Good posts: examples sought October 29, 2001 4:40 AM   Subscribe

ok, i've been reading over mefi for the past couple of weeks and i continually hear every other person say "this is a not a good post, etc." i've read the mefi guidelines but simply hanging around when apparently half of the stuff is considered improper, it's kinda hard to distinguish between good versus bad. could someone point me to some older examples or just general ideas. i'd appreciate it.
posted by pooldemon to Etiquette/Policy at 4:40 AM (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I would recommend these recent posts as good examples of interesting things on the internet posts:
Civil Defense Museum
Zero Emissions Research Initiatives
Maps of the Internet

A good example of a current events post might be:
Red Cross Problems

Here's how you might go about building a post the to the front page.

• Find a "hook". This is a combination of an interesting headline and an interesting link. Interesting in this case usually isn't an AP or Reuters feed (more about those later, but briefly, a news story is usually discussable because of an underlying issue. That underlying issue is your hook). It could be a document from the people involved, or a website on the issue involved that people may not have seen or thought about. This is very important: the hook should be something that the majority of people will not have seen. That way they'll want to read and discuss your link.
• Give a little supporting data. This could include other links related to the issue or some background information. This is a great place for AP and Reuters feeds. Many people will have seen these feeds, so they won't make good hooks (why would somebody reread something that they have already read on their news portal of choice?). On the other hand, those who haven't read these can get up to speed. Ask yourself what people will need to know in order to understand your hook (your most important link). If you have too much to put in here, post inside the thread.
• Set up the topic. Ask a question (I'm starting to like this less, but it can be done well) or set out the issue to be discussed. Sometimes there's nothing to discuss, and that's OK. A thread with few comments is not always a bad sign; sometimes stuff is just neat and doesn't need to be discussed. Sometimes the best measure of a thread is when everybody else starts posting related links of interest, or when an expert on the subject posts some further information in the thread.
• Put all of those together in a coherent form. This doesn't require a journalism major, but you might have to spend more than 30 seconds.

Finally, don't post in haste. Let your post sit for a couple minutes once you are done. Ask yourself whether it will turn into a yelling war that will prevent people from discussing the issues that you are concerned about. If you think that it might, see if you can reword the post (this will prevent the mob from branding you a troll). Check for incomprehensible jargon and other things that might make people skip over your post. Make sure that your hook is clear and inviting. A quality post reflects well on you, just as a poor post reflects poorly on you.
posted by iceberg273 at 6:48 AM on October 29, 2001

nice summary! A few other things to keep in mind:

++ if your link is a current even, scan the last few days of MeFi closely to make sure it hasn't been posted already. if your link is to some timeless gem on the internet, use the search feature rigorously
++ if your link is only about MeFi itself, take it to Metatalk
++ if your link is about TV, web.celebs, sports, Palestine v. Israel or liberals v conservatives, some people will definitely say it isn't a good link. this does not mean there aren't good things to say on those topics, just that they are tougher subjects to cover without bugging people, or encouraging "you suck" "no you suck" exchanges.
++ if there are older posts on your topic, take a look at them to see if your issue has been covered and/or how people reacted to it
++ use the preview feature to avoid HTML errors and check for spelling
++ above all, don't worry too terribly much about it. generally people are understanding and will give you advice and feedback in a reasonable manner

posted by jessamyn at 7:09 AM on October 29, 2001

Also, and this is very important, check to make sure that your links go where you think they do. I did not do this.

Let's try this again:
Red Cross Problems.
posted by iceberg273 at 7:22 AM on October 29, 2001

above all, don't worry too terribly much about it. generally people are understanding and will give you advice and feedback in a reasonable manner.

I don't know, I think it's worth worrying about. Ask yourself -- if you saw this on a weblog, would you find it interesting? Is it interesting enough to put on your weblog, if you have one? (If it is, ask yourself why you're not doing that. If it's not, ask yourself whether it's worth showing to the larger world.)

I made up a list of things I think contribute to a top-notch post when I sent Grumblebee a thank-you note for a few excellent posts he had made:
  1. It was an actual link to a thing on the web most people were unlikely to have seen before.
  2. It was not a thinly veiled excuse for scoring political points.
  3. It wasn't a lame AYBABTU meme propogation exercise.
  4. It was not a current event.
  5. It was not a Fark/Obscure Store/Ananova-style news of the weird link.
  6. It had a natural discussion point without resorting to a Fray-style concluding question.
  7. It was not a double post. It was not anything like a double post.
  8. It had more than one link, showing that you had spent at least a modicum of time composing it.
Not all of these are necessary (#8, in particular, but also #4). Many people will, of course, disagree with my list, but I firmly believe that the bests posts come from seeing something on the web and saying "Hmm, this is interesting!" rather than deciding you want a discussion and coming up with links after the fact. (Deciding you want a discussion and not bothering to come up with the links after the fact is almost guaranteed to produce a post that I think is pointless and aggrevating. So stop it, all of you people who are very concerned about my opinion!)
posted by snarkout at 8:07 AM on October 29, 2001

If I suddeny look up and I've spent an hour at the site linked to, it is a good post.
If I bookmark the link so I can return to see new features/topics/articles, it is a good post.
If the link tells me something I didn't know before but am now better (or wiser) for knowing it, it is a good post.
If I forward the link and my friends haven't seen it before, it is a good link.
If the poster includes more links to similar sites/subjects so I can read around the subject, it is a good post.

The link is all, the conversation is merely the froth on the top. And many MeFi conversations are froth at best.
But then I've always been more of a reader than a talker.
posted by Markb at 8:49 AM on October 30, 2001

I once spurned on a really good discussion about this some time ago. When I first got posting right, I was linking something every day just for the hell of it -- I'm always a bit over-zealous when I get becoming fanish about things for the first time. That was when the site's membership was still in the mid-5000s and even then it was getting to the stage when people were beginning to grumble that things weren't what they used to be. I made the point in the thread that things need to evolve to stay relevant -- you just have to be careful that evolution doesn't go too far -- look at the duck-billed platipus. Perhaps Matt could take the main points in this thread and add them to the new user pages.
posted by feelinglistless at 10:20 AM on October 30, 2001

On the flip side, maybe we should have a to track repeat offenders. Once Matt deletes the double/self/no/etc. posts, there is no way to track those who do it repeatedly. Looking at ryryslider's profile you wouldn't know that he posted a 'do my homework' thread today that linked back to MeFi home-page.
posted by tamim at 11:06 AM on October 30, 2001

He still has an account?
posted by sudama at 1:38 PM on October 30, 2001

As a confirmed MeFi sinner (known to, on occasion, break the "Thou shalt not link to dippy stuff" commandment), I have learned some things from reading this thread. Most important to me, probably, is snarkout's point that better posts are born from "letting it happen" than from "forcing it," so to speak. This is another of my many sins.

But I still have one question about good posting protocol. Once a topic has been discussed, several weeks or months have passed, nobody is posting to the thread anymore, and it has been archived, is that same topic now off limits as a front page post (assuming the link is different)? I don't mean to sound inane; I know you can present a topic in different ways, and new developments can make old topics seem very relevant again. But what if I simply feel that a particular topic has not been "talked out?" Am I obligated to go back and post a comment to a thread that, arguably, nobody is reading anymore? I have only had a MeFi account since May of this year, so I don't know how MeFi used to be before all us newbies climbed aboard, but it seems as if, today, front page posts become old news very quickly, and nobody bothers to post comments after a day or two have passed, thus my assumption that nobody is reading them anymore.

When I have posted links, I have used the search function to make sure that the same link has not been posted previously, but have not let it hinder me if the same topic has been discussed. Am I evil?
posted by Bixby23 at 6:52 PM on October 30, 2001

Bixby, I am pretty sure no one will ever complain about re-visiting any particular topic. There are only a handful of topics out there. I think people frown upon bringing up the same angle on a well-discussed topic, or linking to the same article/object and repeating what has already been said. [Mostly because it is always the usual suspects who show up in every thread of any given topic and say the same things they have already said. Check all the Israel-Palestine / WTO-globalization / America's New WarTM threads to get a better picture.] If you want to 'talk out' a topic with new members/opinions, you do need to come up with a new hook.

For example, say, you want to talk about Formula One. It has been done before. Linking to or saying 'fast cars: cool. me drool' isn't really good form. But, suppose you link to Honda (or BMW)'s F1 program's website, along with a few articles about how different engine/car manufacturers force their pet drivers onto some teams, and start a discussion about either the ethical nature of this practice, or if it waters down the talent pool as opposed to giving unknowns from least represented countries a chance, I am sure many F1 fans here at MeFi will come out of the woodworks to discuss their thoughts. No one will ever flag you down with 'been there/done that.' [I am absolutely positive that neither Honda F1, nor any of the manufacturer's preference issues have ever been brought up here at MeFi. If you start a thread on this, you can be sure that at least I'll show up for a healthy exchange of thoughts. I promise not to hurt you or your puppy. :-)]

I think it is a good habit to scan through the archives of at least the last two months to see what topics have been covered. You don't need to read every (or any, for that matter) post. Just click on a few months and just glance over what were previous front page posts.

[One helpful tip for posting about any non-American sport: make sure to phrase it in a way that somehow pre-empts a thread hijack by owillis. It takes some practice before you can get it right. (I am joking, Oliver.)]
posted by tamim at 8:17 PM on October 30, 2001

As a confirmed MeFi sinner (known to, on occasion, break the "Thou shalt not link to dippy stuff" commandment),

I really don't think there is any such commandment. I've linked to a lot of dippy stuff (and I am a model poster*). MeFi at its best is a mix of light and serious.

I'm with Tamim about revisiting a topic. If the link is interesting, and if the post makes the interest clear, it's worth doing. (If it's something that's at the forefront of everyone's mind already, it probably should be *extra* special. This is the danger of current-events posts.) If you're worried that people will think this is a rehash of an old thread, put it in context by referencing the old thread and indicating how the new one adds to the discussion.

*yes, that is self-mockery

posted by rodii at 9:39 PM on October 30, 2001

Thanks to both of you for your responses. That was exactly the sort of advice I was looking for.

Think I'll go to the main page and post something about candy now...

Just kidding...
posted by Bixby23 at 7:35 PM on October 31, 2001

meta: Beyond; transcending; more comprehensive.

filter: A porous material through which a liquid or gas is passed in order to separate the fluid from suspended particulate matter.

A good thread (for me) is one which forms an accretion of suspended matter from the ubiquitous web fluid.

It should show me something beautiful, original or intriguing on the web, and attract related wisdom and similar links to itself. It should end up being my definitive bookmark on the subject.

It shouldn't provoke argument. It shouldn't troll for silliness (although when silliness spontaneously occurs that can be delightful). It needn't be an ego-buffer or a race-winner, and it shouldn't break the guidelines.

Not everyone can get this right first time. See my previous posts for some things not to do. The most important thing is to keep the faith and try harder next time. It's not up to Matt or anyone else to keep this site sweet: it's up to you. And me. Good luck ...
posted by walrus at 6:02 AM on November 1, 2001

We interrupt this important thread to bring to you Zach's big mouth.

One more important point: Even if you do all of the above (and below if someone posts after me) and more, there will be somebody, somewhere, who will find your post ungood. In some cases doubly-plus ungood and they will probably be vociferous about it. Try not to let it get you down. The individual will mean well, but may speak from an emotional standpoint that you could misinterpret as being confrontational and hateful.

Bitching them out about it doesn't help. Believe me. I've tried. Feel free to learn from my mistakes. Sometimes you just have to shrug, learn from your mistakes where you can, let them have their holier than thou attitude kept intact, and move forward.

Except in comparatively rare cases, anyone who posts to MeFi never does so maliciously, purposefully breaking the rules in order to upset everyone. Most of the time they feel that in their situation (whatever that situation is) it's warranted. They're often wrong, but they do it anyway with no mean harm intended. Or they simply weren't aware of the proper way to post despite other people constantly repeating it. Or they just had a brain fart. It's never meant hatefully and shouldn't be taken that way. Calling them stupid for making what to you is such an obvious blunder, doesn't help. Believe me. I've tried.

Who in their right mind couldn't love this place? 99.9% of the posts to MeFi are well-intentioned. At worst they're misinformed or naive. I would urge anyone posting to be open to criticism and learn from mistakes. I would urge anyone complaining about someone else's posts to count to ten before hitting send, and see if there's a more positive and constructive way to communicate one's displeasure. Most of all I'd urge everyone that we're human. We're gonna make mistakes. Even someone who's been around since MeFi's beginnings could have a bad day. No one's immune to inadvertently causing havoc. The person posting means well. The person calling on the person's posting habits means well. A person like me who finds the unending argument distasteful, means well too.

So be vigilant, but be gracious. Thank you for reading.

We now return you to MeFi Posting 101, already in progress.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:01 PM on November 2, 2001

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