November Favorites Experience concludes. New preferences! Survey! Discuss! December 1, 2009 12:36 PM   Subscribe

November is over, and favorites are back to normal. In addition, we've got a couple related things to mention: a survey about the November exercise and favorites in general, and a couple of new display options for folks who want to alter the default favorites view.

Survey

You can get to the survey here; we tried to keep it relatively short while covering some of the main points of discussion that came up during November and previously. There's a free-form field at the end of the survey, so if you feel like anything was omitted or have additional commentary, that's totally welcome.

Results are tied to userid behind the scenes, so you can only take it once and the admins will know whose results are whose, but the identity of respondents will be kept secret in any results we share.

If you run into any bugs with the survey, let us know here as well.

Display options

The new options can be reached from the Preferences page, under the "Comments favorite style" option. The three options are:

- Show Favorite Counts (the classic style, and the default for everybody)
- Show "has favorites" (the November exercise's default)
- Hide Favorites (no indicator of favorites at all in comment bylines)

Note that in "has favorites" mode you can mouse over the text for a favorite count if you want to peek without a clickthrough to the favorites list.

General discussion

It's been an interesting month; there's been a lot of discussion in the Oct. 31 announcement thread and a more recent thread from a few days ago, if you missed those.

And now that November's over and things are back to normal, this seems like a good time for folks to discuss the whole experience and talk about what they got (or didn't get) out of it. Have at it.
posted by cortex to MetaFilter-Related at 12:36 PM (471 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I've been around here for a little while now joining back in the pre-favorites days. When they were first introduced, I didn't really mind them. They were a new feature I tried out a bit but didn't really use much. Yet just by their simple existence on the screen, my interaction with the site completely changed. In large threads, I would scan through threads, really only reading what had accumulated multiple favorites. This wasn't even something I had consciously decided to do. It just happened. I no longer skimmed large threads to get a general gist of the overall thread. Having the favorites count there led me to simply reading what was said either by the loudest or most agreed with person. And contributing changed too. I have noticed it in what I have read, and in what I have contributed since the introduction of favorites. More jokey stuff. More fark-esque stuff. More stuff just to get favorites rather than actually contributing to a thread.

And the crazy thing is that I had this huge shift in how I consumed the information from, and added information to, this site and never really noticed it. With the favorite counts no longer visible, I had a few days of being lost trying to read threads. It was horrible. I would basically scan the threads, my eyes always landing on "has favorites" before anything else. After a few days of slogging through some threads I found interesting, I found myself reverting back to how I originally read the site. No more reading things with lots of favorites, but actually skimming the threads and reading things that grabbed my attention, rather than letting the favorites of others guide what I was reading. In short, it has been great.

It makes me wish that favorites were off by default, since I rarely log in. But at least today, I'm actually logged in to read the site just so I can turn the favorite counts off.

I've read the few favorites related threads on meta this past month, and I realize that favorites to me are something completely different to a lot of people here. Everybody seems to have their particular use for them, whether it's having confirmation of a point they are making, or finding things of interest, or bookmarking, or whatever the case may be. But with all the uproar about it, I'd just like to give a thanks to the mods for going forward with the experiment, despite the complaining. For me, at least, this was one of the best changes to the site in a long time, and I really do appreciate it.
posted by chrisroberts at 12:46 PM on December 1, 2009 [24 favorites]


Thank you for the work you've (all) put into this.
posted by chinston at 12:47 PM on December 1, 2009


Oh, and mad props to pb for hacking the survey together.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:48 PM on December 1, 2009


We have overcome.
posted by spaltavian at 12:51 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think when I submitted the survey, the "thanks for taking the survey" popped up in a different tab, so when I switched back to the original tab, I was confused whether the submission actually went through. Seems like the survey tab should close.
posted by desjardins at 12:52 PM on December 1, 2009


I don't work behind the scenes, so I don't know if there's some secret data collection that the rest of us are not privy to, but as it stands I just don't think this exercise was designed too well, in terms of the return-on-investment that was expected. Simply throwing a wrench into the works (which seems to be a good metaphor, given the polarized response) is perhaps not the best way to figure out how to make slight tweaks — if, after all, the goal was to make slight adjustments.

Thanks for putting things back the way they were.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:56 PM on December 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


I liked the survey. I think it covered everything pretty well. I'm also glad things have gone back to normal. Please don't change them again.
posted by shelleycat at 12:58 PM on December 1, 2009


(# 18 needs a bit of editing)
posted by Burhanistan at 12:59 PM on December 1, 2009


Jeez that survey is long. I think I'll have to block off some time.
posted by Plutor at 12:59 PM on December 1, 2009


I'd like to note that chrisroberts impassioned plea against favorites is at this point the only comment with a favorite. Metatalk may implode from recursive irony.

Yay for supporting none, fuzzy, and detailed views of favorites counts. Everyone wins.
posted by Babblesort at 1:02 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the added extra options.
posted by Sailormom at 1:04 PM on December 1, 2009


Simply throwing a wrench into the works (which seems to be a good metaphor, given the polarized response) is perhaps not the best way to figure out how to make slight tweaks — if, after all, the goal was to make slight adjustments.

I like throwing wrenches into works as an end unto itself! It was fun to watch everything change! That was nutty!
posted by Greg Nog at 1:05 PM on December 1, 2009 [9 favorites]


Hope that was useful, lets not do it again.
posted by Artw at 1:08 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


People often comment on how without the subtleties of body language and facial expression, it's easy to misunderstand people online, 'cause there's little feedback beyond the text. I see favorites as providing a bit of this feedback, even though it's in the most rudimentary sense of the metaphor.
posted by jtron at 1:09 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


If you run into any bugs with the survey, let us know here as well.

Is homophone abuse a bug? Because you have an 'affect' where there should be an 'effect.' (It's one of the last questions -- can't go back and look, since you don't want multiple votes and all.)
posted by mudpuppie at 1:10 PM on December 1, 2009


I hope you guys (you know, the mods. The Them of Us and Them!) think that on balance you got good data out of all of it. I motion that you post an update after x amount of time (in a month or whatnot, after you data wrangle and finish rearranging printouts of user patterns and traffic spikes and database accesses with lots of arrows and circles connecting them in arcane ways; ideally this should take place in something like [i]A Beautiful Mind[/i] hilarious Crazy Shed Reveal) on conclusions you've drawn.
posted by Drastic at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2009


I kept favorites off for the whole month, except for a couple days in the first week or so, when I was in a long kinda-fighty thread, and I wanted to see if I read that specific thread differently with and without the favorite count visible. I don't know if I did or not, to be honest. I felt little bursts of "Yay!" whenever I saw a comment that I liked that had, say, five or 10 favorites, but that was kind of it.

But I'm not one of those folks who skims long threads and uses high favorite counts as a way to navigate them. It's not how I read things here.

I'm going to run my own little personal experiment and turn favorites off entirely, to see if/how it feels different.

I appreciate the work that the mods have put in to all of this. Thanks so much.
posted by rtha at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2009


I have some problems with the survey, and want to have a long, drawn-out conversation with the mods and other Mefites about how the survey should have been done and whether it should have been done at all.

but seriously: congrats on getting through all that.
posted by davejay at 1:18 PM on December 1, 2009


Metafilter should be harder to use with more secrets
posted by Damn That Television at 1:19 PM on December 1, 2009 [13 favorites]


Survey completed.

I'm strongly in the "ain't broke, don't try to fix it" camp, but at the same time, I'm completely happy with people who feel differently being able to have a MeFi experience that makes them happy, too. I think the options in the profile are probably the best possible option.
posted by paisley henosis at 1:21 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think when I submitted the survey, the "thanks for taking the survey" popped up in a different tab...

Thanks, we had an unspecified target for the form. It should be on target now.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:21 PM on December 1, 2009


paisley henosis: I think the options in the profile are probably the best possible option solution.

FTFM.
posted by paisley henosis at 1:22 PM on December 1, 2009

"How did you feel about the change to "has favorites"?"
With all due respect, this question is very poorly worded. I think there's probably a not-insignificant subset of users who liked the idea of the experiment, but hated the way it was implemented.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 1:23 PM on December 1, 2009


The way I see it, Metafilter favorites are kind of like facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures. Their presence adds a lot to the conversation, and detracts little. Despite this, there will always be those who just never really "got" body language, and find that it does confuse them or otherwise make them uncomfortable, and those people would much prefer conversation without such "distractions."
posted by explosion at 1:24 PM on December 1, 2009


chrisroberts: More stuff just to get favorites rather than actually contributing to a thread.

If chrisroberts' comment there gets 500 favorites, we will achieve singularity.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:25 PM on December 1, 2009


I can't begin to express how pissed I am about this. I didn't pay $5 to join this site, or spend many hours trying to favorite worthwhile contributions of other users, hell to other humans, to have some dink mod hack a survey together, and try to "study" me.

Oh, never mind, got confused for a bit there. Wrong thread.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:25 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have noticed it in what I have read, and in what I have contributed since the introduction of favorites. More jokey stuff. More fark-esque stuff. More stuff just to get favorites rather than actually contributing to a thread.

I could not disagree with this more if it had a racial slur and goatse embedded in it.

MeFi in the 2003-2006 era was still one of the best sites on the internet, but if you go back and read those old threads - holy shit. It's like the 90% of the members were australopithecus Linux programmers with a chip on their shoulder and a polyhedral dice bag filled with rape jokes.

MeFi continues to get better and better - not worse - and that saying that favorites ushered in an unthinking era of snark and hurt feelings is completely cuckoo.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:26 PM on December 1, 2009 [61 favorites]


I took the survey. You have my permission to publish my answers. You can even provide them to other interested parties.

I didn't miss favorites, but I am glad they are back.

To me there was value in shaking things up. See who is attached to someone thing and why. The fact that is was announced as a short term change didn't have the calming effect I would have expected. I could have lived with it either way.

I'm in favor of seeing other tweeks come down the pike. You know, if you feel like pissing off more people.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:26 PM on December 1, 2009


I for one am glad things are back, more or less. I find that the favorite comments filter bookmarklet doesn't work the same way anymore, but at least I can trim threads to a readable length, given my time constraints. Honestly, I'd rather read everything, but I just can't. This is the only way I can continue to participate realistically.
posted by dhartung at 1:29 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to say thanks for posting the survey. I had opinions on favorites and on the experiment that I wanted to share, but those long, contentious MetaTalk threads weren't where I wanted to do it.

Also, I had the same experience as desjardins with the "Thanks" message appearing in a new tab and was confused as to whether I had accidentally opened up two survey windows or something.
posted by juliplease at 1:29 PM on December 1, 2009


Whoops, sorry, I see it's fixed. So thanks for that, too.
posted by juliplease at 1:30 PM on December 1, 2009


Questiony question: what is the site default for new members?
posted by Sova at 1:30 PM on December 1, 2009


Optimus Chyme: MeFi in the 2003-2006 era was still one of the best sites on the internet, but if you go back and read those old threads - holy shit. It's like the 90% of the members were australopithecus Linux programmers with a chip on their shoulder and a polyhedral dice bag filled with rape jokes.

Yeah, I said this in the survey, but I think that maybe the people who complain that favorites have led to one-liners and stuntposting and the like have maybe forgotten what the rest of the internet looks like. I've been to tons of forums, and MetaFilter still has the highest signal to noise ratio, far above any forum without upvoting/downvoting, favorites, popularity registers, kudos, likes, and etc.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:30 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, you answered that already, my bad.
posted by Sova at 1:31 PM on December 1, 2009


"How did you feel about the change to "has favorites"?"
With all due respect, this question is very poorly worded. I think there's probably a not-insignificant subset of users who liked the idea of the experiment, but hated the way it was implemented.


Seconding this.

Noticed? Yes, very much.
Disliked? Yes, very much.

But not because I love numbered favorites, but because I think "has 1+ favorites" is a clumsy, half-way measure to not having visible favorites at all (and thanks, truly, for making that possible).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:33 PM on December 1, 2009


I’d be curious to know if the people who were here for a while have changed their posting style at all since favorites were implemented. Speaking for myself, I’ve been posting the same imbecilic numbskullery since the day I got here and no amount of favorites, or eliminating favorites, will ever change that.

I’ve only ever used favorites as a way to bookmark stuff and it always surprises me that people use them in other ways.

It’s nice to have options. Thanks, guys.
posted by bondcliff at 1:39 PM on December 1, 2009


For this question:
How much time did you spend with the change active?
  • For the whole month; I didn't opt-out of the change at all
  • I left it on for a week or more
  • I left it on for less than a week
  • I turned it off as soon as I could
it would be useful to have another answer available for people like me:
How much time did you spend with the change active?
  • I opted out on some computers that I use regularly to read MeFi, but not others
posted by ocherdraco at 1:41 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm curious if the experiment lead to a significant drop (or increase?) in people favoriting things in November.
posted by 6550 at 1:43 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I would add that using cookies to carry the favourites option in a similar way to background colour preference worked out very poorly and led to a lot of confusion.
posted by Artw at 1:44 PM on December 1, 2009


I am going to leave the numbered favorites on, but I didnt miss them as much as I thought I would.

I appreciate that Metafilter Central Command takes the concerns of its members seriously and tries to improve the site in small ways. I know the mods got a ton of crap about this, for reasons I don't really understand, and I hope it wont make further experimental changes impossible.
posted by shothotbot at 1:45 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's like the 90% of the members were australopithecus Linux programmers with a chip on their shoulder and a polyhedral dice bag filled with rape jokes.

These days it leans more Mac.
posted by Artw at 1:45 PM on December 1, 2009


MeFi in the 2003-2006 era was still one of the best sites on the internet, but if you go back and read those old threads - holy shit.

As a little "let's see": I just went to the URL for the most recent thread on the front page (thread #87092) and swapped out the 8 for a 4, figuring a thread with that number would be from that time period, and that it would thus be a nice random way to see how things went down back then. So, in the resulting thread, we have:

- The first two comments complaining about the farklike nature of the post.
- A quote from Better Off Dead as a comment.
- An "I for one welcome ... overlords" comment.
- A bit of bickering that quickly ratcheted up to intense levels, including the phrase "you're just fucking rude. Take your personal insults and jam them up your fucking ass"

Farkiness, one-liners, pop culture quotes, and vitriol have always been around in at least the measure they are today, it seems.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:50 PM on December 1, 2009 [14 favorites]


but I think that maybe the people who complain that favorites have led to one-liners and stuntposting and the like have maybe forgotten what the rest of the internet looks like

I surely have not forgotten what the rest of the internet looks like. I do not simply "load up the internet" and only go to metafilter. I also have not forgotten the metafilter of old, with img tag still intact. My opinion is not fact, it's just what I personally have noticed while using the site. My experience is not your experience.

I could not disagree with this more if it had a racial slur and goatse embedded in it.

Really? My description of my experience on this site is as offensive to you as racial slurs or goatse? I'm not exactly sure how to respond to that.

With favorites came stunt posts for favorites, and I noticed more comments just for favorites. I have even done it myself, though it was lousy. I never stated an overall good or bad that came with the addition of favorites. There was snark before favorites. There was still snark during this experiment. That is not in question. I just saw the snark being used to gain favorites, which may not be how you see thing from your vantage point.
posted by chrisroberts at 1:52 PM on December 1, 2009


For me, the change didn't make Metafilter better or worse, it just made it different in a... different sort of way. Some things were better, especially in regards to making my own decisions on when and what to favorite. But at the same time, a small part of the meta-conversation was now gone. I felt like I was a little bit more detached from the community - and that came with the benefits and drawbacks I mentioned above.

Now that favorites are back... I don't know. I don't know if I need that information. They really are a mixed blessing in my opinion.
posted by cimbrog at 1:57 PM on December 1, 2009


I think I may be a total weirdo who sets the preference to "Hide Favorites" and then uses the "Metafilter Multifavorited Multiwidth" greasemonkey script. I hope the updated version will support weirdo me and my weirdo use case.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 1:58 PM on December 1, 2009


Really? My description of my experience on this site is as offensive to you as racial slurs or goatse? I'm not exactly sure how to respond to that.

Yes, it was actually that offensive. That was a 100% serious thing I wrote. I have no reputation for hyperbole. I am a robot beep boop beep
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:01 PM on December 1, 2009 [22 favorites]


I have even done it myself, though it was lousy.

Ouch.
posted by Artw at 2:04 PM on December 1, 2009


1. I submitted my answers to the survey.

2. Wondering if these are confidential or not (I don't care myself, I think others might).

3. Question 8 is poorly worded. It reads "How if at all do you feel your use of the site changed during November as a result of this exercise?" I suggest it should read "How do you feel your use of the site changed during November as a result of this exercise, if at all?"
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:07 PM on December 1, 2009


Results are tied to userid behind the scenes, so you can only take it once and the admins will know whose results are whose, but the identity of respondents will be kept secret in any results we share.
posted by ODiV at 2:15 PM on December 1, 2009


Names will be taken, the guilty will be punished...
posted by Artw at 2:18 PM on December 1, 2009


I'll take a messed-up experiment every month of the year versus letting the site ossify and slide into static obsolescence. Also, I'll take a false dichotomy over a pile of horse poop.
posted by GuyZero at 2:18 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


chrisroberts: I surely have not forgotten what the rest of the internet looks like. I do not simply "load up the internet" and only go to metafilter. I also have not forgotten the metafilter of old, with img tag still intact. My opinion is not fact, it's just what I personally have noticed while using the site. My experience is not your experience.

Just for the record, I was being a little hyperbolic and not quite as deadly serious as you seem to have taken me.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:20 PM on December 1, 2009


a polyhedral dice bag filled with rape jokes.

I have a bag of polyhedral dice but I have never seen a polyhedral dice bag. How does it hold the shape?

Also, I keep the rape jokes tied up in a trunk in my basement
posted by GuyZero at 2:20 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


For me, the favorites experiment was a success. I found myself caring about favorites less, and this is a Very Good Thing.

There's really no point in arguing the inherent goodness or evil of favorites, but I think that caring about favorites is destructive in nearly all situations. It adds an element of bandwagon nastiness and groupthink that just isn't necessary on a site like this. Furthermore, it doesn't add anything to my enjoyment of the site.

Really, the only thing that favorite counts are useful for is knowing whether or not a long comment is worth reading. And since they rarely are, I pretty much just skip them now.

I enjoy the site far more now than I did before. The whole compulsion element is gone. No more scorekeeping. No more knee-jerk response. Sometimes I don't even bother to comment (and I think that many people here would argue this is a Very Good Thing).

Hiding favorites made me care about favorites less. Out of sight, out of mind. Sure, there were a few times I clicked on a comment to see how many favorites it got, and in these cases it was actually kind of a cool discovery, comparing in my mind how may favorites I thought it had vs. how many it actually had.

I will be hiding favorites for as long as I am a reader on this site. Thanks mods! Yaaaay!
posted by Afroblanco at 2:23 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


I have feelings about this, but you can't see how strong they are.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:25 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


This was my final note in the survey:

The bottom line is, people like to be liked, and people respond to encouragement. When they are encouraged by the visible presence of favorites, they are more likely to repeat those behaviors. This is Psych 101.

Now, if you don't like those behaviors, that's fine, but remember that the problem isn't the feature itself. This is like hating Britney Spears fans and then trying to do away with the Billboard charts, because you think the Billboard charts are *creating* millions of teen girls out of thin air.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:26 PM on December 1, 2009 [11 favorites]


I'm still a bit disillusioned by the whole experience.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:26 PM on December 1, 2009


Is the survey anonymous? I sure hope it's anonymous.
posted by Eideteker at 2:27 PM on December 1, 2009


As a little "let's see": I just went to the URL for the most recent thread on the front page (thread #87092) and swapped out the 8 for a 4, figuring a thread with that number would be from that time period, and that it would thus be a nice random way to see how things went down back then. So, in the resulting thread, we have:

Only 55 comments! I don't think visible favorites is responsible for this, but I feel like if that link were posted today we'd be up past 150 comments within an hour or two.
posted by rtha at 2:28 PM on December 1, 2009


I want to see a month-long exercise where you change "favorites" to "bookmarks" just to see what happens. Mainly because there will undoubtedly end up being a preference for that as well. And while you're at it: how's the Mefi Mail SMTP server coming along?
posted by flabdablet at 2:28 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Somehow this is all Bush's fault.
posted by qvantamon at 2:29 PM on December 1, 2009


I thought I'd share a few of my survey answers. Even though I'm mostly a lurker, I use other people's favoriting activity intensively....

8. How if at all do you feel your use of the site changed during November as a result of this exercise?

I *very* frequently clicked on the "has favorites" links to count how many favorites a comment had. As others have said, I often looked for "x favorites" prior to November, as a shortcut to finding the most worthwhile comments in long threads. Toward the end of the month, I sometimes tried to guess based on skimming a comment whether "has favorites" would mean just one, or dozens of favorites. Sometimes it felt possible to guess at a comment's information value just by the shape of the text blocks on the screen!

12. What's your opinion of MetaFilter's favorites feature in general?
[x] Mostly positive
Details?


I think it's extremely valuable metadata! Beyond being a shortcut to quickly finding worthwhile comments, I learn not only what the original poster thinks, but something about the thoughts of other users, who I've come to know through their own comment histories.

Others have mentioned that worthwhile but unfavorited comments may go overlooked. I agree with this; however, I'm forced to overlook a majority of comments due to simple time constraints. Favorites serve as a trail-blaze of sorts; previous readers help mark an efficient path through the terrain.

One other drawback is that I personally would like to use favorites as bookmarks for things I want to read again, and therefore want to use them sparingly, yet I benefit greatly from other members' generous use of favorites to indicate a worthwhile comment. Overall, these members' behavior benefits the entire group far more than that of the bookmarkers, in my opinion.

13. What do you personally use favorites for? (check all that apply)
[x] bookmarking content I want to return to
[x] signaling agreement with an opinion or argument
Other uses?


Prior to November, I often clicked the "x favorites" link even when we could see the total number of favorites, because I enjoyed learning *who* favorited a comment, and when. In the recent mega-post on sexual harassment, I found it valuable to note which comments received lots of favorites from women, and which received very few from women. I enjoy seeing how the rate of favoriting for a really epic comment with dozens, or even hundreds of favorites, has a sort of exponential time decay, with the occasional new favorite still coming even a year or more after the original post. I even have favorite "favoriters." For example, scody is one of my favorite commenters, and I enjoy seeing what comments she herself has favorited. I've also noticed that ThePinkSuperhero, for example, often favorites a brand-new AskMe question, and then unfavorites it later... perhaps promoting a question to give it more attention, or bookmarking it to read once it's got some answers in it? It's fun to speculate!

17. If you keep track of or look up the number of favorites that other users receive, how do you do so, and why?

I look at other users' profiles obsessively! Almost any time I really enjoy a comment or post, and very frequently when I disagree with one, I check the user's profile. About in order, I skim: user number, location, gender, date joined. Okay. Then I add up their total number of comments, and how evenly distributed between MeFi/Meta/AskMe. Then I divide their "favorited by others" into the total number of comments to estimate how "well-liked" this person's comments are (yes, I realize that top-level posts are include in the favorites count). The ratio tends to be very nearly 1:1 for most users-- the very rare superstar might go up to near 3:1. Then I count how many favorites they've awarded: are they a "bookmarker" or a "cheerleader?" Then I click their "favorited by others" link and sort by popularity. This is one of my favorite things to do on this website! I love seeing what sort of an impact people have made-- does someone have just a couple of blockbuster contributions followed by a swiftly asymptotic tail? Or are there dozens of comments with double-digit favorites? And then I read, almost always the first full page of, their most popular comments/posts. I love seeing the breadth of topics most users have covered, and almost, almost always, even a user whose profile I followed from a comment I didn't like, has said something I find really valuable.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 2:29 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to see some people reaching the same conclusions and making the same points here about the state of things now and pre-favorites that I did in the survey. The experiment made me stop and think about the community and how it functions and, if nothing else, generated an interesting conversation.
posted by empyrean at 2:29 PM on December 1, 2009


I hope Afroblanco isn't being facetious, because I agree. I was starting to care about favorites too much, and I didn't realize it until I could no longer see how many a comment got.
posted by muddgirl at 2:30 PM on December 1, 2009


For the next experiment, let's keep favorite counts and turn off user names so you can't tell who you are favoriting. It might be interesting to know how many asshats I agree with when I can't see who they are.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:31 PM on December 1, 2009 [37 favorites]


I'm still a bit disillusioned by the whole experience.

You and me both.

Is the survey anonymous? I sure hope it's anonymous.

On the off chance that you're not joking, no it's not anonymous.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:31 PM on December 1, 2009


Optimus Chyme: “MeFi continues to get better and better - not worse - and that saying that favorites ushered in an unthinking era of snark and hurt feelings is completely cuckoo.”

shakespeherian: “Yeah, I said this in the survey, but I think that maybe the people who complain that favorites have led to one-liners and stuntposting and the like have maybe forgotten what the rest of the internet looks like. I've been to tons of forums, and MetaFilter still has the highest signal to noise ratio, far above any forum without upvoting/downvoting, favorites, popularity registers, kudos, likes, and etc.”

To be honest, I actually think Optimus and shakespeherian are right on this point, even though I'm pretty wary of favorites and have them happily turned completely off. I think maybe, in that middle period right after favorites were introduced, when there were still a whole lot of overwhelmingly dominant characters on this site, it might have made sense in the short-term to worry that favorites would give those characters, who spent a lot of their time striving for some sort of notoriety, a big red button to smash over and over again. And there were a lot of people who did that sort of thing then; right after I joined a certain famous wag who thought he was oh-so-clever crammed a fistful of tags into the new (now-defunct) tag-cloud with his name on them, just for a laugh. Ugh.

But favorites have, in the long term, had the opposite effect, I think. And that makes sense, doesn't it? When it comes down, most people don't like brutal snark or good-ol'-boy-style hazing or obnoxious insults or massive conversation derails. Most people can't stand those things. Favorites as people use them now - as votes - are just an expression of varying degrees of agreement on certain issues and attitudes. As such, they really lead most of all to increasing homogeneity, if anything. As it happens, snark doesn't get favorited much; I think what's interesting is that if you go through threads and pick out the most-favorited comments, they're usually the comments which manage to combine really broad appeal - saying what everybody's thinking - with a certain degree of eloquence.
posted by koeselitz at 2:31 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


But I still check how many favorites my posts and comments have gotten, at least a dozen times a day. :(
posted by muddgirl at 2:31 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


For the next experiment, let's keep favorite counts and turn off user names so you can't tell who you are favoriting. It might be interesting to know how many asshats I agree with when I can't see who they are.

Then the month would be spent with everyone trying to impersonate Certain MeFite Personalities to see if they could get away with it.

What I'm saying is, yes, let's do this.

(then in January, MeTa issues will be settled with laser tag)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:33 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am a robot beep boop beep (Optimus Chyme)

Aren't you?

posted by ocherdraco at 2:35 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hope Afroblanco isn't being facetious

Nope, not being facetious at all. MeFi is far more enjoyable without some kind of Skinnerian/Pavlovian reward/punishment system.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:35 PM on December 1, 2009


For the next experiment, let's keep favorite counts and turn off user names so you can't tell who you are favoriting.

I went further. I completely ignore the contents, and favorite comments just by the people who wrote them.
posted by qvantamon at 2:35 PM on December 1, 2009


I like how the Metafilter interface is gradually turning into Dwarf Fortress to stymie the noobs. More options and weird behind-the-scenes stuff!
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:37 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pater Aletheias: “For the next experiment, let's keep favorite counts and turn off user names so you can't tell who you are favoriting. It might be interesting to know how many asshats I agree with when I can't see who they are.”

Actually, I think the big favorites debacle pointed up rather nicely the real source of disagreement and even anger and resentment on Metafilter. For the next experiment, I imagine MaJeCoVaP are considering a month of turning off the one feature here which leads to all of their biggest problems: that pesky "comment" field at the bottom of every post.
posted by koeselitz at 2:38 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jessamyn, I'm curious to know what you found disillusioning about the experience.
posted by everichon at 2:40 PM on December 1, 2009


The way I see it, Metafilter favorites are kind of like facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures. Their presence adds a lot to the conversation, and detracts little. Despite this, there will always be those who just never really "got" body language, and find that it does confuse them or otherwise make them uncomfortable, and those people would much prefer conversation without such "distractions."

I get body language more than anyone I associate with, it doesn't confuse me or make me make me uncomfortable, and I hate talking on the phone because I can't see the person's face. I really rely alot on body language when talking to someone. But to me, the written word and the spoken word are so radically different, that I have absolutely no need for non-verbal cues when reading. I have no use for favorites.

(option 3 for life)
posted by 23skidoo at 2:42 PM on December 1, 2009


Only 55 comments! I don't think visible favorites is responsible for this, but I feel like if that link were posted today we'd be up past 150 comments within an hour or two.

As I mentioned in my survey answers, there are a lot of factors at work, not the least of which is the fact that there are a fuckton more users now than there were in 2006.

I forgot to mention, however, that most users (myself included) joined after favorites were introduced. To those of us who have never participated in a pre-favorites MeFi, and take favorites as a given, removing them is on the same level as removing, say, Recent Activity or the Podcast. It might not make a lot of difference on the whole, and for a lot of users it won't make any difference at all; it's just sort of a weird thing to do.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:42 PM on December 1, 2009


[Not to second-guess, everichon, but I imagine it had a little something to do with the massive, massive shitstorm that happened in the thread announcing the experiment.]
posted by koeselitz at 2:42 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm just getting a bit tired of everyone being a grouchy dick about this.
posted by Jofus at 2:43 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm still a bit disillusioned by the whole experience.

You and me both.


Any particular reason why you're disillusioned? Just curious why a mod would be.
posted by Talez at 2:44 PM on December 1, 2009


Predictable shitstorm was predictable.
posted by Artw at 2:47 PM on December 1, 2009


The way the experiment was conducted sucked, i.e. the whole "oh hey we're doing this for thing for the whole month, m'kay?" Don't go messing around with my interface, kthx!

"Has Favorites" is completely useless, IMO, and affront to God, man, and good taste.

That said, I'm currently trying the "No favorites" option, just to see what it's like. Little dry, kind boring, could use some spice. So far, it hasn't effected what I favorite or comments I write, but we'll see how it goes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:49 PM on December 1, 2009


koeselitz: Actually, I think the big favorites debacle pointed up rather nicely the real source of disagreement and even anger and resentment on Metafilter. For the next experiment, I imagine MaJeCoVaP are considering a month of turning off the one feature here which leads to all of their biggest problems: that pesky "comment" field at the bottom of every post.

In all seriousness, I wonder what would happen if 'Post Comment' disappeared and everyone had to go through Preview first.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:50 PM on December 1, 2009


MeFi is far more enjoyable without some kind of Skinnerian/Pavlovian reward/punishment system.

Then shouldn't there be a way to hide your favorites (totals and by comment) from yourself? So you are just doing it for the love of the game?
posted by shothotbot at 2:52 PM on December 1, 2009


Note that in "has favorites" mode you can mouse over the text for a favorite count if you want to peek without a clickthrough to the favorites list.

Awesome! Thank you guys for the extra options, and this mouseover thing is great!
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:52 PM on December 1, 2009


Off-topic - are affect vs. effect errors becoming more common, or is it that thing where I start noticing them and can't stop?
posted by muddgirl at 2:53 PM on December 1, 2009


I'm just getting a bit tired of everyone being a grouchy dick about this.

* Gallic shrug *
posted by everichon at 2:54 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


As I said in the previous thread, I really, truly appreciate the new option to turn favorites completely off. Hooray for metafilter!

I know some of you love favorites, but I can't stand them. For me, it's like having a conversation with a small group and then fifty people out of nowhere start applauding loudly at what someone said. I don't care what the majority of metafilter "favoriters" think about a particular comment.
I've noticed that frequently the most favorited item elicits a "meh" response from me, and I'll enjoy a response nobody favorited. So for me, the favorites system was just intrusive and pointless, because APPARENTLY I AM A WEIRDO AND HAVE WEIRDO TASTES. While some people enjoy the "community" aspect of the favorites, it always made me feel a lot more isolated, actually. I know, wah, I needz a hug and all that.

Anyways, I am quite enjoying metafilter now with favorites completely off. Again, thank you moderators for listening to us, and giving us the third option. Rock on!
posted by thisperon at 2:56 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


But I still check how many favorites my posts and comments have gotten, at least a dozen times a day.

You know, I do this too, but I don't think it's as perverse or ego-stroke-y as a lot of folks make it out to be. I get a sense, in threads like this, that some of the anti-favorites people feel that every time someone gets a favorite they get a semi and write "WAS AWESOME ON INTERNET TODAY" in their Secret Journal. I check my favorites all the fucking time, but it's not a reward system at work as much as it is like a bit of conversation:

"Oh, that person's nodding and smiling? I guess they agree with me, maybe? Let me check out their profile, see if we agree on other things too. Oh! They asked a question about apiaries! That's pretty cool! Let's look at their flickr page... Huh! They dressed their little baby as a ghost for Halloween! I wonder if they were charmed by the classic nostalgic simplicity of the white-sheet-with-eyeholes thing, or if it was just the easiest costume to throw together in the least amount of time. Who's this person's contacts... huh, they list that guy as a spouse, but is it REALLY a spouse, or are they just having a go?"

So I think that looking at what people favorite leads to me being more interested in learning more about other people and becoming more a part of a community, rather than feeling like I'm just exclaiming opinions into the ether. I definitely don't see it as a scorekeeping thing, but rather, as a way to make the site more warm and human. Which I'll grant is an odd thing for a tiny little number to be doing.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:57 PM on December 1, 2009 [19 favorites]


For the next experiment, let's keep favorite counts and turn off user names so you can't tell who you are favoriting. It might be interesting to know how many asshats I agree with when I can't see who they are.

I would greatly encourage some smart person to create a Greasemonkey script to do this. I would love to try this idea out.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:57 PM on December 1, 2009


I'm just getting a bit tired of everyone being a grouchy dick about this.

Fine, I'll be a cheerful dick about it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:00 PM on December 1, 2009


muddgirl, I'm also noticing them more. It's the internet. Things like grocer's apostrophes are catching; the more you read them, the more normal they seem, and the more likely one is to commit the same error. I'm guessing that affect/effect is following a similar path, although I think fewer people knew what the difference was to begin with, and are therefore even more likely to make the mistake.
posted by rtha at 3:03 PM on December 1, 2009


explosion: “The way I see it, Metafilter favorites are kind of like facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures. Their presence adds a lot to the conversation, and detracts little. Despite this, there will always be those who just never really 'got' body language, and find that it does confuse them or otherwise make them uncomfortable, and those people would much prefer conversation without such 'distractions.'”

If favorites are like facial expressions and body language - little nuanced indications of meaning shared in parallel to a conversation - then any given favorite is only visible to two or at most three or four other people. One of the essential characteristics of facial expressions and the more subtle forms of body language is that they have a quality of intimacy, a shared meaning which can be communicated because the people sharing it are close enough to notice it.

When a comment gets 93 favorites, it can't possible be the same as 93 people leaning in close and smiling at the commenter, although that creepy scenario is sort of fun to imagine. Even if 93 people could get close enough for their smiles to be clearly visible, you couldn't tell they were all smiling unless you carefully checked each one. If those kinds of favorites are like any kind of hand gesture, they are like raised hands, all up uniformly to be counted. In fact, given the apparently small number of people who actually click through and see the names of those who have given those favorites (we can extrapolate this from the outcry against the removal of the numbers and the sudden necessity to click through to see them) they're even less personal or intimate than raised hands, since they have no individuality whatsoever; whereas in a crowd of raised hands you might pick out a few people you know, with favorites it's all reduced to a simple number on the page.

In that sense, hiding favorites makes them much more like actual facial gestures or body language because it makes them more intimate, more likely to be seen by two or three people at a given time - and because it forces those who view the numbers to see the names of the people who favorited as well.
posted by koeselitz at 3:04 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Then shouldn't there be a way to hide your favorites (totals and by comment) from yourself?

I would love this.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:08 PM on December 1, 2009


The thought occurred, while filling out the survey, that this whole thing has been a freaking disaster.

Why? Because they moved a fairly unimportant feature of the site to absolute center stage. The mods appear to have been worried that favorites were too important, so they focused all of Metafilter on nothing else for a month.

So now, of course, everyone's thinking and arguing about them; we have become, as a site, totally obsessed with favorites, which is exactly the thing that, as far as I can tell, the mods originally wanted to prevent.

I think the damage done by this experiment will far outweigh any benefit.
posted by Malor at 3:15 PM on December 1, 2009 [8 favorites]


I didn't mind it. I preferred the old way, though. This was basically the same as I thought would happen.

I had forgotten that it was going to turn back today, so I guess it didn't really matter to me all that much. But at the same time, when I saw "1 favorite" next to some random comment in the first post I opened today, I was genuinely pleasantly surprised.
posted by Flunkie at 3:20 PM on December 1, 2009


When a comment gets 93 favorites, it can't possible be the same as 93 people leaning in close and smiling at the commenter, although that creepy scenario is sort of fun to imagine.

I think you're taking the description too literally, as I tend to view favorites as in a similar way, that of a rough equivalent to real life body language. The importance isn't so much in the individual gestures, but rather in just in the fact that there is some sort of feedback mechanism that is responding to *something*. It adds, IMO, to the feeling of community, be it positive or negative.

Sometimes I see a heavily favorited comment and think "Really ya'll?! Good lord why that comment?!" Other times I'll bob my head along and say "Yeah, that is pretty good" Other times I'l favorite something because *I* think it's good and I may be only person who does, but whatever. On a slow rainy day, I'll go through my favorites and re-reading them will bring a smile to my face or remind me of some intelligent piece of information or another great story about tkchrist's dad.

I think favorites, while oddly named, have a variety of uses and I'm constantly amazed that people want to paint them as completely negative.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:20 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]



I think favorites, while oddly named, have a variety of uses and I'm constantly amazed that people want to paint them as completely negative.


Oh don't get me wrong, I think the bookmarking usage of favorites is splendid. But knowing how many people favorite something adds nothing to my experience. But for others it clearly does. In any case, vive la difference!
posted by thisperon at 3:30 PM on December 1, 2009


I went into this month using favorites as "me too" votes, but came out of it using them as bookmarks. I think this is a good thing, all in all. Option 3 it is.

I'm currently solving this via some third party stuff, but: Is there a way to only see which comments I've favorited? And as a total pipe dream, I'd love to see only favorites given by myself and my contacts.
posted by potch at 3:32 PM on December 1, 2009


Being able to hide favorites is great. Thank you. Now, why not go all the way? Hide the plus sign too. Also, the favorites count for the whole article could be hidden as well. I would even like to see the "favorites and favorited by others" counts be hidden (to me) on my profile page when I choose the "hide favorites" option. Thanks again!
posted by telstar at 3:35 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The way I see it, Metafilter favorites are kind of like facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures. Their presence adds a lot to the conversation, and detracts little.

Group-sourcing emotions? I think of favorites more as a mark of "this is good." Because there is only one sort of Favorite, it must be all-purpose. I concur with others: favorites are great for longer threads and comments I might have otherwise not paid much mind. And they make great bookmarks. New Shimmer is a floor wax AND a dessert topping! (Also: the death of MetaFilter due to Favoritits was greatly exaggerated.)
posted by filthy light thief at 3:37 PM on December 1, 2009


Oh, I forgot to mention this in the survey: A few days ago I felt an urge to post a stupid one liner joke. While doing it, a sarcastic "Aren't I supposed to not want to do this now?" went through my head.

The same thing happened shortly thereafter. And again, the same sarcastic thought went through my head.

That premise -- "lack of favorites will make less stupid jokes and more depth" -- seems flawed, and in fact just silly, to me. I'm here, and I'm going to post stupid one liner jokes regardless; mere lack of visible appreciation is not going to stop me. Sorry.

I will also note that, while the experiment was on, both of them received several favorites, while my most recent non-joke received only one.

Not that I think it should be a favorites magnet, and not that it matters to me, but I think it was at an at least somewhat decent rebuttal of a mistaken point, and in the universe where stupid one liner jokes deserve death instead of favorites, this comment definitely deserved more than those. To be clear, again, my point is not "I deserve favorites"; my point is that the experiment didn't affect the favoriting of this particular set of comments, at least not in the way or to the degree that some favorite-haters seem to desire.
posted by Flunkie at 3:40 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why? Because they moved a fairly unimportant feature of the site to absolute center stage. The mods appear to have been worried that favorites were too important, so they focused all of Metafilter on nothing else for a month.

Seriously? There have been umpteen meTas, or parts of meTas over the last few years, where people bitch about favorites and blame them for encouraging bad behavior. And in case you missed it, favorites are apparently incredibly important to a fair number of users.

They were only center stage for the people who participated in the initial meTa announcing this. I haven't bothered to go count how many users participated in that thread, but it's nowhere near the number of active users. All of Metafilter was hardly focused on favorites for November. Hell, I was in that first, announcing meTa, and the one from a couple of days ago, and now this one too, and I can't be the only mefite who's managed to do that and carry on a pretty normal rest-of-metafilter experience that had no more or less to do with favorites than usual.
posted by rtha at 3:40 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I still use favorites even though I can't see them.

I don't think it is Metafilter's job to make the site fully-customizable. That's what Firefox+Greasemonkey is for, or any of the several other tools out there that can optimize the browsing experience.
posted by muddgirl at 3:41 PM on December 1, 2009


I'm currently solving this via some third party stuff, but: Is there a way to only see which comments I've favorited? And as a total pipe dream, I'd love to see only favorites given by myself and my contacts.

Turn off favorites. Then the only mark you'll see is the [-] mark, instead of the usual [+] mark. It's a small difference, but if you get used to looking for this, you could see it. Or, you could search for the "[-]" characters, jumping to the next comment you favorited.

I've now toggled favorites to show only as "has favorites" as an odd between point - I like favorites, and I enjoy the use of favorites as shortcuts for long threads (or shorter threads when I want to double-check and see what people enjoyed, as a gauge for my own sensibilities).
posted by filthy light thief at 3:45 PM on December 1, 2009


I think you're taking the description too literally, as I tend to view favorites as in a similar way, that of a rough equivalent to real life body language. The importance isn't so much in the individual gestures, but rather in just in the fact that there is some sort of feedback mechanism that is responding to *something*. It adds, IMO, to the feeling of community, be it positive or negative.

Well, maybe people could find a different metaphor for describing why they love favorites, because favorites seem NOTHING like body language to me, either. Body language feels subtle, it's under the radar, it requires nuance. Favorites seem like a kid who requests that everyone hold up their right hand if they're speaking sarcastically*. Yes, it's added information, but also makes me not want to have a conversation with someone who has to have things presented in such a fashion.

Which is not to say that's how anyone else has to view favorites, or that I want people to stop using them, or whatever else. I just think comparing them to something as important as body language is a bit much, and not at all necessary to convince anyone else that you have a good reason to like favorites.


*yeahyeahyeah, HAMBURGER, whatever
posted by 23skidoo at 3:47 PM on December 1, 2009


> Fine, I'll be a cheerful dick about it.

Can you be a grouchy mime about it?
posted by ardgedee at 3:51 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can we have a fourth option which simply spells favourites correctly?
posted by gman at 3:53 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Now that sounds like a job for Greasemonkey.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:53 PM on December 1, 2009


I really like the idea of a site-wide experiment. That was fun!
posted by brundlefly at 3:55 PM on December 1, 2009


Because I am in favor of quiet nods more than a bunch of comments like "I agree!" and "U FTW!!!" and etc., I actually think we need to ramp up this whole favorites thing. I, like you, hate the dots in the obit FPPs. But I also acknowledge the need for obit FPPs! So what about we tried a form for obits that went something like:

[Person] is dead. This makes you feel (click one):

[ ] Sad
[ ] Happy, though I think I should feel bad about that because s/he was a human being too
[ ] Happy, and I don't care who knows
[ ] Nothing
[ ] Super-Nothing
[ ] Who?
[ ] Old, fucking old, but otherwise largely unfazed
[ ] Weird because I totally wanted to bone this person when s/he was like 30 and I was a kid watching old movies but now they're dead and it would never have worked out because by the time s/he was helping me through puberty they were already like way older than they were in that movie and I guess this sounds kinda fucked up but actually if I'd known they were dying friendless and alone and like 77 years old I would actually have had sex with them just to do it don't judge me oh God I can't believe I'm gonna click this
[ ] Dot

posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:58 PM on December 1, 2009 [17 favorites]


Good old option last-but-one.
posted by Artw at 4:02 PM on December 1, 2009


It would be cool if you couldn't directly see how many favorites you were getting. Afroblanco made a good point. Despite the fact I use favorites to navigate a thread, having it so accessible to see your own favorites is not the ideal situation. If it would take a couple more clicks to see if your comments even had favorites, let alone how many, it would probably turn off the instant gratification and do a lot to solve a lot of the anti-favorites crowd's concerns.
posted by geoff. at 4:10 PM on December 1, 2009


Can we have a fourth option which simply spells favourites correctly?

Reminder to Canadians: Not all MeFites live in your country, hence any references to “favourites” will be meaningless (or, for Americans, will be spelled incorrectly).
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 4:15 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'd like to note that chrisroberts impassioned plea against favorites is at this point the only comment with a favorite.

thanks for pointing that out. i turned off my favorites (which is kind of weird ... i'm looking through threads & wondering why none of the comments have favorites. duh.) so i would never have known.
posted by msconduct at 4:18 PM on December 1, 2009


Reminder to Canadians

and Aussies, Kiwis, Poms, Irish, Sri Lankans, HKers, Jamaicans and Indians... (to give an incomplete list)
posted by bonehead at 4:23 PM on December 1, 2009


For the next experiment, let's keep favorite counts and turn off user names so you can't tell who you are favoriting. It might be interesting to know how many asshats I agree with when I can't see who they are.

I would greatly encourage some smart person to create a Greasemonkey script to do this. I would love to try this idea out.

Done.
posted by ZsigE at 4:27 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ people. Metafilter was started in the US, so of course the UI uses US spelling. It doesn't bother me when I read a site that spells words slightly differently than be because it's not based in America, and I think you can fucking deal.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 4:27 PM on December 1, 2009


Bah. By which I of course meant Done. Copy and paste fail.
posted by ZsigE at 4:29 PM on December 1, 2009


PEOPLE DIED IN THE 1812 WAR SO WE COULD SPELL FAVORITES WITHOUT THE U!

Don't you remember when the Canadians burned Washington to the ground so we would spell favo'u'rite with that extraneous u?

8/24/1814 NEVER FOGET.
posted by qvantamon at 4:32 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, it was actually that offensive. That was a 100% serious thing I wrote. I have no reputation for hyperbole. I am a robot beep boop beep.

Optimus's comments are twice as funny if you read them in Tracy Jordan's voice.

(Try it. I'll wait.)
posted by rokusan at 4:32 PM on December 1, 2009 [10 favorites]


The November Favorites Experience would be a great name for a band. A really depressing band.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 4:37 PM on December 1, 2009


I don't think it is Metafilter's job to make the site fully-customizable.

Well, shit. I was hoping they'd put in hydraulics and paint a mural of a naked lady at sunset on the side. Dang.

As for the favorites, I turned off the option almost immediately, but at the endo fthe day this is real tempest in a teapot shit, kids.
posted by jonmc at 4:42 PM on December 1, 2009


[Person] is dead. This makes you feel (click one):

[ ] like throwing pebbles in a crowded room
posted by filthy light thief at 4:43 PM on December 1, 2009


I have cobbled together a greasemonkey script for those of you who prefer the version of "favourites" with the UK spelling. While it does work, it is also something of a joke. Enjoy.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:46 PM on December 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


I tend to view favorites as in a similar way, that of a rough equivalent to real life body language.

Agreed. Whenever I favorite a comment, I make a little grunting hai sound.

It's very satisfying.
posted by rokusan at 4:49 PM on December 1, 2009


I have cobbled together a greasemonkey script for those of you who prefer the version of "favourites" with the UK spelling.

Unfortunately, it also gives the site crooked teeth and an inbred monarchy.
posted by jonmc at 4:50 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The site has always had crooked teeth and an inbred monarchy.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:51 PM on December 1, 2009 [11 favorites]


I have cobbled together a greasemonkey script for those of you who prefer the version of "favourites" with the UK spelling. While it does work, it is also something of a joke. Enjoy.
posted by Mom at 7:46 PM on December 1

and I thought the resemblance was a coincidence!
posted by gman at 4:51 PM on December 1, 2009


Whenever I favorite a comment, I make a little grunting hai sound. It's very satisfying.

I say "hoot!" in a slightly high pitch, as if I were pressing a small child's nose. Less aggressive, but also satisfying.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 4:52 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The site has always had crooked teeth and an inbred monarchy.

Yes, but now it watches Dr. Who, walks around saying 'ay wot, guv'nor,' and oppresses the Irish.
posted by jonmc at 4:53 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I loved the shit out of the theoretical motivations, design, and implementation of the experiment. I kept it on the whole month, and might switch back to it in the future. I will have to look at some data before I draw any conclusions though. I guess I'd better head one thread up...
posted by solipsophistocracy at 4:58 PM on December 1, 2009


I say "hadouken".

When I ban someone it's "Shooooryuken!"
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:02 PM on December 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


For the next experiment, let's keep favorite counts and turn off user names so you can't tell who you are favoriting. It might be interesting to know how many asshats I agree with when I can't see who they are.

I'm so glad I'm not the only one to have thought of this.

Anyone got a greasemonkey script to achieve this? I'd love to give it a shot.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:04 PM on December 1, 2009


I merely have my marching band parade through the room and have one of my minions make the crucial mouse click while I say "This amuses me.'
posted by jonmc at 5:05 PM on December 1, 2009


"On the off chance that you're not joking, no it's not anonymous."

Sheeeeeeeeeeiit. Can I have a do-over?
posted by Eideteker at 5:10 PM on December 1, 2009


I turned off the November experiment as soon as I could because the visual change made my brain itch. I don't like changes too much. When the favorite counts first showed up, I couldn't turn them off so I got used to them as they were.

My reading of the site hasn't changed. I read every comment in threads I'm interested in and often go back to threads until they close. If the comments are too jokey or boring, I do abandon the thread half-way through. But I do try to make the effort to read half.

Favorites does something. I click it and stuff happens and it seems functional. I like going back and seeing who has favorited posts and comments I've made, it makes me feel like I'm being understood. I like that I can find things later, like recipes, using favorites.

If flags went I would probably miss the sight of the [!] for a couple days. But things I flag are never deleted for reasons like later responses not fitting. Users still post about these comments in MetaTalk, which I find more productive. So for me the flag system doesn't work and wouldn't miss it.

Hope my answer helps.
posted by FunkyHelix at 5:31 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was a little weirded out when the experiment started. And I thought it would make my MeFi experience crappy. But I stuck it out since it seemed like the mods had only good intentions in performing it, not that they were purposefully going out of the way to piss people off.

I was very aware of the change initially. It irritated me. Then I forgot about it. And then I started noticing that I was reading the site differently. I was reading it better. Instead of my eyes lazily going to comments that had a lot of favorites, I was more engaged in reading everything.

When it was changed back, I noticed immediately and changed my preferences to the "new" way. I like the addition of the little hover-over to tell me how many favorites a comment has, should I choose to look.

To me, the experiment was a success because it changed my reading habits, which admittedly were quite lazy. Before, a comment with a high number of favorites was like a little "Hey! Read me! I am important!" People use favorites in lots of different ways, and I like this option I have been given. So, thanks!
posted by waitangi at 5:32 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, where I work there are two guys named Jamal. One has dreadlocks past his shoulder, the other shaves his head. The other day, my co-worker Nicole was complaining about something one of the Jamals had done. "Dreadlock Jamal?" I asked. "No," she answered "Bald Jamal."

That phrase tickled me. It sounds like a kids show: The Adventures of Bald Jamal.
posted by jonmc at 5:39 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm just getting a bit tired of everyone being a grouchy dick about this.

It's not a MetaFilter party without old grouchy dick!
posted by rokusan at 5:39 PM on December 1, 2009


I am really, really enjoying having favorite counts off so far. The site is way less clamory that way. Thanks for that, guys.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:44 PM on December 1, 2009


Mmm, grouchy dick, now with bacon wrapped pie!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:48 PM on December 1, 2009


I used the new "experimental" option all month, as promised. I read a bit less, but I can't blame it on the lack of favorites: maybe November just had fewer interesting posts or conversations.

I think the only thing that definitely did change for me was that I started making more comments like "me too" and "I agree with nadawi", since that seemed to be the most useful (visible) way to make a mark or show support.

And I suppose now that some users will have favorite thingies hidden (including some hidden completely), I suppose I'll keep doing more of that, since an old-style +favorite on someone's AskMe answer (for example) might not be visible to readers at all, including the OP.

Explicit endorsements: they're the new +.
posted by rokusan at 5:49 PM on December 1, 2009


It sounds like a kids show: The Adventures of Bald Jamal.

A kids show? I can't help but think that's a euphemism for something a little more adult.

(Did these adventures include spelunking?)
posted by rokusan at 5:51 PM on December 1, 2009


Oi was goin' ta post ma favourite spotted dick recipe, but tha'll put me in tha custard wit' tha filth.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:52 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd love a dropdown list for favorites like we have for flags, with:

[] bookmark this.
[] HELL yes!
[] I do that, too, and now I have validation that I am not merely an alien visiting this planet. Unless you are, too, in which case let's have a meet-up. (links to contact page)
[] This is obviously a batshit insane comment/fpp/askme, yet it interests me strangely. I must remember to re-visit the discussion to see where it goes from here.
[] You're pretty/shiny/cute.
posted by misha at 5:54 PM on December 1, 2009 [10 favorites]


For the next experiment, let's keep favorite counts and turn off user names so you can't tell who you are favoriting.

Solon and Thanks, that is a fantastic point. You're such a clever individual, with all your clever ideas.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:58 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


This concept of "dick" confuses and infuriates us!

AKA: I was too busy to regularly read MeFi over the last half of the month, but every time I loaded it on my iPhone I was confused. Returning to the old usage is like returning to an old, faded, and probably slightly smelly security blanket.
posted by subbes at 6:08 PM on December 1, 2009


Hide the plus sign too. Also, the favorites count for the whole article could be hidden as well. I would even like to see the "favorites and favorited by others" counts be hidden (to me) on my profile page when I choose the "hide favorites" option.

This would be awesome.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:14 PM on December 1, 2009


Oh my god, we should totally hide usernames next, and replace them with "has accounts".
posted by davejay at 6:20 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


jtron writes "People often comment on how without the subtleties of body language and facial expression, it's easy to misunderstand people online, 'cause there's little feedback beyond the text. I see favorites as providing a bit of this feedback, even though it's in the most rudimentary sense of the metaphor."

Like 23skidoo I don't seem to need this kind of group think feedback. For the people who see favourites this way do you see the lack of this kind of feedback as a serious problem with other written works like email, newspapers and magazines?

shakespeherian writes "I've been to tons of forums, and MetaFilter still has the highest signal to noise ratio, far above any forum without upvoting/downvoting, favorites, popularity registers, kudos, likes, and etc."

Considering the cesspool that is much of the rest of the internet that's a pretty low bar.

GuyZero writes "I have a bag of polyhedral dice but I have never seen a polyhedral dice bag. How does it hold the shape?"

It's made out of boiled leather.

Pater Aletheias writes "For the next experiment, let's keep favorite counts and turn off user names so you can't tell who you are favoriting."

Didn't we do this one April 1st?

Brandon Blatcher writes "The way the experiment was conducted sucked, i.e. the whole 'oh hey we're doing this for thing for the whole month, m'kay?' Don't go messing around with my interface, kthx!"

I wonder if this is one of the jump the shark moments of online communities. IE: When the interface becomes so holy that no changes are possible decline is inevitable.
posted by Mitheral at 6:20 PM on December 1, 2009


and yes I was skimming the thread and didn't see what solon and thanks posted before why do you ask
posted by davejay at 6:21 PM on December 1, 2009


I wonder if this is one of the jump the shark moments of online communities. IE: When the interface becomes so holy that no changes are possible decline is inevitable.

I'd personally suggest that this is a known issue with new interactions, whether it manifests during formal user testing of a new or changed component, or release of a new or changed component to an existing user base. People like what they know; people think [operating system] is the easiest to use because they've already invested the time to learn it, for instance.

It's just that when the feedback comes from a user base this large and literate, the aggregate response is going to be massive and over-communicated, whether it's positive or negative overall.
posted by davejay at 6:25 PM on December 1, 2009


Can we just hide everyone's comments, and then whole posts? Then we won't have to worry about who gets what favourites. Can we hide the site, next?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:26 PM on December 1, 2009


Blazecock Pileon writes "Can we hide the site, next?"

Sure. Enter 127.0.0.1 metafilter.com into your hosts file. Sorry it's a per machine setting not affected by your login state.
posted by Mitheral at 6:28 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just want the option to hide individual users entirely, like a lovely little "ignore" function. Then I can pretend that everyone else has them on ignore and they're screaming into the darkness. Cheerful! Meanwhile I will be ignored by everyone and remain blissfully ignorant.
posted by Mizu at 6:30 PM on December 1, 2009


Sorry it's a per machine setting not affected by your login state.

No, I meant for everyone. Sorry I wasn't clearer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:40 PM on December 1, 2009


I'm pretty sure we've beaten the "ignore" function option to death pretty thoroughly by now, but you're more than welcome to haul it's flattened carcass out to the middle of the road for another go if you'd like.
posted by yhbc at 6:40 PM on December 1, 2009


Can we have a page that ranks people by the number of favorites received? That way I can tell if I'm winning
Protip: I'm not winning

Sorry if this joke was made in a previous thread, but no way am I wading into that mess, just to check for a stupid one-line joke
posted by deliquescent at 6:40 PM on December 1, 2009


Like 23skidoo I don't seem to need this kind of group think feedback. For the people who see favourites this way do you see the lack of this kind of feedback as a serious problem with other written works like email, newspapers and magazines?

Email, sure. Haven't you ever had someone misread an email you've written--taking a joke seriously, for example?

Newspapers and magazines don't count because they're inherently meant to be one-way communications--and most pieces of writing in them aren't written off-the-cuff in the same way that metafilter comments are, so (I hope) the writer often does a better job off communicating tone or more subtle emotions.

Also, I think labeling this use as "group think feedback" is needlessly pejorative.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:43 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


No, I meant for everyone. Sorry I wasn't clearer.

I am really itching to have one day a year when MeFi just turns off and everyone goes and... does something else. And then comes back the next day to talk about what they've done.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:44 PM on December 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


I am really itching to have one day a year when MeFi just turns off and everyone goes and... does something else. And then comes back the next day to talk about what they've done.

Wasn't metafilter down for like, nearly a day in January?

I only remember on account of how productive I was, for once.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:48 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am really itching to have one day a year when MeFi just turns off and everyone goes and... does something else. And then comes back the next day to talk about what they've done.

I vote for this. Christmas Day would be a nice time to do this. Even if you don't celebrate, you're more than likely not working and will have some free time to do something interesting to tell us about the next day.
posted by chiababe at 6:48 PM on December 1, 2009


I don't seem to need this kind of group think feedback. For the people who see favourites this way do you see the lack of this kind of feedback as a serious problem with other written works like email, newspapers and magazines?

No, I don't. I interact with newspapers and news magazines in a completely different context and for completely different reasons.

Also, I congratulate you on reaching such an enlightened state.
posted by lalex at 6:53 PM on December 1, 2009


Question for the lovely mods: Since they're talking real data in the newer thread and we seem to be talking experiential stuff in this one, did moderating the site in November feel different in any way that was related to the favorites experiment?

I searched through the old threads and got a general sense that the contentiousness of the favorites experiment itself was kind of a headache, and I think jessamyn said she liked the "has favorites" option while it was on... I'm just curious if you noticed any other differences in your day-to-day.
posted by juliplease at 6:57 PM on December 1, 2009


Clarification: I mean all of you. I think you're all lovely.
posted by juliplease at 7:00 PM on December 1, 2009


I am really itching to have one day a year when MeFi just turns off and everyone goes and... does something else. And then comes back the next day to talk about what they've done.

A bunch of people talking about their DTs will get old quickly.
posted by gman at 7:01 PM on December 1, 2009


did moderating the site in November feel different in any way that was related to the favorites experiment?

Yes, it was horrible. Most months are not horrible.

That said, outside of a lot of GRAR in the few MeTa threads, it was interesting for me personally. I kept favorites off all month. I felt that there were absolutely zero "hey you deleted my joke in AskMe even though it got X favorites" complaints, although we only get a few of those a month maybe. I felt better at deleting early threadshitting in MeFi without seeing big favorite counts on them and second-guessing as a result, and I followed the flag queue maybe a bit more closely than I did most months in figuring out what, if anything, needed to be pruned from AskMe. I haven't looked at the numbers yet, so I'l be really interested to know if moderation behavior changed at all.

I'm sure there's a huge amount of confirmation bias to my feelings on the matter, and we had mathowie's serious health scare in the middle as well as American Thanksgiving, so it's tough to separate the things that were favorites-related. I personally like the site without favorites, it feels calmer to me and I find it easier to focus on everyone's opinions and not shift my attention towards the popular ones much like I rotate towards the TV sometimes in a noisy bar. Pretty, shiny, blinky. There's also the "wow, why did people favorite THAT?" syndrome which takes up psychic space even though it doesn't really change my behavior at all. I could also see AskMe (where I spend most of my time) feeling really different without what I perceived as weights applied to various comments, but it's hard to say whether this is a mod perspective or just a personal one.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:14 PM on December 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


I logged out for a minute but got scared and came back.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:19 PM on December 1, 2009


I am really itching to have one day a year when MeFi just turns off and everyone goes and... does something else. And then comes back the next day to talk about what they've done.

I'm down with that. Not Christmas Day. A regular day would take a little more effort.
posted by marxchivist at 7:21 PM on December 1, 2009


The most interesting thing about the whole experiment was when people kept comming to meta worried that because one favorite looked the same as 200 people were going to game the system and favorite themselves giving themselves rethorical might they just didn't deserve and that Just Wasn't Fair Damnit. It boggles the mind what some people find to worry about.
posted by aspo at 7:25 PM on December 1, 2009


While I thought I'd be happy to go back to how things were, having participated in the experiment for the whole month, I'm think I'm going to try turning the favorites off entirely because the favorite count is now jarring to me. I keep seeing the numbers thinking "6 people favorited that? Is that good? Does that mean I should like it? I don't think I like it that much." or... "WHO ARE THESE 24 PEOPLE WHO THINK THIS AWESOME? I AM GOING TO CLICK ON THIS AND GET A LIST OF NAMES FOR THEY ARE JERKS."

Yeah, I don't need that kind of mental angst since I have favorite-apathy in the first place.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:31 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been switching back and forth between favorite #s and no favorites today. Both are nice, in different ways; my sense is that I'll mostly use numbers but will enjoy relaxing interludes of no numbers.

In fact, the no-numbers option is what I wish the November experiment had been. "Has favorites," while slightly better than "faved," is still really jarring to me (I tried it again earlier for a few minutes, in case I was misremembering it). I want to either know or not-know, whereas the halfway-knowing of "has favorites" is insufficiently fish or fowl for me.

I felt better at deleting early threadshitting in MeFi without seeing big favorite counts on them and second-guessing as a result

I had never guessed that favorite counts might play a role in the delete-or-not decision. And if the change allows you to delete those popular-but-vapid comments more easily, then all the fuss was worth it. Bad stuff needs to go, regardless of popularity. (There's a set of popular-but-chatty AskMe questions I'd include in this, too, like some of the mixtape-style ones. Just because people seem to love them doesn't make them good or valuable, any more than a crappy joke early in a FPP thread should remain because it got a bunch of favorites.)

I'm really sorry this has all been so tough on the moderator team. I personally think the "how" of the experiment was initially somewhat mishandled, which lent itself to the extra GRAR, but that doesn't excuse the excessiveness of the GRAR. I really hope that the take away message is to adjust the "how," not to stop experimenting and improving the site.
posted by Forktine at 7:33 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


OH WOW. I just turned off the favorites and my universe is so much clearer. I didn't realize how distracting they were until they were gone for a bit and then came back. I would never have asked to have the favorites count hidden, but just going over this thread alone it has taken out so much background noise. THNX GUYZ!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:35 PM on December 1, 2009


It really seems to me that a few people here are investing a little too much of themselves in this site which is disconcerting in a vague sort of way.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:44 PM on December 1, 2009


I am really itching to have one day a year when MeFi just turns off and everyone goes and... does something else. And then comes back the next day to talk about what they've done.

Sounds fun, but wouldn't it get deleted as chatfilter?
posted by bunnytricks at 7:49 PM on December 1, 2009


It really seems to me that a few people here are investing a little too much of themselves in this site which is disconcerting in a vague sort of way.

What do you mean?
posted by lalex at 7:56 PM on December 1, 2009


Question for the lovely mods: Since they're talking real data in the newer thread and we seem to be talking experiential stuff in this one, did moderating the site in November feel different in any way that was related to the favorites experiment?

I don't think my experience was much different from what Jessamyn described. The headache of the first few days of the month were easily the most noticeable thing, but that's not really what you're asking, and beyond that things felt more or less the same as usual to me: nothing stood out as being palpably different.

My personal experience of the site wasn't particularly disrupted, either; I don't really actively use favorites in my reading. Though I did become aware of the fact that I must at least passively reference them at times, because I found myself clicking through to the favorites list on a comment at least a couple times a day, and I don't think that's something I've done nearly as often under normal circumstances (though I do do it occasionally when specifically interested in seeing details about the pattern or constituency).
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:14 PM on December 1, 2009


Newspapers and magazines don't count because they're inherently meant to be one-way communications--and most pieces of writing in them aren't written off-the-cuff in the same way that metafilter comments are, so (I hope) the writer often does a better job off communicating tone or more subtle emotions.

I don't understand this- how do favorites clarify anyone's thoughtless or off the cuff remarks on Metafilter?
posted by oneirodynia at 8:14 PM on December 1, 2009


I have a bag of polyhedral dice but I have never seen a polyhedral dice bag. How does it hold the shape?

Here's one.
posted by odinsdream at 8:15 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sorry to be a total pedant, but question 14 on the survey is a bit odd. This one:
    #14 How often do you mark comments or posts as favorites? Often; I distribute favorites pretty freely Occasionally; I'm somewhat selective about what I favorite Rarely; I only favorite things every once in a while Never; I don't use the feature at all
I'm not sure how to answer this one. How often, by what measure? Compared to what? Also, being selective is thrown into the occasionally answer...why? I'm somewhat selective about what I favorite (based on various secret magical criteria), but I favorite pretty damn often. I also read a LOT of MetaFilter, so there's a lot of opportunities out there for me to favorite (They say it's a numbers game, right?) I'm just not sure what the question is getting at, and am a bit torn between the first two choices. What would a less beans-oriented #100K+ MeFite do?
posted by iamkimiam at 8:15 PM on December 1, 2009


grrrr, preview no matchy posty.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:16 PM on December 1, 2009


I've hidden favorites and I really like it this way. I'll go survey now. Thanks to the mod team and pb for the hard work and for making it through a challenging month, and thanks to all the folks who've taken the time to offer input on this issue.
posted by ersatzkat at 8:19 PM on December 1, 2009


In that sense, hiding favorites makes them much more like actual facial gestures or body language because it makes them more intimate, more likely to be seen by two or three people at a given time - and because it forces those who view the numbers to see the names of the people who favorited as well.

I wonder if those who think favorites are not like body language have ever been to a Quaker meeting? A schoolwide meeting? A town meeting? A political rally? A public forum? A courtroom? An airport? A concert? A sports event?

Do you really think you need to be in a small group of people to be able to perceive body language? Human beings are smarter than that.

Not all body language is, or needs to be "intimate." Human beings in real life use total communication - voice, writing, nonword sounds, posture, facial expression, eye contact, gesture, clothing, adornment. The more methods individuals use to communicate, the more they are understood. Having a nonverbal way to express ourselves on MetaFilter gets us closer to a more universal way of communicating as individuals.
posted by Miko at 8:20 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


One thing I've realized is that there is a certain amount of conflation between the ideas of how someone perceives a favorite and how someone expressly uses a favorite. One can inform the other and there certainly is a point of confluence between them but they are different.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:26 PM on December 1, 2009


Personally, my favorite part about favorites is feeling connected with the community. "Aw, so-and-so liked my comment! He's so swell," on the receiving end and "Yeah! Go you! Great comment!" on the giving.

But my least favorite part about them is the self-doubt ("I like that... but it has no favorites. Should I not like it?" or the opposite) and the agitation they make me feel in heated debates and when people post idiotic things and get favorites.

I don't really care about "favorite-whoring", to use a terrible phrase. To get a favorite you need to post something good (and I feel the mods do a good job of deleting really stupid lulzy comments.) I don't think they're breaking the site at all.

So, actually, I'm with all of you "favorite-hiders." Not because I dislike favorites, but because not seeing them for others but still giving them out liberally is a really nice solution to my personal deal. Cool.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:32 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am really itching to have one day a year when MeFi just turns off and everyone goes and... does something else.

This used to happen, didn't it? I vaguely remember it happening. Wasn't there maybe a year, back before Matt took you on as a moderator and before he figured out a way to make any money here, when the whole place seemed to be a terrible chore for him, and everything would shut down from time to time? Sometimes it was due to an overheated server in a closet, but I seem to remember a couple times when we were told Metafilter is taking a break, come back Tuesday.
posted by TimTypeZed at 8:37 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The "favorites as body language" metaphor makes sense... you know, because it's a metaphor. It's not that far fetched for people to question when someone says they interpret favorites literally as body language.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:37 PM on December 1, 2009


It's far fetched for someone to claim the metaphor is invalid because of a made-up assertion that all body language must be "intimate."
posted by Miko at 8:45 PM on December 1, 2009


I am really itching to have one day a year when MeFi just turns off and everyone goes and... does something else. And then comes back the next day to talk about what they've done.

I went to a meetup.
posted by Chuckles at 8:52 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, but talking about actual body language and the perception of [n+] as _________ should be distinctly two different types of conversation.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:55 PM on December 1, 2009


From the other thread, brussels sprouts commentary redacted.

Feelings on favorites:

—I found that favorites were largely noise for me, and that it was easier to ignore a "faved" than a number.

—I still liked getting them just as much, perhaps even more due to the feeling that they were more rare in November.

—I gave many fewer, but that's in part because I found out/remembered that they were searchable.

I will say that how I read is different from what most other folks seem to be saying, in that I go top to bottom, read comments before names or favorites, and that the discussion of links really is secondary for me to the links themselves. If a comment is really important, it will be quoted, and if I skimmed over it, seeing it quoted will remind me to read it in more detail.

But really, November coincided with a couple things, my getting more busy, trying to again dial back the aggro that can well up when I see things that I consider risible, and getting sick of the same dumb arguments from the same folks again and again. The threads that I really enjoyed were the Schroedinger's Rapist and sequel (weird as it is to say that I enjoyed them), but I thought they were just as awesome without favorites. Just like how the TSA TOOK MY DINGOES thread was a shitfarm even with favorites—and the idea that people needed favorites to avoid duplicating comments seemed pretty well given the lie there.

I was kind of surprised at how much I ended up in the anti-favorites camp, in part because I was pro-experiment and being attacked over that made me really think about and articulate the anti-favorite position without feeling like there was a countervailing pro-favorite argument that really held true for me. There were plenty of arguments that I felt, and still feel, are great for other folks, but they don't reflect how I interact with the site. This was the first time that I've ever had to block someone on MeMail, and it's not like I'm a shrinking violet. I wish that distaste for that didn't influence how I felt about favorites, but it did. It felt like favorites were just encouraging that asshole, and every argument he made for favorites just left me thinking, "Of course you wouldn't see a problem with that, asshole."

I still haven't decided whether I'm going to turn them back off again. I wasn't on the site all that long before they were instituted, and I think I got used to them pretty quickly—might have even been excited, but I don't remember. I know rolling over 10000 felt more cool than it should have, and I definitely still check to see what has gotten 'em through the recent activity. I'd like it more if I felt like folks were really going back to them but I ain't gonna lie, a hell yeah high five is pretty cool too. I might give this a month to think about too, y'know? Try some other reading styles.

I will say that I think that the fundamental issue is one that's ancillary to that of favorites, and that's that the community itself has grown bigger than anyone ever imagined. As a $5 n00b, but one who lurked for years, I have mixed feelings about that too. But then—and Orville Sash will know what I mean—I waited in line to get into my high school. The idea of ordeal preceding participation may just be normal for me. What might help, and there's no way to do this through system or structure, is an effort for high-volume regulars to decrease their contributions on hot-button stuff, but I'm just spitballing regarding what annoys me, and I know I'm not a pure priest of light on this one either. (It's not even that they have these opinions or proclaim them forcefully, it's just, like, given any contentious news link, there are probably some 30 members who I could predict their comments down to punctuation—it's the same as having the friend who always wants to talk about the one issue they're moderately informed on and you're like, oh man Paul's talking about fucking veganism again I can't wait until he breaks down drunk and crying with a sack of sliders.) But then there are new folks who have the same dumb ideas and you kinda want the consistency of a regular. I dunno.
posted by klangklangston at 9:12 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


I kept them off all month and found it didn't make a huge difference, I might turn them back off now.

What did make a difference was the people who outed themselves as absolute assholes in the thread which announced the experiment. People who I thought were reasonable turned out to be completely entitled dicks about this with no compunctions whatsoever about stamping their little feet and showing no desire to even contemplate the greater sense of the community which the mods were apparently concerned with. So, a general "fuck you" to those selfish jerks is in order.
posted by Rumple at 9:26 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Miko: “It's far fetched for someone to claim the metaphor is invalid because of a made-up assertion that all body language must be ‘intimate.’”

Maybe, but that will not stop me from campaigning to have ‘favorites’ renamed ‘SEX.’ I will not be satisfied until I can come into Mefi in the morning and see how many times my comments were SEXED overnight.

Seriously, though, I wasn't trying to make an assertion, or say something about what we should do with favorites. I was trying to say something about how favorites actually are. I'm past trying to argue one side or the other - as I said earlier here, favorites have done plenty good for the site, so whatever. I just think it's a little odd to see such a pure binary marker – the meaning of which has been constantly argued about since it was instituted – as being somehow akin to body language. Sure, favorites can be more than a pure binary marker, but that's what displaying counts reduces them to.

Hell, I have a feeling that there's a certain sense in which favorites can express something deeper, but only insofar as we grow accustomed to certain users deploying their favorites in certain ways. I think there will always be some diversity on that point. And since favorites can mean vastly different things coming from different people, counting them all up becomes less and less meaningful; as though you counted up all the people who nodded when they heard a certain speech. People can nod out of agreement, but they can also nod out of sarcasm, to show (or pretend) that they're still listening, or even when they're just falling asleep.

And frankly, even that assertion wasn't really what stuck out to me about explosion's comment. What surprised and amused me about it was explosion's somewhat interesting claim that people who don't like favorites are just people who don't 'get' body language, who feel uncomfortable about facial expressions and hand motions 'getting in the way' of communication.
posted by koeselitz at 9:42 PM on December 1, 2009


Incidentally, I just wrote this on my survey, for those of you who are still befuddled by why some of us don't relish having favorites advertised on each comment.

Answer to how I feel about the favorites system and why I have mixed feelings:


At least with places like Reddit there's a downvote, which I think actually decreases the amount of conflict or infighting. How so? Because if you don't like something, especially if it's popular, you can instantly express it. It's quick, it's painless, you've stated your case. In contrast, let's say you see a mefi comment that you really disagree with, but it has dozens of favorites. There's no "I don't agree" button. If you want to express your disagreement, you'll HAVE to comment. It will take an extra bit of boldness/courage/going against the group to voice your disagreement. There is real peer pressure in nearly ANY group, no matter its good intentions; that's just a natural part of human psychology. It isn't easy to comment against the group's majority opinion--and I've often struggled when commenting...I can literally FEEL a psychological urge to abide by group consensus, and not rock the boat.

I would like Mefi to be as open and thoughtful a place as possible, and I don't think favoriting (and by that I mean, showing favorite counts) contributes to a sense of openness. I feel it makes people with unconventional or quirky opinions MUCH LESS INCLINED to state them.

To not see what gets favorited is awesome. I no longer have to worry about going against the group's mores, if I don't know what they are.

posted by thisperon at 9:45 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like favorites because they're a form of community positive reinforcement. They're positive reinforcement because it's nice to get favorites- it's a way others have of saying "Good job, I liked reading this", and I believe that that carries with it an implicit "post more things like that". I favorite things because I like them and want to see more things of similar excellence, and I believe that this encourages people to post more excellent things. As such, they're a way for MeFites as a community to vote on what it is that we want to see and encourage the posting of more things that we can enjoy.

Now, you might think that I would dislike the way it was done, but honestly, this is something that many people feel strongly about, and it would generate massive amounts of "OH GOD DON'T DO THAT YOU ARE TERRIBLE" posting. I believe that had it been put to a vote or put out there for community comment, the experiment may not have happened.

And I think the experiment was very much a good thing. We got to see what it would be like if MeFi was different. Allowing those of us who wanted to opt out of it to do so was, I feel, the right choice. Most of the time, it's been we who like the original flavor of favorites display who've got our way, and for a brief period, people who felt otherwise got their way. Now we're in a situation where there's a number of display options which cater to a variety of desires for viewing the site, and that's a good thing. The more people who can come to MeFi and view it the way they like, the better.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:51 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


glad it's over. that experiment twas obnoxious.
posted by krautland at 10:09 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Malor: So now, of course, everyone's thinking and arguing about them; we have become, as a site, totally obsessed with favorites, which is exactly the thing that, as far as I can tell, the mods originally wanted to prevent.

The unexamined favorite is not worth giving.
posted by Kattullus at 10:13 PM on December 1, 2009


Miko: “I wonder if those who think favorites are not like body language have ever been to a Quaker meeting? A schoolwide meeting? A town meeting? A political rally? A public forum? A courtroom? An airport? A concert? A sports event? Do you really think you need to be in a small group of people to be able to perceive body language? Human beings are smarter than that.”

I am not one of the people you're talking about - as I said above, I think favorites probably can be something like body language - but at none of those places is any kind of really nuanced form of body language reduced to a number and counted up. In some situations, say perhaps in a courtroom or a town-meeting, there might be an official vote; but votes are distinctly separate from conversation precisely because they're not really part of a discussion. They're part of a decision-making process that comes after a discussion.

I don't think it would be fair to say that either body language or favorites can be reduced down to a vote counted once for each person. Everybody means different things when they favorite, in the same way that they mean different things when they nod, and the only way to preserve that is to keep in mind that counted tallies of these instances of body language don't mean much and can actually distract from the discussion pre-empting it in favor of a final vote.
posted by koeselitz at 10:17 PM on December 1, 2009


Malor: “we have become, as a site, totally obsessed with favorites”

IT'S OUR FAVORITE
posted by koeselitz at 10:23 PM on December 1, 2009


To not see what gets favorited is awesome. I no longer have to worry about going against the group's mores, if I don't know what they are.

My sentiments exactly!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:35 PM on December 1, 2009


So when the new year rolls around and this thread closes, can we agree to never ever talk about favorites ever again?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:40 PM on December 1, 2009


Didn't do the survey, as my MeFi usage for November and and the few months before that weren't indicative of my normal usage, and I couldn't remember what my normal usage was like. I suspect any conclusions drawn or observations made will be strongly influenced by confirmation bias, regardless of where the respondents place on the Favourites Opinion Spectrum - the most thorough way to evaluate would be to disable the [+] for six months for everyone, but that would probably result in multiple homicides. That said, huzzah for choice!

With favorites came stunt posts for favorites, and I noticed more comments just for favorites. I have even done it myself, though it was lousy.

We're not animals. We're not cattle, we don't have to walk up the chute just because another cow went up it. We are not goldfish gorging ourselves as long as food is offered, we are humans. We have sovereignty, reason, and autonomy - if we choose not to exercise them, the system, regardless of how it may enable that sort of behavior, is blameless.

And while I'm on the topic of edible animals, I would like to suggest that HAMBURGER nonsense should get the damn hook already.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:42 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would like to suggest that HAMBURGER nonsense should get the damn hook already.

It's enough to make one consider a veganist lifestyle.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:55 PM on December 1, 2009


Maybe next November we could have an AI classify every comment, and if someone writes essentially the same comment one too many time, ban them.

I'd mention Haskell three times, and you'd never see me again.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 11:00 PM on December 1, 2009


I guess I have less confidence about group mores than you do, sys rq.
posted by thisperon at 11:13 PM on December 1, 2009


We're not animals. We're not cattle, we don't have to walk up the chute just because another cow went up it. We are not goldfish gorging ourselves as long as food is offered, we are humans. We have sovereignty, reason, and autonomy - if we choose not to exercise them, the system, regardless of how it may enable that sort of behavior, is blameless.

Might I suggest some reading to broaden those ideas you have?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:45 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


But then—and Orville Sash will know what I mean—I waited in line to get into my high school.

Awww yeah. How many of you clowns got a shout-out upthread?
(I remember that. Waiting in line. My recollection is that my parents allowed Terry Brennan's mom to pull me from class to go stand there in the cold until my parents could join us. All that and I still ended up going to Huron.)

Ahem. Favorites. Favoriting. People got really mad about that, huh? Took it really personally, felt as though it was a pernicious attempt to dilute their user experience, et. al., when really it was just the mods trying something temporarily to get feedback. Would those of you who were so aggressively against the changes rather see no changes ever made to the site?

I found myself turning it off, because I find the comments that people favorite and the users that favorite them fascinating. I find that snark tends to attract favorites, but I don't really see favoriting attracting snark, as a lot of people do. People, myself included, just like to favorite things they find funny.

Of course, then, some people like to have their favorites off entirely. I have no reason to impugn other people's use of favorites as it in no way infringes on mine.

I would like to take this opportunity to quote Rev. Dupas' soliloquoy from the vastly underrated play (and film) Little Murders, because I think it perfectly encompasses my feelings on the whole favorites argument (among other arguments.) If it will help the reader to substitute in key words when appropriate to relate this monologue more intimately to the favoriting debate, please don't hesistate.

Rev. Dupas: You all know why we're here. There's often so much sham about this business of marriage. Everyone accepts it: ritual. That's why I was so heartened when Alfred asked me to perform this ceremony. He has certain beliefs, which I assume you all know; he is an atheist, which is perfectly all right, really it is; I happen not to be, but inasmuch as this ceremony connotes an abandonment of ritual in the search for truth, I agreed to perform it. First, let me state to you, Alfred, and to you, Patricia, that of the 200 marriages that I have performed, all but seven have failed. So the odds are not good. We don't like to admit it, especially at the wedding ceremony, but it's in the back of all our minds, isn't it: how long will it last? We all think that, don't we? We don't like to bring it out in the open, but we all think that. Well I say, why not bring it out in the open. Why does one decide to marry? Social pressure? Boredom? Loneliness? Sexual appeasement? Love? I won't put any of these reasons down, each in its own way is adequate, each is all right. Last year I married a musician who wanted to get married in order to stop masturbating. Please, don't be startled, I'm NOT putting him down. That marriage, did not work. But the man TRIED. He is now separated, still masturbating, but HE IS AT PEACE with himself because he tried society's way. So you see, it was not a mistake, it turned out all right. Now, just last month I married a novelist to a painter. Everyone at the wedding ceremony was under the influence of an hallucinogenic drug. The drug quickened our physical responses, slowed our mental responses, and the whole ceremony took two days to perform. NEVER have the words HAD SUCH MEANING. Now THAT marriage, should last. Still, if it does not, well, that'll be all right, for don't you see, any step that one takes is useful, is positive, has to be positive because it's a part of life, even the negation of the previously taken step is positive, that too is a part of life. And in this light, and only in this light, should marriage be viewed: as a small, single step. If it works, fine! If it fails, fine; look elsewhere for satisfaction. To more marriages, fine, as many as one wants, fine. To homosexuality? Fine! To drug addiction? I will not put it down, each of these is an answer for somebody. For Alfred, today's answer is Patricia. For Patricia, today's answer is Alfred. I will not put them down for that. So what I implore you both, Patricia, and Alfred, to dwell on, while I ask you these questions required by the state of New York to "legally bind you" -- sinister phrase, that -- is that not only are the legal questions I ask you, meaningless, but so too are the inner questions that you ask yourselves, meaningless. Failing one's partner, does not matter. Sexual disappointment, does not matter. Nothing can hurt, if you do not see it as being hurtful. Nothing can destroy, if you do not see it as destructive. It is all part of life, part of what we are. So now: Alfred. Do you take Patricia to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love -- whatever that means -- to honor, to keep her in sickness and health, in prosperity and adversity -- what nonsense! -- forsaking all others, -- what a shocking invasion of privacy! Rephrase that to more sensibly say, if you choose to have affairs, then you won't feel guilty about them. -as long as you both shall live, or as long as you're not tired of one another.. ?

Alfred: Yeah.

Rev. Dupas: And Patsy, do you take Alfred to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love -- that harmful word again, could not one more wisely say, communicate? -to honor,-- I suppose by that it means you won't cut his balls off, but then, some men like that! -to obey,-- well, my first glance at you, told me you were not the type to obey. So I went to my thesaurus, and I came back with these alternatives: to show devotion, to be loyal, to show fealty, to answer the helm, to be pliant. -General enough, I think, and still leave plenty of room to dominate. -in sickness and health, and all the rest of that GOBBLEDYgook, so long as you both shall live.. ?

Patsy: (confused, speechless.. finally stammers:) I do.

Rev. Dupas: Alfred and Patsy, I know now that whatever you do... will be all right.
posted by orville sash at 12:02 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's no "I don't agree" button. If you want to express your disagreement, you'll HAVE to comment. It will take an extra bit of boldness/courage/going against the group to voice your disagreement. There is real peer pressure in nearly ANY group, no matter its good intentions; that's just a natural part of human psychology. It isn't easy to comment against the group's majority opinion--and I've often struggled when commenting...I can literally FEEL a psychological urge to abide by group consensus, and not rock the boat.

But, you know, sometimes you've just gotta be brave, give it your best shot, grit your teeth and make your position known. Don't you? I mean, to hell with the majority opinion. The majority is almost always wrong anyway. I believe that's a statistical fact. And it if isn't, it should be. Otherwise, we'd be wrong for not owning Celine Dion and Bryan Adams cds. You don't own Celine Dion and Bryan Adams cds, do you?
posted by philip-random at 12:22 AM on December 2, 2009


Okay, so, I want to see posted by You know who has two thumbs and a Metafilter account? THIS GUY!

Should I work with Greasemonkey or just get a sockpuppet?
posted by Pronoiac at 12:38 AM on December 2, 2009


I have some Celine Dion and Bryan Adams MP3s but no CDs.
posted by cgc373 at 12:55 AM on December 2, 2009


Would those of you who were so aggressively against the changes rather see no changes ever made to the site?

It's odd how some people have to make up reasons for not liking the experiment and how the reasons seem to paint the anti experiment folks in a negative light.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:13 AM on December 2, 2009


Would those of you who were so aggressively against the changes rather see no changes ever made to the site?

Do you prefer beating your wife with a stick or a rock?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:22 AM on December 2, 2009


I use a stick with a rock tied to it you simplistic bastard.
posted by fleacircus at 3:11 AM on December 2, 2009


There's no "I don't agree" button. If you want to express your disagreement, you'll HAVE to comment.

You have to do this to agree now, too.

Since you don't know which posters or readers will see the + anymore.
posted by rokusan at 3:14 AM on December 2, 2009


Would those of you who were so aggressively against the changes rather see no changes ever made to the site?

Loaded question, but what the heck.

In general, I am pro-changes. I think MeFi is creaking at the seams a bit and the bits of the site that violate my sense of good web practice do irritate me sometimes. It's an old work habit and hazard for me: websites that work "wrong" (even in just a few small ways) are like paper cuts.

I didn't know favorites were a problem here, but because I like change, I was initially interested/intrigued by the "experiment" and probably would have supported it if it had been done differently.

I became "aggressively against" it following the awkward and messy rollout, further exacerbated by the odd use of opting-in/out that made any objective measures thereafter quite impossible. Basically, the way it was done made me opposed to it, because I think the way it was done ruined any shot at getting useful data from it. I stand to be corrected by the other thread, of course.

Today, I'm just mildly opposed to it on principle, because we're left with a new "wrong" thing as a result of the experiment: I think all users should see the same content in a conversation. Different people seeing or not-seeing favorites is a bad precedent: a first step toward Two Metafilters. When different people see different things, communication won't get better, right?

(Note that on this principle, I'd actually prefer that all users saw favorite-counts, or no users did. It's the sameness of experience that I think is important here. This isn't like background colors or fonts: this is more practical information.)

So yeah, my reflex is usually to support change and experimentation: evolve or die.

But I got the lesson awhile back that some MetaFilter, um... factions... are very opposed to change and transparency, so other than the occasional grumble, I try to just shrug it off. Yes the site works in odd and sometimes secretive ways. Matt can do that if he wants, and as long as it's making money, he probably should. I'm an outlier.
posted by rokusan at 3:29 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am really itching to have one day a year when MeFi just turns off and everyone goes and... does something else. And then comes back the next day to talk about what they've done.

Wow, why is this such an impossible thing? That's a great idea, especially if it's not any kind of special day, just a random day somewhere. It'd even be fine if it was one day every month: The third Tuesday of every month is NoFi Day.

What are the downsides? The site loses 0.3% of your annual ad revenue and a couple of signups who don't bother coming back tomorrow. And the burst of activity the next day probably makes up for most of that.

That's a cheap cost. Do it.
posted by rokusan at 3:32 AM on December 2, 2009


That's a cheap cost. Do it.

I agree. Pick a couple holidays if ya'll like, it always bothers me when people HAVE to work on Christmas for non-essential services. I mean seriously, is it that important to go see a movie on Christmas?

It's great that the web can be "ON" 24/7, but have we ever asked "Does it need to be?". So pick a couple of holidays, pick another few days where you announce it ahead of time and finally, pick a few days where it's "Yeah, it's go a outside day, so we'll see you tomorrow."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:17 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


What are the downsides?

Long ass threads with MeFites relentlessly arguing over the pros and cons of a down day.
posted by gman at 4:18 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Fair enough, Rokusan, Brandon Blatcher, Blazecock Pileon - poor phrasing there, and not meant to bait anyone, I promise. I skipped over the inital announcement thread because it was already at 1000 comments when I found it and I felt I knew all I needed to know once I learned there was an option to revert my settings, so some of the bile in this thread was very surprising to me.

I guess, Rokusan, that I don't see favorites as content. They're more like meta-content, but they don't really augment the personality or the point of any given post, unless the commenter has some unreasonable attachment to them. Like I said, while I think snark attracts favorites, I don't think the reverse is true. It just looks that way because snarky comment = many favorites. Even as everyone retreats to their respective corners on the subject of favorites, I see no real paradigmatic shift in the way conversations play out. Haters still be hatin'.

As for the way the experiment was conducted, I'm trying to figure out a way that it could have been done any differently.

1.) rather than saying "this is an experiment we're going to try," mods could have asked if the metabodypolitic wanted to try this. Net result: GRAR, a fairly even split between "this is the worst idea ever!" "This is fine, I don't care," and "I'm excited! Let's try this!"

2.) Rather than allowing people to opt-in/opt-out, they could have said "This is what we're doing, suck it up, losers!" Net result: GRAR, a fairly even split between "this is the worst idea ever!" "This is fine, I don't care," and "I'm excited! Let's try this!"

Now me, I'm all for experimentation, within reason. Since favorites mean many different things to many different people, I think they are well within the bounds of fair game. So, and you might have answered this upthread and I missed it, and I swear I'm not asking rhetorically, how would you have conducted this experiment differently?
posted by orville sash at 4:25 AM on December 2, 2009


Would those of you who were so aggressively against the changes rather see no changes ever made to the site?

Well, if it's something visual I may grumble about it. But if there's no option to change it or turn it off, then I would get used to it because I like the site.

If it's a change I wouldn't see, like a policy change or something to do with the code that makes the site run, then I probably wouldn't notice or remark on it.
posted by FunkyHelix at 4:50 AM on December 2, 2009


I am really itching to have one day a year when MeFi just turns off and everyone goes and... does something else. And then comes back the next day to talk about what they've done.

My son watches Nick Jr and a couple times a year they have a day where they suspend programs calling it a Go Out and Play Day or something like that. The station puts up a screen saver with a timer counting down to when the shows come back.

A day or two ahead of time, Nick Jr. starts alerting kids the time-out is coming and suggests activities they can do outside, and their website puts out crafting suggestions that parents can do with their kids.

It's nice.
posted by FunkyHelix at 4:55 AM on December 2, 2009


jessamyn said "I personally like the site without favorites, it feels calmer to me and I find it easier to focus on everyone's opinions and not shift my attention towards the popular ones much like I rotate towards the TV sometimes in a noisy bar."

I completely agree with what jessamyn said. Thanks.
posted by terrapin at 5:03 AM on December 2, 2009


This was the first time that I've ever had to block someone on MeMail, and it's not like I'm a shrinking violet. I wish that distaste for that didn't influence how I felt about favorites, but it did. It felt like favorites were just encouraging that asshole, and every argument he made for favorites just left me thinking, "Of course you wouldn't see a problem with that, asshole."

As someone who only gets an email here once a blue moon, if even that often, learning that there was a parallel, but much more vituperative, set of conversations happening off-screen makes it much clearer why the feelings were running so high, and so many people seem to be feeling bruised by the experience.

I can totally understand feeling frustrated by a change and choosing to take a break from the site for a few days or even the whole month. But sending nasty emails seems to me to be taking it much too far; there's no need to introduce your personal anger into someone else's life.
posted by Forktine at 5:30 AM on December 2, 2009


Wow, why is this such an impossible thing?

Well, this is the same website that had some people go into near-meltdown over the word 'faved', as in they couldn't shut up about it. My prediction is if that Metafilter goes dark for 24 hours, the blackout will be followed by a huge thread filled with people talking about, not all the things they did in the the Day Without Metafilter, but instead about Metafilter being offline. Which is kind of missing the point, really. And would be another huge thing for the mods to cope with. My guess is that, after the November favesperiment, Jessamyn has a Demotivator-esque poster above her computer captioned 'Never ever move their fucking cheese'.
posted by Ritchie at 6:02 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Aaand it just now penetrated my thick skull that I can now hide favorites completely, which is nice.
posted by Ritchie at 6:08 AM on December 2, 2009


I'm wondering if part of the difference in opinion may be connected to how often or how much time a user spends on MeFi. For example, individuals who spend hours a day perusing the site, be they regular users or mods, perhaps have more time to thoughtfully read each and every thread, or at least the threads they choose to read fully and completely. On the other hand, users who come to MeFi for something more approaching a "drive by" discussion -- half an hour of reading interesting links and dropping a few comments in the thread before bed, for example -- may find the use of favourites effective in pulling out some of the more 'gold standard' threads and comments.

I don't think either is right or wrong, but simply a reflection of how different people with different usage patterns are likely to experience the site, and this is something that ought to be kept in mind both by the "turning favourites off helps me be more objective" and the "I need favourites as part of my engagement with the site" crowds. I suspect a majority of users fall somewhere between the two poles.
posted by modernnomad at 6:09 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking about this idea that some people viewing favorites and some people not viewing favorites are creating two different Metafilters since it was raised in the huge initial thread a few weeks ago. It's an idea that has been fascinating to me because turning off favorites didn't seem to me to be such a major thing. I think this is a matter of perspective.

I'm primarily a bookmarker, so favorites are a much more of a monologue for me than an underlying conversation or contribution to the conversation. Most of the time, I'm thinking, "Oh, I can use that infomation later." I very occassionally use it as a thank you, and even more rarely as a "Thank You, that was brave" but those are outliers to my normal experience.

I'm not conditioned to think of favorites as part of the conversation - whether they are a polite round of applause, a gathering of pitchforks, a short chuckle, a head nod. For me, they're a note on the back of an envelope I've stuck down in my purse. So this idea that I'm turning off an essential part of the conversation, causing other people to have to alter their behavior (from favoriting to favoriting and commenting to agree without necessarily adding anything else in a thread) is a bit wonderous to me.

I choose not to see stuff on Metafilter all the time. There are a bunch of posts on the front page right now that don't interest me at all, and I just skipped that thread. Same for AskMe. For me, not seeing favorites feels more like selectively picking the threads that interest me, not reading half-threads, or reading until I'm no longer interested again.

(I don't hate favorites at all. I think they can be - and are for a lot of people - a useful tool, a secondary participation, and feedback mechanism to a poster or commenter. If my only choice were to see favorites, I wouldn't complain. But my 30 hour experiment so far in not seeing favorites right now is kinda cool, too, and I could see myself sticking with it.)
posted by julen at 6:32 AM on December 2, 2009


learning that there was a parallel, but much more vituperative, set of conversations happening off-screen makes it much clearer why the feelings were running so high

You may find it enlightening to know there is also a parallel but much more erotic set of conversations happening off-screen, which explains why other feelings are running so high. Yet a third parallel conversation set regards the activities of the Surrealist Collective. The fourth is for exchange of dessert recipes.

mefi mail for pics/lederhosen/spice cookies
posted by little e at 6:55 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


You may find it enlightening to know there is also a parallel but much more erotic set of conversations happening off-screen, which explains why other feelings are running so high. Yet a third parallel conversation set regards the activities of the Surrealist Collective. The fourth is for exchange of dessert recipes.

Geez, way to make me feel like it's third grade and the cool kids are playing chicken on the monkeybars and I'm sitting over with the playground monitor staring at my shoelaces.

Will trade all my favorites for pics and spice cookies.
posted by Forktine at 7:01 AM on December 2, 2009


I had no idea any kind of change was being planned. I never saw/heard about the MetaTalk thread about what the change would be, how it would be implemented, why it would be implemented, and that it would be customizable on your profile page (if I'm understanding correctly that it was). I only very recently learned what MetaTalk was for (begin mockage here).

So when "has favorites" showed up on November 1st, I thought, huh, mods must have made a decision about... something... for some reason. Well, okay.

Mostly I read threads carefully if the topic is of real interest to me, skim threads if I think it might turn out to be of interest to me, and skip threads if the topic is of no interest to me. But I clicked "has favorites" on comments that I very strongly agreed/disagreed with a lot more than when it was just numbers. When we had numbers, I'd only occasionally click to see who was on board with the comment; when we didn't, I'd click to see who plus how many, for any number of reasons depending on the subject of the thread, and the comment that had favorites.

rokusan: we're left with a new "wrong" thing as a result of the experiment: I think all users should see the same content in a conversation....When different people [read] different things, communication won't get better, right? (I'd actually prefer that all users saw favorite-counts, or no users did.)

I agree with this completely, and I think it is proven out in this thread alone; MeFites use favorites in multiple ways--some don't want to see them, some do; some regard them as an important part of the conversation, others don't; applause, agreement, bookmarking.... I do think that if each user can opt for "numbers / no numbers / no indication of favorites at all," then each thread will contain (at the very least) three different discussions: MetaFilter becomes Rashomon. Regardless of user preference, or belief that seeing or not seeing favorites has zero effect on your experience, what you see in a discussion thread beyond just the words does affect how you read, even if you don't notice it.

(I would, however, love to see what would happen if user names disappeared from comments for one month. That's a far more interesting experiment, to me, than this one was.)
posted by tzikeh at 7:06 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also - if a single way to view/not view favorite and numbers were chosen by the mods in lieu of customizable options, I wouldn't have a beef with any of the three choices. It's such a First-World Problem.
posted by tzikeh at 7:10 AM on December 2, 2009


I guess, Rokusan, that I don't see favorites as content.

It's easiest by example. When there is an answer in AskMe (the easiest example, but it happens in regular blue MeFi too) that is exactly what I would have said, or is such a brilliant idea that there's no point in me answering now, what should I do?

If we have favorites (that everyone sees), I just click the + and move on. Booyah. Both the OP and subsequent readers see an endorsement that gives that answer more weight. How much weight depends on the reader, and whether they give a flying fig what this Rokusan clown things, but it's info nonetheless. It's info there to see/read/use at will.

If we don't have favorites (or if only some people see them), I post a "That. Exactly that. Do what Orville says." message. Same result, can be similarly valued or ignored per reader, but this second is sort of screen and time-wastey, which doesn't seem like progress.

This is not a huge deal in itself (more "me too" comments, no big deal really), but it definitely can change the message received by a reader if they're absent. So that's content, or sure, meta-content. But whatever it is, it's a more significant thing than fonts or color changes or other non-content changes that are user-by-user, since it does change what the reader reads, right?

It's similar to a theoretical "hide this person", where some readers wouldn't see all of a thread, and a conversations could fragment into many differently-perceived conversations as a result.

I'm not passionate about this either way. It's just a small point that might be of historical interest someday: a door opening to different readers having different views into MeFi content.
posted by rokusan at 7:11 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's an idea that has been fascinating to me because turning off favorites didn't seem to me to be such a major thing.

I have favorites off on most of the machines I view Mefi with, but left it on one just to see what it was like. So far it's "Meh". Favorites are nice, but I don't miss them much if they aren't there.

Switching from no favorites to viewing favorites produces the reaction "Oh yeah, those things, they're neat. Hmm, I wonder what's for dinner?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:12 AM on December 2, 2009


I think the damage done by this experiment will far outweigh any benefit.

I know how this movie ends and I don't think I'm spoiling anything if I say that it isn't pretty.

(Eh. I enjoy favorites for the egoboo and, occasionally, for their bookmarking value, but I'm indifferent about their future here. Really, six of one; half dozen of another.)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:12 AM on December 2, 2009


I wanted to add one more thing - the most jarring thing about this whole experiment for me has less to do with the actual favorites and more to do with how we responded to it. Since the announcement thread, I've been thinking about all the "pro" and "anti" language. If you like favorites, you might think of yourself as pro-favorites, and you might be surprised to find someone calling you anti-experiment. Someone who is really pro experiment might not really be anti-favorites, but they're called that.

Here's a silly and exaggerated example - if we had a scientific report that said that the gentle euthanasia of one puppy would somehow provide enough clean water for an impoverished village of 10,000, people would line up on either side of the debate and it wouldn't be long at all before they decided what to call one another. People who considered themselves Pro-Water would learn that the opposition was calling them Anti-Puppy or Pro-PuppyDeathers or something. People who were Pro-Puppy would find that the other side was calling them Anti-Village or "against clean water", complaining that you "just want poor people to die of thirst!" It would quickly become talking points-type memos and bumper stickers and buttons. Attempts to have a reasoned, intelligent debate would be shouted down by folks who were handed a bullhorn and a Xeroxed page of rhymes.

There's something about the purposeful twisting of those words in order to paint your perceived opponent as "against" something instead of "for" something that bothers me a LOT. People who might be one circle outside the debate can key in on those catchphrases or buzzwords and now have tidy shorthand with which to casually dismiss someone's (hopefully) well-thought out opinion.

If you have the strength, energy or stomach to re-read any of the October 31st thread, you'll see how amazingly fast this cropped up. That this has bothered me for more than a month tells me it's about more than just favorites in my mind, it has more to do with our tendency in general as people to be all "with us or against us". I don't like the kind of language that seems crafted explicitly to paint a negative image of and dismiss opposing viewpoints. It's sound bite-y and lazy and it bothered me a lot to see it here.

*Full disclosure - I used the term "fave-whoring" to describe the type of bad behavior that I think favorites can sometimes encourage, and I regret it. I have a big bag of better words that I should have pulled out instead.

**My spell checker dictionary now includes PuppyDeathers

***Mmmm....beans
posted by ersatzkat at 7:16 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not conditioned to think of favorites as part of the conversation... I choose not to see stuff on Metafilter all the time.

But the difference (and it's a subtle one, I admit) is that when you read post titles or blurbs and ignore the resulting page, you're consciously evaluating and choosing to skip things. When you do read threads, you're having the same reading experience (same content, same favorites) as other users in that thread. With favorites saved but invisible, however, you are unaware of what (if anything) you are missing, comment by comment. You'll never really know: you will experience the thread one way, free of these (annoying? useful?) amens and booyahs and lovey-hearts. Others will get it a different way.

Again, I know it's not earth-shaking stuff, here. But it's interesting to me, especially as an apparent precedent, and I'm sure the subtle difference between how threads are perceived with and without comments will cause some odd miscommunication in future. (Hopefully this won't happen first in some "should I eat this" AskMe, where there's a single "Sure, go ahead" followed by a "No you will die!" that has 300 favorites. That'd be even nastier if they both said "Has favorites.")

I wish I could find this example I half-remember: many months ago, I saw what I read as a horrible racist/sexist/something comment. It surprised me. But then I noticed it had like 36 favorites. I read it again more carefully, and realized it was a joke.

Without that extra meta-context-icing of favorites to catch me, I would probably have flagged it or responded with some admonishment or callout... and then posted yet another comment later on in the thread, embarrassingly explaining my misunderstanding.
posted by rokusan at 7:19 AM on December 2, 2009


Also, having being sitting through the "no favorites", I'd be ok with the "has favorites" view, including the mouse over, as long as it wasn't called "has favorites". Maybe just an asterisk?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:20 AM on December 2, 2009


I don't understand this- how do favorites clarify anyone's thoughtless or off the cuff remarks on Metafilter?

Belated, because, uh, I had to sleep, but in a newspaper article, only one person is communicating and it's an inherently more nuanced conversation. On an internet community, favorites stand in for a sort-of nodding along with the original speaker: they're an extra layer of non-written communication. It doesn't solve the problem but ads an additional layer of simultaneous nuance. There's nothing like that for emails (except emoticons, I guess!)--that doesn't mean that I don't think the lack of having something like that isn't felt.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:25 AM on December 2, 2009


I used the term "fave-whoring" to describe the type of bad behavior that I think favorites can sometimes encourage.

Someone accused me of fave-whoring last month. I don't remember what the comment or context was, and I just rolled my eyes and went on with it... but it was one of a billion things that I typed and immediately forgot about, much like 90% of what I type on MetaFilter. Maybe it'll help or be useful to the next reader or make them chuckle. Mission accomplished. Next.

Maybe this makes me a "bad" commenter, I don't know. Almost all of my responses are from the hip and immediate. They're honest and true, but they're seldom planned out. I don't use Preview (and it shows sometimes), and I seldom even read what's in the text box I just filled up. I just type type type and bang Enter with my pinky, the same as I might in a chat window. Done. I do the same thing all day for work, on work intra/extra-nets. Question or thought... type type type type Submit. Next.

Because of this from-the-hipness, some of my comments are pat answers, some are snarky, some are redundant and pointless, and some are bad jokes that popped into my head at just the right (or wrong) time. Some get lots of favorites, some get ignored, some are deleted (Sometimes I understand why, sometimes not, I try to embrace the randomness.) I seldom have anything invested in a comment other than 10 seconds of typing, anyway. The only time I really think about my responses is when called out for something, which inspires me to re-read and examine what I said earlier. Sometimes, I need to clarify due to loose talk in my original (uncensored reflex) reaction.

But despite my many snarky bits and one-liners, I know that I have never, not once, sat down and deliberately crafted a comment because I thought it would get favorites.

I can't even imagine thinking that way. I mean, maybe if these favorites were each worth a nickel... maybe then.

As a reader, I like both thoughtful, serious comments and humor on MeFi. The only time MeFi sucks for me, quite honestly, is when it gets way too serious.

We all need a hug sometimes, as the motto goes, but I think we also all need an occasional poke in the ribs or pie in the face.

Anyway, bang bang bang... Enter.
posted by rokusan at 7:32 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd be ok with the "has favorites" view, including the mouse over, as long as it wasn't called "has favorites". Maybe just an asterisk?

I mentioned this in the older thread, but this is something that you can use Greasemonkey for [i.e. we're not changing it, probably ever again]. I made two scripts that I ripped off from other people that folks might like.

1. replace the "has favorites" with *, ** and ♥ [i.e. a few favorites, more than 10 favorites, MOST favorite]. get here.
2. changes American spellings to UK spellings for "favourites" and a few other words. get here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:35 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


rokusan writes "Today, I'm just mildly opposed to it on principle, because we're left with a new 'wrong' thing as a result of the experiment: I think all users should see the same content in a conversation. Different people seeing or not-seeing favorites is a bad precedent: a first step toward Two Metafilters. When different people see different things, communication won't get better, right?"

If there is one thing the experiment brought forward is that ship has already sailed. A significant portion of the userbase only reads the top FOO favourited comments in at least some threads.

And the TSA Stole My Baby thread proved a lot of people don't feel the need to do even that minimal skimming before commenting.
posted by Mitheral at 7:36 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


But the difference (and it's a subtle one, I admit) is that when you read post titles or blurbs and ignore the resulting page, you're consciously evaluating and choosing to skip things.

Am I obligated to know how popular/noteworthy a contribution is in the view of some portion of the community? See, I kinda don't care about that.

I've been trying really hard in the last month to not feel like I've been told that I'm doing Metafilter wrong. I know that no one really believes that, and that is an impression I suspect we're all getting no matter where we fall upon the favorite-use continuum because of the zeal and enthusiasm in these threads.

I have never paid (much) attention to favorites (occassionally, I looked at my own favorited list). I don't go looking at the most popular favorited items, and honestly, I pay little attention to the whole attribution line at all. By now it is not a conscious decision to not read that line. My eye generally skips right over it unless I find it to be really really really well written, in which case I read the posted by Awesome MeFite portion of the line, am not surprised, and move on. That is my conscious decision.

I spent some time this month trying to be a mainstream MeFite and favorite-as-agreement/recommendation, but I'm too weirdly self-analytical for it ("How can I favorite this amazingly brave personal story if I just favorited that story about hummus? They are so different. And I don't want to favorite anything that lends any approbration in any form whatsoever to sexual assault. And I really like paragraph A, but paragraph B is vaguely weird, and they misuse its/it's continuously.") and it made me a little uncomfortable. Then I felt guilty, like I was letting the community down by not favoriting the under-recognized contributions, and people would be missing them. Then I decided I had better things to stress over and went back to using the site in ways that made me be comfortable.
posted by julen at 7:38 AM on December 2, 2009


Geez, way to make me feel like it's third grade and the cool kids are playing chicken on the monkeybars and I'm sitting over with the playground monitor staring at my shoelaces.

Come sit with me over here and read Hardy Boys books. Maybe no one will notice us and we don't have to deal with getting picked last for the kickball game.

*sob*
posted by marxchivist at 7:41 AM on December 2, 2009


Am I obligated to know how popular/noteworthy a contribution is in the view of some portion of the community? See, I kinda don't care about that.

No, not at all. But since you're inescapably human (I think?) it does change how you process what you read, was my only point there. Julen-reader gets different input. Small thing, maybe.

A significant portion of the userbase only reads the top FOO favourited comments in at least some threads.

That surprised me. I am "pro-favorites", and I'm even a "skimmer" of sorts, but I don't do that, or understand it. I'm not even sure how to do it, mechanically. Look at the bottom of each comment before deciding to read above it? Odd.

The "experiment" did make me more conscious of how I was reading threads, though, which was interesting. The result: I "skim" by reading the first sentence or two of every comment, and sometimes the last... if those sentences don't hook me, I jump to the next comment. So I do always read at least the first line or two of every comment. Sometimes I go back and re-read in full if a later comment addresses or calls out an earlier one.

This reading pattern/loop did not change with favorite counts hidden.
posted by rokusan at 7:44 AM on December 2, 2009


Yes, it was horrible. Most months are not horrible.

Sorry, mods. Thanks for putting up with us, and thanks for sticking through an unpleasant stretch in the interest of improving the site.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 7:46 AM on December 2, 2009


I mentioned this in the older thread... [i.e. we're not changing it, probably ever again].

And they say you can't read tone on the Internet!
posted by rokusan at 7:56 AM on December 2, 2009


but this is something that you can use Greasemonkey for [i.e. we're not changing it, probably ever again].

Yeah, that's where I got the idea from, but since I use Safari was hoping for a built in way to do it...

Yeah, I know there's supposed to a way to get Greasemonkey to work with Safari, but it's finicky and not that important, see?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:06 AM on December 2, 2009


I'm going to to try the no favorites option, because "has favorites" was somehow more distracting to me than seeing a number. Something about knowing that I could click it and see a number and list of respondents would draw me to it to click. No clue why, but my rote need to do that was, in itself, annoying.

But, I am wondering: do any of these options affect what appears in my "Contacts activity" sidebar? I realize I tend to wander over there to look at what popular/awesome thing one of my contacts has said. (And besides people I know/generally like based on commentary, I also use Contacts to keep track of certain topics of mutual interest. Namely, the fellow science and medicine-interested nerds on this site (hellloooooooooo!))
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:52 AM on December 2, 2009


....something happened to the Favorites in November?


(No, I'm kidding, I know. That was just the best way to convey how little impact on my life the experiment actually had.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 AM on December 2, 2009


I'm trying out no visible favorites for a while too. If I could I'd turn them off in my profile so that I could forget about it altogether for a while.

I'm still holding out for the option where the rollover text on the + would read "favor" and when you clicked it the non-enumerated indicating text would then read "favored." There should also be a haughty imperial spelling setting for those who insist upon "favoured." But I guess a little precise and efficient language around here is just too much to ask.
posted by nanojath at 9:26 AM on December 2, 2009


Did you like that? Was that funny? Are you favoring it? I JUST CAN'T TELL ANYMORE
posted by nanojath at 9:27 AM on December 2, 2009


I have cobbled together a greasemonkey script for those of you who prefer the version of "favourites" with the UK spelling. While it does work, it is also something of a joke. Enjoy.

Thanks! I'm especially enjoying the way every single lower case "f-a-v-o-r-i-t-e" on any page -- post text, comments text -- is turned into "favourite" when I run this script. Any mixed or upper case "Favorite" or "FAVORITE" is spared.

Next: a script that turns "about" into "aboot". We'll have you ordering double-doubles in no time, eh?
posted by maudlin at 9:29 AM on December 2, 2009


My comment at the end of the survey, fwiw:
Holy cow.

Make a decision, state your reasons clearly, then go forward. That's how orgs with large, active constituencies push change. That's it. Dragging it out hurts the moderators' (and the site's) credibility, encourages factionalism among the community, and reduces the likelihood that the change will be accepted.

What you all have down throughout this favorites experiment/process/clusterfrack is precisely the way to go about it if your goal is to piss people off and generate churn. What it hasn't done is develop data in a meaningful way (perhaps the survey should have been done before the experiment and again after?) or engage -- effectively engage -- the community in the process (for that you would have started with a discussion about why change might be needed -- with clear reasons in favor -- followed by the survey, then the experiment, and then this.

Bah humbug.
This is a lot of surplus sturm and drang for such a minor feature.
posted by notyou at 9:48 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm still holding out for the option where the rollover text on the + would read "favor" and when you clicked it the non-enumerated indicating text would then read "favored."

I think you can get a reversible door-hanger sign with those labels.

Perhaps only in Bangkok.
posted by rokusan at 9:54 AM on December 2, 2009


I suspect it was something of a surprise to the mods to discover that this community, which is really pretty good about handling nuanced discussion (they have a PUBLIC FORUM for moderation decisions, for crissake - and it works!) has grown to the point of behaving like a more standard online community in some other respects.

(In my closing comments, I offered them all a beer. That offer stands. Man, what a month!)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:55 AM on December 2, 2009


Next: a script that turns "about" into "aboot". We'll have you ordering double-doubles in no time, eh?

I would discuss but since installing my own greasemonkey script, I'm distracted by everyone waxing rhapsodic about the CBC.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:56 AM on December 2, 2009


OMG! I just found out that j-e-s-s-a-m-y-n's script also turns her into my Mom! HI MOM!

Look, I'll be out late tonight, so don't wait up. Late. Late. I don't know exactly -- no, I like what I'm wearing. What's wrong with it? Well, that's the fashion these days. And yeah, but -- but -- NO! I'm going out and I'm wearing this and you can't stop me!

/slams door

posted by maudlin at 10:02 AM on December 2, 2009


In retrospect, it occurs to me that this kind of survey might be useful prior to any future experimental trial changes in the feature set, at least as a preliminary data-gathering tool. Even more usefully, there could be before-and-after surveys for comparison.

(In my closing comments, I offered them all a beer. That offer stands. Man, what a month!)

Funny, I made the same offer at the end of the survey.
posted by empyrean at 10:11 AM on December 2, 2009


For the record if Metafilter were to close up shop one day a month it would be a revenue loss of 3.29% annually, not .3%. For one day a year it would be .3%.
posted by vapidave at 10:12 AM on December 2, 2009


The #1 best thing I got out of November favorites month was pronoiac 's greasemonkey script that displays 'has schmavorites' instead of 'has favorites'. It fucking cracks me up every single day. Thank you, Pronoiac, for this tiny, happy addition to the world.
posted by 8dot3 at 10:39 AM on December 2, 2009


I finished the survey, woo!

First of all, I can't believe it's been a month. I was a whiny sniveling bitch when this started and pouted for like 3 days because I don't have that much time and favorites helped me to skim.

I actually kept the experiment on for the whole month because I wanted to really try it, hard as I thought it would be. Can I just say that its kind of annoying that so many people are commenting in these threads about the favorites that did not really take part in the experiment? Y'all are lame.

Well anyway, I loved it and am keeping it!! I feel more involved in threads because I don't skim, I really read them all. This means that I don't read as many threads, but I read them more completely. I also have commented more and used favorites more because I feel like there is less pressure to either give people lots of favorites or feel the need to collect as many favorites as possible. I guess I feel like I stepped out of a competition.
posted by janelikes at 10:41 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Can I just say that its kind of annoying that so many people are commenting in these threads about the favorites that did not really take part in the experiment? Y'all are lame.

Put the bottle down and go sleep it off mom.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:48 AM on December 2, 2009


Today, I'm just mildly opposed to it on principle, because we're left with a new "wrong" thing as a result of the experiment: I think all users should see the same content in a conversation. Different people seeing or not-seeing favorites is a bad precedent: a first step toward Two Metafilters. When different people see different things, communication won't get better, right?

No one here sees the same thing in a conversation anyway- that should be clear from all the different ways people view favorites, and all the different ways people read threads, and the mere fact that everyone is biased by virtue of being an individual. Some people read giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, other people are quick to see offensive language. Some people never look at user names, other people pay close attention to their contact list and what they're up to.

It's rather condescending to imply that people who have chosen to turn off favorites because they find them distracting, or people who have decided to comment in thread rather than just click [+], or anyone who has discovered new ways of using and enjoying the site by toggling between preferences are now experiencing poorer communication. The idea that everyone views and perceives visible or invisible favorites in the same way should have been strongly debunked by all these threads full of people expressing their point of view on the matter. I have to wonder if you and I are even reading the same threads*, because you seemed to have missed the entire reason this whole experiment was so contentious and yet so interesting- people use and respond to the site in different ways. Pretending that there's some great communication divide now that didn't exist before is not supported by evidence of any sort.


*of course we aren't, for all the reasons I outlined above. And it has nothing to do with favorites.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:54 AM on December 2, 2009


For the record if Metafilter were to close up shop one day a month it would be a revenue loss of 3.29% annually, not .3%. For one day a year it would be .3%.

Yeah, that's what I said poorly. I went back and added the "heck, once a month" after already typing the number for once a year.

(See what horrible things happen when I try to edit myself? Bad!)
posted by rokusan at 10:57 AM on December 2, 2009


It's rather condescending to imply that people who have chosen to turn off favorites because they find them distracting, or people who have decided to comment in thread rather than just click [+], or anyone who has discovered new ways of using and enjoying the site by toggling between preferences are now experiencing poorer communication.

I see what you mean about some people being quick to find offensive language!

That's not what I called poor communication. Those methods you list are all equally valid. What I was talking about was that the two groups are working from different information. What I would call poor communication is the inevitable result of two actors working from different information. There's no serious qualitative judgment intended on which is "better" information.

The "poorer" communication would be sitewide, not just for some users. That's how poor communication works: it impacts all participants.

See, unlike your examples, shown/hidden favorites is more than just a matter of differing interpretation of the same information by readers. It's actual different source information.
posted by rokusan at 11:02 AM on December 2, 2009


I didn't close my italics. I am a bad person who lacks a 30-second edit window.
posted by rokusan at 11:03 AM on December 2, 2009


[rokusan, I closed your italics]

Make a decision, state your reasons clearly, then go forward.

This is tough, from my perspective, because I felt like that's more or less what we did with two small exceptions

- turn-offability
- "faved" to "has favorites"

People who feel that this was a time period for data collection will have issues with the first change. People who feel like we need to stand strong and say "lump it, it's only a month" will have issue with the second change. This didn't work out perfectly for anyone and I don't think it was meant to. I've been really interested to read people's perspectives here in the thread and what they thought about and I'd love it if people were more ... mindful maybe? ... about using favorites in the future, and how others might use them.

I was talking to my Dad about this [who is now inordinately fascinated with MeFi in a way that makes me nervous] and he asked how many people quit over this and I said almost none, if any. And he asked "Well if you instituted a change that you felt was good for the site but made 20 people quit, would that be worth it?" And generally speaking the answer here has always been "No". More than one or two people storming off in a huff over something has always meant something is very very wrong. We may have grown to the point where that's no longer going to be a useful metric, where any change will be accompanied by some people quitting or being aggressively unpleasant about their dislike of it, and that's a really weird adjustment to make, for me personally.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:21 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


More than one or two people storming off in a huff over something has always meant something is very very wrong. We may have grown to the point where that's no longer going to be a useful metric, where any change will be accompanied by some people quitting or being aggressively unpleasant about their dislike of it, and that's a really weird adjustment to make, for me personally.

I think you're right -- the site is bursting at the seams, and accommodating adjustments will have to made as necessary. Is losing a few people really that damaging to the site? (I don't meant that flippantly.)
posted by runningwithscissors at 11:28 AM on December 2, 2009


rokusan--let's say I'm in a crowded room and the noise is distracting. I can't hear what you're saying so I wear a hearing aid to help filter out the sound around me. the effect is that I can now only hear you, or people who stand directly in front of me. do I get to wear this hearing aid or would you be against it?
posted by thisperon at 11:39 AM on December 2, 2009


This is tough, from my perspective, because I felt like that's more or less what we did with two small exceptions

- turn-offability
- "faved" to "has favorites"


I have a feeling that the many people are still wondering what would have happened had there not been turn-offability; there have been a few anti-favorites peeps (and here, I mean people who are genuinely anti-favorites) who still say that favorite-whoring happened during the month and will continue to happen because the ability to opt-out of the experiment eliminated the wider community changes they were hoping for. And of course, as much as I'm, personally, glad--for selfish reasons--that you let us turn off the experiment after we whined and pleaded and weren't nice, this did reward whining, pleading, not-nice behavior.

I think there are some good suggestions in here for going forward with feature changes in the future: more discussion prior (not just, "Is this a problem?" but something like "In a week, we'll be rolling out this feature's change. Here's why." I think a week to digest that sort of thing would help soften the blow to the community and to the mods when the change is actually rolled out), surveying beforehand, then a more rigid stance once the change actually is initiated. I said in my survey, and I'll say here, too, that I think the timing was probably my biggest problem with the experiment. I was sooo hung over the morning that I woke up and all sorts of bitchy that metafilter looked wonky and that certainly contributed to my grouchiness (sorry about that, everyone)--sensitivity to things like major US drinking holidays might be a good idea for everyone's sanity.

But I also said in my survey, and will also repeat here, that I really think that the mods had nothing but the best of intentions in implementing this; they were trying to address the needs of the community, and that's a really, really, good thing.

TEAM MODS! WOO!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:53 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, jessamyn, I disagree that you stated your reasons for the change clearly*, but thanks for offering your perspective on accommodating the membership. If you decide to adjust your metric, I hope the weirdness is only temporary and the change doesn't come at too great a cost to your view of the site and your role in it.

Anyhow, I've wasted too much of my time, and yours, on favorites.

--------------------
*If you're a facebooker, compare facebook's announcement of impending changes to that site's "network" functions to the favorites announcement made here last month. Agree or disagree with the decision, there's no question about why facebook management thinks the change needs to be made.
posted by notyou at 12:27 PM on December 2, 2009


I think if the mods had said "we are going to do this in a week" all the shouting would have happened a week earlier with pretty much the exact same results. As it is, the experiment happened, people who were dead set against the whole idea of experimenting participated anyway, and now many people have a better understanding of how favorites affect their MetaFilter Experience. Yay experiment!
posted by aspo at 12:33 PM on December 2, 2009


"In a week, we'll be rolling out this feature's change. Here's why." I think a week to digest that sort of thing would help soften the blow to the community and to the mods when the change is actually rolled out

My take is that there would have been five weeks of shouting and discussing, not four. And there would have been (more) threats "if you do this I'll...." in an attempt to change the outcome, that weren't (mostly) there with this scenario.

It's possible I'm jaded about the whole thing because I always have my scuffed up "I really believe people are good at heart and trust us to do the right thing" goggles on, but I don't think an early announcement would have done anything but prolong the GRAR.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:48 PM on December 2, 2009


My take is that there would have been five weeks of shouting and discussing, not four.,

That's possible, but we might have reached the happier medium of having a preference setting before the experiment started.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:08 PM on December 2, 2009


An extra week of arguing in exchange for (as I recall) less than twenty four fewer hours without an option is hardly a slam-dunk trade. In retrospect I wish we'd built the option in from the get-go to save folks some of the third-party-hack, etc. stress that came about, definitely, but that's about as far as that goes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:10 PM on December 2, 2009


rokusan--let's say I'm in a crowded room and the noise is distracting.... do I get to wear this hearing aid or would you be against it?

An odd example, but okay, I can try to work with that.

The best example of what I am talking about that fits your example is probably Howard Dean's infamous "scream", which was read two very different ways at the time:

(1) Those who saw only the hyped media capsule using the sound-isolating microphone that removed the environmental sound in the room. In that (somewhat contrived) context, he sounded like an idiot, his voice rising in pitch like a madman for no apparent reason.

(2) But those who heard the entire sound of the room at the time (the natural, context-laden version that made its way out onto the Internet much later) it became clear that he was actually just adjusting his voice to be heard over the crowd, and his "scream" made sense.

That's the kind of two-track interpretation I am talking about. With different side-information, different listeners drew two very different (but reasonable) conclusions.
posted by rokusan at 1:13 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think there are some good suggestions in here for going forward with feature changes in the future...

I got the sense from the earlier thread that some users might have appreciated a mod or two acknowledging that maybe they might have done a thing or two wrong, or made a little bitty mistake here or there. At least, there were a couple times when it seemed that might have defused some emotions.

But if I remember right, it occasionally felt as if the tack taken was a bit more defensive/passive-aggressive than that: Some "I'm sorry you users feel that way." sort of deflections.

Perhaps it was frustration, dunno.
posted by rokusan at 1:19 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rokusan--then I guess we disagree over the value of knowing other people favorited something. To me this is not "valuable side information." It's just noise.

Personally, it has NO value for me whatsover, and therefore serves as a distraction, but different strokes and all that. I just wish you could accept that some of us regard certain info as distracting and meaningless.
posted by thisperon at 1:25 PM on December 2, 2009


An extra week of arguing in exchange for (as I recall) less than twenty four fewer hours without an option is hardly a slam-dunk trade. In retrospect I wish we'd built the option in from the get-go to save folks some of the third-party-hack, etc. stress that came about, definitely, but that's about as far as that goes.

Maybe--but for me, part of the rawness about the decision was the suddenness of it, and I say this as someone who initially felt pretty raw about it. It seemed to me that, as a participant in the original thread, the vast majority of fightiness was in the first few days. I guess I just think it's more fair to let people digest changes for a little while before they're actually implemented.

It's possible I'm jaded about the whole thing because I always have my scuffed up "I really believe people are good at heart and trust us to do the right thing" goggles on, but I don't think an early announcement would have done anything but prolong the GRAR.

I'm sorry the whole thing has you feeling jaded, jessamyn--I don't think the GRARness is a reflection of Mefites being bad at heart. In fact, I still think that all the impassioned responses are a reflection of how much the members here care about the community and the time they spend here. Of course, we have you guys to thank for a lot of that, but clearly, as mods, you became an easy target for a lot of hurt feelings here, and, well, that's got to suck. So I think I speak for all mefites who were fighty about this when I say: I'm sorry if my fightiness hurt you, or made your job suck. It wasn't our intention and we really do pretty much adore all of you, and the work we do, even if we didn't agree with your decision.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:25 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think a week to digest that sort of thing would help soften the blow to the community and to the mods when the change is actually rolled out),

I agree with this.

My take is that there would have been five weeks of shouting and discussing, not four. And there would have been (more) threats "if you do this I'll...." in an attempt to change the outcome, that weren't (mostly) there with this scenario.

Everything I've read about change management argues against this. Yes, it would have extended the conversation, and there might have been dramatics, but it would have done two things: allowed people to psychologically prepare, and allowed the whole conversation about study design and outcomes to happen before implementation, rather than after, and would (I believe) have resulted in findings from the experiment that were much more meaningful.

I appreciate the tough position the mods are in (people always resist change initially) but opportunity for buy-in and helping to shape the process that takes place during and in the aftermath of change is usually received more positively than abrumpt change. Especially when the change was temporary and essentially experimentational, it may have been bumpier than it needed to be. Had it been a permanent change, no discussion allowed, there's a case for a clean break/abrupt change. I'm not sure this was it.
posted by Miko at 1:30 PM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


(p.s., that sounded harsher than I meant it to - just have to run, we're having layoffs :( )
posted by Miko at 1:30 PM on December 2, 2009


An extra week of arguing in exchange for (as I recall) less than twenty four fewer hours without an option is hardly a slam-dunk trade.

As a data point of one, I would have not be so angry if the option had been added before the experiment actually started. Making it an option and asking people to try it out at some point during the month of November as opposed to "hey we're doing this thing and you're stuck with it all month long" would have gone down better.

To me it came down to a forced interface change when I really didn't have a lot of time to be dealing with that coupled with the absolute loathing of "faved" and "has favorites". For me, this isn't particula rto Mefi, I haven't upgraded to Mac OS X 10.5 (on my main work machine) or CS4, 'cause I don't like the interfaces, but at least there I have an option to stick with I had and not be interrupted while the rest of the world did what it wanted to.

Seriously, I love you guys and all, but please don't be mucking around my interface and then expect me to stick with it for a month. I get that you guys have to do somethings for the betterment of the site and no one can have their special snowflake way all or even some of the time, but if you're going to run an experiment, can we 1.) talk about it and 2.) make it an option so the user can opt into on their schedule or at least opt out of it for the duration?

Otherwise, I wasn't bothered by the unscientific nature of the experiment, I think that's pretty much classic Mefi in that moderating the site is both an art and a science, that you guys do great 90-95% of the time.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:39 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry if my fightiness hurt you, or made your job suck. It wasn't our intention and we really do pretty much adore all of you, and the work we do, even if we didn't agree with your decision.

"Agreed," he said stoically, stuffing his emotions down into a tight little ball in the pit of his stomach.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:44 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Today, I'm just mildly opposed to it on principle, because we're left with a new "wrong" thing as a result of the experiment: I think all users should see the same content in a conversation. Different people seeing or not-seeing favorites is a bad precedent: a first step toward Two Metafilters. When different people see different things, communication won't get better, right?

That doesn't make sense to me. The issue isn't how information is or isn't displayed, but how people interpret the data given to them. Forcing me to view favourites isn't going to alter how I think of them as bookmarks, change what I say here, how I feel about what someone else said or, look to favourite counts to decide if the comment is worth reading in the first place.

What I would call poor communication is the inevitable result of two actors working from different information.

But, that's assuming that all these years I gave the information any weight to begin with, I didn't. It was like the time stamp, something to ignore.

I offered them all a beer

Me too.
posted by squeak at 2:00 PM on December 2, 2009


BB, your feelings have had plenty of airing out lately. They'll be ok for a bit.
posted by runningwithscissors at 2:03 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Personally, it has NO value for me whatsover, and therefore serves as a distraction, but different strokes and all that. I just wish you could accept that some of us regard certain info as distracting and meaningless.

Um... I believe you? I never doubted that. It's obvious that some feel that way, and those feelings are fine and valid.

For good or ill, you're getting different info than others who see favorites. You like it that way because you don't value the other info. Fine 'n' dandy.

My whole intent was to signal that that difference itself between what people see when they read the same thread is a seed for possible future miscommunication. It's also a tiny step toward a possible Two MetaFilters sort of world, and I find that sort of fascinatingly significant. If the site never takes another step in that direction, it may end up meaning very little indeed.

For me, from this perspective, the real experiment is starting right now, post-schism.
posted by rokusan at 2:08 PM on December 2, 2009


I think a week to digest that sort of thing would help soften the blow to the community and to the mods when the change is actually rolled out)

Yuppers. You'd have buy-in from users.

Also, rolling it out as "Here's a new feature some of you might want to try!" would probably have fostered a more positive discussion.
posted by rokusan at 2:11 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Making it an option and asking people to try it out...

... wouldn't have done what we wanted. Again I'm sorry and I know you wanted this to have gone differently, but it didn't.

I worry sometimes about giving people fake choices like "hey we're going to do this; here's where we ask for your feedback" when most of the "how we're planning to do things" details are not on the table. I feel like it's like asking a kid whether they want the blue shirt or the red shirt when what the kid wants is to STAY IN PAJAMAS [like any sane person]. It's a cheat and it's disingenuous.

So I personally was more worried that we'd be insulting people by saying "We want your feedback!" and then saying "Okay thanks for your feedback, we're doing it basically the same way we were planning to!" I know companies that do that and it annoys the crap out of me. We might have gotten good advice re: faved and added an opt-out option, but I feel weird about asking people for their opinions just to have a place for sharing opinions, if there's not an option for real change.

And again I think back to "we want your opinions!" threads like the redesign and the edit window and am concerned that a few strong vocal dissenters, with our current "we try to keep people from losing their shit" policy and I'm concerned how we remain sincerely open to all suggestions while at the same time being able to make some executive decisions.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:18 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Forcing me to view favourites isn't going to alter how I think of them as bookmarks, change what I say here, how I feel about what someone else said.... But, that's assuming that all these years I gave the information any weight to begin with, I didn't.
Question: What is wrong with my arm in this photo?
A1: It's just a scrape. Ignore it.
A2: That's necrotizing fasciitis. Hospital, now! (76 favorites)

Question: Should I eat this?
A1: Sure, it's perfectly safe. I eat that all the time. (36 favorites)
A2: No way, I ate that once and it almost killed me.

Question: Who was the best blues guitarist?
A1: Albert King. (44 favorites)
A2: Pee Wee Crayton. (8 favorites)
You're telling me, seriously, you don't see any additional information there, and you'd get exactly the same value without the favorites showing?
posted by rokusan at 2:21 PM on December 2, 2009 [4 favorites]



My whole intent was to signal that that difference itself between what people see when they read the same thread is a seed for possible future miscommunication.


Rokusan, if you're that concerned with differences in source information, why not call for some kind of way to make EVERYBODY ready ALL THE COMMENTS in EVERY POST? Like a slow scroll, enforced on everybody? Because I see vast differences in how people read right now, but somehow this one option is really making you concerned about two metafilters, when apparently there are already several.

I'd say the majority of us do not read every comment in every thread. There's a lot of skipping. That right there is a large current source of potential miscommunication.

Does this bother you presently? The fact that the majority of us only read a couple of comments? Why aren't you up in arms about that fact?

And what about about the people who say that lack of favorites have helped them start reading every comment?
posted by thisperon at 2:27 PM on December 2, 2009


Rokusan, if that's seriously how you view favorites, as an indication of "rightness", I worry for you.
posted by thisperon at 2:29 PM on December 2, 2009


Up in arms? Perhaps you misread me. I have pointed out at all turns that this is a very small, subtle point that is interesting to me. It's not something to get all emotional about, I don't think. I look forward to watching this unfold in the months to come.

Heck, if you scroll way back, my first comment here explained that hiding all favorites from all users would make sense, too. It's this middle ground we are now on that is especially interesting. It's here that I think we all, as commenters/favoriters, would now be best-served by being conscious of the fact that some users will see favorites and some will not. It's a change that goes beyond personal preference and does impact other readers. And so it will impact things, I think (in a way interesting to me and perhaps of no interest whatsoever to you. Cool. You're allowed that, as I hope I am.)

As for "how I see favorites", that wasn't really the point. I see them as many things in different contexts, and I use them in many different ways, too. I was showing that it would be disingenuous to take the view that favorites do not ever contain useful information, as some have argued, when it's so easy to see how they can.
posted by rokusan at 2:41 PM on December 2, 2009


your feelings have had plenty of airing out lately. They'll be ok for a bit.

If there's still points to I feel need to be mentioned, I'll mention them. You can like that or not.

... wouldn't have done what we wanted.

Which was? I'm confused at this point, because you guys wound up offering the option after all, but my only suggestion was that offering it before would have have lessen the GRAR.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:45 PM on December 2, 2009


Having it as an option that people could try if they wanted wouldn't have done what we wanted, which is what I thought you were suggesting.

As it was, people had to make an affirmative decision to opt-out which is more useful to us datapoint-wise than if people had had to make an affirmative decision to opt-in.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:50 PM on December 2, 2009


Rokusan, I really do ignore favourites and, don't ascribe any value to them. There are too many reasons why people use them to know what the intent was behind the action.
posted by squeak at 2:51 PM on December 2, 2009



Up in arms? Perhaps you misread me. I have pointed out at all turns that this is a very small, subtle point that is interesting to me. It's not something to get all emotional about, I don't think. I look forward to watching this unfold in the months to come.


This is the phrase that made me think of you as "up in arms":


Different people seeing or not-seeing favorites is a bad precedent: a first step toward Two Metafilters. When different people see different things, communication won't get better, right?


To me this language is hyperbolic. Two Metafilters? Bad precedent? This sounds like language used when hammering out military policy, not an internet forum. And to me, this sounded like you were less interested in seeing "this unfold" as to wanting all of us to see metafilter the same way.


was showing that it would be disingenuous to take the view that favorites do not ever contain useful information, as some have argued, when it's so easy to see how they can.


Well, see. There's that word--"Useful." Pretty subjective, right? Useful TO YOU. Useful TO ME. You have said they are useful to you, and I have said they are useless to me. Somehow you said you believe me, but then turned around and replied to someone asking "how can you not see their usefulness?!?!" Ugh. Please, stop.
posted by thisperon at 2:54 PM on December 2, 2009


8dot3: The #1 best thing I got out of November favorites month was pronoiac 's greasemonkey script that displays 'has schmavorites' instead of 'has favorites'. It fucking cracks me up every single day. Thank you, Pronoiac, for this tiny, happy addition to the world

I've gotta update that. Oh! You're using jacalata's script, actually, which appears to work still, & I can probably rip that off again make use of that.

I'm somewhat fried, gimme a bit.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:15 PM on December 2, 2009


Cool, thanks for explaining Jessamyn
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:28 PM on December 2, 2009


Somehow you said you believe me, but then turned around and replied to someone asking "how can you not see their usefulness?!?!"

I said I believed that you saw no value in them, as you claimed. I had already "accepted" the thing I was being asked to accept. I still believe you.

I don't understand what more you want, unless it's just to be fighty for some reason.

replied to someone asking "how can you not see their usefulness?!?!"

Weird. I didn't say that thing you just put in quotation marks and attributed to me.

I said they can contain useful information, and I'm pretty sure they can. If the word "useful" is too bothersome or loaded, strike it and the point is the same. I was addressing the viewpoint that favorites contain no information in a thread, which still strikes me as a very odd viewpoint to hold, because "no information" is tough to achieve. And that's what those examples were for.

Like them, hate them, consider them distracting or of no value if you like... but they're something.

Ugh. Please, stop.

The coolest thing about my comments? If you see no value in them, you can ignore them.
posted by rokusan at 3:31 PM on December 2, 2009


Having it as an option that people could try if they wanted wouldn't have done what we wanted.

Jessamyn, can you explain that a bit? What is it that you wanted that could not have been achieved with the opposite default setting?
posted by rokusan at 3:32 PM on December 2, 2009


They wanted to see what would happen if most people had them off. An opt-in approach to the experiment would be less likely to yield this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:46 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I felt better at deleting early threadshitting in MeFi without seeing big favorite counts on them and second-guessing as a result

Please continue doing this. Delete the threadshitting. Delete it with extreme prejudice.

In fact if January could be zero-tolerance bias-for-action shoot-first-questions-later deletion of threadshitting month I would be totally down with that.
posted by Artw at 3:51 PM on December 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


When you do read threads, you're having the same reading experience (same content, same favorites) as other users in that thread.

But this isn't true. Mefites - how many? I dunno, but a lot of the active users - use greasemonkey to modify how they see and interact with Metafilter and mefites. I use the usernotes, scroll tag, navigator, and deleted posts scripts. Other people use the one(s) that turn favorites into little hearts or whatever. There's a script that hides all usernames! Etc.

We're already running 80 zillion flavors of Metafilter.
posted by rtha at 3:53 PM on December 2, 2009



I said they can contain useful information, and I'm pretty sure they can. If the word "useful" is too bothersome or loaded, strike it and the point is the same.


No, actually, it isn't. Otherwise why use it at all? Again usefulness is all about context, and completely subjective. To ask how come somebody doesn't find something as useful as you just smacks of "how could you not love this book I loved?"

At no point did I actually read squeak saying they contain "no information," as you claim. Where did you get this? I only read that he/she "doesn't give the information any weight to begin with."

And sorry about the misquote. Your original quote was:
"You're telling me, seriously, you don't see any additional information there, and you'd get exactly the same value without the favorites showing?" (And I think quite a few of us can actually respond, "quite easily"...)
posted by thisperon at 3:55 PM on December 2, 2009


And, the experiment is over. This experiment just made me realize how important the minor details of this website are to a relatively small group of people who like to argue. You can all go home now.

And thanks to the moderators who put up with what must be a chore: replying to the same questions and objections over and over and over again.
posted by Roger Dodger at 4:06 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


To ask how come somebody doesn't find something as useful as you just smacks of "how could you not love this book I loved?"

Yeesh. I really didn't do that. Even if someone finds it useless, it's still information, right? Choosing to discard something you read is quite different than not seeing it in the first place.

I'm not arguing for anything to be changed now: it's five or six weeks too late for that argument. I'm just commenting on what the change we now have might mean, and how it changes my view and use of MetaFilter. I think that's what this thread is for, right?

I've said several times that different users seeing different value in things is perfectly reasonable. The only points I've been sticking to are that: (1) favorites are actual information and can impact value, they're not always fluff; and (2) the fact that some readers will see and some will not see them marks what may be a change moment at MetaFilter: the site itself now allows regular readers to view different information than other readers view within the same threads. I think this is new (someone correct me if I'm wrong here?), and that in the past the site presented one uniform view of the content of every thread to every user, and anyone who wanted to hack it needed to explicitly do so via some post-processing method.

I'm interested in what this moment may signify or mean, from now forward, because I think it's a (small) step toward that Two Metafilters thing, a perhaps-clumsy shorthand for a bifurcated view of common threads. Again, I think this is what this thread is for, no?

(I feel like I've restated this a dozen times now. I must be extra-unclear today. If so, apologies for that. But I've never thought less of anyone else's views on this here, including the views of those who hold that favorites are always/necessarily a bad thing. Some may dislike them, and they get to have that view, and I have no truck with that. Rather than arguing the actual merits of various favorite-bits, most of my recent responses seem to be not much more than just saying "No, I didn't say that" to inaccurate paraphrases.)

At no point did I actually read squeak saying they contain "no information," as you claim.

Heh. I did not claim squeak said that. I did believe that someone did.

Scrolling back, it looks like it was originally... Orville? It was also a theme repeated a couple of times in last month's thread: some readers posited that favorites signified zero information, as if they had no possible merit, and so on. I obviously think they always contain some information, and that information can have merit, at least some of the time.

Really, I'm having trouble understanding what is so contentious here, exactly. It feels like arguing about one tiny slice of a single bean.
posted by rokusan at 4:19 PM on December 2, 2009


And Faved, Schmaved is updated, though the mouseover text isn't modifiable yet, unfortunately.
posted by Pronoiac at 4:26 PM on December 2, 2009


I'm concerned how we remain sincerely open to all suggestions while at the same time being able to make some executive decisions.

You could hire me to be the arbitrary asshole mod. I'd serve as a scapegoat. I'd announce things, and basically never waver. Not happy with my decisions? There are plenty of other websites; go read them to see if I post there.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:33 PM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think this is new (someone correct me if I'm wrong here?), and that in the past the site presented one uniform view of the content of every thread to every user, and anyone who wanted to hack it needed to explicitly do so via some post-processing method.

It's new if you define your terms sufficiently narrowly—the act of reading a thread from the canonical url (not from Recent Activity, not from RSS) and diregarding formatting differences (color scheme, font size and choice, url underlining, youtube notice/popout icons), and ignoring other per-user viewing experiences like the contact activity sidebar and the contact activity pages.

But it's precedential in only a similar narrow sense, and I think any even remotely careful attention paid to how site feature discussions have gone around here for years and years would make it clear that speculating about it being some "first step" or a "change moment" is odd. A stretch, or more than that.

I won't tell you you can't sit and wonder (vocally, repeatedly) whether in fact some slippery slope is being footed, but it's not a line of wondering that I think has much to recommend it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:40 PM on December 2, 2009


It's new if you define your terms sufficiently narrowly.

Yes, if you treat things like color and underlining as "content", then you're right that my working definition is somewhat more narrow than that. It's not a very exotic one, though: I think of the content of a thread as the original post plus all the (undeleted) comments that follow, in their natural order. The attributions and favorites and such are either additional content or meta-content.

(Who said or favorited something can matter to meaning sometimes, in the same way favorites themselves may impact meaning.)

I won't tell you you can't sit and wonder (vocally, repeatedly)...

Classy.
posted by rokusan at 5:37 PM on December 2, 2009


I think I may be a total weirdo who sets the preference to "Hide Favorites" and then uses the "Metafilter Multifavorited Multiwidth" greasemonkey script. I hope the updated version will support weirdo me and my weirdo use case.

Here ye go

Note that this will show the bar no matter what option you choose, including "No favorites"
posted by Deathalicious at 5:54 PM on December 2, 2009


PhoBWanKenobi writes "Maybe--but for me, part of the rawness about the decision was the suddenness of it, and I say this as someone who initially felt pretty raw about it."

This is one of the things that surprised me about the extreme negative reaction. I want to say new features and changes are always introduced by *boom* there it is but I'd think there is an exception or two. Heck favourites themselves were introduced without any warning or prior discussion. I would have thought members would be use to it.

rokusan writes "
Question: What is wrong with my arm in this photo?
"A1: It's just a scrape. Ignore it.
"A2: That's necrotizing fasciitis. Hospital, now! (76 favorites)

"Question: Should I eat this?
"A1: Sure, it's perfectly safe. I eat that all the time. (36 favorites)
"A2: No way, I ate that once and it almost killed me.

"Question: Who was the best blues guitarist?
"A1: Albert King. (44 favorites)
"A2: Pee Wee Crayton. (8 favorites)
You're telling me, seriously, you don't see
any additional information there, and you'd get exactly the same value without the favorites showing?"

1) Is it actually necrotizing fascitis? If not then I understand in America the poster would be in line for a serious medical bill. Medical conditions aren't something that should be put to a vote by people on the internet.
2) Is this pink hamburgers? 'Cause sure people eat it all the time without getting sick but lots of people die in the states every year from it too.
3)First off it's obviously B.B.King or T-Bone Walker which leads into second off: Questions with no right answer and matters of opinion should be deleted as chat filter.

Artw writes "Please continue doing this. Delete the threadshitting. Delete it with extreme prejudice.

"In fact if January could be zero-tolerance bias-for-action shoot-first-questions-later deletion of threadshitting month I would be totally down with that."


Let's go one further. If you favourited a thread shitting comment which later gets deleted you lose the ability to favourite for 24 hours.
posted by Mitheral at 6:05 PM on December 2, 2009


If you favourited a thread shitting comment which later gets deleted you lose the ability to favourite for 24 hours.

This would be awesome, as long as somewhere in the backend the mods could give a reason why a comment was deleted (as opposed to, say, a double comment). And it would damn sure make people think before giving a favorite to just any comment. (Posts, naturally, should be exempt.)
posted by armage at 6:12 PM on December 2, 2009


Heh, Mith. Yeah, definitely not about "right or wrong", and popularity isn't truth.

Point was that the simple addition of favorites does something to the naked text, in that it causes a reader to read/process the info differently than if the favorites were not visible. Different reactions from different people, sure, including willful and maybe wise disregard... but still something.

Just a mental exercise, there.
posted by rokusan at 6:22 PM on December 2, 2009


Questions with no right answer and matters of opinion should be deleted as chat filter.

Heh. A good 95 percent of AskMe would fail that test.
posted by rokusan at 6:23 PM on December 2, 2009


for some reason, this scene has stuck in my head for more than 20 years. Skip to 8:25.

It may be a thin slice of a single bean, but at least there are no bones in it!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:36 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


rokusan, i find (much to my surprise! thanks November experiment!) the automatic display of favorites-count to be noise. It's noise in the way it would be if we had locations, IP addresses, occupation, etc always displayed as default with every comment. Sure it's extra information, but it's extra information that for the most part I don't need or want, and it's just pure distraction for me. It makes my reading of the site worse. I attend inordinately to things that are not salient. I was surprised at how relieving it was to turn it off. Aaaah.

It's great that we now have the ability to toggle, to check favorites-count in a thread where we want to see it, but to be able to ignore it for the most part.

You are defending the logical possibility that there will be some cases where ignoring favorites-count will lead someone to miss out on some of what's going on. Fair enough. Point conceded. Sometimes favorites-ignorers will miss out on additional info they could have had.

But I suggest that will not be most cases -- in most cases, ignoring it will be a-ok.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:38 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I won't tell you you can't sit and wonder (vocally, repeatedly)...

Classy.
posted by rokusan at 5:37 PM on December 2 [+] [!] Other [27/29]: «≡»
posted by Rumple at 7:09 PM on December 2, 2009


I was surprised at how relieving it was to turn it off. Aaaah.
I went the whole month adhering to the temporary-hiding, too, but I still didn't like it even come November 29. We're different folks, so no shock there.

You are defending the logical possibility that there will be some cases where ignoring favorites-count will lead someone to miss out on some of what's going on. Fair enough. Point conceded. Sometimes favorites-ignorers will miss out on additional info they could have had.

But I suggest that will not be most cases -- in most cases, ignoring it will be a-ok.


Absolutely, LobsterMitten (amen, favorited!), and yes that's exactly what I meant, and nothing more judgmental or loaded than that.

I agree that for most individual comments, there's probably little to no value to lose by obscuring favorites. It's the edge cases where they can impact meaning in a significant way that are intriguing to me.

I was not trying to convince anyone to change anything here, which is why the aggressiveness of the counter-"arguments" and requirements to defend what I said so much surprised me a bit. I certainly don't mind if it's my own hobby alone to watch for that fine edge and beanplate in my own dark corner if/when discourse may be ever-so-slightly skewed as a result. I was only sharing experience and impressions, per the post's call for comments/thoughts/experiences.
posted by rokusan at 7:49 PM on December 2, 2009


If someone takes advantage of the new "turn off favorites" option, I'd put forth that they should see the "[+]" disappear from the byline, as well.
posted by MikeHarris at 7:51 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


rokusan, by way of explanation: I think it was the phrase "two Metafilters" which cropped up somewhere (don't know offhand whose phrase that was, don't care) as an argument against letting people turn off favorite-counts. That phrase sort of sounds like "we must stop the multiple-option approach or else the site discussion will degrade". hence the response from people who like the favorites-off option. Your arguments in the recent part of the thread sounded like they were in line with that concern. (But now it sounds like you don't actually endorse that concern generally but you're only interested in pointing to some edge cases.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:00 PM on December 2, 2009


[30 Helens Agree +]
posted by Sys Rq at 8:07 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


LM, I did use the "two MetaFilters" term myself, though I was describing the with/without-favorites split as a small/tiny/subtle shift toward that (obviously an unintentional one) not some earthshakingly huge divide in itself. I could have said it some more nuanced way, like "it becomes possible to view each thread through either of two different site-supplied lenses of meaning" or somesuch, but went for the shorter, catchier and less semiowanky version. As you point out, that shorthand was read as inflammatory language by some. Live and learn. I'll try the lenses out instead.

The two perhaps confusingly-similar points I repeated (vocally!) were: (1) Yes, I do think that this (small/tiny/subtle) split-lens effect now applies to every thread (and technically, I suppose, every comment) and this is bad/risky in principle... but (2) I also think that in practice, this split lens will only cause a significant difference in a few possible edge cases. These aren't contradictory positions.

Sometimes I have been asked to argue in defense of (1): the "it's valid information" strand. At other points, I am addressing (2): future/theoretical cases where the difference with added/removed extra meaning may be significant and/or interesting.

Maybe those two ideas became conflated in all the typey-typey-enter-ing. If so, not intentional, and anyone who was confuzzled may share some of this fine, fine beer.
posted by rokusan at 8:49 PM on December 2, 2009


[30 Helens Agree +]

MeFi feature request: please replace My Contacts with Daves I Know.
posted by rokusan at 8:52 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


'm concerned how we remain sincerely open to all suggestions while at the same time being able to make some executive decisions.

A reasonable concern. I think the trouble lies in the answer to the question: which was this? An instance of being open to genuine community reaction and decision, or an executive decision? The fact that it really wasn't clear to everyone, even mid-experiment, helped to create the anxiety.

I think people will adapt to executive decisions where they're workable. Change is never easy and there will always be detractors and maybe flounce-outs. But if the change is sensible and has utility, it will become evident, and everyone will get over it. Just like when there's job restructuring.

And I think people will willingly - no, obsessively - engage in making suggestions about which site leadership is sincerely open. To the nth degree of beanplating.

Where people felt on shifting sand here was that it wasn't so easy to tell, from the outside, whether this was a managerial fait accompli with some set dressing to make it look like an experiment; a genuine experiment; a genuine experiment with flaws in its design; more of a test run or experiential leaning project; a way of provoking focused discussion which was truly open-ended; and/or a trial balloon. From the outside, it was honestly unclear whether decisions had already been made or were perhaps in the process of being made, and what was going to be taken into account if they were still being made. The experiment design created further anxiety because, if it was going to be used to justify permanent change based on its findings, the findings were problematic. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the community's reaction, if unpredicted, was reasonable. To me, the real pity was that the way it was brought in and the design of the experience ended up, probably, interfering with much of the learning that might have taken place, as people (including me) were distracted by the many red herrings spawned by the question "what's actually going on here?"
posted by Miko at 9:25 PM on December 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


We're not animals. We're not cattle, we don't have to walk up the chute just because another cow went up it. We are not goldfish gorging ourselves as long as food is offered, we are humans. We have sovereignty, reason, and autonomy - if we choose not to exercise them, the system, regardless of how it may enable that sort of behavior, is blameless.

There is a tension between individual decisions and actions and the aggregrate of those decisions and actions. There's the person and there's the mob, and there are gradations in between.

Most of what's good and smart in society springs from individuals, and most of what's bad and stupid, from masses of them, I reckon. I think the idea of 'the wisdom of the crowd' is egregrious nonsense.

So yes, but also no. I think it is dangerous to say, in this context and the larger one, that 'the system is blameless'.

Managing and guiding web community should be, I think, as much about the aggregate as the individual, and this is something new and unique and fascinating to me in the world. Matt used to refer to Metafilter as a 'grand experiment' if I remember aright, and that's always been interesting to me.

This is also why people who threw tantrums last month based on how they personally used the site, using their own feelings to argue that such a change would be bad for the site as a whole, annoyed me.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:29 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good point, stavros; I guess I'm really stuck on the concept of favourites merely being a tool. I feel the same way about the flagging system, particularly the sexist/offensive flag - while I think they facilitated fostering a more welcoming environment, the engine for that change was the discussions members had on MetaTalk (Opinions will vary to what degree it was successful, of course). The argument that faves are a destructive force seems just as specious as if someone claimed that if it wasn't for the introduction of the sexism flag, there would have been no way to deal with the issue. Yeah, it can help shape or direct a conversation, but ultimately it comes down to people.

You're telling me, seriously, you don't see any additional information there, and you'd get exactly the same value without the favorites showing?

There is about as much value in favourite counts as there were in those real-time polls CNN and FOX ran during the election debates. I'm sorry you had to find out this way.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:30 PM on December 2, 2009


I'm super duper epic levels of curious to see data from an eye-tracking study as somebody reads MetaFilter. Do people *really* not pay attention to favorites? At all? Ever? Even unconsciously? What about for the comments they read? Or comments they favorite? Comments from contacts? What about big, messy threads? AskMe's? What patterns and behaviors emerge? And how does the visual patterning compare with other threaded forum sites? I could go on forever with the questions, but yeah, somebody do it, pretty please!!
posted by iamkimiam at 12:30 AM on December 3, 2009


Er, subconsciously, not unconsciously. But maybe you read MetaFilter in your dreams too.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:31 AM on December 3, 2009


Actually, you were right the first time. It's unconscious. Although subconscious is often (mis)used in it's place in casual parlance. But I'm not so sure that you care, as some of your comments are framed in an absurdity about "The Nov Exp" that underscores some kind of obvious ridiculousness seemingly only known to you.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:20 AM on December 3, 2009


D'oh! And as ridiculous as my ideas are, I'm the absurdity here. But maybe that's what you were suggesting. ;)
posted by iamkimiam at 1:44 AM on December 3, 2009


I would like to suggest that we abandon the comments system entirely and give each post it's own survey. That way we can calmly and independently register our thoughts privately, and have the results anonymously displayed.

January experiment, perhaps?
posted by Acey at 5:01 AM on December 3, 2009


iamkimiam: "I'm super duper epic levels of curious to see data from an eye-tracking study as somebody reads MetaFilter. Do people *really* not pay attention to favorites? At all? Ever? Even unconsciously? What about for the comments they read? Or comments they favorite? Comments from contacts? What about big, messy threads? AskMe's? What patterns and behaviors emerge? And how does the visual patterning compare with other threaded forum sites? I could go on forever with the questions, but yeah, somebody do it, pretty please!"

This is more of an anecdote than a study, but when the November Experiment started, I became aware of just how frequently I was looking at the favorite counts on comments. I was aware of it because of how often I noticed it wasn't there any more.

Now that the counts are back (and I like it better that way, in case it matters which camp I'm in), I've noticed I'm not looking at them as much. I have to make a conscious effort to remember to look for the number.

I suspect I'll go back to my old habit soon enough, but that tells me the "has favorites" thing was something I had become accustomed to ignoring.
posted by FishBike at 6:29 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


"From the outside, it was honestly unclear whether decisions had already been made or were perhaps in the process of being made, and what was going to be taken into account if they were still being made. The experiment design created further anxiety because, if it was going to be used to justify permanent change based on its findings, the findings were problematic."

Miko, I love you, but this is hogwash. You know why? Because the mods addressed this in that massive thread, oh, about every twenty minutes. In order to be unclear or to have anxiety over future changes, you had to either disregard what the mods said (perhaps because their comments didn't have enough favorites) or decide that they were lying. Both are bad faith readings of this community. It was clear pretty much from the giddyup that this was a soft experiment, that it would revert in December, and that they expected workarounds to be cobbled together for a minority of folks who just couldn't deal for whatever reasons (otherwise PB would have removed the count display rather than hiding it). All anxiety was self-induced anxiety, unreasonable anxiety, bad faith anxiety. Everyone who kept arguing as if this was really some sort of plot to remove favorites, everyone who kept concern trolling over the minutiae of the parameters of the experiment, everyone who flamed out or put on their drama queen act was explicitly treating the heart of the Metafilter community and government with noxious bad faith. Trying to dress up those reactions as legitimate or reasonable does more damage to Metafilter as a community than any loss of favorites.
posted by klangklangston at 8:04 AM on December 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Because the mods addressed this in that massive thread, oh, about every twenty minutes.

I suggest you re-read that. In the first 1500 comments, there is a little talk about 'qualitative', but mostly talk about 'observable patterns' and 'datawankery.' The 'science' argument up until then was about whether the data gathered would be useful in any way. Cortex only began to attempt to clear up the experimental design concerns here, about halfway in. That is hardly every 20 minutes. Concerns about the design of the experiment were never hogwash.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:34 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


About 35 comments into the monster thread, there was this comment from cortex, that says at the end:
"I think it's basically completely qualitative. We aren't in a place where we feel like there's Too Much Favoriting or Too Many Favorites or anything like that, and I can't think of any direct metric we'd be looking at as the month goes by. If there were something really directly measurable, I think we would have done this a long time ago just to take that measurement and have it done with."
posted by FishBike at 8:46 AM on December 3, 2009


Which was followed by datawankery:
Yeah, I think we're pretty much looking at it qualitatively. Not that I'm not interested in potential quantitative lenses on the whole thing, and if folks have specific ideas about measurability I'm all ears (and the Infodump is available in for the self-starters among us).
Some folks did have specific ideas about measurability. Namely that the data collected would be too fuzzy for anything but further 'favorites good/bad' speculation, which seems to me to be the exact question the experiment was supposed to settle. Now that the experiment is all over, it seems to me that the 'asked and answered' crowd is trying to make any further discussion of why this was such a sore spot for so many people simply vanish. That's the hogwash.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:39 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Miko, I love you, but this is hogwash. You know why? Because the mods addressed this in that massive thread, oh, about every twenty minutes. In order to be unclear or to have anxiety over future changes, you had to either disregard what the mods said (perhaps because their comments didn't have enough favorites) or decide that they were lying. Both are bad faith readings of this community. It

Klangklangston, I love you too, but I do disagree. I know we'd all like to feel there's that level of trust and that it was all sparkling clear, but it really wasn't so clear. And I know it wasn't just me, because once I started engaging with the thread I got MeMails from two different people asking me "Can you tell what's really going on? First this was said, then that was said..." It might have been misreading, misunderstanding, etc., sure. My point is just that the door was open to this. People don't like change. Change makes people anxious. Change makes people suspicious and confused. We've all had the experience of receiving messaging meant to sway us one way or another - sometimes outright lies, but often just massagings or angles or couching meant to soften a blow - and people bring that memory to every experience of change. When change is implemented, there are things you can do to reduce this anxiety. It didn't help that after the project started, there were some adjustments made midstream. So the idea that some people might read this as a subtle backdoor route into a more permanent change, an executive decision presented more softly as a temporary project as a beginning, is not so crazy.

I assume goodwill too; the mods are amazing people whom I like a lot personally and as leaders. I'm speaking from the perspective of a manager when I talk about the messaging surrounding this change, and planning and implementing change. It's interesting that I'm also at an institution going through layoffs right now, and watching and listening as change is being implemented and talked about. Fortunately, though the outcome is lousy, the place I work is masterful at introducing, containing, and managing change - they've done the research and retained the consultants whose experience of organizational dynamics helps them construct a program which minimizes anxiety and misunderstanding even while making it clear that change is happening. There really is a bit of a science to it. I'm not critiquing the mods so much as I'm looking at the lesson that's available about changes in a community and arguing that it should be no surprise that people reacted as they did (well, maybe not as nastily as some did, that was egregious). But it was pretty predictable behavior. People are squirrelly! They bring different experiences to the table, they don't all know the mods personally, some haven't been around that long, some have baggage, some are more paranoid than others, some have more or less tolerance for change than the next person, some have vivid imaginations, some are more or less likely to behave obediently than others, some are more secure than others...all these human factors are always with us, and that's why when change is implemented it works best when the human factors are anticipated and structured around.

This wasn't the worst change imaginable by far and not even that big a deal, which is sort of ironic given the degree of beanplating we're having over it. But that's exactly my point. The change was a small deal, but some things about the implementation might have allowed it to blow up into a bigger deal than maybe it would have needed to be.
posted by Miko at 9:40 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Maybe the lesson here is that a change like this needs something other than a monster thread to point to for answers. Something like a separate FAQ page, where the results of the discussion would be condensed to represent the current state of affairs.

Trying to understand what's going on from a thread that long is like trying to figure out your bank balance by adding up all your transactions since the day you opened your account. Sure it can be done, but it's way easier to look at the last page where it says "you've got $3 left."

Probably someone will now point out that there was a FAQ page for this, and I either missed it or forgot about it. Unofficial MeFi wiki pages don't count unless they were linked from the announcement post so people could find them quickly.
posted by FishBike at 9:50 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


a change like this needs something other than a monster thread to point to for answers. Something like a separate FAQ page

That would have been great. In two ways. 1. There would still have been discussion, but the discussion would have been in reaction to an unchanging text, not an ongoing series of responses. 2. The composition of such a document would likely have led to a more detailed discussion of rationale, purpose, and desired outcomes that would have made the results of the experiment more usable....maybe.

Rereading the initial post, I think it's entirely reasonable to think that this experiment might lead to change, and was intended to determine whether or not the community wanted change. In other words, statements like:

We think a month is long enough for folks to get more or less used to the change and develop an opinion about whether its a net improvement or not and whether there are any serious unintended consequences, etc.

...definitely could signal to a reader that there is something at stake.
posted by Miko at 9:58 AM on December 3, 2009


Yes, and this led to people throwing a fit such that the mods felt compelled to make it an "option" -- even for the month -- so apparently went in thinking "it would be good if we could get feedback on what people think after a month of experiencing this, like it or not starting out" and came out with some people trying it and reporting a changed view, some people trying it and reporting no changed view, and a bunch of people saying they hated it day 1 and couldn't be bothered to ride it out. Trying it for a month became a self-selected group and so ultimately taints any positive feedback received. I don't know why the mods gave in on this point. Giving in to self-entitled whining (about others' toys which you are playing with, no less) doesn't lead to better behaviour by any stretch.

Count me disappointed in my fellow MeFites over this whole thing.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:14 AM on December 3, 2009


More than one or two people storming off in a huff over something has always meant something is very very wrong.

I find this really strange. First of all, why does the huffiness deserve so much attention? But also.. Many previous changes have driven people away from MetaFilter in numbers. Sure, the timing and/or correlation might make it a little harder to notice in some cases, but the way you say this seems very inconsistent with the facts that I remember. Examples? The firming up of guidelines in AskMe certainly drove people away. Turning off the image tag, obviously. I'm sure there are lots more..
posted by Chuckles at 10:35 AM on December 3, 2009


FAQ on the November favorites experiment. This link replaced the announcement thread in the header note after it got to browser-killing length.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:39 AM on December 3, 2009


Very few other changes to the site have been driven by a small but vocal group of users who basically express contempt for all other users. I certainly found it annoying that such a major change was being made, albeit temporarily, to appease them.
posted by Artw at 10:46 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Many previous changes have driven people away from MetaFilter in numbers.

I don't recall any where more than a few people left in a huff and never came back. In big fighty MeTa threads there are sometimes a few people who left, but I really can't remember a time when people vocally said "I'm leaving because of this change" and then really did leave and didn't return.

This is, of course, easier to look at now that there's the Big Red Button [before that, people would just drift away] where people can give a reason for leaving, but from my modly perspective any change that has caused more than 2-3 people to leave saying "this change is why I left" would be impetus for a big discussion and concern on our part.

I think it's entirely reasonable to think that this experiment might lead to change


While I totally see your reading on this, I think the thing that surprised me was that we specifically said things would go back to normal and at the end of the day people didn't trust us on that point, and we thought they would. Had we gone in thinking that people wouldn't trust us, we definitely would have done things differently but to me it didn't occur to me that we'd say something and people would flat out not believe it. Disagree? Sure. Dislike? Yep. But not believe? Surprising.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:51 AM on December 3, 2009


But not believe? Surprising.

I don't think so. People have had enough experience with this kind of thing that the idea that there might be a hidden agenda is sort of a natural one to have. I really don't think it should be taken as any kind of negative comment on the site, the mods, or the community. It's just how people are.
posted by Miko at 11:04 AM on December 3, 2009


...and I don't mean their experience was from here. I mean that it's a life experience which people generalize.
posted by Miko at 11:05 AM on December 3, 2009


But not believe? Surprising.

It's not so surprising when you stop and ask, "What is the purpose of this experiment?" Sure, the stated reason was something along the lines of, "We just want to see how much you'd miss it if it went away"; fair enough, but again, why? What are the possible applications of that knowledge? There's only one that I can see.

(Not that I didn't believe you all.)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:14 AM on December 3, 2009


I really don't think it should be taken as any kind of negative comment on the site, the mods, or the community.

That's the way I took it. I personally see it as a negative. I agree that it's natural to look at people in positions of power over you with a skeptical eye, I certainly do it myself. But there's only so many ways you can say "We don't have a hidden agenda" and people can either believe you or not. A not insignificant number of people just didn't. And then ran with that.

And once people don't believe you, you have a sort of different job to do in terms of "messaging" or whatever, trying to build authenticity into your messages. I don't mean to sound all creepy double-speak about it, we never think when we write MeTa posts about admin stuff "how do we make people believe us?" because it never occurred to us that they wouldn't, before.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:37 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


And once people don't believe you ...

It's such a slippery slope. As indicated, suddenly you're tailoring your messages to THEM, the disbelievers; their misinterpretation of your intentions is suddenly getting in the way of the "everyday" communication that still works for the majority. I can see how this would suck.
posted by philip-random at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2009


Very few other changes to the site have been driven by a small but vocal group of users who basically express contempt for all other users. I certainly found it annoying that such a major change was being made, albeit temporarily, to appease them.

I know, f*ck those guys.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:04 PM on December 3, 2009


I know, f*ck those guys.

Frankly that was exactly how I felt after some interactions with them in the big thread. Fuck those guys.
posted by Artw at 12:06 PM on December 3, 2009


But there's only so many ways you can say "We don't have a hidden agenda" and people can either believe you or not. A not insignificant number of people just didn't. And then ran with that.

Data point of one:
On the one hand, it's Metafilter, the mods are cool, no real worries there. Might not like everything they do, but it's usually for a good cause in terms of keeping a large site running and sane.

On the other hand, 'WTF, they're just dropping a change on us and saying "live with for a month, ok? That doesn't sound like them, what the hell has changed?!" '

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a similar worry/backlash when the Askme limit was temporarily changed to one question every two weeks instead of one a week? I can't find that thread for the life of me, think it was back in early 2007.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:11 PM on December 3, 2009


Pronoiac: "FAQ on the November favorites experiment. This link replaced the announcement thread in the header note after it got to browser-killing length"

Aha! See, I was right about me being wrong about there being no FAQ page to go with the experiment.

Ok, so in all seriousness, yes the page exists, but could have used some significant expansion to cover many questions that seemed to be coming up frequently in the discussion threads.

It might even be a good idea to start expanding the page now, since we're still talking about the experiment. For example, the very first line in the answer makes me think I've misunderstood the purpose of the experiment.

I thought the experiment was an attempt to address the "favorites are ruining MetaFilter" argument. A response sort of like "ok, we're going to try turning down the volume on favorites, let's see if this de-ruins the site a bit." (to put it bluntly)

But on the FAQ page it says the purpose of this is to get some information on how people use favorites. That's sufficiently vague that it could encompass what I thought the experiment was about, but that's enough of a stretch that I feel like I must have gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick.

Somehow I have the impression that at least a few other people had the same understanding as I did, so a clarification might help us be less confused.
posted by FishBike at 12:18 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Frankly that was exactly how I felt after some interactions with them in the big thread. Fuck those guys.

Exactly.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:23 PM on December 3, 2009


February is mod-exchange with Boing Boing.
posted by Artw at 12:26 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


N Wy!
posted by GuyZero at 12:29 PM on December 3, 2009


February is mod-exchange with Boing Boing.

Bizarrely, I'm actually guest blogging on boingboing in the last week of January. Wanted to let people know in case they thought we were being squirrely about anything else. THERE IS NO MOD EXCHANGE PLANNED.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:32 PM on December 3, 2009


But not believe? Surprising.

I don't think so. People have had enough experience with this kind of thing that the idea that there might be a hidden agenda is sort of a natural one to have. I really don't think it should be taken as any kind of negative comment on the site, the mods, or the community. It's just how people are.

posted by Miko at 2:04 PM on December 3 [+] [!]

FWIW, I can totally see where jessamyn is coming from. The flip side of this is that "people have had enough experience with 'our moderation team' that the idea that there might be a hidden agenda is sort of 'an unnatural' one to have".
posted by ersatzkat at 12:32 PM on December 3, 2009


THERE IS NO MOD EXCHANGE PLANNED.

Prove it!
posted by Artw at 12:37 PM on December 3, 2009


THERE IS NO MOD EXCHANGE PLANNED.

If you look around the room and can't figure which mod is going to be exchanged, well...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:42 PM on December 3, 2009


THERE IS NO MOD EXCHANGE PLANNED.

This is bullshit! You are just appeasing a small vocal group. And you aren't going to find anything out. And it's a waste time, because you are inconveniencing ME. AND THIS SUX! *crosses arms, stomps feet, pouts*



Did that change your mind?
posted by P.o.B. at 12:45 PM on December 3, 2009


The flip side of this is that "people have had enough experience with 'our moderation team' that the idea that there might be a hidden agenda is sort of 'an unnatural' one to have".

But I think that's just wishing that human beings were different than they are. The way I look at this is more the flip side of the fact that we all (well, most of us) understand that this site is privately owned and run, that there's a team of moderators whose decisions can be final, that they are entitled to make changes to the site, and that we have the good fortune to have a voice in how it's run, but that we don't actually run it ourselves as a user community. Users know that as transparent as the mods are, there are things that happen outside of public view - the MeFi staff have discussions about ideas and dreams for the site, problems that are cropping up, user issues, things that might be tried. We know that there really is a lot of information discussed that is not shared with all users all the time - and that's as it should be, and has to be. So I think it's this understanding - that decisions about what actually happens to the site are not users' alone, and that there is a governance team in place that can't and wouldn't want to share every thought they have with everyone, that leads to the reasonable speculation that maybe they've discussed a change they want to implement and decide the best way to introduce it is to float a trial balloon.

I still don't think it's outlandish to think this. And I really don't think it's a negative. Heck, the professionalism of the modly approach here is one of the reasons the site is so great. I think people do expect that some stuff is talked about that never happens, or might happen one day but let's not get people riled now, or was gonna happen but got negged, or whatever. It's not so much suspicion or distrust but a recognition that the mod team is privy to much more information than the users, and does strategic thinking.
posted by Miko at 1:43 PM on December 3, 2009


We know that there really is a lot of information discussed that is not shared with all users all the time - and that's as it should be, and has to be.

Except they did share this with us, and were pretty plain about what it meant. That people chose to believe that they weren't being upfront when they said "we're being upfront" is kind of unfortunate in my mind. I understand, however, that there are viewpoints and experiences that are different than my own.
posted by ersatzkat at 2:08 PM on December 3, 2009


That people chose to believe that they weren't being upfront when they said "we're being upfront" is kind of unfortunate in my mind

Oh, I totally agree, but there's no controlling the thoughts of others. People are coming from all sorts of different places when it comes to things like trust. And (even though I became convinced it was temporary despite a lot of confusion on my part) I'll always be aware that my gut instincts and reactions have been wrong before and it no longer surprises me too much when they are wrong again.
posted by Miko at 2:18 PM on December 3, 2009


It's not so much suspicion or distrust but a recognition that the mod team is privy to much more information than the users, and does strategic thinking.

See, but this is weird to me, because the mods said repeatedly that the favorite-changing thing was just a way to see what would happen, and it was going to end by the end of November. If there had been more info about this favorites thing that non-mods wouldn't know about, information that meant that there was a chance that favorites would go away forever 'n ever, I can't see them saying "We're just trying this out for November," if there was a chance that it would be permanent.

In other words, that people would be suspicious that the mods would say FOO when the "hidden agenda" is really BAR is strange to me, since I don't know of a time when any of them have done anything like that before, and I totally grok why cortex and jessamyn would find that tiring and offensive.

There are many places on the Web where I expect people to have hidden agendas, and even to lie to me, but I have never experienced this on Metafilter from any of the mods, so it's never occurred to me to wonder about their "hidden agenda" because they don't have one.
posted by rtha at 2:24 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Where people felt on shifting sand here was that it wasn't so easy to tell, from the outside, whether this was a managerial fait accompli with some set dressing to make it look like an experiment; a genuine experiment; a genuine experiment with flaws in its design; more of a test run or experiential leaning project; a way of provoking focused discussion which was truly open-ended; and/or a trial balloon. - Miko

Just a data point: this was not the case for everyone.

It seemed completely clear to me from the beginning what was going on: a temporary thing, a way of gathering a bit of data to answer the people who have historically said "if only we got rid of favorites we wouldn't have so much thread-shitting". I think this was very clearly stated. It also seemed clear to me that the mods were leaning toward the answer "that is probably not true" -- they were sort of expecting that the experiment would lend support to the idea that favorites don't hurt the site culture. I.e., it seemed to me that the mods were doing this experiment as basically pro-favorites people who were trying to be fair to anti-favorites people. (Being open to surprising results, of course, but still.) That is, doing it purely out of responsiveness to the concerns people had raised in the past about favorites, and not even because they agreed with those concerns.

Which is why all this "why are you guys secretly trying to eliminate favorites?" stuff seemed totally misguided to me.

(I can understand if people were objecting because they hadn't read those MeTa discussions over the years -- but it seems like a lot of the people who were objecting had read them, since the names I was seeing are people I think of as pretty regular MeTa readers. So the response the experiment got was even weirder to me. I wonder if the response to this might have been different if cortex's initial post had contained links to the ten MeTas where people talk about how favorites are ruining the site culture.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:42 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


For example, this is what jessamyn says, 1/2 hour into the original favorites thread:

Just to be clear, we're not trying this out as a "hey we're planning on implementing this" but that a lot of people have, for a long time, been saying they think the favorites system encourages crappy behavior. We've been saying "We don't think so" without any real way to test. So, we decided to try this. And it's about that complicated.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:47 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


And then about 2 hours in, she says this, which again seems to be totally clear and up-front about the intentions here:

"Can you really blame [bad behavior] on favorites, though?"
Nope, and we pretty much don't. But, other people have suggested, strongly and often, that this is what is happening.
A solid month of seeing if this actually does seem to occur in the absence of favorites would be good data to have. Basically there's a lot of "well I think favorites do this to the community" and "well I think they do this to the community" crosstalk with no reliable way other than saying "well it feels this way to me" to judge. So we figured we'd try tweaking something, see if people feel differently or act differently [in general hand-wavey ways, I doubt we'll do a lot of number crunching but it would be neat to see if the some of the stupid add-nothing snark goes away maybe a little].

posted by LobsterMitten at 2:53 PM on December 3, 2009


I'm just concerned that the secret mod exchange may be permanent.
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on December 3, 2009


I''m not concerned, but I am reeeeaaaallly agitated by it being called "mod exchange". Can we please call it something else?
posted by P.o.B. at 3:17 PM on December 3, 2009



Oh, I totally agree, but there's no controlling the thoughts of others.


Miko, are you saying it's basically it's okay for everyone else to act paranoid and suspicious--that it's human nature, and all that, but not really reasonable for a mod to think this sucks?

I feel like you're imposing a weirdly superhuman standard on the mod that you do not put for the people who started (and yes, this is loaded) freaking out.

It's one thing to look at actions and say, yeah, mods shouldn't do this or that. But feeling this or that? Come on, I think it's time to give the mods some breathing room.
posted by thisperon at 3:20 PM on December 3, 2009


On the one hand, it's Metafilter, the mods are cool, no real worries there. Might not like everything they do, but it's usually for a good cause in terms of keeping a large site running and sane.

On the other hand, 'WTF, they're just dropping a change on us and saying "live with for a month, ok? That doesn't sound like them, what the hell has changed?!" '


Yes, that was it precisely. The mods are so much a part of the community (as opposed to the V-like overlords of, say, bng-bng) that it was really pretty shocking to see implemented (a) a sweeping change, temporary or not that (b) my observations of MeFi led me to believe would be greeted with rancor and irritability by almost every user of the site and (c) how could the mods not know that? So when (a) I have absolutely no reason not to believe them implicitly but (b) what they're saying, if true, seems to imply not understanding something about the site that I totally can't believe they don't understand, then (c) you know, up is down! black is white! dogs and cats! are walking the dinosaur!! and stuff. It was like someone you love and respect deeply suddenly, unironically putting on a Poison album and getting confused when you say, no, you'd rather not dance to it. You still love and respect that person, but for a second you wonder if they may not have been planning to eat you for like the last seven years. It was all just very very odd.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:21 PM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I feel like Metafilter has just gotten too big. But sometimes I don't.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:35 PM on December 3, 2009


Sometimes I feel like Metafilter has just gotten too big.

Nah, if it was too big I'd have way more favorites than I deserve, and it's currently not even close.




not that I even remotely care about such things.
posted by philip-random at 3:53 PM on December 3, 2009


Miko, are you saying it's basically it's okay for everyone else to act paranoid and suspicious--that it's human nature, and all that, but not really reasonable for a mod to think this sucks?

I feel like you're imposing a weirdly superhuman standard on the mod that you do not put for the people who started (and yes, this is loaded) freaking out.


Well, I'm not saying it's okay, I'm saying it's predictable. And I'm not saying it's unreasonable for the mods to think it sucks, they probably do think it sucks and it does suck and it's reasonable for that to be the evaluation one makes of the whole gig, but I guess I'm also saying that framing change, dealing with backlash to change, helping people work through change, etc., is also a predictable part of leadership. And I think they did that, especially helping people work through the change and the ramifications of the project once they understood that not everyone was taking it at face value. It's not that I think the mods should be weirdly superhuman, but I think of them as leaders and managers of the site, and I think that when you lead change there are things that are going to predictably happen and that it is possible for everyone to prepare for those things and even to anticipate some of the potential pitfalls and use certain kinds of communication to keep people from freaking out quite as much. I think some people will always freak out a little.

Once again I find myself feeling like I'm taking some insanely critical stance to my favorite, most home-base website and I really don't like that posture. I love love love our mods and can't imagine a better team or one more reflective of the spirit of the site. I guess what I'm trying to convey is some stuff I've had the privilege and opportunity to observe and to learn, a lot of it the hard way, through helping communities I've worked within get through change. I've done some of it really badly, and some of it better, but over time it's become clear to me that it doesn't matter when, where, or who - people react to change in a lot of willy-nilly ways. Even me. I don't think my contributions to this whole discussion have been super helpful, and I feel bad about that, but I also don't think this whole experiment has been super damaging, and there is a lot that can be learned from it. MeFi is maybe having some growing pains and everything is more complicated and bigger than it was before, and maybe where the voice of authority could once say "settle down, everything's cool" and it would be cool, we now have more of a pinball effect with more voices in the mix - some accept the "it's cool" answer but there are enough raised eyebrows and enough fears of fundamental change in an already rapidly changing environment that everyone starts pinging off each other and it's harder to get a handle on the emerging narrative.
posted by Miko at 3:56 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been rereading the original announcement thread over the past couple of hours and what I see in retrospect is interesting: That was a lot GRAAR just to get an interface change.

Currently there's MeTa post about the redesign contest and what happened with those changes. I can not imagine how "wonderful" such a change will be to the community.

Finally, a lot of people, on both sides of the debate, did a really excellent job of putting down the other side in really crappy ways. Not our finest hour at all.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:22 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


*puts beard on MeFi*

Before you institute change, give it a ponder.

(totally off-base teasing. I wholeheartedly support this kind of experimentation. Even if the mods were to try something I consider horrible -- say, threading -- it's their fish tank. I'm just swimmin' in it.)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:22 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some reassurance on the mod exchange could be in order.

Jessamyn, could you talk some shit about steampunk?
posted by Pronoiac at 6:21 PM on December 3, 2009


I am pretty good at oxy-acetylene welding. Is that helpful? Also, I own a typewriter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:24 PM on December 3, 2009


Not unless it's an acetylene powered typewriter.
posted by Mitheral at 6:28 PM on December 3, 2009


I;m all about trying to convince steampunks that RTGs would be a viable power-source for a "steam top hat" at them moment, possibly with a lead brim*. If you could work on spreading that idea it would be good.

* in fact pretty much all nuclear power should be steampunk acceptable, if you think about it. Maybe not tophat sized though.
posted by Artw at 6:35 PM on December 3, 2009


"Oh, I totally agree, but there's no controlling the thoughts of others. People are coming from all sorts of different places when it comes to things like trust. And (even though I became convinced it was temporary despite a lot of confusion on my part) I'll always be aware that my gut instincts and reactions have been wrong before and it no longer surprises me too much when they are wrong again."

Miko, forgive me if this is unfair, but what I keep picking up from what you're saying here seems like a cop out, an excuse. I mean, yes, of course people come from different places regarding both trust and reading comprehension. But expecting the mods to run with, essentially, corporate harm reduction strategies assumes the worst about the user base—that they're not committed enough to Metafilter to trust the mod team, nor are they able to read carefully enough to pick up plain language when plain language is repeatedly used. Not only that, the fact of the matter is that those anxieties were wrong. And what frustrates me is that instead of owning that responsibility, that moment of saying, Yes, I read that wrong, I was anxious about nothing, I was wrong and I will remember that in the future, it feels like you still want to blame the mods for your mistake. By saying that they didn't, what, hire a consultant to help them through the difficult time of 36 hours without favorites?

In part, this might be because I think you see the mods as having a fundamentally different role than I do, perhaps because you're thinking about this all from a management mindset (given your current travails). I don't think of the mods primarily as managers or governors. I think of them as users first. They're a team of trusted users who work for the benefit of the users at large. They aren't fundamentally all that different from us, save maybe Matt and Pb (only because I regard technology as a priesthood full of rite and mystery). So yes, users do get to decide how the site is run; the mods are simply the extension of that self-governance in order to make it practical. And because they're users, they're constrained by the same social checks that constrain any user here. You think that they could lie to us, misrepresent a trial balloon and maintain their reputation? I don't. They could if they weren't users, if they were just providing MeFi as a business service, but not if they want to be able to keep engaging with this community. Fundamentally, their power doesn't stem so much from Matt vesting them with mod console as Matt vesting them comes from Jessamyn, Cortex and Vacapinta being the most trusted users we have. I mean, think about it—I'm never going to be a mod because the user base would not trust me to delete for content. Flat out1. We already trust them with the jobs most important to maintaining this community, and they do it because they are invested here. By focusing on them as managers, as politicians, as people who would lie to us, misrepresent, be not just not perfectly transparent (which we accept as the cost of efficiency) but to be deliberately obscure and opaque, you miss a very important part of why Metafilter is as awesome as it is, and I think that's actually kind of insulting both to the userbase and to the mods. I find it frustrating to hear that from you; I can only imagine what it feels like to be one of them.

I'd also like to say that I disagree with the idea that, well, people are people and there's no changing their bad faith, their unreasonable anxiety, their bad behavior. I think that's fundamentally wrong, especially here. I mean, think about it, think about the boyzone complaints. Isn't one of the most common retorts to complaints of sexism, well, boys will be boys? There's no controlling the thoughts of guys? They'll always be pigs, they'll always be like that? We'll always have boyzone here? Except we've done a pretty good job of changing that culture, and we can see how hollow that argument is. The idea that people will always be anxious about change? Well, first off, not everyone will be. Second off, people who participate here should be willing to give the mods the benefit of the doubt, both as managers and as users. If you don't understand, well, what stopped you from sending a polite note to one of them to clarify? The idea that they should have explained it better to you, well, where were you in that? You're a member, you know how to contact them. If you don't trust them to be honest and open about stuff like this, especially when they make it explicit? That's you. That's not the mods. And that's not fair to them—they're not responsible for any of the rest of your life.

Instead, it keeps kind of feeling like you expect the mods to apologize to you for not, what, being formal with their language? It feels like you want them to take responsibility for your lack of trust, for your misunderstandings. It may have been predictable to you, but that doesn't make it right and it doesn't make it their fault.

Again, forgive me if this is all unfair to you. I know that you really like the mods, and you're one of my favorite members here, but I tend to think of Metafilter as much more of a shared experience, and I tend to think that the mods are closer to users than to bosses, and it feels like you're thinking about this through a paradigm that's alienating rather than inclusive, authoritarian rather than communitarian.
posted by klangklangston at 7:06 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


1. Oh yeah, that superscript was supposed to go to a footnote about how I'd be a total hardass about the stupid thin news bullshit like some goober in a balloon except not or the baby-napping TSA and also chatty AskMes or any number of things. At least, I like to think I would be. But then I forgot to write it, because I dunno, I got off on some other tangent or something and I've got a bunch of tabs open so I've been writing that while applying for more jobs and trying to figure out why our library has, like, only some of the 100 Bullets series (which is really good) and how I can request that they buy the rest of them. Also, if anyone knows a librarian at Michigan State, I'd totally love to get into their comic book special collections while I'm home for the holidays, but I can't figure out if they're going to be closed or not because their website is stupid (they've got a copy of Mobious' Airtight Garage and I don't want to pay, like, $75 for it on eBay without reading it).
posted by klangklangston at 7:13 PM on December 3, 2009


THERE IS NO MOD EXCHANGE PLANNED.

Tht's gd, bcs t wld prbbly nt nd wll.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:17 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


klang, I don't know anyone at MSU Libraries, but here's the listing showing when their Special Collections dept is open in December. This is the calendar for the whole library, it's a little easier to read, but you need to click Special Collections on the left; I can't link to it directly. Airtight Garage can't leave the library, but you can look at it while you're there.
posted by donnagirl at 8:30 PM on December 3, 2009


Donnagirl—Awesome! When I last checked that page (the first link), just before Thanksgiving, they had last year's schedule up, so I've been on a fruitless quest to find another page that had the current schedule, which apparently was just the same page only, you know, updated. But sweet, looks like I'll be able to go there while the girlfriend is up at her parents' in Lansing.
posted by klangklangston at 9:11 PM on December 3, 2009


don't think of the mods primarily as managers or governors. I think of them as users first.

I think this is a real underestimation of their commitment, their role, the time and energy they put in, and the fine line they walk. It's not quite that simple - they're not approaching the site any more as any other other users who happen to have an extra responsibility; they're engaged in real leadership and shaping of the parameters of interaction, and I know they think about that constantly and work really hard to do it well.

MeFi is a lot of things, but it's also undeniably an organization. Organizational dynamics happen here as they do in every organization, from a church to a weekly chess club to a workplace to a kickball society. I don't say this stuff because of my current situation (though that was an interesting confluence) but as a result of bceoming more and more aware of thinking in terms of organizational dynamics over the past decade, and still learning.

I'd also like to say that I disagree with the idea that, well, people are people and there's no changing their bad faith, their unreasonable anxiety, their bad behavior. I think that's fundamentally wrong, especially here. I mean, think about it, think about the boyzone complaints. Isn't one of the most common retorts to complaints of sexism, well, boys will be boys?


Please note that I'm not saying "people are people and there's no changing their bad faith." I'm saying, instead, that people are people and that in order to change their bad faith, attitudes, whatever, we have to recognize and take into account their preexisting attitudes, fears, and prejudices first, which are entirely natural, and create a sense of urgency that makes the case for change, create a vision of the possibilities that might emerge after the change, and walk them through the change. The only way to develop communities is to assess and start with people where they are, communicate where we'd like to go, and work to move the individuals from the place they are today to the next place which we are all willing to believe, based on the picture created by the conversation, could be somewhat better than what we have now. Of course boyzone needed to change; one of the things that needed to happen to make that change was to allow a serious case for change to be built through accumulated experience over time that demonstrated a real urgency, addressed the fears that the most loved aspects of the site would be lost, challenged the attitudes, and created an understanding of the future possibilities that could occur if the change took place or of the negatives that could occur if the change never took place. It started with people where they were - many resistant - and worked through the difficulties by keeping an eye on a vision of a future MeFi, where good contributions from people of all stripes and genders were encouraged and welcome.

I'm not trying to talk corporate-speak. None of my life or work experience has taken place in corporate settings at all; never worked for a for-profit place. This stuff rings true in most community changes I've been through, in volunteer settings, discussion groups, camps, churches, and my nonprofit work. That's where I'm coming from: communities.

Again, I think that this level of analysis is overblown for this small a change. I suggest that if we have more to say about it to each other,we take it to MeMail; by being drawn out on this, I fear I'm making very general statements that can end up being hurtful if someone applies them as specific criticisms to this situation. This current favorites issue isn't deserving of this big a deal. I spoke up only in order to say that there are some things one can learn about change management that can minimize the amount of nuttiness, anxiety, and opposition that occurs over a small change - that's basically what I'm saying. It could be useful for all of us to learn about.

I tend to think of Metafilter as much more of a shared experience, and I tend to think that the mods are closer to users than to bosses, and it feels like you're thinking about this through a paradigm that's alienating rather than inclusive, authoritarian rather than communitarian.


Things are scaling pretty huge here. I don't think the mods are authoritarian at all, certainly not bosses, but we do have to perceive that they are in positions of leadership and what happens here these days affects, in however small a way, tens of thousands of people's leisure experiences, however important that is. This isn't a flat organization. The mods are empowered and knowledgeable in ways that aren't true of the rest of the community. They feel a degree of responsibility and devotion that most others don't trouble themselves with. But the fact that they're stewarding an organization with tens of thousands of users means that there are naturally going to be a lot of different reactions (hopefully not tens of thousands, but a lot) and a lot of different opinions, spanning the complete possible range.

Perhaps I should have taken a more private stance and maybe talked about this behind the scenes w/the mods. I may have hurt feelings by even talking about strategies for making change easier here; I hope not, and I give the mods a lot of credit for having a ton of perspective on the whole business of moderating an online community. The more I try to explain myself, the worse it gets, so let's all go to MeMail if there's more. Thanks. Sorry. I'll be shutting up now.
posted by Miko at 9:57 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, I meant "be insulting toward steampunk."
posted by Pronoiac at 10:50 PM on December 3, 2009


I'm finding this thread incredibly frustrating. A lot of things I thought were universal beliefs about MetaFilter and MetaTalk seem to be less universal than I thought. Here are four of those beliefs (yeah, I know I've got my painfully earnest face on).

MetaFilter is a community.

MetaTalk is where the community debates to reach the best decision.

MetaFilter is the communal project of all the members.

MetaTalk is a place of trust.

Note: I know MetaFilter is Matt's property and that jessamyn, pb, cortex and vacapinta are his staff, but that doesn't make it any less of a community.

I had a rather startling realization in the big discussion thread that at some point I had started thinking of MetaTalk as a battlefield, where discussions were won or lost, instead of as a place where the community attempted to reach consensus. What's particularly frustrating to me, first in the big thread, and now in this, is that there seems to be quite a lot of "battlefield mentality." Let me be clear, I don't think that people are here to drive their enemies before them with their sharp rhetoric, but it feels to me that some MeFites are looking at the discussion as something to be won. There's a fine-grained distinction between debating to win and debating to get the best result but it's an important one.

I know that in a community this size there will never be 100% consensus (god knows I don't agree with all modly or community decisions). Consensus is still a good target to aim for. Consensus requires that people compromise. It requires respect for other positions and the people espousing them. It requires arguing your positions. It requires trust.

There's a Calvin and Hobbes joke that says that "a good compromise leaves everybody mad." There's a truth to that. Often heated arguments lead to very good decisions. Despite how overheated the big discussion thread often got I thought that, towards the end, we were headed for a compromise, that through good ol' MetaTalk discussion we were on our way to some sort of consensus. I was quite optimistic. This thread and the other unofficial thread started by lalex were rude awakenings. It's like the big discussion never happened.

That said, I do think that, eventually, after thousands more comments we'll figure things out but I never thought the discussion would take such a long time or be so vitriolic. Jeezy Chreezy, we're talking about a change in the user interface, a fairly minor one at that. I think I know MetaFilter and its community fairly well but I never thought things could get so heated in a discussion about UI tweaking that the bonds of trust and respect between MeFites would start to fray.
posted by Kattullus at 11:41 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not really about the UI at all though, is it? No ones going to get upset to this extent about the UI. It's about whether orbit users are making MetaFilter a bad place by using favourites.
posted by Artw at 11:49 PM on December 3, 2009


"Orbit users"? I don't understand this term.
posted by cgc373 at 3:14 AM on December 4, 2009


Priceline users make this place way badder.

Cheapticket users...we won't even mention them.
posted by thisperon at 3:23 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]



That said, I do think that, eventually, after thousands more comments we'll figure things out but I never thought the discussion would take such a long time or be so vitriolic. Jeezy Chreezy, we're talking about a change in the user interface, a fairly minor one at that. I think I know MetaFilter and its community fairly well but I never thought things could get so heated in a discussion about UI tweaking that the bonds of trust and respect between MeFites would start to fray.


Well, to me this whole thing started with the UI but it evolved to: a couple of users being out for blood. Specifically mod blood (wow, did I really just use that awful term?)...as in--"you hurt me, mods, and now I want an admission of guilt. I want you to acknowledge what you did was wrong, wrong, wrong." I think a couple of the mods (and some of the users) were a bit startled at how upset and angry some people were.

The mods did not apologize (as far as I know. At least I hope they didn't, because in my opinion they have nothing to apologize for.) Because of this, continued contention. Until the aggrieved "got their due", they felt it necessary to keep hammering their point until they felt they'd get something that would "balance the scales" in their minds. There are still a couple of people who feel the mods need to answer for the great November crisis of 2009...and to that I say....whatever.

I paid 5 bucks for this site. It's given me a lot more, MUCH MORE, than the 5 bucks I paid for it. If the mods want to tinker around for whatever reason, I don't really give a crap. Fuck, put everything in Comic Sans, I will still fucking read this site (though my nostrils may be flared and my teeth clenched as I do.) I don't demand perfection from something that cost 5 dollars, particularly when it's a mind-boggling wealth of information that is often provided almost immediately and without hesitation.

I still feel like there is some measure of "I want someone to pay for my month of suffering" mentality still floating around here. I have asked myself more than once, "did these people join when membership was $2299.99 or something? Man, I must have gotten a deal."
posted by thisperon at 3:39 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think I know MetaFilter and its community fairly well but I never thought things could get so heated in a discussion about UI tweaking that the bonds of trust and respect between MeFites would start to fray.

Still re-reading the original announcement thread and noticing there is tension not only between the pro and anti favorites crowd but also between those who feel the experiment was done to deal with a small but vocal minority who have complained for years about favorites. It seems natural that some people would be concerned about what the next experiment will be to deal with the next small but vocal group of people.

The other problem is that who that small group is shifts, depending on where the individual is standing. First it was all the anti-favorite people who managed to "get their way" via the experiment. Then it was shifted to "those people" who complained about the change and "bullied" the mods into putting into a preference setting. Yeah, fun times.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:08 AM on December 4, 2009


95% of what makes MetaFilter good is the Matt, the mods, and the members. Freaking out over the other 5% is silly. If favorites disappeared tomorrow I would be bummed, but it wouldn't be a dealbreaker. What am I gonna do, go back to Plastic?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:25 AM on December 4, 2009


oh my god you guys have you been to plastic lately
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:28 AM on December 4, 2009


Fuck, put everything in Comic Sans, I will still fucking read this site (though my nostrils may be flared and my teeth clenched as I do.)

Man are you in for a treat.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:33 AM on December 4, 2009


oh my god you guys have you been to plastic lately

I somehow managed to have never visited until just right now, and it didn't seem particularly bad.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:33 AM on December 4, 2009


MetaTalk is where the community debates to reach the best decision.

MetaFilter is the communal project of all the members.

(...)

Note: I know MetaFilter is Matt's property and that jessamyn, pb, cortex and vacapinta are his staff, but that doesn't make it any less of a community.


I think this is all true, except that the best decision isn't always the direct result of community debate. Sometimes it's informed by community debate, but comes down to a pragmatic matter or draws on modly experience and wisdom, needs unknown to the rest of us, or other streams of information for its foundations. In other words, it has never seemed to me that it's governed completely by consensus.

I think I know MetaFilter and its community fairly well but I never thought things could get so heated in a discussion about UI tweaking that the bonds of trust and respect between MeFites would start to fray.

I'm not sure it's really so very bad. For one thing, MeTaZens aren't necesssarily representative of the whole user community. A lot of this odd response may, in fact, be our typical November emotional meltdown, only it was favorites which did the trick this year instead of sexism or whatever else serves as a trigger for pent-up GRAR at this time of year.

I think this may have revealed a greater complexity to the way the user community conceives of MeFi than some of us were previously aware, but I'm not sure it has destroyed anything. I suspect these disparate views and conceptualizations of site dynamics were there all along. To heal it, it may just be that we need to consciously try to coalesce around those values a bit more explicitly. I wonder, for instance, if a few people had been spoken to in advance about the upcoming change and asked to help champion/cheerlead the experiment and assist with the explanation of the mods' thinking? Enlisting the support of good-faith users like yourself, Katullus, right at the outset might have smoothed the bumps a bit. You ended up doing that nicely on your own (I guess!), but it can be a wise thing to put in place during a transition as a matter of planning, as well - it may have reframed the view of a few strong voices who have a lot of social capital on the site, and that can help make support and trust more visible.
posted by Miko at 8:41 AM on December 4, 2009


it didn't seem particularly bad

Nested comments.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:47 AM on December 4, 2009


Nested comments aren't that bad in and of themselves. Not so sure I like that comments get their own title, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:49 AM on December 4, 2009


AN HONEST AND SUCCINCT Analysis of the MetaFilter/Plastic Posting Methods, with Especial notice paid to the Historical and Social needs of the communities in question, the posting science applied by long-time members and "nublets" alike, written in the twelfth month of the year of our LORD Jesus Christ Two-Thousand and Nine, Day the fourth, at around break-fast time, by the Right Scoundrel OPTIMUS CHYME, esteemed member 17,767th:

hmm no i still don't like it
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:03 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


it has never seemed to me that it's governed completely by consensus.

My $5 is not a share in the company. MeFi isn't governed by consensus and shouldn't be.

Whenever the mods delete objectionable content or boot a member, MeFites are quick to note that this site belongs to somebody. It is not a commons. It is not your tax dollars at work. This site is owned and run by people who get to make the decisions. We don't.

Talk of enlisting people to "help champion/cheerlead the experiment and assist with the explanation of the mods' thinking" sounds like an attempt at winning votes. MeFi is not a democracy. The more you try to dress it up as one, the more you're going to be disappointed, and implying that top-down changes are not the proper way to go about things, that consulting without effectively delegating is the wrong way to go, is completely wrongheaded. The only way the mods went astray on this one, I think, is that they acted in a way that promoted or prolonged that illusion.

But you know what? If my $5 was an investment; if it represented one vote among the thousands, it would still -- clearly in that case -- represent a complete overinvestment of emotion if I reacted to this the way many people had. Perhaps some people need to diversify a bit more, and I'm not talking about $.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:14 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you diss people, it pisses them off.

There is no secret magic formula here.
posted by Artw at 9:21 AM on December 4, 2009


A HEARTFELT RESPONSE to The Analysis of the Right Scoundrel OPTIMUS CHYME, taking into account thif author's innate affection for all thingf Olde and English, written in the twelfth month of the year of our LORD Jesus Christ Two-Thousand and Nine, Day the fourth, during the noontime hour, by the Editor and Dilettante OCHERDRACO, member LXIIICLXVI:

Are you kidding? I would love to have titles like this!
posted by ocherdraco at 9:30 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Talk of enlisting people to "help champion/cheerlead the experiment and assist with the explanation of the mods' thinking" sounds like an attempt at winning votes.

No, I think you might be misreading me; I actually agree with you that this is someone's backyard we're all playing in, and it's good of them to ask what we like about it so that we keep coming back to play here, but ultimately if they want to change the swingset to a hand-over-hand bar, that's something they're empowered to do.

The champion/cheerleading idea is not about winning votes; it would be about a change already decided upon ("we're going to change the UI as an experiment in November") going more smoothly because there was clearly visible support for it, and trust exhibited, by many well-known users. It's not about votes or elections, it's about using the social mechanisms that work well here to make everyone more comfortable with change and thus more receptive and able to approach it in the spirit intended.
posted by Miko at 9:30 AM on December 4, 2009


The diss would still have been there, it would have made no difference.
posted by Artw at 9:35 AM on December 4, 2009


Artw: I don't understand who was "dissed." Some people seem to think the mods were dissed; some think the users were dissed. What is it you're saying?
posted by Miko at 9:38 AM on December 4, 2009


The entire experiment was predicated on a diss of the users.
posted by Artw at 9:40 AM on December 4, 2009


ANd you know what the biggest casue of GRAAR here is? Users telling other users that they either have no reason or no right to feel dissed by this. A fair section of which are the same guys wandering around saying " I don't know why people would get upset over a UI change, it's all so puzzling". Those guys are like OJ looking for the real killer.
posted by Artw at 9:43 AM on December 4, 2009


Will this help?
posted by Miko at 9:46 AM on December 4, 2009


It's not about votes or elections, it's about using the social mechanisms that work well here to make everyone more comfortable with change and thus more receptive and able to approach it in the spirit intended.

Ah ok, I read you.

See, the way to handle the monkey-bar conversion is, when complaints surface, to threaten to level the park and replace it with a far more profitable parking lot. Then put snakes in the tire tunnels (admittedly you may have to nail them down). Sandpaper the slide. Change the sandbox consistency till it's filled with quicksand. (or site analogues: threading, music, garish colours and random acts of hostility)

Then just keep the invisible favourites and get rid of the rest. Transition? Smoooth.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:47 AM on December 4, 2009


Will this help?

That's not a pie....that's a hot tub. A delicious hot tub.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:48 AM on December 4, 2009


Users telling other users that they either have no reason or no right to feel dissed by this.

I'd expand that to say that there are two major points

- people being incredibly passionate one way or the other [angry, surprised, hurt, supportive]
- other people telling them they shouldn't be because of $REASONS

Which is just sort of all of MeFi writ large in one month-long multi-MeTa blargfest, imo. I mean I've certainly learned things and wandered off to think about them and come back and etc but I'm curious about the number of MeFites who are dug in versus the number who have been having sort of back-and-forth thoughts about the last five weeks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:50 AM on December 4, 2009


TBH If you can just act on the "no mercy for threadshitters" bit and ignore any dubious theories as to the cause of threadshitting in future I think it's going to make the most people happiest.
posted by Artw at 9:54 AM on December 4, 2009


You mean about the specific favorites/no favorites/no counts issue, Jessamyn? I'm a back-and-forther. I think favorites have been a powerful positive influence on site culture with a few drawbacks, and I may have underestimated the drawbacks in the past because I didn't know how pervasive the "look at me!" jokestering was. But I also know that if favorites disappeared completely tomorrow, I would not stop coming to MeFi just because of that. Down the road I could see that if the culture reverted to the way it was before favorites, I might leave because of that evolution, but not directly because I couldn't see favorites all of a sudden. It's more the long game that I'm thinking about and there might be ways other than favorites to influence the long game.
posted by Miko at 9:57 AM on December 4, 2009


Actually it occurs to me that the dislike of favourites is basically predicated on outrage that someone might express appreciation for something perceived as clearly not being worthy.

So anti-favourites complaints basically comes from the exact same place as threadshiting.
posted by Artw at 10:02 AM on December 4, 2009


The entire experiment was predicated on a diss of the users.

No, it was not. One of the more frustrating threads of argument for me to try and parse this last month has been that we only did this because some nonspecific tiny cadre of people don't like favorites.

Our perception of it as mods is that that is not the case, that there has been a lot of mixed feelings expressed about favorites over the years by a lot of people. If we had thought 99% of people thought the favorites system was perfect and 1% were agitating for change, we'd never have bothered.

I think it's pretty clear we have no desire to insult any group of mefites. The implication (or, I guess, explication at this point) that we were either expressing or throwing official support behind some kind of organized expression of contempt is just totally baffling to me, and it's been one of the harder things to be polite about, honestly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:09 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Artw: I dislike visible favourites sometimes because I don't use them to express appreciation and find it annoying that people will inevitably think I do.

For example I often I want to favourite what I feel is a horribly offensive comment for whatever reason. I don't though because usually someone comes along and says, "I can't believe that soandso wrote that horrible shit and shame on everyone who favourited it!" Even in instances where this isn't expressed it's obviously felt by a lot of people.
posted by ODiV at 10:11 AM on December 4, 2009


jessamyn: I'm curious about the number of MeFites who are dug in versus the number who have been having sort of back-and-forth thoughts about the last five weeks.

Like klangklangston above I was surprised to find myself in the "anti-favorites" camp since I don't really mind favorites at all. I prefer the "has favorites" option because it's less noisy but other than that I'm not really particularly set in my opinions regarding them. I feel like that I have a much better understanding of how the site works, how users interact with it and what roles favorites play. I think there are definite problems with comment favorites, how they can rip comments out of context through contacts activity sidebars and the popular favorites page, and, more seriously, how they can lead to power imbalances. That said, I'm no advocate of getting rid of favorites but I don't think these problems are intractable and ameliorating them would be good.
posted by Kattullus at 10:12 AM on December 4, 2009


Or, to put it differently:

There are, absolutely, a few folks who have been obnoxious about their anti-favorites sentiment over there years. There are also a few folks who have been obnoxious about their own pro-favorites (or anti-anti-favoriters) sentiment. Both of those sorts of folks have been capable of stirring a fair amount of shit in arguments about this stuff over time, and neither are who were were particularly thinking about as the intended beneficiaries/targets of this whole thing.

If we didn't think there was a much larger and less vociferous group of voices in the mix representing some actual community-level ambivalence about how favorites work, we wouldn't have gone at this in the first place.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:14 AM on December 4, 2009


cortex, I don't think you were trying to cater to a vocal minority so much and that constituted "dissing the readers."

I think the way in which the experiment was done, sprung on us as a surprise, made me a bit defensive personally, though.

And I say this as someone with nothing but respect for the mods and all the crap you all have to put up with every day.
posted by misha at 10:14 AM on December 4, 2009


I mean about everything. There's a lot of characterization of "the other side" as "oh yeah? this is you gakka wakka wakka" Maybe I'm too quick to get to the agree-to-disagree point with a lot of this, but I think it's a case where there's clearly not a right answer and yet to some people the only way to look at favorites and/or "the favorites experiment" is via one lens and everyone else's way of looking at it is wrong and worthy of scorn. I'm at the shrug and move on place with it personally, but clearly some people aren't.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:14 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm so worn out by these threads that I don't even remember, but has anyone suggested changing favorites to something like "noted" or "marked" so it's more neutral and less assumptive of approval?
posted by Miko at 10:16 AM on December 4, 2009


I think the way in which the experiment was done, sprung on us as a surprise, made me a bit defensive personally, though.

Yeah, I can totally appreciate that. I think collectively we're still feeling a bit like it's a damned-if-we-do, damned-if-we-don't situation regarding pre-rollout timing, but the sense of abruptness a lot of folks have spoken to is absolutely something we're thinking about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:18 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Miko: I'm so worn out by these threads that I don't even remember, but has anyone suggested changing favorites to something like "noted" or "marked" so it's more neutral and less assumptive of approval?

Ditto the worn out. There were quite a few suggestions, the most prevalent one, IIRC, being "duly noted." My suggestion was "plussed" so those who had attracted no love would be "nonplussed."
posted by Kattullus at 10:18 AM on December 4, 2009


has anyone suggested changing favorites to something like "noted" or "marked" so it's more neutral and less assumptive of approval?

Yes, more or less. We are not planning any substantive changes to favorites in the near future. I appreciate well-meaning suggestions on the one hand and on the other hand am thinking "are you joking?"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:20 AM on December 4, 2009


on the other hand am thinking "are you joking?"

No, I see that this is not the time, but wondered if that idea had floated and if it appeared to have any traction or was not entertained or what.

feeling a bit like it's a damned-if-we-do, damned-if-we-don't situation

Yeah - this is why I was blathering on so much about change management, because as a concept it's sometimes helped me find which way is a bit less damned, and dealing with little and big changes in both my jobs and volunteer stuff. I was looking for a good resource on it last night and didn't get one, but I just found this which I really like because it draws on lots of research and makes the intellectual foundations clear. Overkill, probably, but just such good stuff to have in the bag of tricks sometimes.
posted by Miko at 10:27 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


The entire experiment was predicated on a diss of the users.

No, it was not.


It may have not been the intention, but it was the effect. It was very easy to perceive it as "the smart, perceptive users that we actually like are concerned that the unthinking masses are easily led into bad behavior by favorites, so we are taking them away for a bit", and people perceive it is what matters. That the last thread was a month long-GRAR fest and that we are having this discussion in the GRAR dome is evidence of this.

Anyone who seriously can't see how it could have been perceived as a diss needs to work on their people-understanding skills.
posted by Artw at 10:32 AM on December 4, 2009


I mean about everything.

What the hell happened on Survivor last night, why didn't John share the apple pie and build positive links instead of coming off like an ass. And don't get me started on Shambo and the chickens.

Why do people put mushrooms on pizza? You can barely taste them, unless it's a big portbella or some such.

Only 11,000 job losses in the U.S. for November?! Alright, who's cooking the books?!

WTF Tiger? WTF news media for following it?

Ok yeah, turkey and chocolate muffins was probably pushing it.

People should not put soy sauce on sushi, it's just wrong.

I kinda sorry Pagemaker went away. It had a cozy interface even though the program was shite.

Contemporary art is alright, once you dig through all the crappy stuff.

Seriously Apple, let me use Flash, it won't kill you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:35 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone who seriously can't see how it could have been perceived as a diss

You're couching it in pretty extreme terms, but I'm thinking that since that problem you mention is one of people's perceptions, however mistaken, rather than the actual actions, solutions would be about helping create different perceptions of the project even as it went forward.
posted by Miko at 10:38 AM on December 4, 2009


Anyone who seriously can't see how it could have been perceived as a diss needs to work on their people-understanding skills.

Artw, I agree with you how the change could be perceived (while understanding it wasn't meant that way) but telling people they need to work on their people-understanding skills just adds to GRARFEST 2009 and really, who needs that?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:41 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


It may have not been the intention, but it was the effect.

To say it was predicated so is to say that that was the intention. I won't get hung up on word choice if that's really not what you meant, but it does read to me like you were asserting that there was intentionality there.

It was very easy to perceive it as "the smart, perceptive users that we actually like are concerned that the unthinking masses are easily led into bad behavior by favorites, so we are taking them away for a bit", and people perceive it is what matters.

I am honestly sorry that this whole thing upset some folks as much as it did, and I'm not discounting your personal feelings about the situation or saying I don't believe that you honestly came away with the perception you describe. But I do think that it's a really, really uncharitable interpretation, and it's not one I had expected to see taken to heart by someone who has been around and knows how we generally work.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:45 AM on December 4, 2009


Art: Anyone who seriously can't see how it could have been perceived as a diss needs to work on their people-understanding skills.

I really, honestly don't see it. Could you explain it in detail? I just don't understand what logic chain goes from "hiding favorites counts" to "diss on users." I'm not being facetious or intentionally blockheaded, I really don't get it. I understand that some people experienced it that way but I don't quite get why.
posted by Kattullus at 10:45 AM on December 4, 2009


Perhaps, but really it should be shockingly obvious, and in the light of that the whole "this GRAR is inexplicable!" affected shock and shame thing is just tedious and annoying.

Anyhow, that's my 2 cents. In my opinion all the clues as to what went "wrong" are here, and hashing it over further is unnescessary, so I'll be dropping out of this thread.
posted by Artw at 10:48 AM on December 4, 2009


I just don't understand what logic chain goes from "hiding favorites counts" to "diss on users."

On a website that has strong community aspect to it, telling users that they're part of an experiment and thus have no choice in the matter breaks the community angle, turning it into a situation of individuals who are fighting against each other instead of individuals working together as a community, trying to discover whether favorites really are a problem*.

Building on what I think Miko is getting at, what if the initial post has been phrased as request for help from community.

So rather than this:
"One of the recurring discussions about favorites is whether or not it's a good idea to display favorite counts on comments. There have been a few proposals over the years to modify how that works, and we're going to try putting some of those ideas into action for the month of November to see how things feel."

Perhaps this:

"Hey kids. As you probably know, we've had lots of discussions about favorites and whether or not it's a good idea to display favorite counts on comments. We've gone back and forth over the years and the question hasn't really been answered, so we're proposing a couple of ideas for the month of November to see if we can get more information on that. To be clear, we are not instituting a permanent change, just looking for information. So we need your help, patience and input on a slight interface tweak we want to try for the month"

Sure, change the words around a bit, but I think you get point, where it's important to approach users as helpers rather than guinea pigs.


* Yeah, I like run on sentences, so what?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:05 AM on December 4, 2009


Fuck, put everything in Comic Sans, I will still fucking read this site (though my nostrils may be flared and my teeth clenched as I do.)

Man are you in for a treat.
posted by cortex at 7:33 AM on December 4 [+] [!]


I think my brow was furrowed in furious disapproval as I explored that guy's website. I think I have developed a new worry line. Thaaaaanks.
posted by thisperon at 11:14 AM on December 4, 2009


we're proposing a couple of ideas for the month of November to see if we can get more information on that.

Proposing? Like, getting feedback on whether or not to get feedback? Yeah, that will go well. As we've seen, many people's perspective changed as a result of their experience across the month. Not something you get from speculating about a change.

This is all verging on either a misuse of the term community or its use to describe Metafilter.

it's important to approach users as helpers rather than guinea pigs.

So "experiment" is the problem here? What I take from all of this is that a subset of MeFites are insanely sensitive and the mods need to focus group out descriptions, even, of attempted modifications to the site.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:29 AM on December 4, 2009


Proposing? Like, getting feedback on whether or not to get feedback?

Nah, it's just in how you approach people. Rather than saying "Hey, we've got this problem and we're doing X", it might help that say "Hey, people seem think there's a problem, can you help us figure out if that's the case?"

That approach isn't without problems and of course you can never get rid of all the GRAR, but I'm just throwing that out there as a suggestion.

What I take from all of this is that a subset of MeFites are insanely sensitive

Discounting and negatively labeling other members feelings of the community you belong isn't a good recipe for keeping said community less fighty.

Going through all of this was not enjoyable. I think Metafilter works better when it's enjoyable, so what can we learn from this to make future changes less GRAR?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:43 AM on December 4, 2009


Ah, that makes perfect sense, Brandon Blatcher, especially once I had read the post over with that interpretation in mind. I just didn't grok the "feeling like a guinea pig" angle. Partly, I'm sure, it's because I don't particularly mind being a guinea pig, and partly because I perceived this as yet another tinker in Matt's long history of tweaking with the site.
posted by Kattullus at 11:44 AM on December 4, 2009


Yeah, some of the language Brandon Blatcher is suggesting would fall under the storytelling/messaging/rational ideas of leading some change.

Here's another useful analytical tool for rear-mirror-gazing: The Biggest Mistakes in Managing Change. I realize this junk is all business-focused, but the same ideas work in voluntary communities too. I think some points leap out as things that went really right for the favorites experiment, and also help underscore places where some of it could have gone better.
posted by Miko at 11:53 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Discounting and negatively labeling other members feelings of the community you belong isn't a good recipe for keeping said community less fighty.

And yet the "experiment" was, according to one narrative, the result of a vocal minority, who presumably have feelings, too. So the question becomes one of how removed from the centre that splinter is, how representative, or the alternative question/argument: how rational. There is every kind of "feeling" on Metafilter, as everywhere else. That doesn't get you to rational site management. That gets you paralysis, because the thing most people are comfortable with is absence of change.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:58 AM on December 4, 2009


Not surprisingly, you initiate a change and people find their pre-conceived ideas about it changing. You don't get there by asking, and the only offence caused is the offence taken.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:59 AM on December 4, 2009


Again, I don't say this because of my personal perspective on removing the visibility of favourites (innocuous at worst). Instigate any change I would find horrifying (like threading). Try it out. I'll provide feedback. For me to take umbrage is to imply that I have rights to the site or its form that I Do Not Have.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:03 PM on December 4, 2009


And yet the "experiment" was, according to one narrative, the result of a vocal minority, who presumably have feelings, too. So the question becomes one of how removed from the centre that splinter is, how representative, or the alternative question/argument: how rational.

Not really getting what you're saying, I'm just trying to non-confrontially point out that using the term "insanely insensitive" to describe a particular portion of the community does not help the schmoopy, while it does helps the GRAR. Do we want to work together as community and have tons of fun or do we to continue with "You're wrong and subhuman" line of back and forth?

For me to take umbrage is to imply that I have rights to the site or its form that I Do Not Have.

From a strictly rational perspective, sure, the mods and/or Matt can do whatever they want, users be damned. But they've never done that because they understand that a lot of people feel as they have ownership of some sense in the site. People have spent a lot of time making and researching posts and comments, so I think it's personally reasonable and rational that they may take umbrage at things. It doesn't mean they're right, either on a individual or collective level, but it's a very human characteristic to have a sense of ownership in something you've contributed time and effort to, so it strikes me as perfectly reasonable that some would take umbrage at a change. It may not be rational, but it's very human.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:29 PM on December 4, 2009


the same ideas work in voluntary communities too.

and yet my honest question is "Do they work with virtual communities?" because I'm feeling some of the stuff that works when you can be in the same place as people or at least the same office go differently when

1. you are modifying the only place in which the community exists as a community
2. you're dealing with exclusively "people from the internet" which means a different sort of bell curve of personality types and likely outcomes.

So while I appreciate the change management stuff on one level, I'm actually not giving it a close read [maybe cortex is?] because I feel that that sort of community and this sort of community are pretty different. When I'm at SXSW I'll be going to more "community management" sorts of things and trying to learn stuff, but there's only so much attention we're going to be giving to "how to run a community" sorts of stuff because we spend most of our time in the community working there. I don't mean to be dismissive, but I think I should be honest. Maybe that's me not taking this as seriously as other people might, but that's something for personal reflection I feel not something for open argument.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:40 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


It may not be rational, but it's very human.

Happy to go with you that far. I guess I draw the line, though, somewhere between people stating, however boldly "We don't like this!" and somehow asserting that the mods have done something wrong and continuing suggestions, seemingly, for them to concede this point.

And yes, if the word "experiment" is what's setting people off, I think it might be advisable for them to re-calibrate their outrage meter. Not because I don't feel like hearing about it, but because it sounds like those people are going to be unhappy pretty much everywhere.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:44 PM on December 4, 2009


So while I appreciate the change management stuff on one level, I'm actually not giving it a close read [maybe cortex is?] because I feel that that sort of community and this sort of community are pretty different

Wow, that surprises me. I don't think they're really different at all. And it's a bit of a truism that every community thinks that something about it makes it exceptional. Communities have commonalities across the spectrum, because they're made of humans, and humans in groups act in fairly predictable ways. I generally find that relatively few phenomena are isolated on the internet, and often they're ones of scale/reverb, not ones that are substantial differences from meatspace.

If you don't find it useful, that's fine - I offered in the spirit of being helpful, but I am surprised to hear that. In general I think you all do a lot of the things that make for effective community leadership, and am surprised you would feel that different thinking is required here.
posted by Miko at 12:55 PM on December 4, 2009




(he argues that change management is one leg of a three-legged stool that supports functioning community)
posted by Miko at 1:05 PM on December 4, 2009


The "vocal minority" here that is far more threatening is the one that thinks Lady Gaga is somehow interesting and deserving of attention. The nonsense about favorites is a speck on an ant turd.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:25 PM on December 4, 2009


I still find it hard to see how the mods could have been more plain about their intentions or more responsive once people voiced their initial objections. The only thing I can imagine is adding links to the past Meta discussions about favorites/threadshitting/etc. Beyond that I think they were clear and polite and totally reasonable.

Fair enough we should learn from things that happen, but on the other hand, I think being straightforward and polite (as they were) is preferable to being more calculated and managed -- and if they were to go down the "calculated and managed" route I think people here would become even more paranoid about what "their real agenda" is. FFS, they come out and explain in totally plain terms what they're doing and why, and immediately people react by feeling "dissed" or trying to suss out their secret insulting plans.

(I realize you're not suggesting being smarmy calculated jerks, Miko, but "how to be more smooth to sway people" sort of feels like a weird discussion to be having in the abstract right now. I would expect a big uproar if they were more "smooth" and then we would have a big postmortem where people said "if only you were straightforward with us from the start, it would have been ok".)
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:49 PM on December 4, 2009


For me, it's like having a conversation with a small group and then fifty people out of nowhere start applauding loudly at what someone said.

Exactly. The argument that the elimination of a channel of information detracts from our enjoyment is not persuasive. Getting feedback from an audience in real time is nothing like body language or vocal tone. Body language and vocal tone deepen the engagement with the other participants in the dialogue. Markers of reader approval remind me of a talk show where the guests spit out sound bites and play up to the expectations of the audience in return for their applause. If anything, by keeping an eye on the audience, the participants pay less attention to each other.

I certainly agree that Favorites do a lot to shape the culture, but I don't see that as a benefit. A couple of years before Favorites were added, a number of conservative members had commented that MetaFilter was an echo chamber. That MetaFilter has a bias is not the issue, any website, or product for that matter, is going to draw from some demographics more than others. But, is MetaFilter best served by narrowing its appeal or broadening it?

In the November thread, I was surprised to see jessamyn use the word 'punished'. Now I don't know to what she was referring, but it caused me to take a look at the thread with the favorites feature restored after having already read several hundred comments, and I was surprised at how much the addition of Favorites impacted how I read the thread. A strongly worded comment that gets dozens of favorites comes across as a group of people shouting. It's not the same thing as a large number of comments making similar arguments. In reading a thread, Favorites are the faceless crowd.

While I've been a somewhat vocal opponent of Favorites in MetaTalk, I changed my opinion as a result of the experiment and that monster thread. There are some types of contributions that do not get much response, no matter how well crafted, simply because there is little to say in reply to a very short story, or a bit of dialogue, or the recounting of a memory, beyond 'thank you'. And since these are frequently instances where the poster does desire feedback, it makes sense to have a channel for that.

Also, like Dixon Ticonderoga, I take a look at many other users' profiles and see which contributions of theirs have been favorited and what they have used their favorites on. If it's a poster I really respect I'll take a look at all their posts / comments without that filter, but I agree that it's a convenient way to get some of their better contributions.

I understand that there is little to no appetite for making any further change to how the site handles Favorites, but since I have it rattling around in my head I'll submit the following modest proposal. Keep the feature, but remove any notice of Favorites from the thread. Favorites would only be accessible from a user's profile page just as they are now. The front page side bar tells me when one of my Contacts has made a contribution that gets 12 or more posts. That's pretty useful although I would like to be able to change that number, but one way I could scour the site quickly for high quality contributions would be for the Favorites of my Contacts (or perhaps a certain type of Contact) to show up. I think this would be a lot more effective than looking for what's popular on each thread since you wouldn't be going on the judgment of the crowd but following the lead of those posters whose taste you agree with.

This doesn't do anything for those who use Favorites to skim a thread. They and I take opposing positions on the value of a clean thread. But it does give them a means to quickly find contributions they're interested in.

And on a side note, koeselitz made a comment in the November thread, that as threads get longer the time required to keep up with them reduces the number of participants - when they get too long, they end. Making it easy for skimmers to post increases the number of participants late in the thread and skews the discussion towards the most heavily favorited posts. This is probably a very minor effect if any, right now, but perhaps it would be a consideration as MetaFilter scales larger.
posted by BigSky at 4:03 PM on December 4, 2009


So I can't decide if it should be :
*Mod Blood*
episode 1: The Mod Exchange
or
The Mod Exchange
episode 1: Mod Blood
The first one sounds like a cop shop a la The Mod Squad, the second one sounds like a ditzy sitcom about telephone operators.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:16 PM on December 4, 2009


The mods are so much a part of the community (as opposed to the V-like overlords of, say, bng-bng) that it was really pretty shocking to see implemented (a) a sweeping change, temporary or not that (b) my observations of MeFi led me to believe would be greeted with rancor and irritability by almost every user of the site and (c) how could the mods not know that? So when (a) I have absolutely no reason not to believe them implicitly but (b) what they're saying, if true, seems to imply not understanding something about the site that I totally can't believe they don't understand, then (c) you know, up is down! black is white! dogs and cats! are walking the dinosaur!! and stuff.

This actually helps make a little more sense of things, since for me, what had even more of an effect than any of the actual favorites changes was reading that awful thread and having some of my basic assumptions about MetaFilter being a community of generally thoughtful, reasonable, good-hearted people being really shaken. It was just painful for me to read-- in large part because I kept cringing in sympathy for how it must have felt for the mods, but also because I couldn't stop thinking, "If the mods, who are respected and liked by pretty much everyone and who dedicate so much of their time and energy to the tough job of making this a great place for us, could be confronted with so much distrust and suspicion for what seems to be an obvious good-faith move, then how can any of us mere mortals possibly feel safe here?" And no matter how big of a deal you thought the actual change was, it seemed bizarre and heartless to me for people to decide it was a big enough deal to throw overboard years of trust and respect.

But if it wasn't just people thinking "How can they be the people I thought they were if they could do this to ME!?!"-- but instead genuinely believing there was some broad and obvious consensus shared by the majority of people on the site that favorites are not just good for the site, but Really Important And Not Something To Mess Around With? And therefore, that changing things was clearly a purposeful decision to go against the strong preferences of the majority of users, the kind of decision that would make you reevaluate what you thought you knew about the mods? That's a little more understandable to me. Still really unfortunate and unpleasant, but if you combine it with some basic human frustration and crankiness about losing something you personally like, it helps me reconcile the way people acted with my belief that we're generally good people here who trust and respect each other.

Although I still don't know where people would get the sense that it was perfectly clear that almost everyone Really Likes favorites. My impression, based on a whole series of MetaTalk threads, had always been that some people like 'em, some people dislike 'em, and very few people seemed to feel particularly strongly on either side. (Although I can see in retrospect that because no one thought anything would change, there was no reason to mount an impassioned defense of them, and thus I-- and maybe the mods?-- didn't get a true picture of the strength of feeling that some people have for them.) I guess we all get stuck in assuming that other people feel the way we do and see things our way; I had no idea so many people cared so much about favorites, and it seems like a lot of other folks didn't realize that many of us don't.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 6:17 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I chose to "hide favorites" in my preferences and it worked for a while, but now they're not hidden anymore even though my preferences still reflect my choice. Sorry if this has already been mentioned. I'm probably doing something wrong.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 6:35 PM on December 4, 2009


Houyhnhnm, just go to your preferences, scroll down, click save, and it should be set. We use cookies for that preference and it's set when you save your preferences.
posted by pb (staff) at 6:46 PM on December 4, 2009


I still find it hard to see how the mods could have been more plain about their intentions or more responsive once people voiced their initial objections.

I'll bite, since my reading of Miko here is that she is discussing change management theory not to harsh on the mods, but to suggest strategies that might make their lives easier next time around.

I think it might have been smoother if there were clearer announcements and links to the FAQ about the experiment. The bar at the top was barely visible - I actually didn't know it existed until recently - there was nothing in the sidebar, and the original thread dropped off the front page of MeTa after a couple days.

And the original thread...I followed it rather obsessively, but it was so epic as to be confusing. Anyone doing a control-f to see what "cortex", "matthowie", or "jessamyn" were saying would have gotten hundreds of matches. I agree that they were plain about their intentions, it was just kinda hard to find.
posted by lalex at 7:11 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


A couple of years before Favorites were added, a number of conservative members had commented that MetaFilter was an echo chamber.

Conservatives say that about every medium of communication that they don't dominate outright.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:16 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks, pb. It was indeed a cookie problem.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 7:19 PM on December 4, 2009


lalex: And the original thread...I followed it rather obsessively, but it was so epic as to be confusing. Anyone doing a control-f to see what "cortex", "matthowie", or "jessamyn" were saying would have gotten hundreds of matches. I agree that they were plain about their intentions, it was just kinda hard to find.

I know that's not what you're talking about but I feel like I should mention this anyway, because it took me a couple of years before thinking of this... to find a contribution by a certain user in a thread search for "posted by FOO" (where FOO is a placeholder for any random user).
posted by Kattullus at 8:18 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know that's not what you're talking about but I feel like I should mention this anyway, because it took me a couple of years before thinking of this... to find a contribution by a certain user in a thread search for "posted by FOO" (where FOO is a placeholder for any random user).

although it's not super-helpful with that particular thread - no, i had never thought of that and i could just about kiss you right now.
posted by lalex at 8:25 PM on December 4, 2009


Pope Guilty--could you not do this, please? I know you're always ready at the draw with your "conservatives suck" bumper sticker retorts, but it seems unnecessary. I don't even think this place is that biased towards liberals, actually, with the exception of when you decide to snark and nobody speaks up about whether it's appropriate.
posted by thisperon at 1:40 AM on December 5, 2009


When I filled out the survey, I concluded that I would leave the favorites visible so that I would be in synch with the rest of the community, but P.O.B. has convinced me that the community interfaces with MetaFilter in many different ways already. So I've turned them off and it feels very....peaceful.

I'll still be tossing out the favorites like Mardi Gras beads, however, because I know how much y'all love 'em.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:47 AM on December 5, 2009


I just realized that the title of the original thread was "November is National Let's Try Obscuring Favorite Counts Month". Where were you Joe Clark?

Anyway, Saturday is National Go Do Something Else Day or it should be.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:42 AM on December 5, 2009


I just asked this question in my survey response, but I might as well ask it here too: would it be possible to tailor favorite preferences according to the subsite? To my surprise, I have really been liking turning off favorites entirely (even though I quickly reverted away from "has favorites" during November). But in AskMe I feel like favorites work a little differently for me, and I'd like to get a sense of the community's views on which answers have the most support. I would at least like to try keeping favorites off everywhere except for AskMe. I don't know if this could be done on the site itself or via greasemonkey.
posted by chinston at 10:18 AM on December 8, 2009


chinston, it's not possible with site preferences. But it should be possible with a Greasemonkey script to remove favorites. Just set your site preferences to show favorites everywhere, install the Greasemonkey script to remove favorites, and in the list of "Included Pages" for that script add only those subsites where you want to remove the favorite counts.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:26 AM on December 8, 2009


I'll try that. Thanks, pb.
posted by chinston at 12:20 PM on December 8, 2009


It's me! I am the MeFi liberal bias.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:02 PM on December 9, 2009


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