Make moderation posts more distinctive March 14, 2016 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Ive learned here and elsewhere that Metafilter is rightly proud of its moderation. However it took me almost a year to recognize when a mod has  commented. The current visual cues are too subtle for me, especially because I use large fonts and can see only a small amount of text per screen. This pony is an access request (to accomodate both my older eyes and my short-term memory issues) as well as a suggestion for improving the Metafilter experience for new users. 

Heres the visual issue:
Link to a recent thread showing a mod comment followed by a member comment compared with 
Link to a screenshot of how I see this, with my very large fonts
That screenshot also shows the triangle at the left margin, which points at the referenced comment in the link. I like the triangle! I dont want to change that at all.


Philosophy & Prior Discussions
Thanks to restless_nomad, I read the 2011 Metatalk introducing the "staff" badge, where cortex said:
Its just there as sort of a helper for the cases where someone is (a) not aware who the mods actually are or (b) is doing a quick scan of the page, since those are the main use cases weve run into.
Thats exactly why I want to find moderator comments whenever they appear.  This is important to me for several reasons:
  • Assessing how fighty the post is
  • Determining current thread mood before I contribute 
  • Showing where the mods are herding the thread
  • Admiring our mods at work
Some of you may think, "just read the fine discussion, Jesse." I always do. The screenshot linked above demonstrates why my visual buffer limits "the big picture." My brain buffer is not large enough to hold all of a post.
Mod comments are important to a conversation, to our community, to the nature of Metafilter. Their purpose is to direct the flow of a conversation away from unproductive discussion. The mods always stress that their contributions are not punishments—why should site design minimize them?
I do not want to limit the contributions mods can make as members. When theyre not posting as mods, their posts currently appear identically to regular members and thats great. I want them to continue to be able to toggle their "staff" role as appropriate.
I hope we can focus the discussion on the benefits/drawbacks of  "make mod comments visually distinctive." Until that's decided, hashing out details of font, size, color is irrelevant.
posted by Jesse the K to Etiquette/Policy at 9:11 AM (144 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

The link to how you see it (and maybe others, I just checked that one) requests a dropbox password.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:18 AM on March 14, 2016


Well I can't see what you see, but I think there's a difference between marking moderation posts and the staff badge. I wouldn't mind moderation posts marked, but I wouldn't want to see the staff badge across all sites. Having the staff badge appear on any comment by the staff makes it harder for staff to just-regular-participate in discussions. How about some other sort of visual cue (like the darker background for best answers or the outline-box for OP posts in AskME)?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:21 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah but if you close it the picture is right there.
posted by phunniemee at 9:22 AM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


So I've been thinking about this off and on for a while, and my feelings have changed a little over time. For which, there's a couple different things here:

1. Making a more formal mod/not-mod comment distinction.

I used to (per the comment quoted and linked in the post above) feel pretty hardline about not doing a formal "this either is or is not a mod comment" decision process for our comments. And I still see some value in that idea, still feel that way somewhat for complicated community-interaction reasons.

But looking at it in practice over the last few years I am feeling more these days like it'd be reasonable to look at formalizing it a little after all, even if I don't love it. Because the actual gray-area situations are pretty few and far between, and the explicitly-commenting-as-a-mod ones a common daily occurrence. In the odd case where I felt like I needed to say something modly in a thread but wasn't sure if it should be A Mod Comment, this'd just mean having to get off the fence there, which is I reckon pretty manageable.

2. Restyling mod comments.

I find the labeling and accessibility ideas here both compelling. [small text in square brackets] has the advantage of generally being fairly distinctive, but as you note that's not so much true for folks who are upping font size and may not be so great for folks using screen-reading tech of various sorts. And for folks with vision issues who are just sticking out the default font sizes anyway, the small text may just be kind of an unfriendly pain, especially on the Classic/Plain theme where the default font is a couple points smaller than on Modern/Dark.

So I could see upping the font size a little just to take the eyestrain out of the equation somewhat. The square brackets are a pretty strong visual indicator that something is notable about the comment, so upping the font size while keeping those as a standard part of our framing might work out reasonably well. (And while I do see users occasionally jokingly or just who-knows-why non-maliciously doing the small-and-square-brackets thing with their own comments, it doesn't seem to happen too much so that's never gotten to the point of us needing to knock heads about it.)

If we did that, it'd probably go best in tandem with bringing out the staff badge specifically for mod notes, which goes back to the previous point about making a formal distinction server-side between mod and non-mod comments from me and the rest of the crew. I continue to very strongly prefer not rolling out the staff badge on comments in general outside of MetaTalk, but I can see the argument that making it clearer that a mod is the person leaving a moderation directive is a good thing for user education purposes.

We could also think about slightly different/unique styling for mod comments—like something not replicable by user-available HTML—to get away from the spoofery issue, but again that hasn't been big enough of a thing to really feel like a concern, and I'd prefer to keep this to a more subtle change if we do go ahead with making one.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:28 AM on March 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


As something that wouldn't even require a systems-level change, just a change in "house style" so to speak, the square-brackets-containing-note thing could be retained, just add a "moderator note" or whatnot in them. ie,

[MODERATOR NOTE: foo and bar. foo, I say. foo!]

I think that would work for both large font sizes as just bracketing doesn't in this case, and also be audio-screenreader friendly in a way that something like the AskMe best answer marking (probably?) isn't.

Opens the door to occasional hawhaw jokers wearing fake uniforms so to speak, but just come down hard on those rare occasions and it's fine.
posted by Drastic at 9:36 AM on March 14, 2016 [26 favorites]


This seems like a completely reasonable request!
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:36 AM on March 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


[MODERATOR NOTE: foo and bar. foo, I say. foo!]

This could work though it would have to come with a very hard cultural rule against any non-staff user doing it jokingly. And maybe someone who has figured out what greasemonkey is can set up a script to mark these with formatting or a different colour, or whatever, for people who really want that?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:41 AM on March 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


it'd probably go best in tandem with bringing out the staff badge specifically for mod notes

This.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:46 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


If only I had a penguin...: "This could work though it would have to come with a very hard cultural rule against any non-staff user doing it jokingly."

The staff note thing could just be paired with a different font. This would stop spoofing the same way the signiture line can't be spoofed.
posted by Mitheral at 9:50 AM on March 14, 2016


Or do something similar to the styling that accompanies OP responses in AskMe.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:52 AM on March 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


I think the staff tag on comments where the mod is speaking ex cathedra makes a lot of sense.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:53 AM on March 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


Oh, please, can it be a badge that says "ex cathedra"? PLEEEASE?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:57 AM on March 14, 2016 [63 favorites]


Assessing how fighty the post is

There is a thing I've started to notice where sometimes a mod is participating in a thread and engaging in conversation and sometimes disagreeing with others and then, because that mod is on duty, will also post a mod note to calm down the discussion or to steer it back away from a derail or whatever and it comes across as... not fighty, necessarily, but definitely weird and seems to throw whatever conversation/discussion/disagreement into a complicatedly unbalanced place.
posted by beerperson at 9:57 AM on March 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


What if we brought bag the img tag and all moderators' notes were in meme form?

Yes this could work.
posted by phunniemee at 9:58 AM on March 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


I want dancing puppies after every third word please
posted by Namlit at 10:03 AM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh, please, can it be a badge that says "ex cathedra"? PLEEEASE?

I don't know what pleases me more - this idea itself, or the fact that I was the third person to think this (and not the first, as I'd thought).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Just to be clear. I didn't think of it myself. I saw it earlier in the thread.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:17 AM on March 14, 2016


Just to be clear. I didn't think of it myself. I saw it earlier in the thread.

Right, which made you the second person to weigh in in favor of this. I thought I was gonna be the first one, so this pleased me that two people had beat me to it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:19 AM on March 14, 2016


Well, I'm writing here as part of my extraordinary magisterium, so.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:22 AM on March 14, 2016


I came in here thinking I'd be dead against this proposal, but in light of what sounds like some pretty legit usability/accessibility issues I find myself being all for it. I think it makes sense for mods to be able to toggle their staff badges on and off across all the subsites, so that it's more obvious when they're speaking ex cathedra and when they're just participating as community members. In addition to making things easier for vision-impaired users, it might also do some small amount of good with regard to easing the learning curve for new users.

I'm having a hard time thinking of a counterargument that doesn't just boil down to "CHANGE BAD! OG FEAR CHANGE!" so for what it's worth I say we make this happen.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:23 AM on March 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


I thought I was gonna be the first one, so this pleased me that two people had beat me to it.

You are not the third person, either.
posted by beerperson at 10:23 AM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


This could work though it would have to come with a very hard cultural rule against any non-staff user doing it jokingly.

As cortex says, the current situation (small-text-square-brackets)* is already spoofable, but it has so far been a non-issue. It's not a bad idea to make it functionally impossible, like small-text-"posted by..." currently is.

*Someone do a Cake parody: "I want a mod with a small text and a squaaaaaaare bracket"
posted by Rock Steady at 10:43 AM on March 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


CHANGE BAD! OG FEAR CHANGE!

...Er, I mean: this seems pretty reasonable.
posted by languagehat at 10:49 AM on March 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


As something that wouldn't even require a systems-level change, just a change in "house style" so to speak, the square-brackets-containing-note thing could be retained, just add a "moderator note" or whatnot in them. ie,

[MODERATOR NOTE: foo and bar. foo, I say. foo!]

I think that would work for both large font sizes as just bracketing doesn't in this case, and also be audio-screenreader friendly in a way that something like the AskMe best answer marking (probably?) isn't.


I like this very much.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:55 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]



I'm having a hard time thinking of a counterargument that doesn't just boil down to "CHANGE BAD! OG FEAR CHANGE!"


you're not very good at metatalk
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:04 AM on March 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


You are not the third person, either.


...that makes me even happier. :-)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:24 AM on March 14, 2016


Somewhat amusingly, I only knew what ex cathedra means because of MetaFilter posts about popes.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:50 AM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


If white smoke starts coming out of your computer, that means we have a new mod.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:51 AM on March 14, 2016 [42 favorites]


The staff note thing could just be paired with a different font. This would stop spoofing the same way the signiture line can't be spoofed.

Comic Sans. No would would spoof that even if they could.
posted by uosuaq at 12:03 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Two words: Comic Sans.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:04 PM on March 14, 2016


No, no, no, we need something classier, like Papyrus.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:07 PM on March 14, 2016 [22 favorites]


Times New Moderator
posted by Namlit at 12:09 PM on March 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


Exhaustive List of options, perhaps customizable by mod.

For example: LobsterMitten could get this one.

Soooo...who do we give wingdings to?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:12 PM on March 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Vatican rough letters to indicate a comment is being delivered ex-cathedra?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:13 PM on March 14, 2016


Blink tags don't work anymore, do they?
posted by octothorpe at 12:14 PM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Please don't let this get in the way of goofery-qua-goofery but there is for the record zero chance we're using an alternate font for mod comments. FURIOUS ALL CAPS will do in a pinch, but otherwise we're not gonna stray down that particular orthographic back-alley.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:16 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Blink tags don't work anymore, do they?

[EX MACHINA: They do, but browsers don't.]
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:17 PM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


MetaTalk: Please don't let this get in the way of goofery-qua-goofery.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:20 PM on March 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


Is this a bad time to ask for inline images back?
posted by Justinian at 12:46 PM on March 14, 2016


Vatican rough letters to indicate a comment is being delivered ex-cathedra?

If it's not written in Curialis, (either Early or Late), it doesn't count.
posted by zamboni at 12:49 PM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


SMALL CAPS. AS A BONUS, YOU SOUND LIKE DEATH FROM A TERRY PRATCHETT BOOK, WHICH SEEMS LIKE A GOOD VIBE TO EVOKE.
posted by valrus at 12:56 PM on March 14, 2016 [69 favorites]


there is for the record zero chance we're using an alternate font for mod comments

Even if it has your name on it?
posted by billiebee at 1:00 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Please don't let this get in the way of goofery-qua-goofery but there is for the record zero chance we're using an alternate font for mod comments. FURIOUS ALL CAPS will do in a pinch, but otherwise we're not gonna stray down that particular orthographic back-alley.

In which case I will shelve my proposal for an ornate drop cap for the first character in each mod comment.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:01 PM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Vatican rough letters

Side note: I think this font is based on Rustic capitals. It gets the Vatican name because the best examples of that script are held in the Vatican Library: Vergilius Romanus, Vergilius Vaticanus, et.c.
posted by zamboni at 1:01 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Even if it has your name on it?

i'll just use that for my tumblr
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:02 PM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm no typography specialist, but I'm pretty sure cortex's update keeps a dropcap as a possibility. A dropcap isn't another font, it's just a typesetting style choice, right?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:08 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is this a bad time to ask for inline images back?

Too soon.
posted by zarq at 1:14 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I believe mods can use the IMG tag when they wish. It's just the unwashed masses that are excluded.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:27 PM on March 14, 2016


If Mod Directives got styled like best answers or OP replies in AskMe, that'd be swell, for me.
preferably with a jazzy, syncopated soundtrack.
posted by ApathyGirl at 1:33 PM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


preferably with a jazzy, syncopated soundtrack.

Oooh...remember those banner adds where if you accidentally rolled the mouse over them they would play video or make sounds? Maybe the mod comments could be like that! And there could be different sounds for different kinds of mod comments. We'll need a banhammer sound effect for starters. Also, maybe sample something from SuperNanny or Nanny911 about time-outs? And then a grumpy "knock-it off!" I feel like it should be a grumpy old man saying "Knock it off" but I'm worried that might make me grumpy-old-man-ist.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:42 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


you're not very good at metatalk

your butt is not very good at metatalk

(holds hands wide and turns around in 'are you not entertained' fashion)
posted by Sebmojo at 2:03 PM on March 14, 2016 [20 favorites]


I believe mods can use the IMG tag when they wish. It's just the unwashed masses that are excluded.
I was told that there is no cabal.
posted by sockermom at 2:37 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't really care what change happens as a result of this, so I'm not fishing for reasons not to make a change, but I'm having a hard time understanding what's wrong with the current formatting choices (for people who read the text), based on Jessie the K's screenshot.

What I see in the screenshot, is the same thing that I see on my screen, the text of Eyebrows McGee's comment is slightly smaller than the text of the rest of the comments. I'm having trouble figuring out why that wouldn't be enough for anyone who can read the text with the larger fonts.

I totally get that the current making things small convention wouldn't work for people who are accessing the site without reading the text on the screen though.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:43 PM on March 14, 2016


for signal, I'm fine with the general range of changes being kicked around, they seem a sensible concession to readability
posted by Sebmojo at 3:16 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


What I see in the screenshot, is the same thing that I see on my screen, the text of Eyebrows McGee's comment is slightly smaller than the text of the rest of the comments. I'm having trouble figuring out why that wouldn't be enough for anyone who can read the text with the larger fonts.

In the screenshot, there isn't that much difference between the two sizes, and if you're hurrying through a big thread it would be easy to miss. (Heck it's easy to miss for me sometimes when it's regular size.)

Speaking as someone with red-green colorblindness, I can relate to wishing for alternative display options, or at least more than the one which a given designer figured was "good enough".
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:33 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


What I see in the screenshot, is the same thing that I see on my screen, the text of Eyebrows McGee's comment is slightly smaller than the text of the rest of the comments. I'm having trouble figuring out why that wouldn't be enough for anyone who can read the text with the larger fonts.

This might help illustrate it.

So I just took this photo of my husband's computer in action with Zoomtext enabled:

Here's the exact same piece of screen real estate Jesse the K used in her example, but with the heroic level of magnification and white-on-black contrast my husband uses. He has some residual peripheral vision in the periphery of his right eye that allows him to read text that is very high contrast and VERY large (and then only if he's pressed right up to the screen).

For scale, the mouse arrow in that picture is about the size of a playing card.

A slight move of the mouse to the right scrolls the square bracket off the screen - you might not know it's there.

Add to that someone with a magnified screen may only be seeing part of the screen itself.

Hope that gives a little more context.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:43 PM on March 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


we're not gonna stray down that particular orthographic back-alley.

All we want is a little identification-sparkle. Think Edward Cullen in the sun.
posted by Namlit at 3:51 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


So you're saying Gold Stars?!!
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:07 PM on March 14, 2016


I believe mods can use the IMG tag when they wish. It's just the unwashed masses that are excluded.

This is what papal indulgences are for, right? New revenue idea!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:34 PM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, this would also be an accessibility feature that would help me. I am very in favor. I like the suggestion to include actual words instead of just making it a style change. Thank you for considering this again.
posted by stoneweaver at 5:18 PM on March 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Think of the microtransaction possibilities! $0.25 per inline image!

Only half joking. That would be awesome.
posted by Justinian at 5:22 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Two words:

Blink Tags
posted by Sparx at 5:27 PM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Imagine if you will, a user feeding quarters into a computer...The size of a pack of cigarettes, fueling a new addiction of adding images of talking cats to regional messaging hubs."
posted by clavdivs at 5:32 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Think of the microtransaction possibilities! $0.25 per inline image!

Oh, I was thinking they would be an extravagance. Like, people would need to save up for the better part of a year to drop an image in a thread. Geared to income, of course.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:39 PM on March 14, 2016


Volume, my friend. Volume! How else shall cortex afford his solid gold bathroom fixtures.
posted by Justinian at 5:41 PM on March 14, 2016


we're gonna make metafilter great again. i can tell you this, you know, we're gonna do it. people always come up to me and say metafilter doesn't win anymore. but we're gonna fix it, that i can tell you.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:47 PM on March 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


Another thumbs-up for best-answer-style coloration for memoranda ex cathedra.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:11 PM on March 14, 2016


Obviously inline images should cost $20, same as in town.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:27 PM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Did some one leave their badge by the fridge?
posted by clavdivs at 6:40 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


there is for the record zero chance we're using an alternate font for mod comments.

Ok, but you know we're just going to reassign .modnote to 24pt bold impact and .modnote::after content to "!!!!!!1!one" in a custom stylesheet.
posted by ctmf at 6:46 PM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


You are not the third person, either.

No, but she is. sorry
posted by sylvanshine at 7:15 PM on March 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Moderator comments should be in Linear B. if it was good enough for the Mycenaeans, it should be good enough for us.

But joking aside, I like the suggestion a lot for both accessibility and simply overall clarity. Not everyone has been here long enough to know the staff's names or to know the subtle visual clues like smalltext and brackets. Metafilter is primarily text, which is great when I am on a slow connection and probably does a lot to aid in accessibility, so if there are easy improvements that could help I think we should make them and take seriously the comments from people who are using adaptive approaches like text to speech or the enlarged text.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:27 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Another vote yes here. I see no downside, and an accessibility upside. Thanks for bringing this up, Jesse the K.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 7:49 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd prefer something searchable with Ctrl+F. Square brackets and CSS styles don't help me find mod notes in long threads, which is something I wanted to do just today.
posted by ryanrs at 8:20 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Evil spoofed comment here
𝗉osted by evil double block and bleed at 23:20 on March 14 [+] [!]


This is an experimental comment that may or may not work
posted by double block and bleed at 8:27 PM on March 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


pb is going to kill me when he sees that
posted by double block and bleed at 8:28 PM on March 14, 2016


The tell is that the flag doesn't work.

You cheeky bugger, you.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:32 PM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


I mean, I'd assume that anyone doing it to intentionally wreak havoc in a thread is going to be banhammered away pretty fast.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:34 PM on March 14, 2016


Neat trick though.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:35 PM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


If I were a betting man, I'd wager pb will have that fixed about ten minutes after he gets to work tomorrow. I would never do that outside a jokey metatalk comment.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:37 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel like what would work better than "osted" would be "posled".
posted by Night_owl at 8:40 PM on March 14, 2016


On my mobile view names are not blue links, except in that spoofed comment.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:41 PM on March 14, 2016


I take that back. In Recent Activity names are not blue, but in a thread they are.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:43 PM on March 14, 2016


It looks like posted on my computer. I'm going to snitch myself out to pb.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:45 PM on March 14, 2016


Thanks for the heads up! Yeah, our technical block on stopping spoofing isn't meant to be an iron-clad block that you can't get around. It's doing a check for the most common way of spoofing and then reminding folks that isn't ok.

If you're to the point where you're finding obscure unicode characters to spoof a comment, it's obvious that you're not just forgetting that it's inappropriate to spoof a comment. And yeah, some sort of mod action would come into play—deleting the comment and/or banning.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:54 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is what papal indulgences are for, right? New revenue idea!

PayPalTM indulgences
posted by Sebmojo at 9:18 PM on March 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


Sebmojo: "This is what papal indulgences are for, right? New revenue idea!

PayPalTM indulgences
"

That gives "instant credit decision" an ominous tone.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:25 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


If you, like me, are wondering what the anti-spoofing message is because you had no idea such a system was in place before now, here it is:

Please go back and remove the "<small>posted by..." line from your comment. With this line, the comment appears to be spoofed comments from other members so they're not allowed.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:50 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


mandolin conspiracy: "The tell is that the flag doesn't work."

And the font is wrong. Also if you have the MefiQuote extension installed there is no quote button.
posted by Mitheral at 2:29 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also unless you're in Metafilter Daylight Saving Time the posted time is off.
posted by DanSachs at 3:33 AM on March 15, 2016


Count me in as voting for a [staff] badge for 'ex cathedra' mod comments in places other than metatalk. Maybe a [moderator] badge would be more appropriate though, since [staff] already has semantic meaning on metatalk that would be best not overloaded?
posted by pharm at 3:33 AM on March 15, 2016


(To expand slightly: comments on metatalk by staff members are simply marked as such at the moment, with no implication of any modly-type actions. It might be confusing for newbies if such comments were explicitly concerned with moderation everywhere else with the sole exception of metatalk? I think it might be better to simply have a different marker for mod comments elsewhere & keep the staff marker in metatalk for comments in metatalk posts by Metafilter staff.)
posted by pharm at 3:39 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


TIL (after 3 years) that when a mod comment appears without the "staff" tag beside it, it's not because they're off shift or have forgotten to switch it on. (I sort of thought of it like a taxi driver's light...)
posted by billiebee at 4:28 AM on March 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


If you, like me, are wondering what the anti-spoofing message is because you had no idea such a system was in place before now, here it is:

I want to say that that wasn't always in place, and if you tried to use small "posted by..." the comment just silently failed or generated some other non-helpful error message. Am I remembering right? I once wanted to make a joke about adding more icons like [+] and [!] and it took me a while to figure out what was going on.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:30 AM on March 15, 2016


Yes, I'm pretty sure that's correct. I remember a time when posting the attempted spoof comment would just silently/mysteriously fail without the explicit "I see what you are trying to do there" message.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:45 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the history was something like this, over the course of a stretch of years between I'm gonna guess like 2002 and 2010? Ish?:

- No spoof checking.
- Someone figures out spoofing.
- Ha ha okay, Matt is amused.
- Bunch of spoofing happens.
- Matt gets annoyed.
- Spoof checking starts silently declining to allow spoofing.
- People are repeatedly mysteriously confused.
- Mods are confused by unclear error reports that lack the "...oh and I was spoofing" detail.
- Mods say "fuck it maybe that should actually be clearer?", add explicit message.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:18 AM on March 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think that is roughly the history of the Internet, if not Computer Science in general.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:00 AM on March 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


> I think that is roughly the history of the Internet, if not Computer Science in general.

It's roughly the history of everything:

- No sin.
- Someone figures out sinning.
- Ha ha okay, God is amused.
- Bunch of sinning happens.
- God gets annoyed.
- Snake starts hissing at people.
- People are repeatedly mysteriously confused.
- God says "fuck it maybe that should actually be clearer?", sends angel with flaming sword to expel people from Eden.
posted by languagehat at 9:00 AM on March 15, 2016 [41 favorites]


Let's see... 2008 Housing Bubble:

- No subprime mortgages
- Someone figures out subprime mortgages
- Ha ha okay, market is amused
- Bunch of subprime mortgages happen
- Market gets annoyed
- Housing prices start crashing
- People are repeatedly mysteriously confused
- Government says "fuck it maybe that should actually be clearer?", adds bailouts and regulations

Yup, checks out.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:09 AM on March 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


- No eating of silica gel
- Someone snacks on silica gel
- Ha ha okay, okay you got a dry mouth but at least no one got hurt.
- Bunch of people eat the free silica gel snack packs, some people choke
- Lawsuit-wary corporations get annoyed
- Stamp "Dessicant: Silica Gel" on packets
- People are repeatedly mysteriously confused
- "Fuck it maybe that should actually be clearer?", THROW AWAY DO NOT EAT is added to packets.
posted by Kabanos at 9:25 AM on March 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm happy that folks are willing to ride this pony, while providing useful suggestions AND making PayPal funnel into the Vatican. Addressing some concerns:
mandolin conspiracy Thank you SO much for that excellent use-case.
stoneweaver and ryanrs: Adding one more more explicit character does simplify search. I suggest following the initial bracket with a greater-than >
Sample:
[> excellent advice from the mod]
posted by $ModName $StaffTag at $time on $date [+][!]


Dip Flash: making the site easier for new users is cool. When new users wonder "What's the [> about?" they'd be more likely to consult the FAQ. If fully sighted users notice it at all I hope they see it as an arrow. I'm confident pb could make that unspoof-able. Although prettier, don't use an actual HTML arrow: . It's a pain to search for characters you can't type on a standard keyboard.

I understand screenreaders in theory, but 1987 is the last time I used one. The fabulous WebAIM site offers design philosophy and sample code. Their wave.webaim.org tool shows how any page appears to the screenreader engine. (Since screenreaders don't all have the same features, the WebAIM tool can't show how the page appears to the screenreader user.)

Drastic, you're on to something.
Here's a recently resolved Ask, identifying a fantasy Kindle novel

AFAICT, the "best answer" background and "OP response" stripe aren't structural. They're formatting painted on to a "standard comment." I doubt a screenreader provides the option to search for "screened box behind type."
posted by Jesse the K at 9:32 AM on March 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


I can see the value in doing this, per OP's challenging problems. And also what cortex said.

Would shading mod comments differently help with quickly scanning a thread to see how fighty it is, rather than scanning brackets, tags, and signature lines?

this might have already been said but dragging my pattern recognizing ass in here anyway
posted by infini at 10:35 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


AFAICT, the "best answer" background and "OP response" stripe aren't structural. They're formatting painted on to a "standard comment." I doubt a screenreader provides the option to search for "screened box behind type."

After taking this user issue into consideration of course. How about bright orange text, sort of like how the links light up?
posted by infini at 10:37 AM on March 15, 2016


I think if it were up to me, I would go with OP response stripe, [MODERATOR NOTE: Lorem ipsum...] in regular size, and "STAFF" badge active only on official modly comments.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:41 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I understand screenreaders in theory, but 1987 is the last time I used one. The fabulous WebAIM site offers design philosophy and sample code. Their wave.webaim.org tool shows how any page appears to the screenreader engine. (Since screenreaders don't all have the same features, the WebAIM tool can't show how the page appears to the screenreader user.)

Yeah! WebAIM stuff is really good.

This is their Designing For Screen Reader Compatibility page.

JAWS, Window Eyes, Voiceover (Mac/iOS) and TalkBack (Android) are the main ones in use these days, though not the only ones. Zoomtext also has some screenreader functionality.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:00 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Let me say, I get the accessibility issue, and the new-user issue, and I'm on board for something that makes this clearer/easier.

That said, I think the implementation matters a lot. IMO, mod comments are meant to be mainly pretty "small scale" -- serving to defuse small problems and nudge a discussion to stay on the rails, and/or to annotate small interventions (like deleting a couple of comments, or changing a link) to clarify for people who may have seen the thread in the short time when the problem comments were live. They're not meant to be headliney or to give the mods a louder voice in the conversation.

The site is supposed to be about the conversations, not about the nudges, and I really don't want a solution that sets mod comments apart as the most important things in a thread, or encourages the behavior of scanning for mod comments to see if there's drama in a thread, or that kind of thing.

This is absolutely not a criticism of anyone who wants the mod comments to be easier to find! I'm thinking about unintended subconscious effects on behavior, specifically how *I* would probably end up responding as a reader if mod comments were strongly highlighted. I imagine myself scanning for them like I might scan now for a best-answer in AskMe, hardly even thinking about it but almost automatically doing it as a first step upon loading the page. I think as a regular reader it would make a big difference to how I experienced conversations on the blue, if mod comments were too-strongly marked out.

So again, I'm on board for formatting or other change that would help make it more clear to new people and easier for lower-vision readers. I'm also fine with something that makes it easier to ctrl-f for them. But I'm really really leery of anything that makes them as visually distinct as best-answers are in AskMe.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:07 PM on March 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


That's an excellent point, LobsterMitten!

If I had to choose between visual highlighting and adding standard printing characters, being able to Cmd-F through the thread is definitely superior. It works for all users, while highlight-only doesn't.
posted by Jesse the K at 12:45 PM on March 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ya, if nothing else background colouring isn't supported by Gopher.
posted by Mitheral at 1:13 PM on March 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


So again, I'm on board for formatting or other change that would help make it more clear to new people and easier for lower-vision readers. I'm also fine with something that makes it easier to ctrl-f for them. But I'm really really leery of anything that makes them as visually distinct as best-answers are in AskMe.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:35 PM on March 15, 2016


Yeah, I'm in the same place; background coloration feels like overkill (and less useful in terms of accessibility concerns in any case) whereas standardizing something searchable feels like it'd get a lot done. Maaaaaybe a subtle coloration on e.g. the "MODERATOR NOTE:" prefix if we went that way, but I'm at best hand-wavey there because I think the visual distinction might be useful for scanning but also distracting. And if we do go with adding the "staff" badge, that's already a bit of a visual hook for skimming.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:15 PM on March 15, 2016


the (staff) badge is also good for text searching, that very rarely shows up in a comment body with the parentheses.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:34 PM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I did not know you could do that. Thanks, VMOW!
posted by ctmf at 5:20 PM on March 15, 2016


Two words: Comic Sans.
No, no, no, we need something classier, like Papyrus.


Alternating between Wingdings and Aster every other character.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:28 PM on March 15, 2016


Yeah, highlighting the entire mod comment seems like overkill.
posted by pharm at 1:54 AM on March 16, 2016


Yeah, it's a good trick. I think I initially tried searching for "staff at" when it rolled out and when that didn't work copy-pasted the whole line to find out what was going on and noticed the parentheses.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:29 AM on March 16, 2016


This could work though it would have to come with a very hard cultural rule against any non-staff user doing it jokingly.

As cortex says, the current situation (small-text-square-brackets)* is already spoofable, but it has so far been a non-issue. It's not a bad idea to make it functionally impossible, like small-text-"posted by..." currently is.


I had one experience where someone had jokingly done exactly that, which then was followed one page down by an actual moderator's comment. And at the time, it wasn't a mod's name that I recognized. You know of priming, in psychology, when one event subtly affects how you perceive/interpret subsequent stimuli? That's exactly like what it was—I got confused by the mixture, and for a while just dismissed those as commenters being snarky, until it eventually dawned on me.

So it definitely happened. Not very pleasant.
posted by polymodus at 3:36 AM on March 16, 2016


And I don't have an answer, I'm just acknowledging from an experience like that, that textual communication can be so difficult, thus whatever UI design can be done to better facilitate human needs and relations seems to be a super important thing.
posted by polymodus at 3:42 AM on March 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


We have classic. We have modern. How about a from-scratch blind mode?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:35 AM on March 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


We have classic. We have modern. How about a from-scratch blind mode?

That's not what web accessibility means really means, notwithstanding the corollary benefit that...

Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities. For example, a key principle of Web accessibility is designing Web sites and software that are flexible to meet different user needs, preferences, and situations. This flexibility also benefits people without disabilities in certain situations, such as people using a slow Internet connection, people with "temporary disabilities" such as a broken arm, and people with changing abilities due to aging.

Add to that there is a very convenient overlap between mobile "accessibility" and accessibility for users with disabilities. When things are built properly, they can dovetail very nicely, so win-win.

Quick experiment that illustrates how this affects more than just users with visual impairments: try navigating this page using just the tab and enter keys. Can you access all the links and elements you need to interact with (i.e., bring "keyboard focus" to them)?

That level of interaction is how, in part, screen reading software interacts with elements on the page. However, this is critical component of page accessibility for users with mobility impairments.

All that is to say the notion of "blind mode" misses the point of web accessibility entirely.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:28 AM on March 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Speaking of missing the point entirely, "blind mode" CSS doesn't prevent also implementing web accessibility. What it does do is satisfy the needs of a large number of people quickly and easily. Full web accessibility can still be the end goal.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:21 AM on March 17, 2016


If we're going to start an accessibility dicussion, could we have label attributes or elements on the user login form, please? Only takes a minute! Using the label element.
posted by alasdair at 12:59 PM on March 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sure, got those label tags added.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:24 PM on March 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Awesome! Thanks!
posted by alasdair at 3:43 PM on March 18, 2016


[MODERATOR NOTE: I am not a moderator]
posted by el io at 1:35 PM on March 19, 2016


The mods either should wear thier badge while carrying mod duties or get rid of the whole badge system because it's looking like a cop parked by the speed zone.

If by not wearing one and a fight ensued because a member might not know who a mod is, that will be on cortex.

[Couple of comments belated deleted; if you see people being jerks in the thread, flag it or use the contact form. If nobody's been a jerk yet, don't pre-emptively reply to jerkishness that hasn't happened yet.]

That looks like leaving your road Flairs and crumbled parking tickets on the street.
posted by clavdivs at 7:31 AM on March 20, 2016


Not everyone has been here long enough to know the staff's names or to know the subtle visual clues like smalltext and brackets.

Exactly. The usability problem of not labeling moderator comments has bugged me for years. If Metafilter wants to be a place where first-time users have a hope of understanding how the community works and getting engaged (and sustaining it for years to come), it has to be welcoming to first-time and other novice users. Otherwise only the long-timers know what's up.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 7:50 AM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


> If Metafilter wants to be a place where first-time users have a hope of understanding how the community works and getting engaged (and sustaining it for years to come), it has to be welcoming to first-time and other novice users. Otherwise only the long-timers know what's up.

I was going to say "Pfft, there's an About page and a FAQ linked right at the top, use them," but then I visited them and saw that neither answers the question; the former says "staffed by a team of professional moderators." Surely naming the mods there would be an easy and helpful step.
posted by languagehat at 8:14 AM on March 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


We can definitely make communication improvements. But I should note that we do name the moderators in the FAQ: Who is in charge here? Are there admins and moderators like other sites?
posted by pb (staff) at 8:15 AM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


But I should note that we do name the moderators in the FAQ:

I work in usability. Right now, I work to try to make government enterprise applications more usable. One of things I encounter in focus groups, surveys, and usability tests is that users don't read the user guide or the FAQ until/unless something is wrong. And often not even then.

"FAQs are a way to show you've thought about what your users should know but haven't thought about your users."

"You don't read user guides, and neither do your users."
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:12 AM on March 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


That style of title irritates me immensely. It's like when Lawrence Summers said, “In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car,” and 5,000 people popped up to point out that they had, in fact, done so.

Well, I *do* read user guides, pal, and don't tell me I don't.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:12 AM on March 21, 2016


If you wash a Zipcar, you not only get reimbursed for the cost, you get an hour of free driving time for your trouble. Who doesn't wash zipcars?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:37 AM on March 21, 2016


That style of title irritates me immensely.

It's a Medium article. They're made to irritate you.

The point is that explanations of how things work don't belong on screens other than the one you're looking at right now. Users cannot be expected to read a manual before using this site. Relying on user training is a failed strategy.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 11:26 AM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


don't belong on screens other than the one you're looking at right now.

To be fair, though, the reminder that everyone needs a hug is included on this very page, right above where you have to click to make words happen, and just think how many people share opinions right here on this page that are expressly not hugs, not even close.

I think the takeaway is that people intent on sucking are just gonna willfully go around and suck no matter how much info you give them or where.

(Count me in as another user who has read all the faq.)
posted by phunniemee at 11:53 AM on March 21, 2016


I think the takeaway is that people intent on sucking are just gonna willfully go around and suck no matter how much info you give them or where.

If a new user is sucking, and I tell them to stop, that's one thing. If a new user is sucking, and someone with a moderator label tells them to stop, that's quite another thing. I would call it a better thing, an improvement, a characteristic of a more user-friendly site, one that wants to welcome first-time and novice users.

I too have read the FAQ. And I've been here since 2007 or so and still don't know who all the mods are, because I don't read every post, and I'm only in MetaTalk every so often.

The fact that multiple people are saying they can't tell who moderators are says that relying on user guides/FAQs for this is a failed strategy. And luckily, it has an easy fix.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:02 PM on March 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's a Medium article. They're made to irritate you. "

Uh oh.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:52 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


phunniemee: " just think how many people share opinions right here on this page that are expressly not hugs, not even close."

While hugs are needed the giving of hugs is not mandatory.
posted by Mitheral at 3:27 PM on March 21, 2016


While hugs are needed the giving of hugs is not mandatory.

Yet. If you want a vision of the future, imagine a pair of arms hugging a human face - forever.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:15 AM on March 22, 2016


are the mods being more explicit in noting where they are deleting posts, or is the recent brussels bombing thread particularly bad? i don't think i've seen a thread with so much intervention.
posted by andrewcooke at 5:31 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I noticed that as well. It seemed to be very effective.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:57 AM on March 23, 2016


Breaking/terrible news with a high heat factor is a good place to find more than the average number of explicit mod notes, yeah. That's been a busy and difficult thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:24 AM on March 23, 2016


I apologize to the Cabal for my part in the difficulty
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:25 AM on March 23, 2016


So ....

What's the resolution of this request? It seems like the mods are on board with it, but I haven't seen any change. Did I just miss a comment in this thread about planned action? Because it seems like the asks don't necessarily require programming, so I'm wondering what's up and what needs to happen for a change to take place. Is there a next step that I'm missing here?
posted by stoneweaver at 10:22 AM on March 23, 2016


What's the resolution of this request?

Thumbs up but baking. I think it's a good change to make, we're discussing a couple different possible variations on the styling/presentation behind the scenes, in among a few other things we're also sorting through at the moment.

Basically: gonna happen, hasn't happened yet, will likely happen pretty soon. There are in fact some programmatic subtleties in the implementation even though they're not visible or obvious from the user side of things, so it's not quite just saying "let's do it!" and flipping a switch.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:55 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


There are in fact some programmatic subtleties in the implementation even though they're not visible or obvious from the user side of things

A universal truth, right there.
posted by pharm at 12:17 PM on March 23, 2016


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