Help a friend and fellow mefite in need! November 30, 2010 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Calling all mefites! Please help scalefree!

Scalefree is an awesome dude. I met him once, here in Philly, and he told me many cool stories about his work as a computer security consultant. He's an awesome Mefite, and I really like the guy! Unfortunately, his home recently burned to the ground, and he lost all of his possessions. Please help him rebuild his life! Even a buck or two would mean the world. You can donate here. Thank you!
posted by two lights above the sea to MetaFilter-Related at 8:42 AM (89 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Also, here is the related Askme!
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:49 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


That Askme question bothered me because he had the same story on his profile and a link to Paypal as soon as it went live so it seemed like pretty much just directing people to his donation link. I know people sometimes post stuff like this to help other popular users and something behind the scenes could be just as calculated and he probably really does need help so it's not really cut and dry, but AskMe posts soliciting funds for personal use make me uncomfortable.

Anyway the question stood and I hope scalefree comes out ok.
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:51 AM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


The AskMe post is explicitly not soliciting funds. "I'm looking for ideas, tips, stories & practical suggestions for starting over".

I'm guessing scalefree also knows that his post would come under some scrutiny, that we probably wouldn't let a brand-new user do this, and that in the end MeFites will help him out.
posted by knile at 8:55 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


thirteenkiller, I didn't take his AskMe as soliciting for funds. He never asks for it in his post, and if you had never said anything: I would never have known about the link in his profile.

Here's well wishes and prayers that he gets back on his feet quickly.
posted by royalsong at 8:58 AM on November 30, 2010


thirteenkiller I thought the same when I visited his profile, but he's been a member since 2005. So, I felt better about the whole thing. Wishing Scalefree all the best.
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 9:02 AM on November 30, 2010


Ferchristssake, the dude's house just burnt down and he's looking for some support. Like I said in the askme, I couldn't imagine being in that situation. As far as I can tell (I am not a mod), he didn't break any guidelines. No one is forcing you to help him, or even acknowledge his situation, but shitting on a cry for help is just cruel.
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:02 AM on November 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


His apartment building really did burn down. It's likely that scalefree doesn't even know that this MeTa exists yet; I'm pretty sure two lights above the sea was just motivated by "holy shit we have to help our dude."

I could imagine that the Ask/MeTa might seem a bit odd if you don't know either scalefree or two lights? Maybe this thread would be better as a Meetup/benefit in Philly?
posted by desuetude at 9:04 AM on November 30, 2010


Two lights, I didn't post in the askme or start a Metatalk or contact anyone about anything. I'm just saying how I feel.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:05 AM on November 30, 2010


Man, I'm sorry that scalefree has to go through this and hope that he hits the ground running.

That said, lots of people who frequent this website are hit with real life hardships and wouldn't turn to Metafilter directly for assistance. Forgive me if this seems insensitive, but I humbly suggest that rather than a general solicitation, you organize something more local to Philly. Maybe even some kind of benefit themed meetup where scalefree sees some of the proceeds as well as some kind of starter fund or donation to a service that assists people in his situation. Pooling together in real life can have more lasting effects than requests for donations, although certainly donations are plenty useful. Best of luck.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:05 AM on November 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


AskMe posts soliciting funds for personal use make me uncomfortable.

Me too generally speaking but we've been talking to scalefree this week and this sort of approach [put a post in AskMe to talk to local folks about what's going on, move forward from there] was basically the only one that we thought was okay. It's a serious, verifiable emergency and I didn't see any reasonable way to say "keep it to yourself, man"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:05 AM on November 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


That (ENTIRELY legitimate) question is producing some serious responses from people who lost everything one way or another that are inspiring and humbling. This doesn't need to be a big deal, this sort of crisis has come up very rarely and scalefree certainly hasn't done anything wrong.
posted by nanojath at 9:07 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sounds good jessamyn.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:07 AM on November 30, 2010


I'm sorry if this makes some people uncomfortable, and there's an IRL in the works (I'm talking to scalefree about it.) I don't know how he'd feel about attending a meetup when he pretty much has nothing to his name, so I thought that this was a good first step.

I really have only met Scalefree once, so I doubt I could really even be considered as his "friend". I'm just doing this as a fellow mefite. Perhaps I should have been less obvious about asking for donations? I'm not sure. All I know is, a good mefite has been through some hell, and I feel I should help.
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:13 AM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anything OK with jessamyn is OK with me. This is a community and we have seniors and we have leaders. I trust them. Count me in for a donation.
posted by Pennyblack at 9:13 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dog Food Sugar has some of the best advice in the whole askme:

- not listening to people who said insensitive weird stuff. People are clueless to what you're dealing with often unfortunately. I wish I had been better at ignoring their ignorance, shrugged their comments off and just moved forward with my needs.

Sage advice.

The fire was real, the situation is now, and a MeFite is in a very difficult place for any human being. I donated -- though it was perfectly, 100% clear to me that scalefree was not asking for money by asking the question.
posted by fake at 9:20 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I should have been less obvious about asking for donations? I'm not sure. All I know is, a good mefite has been through some hell, and I feel I should help.

Don't worry about it, you're doing a good thing. I know it's a hard situation.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:22 AM on November 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I didn't have a problem with the AskMe question (I've been struggling with whether or not to share my own Hurricane Charley experience there), but this MeTa made me a little uncomfortable too. The whole u.n. owen thing started exactly this way, with her posting an ENTIRELY legitimate AskMe looking for advice, somebody else starting a MeTa thread asking for donations, and crap hitting the fan in a way that people still haven't forgotten years later.
posted by Gator at 9:22 AM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you are donating, realize that the Paypal one click is set to $5.00 default. I'm not saying $5.00 is not enough, I'm just saying.
posted by Pennyblack at 9:24 AM on November 30, 2010


I didn't do the secret quonsar so this is just fine with me. It's a situation that would seriously suck at any time of year, but the timing adds insult to injury. Good luck, scalefree.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:25 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have any money to donate, but I am living in Philadelphia and am going to be moving out of the country in two weeks. I have some furniture, dishes, clothes and other mundane items that I would happily donate to scalefree. I don't have a car though, so someone else would need to help with transportation.
posted by 256 at 9:25 AM on November 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


The whole u.n. owen thing started exactly this way

Yes, true, that's about learning from mistakes, which is something we all have difficulty with.

But here's another difficult thing: giving our fellow human beings the benefit of the doubt, and trusting them to be good in the face of hardship.

It's easy to be a snarking keyboard skeptic in a warm home somewhere, or to spend free time calling up bad memories from the unforgetting comment history here. It's easy to doubt.

As a community, sometimes we could improve on the hard stuff: trusting the moderators due diligence, trusting our members to speak the truth, and trusting others motivations for helping out -- however they choose to do so, whether that's with advice, cash, calls, or words of support.
posted by fake at 9:31 AM on November 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


That Askme question bothered me because he had the same story on his profile and a link to Paypal as soon as it went live so it seemed like pretty much just directing people to his donation link.

He links to PayPal in his profile, yes. People put so, so many things in their profile. Many of them are intended for their financial benefit (e.g. people link to their blog that makes money based on traffic, people link to their LinkedIn profiles that function as resumes, etc.). It's inevitable that a lot of AskMe questions are going to be reflected in the asker's profile content, since both of those things reflect what's important to the person. Considering that scalefree's home was just destroyed, it's not surprising that one of the most important things going on with him is trying to improve his situation.

I don't know that it's ever appropriate to criticize someone for posting an AskMe question while having profile content that refers to the same topic (when the AskMe question doesn't say anything about "check out my profile..."), but this seems like exactly not the time to make that criticism.
posted by John Cohen at 9:32 AM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have a few bucks left over in my paypal account, and it's yours. It's not much, but I have a roof over my head and work in the docket.

Fire is also one of the few things that actually terrifies me. I'm comforted by the fact my old building is mainly concrete and brick and has a very active networked fire alarm system and what appear to be working sprinklers. Also - it rains a lot in Seattle.
posted by loquacious at 9:35 AM on November 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's easy to doubt.

It's also reasonable and understandable.
posted by nomadicink at 9:35 AM on November 30, 2010


Ok, Philly folks (and those who are visiting!), scalefree got back to me, and I have propsed a meet up.
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:36 AM on November 30, 2010


I don't get why this is all of a sudden frowned upon. I've certainly seen similar MeTa threads about members in distress and this is the first time I'm noticing the "Not Cool" brigade. Weird.

Anyhow. I've put a drop in the proverbial bucket. Wish it could have been a bigger drop, but so it goes.
posted by sonika at 9:36 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hi everybody. I'm not a big "lean on others" kind of guy but I am in a tough spot & I've seen MeFi pull together for others before. FWIW I did go to the mods before putting this together & ask how to approach the problem. We came up with what seems like a reasonable compromise, that I shouldn't make any direct appeal in a post or comment because we've seen how that can go south, but if I put something in my profile & people find it on their own, that shouldn't be a problem. And also FWIW I didn't ask anybody to post this for me either, directly or indirectly. I appreciate all the help & support, & honestly I think the words mean as much as the money, if not more. For me the answers are a big help in a dark time; it's not just a vehicle for pointing people to a PayPal button.
posted by scalefree at 9:38 AM on November 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's easy to doubt.

It's also reasonable and understandable.


Agreed 100%.
posted by fake at 9:44 AM on November 30, 2010


The mod comments from this thread are the kind of concerns I had in mind.

(Again, I had zero problem with the AskMe question and have been trying to decide whether my own disaster experience would be helpful there.)
posted by Gator at 9:46 AM on November 30, 2010


I dont have paypal is there another way to send money other then via computer to help out scalefree.
posted by clavdivs at 9:47 AM on November 30, 2010


This weirds me out slightly given this. But what the hell, I'll give a guy the benefit of the doubt. And if he's not for real, I'm just out 5 bucks.
posted by amro at 9:50 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know I should search so that I can link to specifics, but I am time crunched and shouldn't even be writing -- but I know that in the past many years I've seen several "help out this MeFite" posts, and ordinarily the MeTa is full of love and talk about what a great idea it is and how can we support in some way and wow, Metafilter is a great community.

And most people loved the idea of adopting a (non MeFi) family or two to send gifts to for the holiday season.

My recollection is that the previous posts have involved a member more "in crowd" (and maybe scalefree is totally "in" too, I don't know), and I get that the adopting the family is just a darn nice thing to do.

But that AskMe doesn't sound at all like he's soliciting funds, and I do not get the negative vibe here in MeTa. The man lost his home, and I don't think putting a paypal link in his profile is really outrageous. And I don't think that a fellow MeFite being moved to post an opportunity for help is a bad thing.

I get that we can't help everyone and MeTa can't be overrun with pleas for help and it's a fine line and all that, but there's a precedent for this type of post, and really, if you're not cool with it, email a mod and suggest this type of thing be banned altogether or flag it and move on.
posted by mrs. taters at 9:52 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Clothing: What size do you wear for pants? Shirts? Would you take some gently used clothes? (I draw the line at underwear)

Eyeglasses: What is your prescription? Perhaps MeFites have some old, no longer used glasses.
posted by adipocere at 9:53 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good idea adipcere.
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:57 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


sonika: "I don't get why this is all of a sudden frowned upon."

Not frowned upon, necessarily, but reservations have definitely been expressed in the past regarding how much of a community fundraising sort of function MetaFilter should fulfill. Gator links to one of the big threads, but I remember it coming up tangentially in other major threads as well.

I can understand both sides of the argument, and am a little conflicted on what I think from a policy standpoint, but scalefree, I am SO sorry to hear of what has happened to you. That must be so horrifying. Count me among the Paypal brigade.
posted by Phire at 10:01 AM on November 30, 2010


Scalefree probably needs a MeFi shirt for every day of the week now.

And I'll chip in. MeFi came through for me in a big way, and (like I've been talking about with gman), I knew that someone else was going to need help sooner or later.

It might not be much (I'm freelancin' now!) but hey, buy yourself some Tastykakes or something.
posted by klangklangston at 10:02 AM on November 30, 2010


Clothing: What size do you wear for pants? Shirts? Would you take some gently used clothes?

44/30 for pants & I forget my fitted shirt size but basically XL.

Eyeglasses: What is your prescription?

Erm, no idea. This I'll have to go in for I think.
posted by scalefree at 10:32 AM on November 30, 2010


I dont have paypal is there another way to send money other then via computer to help out scalefree.

That's OK, you can give it to a worthy charity instead. Red Cross was amazingly helpful to me, I think they deserve it.
posted by scalefree at 10:35 AM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Scalefree- I also posted in the AskMe, but did you talk to the Red Cross about being out your glasses? They may be able to help you replace them via money or a voucher or some combination thereof. We often do that at my chapter.
posted by rollbiz at 11:08 AM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


That didn't come up, but it's a good idea. I definitely need to find out what they can offer now.
posted by scalefree at 11:14 AM on November 30, 2010


Scalefree, good luck.

I don't see anything wrong with a discussion on whether or not this is appropriate. I see Metafilter as one of the few communities that I voluntarily joined; something I want to be part of. And in general this community is very skeptical of "internet beggers" (see). However it is my firm belief that you should take care of the people in your community. Clearly this sort of thing is a last resort, and I think that bar is met here.

So continue to to be skeptical, but help a mefite out if you can.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:15 AM on November 30, 2010


Just saw your reply in the AskMe, scalefree. Definitely do follow up with them. Basically, it's like this: The people who come in the red vests at 3AM are primarily concerned about your first 72 hours. The people in the office can help with much more than that, possibly up to and including stuff like assistance with a security deposit for a new place, for example.

I'm one of the "3AM red vest" guys, so I don't know as much about how the office functions (especially at a chapter in PA), but they can probably help you with more than they already have.

Like I said, please feel free to use me as a resource for anything Red Cross related (besides getting the actual assistance, of course). I wish you the best, I really do. I've never been burned out, but I've been present for the experience many, many times. It's still a hard thing for me to see.

I asked for people to donate to the chapter I operate out of for my birthday. A few people didn't listen, so I'm gonna send that money your way instead.
posted by rollbiz at 11:22 AM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


The whole u.n. owen thing started exactly this way, with her posting an ENTIRELY legitimate AskMe looking for advice, somebody else starting a MeTa thread asking for donations, and crap hitting the fan in a way that people still haven't forgotten years later.

Man, gator. Why ya gotta bring that up? I ain't ever going to live that down.

/sonofamotherfreakingbeotch.

Seriously though - I'm the first to call cynic on all kinds of stuff on a regular basis. But at the end of the day, I give money to strangers on the street who may or may not be drinking, smoking or snorting what I hand them. There are worse ways to get taken for a few bucks.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:34 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, just as an info piece for folks considering money vs. stuff who have the luxury of giving either: Stuff can be great, but money is very versatile in a rapidly evolving situation like recovering from a disaster. This is the reason that the Red Cross generally provides the latter. A box full of food isn't much good to someone who doesn't have a place to store it, a stove to cook it on, or a plate and utensils to eat it with.

Lastly, for those who read and respond on the Green more than I do: Please feel free to direct people facing disaster displacements like this to me, or to direct me to their questions. I'm always more than happy to provide the advice if I know it's needed.
posted by rollbiz at 11:38 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just chipped in a fiver. I'm so grateful that my request for help to loquacious was met without skepticism, as should this be.
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:19 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone here is "skeptical" more making meta-commentary about the use of the site for such things, as people are wont to do here. It may or may not be insensitive to do so, but it's not the same as being skeptical about the motives of the posters.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:21 PM on November 30, 2010


Its more the un owen references that strike me as skeptical.
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:29 PM on November 30, 2010


If you donate, write a small note if possible. Even just "hi" or "here you go"

Paypal shut my account down because of lots of small donations with no note (well, that's what they said, anyway).

Good luck, scalefree.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:35 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good luck.
posted by griphus at 12:54 PM on November 30, 2010


This weirds me out slightly given this.

Yes, what are the odds that someone would be in a tough spot financially twice in four years? Oh, right--they're very high.

I mean, yeah, I am generally skeptical of people hitting up the Intertubes for money, especially when they do it frequently, but "twice in four years" isn't exactly frequently.

scalefree, best of luck post-fire. Nth-ing the "get the Red Cross to take care of your eyeglasses situation" because they do do that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:21 PM on November 30, 2010


I am kind of lacking cash right now, but have some miscellaneous household things (like a toaster) if you want. It seems like there's been a lot of fire around the last few months.
posted by sepviva at 1:57 PM on November 30, 2010


> This weirds me out slightly given this.

Eh, I just read that as someone that had the idea for Kickstarter before there was a Kickstarter.

> shitting on a cry for help is just cruel.

The problem is when is it OK? Some people said, "Hey, the user's been on here a while, so it's OK." Got it. No help for new users. "It's was verifiable." Got it. Must have proof. "Someone else posted the request!" Got it. If you need help don't ask for it. Etc. I am guessing that any given mefite will have a 50% chance of having a major life event in any given 5 year period of time. So who decides who's worthy?

I'm making no judgements on any request for help, I am just pointing out that each individual decides for themselves which stories are worthwhile, so it's not always the best metafilter fit.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:33 PM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


There but for the grace of God ... I hope I'm never in the position to have to beg for hand-outs from strangers on the internet.
posted by crunchland at 3:24 PM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


One thing that struck me when I read scalefree's Ask post was how many people with experience of this replied saying: Lean on your community. How well you recover depends on the strength of your community.

Scalefree is a member here and the way I see things at least, that means we are his community. That doesn't mean you have to agree and it doesn't mean everyone has to step up, but I think it does mean we have to give others the opportunity to help if they want to. I wouldn't have know about this without this MeTa post and I'm glad it's here.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:11 PM on November 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


Couldn't have said it better myself, DarlingBri. And for the record, speaking only for myself: I'd rather be the guy who got burned for $10 a hundred times than to be in a position to kick a couple bucks and not do it because I wasn't absolutely a million percent sure with 95 bullet pointed incontrovertible pieces of evidence of the need.
posted by rollbiz at 4:36 PM on November 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow, guys! Thanks for all the support for scalefree. I just want to make a point that we're up $565 since this morning, for a total of $715. That is incredible, and we should be very proud that we are part of this community. I know I am.
posted by two lights above the sea at 4:56 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd rather be the guy who got burned for $10 a hundred times than to be in a position to kick a couple bucks and not do it because I wasn't absolutely a million percent sure with 95 bullet pointed incontrovertible pieces of evidence of the need.

Those aren't the only two options.

I was glad to contribute to scalefree, but I am also glad to be skeptical about Internet pleas for money in general.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:09 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those aren't the only two options.

I was glad to contribute to scalefree, but I am also glad to be skeptical about Internet pleas for money in general.


You are absolutely correct. I am fine with skepticism and wouldn't want MetaAnything to turn into a place to plead for money on the daily. We're walking a very fine line here, I get that too.

I guess what I am saying is that I look at this like I do our justice system: I'd personally rather look foolish funding a fraud than not meet a genuine need, especially when my skin in the game is so little in terms of dollars.
posted by rollbiz at 5:24 PM on November 30, 2010


I'd personally rather look foolish funding a fraud than not meet a genuine need, especially when my skin in the game is so little in terms of dollars.

I hear you! But I also think that doing some due diligence in distinguishing the frauds from the cases of genuine need helps assure that the folks with genuine need get the necessary help.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:33 PM on November 30, 2010


I also think that doing some due diligence in distinguishing the frauds from the cases of genuine need helps assure that the folks with genuine need get the necessary help.

We have no disagreement whatsoever.
posted by rollbiz at 5:42 PM on November 30, 2010


So now I finally know what George Bailey feels like at the end of It's a Wonderful Life. And I don't mind the skepticism at all, I think it's a healthy part of the community process.

Eh, I just read that as someone that had the idea for Kickstarter before there was a Kickstarter.

That's me, always ahead of the curve. And letting someone else make their fortune on it.
posted by scalefree at 5:50 PM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I trust our mods, and when jessamyn said it was "a serious, verifiable emergency", I took it as fact. I agree that you can't just jump on every "I need help" bandwagon, but if the mods have checked it out, I'm in.
posted by garnetgirl at 6:11 PM on November 30, 2010


JESSAMYN SAID IT
I BELIEVE IT
THAT SETTLES IT


I may have some clothes to send, too. Has an address already been posted?
posted by jtron at 7:07 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've run from a burning building before -- not fun. Hope things mellow out for you soon, scalefree.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:15 PM on November 30, 2010


I may have some clothes to send, too. Has an address already been posted?

I haven't posted a shipping address. I'll send one in email to anybody who asks though.
posted by scalefree at 7:27 PM on November 30, 2010


The question that scalefree posted was totally fine. Ask.me does an awesome job of giving information and support when you're in 'what the fuck' mode and not sure where to start. And people can put whatever they like in their profile, how that was handled was all good.

But begging in metatalk, even by proxy like this, makes me uncomfortable and we've seen more of it in the past year. I can only see it continuing to increase as people realise there's a resource here to be tapped, and that makes me even more uncomfortable. Now we have a precedent it gets harder to say no to each new hard luck story (which leads to judgement calls about how loved by the community you are versus how shitty your situation currently is or whatever, which makes me the most uncomfortable of all). I, personally, would be happy with the line drawn here and posts like this no longer being allowed.

This has nothing against scalefree or two lights personally and yeah, your situation really does suck. But so does a lot of other people's and if everyone in need posted here we'd be overwhelmed, this would become a totally different type of community.
posted by shelleycat at 7:56 PM on November 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


I can see where you're coming from, shelleycat, and indeed, I initially thought the same myself.

But then I thought, "fuck it, in a real community requests for aid and support do indeed crop up regularly - randomly or otherwise. And in a real community, those requests are assessed by its members, sometimes answered and sometimes not - for better and for worse. And, indeed, in some communities repeated requests for aid are regarded as a nuisance and burden, and do indeed change the character of a community."

Further pondering, I then thought, "But in life, and Australian society & politics, I'm generally perturbed and saddened by tendencies to ignore those asking for help, or efforts to ensure they're 'worthy' of what I regard - not as charity, but - as basic rights, namely: a little humanity and generosity from us who have so much. I am especially saddened when I or someone else expresses concern that their tranquility is being disturbed by the ugly spectacle of someone in need - a state the supplicant generally has little control over and certainly no desire to perpetuate. It seems, well, quite unjust, really, and kind of tacky."

So with those thoughts in my head, I now think that I am free to ignore requests for aid as I see fit, but I certainly can't begrudge those asking. Furthermore, if the sanctity or character of my community is disturbed by pleas for aid, then I kind of feel like that's a small price to pay for helping someone ease the harsh, real demands of their corporeal existence.

A community with no such demands may possess a beguiling ataraxia, but firstly, is a community without those demands as real, as thriving as the more complicated community? And secondly, as someone who believes strongly in the notion of citizenship and civic duty, doesn't a community have a right to expect something from its members, if only an open ear?

In this regard, then I say, damn it, give me your poor and huddled mefites - any discomfort I suffer is without question nothing compared to theirs. I may have my doubts, my moral morass, my irritation etc. But that's the price I pay for the kind of community I want - I demand - to live in.

I agree more requests like this will lead to uncomfortable questions, conversations and feelings. It may require negotiation and argument every single time. But I kind of feel like that's a vital part of a truly thriving community, whatever the attendant difficulties.

Forgive me for banging on, but that's my 180' on these situations.
posted by smoke at 10:02 PM on November 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


I have never regretted giving money to someone in need, even when the circumstances seemed sketchy (which this situation does not.) The only regrets I have are when I didn't give and I could have.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:06 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's entirely possible, and not at all contradictory to kick a few bucks scalefree's way and raise questions about the this trends of Metatalk in the same breath.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:11 PM on November 30, 2010


Seeing users like fake, loquacious, and klangklangston being able to step up to the plate and help a brother out is enough to make me skip all the rest of this thread and the opinion-bean-plating being bandied about.

I mean, that's the effing definition of community, right there. Count me in, scalefree, and good on ya, man. Glad you have this community to lean on.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:07 AM on December 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


leads to judgement calls about how loved by the community you are versus how shitty your situation currently is or whatever, which makes me the most uncomfortable of all

Agreed.
posted by smackfu at 5:58 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sidhedevil said, with no inflection in his/her voice because this was in text form, "I am generally skeptical of people hitting up the Intertubes for money, especially when they do it frequently...."

I think it all depends on your relationship to the "hittee" and how much you know about their situation. There's a woman I follow on LiveJournal whom I've known for years who was laid off from a CD/DVD manufacturing plant in Scranton, PA and while she did end up picking up two more jobs to replace the one, there was a time where her junky car and somewhat old computer was acting up on her and she was running out of places where she could scrimp in her budget, so she started selling off her DVDs.

Things got better.... and then her car died again, wiping out the buffer me and her other friends had helped build up, so she sold off even more stuff.

I've known her for almost as long as MetaFilter's been around, and I would never doubt her need for money. And that's generally how I operate when it comes to people passing around the Internet donations hat. How well do I know you? How well do I know the people who are saying I should help you?

(Note: I haven't read up on the un owen thing, but I'm aware of the Kaycee Nicole thing.)
posted by TrishaLynn at 8:41 AM on December 1, 2010


In our area, my brother's the guy on the Red Cross who gets the call when people are displaced by fires. Its kind of odd seeing it from the other end.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:46 AM on December 1, 2010


...is enough to make me skip all the rest of this thread and the opinion-bean-plating being bandied about.

I mean, that's the effing definition of community, right there.


Well, according to you it is. Some people would say skipping what others have to say and glossing over people's concerns, then belittling these concerns as opinion-bean-plating is a crappy way to participate in a community.

Doing donations, regardless of how dire the need, will alienate some people. Judgments will be made (why is this person worthy, and not that one?), errors will happen, people will be overlooked, feelings will be hurt, etc.

Maybe it's just me, but I can do without this kind of drama.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:34 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's just me, but I can do without this kind of drama.

So of all the many kinds of drama that go on everyday on this web site, this is the one you want to declare is just too much?
posted by aught at 12:23 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, this kind of drama is real life.
posted by smackfu at 12:50 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This isn't drama at all. Drama is when someone bitches about another user sending nasty MeMails to them about some internet subject. This is a guy who lost all his shit and needs a leg up.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:52 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Again, I am not making any kind of judgment on this or any other singular case, and saying I can do without the drama isn't me saying "too much." I'm not staking out this hill to die on. I'm just pointing out there's potential pitfalls to allowing these kinds of posts.

I'm done pissing in people's cheerios. I think this is a discussion worth having, but I'm not sure this thread is the venue.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:31 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think this thread is the perfect venue. It is, after all, an actual example of something that many people are dubious about. You put your viewpoint across, others put their's across. Some people feel the need to contribute, others do not. The actual contribution (or not) is completely anonymous as far as Metafilter goes.

I have great respect for the mods on Metafilter. I believe that if a post like this has been vetted by them than it's perfectly a-ok. From there, it's up to us all as individuals to do or do not as we see fit.

Some people have reservations and can see a slippery slope. For myself, I'm happy that the mods have looked at this and, all evidence in hand, have decided that it's something that can be put on the site without fear of it being some kind of scam with people in danger of being duped. I trust them with this because I've read so much on meta over the years about the kinds of things they do to prevent the place becoming an SEO wasteland.

It's just a fact of life that people who disagree with you are not always pleasant about it. That's a universal truth and as great as Metafilter is (in my opinion) it's by no means a place where politeness and tact are valued above opinion and emotion.
posted by h00py at 2:49 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some people have reservations and can see a slippery slope.

It's not the slope I am worried about, but rather the application.

I believe that if a post like this has been vetted by them than it's perfectly a-ok.

This is what I am worried about. So in the future any pleas for assistance that survive should be seen as metafilter approved and fully vetted? Ones that don't should be seen as a scam and the offenders banned?

> Any sort of official nod to this sort of stuff gets us in a position we very badly do not want to be in. -jessamyn


Anyone who is at all familiar with me knows I fully understand that people will often disagree with me. I also am missing where anyone was unpleasant.

In the past I've advocated that there should be a metafilter approved charity or arm of the site dedicated to giving and helping out members or organizations in need. There would be clearly stated criterion for qualifying for assistance as well as what kind of organizations or individuals would be eligible. There were stated reasons as to why this wouldn't work that I agree with.

To leave requests for need to random and arbitrary application is not only unfair it is alienating, confusing and partial.

And the reason I said this thread is not the best venue for this discussion is because, no matter whether or not I state it as so, many people are viewing this as a referendum on scalefree and his situation.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:24 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


To leave requests for need to random and arbitrary application is not only unfair it is alienating, confusing and partial.

And the reason I said this thread is not the best venue for this discussion is because, no matter whether or not I state it as so, many people are viewing this as a referendum on scalefree and his situation.


Sure, maybe it was random that there happened to be a mefite in that apartment building that caught fire, but scalefree went to mods before posting a question, and I saw his question and thought it'd be a great thing to help. This is a real situation with a real human being. His home burnt down, there's no question that he needs help and support right now. The mods are looking for people who are trying to scam us. How could differentiating between the two possibly be random or arbitrary?

If you think that this is some sort of popularity contest, I think you should reassess the situation. Someone's home burnt down. My little sister used to cry at other people's birthday parties, but this is way worse. Yes, someone is getting a lot of attention because he needs it. I'm sorry if that alienates you. I'm sorry for whatever happened to you in your life that you had to go through alone. But some people don't want others to be or feel alone in times like this. It doesn't mean that this community doesn't care about you.

If the mods want to stop these kinds of posts, I have to respect that. But it won't be for the kind of reasons you are bringing up. As others have said, we are learning from our mistakes. The only drama here is from people who can't simply walk away when they disagree with something, especially when someone is so low on luck in life that they need to ask for help.

/rant
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:26 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


You are pretty much exactly proving his point though, where he said this is not the best venue. It's very hard to discuss what the lines of worthiness are when there is a specific example you are pointing to and saying "this is obviously worthy".
posted by smackfu at 8:45 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


two lights, the mods have previously said that these MeTa threads are "a very large behind the scenes headache" and they'd "probably like less of this, not more." They've also acknowledged that there's "so much potential for weirdness and hurt feelings and drama even in the odd this-wasn't-planned situations where things like this arise organically." While they agree with you that "it's worth putting up with a lot of crap if we do wind up helping people," they also point out that "the crap and the help are not evenly distributed." While these comments were made in the context of a discussion about adding a more formalized "HelpMe" section to the site, they're valid concerns with these one-off MeTa threads. (I also notice that the only mod comment in THIS thread so far was from jessamyn assuring us that scalefree's AskMe was okay, and not specifically about this thread or these kinds of threads being okay.)

As far as people not being able to walk away when they disagree with something, that applies to you too, you know. You don't have to agree that these threads may create undesirable precedents, but if some of us think they do, MeTa is the place to discuss it.
posted by Gator at 8:46 AM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'd like to thrown in a couple cents from the perspective of the guy who set this in motion. I think it's a good & healthy thing that there was both skepticism on my claim & pushback on the propriety of my actions. The thing that seems to worry people the most is "what if everybody starts to do it?", which makes it a Tragedy of the Commons type of problem.

If the transaction cost is too low, too many people will take advantage of it & the system is overloaded. If it's too high, the sense of community falls apart under the strain. But there's a middle ground, which I think is where we are, where it's an uncomfortable thing to have to do but if you're feeling like there are no other options this is a place you can go & expect to be given a fair hearing.

And I don't think it's a sign of failure if we have to turn a few people away if they ask too easily. It's the sort of thing that should be difficult but not impossible. I may be wrong but I don't think there's any way to codify it, it should be a constant process of seeking to find the right balance between need & ability. It's messy but so is life. Trust me on that one.

Anyway, food for thought.
posted by scalefree at 9:07 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Good points, scalefree!

Honestly, I saw my post like this:

Metafilter is a mid-sized town. I decided to stand outside of the neighborhood charity with a sign that read "Please help our local fire victim" with a deposit box. No one has to talk to me, no one has to enter the building. The authorities came by, and though they generally frown upon beggars, they felt it was a worthy cause and let me continue to stand here and hold my sign. If they had asked me to leave, I would have complied because they're the experts on what's best for the community. And if you want to come talk to me, great. I'm just standing here, and you have every right to walk right up to me and give me your opinion. But like I said, in this situation I am just standing here and you walked up to me. If you disagree with the fact that I am standing here, arguing about it with me isn't going to do much good, unless you think you can bully me back inside the building.

I realize that my metaphor is a little out there, but my point is that, yes, perhaps the conversation is best held somewhere else. I'd happy to participate in that conversation/thread.
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:28 AM on December 2, 2010


(I also notice that the only mod comment in THIS thread so far was from jessamyn assuring us that scalefree's AskMe was okay, and not specifically about this thread or these kinds of threads being okay.)

Basically where we were when this metatalk went up is: we had heard from scalefree, given him some advice on what we'd be okay with and we wouldn't, he made the askme in a way we were fine with. We'd heard from a couple people about that, on both the "can we do something" and the "I'm not sure I'm comfortable with people running with this" fronts, discussed stuff with them as far as how we were looking at it, and then this metatalk came along.

In my perfect world, there'd be no metatalk post but there'd be a highly responsive set of supportive reactions from people wanting to help out both locally and from afar of their own prerogative and the situation would resolve itself in a happy and discreet way. Which, on a smaller scale, is basically what happens all the time with Askme itself and in lots of under-the-radar interactions between people who have gotten to know each other on this site. There's lots and lots of fundamental generosity to go around here, it's a wonderful thing.

That said, the world we're in is Metafilter, and this is a place where basically all we do is talk to each other; in that context, it's hard to hope for some sort of perfect discretion when you've got tens of thousands of people who are a mix of generous-minded and invested in the community as a whole and a sum of its members. So a metatalk post happening is not really a surprise to me, we basically knew that was a possible-to-likely outcome of scalefree asking the question. And there was no rational approach to that problem that involved telling scalefree he couldn't go to askme for help with his situation, so it's kind of an impossible problem.

That said, this metatalk as much as it falls into the weird territory of acknowledged uncomfortable should-this-be-happening-here stuff we've talked about in the past, isn't a terrible thing and we're okay leaving it up with the understanding that it continues not to be a thing that should casually happen and that when it does happen it's allowed with considerable reservations and we're watching the whole thing very carefully.

I would say that I'd rather the metatalk not have included a direct appeal-for-donations thing because I think that's the most problematic element of this stuff; not that folks can't help a mefite out with some cash if they want to, but it's not going to be hard to figure out how to do that on your own and eliding a direct appeal like that would have I think made a lot of the people who find this kind of thing a source of skeptical concern more comfortable.

Fundamentally, I don't think we can say either that this is or isn't the place for metadiscussion about the phenomenon of "help this mefite out" situations; I appreciate both that people want to defend the spirit of generosity and community-supporting-itself that arises in these situations and that people want to ground this stuff in reasonable concerns about how and when and whether it should be done in public like this, and insofar as folks have been largely doing a good job of discussing it rather than hollering at each other about it in here I think what's gone on is pretty understandable metatalk chatter.

Our policy continues to be that we're not particularly comfortable with stuff in this vein, for reasons of not wanting to encourage similar stuff, of not wanting to have to implicitly "vet" people in trouble as suspect by virtue of being on the receiving end of community generosity, and of not wanting to have other members of the community be made uncomfortable by all the potential weirdness involved, etc. We feel like this situation, in its own right, is something where dealing with our discomfort and the community stress it generates is probably tolerable in light of the shitty situation the fire has put scalefree in, because, shit; but it doesn't make it not complicated and our feeling is not really Two Enthusiastic Thumbs Up so much as here's something we're willing to let happen but we're stressed about and keeping a close eye on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:52 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would say that I'd rather the metatalk not have included a direct appeal-for-donations thing because I think that's the most problematic element of this stuff; not that folks can't help a mefite out with some cash if they want to, but it's not going to be hard to figure out how to do that on your own and eliding a direct appeal like that would have I think made a lot of the people who find this kind of thing a source of skeptical concern more comfortable.

I think you are correct there, and it was one of my first regrets after making this post.

Thanks for stopping in and telling us what's up. I think I'm a bit more naive than others when it comes to this stuff. I was actually surprised that there wasn't already a metatalk about this! I understand the complexity of the situation, and I do feel for those who are uncomfortable with it.
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:10 AM on December 2, 2010


And, to make the unspoken spoken briefly, there is definitely an undercurrent of "What's the criteria?" that people have asked either obliquely or directly and some people seem uncomfortable that the criteria is "The mods decided this was borderline okay."

I do not at all blame them for this discomfort but it's sort of built into having a site that isn't run by robots. There are the occasional judgment calls here that are not, almost by definition CAN not be, community driven. I'm sure there are members of the community who endure various levels of hardships nearly daily and it's clear that appeals for assistance don't scale. And there's an uncomfortable feeling that Person A might get a hand from the community while Person B was denied and the calculus of this is left up to cortex and mathowie and me. And I really don't want to be the person who has to say "Um this MetaTalk asking if anyone can help Person B out is over the line for what's okay" but if it comes to that, we can make that tough decision and take the heat for it. And people can decide how they feel about it and let us know.

Again, we'd prefer there be an offsite solution to this in the future. That's one more datapoint that people have in the event that something like this comes up again which it probably will.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:35 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


FWIW although I am personally glad this was here, I have often wondred if the best way to approach this is with an off-MeFi site for fundraising and updates posted to Projects. Exceptional Projects do get cross-posted to MeTa, and a member's house burning down with virtually all of their belongings is certainly exceptional, so maybe that would work within the rules.

What that would get you is:

1) Donations via Projects
2) More visibility and good wishes linked to but separate from the fundraising

I can't imagine that rebuilding your life isn't a project, so I wonder if that's a good approach.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:56 PM on December 3, 2010


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