Thread and Comment Nofications November 2, 2001 8:55 AM   Subscribe

idea (or has this been suggested before?):

what if each thread and comment had a "notify" link next to it; click the link and you get a pop-up window asking if you'd like to send the note, and if you clicked yes, a notification would be sent to matt, saying "this thread needs your attention" or "this comment needs your attention".

that way, people could notify matt of double posts and flamewars while they were reading the thread; this would eliminate the need for matt to constantly monitor the board himself, and potentially cut down on all those annoying double post comments.

the note could either send a separate email to matt, or it could just send a note telling him to go to a page that would compile the red flags by thread. he could see at a glance that 1 person flagged thread (a) and 12 flagged thread (b), and so on. this page would have check boxes next to each comment that had been flagged, so that matt could delete each notice once he had dealt with the trouble post.

if that seems like it would generate too much mail for matt, then a hybrid "star chamber/notification system" : this feature would be activated for 20 active, trusted members (preferably in various time zones).

the main result of this feature would be to eliminate the need for matt to continuously monitor the board himself, while at the same time ensuring that he makes all the calls regarding the appropriateness of any given post.

does my description make sense, and is this an idea that would save you time, matt?

posted by rebeccablood to Feature Requests at 8:55 AM (35 comments total)

the worry would be that it becomes an "annoy matt" button, with people pressing it every time they don't like someone's posting style or argument. Perhaps a system could be developed where some sort of critical mass would have to be reached before the email was actually generated-- 5-10 requests perhaps.

The only problem with good ideas like this one is that sometimes they just create new problems (mattspam) even as they solve old ones.
posted by cell divide at 9:06 AM on November 2, 2001

I got trolled awhile back and bit in, rued it. But you know me, I'm Mr. Sensitive. It got to the point where I emailed Matt and asked him to cancel my account (truth!). Luckily Matt is not the rash type, and after a weeklong despazzing period I returned, and more callous for it :) Point being, we are all susceptible to trolls and flamewars, because they are provocatory and, in a perverse way, fun. We're competitive creatures by nature, and we want to strike back when people call names. But the best way to deal with trollery and flaming is to simply not participate. I've done some trolling, and what they are looking for is action. No action, and the troll goes back under the bridge. Same for flamers - if you don't bite in, they lose interest.

I feel that if everyone made a personal vow not to give in to the temptation to respond to trolls or join in flames and stuck to it, you'd see the level of that activity decrease dramatically, as the purveyors move on to easier pickings.
posted by UncleFes at 9:24 AM on November 2, 2001

"self-policing" is the paramount idea of why i like mefi. self-policing would cease? it is an age old question, being raised in the newest medium. rather profound if you think about it. as a recovering troll, one wont lose interest as Fes proposes, though most do...go away, reform, what ever. at this point, i think it should be an option. RB has the near perfect system. if it where used, say thrice weekly, would mefi lose "self-policing" statis? I dont know what matt does about these matters, ones that simply"need to go"...if the criteria follows these established principles so far, it could have a shot.
posted by clavdivs at 9:50 AM on November 2, 2001

blogking committee. or one of my all time favorites, "The Steering Committee" (you take the troll out of the clown,...still gotta clown:)
posted by clavdivs at 9:54 AM on November 2, 2001

One could implement this thing without annoying Matt at all -- there could be an admin page Matt could load at will which would keep track of the flags on various threads and comments. Set up right, he could easily block flags from users who abuse the feature or just don't Get it, etc.

The drawback is that setting this up would require a lot of coding on Matt's part.

There's a few threads I'd like to flag today, let me tell you...
posted by sudama at 9:54 AM on November 2, 2001

Like when rodii or someone hits you with a "yellow card." But does it smack to much of Karma Police a'la Plastic? Some of us are reformed. Maybe Clavdivs steering committee (I personally like "Council of Elders," it has a certain adorable gravitas) could be the ones who hold, and throw, the cards.
posted by UncleFes at 9:57 AM on November 2, 2001

well, the point I was getting at is that at this point, people either email matt directly, or wait for him to come look at the page to see how it's going. often the first double post comment says, "double post, just to flag it for matt"

this way he could be notified of maintenance things without having to constantly be reading the board himself.

if he wanted to prevent mattspam, limit the number of people who have this feature and make clear the parameters: doublepost, obvious trolls (like the guy he kicked off the board), the kind of things that require that he do something. bring the rest to metatalk.
posted by rebeccablood at 10:11 AM on November 2, 2001

I like the idea, but also fear that it'd get abused.

Within that idea I do like the "trusted members" idea. This is something that's been brewing in my head for a while now; MeFi is "self-policing", so why don't we "elect" people we trust to head up a committee or board? Yeah, it's bureaucratic, but outside of Matt, there are no leaders in this community - we're 12,000 equals.

Nothing wrong with being equal, but I'd argue that we're running into a lot of problems when it comes to participation, community standards, and the like. People recognize these problems, but how do we correct them? We have to come up with solutions.

Of course, something like this - if taken to a natural conclusion - would radically change MeFi. However, it's been through a substantial number of radical changes even since I got here early last year.
posted by hijinx at 10:12 AM on November 2, 2001

again, I'm not suggesting the star chamber; that's been suggested and rejected. I'm suggesting a mechanism by which matt could be relieved of having to constantly monitor the board himself. creating a way for the entire community or for 20 pairs of eyes to monitor the board for him.

leaving it to 20 people would (IMO) prevent abuse from happening, if matt were quite clear about what should be reported.
posted by rebeccablood at 10:15 AM on November 2, 2001

Would Matt hand-pick those people?
posted by hijinx at 10:18 AM on November 2, 2001

Like when rodii or someone hits you with a "yellow card."

Dammit, I am not the poster boy for "MeFi cop" abuse. I said I would shut up and shut up I have. I don't like being called a jerk any more than you do, Fes. :(
posted by rodii at 10:20 AM on November 2, 2001

It seems to me that it's just a short step from this proposal to a full-blown karma system. If a thread generated enough "bad karma" then the system could notify Matt.

MetaFilter: Making sure Matt Haughey spends all of his free time coding for the rest of his days.
posted by jjg at 10:24 AM on November 2, 2001

Would Matt hand-pick those people?

of course, and he would unpick them, too, if they kept sending him to threads that didn't fall under the categories he wanted them to monitor.
posted by rebeccablood at 10:25 AM on November 2, 2001

RB, you still have people e-mailing matt about possible...infractions...something he deals with anyway. take the burden from matt(your system "steers" him towards violations-YOU ARE IN VIOLATION-from the movie: 'Damnation Alley')...delegation may be the last resort. (the double digit brigade)
posted by clavdivs at 10:32 AM on November 2, 2001

The only difference with this and the way things are done now is that a smaller group of people get to discuss the item at hand. I don't think that's a good thing.

We'd end up with Metatalk and an annoy Matt (or annoy Banishment Committee) button.

Does Matt not read the frontpage anyway? Can't he spot a double post without prompting? And I don't see him getting in the middle of very many flamewars. I don't see how this would save him much time.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:37 AM on November 2, 2001

okay, I'm not making myself very clear. I don't mean that people send matt items to discuss whether or not they belong. I mean that matt picks 20 people who will email him when a) a double post goes up, b) that guy comes back and posts "matthowie is a fag" in every thread and c) some other thing I'm not thinking of that matt gets tired of constantly being on alert for. in other words, matt decides which particular things.

everything else comes to metatalk where everyone else talks it over.

the purpose of this suggestion is not to change the ecology of the community in any way, but to make it so that matt can do something with his day besides constantly reload metafilter.

he can then read metafilter when he feels like it; and code or *have a job* or clean the bathroom or take a bike ride, or whatever else he may want to do besides babysit metafilter to see if there is any maintenance he needs to do.

he will be secure in the knowledge that if a doublepost goes up, he'll get an email so that he'll know to come on over and delete it; he won't need to reload the page every half-hour in order to see that it's all working.
posted by rebeccablood at 10:45 AM on November 2, 2001

this could be done w/o any official committee, too, if so desired. I know I for one would be more comfortable emailing matt about violations if he had it set up so he received such notifications separately (no doubt automatically filed by originating post and type of violation), instead of them going to his personal email account (which I would only email with extreme reluctance). That is, he could set it up so that this made MeFi complaints less of an intrusion, not more of one.
posted by mattpfeff at 10:55 AM on November 2, 2001

I think they've already developed this technology. It's called "Email." Why would Matt need to pick 20 people to email him when they see crap? We're all capable of emailing, I think.
20 hall monitors would change MeFi from a self policing community, to a policed community.
posted by Doug at 11:07 AM on November 2, 2001

outside of Matt, there are no leaders in this community - we're 12,000 equals.

Nothing wrong with being equal, but

I strongly agree with everything except the but.

The only difference with this and the way things are done now is that a smaller group of people get to discuss the item at hand. I don't think that's a good thing.

I agree entirely. Although rebeccablood's suggestion is brilliant as far as relieving Matt of a lot of boring work is concerned, I fear, to abuse the words of Yeats, that the terrible beauty of MetaFilter would be changed; utterly changed.
The community-policing works just fine. It's a lot of trouble to the most savvy and conscientious members but it works. That's the best way of making it easier on Matt - out in the open, subject to discussion and dissent.
Double-posts, trolls and malicious posters are severely dealt with already, in the most democratic way. I've been deleted and flamed quite often but, apart from the odd gratuitous slur, once I've stopped hurting, I find myself agreeing and learning.
As someone, can't remember who, said there is also some perverse fun in the spark-and-drift of the policing process.
Also there aren't that many posts, never mind the annoying ones, that can't be avoided by judicious scrolling and choosing.
I guess what I'm saying is that MetaFilter is fine as it is. The question rebeccablood addresses - efficiency and lightening the load for Matt - is, I think, a separate one. Politically speaking, having a group of lieutenants would soon degenerate into unhealthy competition and needless friction between them. This is a small site, Matt's site, and if you changed its character what would probably happen is you'd end up with a private club with 1000 older members talking amongst themselves.
Self-policing as it is is more work. But it works. And the work is distributed. Protesters have to justify their protests before the rest of us. Just clicking on red flags would encourage lazy arbitrariness, nepotism and secretiveness.
Just my 2 cents, no presumption or offence.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:18 AM on November 2, 2001

no, RB has the right tool to help matt out, within an E-stablished parameter. that being matts standards. actually RB, im saying take it a step further and let some of the 20 do some weeding when matt gets a job or goes out:)
posted by clavdivs at 11:35 AM on November 2, 2001

Why would Matt need to pick 20 people to email him when they see crap? We're all capable of emailing, I think.

I think the idea here is that conceivably 3890 people would all decide to email Matt and alert him to the double post or flame du jour, or none. So he must be ever vigilant--not knowing that anyone else will necessarily alert him right away--and yet sometimes be subject to absolute floods of redundant notices in his inbox.
posted by redfoxtail at 12:43 PM on November 2, 2001

MiguelCardoso: your argument would make sense if everyone had the ability to delete double posts, etc. or, conversely, if I were suggesting that the red flags would apply to out of line posts, out of line language, or any of the things we regularly discuss here in metatalk. the only things this would apply to are things that *never* show up in metatalk, things that just require a response from matt, the double-post being a prime example.

I'm not talking about adding a different level of self (or other)- policing. go back and read my posts again.

the things I'm referring to are things that *only matt can do*, and that need to be done--like removing double posts. how would you like to check mefi every 30 minutes to see if there was any bit of maintenance that you might need to do?

this way, people could easily notify matt when particular, clearly defined occurences required an action on his part.
posted by rebeccablood at 12:47 PM on November 2, 2001

Haven't we talked about a "deputy" system several times to no avail?
posted by owillis at 12:53 PM on November 2, 2001

we've talked about a deputy police system; I'm proposing a mechanism which would potentially relieve matt of babysitting duties and at the same time alert him to particular maintenance duties that he has to do.
posted by rebeccablood at 1:00 PM on November 2, 2001

MetaFilter: Making sure Matt Haughey spends all of his free time coding for the rest of his days.

MetaFilter: We pay his rent, he works for US.
posted by jessamyn at 1:01 PM on November 2, 2001

I like rodii. He's one of my favorites.
posted by sylloge at 1:20 PM on November 2, 2001

I do too. It wasn't a shot. I was wrong to single him out by name.
posted by UncleFes at 1:25 PM on November 2, 2001

Fes, if there was a button next to your post, and I was deputized, you'd be toast, man.
posted by Doug at 3:11 PM on November 2, 2001

Fes is my pal. We're cool. Stewart is my pal too. Pancakes for everybody!
posted by rodii at 3:16 PM on November 2, 2001

Hmm. I think this is a pretty good idea. Essentially it's formalized delegation of research.

Those of you who say "but we already have email" are missing the point. Given the premise that mathowie has to spend too much time policing Metafilter, it follows that current tools for assisting his policing efforts - most of which probably consist of research, i.e. reading the board, rather than actual deletion of posts or accounts - are not doing the job. Sometimes simple improvements make a lot of difference.

If you send Matt an email, he has to read it to figure out what you mean. If you click a button that auto-generates an email, he can use automated tools to process it. Instead of seeing a mail box full of random comments about different threads, he might see: hmmm, 233 notes reading "Thread #49830 is a flamewar", 108 notes titled "Post #27227 is a double-post", and so on without having to peruse each one by hand. That actually sounds like *more* work than the monitoring he does now.

This doesn't necessarily require much coding. The sending side could be done with a standard cgiemail script, and most mail clients support filing rules that allow sorting of mail based on subjects and senders. An even better solution would ignore repeated posts by the same person or perform other analysis, but it doesn't have to be complicated to start out with.

Standard rule of design: don't make it any more complicated than you have to. For this reason I think the original "everyone participates" idea is more likely to succeed.

posted by Mars Saxman at 5:39 PM on November 2, 2001

I feel that if everyone made a personal vow

Excellent post, UncleFes. But oh, the temptation at times...!
posted by rushmc at 6:58 PM on November 2, 2001

I don't think Matt wants to have other people "moderate" (even if it is a trust member thing). I've always got the feeling that he wants to be in sole control, lest not the board turn into Slashdot.
posted by geoff. at 10:40 PM on November 2, 2001

rebeccablood: I'm sorry; you're quite right. I went back and re-read your posts. I seem to have read into them moderator hints which just weren't there. I still prefer the present system, though. If Matt gets fed up with his more tedious duties he could delegate them to people he trusted and knew. I still think - selfishly, I admit - that the strength and effectiveness of MetaFilter mainly derives from the fact that he oversees and does everything.

posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:09 PM on November 3, 2001

I'd like to cheerlead the initial idea, and repeat Sudama's suggestion of an admin page.

Okay, a button that shoots off an email with a given subject to a given address is a really easy implementation, and is definitely a good idea especially with a mail manager, but...

If the page were database driven, when a post gets flagged it only needs to be flagged once. Every successive attempt would change nothing. Except maybe pop up a "thanks for flagging"

The admin page only needs to select * from post where flagged = true (okay, probably slightly more complex :-) and it will have the post id and the post body, so Matt can read and judge it for himself without having to go to MeFi proper to check for himself.

Then he can delete or edit from the page itself. He could check and fix the site in under 2 minutes by marking posts for deletion and making outright edits and then clicking an "update" button.
posted by cCranium at 1:11 PM on November 3, 2001

you'd be toast, man.

I know it. And you'd be right. Fingers got away from my brains, it happens sometimes.
posted by UncleFes at 9:35 PM on November 3, 2001

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