Undelete could be an option December 22, 2009 4:00 AM   Subscribe

If I can turn off favorites, why can't I turn on deleted posts?

I've been using Plutor's Greasemonkey deleted posts script and occasionally I browse Deleted Thread. I've come to appreciate the few posts that are deleted daily.

But I can't see these posts when I search Metafilter or if I look at anybody's posting history, and I think this is wrong.

The mods are doing a great job, and I believe they are the primary reason, along with the membership fee, that Metafilter hasn't become Digg or Reddit. My unscientific feeling is that they are very good at knocking out spam, removing doubles, and eliminating boring/nasty/jejune content. I understand that nothing good will come by allowing random spam nutjobs to have a big audience here.

Nonetheless, as a non-novice user, I see no reason why every little post, bad or good, shouldn't be visible to me, assuming I find my way to the appropriate settings or scripts.
posted by twoleftfeet to Feature Requests at 4:00 AM (116 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I was wondering about this myself yesterday while following the whole Ortho I/P organ theft thread on Talk. It is very frustrating to not be able to reference the original post or comment to see what was said in context.
posted by archaic at 4:24 AM on December 22, 2009


Because it would vastly undermine the impact of deletion, and encourage all sorts of bad posts?
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:24 AM on December 22, 2009 [8 favorites]


You've just proposed my worst nightmare. Cheers.
posted by gman at 4:26 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't think it would encourage bad posts. My use of a Greasemonkey script hasn't encouraged bad posts.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:27 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know, maybe you are correct. My feeling is that an official deleted post setting would legitimize these posts: Pretty soon you would have people arguing some readers want them, and that it's ok for this side channel to exist. This shifts the role of the mods from deleting stuff that's not supposed to be here to sorting posts into good and less good.
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:32 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Future question: If I can turn off favorites and turn on deleted posts, why can't I banhammer?
posted by Plutor at 4:39 AM on December 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm not really sure how Plutor's script works, but the only way it makes sense is if deleted posts are essentially just commented-out on the front page. So I'm just asking that this same courtesy is extended to other parts of Metafilter. I think it would be particularly useful to be able to see deleted posts in a search for previous posts.

If there are enough hoops to jump through to see posts that have been deleted then it won't become a spam-haven problem.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:41 AM on December 22, 2009


I think it's kind of a feature that you can't search for deleted posts.
posted by smackfu at 5:06 AM on December 22, 2009


Because then they would not be deleted.

Deleted threads are not canon. That you have some access to them, that you can meet in caves far from the light and try to hash out what they mean, should be enough.
posted by OmieWise at 5:10 AM on December 22, 2009 [11 favorites]


Christmas is all about forgiveness, OmieWise. Canon and caves far from the light or not.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:17 AM on December 22, 2009


If favorites can be turned off, why can't I delete this post?
posted by Loto at 5:20 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


FYI, your understanding of how the script works is flawed. It is only possible to detect that there is a deleted post because post ID numbers are numeric and incrementally monotonic, such that any gap in the numbers is a clue that there is something missing. If they were implemented as alphanumeric identifiers or if they weren't sequential (as with many sites like youtube), then there would be no way to find a deleted post other than having previously known its URL. It's only by accident that this is possible, and it in no way indicates any intent of the moderators -- they have said before that they acknowledge that people will have a morbid curiosity and that they can't stop people from using greasemonkey scripts, but they won't do anything to make it more accessible than currently possible.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:32 AM on December 22, 2009


I'm not really sure how Plutor's script works, but the only way it makes sense is if deleted posts are essentially just commented-out on the front page.

This is not how it works. The post does not exist on the page at all, but because posts are sequentially numbered, there are gaps. Plutor's script skillfully identifies those gaps and pulls in the content on the page for the deleted script.

If deleted posts are as searchable and as available as non deleted posts, it removes the distinction between them.

Mods have been kind enough to make the deleted posts available, my guess is primarily for the post authors (otherwise there'd be little point to the deletion reason). The fact that you can see deleted posts at all is a feature.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:35 AM on December 22, 2009


Well, thanks for explaining Plutor's script, which I hadn't read. So it does an XMLHttpRequest for posts that aren't represented in the sequential numbering of current posts.

This misses my point though.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:44 AM on December 22, 2009


Look, if you made the options all or nothing, you'd get nothing. The moderators delete the posts for a reason, and it's very nice of them that you can see the reason and even an archived version of the deleted post.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:00 AM on December 22, 2009


Don't get me wrong. I totally approve of intelligent human moderators moderating. And I totally disapprove of unmoderated content reaching the front page. I'm just arguing for transparency. There's a record of deleted posts in the infodump, so there's a record of which posts were deleted which doesn't depend on client-side tricks. Why shouldn't this record be visible?
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:11 AM on December 22, 2009


Seeee! This is why you shouldn't have given people options on the favorites. Now they want options for everything.
posted by smackfu at 6:19 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dunno. Why should it? What purpose would the visibility serve? To offer up more GRAR or a way to see who's behind the the times when the post the link to [whatever] for the 3rd time because they search badly, or fail to skim the front page first?

I didn't find my time reading metafilter before I installed the greasemonkey script to be less fulfilling or informative. I use it mostly to read the deletion reasons, and because I'm too lazy to remember to check the deleted threads blog regularly.
posted by rtha at 6:23 AM on December 22, 2009


I really like this idea.
posted by greasy_skillet at 6:42 AM on December 22, 2009


We should be able to opt-in for inline images too, as long as we're wishing for magical flying ponies that eat cancer and shit rainbows.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 7:05 AM on December 22, 2009


Because then they would not be deleted.

I was going to write this exact sentence.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:08 AM on December 22, 2009


Stay away from those pony-shit rainbows, they cause cancer.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:11 AM on December 22, 2009

I see no reason why every little post, bad or good, shouldn't be visible to me.
It's not about you, snowflake. It's about what is best for the site. You already have a script and an off-site, non-official blog you can use to access posts deleted from MeFi. Things are deleted from MeFi because the mods decide they aren't right for MeFi. They delete them because they don't want them to remain.

What you're asking for is something equivalent to, "Mom, Dad? I know you sniffed that moldy meatloaf decided to throw it out, but instead of throwing it away, can you just leave it sitting right there on the counter, forever. I might want to pick through it later and eat some of it."

As a co-habitant of the kitchen, please, throw that nasty shit out. If you want to pick through it, you can go dig through the trashcan outside.
posted by BeerFilter at 7:27 AM on December 22, 2009 [11 favorites]


I'm not going to call the moderators Mom or Dad. That's your trip. I'm an adult. I spent five U.S. dollars for this experience, and more importantly, I've spent a lot of my time here. So I don't need a parent to hold my hand. I suspect the mods, who are very good at cleaning up after our messes, don't really want to be our parents either. If that means we have to be able to see our own stinking messes, so be it.

I just need them to keep the wolves out of the house.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:38 AM on December 22, 2009


Excuse me? I paid my $5 too.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:48 AM on December 22, 2009 [16 favorites]


If there are enough hoops to jump through to see posts that have been deleted then it won't become a spam-haven problem.

Deleted thread links go nowhere, anyway. Team Mod changes the domain in those links to example.com, as in this post.
posted by zarq at 8:09 AM on December 22, 2009


"I don't want to create a deleted post graveyard. I've answered this question before a few times, but the 30-second answer is I don't want to create a permanent home for crap, as it will feed someone's ego into being king of the shit pile (no really, it would happen)." -mathowie

"When I ax something, it's to create a higher quality site in the post's absence. I'd like to keep doing it that way." -mathowie
posted by BeerFilter at 8:10 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just need them to keep the wolves out of the house.

To me, this sounds like a great reason for deleted posts to remain, you know, deleted and invisible. If you want to see them, there are ways for you to do so.

Again, it's about what's good for the site, not what you "deserve" because you paid $5.
posted by rtha at 8:12 AM on December 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Condescension aside, this is a terrible idea for a variety of reasons that have been discussed repeatedly: it introduces a meta-game where people's crummy stunty posts get to stay visible to the world. The fact that deleted posts remain visible in any capacity is a sop to the people who made the posts originally and rubberneckers.
posted by boo_radley at 8:20 AM on December 22, 2009


by the way, twoleftfeet, condescension means "to talk down to".
posted by boo_radley at 8:21 AM on December 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


it's about what's good for the site

Don't get me wrong (again). I think it would be a very bad idea if shitty posts had to be seen by everybody. The default should be "NO SHITTY POSTS". I'm just saying there could be an option tucked away somewhere that allowed you check a box for "NO, I AM NOT AFRAID OF BAD SHITTY POSTS. BRING ON YOUR BAD SHITTY POSTS. MY MIND IS STRONG".

I wouldn't even suggest this if I didn't think we could handle it.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:21 AM on December 22, 2009


Enough silly requests like this and Matt's going to start nuking posts permanently so that not even Plutor's script can find them. Sheesh.
posted by languagehat at 8:22 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


twoleftfeet writes "I spent five U.S. dollars for this experience,"

*He He He*, Noob.
posted by Mitheral at 8:30 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


We have no intention to implement this, no. There are resources available for those who are sufficiently aware and motivated to go looking, which makes a pretty nice speed bump between developing mefi wonk (who will likely have at least some appreciation for the process and history of post deletion and will have that toolset available to process what they see at the blog or via the script) and relatively clueless new user (who will likely not).

Transparency is not a binary. We've struck what I think is a pretty functional compromise, and I don't see it moving any time soon. You are aware enough of how the site works and where this stuff you're interested in seeing is and how to find it that you don't need the feature you're asking for, and I'm very very far from convinced that someone not in those shoes would generally get a net benefit from it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:38 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


If MetaFilter was a democracy, I'd vote against this. Thankfully, I don't have to.
posted by Roger Dodger at 8:38 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm just saying there could be an option tucked away somewhere that allowed you check a box for "NO, I AM NOT AFRAID OF BAD SHITTY POSTS. BRING ON YOUR BAD SHITTY POSTS. MY MIND IS STRONG".

There is. It's called greasemonkey.
posted by rtha at 8:41 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm just arguing for transparency.

I think you're arguing for more transparency. We operate fairly transparently already. Our reasoning behind not making deleted posts more visible goes a little like this

- the posts were deleted because they're not good/right/appropriate for MetaFilter, having them visible on the site in some way by default basically undoes the purpose of deleting them. Otherwise we could just close them like we sometimes do in MeTa
- Brand New Day idea. We don't want people to go through someone's history to find the stuff they've had deleted, or start haranguing us "soandso has had 20 posts deleted why aren't they banned?" This also holds true for the "posting while drunk" stuff we sometimes cleanup. Some stuff should just disappear. We have some back and forth discussions with people who have stuff deleted that sort of only works if these posts vanish [i.e. "we'll give you one more chance..." type stuff]
- when we delete SEO/spammer crap we change the URLs to example.com. We don't want people asking us "hey what was the original URL there?" and we don't want SEO/spammer crap indexed by Google
- Having every deleted post visible means, to my mind, that more people would want to have more discussions about deletions more often. While we expect a certain amount of "hey why was my/his/her post deleted?" more of it would be problematic. The site is large enough and has enough new users regularly that I'd expect we'd get these questions for every other deleted post. That might be too much for our current Team Mod staffing level.

More to the point, the site is sort of big. Adding this functionality could conceivably create problems while at the same time not really solving any. Folks who are curious have access to this information with a little extra work and I guess we're okay with that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:44 AM on December 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Adding this functionality could conceivably create problems

I have to defer to any claim from the mods that suggests that a particular feature would be functionally infeasible.

Deleted posts are kind of interesting though. Aside from obvious spam, I know the moderators have to deal with sometimes subtle interpretations that would elude automated or crowd-sourced strategies. I hope I've been clear in my appreciation for their efforts.

by the way, twoleftfeet, condescension means "to talk down to".

I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

Merry Xmas all!
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:54 AM on December 22, 2009


What the hell are you sniffing there?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:05 AM on December 22, 2009


I really hate the word 'jejune'.

It brings up the image of an old, stuttering, French lech: "Ah, ma sh-shh-sh-chère... v-v-vous êtes si je-je-je-je-jeune..."
posted by CKmtl at 9:40 AM on December 22, 2009


I'd be more inclined to want to see deleted posts disappear entirely after a given time (say a week) then to endure the inevitable shitstiring this would allow. And, no, I'm not afraid of the "big bad post", my mind is sufficiently fortified enough to endure whatever get thrown at it from the cesspool of the internet, being "afraid" is not the point, not wanting the shit around is the point, nor do I want others around me playing in it and refusing to shut the hell up about how much the shit stinks. And yeah, like it or not, moderators are parent figures for whatever site they help run. Their method of parenting is what makes a site tolerable or not. I think Beerfilter's analogy is apt.

The mods are doing a great job, yes they are and that is what you did pay your $5 for.
posted by edgeways at 9:54 AM on December 22, 2009


I spent five U.S. dollars for this experience

Oh god yes. Mmmmm.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:09 AM on December 22, 2009


It would turn deletions into public humiliations. Which is bad, incidentally.
posted by Kattullus at 10:10 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


A. Visible deletions would be good for MetaFilter because people would know what a bad post looks like, and would therefore be less likely to make bad posts themselves.

B. Opacity is a poopy-head.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:31 AM on December 22, 2009


I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

Apparently, you're just going to insult people instead. Which is far less mature.
posted by Solomon at 10:41 AM on December 22, 2009


Visible deletions would be good for MetaFilter because people would know what a bad post looks like, and would therefore be less likely to make bad posts themselves.

It is my feeling that engagement with the site and the community over the long term is by far the most influential factor on folks' ability to judge the quality of their own posts. Incidental exposure to deleted posts isn't going to do it; there's no short-circuit for developing a sense of the place. Folks who are engaged enough to figure out how to and whether they want to check out deleted posts are engaged in the community in a way that's more important to their attentiveness to site culture and mores than is the awareness of the deletions and reasons itself.

If we want to speculate, I would wager that post deletion correlates significantly positively with (a) how new a person is and (b) how many posts they have made—that folks who haven't been around long and/or haven't made many posts before are significantly more likely to fail to successfully put together a deletion-proof post. I haven't taken a look at this formally but it'd be possible to do so with the Infodump, if someone is feeling sassy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:45 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Maybe this has already been researched, but does anyone know what the longest consecutive string of deleted posts on the front page was?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 10:49 AM on December 22, 2009


there could be an option tucked away somewhere

"GreaseMonkey, Deleted Posts User Script"

that allowed you check a box for "NO, I AM NOT AFRAID OF BAD SHITTY POSTS. BRING ON YOUR BAD SHITTY POSTS.


You don't even have to check a box. I think you said you already have it installed.

MY MIND IS STRONG".


This assumption may be where people are 'getting you wrong'.
You asked, and you should have been prepared for the answer.
posted by carsonb at 11:03 AM on December 22, 2009


If we want to speculate, I would wager that post deletion correlates significantly positively with (a) how new a person is and (b) how many posts they have made—that folks who haven't been around long and/or haven't made many posts before are significantly more likely to fail to successfully put together a deletion-proof post. I haven't taken a look at this formally but it'd be possible to do so with the Infodump, if someone is feeling sassy.

I'm not that sassy, but a cursory perusal of the first page of the deleted posts blog would seem to dispel that notion. Those users' year of joining/# of posts:
2004/25
2009/0
2008/5
2001/15
(no idea)
2002/224
2007/0
2005/162
2005/30
2007/12
2007/99
2001/31
2001/9
2008/0
2008/79
2002/2
2002/51
2004/62
2000/59
2007/27
2007/8
2005/178
2000/122
2009/6
2002/125
2001/1
2004/2
2006/0
2005/4
2009/0
2006/103
2001/19

Average: 2004.6/47
posted by Sys Rq at 11:20 AM on December 22, 2009


cortex, the second correlation is a negative one.
posted by stinker at 11:23 AM on December 22, 2009


stinker: "cortex, the second correlation is a negative one."

I'd be more willing to expect that cortex was right: people with more posts get more posts deleted. Do you have evidence to the contrary, or were you just assuming that cortex got mixed up?
posted by Plutor at 11:27 AM on December 22, 2009


Needs to go deeper than that, Sys Rq: if someone has made 120 undeleted posts and had, say, five deleted, they're running at a success rate of 96%. If someone's made 3 posts that lived and one that died, they're only running at 75%.

It's not enough to know that people who have posted a lot have, themselves, had posts deleted—even assuming there was no correlation whatsoever between number of posts made and the likelihood of post n being deleted, we'd expect to see more total deletions from folks with lots of posts than from folks with few.

A good analysis of this might also split off double posts (and other possible "technicality" deletions, perhaps, if there's other stuff in the same territory of "the problem is not with your judgement" stuff) for separate analysis, though we don't formally track that in any way so there's not really a great way to go at it.

Anyway, I might be surprised by the results of an actual analysis, and my expectations in any case are of a significant-in-a-measurability-sense correlation, not necessarily a significant-in-a-holy-shit-can-you-believe-that-disparity thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:30 AM on December 22, 2009


Er, to clarify a bit on what stinker and Plutor said, I may have communicated this poorly so I'll restate:

My guess is that there is a positive correlation between the number of posts a user has made and the percentage of a user's posts that go undeleted. Call this their "survival rate".

Aside from that, I would very much expect there to also be a positive correlation between the number of posts a user has made and the number of posts a user has had deleted. Call this "deletion volume".

So my speculation is that folks who post more have higher survival rates (they're better, on average, at posting things that don't get deleted) but that posting more unavoidably means having a higher total deletion volume (because most people, even if they have good survival rates, don't have 100% survival rates, and a small probability times a large number of trials may equal a relatively large number compared to a larger probability times a small number of trials).
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:36 AM on December 22, 2009


If only there was some sort of dump of information that we could use to figure this out. Damn this human brain!
posted by Plutor at 11:40 AM on December 22, 2009


You know what the best thing about deleted posts is? I have no idea, because the posts were deleted before I could see them.

Oh, wait, THAT. This site is a filter; post deletion by mods is part of that filter. I don't want to have to sort through the posts that the mods (via flagging or on their own) have decided are crappy.
posted by davejay at 11:42 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sort-of related question I can't find the answer to: is there a way I can view (my) comments that have been deleted? Recent activity and My comments won't be much help, for obvious reasons. I suppose one possibility would be an automated memail notification.
posted by msalt at 11:55 AM on December 22, 2009


No, there's no way to view deleted comments, and it's not something we plan to create a view to or a notification system for. If you're curious about something in particular, you're welcome to drop us a line via the contact form and ask, though.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:59 AM on December 22, 2009


Here are a couple of charts showing:
  • post deletion percentage vs. months since user signup (at the time of their post)
  • post deletion percentage vs. number of prior posts by that user (at the time of their post)
The data is a little noisy as the time/post count goes up, but it seems to show that posts by new users, and users first few posts, are deleted at a higher rate than later posts. But only up to a point, and then it kind of looks to me like the percentage starts to increase again.
posted by FishBike at 12:11 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a correlation between total number of posts and total success rate, although it's not particularly strong except at the very bottom (under 16). I calculated my bins logarithmically, to try to even out the sizes:
1024	2	96.7%
512	2	92.8%
256	24	97.1%
128	61	94.5%
64	143	95.3%
32	323	94.7%
16	575	94.6%
8	1022	92.7%
4	1439	91.3%
2	1925	87.5%
1	2303	77.8%
Col 1 is minimum number of posts for that bin. Col 2 is number of users in that bin. Col 3 is overall post success rate. Dataset is only in the blue.
posted by Plutor at 12:17 PM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


FishBike writes "but it seems to show that posts by new users, and users first few posts, are deleted at a higher rate than later posts."

Undoubtedly skewed by SEO/Spam assholes. Could be partially corrected by a) eliminating everyone with no posts (IE: their posts have only been deleted) or b) people with very few comments, say 20, or c) users who have closed account status. Or possibly combinations to address shortcomings in each filter.
posted by Mitheral at 12:20 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


FishBike: "number of prior posts by that user (at the time of their post)"

I like that idea, so I stole it:
1024	208	84.6%
512	1269	93.6%
256	2986	96.1%
128	6570	95.7%
64	9158	94.6%
32	11486	94.4%
16	12759	94.8%
8	12949	94.2%
4	11733	93.1%
2	9875	92.2%
1	7819	88.3%
Col 1 is minimum number of previous posts for that bin. Col 2 is the total number of posts made while the user had that many previous posts. Col 3 is overall post success rate. Dataset is only in the blue.

That 84.6% success rate for the two users above 1024 (mathowie and homunculus) is shockingly low.
posted by Plutor at 12:29 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just realized that the n for deciding which bin a user's post belongs in for that second set of data is including the post being made. So a user's first post is n=1, not n=0;
posted by Plutor at 12:31 PM on December 22, 2009


That 84.6% success rate for the two users above 1024 (mathowie and homunculus) is shockingly low.

A quick review of the deletion reasons for userid=1 shows an awful lot of "testing" type of deletions. And, surprisingly, a few that are not.
posted by FishBike at 12:31 PM on December 22, 2009


Note that Matt's shockingly low rate (and I'd be that it is his rate skewing it and that homunculus is doing much better) involves a LOT of deleted test posts.

pb probably has the worst survival rate in history, for similar reasons.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:32 PM on December 22, 2009


And yeah, ignoring users with only a single, deleted post isn't a bad filter to cut out the SEO/spam problem, even if it does throw out some legit "only tried once, and failed" wheat with the shill chaff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:34 PM on December 22, 2009


I'm just saying there could be an option tucked away somewhere that allowed you check a box for "NO, I AM NOT AFRAID OF BAD SHITTY POSTS. BRING ON YOUR BAD SHITTY POSTS. MY MIND IS STRONG".

omg I think I've seen this one...and you check it and then every time you type in metafilter.com it redirects you to Digg!
posted by jacalata at 12:35 PM on December 22, 2009


pb probably has the worst survival rate in history, for similar reasons

If you limit it to people with more than 6 posts, yes... 76.6% deletion rate on 94 posts!

I don't think I should post any sort of top-N list for this particular statistic, though.
posted by FishBike at 12:37 PM on December 22, 2009


Probably for the best, yeah.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:45 PM on December 22, 2009


I admit I've been curious about how typical (or a-) my run of undeleted posts might be.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:56 PM on December 22, 2009


ooooh, banHAMMER!

BAM!

BAM!

BAM!
BAM!
BAM!
posted by Drasher at 1:15 PM on December 22, 2009


You're rocking a 100%, Wolfdog. You are the perfect poster, apparently.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:18 PM on December 22, 2009


Along with the deleted scenes can I get the bloopers, directors commentary, trailer and the naked scenes?
posted by qvantamon at 1:26 PM on December 22, 2009


twoleftfeet: “... as a non-novice user, I see no reason why every little post, bad or good, shouldn't be visible to me, assuming I find my way to the appropriate settings or scripts.”

All sociological and qualitative concerns aside, it should be noted that this is, from a simple web and interface design perspective, a very bad idea, because it leads to one of the most dangerous design traps: reliance on arcane inefficiency.

You admit, twoleftfeet, that if everyone could see favorites, it would be a bad thing; however, you say, very few users seem to know how to access their Metafilter Preferences, and we can rely on the fact that they're effectively hidden to screen out most users. But even if we accept the premise that the Metafilter Preferences page is well hidden from most users (and I don't - it's quite easy to access, and if presented with the choice who wouldn't want to see the stuff that got deleted?) this would mean that, in order to prevent most users from seeing the deleted posts, pb et al. would have to make all future changes to the site's design in such a way that the Preferences page remains difficult to access or at least well-hidden. In short, this would force pb into the unfortunate position of designing a system with the intention of making it difficult to use.

A similar situation (and I've actually seen this happen more than once) would be a database that is profoundly confused and garbled which has no security apart from the fact that "well, to get anything out of the database, you have to work your fingers to the bone, so that way we can be sure that nobody who doesn't care about the project will start digging into it simply because it's so goddamned ridiculous." I think they call this "destroying the village in order to save it." In that situation, the solution is clear: fix the database so that users can use it, and create a real security protocol which is designed to do what it't supposed to. Don't rely on inadequacy.

In this case, putting this in user preferences and simply hoping that most people won't see it there is silly. If you want deleted posts to be visible only to a few long-term members, choose them according to some scheme (low user ID numbers, say) and give those few members the privilege. That way, you're not using some hand-wavey sociological hope that maybe people will fall into the proportions you need.

Of course, I think even the well-designed way of doing this would be wrong, and kind of silly to boot. The posts that are deleted are NOT WHAT METAFILTER IS ABOUT. There's no reason beyond morbid curiosity and indulgent obsession with Metafilter sociology that you'd need to see them ALL THE TIME - the interesting stuff is the stuff that isn't deleted.
posted by koeselitz at 1:29 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, you know what else might be interesting to look at? Place of deleted posts in a given user's post sequence. Are there any patterns or trends in where deleted show up in a user's history, or rather in aggregate ordinality of posts?

I'd bet, again, on a certain amount of significant tendency toward the initial attempts. But I'm wondering if there's any surprising effects after that—do posters tend to show a rapid increase in discipline early on in their posting careers, only to get comfy and a little bit less disciplined later on, for example?

Or, as another model of explanation, are folks who have been around and posting for a long while failing in some cases to adapt to evolving community expectations about posts?

Might be interesting, too, to look at a three-axis graph accounting for both posting volume and length of membership:

x = number of previous posts made
y = time since joining
z = survival rate

That might help separate some independent effects.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:33 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


And yeah, ignoring users with only a single, deleted post isn't a bad filter to cut out the SEO/spam problem, even if it does throw out some legit "only tried once, and failed" wheat with the shill chaff.

I've updated the chart of deletion percentage vs. number of prior posts to show a second line that only includes users with at least one non-deleted post (less than 100% deletion rate).

Most of this line is completely hidden under the line for all users, which is what I would expect. There just aren't any users with large numbers of posts and a 100% deletion rate. I think 4 posts, all deleted, was the biggest number I saw.

Now, as for Wolfdog's inquiry, here are the top 20 users by greatest number of consecutive front page posts without a deletion:
  1. mathowie (738)
  2. Steven Den Beste (381)
  3. plep (320)
  4. owillis (305)
  5. homunculus (282)
  6. matteo (236)
  7. MiguelCardoso (236)
  8. baylink (207)
  9. skallas (204)
  10. Postroad (168)
  11. tellurian (166)
  12. plinth (162)
  13. Wolfdog (160)
  14. y2karl (150)
  15. kliuless (138)
  16. blahblahblah (134)
  17. Kattullus (133)
  18. wendell (129)
  19. hama7 (124)
  20. madamjujujive (123)
(this is extracted from the Dec 14th infodump, and was a little complicated to do so it might not even be right. but I think it is an OK list to post because surely non-delete-worthy posting is a good thing.)

posted by FishBike at 1:46 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey! Steven Den Beste... that I didn't expect. Also, a lot of old-timers from the wild n' wooly days when you get away with very thin posts.
posted by Kattullus at 1:50 PM on December 22, 2009


It also looks like prior to Jan 30, 2002, deleted posts weren't kept in the database at all. So the early years look like unbroken runs of non-deleted posts for everybody. I guess I could redo the list for only posts after that?
posted by FishBike at 2:02 PM on December 22, 2009


Ah! Yeah, that's a good point. I don't know that there's any way to reconstruct the userid of the poster of those old nuke posts, so, yeah.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:06 PM on December 22, 2009


FishBike writes "If you limit it to people with more than 6 posts, yes... 76.6% deletion rate on 94 posts!

"I don't think I should post any sort of top-N list for this particular statistic, though."


Without naming names could you show use the percentages of say the top ten?
posted by Mitheral at 3:05 PM on December 22, 2009


A nice graph of the distribution of percentages might be fun.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:12 PM on December 22, 2009


Without naming names could you show use the percentages of say the top ten?

Sure. The top 10 percentages of deleted posts, for users with more than 6 posts (across all sub-sites):
76.6%
75.0%
73.9%
70.0%
60.0%
57.1%
57.1%
55.6%
54.5%
54.2%
A nice graph of the distribution of percentages might be fun.

Well, I don't know if it's a nice graph, but here's one.

At first I was going to do this with bins of deletion percentage 5% or 2.5% wide and count how many users are in each. But that doesn't really work very well, because the user post counts don't distribute evenly into those bins. For example, think what happens for all the users with 5 posts: they can only get counted in the 0%, 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, or 100% columns. So you get weird spikes that don't really mean anything due to having way more bins than posts for most users. It needs to be the other way around for this to work.

So instead of that, I sorted every user from highest to lowest deletion percentage, and made a column for each user who has at least 1 post on any of the sub-sites. This gives steps at each deletion percentage, where the width of each step tells you how many users are at that deletion percentage.

So you can see a wide band at the beginning that's at 100%, and that's the SEO/spammers mostly. You can see discrete steps caused mainly by low post count users (e.g. lots of people have 2 posts with 1 deletion, so there's a big step at 50%).

Then it smooths out as you get into the high post count users, before fairly rapidly curving down to zero percent. It curves down rapidly because to get such low (but non-zero) deletion percentages, you have to have a lot of posts, and there aren't many users who do. The zero percent step is very, very long because of lots of low post count users who've never had one deleted.
posted by FishBike at 4:16 PM on December 22, 2009


I spent five U.S. dollars for this experience

Because this comes up a lot from new users: not quite. You made a $5 donation to help pay for the costs of running the site. Nothing is guaranteed, and there are no refunds. From the new user signup page:
Due to the bursting size of the community, its use of resources, and the cost of running the servers, all new users have a one-time $5 charge, to help defray these costs.
Consider it charity—a way to keep MetaFilter a well-run and interesting place to be for all—rather than the exchange of money for a service. Do that, and I think your experience of the site will change for the better.
posted by armage at 4:53 PM on December 22, 2009


I like to think Mathowie used my 5 dollar bill to light his cigar.
posted by qvantamon at 5:26 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I reckon one of the biggest changes in Metatalk over the past 4 or 5 years has been the growing prevalence of a kind of thinking about features that starts out 'I like this or dislike (this) and therefore (this) really ought to be the way it works for all of the thousands of people here' over the kind of thinking that stars out 'what would be the result of (this) to the community of thousands of people if it were changed'. That makes thinking about pony requests a lot less fun.

Also, I recommend that ALL posts be automatically deleted every day except one random lucky winner, and we have to use a greasemonkey script or offsite blog to read the others, because.... well, OK, I haven't thought through the 'because' bit yet, I admit.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:52 PM on December 22, 2009


Because this comes up a lot from new users: not quite.

Despite however you may word it, I'm pretty sure the vast majority of people here paid the five dollars in order to join, because that's what you have to do to join. His statement is perfectly true.
posted by floam at 6:06 PM on December 22, 2009


I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

>Apparently, you're just going to insult people instead. Which is far less mature.


A second-hand zing impugning someone's wit says more about the zinger's lack of cleverness than the zingee's; you can teach a parrot lines from Monkey Business, but that don't make it SJ Perelman.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:42 PM on December 22, 2009


I hate to flog a sleeping horse, but I've given the matter some more thought and would like to suggest that a special exception to the nonundelete policy be made in the case of posts that are doubles.

If you grant bad posts the right to live on then you grant some bad posters the possibility of an audience, so I'll agree that many deleted posts should remain invisible. But doubles are different. Doubles aren't bad in the same way that other deleted posts are bad.

My impression is that a significant fraction of deletions are due to doubling. And of these, a significant fraction are doubles of posts that did not happen recently. I don't have hard numbers for this claim (a full quantitative analysis is hindered by the often very creative verbiage used by mods to indicate doubling), but it does seem significant.

One of the main benefits for me in being able to see deleted posts is that I can see posts about interesting things - so interesting that they were posted twice! - that I missed on the first go-round. If deletion reasons were somehow labeled DOUBLE or OTHER then an option to present the doubles would be feasible.

Also, I'd like to apologize to anyone who may have taken offense at an earlier remark, which, at this moment, remains undeleted.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:34 AM on December 23, 2009


To be blunter than before: it's not about you or what you want. It's about what works in the aggregate, how seemingly small decisions about the way the site works in the particular and the general are amplified by the collective behaviour of the thousands of users who create it.

It's also about moderation and moderators, new as that regime is in the longer history of the site, being able to make decisions on the fly about grey areas, make judgement calls about what's best, and being able preserve the human touch in their pruning as much as possible as the site scales, however well.

This windmill: you'd probably be well advised to leave off tilting at it. But feel free to continue in your descent to quixotinage, if you like. It's your dime.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:55 AM on December 23, 2009


Shorter version: read the Metatalk archives. Every damned word.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:56 AM on December 23, 2009


it's not about you or what you want. It's about what works in the aggregate

I just don't see how an ability to see doubles hurts the aggregate. I think it might actually help. Me... I can already do that.

There's a reason that "feature requests" is a viable tag for MetaTalk, right?
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:01 AM on December 23, 2009


Well, fair enough. There's an argument to be made there. But there's a massive amount of conceptual inertia that's built up over the last decade that counter-militates, so: uphill battle, at best.

It's the mission of Metatalk to talk this stuff out (over and over again), so it's all good.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:05 AM on December 23, 2009


If the whole issue of "favorites - good or bad" is any indication, the best I can hope for is endless rounds of discussion eventually producing an option menu on a preference page. But still, it doesn't hurt to talk...
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:11 AM on December 23, 2009


Your taking too much away from that experience; the best you can hope for is no change.
posted by Mitheral at 4:30 AM on December 23, 2009


No, man, the best we can hope for is a pony, a real, live pony to call our own. I'll name mine Twinklebums the Fastidious Terwilliger.
posted by Kattullus at 4:49 AM on December 23, 2009


My pony is called Weaselbelly the Everlasting Dieselspark.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:03 AM on December 23, 2009


On December 17, 18, and 19 the majority of deleted posts were deleted because they were doubles.

The last few days this hasn't been true, but I blame that on the fact that everybody gets nastier around the end of the year.

From Dec. 17 - 19 the date for doubles of the previous post ranged from several days to a couple years, with no particular cluster at either end of the scale.

Anyway, the impression that many deleted posts are doubles, and that many of the doubles are unintentional doubles, seems correct.

So I advocate for the visibility of these posts.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:16 AM on December 23, 2009


I hate to flog a sleeping horse
Show don't tell.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:32 AM on December 23, 2009


Here are the deleted doubles from Dec. 17 - 19, in reverse order:
  • Virtual haircut
  • I live in a van
  • Can I still eat this
  • Some guy's basement
  • English to foreigners
  • Market Street

    The last one was a double of a post from four years ago.

    The comments for these posts often couple gratitude on the part of Metafilter users with remorse on the part of the poster for not knowing that it was a double.

    I know three days is not a big enough sample. Find a way to automate this and I'll do more.




  • posted by twoleftfeet at 5:48 AM on December 23, 2009


    The new post page does check the URL against deleted posts. It didn't catch those because they all seem to use different URLs to the doubled content. For instance, salon redesigned their URLs at some point, so the link to the van story changed. And the virtual haircut link is someone putting MP3s up as a YouTube video. If someone now tries to post those new URLs again, they will be flagged as double.
    posted by smackfu at 6:14 AM on December 23, 2009


    The new post page does check the URL against deleted posts.

    Really? It gives you a link to a deleted post?

    Interesting.
    posted by twoleftfeet at 6:28 AM on December 23, 2009


    More to the point, simple URL checking won't catch doubles and neither will keyword searches. There's no way to automate "same content in a different package".

    I very much like the idea that a reasonable person might discover a new thing, maybe something no one else knows about - a new discovery! - and would run naked through the streets shouting "Eureka!" about it, or at least post it on MetaFilter. And then jaded, world-weary minds would look it over and pronounce it nearly identical to some almost forgotten experience of long ago. But fresher minds would see it anew and themselves go running naked through the streets.

    Mostly I like the idea of lots of people running naked in the streets.
    posted by twoleftfeet at 6:46 AM on December 23, 2009


    Aren't many doubles allowed to stand when the original post is old enough, and significant new material is provided?
    posted by Dr Dracator at 7:16 AM on December 23, 2009


    One of the main benefits for me in being able to see deleted posts is that I can see posts about interesting things - so interesting that they were posted twice! - that I missed on the first go-round. If deletion reasons were somehow labeled DOUBLE or OTHER then an option to present the doubles would be feasible.

    We are not going to introduce some more explicit or granular form of categorizing deletions in order to prop up a visible deletions feature that we're not going to implement, no.

    For doubles, specifically, we will sometimes let a double stand if there's a confluence of factors like it having been a long time since the previous post was made, there being significant new content since the previous post, the thing being just mind-breakingly awesome, there being some compelling context-specific whammy factor X to the situation, etc. But that's the exception to the rule, a bit of flexibility in what is otherwise by intention a very simple and straightforward process for keeping the front page relatively clean. It's not something we intend to change.

    You know how to see deleted posts. Anybody else who wants to see them can figure it out pretty damned easily as well. That is good enough.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 7:22 AM on December 23, 2009


    You know, cortex, I would never question your handling of any context-specific whammy factor X. I just don't really get why it's all that important to delete doubles as completely as you would delete other posts. It's not that big a deal to me. Just curious.
    posted by twoleftfeet at 7:38 AM on December 23, 2009


    I very much like the idea that a reasonable person might discover a new thing, maybe something no one else knows about - a new discovery! - and would run naked through the streets shouting "Eureka!" about it, or at least post it on MetaFilter. And then jaded, world-weary minds would look it over and pronounce it nearly identical to some almost forgotten experience of long ago. But fresher minds would see it anew and themselves go running naked through the streets.

    ... but they wouldn't be able to discuss it with other MeFites, since we're still talking about a deleted post that doesn't allow any more comments to be posted in the thread, right?

    What I'm saying is, the logical next step seems to be to allow comments to continue as well, if a significant number of people haven't seen the link before, and it's sufficiently interesting.

    We already have that feature: it's called not deleting the post if there are good reasons to keep it, even when it's a double. And if there aren't good reasons to keep it, I suggest there aren't good reasons for that particular deleted post to get special visibility, either.
    posted by FishBike at 7:45 AM on December 23, 2009


    We delete all posts the same way, with one mechanism. Adding a separate mechanism, creating two classes of deleted posts, does not solve a problem for MetaFilter and involves building some new interface and altering our behavior.

    We'd do it if it seemed to create a sitewide benefit, but I don't think it does. There is already a way to get access to deleted posts. You can do the extra work to look for the word "double" or "previously" or an HTML link in the deletion reason which almost always means it's a double.

    I'm aware that this is something you'd personally like, but I'm not convinced at all that it's something users are clamoring for and that's generally our litmus test for adding a feature.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:46 AM on December 23, 2009


    I just don't really get why it's all that important to delete doubles as completely as you would delete other posts.

    It's a question of whether drawing functional distinction is worth the payoff. I see very little payoff for a fair amount of initial implementation and ongoing community-maintenance work.

    In other words, the question I'm asking is not "why it's important to treat doubles the same" but rather "why it would be important to treat doubles functionally differently". Without a sufficiently compelling answer—and I don't believe there is one—it's pretty much by definition not something we're going to look at supporting through some change to administrative practice and site featureset.

    I know that a less-granular approach to anything will mean a larger set of possible exceptions to what's handled perfectly by the system, but our exception cases have not been nearly voluminous enough to even hit our radar as something worth making an adjustment for, basically. The simple system we have now serves the community pretty well and has done so for years, it's not something we're like to futz with without a really big motivation to do so.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 8:03 AM on December 23, 2009


    We delete all posts the same way, with one mechanism.

    It seems unlikely that I'll persuade you to rewrite all your code for this. But will you admit that double posts aren't as bad as other deleted posts?

    I've found some nice stuff by seeing deleted doubles. Sometimes people put a lot of effort into a double post without even realizing that it's a double. And other people make wonderful comments. And then somebody points out that it's a double and that's it.

    There's some valuable user-generated content there that I can't see because it's treated the same way you have to treat SEO/Spam posts.

    But anyhow, I don't always get what I want for Christmas either.

    A boy can still dream...
    posted by twoleftfeet at 8:10 AM on December 23, 2009


    It seems unlikely that I'll persuade you to rewrite all your code for this. But will you admit that double posts aren't as bad as other deleted posts?

    And? Accidental double posts aren't as bad in one sense as knowing-but-thought-it'd-make-the-cut double posts. Doubles aren't as bad as axegrindy posts. Axegrindy posts by some community metrics aren't as bad as spam, and by other metrics are worse. Etc. We could establish a whole network graph of comparative value of different classes of deleted posts if we wanted to go down that rabbit hole, but man oh man do we not want to do so for any practical community-moderation purposes.

    You are welcome to track deletions and do something interesting with the resulting data, it could probably be a fun analytical project. Build it up, turn it into a conceptual map of deletions, a counterpart to the deleted threads blog or something. Surface that valuable user-generated content. Post it to Projects when it's in good shape.

    But that has nothing to do with our existing practice of deleting doubles and treating all deletions the same. The distinction between kinds of deletable posts is not sufficiently meaningful to need canonization through site policy and deletion implementation.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 8:23 AM on December 23, 2009


    An elaborate taxonomy of deletion-types seems most impractical. The ones that are simply doubles (same content at different times) would be easier to detect. Easier than axegrindy posts, anyway.

    And yeah, I could do all this myself, but what's the point of a "feature requests" tag for MetaTalk if I can't try to get you to do all the work?
    posted by twoleftfeet at 8:44 AM on December 23, 2009


    twoleftfeet: please hold still while I calibrate my dickpunch-over-IP service.
    posted by Burhanistan at 8:48 AM on December 23, 2009


    what's the point of a "feature requests" tag for MetaTalk if I can't try to get you to do all the work?

    Well, generally it works something like this:

    Poster: "I'd like to see this change to metafilter."
    Mods: "Hmm. Yeah, that's worth doing."
    Poster: "Cool, thanks."

    Or like this:

    Poster: "I'd like to see this change to metafilter."
    Mods: "No, we're not gonna do that."
    Poster: "Cool, thanks."

    Usually not so much like this:

    Poster: "I'd like to see this change to metafilter."
    Mods: "No, we're not gonna do that."
    Poster: "That is not the correct answer."

    I realize you may just be bored and worrying at this bone for the heck of it, but I'm not sure how many times we're supposed to say no again, here. Your initial idea is not going to happen. Your revised idea is not going to happen. There's not really a number of times you can tell us we should make a change after which we're going to just flip our thinking and make that change.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 8:50 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


    Cool, thanks.
    posted by twoleftfeet at 9:09 AM on December 23, 2009


    twoleftfeet writes "And then jaded, world-weary minds would look it over and pronounce it nearly identical to some almost forgotten experience of long ago. But fresher minds would see it anew and themselves go running naked through the streets."

    And

    twoleftfeet writes "There's some valuable user-generated content there that I can't see because it's treated the same way you have to treat SEO/Spam posts. "

    You, and anyone else wanting to expose themselves in public, can see it fine. Both indirectly via deleted post greasemonkeyry and directly by viewing the original posts. All possible double posts are available here, just start at the beginning and work your way forward.
    posted by Mitheral at 9:21 AM on December 23, 2009


    will you admit that double posts aren't as bad as other deleted posts?

    And in case this needs to be said, yes you're totally right. That said, there's nothing particularly "bad" about any deleted post with the few exceptions of SEO jerks and the occasional "posting while crazy/drunk/angry" posts, both of which we'd prefer not to see at all.

    I know that for posters it's tough to see your post go away, but from our vantage point there's no "this is a bad post and you are a bad person for making it" general feeling if someone's making a post in good faith.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:38 AM on December 23, 2009


    On April Fools Day, can you set up an FPP about Sarah Palin, and disable comments -- then populate the comments with deleted comments from other FPPs that day?

    only visible to logged-in folks, of course

    Ok, cool.
    posted by davejay at 8:03 PM on December 23, 2009


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