Is it time to call a moratorium on posts linking to typical op-ed pieces?
August 26, 2002 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Is it time to call a moratorium on posts linking to typical op-ed pieces? Special ones, outlandish ones, or provacative ones are fine, but one columnist's opinion (often of the "I think he/she/it/foo is bad!" type) doesn't offer much for discussion, they rarely have much in the way of supporting evidence or links, and their appeal is wearing thin.
posted by mathowie to Etiquette/Policy at 2:41 PM (48 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Is it time to call a moratorium on posts linking to typical op-ed pieces?

Here, I fixed that first sentence:

It is time to call a moratorium on posts linking to typical op-ed pieces.


posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:44 PM on August 26, 2002


I'll second that motion.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:46 PM on August 26, 2002


Yes.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 2:47 PM on August 26, 2002


Aye.
posted by timeistight at 2:49 PM on August 26, 2002


Except the "I think foo is bad editorials." You can't have too many anti-foo editorials.
posted by timeistight at 2:51 PM on August 26, 2002


Imagine a FPP linking to a NYTimes op-ed about SUVs in Israel, with a few passages about the Florida recount...

I agree, no op-ed FPPs until the attack on Iraq (it's not saying much but it should buy us a few weeks' moratorium)

posted by matteo at 2:52 PM on August 26, 2002


i can do without them. metafilter always should have been for the truly interesting, but the definition gets stretched too far too often.
posted by moz at 3:00 PM on August 26, 2002


I'm down, Haughey.
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:01 PM on August 26, 2002


I'm with you. Problem is, anyone who agrees probably wouldn't make such a post in the first place.
posted by argybarg at 3:04 PM on August 26, 2002


I'll see your op-ed moratorium, and raise you a (NYTimes|MSNBC|CNN|Yahoo|Reuters|WashPost|LATimes) moratorium as well. Their quality is roughly equivalent to Onion links, and should be frowned upon just the same.
posted by Danelope at 3:08 PM on August 26, 2002


How about an attacked/abducted/escaped/murdered children moratorium?
posted by timeistight at 3:12 PM on August 26, 2002


Can we get some examples? Something like, "These three are good, these three are ass"?

Sounds good, but........ My worry would be that if we discourage these you'll see a stampede to Metatalk for *every* op-ed piece. And then everything that *resembles* an op-ed piece.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:18 PM on August 26, 2002


Matt, I'm not in disagreement, but I think you might want to reconsider. In light of all the "what can I post on the front page that will interest people and get me accepted" stuff that's been going on, the op-ed pieces are fairly innocuous. It allows people to cut their posting teeth on something that isn't a wild news-flash (batboy sires Indian monkeyman with bigfoot after dog-orgy with white supremisists) and it doesn't lend itself to posting every-little-thought-that-I've-read-in-the-news-lately. The op-ed pieces can be kind of interesting, and many may not have seen them before. They aren't new and wow on the web (perse) but they do foster discussion and allow people the ability to read and research topics that otherwise would end up doubleposted (Bush looks like an ape, film at eleven). Aditionally, they offer commenters the chance to post previous discussion links that bring newer people up to speed, as it were.

I guess my summary is, they're not great, but they're not suckage-awful either.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:19 PM on August 26, 2002


I wonder if recent editorials by Kissinger, Scrowcroft, Gore would count under the "special" exception of this rule (as opposed to "CoulterSteynMooreFilter") - if so, then I'm all for it.
posted by owillis at 3:30 PM on August 26, 2002


Wulfgar, I guess the problem is these are often thinly-veiled essays about an issue. Like I said before, issues make for boring, polarized, banal, and/or heated discussion that usually goes nowhere. Issues are only interesting in addition to something else that is interesting about a post, but op-eds are usually issues-only, and if it's just liberal vs. conservative, israel vs. palestine, etc, it's not going to make for a very good post.

I'm not one to make rules, but it's creating a lot of pointless noise on the site.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:36 PM on August 26, 2002


The rule should be that if you want to present an issue and are going to present it in the form of an op-ed, you should also include links to other opinions, or news reports, etc. This takes the burden off of a single opinion or view on an issue, and makes the post more interesting and the discussion more varied.

The problem is not with linking to opinion pieces, it's that the debate revolves more around the piece (picking apart mistakes, castigating the author, calling out the publication that printed it "biased") than the opinion. By adding other links, you present a richer picture that allows for people to share, rather than argue.
posted by cell divide at 3:40 PM on August 26, 2002


I'm down with the idea. Or up for it. What is it the kids say?

Fine, I agree with Mr. Haughey

And I think moz has inadvertently coined a new tagline:

MetaFilter: Always Should Have Been For The Truly Interesting
posted by evanizer at 3:49 PM on August 26, 2002


I'm not one to make rules, but it's creating a lot of pointless noise on the site.

With all good humor, I have to say: actually, you kinda are. I agree with the noise argument, but I draw your attention to the possible benefits of a little noise. I know you don't want to make a hardline rule. But if you put out a call for action, then y6-cubed is absolutely right: we have the noise of Metatalk call outs because X posted an op-ed about the possible war in Iraq (disregarding that the opinion comes from someone who knows like James Baker or Kissinger or any number of editorialists regularly writing for the IHT). I'd (and that's just me) would rather err on the side of information, than the side of cleaner bandwidth.

I'm gonna shut up now.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:58 PM on August 26, 2002


MetaFilter: Always Should Have Been For The Truly Interesting

Aye! Aye!
posted by gleuschk at 4:00 PM on August 26, 2002


Although I basically agree with Wulfgar! that I'd rather err on the side of more information, scrolling back over the past few days I'm starting to see Matt's point. Linking to a column that gives some hotshot writer's viewpoint on a breaking news issue, but not much else, is about like saying: "Iraq! Missing children! Discuss." If someone really wants to discuss complicated topics like Iraq, Chechnya, etc. it would make sense to ask that they help the rest of us out by doing a little more research than a single op-ed link.

Maybe arbitrarily deleting some of these items for a few days till people catch on would be a good idea, and adding a note to the sidebar?
posted by sheauga at 4:35 PM on August 26, 2002


I'd (and that's just me) would rather err on the side of information, than the side of cleaner bandwidth.

I agree with this, and what cell divide said. As has been pointed out in the past, virtually ANYTHING can make a good post, or a bad. It's all in how one goes about it.

And I am anti-moratoria on principle. The thing is, make it interesting, people! Don't just recycle something you saw somewhere else. We hunger for novelty here--bring us the new, the different, the challenging--but we want it value-added. Dig deeper, give us context, get it first, show us how it fits into a larger picture, make it relevant. This doesn't always entail a big block post with 5+ links wedged into it--to be honest, these are rarely my favorite posts, though I know some favor them (and sometimes they are great). Everyone is different; everyone's posts are going to be different. Just WOW us. The biggest problem with OP-ED links is that they are predictable, as is the thread that will result from them. It's easy to find someone who has written a pro-Israel piece; find someone who writes persuasively in favor of converting the euro to the cheese standard, and you've got something.

And, despite the condemning chorus for which we are infamous, take chances (not the same thing as wilfully and purposelessly violating known community standards, btw). There has never been a Metafilter post that has been universally loved and admired, and few that were reviled by all. We are all capable of surfing the web ourselves; what we want here is to see where YOUR eyes and minds are drawn to, so that we can expand our worlds.
posted by rushmc at 5:15 PM on August 26, 2002


If someone really wants to discuss complicated topics like Iraq, Chechnya, etc. it would make sense to ask that they help the rest of us out by doing a little more research than a single op-ed link.

agreed. much as i dislike news-sy posts, those posts made by people who've *acted* as a filter -- going through multiple news stories and crafting a reasonable narrative or connection between the best -- are usually good reads.

in art school, you can typically break any sort of project guidlines you may have received as long as your project doesn't suck.

yeah. impossible to quantify, huh?

if only all rules could be so relative.
posted by fishfucker at 5:38 PM on August 26, 2002


I'm down with Sheagua. Go for the third way.
posted by gsteff at 6:07 PM on August 26, 2002


I'll see your op-ed moratorium, and raise you a (NYTimes|MSNBC|CNN|Yahoo|Reuters|WashPost|LATimes) moratorium as well.

How about we just call a Metafilter Moratorium? Maybe the world would be a brighter place if we all just took a month off.

(Maybe the world would be a brighter place if I took a month off?)
posted by crunchland at 6:07 PM on August 26, 2002


Yes, please. I don't come here for "typical" stuff so I'd be happy to see any reduction at all.

I just wish I knew how you'd make it work.
posted by stefanie at 6:47 PM on August 26, 2002


FWIW, Matt, I'd support a ban on links to Op/Ed content since those linked pieces are usually so one sided that they spawn either, at best, mass condemnation or, at worst, a playground battle. Add to that the fact that these pieces are seldom - if ever? - actually originated for the Web, they're just retreads of paper content, and you have a decidedly second-class MetaFilter link. If I feel the need to see relentless rehashing and strident posturing, I know how to find the McLaughlin Group... Anything you can do to keep MetaFilter focused on the Web and untold zillions of sites that lie out there, unexplored - the better.
posted by JollyWanker at 6:57 PM on August 26, 2002


Just build NewsFilter and charge for memberships. And charge lots, by the way.

Let 'em pay for the privilege of crossing swords with their favorite imagined enemy in that all important keyboard powered war for the hearts and minds of the undecided people in America.

It certainly won't require any supervision, since nobody ever expects the ref to do anything in Roller Derby.

Seriously, black on a white background, links in blood red, some sort of newsprint font. Free marketers will hail you for providing a service to an unserved market, libertarians will hail you for a solution that doesn't require regulation, liberals will hail you as a protector of free speech. Go on, do it already.

$20 a year for posting privileges. I predict that within two weeks someone would post something so stupid that the other side would lunge to PayPal, just so they could retort wittily. People would not be able to resist. You'd gross $30K in the first 6 months.
posted by dglynn at 7:07 PM on August 26, 2002


It is time to call a moratorium on posts linking to typical op-ed pieces.

Yes. Absolutely. If you want to see a good discussion regarding a subject you read in an op/ed, research the general issue and find interesting stuff on the web related to it. A discussion may well start tangentially, but you ought to provide real content that other people can enjoy (other than the agitators and arguers, like myself)

$20 a year for posting privileges.

If there ever is a price for that, that's too high. One part of MetaFilter is that you have to take some bad with the good. Community vigilance (the intelligent, non-whiny kind) will wane if this happens, I think.

Just build NewsFilter and charge for memberships

I bet NewsFilter addresses are already taken. Think of a better name :)
posted by insomnyuk at 7:27 PM on August 26, 2002


See, we're right back at having to try to figure out some acceptable moderation or submission queue scheme again. The binary option of no op-ed/yes op-ed is too restrictive and may exclude the good posts that can come out of them, but without elaborate rule-shaping you'll still get straight-on links to op-ed and other "noisy" stuff from people determined to post it, and you can't ride herd all day, deleting post after post.

I really think you ought to empanel a MeFi Editorial Board with a broad-based membership (say 100 volunteers) who mod up/down all front page submissions and limit the front page to the highest-modded 12-15 a day. I know this is slightly off-topic and has been debated ad nauseam, but almost every MetaTalk thread about content pushes my thinking this way.

You can't have too many anti-foo editorials.
See there, I am very pro-foo, so go figure.
posted by briank at 7:30 PM on August 26, 2002


I'll see your op-ed moratorium, and raise you a (NYTimes|MSNBC|CNN|Yahoo|Reuters|WashPost|LATimes) moratorium as well.

I second that (or third, or whatever), on the condition that the ban is for links that only include a news item. There are times when a well researched post that includes one of these links is fantastic. On their own, though, they are usually so-so at best.

ps - newsfilter.com, .net and .org are taken :-)
posted by dg at 7:41 PM on August 26, 2002


news.metafilter.com certainly is available.

And the $20/annum for posting was for newsfilter, in case that wasn't clear.


posted by dglynn at 8:09 PM on August 26, 2002


Well, DeadHorse.com, .net and .org are taken, but DeadHorseFilter.com must be free.

I kind of like Sheauga's idea -- deleting the more banal posts might give the offenders a hint that they're "doing it wrong." Maybe they'll even show up in the Grey to ask why, and we can tell them.
posted by me3dia at 8:11 PM on August 26, 2002


I would pay good money for a newsfilter where I can bitch and rant (intelligently of course) about politics to my hearts content.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:27 PM on August 26, 2002


I agree in principle, but wouldn't mind if op/eds were posted under certain conditions, like if the writer of the piece is knee-deep in the issue and there were additional links.

To use a previous example, Kissinger writing about Indonesia or U.S. military strategy would be okay with me, if the front page post included links to Kissinger's history with Indonesia. Not all MeFis know that many people consider Kissinger and the U.S. at least partly responsible for Indonesia's invasion of East Timor (and the resulting massacre of thousands of East Timorese), and that he has oil interests in Indonesia to this day. So a post like that would be interesting to me because it would facilitate discussion not just of Kissinger's opinion but how that ties in with his past and current actions, maybe then tying in with U.S. relations with Indonesia and other oil-producing muslim nations post-September 11.

P.S. mathowie -- I had to open IE to post this because Mozilla (1.0, Win98) wouldn't get it past preview. Arrgh. Only a problem here, not in MeFi proper.
posted by lia at 1:55 AM on August 27, 2002


Lia: Moz 1.1 works just fine with MeFi. Solidarity, brother!
posted by Ryvar at 5:30 AM on August 27, 2002


Perhaps an interim step might be a simple flag posters must attach to their entries: "Current Events" / "General Interest." There: NewsFilter without the extra server overhead. Set up a user preference for either of those two or "All Posts" to display on the front page and call it a day. There are clearly members who delight in the flow of news stories and the (ahem!) "discussions" those can bring whereas I'm certainly not the only member who avoids those topics like the plague. As the front page grows along with the member base, segmenting it somehow, IMHO, is going to become critical very soon if it's going to remain as effective as it's been.
posted by JollyWanker at 5:34 AM on August 27, 2002


I don't think segmentation due to scope creep is inevitable. Matt wants this to be a site that's reasonable to peruse on a daily basis for interesting material on the web. Eventually, if we don't persuade our fellow participants to keep their postings within this parameter, he steps in and deletes stuff. Hopefully we exert enough mutual social pressure via MetaTalk, e-mail, etc. that the site stays on track without Matt being a full-time editor.
posted by sheauga at 6:10 AM on August 27, 2002


What is the definition of Op-Ed?

For example, the link above is an opinionated piece. But it talked about people eating expensive luxury foods at a conference on hunger, which was news to me.

Then again, you could say that the news part of the article was an excuse for opinionated posturing on the rich/poor have/have-not issue (as Matt pointed out.)

Maybe the important thing is that these ideas are being hashed out on MetaTalk. No concrete rules or definitions are being set forth, but it's still an exercize in keeping posts fresh, new, and even occasionally mind-blowing. Isn't this really the goal?

But, on the flip side of that, the "Op-Ed!/Not-Op-Ed!" debate in the link above sure was a drag...
posted by Shane at 6:31 AM on August 27, 2002


As I just said in that thread, I called it out as op/ed because of the secondary link to Drudge... I was probably too quick to make that call, and I guess I was out of line. Though I think the threadstarter's response shouldn't go unnoticed here.

I did the same in Miguel's post, too, with zero reaction. I guess it's a case of the boy who cried "op/ed" one too many times.

I'll leave the calling-out to other people for awhile.
posted by crunchland at 7:15 AM on August 27, 2002


My link was not to an op-ed piece but to an interview with Britain's Chief Rabbi. It's the first time an Orthodox Chief Rabbi has criticized Israel's recent conduct and called for real dialogue between the faiths. It's a major statement which is already having repercussions in the Jewish community in Britain and Israel itself. The BBC's Radio 4 (at least) has been focusing on the interview all day, with numerous religious and political leaders weighing in from across the world.

It's hardly an op-ed piece.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:33 AM on August 27, 2002


Prediction: People will never agree on what constitutes an op/ed piece. In theory, almost anything could be construed as such by someone who doesn't like the link (even some of the Flash games we've seen), and people will always be eager to argue that their link ISN'T mere op/ed.
posted by rushmc at 7:38 AM on August 27, 2002


That's true enough, rushmc. But Matt's moratorium proposal was limited to (and I quote): typical op-ed pieces. Special ones, outlandish ones, or provacative ones are fine.

Op-ed pieces are fairly easy to define anyway - they are opinion pieces written by the editors or by people invited by the editors. Columns are regular opinion pieces. Leaders are generally anonymous and are taken to represent the newspaper's editorial stance. In any case they are pieces written by one person. They could never include interviews.

A rare interview with the Chief Rabbi could not qualify as an op-ed piece (never mind typical) by a long stretch. Even if, for the sake of argument, you'd (stupidly) call it an op-ed piece just because it expresses opinions; it would still count as special and provocative.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:47 AM on August 27, 2002


Prediction: People will never agree on what constitutes an op/ed piece. In theory, almost anything could be construed as such by someone who doesn't like the link (even some of the Flash games we've seen), and people will always be eager to argue that their link ISN'T mere op/ed.

my paper at home marks pretty clear which are op/eds: whatever is a column by a reporter, and whatever is in the "op/ed" section of the paper. at the star tribune in minneapolis, for example, there are clearly denoted sections for opinions, editorials and commentary. the links for which we truly don't know, i think, would be so few and far-between that it isn't worth junking the idea over them.
posted by moz at 8:14 AM on August 27, 2002


I wasn't yelling at you, crunchland. Just making the point that the process of discussion yields more than rules or definitions ever will.

My take on what an Op-Ed piece is:

F***ing Feagler bitching about the Metric system, about how it's just a snobby European thing and we should stick to inches over here (in the U.S.)

He really did that once, you know.

No news, nothing infomative. Wasn't even particularly funny.
posted by Shane at 8:25 AM on August 27, 2002


Ah. I see where I tripped up. I missed the fine distinction between when a newspaper prints a column by someone who thinks foo, and when a newspaper prints a column saying someone thinks foo.
posted by crunchland at 8:50 AM on August 27, 2002


I agree that true op/ed pieces are fairly easy to define and identify, Miguel. My point is that I don't believe that everyone will understand/acknowledge/use that definition and that it will just lead to a lot of meta-squabbling. It is not even clear to me that Matt was using the strict definition of "opinion pieces written by the editors or by people invited by the editors" in his original comment.
posted by rushmc at 8:59 AM on August 27, 2002


Crunchland: I know you're not stupid so you're either being wilfully obtuse or someone's wagered you couldn't get through the day without using your brain and you're determined to win the bet. Read the link. It's not a column; it's an interview.

Rushmc: the facts bear you out but if anything can be taken to mean anything (which of course it can) then one day, God forbid, we might find ourselves arguing about what constitutes a double post or sarcasm or a pancake...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:16 AM on August 27, 2002

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them - particularly verbs: they're the proudest - adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs - however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

'Would you tell me, please,' said Alice, 'what that means?'

'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'

'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'

'Oh!' said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

'Ah, you should see 'em come round me of a Saturday night,' Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side, 'for to get their wages, you know.'
posted by timeistight at 9:45 AM on August 27, 2002


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