User complaining about comment deletion October 10, 2005 3:22 PM   Subscribe

My second of two comments made in this thread http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/25241 was removed apparently because I disagreed with someone who was complaining that the tangents related to the discussion were not germane to it (http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/25241#399539).

Of course, since I'm posting this, I disagree with the removal. If this is standard way, we are limiting the involvement of human opinion in Ask MeFi, and end up with nothing more than regurgitation of facts that could probably be gained much better elsewhere on the internet.

Could the person who moderated this clarify the removal?
posted by Kickstart70 to Etiquette/Policy at 3:22 PM (54 comments total)

The reason you don't know why it was removed is because you don't have a contact email address in your profile.
posted by knave at 3:23 PM on October 10, 2005


MetaFilter -- limiting the involvement of human opinion since 1999
posted by matteo at 3:25 PM on October 10, 2005


The reason you don't know why it was removed is because you don't have a contact email address in your profile.

There is, and always has been, an email address in my profile.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:28 PM on October 10, 2005


MetaFilter: nothing more than regurgitation of facts that could probably be gained much better elsewhere on the internet

Someone get quality control on the line.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 3:30 PM on October 10, 2005


There is, and always has been, an email address in my profile.

Uh, check again.
posted by amro at 3:33 PM on October 10, 2005


Is it an invisible e-mail address?
posted by Floydd at 3:36 PM on October 10, 2005


You mean a 'public' email address? I -do- have it under 'Customize'.

Sorry, I'd rather not have my email available to everyone in the world, including spammers.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:36 PM on October 10, 2005


my email available to everyone in the world
We’re not “everyone in the world” & there are free available accounts you could use for this alone, kickstart70@hotmail.com is one.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:43 PM on October 10, 2005


Adolf Hitler.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 3:44 PM on October 10, 2005


If you check the "Show email on profile page?:" box it only shows for logged-in users.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:44 PM on October 10, 2005


Could the person who moderated this clarify the removal?

Sure, sorry for not emailing you, I was a bit distracted today by the MeTa thread below this one.

Languagehat posted this and you posted some response to him. I don't remember exactly what the wording was, perhaps you do? Your post was flagged a few times and I checked it out, said "Yeah that's off topic and starting a grudge match" and removed it. Languagehat has his email address in his public profile, and if you were pissed off at him you could have emailed him. For whatever reason languagehat's post wasn't seen in the same light as yours by the people who read that thread. Also note what mr_crash_davis says, only logged in MeFi users see your email address.

I know it seems nonsensical, but the general flagging gestalt seems to be that a "Can we PLEASE stay on topic?!" comment doesn't get flagged while a "Screw you, comment fascist, we'll discuss whatever we want" response generally does.
posted by jessamyn at 3:49 PM on October 10, 2005


There is, and always has been, WMD in Iraq.
posted by George W. Bush at 3:51 PM on October 10, 2005


Don't be a dick, George.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:56 PM on October 10, 2005


"Screw you, comment fascist, we'll discuss whatever we want"

Well, not a very fair comparison, my post was nothing like that.

It was (paraphrasing, since I don't have it available now of course) something akin to "If questions are going to be asked of humans, you're going to get human answers, including opinions and tangents."

Basically, languagehat was giving us hell for not just answering "you can sell the scotch here" in direct and unthinking response to the question. He was giving heck to the people there who said things like "geez man, don't sell the scotch, give it a chance!". By removing my fairly reasoned response to that, and not removing languagehat's post, what we end up with here is an intent to change Ask MeFi to nothing more than a human-powered Ask Jeeves, and assuming that every question is perfectly asked.

Sorry, but that's a huge failing in the process of something like this.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:59 PM on October 10, 2005


Ask Me has always been a human powered Ask Jeeves, and that's how people like it.
posted by delmoi at 4:19 PM on October 10, 2005


He was giving heck to the people there who said things like "geez man, don't sell the scotch, give it a chance!".

As well he should. The questioner was asking how to sell the scotch, not whether they should or what to do with it. Think for a moment about the cost/benefit of encouraging/allowing people to broaden the scope of AskMes in-thread.
posted by freebird at 4:24 PM on October 10, 2005


questioner was asking how to sell the scotch, not whether they should or what to do with it

Yes, but he's not asking a search engine, which would have given him the direct answer he was looking for had he tried. A Google Search for "scotch rare sell" delivers some perfect results for him. He's asking a bunch of humans, which means that he's going to have to expect a certain level of opinion and tangents in order to get him answer. That's what humans are like.

And I don't think those tangents and opinions are a bad thing, which apparently a lot of people do. In the questions I've asked, I've ended up valueing the tangents as much as the direct answers, if not more.
posted by Kickstart70 at 4:30 PM on October 10, 2005


Could the person who moderated this clarify the removal?

Jeeze man, why do you need a clarification, sit back and have some decaf green tea instead.

Sorry, I expanded on the scope of your question a bit.
posted by Krrrlson at 4:32 PM on October 10, 2005


why do you need a clarification

Because it's important for me to know if I've done something wrong, so I don't do it again.

OTOH, I've just had a load of turkey (Canadian Thansgiving), so I'll be mellow from this point forward.
posted by Kickstart70 at 4:40 PM on October 10, 2005


Is there any way in which your comment was on-topic?
posted by smackfu at 4:40 PM on October 10, 2005


Was that turkey Wild, by any chance?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:44 PM on October 10, 2005


BeautifulAndUniqueSnowflakeFilter
posted by LarryC at 5:21 PM on October 10, 2005


(shamelessly lifted from Darakaru in the thread below)
posted by LarryC at 5:22 PM on October 10, 2005


You made a MeTa post to ask why a completely off-topic comment was removed from the one part of MeFi where such comments are expressly forbidden?
*rolls eyes*

Yes, I called out the irrelevant responses, and intend to continue doing so until Matt or Jessamyn asks me to stop. I think AskMe is a valuable resource, and I'm clearly far from the only one to think it will become useless if it turns into a place for random chatter. If someone asks how to sell their scotch, tell them how to sell their scotch or shut up. If you have a burning need to write about the virtues of drinking $300 scotch just to see what it tastes like, well, I hate to say Get Your Own Blog, but this does seem to be an occasion for it.
posted by languagehat at 5:30 PM on October 10, 2005


The rules are pretty clearly outlined: "Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer." Changing the poster's question, and then answering that question isn't helpful to the poster.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:42 PM on October 10, 2005


Alright, whatever.

Ask MetaFilter just became a much less enjoyable place for me to be.
posted by Kickstart70 at 6:24 PM on October 10, 2005


I'm glad you came into this with an open mind and good attitude, man.
posted by cortex at 6:34 PM on October 10, 2005


Jesus wept.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:41 PM on October 10, 2005


Get over it. Jess is always quite polite when she deletes my askme comments.

By the way, it is helpful to use the link button when posting a link. Just put a description down, highlight the description, hit the link button and then past the link into the window. Voila.
posted by caddis at 7:05 PM on October 10, 2005


Paste the link, please.
posted by caddis at 7:06 PM on October 10, 2005


Being overly attached to one's writing is a big mistake on web forums.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:35 PM on October 10, 2005


I'm glad you came into this with an open mind and good attitude, man.

Actually, I believe I did. It rapidly evaporated.

Being overly attached to one's writing is a big mistake on web forums.

Perhaps so. But this wasn't about caring much about that particular post. If my comment was off topic because it didn't specifically answer the question, then so was every other post that advocated drinking it.

Where's the dividing line? Mentioning the word 'scotch' in the answer? My original MetaTalk question asked for clarification, not to get my post back, while stomping my foot like a petulant child. I got my clarification now, and it's perfectly clear. That doesn't mean Ask MeFi is suddenly more fun for me.

...

My point is now that I apparently understand what the vocalized intent of Ask MeFi is, it's a lot less interesting. Clearly, I enjoy the tangents and extra information and others do not, with the moderators of these forums deciding that the naysayers are correct. Sounds boring to me, but this isn't my forum (FWIW, this is).
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:18 PM on October 10, 2005


Kickstart: and a self-link! *shock*

Perhaps so. But this wasn't about caring much about that particular post. If my comment was off topic because it didn't specifically answer the question, then so was every other post that advocated drinking it.

Well, your post was a bit more off topic then the rest, since it was apparently directed at the other posters and not the questioner.

Very careful moderation is the reason AskMe is so noise free, and I think it's great.
posted by delmoi at 11:51 PM on October 10, 2005


Well, your post was a bit more off topic then the rest, since it was apparently directed at the other posters and not the questioner.

Strangely, as was laughinghat's post, which was not moderated.

And a hearty 'meh' to your claim about the self-link. I don't own the site, but I was trying to make a point that I'm not coming at this as someone without knowledge of internet forums and moderation.
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:10 AM on October 11, 2005


Oh, I like that moniker: laughinghat.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:42 AM on October 11, 2005


BeautifulAndUniqueSnowflakeFilter.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:46 AM on October 11, 2005


Strangely, as was laughinghat's post, which was not moderated.

I'm with EB: that's a great moniker. Hmm... time for that sockpuppet I've always wanted for my sillier comments?

Oh, and as for my comment's being equally off-topic—of course it was, and as I've told jessamyn on similar occasions in the past, I'm perfectly happy having such comments removed if that seems like a good idea; their point is to get the thread cleaned up and make people think twice about indulging themselves at AskMe's expense, not to be immortalized. In other words, it's not about my precious, snowflake words. (Suck it, haters!)
posted by languagehat at 6:30 AM on October 11, 2005


We're one step away from "it's not faiiiiir....".
posted by smackfu at 6:39 AM on October 11, 2005


I'm shocked the Whaaaambulance hasn't shown up yet.
posted by Mid at 6:47 AM on October 11, 2005


Kickstart70: a lot of comments bearing toward off-topic chatter get zapped. For my part, I just close the window instead of hitting post on a fair number of AskMe responses that would probably entertain/amuse some folks in the thread but which I realize have become more chatty than useful. Self-moderation, as it were; if I hit post on any of those comments and they were subsequently deleted, I wouldn't blink.

AskMe tolerates a degree of side-conversation, but only a degree, and it's hard to draw the fine limit. Almost all of the trouble that comes into grey is from the sort of comments we're talking about. If, as you say, AskMe is less interesting for the moderation that keeps it ticking, that is a shame.

I apologize for my poor tone earlier, but it was an honest (if sardonically rendered) reaction. You came across as petulant and dismissive when the reason for deletion turned out to be your own misunderstanding of the posting ethic on AskMe. I would have hoped you'd come into this thread open-minded enough to display understanding without that sort of pettiness. You asked for an explanation, and then essentially spit on the explanation you were given.

"Sorry, but that's a huge failing in the process of something like this."

"Alright, whatever."

Maybe this is a peculiar and totally personal reaction, but I read "whatever" in Mefi comments as a much stronger and impolite statement than I would in most other contexts. It seems a harsh and unsporting dismissal. When speaking to some ranting irrational nutjob, "whatever" seems like a reasonable final statement. When reacting to a reasonable response to a question you asked it seems akin to "fuck you." That, honsetly, got my goat and prompted my snark.
posted by cortex at 7:00 AM on October 11, 2005


"...but I read 'whatever' in Mefi comments as a much stronger and impolite statement than I would in most other contexts"

It's a semi-stealthy put-down that, through constant use, is no longer stealthy but nevertheless attractive as a passive/aggressive response. I certainly indulge myself in it. It's exactly like starting a comment with "um" which, for example, TWoP bans even though at first glance it seems absolutely ludicrous that it's their policy. But everyone know exactly what "um" starting a comment actually means.

Even so, I've come to believe that there are a whole bunch of uses of language which are too subtle for many people. Those uses fall into different categories and certainly it's not the case that those not fluent are one identical group. One could be insensitive or oversensitive to "whatever" and yet get irony just exactly right. It seems very unrealistic to me to either expect everyone to be fluent in every subtlety of language or to be completely insensitive to those supposed subtleties which are actually inadvertent.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:52 AM on October 11, 2005


What I don't understand is why someone would sell 30-year-old gift Scotch. I mean, what the hell?? IT'S FOR DRINKING!
posted by wakko at 8:12 AM on October 11, 2005


cortex and Ethereal Bligh: thanks for your most recent statements, I very much appreciate some clear discussion on the topic rather than the insults that immediately preceded your comments, which I believe were unwarranted. It's far too easy to quash discussion with insult, especially on the internet.

As for 'whatever', really I said it out of frustration of not being able to make my point heard. I -don't mind- that my post was removed. It -was- offtopic. I do think that languagehat's original post was correct in terms of rules-to-the-letter, but the rule itself, if it were fully applied, would be detrimental to the Ask MeFi forums. Explaining that further, if it was handed out more to-the-letter, and all of those tangents and "fer god's sake don't sell it, drink it" comments really were out of order and unwelcome...Ask MeFi would really suck. The tangents and opinions, rather than regurgitation of facts, are what makes discussion with other humans interesting and exciting.

So, a few people (who jumped in here expressely for the purpose of insult, it appears) are going to say I'm whining. Oh well, I can live with that. But really I wasn't. I was frustrated and not sure how to get past that to make my intent more clear.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:29 AM on October 11, 2005


I think I understand your frustration, and it may be that ultimately AskMe doesn't do it for you. The best solution I can offer you is to keep in mind that, generally, AskMe's (historically very much present) permissiveness toward tangents and such is nonetheless subordinate to its question-answering function.

Many people manage trouble-free tangents by couching their asides within on-topic responses. That aside, if you wish to make a query/suggestion in direct contradiction to the stated question, be game to the possibility of rebuke and/or deletion for doing so. This goes doubly so for comments that abandon the original question in favor of arguments over what the question and answers should be about.
posted by cortex at 9:06 AM on October 11, 2005


I do think that languagehat's original post was correct in terms of rules-to-the-letter, but the rule itself, if it were fully applied, would be detrimental to the Ask MeFi forums. Explaining that further, if it was handed out more to-the-letter, and all of those tangents and "fer god's sake don't sell it, drink it" comments really were out of order and unwelcome...Ask MeFi would really suck.

Is there any reason to think that the rule is going to start being enforced more sternly than it is currently being enforced?
posted by 23skidoo at 10:29 AM on October 11, 2005


It's always a tough row to hoe. Generally responses that address the question in a way that might be useful to the asker stay. This is not because it's my choice per se, but because the people who flag comments in AskMe have a tendency to be lenient, and I almost always work only from the flag queue.

You can see another example of this in the "what PC laptop should I buy?" thread. A few people responded with Mac suggestions, some of them which seemed to say "I see why you want a PC but you might want to consider a Mac...." and some of them which just said "get a Powerbook" It's usually okay to at least question the assumptions of the asker. In this case anastasiav mentioned price as an issue and some people responded saying maybe Macs weren't as spendy as she thought she replied later in-thread saying "I'm really only considering PCs." indicating that further Mac boosterism would be unwelcome. Further comments saying "Yeah you Mac guys are always a bunch of fanatic zealots" would also be unwelcome and likely flagged more and more likely to be removed.

I get where you're coming from Kickstart70, and it may just be that as you say the purpose that AskMe serves is not one that interests you. It's definitely somewhat different from the rest of the site. Languagehat has his own role as someone who tries to help keep threads on track with varying amounts of charm depending on his mood, and it may just be that he's a known variable and people don't flag his stuff. I'm not sure how much you want to sort of immerse yourself in the AskMe universe, but there is more information on the wiki about questions and comments for futher reading.
posted by jessamyn at 11:09 AM on October 11, 2005


No doubt it won't come to much, as this battle was clearly lost long ago, but I throw in my lot with Kickstart70.

Sometimes (often, in fact) the answer that the asker really needs to hear is one that addresses the assumptions behind the question, rather than the question itself. And the fact that a comment is flagged by a lot of people doesn't mean that it's a bad comment; it means that it's been flagged by a lot of people. The opinion of the majority (of those who bother to flag posts) does not necessarily (or usually) reflect the truth. I'm saddened to hear about this democracy-by-proxy system that jessamyn describes, though it is consistent with the 'power to the people' aesthetic that has unfortunately become pervasive here over the last year or so.
posted by bingo at 8:03 PM on October 11, 2005


Amen, brother bingo
posted by rob511 at 8:13 PM on October 11, 2005


Flagging has had the (I assume unintended) consequence of more people just dumping shit into threads with the rationale that if someone doesn't like it, it'll get flagged, and Those In Responsibility will do something about it. It's shifted the ethic of participation away from personal responsibility in the same way that society has changed in recent decades, and I don't like it one bit.

For what little it's worth.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:57 PM on October 11, 2005


I don't personally believe flagging has affected more than a small minority of active users on the site. Related: I don't personally believe flagging has significantly altered the posting habits of more than a handful of users.

Also -- and jessamyn and mathowie please correct me if this or the previous belief is off-base -- I don't believe in the flagging that occurs is a death sentence. Nothing prevents jessamyn from looking at a many-flagged comment and thinking, ridiculous! The comment stays!

I have no hard data to back these beliefs up. They may be horribly incorrect. They feel right, though.
posted by cortex at 7:40 AM on October 12, 2005


I don't believe in the flagging that occurs is a death sentence. Nothing prevents jessamyn from looking at a many-flagged comment and thinking, ridiculous! The comment stays!

Correct, flagging is just a way to direct attention. As I said above, in the "What PC laptop should I get?" thread, all of the early "Maybe you should consider a Mac for X reason" comments posted before anastasiav said "PC's only please"stayed in the thread.
posted by jessamyn at 8:36 AM on October 12, 2005


I've not had the chance to read all the comments in this thread but I will say that I knew my comment was skirting the edges of what I consider to be acceptable for AskMefi responses. Answering questions seems pretty simple (although listening to politicians, pundits and talk show guests might make on think otherwise).

I made my comment in the refernces thread with (partial) hope of steering the answers back toward the query. My post was out-of-bounds in the strictest sense: I could offer no direct answer.

I do think though that this is sometimes valuable -- offering no direct answer -- and at times necessary. If I recall correctly, back at the start of AskMefi, Miguel asked a question that I thought could benefit from being rephrased. I did not answer his question and he did agree that the question could use some tweaking. Sometimes this give and take is necessary. Where one draws the line is debatable.

Footnote: "How do I resell a bottle of alchohol" is pretty clear. Perhaps the questioner offered too many details -- often a sign that they are open to being swayed.

Second footnote: I do like the flagging feature and have used it. I never go back and check to see if my flag has had any impact.
posted by Dick Paris at 10:05 AM on October 12, 2005


It's shifted the ethic of participation away from personal responsibility in the same way that society has changed in recent decades, and I don't like it one bit.
Hear, hear! It saddens me a great deal that society now seems to think it acceptable to blame your parents/kids/teacher/school bully/employer/whoever for your actions, instead of taking personal responsibility for your own life once you become an adult. It is equally sad that this (albeit on-line) community has moved the same way, no matter how inevitable it was.
posted by dg at 4:23 PM on October 12, 2005


limiting the involvement of human opinion

Oh geez. Dramatize, much?

Do you understand that, while the EXTREME of an on-topic-only philosophy may be oppressive, the EXTREME opposite means that every thread is derailed constantly?

There's gotta be some of each approach. You meant well, and you weren't wildly over the line. Perhaps one inch over the line. And that's to your credit. I understand you are in the neither-here-nor-there zone where the system seems broken and frustrating.

But don't flap your arms and winge that the whole system needs to be shitcanned over your one comment. If you have something worth discussing, start a thread. If you get into an interesting but off-topic conversation, use email. And if the peanut gallery starts telling you to stay on topic, you may have to swallow that one comment you wanted to make for the greater good of not derailing the thread for others. Show respect for the poster.
posted by scarabic at 8:36 AM on October 14, 2005


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