Recent comments not appearing in AskMe August 21, 2009 3:24 PM   Subscribe

I went to post a reply in this AskMe thread and the 3 most recent comments I saw in Recent Activity seem to have disappeared. They've since also disappeared from Recent Activity. Bug or moderation?
posted by scalefree to Bugs at 3:24 PM (42 comments total)

The last threee comments in that thread were all sort of side chatter about whether or not MDMA was cut with anything and why would a dealer do that. Even though the thread is pretty well "answered" it doesn't really mean it can turn into an idle speculation discussion. You can always email a mod directly if you want to know if we've done something.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:26 PM on August 21, 2009


The last threee comments in that thread

I think we all know what that extra "E" is for...
posted by dersins at 3:31 PM on August 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Piggyback for a similarish issue:

In Recent Activity, I've just started noticing (just today, for the first time ever) that often the most recent comment(s) won't have one of those "A Minute Ago" links back to the thread, and I have to scroll up a bit to find one.

It's very slightly annoying!
posted by Sys Rq at 3:34 PM on August 21, 2009


It's very slightly annoying!

I've noticed that too; I think I'm just in the habit of hopping back to the last one and taking it as a sign that maybe I'm hitting refresh on Recent Activity too often.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:53 PM on August 21, 2009


I understand the motivation for "quietly disappearing" comments, that you're hoping to avoid fanning the embers into flames. But it left a gap that was noticed, and in light of yesterday's downtime I was actually betting on it being a bug left over from that. Personally I'd prefer erring on the side of transparency in a case like this; your explanation completely made sense & reminded me the comments (and my own intended one) were inappropriate. If I'd known why they disappeared I wouldn't have had to bother anybody. It would also increase my feeling that the mods are accountable to us, that abuses like those that plague communities like Wikipedia aren't happening here because you guys trust us enough not to hide the rough edges from us.
posted by scalefree at 3:58 PM on August 21, 2009


If I'd known why they disappeared I wouldn't have had to bother anybody.

I'm not sure what you're referring to here. It's certainly not bothering us either to send us an email or to open up a MetaTalk thread, but some people talk about MeTa as being too rough and tumble so I like to remind them that there are options. Usually if we remove a few comments in a row we'll leave a note. This time I didn't. No particular reason, it just didn't seem like it was likely to be a confusing deletion and the thread wasn't moving particularly fast.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:02 PM on August 21, 2009


maybe I'm hitting refresh on Recent Activity too often

This mythical creature does not exist.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:09 PM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


RA times for brand new comments were off because the time settings were slightly off between the web server and db server. I just synchronized our watches, so that issue should be gone.
posted by pb (staff) at 4:16 PM on August 21, 2009


By far the most prevalent adverse effect of MDMA use is finding yourself sober, listening to amazingly shitty music.
posted by klangklangston at 4:29 PM on August 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


All I'm asking is that when you exercise your moderation authority, you'll be more inclined to leave a marker explaining why. One of the main reasons the Wikipedia community is so toxic is that its mods feel no accountability to their userbase and abuse their ability to untraceably edit and delete entries. Granted I'm an edge case, skepticism bordering on paranoia's literally part of my job description. But I just feel that even when you don't think it'll be noticed, it's a good thing to do if only to show that you're not like them.
posted by scalefree at 5:08 PM on August 21, 2009


that issue should be gone.

It seems to be. Very slightly hooray!
posted by Sys Rq at 5:27 PM on August 21, 2009


you'll be more inclined to leave a marker explaining why.

We usually do, we sometimes don't. There's a balance we have to strike between being as transparent as possible versus spending as much time explaining our moderation as doing it. At the same time, we have a "ask us pretty much anything" policy here so if there are concerns, they can be discussed publicly. I don't feel that we have much to prove in the "we're not like the people at Wikipedia!" arena, though folks may have differing opinions about that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:36 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just want to add, I don't think there was anything hinky here, I hadn't even considered moderation as an explanation until I was almost ready to post & noticed the comments had disappeared from Recent Activity too. I'm just lobbying in favor of greater transparency as a matter of good policy, with Wikipedia as the counterexample.
posted by scalefree at 5:38 PM on August 21, 2009


I think the mods here are pretty exceptionally transparent. If they don't leave a note when comments are deleted (and the majority of the time, they do) they are very willing to discuss, publicly or over email, why the deletion happened.

Sure, transparency in moderation is something to be valued, but we have but five mods (with most of the editorial work carried by three of them), and they've got a lot to do already. As a user of the site, I don't particularly care to know every time one or two noise/abuse/derail comments are removed. Chances are, if someone cares particularly about the deletion of their comment, we'll hear about it in MetaTalk, anyway.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:46 PM on August 21, 2009


A [snark deleted] for [joke deleted] or [nonresponsive answer deleted] for every stupid thing deleted in Ask.me would be just as ruinous to the threads as leaving them in. Ask needs a very high on-topic appropriate-tone signal to noise ratio to be useful or readable. I think it's an excellent policy not to draw attention to most deletions in ask.me.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:47 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I think the mods here are pretty exceptionally transparent."

No, I've met Matt and Jess, and they reflect and absorb light just like everyone else.
posted by klangklangston at 6:23 PM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


As a moderator at another forum, I can definitely agree with leaving some things unexplained. It can be a bit of a pain to explain everything.

I do have a question though. Do the mods here have the ability to edit a post rather than delete it, and do they ever do that? A recent answer with some inappropriate name calling but a good piece of information was all gone and probably could have been just as useful with the name calling taken out.
posted by theichibun at 6:30 PM on August 21, 2009


Do the mods here have the ability to edit a post rather than delete it, and do they ever do that?

We can edit and our policy is that we pretty much never do for content. We'll fix broken HTML or the occasional typo but anything else we'll only do if the original poster asks us to and even then we're really sparing with it. Once you start messing with people's words it's a big problem and there were a few high profile situations before the policy was cast in stone that pretty much made us decide to firm it up some. The downside is you get edge cases where an otherwise awesome comment has some excreable stuff in it and it's always a quandary what to do.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:04 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd rather not see scads of "Comment deleted by Administrator" notes messing up the joint.
posted by CKmtl at 7:56 PM on August 21, 2009


Yeah I don't want every deletion marked either. But 3 comments with a common cause that wasn't (to me at least) self-evident, yeah I think it's useful to have that marked. Once it was explained it completely made sense but until then I honestly thought it was a bug I was reporting.
posted by scalefree at 9:05 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah I don't want every deletion marked either. But 3 comments with a common cause that wasn't (to me at least) self-evident, yeah I think it's useful to have that marked.

This may just be the borderland where we're bound to disagree on some cases. If it's only three comments that were a self-contained derail that doesn't look likely to self-perpetuate once the comments are gone, we're not so likely to leave a note. If the derails seems like the produce of some external factor intrinsic to the thread or the post, we probably will leave a note to try and explicitly recognize the remaining problem.

I've always liked the bit from The Illuminatus! Trilogy about the department store sign that read NO SPITTING, but I love it for the same reason that I want to keep to the very minimum the number of NO SPITTING signs we put up on metafilter.

We'd rather not spend more time than we need to warning people against doing things we don't have any expectation that they'll do, in other words. That's part of the motivation not to leave notes when notes don't seem to us, based on past experience, to be necessary.

Once it was explained it completely made sense but until then I honestly thought it was a bug I was reporting.

Reporting bugs is a-okay, and yesterday's weirdness is an understandable prime for zealous bug-spotting. That doesn't really come into the more general question of how we deal with this stuff when there hasn't been a recent major site hiccup, though.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:58 PM on August 21, 2009


I always took the lack of notice of deletion on one of my comments as sort of a just response to the snark I laid down. It usually takes me 3 or 4 minutes of searching for my comment and wondering what happened before I realize a mod had "fixed that for me". Chasing my tail for a few minutes seems like a reasonable and deserved "punishment". On one or two occasions I thought the deletion unnecessary, I emailed a mod who responded on a timely basis that I was an idiot and deserved the deletion. The mod was right on both parts. I think the process works well especially knowing it is an art, not a science.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:36 AM on August 22, 2009


Bug or moderation?

Mug. Or boderation. Definitely one of the two.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:57 AM on August 22, 2009


I emailed a mod who responded on a timely basis that I was an idiot and deserved the deletion.

I've never called anyone an idiot! And now that I can search MeFiMail, I can prove it.

Basically, we prove we're not like the Wikipedia editors by not being like them generally. I know there are some people on MeFi who have very strong opinions about the way they run their site, but there are very few similarities between their process and our process, so we're not worried about the comparison.

The MDMA thread seems to be picking up some little comments here and there (there's one now that I don't know what to do with for example - calling someone fucking stupid is sort of against the rules, but is it the user theiy're calling fucking stupid or the things they're saying.... things that are pretty factually disproveable) but it's slow moving and basically only available to people on Recent Activity making it less of a focus on our attention. Notes are more often used in the "Hey, mid-course correction here, please stop making the obvious dick joke and answer the question" way than the "I removed something here, fyi hth hand" way.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:03 AM on August 22, 2009


I like that the moderation of MetaFilter is sort of invisible much of the time. Little notes from moderators or signs that [this comment was deleted] are themselves kind of a derail, I think, in that they distract from the main focus of the discussion.

That's not a point against moderators deleting comments, by the way, but a point in favor of doing so without leaving its footprints in place. I like that it's often as if the deleted comment never happened in the first place.

MetaTalk goes along nicely with this by providing a place to talk about (and argue about, sometimes) such deletions, still without them derailing the original thread. The lack of transparency of moderation on some other sites seems partly due to having such discussions in the original thread, where they're off-topic and also deleted, which tends to come off as suppressing dissent.
posted by FishBike at 9:11 AM on August 22, 2009


Bug or moderation?

Mudbog.
posted by box at 9:12 AM on August 22, 2009


Buggeration.
posted by Kattullus at 10:04 AM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and new comments are still coming up in Recent Activity without a "just posted," "fresh" etc.
posted by Kattullus at 10:05 AM on August 22, 2009


Yeah, that's kind of annoying. I keep accidentally clicking usernames instead, since they're the only links in that line now.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:41 PM on August 22, 2009


I'm going to go out on a limb and assume the link text is not appearing because the code that produces it, with all those wonderful variations for different comment ages, doesn't expect the comment age to be less than zero.

It would be kind of cool if this sort of clock synchronization issue between servers could manifest itself as recent activity showing comments "posted by FishBike from the future [+]".
posted by FishBike at 3:41 PM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Usually if we remove a few comments in a row we'll leave a note. This time I didn't. No particular reason

For Christ's sake, can we just have an automatic [comments removed: 10 flaggeds], or even with no reason if you don't feel bothered to provide one? That doesn't take any more effort on any mod's part, and it's just a tiny tweak to the display template.

We should also, yes, see (only) our own deleted comments. (This is such basic common-web-senseness, and it's also technically simple; I know that MetaFilter mods are horribly opposed to "showing your work" even to the people who are impacted, but as more and more people join the site and see that comment deletion doesn't work in a transparent way, it's starting to be a bit ridiculous.)

I don't expect this to penetrate the bubble, really, but I have to ask at least rhetorically: how long can you hold onto the "I deleted something and don't have to say why to anyone, including the person I censored, unless they challenge it" mentality? It's exactly as silly as disemvoweling.
posted by rokusan at 8:48 PM on August 22, 2009


I kicked our time server synch stuff again and increased the polling frequency, which should fix new comment timestamps in Recent Activity.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:00 PM on August 22, 2009


I don't expect this to penetrate the bubble

You'd have more luck penetrating the bubble if you didn't seem so pissed off and exasperated.

That doesn't take any more effort on any mod's part

Untrue. The more "comment removed" indicators we have, the more people inquire about them. Not a huge deal, but our general feeling is that putting indicators in for every removed comment is MORE work not less.

I know that MetaFilter mods are horribly opposed to "showing your work"

Untrue. We just figure that in a lot of cases -- as is evidenced here and in the email we send and receive -- most of the time people aren't really that confused at why things get removed. We show our work all the time, pretty much constantly. Without giving you a running commentary about everything we do as we're doing it [which doubles our workload, one minute to act and one minute to report] we think we're pretty transparent here. All of us don't just check our own work, but we check each others' work. We generally don't even do anything if we're uncertain without checking with another mod.

Add to this that most users never have a comment removed at all and you're building features for people who are already edge dwellers. If we think people are confused, or if they're new, we email them personally, a non-form letter email. We're not getting the feeling that this approach is not working, even with all the new users. That said, it's sort of a decision we made to not email users every time a comment is removed, again this increases workload and we think moves discussion about moderation over to email instead of keeping it in Metatalk where it's more public.

"I deleted something and don't have to say why to anyone, including the person I censored, unless they challenge it"

We always say why if people ask. Always. The question here was "why didn't you include a note?" and the true answer was "no real reason, sometimes we don't" I'm sorry that incenses you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:11 PM on August 22, 2009


For Christ's sake, can we just have an automatic [comments removed: 10 flaggeds]

I think this would just encourage noise/derailments.

We should also, yes, see (only) our own deleted comments.

Why? What's the point? So you can simmer over your snarky/offensive/off-topic/not-allowed (e.g., posting someone's real name/email correspondence without permission, etc.) comment?

but as more and more people join the site and see that comment deletion doesn't work in a transparent way, it's starting to be a bit ridiculous.


MeTa does not seem to be overrun by people asking where their/other peoples' comments went. It's overrun by cortex, at the moment, but even before this and the 10th anniversary stuff, I'm not remembering any "Where's my comment meTa?" in ages. It doesn't seem to be a problem that needs fixing.
posted by rtha at 9:15 PM on August 22, 2009


Or what jessamyn said. I shoulda previewed.
posted by rtha at 9:16 PM on August 22, 2009


For Christ's sake, can we just have an automatic [comments removed: 10 flaggeds], or even with no reason if you don't feel bothered to provide one?

For the love of GOD, no, don't do this. It wouldn't add a damn thing and would just start huge drama over "what was deleted? Who flagged my comment? U HOR!!!!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:31 AM on August 23, 2009


> For Christ's sake, can we just have an automatic [comments removed: 10 flaggeds], or even with no reason if you don't feel bothered to provide one?

For Christ's sake, can you just say what you think without ranting like a complete jerk? And no, nobody wants that stuff but you and a few other obsessives, and it's not your site.
posted by languagehat at 6:48 AM on August 23, 2009


I had a comment deleted and I thought it might be before I posted it. I talked with jessamyn in MeMail about it, essentially asking for the motivation for deletion to see if I could figure out whether it was ever okay to post a comment like that in a similar situation in the future and if so, how.

Yes, having my comment removed irritated me. No, I didn't post about it on MetaTalk because I didn't feel like grandstanding and because I was pretty sure I'd be told by the community that I was being too sensitive or just that I'd been caught by the system for gaming it and who did I think I was anyway (much like what's happening to you now).

I'm not sure if you want to change MetaFilter or the moderation process or are just posting and venting because it's time for you to be that way, or are really looking for opinions that will allow you to fit in better to MetaFilter as it is now, so let me address these possibilities. If you are doing this for some other reason, then I apologize for misapprehending your motives.

I can testify that MetaFilter has changed and clearly continues to do so. When I got here, I posted another vibrating broomstick story (one of the first, top-earning duplicate posts on MetaFilter around when I joined). I railed against the inevitable deletion and predicted that MetaFilter would have to get more transparent, that it would need some written policies of some kind, or a FAQ or something, and that one day there would be a moderation team (which was why I thought the other things needed to happen - so there would be consistency and so that the team would retain the ability for rapid response). Over time, these things happened. I am not in any wise saying that I made these things happen, but I am saying that as the organization grows and changes, certain kinds of organizational efficiency things happen. I expect this will continue to happen as MetaFilter continues to mature.

If you're venting, fine. Take your lumps.

If you want to fit in better, my advice is to take posts like these, turn them into much smaller, more concise, more respectful (at least not suspicious and accusatory) MeMails that you send to one or more moderator(s) that you trust and just inquire whether they know why specifically your comments were deleted. If the conversation allows, ask what you could do better next time or how you could navigate a similar situation in the future and yet still contribute. Finally, don't forget to actually learn from the response you're given.
posted by kalessin at 7:36 AM on August 23, 2009


Whoops, slipped into MetaTalk by accident again. I'll go vent elsewhere, sorry.

No, there were no particular deleted anythings that bothered me here. It's just a silly system, a policy to remove users' anythings without notice (I can't think of another website on which this happens), but I should remember to shut up about it. It's a very hard and fast rule here that will not be changing ever, and I've been told that before, which is what the bubble reference was for: from outside the MetaFilter universe, it's an arbitrary and weird system.

Anyway, I need to go write a Greasemonkey script to block links from the blue or green pages to MetaTalk now so I don't fall in here by accident again. Slippery hole.
posted by rokusan at 4:05 PM on August 23, 2009


Uh.. well the other place where people's things get deleted without notice is on individual blogs. Happens all the time.
posted by kalessin at 7:04 PM on August 23, 2009


It sometimes seems arbitrary and weird from inside, too (full disclosure: I've made thousands of comments, and I've had probably tens of comments deleted (mostly in AskMe, and tens but not a hundred. I hope, anyway). But I have a great deal of faith in the moderation system here. To bite that Churchill democracy bit, Mefi moderation is the worst, except when compared with any of the other options (I was going to make links for 'any of the other options' to Yahoo Answers and Digg and Reddit and stuff, but, yeah, why?).

And I think that adding a wildcard AdBlock filter would be easier than writing a Greasemonkey script. http://metatalk.metafilter.com/* would probably work fine. If you're running AdBlock anyway, at least. But AdBlock and NoScript and Greasemonkey, well, they're like the Money Jungle trio of Firefox extensions.
posted by box at 7:15 PM on August 23, 2009


It's just a silly system, a policy to remove users' anythings without notice (I can't think of another website on which this happens)...

....you....can't?

I honestly can't think of any moderated website on which it DOESN'T happen.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:23 PM on August 23, 2009


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