Visualizing the impact of US politics megaposts on the blue March 27, 2017 10:45 AM   Subscribe

The biggest change in the way that mefites participate on the blue in years has been the rise of US politics megathreads. We have had several discussions of the qualitative impact of them, but it occurred to me that it might be useful to dig into the infodump and see what quantitative picture might emerge. I think my findings are worth sharing - while a quantitative analysis on its own can't tell us whether the megathreads are a good thing or not, there are several negative trends regarding community engagement and participation that are happening in close concurrency with the rise of the megathreads.

Chart 1 - More comments on the blue are now in megathreads than are not

As elgilito demonstrated in July of 2015, there has been a long-term declining trend in user engagement ever since the great Google algorithm change of November 2012. This trend includes reductions in the number of posts, comments and active users on the blue. In one respect the politics megathreads have reversed this trend, as 2016 represents the first period of increasing comment volume since then.

However, when we bucket the comments into whether they occurred in a US politics megathread or not (see below for my methodology in defining of a megathread), a more striking pattern emerges: the increase has been entirely due to comments in megathreads, and comment volume in other posts has decreased dramatically. During the period from July of 2016 through February 2017, politics megathreads actually have more comments than all other posts combined, an average of 713 comments a day within megaposts and 702 a day in all other threads.

Chart 2 - Fewer posts are being made

If we define July 2016 forward as the era of megathread dominance, the average number of posts to the blue has dropped immediately from the start of the era and continued to decline, from an average of 24 a day in the period of Nov. 2015 - Jun. 2016 to an average 17.7 a day during Jul. 2016 - Feb. 2017. Monthlong posting campaigns such as #julybywomen, #womensmarch and #keepmefiweird had the opposite effect of increasing post volume, but largely created one-off effects that did not reverse long-term declines.

Chart 3 - Fewer users are commenting

The decline in volume of users commenting each month has also been a long-term trend throughout the post-Google-algorithm-change era, and has also accelerated during the megathread era, although not as dramatically as post volume. Notable is that, while the volume of comments within and outside US politics megaposts has been roughly equal during the megathread era, only a minority of participating users comment drive those comments. In any given month during the megathread era, two thirds of active commenters that month never commented in a megathread.

While the posts by women months and keepmefiweird all drove more posts being created, the posts by women months also correlated with more users participating in conversation, which keepmefiweird did not.

Conclusion

To preserve the long term viability of the blue, the moderators and the userbase at large should consider policies and behaviors that could curtail the growth of the megathreads and encourage participation on a broader variety of topics by a wider set of users.

Monthly posting campaigns have been effective in the short term, but we need to do more than that if we want to see long-term increases in the breadth and diversity of the engaged user base and topics of conversation on the blue.

Methodology & defining a politics megathread

The analysis was based on queries against the tagdata_mefi, commentdata_mefi and postdata_mefi tables from the infodump, meaning that the only subsite in scope is the blue. The period reviewed is 1/1/2013 through 2/28/2017.

For the purposes of this analysis, a thread was considered a US politics megathread if it had 500 or more comments and was tagged with at least one of the following: election2016 election potus45 DonaldTrump BarackObama obama trump hillaryclinton BernieSanders Clinton sanders USPolitics
posted by strangely stunted trees to MetaFilter-Related at 10:45 AM (466 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite

Nice datawankery, sst, and, yeah, I think it's useful to look at the quantitative flip side of the qualitative stuff we've discussed a lot. These charts aren't a surprise to me in terms of either the numbers I've been looking at periodically or the team's feel about where our relative shares of moderation attention have had to be the last year or so in particular, but the starkness of the impact of UK/US politics and in turn discussion of same on site behavior really pops numerically under this treatment.

That's something we've been continuing to talk about as a moderation team because it's an ongoing challenge in more than one respect; I talked in the recent State of MetaFilter update about the impact this (both the state of the world and the focus of site activity) has had on both the community and on the mod staff, and the one thing that is clear to me is that there's not a simple solution to reverting the discussion landscape to a pre-2016 state given the powerful externalities driving the degree of sustained high-volume political discussion/updates people are pursuing on the site.

But it is important to me that we make an ongoing effort to nudge things back toward MetaFilter-other-than-politics. We can't dispense with the politics itself, but I think it's doable to find ways to focus renewed energy on the everything-else, and I think it'd be great in this thread for folks to explore and brainstorm ideas along those lines.

One of the things we did this year was add the US Politics widget to allow folks to selectively filter the presence of a lot of politics discussion on the front page; it's hard to measure the overall impact of that directly, but it was well-received and we've gotten ongoing feedback about what threads people see as falling under that umbrella. There's also been discussion of widening somewhat the scope of politics de-emphasis in other areas, like the Popular Favorites views and Contact Activity, which idea I am increasingly warming to and we will likely explore when we have some development bandwidth.

But aside from that I've also been thinking a lot about more proactive, positive-engagement stuff: what sort of things, be they posting drives/events, community initiatives, policy tweaks, site additions, pony requests, etc. can we pursue to try and help folks find their way more consistently and more broadly to participating in the kind of varied and non-politics-centric Stuff Folks Do On MetaFilter.

The mod team and I have chewed on a few different things on that front, and have had plans lurking for some specifics (e.g. reworking/expanding FanFare's functionality and visibility, which global distractions and limited dev time has held up for a while, unfortunately), and I'm going to make an effort as the days get longer to put more attention and energy on that stuff. I'll see about talking about some of that stuff further in here but I don't want to write a whole book at the start of this thread.

But in short: I think I more or less agree with your conclusions, in terms of what it would be good to see MetaFilter do other than continue to be dominated by political megathread stuff, despite the inescapability of the current political climate as a point of ongoing discussion on the site. Finding a balanced way to get there is our challenge, and I'm very open to hearing where folks are on that in terms of both concerns and ideas.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:50 AM on March 27 [18 favorites]


The most recent trumpost was perhaps a classic example of competitive venting.
posted by sammyo at 11:02 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


FWIW, I've been trying to post several times a week.

Maybe we need another initiative to bring in first-time/shy posters?
posted by Chrysostom at 11:07 AM on March 27 [5 favorites]


Huh. This is interesting. I've been around since 2000 (lurking, then with a username and now with a new improved user name) and if asked I would not have said there were fewer posts and less conversation in those posts.

I comment more in the Blue now than I ever did, though still not much and almost never in the politics megathreads. Can't think of a thing I'd post about, however.
posted by crush at 11:10 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


the US Politics widget

Aka, the Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses of problem-solving.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:38 AM on March 27 [8 favorites]


Wouldn't all of this go away if we, collectively, made Donald Trump not be president anymore?
posted by beerperson at 11:48 AM on March 27 [62 favorites]


A question that may be without an easy answer: what else changed after the great Google algorithm change of November 2012? I ask because that should have only impacted the number of new people coming to MetaFilter. Has anyone calculated the activity curves of users? Is there an expected curve or a variety of common curves for participation on MeFi? For example, do users who join and jump right in slack off and wander away? Is it more common for lurkers to pop in occasionally over the years, or are there things that draw lurkers in to become "active members" (for however that is classified)?

Did the introduction of the Modern theme change user trends? Looking more broadly, has the internet culture changed in such a way that sites like MetaFilter are truly rare birds that will become more and more niche? In short: what outside of MetaFilter has changed MetaFilter, ranging from societal to technological?

I've also been thinking a lot about more proactive, positive-engagement stuff: what sort of things, be they posting drives/events, community initiatives, policy tweaks, site additions, pony requests, etc. can we pursue to try and help folks find their way more consistently and more broadly to participating in the kind of varied and non-politics-centric Stuff Folks Do On MetaFilter.

Has there ever been a MetaFilter User Survey? There are plenty of vocal MeFites who talk about the site here on the grey, but I worry that comments from this corner of the site are more of an echo chamber more than other areas. Are there things that other users want to see or would encourage them to become more active? Or are they happy as passive viewers, and the status quo makes them happy?
posted by filthy light thief at 11:50 AM on March 27 [18 favorites]


I am feeling a little guilty about not pushing Women's March this year as hard as I maybe should have to build and maintain enthusiasm, given I kicked it off; but then, I'm not actually capable of investing more energy right now.

Part of me is wondering whether a lot of this isn't even so much changes in the Blue as much as the widespread leftist response to large-scale and terrifying political changes in the US and UK (which, I suspect, supply a very large fraction of MeFi's user base). Like, speaking for myself, there is less non-explicitly-political stuff coming across my broader non-MeFi feeds right now. Many people in my feeds are going through cycles of immersing themselves wholly in politics (and the corresponding desperate push to do something now before it becomes too late to try) and then cycles of rejuvenation and deliberately seeking only replenishing things. The latter often does mean blocking entire social media sites, although here I think initiatives like the US Politics widget do a lot to help.

But a lot of people are doing this burn hard/fall back pattern that I see, and I'm not sure how to integrate that better--because I suspect that if the site tries to break the megathreads up or make conversation in them harder, people in "burn hard" phase will just seep into the rest of the site, hit people in "fall back" mode such that they stop conceptualizing MeFi as a place where recharging can happen, and cause those people to step back from the site until they're ready to push again. And the problem hitting those of us in 'fall back' mode (as I am in now) is that when you're very low on energy, it is.... hard to find the enthusiasm and momentum to go and post things and start conversations and actively move communities along. It's hard to be silly when you're exhausted; it's easier to go passively sit and read someone else's silliness and bask in it until you have some energy to play again... or, well, fight again. And that doesn't spin up community.

I can't so much speak for primary season, because the politics threads during the primary upset me and alienated me enough that I straight up took a break from the site under the theory that it'd all be over in a few months anyway. Well, it wasn't, and it's not, and I think that a lot of people on the left (and especially marginalized people) are having a really hard time coping with that, and the discussion trends we're seeing in the last five months in particular are part and parcel of the kinds of wide-ranging uncertainty that comes as a result of, well, all this scary political shit. I know speaking for myself, my job could be impacted; my entire professions' job could be impacted; two of my friends' jobs could be impacted by what the state legislature chooses to do. A couple of other friends are looking at an interstate move this fall and trying to figure out health insurance in the wake of the failure of the AHCA. I know several people who are desperately afraid of the cuts to health care because they're on disability. These are terrifying things to contemplate, and I see people mostly avoiding them (so they aren't paralyzed by fear) or deliberately facing them on (so that they don't face so little opposition that they go on to happen).

So I think that a) it's not anything Metafilter is necessarily doing so much as something that is a product of several geopolitical changes happening at once, but also b) that it is going to be necessary to be very, very careful about handling it, because it's being indirectly caused by a whole lot of emotions running very high as people feel threatened and uncertain in very personal and very direct ways. A lot of these changes are not going to be anything that Metafilter can, as a conscious community, completely control or fix. So I think it's important to keep those things in mind while talking about this, because I think the whys of the rise of the megathreads are going to be very important to figuring out what to do about them without triggering a counterproductive response.
posted by sciatrix at 11:50 AM on March 27 [85 favorites]


Wow. As someone who generally has politics hidden with the new widget, it is shocking to me that I am missing HALF of MetaFilter by doing that. I agree with your conclusion here, sst, but I'd like to see it be more of an encouragement to broaden user engagement than a curtailment of the megathreads (the PoliticsFilter cat is out of the bag, at least for the duration of the Trump Administration).

Here's an idea: Every so often in the megathreads, mods post a link to a thematically related non-megathread that is currently active, as a sort of "Need a break from climate change politics? Try this thread on cloud formations!" kind of thing. This could either be in a regular comment, or maybe even with some sort of altered attention getting formatting (perhaps similar to a Best Answer in AskMe). I guess the biggest concern would be that the political discussion would then spill out into non-megathreads, but maybe it is worth a shot?
posted by Rock Steady at 12:14 PM on March 27 [11 favorites]


I post pretty frequently and I've noticed myself that since Trump/politicsFilter has come into office, I'm not making posts as frequently as I used to. I think I'm just feeling a bit worn out and I find myself retreating a bit from MetaFilter.

As much as this place is my digital sanctuary, a place where I can share some interesting ideas, thoughts, stories, discoveries, etc. I've pulled back because I want to not be in a digital space. And too many of the digital spaces I occupy these days (MetaFilter, Twitter, Instagram) are filled with political messages and conversation.

When I am on Metafilter, I am finding myself gravitating to things that are not Trump or #POTUS45 related. More video game posts please.
posted by Fizz at 12:15 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


I feel like Sciatrix's point about the larger conversation is a really good one. Other than the papercraft stuff that I post which comes from following a couple of papercraft blogs, I often cross-pollinate links between Ravelry's LSG community and Metafilter. And right now, upwards of 50% of all the threads on LSG are also about politics, which means I'm not reading them. Which means I'm not finding much interesting stuff to post on Metafilter. (And vice-versa, though I did just post the Avengers watch the Justice League link over on LSG.) My Facebook feed used to also be a relatively fertile source of internet oddities, and now it's almost all politics.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:18 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


Well, the way I use MetaFilter and all of the Internet has changed over the last year and it's less about the outside world and more about my own health. I've quit doing FPPs and unless it's a very short, jokey comment, it's taking me a lot longer to compose a comment. The potential good news: my cardiologist is doing something later this week that we are both hopeful will improve things significantly, so if all goes well (and doesn't EndWell), you'll be seeing almost daily Front Page Foop Posts in April. And they will not be politically-based.

Also relevantly, MetaFilter has been the ONLY place I discuss politics for some time. But recently, when a comment of mine gets deleted, I take 'Trump Break' until the next Megathread gets posted. Which is good for my mental health.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:18 PM on March 27 [17 favorites]


Maybe we need another initiative to bring in first-time/shy posters?

Has there been an initiative to specifically encourage first-time posters? I would love to see something like a designated month where people are encouraged (and helped, as in the Womens March months) to make their first FPP and tag it with #FirstPost - not just because it's easier to stick your neck out when you know you're part of a crowd, but also because I think people are more inclined to comment positively / comment at all when you feel there's an extra reason to go out of your way to be encouraging. I also think encouraging new voices might be a way to get away from politics-filter in unexpected ways.
posted by Mchelly at 12:19 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


Has there been an initiative to specifically encourage first-time posters? I would love to see something like a designated month where people are encouraged (and helped, as in the Womens March months) to make their first FPP and tag it with #FirstPost -

Yes, there was. The MetaTalk thread..
posted by jacquilynne at 12:24 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


Rock Steady: Here's an idea: Every so often in the megathreads, mods post a link to a thematically related non-megathread that is currently active, as a sort of "Need a break from climate change politics? Try this thread on cloud formations!" kind of thing.

I like that - a simple bold, colorful text banner every 300 comments or so. A sort of suggested mental health break type thing that mods could insert.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:33 PM on March 27 [15 favorites]


Good post, strangely stunted trees! I thought the megathreads had sucked the air out of the rest of the site, and I'm troubled to see that thought confirmed. Even though I've done my share of posting in them, I'd like to see the megathreads come to an end. Articles which could have supported FPPs of their own go there to disappear unacknowledged.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:07 PM on March 27 [22 favorites]


Be interesting to see Chart 1 as "commentusers" -- daily active (commenting) users instead of cumulative comments. That would be another way to see if US politics megathreads are the "culprit" vs the otherwise (years long) downward trending activity on this lovely site. It's good that 2016 had more comments than the previous year, but it's better if 2016 had more active user voices.

On edit, chart 3 seems to be that, sorry (my fault for misinterpreting!).
posted by neustile at 1:18 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


I actually like the megathreads being the way they are, but it may be due to how I interact with the site..

While there's a lot of activity, megathreads usually read more like an event post where people are posting updates, so it's a pretty fast place to get a zeitgeist (taking into account mefi is a certain subset of politics) of what's going on.

The current configuration also allows you to easy opt-in or opt-out of the (US) political side of mefi, which is valuable. (Some days I just need to engage in what is going on and other days I need to step back.)

I don't really see lower engagement in other threads...but I don't really ascribe to higher number of comments equals more engagement.

I still see higher quality comments throughout the site on various topics. As I've aged as a mefi user I'm actually less likely to make a comment because I don't think I know something as much as I did (e.g., don't say something if I can't make a useful or a least adds somethign comment). I'm still an engaged reading though despite my commenting metrics. Not sure if that applies to other users as well.
posted by typecloud at 1:23 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


A brief thing, if possible, could we see updated MeFi stats for 2016? Would love to see # of new members and # of members visited for 2016 -- which I don't think you can get from the infodump. That could add another datapoint to the discussion.
posted by neustile at 1:24 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


Articles which could have supported FPPs of their own go there to disappear unacknowledged.

More individual politics threads on the front page seems like the opposite of the solution to this problem.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:29 PM on March 27 [18 favorites]


As I have requested in the past, an option to remove #45 posts from the Popular Comments page would help me engage more with the rest of the site.
posted by soelo at 1:32 PM on March 27 [8 favorites]


Really interesting stuff here! I've noticed these things as well, particularly the sharp drop in daily posts to the blue (and other subsites) over the last several years. I've been meaning to play around with the infodump and update some charts I'd done a while back (with data up to 2014); I'd be really curious to know if the drop in average daily posts on the blue, green and gray are statistically significant in 2015 and 2016 as compared to previous years.

My hunch is that while the political threads play a big part, they're not the whole story. There have been a lot of community changes over the last few years — new theme, staff leaving, new staff adding, new subsites which may be drawing attention elsewhere, and probably lots of other things that I'm forgetting. Additionally, social media and internet culture as a whole has really shifted a lot in the last few years — the way we communicate online and the contexts in which we do so is quite different than say, even a year ago. The technology has changed too, much more automation, app integration, mobile usage … this all impacts us in subtle but observable ways. Lastly, the core of the MeFi user base is several years older now and many of us likely have different priorities and internet habits.

Basically, there's a lot going on here. I'm fascinated and saddened and nostalgic about all of it. I'd love to hear what others think about this. Have you noticed the decline in posts? Or in the way you interact with MetaFilter? Or anything else to help us all understand the picture here?

(I love MeFi to bits, I'll never leave but I have also noticed my own shift from active engagement to more of a lurker/observer over the years; I'm hoping that will change tbh — I really miss the feeling of being strongly connected to this community when I was more involved, commenting, etc.)
posted by iamkimiam at 1:34 PM on March 27 [22 favorites]


I like the megathreads, both as a reader and as a way of "clumping" a lot of political angst in one place instead of having "crap President is crap" posts several times a day.

And maybe they suck the air out of the site, but POTUS45 has sucked the air out of me. I have to admit I'm spending more time thinking "maybe if I, and people like me, spent more time being vocal and active in politics, and less time marveling at somebody who is making scale models of the Eiffel Tower out of tea bags, things wouldn't have gotten this bad," and less time, well, making scale models of the Eiffel Tower out of tea bags.

So, speaking strictly for myself, I'm spending less time dissecting the latest episode of Legion and looking at cool art on the Internet and a little more time writing letters, doing research, and shouting at goobers on Facebook and Reddit.

Perhaps this is me losing because the right has robbed me of some joy, but I'm feeling more responsible to be a counterforce to shitheels and less shruggy about shitheelhood as I try to keep Canada from going the gaping sinkhole route.

I have no idea whether this is indicative of any kind of trend on MetaFilter or among its users; maybe it's just me. But I definitely feel like I got less time for the fun and frivolous, and the megathreads are a good way of keeping up with the horrors/getting a heads-up about the latest right-wing distortion waves and arming myself against them.
posted by Shepherd at 1:36 PM on March 27 [54 favorites]


sciatrix, that was well said. Thank you.
posted by zarq at 1:41 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


During the period from July of 2016 through February 2017, politics megathreads actually have more comments than all other posts combined, an average of 713 comments a day within megaposts and 702 a day in all other threads.

Jesus. They're literally swallowing up the site.

I'm going from "fine, I'll just hide the megathreads and not participate in mefi as much" to a "BAN POLITICS NOW" militant.

Scuttle the megathreads off to a subsite, for gods sake. If you can't remove them completely, you can at least starve them rather than feed them.

Bury them in the harsh reality of subtabbed content. Make them struggle in the way fanfare clubs struggle. Force people to navigate through unwieldy menus to get to them.
posted by naju at 1:43 PM on March 27 [25 favorites]


Or you could just not read them.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:51 PM on March 27 [14 favorites]


He said he's hiding the megathreads already. One individual's decision not to read the megathreads wouldn't end the megathreads' domination of the site.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:59 PM on March 27 [9 favorites]


I'm already not reading them ("fine, I'll just hide the megathreads"), but it's clear from the data that the rest of the site is suffering for their existence. So it does affect me whether I participate or not.
posted by naju at 1:59 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


"Here's an idea: Every so often in the megathreads, mods post a link to a thematically related non-megathread that is currently active, as a sort of "Need a break from climate change politics? Try this thread on cloud formations!" kind of thing. "

Heh, I was just semi-jokingly suggesting we need to add a button right above the comment box on all threads tagged "USPolitics" that says "ENOUGH POLITICS GET ME OUT OF HERE!" and takes you to a random non-politics-tagged post from the last 24 hours. Sometimes I get to the bottom of a megathread, having had to "load 106 new comments" "load 52 new comments" "load 12 new comments" ... and then I finally catch up with it and I sit there staring for a minute going "Wait, now what?" because I've been in the megathreads so long I forgot how to MetaFilter. (Seems like it could be a job for a Tampermonkey script?)

One of the things that I find more difficult about making posts is that the web is simply more corporate and less weird than it used to be. It can be tough to find interesting, quirky things to post unless they've already gone viral or are being pushed by corporate media. (Not that I object to viral or corporate topics! But when you're trying to find something everyone hasn't already seen ...)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 2:04 PM on March 27 [42 favorites]


It is as if #45 is trolling the place; without even being a member.
posted by buzzman at 2:05 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


the time I once gave place is now better served by a few choice slack teams I'm on.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:05 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]



Thanks for making these.

One thing that I've noticed from mefi in the same time (especially the past year) has that does sometimes dissuades me from commenting (or even stopping by to browse) is that while reading, I realize that the same (X amount) of users are commenting in a majority of the threads and dominating the conversation. Now, their life experiences, their insights in their contributions are usually valuable and interesting to me (especially compared to the rest of the internet) but after a while, it gets to be stale.

My armchair hypothesis is that a while back (pre 2015) we used to have more participants who also participated more sporadically and comments from that sporadic demographic had made up a larger part of the discourse on mefi.

I don't have the energy (or more often, don't feel like I have anything substantial to say) to comment (and hell, my life experiences are somewhat common and relatively more represented in internet discourse, so I'm okay with soaking up others' opinions, ideas, stories, and experiences).

Perhaps we just need more churn, so to speak, new users to participate (as 'heavy' users or just casual ones), and encourage however we can, more people to participate...
posted by fizzix at 2:10 PM on March 27 [10 favorites]


I have been noticing that there has felt like a smaller number of FPPs and was wondering if MeFi was in decline. In some ways it kind of a relief that it links to a specific cause. As a non-US reader I am finding it pretty easy to ignore the megatrump threads so losing them wouldn't feel like a loss to me but if they are causing problems in terms of site usage I would favour doing something to shift them away.

I had assumed they would just die away after the election but clearly that hasn't happened, was that assumption held by others? Do we need to redirect on having lots of similar threads running on from each other for the site's own health? Would stopping the megathreads direct people away from the site to keep up their venting elsewhere?
posted by biffa at 2:11 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]



(2nd comment, upon re-reading my comment): I do NOT mean dominating in a bullying fashion; but dominating by a quantitative amount.
posted by fizzix at 2:12 PM on March 27


I'm already not reading them ("fine, I'll just hide the megathreads"), but it's clear from the data that the rest of the site is suffering for their existence.

I'm going to (I think) echo sciatrix on this. I'm not convinced that the rest of the site is suffering from the megathreads; I think the rest of the site is suffering from the outside world being what it is right now. The megathreads seem more like a symptom, not the cause, and I don't think eliminating them would lead to the rest of the site bouncing back to the pre-45 normal.

(That said, I have 'em hidden myself. We all cope in different ways.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 2:14 PM on March 27 [52 favorites]


This is fascinating, thanks for doing this. I enjoy reading the megathreads but can't keep up with them. I visit the site sporadically throughout the day and from a bunch of different devices and computers, and keeping pace with them is impossible. So I end up only reading about a fourth of any given megathread, which makes me sad. I have no idea how people keep pace with them.

Regardless of any other issues it may have, Metafilter still remains one of the few sane places on the web for me.
posted by whistle pig at 2:27 PM on March 27 [8 favorites]


Yeah, this analysis is showing correlation not causation. Personally I agree with sciatrix, Shmuel510 and others that the megathreads are a symptom, not a cause. In one of those diagrams of how much of our brains are devoted to different things, in the last 6-12 months, politics has grown from "do I need to cut the grass this week?" to "sex" for many of us. This isn't just on metafilter, it's in conversations, reading materials, tv, middle of the night musing, etc.

So yeah, there are a lot of people whose interests have narrowed (hopefully temporarily) in response to their current lives. Trying to enact policies to curtail that, seems, uh, not very metafilter.

Also, while I mostly come for the megathreads these days, I will often read other unrelated posts also because I'm here. Put the megathreads in a separate subsite and I'll probably rarely see the blue. Not sure if I'm atypical or not.
posted by The Shoodoonoof at 2:32 PM on March 27 [17 favorites]


So yeah, there are a lot of people whose interests have narrowed (hopefully temporarily) in response to their current lives. Trying to enact policies to curtail that, seems, uh, not very metafilter.

"This is temporary, just wait until the election for it to calm down"

[The election occurs. Five months pass]

"This is temporary, just wait until [a scream of unknown provenance is heard, obscuring the rest of the words]"
posted by naju at 2:39 PM on March 27 [26 favorites]


I'm already not reading them ("fine, I'll just hide the megathreads"), but it's clear from the data that the rest of the site is suffering for their existence. So it does affect me whether I participate or not.

I'm sorry, but it's not clear. Yes, the data shows that patterns have changed, it doesn't show the site suffering. That's is your interpretation. Other people are talking about things like 2015's #FirstPost Meta or encouraging non-politics posting. Your solution is banning them, or hiding them, or "Force people to navigate through unwieldy menus to get to them." You want to make it more difficult for people to interact with the site in ways not approved of by you. That's shitty.

It's fine if you don't like the political megaposts. But a lot of people do. A lot of people comment in them. The solution to you not liking them is for you to avoid them, not telling others that they are internetting wrong.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:56 PM on March 27 [23 favorites]


I stay away from the megathreads because (a) it is not sustainable from a mental health standpoint for me to do constant deep dives into all the bad shit that is happening, and (b) they're too long to get a handle on in my spare time.

Looking at site engagement overall, I think Ask would benefit from the two question per person per week idea that came up recently -- any thoughts on whether/when that would go into effect?
posted by delight at 2:57 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


[The election occurs. Five months pass]

Heh. I feel this like you wouldn't believe, for sure. I am hopeful in a general way for the possibility of things in the world arighting themselves in a way that would organically lead to a change in politics' footprint on the site, but as much as my personal belief was, pre-election, that we'd see that in a post-election collective sigh of relief with Trump et al sidelined, I very much am not assuming things will play out that way in this shitshow of a timeline we got instead.

I think there are things we can look at in how megathreads go, one big one being resetting expectations about how chatty they are. Which isn't a simple change but is something to think about—if there's a driving desire for chattiness but also a sort of oxygen-sucking aspect to that and a reduction of the utility of those threads for folks interested in getting a good collation of info but not the pile of banter and arguments, we may be able to try and split those things up a little somehow or otherwise redirect the flow of things.

That's all aside from the everything-but-politics question, but it's also something we keep chewing on mod-side.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:59 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


iamkimiam: Basically, there's a lot going on here. I'm fascinated and saddened and nostalgic about all of it. I'd love to hear what others think about this. Have you noticed the decline in posts? Or in the way you interact with MetaFilter? Or anything else to help us all understand the picture here?

I've made one post to the Blue since December.

In previous years, I usually had made somewhere between 30 and 60 posts by the end of March.

There are many reasons why my output has dropped to virtually nothing. Personally, I've also been dealing with a serious ongoing family crisis and some job stress. It's been a shitty five months. On top of that, the political situation is depressing and upsetting. I'm very, very worried about my friends who are being affected by the bigotry, overall nastiness and lack of empathy being spewed by the GOP and their administration. By policies that are legislative cruelty, such as the North Carolina bathroom bill. Etc. etc.

My sense is that political threads have sucked the life out of this site -- I agree with naju that their effect has been wide-reaching. It doesn't matter if you read them or not. I feel it outside of those threads.

In the past, mefi has been a bit of a haven for me when I've been stressed. I posted and commented regardless. However, I'm also not getting the same joy out of posting and commenting that I once did. The tone of some mefite commenters hasn't helped. For the last two years, every single time I've made a post, I've stopped and tried to figure out if commenters will come out in force to bash the content, the site or publication that's hosting that content, make accusations or just get into nasty arguments. Because it's draining as hell to post something to the Blue and see comments roll in from people who can't be bothered to read an article or view a video, but they have a Derail they need to share. Yet it's not just my posts. The sheer nastiness on display in some of the political threads was appalling. Yet it's not just politics posts, either. I loathe clicking/opening threads on a growing number of topics because I expect they'll either be a disaster and/or heavily pruned by the mods.

And Boyzone meta discussions notwithstanding, if I were a woman I probably would joined the ranks of many who left mefi years ago.

It adds up.

I can pinpoint in my head quite a few posts I've really enjoyed on the Blue. Often because people added something insightful or funny or fascinating in the comments that wasn't part of the original. I don't know if it's that people who are experts in their fields are no longer active or no longer feel like weighing in but it feels as if that's happening less and less in threads. The loss of expertise feels noticeable.

For all of these reasons and probably a few that aren't occurring to me at the moment, I'm making fewer posts and commenting less. I don't know if others feel similarly and don't know if what I feel is part of a larger picture or if I'm just an outlier.

Probably the latter.
posted by zarq at 3:02 PM on March 27 [40 favorites]


The solution to you not liking them is for you to avoid them, not telling others that they are internetting wrong.

Advocating for changes to how the site operates will inevitably do this. And advocating for changes to how the site operates is a major reason for Metatalk's existence. Arguing for megathreads to continue as is unchecked, while scores of people leave the site and stop participating, is also "telling others that they are internetting wrong"! See how that works...
posted by naju at 3:06 PM on March 27 [21 favorites]


"This is temporary, just wait until [a scream of unknown provenance is heard, obscuring the rest of the words]"

Heh, yeah, I guess it all depends on the time scale. Most states (other than death/extinction) are temporary to some degree whether they just feel miserably never-ending (parental sleep deprivation) or really are long in the scale of the human race (plate tectonics). I guess my hope is that it'll be temporary more on the scale of parental sleep deprivation, so 3-5 years. That's me trying to be realistic but still optimistic about the ability to shift politics pretty massively in that time. I don't even want to think about what happens if we can't - though if we can't, we probably won't be comfortable talking about it in a public forum, so that'll take care of those annoying politics mega threads!
posted by The Shoodoonoof at 3:07 PM on March 27


#julybywomen, #womensmarch and #keepmefiweird

This got me thinking... what ever happened to the idea of #Yaypril? ("A negative- free month. As in BEST of the web.")

Then I found the yaypril meta, read the first comment, and realized that POTUS45 has poisoned even the past.
posted by Kabanos at 3:15 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


I presented some data last October on the megathreads, and I'm sad but not surprised to learn that the trends I saw then have continued since the election.

People are talking about the megathreads 'sucking the air' out of the room, but I think that's only partially true. I think the bigger problem is that the megathreads are concealing a sustained and long-term overall drop in activity. That is to say: if there were no Trump, do you think that we would be seeing an increase in comments? Or would we have continued to see the long-term decline that we saw before the megathreads and that we see is even accelerating everywhere but in the megathreads?

So I don't really think it's worthwhile to rethink the place of the megathreads, though perhaps it would be good to make them more welcoming to more than just the 1/3 of Metafilter users who read them (perhaps it really is time to think about a "Politicsfilter" with more smaller posts on individual topics), but more broadly I think it's more important to face the question of Metafilter's decline square on.

So why is Metafilter declining? The core of Metafilter is sound: Reddit shows that semi-anonymous commenting on links can still be incredibly popular. So how can we figure out why Metafilter is declining, and what can be done to fix it?

It's easy enough to speculate about possible reasons:
* the hostile culture of the site: a perennial classic, e.g. in zarq's post. I'm not sure I agree with zarq's overall point about the site's culture (Tumblr can be nasty but is popular) but I do agree with zarq that you can really feel the loss of expertise on a number of topics.
* the increasing discrepancy between Metafilter and broader internet culture: e.g. Metafilter's lack of images, likes, and specialized sub-fora like subreddits
* difficulties recruiting new and younger users
* the lack of financial incentives to grow the site: the mods' job is easier if the site is smaller, and increasingly Metafilter's income from subscriptions from a small number of people
* the rise of for-profit fora like Reddit that pay people well to answer these kinds of questions

But speculation won't get us anywhere. A good starting point might be to look at the churn of users: how many users stop using Metafilter every month? How many new users? What is characteristic of each of the two groups? What can be done to increase activity?
posted by crazy with stars at 3:17 PM on March 27 [19 favorites]


The tone of some mefite commenters hasn't helped. For the last two years, every single time I've made a post, I've stopped and tried to figure out if commenters will come out in force to bash the content, the site or publication that's hosting that content, make accusations or just get into nasty arguments.

This is amazing work op, thanks.

I think the politics threads are so fast moving and so 'we're all on the same fucking side again jeeeesus what a relief' that they encourage free easy posting. Any other thread with any political weight to it is either post the consensus or buckle down for a fight.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:19 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


I was an avid reader and poster in the mega-threads until mid-January or so, when I realized, for me, they were becoming their own separate thing, not really all that well connected to the rest of Metafilter or much of my larger world in many ways. I loved the daily links and some parts of the conversation, but too much of it started to feel, if not chatty exactly, maybe insular, self=perpetuating, and alien to the rest of the site.

Comments there seem to have an expectation of continuing conversation more akin to a chat room than in the more narrowed and finite seeming conversations in regular threads. I get that's why people like it in part and that those threads are becoming a seemingly permanent part of the site now, so treating them as they are only makes sense, but, again, for me, I started to feel they were as inhibiting on my behavior as they were aiding it. In other words, the not so great aspects started to outweigh the good.

That obviously isn't true for everyone, so I offer no radical ideas on what should be done with the threads, but the way they are affecting the Blue is concerning, not just in the lessening amounts of posts, but, seemingly to me, the lessening variety of them, and mostly in how people are engaging with the rest of the site more generally. I'm not pointing fingers as I've yet to start a thread on the blue myself, so anyone who does want to help point in that direction would find my welcome, but I am, nonetheless, concerned about how the site is functioning lately and wanted to note that concern as being in favor of looking into possible changes rather than sticking to the current path.

On preview: The tone of some mefite commenters hasn't helped. For the last two years, every single time I've made a post, I've stopped and tried to figure out if commenters will come out in force to bash the content, the site or publication that's hosting that content, make accusations or just get into nasty arguments.

I think the politics threads are so fast moving and so 'we're all on the same fucking side again jeeeesus what a relief' that they encourage free easy posting.


I do see that same problem with posts to the blue, and have sometimes been a part of it myself, and at the same time I also wish people would try to maintain a "we're all on the same side" perspective into all the threads, until proven otherwise, as there seems to be a lot of unnecessary conflict in many of them coming in large part from assumptions being brought into the discussion rather than by what exactly is being said. It feels like a search for conflict rather than understanding a lot of the time.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:34 PM on March 27 [12 favorites]


Arguing for megathreads to continue as is unchecked, while scores of people leave the site and stop participating, is also "telling others that they are internetting wrong"! See how that works...

Fair enough, but are scores of people leaving the site specifically because of these posts? US politics has absolutely taken up a lot more space on Metafilter in the past year, but that is probably because US politics has taken up a lot more space and time and emotional energy everywhere (at least in the US.)

I had dinner with friends this weekend and we spent so much more time talking about politics than we typically would have a year ago. I have a friend who hasn't ever been politically minded (I don't think she always/usually votes) who has made a couple of anti-Trump posts on Facebook. What's going on right now is affecting an awful lot of people and most of them seem like they want to talk about it. Many people who come to Metafilter also want to talk about it. People are afraid and angry and upset and some don't feel comfortable or welcome in their own country. Brown people are being kept of out the country and brown people are being deported at an alarming rate. I have some friends that I take a trip with every few years. We decided to cancel plans we had for an international trip later this year because one of us (a citizen, born here) is very leery about dealing with the CPB on the way home. That wasn't even on the radar this time last year. Maybe the reason that people are spending so much time in the politics threads is because those are the threads they want to be in right now.

I'm sorry I called your attitude shitty. Everyone needs a hug.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:37 PM on March 27 [11 favorites]


No need to lecture a brown person about what's happening to brown people.
posted by naju at 3:41 PM on March 27 [12 favorites]


As for the rest of your point, I'd wager the problem with the megathreads is not that they're talking about stuff that is affecting people. It's that they're shutting out and ganging up on viewpoints that conflict with a narrow consensus. That's a distinction that has been discussed in this thread and others plenty by now.
posted by naju at 3:46 PM on March 27 [24 favorites]


Having read down this far, I think the political megathreads are accounting for some drop off in participation by some people; the homogenizing of the web is accounting for some of the drop off in FPPs; the strict intolerance of Boyzone behavior has accounted for the drop off in partcipation for some subset of members; the rise of Fanfare and chat-ifying of ask.me are taking away from the Blue.

I really don't think you can lay it all at the feet of US politics and the resulting blackholes of megathreads, though.
posted by crush at 3:59 PM on March 27 [13 favorites]


I have absolutely noticed that the non-45 parts of the blue have dwindled due to the politics megathreads. There are fewer posts, and those fewer posts have fewer comments, and those smaller threads fizzle much faster rather than creating multiple sub-conversations which keep those topics going. It used to be that when I was browsing MeFi at work in an attempt to desperately avoid work, I had to go back two or maybe even three pages to get to posts from the previous day. Now, I routinely see posts from the previous day on the front page.

Do I think that's bad? Not necessarily. MeFi is what its users make it, and if that's where users want to spend their time and energy in aggregate, then that's ok on the whole. But a lot of people have noticed that change, and while this is certainly correlation it also backs up those impressions. "Just don't read those posts" isn't an answer to the issue of "is MetaFilter becoming increasingly just those posts?"

I am highly politically engaged and also thoroughly disinterested in 2k+ comment threads of mostly one- to three-line comments which don't contribute much to my understanding of various situations. I appreciate that these threads are useful places to talk and to congregate and to vent for a lot of people, and I don't have any issue with that. My disinterest doesn't mean that those threads are uninteresting. But it seems like a simple fact of our largely single-threaded consciousnesses that if someone is on the site commenting in one thread, they aren't posting or commenting in other threads. When large portions of the active userbase are engaged on one topic, that topic will necessarily overwhelm not only other parts of the site but the ability or desire of those users to engage with other parts of the site. How could it not? No one has infinite time or energy.

Again, none of that is bad, in the sense of being a moral evil or some great threat to the community. But if you're not interested in the giant, monthly, unwieldy politics threads, MeFi has increasingly less to offer, and there's increasingly less incentive to contribute because increasingly fewer people are willing or able to engage elsewhere. If I come here to have a conversation about a thing, and I notice over time that fewer people are interested in talking about that thing, I'm going to stop trying to have that conversation. If I used to come to MetaFilter to see what the site is saying about the latest cultural something-or-another, and the users here don't have a lot to say about that anymore because they're all talking about something else, I'm going to stop looking at the site for that purpose. That isn't rejecting the community desire as beneath me, it's just recognizing that this is an investment of my time that reaps fewer rewards than it used to, and adjusting my behavior in response. "Just don't read those threads" isn't a good response, because if the site is increasingly those threads, then this advice increasingly amounts to "just don't read the site". While that's certainly doable, it's not necessarily desirable.
posted by Errant at 4:21 PM on March 27 [29 favorites]


To be blunt, I think the political megathreads are bad in a moral sense. They've become kind of a laboratory for defending crypto-xenophobic (using this word generously to also cover generally favorite-garnering sentiments such as "ugh, why don't Latinos realize how important it is to vote" in the wake of the election) and -classist statements by abusing the language of safe spaces. I think a lot of people have probably caught a glimpse of that, have started to feel a little weird about just what the ideological thrust of this community is, and have drifted away as a result.
posted by invitapriore at 4:39 PM on March 27 [17 favorites]


I'm curious if there's a way to try and account for a signal vs noise variable in declining quantity of engagement. I've been here long enough to remember when there would be a shitload of terrible comments (variations of I'd Hit It and other crap) that wouldn't fly today. Fewer comments doesn't necessarily mean that we'd miss the comments that would have been there.

Also, the political megathreads are a singular resource for information and mental health, for me personally. Completely unique and utterly vital. To stay informed and engaged, I check the mega threads and TPM. To feel like I'm not alone in the resistance, it's the megathreads. I really, really don't want them to go away.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:52 PM on March 27 [14 favorites]


What does the Google algorithm change have to do with comments on posts? The algo change impacted non-users who discovered AskMe when searching for an answer to a question. Commenters are already members of MetaFilter, and know how to interact on the site.

I would suggest that social media has impacted MetaFilter... more people are interacting with smaller circles of "friends" on other social media platforms.
posted by My Dad at 4:59 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Is the one a day too strict a limit? Perhaps give some top tier of posters the potential for extra posts?
posted by sammyo at 5:07 PM on March 27


What does the Google algorithm change have to do with comments on posts? The algo change impacted non-users who discovered AskMe when searching for an answer to a question.

Fewer people discovering Metafilter ==> Fewer people joining Metafilter ==> Fewer people commenting on Metafilter.

An existing user base will always have some natural attrition, and a loss of new users discovering the site means slower growth or gradual erosion in active membership.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:15 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


This is an impressive project, and you did a lot of work. Thanks for sharing it.

There's been an internet-wide decline in chat forums, web communities, blogs, and specialty-sites. I would conjecture this is due to Facebook, not politics mega-threads.
posted by latkes at 5:16 PM on March 27 [17 favorites]


Interesting. This validates everything I have seen, thought, or said in my entire life.

Mods, I think you shall find your answers in my contact form communication from 2012, "On the Character of MeFites & Its Remedies : Peak Squee and the Road Ahead, a Novel."
posted by fleacircus at 5:20 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


lazaruslong: "I've been here long enough to remember when there would be a shitload of terrible comments (variations of I'd Hit It and other crap) that wouldn't fly today. Fewer comments doesn't necessarily mean that we'd miss the comments that would have been there. "

Completely disagree -- subjectively it feels like the quality of contributions has been declining for some time, and it's particularly clear on the Ask side.

It's easy to pooh-pooh historical Metafilter, but when I click on the "10 years ago" button I'm pretty impressed by the contributions. 10 years ago today for example had this interesting thread on the sensitive topics of health, food, and pricing: the solitary comment that "poor people are too lazy to cook" is immediately and forcefully pushed back by the other commentators, in a way that feels pretty similar to today's Metafilter.

I don't think we can just say that today we're losing the dross but keeping the good stuff.
posted by crazy with stars at 5:24 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


I don't think we can just say that today we're losing the dross but keeping the good stuff.

Cortex's update the other day seemed to indicate MetaFilter is in a good place. This is in large part of donations / funding. The success of funding would indicate there is a userbase that is very happy with the quality of MetaFilter. So a kind of equilibrium has been achieved.

In terms of posting volume, good to remember that MetaFilter is about the same size as some subreddits. There are just so many other places to have conversations online now.
posted by My Dad at 5:37 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


There's been an internet-wide decline in chat forums, web communities, blogs, and specialty-sites. I would conjecture this is due to Facebook, not politics mega-threads.

That's an interesting point. Like many others, I was assuming that the politics threads were largely to blame for reduced non-political participation; I hadn't even considered the possibility that the trend is true outside of Metafilter. If that's the case, how would that change our behavior/goals/efforts?
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:46 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


I've also absolutely noticed fewer non-political posts on the blue, and fewer questions on the green. And I agree with many people above that it's not, or not just, that the political posts are sucking all the air away; I know that I'm less motivated than I used to be to participate, or to find the energy to make a post or put together a question.

One thing I've been enjoying lately on the site are the Metatalktail Hour posts, and I'd like to see more things like that. Just fun, entertaining, talking about things other than politics. Thanks for those.

If anyone's looking for groups to encourage posts by, how about older members?
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 5:53 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


So a kind of equilibrium has been achieved.

I wonder how much of this is equilibrium and how much is a level of homogenization heading toward echo-chamber. That's how it feels to me anyway. For an obvious example, there are many references to the 'MetaFilter consensus'. There used to either be a more varied user base or people ween't as afraid to voice dissent from 'MeFi's position' on a topic in threads. This feeling has made me want to participate less because while I'm not anywhere on the right side of the aisle, it's fair to say I'm far to the right of many/most MeFites.

I've never been a super active commenter or poster but I did used to read nearly every post. I read, comment and post less frequently than I used to. There is a different feeling than there was a few years ago and it does seem to line up somewhat with the rolling politics megathreads - especially in the number of posts and comments. Some of that is my fault for not posting or commenting more and I do realize that.

None of this is a huge problem for me because I can just read and post less or leave. Maybe MetaFilter isn't for me anymore. I can live with that but it makes me sad. I still really like this place and the people here.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 6:05 PM on March 27 [25 favorites]


I think metafilter is calcifying.

It's a lot of things --- the internet ain't as weird as it used to be; metafilter, as a website, is a bit of a Miss Havisham, in a way that's probably pushed past "we like it to be a little intimidating ringing our bell in order to keep out the riff raff" and moved on to "so old and strange it frightens the neighborhood children". (My hope and expectation is that it will be still be around for fashion to cycle back to it again.)

But I also don't think the politics sucking the air out of the rest of the site has been merely the consequence of the most recent election. My perspective on this is warped, I recognize, because I never much cared for politics/activism threads and have always been highly sensitized to the amount of space they take up. But when I first started reading the site many years ago, posts being PoliticsFilter was a thing people would kvetch about. On the grey, some people would still argue for the idea that the point of metafilter was to be "the best of the web" and that a post abut a political topic should be interesting in and of itself to stand as worthy of the Blue, and not merely be a placeholder for people to have an argument they liked having. Even more people would argue for the proposition that feeling "Hey! Look! A terrible thing happening in the world! You need to care about this!" was actually a shitty reason to make a post, and the motivation for making a good post ought to be "Hey! Look! An interesting thing you maybe didn't know about!"

Somehow, over the years, that's shifted. People began to care more and more about the kind of community metafilter is, the kind of people it welcomed, how they were treated. Posts about politics and social justice were welcomed with warmer enthusiasm, as it was felt addressing such topics more openly might make MeFi seem a welcoming space for people who were marginalized in real life. (I noticed an uptick more than three years ago.)

Of course, a lot of people in real life are prone to making bigoted, ignorant and thoughtless remarks about such topics. Such people were made to feel unwelcome. This had many positive effects. I would say it has had some negatives, as well; having knowledgeable and correct views on politics and social justice have become a pre-req to enjoying the site, I'd say. Such that if you do share them --- and if politics and social justice are one of your primary interests in life --- metafilter has become a beacon, a refuge. Witness the comments above. If they're not one of your primary interests? Then it has less to offer. Discussions on other topics are less lively and varied as the audience mefi draws becomes more and more similar in its cast of mind and views on the world. (I know I've found that with respect to anything about economics.) The broaching of contra-majority views --- especially thoughtlessly, an off-hand crack, a one-line response --- becomes more and more fraught, as they draw the rapid censure of the majority, in a way that's hard to moderate for. In the grey threads I've seen previous to this, however, the majority of the readership has seemed to feel that the potential negatives were but small prices to pay for the positives.

I dunno. I've dropped out of mefi for months at a time in the past, so maybe I shouldn't be listened to. And in the past few weeks I've found myself enjoying the site more --- I'm having fun arguing about consciousness in the Daniel Dennett thread. But then, I turned on the PolticsFilter widget as quick as I could.
posted by Diablevert at 6:30 PM on March 27 [39 favorites]


Be the change, etc.--thinking I ought to finally post one of the many saved ideas in my MeFi folder for every comment I make in a political thread.

Thank you for your work here, strangely stunted trees.

I really do want to keep MeFi weird, and have months by women, and Yaypril, and niche experts showing up to talk at length about stuff they know. You folks are my home, and I miss you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:32 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


I had to put StayFocused on Chrome to keep me away from the political threads during the day as they were affecting my work productivity. Before the age of megathreads, I used to be able to just read a post or two and get back to work but I found myself getting so sucked into these thousands-comment, constantly-updating threads that I wasn't getting anything done. I've blocked Metafilter, Twitter, Facebook, Newsblur, Memeorandum, Slate, Politico and a bunch more from 9 to 5 on Workdays because I just can't trust myself not to get lost in politics.
posted by octothorpe at 6:37 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Something I am curious about - does MeFi skew older now than 10 years ago? Is this measurable from people's ages on their profile in any way?
posted by solarion at 6:47 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty much where invitapriore (esp. about the crypto-xenophobia) and naju are regarding the megathreads and their at least perceived effect. I think they're a net negative for the site (not so much the individual user, which is a hell of a paradox) and impacting site culture in a way I really don't like. But I have so little energy for ...god, anything anymore, really... that going in there and pushing back against it seems Sisyphean at best. So it's not just the site, but it's not just me either and most MeFites I know who share my opinion (the lurkers support me in email) don't really see a reason to go in there and push back.

Whatever pile-on and, sigh, echo-chamber issues we've had here are magnified tenfold in those threads and while I'm as much up for a fight as anyone else usually, it definitely feels like an orthodoxy is developing and I'm in a lot of ways on the wrong side of it. The combination of all that makes participation while holding a certain contrary POV and wishing to defend it unenticing at best. Push- and push-back is one thing and frequently, for the lack of a better word, fun. Pushing against what feels like a wall is much less so.

Maybe the bigger problem for me with all the above is that the sort of attitudes engendered and rewarded in the megathreads (which are I admit completely avoidable) are beginning to leak out into the rest of the site. What originally felt like a quarantine seems to now be more of a ground zero instead. But, very clearly, people are getting something out of those threads and I'm not really expecting them to go away or be dispersed among a bunch of smaller threads. Honestly I'm generally not even confident enough in the accuracy of my perception to bring it up usually, but I'm pretty confident in my feelings to say all this now.
posted by griphus at 6:51 PM on March 27 [24 favorites]


Someone above asked for the graph of new users signing up per month. Here is what it looked like when I took a snapshot in May 2014. That's hard to interpret because a lot of new users sign up solely for AskMe, so I've also included May 2014 graphs for first comments per month on the Blue (which elgillito also graphed) and first posts per month on the Blue (which I'm not sure has been posted before). IMO, they present a picture of very gradual decline on the blue that was underway well before the political megapost era.

In elgilito's data, you can see both comment volume overall and first-time comments gradually falling off from 2011-2015, and I think if strangely stunted trees's graphs covered the same timespans as elgillito's they'd reflect those trends a little better.

When I opened up the graphs in this MeTa, my immediate thought was that the daily post volume graph didn't show a trend in connection with megaposts--the downward trend already existed--and comment volume and unique users actually surprised me in how much they bucked the overall downward trend. That's a pretty subjective read of things though, based in part on knowing about the earlier downward trends and in part on a preconception that the megaposts could have made things much worse.

Anyway, I try to post FPPs when I can, and I still point new acquaintances at Metafilter when I can. A subscription-oriented site can last a long, long time, and if you plug /about/traffic/ onto the end of your favorite sub-Reddits, you might be surprised at how many of them are dropping off in terms of uniques/pageviews per month too (try AskReddit, AskScience, etc.).
posted by Wobbuffet at 6:52 PM on March 27 [8 favorites]


Also, just to be clear, I'm using "orthodoxy" in a value-neutral way. Against things like racism, misogyny, transphobia, etc. I think it's important to have a united front to support our friends here prone to that and for that reason I have no interest in MeFi going back to some version of itself it used to be. We were all, almost as a rule, worse about those things yesterday than we are today.

But I do feel like a homogenization is developing in how we talk about those and many other things. As much as I hate creating an entity out of emergent behavior, the orthodoxy I perceive certainly isn't conservative or revanchist or whatever but the way it pushes back against also-progressive ideas in conflict with it is pretty alienating, as is the sort of by-the-book response that comes with that conflict. By-the-book is great when we're plainly saying "misogyny is not welcome here" but less and less so the closer it gets into narcissism-of-small-differences territory.
posted by griphus at 7:07 PM on March 27 [31 favorites]


The politics threads were a hostile mess for anyone who didn't hew to a very narrow political philosophy. Nasty, abusive behavior from commenters operating without a shred of an assumption of good faith allowed to stand while milquetoast pushback was frequently deleted as fight-starting or whatever.

I wrote this last year, and I think it's even more apt now:

"Rhaomi made a comment last year that articulates how I feel about the tenor of the posts on certain topics:
But I've also noticed that in the last 2-3 years such valuable discussions have been soured more and more by the most zealous aspects of the Twitter/Tumblr callout culture -- a kind of zero-tolerance hostility not just towards redpillers, gamergators, casual racists, and other overt enemies, but towards friends and allies that conduct themselves imperfectly. Where polite disagreement and well-meaning cluelessness is equated with bigotry and hate speech, and scorned just as hard. [...]

There's way too much assumption of bad faith and interpreting motives in the least charitable light. The heavy reliance on theory and jargon and meta-analysis (where the very act of talking about these issues impolitically is deemed offensive and even harmful) makes having any kind of constructive dialogue with the uninitiated even more difficult.

It would be really nice if we could all try to heed Jay Smooth's advice to criticize the behavior and not the person when it comes to sensitive issues like this, as well as to be realistic about the level of understanding the average person, or even the average MeFite, is going to have about the realities of [issue of MeTa post], even when those realities are incredibly important to said groups. I'm not saying ignorance of the burdens of [issue of MeTa post] is okay, but this tendency to attack both it and any attempt to bridge the gap is not healthy. And I worry about the long-term viability of the site if it develops a reputation as an unforgiving minefield of esoteric critical theory and identity politics that's unwelcoming not just for social conservatives but for people who are sympathetic to (or even members of) marginalized groups.
That last bit especially concerns me. I hang out with a lot of smart, interesting people who are passionate about and involved with activism and social justice issues and these days I would never, ever recommend they join MetaFilter to participate in related discussions here. It's just such an unforgiving minefield."
posted by lalex at 7:11 PM on March 27 [47 favorites]


I hate the megathreads because instead of making multiple threads about politics that exist as part of the community, they've spawned their own subcommunity. It has its own etiquette and its own norms, and I don't like them. I don't like them in those threads (or when they ooze into other politics threads on the blue).

The kind of shared attitudes and identities that have emerged from those threads are really repulsive to me, frankly, and they're not really anything I need to come to metafilter to read.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:31 PM on March 27 [27 favorites]


Also, it's not hard to participate because of basic standards like not being racist, sexist, etc. It's hard to participate because people will straight up call you sexist or racist because you think [unrelated political belief] or because you disagree with them about [unrelated issue]. That sucks and is extremely unpleasant to deal with.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:35 PM on March 27 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I'm just getting older--and so is the rest of the userbase as we fail to add younger members.

I'm participating less on MetaFilter because I don't have time to do so (work situation has changed, social life is a bit more dynamic, multiple devices make threads a pain to keep track of, political activism in real life has sucked some of my free time, etc.). Many folks can add families, and especially children, to that list as well.
posted by librarylis at 7:36 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


Is the one a day too strict a limit? Perhaps give some top tier of posters the potential for extra posts?

I would like to register a vehement NO (more like "oh HELL no") to this suggestion.
posted by Lexica at 7:48 PM on March 27 [19 favorites]


I cut Facebook down to 5% or less of my old usage, and Metafilter down to maybe 10%, starting during the election last year. Part of it was not wanting the stress of more politics and more bad news; part of it was some vague disappointment that certain kinds of threads still go the way they've always gone; part of it was that I have a lot more community among a couple of the Slack teams I'm on. And part of it is just that I'm concentrating more on other parts of my life, like writing, and trying not to be quite so hooked on the interwebs. But I still really value Metafilter, and have recommended memberships to several people recently.
posted by wintersweet at 7:57 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


I am definitely commenting less since the election. I was an active participant in the politics thread during the campaign, but I just can't deal with the despair in those threads since then (and also, I'm not a USian).

It had been my impression that there were fewer threads and comments in the rest of the Blue, but I had thought it was my imagination.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:09 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Just one user saying that after work and kids, I don't have much energy to spread my MeFi engagement around; politics megathreads are where I end up spending almost all of my time. There's just a qualitative difference between "spend a few hours watching someone patiently machine a clock out of brass" and "the ongoing meltdown of the machinery of the state".

I have read almost every comment in every catch-all politics thread. In the course of typing, deleting, and retyping this comment, I've come to understand how much I regret this expenditure of time. I don't know if it's worth going into what I wish were different about those threads; I'm guessing that megathreads are the way they are because that suits most of their participants.

Anyway, thanks for posting this. The rest of Metafilter needs some love.
posted by Jpfed at 8:26 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


The US politics thread (sic) is literally an imageboard-style, perpetually-reposted /trump/ general. I understand why it is so, plus I spend waaaayy too much time in it to be oversnarky, but that it is at odds with the previous site norms is indisputable (or undisputed even).

Someone mentioned above that FPP-worthy links get dropped in there to die. I had a right little (offline) paddy about the lack of a post about the recent UK terror-ish incident, which fits that description well. Not looking to argue that point, I'm both aware and supportive of the site norms/caution when posting about confused or ongoing incidents, so understand that some distance between event and any post might be required. In fact, when we did get a post about it there was a good point mentioned in-thread about whether such an incident merited an FPP anyhow. Which isn't an angle I could have stopped and considered on the strength of the bare handful of related comments staggered variously through a mid-part of the ongoing /trump/ thread which I happened to be reading.

As to whether MeFi skews older, I'm a newer (c. 2012) member, but still an older (c. 197x) individual. I recall the sensation of properly taking to the site as being quite similar to discovering roguelike games in the late 2000s, "Oh, here's something for people like me which I somehow missed the first time around."
posted by comealongpole at 8:38 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


oneswellfoop, good luck with the cardiologist!
posted by cp311 at 9:59 PM on March 27 [11 favorites]


I would definitely like to see this data more generalized on a user-by-user basis -- i.e. are there people who posted a lot before who still post a lot (but mainly in the megathreads), are there many people who fell off posting in a way that coincided with those threads becoming popular, are there people who posted a lot in the megathreads and then stopped completely, and so on

I kinda feel like this might be a case of deciding on a conclusion (the political megathreads are making the site worse) and feeling the data fits the conclusion enough that the decision was justified. I absolutely don't know if this is the case in full, but I'd definitely really like to see more data on the subject before I agree with the conclusion.
posted by flatluigi at 10:59 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


A couple deleted. Sorry, but (paraphrased summary) "people don't like the site because it's too negative about Trump" really *is* just going to be a massive derail of the topic, and not really fair to leave while disallowing responses. If you want to talk about general negativity, or negativity in political posts, etc., I think that's fine, but this isn't actually ever going to be a spot for people hoping to find supportive / affirming commentary about Trump.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:51 PM on March 27 [8 favorites]


this isn't actually ever going to be a spot for people hoping to find supportive / affirming commentary about Trump.


that's not really what he was saying. it's not a derail to suggest that people sitting around talking about shit they hate is not as attractive or appealing as people sitting around talking about things they love. it's a quirky way to approach the topic. I disagree with it. but it's not a derail.

not only that, even if he was saying that, it's not a derail, it's a position you don't like and/or that certain commenters here don't like. (unsurprisingly, commenters who are constantly in the Trump megathreads.)

this is the cultural change that I find repellent. disagreement must be stamped out basically because, IDK, it makes people uncomfortable and they feel entitled not to be exposed to it.

it's so sad to see this subsite (and this site to a lesser extent) become closer and closer to the real version of the strawman "silenced all my life" bullshit conservative narrative. in a time when we desperately need critical thinking and intellectual honesty, the site seems to have veered sharply towards narrowness of thought and a prioritization of message over truth.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:58 PM on March 27 [13 favorites]


Yes, I think it would be a derail to have a big argument about how the site was a lovefest for Obama (very many would disagree with this assessment) versus depressingly negative about Trump. Discussing "people sitting around talking about shit they hate is not as attractive or appealing as people sitting around talking about htings they love" is fine. Making it granular about how much the site loved Obama is probably not going to be productive here.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:05 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Someone mentioned above that FPP-worthy links get dropped in there to die.

That is one big problem for the megathreads and the site since, all other concerns aside, attempting to participate in the megathreads is a distinctly different endeavor than how one would participate with the rest of the site.

With the megathreads, part of the dynamic that keeps them flowing is that one almost has to be continually engaged with the thread to follow any of it and find useful information or avoid double posting and so on. I wanted to see what the talk was about the Gorsuch nomination when that was first proposed, and to find the relevant links and discussion I had to Control F for his name and then read through a bunch of unrelated information to get to the more meaningful comments. Having one thread for all of the political happenings makes it difficult to engage with just select elements of the events as would happen in more normal postings, where each post is generally going to be framed around a more limited set of events or ideas. The megathreads make that impossible, which has serious ramifications for both how they are used and their effect on the rest of the site.

The comments here about increased difficulty in discussing things due to orthodoxy also have some relevance, but, for me, that is a somewhat different issue and a much more difficult one to deal with beyond hoping for good faith efforts to communicate all around.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:06 AM on March 28 [8 favorites]


Making it granular about how much the site loved Obama is probably not going to be productive here.

I both get that and am super frustrated that the whole thing got deleted. It was basically a perfect example of the dynamic that is, IMO, the problem. Someone says something that might possibly be construed as not anti-Trump enough if you squint. Or someone says something that might indicate that they share a characteristic with people who like Trump. A certain subset of people who feel entitled to exist in an ideologically homogenous space make basic disagreement a huge deal, say it can't or shouldn't be discussed, things get deleted, and the site is worse for it.

Political purity tests that are set at this level of sensitivity are incompatible with a site where thinking people can have real discussions about substantive issues.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:15 AM on March 28 [22 favorites]


But I do feel like a homogenization is developing in how we talk about those and many other things. As much as I hate creating an entity out of emergent behavior, the orthodoxy I perceive certainly isn't conservative or revanchist or whatever but the way it pushes back against also-progressive ideas in conflict with it is pretty alienating, as is the sort of by-the-book response that comes with that conflict. By-the-book is great when we're plainly saying "misogyny is not welcome here" but less and less so the closer it gets into narcissism-of-small-differences territory.

I felt this way when the recent "gay men and loneliness" article got derailed by early comments about men not knowing how to do emotional labor. To everyone's credit, it could have been a lot worse: the thread eventually got re-railed and most of the people who participated in that derail actually apologized, which I thought was very gracious. It's also undoubtedly a better problem to have than in the bad old days when those threads would just get derailed with outright homophobia. But it did immediately come to mind as a recent example of a certain type of by-the-book Metafilter orthodoxy crowding out other progressive/leftist responses.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:24 AM on March 28 [30 favorites]


I both get that and am super frustrated that the whole thing got deleted.

To clarify, I do not get why deleting it instead of just saying "that will never happen, let's move on." IMO this is the kind of scenario where the best answer to speech that is annoying or goofy or wrong is more speech. Or a funny look and ignoring it.

Like, yes, the comment was goofy and wrong. But we will live if a metatalk thread is not full of completely "productive" dialogue. And the urge that some members here have to micromanage political discussion should not be indulged.

With that I'm going to step out of this discussion; I am pretty sure that people know how I feel at this point.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:32 AM on March 28 [11 favorites]


The megathreads are both the main incubator and kind of a containment zone for the groupthinky hostility that's really turned me off the site, so I dunno whether for me they're a net good or not. It feels like there's something structural that encourages the "cadres of righteous bullies" dynamic but I can't put my finger on it.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 1:13 AM on March 28 [9 favorites]


Someone says something that might possibly be construed as not anti-Trump enough if you squint. Or someone says something that might indicate that they share a characteristic with people who like Trump. A certain subset of people who feel entitled to exist in an ideologically homogenous space make basic disagreement a huge deal, say it can't or shouldn't be discussed, things get deleted, and the site is worse for it.

For the record, I saw the deleted comment too, and I really don't get why you're making this out to be emblematic of everything that's wrong with MetaFilter these days. It was phrased weirdly, and I think I get what that person was trying to say, but I also figured it was going to lead to a pointless fight unrelated to the point they were trying to make. That can happen in any thread on any topic, and it has nothing to do with feeling entitled to ideological homogeneity, it has to do with not wanting to wade through like 30 comments about something totally unrelated to the matter at hand.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:13 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


it's so sad to see this subsite (and this site to a lesser extent) become closer and closer to the real version of the strawman "silenced all my life" bullshit conservative narrative. in a time when we desperately need critical thinking and intellectual honesty, the site seems to have veered sharply towards narrowness of thought and a prioritization of message over truth.

As a trans MeFite, it is literally impossible for me to read this (and other comments like it) without reading a subtext of 'we should allow harmful bigots on certain topics' because of just how universally transphobes deploy this argument, almost word for word. Like, I realise that isn't what you're doing, but at the same time, maybe there is a damn good reason some of the political opinions that the holders feel are perfectly reasonable are vehemently shut out.
posted by Dysk at 1:18 AM on March 28 [27 favorites]


Look, I don't want to describe the megathreads in simple terms and say they're just groupthink, or something. People have said time and again how much they rely on those threads, including people whose contributions I really appreciate in other threads. I don't want to diminish what they're trying to do there, and what those efforts mean to them.

That said, I do think there's an undercurrent of meanness. Part of what bothers me about it is that people whose comments I love elsewhere seem to behave totally differently in the politics threads, because it's this space that operates so differently from what we can expect anywhere else on the site. It's gotten to the point where I've realized I'd really rather not know what people have to say in those threads, because it can be so hostile, and I don't want to know that about someone. There are people who have said pretty nasty things to me, and I've been making a concerted effort to just let it go and appreciate what they have to say elsewhere -- and I have a completely different opinion of them when I do that. I say "you know what, it was a heated moment," and I try not to hold it against them, even though, you know, it still sort of stings when someone shits all over you. Like, I don't go look at my old user activity to see who it was that wrote X insulting comment about me, because I'd really rather not know anymore.

On the one hand I totally get the frustration and desperation that people are operating with, and I understand that an obsession with "niceness" is part of a much larger argument that has been going since long before the megathreads became a thing. But also, these are these huge, fast-moving threads where it's really easy to swiftly denounce someone and get a bunch of favorites, and there's this unspoken etiquette that seems to encourage swift rebukes, because things suck so much and it's just so cathartic to smack someone down. And I worry that people see self-described leftists, or conservatives, or whoever saying "yeah, these threads can be hostile and insular" and just see it as yet another instance of people being all "why can't [group] be more forgiving?" when their (racist, sexist, etc.) views are challenged. But I can handle threads about racism, misogyny, and tons of topics where I, personally, have been wrong in the past and will probably be wrong in the future. But with politics, I mean, it's been personal in a way that it's never seemed to have been with any other topic, and it leads to behavior on a scale that I haven't seen in the couple years that I've been here.

I can also be hypersensitive, and I know that. Yeah, it's going to skew my view of some things. But I think there's also something bigger than me, and I'm writing this comment on the off chance that what I'm describing is somewhat relatable to other people. And I'm writing it now because I find myself wanting to look at this site less and less, and maybe that's because there's less for me here as the function and focus of the site seems to be permanently shifting.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:44 AM on March 28 [12 favorites]


I think that the mega-downer-threads are a huge air-suck out of the blue, probably the site. I'm not a numbers guy or a stats guy, this is just what I personally see.

I've gone into those threads, of course. Looked around. But no. way. do I try to keep up with the things, and I never will. I know what we think and feel about this things, and I don't need nor want to read and re-read and re-read-again the same fear and anger and hurt and terror over what's happening or has happened or will happen. I'm positive it's Not A Good Thing for me to roll around in fear and anger and hurt and terror hour after hour, day after day, month after month. I'm positive it's not a good thing for me and I'm pretty sure it's not a good thing for you, either, or all of us, as a collective.

Radiation: a little bit of it, it's a good thing. Treatment for certain cancers, x-rays, etc and etc. But too much of it isn't a good thing; you could maybe read up about Marie Curie.

I believe that it's imperative to be aware of what's happening, aware and alert, and to take what actions I am able. But I also believe that it's imperative to walk in the sunshine, and to get out into the rain, too, because I enjoy rain on my face, and I like to see how happy it's made the grass and flowers, once the sun comes out again.

~~~~~

So many of our best intellects, and our best hearts, too, seem to get caught up in those mega-downer-threads, and then not commenting in other threads that they otherwise would, and they're not stumbling over to AskMe, either, where they might see a question that they are the one person on the site who knows exactly the answer. Or where in the Ask thread they see something they'd never have considered, a different way to handle a broken relationship or a broken tea cup -- I believe that I've learned more from Ask than I have from The Blue. It's got a different vibe, and we're missing you if you're not showing up there as you otherwise might.

When I come to the site, maybe 3-6 times a day, I generally check first to see if anyone has favorited some brilliant comment I wrote, and if it's a fave from someone I really admire and/or have A Secret Crush on, I generally jump around the room waving my arms and hooting like Val Kilmer did on stage when he was portraying Jim Morrison doing a Native American dance in the movie "The Doors." After that, I head on over to The Blue, to see what's kicking there. If there's some Huge Breaking Story it'll be there on the page, and I'll open that up and at least take a peek, and then anything else that catches me I'll open it up in a tab or two (or four, if I'm particularly lucky) and nose through them. But I generally don't get totally deep into it until after I make a pass at The Green and see what's shakin' there. Because I *love* The Green.

I love The Blue, too, and I know that without The Blue attracting all the huge intellects to the site that The Green would have devolved into Yahoo answers long ago. But it hasn't. I know that the quality of moderation is there -- I get that -- but without The Blue dragging all of you rocket scientists here there would be nothing and nobody to moderate. And I pretty much have better and more knowledge of the poster or commenter on The Green: I love that I can tell who wrote something inside the first paragraph of their response, or their first sentence even, sortof an emotional signature, and/or a linguistic tic maybe, sets them apart from the teeming masses, the great unwashed. I can do that a *lot* more on The Green than on The Blue.

Speaking of Ask. I came to MetaFilter off a google search about linux distro for an old Dell laptop I had. I never did get that puter going with a linux distro but I found Ask. I don't know how long it took me to even find the other pieces of the site but not in a day, that's for sure. I've a friend here who told me that posting something to The Blue was like getting called up from the minor leagues, like The Green is neato and fun etc but that The Blue is where The Big Kids play, and you've gotta be a fancy dancer, alert and aware.

~~~~~

Someone upthread said to put the mega-downer-threads to where you've got to climb trees to get to them. I don't think it should be some big hassle but I do think that another sub-site could be added to the menu, it'd be exactly as it is now but with a new drop-down ie MetaFilter AskMeFi FanFare Projects MegaDownerThreads Music Jobs etc and etc, you get the idea. I really do believe that the people who currently inhabit those huge threads would return at least in part to the rest of the site, take a stroll into the sunshine of the rest of this place. We sure need these people back. Might be that they'd like to be back, once they gave it a whirl.

~~~~~

Jessamyn. The biggest change to this site is the loss of Jessamyn. She was to me the heart of this place. I trust her completely and so do you, and it's a trust that she's earned, just by being her. It broke my heart when she left. I wasn't at all concerned for her, that she'd not land on her feet -- I didn't have the slightest doubt that she'd land on her feet. I was concerned for us, for the site. I was angry at Mathowie for not putting it to us -- "Hey everybody, google has hosed us, we're having money troubles. Do you want to keep Jessamyn here?" Every member here would have gladly tossed in five bucks a month, probably the entire internet would have turned out, waving flags, laying down in the streets in protest, pouring gasoline on themselves and burning themselves like that wacky monk in Vietnam, chaining themselves to Mathowies front door, etc and etc.

I'm not saying that the rest of the team, and the new team, I'm not saying they are bad. They're great. Fine citizens, one and all. Who's cooler than Cortex? Well, Jessamyn is, IMO, but who else? No one else, that's who else. The guy's even a flippin' painter, somehow or other I stumbled onto a self-portrait he's painting and it's really cool. He can play the ukulele! Can you play the ukulele? I can't. But Cortex can, and paint, too, likely can do both at the same time, probably even while cooking a wholesome dinner. So the place is in good hands. Jessamyn did create this place in her image, and it's held OK thus far. And she's still around, even. But she doesn't live here anymore. A huge loss.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:04 AM on March 28 [18 favorites]


It may be hard to believe Dysk, but sometimes people complain about the narrowing of viewpoints on this site without having trans issues in mind: I can think of a number of topics off-hand where posting even fairly orthodox leftwing viewpoints to this site (never mind anything from the right) would get shouted down by multiple people & the original commentator moderated to hell and back for the sin of “fighting with everyone in the comments” because this site has a small number of prolific commentators who are very committed to their interpretation of what is permissible.

Which leads inevitably to a kind of evaporative cooling of the comments, as people with opposing (or even simply slightly divergent) views simply leave, because they know how this dynamic is going to play out after going through it (or seeing others go through it) a few times.

At the same time, those fights *do* derail comments in wildly unhelpful ways, so moderating them makes complete sense. I don’t have a good solution to this unfortunately :(
posted by pharm at 2:42 AM on March 28 [22 favorites]


(Note that I’m not even saying that the small group, which varies by topic, is necessarily wrong! Just that this pattern of interaction seems to crop up again and again and is bad for the site as a whole.)
posted by pharm at 2:45 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


It may be hard to believe Dysk, but sometimes people complain about the narrowing of viewpoints on this site without having trans issues in mind

I really hope you didn't mean this to come across as ridiculously condescending as it does.
posted by flatluigi at 2:46 AM on March 28 [25 favorites]


One deleted. Let's please get back to discussion of the site itself.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:54 AM on March 28


I feel like, if there's going to be a continuation of the thoughts people had upthread regarding the issue being (variously) a rise in 'groupthink, ' an 'echochamber, ' and 'political purity tests,' it would be best for the discussion overall if people spelled out the ideas and points of view that they personally feel are valuable and are being excluded from the threads.

Without clarification, it's difficult to understand what people actually mean concretely when they toss out those phrases, and it's in everyone's best interest that nobody's accidentally misled into assuming the worst because of it.
posted by flatluigi at 3:21 AM on March 28 [12 favorites]


I feel like, if there's going to be a continuation of the thoughts people had upthread regarding the issue being (variously) a rise in 'groupthink, ' an 'echochamber, ' and 'political purity tests,' it would be best for the discussion overall if people spelled out the ideas and points of view that they personally feel are valuable and are being excluded from the threads.

Not being snarky: I feel like it might be worth your while to scan this thread where some of this was discussed from the point of view of those to the left of the MetaFilter political zeitgeist. I particularly remember appreciating comments from naju and cobra_high_tigers.
posted by lalex at 3:43 AM on March 28 [4 favorites]


Also, I would note that I said bigotry, not transphobia. There are issues with racism, sexism, antisemitism, ableism, and homophobia as well.
posted by Dysk at 3:44 AM on March 28 [6 favorites]


lalex: I've read that thread before and I don't feel the issues at hand then represent the ones being discussed now, nor do I feel people upthread think the issue is that Metafilter is too far to the *right.*
posted by flatluigi at 4:03 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I'm all for keeping the megathread posters and topics in that one thread. Let it be their neighborhood bar where the same group gathers every day to complain and one-up. It makes me appreciate the rest of the Blue more.

However, I think the negative tenor in the political megathreads sometimes seeps out into other threads as well, putting a damper on participation. Sometimes it's nice to read about a new advance in medical science or a cool new product or whathaveyou without someone dropping "well it must be NICE to have the PRIVILEGE to ..." or "welcome to Trump's America!" or a similar sentiment into the discussion. It's a variation of the "dead goat" derail. And I get it. I (mostly) understand the privilege I have (I'm always learning) and the privilege I don't. I read the news, I call my Congresscritters.

But I want to read what other MeFites think about the insane refrigerators or artificial hands and when I see someone coming in and dropping those comments like someone triumphantly hollering UNO, I just move on out of the thread.
posted by kimberussell at 4:33 AM on March 28 [23 favorites]


politics.metafilter.com?
posted by standardasparagus at 4:38 AM on March 28 [6 favorites]

But I want to read what other MeFites think about the insane refrigerators or artificial hands and when I see someone coming in and dropping those comments like someone triumphantly hollering UNO, I just move on out of the thread.
Can you give an example of this? I'm not sure that I'm seeing it, to be honest.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:44 AM on March 28


To be clear: In that pre-election MeTa I agree with the sentiment that there was a hell of a lot of fighting between Clinton supporters, Bernie supporters, and those further left. I just think that after Trump's election that's pretty much fully collapsed down to people agreeing that Trump is the worst and discussing events, ways to push back, and wishes for the future. The infighting has cooled down a lot in my experience, and in no way would I characterize it as anywhere near as overwhelming as it used to be. It certainly shows up here and there - notably around when that Nazi got punched - but I don't agree with the implication that that's the problem today.
posted by flatluigi at 4:46 AM on March 28 [9 favorites]


Did the introduction of the Modern theme change user trends? Looking more broadly, has the internet culture changed in such a way that sites like MetaFilter are truly rare birds that will become more and more niche? In short: what outside of MetaFilter has changed MetaFilter, ranging from societal to technological?

My sense is that the shift from people accessing Metafilter on desktops/laptops to accessing it (maybe primarily?) on devices without a keyboard must have made a huge difference as well.

I know that when I'm on my phone or tablet, I generally will browse MF but not comment, because commenting is just slightly slower, more frustrating, more typo-prone, and because I'm often on a bus or walking or in the middle of doing something that allows reading, but not careful typing. When I first joined in 2012 or so, I didn't even own a tablet, and I wasn't in the habit of web surfing on my phone yet, so there was less friction to making a post or commenting.

I was never a big post maker, but I imagine building a Metafilter post on a mobile device would be infinitely more frustrating than commenting - mustering links, getting the formatting right, so much typing...
posted by lollusc at 5:17 AM on March 28 [31 favorites]


One deleted. Let's please get back to discussion of the site itself.

Oh FFS this is Metatalk... do we really need this level of moderation here, in the grey? When one main issue that is coming to the fore is the fucking overmoderation and heavy pruning of conversation?

Let people speak! The South China Sea is an integral part of the People's Republic of China! Suck my wiener! Farts!
posted by Meatbomb at 5:29 AM on March 28 [14 favorites]


One of the things that's affected my personal engagement is that I like to read The web -- one of the reasons I came here in the first place-- & so much web content these days is video/podcasts that I just can't make space for, which translates into a large percentage of FPP's being links to videos I am not going to watch.

I know that's atavistic on the whole, but at work, no way can I watch a video without it getting interrupted by work, & at home no way can I watch a video the majority of the time without it interrupting the household, whereas reading works better in both contexts.

So I see several things -- a shift towards politics because our world is crumbling & a shift away from content because there's less out there that's not on Facebook, Or presented as video. There's less to post in general that's good reading than there was 5-6 years ago, & that's not Metafilter's fault, other than that it was its original model.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:43 AM on March 28 [41 favorites]


I am completely talking out my ass here, but sometimes it seems like MetaFilter isn't far left enough to be very welcoming to super activisty people (we still have trouble with ableism, racism, transphobia, and others, as mentioned above). But at the same time we have moved too far left to feel welcoming to people who are just looking for a general interest website.

In the years that I have been reading MeFi, a lot has changed (for the better, I really believe), but if 26 year old me were to stumble upon MetaFilter as it is today, I probably wouldn't feel comfortable enough to stay.

That isn't to say we need to change the site in one way or the other to attract new members. Maybe we just need to accept that MetaFilter is a niche site that appeals to a small subset of people and be satisfied. I don't know.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:13 AM on March 28 [13 favorites]


I remember when, before November, there was this whole thing in the politics threads about "performative despair," which was a label used to tag any comment expressing worry about a Trump victory. Such comments were roundly piled-on and mocked, especially if they showed any kind of direct personal fear of the fallout (which fear, I think it's safe to say, has now been thoroughly borne out). The mods were among the pilers-on, and these comments were frequently deleted.

I never understood (I'm sure somewhere among the thousands of comments it was explained) why performing despair was such a terrible thing, or for that matter how the act of commenting on a popular website could be anything other than performative in the first place. It was a really bizarre episode of groupthink that soured me on participating in these threads.

When I read the comments above about nastiness and mob mentality in the megathreads, this is what I think of—not cases where bigots are rightly shut up.
posted by enn at 6:21 AM on March 28 [9 favorites]


[...] if 26 year old me were to stumble upon MetaFilter as it is today, I probably wouldn't feel comfortable enough to stay.
Sure, but others - who once might not have - now would. That's the trade.
posted by hawthorne at 6:22 AM on March 28 [10 favorites]


Good point, hawthorne. Plus, 26 year old me was a real jerk, so we are better off not having him around.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:03 AM on March 28 [6 favorites]


One point of anecdata from a formerly-very-active mefite who has all but left the site aside from some occasional lurking:

However, I think the negative tenor in the political megathreads sometimes seeps out into other threads as well, putting a damper on participation. Sometimes it's nice to read about a new advance in medical science or a cool new product or whathaveyou without someone dropping "well it must be NICE to have the PRIVILEGE to ..." or "welcome to Trump's America!" or a similar sentiment into the discussion. It's a variation of the "dead goat" derail. And I get it. I (mostly) understand the privilege I have (I'm always learning) and the privilege I don't. I read the news, I call my Congresscritters.

This is my exact experience. I avoid the politics threads for most or all of the reasons mentioned upthread (I didn't know about the politics widget, though, so that's good to know), and if the overall vibe of the politics threads were restricted to them then it would be a nonissue, but these days I know that no matter how cool and low-key a thread looks there's a roughly 50% chance that someone has dropped some kind of political snark in it and a roughly 10% chance that it's turned in to a fight like our own little fungal mini politics thread. If the thread has over a hundred posts those numbers jump to 90% and 50%, respectively. I could just pick my way around it, or I could just dump MeFi and find less toxic communities ( which in my case means spending more time in a small number of well-moderated Facebook groups that fill the niche MeFi used to for me), and I've largely opted for the latter.

Can you give an example of this? I'm not sure that I'm seeing it, to be honest.

It took me about ten seconds to find the second and third comments in this thread, and if you gave me ten more minutes I could find another dozen.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:07 AM on March 28 [21 favorites]


Personally I don't post as much on the Blue as I could because of the Facebookization of viral content. Most of the cool Internet stuff I see is via Facebook and kinda click-baity/a one-shot deal. Sometimes I see that stuff here a few days after it's ripped through my Facebook feed 20 times, and I don't really have a substantive comment on it. And I won't post that stuff myself because I don't think it will generate much discussion. I wait until I have something really good to share with you guys, and more and more that means quite a long wait.
posted by chainsofreedom at 7:17 AM on March 28 [4 favorites]


zarq: For the last two years, every single time I've made a post, I've stopped and tried to figure out if commenters will come out in force to bash the content, the site or publication that's hosting that content, make accusations or just get into nasty arguments.

I realize I'm not the great at staying invested in threads, so my old advice may sound crass, and it may not be helpful in terms of improving the site over-all, but I still try to separate myself from my posts once I make them. Once I click "post," I try to tell myself that it's not mine anymore, it's part of the site and the community. I try to only reply to comments about the content to say thanks for people who are thankful, and not try to correct perceptions or point out where the content refutes someone's comment, in part because other MeFites often do that more eloquently than I would.


sammyo: Is the one a day too strict a limit? Perhaps give some top tier of posters the potential for extra posts?

As a long-time frequent poster, no thanks. As it stands, I feel like I might be posting too often, and I'm not helping the diversity of voices on the front page as a white, hetero cis guy in the US, but I'm trying to post more non-politicized material to provide alternative content to the MegaThreads, where I also participate because MetaFilter is my venue for staying informed about politics. For me, it's 20 minutes of NPR in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon for my commutes, then MetaFilter throughout the day as a(n unnecessary) distraction. And personally, I find yourcelf's GraphFi bookmarklet invaluable for skimming the MegaPosts, so I can check the "popular" comments and I miss most of the tit-for-tat comments. As an extra bonus, it also adds "comment connections" so you can follow reply chains with ease. It's magical.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:24 AM on March 28 [4 favorites]


I realize I'm not the great at staying invested in threads, so my old advice may sound crass, and it may not be helpful in terms of improving the site over-all, but I still try to separate myself from my posts once I make them. Once I click "post," I try to tell myself that it's not mine anymore, it's part of the site and the community.

That's a good practice, but it's just human nature that if zarq's posts were getting shit on, misunderstood, or otherwise went badly X times in a row it's going to be discouraging.
posted by Jpfed at 7:29 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Oh, I completely agree. Even a few off comments can be disheartening, and we've both made a fair number of posts. I can see it really harming new posters who have all sorts of interesting things to share, but don't because of early snarky comments.

This is harsh and requires more moderator intervention, but perhaps we could agree to start a 10 comment moratorium on critical comments, unless the post material has been significantly refuted? It's probably a no-go for various reasons, but just a thought to consider.

Or, make the comment notes that are currently in smaller, light colors, bigger and bolder?
posted by filthy light thief at 7:37 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]

This is harsh and requires more moderator intervention, but perhaps we could agree to start a 10 comment moratorium on critical comments
I'm not sure how I feel about mod enforcement of that, but I kind of like it as a general guideline. I think it's a good idea to engage with the link on its own terms at least a little bit before you hone in on what's wrong with it. On the other hand, I'm going to have a hard time doing that the next time there's a FPP about something that really irks me.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:43 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


I think it might be treading into start-a-new-MeTa territory, but I think at the very least people need to consider the disproportionate impact of the first few comments on the character of the remainder of the thread. I'm not sure how that could/should be codified.

--------------

It's not like a deep insight or anything, but I think the nastiness that I see in political megathreads mostly comes down to a lack of charity or consideration of the entirety of what one is replying to. This haste applies both to other members and to the political actors we're discussing*.

One can imagine that there is a feedback loop between the speed of the thread and the degree of consideration people feel they can/should give comments. As a feedback loop, it can sit at different equilibrium points. Early on, the quick rush of events may have externally driven this feedback loop to sit at high-speed|low-consideration equilibrium. As a mostly-reader-but-sometimes-commenter I really hope this equilibrium can be shifted to more considered comments.

*I'm not too concerned with the nuances of exactly how evil Bannon, Miller et al are (spoiler alert: fucking nasty), but there are other actors that people seem to want to cast in Manichean terms for which nuance, discernment, or the simple admission of ignorance seems appropriate. Maybe we can have more "here are the strategic considerations that Schumer has to navigate" and fewer BEES FOR COMEY
posted by Jpfed at 7:45 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


I will have a new post up in approximately 3 hours, 54 minutes, and 4 seconds. Prepare to laugh a little AND learn a little.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:48 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I think it's a good idea to engage with the link on its own terms at least a little bit before you hone in on what's wrong with it. On the other hand, I'm going to have a hard time doing that the next time there's a FPP about something that really irks me.

I have been trying to do this lately. I take a deep breath and close the thread. If I am still irked in an hour or two, and the thread has also not covered my source of irkedness, then I might make the comment. But it gives the conversation some room to breath without me dumping into it.

Doesn't always work. Sometimes my keyboard has a mind of its own. But I try.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:49 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


And responding to myself to add:

The key to the success of this plan for me is that I read the site by RSS and Recent Activity. So once I click through, the post is no longer in my RSS feed as unread, and if I don't make that first snippy comment, the thread does not end up in my Recent Activity. So if I don't make that first snippy comment, there's a particularly strong possibility that I will simply forget to be further annoyed.

Whereas if I do make the first snippy comment, then I am consistently reminded of my annoyance and feel the need to defend/explain it.

So, overall, my annoyance goes way down by simply not giving voice to it.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:53 AM on March 28


It's a variation of the "dead goat" derail. And I get it. I (mostly) understand the privilege I have (I'm always learning) and the privilege I don't. I read the news, I call my Congresscritters.

This is my exact experience.


Mine as well. I appreciate the megathreads for convenience of reading when I want to catch up and otherwise so that I can avoid them. I don't think it's political threads so much as politics itself that is trickling into other threads on the Blue but yeah, I wish it were different.

I also think some people are really bad at modeling "What is a likely site response to this comment/post?" in their minds and so there is often a combination of "Well you failed to read the room effectively" issues along with a certain amount of surprise and frustration that MetaFilter (still!) isn't what or how you want it to be. Nerds (and I count myself among this crowd) often respond to this by indicating what should be different. But it can also be useful to see what you can change about yourself if this seems to be an outlier issue that is affecting you more strongly than the average MeFite.

Which is not me saying "Don't get all bent about sexism/privilege/etc. issues" but which is to say there's enough data here to indicate that certain things work ok and certain things work less ok from a tactical perspective. I'd like to see maybe a little bit more mod pruning of slopped-over comments in non-political threads (and will flag) and I'd like to see a little less posting-while-annoyed by the same 20-30 people who seem to mix it up in that way, maybe more mindfulness about taking longstanding grudge matches offsite and maybe a little more mod attention to "Oh it's those two getting into it again". Which isn't to say that I think the mods aren't doing their thing just fine, but if tweaking needs to happen, there are very few inputs that can be given only mild adjustments, other stuff is more "Build a new feature" or "ban these people" and it's worth trying to avoid those.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:14 AM on March 28 [23 favorites]


Thanks strangely stunted trees for the great work. When I ran the statistics in 2015, I noted that MeFi's activity had grown steadily during the Bush years and then peaked at the end of the first Obama term. User engagement started to decline during the second Obama term, when there was less to be excited about politically. Correlation is not causation, but at least US politics was not detrimental to the site for most of MeFi's existence. It must also be noted that, when the site was growing, its atmosphere was much more toxic and less polite than it is now, and while there have been many improvements in that area in the recent years, making the site more welcoming did not result in higher participation.

I originally planned to update the statistics early 2017: the political dust was supposed to have settled by then so the effect of US politics on the site could be assessed properly. I naively hoped for some trickle-down effect, "come for Hillary, stay for the kitties" sort of thing. Obviously this is not what happened: sst's charts show that since 2016, political megathreads have cannibalized the rest of the site without reversing the downward trend in user engagement. Early 2012, the curves of first-time commenters and last-time commenters crossed, ie, from now there were more users "leaving" (no longer commenting) than users "arriving" (starting to comment). I fully agree with crazy with stars' comment above: reducing politics on the site is only part of the problem, which remains pretty much what it was in 2015: MeFi is less attractive in a world dominated by FaceBook, Twitter, Reddit and other behemoths of user participation and content sharing. MeFi struggling on mobile with megathreads that are pretty much the norm on other sites doesn't help for sure. In some way it's a marketing issue: what does MeFi do better than other similar sites and how can we "sell" that to potential users?
posted by elgilito at 8:15 AM on March 28 [10 favorites]


Sure, but others - who once might not have - now would. That's the trade.

There do no appear to be sufficient numbers of them to replace the jerks. If metafilter becomes a place which is heavily moderated so as to be theoretically welcoming to many marginalized groups but in practice functions as a watercooler for 40-year-old geeky white American liberals to rant about Trump, I am not quite sure what will have been won. The Shakers died of their purity.
posted by Diablevert at 8:31 AM on March 28 [21 favorites]


I think it might be treading into start-a-new-MeTa territory, but I think at the very least people need to consider the disproportionate impact of the first few comments on the character of the remainder of the thread. I'm not sure how that could/should be codified.

I've raised this issue before, but maybe we could have an annual reminder of various site norms that are not rules? Probably just a case of work leaking into fun, as at work we have an Annual Acknowledgement thing, where we have to all view videos and pass a little test to ensure we've paid attention. It used to be that our Department Secretary would summarize all the key rules, saying "I trust you've all read this on your own time," getting 2 hours of powerpoint slides done in 15 minutes, which might be more like an annual MeTa thread with key reminders for How To Be Better To Fellow MeFites type thing.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:44 AM on March 28 [6 favorites]


There do no[t] appear to be sufficient numbers of them to replace the jerks. If metafilter becomes a place which is heavily moderated so as to be theoretically welcoming to many marginalized groups but in practice functions as a watercooler for 40-year-old geeky white American liberals to rant about Trump, I am not quite sure what will have been won. The Shakers died of their purity.

I like this except for the "jerks". Many of us were not being deliberately difficult and have learned lots of things. But otherwise, yes.

Part of this is the US is in difficult territory and it's important and we don't know what to do.
Part of it is this is chat (and should be deleted. All of it!).
Part of it is the slime of a new bureaucracy.
posted by hawthorne at 9:02 AM on March 28


I feel very strongly that MetaFilter needs a politics subsite. Break up the megathreads into issue-specific threads, make it easier to engage with some topics and not others (as was mentioned upthread w/r/t the Gorsuch confirmation hearings).

The megathreads are impossible to read or comment on unless you threadsit them all day. I can't load most of them on my phone because they're too big. They swallow up high-quality links. If anything, megathreads reduce the accessibility of the site for political discussion because of their format. Quieter voices can't compete; in-depth analysis of specific sub-topics is harder to discuss.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:13 AM on March 28 [23 favorites]


I don't feel MF needs a politics subsite. But I do feel the time has come for the end of the mega-threads. If that means we have several concurrent political threads (Clean Power Plan AND Russia AND debt ceiling, etc.), fine, but the utility of the mega-threads is waning.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:18 AM on March 28 [6 favorites]


I am still reading the political threads, but they have become so mammoth and insular. The inside jokes I don't always catch, which is noisy and distracting. The info is mostly good and easier to grab than from other news outlets, but wading through jokes and personal tales of worry is difficult on a slow day. Also the last time I even commented with what I thought was a mild joke, I was jumped on and was like damn, I'll never say anything in here again. It was obvious to me I wasn't in the frequent poster club. I don't want to discount how helpful the threads can be for people, both in info and emotionally. But the emotional support aspect of it is getting out of hand. I would be all for tidier threads with fewer personal group chattiness and jokes. I find so much of it to be comments that would be deleted elsewhere in the site, but because they are in these political megathreads, they are allowed to stand.
posted by agregoli at 9:19 AM on March 28 [14 favorites]


And yes, having topic-based threads instead of a politics megathread which is the same same same panic and worry continued from the last would help a lot. If moderation spread thin is the worry, we could have a queue like MetaTalk?
posted by agregoli at 9:24 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


agregoli: If moderation spread thin is the worry, we could have a queue like MetaTalk?

I imagine that the problem with moderating political threads is that there is just so much going on, not particularly where those discussions are happening, so staggering posts might not help much. In fact, I would think fewer, corralled MegaThreads would be easier from the moderation side of things.

I think a particular reason that the current politics drain conversations and make it hard to manage threads is that there's so much happening, all the time.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:28 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


I love the mega political threads. Someone commenting on a current situation every few seconds 24/7 for 4+ years? What a great treasure for historians.
posted by Melismata at 9:30 AM on March 28 [16 favorites]


There isn't so much happening that those happenings couldn't be restricted to particular topics in a focused thread.
posted by agregoli at 9:34 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry for making so many comments. My take on separated threads isn't (directly) about moderation, but more about the quality of the discussion that results.

I think the speed of the megathread is detrimental to its quality. By separating topics out into their own thread, the rate of comments driven by external events in each thread becomes low enough that the chatty livebloggy atmosphere is not sustained. This may help discussion around political topics again take on more of the character of the rest of MeFi.
posted by Jpfed at 9:41 AM on March 28 [11 favorites]


It must also be noted that, when the site was growing, its atmosphere was much more toxic and less polite than it is now, and while there have been many improvements in that area in the recent years, making the site more welcoming did not result in higher participation.

Agreed that the site is less toxic and more polite and I appreciate that about this place. But to the second part, for me there is a new anxiety in posting and commenting which does not make it more welcoming and that reduces my participation. When I make comments I reread several times and make a few edits trying to see the word or phrasing that someone might jump on and single out as offensive or outside of the cultural norms here. I've seen many commenters with good intentions shouted down, often because the worst interpretation was made of the person's words rather than assuming good intent.

I don't want to go back to the more toxic culture and I think it's helpful that some comments are out of bounds. Over-correction is better than under- or no correction but it makes me less likely to participate when I sit and wait for something I said to push a button. I didn't used to feel as apprehensive about commenting here. It's odd to me that I'd be less comfortable after more time on the site.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:52 AM on March 28 [16 favorites]


I started drifting away from MeFi and social media in general around the primary season just because I am engaged in local politics here at home, and was getting a little tired of more politics in my feeds. Beyond FanFare, I'm just finding less and less of interest to me here and (this probably says more about me than anything else tbh) I've gotten way more involved in a few nerdy subs on reddit, because it is much easier to curate my experience there.

My overall view of the discourse on MeFi is that... not that I need rainbows and unicorns every day, mind? but it's become increasingly difficult for me to engage with the discussions here, because I'm just too tired to be *that* angry. And I'm sick to death of political discourse, especially since I have to beat the white privileged elite here in Boulder with the angry clue bat at least once a month in city council meetings.

So, that's my take. I probably won't log out or button or anything but MeFi really just isn't doing it for me (right now anyway).
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:59 AM on March 28 [5 favorites]


(it's worth noting that I only found this thread by virtue of my Twitter feed... so yeah).
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:02 AM on March 28


Clinging to the Wreckage: "I've seen many commenters with good intentions shouted down, often because the worst interpretation was made of the person's words rather than assuming good intent."

One could even argue that this kind of bad faith interpretation is also toxic.
posted by crazy with stars at 10:05 AM on March 28 [9 favorites]


I think going from one thread to a half dozen (with new ones popping up constantly when relevant) would absolutely have a stifling effect on the overall tenor of the front page. I don't think it'd be a good solution if the perceived problem is a lack of non-directly-political content surfaced on the site.
posted by flatluigi at 10:05 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


No one is suggesting constant threads...I personally am suggesting the opposite. But threads on focused aspects or topics related to the political goings on would be easier to navigate and healther for the site, in my opinion.
posted by agregoli at 10:11 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


One could even argue that this kind of bad faith interpretation is also toxic.

OK. But I'm too much of an optimist to believe that every time someone says 'you used WORD and WORD is problematic so your entire point is moot' the person was acting with bad intentions and knew that the word was problematic. Or that when there are different possible readings of a comment, they default to WRONG instead of being misunderstood. I feel like there used to be more discussion and less jumping to extremes here. This somewhat proves the point I was trying to make. I've always tried to participate honestly and in good faith here, but that was arguably toxic just now. I'm not saying you're wrong about me being toxic, but I'm less likely to comment now.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 10:31 AM on March 28 [9 favorites]


I see both sides of the megathread thing, in that people want a safe space to express their fear and incredulity (from multiple points on the political spectrum) and Metafilter has generally been if not a safe space than a space where you're more likely to have thoughtful conversation with strangers than say Facebook or Twitter. On the other hand, they seem to have become a lot of "this, too"-ism and may have outlasted their usefulness as a conversational starting point, even if they may still be emotionally cathartic.

To get back to the original point of the post, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of an inline styled widget box with "newest post:____," "most popular post today:___" etc, as a way to keep people engaged with the site and moving around when they are in an individual post thread. Blogs have been doing this forever with Related Posts widgets and I think it would be a fantastic idea to implement this side-wide (at the bottom of each post, perhaps, and after X number of comments on megathreads). I didn't realize it before Rock Steady and filthylightthief mentioned but this is a pony that has legs, for me.
posted by softlord at 10:39 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Surfacing new/popular posts at the end of a thread is actually a really neat idea, though I think it'd be worth a separate meta.
posted by flatluigi at 11:10 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


'you used WORD and WORD is problematic so your entire point is moot'

I have never seen this in the wild in Mefi. At worst it's 'you used WORD and WORD is problematic' with no comment on the overall point, it's just that people seem to add those other words to the end in their heads.
posted by Dysk at 11:13 AM on March 28 [11 favorites]


I think it's generally safe to assume that most people participate in good faith, and also that tensions are high and it's very easy to misread people. It can be hard enough to have conversations about this stuff in person, let alone on a web forum. Everyone is bound to slip up and phrase something badly, or otherwise not be perfect from time to time. In person you can have a real conversation back and forth. The big strength of this site has typically been that people could hash stuff out over big conversations like this one.

I think what people are talking about now is that it can feel like you have to get your post or comment perfect or you're stuck with whatever imperfection creeps in. Like, if you were really hip to the world, you wouldn't have phrased something badly, because you'd be aware enough to catch it ahead of time. I've made the mistake of getting really frustrated with people and saying "they have no idea," without thinking of all the times I said something in a clumsy way.

It's telling, or at least I think it is, when I feel a kind of relief at seeing someone say "I know that's probably not what you meant but here's how it came across," or "you're right, that's a bad way to put it." It's like a rare internet unicorn when people don't automatically default to mega snark in response to stuff. And that's where I think there's an element of quick snap judgment that doesn't serve the site well, especially in politics threads. This back and forth that everyone is having now just isn't possible there, because it's useless to fight over comment #65 in a thread with 800 comments.

To some extent I think this is just a problem with the internet in general (ask me how I feel about the time I used the phrase "walking on eggshells" and the response was to treat me like some bigot being forced to face his prejudices for the first time in his life, when what I meant to say was that I have social anxiety) but I guess what I'm trying to say now is that there are factors at play here that can totally make this dynamic worse.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:21 AM on March 28 [10 favorites]


I followed the threads daily up through the election and dropped off soon after. The wailing and gnashing of teeth was too much for me; though I understand it is (presumably) therapeutic for some. I'll check in every few days when things are slow at work but I never bother to read more than the comments that are right in front of me.

Overall, I do not think the threads are "good." By "good" I mean: fostering healthy relationships with community members. Of course, there's no data to back that up, but it's just my own personal feeling when I read through comments there.

The standout example of this for me was around October of last year when 538's prediction of the election was far more generous to Trump than any other predictive model. The consensus on the mega threads was that Silver and co at 538 were only doing this to drive clicks, there was NO WAY that Trump was going to win, that they should be blacklisted for using the election to drive liberal panic for traffic, etc etc. I was able to shoot off a comment to the contrary that (I think) was mostly ignored, but others were brow beaten to an inch of their life.

Another weird thing in those threads was the near-deification of a certain right-leaning MeFite whose work I appreciate but whose treatment in the mega-threads this summer was fucking creepy at points. The way this MeFite was talked about one could have thought they were personally plucking America from the flames of authoritarianism. Perhaps that's tangential, but my overall point is that I think that the megathreads bring out the worst in the community.

I'm not sure what the solution is; it's difficult if not impossible to moderate and a structural change would probably not yield any results. I like Filthy Light Thief's suggestion of a yearly review of community standards and goals, though.
posted by Tevin at 11:24 AM on March 28 [19 favorites]


I am grateful for the political threads. I ignored them before the election and found them wildly off-putting, but now I keep up with them and read them every day. They're absolutely a lifeline for me. I also used to comment more in Metafilter and (especially) Ask than I do now, so I think I'm basically the 'problem,' in the sense that I'm now consuming more and contributing less. That said, I agree with the people above who said that this is part of a drastic sea change in my media/consumption habits, and if there were no politics threads, I would likely be on Metafilter less than I am now. To take just one example, my podcast feeds changed overnight: I haven't listened to a non-politics-related podcast since the election; all the ones I used to love seem boring and twee to me. It's weird. I hope it changes. But right now that's just the way it is.

I also don't really recognize the way the other people in this thread are characterizing the politics threads: what's memorable and useful to me, about them, is a.) descriptions of what other people are doing in terms of activism, which motivates me and guides me every day - thank you sciatrix!!! - and b.) offering filter/analysis of Twitter + a wide range of politics sites I couldn't keep up with on my own. I am the person many of my real life friends come to with questions about the political situation, and the only reason I can even come close to playing this role is because of the politics threads. Yes, sometimes there is soapboxing/fearmongering/self-righteous preening, and whenever we veer back into relitigating the primaries, there's a distinct shift in tone, but the mods are generally great at redirecting.

In other words, I feel what people are saying about the political threads (and it's how I felt about them before the election) but that doesn't match my experience. Fwiw.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:34 AM on March 28 [22 favorites]


Another weird thing in those threads was the near-deification of a certain right-leaning MeFite

we're back to regularly derailing to get mad about their failure to completely renounce Republicanism and admit we were right all along if it makes you feel better
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:38 AM on March 28 [15 favorites]


I don't keep up with the megathreads, although I like that the discussion is compartmentalized there because I have to partition the apocalyptic headlines away from everything else or I'd get nothing done. Although when I dip my toe in, I'm not sure there's much to it beyond what I get from a twitter feed where I follow mostly liberal-leaning journalists, honestly.

It seems like there's a couple of discussions happening. One of them is about whether the political stuff (in the megathreads or in the world) is sucking all of the energy out of people and thus they don't take the time to compose posts or share other stuff. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot we can do about this, frankly. The political climate is exogenous to Metafilter. Getting rid of megathreads or pushing things to another subsite doesn't seem likely to change much. People will still be upset about politics and bring it up in other threads about current events or cultural trends. We're going to have to collectively deal with that.

The other big thing is that people feel like they feel left out of a political consensus and that nobody interprets what they're saying in good faith (I'm speaking outside of the politics threads). The flip side of that seems to be that people are sick of extending the assumption of good faith to statements that are so often made in bad faith. I'm a cisgendered heterosexual white dude so I just have to believe my friends who are sick of having to explain for the nth time why certain comments make them feel shitty. To take a particularly stark example from back in the day, "I'd hit it" type comments used to be common 'round here and now they're not; some of them were meant in a "jokey" way but they were still tedious. There was a conscious decision to not put up with them, regardless of whether they were intended as a genuine statement or a joke. That means people who want to make those comments might have felt like the site culture was hostile to their preferred method of participating and maybe they left but I think the site's better for it. I think a sea change across the Internet is that people are more comfortable standing up against those kinds of comments (not just as they related to gender, but race, gender identity, ...) either on their own behalf or in general and I think that's a good thing also.

I mean, there are some aspects of site culture that make me not want to put in the effort to make posts (especially about things I am particularly interested in, which at this point is like, economics and video games). Maybe once I finish my god damned dissertation I'll put in the effort to post about economics more and be the change I want to see on the front page.

I guess I'm not totally sure whether comment this had much value added. I guess the tl;dr version is that the US political culture is going to just permeate everything. I appreciate posts that steer away from it (Johnny Wallflower's semi-daily cute animal stuff is great for this). And maybe if we feel like the politics stuff is sucking energy out of the room, it's worth brainstorming how to encourage other kinds of participation (from new posters) or what allocation of mod effort in comment-pruning in new posts is socially optimal.
posted by dismas at 11:39 AM on March 28 [7 favorites]


The other big thing is that people feel like they feel left out of a political consensus and that nobody interprets what they're saying in good faith

The problem for me isn't that people will push back. Pushback is important. If you phrase something badly and send a message you don't mean to send, it's still the message you're communicating with everyone else. It's not like everyone should just sit on their hands and assume that person meant better.

The problem is when pushback takes the form of a snide joke at your expense, or a statement about how "well if you don't get it by now then there's just no point in explaining it to you." And that's what I've seen again and again, especially where politics are concerned. If you were smart you'd already have been listening to the room, and fuck you for getting it wrong, let's all high five for calling out how shitty your comment was. That's the kind of hostility that puts me off from wanting to participate, because I've been on the receiving end of it; either there's something wrong with who I am (how I've failed to educate myself, or to read the room, or to confront my privilege) and I should expect to be treated a certain way if I can't be bothered to get shit right, or there's another dynamic at play.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:00 PM on March 28 [20 favorites]


To some extent I think this is just a problem with the internet in general (ask me how I feel about the time I used the phrase "walking on eggshells" and the response was to treat me like some bigot being forced to face his prejudices for the first time, when what I meant to say was that I have social anxiety) but I guess what I'm trying to say now is that there are factors at play here that can totally make this dynamic worse.

I find it a lot easier to post and comment here than on Facebook, since this feels a lot more like a shared enterprise in which we're all peers than Facebook does to me. (I mostly use Twitter to follow news, Chuck Tingle, and restaurant specials, and don't really understand how to interact with others there.)

Which is not to say that we're at all free from anxiety-provoking discussion, but at least I won't find myself having an unwanted conversation about an uncomfortable subject with some old classmate's uncle, in front of my mother. So at least there's that.

This is a pretty good reminder for me to put some work into making posts now and then. I dunno how much discussion they'll generate, but then I know I enjoy a lot of posts where I don't have anything much to say.
posted by asperity at 12:01 PM on March 28


"well if you don't get it by now then there's just no point in explaining it to you"

And to clarify: I don't mean 101-level comments demanding that people from X group explain something for the millionth time. Again, that's a different kind of pushback. I mean more specifically political comments where people make a crack about something (and I'm being nonspecific here to avoid starting a proxy argument).
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:07 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


we're back to regularly derailing to get mad about their failure to completely renounce Republicanism and admit we were right all along if it makes you feel better

yeeeeep
posted by lalex at 12:23 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Driving this thread off the cliff of "but what do people think about corb, should people be nicer to her or meaner to her or what" is really not going to help anything.

This is a disadvantage of the threads, these grudges and counter-grudges get carried over and amplified forever.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:49 PM on March 28 [17 favorites]


It's interesting seeing the perspective of other people on the politics thread, which is roughly 75% of my interaction with Metafilter these days, as opposed to the 90% Askmefi it was for me two years ago. The only description in this thread that rang a bell with me were the mentions of the pre-election 538 snarkfest and how we just. can't. stop ourselves from having round 1928371092837 of arguing with corb and corb alone.

I will posit, though, that the threads post-election have actually been much more unified and less left-on-left violence than the epic fighting that happened during the preimaries. There's much more of a sense of being in the same shitty boat, and people talking about their personal activism. There's a cadre of PA-centric Mefites who go to Tuesdays with Toomey, for example, who I really like and rely on to keep me updated about state stuff. I'm also really enjoying sotonohito's posts to those threads, which is something I would not have seen myself typing even six months ago (and not just when he's wrong about the AHCA passing and then having to eat cake as penance).
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:03 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


I haven't read through this whole thread so apologies if this has been mentioned upthread but - what about a daily user *comment* quota for the current potus-filter megathread? like we already do for favorites? I am as guilty as anyone of hanging out on the megathreads, and I have noticed that in the absence of any egregious outrage-du-jour, the threads tend to devolve into super-chatfilter and users sniping at each other - maybe if people knew they had a limit to how much they could comment in there in a day it might encourage people to really think about if they want to use up a comment just to call someone out on something tangential/already endlessly litigated for the umpteenth time.
posted by aiglet at 1:05 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


It's not about corb, it's about the nastiness that's allowed to stand when its pointed towards someone who doesn't hew to the prevailing orthodoxy.

I will posit, though, that the threads post-election have actually been much more unified and less left-on-left violence than the epic fighting that happened during the preimaries. There's much more of a sense of being in the same shitty boat, and people talking about their personal activism

I think the "same shitty boat" aspect is one reason for the more unified vibe, but it's also true that at least some folks who have something even mildly contrary to say just don't participate in those threads anymore.
posted by lalex at 1:07 PM on March 28 [18 favorites]


Driving this thread off the cliff of "but what do people think about corb, should people be nicer to her or meaner to her or what" is really not going to help anything.

Not singling out corb in particular, but I actually think there's a really valid argument that long, chatty threads amplify the effect individual users have on dominating and derailing conversations. And I can only speak for myself, but that's a big part of why I've personally been participating less since the politics threads started. I want to hear and discuss perspectives on current events, not on individual MeFi users and their opinions.

This isn't the first time I've begged on MeTa for a stricter modding approach and fewer second chances for problem users. But I think the problem is more pertinent right now. And this doesn't mean blanket site bans in all cases, but it could mean banning specific people from commenting in US politics megathreads.

Again, I'm not trying to single out corb. I stopped participating in the threads so I don't know who it is this week.
posted by capricorn at 1:35 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


Missed lalex's comment on preview. It's also not about dissenting voices, it's about people who just repeatedly do not seem to get MeFi etiquette norms, like "Flag It and Move On".
posted by capricorn at 1:36 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


I have never seen this in the wild in Mefi. At worst it's 'you used WORD and WORD is problematic' with no comment on the overall point, it's just that people seem to add those other words to the end in their heads.

Calling something problematic is calling it racist or sexist. Calling it racist or sexist is saying it must be disclaimed. Failing to disclaim a racist or sexist comment makes you a racist or a sexist. Racists and sexists are bad people. If I say something you have said is problematic and you fail to disclaim it you are a bad person.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:37 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


I'm also really enjoying sotonohito's posts to those threads, which is something I would not have seen myself typing even six months ago

Doesn't that kind of say something? I'm not calling you out specifically, but you've kind of hit on the super grudge-y aspect of things that we're talking about. Like, people will say it's hyperbolic to call these threads insular and cliquish, but then someone says "six months ago I would not have imagined so and so would actually have something useful to contribute." It's to their credit that sotonohito stuck around in spite of it all, but it's exactly that dynamic that drove a lot of people off.

I may be doing exactly what I've complained about, in that I may be totally misreading you, and I'm not trying to say you're a bad person, or anything. It's just the way you phrased that sentence that was, frankly, sort of depressing.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:47 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Since I don't hang out in the politics threads I don't know if this is the case, but if comments like the one lalex linked are frequent, then that is not okay. Accusing a fellow mefite of promoting "pulling the plug on sick people" is almost comically over-the-top and isn't conducive to discussion.

Maybe fewer hyperbolic smack-downs are called for?
posted by delight at 1:49 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]


Calling something problematic is calling it racist or sexist. Calling it racist or sexist is saying it must be disclaimed. Failing to disclaim a racist or sexist comment makes you a racist or a sexist. Racists and sexists are bad people. If I say something you have said is problematic and you fail to disclaim it you are a bad person.

Is this a summary of how you feel, how you think called-out-people feel, the reaction that you think people that call out others are going for, or something else? Not knowing exactly what degree of metacommentary is going into this comment, I might be missing the point or something, but if a person makes a problematic statement, that doesn't mean that person is "a bad person". Maybe they're being a jerk, but more likely there's some aspect of the human experience they don't know about.
posted by Jpfed at 1:56 PM on March 28 [13 favorites]


Accusing a fellow mefite of promoting "pulling the plug on sick people" is almost comically over-the-top and isn't conducive to discussion

Yeah, and it's not just that such a comment was made, but that it had 187 favorites. People keep coming in to say that these threads are all about support and news and so on, and how they really don't see the negative stuff people are talking about. And I totally believe that people need these threads for support, but I think they're also maybe not seeing just how popular these smackdowns are, and just how big they can be.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:57 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]


This is ridiculous. The decline predates the politics threads. It's right there in the graphs.

Y'all keep talking about the politics threads because they're about the MetaFilter obsession, identity and -isms and all that left-wing set of concerns. And y'all like talking about these things, so y'all are in here talking about them again.

Which is fine, but the decline doesn't match the politics threads, and I like MetaFilter, and it's important to me, so unless I am factually wrong, stop talking about the politics threads.

The simplest, and therefore most plausible, theory seems to me to be that Google changed algorithms, so fewer new visitors, so fewer new members. That matches the graphs. Older members get older and have less time to mess around posting and commenting (hello baby alasdair3!)

The second theory is that evidence from other comment sites shows a decline in activity there too. So there is a general reduction in the use of these general-purpose custom small communities on the web - and Facebook would seem to be implicated in this. This also seems very plausible to me, though I suspect the same sharing and conversation is going on, but younger people are using different social media tools.

Individual narratives ("I used to post more but the stance of the site changed...") are suspect, because the people making these statements are not the same people who used to post more, because they are older. To be super-clear: it feels to me that the stance of the site has changed, too, but I am ten years older so I have changed, and I cannot be certain that the stance of the site has really changed or if I have.

I have no suggestions on how to improve things: I have lots of feelings and opinions, but this is not a field of expertise for me. Anyone?
posted by alasdair at 1:59 PM on March 28 [31 favorites]


Maybe fewer hyperbolic smack-downs are called for?

I mean. This shit is a story old as time around here. It's not everything about MetaFilter by a long, long shot but the Perpetual Correctness Ratchet and the knives-out holy-shit-should-you-feel-bad comment dynamic are kind of a lot of the things about MetaFilter.
posted by brennen at 2:01 PM on March 28 [12 favorites]


I think the real issue with the mega threads is that the have in effect become the chat rooms people have asked for and never gotten around here. It's not even the content, I think we'd be having this same conversation if we had regular mega threads about the weather, or baseball, or whatever. It's a fundamental change in how the site has traditionally been used. That may be fine, it's an issue but it isn't necessarily a negative issue. But I do think we need to decide if we want a rolling chatroom as part of Metafilter, because we kind of have one now, and it's going to become a permanent fixture soon.
posted by COD at 2:03 PM on March 28 [17 favorites]


So I think this thread has helped to once again clarify for me that MetaFilter is really pretty terrible for my mental health. This is far from the first time I've had the thought, but in the almost-a-year since I asked that question, the world itself has become substantially shittier and MeFi's own tendencies have responded in a bunch of ways.

It feels like Trump has completely eaten the discourse around here, even as it's gotten harder to participate in good faith for other reasons. I think out of the last dozen times I've felt like I could say something relevant in a thread, a good 10 of them I've gotten a couple of sentences into the comment before realizing probably no one needs this and anyway it almost certainly won't do me any good to hear what anyone thinks of it.

I don't know. I'm not bailing forever, and I really want this place to thrive. But I think I could really use a break.
posted by brennen at 2:08 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]


Calling something problematic is calling it racist or sexist. Calling it racist or sexist is saying it must be disclaimed. Failing to disclaim a racist or sexist comment makes you a racist or a sexist. Racists and sexists are bad people. If I say something you have said is problematic and you fail to disclaim it you are a bad person.

Okay. Your point being...? A statement that WORD is problematic still speaks to language use, not the overall point. If people are concerned that they'll look bad or whatever, it's pretty easy to drop a "whoops sorry, bad wording on my part" or whatever in there, and then that'd be that, and conversation on whatever point can continue (or not) without anyone reading mistakenly thinking that whatever problematic language was intentional dogwhistling.
posted by Dysk at 2:13 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Well, I think if we're talking about how to reverse the participation slide and engage new users, it's worth looking at:

1) how hostile and aggressive the community seems to be toward even mild dissent. I didn't post the comment above because CORB, it's just one of many examples of the outright aggression and shaming that occur when the orthodoxy is challenged.

In this case the hostile response was aimed at a fairly milquetoast comment expressing a very common, if misinformed, view of the expense of end-of-life care. This is the kind of thing people are seeing when they decide whether to engage with the site.

2) how interesting the discussions here are. I'm paraphrasing an old comment, but I used to read almost every thread about social justice or political topics on the blue. The ideas debated and experiences shared made for fascinating and useful reading that strengthened or challenged my existing positions, gave me new ideas, or helped me articulate thoughts so that I was better at recognizing and combatting pernicious attitudes I encountered irl.

They've been curated (both by actual mods and the actions of other users) to the point where they've essentially ended up being the same people agreeing about the same things until some well-intentioned but mildly clueless interloper wanders in, in which case (a) their comment is deleted and unanimity is preserved or (b) everyone piles on to see how many favorites they can accumulate for their SICK BURN and I get bummed about the level of hostility and assumptions of bad faith.

This is boring, and I say this as a person who generally falls in line with the prevailing zeitgeist on the site.
posted by lalex at 2:15 PM on March 28 [40 favorites]


I do think it's important to turn the conversation away from the politics threads and toward the more important issue of Metafilter's decline.

lalex: "1) how hostile and aggressive the community seems to be toward even mild dissent. I didn't post the comment above because CORB, it's just one of many examples of the outright aggression and shaming that occur when the orthodoxy is challenged. "

I am not at all convinced that the hostility of the community is the problem. People on Metafilter have always complained about feeling unwelcome; furthermore, there are very successful communities out there that are quite aggressive and into performative shaming (e.g. Tumblr).

crazy with stars: "Clinging to the Wreckage: "I've seen many commenters with good intentions shouted down, often because the worst interpretation was made of the person's words rather than assuming good intent."

One could even argue that this kind of bad faith interpretation is also toxic.
"

Which only goes to show the ambiguities of text! I was trying to agree with you, Clinging to the Wreckage, not disagree -- that the kind of dynamics you're describing are just as toxic as what they replaced. Not that your interpretation was!

posted by crazy with stars at 2:20 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I don't have any awesome solutions, but I do want to point out that the numbers imply that political megathreads are now the source of about half of ad revenue, so somehow 'getting rid' of them would have significant cash-flow consequences.
posted by bq at 2:25 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's because I joined in August 2015, and so I've never really been here when there wasn't a strange political dynamic, but things still seem pretty nice to me. I have noticed that posts seem to be down a little bit, but I think that's true of everything. I have fewer posts in my RSS reader, and fewer RSS feeds in general. I just posted a big thing on the Buffalo Sabres SB Nation site, and it only got 13 comments, two of which were spam and four of which were reacting to the spam. Even my Facebook feed is really just three or four people posting 80% of the stuff. It doesn't seem like a MetaFilter-specific thing to me.

Having said that, though, I still find the level of non-megathread activity here to be pretty satisfactory. I read a couple of front page links, comment occasionally, and answer a few AskMes every day. More is better, yeah, but I don't know if I'd be able to keep up with more than that. I probably already spend too much of my workday here. The current level of activity seems like a pretty happy medium to me: enough to be able to engage, but not so much that I can't concentrate on something I'd like to go deep on.

I generally avoid the megathreads, in part because they're not really for me. A lot of the megathreads aren't really about dialog. A couple people in this thread (which is itself getting to be a megathread) have mentioned that they're more like a mental health thing so that people can vent, and that's fine. I don't really think it's my place, as one of the more conservative MeFites, to try force dialog in that sort of atmosphere. There are plenty of other political microthreads and AskMes like this for me to engage politically, if I want to. Personally, I'd feel a bit rude commenting in the megathreads. Is that exclusionary? I don't really feel excluded, personally. Any well-functioning society has to exclude some behaviors at some times. It's the price you pay for civilization. I still have my run of the rest of the place, and that's where I'd rather be anyway.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:26 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I'm also really enjoying sotonohito's posts to those threads, which is something I would not have seen myself typing even six months ago

Doesn't that kind of say something? I'm not calling you out specifically, but you've kind of hit on the super grudge-y aspect of things that we're talking about.

Not really? At least in my case? I mean, I don't want to turn this into litigation on my opinons on certain specific other metafilter posters, but I've been a judgmental asshole on Earth for 30+ years now, and judging on Metafilter for close to a decade now.

And over the past couple months, because of the regular exposure, the megathread has actually been a place where I've come to un-grudge and unclench and find common ground with people whose contributions I've been "scroll past and see what's next" about on a good day.

Other people's mileage clearly varies. Based on some of the posting to this thread in particular, I think the anger from the Bernie/Hillary primary fights isn't going to heal over for a long, long time, if ever.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:28 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


COD: "But I do think we need to decide if we want a rolling chatroom as part of Metafilter, because we kind of have one now, and it's going to become a permanent fixture soon."

We do have a permanent chatroom already, and have had so full-time since May 21, 2013.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:28 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


//numbers imply that political megathreads are now the source of about half of ad revenue//

The numbers said that over half the comments are in the mega threads. Logged in commenters don't see ads, so this doesn't tell us anything about ad revenue. You could be right, but we don't know it from this data.
posted by COD at 2:31 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


that's why I used the word 'imply'
posted by bq at 2:32 PM on March 28


The OP was useful for corroborating my general feeling that posting on MeFi has been less frequent than it used to be. The political megathreads, while compulsively indispensable in the lead-up to the election, now just make me sad and tired on a number of axes. I guess it's to the good that some of those factors are getting discussed here. Thanks for the Nth time to the mods, this can't be a fun discussion to be having or to be policing.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:57 PM on March 28


I think Metafilter remains one of the more civil communities on the web and certainly one of the most intelligent. It was a great source of comfort in the wake of Trump's election.

That said, I have reconsidered my participation here in the light of a bad habit. Because I simply don't want to be hated quite so much.
posted by tel3path at 2:59 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Can you give an example of this? I'm not sure that I'm seeing it, to be honest.

This is from way up the thread, but whatever. Here's one more data point. Yes, indeed, that is a thread about fruit. Apparently different fruits grow in different parts of the world, and you can't easily get some of the fruit, because it grows in a different place from where you live.

So if you wanted to see a variant of "what other MeFites think about the insane refrigerators or artificial hands", but about fruit, this is what you get in response.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 3:00 PM on March 28 [10 favorites]


crazy with stars: Which only goes to show the ambiguities of text! I was trying to agree with you, Clinging to the Wreckage, not disagree -- that the kind of dynamics you're describing are just as toxic as what they replaced. Not that your interpretation was!

Thanks for clarifying. I did not get that at all on the first read and it took me a few passes to get it after your update. I think that means my head is full and it's time to go take a walk.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 3:01 PM on March 28


This kinda thing is what makes the political threads so tough...sure, a few lines down you see the deal...but so much of the threads seem like this to me...stumbling forward and back with info because they are so fast and furious.

My link won't work, sorry

http://www.metafilter.com/165859/Hes-been-up-all-night-listening-to-Mohammeds-radio#6974583
posted by agregoli at 4:49 PM on March 28


cortex asked
"what sort of things, be they posting drives/events, community initiatives, policy tweaks, site additions, pony requests, etc. can we pursue to try and help folks find their way more consistently and more broadly to participating in the kind of varied and non-politics-centric Stuff Folks Do On MetaFilter."


Upthread, chatrooms and metafilter.com/chat/ were mentioned. But rather than that, why not an area where more chatfilter-like questions are allowed.

Something like this could be a place for some of the discussions that used to happen on the blue, but maybe have trailed off lately.

For example, I recently ran across this article about how to organize a record collection. I thought about posting it on the blue, just because I thought people would make interesting comments about how they organize their music. But I decided not to, just because I didn't think it was a very good article. I wasn't able to find a better article to link to, and if I just asked how people organize their music on the green, I think it would be (rightly) pulled as chatfilter. But I think the topic would generate interesting replies, and the kind of discussion a lot of people above say they miss.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 4:50 PM on March 28


[made agregoli's link work]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:59 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]

This is from way up the thread, but whatever. Here's one more data point. Yes, indeed, that is a thread about fruit. Apparently different fruits grow in different parts of the world, and you can't easily get some of the fruit, because it grows in a different place from where you live.
I guess I think it's kind of uncharitable to read that as someone "triumphantly hollering UNO," as if she were trying to score points rather than explaining what she thought about the contents of the post. I think it would be better to assume good faith and that divabat was being honest that the framing of the fruit as "exotic" made her feel like she (and other posters here for whom that food is not strange) were being positioned as outsiders. That ties in to issues that people have commented about here a fair amount, having to do with who is presumed to be the norm on this site, and that I think posters should be allowed to raise. And it's weird to me to suggest that people should refrain from reacting honestly to FPPs because their honest, good-faith reactions are somehow silencing others.

I'm also not sure what this has to do with the politics threads.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:07 PM on March 28 [11 favorites]


I am a recent joiner, but I have lurked FOREVER (like before I got married and had a child -who is now a nascent teenager - then divorced, etc forever) before joining in 2015. I love this community and it has been a place of extra solace for me recently, as a resident of Trumplandia. I like the megathreads, I wish Fanfare was more chatty, and I appreciate the Saturday socials instigated by Mrs. McGee (even though I am perpetually late to them). I appreciate all the hard work that goes into building a place like this.... and for all the folks commenting that Tumblr seems more accepting of diverse viewpoints.... just imagine if there was a MetaTumblr, where all the community members could voice their opinions.....and then think about MetaTalk.....
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 5:08 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


ArbitraryAndCapricious, even though others have corroborated my feelings (although I do detest being asked to call out posts as examples, as if my opinion as a member must somehow be proven with citations in order to be valid) you are still not seeing it. And that's OK. Different people interpret things differently.

I'm also not sure what this has to do with the politics threads.

I posited that the negative feelings/tones of the political season/megathreads have seeped into other posts, which could be reasons why we see the results in strangely stunted trees' chart 2 and chart 3. Derails like the ones pointed out can kill the momentum of a non-political, non-social issues post.
posted by kimberussell at 5:30 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I don't think divabat has ever participated in the politics threads. She's not a US citizen, and she doesn't currently live in the US. She has been pointing out how Metafilter is American-centric and Global-North-centric for literally years. And dismissing her critique as "negative feelings/tones of the political season/megathreads seeping into other posts" seems to me to kind of support her point.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:35 PM on March 28 [26 favorites]


Is there a chance the comments part of Popular Favorites can be modified to exclude the megathreads? I used to use Popular Favorites a lot but now it's usually about 75% megathread content. Maybe there's a way to have three display options like "All"' "Megathread Only" and "Everything Else"?

I know that enshrining the megathread in the interface like this is contrary to my desire for megathreads to go away but it will at least make them somewhat less intrusive on parts of MeFi that suffer for it.
posted by griphus at 5:36 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]


Upthread, chatrooms and metafilter.com/chat/ were mentioned. But rather than that, why not an area where more chatfilter-like questions are allowed.

Why? Why not just use the chat room for chat? The site has a dedicated space for chat. Why reinvent the wheel?
posted by everybody had matching towels at 5:38 PM on March 28


kimberussell: "(although I do detest being asked to call out posts as examples, as if my opinion as a member must somehow be proven with citations in order to be valid)"

Personally, I find it very helpful when people provide examples. Not because I'm questioning the validity of your opinion/reaction, but because people will say, "There's a whole lot of X in the thread," and I honestly don't know what they mean. Either because I missed it, or because I interpreted things differently.

I understand how requesting specifics can feel like a request to justify yourself, but I can say that if you are able to provide some, it's super helpful to me to understanding your position.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:39 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


Ok I just counted and right now Popular Favorites is 90% (2/20) megathread content.
posted by griphus at 5:40 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


This might seem kind of out there, but re: recruiting new members, what about some kind of "invite a friend" drive where members pitch Metafilter to people they know? Maybe there can be some verbiage that people can use to explain what the subsites are and a short, friendly guide to site norms.
posted by delight at 6:00 PM on March 28


This is from way up the thread, but whatever. Here's one more data point. Yes, indeed, that is a thread about fruit. Apparently different fruits grow in different parts of the world, and you can't easily get some of the fruit, because it grows in a different place from where you live.

Look, the video series is called WEIRD FRUIT EXPLORER. It's not the 'interesting fruit explorer' - the fruit guy is making a value judgment, and there's a bunch of assumptions about what's 'normal' bundled.

I'm going to go out on a limb that you don't have hordes of white dudes regularly telling you that your food is weird and exotic because they assume that their idea of normal is universal, but pretty easy to go from there to feeling like they think you are weird and exotic. Just because it's not a problem for you, doesn't mean it's not a problem.

Your favourite fruit thread is problematic. And divabat wasn't the only one who noticed it - there are other people in the thread who called it out.

This doesn't mean that the post is bad, or that there's no value in the thread. There's a guy who does obsessive reviews about fruit! People are still discussing fruit stuff in there now.

In any case, Taz nixxed divabat's comment, apparently to give the thread some time to breathe, so I don't see what you have to complain about.

So if you wanted to see a variant of "what other MeFites think about the insane refrigerators or artificial hands", but about fruit, this is what you get in response.

Oh, are the brown people harshing your cool things buzz by pointing out racism? So sorry about that, that must be very difficult for you. But it has nothing to do with the politics threads or their effect on the Blue.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:02 PM on March 28 [24 favorites]


maybe we can have a separate thread about the fruit thing
posted by lalex at 6:03 PM on March 28


Well, I certainly don't want one, but I've said my piece on fruit.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:05 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]

"I understand how requesting specifics can feel like a request to justify yourself …"
It's also a tactic frequently used to dismiss ongoing widespread problems by treating each individual occurrence as just a minor issue. I completely understand people not wanting to get stuck in a mire of concern/rules lawyering…

It's the main reason I (& I know some others) rarely bring these things up, and simply support comments with favourites when they do.

(The mango thing was just strange - for a large number of Mefites it's not weird, it's just another fruit, and the exoticising of it was odd.)
posted by Pinback at 6:07 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]


Yes, and again - I understand the problems around asking for examples, and I am not saying it should be required. I am just saying that I personally find it very helpful to have something concrete.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:21 PM on March 28


ArbitraryandCapricious, this is my third-and-done. I responded politely to the subject of this post, and in the spirit of Cortex's prompt, "Finding a balanced way to get there is our challenge, and I'm very open to hearing where folks are on that in terms of both concerns and ideas."

You are attempting to turn my original concern into some sort of attack on divabat, a MeFite whose contributions I enjoy and respect on many levels. Sorry, nope. I'm not engaging in that.
posted by kimberussell at 6:24 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


kimberussel: To be fair to AaC they're probably responding to this comment by Pyrogenesis which calls me out specifically.

I maaaaay have contributed to one of the US political megathreads? Esp since I was travelling there last month? I don't remember. Those threads are massive. sciatrix's comment waaaay above about the Internet in general just being constant Trump 24/7 rings true; already by December I was burnt out by the constant tire fire of America across my social media and was frustrated at how little notice was given to things happening elsewhere in the world. A maniac ran down shoppers in Melbourne and people died! The corruption scandal with Malaysia's PM is ongoing! And there's tons of non-political stuff there too! But so far it seems that only American concerns matter, to the point that I'm even seeing smaller subcultures be even more US-centric. And it gets tiring to try and engage on Mefi when it's the same stuff over and over and over again, and the megathreads can make any comments quickly buried.
posted by divabat at 7:01 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


although I do detest being asked to call out posts as examples, as if my opinion as a member must somehow be proven with citations in order to be valid

This is an ongoing issue that many people have called out in previous MeTas, but for which there doesn't seem to be a satisfactory solution. If you don't provide examples of "X is a problem" the discussion winds up being about whether it's really happening and how can it possibly be discussed without specifics? If you do provide examples the discussion winds up being about whether particular examples really apply and whether it's fair to call out individual posters.
posted by Lexica at 7:04 PM on March 28 [13 favorites]


Metafilter: Well, I certainly don't want one, but I've said my piece on fruit.
posted by landis at 7:50 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]

Chrysostom: "Yes, and again - I understand the problems around asking for examples, and I am not saying it should be required. I am just saying that I personally find it very helpful to have something concrete."
And again I am just saying that, for various reasons you may not have considered, people may sometimes be reluctant to provide specific examples to every individual who asks for them.

If you want "something concrete" then there are examples of this in this very thread, as well as links to specific examples in other threads and similar discussions previously.
Lexica: "This is an ongoing issue that many people have called out in previous MeTas, but for which there doesn't seem to be a satisfactory solution. If you don't provide examples of "X is a problem" the discussion winds up being about whether it's really happening and how can it possibly be discussed without specifics? If you do provide examples the discussion winds up being about whether particular examples really apply and whether it's fair to call out individual posters."
My point exactly. But I think there is a satisfactory solution to that; it's to listen to what people are saying and for the mods to shut that derail-y/lawyer-y shit down when it starts. It's no more than it took to get rid of most of the boyzone shit, or to make people aware of the emotional labour duck-shoves sometimes inherent in their phrasing or comments, or any one of several other examples, but - like those things - it takes moderator awareness & consistent action to get there.

And, while I know the mods are conceptually aware of certain things being an issue for many, since they're rarely directed at their own opinions or worldviews I'm not convinced they see them as real problems. The frequent result of that is to stamp out comments that incidentally cause derails, rather than shutting down just the derail itself. That doesn't solve the underlying issues, of course - it just hides them until next time they pop up.

And since frequently the whole thing is shut down & disappeared it's very difficult to point to concrete examples when someone asks…
posted by Pinback at 7:51 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]


Lexica (and Pinback), I hesitate to call it sealioning because it's generally smaller-scale and not usually done in bad faith, but it's definitely in the same taxonomy. Sea-catting, maybe.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:52 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


So, OP checking back in here.

First, from a quant point of view, I've heard a few people question how much of the overall dropoff in engagement is specifically due to the megathreads, and how much is simply the continuation of the longer-term declining trend we've been seeing for the last five years or so due to, e.g., changes in the ways that people engage with forums/social media in general, or more long-standing changes in the culture here.

It's a totally fair question, and while I don't know that there are going to be completely clean answers, the way the numbers read to me is that these are indeed longstanding trends, but that the point last summer, around the time of the conventions, when the megathreads became a majority of the discussion on the blue, also was a point where there was an acceleration of those existing trends. The way this workweek is going, it's realistically going to be the weekend before I can dip back in to the data, but if we're still talking about this then, I'll dig around and see what can be gleaned about differences in the ways that users who do/don't participate in the megathreads stay engaged with the site and how that's changed over the past few months.

That still may not, to sciatrix's point, tell us specifically how much things are being driven by the megathreads themselves vs. people's general reaction to the overall insanity of the current state of the world, of which the megathreads themselves are simply one more epiphenomenon, but I'll see if anything jumps out.

One thing the data does tell us very clearly, though, is that we do have the power, as users, to change the way that we interact with the blue and to make it a more appealing place to discuss a wide variety of topics, because that's exactly what we accomplished during julybywomen, and, to a lesser extent, the other theme months. Those effects were swamped by the overall declining trend in engagement within a few months, but they were also all initiatives that were only intended to last for one month, so that's perhaps not that shocking. One question I would ask is - what could we do that would have those kinds of benefits, but sustainable over the long term?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:42 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


As a gander at my post history will show you, I'm basically a lurker, and have been a lurker for some time now. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

1. America's internal drama is a Big Deal. Both because the majority of the English-speaking internet is America or America-adjacent, and because America is, itself, something of a 300 pound gorilla. Whether or not it should be isn't really pertinent to the issue, imo, but I am open to correction on that point. Consequently, the nigh-unending stream of scandal and corruption and abuse of power has been taking up bandwidth on a lot of websites, not merely MeFi, including hobby sites! The solution that most sites seem to have decided on is to either ban the subject entirely, or contain the topic in individual threads or subforums. I don't think the first one would be feasible for MeFi, but the second one could be better instituted by making a subsite for politics like AskMe, MeTa, FanFare etc, rather than a rolling thread on the Blue. Though perhaps that would create more work for the mods, in which case it might not be a great solution.

2. As for the question of tone... as a long time lurker, my impression has always been that MeFi is exactly as prone to groupthink as any other online forum. The problem is that, overall, the internet has ceased to be a specialized communication tool and become instead a source of entertainment in many fundamental ways. Which is not say that it isn't still a valuable place! But it has ceased to be a place that is primarily about information exchange and community. Snark, clapbacks, "wrecking" your opponent and various other forms of flashy but ultimately thought-terminating and discourse-dousing forms of "communication" are valued out of proportion to their utility because, bluntly, they're fun. They get you likes and hits, if you make them, and reinforce your worldview, if you consume them. And most people do both, or at least try to, resulting in a truly spectacular feedback loop.

Which is not to say that bad behavior should not be called out. I am not advocating that people remain silent when they feel disrespected, or hurt, or insulted by something someone says. Not am I suggesting that we be kind and understanding to twitter trolls, or not say things that might make a privileged person uncomfortable, or not defend ourselves in spaces where we cannot assume a degree of good faith. What I am advocating for is asking yourself, before you post here: Have I said this in a way that fosters discussion, or a way that shuts it down? If someone wanted to disagree with my post, would there be actual arguments to parse and respond to?

Again, I am not pointing fingers at MeFi alone. This is a cultural shift that's affected the entire internet, as far as I can tell. And as an autistic woman - here's my anecdata - let me tell you, it's hostile as all fuck, and the primary reason why I ceased all non-lurker engagement in social justice internet circles. I don't like communicating in buzzwords. It's imprecise and dangerous.

MeFi is a community, not a soapbox, and it's a community that has a long history of Doing Its Best. And you can say: that's not enough, and even be right, but it's what we have. It is appropriate to extend good faith to members of this community by communicating with them as people, not - mechanisms in a pinball machine to bounce your wit off for internet points.

Anyway, that's my penny'orth.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 10:11 PM on March 28 [30 favorites]


Yeah, I thought divabat's comment (I didn't see the deleted one so I'm talking about the response) was a totally fair point; if you're from a country in, for example, Southeast Asia, especially a country with a history of exploitation by the West, I'm sure it's really jarring to see ordinary parts of your life described as "weird" and "exotic" by some Anglo dude. I don't think her comment was a condemnation of the whole project and it doesn't seem to have been intended to foreclose on conversation -- plus it was modded anyway and the thread seemed fine when I last checked it. I also don't really buy the example lalex linked to as an example of a poisonous call-out culture on MeFi. I remember the threads that MeTa was about and I totally understand why trans MeFites were very not psyched to have the thread become an extended riff comparing Rachel Dolezal's extremely idiosyncratic self-presentation to trans people's gender identities, especially when questioning the authenticity of a trans person's gender is all too often a prelude to literal physical violence.

Basically, I don't have a problem with deletions and modding where the purpose is to make MeFi more inclusive, or to control the temperature of a thread that's starting to go from smoldering to tire fire. It's a shame that the well has been so thoroughly poisoned on that front, because I think there is definitely something to the claim that MeFi has a very specific culture and take on politics, and from certain perspectives that take may have blind spots -- quite apart from the question of whether we take a hard line on misogyny, transmisogyny, anti-Semitism or etc.

Anyway, I do have some issues with the megathreads, but they're not so related to that issue. One issue I have is purely logistics: as others have noted, the MeFi interface makes them frustrating to keep up with. You can't set a bookmark that syncs across devices, the threads take forever to load on mobile (and on a limited-memory device, they completely reload every time you switch back to that browser tab, meaning if you go look up an article you have to wait a couple of minutes before pasting it), it's hard to tell whether a link has already been posted even on a desktop and practically impossible on mobile, etc. Another issue is that because the threads move fast they pick up lots of their own argot and inside jokes, which are an additional barrier to entry even if they eventually get added to the Wiki or whatever. I think both of these things make it more difficult to be a casual contributor to the megathreads, which I suspect might be part of the "smaller number of users commenting way more" phenomenon.

The other thing, which I started to notice during the (super-acrimonious) primary and late-election megathreads, is that these threads seem to be harder to mod in the way I'd come to expect from MeFi. In a slow-moving thread, a comment that had something valuable in it but was also super rude and insulting might have time to pick up some flags and get a "deleted, try again" from the mods before the thread accumulated another fifty comments. (Or the poster might have had time to think about it and e-mail the mods saying "you know what I think this was over the line.") I think those comments, the ones that obviously aren't pure noise but are also unnecessarily hostile, were more likely to stand in those megathreads than in a normal thread. I suspect that raised the overall temperature and contributed to people scaling back their participation. Time also tends to dissipate anger, so when there's more of a break between comments people have more of a chance to re-evaluate whether they actually want to respond in an angry way.

Anyway, this isn't at all a slam on the mods, who I think do a great job; I'm not sure there even is a good solution, or whether other people also think this is a problem. But I think in "normal" MeFi threads, people may be more likely to be reined in by moderation. Some people have mentioned this may be less of a problem in the current threads, and they do seem more civil generally -- but also if you're someone who had unpleasant experiences in the primary threads, I think there's no real reason to suppose that things wouldn't turn nasty again, since nothing has really changed except external-to-MeFi circumstances.

I don't think the megathreads are all bad by any means. I do regularly skim them and occasionally post a thing or two. They are sometimes very helpful in picking up on news stories I actually care about, and as others have said I think they've actually been great for psyching people up for getting involved in real-world activism (my largely-sessile ass included). But I am maybe a little more ambivalent about them in the context of MeFi overall, especially because even before this post, I had noticed that when I wanted to waste time in a non-activist-y, politically-engaged, "thinking about important issues" way, there seemed to be less of MeFi to go to than usual.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:00 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


Another issue is that because the threads move fast they pick up lots of their own argot and inside jokes, which are an additional barrier to entry even if they eventually get added to the Wiki or whatever. I think both of these things make it more difficult to be a casual contributor to the megathreads, which I suspect might be part of the "smaller number of users commenting way more" phenomenon.

Brainstorm: a technical solution to that could be a 'comment per person per unit of time' limit.
posted by aniola at 11:41 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


The more I think about the megathreads (hi, frequent lurker, occasional poster) the more I think we (megathread fans) need to hold ourselves to normal blue standards (substantive contributions only, FIOMO, etc) or suck it up and take it to chat in order to avoid the most insular/cliquish/alienating/fast-moving discussion. Perhaps the reason that's not happening is that, well, chat kinda sucks? You can't just go back and read yesterday's discussion that you weren't part of, or quote things and bring them back, or provide links that people may actually go read, or whatever else you want that's more than AIM-worthy and less than FPP-worthy quite as easily. Plus I think many of us just...don't hang out in chatrooms these days (for me, that's because I'd rather flip through content at my own speed). Is there room to talk about supplementing chat with an official-but-not-blue option for that sort of ongoing discussion - an official slack channel maybe? I say official only because I'm sure there already are slack channels but this could be somewhere mods could actually point people. And especially given Mathowie's personal evolution, well, slack seems like the appropriate tool.
posted by R a c h e l at 11:53 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


Oh, but also I concur that the megathreads are not the problem. I don't really have the right vocabulary to express it, but I do think that callout culture can cause chilling - in both beneficial and harmful ways. I consider myself a pretty thoughtful, careful, PC person with a medium-to-high level of social justice literacy but I still obsessively reread my comments for any hint of something that'll get ripped apart (and not just to avoid being -ist) (y'all have no idea how hard my heart was pounding when I posted this, as despite plenty of research I was so afraid that I said something horribly wrong). Plus, we've been over this, but designating spaces as This Is Not For You (which has good reasons!) definitely leaves little room for people with privileges to discuss marginalization that they don't themselves experience - an issue if they're people (and I count myself in this group) who learn by conversing much more than they learn by passive consumption. Or if they're just tone-deaf assholes - but I like to think that they're in the minority (although I'm sure someone will jump in here to talk about how they do still experience discrimination here - which I don't question). I say this without a value judgement attached - like (dare I say) most people I fall on very different parts of the privilege spectrum depending on which angle and which dimensions you focus on, so there are some discussions where I get a lot from participation and others where I know I need to read and not participate. And, you know, I'm kind of terrified to even post this comment, because I know someone is going to poke holes right through all of this. And, you know, they might be right. But I think there's plenty of tone-deafness in the way people expect discussions to be shaped (like when people ask that specific discussions be mindful of many specific privileges - which is something I wholeheartedly endorse - but continue to be pretty damn myopic about the relative privilege of everyone with enough internet access and leisure time to participate here, and the huge number of people who aren't even able to be in the room to begin with. This one particularly grates when discussions turn to almost anything related to poverty).

So hopefully me (someone who strives to be thoughtful and empathetic, but definitely isn't exactly an academic scholar of this stuff, and doesn't have a perfect vocabulary or an omniscient perspective) commenting can still be, well, of some value when it comes to social justice. Because (rightfully) most topics on the blue that aren't super-specific get filtered through a social justice lens - and it's a scary-high barrier to participation.

I don't want to go back to the boyzone. I want us to get better, not worse. But I also don't want the kind of people who are imperfect but willing and able to learn to be kinder to feel unwelcome in this community - those hyper-woke kinda communities are great too, but that's not the right place for me to be participating (and honestly that's not what I think mefi's strengths are).
posted by R a c h e l at 12:23 AM on March 29 [13 favorites]


I realize I'm not the great at staying invested in threads, so my old advice may sound crass, and it may not be helpful in terms of improving the site over-all, but I still try to separate myself from my posts once I make them. Once I click "post," I try to tell myself that it's not mine anymore, it's part of the site and the community. I try to only reply to comments about the content to say thanks for people who are thankful, and not try to correct perceptions or point out where the content refutes someone's comment, in part because other MeFites often do that more eloquently than I would.

Yes, I have given this advice repeatedly in meta over the years. It doesn't apply here.

I believe mefi's overall tone has become hostile and fight-prone. Which can have a silencing effect on users. That is why I explicitly said above that I am seeing that behaviour/tone across the entire site and not just in my own posts or in politics posts.
posted by zarq at 12:24 AM on March 29 [10 favorites]


In many ways, I think Metafilter is torn between wanting to be a site for social/political activism, with the occasional cat gif, and a more broadly popular discussion site. It isn't really a "best of the web" site as much anymore since posts tend to be made along news/social awareness/anger at injustice lines or they are aimed more at provoking discussion by presenting "best of" lists, superhero/sci-fi movie trailers, and other links to some fairly conventional content that many readers will be able to share their experiences and thoughts about.

These two different directions for the site run into conflict when the beliefs of activism run into the expectations of broader discussion. There are good reasons to argue for either path, in giving more voice to those marginalized, for an example, on the one hand, or seeking to facilitate cross sectional understanding through considerate exchange on the other. It's extremely difficult to do both at the same time as the demands of values from activism aren't readily mixed with open exploration of differing beliefs without conversations being charged with accusation and adversarialism. That would run contrary to the needs of meaningful discussion, which is itself as much an ideal as proven workable practice, where assumptions of good faith and more involved delineation of ideas should be at the fore, with all parties open to potentially learning something new in the exchange. Activism is more about teaching people to come to an understanding of already accepted beliefs and concepts and doesn't have as much space for the same sort of exchange in part due to the history of popular exchange having been so dominated by a narrow majority perspective.

I have no good solution to propose other than suggesting that the division is causing the site some stress and will quite possibly cause a lot of further strife without being addressed, eventually perhaps solving itself by dint of which people get fed up and leave the site first or by the site losing enough people for it to no longer matter.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:55 AM on March 29 [19 favorites]


None of that is to say Metafilter doesn't still have posts that fit neither category or people who aren't wishing to have a foot in both worlds, so to speak, but that those are the two main oppositional areas I see the site having an issue with, not the sole defining characterization of the site.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:58 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


"Rise of the Megathreads". Dystopia; we're here. :/



Time to get off of the train for a while; nice ride; educated ride; lovely scenery and company, artistic, high levels of literacy; and the row at the top needs a "Trumpfilter" tab. It's all became too ridiculous.
posted by buzzman at 1:05 AM on March 29


I'd be sad to see the megathreads go, as they're a useful and often inspiring source of information and action for me. There are plenty of things not to like about them - the breaking news one-liners, the noise, endless back-and-forth - but there are also plenty of things that they do well, like showcasing the stories of people who are fighting back, and providing more insightful information.

And as alasdair has pointed out, the trend of fewer comments and fewer posts was already well underway before the megathreads. It's hard to know whether the abrupt change from last year would have happened either way; perhaps this is a 'secular decline' in the traffic and popularity of sites like Metafilter vs. aggregators like Reddit, or more visual entertainment like YouTube and Snapchat. Who knows? So I'm disappointed that this thread has ended up fixated on political megathreads as the primary problem.

That said, I understand that they may still have a net negative effect if they're leaking out into other threads. And I know that I'm spending far more time reading those threads than other posts and comments, which is not healthy for the site as a whole in the long term. I know I should make more posts myself, but I feel a lot of pressure for them to be impeccably researched and interesting :/
posted by adrianhon at 1:32 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]


This sums up why I've cut down on my participation, re the terror-ish incident in London: when we did get a post about it there was a good point mentioned in-thread about whether such an incident merited an FPP anyhow.

We've been saying this for years now so I'll be straightforward and not pad it. We get megathreads on a near-daily basis about the actions of a white man in a single country. But someone not-American who posts about something that affects them and people they know in a not-USA country gets "why is this an FPP" and "good point, why is it an FPP".

Why would we, not-Americans or not-in-the-USA contribute to the site with this feedback.

There was even a MeTa about the turned-out-to-be-terrorist attack in Nice that assumed it was all about white people when any article on the victims, and my own comments as a 15-year resident of Nice, was clear that it wasn't.

Again. Why would we contribute to a site where people openly don't care. It's only gotten worse with Trump: now we also get schadenfreude and assumptions that the rest of the world will behave Just Like Americans.

When y'all know full well there is no such thing as Americans. And yet we get this. Seriously, why would we bother with such overt contradictions?
posted by fraula at 3:22 AM on March 29 [38 favorites]


It's also a tactic frequently used to dismiss ongoing widespread problems by treating each individual occurrence as just a minor issue. I completely understand people not wanting to get stuck in a mire of concern/rules lawyering…

While I get what you're saying here, the thing is that context is a thing that exists. In the context of the grey, there's a long history of people griping about how MeFi is intolerant to certain views and doesn't really allow diversity of opinion and just has too many callouts, and then when pressed, the complainers either mumble and handwave away what specifically they're talking about, or clarify and basically admit that the thing they're so concerned is being silenced is shitty bigotry.

This is not to say there is not a problem, nor that it can't be discussed. But, I don't find it at all surprising that people are unwilling to discuss this kind of complaint in the abstract (and with an assumption that it's a good faith complaint) without specific details about what the problem is.
posted by tocts at 3:57 AM on March 29 [11 favorites]


and basically admit that the thing they're so concerned is being silenced is shitty bigotry

This is why people don't give examples.

I am willing to bet that this has never happened, not even once.

No one has said they want to be able to engage in shitty bigotry. Because nobody would ever say that.

But that is how it gets picked up. So really, why bother?

You can make a one line post about hoe MeFi is a pretty shitty place to be unless you hold the same opinions as everyone else or you can post paragraph after paragraph in thread after thread about exactly why you don't feel welcome and in the end you are just a shitty bigot either way.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 5:38 AM on March 29 [8 favorites]


Going back to OP's data, it seems pretty clear that Themed Months have a positive effect on user engagement - and that effect disappears once the month is over. Perhaps an experiment is in order - a theme per month for, say, 6 months? And see what the data looks like then?

Art Appreciation April - highlighting art and artists around the world in any medium, from poetry to pottery

Gourmet May - highlighting interesting food stories, recipes, food history, conservation, and so on

Trial Balloon June - highlighting current and past inventors and inventions, celebrating the innovative human spirit

Oversimplify July - explain it like i'm five for your favorite complex topic

and so on. I'm just spitballin' here.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:43 AM on March 29 [14 favorites]


Any time I've tried to get friends interesting in Mefi, the lack of photos and separate App has been the buzzkill. People want to see those cat gifs, not have to go through the effort of clicking.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:45 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


Perhaps an experiment is in order - a theme per month for, say, 6 months?

I like that idea lazaruslong, it might make it easier for people to make posts too since a theme provides a good excuse or backdrop for any post that might fit the concept of the month.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:48 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]


In any case, Taz nixxed divabat's comment, apparently to give the thread some time to breathe, so I don't see what you have to complain about.

This is part of what I see as the issue, at least for certain sub-groups. Maybe we had more fights back in the day, maybe the 'tone' or 'feel' was more hostile, but we also got to stick up for ourselves when steeped on, have a bunch of interesting discussions amongst ourselves, and develop a sense of community. Now a lot more of this gets shut down as derails, or to 'cool' a thread or whatever. And we have fewer active trans members than ever, fewer interesting discussions about the topic, and I know for a fact that many of the people who used to participate regularly view don't on account of feeling pushed out by the membership and mods. It'd surprise me if the same dynamic didn't apply to other groups as well. I guess this is really for another meta thread...
posted by Dysk at 5:49 AM on March 29 [8 favorites]


Thank you tocts; I am well aware that "context is a thing that exists". You may like to consider the context in which I wrote that comment, how it fit the existing context as presented by others, and how I expanded on that context in a later comment. And especially, in light of your final sentence, on how I pointed out that specific examples have been mentioned, highlighted, linked to, and discussed in this and other similar threads.

Yes, sometimes 'complaints/concerns in the abstract' are used as a cover for "shitty bigotry". And sometimes calling for and harping on specific examples is used as a cover by people not wanting to face their own bigotry.

I actually do find it a little surprising that the default attitude here is still to expect incontrovertible and unarguable hard evidence that a problem exists, when the resolved solution to broadly-equivalent issues in the past - racism, sexism/boyzone, emotional labour, etc - has been to accept it on good faith when people say that they're feeling the negative effects of those things regardless of what you or others may think.

Fraula's comment above is especially relevant here, as it's an example something that non-US members see here almost daily. Is it as cruel, dehumanising, and damaging to people or the site as racism/sexism/[insert your own pet]-ism? No, of course not, and I'm not saying or implying it is. But I am saying it hurts the site, and many people's participation - doubly so now, as everything that's posted is inevitably viewed through the lens of the USA's decision to elect Trump, as magnified by the echo-chamber nature of the megathreads.
posted by Pinback at 5:50 AM on March 29 [9 favorites]


I've been meaning to make a new post in the blue for a while, and this thread finally convinced me it was time. So, small steps...
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:56 AM on March 29 [10 favorites]


I actually do find it a little surprising that the default attitude here is still to expect incontrovertible and unarguable hard evidence that a problem exists, when the resolved solution to broadly-equivalent issues in the past - racism, sexism/boyzone, emotional labour, etc - has been to accept it on good faith when people say that they're feeling the negative effects of those things regardless of what you or others may think.

The thing is, I don't think it is the default attitude. I think it's just that there's a specific kind of argument that has historically been employed against changes to make the site more inclusive, and consequently when an argument is made now that sounds like that, people want more specifics. Again, I'm not saying the megathreads and US-centrism (and Trump-centrism) is not a problem. I'm saying, if you are surprised some kinds of arguments get pushback for specifics, it's because you're ignoring the historical context of how a lot of discussions have in the past happened on the grey.

And in fact, more to the specific point of Trump-centric posting:

But I am saying it hurts the site, and many people's participation - doubly so now, as everything that's posted is inevitably viewed through the lens of the USA's decision to elect Trump, as magnified by the echo-chamber nature of the megathreads.

I totally agree this is a problem. I think a good recent example of Trump seeping into everything is the post about the weird cold war parable episodes of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Yes, it's US-centric, but fundamentally it's "wow, this children's show known for kindness and caring had this insane one week cold war parable run that was basically disavowed till it reappeared recently". That is weird, and interesting, and I like to find out about stuff like that.

Unfortunately, though, the whole thing is framed by Trump -- but not because the poster put it there. No, both articles about it specifically attempt to tie the episodes reappearing now into Trump (the main article provides a really low-quality "well maybe it is?" kinda weak conspiracy theory as to why they were posted now that relates to Trump's budget choices).

And yet I look at something like that -- a story that a year ago would have been "here's this weird thing about a children's show you love!", but now comes pre-packaged already tied to Trump before it even reaches MeFi, and I wonder: are the megathreads really causing the problem, or are they just another symptom?

As a sort of side example: I'm someone who, in their professional life, literally does not talk politics. I don't bring it up, and I tend to bow out if it comes up. I'm at my job to do my job -- we don't need unrelated conflict getting in the way of getting the job done. And yet, in the past 6 months I have had more people start unsolicited political discussions with me than in the prior 15 years of work combined.

All of this is to say, the US is currently saturated with politics, and Trump. I have a hard time saying whether the megathreads are the reason we're seeing US politics seep into what feels like a majority of posts (political or not), or if what we're seeing is just the zeitgeist of US culture and politics as it exists today being expressed by those within it. That doesn't mean nothing can be done (I would love for there to be more of a tamping down on random political stuff showing up in otherwise non-political threads), but "get rid of the megathreads" might not meaningfully change the problem.
posted by tocts at 6:30 AM on March 29 [9 favorites]


I would love for there to be more of a tamping down on random political stuff showing up in otherwise non-political threads

Because it's been mentioned a couple of times, just as a quick reminder: please flag this if you see it. I've been deleting all of this that is either flagged, or I happen to come across. I'm not saying we'll get every single thing, because depending on coverage and activity on the site, we won't always, but we're trying to keep up with this stuff.
posted by taz (staff) at 7:19 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]


This is part of what I see as the issue, at least for certain sub-groups. Maybe we had more fights back in the day, maybe the 'tone' or 'feel' was more hostile, but we also got to stick up for ourselves when steeped on, have a bunch of interesting discussions amongst ourselves, and develop a sense of community. Now a lot more of this gets shut down as derails, or to 'cool' a thread or whatever. And we have fewer active trans members than ever, fewer interesting discussions about the topic, and I know for a fact that many of the people who used to participate regularly view don't on account of feeling pushed out by the membership and mods. It'd surprise me if the same dynamic didn't apply to other groups as well. I guess this is really for another meta thread...

But.... at least some of the trans members that are no longer active left because certain people and anti-trans attitudes weren't pushed out (or pushed back against) by "the membership and the mods." Yes, trans mefites had more latitude in defending themselves, but that sure didn't solve the problem at the time. Anti-trans rhetoric was not swiftly dealt with by the mod team back then. Plus there were other incidents, Including that TERF sockpuppet.

I remember strongly sympathizing with the trans mefites who said that they wished people wouldn't make posts about trans topics because of how predictably badly they would go.

Am very much aware that you know all this, but I have a hard time believing that a return to those days would be a good thing.
posted by zarq at 7:54 AM on March 29 [13 favorites]


I love the mega political threads. Someone commenting on a current situation every few seconds 24/7 for 4+ years? What a great treasure for historians.

Ditto. This is Watergate all over again. And. man, were we all over the news then.

I worked in a hospital and between watching TV, listening to the radio and reading the papers and the tv station top story print out we got at work at lunch, there was a period when there was never a format when something about the break in and ensuing coverup was not covered. Everyone was a news junkie back then.

And given the rise of the internet, it's asymtopically more consuming this time around: this is history.

There is no disease here that deserves a cure that makes it worse: first, do no harm.

We are living in interesting times, even if that was never a Chinese curse. Deal with it.
posted by y2karl at 8:39 AM on March 29 [12 favorites]


Gourmet May - highlighting interesting food stories, recipes, food history, conservation, and so on

How about Gore-May, a monthlong celebration of NBC's Hannibal.
posted by griphus at 8:45 AM on March 29 [14 favorites]


What about people for whom the political threads have been helpful as a way to cope?

I will say though I do agree that the political threads highlight how American-centric MeFi can be. I only lurked but I did enjoy the ongoing threads about Brexit as I found them very educational and interesting.
posted by asteria at 9:02 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]


I don't think an endless political thread on MeFi should be the place for people to cope, or at least that shouldn't be our primary consideration for leaving things as they are. That's not how anything else on the main page functions, and it's making the dissemination and discussion of actual political news in the U.S. unweildly and hard to navigate. That's why I would like fewer, focused threads on topics within the Trump mess, with a lot less chat.
posted by agregoli at 9:21 AM on March 29 [14 favorites]


I strongly agree with agregoli. Those threads get so bloated with chatter and derails. The threads would benefit from more focus.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 9:36 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]


(I also think the promise of a new thread the instant one becomes too big means no one worries about adding tons of comments about any topic even remotely associated with Trump, including "breaking news" which isn't even news...fewer, focused threads mean fewer comments, easier work for the mods, and that what is there is pertinent to the topic)
posted by agregoli at 9:42 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]


Not hugely comfortable with the aggressive policing (or aggressive desire for policing) of chat on the blue in the same way we'd expect on AskMe, tbh.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:48 AM on March 29 [8 favorites]


As I understand it, the people arguing against the chatty parts of megathreads or against megathreads in general also understand that the threads provide a valuable service to many participants - they just think they have too many negative externalities and really suck the air out of the room/bleed over into the culture of other threads/etc. That positive service can and should continue...just, maybe, elsewhere. Chat? Metatalk? On another website? The point isn't to kill that support, it's just to leave room for the rest of the blue to improve - and to leave room for US politics discussion more in the spirit of the blue, like highlighting great long-form pieces (or doing our own thoughtful analysis) rather than drowning them out by quoting rando twitter hot takes (or, worse, liveblogging every press conference), to exist.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:50 AM on March 29 [16 favorites]


If the megathreads are an important way of coping with Trump's presidency, then I wouldn't want to cut off that function. Surely there is a way to maintain that support structure while still addressing the other issues we have discussed?
posted by delight at 9:52 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Introducing the "hide US politics posts" widget was meant to facilitate more single-issue politics posts, to gradually separate strands out of the megathreads -- idea being, it would be more okay for the front page to have several US politics posts going at once, if people could choose to hide them. It has worked a little, but not as much as I had been anticipating. (We've deleted some separate posts and redirected to just drop the link in the main thread, in cases where they haven't seemed to really be great as standalones, either weak article or framing or premature or whatever.)

At any rate: people are welcome to make separate posts about different topics (eg when there's an especially good article about one of the figures involved, or one of the specific bad things happening, often that would be a fine post on its own). If you have a framing question or wonder if something would work, hit us up at the contact form, we're always happy to talk things over.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:53 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


liveblogging every press conference
That really needs to stop, especially when more than one person does it simultaneously. The other thing is that most things you would tag as [fake] are just fan fiction and don't belong in the thread.
posted by soelo at 9:54 AM on March 29 [17 favorites]


I don't think it's so much the politics threads, only. Everyone's talking politics everywhere, that's the moment we're in. I think MetaFilter is bleeding users to Reddit (would be interested to see how many references to subs have popped up over the past year or so, feels like a few), because being here feels like work. I'd put it down to higher standards for commenting/posting + a fairly aggressive callout culture. There's not a ton of room for lightness, air, joy. Reddit can be a sewer, but there's an endless variety of stuff, and you can avoid the smellier stuff if you want to. You can say what you want - dispense with identities if you want to be flip, commit to a sub if you want to do that - you're not stuck with a history that will speak for you until the end of digital time (or weighed down by the pressure to live up to it).

No idea about solutions, because there's a clear commitment to this path we're on, and that's a good thing, that I think people respect and *value* but maybe do not actually prefer, when it comes down to it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:02 AM on March 29 [7 favorites]


I don't think separate posts have much of a chance while the U.S. political main post is continued when the "its getting too long" requests hit. I think that could work but only if something is done to curtail the endless chat room thread that happens now. At least there should be knowledge that a new big old post only happens at a set time, like every two weeks or something. Might cut down on the frivolous commenting? I dunno.
posted by agregoli at 10:02 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


and to leave room for US politics discussion more in the spirit of the blue, like highlighting great long-form pieces

I think part of the problem is that the current situation doesn't really lend itself to long-form pieces or slow, reasoned analysis right now. The White House changes its stance on issues five times in the same day; the Russia investigation has new info coming out daily. The GOP congress is trying to push through all of its agenda before the bottom falls out, so we have concurrent hearings on AHCA, Gorsuch, cabinet positions, Russia, tax returns, etc. And these issues are all interconnected. I can't talk about tax reform without talking about AHCA and the fracturing GOP coalition and the incompetence of Trump's staff. Plus, the people who would normally be writing the (feminism-related) pieces that I would post to the front page seem to not be doing that right now - either they're writing shorter form reactions to the day's events or they're otherwise occupied with activism activities.

I agree with what Sciatrix said way back at the top of this post -- this is a cultural/societal change of focus, not a metafilter-specific one.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:06 AM on March 29 [10 favorites]


melissasaurus: this is by design.
posted by softlord at 10:12 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Am very much aware that you know all this, but I have a hard time believing that a return to those days would be a good thing.

It seems to me like things got better for a while, then worse. Outright transphobia getting deleted was an improvement. There was then a period of a lot of derails over less overt transphobia in discussions, which was frustrating. The way that then started to get dealt with was not an improvement - quick nixes on criticism, cutting out comments addressing problematic language use, etc, while broadly letting the stuff being criticised stand. Like, we had all the big fight metas when people were still around. We've lost so many of them (especially the more strident members, whose contributions to genuine discussion of nuance was also outsized) since. There was a lot of complaining about feeling let down by the mod team, of a disappointment with the lack of a parallel to the unwillingness to tolerate boyzone. I always stuck by and defended the mods and Mefi in those discussions, because shit was, as you rightly point out, not great before. But I'm becoming disillusioned in the face of seeing the quality discussion start disappearing.

Like, it'd be possible to take a hard stance against transphobia, moderation-wise, but what we've actually seen is more a hard stance against derails, and that has in practice ended up shutting down "fighty" minority members at least as often as clueless or unintentional bigotry.
posted by Dysk at 10:27 AM on March 29 [17 favorites]


I still miss ArmyOfKittens.
posted by pharm at 11:02 AM on March 29 [6 favorites]


If it weren't for Megafilter, I think I might really stop being able to pay attention at all and crawl in a hole somewhere with a sackful of benzodiazepines to wait for the big flash. It feels more and more like we could really be cooking up the beginning of the end of the human world, EasterIslandStyle. The idea of watching all this and trying to understand it and what in god's name to do about it from a tenuous perch on FaceBook is hideous and terrifying. Even when people get disputatious, it's quiet here and you can think. Things on the screen do not move. The colors are calm. You can slow down and read. If you feel brave, you can click; if not, you can refrain from clicking. If you get some energy, here is where you go to find out what to do with it. If you can't stand it AT ALL, you can avoid it and go answer a question about what fruit grows in Zone 9 or watch videos of a sweet person and his sweet friends helping each other. (Thanks, R a c h e l.)
posted by Don Pepino at 11:03 AM on March 29 [12 favorites]


(We've deleted some separate posts and redirected to just drop the link in the main thread, in cases where they haven't seemed to really be great as standalones, either weak article or framing or premature or whatever.)

When I've seen this happen, my takeaway was that all US politics was still being corralled into the megathreads. If that policy changed, that's good to know.
posted by indubitable at 11:20 AM on March 29


While I get what you're saying here, the thing is that context is a thing that exists. In the context of the grey, there's a long history of people griping about how MeFi is intolerant to certain views and doesn't really allow diversity of opinion and just has too many callouts, and then when pressed, the complainers either mumble and handwave away what specifically they're talking about, or clarify and basically admit that the thing they're so concerned is being silenced is shitty bigotry.

This is not to say there is not a problem, nor that it can't be discussed. But, I don't find it at all surprising that people are unwilling to discuss this kind of complaint in the abstract (and with an assumption that it's a good faith complaint) without specific details about what the problem is.


Ok, I'll bite. I'm thinking out loud here - without getting too meta, I'm sure I put my foot in my mouth in a few places and I apologize in advance! Though I'm not a scholar of these things, and I see myself as more culturally adjacent to woke tumblr callout type culture than I am actually a part of it, I think there are two issues with callouts and tie-ins to larger social justice conversations I've seen here that have nothing to do with shitty bigotry:
- One is when discussions center around some specific aspect of a privileged group/entity/individual and someone else comes in to draw attention to that privilege without caring about whatever the discussion was about before. To be clear, I don't think that that's unambiguously good or bad. If you ask me - broadening scope and checking privilege is good. Killing discussions because they don't always center around the basest oppressions is chilling. For example, I'm not sure that a (humorous mixed with business-case) discussion of landlording was improved by this comment even though (if I were to guess) it seems like that comment arose from genuine experience/frustration/alienation or, perhaps, a political ideology about rent-seeking that breaks with the ideology of others in the thread. I don't know that poster's context specifically - but I certainly don't think that the comment was malicious in any way. I just think it sucked for the conversation for someone to come in, shit on the group of people that the thread was about, and check out.
- The other is when conversations feel almost policed or massaged into recycling the same activisty talking points rather than really engaging with what (imperfect) others have to say. For example, I got pretty well shot down for this comment (response) in a discussion of class even though I took great pains to try to bring in a perspective on relative class privilege and silence on global poverty that was still, you know, honest about my own experience (or lack thereof) with absolute poverty. At the time, I kind of felt like it wasn't a welcome comment because it just didn't fit with the narrative of how these discussions are supposed to go, where the people who know that they're marginalized (and I'm not arguing that they're wrong) are solely interested in discussing exactly how marginalized they are and don't feel a responsibility to check their own privilege. And I wonder if that's because the act of checking privilege, especially in a new way, is painful. And if I were to go back to that comment now - I'd say that I didn't then and don't now see people in the developing world as abstract numerical standards (wtf?). I stand by my observation that the discussion was narrowed by this bias - I see the way that American (or other Western countries') poor peoples' perspective on the global poor is shaped as something of an approximation for how the attitudes of the American middle class people develop about American poor folks, and perhaps a source of empathy relating to how different perceptions are shaped. I don't mean to relitigate the thread, I just say this to point out that I think we need to recognize - or at least I believe - that we're all constantly honing our ability to discuss these tough topics effectively in order to open doors to new insight and understanding. I think this thread pretty effectively encapsulates some of the potential toxicity of the call-out style of discussion.

And then there are comments that are actually definitely -ist - where from my experience I believe that the majority of people who make such comments are often not doing it out of a place of intentional incorrigible bigotry but that instead they're shaped by environments that never asked them to interrogate that specific [language, expectation, belief, assumption] before. I'll use an example from myself - seven years ago I described my own nose as a Jew nose. I was in high school at the time, and in my fairly Jewish-heavy social circle, associating our prominent noses with our religious heritage was common and lighthearted - plus using "Jew" rather than "Jewish" as an uncoded descriptor was extremely common (I remember my total surprise at my mom's anger that we called the school club my friend formed Jew club instead of Jewish club). We were all really insulated from antisemitism - while we knew things happened, we thought it was only the domain of crazy-extreme-fringe type and wasn't a belief a person that, like, didn't have face tattoos would ever hold. So it really, genuinely, wasn't intended to be hurtful. Of course I know FAR better now - I've grown up, I've been more places, the internet has changed, the political climate has changed, and I've met other Jewish people who grew up with experiences that were very different from my own. I would never ever use that language now (nor would I talk about my body in that way, for the record). But, you know, I'm grateful to the people who called me out, to those who saw past that language to answer the question at hand, and to the mods that gently pulled that language out without making me feel like an evil person. Because of that (imo) appropriately calibrated criticism, I had a massive learning experience - it was a turning point in my use of that kind of language about Jews in all contexts. Now if some other kid wandered into a thread today and made the same comment - I expect that they'd be exocoriated and I'm confident nobody would hear whatever else they had to say. In fact, they'd probably treat them as the sort of person who can't possibly have something of value to say at all, maybe ever.
Of course I'm so glad that sterotypes and hurtful language get called out and cut out fast - but if that learning opportunity is lost, that's a shame. I don't think I'm so alone in learning many lessons that make me regret my past speech - remember this recent meta on the wrongest wrong you've ever been and how many people look back on past attitudes with humiliation? I joined metafilter when I was 16. I've said plenty of stupid things. Even now (I'd rather not link I can think of a very recent example where I really should not have said what I said about another group of people, and I'm ashamed for the assumptions I made and the narrowmindedness that contributed). But. Using the definition of bigotry as "intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself" - these examples aren't that. They're naive and narrowminded and poorly thought through - but they represent the thoughts of someone who is very willing to learn and recognize that other opinions may hold more water than my own. I am not now and have not ever been an expert in all things or well-versed in all perspectives. I'm doing my best - as we all are. And seriously, I've been learning about this stuff (where "this stuff" is an incredibly broad category that encompasses everything from Your Fave is Problematic to people-first language to ever-evolving conversation guidelines to simply hearing many different marginalized peoples' personal stories) for years and I recently graduated from college (with all the campus politics that entails) so even though I don't consider myself an activist of any sort, I know there are plenty of people who come into discussions with even less base knowledge than I do. Like a lot less. And there always will be, so we (though I'm not really sure who "we" is here) need to balance the need for safe progressive spaces on the internet with the need for spaces where well-intentioned people with shortcomings are not treated as unchangeable agents of violence.
posted by R a c h e l at 11:27 AM on March 29 [15 favorites]


The way that then started to get dealt with was not an improvement - quick nixes on criticism, cutting out comments addressing problematic language use, etc, while broadly letting the stuff being criticised stand.

I 100% believe that this is your perception of it but I also very strongly disagree that this is where moderation is or has lately been on trans stuff. We have put a lot of effort over the last several years to being more aware of and on top of problematic shit re: trans experiences and topics of discussion. Imperfect still I am very sure, but it gets an outsized chunk of mod attention because it has been important to us to really try and reset expectations about what's okay on the site there.

We may be just disagreeing about a matter of degree, but:

Like, it'd be possible to take a hard stance against transphobia, moderation-wise, but what we've actually seen is more a hard stance against derails, and that has in practice ended up shutting down "fighty" minority members at least as often as clueless or unintentional bigotry.

One, we have taken a pretty hard stance against transphobia. To the vocal dismay of some folks, but I don't really give a shit because it's just not that hard to get over it and stop beefing about trans people on the site and alllllmost everybody has managed to get there.

Two, we have done a lot more to shut down problematic/clueless/gross anti-trans shit than we have to shut down trans folks and trans allies objecting to stuff, to the point of often making more space for vocal/fighty pushback against anti-trans stuff than we otherwise would for a baseline comment on a random topic. Because the stakes are understandable and losing one's patience with the same old shit is likewise understandable. Same goes for a number of other social justice issues on the site.

But we are still sometimes going to need to shut down fighty stuff. And there are going to be times when someone operating on an understandable social justice instinct and standing on the right side of history in general still is needlessly fighty, throwing down, reacting overtly to a comment or detail that doesn't merit it, etc. Being basically in the right about a contentious issue doesn't make folks immune from bad judgement or bad days, and MetaFilter isn't going to become a place where being right translates to immunity from complex community expectations about how folks interact in threads.

And I get that the experience of getting shut down has a much more acute impact than the experience (often, really, literally invisible) of moderation-happening-to-someone-else, but this is a case where we're doing a lot of shutting down problematic shit and a little bit of pushing back when someone's too quick to throw down, etc. And both are basically part of navigating this stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:44 AM on March 29 [18 favorites]


I think that the political megathreads are incredibly valuable as a resource. It is the only useful place I've found where political news comes out quickly and can have some commentary and even a bit of chat without devolving into the nastiness that characterizes unmoderated places or those loosely moderated by volunteers. Nor is it prone to the persistant misinformation or outdated focus of many such place.

I also think that it is far more useful to have it all in one thread than to allow it to spread over several at once. Though in the interest of not breaking devices, new threads more frequently might be needed.

As for everything but the Megathreads, I have never made a ffp or even asked a question. I'm trying to comment more, at least. Baby steps.
posted by monopas at 11:58 AM on March 29 [6 favorites]


(by "you" in this comment I mean me, but maybe it’s universal?)

I think part of the problem Dysk describes is a consequence of the way moderation works here. I’m not certain it could work any other way, but one of the downsides is that getting moderated always kind of sucks regardless of whether it was 'deserved' or not. You always end up with a weird negative feeling about the whole experience where you’re not sure whether you were at fault, or whether you should comment again but re-word everything to be less fighty? Your (righteous, obviously. *ahem*) comments have disappeared into the ether, but the motivation to write them in the first place still remains, but can no longer be satisfied - it’s a weirdly inconclusive experience where you end up with a bunch of negative feelings that you aren’t quite sure how to process in my experience.

(Back when things were a little easier on the mods, it was fairly common to get a quick mod note explaining things, but I get the impression that this happens much less now (for understandable reasons))

To take Dysk’s thoughts as an example: deleting a bunch of transphobic detritus alongside the responses inevitably punishes the responders as well as the original poster. They are still left with the knowledge that a) a mefite posted that stuff and b) their responses were deleted. That’s never going to feel like a positive outcome. (A caveat occurs: I have, just occasionally, shitposted comments after flagging something particularly outrageous. Getting deleted was an expected outcome in that case, so maybe I should back that off to something like: "assuming 'good faith' responses it’s not going to be a positive outcome" perhaps?)
posted by pharm at 12:07 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


NB: I like the political metathreads, I just wish they weren’t part of the blue. If we could corrall them into politics.metafilter.com or something and turn them into a cross between chat.metafilter.com and ordinary mefi then I’d be entirely happy.
posted by pharm at 12:09 PM on March 29 [5 favorites]


Gourmet May - highlighting interesting food stories, recipes, food history, conservation, and so on

How about Gore-May, a monthlong celebration of NBC's Hannibal.


Sorry losers I already have 31 Steve & Eydie FPPs on deck
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:16 PM on March 29 [5 favorites]


I think part of the problem Dysk describes is a consequence of the way moderation works here. I’m not certain it could work any other way, but one of the downsides is that getting moderated always kind of sucks regardless of whether it was 'deserved' or not.

Yeah, which is a totally understandable feeling. Not really a fixable one in a moderated space, unfortunately, if moderation is gonna continue to function, and I feel like sometimes there are gonna be just mismatches between MeFi-style moderation and any given person's preferences for how a community space should operate. Site can't be all things to all people, which is a bummer but a reality.

But as much as I tend to (sometimes profoundly) disagree with folks' judgement in the stuff we end up having to clean up, I do totally get that that roadblocked frustration is an aspect of what any given user may be experiencing, and that that can leave a strong impression.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:22 PM on March 29


Last comment, because I'm enough of a broken record as is.

To take Dysk’s thoughts as an example: deleting a bunch of transphobic detritus alongside the responses inevitably punishes the responders as well as the original poster.

Eh, personally I consider that a positive outcome most always.


I'm aware that I'm no angel, or a particularly good representative of anything really, because I am somewhat fighty. I have real trouble expressing myself in writing (including but not limited to using meaningful written language, which is why most of what I write is effectively conversational English, which reads really fucking oddly to me) which makes it incredibly difficult to do all the hedging and niceties and explaining that makes things not be, well, very forthright if you're being charitable. (I'm also Danish. Apparently we have a reputation for bluntness verging on rudeness in a lot of the world, too.) I'm not making excuses or anything, but I am aware that personally, I am something of a Problem User. I get a fair few comments deleted. That's fine. But it isn't just me. Quite a few very formerly very involved members have quit, or quietly stopped participating over the last few years, and in a context of disappointment with the moderation being the overwhelmingly dominant theme of discussion on the off-site communication channels I was privy to, at least. In retrospect, this probably coincides with jessamyn's leaving and the subsequent increased pressure on mod resources. I don't know. I just miss frequently having actual meaningful discussions about trans stuff with people, seeing bullshit called out our disappeared even where it was a derail to the thread or discussion, and the sense of community that came with it. All the current political bullshit in the world (and the disappointing lack of meaningful solidarity in Britain) just makes that sense of loss stronger, so I may well be overreacting.
posted by Dysk at 12:41 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


It is very easy to think of prominent voices who loudly buttoned and think that such departures are the reason for Metafilter's decline. I'm not at all convinced that that is the case though -- people have always left the site throughout its history loudly and bitterly complaining, and even so the site continued to thrive for a long time. I do think it would be worthwhile to do real analysis on the questions surrounding the declining number of posts and comments outside of the megathreads. Specifically:

* It would be worthwhile, I think, to take a random selection of people who left in the post-google change era and ask them a variety of questions: why they stopped using Metafilter, what online discussion tools they are using now (if any), what they like about those sites, and what changes could be made here that might make them interested in Metafilter again. It might be difficult to conduct these interviews for a number of reasons -- time-intensive for the people conducting them and motivating people to be asked would also be tough -- but it would be good to be making policy on more than anecdotes and guesses.
* Similarly: it would be good to identify the kinds of people who might be interested in Metafilter (realistically left-of-center millennial/Gen-X lovers of the written word), show them the site in some kind of focus group type atmosphere, and ask them what they liked and what they disliked about the site. Churn is inevitable -- but what can be done to make the site attractive to new users?

It is easy to suggest such ideas and harder to put them into effect, of course. I am just worried for the long-term future of the site.

Absent any hard, critical look at what is Metafilter and what its future should be, I think the most likely scenario is that the site continues to slowly shrink and we are left with a small-ish (~1000? 2000? 3000?) core of die-hards who will be here literally for life and are willing to pay to keep the site going. That is honestly not a Metafilter I'm likely to be all that interested in -- I have always enjoyed the diversity of voices and the expertise people bring to a variety of topics, and already I feel as though you hear a staleness as the same people inevitably the same things.
posted by crazy with stars at 1:15 PM on March 29 [10 favorites]


First, I do appreciate the politics threads-- I don't post in them too often, but they are full of great resources, many of which I use to start conversations with people outside of MF. I appreciate having people explain the context of certain authors/publications so that I can consider commentary from a semi-informed perspective.

Second, I completely agree that fightiness and hot take-iness has reduced my willingness to post-- either FPPs, or comments in posts. (I am also sure I have not been immune to this tendency-- if you just looked at my username and thought "oh, she's one to talk!", well, that's probably fair.) It seems like it is about a 50-50 chance that anything posted anywhere (other than Ask) will set off someone's "This is wrong, now let us discuss your wrongness" meter. I think this is important because it isn't just offering different opinions. Different opinions are fine. But it so often becomes the big internet NOPE response-- no, your take is not worth listening to. No, your experiences are not germane. No, because [logic error you made]. No, because you used the wrong phrase. No, because you cited a source I dislike.

I get that this is the current state of internet dialogue in a lot of places. But there is a difference between clapping back the megacorp twitter account that made a tasteless joke to sell a product, and slapping down someone here. Or I think there should be. There is something uniquely painful about reading a thread on a topic of interest, posting a response in the hopes of contributing to the discussion, and getting unceremoniously dismissed.

To be clear, I'm not talking about people saying hurtful/harmful things and getting told not to do that. That is something else entirely. I am agreeing with other people here saying that the fightiness is often happening independent of the context of the discussion.

I wince even when I see it happen to other people. When someone writes a thoughtful and empathetic post about their own experience and is told "that is meaningless anecdata", that makes me not want to post anything either. When someone tells a story and someone says "this is relevant how?", that makes me not want to post anything either. When someone posts a link and someone says "I can't believe any thinking adults are still reading [source of link]", that makes me not want to post links either. When someone posts about their pain or shock at a recent event and gets "well what did you expect" in return, that makes me not want to participate in anything ever.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:17 PM on March 29 [15 favorites]


It did feel as if, at least a couple years ago, there were a handful of posters who very vocally wanted this site to shift more from general discussion to outright social justice, which was not a situation that made me as interested in posting and participating.
posted by girlmightlive at 1:37 PM on March 29 [7 favorites]


A thought on the original analysis - is it possible to get historical data on website hits (ideally disaggregated by logged in and not) in order to measure whether there's been a long-term change in the proportion of lurkers vs. participators? It's a hunch, but I suspect that a lot more people choose to lurk more - whether that's tenor of discussion, reading on a phone, the existence of many other social media tools to vent out writing, idk.
posted by R a c h e l at 1:58 PM on March 29


Not really; we don't keep any detailed logs on member activity/traffic like that, so while I can do broad stroke historical analysis of overall traffic patterns I can't bucket it out by logged-in vs. otherwise.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:02 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


In a recent thread someone said that they were fine with burning down a library (metaphorically) so other libraries did a better job of accommodating people with disabilities, and they said it in a 'well, duh' sort of way. I thought it was horrifying.

More broadly, it feels like an inevitable consequence of activist sentiment that people build up a certain amount of rage and effort and put that into good change, because change takes effort, and change happens! But then the same amount of rage and effort gets applied to ever-diminishing problems until you're screaming at people who agree with 99.99% of everything you believe in like they're MechaHitler.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:49 PM on March 29 [15 favorites]


What I find remarkable is that none of the issues with user engagement and churn raised here were addressed in the State of Metafilter post. It's a bit weird to say "things are ok!" (such is the sidebar summary) while participation continues to decline across the board.
posted by dmh at 4:53 PM on March 29 [7 favorites]


Re callout culture:

In one of the politics threads Rachel Maddow was taking some heat for how she handled her announcement of Trump's tax returns and someone jumped in to say something like "wow, we love to hate on smart women who explains things." Which...you know, is a pretty efficient way to shut down even legitimate critique.

This happened constantly in the political threads with respect to Hillary Clinton; pretty much every critique of her record or policies was, at some point, shouted down with accusations of sexism. As a person *who supported Hillary* but had some reservations based on her long and well-documented history in government and public life, it was pretty alienating. As a woman who cares a lot about sexism it felt infantilizing that a woman couldn't be subject to critique of her own actions because woman.

I've been here a long time and I have plenty of irl support from fellow MeFites, so I can take it. But that's not true of everyone. If MetaFilter is half about politics these days, but to participate without being subject to abuse you must hew to a very narrow slot on the political spectrum, then of course we're going to become a niche community.

To quote, um, myself quoting Rhaomi: "I worry about the long-term viability of the site if it develops a reputation as an unforgiving minefield of esoteric critical theory and identity politics that's unwelcoming not just for social conservatives but for people who are sympathetic to (or even members of) marginalized groups."
posted by lalex at 5:02 PM on March 29 [33 favorites]


It's a bit weird to say "things are ok!" (such is the sidebar summary) while participation continues to decline across the board.

Site health is a big topic with multiple facets; there's "is the site financially viable", which is a pretty immediate existential question the answer to which a few years ago was to everybody's dismay a big "nope!" and for which part of my goal with the previous State of MetaFilter update and related fundraising discussions we've had is to try and update and reassure people that the course corrections we've made since then are going okay. That we've been able to do a bit of hiring instead of laying more people off, that shit's not about to fall over.

And then there's things like shifts in site demography and activity which have their own sets of questions. The two are ultimately related but in a lot of ways surprisingly disjoint, so tackling 'em all at once feels like it would have been distracting and also made an already large post even larger.

Stats aside, the stuff that sst brought up in this post is stuff we've been talking about here and there in MetaTalk already, both in terms of political footprint and in lowered overall comment/post activity, and it's stuff we'll continue to talk about. I more or less expected someone to broach this side of things in MetaTalk and if it hadn't happened organically I'd have put together a post to start a discussion about it myself, because there are serious challenges here. But I tried to acknowledge that somewhat in the State of MeFi post itself, too. But those challenges notwithstanding, hearing that the site's at a baseline level not revisiting the financial catastrophe that hit the team and the community so hard a few years ago is a pretty fundamental bit of "things are okay" news to share.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:17 PM on March 29 [6 favorites]


I'm still hoping for "DISMAY". :)
posted by zarq at 5:30 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


Absolutely happy to hear that Mefi is doing well financially. I guess what I'm saying is that I wouldn't mind some figures and quantifiable trends in the State of Metafilter. It doesn't need to be as elaborate as what elgilito or strangely stunted trees did but some basic metrics would be nice.
posted by dmh at 7:05 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


tocts: "The thing is, I don't think it is the default attitude."

Well that's where we differ, and I suspect you might feel slightly differently if you were in a position to experience the site culture from a position even slightly towards its margins rather than from (apparently, by your history) smack-bang in the middle of its American-centre-liberal middle-class heart.

But to make my point clear: It's an established site norm, set and frequently reiterated by the mods, that if a group says they feel discouraged, marginalised, or unwelcome due to site culture, that other members should accept those statements as being made in good faith and attempt to accomodate their feelings in equally good faith.

That's the message and expected behaviour at heart of the site's collective response to multiple issues - racism, boyzone, sexism, LGBTI, emotional labour, social inequality, etc. It's also the expected behaviour for anything that agrees firmly with the site's collective centre of opinion.

So why is it that issues that disagree with that centre, or fall towards (or outside of) the margins of the site's culture, are expected to be re-litigated with presentation of examples and counter-examples and circular discussion of the validity and relative importance of each and every issue and point, each and every time they arise, to each and every individual who questions them?

And once again I'll point to fraula's comment from last night as an example, simply because it talks about one of the few general cases that aren't modded out of existence: there is a frequently-expressed perception amongst many non-American contributors that posts about non-American issues are required to meet a higher bar, or include an American context, or resonate with American experiences, or meet American-centre-liberal middle-class standards of presentation and behaviour, to "go well" on this site and not devolve into a shitstorm of snarks and counter-arguments and forced parallels with American experiences.

Or, at best, and to quote fraula, they get a litany of "why is this an FPP?" and "good point, why is it an FPP?". Or, to quote comealongpole's much-earlier comment in this thread about what happened with the UK terror incident post: "when we did get a post about it there was a good point mentioned in-thread about whether such an incident merited an FPP anyhow".

And, to quote fraula again, "Why would we, not-Americans or not-in-the-USA contribute to the site with this feedback? … Why would we contribute to a site where people openly don't care? … Seriously, why would we bother with such overt contradictions?".

If you want a big specific example of how that sort of Americentricity affects posts/threads, here's an older one off the top of my head: The Iron Lady has rusted away (and its inevitable associated meta, Tramp the Dirt Down). That whole situation was particularly weird, especially considering that by that time we'd had 24 years of warning in song and prose that it wasn't going to be a thread full of respectful .'s …

Yes, I know the standard response to all that amounts to "Metafilter is an American site - get over it". But as I said above, what I've pointed out is just one facet of how Mefi's not as accepting and inclusionary as it likes to think it is. There are other non-nationalistic ones, but any examples are frequently modded away.
posted by Pinback at 7:52 PM on March 29 [16 favorites]


I want to make more posts, but I've been feeling a lot of posting inertia lately. There's several good topics I could do, including one I'm really trying to make an effort at, but... I dunno. Just kind of hard to work up the energy?
posted by JHarris at 8:26 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


I want to say, I understand there are emotions coming up this thread, but/and, I just want to say I love metafilter. I don't feel like it represents my exact set of ideology or interests, but it has a lot of overlap. The moderators show passion and care for this site, and the members do to. For the most part, people seem to try to be compassionate and open minded, as flawed as we all are at being those things. I really appreciate the work that goes into this site, from staff and from the community. There are weaknesses, I hate pile-ons just as I hated some of the sanctioned offensive speech I used to see here more, but overall, I think this is a site that does things well.

My two cents is, the internet is changing. I also mostly internet from my phone now, and creating posts from a phone is fucking pain in the ass. There is just less internet out there: facebook and instagram and a few other sites dominate people's internet experience. There is less out there to post, and less use of the tools that make posting easy. Also, politics is terrifying right now, not just in the US but in many parts of the world, and US politics have a terrifying impact on the world, so I think, that's bigger than metafilter and just avoiding posting about it is not going to solve that. But I think metafilter is still vibrant and fun and weird and surprising. I love reading askme, and I love discovering new odd things through the Blue.

Thanks metafilter, I appreciate you.
posted by latkes at 8:31 PM on March 29 [12 favorites]


there is a frequently-expressed perception amongst many non-American contributors that posts about non-American issues are required to meet a higher bar

Exactly, thank you Pinback, Fraula, comealongpole, and divabat.
posted by ellieBOA at 9:40 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]


I have real trouble expressing myself in writing (including but not limited to using meaningful written language, which is why most of what I write is effectively conversational English, which reads really fucking oddly to me) which makes it incredibly difficult to do all the hedging and niceties and explaining that makes things not be, well, very forthright if you're being charitable.

I think this is kind of an unfair presupposition of a burden (not you, but the idea). There's so little acknowledgment that what's written communication on MetaFilter is not like the kind of written communication that we're taught in school; in formal schooling we're taught to write compositions and essays and as working adults we're socialized to communicate electronically using email. Whereas a managed discussion thread in the form of MetaFilter is much more like other online spaces. On one level, thread problems are reducible to traffic/flow problems, either a) starvation (when one user behaviorally "monopolizes"/dominates/over-responds in the thread) or b) deadlock (people behaviorally being "fighty", arguing back and forth). And this happens—and more often is perceived to happen—because this is an uniquely artificial environment without nonverbal cues, plus people coming from all walks of life. On this site, you can say one thing literally, yet be construed as implying the opposite. It's this structural plus demographic factor that I think is more realistic, that doesn't atomize responsibility onto users, and explains how conflicts can innocuously: because the ordinary, real-life signals crucial for navigating the subjectivities of a conversation are not available at all, plus because the threaded format is a shared resource that's not analogous to a real-life social space and accompanying intuitions for what works and what doesn't.

I recently had a very fighty comment of mine deleted, and I'm glad for it because I was writing that from a very emotional state. I had just got home from my regular workout at the end of the day, and had opened an FFP article while thirsty and with low blood sugar, and so on. The idea of HALT that's been mentioned before—being in a hungry/angry/lonely/tired state is something that affects people's ability to self-regulate and participate socially, applies to online environments as well. My social justice opinion about a piece of content is one thing, which is separate from my reactive instincts and how cognizant I am of the set of choices I have in treating other members in the process of deciding how to best express dissent.

That said, activists or radicals (I'm thinking of the ones who have disabled their accounts, because I miss their presence) may not be accepting of that view. They might view that even the above example of myself, representing the idea that even though you're right it matters "how" you behave/communicate/self-regulate, as the problematic core of a conservative outlook, and that making this about fightiness is just another version of the tone argument used to invalidate them. They might have this view because progressive scholars articulate that that's exactly how hegemonic marginalization reproduces itself, the characteristic dynamic where a minority desires social change, but cannot leverage the power structure that the mainstream takes for granted. It's the "higher bar" question, as somebody upthread raised. It is a thought process that's captured in the idea "The personal is political". It's also the moment that someone—a member, a moderator—demarcates the political from the non-political, an activist or radical perceives it instead as a reminder of how that's a false dichotomy and form of implicit bias.

Those are some of the different issues going on, without having to decide who's ultimately right. People who want to learn more critical theory or social activism issues probably know that there are other sites making it available as a special interest topic. I think it's understandable that members here are concerned about terminology here that's being used as exclusionary shibboleths. What's less recognized is that those 'esoteric', specialized terms and ideas unfortunately get oversimplified in a casual context; that's a problem too. This article from 2009 discusses moderated spaces from a media ethics perspective, and it's interesting to see the same general themes and issues about social media being raised and acknowledged by others in an earlier period, discussing power dynamics, fairness vs partiality, judging salience, dissent/diversity, etc.
posted by polymodus at 9:47 PM on March 29 [6 favorites]


I'm someone who has found the political megathreads incredibly helpful--they've provided really cogent parsing of a lot of the whirlwind of horrific things coming from the administration, and they've provided me with a sense of solidarity, by and large.

I would really love if the megathreads cut down on the [fake] quips/fanfic/hot takes, and if some of the extremely high-volume posters kind of took a breather to let new posters in, particularly when it comes to not having like 14 people all liveblog a press conference or whatever. I do think they could be improved if the conversation were more substantive about news items (the attempts to cut down on people just linking to a single tweet is a move in the right direction, IMHO).

And personally, the decline in activity on Metafilter outside of the megathreads is par for the course for me; partially because the political horrorshow consumes a lot of my free time, yes, but mostly because my free time has dwindled because of various life things and my browsing habits have changed. I'm often on my phone, which makes posting links (or even following links) a pain in the ass, so I participate less. I've also largely completely dropped places like Tumblr (also a PITA on my phone) and finally cancelled my LiveJournal, after years of that site being moribund for me. I'm trying to be present with people IRL a bit more and/or to work on non-screen things more in my life for a variety of health reasons, mental and physical, and I suspect many people are in the same boat. So yeah, I'm probably spending more time reading the political threads than other posts on the Blue... but if there weren't political threads I probably wouldn't be on the Blue very much at all, frankly. The other kinds of cute posts--pet shenanigans, Arbitrary Best Of Lists, weird food things: I see through Facebook or through messaging from friends. The informed--and, yes, well-moderated--political discussion is something I can't find anywhere else.
posted by TwoStride at 10:10 PM on March 29 [7 favorites]


I want to make more posts, but I've been feeling a lot of posting inertia lately. There's several good topics I could do, including one I'm really trying to make an effort at, but... I dunno. Just kind of hard to work up the energy?

It's called the law of diminishing returns, i.e. "the pain is not worth the gain."
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:10 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Two things: first, with comments about certain issues, the call-out culture and narrowness of acceptable viewpoints are absolutely stymieing. At times it can feel like a parody of PC college culture; any stated viewpoint even faintly outside of the current liberal norms is met with bad faith responses and outright hostility. God forbid you question how harmful certain forms of cultural appropriation are, or otherwise diverge even slightly from the acceptable left-wing academic viewpoint de jour. I realize I'm probably starting to sound like the kind of person who goes on about SJW's and PC culture, which I'm very much not, but dammit, that kind of ideological purity test can turn moderate liberals into reactionaries.

Second, although I've never personally created a post on the front page I know how choosy the mods are about post guidelines. I've seen interesting posts go up only to be frustrated when they disappear ten minutes later. If a decreased number of posts is an issue for the site, easing up the post guidelines and moderation would be warranted, no?

Third, I absolutely think it would be a good idea to add a Metatalk-esque section for political posts. Especially now, I think there desperately need to be more places for intelligent, non-partisan, left-leaning political discussion.
posted by Green Winnebago at 11:00 PM on March 29 [13 favorites]


Gourmet May - highlighting interesting food stories, recipes, food history, conservation, and so on

Gourmet Met (pronounced "May"), surely.

But seriously, I support the idea of themed weeks or months to encourage FPPs and comments. Maybe 1 week per month or over month per quarter to begin with as a test run.
posted by Tehhund at 2:35 AM on March 30 [2 favorites]


Inexpert, spitballin' opinion: As far as i can tell, deletions have not increased recently.

There's a greasemonkey script that allows you to see deleted posts, or you can check out the deleted posts blog.

The mods' deletion reasons are a fun reason to browse the blog. It can also help first-time posters figure out how to improve their fpp's.

I don't know the breakdown by category, but my impression is that most deletions are double posts. The rest are a minority melange of spam, bad framing, links with paywalled content or other bright line guideline violations.
posted by zarq at 4:07 AM on March 30 [3 favorites]


If a decreased number of posts is an issue for the site, easing up the post guidelines and moderation would be warranted, no?

For what it's worth, this is something I've factored into my assessment of how busy the site is on any given day when looking at grey-area-but-harmless stuff. In an age when the web feels like it's providing less post-worthy material, I'm a bit more willing to say "...eh, sure!" about stuff that at a busier time might have not quite cleared the bar. I'd rather folks have interesting/fun/funny stuff to look at and discuss together than not.

That said, there's still gonna be stuff that's far enough off the mark from workable, or sufficiently badly-framed, or enough at odds with one or another core guideline, that it's gonna have to get nixed; the adjustments above are a matter of degree but there will always be a floor to deletions because there's stuff that's not gonna work no matter how few other posts are on the front page that day.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:32 AM on March 30 [4 favorites]


I get a lot from the politics megathreads, but I also notice that they are at their best when there's a lot of news going on and at their worst when there isn't. When there's constant stuff everyone agrees is awful, there's a solidarity that makes these threads wonderful- but with a pause, I think the anxiety makes us devour each other and just start randomly fighting. I'm not really sure how to fix that.
posted by corb at 7:54 AM on March 30 [7 favorites]


We are living in interesting times, even if that was never a Chinese curse. Deal with it.

We've always been living in interesting times, it's just usually been stuff America was fine ignoring. It feels like now that it's finally "interesting" for America, the rest of us have to "deal with it".

And yeah, MetaFilter is mostly Americans, I get it. Why should I expect "normal" mefi with this shit going on? The answer is I shouldn't. I just needed to vent a little, thanks.
posted by ODiV at 8:03 AM on March 30 [4 favorites]


>In an age when the web feels like it's providing less post-worthy material, I'm a bit more willing to say "...eh, sure!" about stuff that at a busier time might have not quite cleared the bar. I'd rather folks have interesting/fun/funny stuff to look at and discuss together than not.

Thinking idly about this: as Metafilter presses on, boosted by the current of time, borne ceaselessly into the future, might there be a benefit to loosening the guidelines around double posts by shortening the window of time before a post is old enough to be repeated without new content?

My understanding of current policy is that there aren't hard-and-fast rules (which is good!); double posts will be deleted unless (1) 'a few years' have passed with the same URL/content, or (2) there has been a 'substantial' change in the meantime. If we're looking at a slow drop-off in membership, it would follow that correcting that trend would mean taking on a bunch of new members -- members who would not have been around when links were posted [previously]. If people engage with the blue mainly on a daily basis, as new posts roll in, and as people contemplate making new posts, it might be more encouraging to new posters to loosen up part (1) of the double post restriction, by taking however long 'a few years' is currently and shaving a year or three (or however long seems helpful) off of that. But I'm also saying this without a good sense of exactly how long 'a few years' currently is; the FAQ doesn't offer any guidance on that. And I'm saying this without a good sense of how many deleted posts would actually affected; I don't think that's measurable, anyway, if we consider people who started to make a post and stopped at the point of realizing a double existed, before posting and getting (correctly) deleted per current policy.
posted by cjelli at 8:15 AM on March 30


Pinback, thank you, thank you a thousand times: even bowdlerized that rusted iron lady thread and the associated metatalk are so soothing to read right now. I'm way up at the top of each of them and they were making me so happy I had to break to thank you. They are balm to my trumpmangled heart. I must've been on a metafilter break when that happened because I didn't see it until you linked it today, and I'm almost glad because now is when I needed it. God, how dearly I love Scotland right now. I think they are the brightest of the few bright lights left burning in the present sea of dark stupidity. I hope they kick their way out of the metastasizing foulness and get a few free years.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:26 AM on March 30 [2 favorites]


Thinking idly about this: as Metafilter presses on, boosted by the current of time, borne ceaselessly into the future, might there be a benefit to loosening the guidelines around double posts by shortening the window of time before a post is old enough to be repeated without new content?

That is, in fact, a policy change we've been discussing on the mod team! It falls in with a bucket of other things I think are worth re-examining in terms of policy goals/origins vs. what they accomplish on contemporary MetaFilter. There's a ton of cool stuff out there worth having a conversation about more than once, or more than once every ten years, and so deliberately easing expectations somewhat about doubles on neat things feels like its worth pursuing.

To an extent we already do that just by making a call in the moment, with those calls breaking a bit more these days toward "oh, why not" than they used to; but making it something we revise explicitly with a MetaTalk discussion and FAQ tweaks would be the big move to better reset expectations.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:56 AM on March 30 [4 favorites]


Everything old is new again. Does this mean I can start reposting some of filthy light thief's more awesome older posts? I promise to change a word or three and make sure the links work. :D
--
In all seriousness, y'all have been incredibly cool about allowing some of my own doubles to stand over the years. Thank you for that.
posted by zarq at 9:20 AM on March 30


Awesome, I have this one about cats stuck in scanners that I've had sitting *forever*.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:31 AM on March 30 [6 favorites]


Awesome, I have this one about cats stuck in scanners that I've had sitting *forever*.

How did they even get in there? And why?
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:46 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


more to the point please don't sit on your cat
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:07 AM on March 30 [4 favorites]


and don't even think about riding an alpaca
posted by Mr. Yuck at 11:10 AM on March 30


more to the point please don't sit on your cat

[SHOT OPENS ON MAN IN LAB COAT SITTING ON EDGE OF DESK. LARGE PAINTING OF MENGER SPONGE ON WALL BEHIND]

"Hi there, I'm Josh Millard - aka cortex - of the Internet. You know, we have a lot of fun at Metafilter dot com, but the one thing we never do is sit on our cats. Now, you may have read on Friendster or Plastic that cat-sitting is "hip." Well, the facts are that cat-sitting can result in serious - even fatal - injury. And the cats don't enjoy it, either.

So, please remember: Don't derail, and DON'T sit on your cat. Thank you."

[GRAPHIC: "THE MORE YOU KNOW"]
posted by Chrysostom at 11:34 AM on March 30 [14 favorites]


[GRAPHIC: "THE MORE YOU MEOW"]
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:43 PM on March 30 [9 favorites]


Not to disagree with the general point, but for what it's worth re the London thread I personally appreciated the sentiment in Gratishades' comment as being in solidarity with (I believe) most Londoner's attitudes about giving terrorist attacks attention.
posted by lucidium at 2:44 PM on March 30


The politics megathreads are like small, MetaFilter-specific fork of Twitter that supports more than 140 characters. Reading them in their entirety is to get them wrong.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:18 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


As a long time reader, I can't say that these trends are a surprise. My experience has been that MetaFilter has an ever narrowing circle of orthodoxy, and things that fall outside that circle are extremely unwelcome or simply deleted. Of the two options, deletions are much more harmful. It does not take many of them to learn to just not post to MetaFilter, and to realize that any surviving comments in a thread have not so much been MetaFiltered as Filtered. It also undermines the whole idea of coming here, for intelligent writing and discourse, when discussions are "solved" by who has control over the infrastructure.

As for changes to fix the problem, stop doing the bad things. Be more open and accepting to different viewpoints. Don't delete writing that does not adhere to your particular sub-sub-sect of thinking. Maybe start doing these things ~5 years ago.
posted by Balna Watya at 3:43 PM on March 30 [6 favorites]


The decline in volume of users commenting each month has also been a long-term trend throughout the post-Google-algorithm-change era, and has also accelerated during the megathread era, although not as dramatically as post volume.

I wouldn’t mind seeing a trend line that shows that this acceleration is indeed increasing.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:30 PM on March 30


Balna Watya: " My experience has been that MetaFilter has an ever narrowing circle of orthodoxy, and things that fall outside that circle are extremely unwelcome or simply deleted. "

Here are the post subjects in the past day on the Blue:

* something about pets speaking
* something about cooking with koji
* the old TV show What's My Line?
* the author of The Anarchist's Cookbook died
* a camera museum
* indexing information
* music from a band called Sludge Factory
* trailer for the miniseries of American Gods is out
* new video game called Thimbleweed Park
* cats can teach us things about design
* latest politics mega-thread
* Bob Seger albums mysteriously out of print
* (de)extinction of species
* a statue of Vin Diesel made of ham & cheese
* problems at Morehouse College
* controversy about autism awareness month
* videos of the unexpected
* overthinking the Goofy character
* dog gets facial surgery
* SpaceX launch
* impact of stillbirths
* space elevator
* lone wolf terrorists are a myth
* guy with interesting mixtapes
* talempong music
* kitten cams
* moderate Islamists
* nudibranches
* chocolate geode
* The Deck is shutting down
* Drug-related murder in the Florida Keys
* SF in translation

I see a huge range of topics. I also see, at most, four topics where there might be "controversy" (mega-thread, autism, Islamists, terrorists). So, even if we accept the idea that groupthink is being enforced in political threads - which I don't - it still seems to me like there is a vast range of interesting things to talk about.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:15 PM on March 30 [12 favorites]


My experience has been that MetaFilter has an ever narrowing circle of orthodoxy, and things that fall outside that circle are extremely unwelcome or simply deleted. [...]As for changes to fix the problem, stop doing the bad things. Be more open and accepting to different viewpoints. Don't delete writing that does not adhere to your particular sub-sub-sect of thinking.

I read this and thought about replying about five times before I actually did it, because this does re-hash some stuff up thread (including my earlier comment), but: I think this comment really illustrates the point I was trying to make.

I get that people feel like there is more of an "orthodoxy" than there used to be. But I guess the extent to which I (personally) care or think that's a problem really, really depends on the specifics of what changes over the past five years you're talking about. Like, I know people upthread were saying that they were afraid to be specific because they don't want to get jumped on but in the absence of specifics either there *are* no specifics (and thus this isn't actionable) or the specifics are a useful jumping off point for some explicit statement and discussion about what kinds of stuff we're just collectively not interested in having represented in the community. Maybe this is circling back 'round to something flatluigi already said, at which point I guess + 1 from me as long as we're voting.
--
I guess I'd also like to push back against something else I've seen in the thread, which is related: I'm really not sympathetic to the argument that people engaging in so-called identity politics "make it hard to be an ally" or turn people into reactionaries or whatever. I mean, you can have that discussion as a matter of messaging and tactics on the level of organizing a broad social campaign. But at the level of an individual posting on this site, I think it's pretty reasonable for you to think about your reactions before responding (or maybe not responding at all!) Like, I've been called out on stuff before; I get that it can sting. But I guess I'd urge you to swallow the immediate feeling about how you're a good liberal or whatever.
posted by dismas at 7:35 PM on March 30 [16 favorites]


Circling back to a suggestion up thread about limiting the amount of comments every user can make in the megathreads: is this something that even could be down or would ever be considered? It sounds really appealing to me, though I'm sure I haven't thought through all the issues this might cause.

I keep up with the threads in Recent Activity and probably only read 5% of each one because of that, but I do see the same usernames over and over and have found that the couple times I've commented on them that it feels like I was interrupting a cliquey conversation. Like there's this possessive feeling that the most-frequent posters have about the way the conversation should go, and the in-jokes present elsewhere on the site that generally haven't bothered me feel out of control there. It's also gotten to the point where I can tell that everyone is getting the same newsletters (infowarzel/flippable/re:act/wendy davis) and following the same people on Twitter and there's this breathlessness about reposting what those sources have provided only for the purpose of being first to do so.

Despite this I really like having a Metafilter source for political news/commentary because there are people much smarter/politically savvy here who provide invaluable perspective. But I've noticed as each thread goes on that the chatty atmosphere makes it less likely to find in depth discussions because a Sean Spicer press briefing is the equivalent of the dog in Up yelling SQUIRREL! in the midst of a conversation. I like the idea of limiting how many comments you can make per day in these specific threads to encourage more thoughtful conversation. Unfortunately, I have a feeling this suggestion would be outrageous to those who are participating heavily in the megathreads because of that possessiveness I've mentioned.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:06 PM on March 30 [7 favorites]


I also see, at most, four topics where there might be "controversy"

I was metafiltering today and the one deleted comment I noticed was in the "American Gods" thread, which comment was expressing a heterodox opinion to the effect that TV trailers, or promotional videos for TV shows in general, are not worth watching so who cares. It could have been a valid opening to a valuable derail and fight about the nature and utility of that form of advertising, a discussion which in my opinion should not be out of bounds in such a thread. But if my recollection is accurate it was not well-written enough to deserve escaping moderation, and furthermore it gave the impression of having the attitude of unwarranted hostility to anyone or everyone who disagrees with the commenter, which has contributed to some of the problems discussed here. Said attitude may be especially evident in the political threads, but I don't think it is primarily generated there or elsewhere on this site. It's just catching on lately in society at large. It's also easy to imagine as evident when misreading a comment in which it isn't in fact present, so my apologizes to that deleted comment if I'm wrong about it. But anyway, that discussion appears to have gone well enough without it; you win this time, mods.

It's all very difficult. Maybe you could implement a metafilter entrance exam for new members, where they're required to recognize sarcasm and other forms of irony, express themselves clearly or at least intelligibly, and argue against someone who supports [hated politician] for at least five minutes without exploding.
posted by sfenders at 8:06 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


I really don't think a comment that says 'X is not worth anything so who cares' and (by your description) would've led to 'a derail and a fight' is worth keeping in a thread.
posted by flatluigi at 8:22 PM on March 30 [7 favorites]


Thank you for the post, sst, it refreshing data.

I've lurked here for years and joined as soon as that was an option. Classic theme fo lyfe. White text on blue - text only , no crass img tag (the mods secretly shut it down at the behest of the trilateral commission - but, I've said too much). It's unique and absolutely the best.

And I love the megathreads, I'm not ashamed. Megathreads are natural, megathreads are beautiful, and I, for one, fully support penguin l- er, megathreads.

To preserve the long term viability of the blue, the moderators and the userbase at large should consider policies and behaviors that could curtail the growth of the megathreads and encourage participation on a broader variety of topics by a wider set of users.

I respectfully disagree that that should be the takeaway. Traffic is amazng, people are engaged as shit, and as some have mentioned here, megathreads are a community-sized Ask in a current events river and SO MANY people are helped by that. It's popular! Declining what? There's 55 new comments (okay by 25 people) as I type this. And although quite possibly only Tehhund and I feel this way, I will savor almost every one.

Why take it away? It's good! If favorites are the issue, then fork the favorites. "Most non-megathread favorited for today" or something. Put the megathreads in the back storage room, we're fine with that - we've all had to come up with navigation techniques, so we'll get there.

Last thought: I've read a LOT of MetaFilter. I spend every waking MetaMoment™ in the megathreads because it takes all day! If Trump is gone and it's all just a terrible dream then yeah, sure, I'm right back there in the exotic fruit aisle threads. But at the moment, it's like a very-slow-motion 9/11 and I want and need the blue to, y'know, check on. Hey. Everybody ok? What's going on over here? OK? Okay.

Like that. It's MeFi's time. Jump in, commiserate, hold forth, palaver; it's not content-poor, it's content-red-velvet-rich! But, be advised it does temd to eat up all of one's allotted MeFi Moments™ But that's the decision to make: find megathreaders who have more time to focus on non-political topics.
posted by petebest at 8:32 PM on March 30 [9 favorites]


Chrysotom, dismas, thank you for your considered replies. I think my comment came off as more harsh than I meant; I have a deep reserve of affection for MetaFilter despite all the ways in which it has failed to be perfect for me.

For examples of controversy, I can at least point to some in recent times during the election and post election. Generally speaking, during this time the Good People split into an identity politics wing and a economics/class wing, and the identity politics wing got custody of MetaFilter. There have been a few articles/comments I have seen speaking in favor of the economics/class wing, or even for a combined approach, and these articles/comments were removed. There might have been others; these were just the ones that I personally noticed in the time between when they appeared and when they were dragged struggling off the street and into the gulag. I feel like 8 years ago this might not have happened. I also feel that some people in the economics/class wing have just learned not to speak about that particular subject on MetaFilter, which is why things appear more agreeable now.

And Chrysotom you are right, there are many things on MetaFilter that are still interesting and that I can comment on, and that's one of the reasons I continue to read the site.
posted by Balna Watya at 8:57 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


I was metafiltering today and the one deleted comment I noticed was in the "American Gods" thread, which comment was expressing a heterodox opinion to the effect that TV trailers, or promotional videos for TV shows in general, are not worth watching so who cares. It could have been a valid opening to a valuable derail and fight about the nature and utility of that form of advertising, a discussion which in my opinion should not be out of bounds in such a thread.

I think that you're not quite understanding this place if you think that a comment that not worthy of deletion. We've been posting trailers and other ads forever here and if you don't approve of that, a comment in a thread about a trailer is never going to be the place to talk about that.
posted by octothorpe at 3:53 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]


I think that telling someone they're "not quite understanding this place" isn't a particularly useful way of disagreeing with someone's opinion about the commented-upon follow-the-mefi-line orthodoxy of this place…
posted by Pinback at 5:11 AM on March 31


when they were dragged struggling off the street and into the gulag.

If you want to sneer at identity politics and elevate the Everything is Class, Stupid school you might want to consider using a different hyperbolic image.
posted by winna at 5:25 AM on March 31 [10 favorites]


So, please remember: Don't derail, and DON'T sit on your cat. Thank you."

I don't know how these people got their cats wedged in their butts
posted by y2karl at 5:51 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


I was metafiltering today and the one deleted comment I noticed was in the "American Gods" thread, which comment was expressing a heterodox opinion to the effect that TV trailers, or promotional videos for TV shows in general, are not worth watching so who cares.

I saw that comment, and nearly flagged it myself. Although I don't remember it word for word, IIRC it was not so much that trailers or promotional videos are not worth watching (in some grand, societal, for-all-of-humanity sense); it was more that the commenter thought there are too many MeFi posts that are trailers or promotional videos for shows or movies and they do not make good MeFi posts. And it's long been the moderation standard here that that sort of discussion belongs in MeTa if it needs to happen, not in the thread itself. The deletion was appropriate.

Appropriate responses if you see a post that you don't think belongs on MeFi:
* Flag it and move on
* Contact the mods
* Start a MeTa (especially if it's part of a larger pattern of posts you think are bad for MeFi)
* Do nothing

Inappropriate responses if you see a post that you don't think belongs on MeFi:
* Set your computer on fire
* Go on a hunger strike
* Discuss that in the MeFi thread itself
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:32 AM on March 31 [10 favorites]


" My experience has been that MetaFilter has an ever narrowing circle of orthodoxy, and things that fall outside that circle are extremely unwelcome or simply deleted."

Wait a second. Are you suggesting that mods are deleting posts and comments because they don't conform to political orthodoxy? Because I'm pretty far outside that orthodoxy, and that has not been the case for me at all. I've had my share of comments deleted, but I don't think that was the reason. There is a single one I can remember that seemed like it might have been deleted for political reasons, but there's also a very strong case that it didn't answer the AskMe directly, and so wasn't within the guidelines. (It's a strong enough case that I myself believe the mods did the right thing.)

As for unwelcome, well, yeah, I've had a lot of people disagree with me. But that's to be expected when you espouse a minority viewpoint, and besides, that's *debate*. And several times it's been the case where people who have been vehemently critical of me on a political matter will then favorite a comment of mine on a non-political thread later the same day. I've never gotten the sense that "I strongly disagree with you" has meant "GTFO".

Reading a lot of these responses, I kind of wonder if it's harder for people who only slightly diverge from the orthodox viewpoint than it is for someone like me on the other side of the spectrum. Maybe those minuscule disagreements get blown out of proportion? Maybe I just don't care because I don't need to think of myself as a "good liberal"? It just seems kinda interesting to me as an outsider.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:34 AM on March 31 [6 favorites]


if you think that a comment that not worthy of deletion

My writing style may have been veering toward the more cryptic end of its usual range last night, but if you persevere through another sentence beyond the one quoted it's reasonably clear that I did think that comment worthy of deletion. As indeed most ones like it are. Not having kept detailed notes of all the comment removals I've noticed over the past year, it was the only readily available example, poor though it was, that came to hand of a comment being deleted in part for having the potential to steer the thread "off-topic", or into a proscribed area.

I wanted to encourage more tolerance of digressions in general, given that a decline in comment volume is one of the things people are worried about. I did not want to express support for any one particular comment, or if I'd been more careful for any particular style of derail or direction away from the initial topic of discussion.

Far as I can tell, my (slight, really) disagreement with the established practice here does not stem from a lack of understanding it.
posted by sfenders at 6:35 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


I think if there is an orthodoxy kind of shaping things, it's less a politically directed orthodoxy and more a resource directed orthodoxy, which is really hard to solve.

Our mods are overworked. This isn't because they planned badly, or because people are being assholes: it's because they shepherd a website that is also a community, and that community has suffered a collective trauma that no one was expecting, and trauma-affected people are harder to moderate. The mods are now having to consider "what makes a good thread" but "how can we be sensitive to the mental health needs of our community". That's infinitely harder and an enormous burden that they are shouldering voluntarily.

So things get deleted, a lot, in the megathreads, that might have stood in the pre-Trump era, not because the mods are enforcing Metafilter purity, but because these threads move so fast that they can't allow things that once would have been benign. When mods are moderating from the bathroom because if they wait five minutes it will be an irredeemable shitshow, we have a problem.

I don't know how to fix it. I wish I had a solution, but I don't. But in the meantime, let's try to be kind. This is hard stuff and almost no one is acting with malice.
posted by corb at 7:27 AM on March 31 [7 favorites]


Generally speaking, during this time the Good People split into an identity politics wing and a economics/class wing, and the identity politics wing got custody of MetaFilter. There have been a few articles/comments I have seen speaking in favor of the economics/class wing, or even for a combined approach, and these articles/comments were removed.

Two kinds of class/economic threads that I see get posted and stay up are the ones that profile someone who is struggling economically and ones about people who are not struggling but are living so frugally that they are held up as an example for all others. In the first case, people often find fault with one habit or expense and proceed to reject the example completely. Then others explain that no one needs to be perfect or make perfect decisions to deserve security. In the second case, people will often come in to say that this person's ability to be frugal should not be used as a weapon against those who are not so able, usually because the frugal person has privileges the not frugal person doesn't. I can think of at least two examples of each type of thread from the past year.
posted by soelo at 7:27 AM on March 31 [5 favorites]


" My experience has been that MetaFilter has an ever narrowing circle of orthodoxy, and things that fall outside that circle are extremely unwelcome or simply deleted."

I don't know if that's true, but it certainly feels that way. But that tends to be how human groups are, a certain likemindedness sets in and that's great when we're talking about how awesome the Apollo 12 crew was, everyone is all "Pete Conrad was hilarious and the best" and we're all nodding our heads and trading stories about him.

But then someone brings up the fact that no woman or minorities were Apollo astronauts and the room goes quiet. Because it's true, unfair and there's no moral defense for it

The problem isn't orthodoxy, but failing to keep things separate. There's a time and place for every factually true complaint and I think Meefies are so used to being quiet in other parts of their life, that being about to aggressively pop off on Metafilter, where the consequences of said spouting aren't as severe as real life, is just too easy. Add in that there's usually a crowd agreeing with you and that emotional beat down or venting becomes a regular occurrence.

Add in that people are so easily derailed and just can't ignore comments and suddenly it's all about the person who derailed. That previous discussion is lost and the moderating philosophy is to get rid of the derail, so...honestly, it's just mentally exhausting having write this, let alone live it, so I'm just gonna make a post about cats.

Or just go to another website.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:46 AM on March 31 [15 favorites]




But then someone brings up the fact that no woman or minorities were Apollo astronauts and the room goes quiet.

Lord, I can't believe I'm going to bring in my own exotic fruit example, but here goes. I'm reminded of this recent head carrying thread. It was an interesting topic, and had some really great comments. But the sixth comment in was, "I hope these Kenyan women were generously compensated for providing key insights into the design of robotic exoskeletons." Now don't get me wrong, this is not something I'm all het up about, but that comment kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I don't feel it really added to the discussion. It was not enlightening (to me, anyway). So it kind of felt like preaching to the choir at best, or shitting on a perfectly nice FPP at worst. And the snarky framing of the comment pushed it a bit to the latter, in my mind.

On the other hand, the comment got a lot of favorites, so plenty of people must feel otherwise.

So I think part of the struggle here is that some of us don't feel we should take every opportunity to point out inequality and injustice in the world. If we did, we'd never talk about anything else. Puppy videos? Oh, I wonder how many came from a puppy mill? Kitten videos? How nice, the kitten is practicing hunting endangered wildlife. Cool food? It's too bad we don't all take pleasure in eating the flesh of animals.

Also, getting to the question of politics creep discouraging participation, that comment was followed by a 38-minute lull before somebody picked the discussion up again. Coincidence? Eh, I don't know.
posted by gueneverey at 10:02 AM on March 31 [20 favorites]


I wanted to chime in to offer support and agreement to those who have commented that they've noticed a shift in Metafilter over the past year or two where it is challenging to discuss seemingly politically neutral topics without the thread being hijacked by political/social justice angle hot takes and also that there seems to be more demand for absolute ideological purity on a number of topics.

There was an example just this week that illustrates the first point. To be frank, the majority of comments on this post, regarding a tragic incident 30 years ago where five Ole Miss sorority members were killed in a horrific accident during a Walk-A-Thon, read to me like an overly broad parody of Metafilter. A shocking number of commenters jumped in to state that since the dead women were:

*White
*Members of the Greek system
*Probably rich/privileged
*Southern

that is was difficult to feel much sympathy for them, but easy to feel sympathy for the driver who accidentally killed the girls, since he was black and poor. It's as if it is impossible for some members to read a post without looking at it through the lens of social justice/politics and thus not possible to discuss neutrally. Perhaps you could argue that a post like this, which is "Here is a terrible thing that happened" doesn't leave a lot of room for discussion beyond, "How sad", but it was really distasteful seeing that the primary response seemed to be that since the dead women didn't meet the bar for properly oppressed or underprivileged that it was hard to feel much emotion over their deaths.

Regarding the complaints that there are an increasingly narrow number of viewpoints allowed on the site, the pushback to that (and it is right here in this thread) is always, "What, you want the site to go back to the days when -ism/prejudice was allowed here?", which to me is a totally false dichotomy. My complaints about the demands for ideological purity here are not in any way, "Please let my homophobic/racist/sexist" comments stand, but wishing that people were more accepting of a wider array of viewpoints.

This concept is well illustrated in the "I can't afford to buy groceries" thread from roughly around this time last year. The majority of posters in the thread were rather supportive of the writer of the piece, agreeing with her that it is unethical for a corporation to pay a salary that is too low to reasonably live in the region where the job is. A minority of posters did chime in to say that the author was at least somewhat responsible for the situation she was in due to some of her own choices and naive thinking. Now, if you take the "minority view" in a thread, of course you have to expect you are going to get more pushback than if you are in the majority. It may not be fun to find yourself in that position, but it is human nature. What I found to be alarming, though, was that a related Metatalk thread was posted (and largely supported) that read, at least to me, as a rather thin fig leaf for ideological policing. "Please don't participate in this thread unless you accept one, very specific narrative where this woman is a completely innocent victim and the corporation she worked for is the evil antagonist".

I'm somewhat afraid that I come off like a broken record on this since I've discussed this a few times in previous Metatalks, but the line between "Metafilter is a general interest site (which happens to have a number of members who are left-leaning/progressive), not a site for promoting social/political advocacy" seems to be getting increasingly more blurry, to the point where there are now regular Metatalk threads where people discuss what type of resistance activism they are participating in. Which, in real life, I'm totally supportive of and think is awesome. But I suspect that this shift has made it so that more Metafilter posts and comments are read with a view to "Is this comment/post supportive of a cause I am behind" rather than "This is interesting", which to my understanding was the initial purpose of the site.
posted by The Gooch at 11:54 AM on March 31 [27 favorites]


But the sixth comment in was, "I hope these Kenyan women were generously compensated for providing key insights into the design of robotic exoskeletons." Now don't get me wrong, this is not something I'm all het up about, but that comment kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I don't feel it really added to the discussion. It was not enlightening (to me, anyway).

The ability to protect and/or compensate indigenous populations' traditional knowledge and resources is a really, really pressingly important issue in the world of intellectual property law and international trade negotiation at the moment, so while you might not have found it enlightening, the fact that you mentioned it here is enough to make me want to go back and read the thread, in case there's anything more in it about this particular subject.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:03 PM on March 31 [11 favorites]


I think it's also worth noting that when mod resources are short, what gets deleted is anything that's causing a problem even if it's not, ordinarily, a problem. To give a specific example, not "Is this racist?" stuff but rather more things like "Manchin, D-WV, is a problem. How should we deal with it?" The idea that the precise details of how to make the West Virginia senate seat more reliably Democratic voting, I feel safe to say were never that controversial on Metafilter until Jan 20 made them controversial- because everyone feels like we are fighting for survival,and so everything is complex and intense.
posted by corb at 12:11 PM on March 31


thus not possible to discuss neutrally

There is no such thing as "neutral" though. Everyone views things through the lens of their own identity, life experiences, knowledge, beliefs: the subjects of the content, the creator of the content, the OP, the commenters. Confusing one's own lens with "neutrality" seems to be part of the issue here.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:23 PM on March 31 [13 favorites]


This might seem kind of out there, but re: recruiting new members, what about some kind of "invite a friend" drive where members pitch Metafilter to people they know? Maybe there can be some verbiage that people can use to explain what the subsites are and a short, friendly guide to site norms.

Uh, not going to lie, but part of my plan with the Saga fanfare thread going up next week is to send the link to people I think might be interested and offer to pay for their membership if they want to comment.

Generally, the response in the past when talking about how to talk about metafilter has been 'don't talk about metafilter', and generally the ethos for metafilter has been about having a relatively small user base, so I'm not sure if it's something that people want to scale.

Lord, I can't believe I'm going to bring in my own exotic fruit example, but here goes. I'm reminded of this recent head carrying thread. It was an interesting topic, and had some really great comments. But the sixth comment in was, "I hope these Kenyan women were generously compensated for providing key insights into the design of robotic exoskeletons." Now don't get me wrong, this is not something I'm all het up about, but that comment kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I don't feel it really added to the discussion. It was not enlightening (to me, anyway). So it kind of felt like preaching to the choir at best, or shitting on a perfectly nice FPP at worst. And the snarky framing of the comment pushed it a bit to the latter, in my mind.

I can kind of seeing where you're coming from - I don't want performative but substance less policing to be the norm on Metafilter, but . . . it was also one comment, and it is pretty germane to the topic at hand. There was some more discussion about the language used to describe the women, but a lot of the discussion seemed to be more first-person accounts on how it feels to manage heavy weights on the top of your head, posture, whether it's really only women who do this, whether it's really only Kenyan women who do this, why we use backpacks instead. . . .

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't get the impression that comment discouraged discussion of the topic or derailed it. Taking a moment to think about the people who shared their knowledge before moving on seems like the best way to deal with things. No, conversations shouldn't be snagged by one comment, but I think it's also fair to sometimes ask people to look at it and move on.

I don't know if there's a good site-wide solution, but I'll try to keep people's comments in mind when I'm posting in the future. I'm always up for talking about pop culture and social justice, but I realize that's not everybody.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:28 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's harmful to readers, commenters, discussions, posts, or posters if readers get momentarily kind of rubbed the wrong way by an "are-you-all-aware-of-this-troubling-aspect" comment. If the thread is not derailed and if it survives a delay while the commenters adjust to the shock following the realization that no, we were not aware of the troubling aspect, then where is the harm? Discussion proceeded unabated in that thread after that comment, and one that objected to the women being called "African women" instead of "Kenyan women" or just "women," and the one from Joe in Australia wherein he asked whether stacking two of the women would create antigravity. The "UGH, call them Kenyan women" thing sparked a question about whether men carried things on their heads and that brought out that it's not just women who carry things that way. I, for one, would like to learn how. How do you keep the thing balanced without helping with a hand? I would love to know because it's much easier to carry heavy stuff that way for definite. Why is it not universal?
posted by Don Pepino at 12:32 PM on March 31 [14 favorites]


To be frank, the majority of comments on this post, regarding a tragic incident 30 years ago where five Ole Miss sorority members were killed in a horrific accident during a Walk-A-Thon, read to me like an overly broad parody of Metafilter.

I saw that post. I read the article. I did not read the thread, because I was pretty sure I knew how the comments would go. From your description, it sounds like I was right.

It's definitely a problem, but I'm not sure it's a new problem: I think the reaction would have been about the same 5 or more years ago. That attitude around here long predates the current heightened political tensions.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:23 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]


Something I am going to try to do going forward is to allow my comments to both celebrate and appreciate the good stuff I like about a post AND express any ambivalence I have about it. Posts (like so many things in life) are frequently a mixture of "Cool!" and "Mildly problematic," so instead of just honing in on the latter, I'm going to try to acknowledge what I did like or find interesting about the post, while also talking about things that didn't really work for me.

I, and posts, contain multitudes.
posted by delight at 1:48 PM on March 31 [7 favorites]


I don't think it's harmful to readers, commenters, discussions, posts, or posters if readers get momentarily kind of rubbed the wrong way by an "are-you-all-aware-of-this-troubling-aspect" comment. If the thread is not derailed and if it survives a delay while the commenters adjust to the shock following the realization that no, we were not aware of the troubling aspect, then where is the harm?

I would argue that it impacts the tenor of the entire rest of the discussion. I mean, it's a case of proving a negative, really, I don't know that I'm going to be able to cite you chapter and verse. But by your own example, what was posted was an FPP about "how Kenyan woman carry stuff on their heads," and the point of that comment was to refocus the attention of the thread on the "Kenyan woman" part of that phrase, and not the how, or the stuff, or the heads. In other words, a thread that ended up mostly discussing the social and gender and race and class aspects of that topic, and not the biomechanics and engineering and anatomy aspects.

There was a thread about the use of the phrase "lone wolf" to describe terrorists yesterday. Early in the thread there was a comment suggesting that this phrase is rarely applied the Islamist terrorists and instead used to excuse the acts of white nationalists. Ample evidence within the posted article itself, it seemed to me, made a farce of that statement --- the entire thesis of the article was that the phrase "lone wolf" was too often applied to Islamist attacks to obscure their ideological nature. The early comment received many favorites, several folllow up comments seconded it. That was about the point at which I noped out out of the thread in frustration.

There was a thread about Morehouse College yesterday; one of the earliest comments in the thread suggested that perhaps the college's problems were due to its being a single-sex institution. The article which was the subject of the thread is a several thousand word exegesis on how the rivalry between the head of the board of trustees and the college's president have caused the strife at the college, which the president had done much to improve during his tenure. The thread had about 6 comments when I looked, the bulk of which were soft murmurers suggesting that perhaps Morehouse was unlikely to become a mixed-gender institution, as its fellow Atlanta-based single-sex HBCU, Spellman, would likely resist a merger.

I dunno; this is all proving a negative, no? Maybe the thesis of the terrorist article is foolish and deserved to be snarkily dismissed. Maybe the Moorehouse piece would have received 6 comments no matter what; I don't know how many HBCU alumni or other informed commentators on the subject read Mefi, but I doubt it's thousands of people. In my personal opinion, however, these were examples of how how the general political orthodoxy of the commetariat here hampers conversation. It is very very difficult to walk over a dead goat at the top of the thread and ignore its presence. Even if you try and gently walk away, it must be acknowledged, and its particular stench seasons everything that follows. And so somebody posts a thread about how Kenyan woman carry stuff on their heads and you don't get a bunch of excited discussion from artists and scientists about man, how can we have existed as a species for 10,000 years and still be so ignorant about what our bodies are capable of? You get a bunch of fretful comments about man, in this terrible world we live in I bet those Kenyan woman were getting screwed over somehow, as woman all over the world are, because we're woman, and the world is terrible. Did you know that, that the world is terrible? Were you unaware?

Ugh. Fuck it. I feel like I'm detonating a bomb in saying this, that I'm inviting a clapback whose thunder I cannot handle. But to be honest this grey thread and those blue threads are crystallizing for me that I'm getting less and less out of MeFi these days, that it's always going to be like this. The dead goat stench has got up my nose and it's never getting out. I can't even bring myself to be temperate and hedge these comments, because it won't matter because I'm not going to be here. This is no longer a place for me.
posted by Diablevert at 2:07 PM on March 31 [22 favorites]


I, for one, would like to learn how. How do you keep the thing balanced without helping with a hand? I would love to know because it's much easier to carry heavy stuff that way for definite. Why is it not universal?

Me too. I saw a woman carrying a case of bottled water on her head a few weeks ago, and thought damn, I wish I could carry things like that. Did I post this sentiment in that thread? Heck no.
posted by gueneverey at 2:17 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]


That was a dumb, derail-y comment on the Morehouse thread, but I don't think it's the reason that there weren't more comments on the article. I think the article was long enough to be daunting (and was structured in such a way that you had to read for a while to get to the main argument), and the future of Morehouse isn't a topic in which most Mefites have a lot of investment. The relationship between various university stakeholders probably is something about which a lot of Mefites have an investment, but again, the article wasn't structured in a way to highlight that. And I think it sometimes takes a critical mass of Mefites to read and engage with an article before someone says something that gets the discussion going. I was disappointed in that discussion, too, but I don't think it had anything to do with the derail-y comment. And I did read TFA, and I didn't think of anything interesting to say about it, so you can say it's as much my fault as anyone's.

(I actually think there would have been more discussion if the link had been this article titled "At Morehouse: When college boards of trustees won’t let presidents do their jobs," because the broader stakes are clearer from the outset. And of course, there probably would have been more discussion if there were more Metafilter members who were invested in Morehouse and other HBCUs, but that's a different issue.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:24 PM on March 31


Me too. I saw a woman carrying a case of bottled water on her head a few weeks ago, and thought damn, I wish I could carry things like that. Did I post this sentiment in that thread? Heck no.

Okay. Why not? There were plenty of comments about how it felt to carry stuff that way, how it works, the main issues with making it work, visualizing it in terms of weightlifting and thinking about posture. It didn't stop them - what stopped you?

The comment that you described as obvious and threadshitting was something that I didn't think of when I saw the FPP, so I was glad when I saw the comment - it was an issue I knew about, but it still didn't come to mind. I was glad for the reminder. And the conversation then moved on.

And so somebody posts a thread about how Kenyan woman carry stuff on their heads and you don't get a bunch of excited discussion from artists and scientists about man, how can we have existed as a species for 10,000 years and still be so ignorant about what our bodies are capable of?

Uh. Why do you think a horde of artists and scientists were scared off by a comment about acknowledging Kenyan women. That seems like a weird assertion, and I'm not really sure that we read the same thread, if what you're getting from it that 'being a woman is terrible'.

Also, for another thing, commenters piped up and pointed out that we haven't been ignorant of what our bodies are capable of, even outside of Kenya - we knew and then we selectively forgot.

Posters who don't RTFA is a problem at Metafilter, but I don't think it's fair to say it's a new problem.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:41 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]


FWIW, I just went and read the Greek Tragedy article and comment thread and... I didn't find it nearly as horrifying as it was portrayed upthread here? There was a healthy difference of opinion that I actually found quite interesting as it tried to tease out the entanglement of the aesthetic merits or shortcomings of the piece, how the justice system works, how we think about victims and assign blame... I'm glad I read the article and the comments, actually.

To me the pushback within and about those comments--and a lot of the pushback about the megathreads--is more indicative that everyone seems to be feeling very bruised right now already and thus even mild bumps between perspectives are lingering with people more than they might otherwise. I don't think it's a fault of the posts or the site, but rather that too many of us are less patient than we probably could be.
posted by TwoStride at 2:44 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]


And so somebody posts a thread about how Kenyan woman carry stuff on their heads and you don't get a bunch of excited discussion from artists and scientists about man, how can we have existed as a species for 10,000 years and still be so ignorant about what our bodies are capable of?

Uh. Why do you think a horde of artists and scientists were scared off by a comment about acknowledging Kenyan women.

“Scared” is an interesting phrase here. Rather, I would think more about notions of white fragility, especially given that MetaFilter is a pretty white space. It certainly seems tenable that one aspect of white fragility is to nope out of threads that inject race as a topic. (Goodness knows I do!) As has been noted, the thread hardly died after the one comment - but I’m certainly not surprised that some portion of the user base would nope out, never to return to it.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:51 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


For context, that Greek thread is one where we did a fair amount of moderation to tamp down some of the most fractious bits; it's an example of a thread where a few folks are pretty upset at each other in opposite directions while everybody else is taking a more moderate/long view of the subject, and it's a challenging and sometimes messy sort of scenario to try and deal with. Wasn't a thread we were happy about either, really, though I think the badness of it depends somewhat subjectively on watching everything as it unfolded rather than the thread we ended up with at the end of the discussion/moderation process.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:52 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]


Fair enough. Thanks, Cortex/mods!
posted by TwoStride at 2:55 PM on March 31


A good starting point might be to look at the churn of users: how many users stop using Metafilter every month? How many new users?
Here is an update of the Mefi churn chart. I didn't get much better since 2015 and there was an all-time low of 45 new commenting users in August 2016. If this downward trend goes on, there won't be any new users commenting within 2 years (linear trend) or it will just slowly plateau (exponential trend). However, the numbers have picked up since the election, so there's hope. The "last commenters" line is more difficult to interpret (I cut it in August 2016 since more recent figures are meaningless): it means that roughly 200 users stop commenting per month (of course they may comment in the future).
posted by elgilito at 2:57 PM on March 31 [5 favorites]


“Scared” is an interesting phrase here. Rather, I would think more about notions of white fragility, especially given that MetaFilter is a pretty white space. It certainly seems tenable that one aspect of white fragility is to nope out of threads that inject race as a topic. (Goodness knows I do!) As has been noted, the thread hardly died after the one comment - but I’m certainly not surprised that some portion of the user base would nope out, never to return to it.

Okay, but I don't think white fragility is actually a good reason to keep away from a topic, unless white fragility is actually making it difficult to moderate.
posted by dinty_moore at 3:01 PM on March 31


It didn't stop them - what stopped you?

For one thing, cultural appropriation hadn't come up. I'm not even sure how it would apply to head carrying, but in the context of that thread, I just didn't want to risk coming across as "white girl saw an immigrant head carrying around the neighborhood, now wants to learn to head carry so she can be cool."
posted by gueneverey at 3:05 PM on March 31 [3 favorites]


"The dead goat stench has got up my nose and it's never getting out."
"I’m certainly not surprised that some portion of the user base would nope out, never to return to it."

Why on earth? What was so unendurably bad?

I suppose the "pay the women" comment may have been someone trying to shut it down by tossing a moribund goat onto the table, but if that was the intent, it failed. A bunch of people came in with interesting things to say which, if there was anything wrong with the goat in the first place, a contention I dispute, has had the effect of reviving the goat. The dear little thing is now running about and springing from perch to perch like a champ. What you perceive as a homogeneous "commentariat" is one, maybe two comments among many. Talking about stacking women didn't shut the thread down; talking about paying women didn't shut the thread down. If Metafilter survived "boyzone," it can survive this. That thread, and this site, lives and thrives as much as any could in the age of Facebook and Twitter.

(On preview: "... wants to learn to head carry so she can be cool." Oh, good call, you're exactly right about the "optics:" if Park Slope started carrying groceries home on their heads, the entire world would see it just that way.)
posted by Don Pepino at 3:13 PM on March 31 [5 favorites]


FWIW, I just went and read the Greek Tragedy article and comment thread and... I didn't find it nearly as horrifying as it was portrayed upthread here? There was a healthy difference of opinion that I actually found quite interesting as it tried to tease out the entanglement of the aesthetic merits or shortcomings of the piece, how the justice system works, how we think about victims and assign blame... I'm glad I read the article and the comments, actually.

That thread was a pretty good illustration of the idea that some people read a story and cannot. go on. with life. without pigeonholing everyone involved into neat little categories like "hero", "villain", "victim" and so on and then arguing from there.
posted by indubitable at 3:20 PM on March 31 [8 favorites]


However, the numbers have picked up since the election, so there's hope.

Is there any way of knowing what percentage of these are old users returning with BND accounts? I paid $5 for this account, but while it's technically a new account, I'm not a new user.

Also, that Greek Tragedy thread was beyond disappointing. I'm not glad I read it. I didn't need nuanced commentary on why it's hard to feel sympathy for the victims of a tragedy. This isn't some arbitrary thought exercise, this was an actual tragedy, and I don't care to see people patting themselves on the back for practicing "radical empathy" in caring about the deaths of sorority girls. Jesus Christ.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:07 PM on March 31 [5 favorites]


---The article was not just about the girls but about the organization
---The article spent a substantial amount of time talking about how great it was to be a part of the sorority
---The sorority was (and is) a white supremacist organization

IDK how you talk about that article without talking about its approach to race, class, and privilege. It was just oozing with it! The comments weren't inventing it out of nowhere.

The moderation in that thread was too heavy-handed, honestly, and smacked of the inability to tolerate disagreement that I've seen here lately, pushed by vocal commenters. Someone literally told people to stop posting because they were faking a concern about race and racism in order to hate on women. WTF
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:19 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, maybe that comment was unfair. But I just wish people would realize the effects of saying what they say and how they say it, especially with regards to an actual tragedy with lasting trauma that impacted many lives.

I really do think people generally mean well, and what's most upsetting about that thread is that I think people were coming from a place of honesty. I think they really did want to see things fairly and to be in a position where they could really see all the intersecting pieces of the story. But there's a point at which that becomes an exercise unto itself, and the fact of five deaths is really only significant for what it says about the society in which they happened. It seems like maybe it's missing the point of trying to see things fairly if it leads to saying how hard it is to care about the deaths of five women. Is that really the path to justice?

Like I said, I'm sorry if this is all a hugely unfair reading of people's comments. I know I come at stuff with my own hugely subjective viewpoint.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:23 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]


Someone literally told people to stop posting because they were faking a concern about race and racism in order to hate on women.

So that's a shitty comment? This isn't a fight where you take sides, and that poster and I were on the "they were victims" side, while you're on the "we need to talk about society" side of things. The point I'm trying to make is that that particular thread encapsulated some approaches to commenting that I take major issue with. That doesn't place me in opposition to dissenting voices, but discussion doesn't occur in a vacuum, and you can't just remove the context -- in this case, a tragic death of five students that clearly traumatized the driver who killed them, along with other people involved -- and just idly muse on sympathy as if it were an abstract concept. I love discussing the social context of things, but sometimes there's a significant personal level to something as well, and sometimes it seems like the desire to get the social commentary right overshadows other things. And then we have musings on victimhood and who deserves sympathy, because don't you know the South is racist and sororities are part of that legacy.

I'll let this drop, though. I feel bad calling out other people's behavior because I know they mean well, but I also think there's a difference between my reaction to the Greek Tragedy thread and a comment smacking someone down for making an erroneous claim about the cost of a government program. Like I said, though, I may be wrong.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:55 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]


Yes, actually, it was a phenomenally shitty comment to say. Saying someone is faking concern about the racial aspect of the situation so they don't have to feel sorry for the women this particular poster is feeling "radical empathy" for is the hallmark of bad faith.
posted by anem0ne at 9:07 PM on March 31


I thought that was half of the discussion here, that we maybe we should presume "good faith" in comments, but it's clear that "good faith" may only go one way--that is to say, yours.
posted by anem0ne at 9:09 PM on March 31


I'm sorry, is that directed at me?
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:11 PM on March 31


Frankly, I'm staggered that that particular comment stood as long as it did.
posted by anem0ne at 9:11 PM on March 31


Yes? Maybe?

That comment literally was saying someone was faking concern about race so they could be misogynist, and you don't think that's a shitty comment?
posted by anem0ne at 9:12 PM on March 31


Oh, I see, the question mark was misleading. No, I meant to say it was a shitty comment. But also, I didn't see how it changed my overall point. Which is why there was a question mark. Bad phrasing. Sorry for the confusion.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:19 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I think we need to be able to see the comments as posted to a thread (anonymised perhaps) in order that people can see just how bad a post got. But that’s probably a bad idea all round, given the way certain things just seem to trigger the 'silenced all my life!' feelings that lead to re-litigating blue fights here in metatalk.

On which, it seems like a terrible idea to re-litigate the fight over the Ole-Miss sorority tragedy here: lets not?

Sometimes I wonder if things would work better if, instead of deletions, fighty back and forths were pushed to MeFiMail, where the combatants could have at it to their hearts content without bothering the rest of us & maybe bring a conclusion back to the post once they’ve thrashed everything out between themselves.
posted by pharm at 2:58 AM on April 1


My latest FPP has 8 comments. Looking at it just now after skimming the conversation here, I see it is a microcosm of popular comment styles. It has your humorous, your appreciative and your informative comments, a personal anecdote, a troubling observation, a shocked reaction and some statistics.

The Potus45 megathreads are okay by me - not too fighty, not too chatty, hugely informative and regularly relieved with comedy. Also, as has been said upthread, a gift to historians. Much credit as always to the mods. The only problem I see is that they're so damn maga mega. I dunno what the solution is.
posted by valetta at 4:31 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm old-fashioned, but I typically think of this stuff like we're all in meatspace. Like the FPP is someone who just told a story and then people react and discuss. A lot of cheap jokes and dismissiveness is like a crowd of bad drunks. It isn't an atmosphere that encourages thoughtful engagement. When people immediately react by trying to show that they know better than the speaker (or the subjects of the story), and they aren't particularly polite about it, that sets the tone for the whole discussion.

The dead goat phenomenon seems like it's only a slightly more intellectual/fact-based version of that. If you knew someone who always replied to you that way in real life, you--or at least most people, I think--wouldn't keep talking to them, no matter how respected and ingenious they were as a goatyologist. That's literally Debbie Downer. How many times are they going to do that to you before you just start avoiding them?

I feel like being hostile and dismissive toward FPPs, especially in an insubstantial way, is usually ego-driven noise that warrants deletion. I would like it if the site in general recognized that type of comment as being empty and valueless, rather than taking it as a given for internet behavior. It seems to me that it's become much more common everywhere, but I'd like to think that this place could be better than that. I'm not saying that there should be no criticism of the main idea. However, I have personally had the experience many, many, many times over the last 16 years of feeling excited and full of ideas when I read an FPP, then completely deflated when I read all the fruit-throwing comments. I've made a couple of fruit-throwing comments myself and I feel awful about them now. I've tried changing my own attitude to be the change I want to see, but as it turns out, exuberance draws even more fruit and hatred, so I really think this is a comment-stifling phenomenon that warrants a hard policy change.

Anyway, I really appreciate the political threads; they're a reliable place to find substantive discussion and analysis, and good links. But I agree with those who say that the discussion would improve if they were broken out into individual subjects.
posted by heatvision at 5:00 AM on April 1 [13 favorites]


Since I was reading this thread at 4am for no particular reason and I'm someone whose activity has dropped off significantly over the last two years, clearly you've been waiting for my impressions. Going back to the summer of 2014, when my participation had probably already started to wane, I commented roughly every other day, sometimes multiple times a day. (Looking back at my activity from early summer 2014, there was both a World Cup going on and a couple of trans-related threads, which are pretty good bets for getting multiple comments out of me.) Now it looks like I'm commenting roughly once a week and there were several months late last year where my only comments were in the political threads, still at about once a week. I do remember feeling at the time like there was nothing much being discussed on Metafilter. I generally read more than I comment--there was an FPP about the East Yorkshire coastline the other day and I didn't really have anything to say besides "Holy shit, someone made a post about East Yorkshire!" so I didn't. But I was pretty darn excited.

So what happened? I finished grad school and started working 9 to 5 and don't really have downtime at work. Having less time only emphasised the disconnect I was already feeling from Metafilter. Don't get me wrong, I'm privileged on a lot of axes, but I had/have this feeling that the average Mefite is profoundly unaware of the lives of people who aren't exactly like them, but likes to fancy themselves as progressive without doing any real introspection. It's not even always about obvious privilege--there was the time I was told I couldn't know anything about winter coats because I didn't live in New York City (I lived in Minnesota at the time) or the countless times when I was living in Texas where someone decides to proclaim we need to jettison all red states because no one worthwhile lives there. My boyfriend has a negative opinion of Metafilter because he only hears about it through me venting when someone says something particularly boneheaded. It wasn't until I was thinking about this comment that I realised that means, in the two years we've been together, I've probably never sent him a link to something cool I saw in an FPP because there's been nothing I've been moved to send him. I think I showed him some cat videos from an FPP the other week. I think, though, we like to imagine that we generate FPPs worth sharing with partners beyond just cat videos.

Also, someone linked to the FPP and MeTa from when Margaret Thatcher died. It's worrying that we're now thinking of those as halcyon days. This'll probably sound petty, but I can still tell you by name who said really hurtful things to/about me in those threads. I was trying very hard early on to restrain myself from commenting because, while Thatcherism had/has lasting impacts on my family, I could escape it by growing up in the US and wanted to create space for people whose reactions were more personal and more visceral than mine. But instead, we got a bunch of Americans telling us how to feel.
posted by hoyland at 5:39 AM on April 1 [16 favorites]


Looking at FPP activity: I last made an FPP November 2014 (three months after I finished grad school, for reference). Two total in 2014, 4 in 2013, 8 in 2012, 5 in 2011 and my first in late 2010.

Clearly there have not been enough articles about gay footballers, which seems to be my topic of choice.
posted by hoyland at 5:43 AM on April 1 [5 favorites]


The most corrosive thing in a community is an accusation of bad faith.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:58 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]


That doesn't place me in opposition to dissenting voices, but discussion doesn't occur in a vacuum, and you can't just remove the context -- in this case, a tragic death of five students that clearly traumatized the driver who killed them, along with other people involved -- and just idly muse on sympathy as if it were an abstract concept.

The context is also broader than that, though - the article goes into the context in great depth (even as it fails to acknowledge a lot of it). The way the whole story is framed in the media, the fact of the sorority's dodgy politics, etc, these are also valid context to discuss. Yes, the line about feeling no sympathy is unnecessary and hurtful, but absent that one line, I see no issue with discussing the context surrounding the story.
posted by Dysk at 6:20 AM on April 1 [5 favorites]


I feel like being hostile and dismissive toward FPPs, especially in an insubstantial way, is usually ego-driven noise that warrants deletion.

Can I get an exemption in advance for the next time there's a post about the EmDrive?
posted by sfenders at 8:17 AM on April 1 [2 favorites]


So, to paraphrase Flakey Foont, do moribund goats really eat tin cans ?
posted by y2karl at 11:14 AM on April 1


I am a regular visitor (once a day?) and used MF to find fun or interesting things online and read interesting discussion about said things.

I am not interested in online political discussion. I am also not from the USA.

The entire site has been consumed with USA political fervour for over a year.

There are far fewer things posted that are fun and/or interesting to me.

I visit and participate less.

MF has increased competition from Reddit, Longform, and other semi-curated discussion sites that are a lot more welcoming to new users.

MF now feels like the life has gone out of it. I don't know what to suggest, except that perhaps this was or is inevitable.

Interestingly the same thing has happened to r/unitedkingdom on Reddit – literally 99% left-wing political discussion and doom and gloom. It's so miserable there I can't read it.

Nobody seems too interested in finding new members either; the steady decline in membership didn't seem to bother anyone in the previous state of MiFi address.

I liked this place but I'm not interested in online political discussion. I feel like this place has lost its spark. It has stopped growing or changing and the mods and the most active/vocal users seem okay with a slow drift towards death.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 1:17 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


Noiseless penguin: aw, I still have an unironic love for r/unitedkingdom, brexit induced negativity notwithstanding.
posted by pharm at 2:26 AM on April 2


(probably because it's a place online where it's not weird to embrace being British.)
posted by pharm at 2:28 AM on April 2


I'm sad to hear some people feel so unwelcome or turned off by MetaFilter lately. I'm not sure what solutions folks in this camp might suggest: banning any talk perceived as political? Seems tough to enforce and also clearly would alienate another sizeable group of users.

I have one other, kind of unrelated idea for bringing some new membership and juice to the site (if that's even a goal which, it shouldn't necessarily be but maybe it is):

What about revisiting the idea of rebuilding fanfare a bit? This is a pretty chill sub section of the site, where it's easy to spend your time in threads you are most excited about. It's rare to have polarizing debates occur there. But IMHO it could still use maybe a professional designer to maximize users ability to find threads that are relevant to them. Clubs and calendar features could be beefed up, right now it's a bit hard to find clubs, and there are no obvious reminders that you're a member of one. Not a criticism, but an idea of a friendly part of the site that could, I believe, still grow a lot with a very creative design shift.
posted by latkes at 8:32 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

I'm sad to hear some people feel so unwelcome or turned off by MetaFilter lately. I'm not sure what solutions folks in this camp might suggest … ?
(Carefully using "your" in the general sense here…)

Be aware that the Metafilter Norm* is not the only lens through which to view a subject? That it's not even the only valid lens? And that your opinion, no matter how strongly held or grounded in what you believe is objective fact, is itself distorted through the lens of your own culture & experience?

And maybe - just maybe - stop and consider whether a situation you know nothing about, or which doesn't fit the Metafilter Norm, will really benefit from your reframing it to fit your lens or the Metafilter Norm.

And consider that making the effort of trying to understand why the views of others through different lenses are different might just refine your own views…

(* Note: not this Norm…)
posted by Pinback at 11:57 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


I think Pinback has nailed what needs to happen in a broad sense and people need to remember that not everyone is just like them with the same background and experiences. That's something that goes beyond the political threads. Or maybe that ship has sailed--if I'm feeling this way, how are people with more marginalized identities feeling? Lots of them are long gone (as we've discussed) and they're probably not coming back.

That said, I do think the political threads are sucking the air out of things rather, which is somewhat unrelated. It grates when people say things like "Mefites are..." as if we must conform to some mold, but I think one thing we do actually share is a willingness/desire to read comments consisting of complete sentences, even multiple complete sentences. Like others have said, the political threads are lots of one liners and hot takes, which is almost the exact opposite. They're huge and massively time consuming to read, never mind participate in, which means people, especially the participants, are going to have less time/energy to participate in the site more broadly. In other words, I'm kind of saying "we need to change the culture of the political threads", but I don't know that that's possible.
posted by hoyland at 4:08 AM on April 3 [6 favorites]


Like others have said, the political threads are lots of one liners and hot takes, which is almost the exact opposite.

I think this is one of the things a better bookmarking pony would fix, but I'm not really sure how possible/hard that would be to actually implement.

Like, I'll admit, I just made a one-line comment over in the megathread that was only marginally useful, and I mostly made it because it was four hundred comments between that and my last comment, and I would like my recent activity to be useful for me to follow the thread. But if there was a way I could just have clicked on the last comment and saved it as my last place in the thread, recent activity to continue from there, I would have not commented and just done that instead.

(I know people are like 'open a comment thread from the last comment', but that doesn't work well on mobile.)
posted by corb at 8:46 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


I keep a tab with the thread open, and click on the last comment in it. That saves my place on mobile. I don't use Recent Activity for these Mega Threads.
posted by agregoli at 9:10 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]


corb: you can click on the time stamp of a comment and save I as a bookmark (I use "add to reading list" on iOS to make a one-click temporary bookmark).
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:11 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


So reading this thread and the linked 2015 one:

  • We know have a general decline in site membership/activity.
  • We know it started before the Google search engine changes (says 2015) and before the political megathreads (says this one) so these cannot be single causes.

    A quick list of possibilities then are:
  • Changes to Web content in general: move to Facebook, more feed aggregators like BuzzFeed, decline in blogs like MetaFilter, kids today. Some evidence cited above includes similar MetaFilter-like declines in other sites.
  • Changes in Web behaviour: move to mobile, where writing and browsing and content creation is just harder, so people don't comment and/or post. I don't have any evidence for this but it is the received wisdom.
  • Changes in MetaFilter culture and/or moderation. I don't have any evidence for this. The "anti-boyzone" shifts date from 2008, as far as I can see from the wiki, so it could fit.

    I don't see how we could identify the impact of culture changes without understanding the impacts of changes to Web content and behaviour. The reference to other sites above is a good start to this, perhaps. But again, not my field of expertise.

  • posted by alasdair at 2:20 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]


    Just in case people aren't believing the comments about the "narrow view of the world", it's happening in the Amazon thread right now. Obviously Frowner is not familiar with their own neighborhood and the logistics of receiving packages. If only they'd heard of Amazon Locker!
    posted by hoyland at 4:08 PM on April 3 [6 favorites]


    Just in case people aren't believing the comments about the "narrow view of the world", it's happening in the Amazon thread right now. Obviously Frowner is not familiar with their own neighborhood and the logistics of receiving packages. If only they'd heard of Amazon Locker!

    Not that this in any way discounts your point, but I read that same thread and thought it was yet another excellent illustration of the "No topic can be discussed here anymore without users wanting to focus almost exclusively on the political/social justice angle of the topic". So here we had a FPP that, as posted, appeared to be about "Amazon is aggressively looking to expand into the grocery business" and instead the discussion almost immediately turned into, "How hard/easy is it for poor people to use Amazon?".
    posted by The Gooch at 5:33 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


    Ok, but just to be clear then: the issue isn't that only one perspective is allowed on Metafilter. It's that people are voicing perspectives on Metafilter that you don't think belong here.
    posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:44 PM on April 3 [10 favorites]


    Nope, not what I was trying to say at all (perhaps I phrased my comment poorly). I was simply agreeing with the user upthread who noted that it was sometimes a bit of a bummer when seemingly non-political posts are overtaken by tangentially related comments that focus narrowly on the political/social justice implications of the topic that ultimately end up derailing the conversation.
    posted by The Gooch at 6:01 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


    As a contributor to that line of discussion, it's not remotely my impression that it's overwhelming any of the other parts of that thread. There are many people talking about what exactly Amazon is planning, how they might be working with cereal companies, getting into the nitty-gritting on packaging and logistics, and sharing thoughts about previous Amazon programs to expand into grocery-type needs. It's probably 10 comments out of an 80 comment thread talking about poverty issues specifically.
    posted by Copronymus at 6:01 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]


    Ok, but just to be clear then: the issue isn't that only one perspective is allowed on Metafilter. It's that people are voicing perspectives on Metafilter that you don't think belong here.

    Nope, not what I was trying to say at all (perhaps I phrased my comment poorly). I was simply agreeing with the user upthread who noted that it was sometimes a bit of a bummer when seemingly non-political posts are overtaken by tangentially related comments that focus narrowly on the political/social justice implications of the topic that ultimately end up derailing the conversation.

    It would be interesting to see an actual attempt to determine if specific site content is correlated with the ongoing user decline, independent of time period, but doing so requires access to site text - this is a larger extraction / parsing job, though, and not included in the infodump data.
    posted by Going To Maine at 6:05 PM on April 3


    Is there any update on the 2/week question limit on AskMe?
    posted by lalex at 6:43 PM on April 3


    It would be interesting to see an actual attempt to determine if specific site content is correlated with the ongoing user decline, independent of time period, but doing so requires access to site text - this is a larger extraction / parsing job, though, and not included in the infodump data.

    I don't think it would be too difficult to scrape the site and parse it, since the pages are so structured, assuming cortex or someone gave some indication of what an appropriate degree of rate-limiting would be.

    ... seemingly non-political posts are overtaken by tangentially related comments that focus narrowly on the political/social justice implications of the topic that ultimately end up derailing the conversation.

    Except that if you're someone with somewhat weak access to package delivery, it's not just "tangentially related".
    posted by hoyland at 6:51 PM on April 3 [7 favorites]


    I don't think it would be too difficult to scrape the site and parse it, since the pages are so structured, assuming cortex or someone gave some indication of what an appropriate degree of rate-limiting would be.

    As someone who has scraped the site, you would be surprised at the number of edge case comments written to mess with people who want to parse their raw HTML.
    posted by Going To Maine at 6:59 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


    Does Matt have any opinion? I know he's no longer involved in management, but he's still the owner.
    posted by Chrysostom at 9:16 PM on April 3


    Except that if you're someone with somewhat weak access to package delivery, it's not just "tangentially related".

    As someone whose employer recently announced we could no longer receive personal package deliveries at work, Frowner's comments seemed very, super duper related to me. But I also don't see how "here is how [subject of post] affects me and/or people I know" could ever be considered "tangentially related."
    posted by Mavri at 4:52 AM on April 4 [13 favorites]


    Is there any update on the 2/week question limit on AskMe?

    Still something we're planning to try; implementation details to sort out first. (This is similar to the answer for a few other loose threads, too. Hoping this month we'll be able to plow through a couple things.)

    Does Matt have any opinion? I know he's no longer involved in management, but he's still the owner.

    I chat with him about big picture stuff periodically and he continues to care about the site, so long-term trends and possible approaches to dealing with them are part of those discussions. But honestly beyond that level of engagement on it, my general feeling is that if you asked Matt for his opinion on something along the lines of digesting and responding to 400 comments of angsty/critical MetaTalk discussion you would hear a world-shaking sigh before he politely reminded you that he works at Slack now and some other guy is in charge.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 7:54 AM on April 4 [20 favorites]


    To the notion that deadgoat comments have created a dispiriting comment monoculture:
    Nohow.
    Contrariwise.
    IOW, it is the other way around.

    Just to take the cited example of the Frowner "derail:" without it, we wouldn't have learned about Taobao, which, obviously, is the best thing. Did you find it "a bit of a bummer" to have been given the opportunity to learn about the astronomically nimbler and better-for-everybody and socially equalizing system they have in China? Who other than the scrooginest scrooge ever born would object to finding out about nifty-as-hell Taobao?
    posted by Don Pepino at 8:54 AM on April 4 [6 favorites]


    That's pretty much what I meant, cortex - high level "Do you think the site needs course correction?" feedback from Matt.
    posted by Chrysostom at 9:52 AM on April 4


    I don't think it's something we can really tackle as a binary where either deadgoating is inherently inappropriate or it's inherently valuable. Critical commentary can be useful, and interesting, for a discussion! It can also be not so great, sometimes. It's complicated and like most complicated things I think we do better when we try and figure out where the stumbling blocks are out at the edges and how to best nudge or recalibrate or just raise awareness about those areas than we do by trying to collapse the question down to a debate about x being good or, no, in fact, x being bad.

    Or to try and reframe that: a big part of why "dead goat" resonates with folks as a criticism of some comment choices is that there is a matter of degree involved, a spectrum of where an injected criticism or problematizing observation or so on lands in terms of the tone and feel and potential energy of a given discussion.

    And I think where folks tend to find the most consensus (if certainly not unanimity) about the idea of negative impact of those kind of interjections is where the actual deadgoating is: it's not every critical interjection or every pointed observation about a key but unstated aspect of a link/post/comment. It's the bits out toward the edge, the stuff that feels less contributory to the positive/productive development of the conversation than it does reflexive or rote or like hobbyhorsing. It's the stuff that feels like a hard veer, a swerve away from what seems like a pretty accessible bit of conversation toward a narrow side channel that's difficult to engage with.

    And this is a little tricky to characterize because I don't believe that those things are without value or necessarily at all bad directions to want to take a conversation; that they are difficult doesn't mean they're unimportant or should be barred. A lot of the time they're coming up because they are important-but-difficult topics. The motivation to bring them up is understandable.

    But: all of this is playing out in a local context, not in abstract. And the local context for a post on MetaFilter is usually "I think this is interesting, I'll share it and maybe other people will find it interesting too, and have a lively discussion about it". In that context, dropping a heavy whammy into a thread isn't costless; introducing that hard-to-engage-with dose of sidebar, particularly early in the thread's life, may significantly affect the dynamic of the discussion in a way that affects it negatively in terms of people's ability to casually and joyfully discuss a thing their internet friends shared.

    And I think that's where the strength of the charge of dead goat comments comes from: not primarily that difficult/problematic stuff is inappropriate for discussion, but that the scope and degree and timing of it can end up being counter to what people have traditionally liked about most discussion threads on the site. That aside from the on-the-face-of-it serious threads, we also have a lot of lighter, goofier, just-chattin' discussions about neat things and internet phenomena and etc.

    But maybe more to the point, it's not just the scope and degree and timing but all of that summed up in the pervasiveness of it. It's not this or that comment that's the problem, it's the sense of it becoming so widespread on the site that folks come to associate that kind of conversational development as almost expected, almost prerequisite to the idea of a discussion thread. The feeling, overstated in literal terms but still I think understandable as a mood, that it's not just a stray dead goat here or there but a goat in every thread, a constant need to either step around or just bail outright to avoid the dead goats littering the ground.

    Like I said: it's complicated. I don't think there's an easy resolution to this, because even for my nod to consensus on the outer edges of this stuff, this comes down in part to variation in and conflict between the conversational priorities and preferences of different community members who are all otherwise completely justified in having legitimate preferences.

    So I think there is room both for making an effort to route around and accommodate critical commentary you're not interested in or lack the energy or context to engage with, and for being more self-aware about reflexive or overly heavy-handed interjection of critical swerves in threads where it might topple the normal flow of conversation. Both are incremental things that in all I think people generally do a good job of already but that we could collectively be better about.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 9:54 AM on April 4 [6 favorites]


    without it, we wouldn't have learned about Taobao, which, obviously, is the best thing. Did you find it "a bit of a bummer" to have been given the opportunity to learn about the astronomically nimbler and better-for-everybody and socially equalizing system they have in China? Who other than the scrooginest scrooge ever born would object to finding out about nifty-as-hell Taobao?

    Just as an addendum that perspectives about Taobao also appear to be a bit fluid depending on where you are, here’s a Reuters article from December 21, 2016, reprinted in Fortune: “U.S. Returns China’s Taobao Shopping Website to Market Blacklist”
    posted by Going To Maine at 10:12 AM on April 4


    I think part of the issue is that some of the stuff that's being called deadgoating is someone coming in and saying 'this is how this issue affects me, people I work with, other people I know'. That's what happened in both of the example threads: Frowner's comment was about their neighborhood, and the Kenyan vs. African nomenclature was brought up because of the commenter's sensitivity to that as part of their work. And it's hard to have an inclusive environment if people sharing their experiences with the topic is seen as a bummer.
    posted by dinty_moore at 10:14 AM on April 4 [18 favorites]


    Yeah, totally, and I think that's where it's easy to go from a pretty defensible dislike of an over-intrusive "okay but BAD THING so let's talk about BAD THING" or reflexive slam/takedown/uncharitability, esp. early in a thraed—something I think folks generally agree can be a problem, and which to be clear in any case I often think as a mod is a problem—and apply the framework of objection to that, the "dead goat" idea, overly broadly to more general specimens of people contributing context and perspective to a discussion in a way that's interesting and not a problem.

    And I'm trying to speak generally here; I'll be clear for context that (a) I haven't read the Amazon thread because the bumpy bits played out when I wasn't working but (b) at a glance I think Frowner's comments were good and interesting and should be able to sit just fine next to other strings of discussion in there about logistical or upside or living-in-the-future aspects of the whole Amazon thing. And I think that digital divide stuff is a whole interesting and hoary topic worth a lot of discussion, but because it's partly about different practical perspectives and settings it's one of those things that can get bumpy for the same reason it's interesting and worth talking about, and some of that is folks' blind spots coming into the discussion. Complicated.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 10:26 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]


    Likewise, I think the mentioned comment in the head-carrying thread was fine? Like I didn't get any kind of "yeah but you should ACTUALLY be talking about THIS OUTRAGE" vibe off it, it was a one-liner without any obvious charge to me other than acknowledging an aspect of the linked thing.

    I can totally see coming across that comment from a perspective of, well, dead goat fatigue and reading it ungenerously, but that's not my read of it at all, even as someone with a bit of that fatigue myself. Different folks on different days will have different reactions; we all tend to put a lot of ourselves and where we are into how we interpret what we read.

    I'm gonna just keep saying shit is complicated today, apparently. It is.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 10:29 AM on April 4


    I think it's definitely worth realizing how many of the comments being framed as 'dead goats' are actually people sharing their perspectives about issues they personally care about and are affected by, especially if you're someone who's reflexively bristling at them as if they were only rhetorical devices.

    In my experience, people in general (on Metafilter and elsewhere) really like to fall into the trap of viewing conversations as being rhetorical on both sides and it's frequently lead discussions to really frustrating, terrible places because of it.
    posted by flatluigi at 11:02 AM on April 4 [9 favorites]


    part of the issue is that some of the stuff that's being called deadgoating is someone coming in and saying 'this is how this issue affects me, people I work with, other people I know'.

    Well, but like - so in the sorority thread, there probably ARE some great conversations to be had about how sororities reinforce privilege, are exclusionary, etc. Some people even dropped in some interesting statistics about breakdown of different sororities. But when the FPP is about dead girls who happened to belong to the same sorority and a horrible tragedy, it feels really awful and tone deaf and there's no good way to deal with it.
    posted by corb at 11:21 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]


    Dinty_moore was specifically not talking about that thread though, so...not getting why you left their examples out to argue something different.
    posted by agregoli at 11:47 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


    To be fair, I left out that thread because I have no idea what happened in that thread before cleanup. But in general, 'be empathetic and realize that while it might not be personal to you, it might be personal to other people' is probably a good place to start.

    (everyone needs a hug)
    posted by dinty_moore at 11:53 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


    Mostly because I didn't read the Amazon thread! But I am up for hugs.
    posted by corb at 12:01 PM on April 4


    In my observation, critical comments are much more likely to be dead goats when they're drive-by snark or dripping with sarcasm. When you frame it as "GET WOKE LOSERS DO YOU EVEN GOAT BRO?" people get very turned off; but if you frame it as, "This is a super-cute video! I love goats! I did notice one thing, though -- as a veterinarian who works with large animals, this type of fencing is suboptimal for goats and it made me kind of worried the whole time. I've been encouraging clients to move away from it so we can all enjoy goat shenanigans without worrying about serious injury." People would respond to that with, "Wow, I did not know that about fences and you have an interesting job and also do goats really eat tin cans?" and it would forward the conversation.

    It's understandable that people who are out of patience with a particular blind spot (in MetaFilter or ambient in the world) would snark about it (and lord knows I do too), but in most cases snark isn't very productive in driving a conversation forward or educating people out of cluelessness.

    I'm not the boss of anybody's snark, sometimes snark is healthy (otherwise your snark glands get swollen and painful), but if deadgoating is getting you down you can definitely be the goat educator you wish to see in the thread next time you feel a dead goat creeping up on you personally.
    posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 12:10 PM on April 4 [20 favorites]


    in most cases snark isn't very productive in driving a conversation forward
    But it does win lots of points, so you get positive feedback for doing it and not much negative feedback unless somebody decides it's worth the trouble of starting a MetaTalk about it.
    posted by Wolfdog at 12:35 PM on April 4 [8 favorites]


    I'm not the boss of anybody's snark

    As a mod, you sort of are, aren't you?

    Or should be at least.
    posted by Reggie Knoble at 12:48 PM on April 4 [3 favorites]


    I am not the boss of snark, only the arbiter of snark gone awry.
    posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 1:00 PM on April 4 [11 favorites]


    But it does win lots of points, so you get positive feedback for doing it and not much negative feedback unless somebody decides it's worth the trouble of starting a MetaTalk about it.

    I think that snark predates favorites.
    posted by Chrysostom at 1:36 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


    But you've got to admit that the pile of favourites a sick burn attracts has got to count as some kind of psychological reward.
    posted by pharm at 2:05 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


    One of the positive correlates with favorites is solid snark.
    posted by Going To Maine at 2:13 PM on April 4


    This is probably not going to happen in a thousand years, but what if we hid favorite totals by default? Turning off the display of favorite counts was probably the best thing I ever did in terms of interacting with Metafilter.
    posted by hoyland at 5:14 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


    *hides the pitchforks*
    posted by zarq at 6:28 PM on April 4


    I can't believe it's been almost 8 years since the great favesperiment.
    posted by lalex at 6:36 PM on April 4 [5 favorites]


    But you've got to admit that the pile of favourites a sick burn attracts has got to count as some kind of psychological reward.

    A sick burn is its own reward
    posted by Greg Nog at 7:07 PM on April 4 [5 favorites]


    Sometimes it seems like people don't talk enough about favorites as a form of participation. If a comment has 180 favorites, it's not just one comment, it's one comment with a whole ton of people signaling that they like it and agree with it. I get way more upset when an offensive comment gets tons of favorites. It makes it very clear what the popular opinion is, and if your response gets 3 favorites, you don't need someone to say anything at all, because the favorites tell it all.

    (To that end, I'm not so bothered by the Amazon thread, because clearly a lot of people appreciated what Frowner had to say, even if there was some pushback.)

    But in general, I think it's not just that people are put off by the threat of getting a sick burn, it's also this fear that you'll write something and literally no one will like it. And an insulting comment is bad enough, but what really hurts is when you have numbers showing you just how many people enjoyed seeing you get smacked down hard, and how few people cared about what you had to say.

    Yeah, sometimes it happens when someone says something truly awful, or when someone is totally missing the point, but it can also happen only because your opinion is unpopular, or because YOU are unpopular, and the person smacking you down has a great reputation. I think that's the dynamic that bothers me the most about the megathreads -- and that's why it bothered me that someone said "I never thought I'd come to appreciate so-and-so's contributions so much." Those threads have their own social dynamics -- their own in-jokes, popular people, unwelcome people, collective frustrations, etc. -- and it's not so much that politics leaks out into other threads, it's that those social dynamics might be informing how people interact outside of the megathread scene.
    posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:14 AM on April 5 [6 favorites]


    It’s possible that contact following on the main page has made this worse: I suspect that there’s a dynamic where someone who is “popular” (ie is followed by lots of people in a particular sub group) will issue a sick burn which then appears in all their followers’ contact activity because it attracts a burst initial favourites & they all jump on it to favourite it too, leading to a “great pile of favourites” effect which is out of proportion to the readership of the post in question.

    shapes: In my experience sick burns come and go, but persuasive argument does sometimes get through. Although the people involved probably won’t ever credit you when they come round. (I can think of at least one venue where I was loudly shouted down by a bunch of people including the site owner on a particular topic, only to find a year later when the topic came up again that they had completely shifted round and were using exactly my arguments when discussing it. It was kind of surreal.)
    posted by pharm at 2:36 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


    So, finally writing up an idea that's been half-formed in the back of my mind throughout discussion of this thread:

    We've had what have become rolling, de facto open threads for US politics discussion since early 2016 now. What if that became a) official, b) automatic, and c) on their own subsite? (I know mods have nixed "separate subsite for news/US politics" proposals before, but perhaps this idea is different enough that it's worth reconsideration.)

    Here's what I'm envisioning: have a dummy account (similar to the "anonymous" account for AskMe) automatically and periodically make a new post on the new subsite for US politics discussion. Simple, automatic text with no links required - something like "Open US politics thread, [date]." The account might be set to make a new post after a fixed time (once a week, twice a week), or when the previous thread reaches a certain number of comments (2000?), or a combination of the two (when the previous thread reaches 2000 comments, or one week, whichever comes first.)

    If we frankly acknowledge that these are catch-all, open threads for US politics discussion, I'm not sure it's really necessary to have a substantial FPP with links for that discussion to happen. No disrespect meant to the users who have been putting together the wonderful link roundups for the general US politics posts, but perhaps they can be relieved of that burden. But if people do find link roundups useful, the fact that the timing of the next automatic post would be fairly predictable would allow a user with such an inclination to put together the roundup in advance and post it as an early comment in a new thread.

    Whenever a new post is automatically made, the dummy account could also autopost a comment with the link to the new post in the previous thread. (Or maybe even repeat the link to the new post every 10 comments, for the benefit of those following along via Recent Activity.) I imagine the previous thread would be automatically closed a short time (24 hours?) after the posting of the next one, so you don't have parallel discussions; but not immediately, so that direct responses to comments in the previous thread could still take place there, rather than having to be carried over to the new thread.

    Shuttling the open megathreads off to their own subsite, rather than having them on the main page, would be a deliberate attempt to "take back the Blue," returning it to some extent to the culture it had prior to the perpetual megathreads and relieving the issues identified by strangely stunted trees. While the current widget allows people to opt out of seeing US politics posts on the front page, this attempts to have a greater effect on site culture by making it the default that the open megathreads do not appear there.

    US politics posts wouldn't be forbidden on the Blue, but they'd now have to be narrowly focused on a given topic (and possibly held to a fairly high standard, with lesser things encouraged to go in the open thread), as they mostly were in the Before Times. Just as the existence of FanFare doesn't mean that posts on current media are forbidden on the Blue, but it does mean that we no longer see "here is a link about one aspect of a movie that was released today but really this is just an excuse to talk about the movie in general" posts on the Blue.

    Open question: would the new subsite be limited to the automatic posts from the dummy account only, or would user-created posts be allowed there too? I don't know which would be better. I don't have a strong feeling one way or the other.

    Possible downsides: That's a lot of new features which would involve quite a bit of additional programming, I imagine. No guarantees it would be succesful in its aims (although that tends to be true of all new features). Might unnecessarily perpetuate the open US politics discussion culture if the situation ever settles down to the point that we don't really need those any more.
    posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:24 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


    " get way more upset when an offensive comment gets tons of favorites. It makes it very clear what the popular opinion is, and if your response gets 3 favorites, you don't need someone to say anything at all, because the favorites tell it all. "

    If favorites are causing you emotional distress or making you question your self-worth, I strongly recommend simply turning them off. Go into preferences and choose "hide favorites." (FAQ entry.) They are not essential to interacting with the site and many people simply don't use them or look at them.

    People use favorites in a lot of different ways. While "agree!" is a common way to use them, people also use them as bookmarks -- I can recall one nasty comment that -- very puzzlingly -- got several favorites from mefites I know are kind people who would never agree with that, but who (it turned out) were marking it to come back to argue with it. After they argued, they unfavorited. Especially when people are switching devices, they may favorite on mobile during the day to mark comments they want to come back to when they have a keyboard in the evening. People also favorite randomly, or because they're drunk. (Working US Saturday nights, you would be surprised how often I see someone go on a fairly random favoriting spree or a flagging spree while under the influence. Which is mostly better than commenting under the influence, so ...)

    "but what really hurts is when you have numbers showing you just how many people enjoyed seeing you get smacked down hard, and how few people cared about what you had to say. "

    Really, try turning favorites off. I think they're probably making your site interactions feel unnecessarily toxic and you'll be happier without them. Give it a couple weeks, see if you like the site better without them. I really don't find it makes a difference in how I interact with the site; it doesn't degrade the experience for me NOT to see favorites, I respond to the same sorts of comments and am interested in the same conversations.
    posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 12:56 PM on April 5 [4 favorites]


    I really don't find it makes a difference in how I interact with the site

    With respect, how would you know? I have read enough pop psychology articles to know that our self-assessments are poor and the influence of our peers is strong. I don't think that's a problem either, except that I would argue that neither of us is able to say what the effect of favorites is on you or me or the site.

    I would note though that the introduction of favorites pre-dates the start of our decline by five years, so it's hard to see a strong or direct effect.
    posted by alasdair at 1:13 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


    I don't think Eyebrows is making a claim to absolute knowledge of how favorites shown/hidden affects her interactions on the site but the more casual (and totally reasonable) claim that it hasn't had a subjective negative effect on her enjoyment of the site. Many other people who've chosen to hide favorites report likewise; it's a useful thing for some folks, and I (inveterate favorite-shower though I am) definitely endorse it as a possible salve for folks who find that they personally and immediately have negative reactions to favorites-related observations when interacting with the site.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 1:34 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


    I'll say that for me, turning favorites to "vague" was a huge and immediate positive. It made a big difference to my experience of the site, removing information that I didn't want to be paying attention to, but still involuntarily was paying attention to. Vague favorites are the best.
    posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:47 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


    I'll say that for me, turning favorites to "vague" was a huge and immediate positive.

    This has been exactly my experience.
    posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:03 PM on April 5


    What do favorites look like under "vague"?
    posted by corb at 2:08 PM on April 5


    You can try it out in your Preferences -- set your "Comment favorites style" to "Show 'has favorites'".

    If a comment has any favorites, it'll just show "has favorites" instead of the number. Then you can mouseover to get the number if you want to see it.
    posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:16 PM on April 5


    What do favorites look like under "vague"?

    They look like this.
    posted by Shmuel510 at 2:17 PM on April 5


    I am surprised that mods would have favorite counts off. It feels like favorite counts have a lot to do with the group dynamics being discussed here?
    posted by lalex at 2:19 PM on April 5


    It's easy to mouseover to see the number if it's relevant.
    posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:20 PM on April 5


    How do you decide if it's relevant?
    posted by lalex at 2:31 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


    Rather than launch into some kind of defense of my being competent at my job in a basic way, I'll just say, it's usually obvious when favorites are a factor in a discussion. It's obvious from the topic, the tone of the post, the participants, the contents and tone of a given comment, the speed of posting, things people explicitly say about favorites, the state of play of the discussion in a given thread, the state of play of that topic/those people/etc over a course of recent weeks, months, years on the site.
    posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:50 PM on April 5 [15 favorites]


    It was a serious question about what mods see/think is important when they view the site. I'm sorry that it seems to have come off as some kind of a gotcha.
    posted by lalex at 3:01 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


    Maybe I was reading something in that wasn't there. I prefer not to have the number visually attached to every comment on my default view, since I find that distracting. But that doesn't remotely mean that I deny or am unaware of how favorites play into group dynamics (which is what I took your first comment to be asking.) Favorites do have an effect; having them vague in my default view hasn't caused a problem for me in being aware of that or in understanding what's going on.
    posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:32 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


    Eyebrows McGee: Working US Saturday nights, you would be surprised how often I see someone go on a fairly random favoriting spree or a flagging spree while under the influence.

    Do tell. Are spreeing users displayed on the mod panel as something to be aware of?
    posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:34 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


    Only in that the flags all show up at once, which is unusual.
    posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:35 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


    Flags and Favorites are noted? (Hey, that sounds familiar…)
    posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:38 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


    ....can confirm! Can sheepishly confirm that the mods were very gentle when they suggested I knock it off with the burst of flags 😬
    posted by everybody had matching towels at 3:44 PM on April 5 [4 favorites]


    Here is a chart showing the evolution of monthly signups (and monthly first commenters) between January 2006 and February 2017. It turns out that the last big year for signups was 2008, with 5900 new people. Since then, signups have been linearly decreasing: only 1900 people payed their $5 in 2016. In May 2014, the "State of Metafilter" post had a positive effect on signups but did not reverse the trend. In any case, this trend predates the decrease in user engagement, as the decrease in monthly first commenters started in 2011. So the current situation is really the result of a long-term (by internet standards) evolution. So what's going on?

    Sites decline when the natural attrition of the core nucleus of active users (in MeFi, those 6-7% who write 50% of the comments) isn't compensated by new users. Core users are people who have a lot of free time, and while some may burn out or become disappointed with the site for personal reasons, I'm sure that of them leave because they eventually get involved in more interesting/valuable/necessary time-consuming activities (for instance, people who were student-age core users get jobs, move into LTRs, have kids, etc). They stop being core users, become lurkers, and eventually stop coming: they must be replaced by new core users for the site to keep its vitality. It is remarkable that web-based forums and aggregators suffered a lot in the late 2000s when they started hemorrhaging users. Many of these sites are dead (Kuro5hin, the IMDb forums), some are still limping along (SlashDot, Digg). It's difficult to get numbers about Something Awful, but it seems to have taken a hit in 2012. While it is possible to blame problems on moderation issues or corporate meddling in some of these cases, the demise or decline of those sites happened in a timeframe where 1) Facebook went global (from 145 to 360 million users in 2008), 2) smartphones went global (1 billion in use by 2012). A new potential user is 1) a user/consumer of social media and 2) will use the site primarily on a smartphone. It is not really surprising that sites that were created when neither social media nor smartphones existed get into trouble. It's a tech issue (a 2000-comment thread should not cause problems on mobile phones by 2017 standards) but there are deeper conceptual issues that are hard or even impossible to solve without changing the nature of the site. It could be valuable to have a look at discussion sites born circa 2000 and that are still kicking ass and see what's working for them.

    In any case, I'm not really sold on the idea that the downward trend is caused by a shift in content and/or moderation policies. It is true that, when one uses the tags as indicators, 2008 is the year when social justice posts started to gain momentum, attracting comments and consuming mod resources. But this evolution reflects a larger one: it is, in fact "trendy", and many social justice topics have gone mainstream in the recent years, so there's no reason why it should not be beneficial to Metafilter. There is a (young, educated) public for this, but they just don't pony up $5 to discuss it on MeFi. Moderation policies are certainly stricter than they used to be, but this is true of public forums everywhere: many subreddits, for instance, have much harsher rules than MeFi. Ironically, if we compare this thread on MeFi and the thread on the same topic on Reddit, the fact that the latter is strictly moderated makes it much more interesting than the joke-filled MeFi thread.
    posted by elgilito at 4:01 PM on April 5 [22 favorites]


    Maybe I was reading something in that wasn't there.

    I was genuinely wondering. For example, I often use favorites in policy discussions on MetaTalk to be like "hey mods, I agree with this comment." So I was wondering if y'all see them? I do appreciate your comprehensive answer, so thank you!
    posted by lalex at 4:18 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


    I just favorited the last ten comments to be perverse.
    posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:25 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


    "Flags and Favorites are noted? (Hey, that sounds familiar…)"

    Usually I only notice a faving spree because I'm trying to figure out what the heck is going on with the flags in a totally innocuous thread, or because I get a couple of grumpy e-mails going, "Hey, $TerribleUser is favoriting all the terrible comments in $ArgumentativeThread just to troll me!" and I go look and actually $TerribleUser is favoriting all the comments (not just the terrible ones) AND flagging all the comments at complete random ("I love kittens!" - offensive) AND talking in another thread about what they're drinking/otherwise enjoying.
    posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:38 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


    what were they drinking
    posted by Greg Nog at 5:03 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


    I do appreciate the suggestions to turn of favorites, but my one issue with it is that it's a personal solution to a systemic thing. Regardless of whether or not I see them, favorites are very much a part of the social fabric here. Like I said, I interpret the Amazon thread very differently than I might have otherwise, only because of how many favorites Frowner's comments got -- people can't always think of something to say response, even if they agree, and it seems like we as a site don't want threads full of one-line comments saying "this." So the favorites communicate something.

    And yeah, I have favorited comments I totally disagreed with just because they were still well-written arguments, but in general, even if favorites aren't purely a token of agreement, they're still a token of social engagement. I can say that the people who seem most comfortable with turning off favorites, or at least the people who have suggested it to me, are people who have been on this site a long time; who have a reputation here, tons of connections -- basically, it seems like it may be easier to turn of favorites if you have some other source of social support (although support isn't necessarily the word I'm looking for -- maybe social appreciation?). I'm sure that's not universally the case, and it may be that a lot of people will comment and prove me dead wrong. But do you see what I'm driving at? It's almost like favorites are the closest thing this site has to nonverbal cues.

    I've also seen people pull out favorites as empirical proof; for example to point out that a certain user always favorites racist comments, or to say "I've made a greasemonkey script and it shows that these threads were biased in X direction because X-positive comments got the majority of favorites."

    So... I'm really not trying to be difficult, but it seems like favorites matter a lot to the majority of people here. It feels a little unsatisfactory when people suggest that turning off favorites will be a solution to social issues on the site, because they're going to be a factor whether or not they're visible to me. The site has them for a reason. And it's not like I feel persecuted on this site, it's just that sometimes I think favorites play a much bigger role in driving site behavior than they get credit for.
    posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:11 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


    egg nog
    posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:13 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


    antieponysterical
    posted by Greg Nog at 5:15 PM on April 5 [7 favorites]


    shapes that haunt the dusk: "I do appreciate the suggestions to turn of favorites, but my one issue with it is that it's a personal solution to a systemic thing. "

    I favorited this comment because I do think it's true -- favorites has an impact on the system of the site and to say 'turn them off' is too simplistic a solution -- but given the content of the comment favoriting it feels a little wrong. So I'm adding this comment in addition.

    And thank you elgilito for your work on the statistics of new signups. I 100% agree that the decline of the site has nothing to do with content or moderation practices, and everything to do with the way the Internet has changed over the last 10 years. It is hard to know what to do with that information, though.
    posted by crazy with stars at 5:46 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


    I get a couple of grumpy e-mails going, "Hey, $TerribleUser is favoriting all the terrible comments in $ArgumentativeThread just to troll me!"

    Whaaat? Can't you just tell them "Sticks and stones may break your bones but if you don't stop with the favorites whining you will get a time out so help me god, I do and I do and I do for you and this is the thanks I get?"
    posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:10 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


    Usually I only notice a faving spree because I'm trying to figure out what the heck is going on with the flags in a totally innocuous thread . . . and I go look and actually $TerribleUser is favoriting all the comments (not just the terrible ones) AND flagging all the comments at complete random ("I love kittens!" - offensive) AND talking in another thread about what they're drinking/otherwise enjoying.

    what were they drinking
    posted by Greg Nog


    egg nog
    posted by Mr. Yuck


    Neg grog?
    posted by jamjam at 10:16 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


    "I'm more into sodomy and the lash, but I bet a lot of other sailors really enjoy you."
    posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:37 PM on April 5 [14 favorites]


    Neg grog?

    "I'm more into sodomy and the lash, but I bet a lot of other sailors really enjoy you."

    This. I love you people. I can't even approach this level of funny. I needed that. Better than Xanax.
    posted by monopas at 10:54 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


    Neg grog?

    Neg Greg Nog; Most dudes would be self conscious walking around with a big felt head but it really distracts from you cankles. How you doing?
    posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:58 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


    It feels a little unsatisfactory when people suggest that turning off favorites will be a solution to social issues on the site, because they're going to be a factor whether or not they're visible to me.

    For sure; it's not intended (at least by me) to be a systemic solution to site social dynamics or concerns thereabout. But it still may be a good personal solution if the fave count visibility is causing you regular distress. Sometimes it's okay to just take care of yourself a little.

    On the question of mods seeing favorites or not, it's I think kinda useful that we end up having different mods using slightly different versions of the site presentation based on the various preferences users have; I see raw faves, LM uses vague; I use the Modern Dark theme, LM is Classic 4 Lyfe; etc. Helps us not settle too much into a bad "there's literally just one view of the site that matters and needs design attention, and it's the one I use" pattern and makes it more likely we'll catch any issues with a tweak or addition in testing.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 7:33 AM on April 6 [9 favorites]


    Yeah, I do appreciate that, and also, to be clear, I didn't intend my comment to be critical of LM or anyone for not seeing favorites. Just in case it came across that way.
    posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:28 PM on April 6


    Helps us not settle too much into a bad "there's literally just one view of the site that matters and needs design attention, and it's the one I use" pattern

    To be clear: the correct options are the ones *I* use.
    posted by Chrysostom at 12:44 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


    Yeah, I do appreciate that, and also, to be clear, I didn't intend my comment to be critical of LM or anyone for not seeing favorites. Just in case it came across that way.

    Nah, no worries there. Just trying to talk you into not talking yourself out of taking care of yourself, as it were.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 1:04 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


    elgilito, thank-you, that's a fantastic comment and explains (it seems to me) the current situation: weblogs like MetaFilter are declining as their population ages because of changes in technology and web usage. So like the print media, in other words.

    I don't see there's much to be done, then, for good or for ill!
    posted by alasdair at 1:07 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


    Eat a little better, get more exercise...
    posted by ODiV at 1:16 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


    I don't see there's much to be done, then, for good or for ill!

    Possibly one thing that could be done, given that part of the decline might correlate with the ubiquity of smartphones and the rise of megathreads, would be a mobile app that handled long threads more gracefully than typical mobile browsers. One nice thing about Reddit et al. is that there are lots of third-party apps with neat extra features (kind of like what we use Greasemonkey scripts for tbh). But it's also probably a ton of work, and from what little I've overheard in these threads might be difficult given that MeFi's back-end was designed so long ago. Idk.
    posted by en forme de poire at 11:28 PM on April 6 [6 favorites]


    (Just going to mention that if you're struggling with large threads on an aging mobile device, classic theme may make a big difference)
    posted by Dysk at 8:56 AM on April 7 [3 favorites]


    Classic theme is great, yeah. My bigger problem is that my mobile web browser keeps reloading and re-displaying the thread every time I switch to the app, which takes forever and tends to make me lose my place.
    posted by en forme de poire at 1:50 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


    There already are a ton of jokes and fan fiction in the current U.S. political thread, and it only recently went live. It's a rolling chatroom thread with only occasional links and discussion. I wish it would be treated more like regular threads on the FPP.
    posted by agregoli at 1:56 PM on April 7 [7 favorites]


    The number one reason I use Opera on mobile is that its jump to bottom/top of page feature makes it easier to navigate longish MetaFIlter threads.
    posted by lalex at 2:18 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


    Someone even quoted something THREE TIMES in their comment, and said something like, I want this to be front page news. The exact same quote. Stuff like that is bizarre and clutters up the thread. Not pointing to the comment itself on purpose, not trying to single anyone out.
    posted by agregoli at 3:48 PM on April 7 [6 favorites]


    Yeah, I flagged that because more repetition is the last thing we need in those threads. And the endless riffs on, e.g., cheese puffs are seriously degrading the signal-to-noise ratio.
    posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:26 PM on April 7 [3 favorites]


    What do you guys think about separating it out? Maybe having a MeTa about election feels again, and letting people just chat there, might let people keep the thread more for discussion of events?
    posted by corb at 10:18 PM on April 7


    At this point in Metafilter's existence, it might be helpful to take a new look at some of the long standing practices since times have changed how people are interacting with the web and the site. It often seems to me like Metafilter is more a community now than a "best of the web" aggregator, where people are coming to engage with other members of the community more than they are simply checking out neat links.

    So many of the links now are from or also in newspapers, Facebook, Reddit, and so on that the function of finding "the best things" isn't so vital anymore and much of it seems shared more to spark conversation than in simply showing something new. (Not entirely of course, there are still nifty posts being made in the best of the web sense, it just doesn't seem a core function of the site as it once did.) Even lurkers, I suspect if they were like me, come here as much to read the community takes on these news items and other links as they do to get the links themselves.

    That being the case, combined with the major changes smart phone use has made to how people engage with sites and how they conduct discussions online, it may be worth looking at having a tab for more free flowing conversation that still holds to the main formatting of the site rather than feeling so completely separate like the chat function does.

    I'm personally not keen on the election, oops, continuing political threads because they rob me of a chance to engage with many of the links and some of the conversation because I can't and wouldn't want to keep up with that thread alone as my main experience on Metafilter, which is what would be required to join in to a large extent. In that way, I'm losing out on becoming better informed over some issues that others are talking about, so there is at least some loss involved in having the megathread model.

    At the same time, it's obvious that these threads are really popular and work well for a lot of people, so it may be this is the better way to engage people who might visit the site. I don't smart phone myself which is no doubt why I write in paragraphs and like the way Metafilter works, but most people do and that kind of engagement does not fit Metafilter as it is as well, so some better balance may need to be found to keep people happy with the site and maintain the sense of community here.
    posted by gusottertrout at 10:58 PM on April 7 [4 favorites]


    Why not just have a #45 tagged post with a specific word in the title - like [moderated] that is strictly moderated - no chatty stuff, no riffing, etc. that's for serious discussion, and another post with [go nuts] or something - that's not as strictly moderated?
    posted by disclaimer at 2:53 AM on April 8 [3 favorites]


    So many of the links now are from or also in newspapers, Facebook, Reddit, and so on that the function of finding "the best things" isn't so vital anymore and much of it seems shared more to spark conversation than in simply showing something new. (Not entirely of course, there are still nifty posts being made in the best of the web sense, it just doesn't seem a core function of the site as it once did.) Even lurkers, I suspect if they were like me, come here as much to read the community takes on these news items and other links as they do to get the links themselves.

    As a relatively new user that started engaging frequently in 2016, that's actually how I've always used Metafilter. I joined Metafilter for the quality of discussion, and a place to let out my intelligent thoughts that wouldn't be lost in the echo chamber of Facebook, which is really not a place conducive for very good conversation unless you know the link sharer personally. The culture just isn't there.

    I believe I'm one of the younger posters on here, being in my mid-20s. I'm also a former Livejournal user that loved reading community group comments, so I feel that has a great deal of impact in how I engage with social media. My Facebook feed is finely curated and reveals to me tons and tons of interesting links a day, but honestly, it's never occurred to me to make FPPs that often. Why? Because I haven't realized that I could spark some really cool conversations by sharing things and hearing people's takes on them. It doesn't occur to me until when I see someone post a link that I saw a week later, that I was like "Huh, maybe I should have posted that."

    So encouraging people to dig out things that they personally find really interesting from around the Internet, and engaging with the really smart and interesting crowd at Metafilter could be a new way to understand and bring in more diverse posts. With this approach, I'd easily post like 3-5 new ones a week honestly.
    posted by yueliang at 10:09 PM on April 10


    "So encouraging people to dig out things that they personally find really interesting from around the Internet, and engaging with the really smart and interesting crowd at Metafilter could be a new way to understand and bring in more diverse posts. "

    Consider yourself encouraged.
    posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:21 PM on April 10 [6 favorites]


    First off, I want to say I strongly agree with alasdair's post. I would emphasize these parts in particular.

    "The simplest, and therefore most plausible, theory seems to me to be that Google changed algorithms, so fewer new visitors, so fewer new members. That matches the graphs. Older members get older and have less time to mess around posting and commenting..."

    "The second theory is that evidence from other comment sites shows a decline in activity there too. So there is a general reduction in the use of these general-purpose custom small communities on the web - and Facebook would seem to be implicated in this. This also seems very plausible to me..."

    In either of those scenarios there are four major problems, in my opinion.

    1) Y'all are old. Pretty old. Old. I'm in my late twenties, and if I had to guess I'd peg the age of the average MeFite at late thirties/early forties. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, so long as site members are honest about why that is and why they're comfortable with things as they are. Any site that thrives on original content needs members with few responsibilities outside of their job/education/taking care of themselves, and that section of the population tends to skew young. I could be wrong about the age issue, but even if I am, it's hard to deny that an decrease in new memberships is a persistent problem.


    2) From my perspective, the web is more corporate/bureaucratic than it used to be, but it still grows weird, new parts all the time. The very structure of the web is conducive to making and sharing the quirky stuff that used to be common on Metafilter, it never, ever stopped being made. A reason MetaFilter no longer posts "the best of the web" is because a lot of those quality hyperlinks are getting introduced and posted only on one of the dozens of subreddits, or only on Facebook, 4chan, Tumblr/etc. A lot of people here aren't going to notice that because Reddit and most other places really are as sexist/racist/homophobic as they're made out to be, and because that's unlikely to ever change. That Reddit's main culture (and almost all of its sub-cultures) is unacceptable doesn't change the fact that the Metafilter's lack of exposure can be a problem.

    In addition I strongly suspect that Metafilter as a whole would be less than willing to deal with the emotional labor that a constant influx of college students/people in their twenties might require. The issue of absorbing those new users would be challenging even IF they were all lefties who took the core premises of intersectional feminism/activism seriously.


    3) A big part of what makes Metafilter a uniquely valuable place on the internet are when someone posts a timeless comment. That comment will get hundreds of favorites, through deeply informative prose and an incredibly personal voice. Journalists sometimes talk about the "theory of the interlocking public", where no member of the public knows enough to publicly criticize incorrect/misleading information on all subjects, but where most people will end up knowledgeable on the current topic at least some of the time. A similar process undergirds those quality comments. Behind every amazing comment is a deeply rooted base of lurkers who suddenly join and of members who rarely comment. Metafilter's slowing growth as online forum is hurting one of the things that people like the most about Metafilter.


    4) There's no easy solution. The end goal is clearly a Metafilter with the growing population it experienced in the early aughts, that still manages to maintain the intersectionality-focused culture that it currently has. The only thing I can think of is advertising on places like Tumblr, Facebook, -maybe,maybe- some of more articulate subreddits like r/Science or r/AskHistorians. Even the smallest blue whale can sift the ocean's water for krill. I'm not sure if it's possible to do that without attracting the wrong kind of attention. With that said, I'd much rather see an attempt like that than see my favorite place be slowly choked by Google's capricious search algorithms. Compared to Google Search, the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named megathreads are a smaller problem.
    posted by IShouldBeStudyingRightNow at 11:01 PM on April 10 [5 favorites]


    Is it possible to architect a subreddit such that you must pay $5 in order to be able to post and comment? What would happen in such a scenario?
    posted by Going To Maine at 11:38 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


    There's a lot of validity in what you say IShouldBeStudyingRightNow. Metafilter is old. It used to be a place where one could check in and be at least relatively current on new trends as they were developing or find interesting sites that hadn't yet received a lot of notice. Where now much of the content is posted after becoming viral on Facebook and being seen on the morning news and new sites aren't really linked to as much as sites, more just incidentally highlighted as the place where an article may have come from. It certainly isn't a site that I'd point to anymore as necessarily being "on the cutting edge" of new trends and information as much as it once seemed to be.

    The changing manner of engagement with the web too has some considerable effect here as "the best of the web" as it currently is perceived seems more often a particularly effective tweet, or gif, or some other more minimal content than would be the norm for posting as a front page post here.

    What the site does offer that seems to maintain it's relevance is a history and community more than anything else. That is both something that one would hope could continue to develop and flourish, but the point about any large influx of new users threatening the equilibrium here should also be a real concern given how singularly important the feeling of community is to the site.

    My hope would be that Metafilter remains a place for a decent breadth of good discussion on a wide range of concerns, but I worry that too is stagnating as the site and its users age and become more set in our ways and beliefs. Discussion can't flourish as easily in such circumstances other than for those who already share much of the same ways of thinking and approach. That might be enough to keep the site vital for a while longer, but the nature of that kind of concentration of understanding means that the appeal of moving to even smaller or more narrowly proscribed interest groups on Twitter, some subreddit or wherever else people gather online can also find greater appeal than in navigating the disagreements from even the relatively like minded user base here.
    posted by gusottertrout at 11:45 PM on April 10 [6 favorites]


    Before shedding too many tears over how this site no longer breaks things that can be considered "the best of the web", it's perhaps worth remembering that the first post was a single link to a website with pictures of cats caught in scanners.
    posted by Going To Maine at 1:26 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


    I do think embedded photos/GIFs/videos are part of the solution. In that respect Going To Maine can see some of what I mean. I'm imagining a Metafilter with two forums that work together. The first forum would have contemporary web design, photos/GIFs, and a laid-back attitude that lures people in. The second forum would be text/hyperlink only like MeFi or Hacker News and continue the work of helping new members get used to the Metafilter mentality. Also, as a nod toward long-term stability, the photo forum could be smaller/limited by design.

    I don't know those additions are a good idea, but it should be pointed out that there are a lot of potential contributors out there who consider photos/GIFS a mandatory part of the online experience, even if they only look at text. A lot of people simply consider that kind of thing necessary these days, including many who share Metafilter's general outlook.

    Gusottertrout, you make a good point about the need to maintain equilibrium. All I can say is that a process of attracting new members would have to start before we could discuss whether or not said action was happening too quickly. If I had to guess, advertising Metafilter in other places effectively would be difficult enough that scaling back would be easier than expanding.
    posted by IShouldBeStudyingRightNow at 1:38 AM on April 11


    Before shedding too many tears over how this site no longer breaks things that can be considered "the best of the web", it's perhaps worth remembering that the first post was a single link to a website with pictures of cats caught in scanners.

    You say that as if that wasn't great web use. Given how the web developed, it was eerily prescient I'd say.

    I don't know those additions are a good idea, but it should be pointed out that there are a lot of potential contributors out there who consider photos/GIFS a mandatory part of the online experience

    Yeah, I'd guess that's probably a non-starter here, but, dang, I'd dearly love that for Fanfare at least.
    posted by gusottertrout at 3:03 AM on April 11 [4 favorites]


    Yeah, I'd guess that's probably a non-starter here, but, dang, I'd dearly love that for Fanfare at least.

    I'm pretty opposed to photos and gifs on most of Metafilter, but I think that's an excellent idea and hope the mods will add it to the ponies-to-seriously-consider pile.
    posted by tavegyl at 3:27 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


    >I don't know those additions are a good idea, but it should be pointed out that there are a lot of potential contributors out there who consider photos/GIFS a mandatory part of the online experience

    Yeah, I'd guess that's probably a non-starter here, but, dang, I'd dearly love that for Fanfare at least.


    Agreement that this would be great thing for Fanfare specifically, and worth considering, with a mild hint of concern that it would make some of the largest Fanfare threads less usable on lower-power machines and would probably need some kind of user-side toggle to disable.
    posted by cjelli at 6:50 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


    My thought would be that it could work like it does on SBNation, where the default is the images remain hidden unless clicked on. I mean, c'mon, if a sports driven site like that can handle its users posting images, then Metafilter should be able to as well. I'd at least hope we're not less reliable than a free to use general sports fan site. Of course the work needed for implementation and upkeep may be a different issue entirely.
    posted by gusottertrout at 7:27 AM on April 11 [3 favorites]


    Yeah, with the exception of podcasts and most books, posts on Fanfare are discussing a visual medium without having a good way to reference those images. And I'm not a huge fan of .gif reactions (especially on mobile), but having a better way of referencing 'that scene where Aubrey Plaza does that weird thing with her head in Legion . . . no, that other scene' could actually be useful for discussion.
    posted by dinty_moore at 7:27 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


    Maybe we could just do it as an experiment for a single show. Game of Thrones is coming up soon...
    posted by Rock Steady at 1:53 PM on April 11 [1 favorite]


    MetaPony request queued.
    posted by gusottertrout at 12:05 AM on April 12


    I've put the Fanfare image pony request MeTa through - sorry for the wait and thanks for being patient.
    posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:46 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


    We lost tel3path: I haz a sad. Hope you're doing well tel3path, wherever you are.
    posted by pharm at 10:54 AM on April 18


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