MeFi in the time of Trump - managing news November 18, 2016 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Like many, I was simultaneously hooked and exhausted by the pre-election rolling thread. I was very much looking forward to its demise. It's going to be a long four years. Can we find a way to keep the good and ease the pressure?

Off the bat, I have read the previous Metanews/news.metafilter MetaTalk threads, of which there are a few, of which most previouslyer. Tl;dr - Cortex sez "no pony, cost/benefit fails dsimally", and I utterly get that.

But. Things have changed.

Specifically, I now rely on MetaFilter as a news filter - very sadly, not as the best of the Web but as the most important of news concerning what the hell's going on right now. But the rolling thread is very hard work; it's only usable thanks to the I-don't-know-how-they-do-it attention of team Mod. Eveyone's got a lot to say, and everyone needs the community. But, increasingly, I find myself scrolling down the thread at speed, only stopping when I see the yellow of a link.

Can we find a way to create a news-heavy, discussion-light thread/stream/whatever, a sort of MetaNews, but with a political news focus? My way of doing it would be a curated general submission system with very strong rules on comments - probably something like 'nothing not directly related to the link, and nothing not containing a link of its own that moves the story forward', but I know (as in I did this for a living know) what that would mean in terms of resources. But there are a lot of MeFites who are qualified to help, if they wish, and ways to organise volunteers for such a thing, if there are enough of us and we take this seriously enough. We have journos and editors and the rest of the tribe to create and maintain a strong editorial-policy based news feed, and enough eyeballs to keep it fed. Are there enough to make it work? Would enough want to? I don't know.

This wouldn't mean abandoning the existing threads, but would change them and tease out the news side from the more analytic/personal/comment side. It should cut down on the duped comment links, but clearly there's a lot to think about, practically and culturally.

It's a hell of a megapony ask. More an armoured battlehorse.

The reason I want this is because a clean, focused, archived, searchable political media feed is going to be one of the most important things for the foreseeable future, and I don't have a good one, and I trust the MetaFilter eyeballs more than any other group. We don't do post-truth.

This isn't a nice-to-have, this is a real need, one I think Metafilter is well equipped to meet.

Ask not what Metafilter can do for you, etc. Be the media you want to see.
posted by Devonian to MetaFilter-Related at 1:33 PM (104 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

So, you can imagine that stuff in this general territory—how to cope structurally with the reality that the site is going to continue to have to weather a whole lot of Trump-related news and anxiety about same—is something we on the mod staff been thinking about a lot the last several days.

A quick aside from the request here: I want to ackowledge that the idea of, specifically, a new subsite, news.metafilter.com or politics.metafilter.com, has come up a few times and I'll note that that remains in the "nah" pile for me. I'd rather talk about less high-impact approaches to sorting out possibilities here instead of contemplating that scope of undertaking and all that would go with it.

So, a couple things we've been chewing on on this front, that the post here touches on:

1. Figuring out in general whether and how to move on from the new-giant-election-post-every-few-days norm that defined the last nine months or so in particular.

2. Thinking about a way to collate incoming news links in a way that makes for a good resource for readers/members without requiring wading through a quickly-growing thread full of sometimes rambling discussion.

On the first point, we've basically kept up with the pre-election practice for now just to keep things in okay/familiar shape—Wordshore's been prepping placeholder catchup posts and putting them up in pace with the previous one getting creaky. It feels anecdotally like the pace of those threads has at least come down a bit from the pre-election peak. I'd like to see them continue to chill a little bit, but it's hard to say whether they'll really naturally do so if the news from the Trump transition continues to be as much of a fucked-up gallop of awfulness as it's been this first week or so.

So finding a way to redirect some of that to other outlets on the site would be nice but I'm not sure what shape that would take. Relaxing a bit the Only One Thread thing at this point may help a little if breaking out some meaty conversation about some specific side-topic from the main thread would reduce the main thread volume a little and make a space for more nuance in that side discussion. Risk there is it could turn into just multiple headaches at once, but we'll see.

But, also, yeah, coming around to the second point: if there's a distinction people would find useful between thread for conversation that includes links as a matter of course, and some sort of parallel aggregation of news and commentary links that is leaner and more scannable and comes without the weight of moderating a full-on discussion, that might help.

What exactly that looks like, and how it would work, are big open questions that I'd like to hear thoughts on. It seems like there could be all sorts of snags in terms of how to filter/moderate it and how much of our resources that would require.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:51 PM on November 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


If the mods feel that money needs to be raised for this then I'm not against contributing. Maybe something like a kickstarter?
posted by I-baLL at 1:51 PM on November 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


I would also appreciate this being implemented.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:52 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


And a more general thing: I'd be happy to hear from folks about ideas for little ways to help structure/track election-related stuff on the site more generally.

We had consistent use of the election2016 tag on threads the last many months, which made for a reliable way to at least start to find stuff including The Current thread. And many of the more recent big threads on the blue have included a rolling list of relevant MetaTalk discussions.

If there's some spot on the site that we could dedicate, for the short term at least, to being an up-to-date "where's the election stuff at?", would that be helpful? Something sticking around in the sidebar? I'm hesitant to do anything super conspicuous—I don't expect the post-election situation to go anywhere but I also don't want to creep into making it What MeFi Is About—but that basic idea is something I'd be willing to talk about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:57 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Could we have a thread for links related to Trump news but with NO comments allowed on said links?
posted by agregoli at 1:58 PM on November 18, 2016


We've got the blue, the gray, the green, the purple...why not:
trumptalk.metafilter.com
...which would, naturally, be white on white.
posted by uosuaq at 2:02 PM on November 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


If there's some spot on the site that we could dedicate, for the short term at least, to being an up-to-date "where's the election stuff at?", would that be helpful?

The wiki sounds like an obvious place, but is it too removed from the site to be what people are looking for? It could be sidebarred and maybe highlighted at the top of the page.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:02 PM on November 18, 2016


Can we find a way to create a news-heavy, discussion-light thread/stream/whatever, a sort of MetaNews, but with a political news focus? My way of doing it would be a curated general submission system with very strong rules on comments - probably something like 'nothing not directly related to the link, and nothing not containing a link of its own that moves the story forward',

That's the core question, and the answer from cortex is "no news.metafilter subsite," so the onus is back on commenters themselves: less personal comments and viewpoints, more updates to news stories. Good idea, hard to maintain. As an infrequent (but then sometimes a thread-sitting) participant in long election/ politics threads, I'll say I'll dial back my limited "here's my two cents" add-ons.


cortex: If there's some spot on the site that we could dedicate, for the short term at least, to being an up-to-date "where's the election stuff at?", would that be helpful?

I think so. Can you format the New and Noteworthy date headers? For instance, there's an entry under November 14, and then a series under Nov. 8, and so forth. Could there be a "sticky" header for US Politics and have the most recent thread or three? It wouldn't take up much screen space, about the size of a typical MetaFilter logged in user side-bar ad block.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:03 PM on November 18, 2016


We've got the blue, the gray, the green, the purple...why not:
trumptalk.metafilter.com
...which would, naturally, be white on white.


not the orange?
posted by DynamiteToast at 2:04 PM on November 18, 2016 [17 favorites]


Could we have a thread for links related to Trump news but with NO comments allowed on said links?

I get the desire to keep up with news without wading through comments, but personally one of my favorite things about the threads is the reaction to and discussion of news. If all the news was in one place without discussion, I fear the main "discussion" thread would just be context-free essays about general political thoughts, rather than staying somewhat tied to what's happening right now.
posted by zachlipton at 2:05 PM on November 18, 2016 [30 favorites]


Un-preview follow-up: US Politics side-bar could link to the current MegaThread, 2016Politics tag (or whatever is most used), and a page on the MetaFilter Wiki where other prior threads, as well as related MeTa and AskMe threads, are all collected.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:05 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can we find a way to create a news-heavy, discussion-light thread/stream/whatever

I'm not opposed to this idea, but my personal interest is in the discussion surrounding the links and events, rather than the links themselves. My Twitter feed works well for me for link aggregation.
posted by melissasaurus at 2:06 PM on November 18, 2016 [19 favorites]


If there's some spot on the site that we could dedicate, for the short term at least, to being an up-to-date "where's the election stuff at?", would that be helpful? Something sticking around in the sidebar? I'm hesitant to do anything super conspicuous—I don't expect the post-election situation to go anywhere but I also don't want to creep into making it What MeFi Is About—but that basic idea is something I'd be willing to talk about.

The election threads are consistently the longest threads I ever see on the site. Similar to New and Noteworthy, you could have a box for "Most Talked About" or "Center of Discussion" or something that's really just top 3 threads by comments from the past 7 days or something? That'd always catch the politics thread, without being explicitly "Here's the politics part of the site!"
posted by DynamiteToast at 2:09 PM on November 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


my personal interest is in the discussion surrounding the links and events, rather than the links themselves. My Twitter feed works well for me for link aggregation.

Co-signed. And honestly, MetaFilter isn't primarily "best of the web" links anymore, at all, and hasn't been for quite some time. It's a discussion site and its value comes from the community.
posted by lalex at 2:10 PM on November 18, 2016 [48 favorites]


Similar to New and Noteworthy, you could have a box for "Most Talked About" or "Center of Discussion" or something that's really just top 3 threads by comments from the past 7 days or something?

This creates a rich-get-richer dynamic... do we really want that?
posted by Jpfed at 2:13 PM on November 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Having a separate thread for links and no comments allowed doesn't stop anyone from posting those same links in the current post-election whatever for discussion.
posted by agregoli at 2:19 PM on November 18, 2016


One thing that tends to annoy the people who consistently keep up with the threads, and increase the mega-length of the comments section is when someone comes in and wants to discuss X that happened a week ago, or policy proposal Y when topic X or Y got 400 comments of discussion two threads ago. The people up to date generally try to say "just go look for the discussion about that from past threads", but its hard to expect people to really go open 4 tabs and control-f a few different words. Most of the time even if the person who tries to bring it up for the second time does leave the thread to find their answer, others just start re-discussing it anyways. It seems to me these mini-derails are well intentioned, but generally clutter things up. They also fall outside the two main camps of "I just want current links posted" and "I want personal stories and reactions to said news".

I'm not sure what could be done to fix this though. Nested comments maybe, but that's never happening (and I don't want it to). A politics.metafilter.com might, where you could then tell the person bringing up an "old topic" that there's a post about it already and give them the link, but that seems like it's not happening either.

Maybe something like optional comment tags? So if on Monday someone says "Did you guys hear that Trump settled his Trump University case?" in the main thread, instead of linking to politics.metafilter.com/Trump-University, they get linked to http://www.metafilter.com/tags/comments/TrumpUniversity. This seems kind of unwieldy though.
posted by DynamiteToast at 2:21 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Could we have a thread for links related to Trump news but with NO comments allowed on said links?

Maybe a perma-pinned/bannered Projects post? The Trump Accountability Project--a sort of link-rich thread we can all contribute to?
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:22 PM on November 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Maybe something like optional comment tags? So if on Monday someone says "Did you guys hear that Trump settled his Trump University case?" in the main thread, instead of linking to politics.metafilter.com/Trump-University, they get linked to http://www.metafilter.com/tags/comments/TrumpUniversity. This seems kind of unwieldy though.

Whoa... mind blown. That's a really weird and interesting idea.
posted by Jpfed at 2:24 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


If the mods feel that money needs to be raised for this then I'm not against contributing. Maybe something like a kickstarter?

I appreciate people's good intentions. This is also asking the mod team "Hey do you want to make moderating political threads part of the central role of this website?" and I appreciate the mods pushing back on this.

Everyone's got their own way they'd like to see this go. I do my political organizing elsewhere and I appreciate the occasional "Hey this is how to get involved" threads and the AskMe questions. But MeFi political threads are dead to me. This isn't true for everyone, surely, and I don't expect my feelings to make things change on the site. But I did want to mention that it's not a foregone conclusion that just because this is something that some people badly want, that makes it a net positive for the site.

I want my mods relaxed and happy and enjoying their jobs. More work on political threads is not the way to achieve this. So figuring out other ways to make that work is where I'll be focusing my thoughts.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:25 PM on November 18, 2016 [42 favorites]


Anything other than a news subsite seems like a half-measure that's going to lead to unsatisfying results.

In the absence of one, I feel like the further we get away from the election, the better the model of individual FPPs for different facets of the unfolding catastrophe will scale. Right now we've got new FPP-worthy things coming out many times a day, so we need the election threads to aggregate them. As we head into 2017, the flood of new US politics stories will probably become more manageable, to the point where a half dozen or so active open threads related to US politics can probably catch most of the updates and discussion without creating megathreads.

This will require some care about how FPPs are crafted and which ones are approved/spiked for being too broad or too close to another open FPP, but I think it's a better goal than perpetuating the existing "election threads, but after the election" strategy, which creates its own set of problems.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:25 PM on November 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


In the absence of one, I feel like the further we get away from the election, the better the model of individual FPPs for different facets of the unfolding catastrophe will scale. Right now we've got new FPP-worthy things coming out many times a day, so we need the election threads to aggregate them. As we head into 2017, the flood of new US politics stories will probably become more manageable, to the point where a half dozen or so active open threads related to US politics can probably catch most of the updates and discussion without creating megathreads.

I concur with this analysis. As things slow down from a torrential rain of horror to a gentle pitter-pattering of dread, I think the problem the rolling election threads were designed to solve will organically become less of a problem.

My vote is that we continue the status quo until a month or two after the inauguration and then check back to see how that's working out.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:29 PM on November 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


And honestly, MetaFilter isn't primarily "best of the web" links anymore, at all, and hasn't been for quite some time. It's a discussion site and its value comes from the community.

I'm not disagreeing because MetaFilter is many things to many people but there is another side to this. For me MeFi is very much a "best of the web" link site. I don't comment terribly much, but I click on a very high percentage of links here. I don't know how many people are out there like me who are on MeFi a few hours a day at least but only comment a couple times a week. The comments by their nature make it seem like they are the main part of the site for active users because they're visible. I consider myself an active user even though I don't have much to say.

I know the politics.metafilter.com idea has been shot down a bunch and I get it, but I am in favor of whatever workable solution there is that gets away from general discussion megathreads and avoids every third thread being another political item. I don't use My MeFi that might be a solution if tagging were consistent. Is there a decent way to enforce consistent tagging at least on certain items like News, Politics, Sports, etc.? Possibly a policy that the mods will add a small set of tags as needed to make My MeFi work consistently for both inclusion and exclusion would work? I realize this works only for registered, logged in users which might not make it a great solution.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 2:31 PM on November 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


Actually, I thought the comment tag thing was unwieldy mostly because it could clutter the interface, and also if they were links it would threaten to add more links to the long threads, which could slow it down more. But each comment already has a "metadata" page associated with it, on it's favorite page. So you could just hide the tags on the favorite page, having a section next to "users marked this as favorite" with "marked with tags". That probably wouldn't be complicate anything load, or interface-wise...

That being said, I also believe the threads will likely calm down by the time we get to inauguration, and this might organically solve itself. Brainstorming is fun though.
posted by DynamiteToast at 2:34 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter isn't primarily "best of the web" links anymore

I strongly disagree with this every time someone says it. MeFi remains a great place to find interesting things of varied disciplines.

I see no need to an ongoing general State of the Politics newsfilter/outragefilter thread (others may disagree on this), but threads on specific aspects of the fight would be welcome for me. At this point I feel like everyone has has a year to become acquainted with the problems; what are the solutions and who is working on them?
posted by zennie at 2:39 PM on November 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


I think the continuance of the Politics Thread is the only thing keeping some of us from sliding into a pile of sadness. So I very much appreciate them being allowed.
posted by corb at 2:57 PM on November 18, 2016 [17 favorites]


Is there any way to do a sidebar element which leads to a page which is all the comments in the current Trump news thread that contain links? Like the full comment for context but also for the link back to the discussion thread for further context and discussion if desired? It would contain zero discussion, would be automatically generated, and would update automatically across time. Plus, would take up minimal screen real estate.

Just a thought.
posted by hippybear at 2:59 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


My main worry is where people will go if they can't come here. This place is doing a lot of good, not just for people's sanity, but a lot of direction has been given and followed, direction that might not be given elsewhere and might not be sought elsewhere by a bunch of the folks who feel comfortable here.

I want happy Mods, too, and while I have money to donate to the cause of keeping MetaFilter employees fed and rested, I will, but I think sometimes the mission chooses you.
posted by Mooski at 3:15 PM on November 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


Always felt - and still feel - ambivalent about the political threads. It's really good that there isn't sprawl all over the front page of many political threads running concurrently (the mods must have deleted hundreds this year with the "stick it in the main thread" message). But the quickly lengthening threads present lots of problems, such as the same link being posted several times, previous debates erupting again like a politiconerd version of Groundhog Day, and random people from the Internet finding the threads too unmanageable after a while (the earliest complaints I can remember seeing is around the 1,500 comment mark; after 3,000 comments it seems that a significant proportion of people can't get in).

Currently, thankfully, there is comment slowdown and the rate is around 5 days per 3,000 comments. But that's still a heck of a lot. Guessing this will slow down more, but there will be spikes when e.g. major shocks occur, X happens and Pence is sworn in, inauguration, state of the union address (shudder), domestic incidents, foreign incidents where POTUS #45 decides to... (shudders again) and more. And, let's be honest, there's going to be a lot of these spikes.

To complicate matters, it's quite possible that 2017 will be a year that will make us look back fondly on 2016 (and that's even before considering climate change stuff), with lots of looming political stuff. Even before considering what the screaming tangerine does on the international stage then, here on the rainy island just off the coast of Europe, the PM is determined to push the button on Brexit by or in March 2017, depending on which news story you read. Which will then mean two years (and plus) of political shenanigans, and therefore probably lots of posts and comments. And to complicate that more, there's elections in both France and Germany in 2017. So, adding all that up, there's probably going to be a lot of political content appearing on MetaFilter through next year.

There's also, as Jessamyn has mentioned, the health of the mods. I'm in touch with them on a regular basis regarding the posts and, yeah, this is simply not sustainable for them on a long-term basis. Wasn't to start with really, considering how few mods there are, and things such as sleep, time zones, *LIFE*, and doing the bazillion under-the-hood modding things that you only notice when they don't happen. Guess they - and most people - thought and hoped it would all wind down in victory relief after Hillary beat Donald. Well, it didn't and I fear for current Cortex and for all of the other mods.

I don't have a solution, but am happy to carry on doing some post-election posts for now, under the guidance of the mods. But there does need to be a change in approach at some point sooner rather than later to avoid future Cortex and similar to the other mods. And no healthy mods -> no healthy MetaFilter.
posted by Wordshore at 3:26 PM on November 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Rolling in some other thoughts from the mod-side discussions we've been having:

On loosening the "there's just the one thread" net a little: part of the concern there is that allowing more posts again on the general range of US post-election stuff means potentially dealing with multiple headache threads at a time.

And I think part of the answer there is being fairly strict about not letting lazily constructed or outragefilter stuff through, which is something that we have of course talked about and aimed for already in the past but may be a point of friction for folks when the next shitty cabinet trial balloon or angry-making op-ed comes along. So that's something we'll be thinking about, and may be a visible and slightly bumpy part of trying to transition back to a more normal post distribution in the next while.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:47 PM on November 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, an idea that came up from Eyebrows while chatting in slack just now: talking about the idea of some sort of permanent sidebar sticky or similar "hey, here's where the stuff is" approach to helping manage the accessibility of this stuff, one thing that might work is to add a new little box/widget near the sidebar that's hideable the same way the Contact Activity details and the Deck ad are.

That might make a decent compromise on the issue that some people would really appreciate greater visibility of where the political stuff is at while other folks would like to sort of not have it getting all up in their sane-and-fun-refuge experience of the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:50 PM on November 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is the metafilter code base publicly available? Could someone start newsfilter.com with basically a clone of the site, but news and politics only? How would mods/metafilter.com feel about that?
posted by andoatnp at 3:52 PM on November 18, 2016


As things slow down from a torrential rain of horror to a gentle pitter-pattering of dread

Not sure that flood is going to stop any time soon. It's already pouring, and the President-elect and his cronies are setting up dynamite on the dam above town.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:56 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think we've already had a few good election-adjacent FPPs that were not the main thread, and I'd love to see more of those as we transition away from one thread to rule them all.

What concerns me a bit is fragmenting the conversation too much, where it turns into four political threads at once as topics drift, because we're all just teetering on one edge or the other of sanity right now as it is. I think it would work better if we stick to the convention of a "main thread" for politics current events and separate threads for stuff that's less in the breaking news category where we have a defined topic and try to stick more-or-less to that topic.
posted by zachlipton at 3:59 PM on November 18, 2016


Is the metafilter code base publicly available?

Nope. Not particularly out a sense of secrecy, but it's a big homegrown sprawl built on a Betamax of a platform, so it'd be a pretty poor choice for any kind of "oh I'll clone my own" project.

That said, I don't have a problem with someone trying to gin up a work-alike project on whatever codebase they want. If you feel like you've got a solid idea for executing something in that territory, you're welcome to build it and make a MetaTalk post about it.

That said, I wrote up a pretty long comment recently talking about the tricky realities of kicking up a spinoff that probably pertain as well here as they did there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:02 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


2. Thinking about a way to collate incoming news links in a way that makes for a good resource for readers/members without requiring wading through a quickly-growing thread full of sometimes rambling discussion.

If we're doing a constant thread of US politics (and IMHO MeFi is grown up enough that there's enough to support a constant thread) instead of a "holy shit this is a new low" every day or two, a running list of links and their <title></title> above a certain favourites threshold would probably helpful.
posted by Talez at 4:40 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm afraid I'm pessimistic about the fall-off in politithread traffic. 2017 is going to be awful, and then sometime in 2018-9 we start all over again.

There are three aspects to how the new world order will impact Metafilter - what will endanger it as a useful community - or, realistically, as a set of interacting communities, how can it react to counter this, and are there things that will make it better?

My first worry is that if thread traffic continues as it does, the existing staff will just not be able to keep up. I don't know, and have had only occasional contact with, the mods, far less think them anything other than doing a top-notch job, but I could write a book on the dynamics of online news/community teams faced with intolerable workloads. (Yes, I'm making these suggestions from a position of glorious ignorance, bolstered by a sense of competence that may be entirely inappropriate. I believe that's how it's done these days.) This is not something that can be fixed with a bit of extra money or a beer fund, welcome though such things are. You either have a lot of extra money (more staff in editorial and tech, and at some point more management. Yes, really.), you cut down on the workload, or you go into bad places for everyone.

Which means less workload. Less traffic would do it, and perhaps time will provide this, but as I said, it's going to be a long time before the infinite improbability drive returns us to normality. The dreaded 'do more with less', 'work smarter not harder' road - well, the parallel site with much greater thread cranuarity should cut down thread drift and make it easier for disciplined users to find or create and stick to the topics they're engaged with. but whether increasing the size and complexity of the site - even assuming the codebase is amenable - would release the pressure? That one needs to be argued through. And would it be good for people who dislike engaging with multiple active threads? As said above, that's hard to manage on a deskop, let alone mobile. (Mobile! Hahahaha. Hahhaha. Ouch. ouch, ouch.. sorry, that scab's still raw.)

Are there other site changes that might help? That means looking at the major places where the mods are sinking their time and seeing if there are ways to reduce them, then doing that old cost/benefit analysis on what the dev implications are. The one area I've talked to the mods about in MeTa is duplicate link detection, which if introduced to comment links would do some good (what do you do if the dupe is in a previous thread, though?), but I got the impression that here be monsters. Perhaps scooping links out of threads and comments automagically and making them accessible via the sidebar might add useful thread context and encourage people to land in the place they need to be; it's hard to do that automatically and provide enough human-readable context to be useful, but not perhaps impossible, especially if there was a bit of manual housekeeping. I'm predisposed to providing more insight to users into where and what's going on in a site, especially if the users are smart and capable, which dammit we are. (Exceot when we're not.) Yes, that is my pony disguised as small cat.

But if Metafilter can surface more meta-thread information in a format that helps us users focus our interactions when things are hot, it might help us users take the load off the team, perhaps with or perhaps without a change in recommended usage protocols to encourage it. We are part of the problem, don't rule out asking us to help fix it, even if it means - shudder - change.

And warming to that theme, there are two other models I've seen work well in terms of keeping things healthy and even growing with sites of limited means but high activity. One is giving thread starters limited mod powers (actually, I've seen it work best with Bix-like topic-creators with subtopics), one is rota-based cross-thread volunteer mods. This is hard, for many reasons, it needs a lot of structure and a pretty strict framework, and I wouldn't particularly think that either could be transplanted into MetaFilter as it stands, but as I say, I've seen this work and scale up and down smoothly on decade-old sites with very variable long- and short-term activity levels.

I really don't envy the lot of Team Metafilter at the moment; at the same time, the site's been through some hard times in the past and come out in very good shape due to the good will of the community and the ability of the staff to roll with it. And right now, I value this place more than I can say.
posted by Devonian at 5:29 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Speaking personally, I have found the political threads here both emotionally and intellectually hugely useful over the last year. While I think the generally overburdened confusion of them can be solved using decades-old methods that Metafilter refuses to adopt -- mainly, threaded conversations -- even in their wild and unwieldy form they are far, far preferable to nothing, and in many ways the single thread makes them unlike any other political conversation on the internet that I know of.

So I perhaps diverge from some folks here in that I neither expect, nor hope, for these threads to die down. The key battle right now is over normalization, the idea that we want and expect things to settle back down into politics and life as usual. Those pushing against normalization are essentially arguing that, for now, there can be no return to usual, and what that primarily means is that the political must assume a larger percentage of our time, energy, and angst than before, and more than we might prefer. The argument is that this tendency towards normalization is very strong, and clearly evident already in the news, our personal lives, and even here, but things are sufficiently different and dire now that that tendency should be fought, even by the usually apolitical.

But arguing this basically involves asking lots of people to do something that, physically and emotionally, we really don't want to do in many ways. To keep staring into the face of doom when we'd like nothing more than to look away or replace doom's face with a cheeseburger whenever possible. To keep fighting a battle that has become increasingly disheartening in recent months and years. To keep revisiting exhausting fights that we've "already done" a hundred times before. Because the alternative is worse.

And that turns into a really needy and demanding request for those who are already working their asses off, like the mods here, to keep doing this unpleasant task indefinitely, to in essence commit to a more political life than any of us would like, for months and years to come. Ugh. But the alternative, I think, is worse. Whether it's oversized threads or a subsite or something else, we don't want to hope that it all goes away as a problem as long as it remains a problem, and it should be our duty to try to build something that keeps it from going away, that keeps all these energized folks in the thousands, many of whom paid their $5 specifically in reaction to something on a political thread, engaged indefinitely. That may suck for the mods, though hopefully at least all this activity does bring some income too. But it sucks for all of us. I know I'd like to go back to all my fun little projects that I now have so little time for, or the happier times when all we had to worry about was Sanders-v-Clinton insults. But we should resist those urges, especially now, and do what we can in the domains in which we have the most leverage; which means, alas, asking the mods to not just allow these political messes to continue, but to active encourage and improve them however we can devise to do it.
posted by chortly at 6:17 PM on November 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Everyone's got their own way they'd like to see this go. I do my political organizing elsewhere and I appreciate the occasional "Hey this is how to get involved" threads and the AskMe questions. But MeFi political threads are dead to me.

They aren't quite dead to me, but I am close to that, between not wanting more outrage in my life than absolutely necessary, and the reality that I have a job and a family life and personal interests, so there just isn't any way to remotely keep up with huge and fast moving threads.

I'd really welcome a return to a pattern of fewer (and shorter) political threads and a better balance with other topics. I'm not sure what the path to that is, but I hope it is possible, for the pressure on the moderation staff if nothing else.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:24 PM on November 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


If we keep the megathreads, would it be possible for "preview" to check and see if a link that you are trying to post has already been posted in-thread? If so, it could give an fyi like "This link has already been posted. " - or something. It could curtail the not-so-fresh "omg did you guys see this?!" comments, so that the person can just abandon their stale comment without the attendant "yes, we saw this 800 comments ago" comments that inevitably follow. If the comment is just including the link again for further context to their own substantive comment, then they can still go ahead and post it. It might be too much of a drag on the server to do this, but I feel like I see this scenario play out multiple times a day.

comment comment comment comment comment comment comment
posted by gatorae at 7:29 PM on November 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm afraid I'm pessimistic about the fall-off in politithread traffic. 2017 is going to be awful

I tend to agree with the idea that crazy things happening every few days, with some slow periods and other times where it's non-stop for days, is the new normal and there will be a ready supply of grist for the post mill.

It seems like there are two courses of events, here. The least likely and best course is that Obama or someone miraculously says something that hits home and we're surprised when things calm down post-inauguration and we get coherent (if not too right wing for personal tastes) policy on a reasonable basis. The most likely (in my opinion) course is that we're in store for 0-4 years of business as usual per the campaign and we should prepare for a turbulent ride accordingly.

The thing about it is that basically Trump wants us to always have a crazy thread going, because stirring up emotions of all varieties is the basic strategy and why would they get their shit together and conduct themselves professionally now, having just won?

There are some technical things we can do, such as the suggestion others have made about checking comment content. It's possible to have things like an admin-set flag on posts that would enable a check on a new comment's body to see if duplicate info has been posted recently, based on whatever criteria, etc., and you can even get pretty clever with that, but it doesn't really solve the root issue. It's hard to imagine a complete solution that doesn't step outside of existing norms or involve a subsite, really.
posted by feloniousmonk at 7:43 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


"a better balance with other topics. I'm not sure what the path to that is"

Just as a reminder, one of the paths is to post the other topics you wish to see in the world! I personally have been trying to remember to post cool stuff I run across that isn't election related, and if it's been a few days, to seek something out. Some of our members have been really stepping up to post neat non-politics stuff and we as mods thank them! Another great thing you can do is post in non-politics threads you like, even if it's just to say "Wow, cool post, thanks!"

If you're a n00b poster and don't know if your post will work, I for one am happy to take a look at it for you -- hit me up by memail or by the e-mail in my profile -- and tell you "Yep this is awesome!" or help you workshop it a bit. Anything you run across on the web where you're like "WHOA THIS IS SO COOL" you can probably dig a good post out of!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:00 PM on November 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


(And I am not like a prolific FPP poster as a general thing but I have been really trying to come up with more cool stuff to post, and trying to be conscious about making those posts!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:09 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


If we keep the megathreads, would it be possible for "preview" to check and see if a link that you are trying to post has already been posted in-thread?

It's possible but we'd have to sanity check it. It'd mean either:

1. looping in an on-demand search of the whole thread every time someone goes to make a comment, which isn't computationally super cheap; for slow and small threads not a big deal, but for, specifically, fast-moving threads with lots of comments, that could scale in a pretty rough way. Or...

2. building a tool to maintain per-thread table of posted links, which would reduce the cost of those per-comment searches but require some added development and complexity.

In either case we'd need to force an intermediate step as a sort of forced-preview interruption when there's a link match, to give the user appropriate warning text and let them judge how to go from there. Which is a bit of new UI fiddliness to develop and test as well.

Basically: good idea, complicated implementation. If it were simpler, I'd jump on it. As it is, it's a thing worth thinking about but isn't a slam dunk yet.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:19 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'd be interested in numbers related to the political threads, because there's this sharp divide between users who need them to live vs. users who find the site much less useful because of them, and I can't help but feel that either way, there's going to be people who stop coming by as the site no longer provides what they want.

I still think the constant political focus, and how both the behaviours and the topics from the central thread spill over into the rest of the site, is a net negative. It would be great if it could be as simple as asking users to control their commenting somewhat, reduce chatfilter and so on, but that never seems to actually take hold. Plus the reactions to this insanity spills over to the rest of the site, and I suspect, gets amplified as it constantly runs into itself.

In a way, this thread, as an extension of all the political MeTas before it, is also asking whether the site as a whole is going to take an explicit political cast, and if the guideline of 'the userbase is predominantly left-leaning, bear that in mind' is going to be either codified or strengthened. At least I believe it will be relevant considering that the status quo is untenable, but however things change will end up bringing a focus onto what could be considered the site's politics, rather than just an observation of the users'.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:13 PM on November 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Here's an idea:

Post category "News."
All posts in that category get a MeTa-style queue for mod approval.
Never approve anything.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:25 PM on November 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


Is it much additional mod work to keep the link to chat pinned at the top of the site, and maybe how there's a current "election" chat room, have it go tonlike a permanent "politics" chat room?
posted by corb at 10:06 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


We're discussing it a bit. We're keeping the election channel open for now while things are still so volatile, but long term as an always-on politics channel, the worries are that it might become troll bait or suffer anger management issues, which we are willing to liberally nip in the bud with aggressive site bans or chat bans as needed ... but also, a more difficult consideration is that the tendency of chat rooms is that a handful of people use them a lot and become a sort of intimate core group and others often feel like outsiders. Opening a special limited term dedicated channel for chatworthy stuff (Eurovision, Big Events) makes sense because everyone can go there and be on equal footing as opposed to feeling like they are intruding on what begins to feel like an established, more private space.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:01 AM on November 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Specifically, I now rely on MetaFilter as a news filter - very sadly, not as the best of the Web but as the most important of news concerning what the hell's going on right now.

I see this as the crux of the problem. If MeFi remained focused on being the best of the Web, that'd be awesome. A lot of people have been trying to make it something else over this election, which I think the site is structurally unsuited for in a number of ways. Maybe we can try and encourage people back toward a best of the Web MeFi, and not encourage a breaking news trumpocalypse MeFi.
posted by Dysk at 3:23 AM on November 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


As an aside, while I get that the rolling megathreads are enjoyable and useful, for me personally they are also super anxiety inducing. Which is not to say I wish they didn't exist but that I appreciate the steady stream of other types of posts so that when I reflexively open metafilter I don't freak out at the latest headline.

Again, I know my response to those threads is idiosyncratic and that this stuff is important. But I hope we retain Here's Some Dogs mefi along with Ongoing Garbage mefi.
posted by dismas at 5:11 AM on November 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


I feel that the horse is out of the stable as far as politics filter goes, and has been ever since the rolling purpose-built megathreads were instituted (for very good reason at the time). We've seen in other threads as well, such as those related to Brexit, remarks about how it is time for a new thread, to ease an ongoing conversation rather than to post a new and interesting link.

My own feeling is that corralling news into news.metafilter would be a better solution for these ongoing conversations and breaking news threads. Ideally with new posts requiring mod approval.

As Trump and the rise of global nativism normalises I daresay the election/ post-election threads will dwindle, but I feel that the change in site culture that has occurred, and accelerated in the past year, will need to be accommodated.
posted by tavegyl at 5:52 AM on November 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Keep things as they are for 61 more days. After that, we might not even want to have online information to be used against us. 61 days to organize and come up with a secure way to communicate and share information among trusted allies, friends and family.

I read something like 85% of the political threads over the year up until last week. Since then the comments have just been too much, too fast, and I think I'm not the only one that spent time away comforting people in real life. I love information and love to see links and commentary, and the typical mefi way ends up being pretty organized around both. But currently it's a firehose hooked up to the ocean for me.

But there are a lot of MeFites who are qualified to help, if they wish, and ways to organise volunteers for such a thing, if there are enough of us and we take this seriously enough. We have journos and editors and the rest of the tribe to create and maintain a strong editorial-policy based news feed, and enough eyeballs to keep it fed.

I felt similarly 4 and 5 years ago. I wanted to weaponize Metafilter. And perhaps it's my fault for not doing it myself. But I didn't do it then, can't do it now, and Metafilter is just not the place.

Metafilter is what it is, and this other thing will be awesome, but it isn't going to be metafilter and the Metafilter mods can only take so much. 61 more days, then back to prior operating mode for Metafilter, I think. That's my opinion.
posted by cashman at 9:13 AM on November 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm either not as paranoid, or not as realistic, as cashman, but I agree that the mods have already gone above and beyond to accommodate the emotional needs of this community/user base/whatever, and I feel pretty confident in saying that most of us thought that after Nov. 8 we'd all breathe a sigh of relief and go back to normal.
I'm *not* confident that the "political stuff" is going to die down any time soon. And the mods (whom I now picture as all having white hair, and in my mind's eye cortex looks like Keith Richards) should not have to deal with this.
So the pony I'm thinking of now is some kind of API whereby anyone with a MeFi account could be authorized to log into some other site, so that anyone brave enough could create a political discussion site for Mee-Fites (what, how do you pronounce it?) but they'd have to deal with their own mess, and the mods could get some sleep.
posted by uosuaq at 1:56 PM on November 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Did Crone Island work out well? If so, perhaps the spin-off thing might work well enough long enough to support folks using the election threads as a lifeline. Long ago I stopped being able to keep up with the comments, but do check in from time to time for comfort, conversation and links, which are often invaluable to me. That said, this pace is not sustainable. I don't want Trump and his cronies to ruin MF the way they have so many other things. Finally, over time MF has made me a less bigoted and more aware person. I learned about white privilege courtesy of MF and, as a white, cis woman, I'm glad for that education. I hope any changes that get implemented don't act as "only progressives are welcome here" signs. The emotional labor thread was a huge consciousness raising vehicle. Other threads have been as well for folks who either weren't progressive or weren't as progressive as they might have imagined.

I'm outside the US right now and it's late and I can't craft a coherent argument right now. I just want us to remember that MF has done a lot of good politically, in the personal-is-political kind of way, and I hope we don't lose that in focusing on Trump. I know he needs to be fought. I know his administration presents a clear and present danger to the actual lives of fellow MeFites. And I know MeFites are asking for support. I'm willing to fight as best I can, and offer support as best I can as an individual. I'm simply worried that making MF essentially a locus of resistance is a recipe for failure.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:28 PM on November 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I enjoy discussing politics and social justice issues, and the mega-threads were entirely too unwieldy for me to participate at all. Not due to tech issues -- they loaded fine for me -- but just because they were so fast and covered so many different topics that it was impossible to keep up (which is, presumably, why so many people were posting already-posted links, too). So I'd like everyone to keep in mind that it's not just "Users who like political megathreads" vs. "Users who don't want so much politics on the site," but also "Users who would like much smaller and more focused political threads," too.

I'm not make any claims about the sustainability of that, in terms of moderation resources, but I don't want that category to get ignored.
posted by lazuli at 3:07 PM on November 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


So I'd like everyone to keep in mind that it's not just "Users who like political megathreads" vs. "Users who don't want so much politics on the site," but also "Users who would like much smaller and more focused political threads," too.

For what it's worth, that has always been a part of what makes MeFi MeFi to me.
posted by Dysk at 7:54 PM on November 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


  a running list of links and their <title></title> above a certain favourites threshold would probably helpful.

This, though, would pretty much be an outragefilter. Making a feature of favourite-heavy threads of the day will make those threads more of a pile-on. They will begin to demand all of the mod time, and the site would become just another algorithmic dog-whistle shrilling on its distinct frequency. The community of mefites would be allowing other people, the people who outrage us, to frame our speech. I don't want that.
posted by scruss at 4:31 AM on November 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


cortex, on a "preview" feature to check whether a link has been posted:

It'd mean either:

1. looping in an on-demand search of the whole thread every time someone goes to make a comment, which isn't computationally super cheap; for slow and small threads not a big deal, but for, specifically, fast-moving threads with lots of comments, that could scale in a pretty rough way.


... but couldn't you limit that check and only do it when the comment contains a link?
posted by kristi at 5:52 PM on November 20, 2016


I have mentioned this previously. We used to have this and BB put a shit ton of work and hours into it but like many things on the interwebs it died. *sobs quietly*.
posted by adamvasco at 4:04 AM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Part of the trouble for me in the mega threads is that there is a bit of everything going on at once -- people are trying to inform, organize, activate, calm, question, etc all in one place and it becomes difficult to trace the various threads through all the comments. So I'd be in favor of finding a way to split these into multiple threads, but in a systematic way.

I'm not sure if this would work or be particularly helpful, but this is the idea I'm mulling currently: What if we can try to split threads up by intended purpose, and then limit comments in those threads to things that serve that purpose? For example: comments on a news post tagged "inform" should focus on the facts and maintain a general journalistic neutrality -- discuss what they mean, post clarifying questions, link to other related sources, etc. Alternatively, someone submitting an FPP could specifically designate a particular post as something like "mobilize" or "organize," which would invite commenters to discuss the merits of a particular bit of news and what they might do about it (and this is where we'd be a bit more free to share what the news means to us personally, vent, call to action, etc). This would allow people to selectively choose to participate in that kind of discussion, while also remaining informed, and it would give mods a specific filter to use in each thread. I guess the challenge would be in defining what tags to use and finding a way to employ them collectively, but I think it could be done.
posted by cubby at 8:13 AM on November 21, 2016


I just logged in again to write this comment, then I'll go away again. I haven't been here since the events of E-night because MetaFilter is now a trigger of what I've felt since then. Is this place really going to be a place of organizing, of expressing our emotional angst, of venting? In any case, so long and thanks for all the fish.
posted by DanSachs at 1:44 PM on November 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


If I could fish my wish I'd nominate Wordshore as a Mini-Mod and Designated Poster for the once-a-week threads. But that's just me.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:17 AM on November 22, 2016


If I could fish my wish I'd nominate Wordshore as a Mini-Mod and Designated Poster for the once-a-week threads. But that's just me.

Mini-Mod: Thanks but never happening. I've done community moderation for several online forums/services over the decades (usenet and lists since the 80's, first website built in 1992) and my approach is radically different from here. On past form, anyone who e.g. repeated a previous Clinton vs Sanders argument I'd be immediately be handing a lengthy ban to. And suspected trollers would get a personal visit from me that same day or night, with a printout of their comments and a demand for an explanation of their behavior. Not compromising, so that flies well off the current MetaFilter ethical standards for modding and Cortex would probably (have to) sack me within a day.

Designated Poster: The mods know I'm happy to keep doing post-election posts in the current style for the short-term (tech and general life situations withstanding), but it's not a long-term solution for their own resources and state-of-mind so it's a case of changes when, rather than if. Thankfully, perhaps, the rate of commenting has gradually slowed to roughly a mega-thread a week at the moment, giving them more of a breather to figure stuff out.
posted by Wordshore at 9:41 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just as a reminder, one of the paths is to post the other topics you wish to see in the world!

I'd like to object to that. I've found that posting non-political threads gets a "How can you be doing this when all this crap is happening?". Case in point. The thread corrected itself, but it's still a hell of disincentive.
posted by zabuni at 10:00 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've found that posting non-political threads gets a "How can you be doing this when all this crap is happening?".

Same here, but a quick flag seems to work.
posted by Etrigan at 10:10 AM on November 22, 2016


I've found that posting non-political threads gets a "How can you be doing this when all this crap is happening?".

My personal MeFi freakout measurement:
Waffle poot FPP appears: Yep, we're all having a bad week.
Penguin/slo-mo farts FPP appears: People, this is NOT GOOD.
Funny cat videos FPP appears: OH SHIT, WE'RE SCREWED.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:53 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Could we:

1. Keep a US Politics thread going but have a hard limit on comments (1,000, 1,500, whatever) before it closes and no new comments are allowed (meaning a new thread must be posted; conceivably, they could be completely generic such as "U.S. Politics Thread Month, Day, Year" with some instructions about keeping on topic, and other relevant threads, and be loaded up to be easily postable when the old thread fills up)

2. Have a sidebar link with the two most recent threads

If I want to talk about US politics, I know to go there first, rather than try to figure out which Hamilton quote we're on now.
posted by emjaybee at 10:57 AM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just do not want to see these giant fucking blocks of dread tofu on the site all the time as I'm browsing for cool links and conversation. I'm getting it from every other website on earth already. Please eventually stop this, or make nonpolitics.metafilter.com.
posted by selfnoise at 10:40 AM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Have you tried scrolling down?
posted by zachlipton at 10:48 AM on November 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the dismissive fart. I cannot actually erase my brain, especially after a Thanksgiving week that has me on my last nerve.
posted by selfnoise at 10:56 AM on November 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry you're having such a bad week, and I hope things get better for you.
posted by zachlipton at 11:05 AM on November 25, 2016


I've hesitated to say anything, because I know the mods are doing their best under seriously trying and emotionally exhausting circumstances. But. The rest of the site has definitely suffered because of these monster threads. Stuff like the long derail in this thread (http://www.metafilter.com/163606/Understanding-orgasm-begins-with-a-butt-plug) would normally be snipped in the bud. I just went away from the site for the most part during the election because I thought it would get back to normal.

I don't have any solutions to offer, and I feel bad about that. But these threads are using up a disproportionate amount of mod resources and making the rest of the site suffer. There are definitely things I would make posts about but I think about the mods and don't. Not because I think they would be fighty or cause disruption, but because if a weird derail happens that has nothing to do with the article? It's kinda touchy whether it'll get dealt with appropriately or at all.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:49 PM on November 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


One thing that's bothering me - we're trying to keep these threads alive for as long as possible, yeah? One thing that is making the threads so long is when people post links, then quote gigantic blocks of text from said link. Paragraphs and paragraphs full! These make the thread even longer and it's completely unnecessary. I'd love it if mods would tell people to reel it back on the quoting every now and then.
posted by agregoli at 2:28 PM on November 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


secret truth: I have always hated that sort of thing. The link and BUT IN CASE YOU'RE TOO LAZY HERE IS THE BEST 500 WORDS.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:07 PM on November 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


I do the multi-paragraph excerpt thing fairly often, because as a reader I prefer getting a sense of the link's content before deciding whether to click through. There are dozens of links every day in these threads, so I try to put some effort into excerpting the key points of the links in question, and appreciate the efforts of others who do the same.

I hadn't really considered that these excerpts do that much to make the threads harder to load, but I suppose it's a factor, so I'll try to be more selective in what I quote.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:27 PM on November 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Technically, lack of pagination is what makes the big threads hard to load. Imagine loading the main page if you had to wait for your browser to get to "I don't know how these people wedged their cats into their scanners" before being able to render.
posted by uosuaq at 6:31 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I do the quoting thing too, in part because people have requested more context around links in the past and in part because I keep seeing a pattern in these threads of duplicate links, where someone posts the same link four times, and then someone else comes along and says "wait, why aren't you talking about this thing?" because not enough people actually clicked it. Eventually someone comes along and is all "yeah that link up there, you really actually want to read it" and then it clicks for people.

It's simply not possible to keep up with the election threads and read every single article linked therein, so like tonycpsu, I think it is useful to provide some indicator of "why should I care?" when posting a link. Often, but not always, the best way to do that is with a bit of an excerpt. That also helps drive the discussion; people can see some relevant bit of information from the link right there and respond to it in-thread.

That said, I'll also try to keep the length of such quotes in mind in the future.
posted by zachlipton at 7:04 PM on November 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


"I hadn't really considered that these excerpts do that much to make the threads harder to load, but I suppose it's a factor, so I'll try to be more selective in what I quote."

The other thing we get complaints about is people reading on mobile, and someone quotes five big-ass paragraphs, and they're scrolling and scrolling and scrolling to get past it.

I hate mystery meat links, and quotes are very helpful even in the megathreads, but I do encourage people to quote selectively and to consider using their summarizing skills. You can always say something like, "At this link, Joe Schmoe of Politico discusses the seven ways Trump could be impeached, from most to least likely," or "This piece about corruption in the Beltway (such as $example, or $example) was really helpful in understanding the problems with Trump's hotels -- You should read the whole thing, but I think the biggest takeaway was $quote."

You guys are good at contextualizing and often I find your summarizes or contextualization or generally thoughts fully as valuable as the article you're linking to, so don't feel like you're shortchanging your link by not quoting it extensively and instead summarizing or providing your personal thoughts.

Anyway, some things demand extensive quotes, some things demand unlabeled links, and some things work well with a summary, use your judgment but do think of the slow-loaders and the folks on mobile whose swiping thumb is tired!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:22 PM on November 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I should have seen that coming, but that unlabeled link makes me glad MeFi lets us unfavorite comments.
posted by zachlipton at 7:28 PM on November 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


"I'd love it if mods would tell people to reel it back on the quoting every now and then."

By the way, during the primaries we did talk to a couple of people who were frequently and repeatedly posting enormous copy-pasta comments (that clearly did not need to be quite so long). I haven't noticed in recent threads any particular constant-offender commenters, just a lot of different people posting a lot of links and quotes, sometimes long ones. And as you guys said above, it's good to keep in mind the tension between giving enough of a quote so that people can follow the conversation and understand what the link is about, and not making the thread harder to read or load, and I think mostly people have been doing a pretty good job of navigating that tension in those megathreads.

But, as always, if you notice someone in particular who's posting repeatedly in a way that makes the site harder to use, or derails the conversation, or whatever, contact the mods and let us know; we don't always notice these low-level irritations that annoy but don't explicitly rule-break. We're always happy to take a look and be like, "Okay, that guy DOES keep posting 12-paragraph excerpts from Democracy in America every two hours and we can probably talk to him" or like, "Eh, seems okay, we'll keep it on the radar but leave it alone for now."
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:11 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Based on favorites, user mgar seems to be reliving the Election Day thread and I'm just cringing for them because it's just going to get worse and worse the more they scroll.
posted by zachlipton at 9:37 PM on November 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Based on favorites, user mgar seems to be reliving the Election Day thread and I'm just cringing for them because it's just going to get worse and worse the more they scroll.

No spoilers, zachlipton! Let mgar have a last few moments of comfort before the reality strikes.
posted by Wordshore at 5:12 AM on November 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


secret truth: I have always hated that sort of thing. The link and BUT IN CASE YOU'RE TOO LAZY HERE IS THE BEST 500 WORDS

The truth is most of us are lazy and/or been burned too often by crappy links. When I am on my phone and someone posts a link in the tail end of a giant ass post I have to ask myself the question "Is this tasty enough to lose my place?" Because sure as shootin I will click on the link, find a lame Simpson clip or comic too small to read and go back to MetaFilter only to find my phone has lost my place. Urrrrrrgh.

So I do tend to quote some paragraphs. I try to be as concise as possible but I'm sure sometimes I let my enthusiasm get away from me. I will try to sum up more and quote less. But it would also be really nice if there were fewer simpson/comic/meme links.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:13 PM on November 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Um, I personally just long click on a link I want to see, and "open as new window." No losing your place necessary.
posted by agregoli at 4:32 PM on November 28, 2016


My tip is to tap the timestamp of the comment I'm reading in the thread, then do "open as new window." That way, if the thread tab refreshes when I come back to it (which happens sometimes, especially if the phone gets low on memory and starts throwing out inactive browser tabs), it returns to the same place I left it.
posted by zachlipton at 4:35 PM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


agregoli I was specifically talking about my phone. I always open as in a new window but once the thread gets past 500 comments or so when you navigate back, your place is lost. Sometimes the thread even reboots itself and you find yourself back several hours previous.

I also tap the timestamp. If I get badly lost (like if my phone refuses to recognize that there have been any new comments made in the last 5 hours then I go to recent activity. Trust me, I know all the tricks but they don't always work.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:39 PM on November 28, 2016


I was also talking about my phone. Zachlipton describes what I do and its never lost my place. I wonder why your phone doesn't keep your place.
posted by agregoli at 4:43 PM on November 28, 2016


I don't know. iPhone using Safari. I don't think I'm alone though, I remember a number of people groaning about this problem during the pre-election megathreads.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:55 PM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Your not alone! <1yr old Droid Turbo 2 running Opera and the longboat election threads broke it.
posted by lalex at 5:04 PM on November 28, 2016


(also bad things usually come after comments that start with "um...")
posted by lalex at 5:08 PM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


The current post is experiencing a lot of duplicate links. Are people not searching the thread? I always CTRL F approx 3 keywords. Some duplicates are to be expected of course. Would a mod note be appropriate?
posted by futz at 5:17 PM on November 28, 2016


How much of a strain on server resources would it be to have links in comments normalized and dupe-checked? It's done on posts, and I have to think the job of searching the entire post corpus would use more resources than just checking the current thread. (Though the higher number of such checks may be a problem.)
posted by tonycpsu at 5:42 PM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


frimble and cortex were working on something related to that, experimenting with ways to make it work. I think the status is "maybe; testing" for the moment.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:46 PM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Maybe the mods could selectively activate that feature on the most troublesome threads only, to save load on the system.
posted by Rumple at 8:37 PM on November 28, 2016


The current post is experiencing a lot of duplicate links. Are people not searching the thread? I always CTRL F approx 3 keywords. Some duplicates are to be expected of course. Would a mod note be appropriate?

Highly related to this; I confess I've been confused about several aspects of MetaFilter comment flags since joining. The second one is "Double comment". I'm wondering if this could or should be interpreted, or changed to, "Double comment or link". Or maybe it means that already - I'm just not sure.

It would be nice/good if comments which just contained a link, and that link had already been done in the same thread, were routinely flagged and deleted.
posted by Wordshore at 3:40 AM on November 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


That would be a better solution, I think. Offloads the effort onto users, rather than trying to develop a new way to handle dupe-links in a post programmatically.
posted by XtinaS at 5:38 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been using "double comment" to flag duplicate links for a while now even though I reckon that wasn't the intended purpose. It seems to work.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:22 AM on November 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, when I see "double comment" I take it context-specific based on the thread; in a large/newsy thread the fact that it might mean "this link got posted already by someone else" rather than "this user accidentally submitted two nearly-identical comments" definitely is part of my thinking. It can be difficult to search for if the multiplying links aren't all in a local cluster, though, so cleanup there is always gonna be iffy.

The auto-dupe checker has promise, has turned out to be faster and less onerous than I'd feared originally in the testing frimble's been doing (based on some code pb had started in on previously, it's like the goddam Mines of Moria down here), and so hopefully we will be able to polish that up and roll it out and see how that goes. Will itself still not be a panacea because checking for an exact dupe link is much faster and more doable at a "for every new comment in real time" pace than doing a fuller fuzzy search for similarity, but I think it'll be a good thing. Would function as a warning, not as a full-stop, so for cases where it actually makes sense to re-link something folks will be able to choose to do so.

Maybe the mods could selectively activate that feature on the most troublesome threads only, to save load on the system.

The load issue would mostly even be a thing to consider in the very threads we'd most need it for, so if we roll it out we'll just roll it out in general. If it can't keep up with the busiest threads, it's not much use; if it can, then the less-busy threads won't even be a thing to worry about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:29 AM on November 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Will itself still not be a panacea because checking for an exact dupe link is much faster and more doable at a "for every new comment in real time" pace than doing a fuller fuzzy search for similarity, but I think it'll be a good thing.

I don't think a fuzzy search for URL similarity would be worth doing at all, because http://www.example.com/foo?article_id=1 and http://www.example.com/foo?article_id=2 can be (and usually are) totally different content. I'd strip off the protocol and maybe the anchors for comparison purposes under the assumption that most sites don't have different content on HTTP/HTTPS and usually anchors are at least referring to the same page, but even those assumptions have some amount of risk, especially with modern client-side frameworks that do crazy things with anchors.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:25 AM on November 29, 2016


Would it help the thread load if after a certain number of time commenting it stopped linking your username to your profile page? Like only the most recent comment or two would actually have the link? That could potentially get rid of hundreds of links in a long election thread. Or is loading links not really the issue compared to the sheer amount of text on the page.
posted by DynamiteToast at 9:44 AM on November 29, 2016


I strongly suspect that it's just the sheer amount of text that causes some browsers/devices to have problems with the multi-thousand-comment threads. (I work on web browser text layout algorithms for a living, but I haven’t done any specific performance testing with long MetaFilter threads… yet…)
posted by mbrubeck at 10:13 AM on November 29, 2016


People are still writing bizarre long fanfic type comments, its maddening.
posted by agregoli at 3:19 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wait, so now they compaint isn't just long quotes, but also long comments that you don't like? Did you flag it?
posted by tonycpsu at 3:21 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I mean, I don't think it's unreasonable to be annoyed at people posting completely made up, lengthy dialogues with little to do with the thread. Your mileage may vary but so what? I'm allowed to be annoyed by what I'm annoyed by. And yes, of course I flagged it. I also have the right to comment here.
posted by agregoli at 3:58 PM on December 5, 2016


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