more-inside section. We do this because people have asked us to, in order to keep the front page more readable/scrollable.

This is discussed in this FAQ entry and the previous Metatalk thread you linked, where we added a soft warning message to give people a heads-up when they were composing their posts that the above-the-fold portion was getting into the sort of gray area maybe-too-long zone.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:27 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thanks for doing this! It makes the front page a lot more readable.
posted by grouse at 1:35 PM on February 9, 2016 [55 favorites]


I feel like this post would not have been clipped were it not for the modern theme. That's a shame. I personally like a little more text on the main page.
posted by selfnoise at 1:37 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


The modern theme isn't really a factor here, in my estimation anyway. I'm on classic theme and rarely look at the site in the modern view.

The main thing we see that causes posts to get edited for this is blockquoting - especially if you have text both before and after a blockquoted section, or multiple blockquoted things. It makes the post take up more vertical space. So my informal advice is - if you're quoting, often it will work better to use italics or quotation marks for quotes on the front page and blockquote below the fold.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:40 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think that if all they do is move things from the front page to the more inside, I don't see a compelling need for that to be marked or consulted upon. They should do it with an eye to whether the front page still makes sense without the stuff they've moved, and consult with the poster if more changes need to be made than just moving the more inside line.

But read that with an eye to the fact that I prefer short posts to an interesting thing over long ones that are everything about an issue/bit of culture/etc, and my default is to not care that much about posts that need tons of links or massive explanation to be interesting.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:42 PM on February 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


LobsterMitten: We do this because people have asked us to, in order to keep the front page more readable/scrollable.

I would like to ask you not too. It turns posts that would otherwise be interesting to me into mystery meat that I don't notice. Without the first pullquote this post has almost no information as to what it's about above the fold.
posted by Kattullus at 1:43 PM on February 9, 2016 [17 favorites]


What Kattullus said. I was really surprised to find out that the framing of a post could be completely removed without notice. (Surprised and disappointed, as that doesn't seem very Metafilter-y to me.)
posted by wintersweet at 1:45 PM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


Often, framing is important, and the links might not draw the reader in if the context is removed.

Keeping that framing from getting overly long is part of the poster's responsibility, though; something can be well-framed in an abstract "this would be great for my blog" sense and still be generally too long for a post on the front page of MetaFilter. Something getting into the vicinity of 10em long above the fold on a reasonable desktop browser width accordingly stands a good chance of getting some of it tucked below the fold if a mod notices it.

How long is too long?

I don't blink at anything that's on the order of up to 4-5 lines of text on a desktop browser; after that, it starts getting into grey area and the grey gets darker as the the length grows. We added the soft warning mentioned in the post largely to help with some automated feedback there for posters on that front: if that warning is coming up during the post construction process, that's a sign that a mod may end up coming after the fact to move part of the post under the cut after the fact.

The best way for a poster to avoid that if that's not something they want to chance is to rework the framing a little to structure the above-the-fold bit as shorter in the first place.

All that said, it's totally fine if a poster unhappy with an edit wants to contact us quickly about a proposed rework; we can generally accommodate that and have done so a few times to good effect.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:45 PM on February 9, 2016 [15 favorites]


I flag for this fairly frequently and appreciate this type of editing. I find that large blocks of text above the fold, especially those which incorporate line breaks or block quotes, make the front page far less readable. (I even posted a MeTa about it!)
posted by lalex at 1:45 PM on February 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


There's a weird tension I feel on this subject between the enforcement of standards and the fact that the actual work of post-crafting is done overwhelmingly by non-moderators.

I wouldn't mind an optional setting that allowed me to see all the more inside text on the main page, but I'm probably the only person on the site who wants that.
posted by selfnoise at 1:47 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't tend to click on posts if I don't have a clear idea of what it's about. I'd rather a little more scrolling than having to click to get the gist of a post, but I realize I may be in the minority.

I really like and miss the super long complex posts that are more blog-like, but I get it might not flow with the pace of the front page now.
posted by typecloud at 1:47 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ha, I'd be all over that setting, selfnoise.
posted by wintersweet at 1:49 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Seconding wintersweet.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:50 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


(Surprised and disappointed, as that doesn't seem very Metafilter-y to me.)

I hear you, and I understand if some people feel that way, but to be clear: this has been standard practice since before I started working here. It's about as explicitly Metafilter-y as you can get in that sense, and has been part of moderation practice for a very long time and discussed in MetaTalk a bunch over the years.

I really like and miss the super long complex posts that are more blog-like, but I get it might not flow with the pace of the front page now.

That is and has for a very long time been what More Inside is for; after the first paragraph or so, the rest goes underneath. You have to go back into the deep weeds of MeFi history to where that wasn't even an option, and even then the typical practice was for the poster to use the first comment as an ad hoc more-inside feature after making the contained first bit of the post a reasonable length.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:50 PM on February 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


A suggestion: could an automated Mefi Mail be sent to the poster when such an edit occurs? The message would say something like "your recent post was edited by a mod for the following reason: reduced amount of text on front page".

Downside to this suggestion: posters might then want to re-edit their posts so that the important information is still on the front page, which is probably a can of worms that we don't want to open.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:51 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would be pretty annoyed to find out my post had been invisibly edited because a mod thought it was too long on the front page. If there's a problem with the framing, posters should at least be contacted. The cutting off to the first line meant the posts were mystery meat, which limits their audience.

This was a bad call on the mods' part and I would like to see the mods refrain from silent editing in the future. If you need to edit, contact the posters. Also, if there are a lot of posts that require that kind of editing, it suggests that the expectations for posts have changed and they need to be communicated more clearly, perhaps on the new post page.
posted by immlass at 1:52 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I don't mind the editing, it just feels weird to have a post get edited and not have a note left in the thread like is already done for broken links and similar minor adjustments.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 1:55 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


If it's standard practice, it is a practice that isn't clear to me, isn't clear to (apparently) many people who construct posts and have been here for a very long time, and isn't even clear or consistent from scrolling back through the last few pages of FPPs. At least, to me. (Example.)

Silent editing, in particular, is off-putting and alarming. Or, what immlass said.
posted by wintersweet at 1:56 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I think the editing is fine and a note left in the post is okay? I mean I hear the points about the integrity of FPPs and everything and I think that's valid but I also find the site less useful and harder to use when one post takes up a ton of space on the front page.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:57 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


In terms of focusing on the specifics of the question--

IMO, such edits should be
a) done with consultation with the poster
If for some reason it's critical to edit a post and the poster can't be reached, then they should be
b) marked as edited
posted by wintersweet at 2:02 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


We do this because people have asked us to, in order to keep the front page more readable/scrollable.

But which front page? The one I read in Classic, on a laptop? Or the one I read in Classic on my phone? Should I be building all future posts around brief presentation (encouraging the mystery meat misreading, per Kattullus) and an omission of context in favor of something short that grabs attention? All context after the fold? I try to put together posts in a careful way, but I feel like I no longer understand the style book or what MeFites expect their tailored front page to look like and/or contain. Help? (Yes, I know I can contact the mods, who have been prompt and helpful about my one-off fpp questions, but I feel like I'm floundering with post construction guidelines in a more general sense because of the many ways the site can be viewed.)

If there's a problem with the framing, posters should at least be contacted.


Seconded.

it just feels weird to have a post get edited and not have a note left in the thread

And seconded.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:04 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


The responsibility for ensuring that a post isn't edited for length belongs with the poster and there are already a variety of tools out there to help with this.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:05 PM on February 9, 2016 [28 favorites]


I don't mind the editing, it just feels weird to have a post get edited and not have a note left in the thread like is already done for broken links and similar minor adjustments.

We very often leave no note for those sorts of things, too; the exceptions are cases where there's something particularly conspicuous about the error or the fix, which in most cases comes down to it having come up in discussion in the thread itself in a way that would be difficult/disruptive to clean up (e.g. jokey references to a typo as part of longer, otherwise substantive discussion).

If it's standard practice, it is a practice that isn't clear to me, isn't clear to (apparently) many people who construct posts and have been here for a very long time

Which is okay, I don't expect everybody to be aware of everything on the site and it's no ding on anybody if they're caught off guard by it the first time they encounter it. But it's documented in the FAQ, we have an automated warning for posters about it, and it's come up a bunch before in MetaTalk. It's an established practice on the site, and not one we've been shy about communicating.

Posting to the front page has always been something that comes with a social contract: we trust folks enough to let 'em post when and how they like without any sort of pre-approval queue or vetting process, and in exchange we expect them to accept that this is a shared space where both user feedback and mod judgement can come in to play with how the posts they make are received after the fact. That some stuff will end up deleted; that some posts will get bits pushed below the fold; that, ultimately, you're participating on a site that's not your personal blog and on which you don't have the final cut or total control over presentation.

I can totally understand and appreciate that leading to frustration sometimes. But the possibility should be part of a poster's expectations. Again, not a big deal if it's news to them when they first come across it; nobody is in trouble for a too-long post, no moral judgement is being made about post framing preferences. It's just part of the process of posting to the front page.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:10 PM on February 9, 2016 [25 favorites]


I...don't think anybody's afraid of being yelled at. That's not the issue here. Please re-read the specific concerns that have been aired and requests that have been made.
posted by wintersweet at 2:13 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Should I be building all future posts around brief presentation (encouraging the mystery meat misreading, per Kattullus)

I honestly don't understand this conflation of brevity and mystery. If academic journal articles can be adequately abstracted in half-a-dozen lines or so, so can a fucking metafilter post.
posted by dersins at 2:15 PM on February 9, 2016 [45 favorites]


MonkeyToes, you've been doing great with your posts, there's no problem there at all.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:18 PM on February 9, 2016


I honestly don't understand this conflation of brevity and mystery.
I definitely agree that posts can have brevity without mystery (I tend towards briefer above-the-fold sections myself), but given one of the above examples, just
one weird trick that makes a novel addictive
Catherine Nichols on the technique of adaptation.
is pretty mystery meat unless you're already familiar with Catherine Nichols (and the title sounds earnestly Buzzfeed-y rather than more complex with context), whereas the quote immediately after makes it sound much more interesting.
one weird trick that makes a novel addictive
Catherine Nichols on the technique of adaptation.

"...While reading Waldman’s essay, I remembered a quote from Douglas Adams:
It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion on them. On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.
In Adams’s context, he’s talking about a horse and rider, but I thought: Female novelists have been writing from the role of the horse. In literature and life, it’s been a woman’s survival tactic to understand and adapt to the character of a man, whether her boyfriend, husband or father. Even with property rights, women are still often the meteorologists of mood—and FEMA when things get bad. Men haven’t been forced to form opinions about the minds of women to the same degree, and Waldman makes the strong case that there’s a difference in the ways relationships are described in their fiction."
It's definitely a bit longer, but it's more engaging, and at the least there could've been a middle ground (Maybe strip the Douglas Adams quote if needed? I'm not the post-creating expert here).

TL;DR: Brevity & mystery aren't necessarily one and the same, but oneliners can be pretty mysterious when chopped to size.
posted by CrystalDave at 2:27 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I...don't think anybody's afraid of being yelled at. That's not the issue here. Please re-read the specific concerns that have been aired and requests that have been made.

I don't particularly think anybody's afraid of being yelled at and I didn't mean to give that impression; people do often seem to conflate moderator action as to some extent a judgement or rebuke rather than just doing-the-job, so I want to emphasize that. This isn't a matter of thinking people are wrong, or don't have valid preferences here, it's just a matter of this being established site practice, regardless of whether any given user was aware of it previously.

But, so, the specific concerns I'm seeing raised, which I've been trying to address:

1. No notice of an edit. This is not unusual, and not unique to tucked-under-the-fold circumstances, see here. We could consider leaving a note about it in the thread in some cases, though folks reading or participating the thread, other than the poster, are unlikely to be in any way affected by the edit and so it'd be more consistent with our other practices there not to. We could also consider contacting the poster, though again short of outright deleting a post for exceptional this-needs-an-edit reasons we generally don't contact posters about other related situations. We've always been receptive to contact from posters about reframing proposals, and it's been more in line with site practice in general to leave it to members to proactively contact us in such circumstances.

2. Framing is affected by the edit. Yes, it can be, and I can appreciate personal frustration with that, but that doesn't change the fact that, see here, the framing is the poster's responsibility and we give them a warning during post construction to help keep it from getting overly long to avoid that risk if it's something they want to avoid having to consider after the fact. Contacting us ahead of time for an opinion on that sort of stuff is also totally fine.

3. Despite edits for length, posts are not consistently or universally kept under a specific size limit. This is true, and for folks who want total consistency this is basically going to be a source of ongoing disappointment, because porous case-by-case enforcement is the alternative to a robotic hard limit, and robotic hard limit is something we're pointedly declining to implement. Some long-ish posts don't catch a mod's eye; some long-ish posts that we do see are structured in such a way that there's no coherent compromise edit that we can make; every once in a while a long-ish post seems to making an especially justified use of that framing and we'll give it a pass. In any case, as noted in the post here, it's a guideline, not a black-and-white stricture, so it's something we'll always be making a call on when we do see it. It'll vary; it won't be perfectly consistent. That's pretty much a hallmark of how MetaFilter moderation works, for better and for worse and certainly to varying degrees of satisfaction from any given person to the next.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:32 PM on February 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


(And since I missed noticing it on my above pass, the idea of "adequately abstracting FPP topics", to paraphrase, feels much closer to GYOB territory for me. Creating your own abstract is inserting (the general you) more than FPPs feel they should be. This probably also affects my tolerance/support for above-the-fold quotes over custom-written blurbs)
posted by CrystalDave at 2:34 PM on February 9, 2016


Should I be building all future posts around brief presentation (encouraging the mystery meat misreading, per Kattullus)

Nah, there's a big gap between overly-long and one-liner, and you seem to have a really solid knack for well-constructed paragraph-length posts, MonkeyToes.

It's the specific case with the two cited examples from yesterday (1, 2) that they both led with links followed by lengthy blockquote-based structures that were hard to break up, which is why I ended up editing them down to just those first lines-with-links; I actually do generally appreciate the feeling that resulting posts were overly terse, but breaking up the rest of the structure of either post felt like it was more of an editorial intercession than I was comfortable with. Moving someone's blockquote-and-supplementary-text chunk is a better option, from a mods-aren't-editing-for-content perspective, than re-arranging someone's formatting on a more granular basis than that, as much as the resulting layout may not end up being faboo.

Again, if either poster wanted to contact us about a proposed compromise edit, that'd have been fine and it's something we're generally happy to work with. But aiming for a somewhat shorter above-the-fold framing (it hardly needs to be terse, the great majority of paragraph-length posts are totally fine) is the good general aim if a poster wants to be sure here's no question.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:45 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


So at what length does the automatic warning in preview for long above-the-fold text kick in? Would the two posts quoted in this Meta have triggered it, in their original form? If not, maybe it needs to be recalibrated.

And I'd be interested to know -- roughly how often does this happen? Because if it's anything other than fairly unusual, then to me that's a sign that the length expectation isn't being successfully communicated to users.

Maybe blockquoting should be specifically discouraged for above-the-fold text. People may well be thinking that their intro is fine because it's short in terms of words, when the actual issue is that it's too many lines, and short posts like that are the ones that are hurt the most when their framing is moved inside.
posted by ostro at 3:05 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Some explanation here of how the warning works - tl;dr: it's not just a number, it also takes vertical whitespace from br and blockquote tags into account.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:07 PM on February 9, 2016


It looks like the current warning message is "Please Note: Your Description is fairly long for the front page. Please consider moving some to the Extended Description section. " (with a link)

Would it be worth re-wording this warning to make it a little more strongly encouraged, and/or explicitly say that the post is long enough that it risks being re-divided by mods? Maybe even with a soft cap "suggested character limit", if the hard cap isn't desired?

From the current descriptions on the "post" page it isn't very clear that the front page portion is supposed to be quite short (and how short exactly) - that's mostly picked up by observing the posting culture, which doesn't come naturally to some people. The warning helps, but it's not clear without carefully reading the (pretty long) "more info" link that the post might be edited. I mean, I don't want to demand extra work from you guys or anything, I don't think it's a major problem in the current state, but more clarity on the posting page (and/or warning blurb) might help reduce the surprise and disappointment that some posters have experienced.
posted by randomnity at 3:07 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Aw, thanks, LobsterMitten and cortex. I should say that this particular issue hasn't affected me (and that when I have run a post by the mods for content framing, you guys have been helpful and quick to respond).

I still am scratching my head over why the site feels so different to me on the phone vs. the laptop. If space limits are at issue because people are reading on their phones, and because they have concerns about readability, then I need to think carefully about how "4-5 lines of text on a desktop browser" (yup, this is what I shoot for) are going to parse on a tiny screen. I can paraphrase, I can try to choose shorter direct quotes, and still end up with something that breathes fine on a laptop, but not so well on a phone. (This may be influenced by how much I hate my phone, however.) So LM's advice--"if you're quoting, often it will work better to use italics for the front page and blockquote below the fold"-- and cortex's advice--"aiming for a somewhat shorter above-the-fold framing"--are useful rules of thumb for me, and things I hadn't necessarily thought about. Recognizing that I need to make phone-friendly posts is a kind of evolution for me (I still love link-heavy fpps!); it's a different ballgame than it was five or 10 years ago, so conversations about changing conventions/expectations are helpful.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:08 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


As long as the content isn't significantly touched, I don't see the problem. It'll show up exactly as it does on the dedicated page for the post and is only cut for brevity on the main page of the site so that a single post doesn't overwhelm other people's content.

Personally I assume anyone who finds interest in a post will click through to the more inside to see the full post before contributing comments, but that assumption might be as correct as assuming people read all the links in a post before contributing.
posted by flatluigi at 3:10 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


if either poster wanted to contact us about a proposed compromise edit

It's unclear to me how that's supposed to happen when the mods don't let anyone know (either in thread or by private contact) that the post has been edited.

I assume anyone who finds interest in a post will click through

The part that's on the front page is how a reader decides what's interesting. If a post is constructed around a pullquote that makes it interesting, and that ends up under the fold, that's going to reduce the post's audience. Single sentences are great for SLYT kinds of posts, but more complicated posts may need a full paragraph to convey what's interesting about the links.

Last but not least: Recognizing that I need to make phone-friendly posts is a kind of evolution for me

I think this is what's going on with post editing, with, also, perhaps, some expectation about how the front page should look to make it more Google friendly. Which is fine! Just actually tell us what the expectations are NOW, because the sense I have from this discussion is "cortex knows a post that's too long when he sees it" as opposed to there being an objective standard.
posted by immlass at 3:17 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I just think it's a strange and bizarre practice to edit posts this way. If you really feel like long text makes the front page unreadable then why wouldn't you contact the user to work with them to fix their post.
posted by bleep at 3:18 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think a big part of the issue is the lack of a structure that includes mod communication when there's a change. This has actually come up a number of times in a wide variety of contexts and I think it's a continuing pain point. Is there some way it could be structured into the mod-side process so it isn't labor intensive?
posted by selfnoise at 3:23 PM on February 9, 2016


I read Metafilter on mobile all the time. Scrolling on mobile is incredibly easy. If you make the posts too short then you don't want to take a risk on clicking into a mystery-meat post that you have no idea if it'll be good or not. I would rather MORE context on mobile, not less.
posted by bleep at 3:23 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Respectfully, I think that moving that much text inside the fold completely distorts the framing of the post. Framing is most important above the cut. I've noticed that links and bits of framing I put inside the cut rarely get any questions or commentary in the main discussion. Furthermore, people use the information in the above-the-fold text to decide whether the links are worth clicking and whether the FPP itself is even worth the time to skim it. If they do decide to click, their impressions from the above-the-fold text set the tone for how they come into the FPP to comment: are they joking? Are they irritated? Do they have a pedantic comment to make? Are they excited?

The above the fold text makes an argument to the user: hey! this is a cool thing! read me! It is work to craft that, to take a topic or a longer piece and construct an effective hook that brings an audience in to read it further. It's work to say "hey, I have something that's worth your attention!" in the morass of discussion that happens on a distraction-rich Internet. It takes skill and craft, and it's difficult to pull off without practice. The text below the fold simply does not matter to nearly the same extent because no one will read it unless they've already been caught by that above-fold hook.

I don't use block quotes myself because I am inept at HTML, but I would be incredibly angry to see a FPP of mine distorted to the extent that the linked examples are. That's because it would completely ruin the quality of discussion that I got from the FPP. And I prefer short-link FPPs! We had a conversation a while back that was partially about framing in the context of a fraught discussion, and I don't think I can emphasize enough how important framing is to pulling a discussion off without things derailing into either a flame war or an empty sounding board for crickets. No one will click if you don't have the space and time to make something look interesting, and the wrong choice of context can completely ruin a discussion. Framing is important, by god, and it takes time and effort and energy, and changes like this are a major change in the framing of the FPP. It is not fucking okay to change that without asking or even opening a line of communication after the fact.

This stuff doesn't impact me so much personally because of the style I use when writing FPPs, but I think that changing the framing that drastically without opening a line of communication is a good way to get less FPPs and to piss off your userbase. It's okay to decide that the FPP is unacceptable for the front page as is, but if it's just a matter of where the cut needs to be, I think that either a) deleting the post and MeMailing the user to explain and help reframe or b) leaving the post as-is until the user can comment via MeMail are the best solutions.

I say this because I know that these decisions are often fast and on the fly so that you don't wind up confusing people who come in later, but both of those give you the option of holding off until the FPP is in a shape that is within the new mod guidelines. They also both open a line of communication that lets the post framer re-frame the post to be something that will create an acceptable discussion instead of just losing the entire FPP to a mystery meat one-liner that no one is going to click or respond to.

Communication, you may notice, is something I'm emphasizing here. Changing the fold location is something I think is a major change, not a minor one. It's not remotely the same thing as a typo fix or an italicization fix--and I might add, cortex, the one time you changed my post because of italics you still dropped me a line to explain what you'd done and why. Why does this kind of change not merit the same sort of opening of a line of communication?
posted by sciatrix at 3:30 PM on February 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


Posts that are overly long above the fold could simply be deleted with that as the reason and the poster would have the chance to repost the following day.

Part of what feels weird to me here is shifting so much if this responsibility from the person making the post to the mods. It seems like when you create a post that you do not want modified in some way the onus should be on you to take the extra steps of crafting your above the fold portion more carefully or even pinging the mods via the contact form to see if you're in danger of an over length post.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:35 PM on February 9, 2016 [16 favorites]


I get that the mods want to allow for longer above-the-fold content where it's necessary, but I think putting a line (not character) limit on the box, with an invitation to contact the mods if you're finding it especially burdensome, would actually be less interferey than the way things are now. Instead of expecting users to monitor and refresh their post if they want to know whether it's been altered, they'd be asked to get affirmative permission, and that would probably convince most of them to just go ahead and edit it down.
posted by ostro at 3:37 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Recognizing that I need to make phone-friendly posts is a kind of evolution for me

Phone and tablet use is also, I think, what drove people to ask for mandatory visible and clickable titles.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:41 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Would it be worth re-wording this warning to make it a little more strongly encouraged, and/or explicitly say that the post is long enough that it risks being re-divided by mods?

Might be worth doing, yeah. We intentionally went gentle with the wording on that when we initially rolled that out, but a slightly more explicit warning about why it's an issue and the possibility of an edit may help with user education here.

Recognizing that I need to make phone-friendly posts is a kind of evolution for me

To be clear, that isn't really a major aspect of this; certainly it's not driving a change here in how we do this, because how we do this hasn't changed and isn't new. You don't need to revisit your posting style; again, it seems totally fine. It's a wee fraction of especially-long posts where this even comes up at all, not on more common middle-sized paragraph-length posts.

That posts take up more screen space on phones is one of the reasons why having a surfeit of especially-long posts on the front page isn't great, but it's not the primary reason and we don't expect people to not make posts today that would have been fine five years ago or anything like that. The practice of tucking some text under the fold significantly predates heavy mobile usage of the site.

> if either poster wanted to contact us about a proposed compromise edit

It's unclear to me how that's supposed to happen when the mods don't let anyone know (either in thread or by private contact) that the post has been edited.


By looking at their own post. No one is required to, and no one has to care if they do notice (and e.g. I've gotten the occasional "oh hey, thanks for trimming that, I didn't realize it was gonna be so long" note from posters), but there's a certain level at which if you don't notice or don't care, that's okay. If you do notice and do care, we are totally willing to accommodate something.

With the two posts yesterday, one we did hear from the poster, but while I did note in that conversation that some compromise edit would be possible, they didn't take me up on that.

The above the fold text makes an argument to the user: hey! this is a cool thing! read me! It is work to craft that, to take a topic or a longer piece and construct an effective hook that brings an audience in to read it further.

Absolutely, and I'm not discounting the idea of that craft and effort here. I don't think this would even come up if people didn't understandably care about the framing question; I totally understand the impetus for not wanting one's framing changed.

That said, again: that comes down to a reasonable concision being part of that framing, if it's very important to the user that no edit be on the table. By all means, take pride in careful framing, just also be aware of the length of that framing as an important aspect of the whole deal.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:54 PM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


The practice makes sense to me, it's a visual fix to the site's front page. Seems weird that a quick memail with a heads up isn't just a default action though.
posted by lucidium at 4:09 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


i think it's more about massive edits being made with no notification rather than no edits ever at all. It's about the poster's choices not being respected even though it's usually the poster's choices that make Metafilter valuable at all.
posted by bleep at 4:09 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


a reasonable concision being part of that framing

The point that you seem to be missing is that you in particular have decided what is a reasonable framing, that it's changing over time, and you're not communicating that well to the people who make the posts either before they make posts or afterwards. From the outside, that sure looks like "please me if you can" and it's not hard for me to understand why people find that frustrating. I post mostly SLYT kinds of things and now I'm wondering wtf the rules are if I want to post something that requires more framing.

By looking at their own post.

Contacting the poster should be default.
posted by immlass at 4:13 PM on February 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I have no problem with this practice but you should let people know, so that they can be free to reword the above-the-fold part.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:23 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


This post has been up for three hours and has accrued 47 comments, of which 10 (approximately 20%) have been mod comments, frequently long mod comments. Is it maybe okay to ask to let the thread breathe for a little while before mods explain why the requests made are too much to consider?

Respectfully, if there are so few edge cases where this applies, it shouldn't be too difficult to contact users and open lines of communication rather than editing unilaterally.
posted by sciatrix at 4:25 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


The point that you seem to be missing is that you in particular have decided what is a reasonable framing, that it's changing over time, and you're not communicating that well to the people who make the posts either before they make posts or afterwards.

"Me in particular" is the collective mod staff over the last decade and a half. If you have a beef with this it's not with some personal recent whim of mine, it's with established, documented moderation policy going back years.

I'm not sure what "changing over time" means; again, while there's been a couple assertions that this is some new thing caused by phones or something, they're incorrect. This is a practice that has been in place for a very long time and the practice itself and its motivation are not new and have not notably changed. The only thing that has changed in the last year or so is us communicating it a little more proactively during the posting process.

Communicating this stuff is something we'll keep working on—that's why it's mentioned in the FAQ, that's why we added the soft warning and why I'm fine with the idea of tweaking the wording of same—but it is a two-way street and users being gracious about encountering site practices and guidelines they hadn't previously been aware of is part of what makes this whole weird community process workable. People will be surprised and frustrated sometimes, and I totally understand and empathize with that, but while we'll keep thinking about what compromises we can strike to mitigate that, there are diminishing returns there and practically speaking it's going to be part of learning about the site and how it works, as either a new or in some cases a long-time user.

Contacting the poster should be default.

We can consider it, yeah. I think "should be default" is easier to declare than to implement, because adding compulsory contact and extra steps to the moderation processes often brings as much added grar and complication to the mix as anything, but at least for espeically tricky cases where an edit feels like it'll be unusually disruptive to post framing that's something that might be worth the effort.

One side effect of that is that it moves the conversation to something where the user may just refuse to engage or refuse to compromise, in which case we're left making a unilateral edit anyway with bonus user grumpiness that we wouldn't otherwise have had, which I'm not excited about the prospect of, but I'm willing to experiment with it a little and see how it goes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:30 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Is it maybe okay to ask to let the thread breathe for a little while before mods explain why the requests made are too much to consider?

It's ok to ask, sure. Historically letting threads like this get up a full head of steam on what seem to be incorrect premises (that this is new, that this is theme-driven, etc) lead to way more confusion and upset than if we jump hard on those right out of the gate.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:33 PM on February 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


There have been many MeTa threads where the mods did not comment early in the thread and were criticized for their lack of involvement.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:42 PM on February 9, 2016 [16 favorites]


I think that the initial posts DID have too much stuff above the fold, actually, but that the edited ones were too mystery meat. I am not sure what a solution would be, whether the initial posters were asked to reframe -- delete seems excessive, but you can't expect a poster to respond immediately to a memail asking for a reframe. If a user refuses to engage in a reframe, a deletion seems like the easiest choice (it's not dissimilar to what I see in ask when things are just on the border into chatfilter).

I'm not sure what the point of a note saying stuff was moved below the fold is -- the content wasn't changed really, and most of the time it's a reasonable move and doesn't have this huge an effect on the framing. I think editing it was reasonable this time too, it was just not done well.
posted by jeather at 5:02 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


One side effect of that is that it moves the conversation to something where the user may just refuse to engage or refuse to compromise, in which case we're left making a unilateral edit anyway with bonus user grumpiness that we wouldn't otherwise have had,

I think people are trying to say that posters contribute an awful lot to what makes Metafilter valuable and making them the loser in this situation seems weirdly harsh and unnecessary. Why are you left making a unilateral edit here? Is it THAT serious? (I don't really have a stake in this in that I don't make posts but I do enjoy posts and value the people who spend their free time putting them together. This is just the weirdest conversation I've ever seen.)
posted by bleep at 5:10 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'd like to just throw my voice in here in saying that I don't at all agree that this is a problem. This site is premised on the notion that anyone can post without having to wait around for approval, and that's great. The downside to that is that sometimes people make mistakes. That's not tragic, and it's not a personal failing, but when it happens it needs to be fixed. These edits are an important part of that process.
posted by tocts at 5:16 PM on February 9, 2016 [21 favorites]


I think that the initial posts DID have too much stuff above the fold, actually, but that the edited ones were too mystery meat.

This is my feeling as well. I'm not sure what the solution to that is and I very much sympathize with the urge to just tuck a little more inside (and yes, this is something we've always done) but I think there's some tension between whatever point (in text and in style) the poster was trying to make and whatever stylistic and length concerns the mods are trying to manage on the front page.

I feel personally that a notification to the members that there was an edit is a non-starter. I think there's been a lot of back channel discussion of this particular issue as well which may be affecting people's responses.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:28 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I absolutely understand and agree with not wanting to contact people every time a comment deletion happens or something, but reluctance in the case of modifying their post is again something I find weird. To me it's on par with letting someone know if a link got removed because the site was serving malware. If I'd made that post, I'd want to fix my mistake.

These aren't combative users already in the middle of an argument with someone else, it's a self-selected population of people who have shown they want to contribute to the site, and this happens what, maybe once a day as a high end estimate? I know you guys are stretched, but dropping a memail to say "hey, we moved some of your post under the fold, let us know if you'd like to edit it" seems unlikely to result in a fight from most posters.
posted by lucidium at 5:33 PM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think people are trying to say that posters contribute an awful lot to what makes Metafilter valuable and making them the loser in this situation seems weirdly harsh and unnecessary.

I think the premise that it makes them the loser is throwing a lot of absent conflict-mindedness onto what is a mechanical policy issue rather than any sort of value judgement. There any number of things that well-meaning, good faith members can do on the site that run afoul of some aspect of the guidelines and incur mod action without that user having done something morally or ethically wrong or otherwise being made party to some kind of zero-sum conflict, and the framing of it as someone "losing" to the mods is very weird to me. The frustration and personal preference about framing I totally understand, and again I genuinely empathize on that front. I feel the same way about lots of other aspects of mod policy too. But that doesn't mean we just decline to do our jobs to avoid the possibility of someone being bummed.

This is just the weirdest conversation I've ever seen.

As much as this MetaTalk itself is totally an okay thing and worth having a public discussion on, aspects of this conversation itself are apparently the fruit of some sort of offsite discussion that happened yesterday and today stemming from frustration on the part of one of the cited posters yesterday. I say apparently because despite a conspicuous cluster of emails from multiple people and some pretty strong echoing of specific points and language, nobody bothered to actually include us in that discussion or acknowledge that it was going on. So this MetaTalk is really pretty weird to me, too.

I have no idea what the actual landscape of that discussion was and I don't really need to, and ultimately people are gonna do what they're gonna and can chat about what they want where they want as they see fit, so I can mostly chalk it up to feeling sort of weird in an oh-well-that's-weird way. But it'd have made a lot more sense to me for this, as a site policy discussion, to have started as a MetaTalk discussion yesterday with mod input from the get-go, rather than have it come over here with some mistaken premises built-in and a sense of sort of unmentioned momentum and unrealistic expectations that that's going to drive site policy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:43 PM on February 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


Bottom line for me is: it's a huge turnoff. It's a turnoff to work hard on posts and have them edited with no communication. Just out of respect it would be great to receive a line about it from a mod.

But that doesn't mean we just decline to do our jobs

Part of your jobs is to make users feel valued and respected for their contributions, and to facilitate good relations in every personal communication.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:52 PM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


("...aspects of this conversation itself are apparently the fruit of some sort of offsite discussion..." Oh really? Hm. I have no idea what this is! I was just speaking from my own personal experience as a poster/Mefite.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:53 PM on February 9, 2016


Am I misunderstanding something here? Because it seems like the only editing going on here is moving stuff from the front page to [more inside]. Which isn't removing it from the post or making it inaccessible or anything. It's not saying that the post is bad, or you're bad for making it. It's just tweaking the formatting to make the front page easier to navigate. To me it seems to be on the same level as replacing a link that was taken down with a good one, or fixing messed up html.
posted by aubilenon at 6:00 PM on February 9, 2016 [51 favorites]


> Am I misunderstanding something here? Because it seems like the only editing going on here is moving stuff from the front page to [more inside]. Which isn't removing it from the post or making it inaccessible or anything. It's not saying that the post is bad, or you're bad for making it. It's just tweaking the formatting to make the front page easier to navigate. To me it seems to be on the same level as replacing a link that was taken down with a good one, or fixing messed up html.

I completely agree, and like bleep I think this is a very weird conversation. If it's true that it's the result of people ganging up offsite, I think that's shitty behavior.
posted by languagehat at 6:03 PM on February 9, 2016 [39 favorites]


I just don't see why you wouldn't give the person at least a heads-up or the option of proposing their own edits. Like, what's behind the reluctance? It's not like it would be a huge burden on the mods, and clearly people would appreciate it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:20 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


i keep trying to imagine the mods' day, when a post that looks a bit long comes along, and there's some sort of future requirement to reach out to the poster. I assume there's a balancing act for the mods to keep the site running well, looking as per standard, etc. How long do they wait for a response before a change is made? Or if the change is made and then the poster is notified, what then? Does the poster get another go at it? Imagine the clustery-ness if that edit then throws the context of any conversation that's begun into question. On the other hand, if the notification is just "we edited it, just so you know" (and the subtext is "but there's not much to be done about it") I don't know that I see the value.
posted by gorbichov at 6:22 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yeah there are a surprising number of people who make posts and ... vanish. Like you email them back (and it's always email not MeMail so that whichever mod is on duty can respond) and hear from them ten hours later or something. This happened with badly phrased AskMes and it was always curious. You wouldn't think it would be so but it is often so, and then it's a real conundrum.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:27 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just don't see why you wouldn't give the person at least a heads-up or the option of proposing their own edits.

What would it even mean to let someone propose their own edits? This is not a draft, remember. This is a live post, which people are commenting on. Actually editing the text content (versus the presentation of what's above/below the fold) is a total non-starter, because it opens up all sorts of cans of worms with respects to whether you're changing the semantic meaning of what was posted after people are already deep in discussion.

The actual input a poster could have on this kind of edit had they been consulted is tiny. At best, it'd be shifting the above/below cut slightly. Frankly, that doesn't seem worth it. The mods can comment on this on their own, but the impression I've always had is that any kind of proactive communication about something like this is more likely to cause stress and bad feelings ("why are you telling me this if I can't do anything about it?") than it is to help.
posted by tocts at 6:33 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


To clarify: I don't think there needs to be any response from a user before fixing an overlong post. Just that it would be polite to send a note letting them know that it happened.
posted by lucidium at 6:47 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I feel like the "invisible editing" described is part of my expectation of how MetaFilter works; for me it's a feature, not a bug. But I also think it's not intuitive, since it's not the norm elsewhere, so I'd love if anyone wanted to brainstorm ideas specifically around communicating it better in user onboarding.

Maybe just a sentence on the About page (which seems to be like the most specifically onboarding-focused portion of the site) mentioning that in certain cases, mods reserve the right to delete posts/comments and/or make formatting fixes without proactively notifying users? And that users are welcomed/encouraged to use the contact form if they have a question/concern about a mod edit/deletion.

I do like the idea of making it standard to drop a comment in the thread, though! I think it happens more often than not anyway, and I appreciate it as part of a practice of open communication with users.
posted by capricorn at 6:50 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I also wanted to address this, though: [...] aspects of this conversation itself are apparently the fruit of some sort of offsite discussion that happened yesterday and today stemming from frustration on the part of one of the cited posters yesterday. I say apparently because despite a conspicuous cluster of emails from multiple people and some pretty strong echoing of specific points and language, nobody bothered to actually include us in that discussion or acknowledge that it was going on.

Because, hmm. I don't necessarily think that workshopping a MeTa post offsite and getting others' feedback before posting is a bad thing. If the issue is weird mod emails or a lack of shared context, then fair enough. But if it's larger than that, I'm not really comfortable with the idea that offsite discussion/getting another pair of eyes on a draft before posting a MeTa should be frowned upon. I feel like it can be useful in cutting down on the initial impulse to just 'grar' all over everything and making sure that your post is clear and will encourage productive conversation. (Just to be clear, I wasn't involved in discussing/planning this specific post, or any other specific post. But I have had conversations off the site along the lines of "potential MeTa post, good idea/bad idea?") Do other folks disagree?
posted by capricorn at 6:57 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Have these "massive edits" people are referring to ever actually happened? What seems like the subject of the OP are posts getting some of their text being put under the cut -- not removed, not renovated, just re-formatted. People are framing it like the moderators go behind people's backs and redo people's entire posts in secret and it feels like an almost intentional overreaction.

The most that should be done is a short mefimail to the OP, particularly if the OP is new to the site and if it was an egregious change (like dumping twelve paragraphs of full text to the front page). I don't think anything more than that is warranted.
posted by flatluigi at 7:03 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


capricorn: I think you're misinterpreting it. It's very likely not "don't show posts to your friends or collaborate with people" which I'd think is patently not something anyone would discourage.

Instead, people are probably working themselves into a lather about something on some offsite forum (like the metafilter subreddit) and that broke through into a bunch of mod-targeted anger all at once.
posted by flatluigi at 7:07 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've always been happy to see the mods move more stuff inside when a post is long, and I'm a little surprised by the idea that's the sort of thing that should get a mod note. This whole thread seems weird to me.
posted by meese at 7:15 PM on February 9, 2016 [30 favorites]


I would not be annoyed if this were done to my posts, and it probably has been done to my posts without me noticing or caring.
posted by escabeche at 7:18 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


FWIW I'm 100% OK with posts being modified in this way without notification, and my feeling is when you're writing a FPP the onus is on you to make the first line or two informative enough that the context is still clear in the case that such an edit is made. I'm not really sure why this has anyone's feathers ruffled in the first place. This sure is weird!
posted by Andrhia at 7:20 PM on February 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm bemused by people saying they don't see the issue here. People want their posts to be read, and the over-the-fold matter determines whether people read it. For what it's worth, I saw both of those posts on the front page, post-alteration, and didn't click on them. I imagine that if the authors had thought they were remotely likely to get cut down to the first line, they would have written it differently.

I know the mods usually prefer not to give really specific guidelines for this kind of thing, since they reserve the right to use their discretion, and I usually agree with them. But does it have to be this opaque? Couldn't there be some kind of warning along the lines of "Above-the-fold matter that extends past 4-5 lines is likely to be moved under the fold"? Seriously, why not give people more opportunity to avoid making this mistake?
posted by ostro at 7:36 PM on February 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm not really comfortable with the idea that offsite discussion/getting another pair of eyes on a draft before posting a MeTa should be frowned upon.

Nah, totally not, it's just when we get two or three emails voting on a topic that we weren't aware was under discussion, we get confused and wonder what's going on. It's more weird than problematic, although I personally am happier when we can participate in the conversation and provide context/correct mistaken assumptions rather than just getting the final tally of a vote.

Couldn't there be some kind of warning along the lines of "Above-the-fold matter that extends past 4-5 lines is likely to be moved under the fold"?

There is, although as Cortex says above, we probably need to revisit that wording to make sure it's more clear.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:37 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Cool, thanks for clarifying that, restless_nomad!
posted by capricorn at 7:42 PM on February 9, 2016


Ok, good to hear. I think it's pretty important to call out what the "danger zone," in space terms, is.

Also, obviously I'm only one person, but this Meta is the first I heard about this question, so my momentum and expectations and whatnot are 100% organic, thanks very much. I can see how, as a mod, it would be frustrating not to be in on this conversation from the beginning, but it also feels kind of minimizing to suggest that the tone of this thread is the result of the way it's been discussed elsewhere rather than of the actual question.
posted by ostro at 7:55 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't even consider this an edit, it's just correction of an html/display error and I'm glad it happens just the same as I'm glad when a messed up link is fixed.
posted by shelleycat at 8:48 PM on February 9, 2016 [17 favorites]


lol.

It's like gaius baltar time up in here. my word.
posted by kbanas at 8:51 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I would be pretty annoyed to find out my post had been invisibly edited because a mod thought it was too long on the front page. If there's a problem with the framing, posters should at least be contacted. The cutting off to the first line meant the posts were mystery meat, which limits their audience.

I work hard on my posts. I don't want a mod altering them without speaking to me first, unless it's explicitly to fix broken html or an obvious typo. I don't want my posts truncated or parts of them moved around, or any editing done to them at all which will change the original intent of what I very carefully and deliberately placed on the front page.
posted by zarq at 9:12 PM on February 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


I don't want my posts truncated or parts of them moved around, or any editing done to them at all which will change the original intent of what I very carefully and deliberately placed on the front page.
If you adhere to the long-established guidelines you should be fine. If you forget them, you will be reminded when you go to post and it will be fine.
posted by hawthorne at 10:05 PM on February 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


An overly long post on the front page is the equivalent of busted HTML IMO (IE: the <P> was in the wrong spot).

Another vote for feature not bug and definitely not malfeasance. And a notification email should not be required as it'll be obvious when the poster revisits the post (the same way that we don't get emails on deletion). And if posters don't care enough about their posts to revisit at some point it's hard to imagine they'd care about a formatting change.

immlass: "Single sentences are great for SLYT kinds of posts, but more complicated posts may need a full paragraph to convey what's interesting about the links."

The limit is way more than a single sentence unless your sentence is some run on monstrosity consisting of hundreds of words. Three out of my last four posts each had four sentences on the front page.

jessamyn: "Yeah there are a surprising number of people who make posts and ... vanish.[...] You wouldn't think it would be so but it is often so, and then it's a real conundrum."

I do this on askmes and to a lesser extent on the front page otherwise I'm tempted to threadsit and respond to every single comment.
posted by Mitheral at 10:35 PM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


I would be pretty annoyed to find out my post had been invisibly edited because a mod thought it was too long on the front page. If there's a problem with the framing, posters should at least be contacted. The cutting off to the first line meant the posts were mystery meat, which limits their audience.

I work hard on my posts. I don't want a mod altering them without speaking to me first, unless it's explicitly to fix broken html or an obvious typo. I don't want my posts truncated or parts of them moved around, or any editing done to them at all which will change the original intent of what I very carefully and deliberately placed on the front page.
posted by zarq at 12:12 AM on February 10 [1 favorite +] [!]


The solution to this is to make sure that as you construct the post you heed the warning that you're getting close to might-get-edited territory, and frame accordingly.

If you've got a post that absolutely has to have a long block quote or something above the fold, contact the mods and work it out with them. I'm sure they'd be accommodating, they've said so several times in this thread.
posted by disclaimer at 10:43 PM on February 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


If you adhere to the long-established guidelines you should be fine.

This is a post of mine from last February. Two graphs of 11 total lines above the fold on a desktop browser. From what cortex said above, that's double his comfort level (4-5 lines) and will now be truncated. My impression from this thread is that the guideline has changed.

I'm with immlass on this: contacting the user regarding their post should really be the default.
posted by zarq at 11:04 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I find this entire conversation weird and I don't understand why it's so mod-hostile. I frankly really hate it when the FPP has a huge block of text above the fold - it makes it hard to scroll through the front page and see what there is. I'd rather have the option to click it and then read. I usually skip the ones that have a ton of text above the fold. So, I am with the others who view this as a feature (the mods editing), and not a problem.

Honestly, this thread reads to me like people are feeling entitled to their post and whatever they feel like writing. And, I mean - this isn't our own personal site. There are guidelines to follow. If you can't word your post simply and within the guidelines maybe you should be rethinking it and word it better, not expect your stuff to fly just because you spent so much time on it or whatever. And if you aren't sure about it, why not just contact the mods ahead of time?
posted by FireFountain at 11:12 PM on February 9, 2016 [50 favorites]


zarq: "that's double his comfort level (4-5 lines) and will now be truncated. "

That's not what he said. It's not a hard and fast rule merely a guideline and there has been no change in policy since before more inside was baked into the posting system. Your post would get posted exactly the same now as it was previously because nothing has changed in this regard. Geez Matt used to reformat the occasional overly long post even before the baked in method existed.

My impression from this thread is that the guideline has changed.

zarq you were here for the transition from roll your own more inside to baked into the site more inside. Have you actually noticed any of your posts being reformatted? Lots of comments to that effect may have given you that impression; however the mods have explicitly said several times that no change in policy or guidelines has occurred.
posted by Mitheral at 12:30 AM on February 10, 2016 [13 favorites]


Invisible edits are the worst kind of edits, in my opinion - and the mods invisible editorship of this site will inevitably lead to the destruction of our society.

As everyone knows, normal editing changes words, punctuation and formatting, creating a visible difference between the pre- and post-edited text. But invisible edits affect invisible things, such as the mood, emotional resonance or the "sassiness" of the piece.

For example - I have, once or twice, exhorted my metacolleagues here to "vote #1 quidnunc kid" - a subtle and wise suggestion to a receptive audience about making MetaFilter great again.

But when I read those infrequent comments back to myself, I find they have been invisibly edited by the mods - so that the tone of intelligent profundity is mysteriously absent, and one is left viewing only the nonsensical dribblings of a rancid, alcoholic madman, who stinks of sour milk and filth.

In that context, I demand the mods invisibly re-edit all my comment so that readers will once again draw from them the intellectual and emotional succour they were intended to provide. Also I would appreciate any old milk-cartons you may have empty in your fridge - doesn't matter how old. Oh - and some booze money? And some filth, if you got some spare. Thanks.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:31 AM on February 10, 2016 [76 favorites]


I'm bemused at the... intensity here for an issue that only crops up in, what 1 in 100 posts? 1 in 200? Very infrequently, safe to say.

I think this is partly a result of the always-present schism between the weight we put on posts, as posters; and the weight put on posts, by pretty much everyone else including mods and readers.

As posters, they are our children, we want to seem them flourish, to seem them popular, to seem them valued, naturally. But really, in the scheme of things, a post doesn't matter much. It doesn't need to read to be successful; metafilter is not and I hope will never be a popularity contest. And I think there is an expectation, sometimes, that people - mods and otherwise - will give our posts the time, respect, attention they deserve, and it can be galling when it doesn't.

But this is mostly internal. Heck some of my most beloved posts - almost all of them in fact - are lonely orphans with comments in the single digits, despite a pithy summary. It's not really a statement about your post, your writing ability, your person or your freedom. It's a simple readability edit, long established, and quite flexible in practice.

I'm surprised we need a discussion about this, honestly. If your post layout gets changed and you don't like it, request a delete by all means. If you struggle to reign in your loquacity, ask a mod for advice or heed the warnings at build-time. If you think that's all too hard, or too insulting, the maybe writing a post right now is not for you. No big deal.

This is a clearly a thing which happens very rarely - and bothers posters even more rarely. Changing policy on exceptions is not a great idea, I think, and I will add my voice to those expressing appreciation for it.

I do think describing what's going on as "massive edits" is quite hyperbolic. God help you if you ever work in journalism or communications; you should see what I've done and has been done to me!
posted by smoke at 12:59 AM on February 10, 2016 [25 favorites]


I post things to any page here so infrequently as to approach never, but I read a lot of things and frequently browse the MeFi front page for interesting things. I finding it jarring when posts are overly long, by the sort of measure cortex has described here, so I'm grateful when they get fixed.

I can understand people feeling ownership of their work and how having them edited without notice might feel like a bit of a slap in the face. But, as others have mentioned, individuals don't get to make unilateral decisions about acceptable formatting on the basis that their creation is worthy of special exceptions to the norm. I find it a little odd that people have been here for many years and haven't noticed this happening until now. I have the impression this is most often an issue with things like long-ish blockquoting which is somewhat difficult to edit within the quote because of how that particular piece of markup works.

A few have mentioned the practice of staying away from their posts after posting them to avoid thread-sitting and this on its own would argue against any sort of collaboration before editing - things move pretty fast here and I'm sure it's often a case of making the change as fast as possible or not at all.

If you're feeling cranky that your work has minor format changes made after you submit it, try working in any sort of policy space, where the final version of your work often bears no resemblance to what you wrote, even if it contains the same actual information and still refers to you as the author!
posted by dg at 2:46 AM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


one is left viewing only the nonsensical dribblings of a rancid, alcoholic madman, who stinks of sour milk and filth.

Years ago, a friend of mine had another friend, and they were clearly a perfect match for each other. I asked her why she didn't pursue it and she said it was because he smelled like sour milk all the time. [more inside]
posted by teponaztli at 3:06 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I flag posts (and Asks) that are too long for the front page. They break the flow of the page (on desktop and mobile). I see the front pages of each subsite as a shared space. If there's a post lavaballing on our shared front page space, I see nothing wrong with mods moving it.

But yes, maybe an auto-email when that happens would be nice, so the original authors have the opportunity to request a delete and try again.
posted by kimberussell at 5:02 AM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think there's been a lot of back channel discussion of this particular issue as well which may be affecting people's responses.

It feels like something that has been already discussed both by some of the unhappy people and also on the mod side, while I was blissfully unaware that this was even a thing at all. So there is a bit of a feeling of having walked into an ongoing conversation, rather than something being discussed from whole cloth.

The intensity of some of the feelings here is very strange to me. The long-above-the-fold posts (and comments, but that is another issue entirely) are a pain on my phone but not on my computer, and I am sure things look different also depending on which visual settings a person is using.

But regardless, front page text limits are just one small component of a long list of explicit and implicit norms and standards here that users are expected to comply with. Sometimes small changes (like shifting text to the inside or fixing an html error) are made, other issues can result in a deletion for either resubmittal or not at the user's discretion. The issue worth discussing is how much text should there be on the front page, not whether or not moderators should make small edits to posts as necessary to make them fit that length.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:10 AM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


But yes, maybe an auto-email when that happens would be nice, so the original authors have the opportunity to request a delete and try again.

How likely is it that the mods would even OK a deletion on those grounds, though? Maybe I'm misinterpreting things, but my impression has always been that requests for post deletion by the poster on the blue have to clear a pretty high bar. If there's already a community discussion going on in the comments, that weighs heavily against deleting the whole thing just because the OP decides they wish they'd worded something differently, or they don't like how the conversation is going.
posted by tocts at 5:13 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I'm bemused by people saying they don't see the issue here. People want their posts to be read, and the over-the-fold matter determines whether people read it. For what it's worth, I saw both of those posts on the front page, post-alteration, and didn't click on them. I imagine that if the authors had thought they were remotely likely to get cut down to the first line, they would have written it differently."

Yes, but it's very clear that posters have a responsibility to keep the above-the-fold portion relatively brief -- there's actually an automated warning for this and we've had several discussions about this over the years. None of this is new. It is the poster's responsibility to write the post in such a way that such edits aren't needed. The onus isn't on the mods to be hands-off until the poster responds, the onus is on the poster to not make this mistake in the first place.

Standards have not changed. And there's no "objective standard", no hard rule, because this is MetaFilter where we're presumably adults and context-dependent judgment is valued. If it would greatly upset you to have your post altered in this way, then you should be even more careful about how you write your posts so as to avoid this.

The notification stuff is also weird because, again, we've had these sorts of conversations here many times in the past and it's a known thing that the mods contacting posters/commenters before taking action can't be the default for everything because, in fact, a surprising number of posters/commenters don't ever respond to any attempts to contact them. And there's the other big problem that someone mentioned -- the kinds of rewrites that would fix the problems with the example posts would be significant rewrites of live posts, which I think should be a non-starter, off the table.

So what we're really talking about here is that the alternative to the current system is that posts are just deleted for excessive above-the-fold content. Because it would actually be more in line with the current standard for other problems with posts which, by the way, doesn't include poster notification.

Frankly, given the tenor of this discussion, I'm in favor of the deletion response. That would satisfy the concerns of people who dislike the editing, it wouldn't expect the mods to wait for notification, it wouldn't alter live posts, and it would force the people who run afoul of this to be more aware of it and take more responsibility for it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:14 AM on February 10, 2016 [12 favorites]


Another vote for the status quo here.

While I hate "mystery meat" posts and avoid them like the plague, walls of text on the front page are also frustrating. Why somebody's snowflake of a post is so special that it can't possibly be introduced properly in the amount of space allowed is a mystery to me. And I think it's unreasonable to expect the mods to open a negotiation every time reformatting is necessary. They've clearly said that they're open to discussing an edit when the poster requests it.

If you want to tinker with the soft warning message or have the mods note their edit in the post, fine. More extensive changes are a bad idea.
posted by pmurray63 at 5:17 AM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


hello I have brought my teapot for I hear that tempests are being given out
posted by yhbc at 5:23 AM on February 10, 2016 [18 favorites]


Yeah, this thread feels like walking in on a stand off. Is there some off-site background missing?
posted by lucidium at 5:44 AM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


I also flag posts that feel significantly longer than average on the front page. Respectfully, although I hear people saying that their long above-the-fold is a deliberate result of hard work, as a reader it often comes across as the opposite to me - a very long above-the-fold to me usually looks either accidental or the result of someone not taking the time to frame their post effectively. Glancing at the front page now, I see posts of up to ~160 words (not even counting the title) - that's, what, about half a typed, double-spaced page? Except in very unusual circumstances, which the mods have already said they do consider, this seems like roughly enough space on a shared community site where the goal isn't to shine a spotlight on any one individual post. I don't understand the argument that this has been changing over the years - impressionistically, at least, front page post lengths have remained the same as far as I can tell.

Either way, I definitely agree with the people saying that moving excessive text off the front page constitutes less of a "massive edit" and more of a "reformat." Calling this "massive editing" muddies the waters and, to me, implies that the mods are actually changing the content of a person's posts, something I'm fairly certain they do not do.

I can understand why some people would want an email when text gets moved to the inside of their post, but I can also understand why this could stir up grar from posters who otherwise wouldn't have noticed or cared; considering mod time as a finite resource, I would personally rather that resource be spent elsewhere. I'd vote for simply rewording the warning to make it clear that a) a post that's hit a certain length might be reformatted to move some text inside the post, b) the poster accepts this possibility if they choose not to edit, and c) the poster has the option of contacting a mod before posting or to keep an eye on their post after the fact if they have concerns.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:51 AM on February 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


I don't post and don't have strong opinions about post author treatment. I do personally believe that given the cultivation of the expectation by mods that users contact them about anything and everything, the argument that it's too onerous for mods to contact posters about FPP edits is pretty unfair.

The other issue I have is the conceit that it's bad for third party groups to discuss the goings on at MetaFilter. I'm not going to go on at length about it but it sounds pretty paranoid to me to characterize this and related things (like getting a lot of emails from different folks using the same themes and phrases) as bad or undesirable. You run a website that hosts individuals' posts and comments to profit from the cultivated high quality of that content. There is going to exist outside discussion and commentary. Sometimes there will be outside dissent. I feel this is a healthy and normal dynamic.
posted by kalessin at 6:49 AM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


If we're collecting headcounts from confused people:

I'm basically fine with current practice. It's entirely possible it's happened to my posts; if so, I didn't notice and don't mind after the fact. I do think it leads to some good threads being underloved - I had skimmed right over Flex's thread, but with the additional context of that first quite I am now thinking "hey, that's right up my alley, I'm gonna go read that." And I don't love that. But I don't see any alternatives being proposed here that sound workable to me. I'd rather see this happen than deletions/repostings (fragmenting already-started conversations), and personally as a poster, I don't even particularly *want* to be notified if this happens to my posts. And I wouldn't respond fast enough to do anything about it if I did, because I tend to post and then run away from MeFi for several hours to avoid any urge to threadsit or get fighty if people are mean about my post.

Clearer messaging on the posting page seems like it couldn't hurt any, but I'm not sure it would be super-useful either.

I am also, generally speaking although I don't know that specifically happened here, 100% fine with people discussing site stuff off-site and workshopping posts or whatever. I think it's probably a lot better for everyone involved than having people come here immediately grar-y over whatever's on their mind on a given day.
posted by Stacey at 6:58 AM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Say, come to think of it- why not just institute a maximum character count for the above-the-fold section that conforms to mod expectations for how long it should be? Wouldn't that prevent this issue from ever coming up in the first place?
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:02 AM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


This thread is bizarre, some of it feels a bit to me like when undergraduates try to characterize themselves as customers and so therefore always right. It really does seem as if whatever offsite discussion led to this set a very strange tone for this thread. Presumably this doesn't have to happen, I'm not saying that offsite discussion is bad, but it kind of seems like there was some sort of feedback loop in the conversation that led to some opinions being very strongly crystalized that are at odds with long-standing community norms here.

E.g. if you choose metafilter as a place to post your stuff, there are all sorts of criteria that you are tacitly agreeing to abide by, and how it integrates with the metafilter front page is one of those. Moreover, there is basically no culture of mods acting as interactive editors or contacting posters except in very unusual circumstances, and you are not entitled have perfect control over every aspect of how your post goes. There's also a looong history of discussion of how "more inside" can or should work that led to the current status quo being solidly in place, and a long history of discussions solidly on the side of dispreference for too much stuff on the front page part of posts. Not all status quos are good but for this one, I don't think this is going to get much sympathy for those of us who were around for all of that discussion.

Personally I think it would be crazy (in terms of mod time/effort) to institute any sort of interactive editing even for format. At best maybe there could be some automatic notification that the mod has already done X. But there's also a long history of discussion about why it is (perhaps counterintuitively) a bad idea for this sort of notification to be widely used, more about deletion than this kind of thing, but probably still applies.
posted by advil at 7:11 AM on February 10, 2016 [23 favorites]


Say, come to think of it- why not just institute a maximum character count for the above-the-fold section that conforms to mod expectations for how long it should be? Wouldn't that prevent this issue from ever coming up in the first place?

How would it count urls and other coding? Plain text of the above-the-fold portion of this post is 536 characters (with spaces). As html, that's 923 characters (also with spaces).
posted by zarq at 7:38 AM on February 10, 2016


Heck, a better question is probably, 'How does the current widget work?' because that already calculates how much content is being placed above the fold.
posted by zarq at 7:40 AM on February 10, 2016


How does the current widget work?

cortex gave a brief summary in the previous thread. Basically it assigns points for things that create whitespace like break tags and blockquote tags. Once the score gets to a certain point it triggers the warning.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:43 AM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Thank you, pb.
posted by zarq at 7:44 AM on February 10, 2016


Seriously? I'm the one who asked the last time? That was cortex replying to me only six months ago?

They say the mind is the first thing to go.....
posted by zarq at 7:46 AM on February 10, 2016 [26 favorites]


I'm confused by a lot of the things going on here, but mainly these: Is there hard "no" from mods on the idea of messaging someone when their FPP is edited? How about a little note at the end in smalltext like [moved a few lines under the fold ~mod_name]? If those are definite non-starters, why?
posted by 4th number at 7:50 AM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


It seems to me a rewording of the post warning should be sufficient.

What if it were to say something like "The length of the front page content on this post is sufficiently long that the mods may decide to move some content below the fold. If you want to ensure the location of the below-the-fold break on your post, please use the contact form before posting."

That way mods can just go ahead and move the break when people don't care, and for those that do, they're reminded of the concern and given the option to pre-empt editing by checking that *their* post is within the (on purpose fuzzy) guidelines.
posted by nat at 7:52 AM on February 10, 2016 [9 favorites]


The other issue I have is the conceit that it's bad for third party groups to discuss the goings on at MetaFilter.

Nobody is saying this. People can (and will) talk about MeFi off-site, and that's both fine and also uncontrollable anyways. If people want to workshop site policy proposals without the mods, more power to them.

However, it seems an awful lot like a group of people workshopped a proposal off-site, and then individually contacted the mods under the pretense that no such coordination had occurred, and that this is all just an organic groundswell of support for this policy change. That is a really shitty way to engage with the community, bordering on astroturfing.
posted by tocts at 7:54 AM on February 10, 2016 [21 favorites]


Say, come to think of it- why not just institute a maximum character count for the above-the-fold section that conforms to mod expectations for how long it should be? Wouldn't that prevent this issue from ever coming up in the first place?

It would, but it'd also mean there's a hard limit and no poster can ever use their judgement to say "I think this is worth risking going a little longer this time". Which, considering we had a tussle when we put a hard limit on title length, doesn't strike me as a painless solution even if it were one I were inclined toward, and it's very much not.

Plenty of posts that are basically fine skirt the edges or toe over the soft limit we set. The occasional post that is deliberately quite long above the fold is so for unusually clever or interesting reasons. And the occasional post that is overly long for no exceptional reason getting through because there's no good solution isn't a big deal; we just don't want them to proliferate and so have set the expectation for a very long time now that longish posts may have some portion moved under the fold. The nudge we added last summer is a part of that, but we very intentionally made it a nudge (maybe too gentle of one in retrospect, so we'll look at rewording it a bit) rather than a hard limit because that's in the spirit of how this has always worked.

Of long posts:

This is a post of mine from last February. Two graphs of 11 total lines above the fold on a desktop browser. From what cortex said above, that's double his comfort level (4-5 lines) and will now be truncated. My impression from this thread is that the guideline has changed.

That post of yours was just as conspicuously long last February as it is today. It would have been just as conspicuously long five and ten years ago. It is, indeed, a pretty long post. That doesn't mean it "will now" be truncated, any more than that it was then truncated, because this is not some new rubric or some new ironclad enforcement of a previously flexible one.

It's also not a bad post because it's long. It's a long post because it's long. Longer than posts should generally be, long enough to be like "boy howdy that's a lot of post on the front page". It's not a value judgement, it's a mechanical fact about the post as constructed and one that butts up somewhat against posting guidelines.

But that particular post also presents a dilemma that some long posts do: it's a bunch of text followed only later by a sort of narrative string of links and text, which means our no-mussing-with-construction approach to this offers no good cut point. We're not going to pick out a link from below and make it a new above-the-fold bit; we're not going to cut the post off after the first linkless paragraph and have no links on the front page; in a pinch, cutting after the first sentence with a link might work for some posts but for that one it'd make for a really weird alteration of the rhetorical flow of the thing. So the options there are leave it or delete it. We left it.

The takeaway here is meant to be: we're flexible and look at this stuff case-by-case, and not every long post is going to get edited for the cut, even though long posts may get that treatment and posters need to be okay with that if they choose to go long.

But just for the record for those inclined toward rules-lawyering or suchlike: the takeaway should not be "if I always stick a paragraph of text before the links, that'll make it edit-proof!" because if I see someone seeming to deliberately regular adopt that structure on long-ass posts as some kind of modproofing end-run then we're going to have words. Us being willing to be flexible is part of a two-way street, part of that social contract I mentioned above, where folks don't try to exploit the outer limits guidelines or the mods' forbearance.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:00 AM on February 10, 2016 [15 favorites]


tocts, I feel like your conclusion is based on some really shitty and likely very inaccurate assumptions. I implore you to assume good intent, and maybe stop taking this further.
posted by kalessin at 8:02 AM on February 10, 2016


FWIW, I read the situation exactly the same way as tocts did. Maybe I'm assuming bad faith, but I actually don't see a much more charitable reading of the situation that Cortex described. It's not plausible that the sudden flurry of very similar emails was a coincidence. Maybe there was just a sort of casual discussion about it somewhere and a bunch of people decided to write in to the mods without the offline discussion actively contemplating a write-in campaign. I find that pretty doubtful, too, but more plausible than coincidence.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:18 AM on February 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


i do remember thinking "oh danah boyd - why didn't it say that above the fold because i would have read it earlier" for one of those links. for what it's worth. but i am still reading this thread to find out what all the secret cabal off-site stuff is about.
posted by andrewcooke at 8:22 AM on February 10, 2016


a surprising number of people who make posts and ... vanish

that may partly be that some of us know we aren't the greatest communicators in the world and so one way of avoiding a threadsitting disaster from hurried, poorly thought out off-the-cuff replies, is to walk away from the keyboard for a while. i do this even with comments, quite often. sorry.
posted by andrewcooke at 8:28 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd rather folks not dig in on that aspect of it further in any case; it's something I wouldn't have mentioned at all if the thread hadn't had a weird undercurrent to it, but that's just an undercurrent, not everything in the thread and as weird as it may be it's just ancillary to the actual policy discussion. Additional back and forth speculation about it from another step removed isn't really going to help anything.

This core thing is, again, totally an okay thing for us to have a MetaTalk discussion about. If folks have misunderstandings about what site policy and practice is and has been, talking that out is something I'm okay with. It sounds like rewording the soft warning in the posting process may be a good positive step here, all else aside.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:31 AM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


[moved a few lines under the fold ~mod_name]

~chuckle~
posted by octobersurprise at 8:35 AM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


What if a user could access a page that shows mod actions affecting their posts/comments? "Post (link) edited on yyyy-mm-dd at hh:mm:ss. Reason: content moved below the fold." The page would be there for folks who care about that stuff, and everyone else could ignore it. Seems less likely to cause shitstorms than an email notification pushed to the user. Leaving one brief comment would be the only additional work required of mods, assuming they don't already enter a comment when stuff is edited or deleted.
posted by in278s at 8:35 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]




4th number: " How about a little note at the end in smalltext like [moved a few lines under the fold ~mod_name]? If those are definite non-starters, why?"

The more inside indicator line in the post already moves; something that can only be done by a Mod. A mod note is both redundant to the poster (who knew where the original line was) and sure to generate meta commentary in the thread.
posted by Mitheral at 8:47 AM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


The result of these edits, on the few examples cited here, just left them as single-line posts with no context and often no indication of what they're actually about. I skipped over both of them from the front page and only looked into them as a result of this MeTa. In both cases the posts were better before the edits, and neither was excessively long.

I've seen some extra-long posts, and I agree with the desire to discourage them, but to reduce well-crafted posts to a single phrase and hide the rest below the fold is overkill. Front page details and pull quotes are what make MetaFilter better than other sites.
At least they used to.
posted by rocket88 at 9:01 AM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Weirdly, I am mostly confused with the above commenters who do not see this as editing -- front page display has an effect in engaging readership. Maybe if you engage the site differently, like you get everything by RSS or you click on (more inside) on every post by default I could see that viewpoint-- since that way you would always see the meat of every post -- but that is not how I engage with the site, at least. Of course it's editing. That's not a negative thing, by any means, and shouldn't hold any dire connotations: I love editing! I used to be an editor! But it is what it is.

I just think in this singular case it was done poorly: there was a link, and a fuller explanation using a literary reference that immediately piqued my interest -- notice I was the first person to favorite the post. Now it's a sentence fragment that my eye would skip over. Instead of trimming a shrub down to size, it was clipped to a stick.

I mean, damn. Look at that thing now. Y'all didn't even leave it a verb.

That's due to the original construction, to be fair! It would require communication to rework, which is outside normal workflow. That's where this edge case apparently broke down.
posted by rewil at 9:02 AM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


That post of yours was just as conspicuously long last February as it is today. It would have been just as conspicuously long five and ten years ago. It is, indeed, a pretty long post.

Yeah, I know. I chose that one last night because it was the longest out of my last 100 posts, and at a year old was kind of recent. I knew when I commented that it was an outlier. Nearly all my posts are four or five lines or fewer above the fold.

That doesn't mean it "will now" be truncated, any more than that it was then truncated, because this is not some new rubric or some new ironclad enforcement of a previously flexible one.

Okay, that's really helpful to know. Thank you.

But that particular post also presents a dilemma that some long posts do: it's a bunch of text followed only later by a sort of narrative string of links and text, which means our no-mussing-with-construction approach to this offers no good cut point. We're not going to pick out a link from below and make it a new above-the-fold bit; we're not going to cut the post off after the first linkless paragraph and have no links on the front page; in a pinch, cutting after the first sentence with a link might work for some posts but for that one it'd make for a really weird alteration of the rhetorical flow of the thing. So the options there are leave it or delete it. We left it.

See, knowing that it was actually thought of as a problem at the time and what your thought processes were regarding whether it should have been chopped up and why in the end it wasn't, is super helpful. It tells me that the post was a problem. It tells me why it survived. It tells me that this post was a fluke -- an exception to the rule, why it wasn't edited and that survived because the mods were being nice and didn't want to delete it.

I wouldn't have known any of that without your explanation. If I had made another post like it in the last year, I'd have expected that one to survive.

This is why I think the third option should still be considered: you could have easily asked me to fix that first one by memail and I would have happily obliged. I might even have been able to edit it quickly enough that the post wouldn't have remained a problem for very long.

I'd even have been okay with a delete and request that I repost. (Sort of. Well, i probably would have grumbled a bit about that, but still....)

Invisible mod actions are low-maintenance, but they don't teach us anything. We can't learn from them.

The takeaway here is meant to be: we're flexible and look at this stuff case-by-case, and not every long post is going to get edited for the cut, even though long posts may get that treatment and posters need to be okay with that if they choose to go long.

Also helpful to know. Thank you.

But just for the record for those inclined toward rules-lawyering or suchlike: the takeaway should not be "if I always stick a paragraph of text before the links, that'll make it edit-proof!" because if I see someone seeming to deliberately regular adopt that structure on long-ass posts as some kind of modproofing end-run then we're going to have words. Us being willing to be flexible is part of a two-way street, part of that social contract I mentioned above, where folks don't try to exploit the outer limits guidelines or the mods' forbearance.

Out of curiosity, how many more times would you think I could get away with it before being considered a "regular adopter"? :D
posted by zarq at 9:16 AM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's no need to discuss how to handle a problematic live FPP. Because we now have the ability to save a post-in-progress via the Preview button, it should be easy for a poster who triggers the soft warning to save the post and drop a line to the mods, who could then look at the draft and offer feedback. Right? The warning could be modified to include that suggestion.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:16 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'll add another vote to keep things the same (I.E. silent edit/re-fold of post based upon mod choice), except to rework the warning text that comes up before posting to quite pointedly mention that the poster might have their post re-folded without notification. Further, specify that if a user wants to guarantee no edits will be made to their post, that they can use the contact form to work the post out with the mods in advance.

This way the people who really do care can get an unedited post (or realize that their dream won't come to fruition). The people who are mostly ok, but want to get it done without mod intervention can either edit to make the warning go away or roll the dice.

Sadly, I feel even an obscenely strongly re-worded warning, with bolded sections, and maybe even some all caps will change about 0.01% of FPP's and result in just as much periodic GRAR over the editing.
posted by nobeagle at 9:20 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, i probably would have grumbled a bit about that, but still....

But that's sort of the issue, really. Anything the mods do that triggers some sort of "poster notification" that is personal and not just a warning risks getting into an extended "But why?" discussion with users that is actually also private and that people don't learn from. I mean one person learns (or doesn't) but the membership as a whole doesn't.

This is why I'm in favor of maybe tweaking the warning message but otherwise think things work decently. It's a very rare user who is word-level concerned with the appearance of their posts and it makes sense if mods don't direct an inordinate amount of time towards extended "But why" discussions about these rare issues with these rare users. I know it's hard if you are one of those rare users, I know i have my issues where *I* am that user, but I think it's a reasonable expectation-setting move on their part.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:23 AM on February 10, 2016 [21 favorites]


I wouldn't have known any of that without your explanation. If I had made another post like it in the last year, I'd have expected that one to survive.

And might have been surprised if it went otherwise, and that's just sort of...how it goes? Sometimes you don't know about something until it comes up, even though that thing was in principle documented and knowable, and that's okay.

I mean, that's the thing: I'm happy to give you this explanation since you brought it up, and I'd have been happy to provide it at the time if it had come to that. It got a pass at the time, so it didn't come up. (Maybe it didn't get on anybody's radar; maybe a mod glanced at it and thought, eh, there hadn't been other large posts recently, and shrugged it by; maybe a mod saw it and thought "that's long as hell but I'm too busy with other shit right now to get in a fight with a user about their post formatting" and let it slide with some side-eye. Could have been a number of things, a year later I'm basically ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ about it.)

But the idea of universally offering that level of explanation—preemptively, even, if the idea is that this is the level of detail posters need to have before they post lest they be surprised—is unreasonable and unworkable. It's the kind of thing that actively contacting the mods when it comes up, or keeping a close eye on MetaTalk discussions if you're into following along on policy as a matter of habit or recreation, is the practical approach for here. So I'm glad that you're glad to have that explanation, but I want to be clear that me writing up several paragraphs dissecting the issue in detail isn't something that scales to general policy; that's why we have it in the FAQ and why we added that soft warning, because "here's a basic guideline" is much more where we can operate at a talking-to-everybody level, y'know?

I'd even have been okay with a delete and request that I repost. (Sort of. Well, i probably would have grumbled a bit about that, but still....)

I'm glad you included that parenthetical, because it's not nothing or even close to nothing: lots of people would grumble about that bit, or more than that, sometimes a lot more. It's very easy to say "well, the mods should just communicate about x" without taking into account that that is far from costless and we have limited resources, limited communicative and emotional bandwidth to bring to bear.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:38 AM on February 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


Mod abuse notice: I nixed a forgotten, dangling sentence fragment from that comment because it was distracting as hell.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:50 AM on February 10, 2016


grammar subterfuge of the worst kind!
posted by Think_Long at 9:53 AM on February 10, 2016


I completely agree, and like bleep I think this is a very weird conversation. If it's true that it's the result of people ganging up offsite, I think that's shitty behavior.

And I agree with languagehat. I also was put off by the first line of this post.

Being a member of this community means being respectful. Part of that is not being overly wordy on the front page as it can make it challenging to read/scroll, etc. The form asks people to keep it to a paragraph, if people ignore that then I think it makes perfect sense for the moderators to try and and find an appropriate spot to cut the post into the front page and the more inside. If the poster has an issue then they can email the mods and suggest a different split. The mods shouldn't have to hunt down posters and ask them to respect the one paragraph suggestion. The suggestion is there for a reason. Also, as jessamyn pointed out, this method isn't foolproof anyway.

The moderators do a helluva job here, and asking them to do more work a-la emails to people after the fact asking them to do something that they should have been doing in the first place seems like creating work for them.

Status quo now!
posted by terrapin at 9:59 AM on February 10, 2016 [11 favorites]


...and we have limited resources, limited communicative and emotional bandwidth to bring to bear.

This is what I think is hard for some people to understand - I mean, I think I get it, and in general assume that the mod staff is doing all they can, and always with zero ill-intent - but I sometimes wonder what other members think the mods do, and what that work is like, when suggestions to add a bunch of literal and emotional overhead to basic core functions of the come up. I guess what I'm sayin' is, I feel ya, mods.
posted by gorbichov at 10:02 AM on February 10, 2016 [10 favorites]




I am and have been a member of a few spin-off communities of MetaFilter. Sometimes we talk about MetaFilter. I'm getting the impression that somehow, (1) talking about MetaFilter and (2) deciding to communicate about that back to MetaFilter or MetaFilter mods is somehow "shitty".

That there may have been a collection of e-mails derived from a particular discussion off-site that went to the mods (and used a set of phrasings probably common to that off-site discussion) seems to me a dynamic of normal human use of the Internet. I don't see it as shitty at all, and I really resent having it characterized as such (and I'm not even part of the collection of people who sent these e-mails).
posted by kalessin at 10:12 AM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


How can you form an opinion without knowing the content of the emails?
posted by Mitheral at 10:22 AM on February 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


My problem is that this post could have easily been written like this:

"Are FPPs modified without notice to either the poster -- or the rest of the sites' users -- if they are deemed too lengthy for the Blue? If so, how long is too long?"

Mention some insider information and that this is being discussed off-site without mentioning with whom is unnecessary. Adding it is IMHO extremely disappointing. The Grey is where we discuss policies. Not somewhere else.
posted by terrapin at 10:24 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am reliably informed

Makes me feel like I'm living in Bridge of Spies or something. Did many Bothans die to bring you this information? It just couches what follows in a really weird way.
posted by kbanas at 10:26 AM on February 10, 2016 [18 favorites]


The above the fold text makes an argument to the user: hey! this is a cool thing! read me! It is work to craft that, to take a topic or a longer piece and construct an effective hook that brings an audience in to read it further.

In that case, it is really the responsibility of the poster to make the introductory paragraph as concise and informative as possible. Otherwise, you are wasting my time and attention.

For example, take that post up above, with the Douglas Adams qoute. A couple dozen lines in, and I have no idea what the damn post is about. I'm all "Next!" "Wait, I've got this wonderful quote from the Upanish-" "NEXT!" Seriously, there was no need to have the Douglas Adams bit in the opening, or 90% of the following paragraph.

Now bear in mind that I come more from the "sausage making" school of writing, but honestly If you can't edit the meaning of your post down to one paragraph, if you're that enchanted with your prose, maaaaaybe you should just take it to Livejournal or WordPress. Oh wait- LJ cuts. Never mind.
posted by happyroach at 10:32 AM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm getting the impression that somehow, (1) talking about MetaFilter and (2) deciding to communicate about that back to MetaFilter or MetaFilter mods is somehow "shitty".

this seems like you're not extending the good faith reading towards the mods that you've encouraged others to extend to whoever it is we're talking about.
posted by nadawi at 10:33 AM on February 10, 2016 [16 favorites]


... I really resent having it characterized as such

Well, the first rule of MetaFilter is....

No, seriously, no one said we can't talk about MeFi off MeFi, and no one said you can't get a group together to approach the mods on a topic. Our mods, they are reasonable, as demonstrated again (and again and again) in their responses to this strangely hostile thread about something that's been a part of posting to MeFi for a long time. I think the point is that in this specific case (that you were not a part of) there is a little more to it. I can't comment further, since I wasn't part of it either, but it doesn't seem helpful to add all that conjecture you're adding.

Tally one more vote in favor of improved wording in the warning on the post page and agreeing that the system works as designed for users who care about these edits and for users who don't. If you care a lot about these edits, then you should craft your posts to avoid the warning or be prepared to proactively contact the mods about why you need your post to be so danged long. Same as it ever was.

I have flagged super-long posts as display errors and passed them by. Adding gobs of text to the front page may cause your post to lose potential readers, too.
posted by juliplease at 10:37 AM on February 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm getting the impression that somehow, (1) talking about MetaFilter and (2) deciding to communicate about that back to MetaFilter or MetaFilter mods is somehow "shitty".

I think that, like almost anything, there are ways to do it that are shitty and there are ways to do it that are not shitty. I'd propose that melissasaurus's recent MeTa about profile visibility was very much not shitty, despite being discussed to some extent or another in backchannels. This MeTa doesn't rise to the level of shitty (though without knowing the details of the emails to the mods I'm not entirely sure), but it's not great either.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:40 AM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


I feel like my dissent is getting uncharitably mischaracterized. My point won't survive this climate. Do as you will.
posted by kalessin at 10:40 AM on February 10, 2016


I am and have been a member of a few spin-off communities of MetaFilter. Sometimes we talk about MetaFilter. I'm getting the impression that somehow, (1) talking about MetaFilter and (2) deciding to communicate about that back to MetaFilter or MetaFilter mods is somehow "shitty".

That's a really uncharitable reading; or at least, that isn't my impression. People are saying that the discussion here feels unwelcoming because it feels like it was brought over from somewhere else, and that it feels like they're only getting half of the conversation. That's not saying 'it's bad to talk about Metafilter,' it's saying 'maybe give some context about where this request/comment/thought is coming from so that we can all start this conversation from about the same place.' It is yet another case of It Turns Out Framing Matters A Lot.

Anyway: as a frequent phone user, I'll just chime in that I am 100% okay with editing to put more of a post under the [more inside] without notifying the poster, although the warning on post length & consequences (ie, that it might be moved) should also be tweaked.
posted by cjelli at 10:44 AM on February 10, 2016 [9 favorites]


I sometimes wonder what other members think the mods do, and what that work is like

The impression I get from threads like these is that a fair number of posters see the mods as lounging on their chaise lounges in the solarium, drinking tea and eating scones, and occasionally saying "I say Cortex old bean, shall we ruin the life of that innocent young naif of a poster, eh wot?"

Mods: if that description somehow actually matches what you do, please please pleasepleasepleasePLEASE let me know, because I could TOTALLY ace that job.
posted by happyroach at 10:51 AM on February 10, 2016 [13 favorites]


My problem is that this post could have easily been written like this:

"Are FPPs modified without notice to either the poster -- or the rest of the sites' users -- if they are deemed too lengthy for the Blue? If so, how long is too long?"

Mention some insider information and that this is being discussed off-site without mentioning with whom is unnecessary. Adding it is IMHO extremely disappointing. The Grey is where we discuss policies. Not somewhere else.


Well cortex did say that he got a bunch of emails about this yesterday so isn't it equally plausible that birdsquared was "reliably informed" by the mods? The phrasing may be a bit quirky, but I wouldn't have read anything into it if cortex hadn't also brought up his theory about the offsite discussion. We are encouraged to use the contact form before posting a MeTa and that's what I would have assumed happened here, based on the MeTa post itself at least.

Your rewrite would have birdsquared feign confusion about a question he already knows the answer to, which would be pretty coy and passive aggressive.
posted by mama casserole at 10:58 AM on February 10, 2016


On the general subject of off-site discussion of MetaFilter: it's fine in general, and it happens regularly in varyingly public venues, and that's just kind of normal and to be expected and not something the mod staff has a problem with. People discuss and compare notes and kibitz about all kinds of shit in their lives, MetaFilter isn't an exception.

Several folks have read me correctly that my issue here's almost entirely with the kind of mismatch and lack of transparency in the voyage the whole thing took from a post edit the other day to offline whatever-exactly-happened to a MetaTalk post and initial commenting momentum with a sort of weirdly undisclosed pedigree. That's a pretty specific thing-that-felt-weird and is a much narrower concern than the broad and generally totally fine idea of conversation coming from somewhere else back to the site in a constructive way.

I hope that's clearer. But, again, I'd really like folks to cut it out at this point with the theorizing and counter-theorizing about the specific backchannel discussion stuff in this case. I think this specific situation was a little weird, but I don't think there's going to anything more concrete to say about that weirdness, and the MetaTalk thread itself is going to have a lot more utility as a discussion of the policy stuff in question than about any of that and the sort of vaguely drama-ish vibe it brings with.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:07 AM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


I sometimes wonder what other members think the mods do, and what that work is like


I am reliably informed that the Xanadu poem is based on the lavish event parties that mathowie used to throw the legions of writhing mods. Now-a-days that pleasure dome is just a small part of Cortex's sprawling estate, a home to a long neglected flamboyance of flamingos.
posted by French Fry at 11:13 AM on February 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


Thanks for clearing that up, cortex.
posted by kalessin at 11:15 AM on February 10, 2016


It's my day off, and I am literally eating a scone right this very minute.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:27 AM on February 10, 2016 [34 favorites]


The front page is the commons. It makes perfect sense that when people try to monopolize those commons the mods might step in to move part of a post inside the post. Framing doesn't happen in a vacuum, it happens on, and in the context of, the front page.
posted by OmieWise at 11:38 AM on February 10, 2016 [14 favorites]


> That's due to the original construction, to be fair!

Never mind "to be fair": that's entirely due to the original construction, and all people have to do to avoid this intolerable interference with their creativity is to not write posts that make this an issue. I prefer short-and-sweet myself, but I appreciate that lots of people like longer posts, and that's fine, but there's no excuse for cluttering up the blue with huge chunks of verbiage. If you want huge chunks, put 'em below the fold; if you think your vision requires readers be confronted with everything at once, GYOB.

tl;dr: Don't submit War & Peace to a short-story contest.
posted by languagehat at 11:55 AM on February 10, 2016 [14 favorites]


Your rewrite would have birdsquared feign confusion about a question he already knows the answer to, which would be pretty coy and passive aggressive.

And from my POV the original post was passive aggressive.

I am sure cortex will speak up if he or the other mods are the source to which birdsquared is referring. If they are, then that should have been mentioned, but I will refrain from rewriting a more polite post of that version so I am not accused of being passive aggressive again.
posted by terrapin at 11:58 AM on February 10, 2016


Posts that are overly long above the fold could simply be deleted with that as the reason and the poster would have the chance to repost the following day.

This sounds like a great solution. Posts are already deleted sometimes and need to be reframed. Personally, I've found if I'm having trouble framing a post, or if a post needs to be framed a certain way, it's probably not a great post for MetaFilter. That's just me, though. I tend to post stuff that doesn't need more than PIGLETS! or MUSIC FOR OLDS!
posted by Room 641-A at 12:06 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


So weird how many "I WAS NEVAR TOLD!" comments about something that is boilerplate text in literally every FPP you make. Like, demanding more communication because you didn't actually read the previous communication? And describing this as a new policy? Is this like how every generation has to discover sex and drugs as something entirely novel that they invented?
posted by klangklangston at 12:17 PM on February 10, 2016 [20 favorites]


tl;dr: [...] War & Peace
posted by shakespeherian at 12:42 PM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sometimes, when we're all very frustrated, we should all take time to watch dots moving around a Hilbert curve.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:51 PM on February 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


just left them as single-line posts with no context and often no indication of what they're actually about. I skipped over both of them from the front page

But it was you who skipped over them, no one forced you into this behaviour. If you don't know what it is, and you're concerned you could miss something great, surely just clicking on the link and reading the "more inside" is not to onerous a task? Having to click, once, is not to great an impost.

I mean, there's things I'd change about the front page or whatever, I guess, but my predilections should not drive site policy where the alternative is I take just half a second longer!

And if you do skip them, what of it? It's no big deal, thirty posts or more are put up every day. The site can handle your inattention - and likewise, unless you claim to read every post - posts can also handle your inattention.

People not reading posts is only a problem when they feel compelled to comment on them!
posted by smoke at 1:43 PM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


Some months back I noticed a length warning message in the posting form, but it seemed to show up for laughably short things. I've not noticed it lately though, so I assume the check had been going too strict and has been toned down since.
posted by JHarris at 1:58 PM on February 10, 2016


Perhaps we could talk to the folks at Twitter about creating some sort of algorithm for determining ideal post length?
posted by Rock Steady at 1:59 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've just come here to say that the mods are angels.
posted by eamondaly at 2:01 PM on February 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


JHarris, we haven't made any changes to the length warning message. If you spot something that's getting the message when it shouldn't please send it our way so we can take a look.
posted by pb (staff) at 2:06 PM on February 10, 2016


REFO
posted by neroli at 2:18 PM on February 10, 2016


rmatted all my life
posted by neroli at 2:18 PM on February 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


But it was you who skipped over them, no one forced you into this behaviour. If you don't know what it is, and you're concerned you could miss something great, surely just clicking on the link and reading the "more inside" is not to onerous a task?
Well, but user interfaces can definitely prime people for actions and practices. Clicking a link and reading the "more inside" is not skipped because it seems like an onerous task. It is skipped because of a variety of factors, many of which are due to the interface design. When we are on Metafilter, we're often browsing, not actively looking for information per say - and that means that things can get skipped without cognitive awareness.

So, no, no one "forced" anyone to skip anything by making a post shorter, but it certainly matters. Certainly. Google has poured billions of dollars into figuring out just what text to show and in just what way and so on in order to prime people to click, to get them to match the documents that have been retrieved with what they think they're looking for in order to deliver relevant information in a timely fashion, to sell advertisements, to enable browsing and encountering, etc. People are engaging in these practices without even knowing it, without thinking about it, most of the time. And when those people miss things that they are disappointed that they missed, because they would have liked to have an interesting discussion with fellow mefites about it, or when they see that the interesting discussion is being stopped, sure, it's not the end of the world. But to attribute it to misattention is like saying this is all on the person and the interface has nothing to do with it. From a sociotechnical standpoint, that's incorrect.

I will also say that I was surprised to learn that mods might preemptively edit posts without flags on them. I always flag posts that are too long. I assumed that mods only did things when they were alerted by flags from a user or users. But perhaps there was a flag in this situation; I don't know. I do know that I would not have flagged either of these posts for being too long.
posted by sockermom at 2:40 PM on February 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


Mods: if that description somehow actually matches what you do

happyroach, the Cabal would like a word with you. Pay no attention to LobsterMitten's confession.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:53 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


The status quo is fine. It does what it needs to do, and it's been the status quo for so long that it's weird that it's popping up like this in such a hostile way. Thank you mods for shepherding the front page in this way. It's ok that you don't do a perfect job every time; none of us do.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:12 PM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Google has poured billions of dollars into figuring out just what text to show and in just what way and so on in order to prime people to click

I'm not singling out this comment for any reason other than it's right above. Similar sentiments have been said elsewhere in this thread about how posts are a lot of work and are like our children and we want to get readership.

I guess this is why I have such a disconnect with this thread. I only have a few posts, sure, but I can speak to posts in general. I see posts as "Look at this thing I found. Nifty!" with varying levels of links digging into the topic. Any amount of work or wording or formatting that is so intense that it hurts to have it slightly modified or really caring how many reads, clicks, whatever it gets seems to me like GYOB territory. And if I miss a link because the formatting didn't catch my eye - or if somebody misses one of my links - I just can't get too bothered by it. I don't have the energy.

I prefer a clean front page if all it means is moving some text/links inside from time to time. I'm not saying I don't understand caring about clicks or being very attached to exact formatting, but I am curious if this disconnect is part reason why some here cannot believe that others do/don't consider moving items inside heavy editing and possibly a concern. Maybe it's just me. Often it is.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 3:17 PM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


The impression I get from threads like these is that a fair number of posters see the mods as lounging on their chaise lounges in the solarium, drinking tea and eating scones, and occasionally saying "I say Cortex old bean, shall we ruin the life of that innocent young naif of a poster, eh wot?"

PLAUSIBLE.
posted by Wordshore at 3:34 PM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


I demand a "buy the mods a cream tea" button on every MetaTalk page.
posted by thetortoise at 3:39 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Vote 1#
[more inside]
posted by clavdivs at 4:25 PM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just popping in to add my voice that I am totally fine with the policy as it has always been. The two posts cited as examples in this MeTa did indeed suffer from the editing, as even cortex has admitted, but I appreciate that they are edge cases and also that cortex was trying to edit in as impartial a way as possible. I really appreciate seeing the level of thought that goes into tricky moderating calls like those.

I am against contacting the poster for these types of edits as I feel doing so would likely increase the volume of indignant MeTas here on the site.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:44 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am not giving away my -
POST!
I am not giving away my -
POST!
I’m just like my website
I’m old, crotchety and indignant
And I’m not throwing away my -- post!
I’m ‘a get a five dollars to post here'
I prob’ly shouldn’t brag, but dag, I amaze and astonish
The problem is I got a lot of favs but no polish
I gotta holler just to be heard
With every FPP, I drop knowledge!
I’m a diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal
Tryin’ to reach my goal. My power of speech: unimpeachable
Only 47 but my mind is younger
These MetaTalks get colder, I shoulder
Ev’ry burden, ev’ry disadvantage
I have learned to EDIT!, I don’t have mod powers to brandish
I type the blue and grey famished
The plan is to fan this Meta into a flame
But damn, it’s getting dark, so let me spell out the name...
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:53 PM on February 10, 2016 [14 favorites]


(I'm sorry I just discovered Hamilton.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:53 PM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


This post reminds me of how they say that growing up with inconsistent discipline is the worst thing for a kid. I have no idea if it's true; the thinking is that a kid who never knows when the anvil might fall will just end up being on edge all the time and feel powerless against an arbitrary system.

In almost every case I really like that the moderation here is based more on guidelines than on rules and that decisions are made individually and in context. This is one case, though, where I think it would make sense to be absolutely explicit on the new post page about what the poster should expect to happen. Either don't let the post go through at all if it's over X lines, explain the reasoning (small screens etc.), and offer the option to contact the mods if the poster can't find a good way to shorten the intro or just needs to a little over the limit; or do let the post go through but with a very clear warning that the mods are quite likely to move things below the fold, and that the poster should take this opportunity to rearrange the post themselves to ensure the presentation they want.

Basically, you can never really know how readers will react to a post or whether it might be deleted. But this seems like a point of friction that can easily be turned into something predictable about which the poster is informed and in control, without taking away from the site's overall commitment to flexible moderation.
posted by egg drop at 7:05 PM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Save screen real estate by eliminating front page title display.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:35 PM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


When I'm scanning mefi, I'm way more likely to read the above the fold portion of an FPP if it's kept to a couple lines, especially when I'm tired or just when I'm catching up because I haven't checked the front page in awhile.

So for me, personally, I'm more likely to miss an interesting post if it's got a paragraph or two above the fold, but maybe this is just an issue for me and my short attention span.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:04 PM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


If the first sentence of your post isn't engaging and interest then I'm not reading any further no matter what you write or where it is. There are studies on reader engagement that indicate this is the most common behaviour. This is the whole point behind clickbait bullshit and behind newspaper headlines before that - much as I hate those specific things - attention spans are short. It's up to the poster to explain what they're trying to get across and leaning on long paragraphs to do so is a bad idea. If you can't write a good first sentence then too bad. Moving some text around won't help you anyway.

If you do write a long amount of stuff that is interesting then I'm going to click through and read it on the full page anyway. Then I get the context (in the full post) and it's easier to see where it ends. I have no idea if this bit is just me. Lastly I rarely read anything block quoted. If I'm interested then I'll go read the links anyway, I don't need you pulling bits out for my attention. Just tell me what it's all about then trust that your links will do their job.

I read mainly on a small screen these days and it turns out that long paragraphed posts can even make me skip the post(s) afterwards as I flick the finger to get past the wall of text. I flag those big ones html/display error because that's all they are.

So yeah, I see this reformatting issue as neutral-to-good and it makes it easier and more likely for me to read the posts. Plus the fact that so many people didn't notice this standard and consistent site behaviour until now indicates that it's working seamlessly and is no big deal.
posted by shelleycat at 11:01 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


If the first sentence of your post isn't engaging and interest then I'm not reading any further no matter what you write or where it is. There are studies on reader engagement that indicate this is the most common behaviour. This is the whole point behind clickbait bullshit and behind newspaper headlines before that - much as I hate those specific things - attention spans are short.

There was a time when Mefites generally agreed that we could do better than that, that we could be the change we wanted to see in the Web, bug I guess I'd better get used to my lawn being trampled.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:30 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


(just to be clear, I like short(ish) FPPs too. I'm just pushing back against the Buzzfeed-ification of the Information Supersluiceway.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:38 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not suggesting buzzfeedification of anything. I hate clickbait and don't read it. But I also won't keep reading something when the first sentence is boring. There are plenty of good ways to attract interest without playing tricks. But expecting your audience to wade through several paragraphs to figure it out isn't one of them.
posted by shelleycat at 2:20 AM on February 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


So many of my favorite things in the world start off "boring." Different strokes, of course, de gustibus, you know, all that.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:26 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


(I also hope that "attracting interest" isn't foremost in the minds of FPP posters, but again, de gustibooze.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:27 AM on February 11, 2016


I only ever post to attract interest to the topic of the post. I can't think of another reason to post.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:43 AM on February 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Eh, might explain why I never post.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:47 AM on February 11, 2016


I'm not suggesting I have terribly high standards or anything. It doesn't take much to keep me reading. Just not several paragraphs of whatever before making it clear why I'm supposed to be interested.
posted by shelleycat at 2:47 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I post to attract wasps, which explains why each of my FPPs contains a little bit of rotten meat.
posted by Wolof at 2:48 AM on February 11, 2016 [14 favorites]


Y'know I was wondering about the rotten meat thing, but now it makes perfect sense.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:19 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


For FPPs edited for brevity, perhaps just change to
[now with more inside!]
posted by Kabanos at 8:07 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I'm not suggesting buzzfeedification of anything. I hate clickbait and don't read it."

title of one of the disputed posts: "one weird trick that makes a novel addictive"


posted by klangklangston at 11:52 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah and if they had followed that up with a sentance showing some idea of what they were on about I might have read it. As it stands I was never going to read that post no matter where the cut point was. Leaning on extensive blockquotes doesn't make up for lack of a decent opening.
posted by shelleycat at 12:01 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Tough audience.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:39 PM on February 11, 2016


jessamyn: Yeah there are a surprising number of people who make posts and ... vanish. Like you email them back (and it's always email not MeMail so that whichever mod is on duty can respond) and hear from them ten hours later or something.

But isn't that standard MF advice? Make a post and then set it free, close the window and let the discussion proceed without you so you don't end up trying to herd people into the discussion you dreamed about?
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:24 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Now threadsitting, yes. Not sticking around to check your email or otherwise be present and available... up to the individual but there are some pragmatic reasons why you might want to hang out for a bit.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:26 PM on February 11, 2016


Joseph Gurl pushes back against the Buzzfeed-ification of the Information Supersluiceway. You won't believe what happens next!
posted by happyroach at 1:27 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


He fixes the cable?
posted by asterix at 2:17 PM on February 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


Now threadsitting, yes. Not sticking around to check your email or otherwise be present and available... up to the individual but there are some pragmatic reasons why you might want to hang out for a bit.

I compose a post, I add some links. I click on every link to make sure it goes to the right place. I contemplate my post, move some stuff below the line, change my mind and move it back again. I check all the links. I drink some coffee and contemplate some more. I strive to remember why I ever thought the subject was interesting. I remove excess words, then rephrase my eviscerated sentences to make them clearer. I walk back and forth, biting my fingers. I try reframing the post, reversing it, changing a literal title to an allusive one. I check the links once more. I add a pop-culture reference and hastily remove it.

At that point it is 1 AM so I click "post" and go to bed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:38 PM on February 11, 2016 [11 favorites]


I post to attract wasps, which explains why each of my FPPs contains a little bit of rotten meat.

Wasps?! No wonder I break out in hives every time I read one of your posts.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:47 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Don't be fatuous, asterix.
posted by sockermom at 5:29 PM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Another vote for the status quo. There's a warning. There's no change. This thread makes it feel like there are users who a) see malice in everything the mods do to mod, and b) regard their posts as their children, but whose potential is entirely guided by outside forces.
'This thread had such potential', the thought goes, 'if only it hadn't been so carelessly pruned. My heart and soul is in there, and only a dozen comments? It should have been at least a fifty-plusser...'

Followed by the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth at those dastardly mods and their schemes. Words weren't removed - they were moved. If this is too harsh a yoke to post under, then don't post, I suppose. That'll show them.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:39 PM on February 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


would you like to know more!
posted by clavdivs at 7:29 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


cortex: "considering we had a tussle when we put a hard limit on title length"

I would like to point out this was a huge mistake and urgently needs to be specifically removed for me, personally.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:20 PM on February 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


There was a time when Mefites generally agreed that we could do better than that, that we could be the change we wanted to see in the Web, bug I guess I'd better get used to my lawn being trampled.
I'd like to think we still do, which means that, not only does your first sentence have to be good enough to capture the attention of a bunch of jaded, cynical people who've been there, done that a dozen times already, every other sentence has to keep their attention and led them down the path toward that ever-elusive 'new thing'. Even beyond that, it has to take them further, ever further on that journey, so rapt in the wonders of what they are seeing that they don't dare look away for a moment for fear of missing something. At the end of that journey, it must leave them breathless and exhausted, drooling in pleasure at the wondrous new thing they have discovered.

Or, like me, just throw a couple of words up, stick a link in, then run and hide.
posted by dg at 11:04 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh my gods just reduce the character limit permitted in the above-the-fold bit.
posted by desuetude at 11:17 PM on February 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm in the "leave it alone" camp. Anytime I've posted I've never even come close to the limit, but if I had, I'd wonder why I needed to say so much about whatever I'm posting on the front page vs. inside the post itself. If I can't say it in a couple of sentences, I'm doing it wrong.
posted by disclaimer at 6:07 AM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Or, like me, just throw a couple of words up, stick a link in, then run and hide.

What about my tried-and-true "get drunk and post a single link post, probably misspelled, then get distracted by cooking videos and fall asleep at my desk" method? No, just me?
posted by capricorn at 7:13 AM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


It might not have been your intention, capricorn, but your comment inspired me to go check out all your posts.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:37 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Drunk posting is best posting.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:44 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I compose a post, I add some links. I click on every link to make sure it goes to the right place. I contemplate my post, move some stuff below the line, change my mind and move it back again. I check all the links. I drink some coffee and contemplate some more. I strive to remember why I ever thought the subject was interesting. I remove excess words, then rephrase my eviscerated sentences to make them clearer. I walk back and forth, biting my fingers. I try reframing the post, reversing it, changing a literal title to an allusive one. I check the links once more. I add a pop-culture reference and hastily remove it.

Yeah, that looks familiar. Especially the coffee. The worst part for me is usually right at the end, where I've put off doing the title, and I spend hours and hours coming up with titles, then rejecting every one. "Not funny enough", "too pretentious", "mods will delete that", "that title will derail the thread", "too pornographic", "someone will start an angry meta over that title", "nope; people don't get librarian jokes", "references to tea will confuse the non-English", "still not funny enough".

Sometimes I've deleted a FPP because I've given up on a title am happy with; sometimes, in the early hours, I'll just think "sod it, no-one will ever read the post anyway", then slap in a literal two word title and go to bed disenchanted with everything and myself.
posted by Wordshore at 4:56 PM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


This tremendously reminds me of (the Irish equivalent of) high school when I tried to hang out with the cool kids and found I had no fucking idea what they were talking about.
posted by StephenF at 8:29 PM on February 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh my gods just reduce the character limit permitted in the above-the-fold bit.

Yeah, seriously. If someone wants to make a monster post, there's room for it below the fold. I can't really think of a reason a 15- to 20-line (or whatever) chunk of text *needs* to be above the fold. If someone absolutely *must* create a post like that, maybe they could ask for an exception.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:22 AM on February 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


You won't believe what the mods don't want on the front page! [more inside]
posted by ctmf at 9:43 AM on February 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I find it interesting that a fair number of people are upset to learn that mods are making this relatively minor change without notifying posters. In fact, mods routinely remove comments without any notice to the commenter, either by email or in-thread. I find this extremely disrespectful, it's been done to me repeatedly, and I'm therefore not at all surprised at this more minor manifestation of disrespectful modding.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 10:03 AM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you're talking about your recent deleted comments in AskMe, it's absolutely routine that OPs aren't free to debate the people answering their question or add followups with a bunch of further thoughts. AskMe is meant for you to ask a fairly concrete question and get answers, that's it, and then you can take the most useful answers and make use of them as you see fit. OP comments rebutting answers is a completely routine reason for deletion. If there are comments that you think are inappropriate you can flag them.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:12 AM on February 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


I find when a comment is deleted, disrespect does not originate with the mods.
posted by clavdivs at 12:13 PM on February 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


mysterious_stranger, I flagged your comment and the other guy's comment that snarked on you because they were out of place in AskMe. No disrespect intended, just guidelines.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:54 PM on February 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Deletions don't always need to be marked by the mods. Discussion fora like MeFi don't need to be held to the same standard of transparency as the federal government; the stakes are much lower.

Marking deletions in smalltext mod notes creates a bit of a hitch in the flow of a thread. It makes sense to drop a mod note if a cleanup has itself disrupted a thread's flow, or if the mods want to issue a warning about perpetuating a derail or the like, but in many of the more routine cases that note would itself be a cause of disruption.

It makes sense that sometimes administrative transparency takes a back seat to the goal of keeping threads feeling smooth and seamless. This isn't a trial, it's just a discussion/Q&A forum. And anyway, there are enough eagle-eyed members here that any hypothetical silent systemic abuse of mod powers would surely be noticed and called out.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:30 PM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Discussion fora like MeFi don't need to be held to the same standard of transparency as the federal government; the stakes are much lower.

Which is just one more reason I appreciate the MeFi mod team maintaining a far higher standard of not only transparency but responsiveness, skill and even-handedness than any government I've ever heard of.

Whiners gonna whine. Mod on.
posted by flabdablet at 3:26 AM on February 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


I find this extremely disrespectful, it's been done to me repeatedly, and I'm therefore not at all surprised at this more minor manifestation of disrespectful modding.

SILENCED ALL MY LIFE!!!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:19 AM on February 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd say that not following askme's rules is disrespectful to the community, so I'm not sure what kind of reaction you're expecting there. I mean, most comments are deleted based on flags thrown by community members, not the mods. They just have the "delete" button. The community members, therefore, are the disrespectful ones.

Bunch a disrespectful community members, they're the REAL enemy.
posted by disclaimer at 8:50 AM on February 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the fact that courts and governments are far less transparent than they ought to be is a fair point, but I stand by the analogy. Not that I took your comment as argumentative flabdablet, I'm just clarifying.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:36 PM on February 14, 2016


With a few others here, at least, this entire complaint is magnificent beanplating that had me rolling my eyes 6 comments into this MeTa. Reformatting a post so it doesn't use up lots of front page real estate is hardly "editing," it's fully within the site's longstanding traditions and the authority we grant mods, it has no impact on my experience of your brilliant FPP, honestly. If I care about your well-framed FPP I will click through and see your beautiful formatting. If you can't explain it to me in 4 or 5 lines of screen real estate, get your own blog.

As someone who reads mostly on mobile these days (and generally while in transit and otherwise occupied), I consider the FPP that clearly and succinctly explains its theme and where its primary link will take me to be a better post than one that meanders into TLDR clouds of prose and pull quotes and embedded links. I'd much rather see more posts at a glance than use more glances per post. I personally would favor a hard character limit for the front page portion of FPPs, and not a very long one either.
posted by spitbull at 5:03 AM on February 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


You probably could have said the same thing in about one tenth of the words, spitbull.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:26 AM on February 17, 2016


OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS!
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:56 AM on February 17, 2016


I had a professor once who did a lot of editorial work for various books and publications. He would tell us stories about working with authors in our discipline. He said that there were people who would chafe at any edit, due to ownership of ideas issues. And on the other end, there were people who saw the writing as primarily a community collaboration (with writers, editors, and other collaborators), and the goal at the end of the day was to get good stuff into the hands of people through that process, so they were open to more edits.

These two things aren't diametrically opposed, of course, and someone could fall well within that spectrum. His point wasn't that either end was right or wrong, but that there are differences in philosophy regarding the ownership of ideas and how things are refined such that they can become a public good. I think this site has more of an editorial intent that is concerned about quality control more than just about any other place I've seen, and that naturally butts up against, or is strongly supported by, people with philosophical ideas about writing for and with communities along that particular range. I'm not sure the tension can ever be fully resolved, but I find it helpful to think about that spectrum and people within it who generally all have pretty good intentions when stuff like this comes up.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:34 PM on February 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't blink at anything that's on the order of up to 4-5 lines of text on a desktop browser; after that, it starts getting into grey area and the grey gets darker as the the length grows.

So, as other people have said, why not impose that as a hard limit?

It eliminates work for the mods and the uncertainty around what the right point to clip it is, and gives users a format they have to work within.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:49 PM on February 19, 2016




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