Quick Survey on MeFi Ethical Question April 25, 2007 2:41 PM   Subscribe

If an admin deleted an Ask MeFi question at the poster's request, what ethical implications are associated with blogging about it, if you saw the thread prior to its deletion and feel you have something to say? And what rationale do you use to form that opinion?
posted by WCityMike to MetaFilter-Related at 2:41 PM (52 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

It's a normal deletion, not the scorched-earth kind. Is there some sort of social covenant regarding these things, or is the idea that once it's asked, you've stood behind those words?
posted by WCityMike at 2:41 PM on April 25, 2007


I'm sure we'll come up with one here...
posted by SweetJesus at 2:50 PM on April 25, 2007


My moral compass says it's fair to write about it if you neither mention who the poster was, nor link to the deleted thread.
posted by chrismear at 2:55 PM on April 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


You can't hide secrets from the future.
posted by Plutor at 2:56 PM on April 25, 2007


Personally, I wouldn't feel comfortable if it would out a person's real identity (I don't know what question you're talking about and I'm just thinking of my horrible fear of somehow accidentally revealing my personal info). And I wouldn't mention the poster's username, either.
posted by peep at 2:59 PM on April 25, 2007


Don't do it. It just doesn't seem cool. Respect your fellow MeFite's wish to have the question wiped from the face of the tubes.
posted by The World Famous at 3:08 PM on April 25, 2007


It's the kind of "normal deletion" where you can still access it if you have the URL bookmarked (or through one of the "deleted threads" script thingies)?

If so, without knowing the content of the particular question, I would think it would be OK, as long as you're not, y'know, dickish about it.
posted by dersins at 3:24 PM on April 25, 2007


I think it would be dependent on the reasons for the poster asking for it to be deleted. If those are unknown, then I would try to make sure that given just the details from your blog posting, it would not be possible (or at least very difficult) to google up the deleted thread. By no means should you mention the poster's username.
posted by juv3nal at 3:39 PM on April 25, 2007


If it's on the web, I don't really see a problem with posting about it on a weblog - that's kind of what they're for. (I'm assuming the questioner understood that a 'deletion' on Ask MetaFilter means that the question and existing answers remain online, and just didn't want any more answers here.)
posted by jack_mo at 4:37 PM on April 25, 2007


If it's by the poster's request, it's totally not cool to link to it in my opinion. Granted it's not technologically prohibited, but a lot of the time people when we give that reason it's because people posted something and then thought better of it. Putting a link to it up someplace else is knowingly going against their wishes and unless you have a serious axe to grind with them, don't do it.

I'd also note that this could also be read "unless you have a serious axe to grind with US (the admins)" since it may be that the poster will then be upset enough to ask us to delete the thread outright, thus making your post point to something totally blank and also making more work for us. Your choice, but I'd strongly advise against it.

I'm not sure, in this example what you mean by "feel you have something to say" If you need to contact the user, please try to do that on your own. If you just have some snarky and/or LOL response, maybe it might be best to just keep that to yourself, or speak in general terms.

So ethically it makes the person who blogged about it, in my mind, look like a jerk if they knew that the post was deleted, knew why it was deleted, and linked to it anyhow, knowing both those things, after the fact. This gets muddled if they had linked to it before the deletion, or if they didn't know why it was deleted.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:40 PM on April 25, 2007


and feel you have something to say?

To whom? If someone asks a question and then, for whatever reason, requests deletion, then it stands to reason that the asker doesn't really care whether or not you feel you have something to say.

or is the idea that once it's asked, you've stood behind those words?

If requests for deletion are granted, then we can assume that is not the idea. This is a recreational community, not a court of law. There is no official record. If a person wants to have their question deleted, no matter what the reason, I can't imagine why on earth anyone would feel like their need to continue the conversation trumps the askers desire for the thread to be deleted.

I don't have an answer as to whether or not it is ethical. But I do think it is sleazy and unnecessary. Sometimes it helps to remember that a blog is just a blog and there will be plenty of other things to fill it with, without dredging up a question that should be dying a quiet death.
posted by necessitas at 5:06 PM on April 25, 2007


Being ethical and not being a jerk are different things. These things will always depend on the situation, but for it to be an ethical obligation, you have to have some sort of duty to act in a certain way. I don't think there is a general duty not to discuss content that used to appear on a web site, unless doing so will cause significant harm. If you are doing so expressly against the wishes of the person asking a question, then, yeah, that is a jerky thing to do usually. There are exceptions—as a matter of course, Deleted Thread will link to it. The publisher of that blog is not a jerk, because he posts all deleted threads, as opposed to making a conscious choice to post one the asker requested deletion for.
posted by grouse at 5:11 PM on April 25, 2007


Jess — to answer your question, it wasn't contacting the user, it was just something I have to say about the question. The question I read was just so friggin' evil, morally repugnant.
posted by WCityMike at 5:13 PM on April 25, 2007


Oooh. Now I have to think -- have I been friggin' evil? Morally repugnant? Does he mean me?
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:35 PM on April 25, 2007


So long as you don't identify the user or link to the question I don't see anything wrong with it. It's just your blog, after all, you're allowed to write anything you fookin' want! But that's just me.
posted by liquorice at 5:36 PM on April 25, 2007


Sheesh, I just spent too minutes looking for this dumb thing. Someone post a link and be done with it.
posted by bonheur at 6:05 PM on April 25, 2007


I agree. Where's the beef?
posted by phaedon at 6:14 PM on April 25, 2007


The question I read was just so friggin' evil, morally repugnant.

Maybe the poster sees that now, and that's why he asked to have it taken down.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:43 PM on April 25, 2007


Ditto bonheur and phaedon.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:02 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Response level one: unethical. Respect the poster's desire to have their question expunged.

Response level two: evil? morally repugnant? Well damn, serve up that link!
posted by nanojath at 7:07 PM on April 25, 2007


Well, why not paraphrase the question, but don't link and don't include any identifying features.
posted by delmoi at 7:07 PM on April 25, 2007


The question I read was just so friggin' evil, morally repugnant.

Then leave it alone. There is nothing to be gained by grinding an axe against someone who had second thoughts about sharing whatever it is that you're poking with your stick. You're already stirring it up enough here in a way which is borderline uncool. The world is a complicated and frequently annoying place. My best advice to you, since you asked, is let it go.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:20 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


And what rationale do you use to form that opinion?

What a weird query for a hypothetical. If you know the reason it was removed, you can make an informed decision whether making another ripple on the blogotubes about it would be ethical. If you have reason to think something you write would hurt someone, then you can make a decision whether you'd like to cause that hurt.

Absent of that data, though, you can't really make a choice. In that case, I'd go ahead and blog it. Poster beware.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 7:41 PM on April 25, 2007


Well, I'm starting to lose my MeTa hardon after another painfully sensible comment by jessamyn. So what's the dilly?
posted by phaedon at 7:53 PM on April 25, 2007


This, probably.
posted by puke & cry at 8:12 PM on April 25, 2007


MetaFilter: If you just have some snarky and/or LOL response, maybe it might be best to just keep that to yourself
posted by Rhomboid at 8:16 PM on April 25, 2007


*zips up pants, backs away* nevermind.
posted by phaedon at 8:20 PM on April 25, 2007


If an admin deleted an Ask MeFi question at the poster's request, what ethical implications are associated with blogging about it,

No need to link to the question, just go to any undergrad management ethics book. This case will be in the first couple of chapters, probably including a black man leaning of the shoulder of an asian woman -- both with large smiles -- and in front of a computer from 1988. One of the case questions read something like, "Should John inform his superior on Cindy's condition?" ... I had a half page reply commenting on the postmodern tableau formed in the picture, the metanarrative formed by us talking about John talking about the tumor. Then I kind of rambled on how a brain tumor as a cliched plot device formed a perfect blending of high (the ethics) and low (the cliched device) culture.

No one found it funny but me :(, especially Mr. No-Sense-Of-Irony-Professor
posted by geoff. at 8:29 PM on April 25, 2007


My question is, If an admin "deleted" an AskMe thread at the poster's request, then why wasn't that thread actually deleted?

There's probably some benefit to leaving the thread online that I'm not seeing, or maybe some down side to pulling it offline; but regardless, this seems to reflect some weird middle ground where an admin was sufficiently persuaded to close a thread prematurely, but not sufficiently persuaded to actually erase its contents. What's the reasoning behind that?
posted by cribcage at 8:40 PM on April 25, 2007


The only way you can delete something for good from AskMe/MeFi is to actually dig into the database and purge it. With MeTa there are three stages open/closed/deleted. This is fixable, it just hasn't been coded in to be easily doable by anyone who wasn't mathowie.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:43 PM on April 25, 2007


Yea, it's not really fair to hate on someone for OMG LINKING TO A DELETED THREAD!!11 if it's still there in a capacity where people can see it. If someone requests a thread to be gone, it should be gone gone gone.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:44 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the answer. Obviously you can delete comments from AskMe, and it wouldn't have occurred to me that threads would be any different.
posted by cribcage at 8:52 PM on April 25, 2007


Seems to me the answer to most real MeTa questions is this: "does it improve our social culture?"
posted by five fresh fish at 9:57 PM on April 25, 2007


For the record, I didn't see anything wrong with the question. Nothing "evil" or "morally repugnant".
posted by puke & cry at 10:34 PM on April 25, 2007


Obviously, I can't continue to employ him once he starts to 'slip.'
How do I know which mistakes I should attribute to inexperience, and which ones I should attribute to the tumor?
One of my concerns is how much effort we should put into training this guy on new technologies, and whether or not to promote him to a new position once we hire more people.

You can be as contrite as you like now, but your question was absolute shit. One sentence summary: "I know nothing about brain tumours, but I know I should start discriminating ASAP!"
posted by reklaw at 1:47 AM on April 26, 2007


oh please, reklaw. you are just being silly. I'm guessing this sort of assholery is exactly the sort of pile-on he wanted to avoid by having the post deleted.

I don't see anything wrong with the question. It is a management grey area, lots to people would be confused and conflicted, just like the poster.
posted by necessitas at 2:23 AM on April 26, 2007


It's the absolute opposite of a grey area - it's an area in which many laws have been made, precisely to stop the kind of actions the poster was drawn to.

And if you can't take the heat, don't post the question. It's just words on t'Internet, after all.
posted by reklaw at 3:10 AM on April 26, 2007


I agree with chrismear. You can discuss anything you want, no problem. But naming the user or linking to the deleted thread is just kind of a dick move. But if you are just interested in discussing something you find "evil" and "morally repugnant," you can do that without calling anyone out. In fact, the call out isn't necessary for you to explore whatever it is you want to explore.
posted by sneakin at 4:27 AM on April 26, 2007


"And if you can't take the heat, don't post the question. It's just words on t'Internet, after all."

I remember a time when you started your own MeTa when you couldn't take the heat in AskMe, reklaw. Have you changed your views about taking the heat in AskMe, or is it an everyone-takes-the-heat-but-me policy that you have in mind?
posted by Kwine at 5:16 AM on April 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Zing.
posted by sneakin at 5:57 AM on April 26, 2007


I didn't ask for the thread to be deleted, though - either the original thread, or that MeTa thread which people seem to think acts as some kind of permanent embarassment to me (I'm still right, you know). Nothing you could ever say to me on the Internet would bother me, seriously - unlike this guy, who wants the bad words to STOP STOP OMG DELETE.
posted by reklaw at 5:59 AM on April 26, 2007


Pretending that people are saying things that they're not saying seems like fun.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:03 AM on April 26, 2007


Thank you, Kwine, for linking to that. It was superfun to read through. I'm going back now to finish.
posted by sneakin at 6:08 AM on April 26, 2007


It's just words on t'Internet, after all.

Then calm the fuck down and put your Wang of Indignance away.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:25 AM on April 26, 2007


There's nothing unethical about discussing a topic that you read about, anywhere, on your blog. Linking to the thread would be a bad move, but bringing up a topic or even a detailed paraphrase of the question is just fine.

If you had a law blog, and you were writing about a case that was thrown out of court, it would be fine to describe the case in detail. I'm not advocating using AskMe like the public record and quoting and referencing the particular case, because the Meffy universe is much more personal: you'd be sure to step on toes, at least, and it's pointless and dumb to make enemies on a glorified BBS. But there's nothing wrong with using any of the ideas or themes or links or interpersonal shit here as a launching-point for your own separate thoughts.

You could even start your own blog made up entirely of your thoughts on or answers to AskMe questions, which would allow you more liberty in associating topics with other topics, or insulting the ideas, or proposing alternatives that don't fall within the guidelines of the site.

I actually think that's a pretty good idea, especially for those folks who just can't keep from breaking the rules or getting in fights. It's a variation on the standard GYOB line, I guess, but I think there are many posters here whose thoughts might benefit from a little more air than is sometimes allowed here.

I think linking here is bad, because it's responding to a specific question in a forum in which the question wasn't posed, one that the poster and other readers aren't likely or welcome to see and respond to. But using a topic found here for a blog entry without posting a link, simply paraphrasing the question or summing up an opinion? That's fine. It's the words that belong to the posters and commenters here, not the ideas.

Oh, and I'd avoid showing your blog to folks here, some of them tend to get twisted up over nothing and might make a big stink over how you're "stealing other people's ideas" or "abusing the community." Phooey.
posted by breezeway at 7:42 AM on April 26, 2007


I really wish that we could have settled this in email, but you've brought it into MeTa, so I feel it should be settled in MeTa.

I didn't bring you into MeTa, and, furthermore, I wasn't sure if I should "bring" you into even my own blog — thus this very question.

Moreover, the sum total of my comments that ended up providing identifying characteristics about your post? That it was an Ask Metafilter question that I found deeply objectionable that was deleted by the poster's request. While that might've narrowed it down to a few, I purposefully didn't post a link and didn't confirm p&c's link when he posted it; you, however, did that quite nicely when you showed up.

I didn't start this MeTa to call you out specifically, wasn't sure of the ethics of calling you out on my blog (thus the question in the first place), and really am not in the mood to get into another MeTa flameout, so I'm really not going to get into this with you.

Glad, for your employee's sake and for your company's legal health, that you decided to be a human being about the whole thing.
posted by WCityMike at 8:18 AM on April 26, 2007


Putting a link to it up someplace else is knowingly going against their wishes and unless you have a serious axe to grind with them, don't do it.

Shouldn't that say, "Escpecially if you have a serious axe to grind with them, don't do it?"

Also, can we please not have this thread turn into a pile-on of either WCityMike or kanoshakid? It was a question, regretted and closed. It's over and so should this callout be. They're two mistakes and shouldn't be an opportunity for the Righteous Indignation Patrol to put on their shitkickers.
posted by shmegegge at 8:54 AM on April 26, 2007


I purposefully didn't post a link

Non-rhetorically speaking, did you think that no one would find and link to the post you were talking about?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:01 AM on April 26, 2007


Then calm the fuck down and put your Wang of Indignance away.

Now that's a sock puppet waiting to happen.
posted by peep at 9:14 AM on April 26, 2007


Did you think that no one would find and link to the post you were talking about?

The decision to locate the thread I'm obliquely referring to, and the decision to post it to this MeTa thread, were decisions made by someone other than me.

I knew that by merely asking the question, there would be enough there to enable someone to find the question if they wanted to invest the effort to go through all recently deleted questions (as p&c already does, since he is the Deleted Links Blog guy).

I wasn't going to link to him myself; I wasn't going to make it idiotically easy for someone else to locate, either. But I wasn't going to not ask the question at all to completely safeguard against the possibility that someone else would link to the guy, and the element that no doubt was the identifying characteristic — that it was deleted at the poster's request — was intrinsic to the question being asked, and couldn't be removed.
posted by WCityMike at 9:22 AM on April 26, 2007


shmegegge : "Shouldn't that say, 'Escpecially if you have a serious axe to grind with them, don't do it?'"

I think the idea there is "if you have a serious axe to grind, you should probably just give it up and make peace. But there's probably no way you're going to, because that's how serious axes are. So I'm not going to give you any good advice if you've got an axe to grind, because you wouldn't pay any attention anyway. But if you don't have a serious axe to grind, I'd recommend that you not do it, for a bunch of reasons, with the bonus reason that 'if you do it, people will think you have a serious axe to grind, and you don't want to be that guy'".
posted by Bugbread at 3:48 PM on April 26, 2007


well, that certainly sounds reasonable. but have you considered the possibility that you're wrong and I'm right?

I thought not.
posted by shmegegge at 6:25 PM on April 26, 2007


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