Teh Stupid, it hurts September 26, 2011 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Deleted a bunch of comments - let's try this again, was a moderator's comment found in this thread. The thread itself is not important and neither is the link really. What I feel is important is a growing Metafilter trend.

And the name if that trend is "inanity". You see it on threads which involve real science, philosophy or anything that might involve actually knowing something about a subject. The flood of inane posts at the beginning of a new topic is akin to Slashdot's "First Post!" issue and is likely done by the same types of people. Metafilter is becoming more popular. As it becomes more popular it attracts more of the kind of "First Post!" mentalities. I saw this pattern of user behavior on Kuro5hin before it died and I saw it increase on Slashdot before it became the shadow of what it once was. Will Metafilter go the same way?

What can or should be done to limit the postings of people who insist on threadshitting the beginnings of posts? Raise the cost of entry to $10? Stricter moderation policy? I really don't know. What I do know is that this kind of thing kills online communities as it inevitably drives people away.
posted by Poet_Lariat to Etiquette/Policy at 9:29 AM (190 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

And just to be clear on what was going on with that thread, it started off with a first comment basically bitching about how horrible Scottsdale Arizona was and then a ton of comments tumbled out after it on the same topic. I know that peopel can't set the direction their threads go and we'll accept a bunch of different directions as being "basically on topic" up to and including "That link isn't very good for these reasons..." but this was just an insta-derail which is sort of a not-cool thing to do to someone's post.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:33 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's the threadshit that kills communities, I think it's people's inability to IGNORE the threadshit that does it. I fell victim to this in the post in question and my comment was rightfully deleted. If all of would learn to ignore anything not related to the actual post, then attention whores would starve and die off.
posted by spicynuts at 9:33 AM on September 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Important to note that a lot of the deleted comments were by longtime users, not newbies.
posted by Think_Long at 9:34 AM on September 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


Flag chaff comments promptly, and we can get at them more promptly. Individual users who consistently drop early snark/blather into threads will get talked to; folks who just do it once and don't do it again are kind of a "that sucked but problem solved" situation.

Not replying to early chaff is the other huge thing. It's one thing to be understandably annoyed by some bit of blarg or derailbait someone tossed into a thread, it's another to perpetuate the cycle by engaging it instead of just moving on to a free-standing substantial contribution to the thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:34 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


That thread is an example of the current moderation policy at play. A stricter policy would have resulted in the same result.

FIAMO is still the best action you can take after making sure you are not part of the problem.

I flag what feels like a lot, but I doubt really is. I use the contact form rarely when I feel like a flag might not be seen quickly enough.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:42 AM on September 26, 2011


I gave myself a gold star for not responding to the threadshitting. I don't know why, but it's so challenging!
posted by Think_Long at 9:46 AM on September 26, 2011


On the one hand, I think the mods handle this pretty well. On the other, before clicking, I assumed it was referring to this morning's other stupid derail (no obese Germans), so maybe it's a worse problem than I think.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:50 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Scenester posturing is a bad scene.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:50 AM on September 26, 2011


cortex: "Flag chaff comments promptly, and we can get at them more promptly. Individual users who consistently drop early snark/blather into threads will get talked to; folks who just do it once and don't do it again are kind of a "that sucked but problem solved" situation."

There are a handful of people who have a tendency to drop an inflammatory comment into the beginning of threads on certain topics. Which then poison the threads.

They usually have an axe to grind, and their behavior is predictable.

From a poster's perspective it's frustrating. You watch the initial comment turning a thread you presumably spent some time creating into a massive argument and there's nothing you can do about it. You obviously can't flag someone for having an opinion.
posted by zarq at 9:52 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of these days I need to write up a blog post titled Zen and the Art of Not Fucking Up an Online Discussion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:52 AM on September 26, 2011 [37 favorites]


Important to note that a lot of the deleted comments were by longtime users, not newbies.

I will fess up to posting one of the deleted comments. The thread at that point had pretty heavily derailed (I think there were maybe one or two on-topic comments out of a dozen or so) and I posted a joke comment making fun of the fact that the philosophy thread had turned into a discussion about living in Scottsdale. I could have not commented at all I guess, but then again I could probably do that whenever I post a silly joke comment. At any rate I'm not at all surprised or upset that the thread ended up getting more or less completely blanked shortly after that.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:56 AM on September 26, 2011


From a poster's perspective it's frustrating. You watch the initial comment turning a thread you presumably spent some time creating into a massive argument and there's nothing you can do about it. You obviously can't flag someone for having an opinion.

True, and that's part of the tension of things: people just disagreeing is not a problem by itself, and we're all going to see comments that annoy us even though there's nothing really wrong with them in a guidelines sense.

That said, someone repeatedly derailing threads is a problem independent of the "but it's just their opinion" thing, and one thing you can do is drop us a line if you see that particular dynamic playing out repeatedly—it might be something we haven't had our eye on, and we can look into it a little bit and maybe talk to that person about finding some middle ground where they can engage in a less potentially frustrating or derailing way.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:56 AM on September 26, 2011


I think the reason this becomes a problem is because it's easy to have the impression that one's comments exist in sort of a vacuum. On its own, a comment about how awful Scottsdale is probably isn't that objectionable, right? And it's reasonable for people to want to note little things like that about a subject when they think about it. It's only when it's comment after comment that it becomes a derail.

The only way to avoid that is to keep an awareness of what's going on already in the thread, and of the community in general. That seems simple, but it's harder than it sounds; I'm not very good at it myself, anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 AM on September 26, 2011


prirst fost?
posted by double block and bleed at 9:57 AM on September 26, 2011


If all of would learn to ignore anything not related to the actual post, then

Yes, but expecting all of tens of thousands of active users to all get on board with this and all, always, have enough self-control to stick to it uniformly is not realistic, even given widespread general good intentions. It just doesn't happen. Think of all the things that you could fix with "If everybody would just...", and then notice that, in practice, every one of them has a mechanism in place to handle the cases when everybody doesn't.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:58 AM on September 26, 2011


Poet_Lariat: " The flood of inane posts at the beginning of a new topic is akin to Slashdot's "First Post!" issue and is likely done by the same types of people."

We're not Slashdot. Or LJ, for that matter. Comments that are either inflammatory or light on content are not made at the start of most threads, just a select few. So it's obviously not happening because people see an empty thread as an opportunity to threadshit. Otherwise all threads would see them and clearly that's not happening.

I do not believe this is as big a problem on Metafilter as you are making it out to be.
posted by zarq at 9:59 AM on September 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't usually get involved with moderation policies & the minutiae of social interactions here, but I was actually going to pose a question in the last few days, which might have relevance to this discussion: Does anybody else feels that a lot less is happening right now on the Blue & the Gray, than it used to? Often recently there had been a day or two without any new threads to Metatalk, and sometimes there are long hours of lulls between posts on M-F. I'm just saying. Related?
posted by growabrain at 9:59 AM on September 26, 2011


I think the first 10 comments to any post should require mod approval, thus preventing the early derails.

That's right mods, you're going to have some reading to do. Get the coffe goin'.
posted by Think_Long at 9:59 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


> On its own, a comment about how awful Scottsdale is probably isn't that objectionable, right?

I guess, but it was the first comment and had just about zero to do with the subject matter. It was a logical fallacy, even, which was kind of ironic given that the article was about applying philosophical and logical rigor to thinking and discussion in Mainstream, USA.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:00 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


My comment responding to the Scottsdale derail was also rightly deleted. I need to do a better job of either drinking more coffee before responding in early morning derails, or training myself to not respond at all.
posted by rtha at 10:02 AM on September 26, 2011


Oh, and I don't think that raising the fee to $10 would fix anything, because yeah, lots of derailers and responders are people like me, who should know better by now.
posted by rtha at 10:03 AM on September 26, 2011


From a poster's perspective it's frustrating. You watch the initial comment turning a thread you presumably spent some time creating into a massive argument and there's nothing you can do about it. You obviously can't flag someone for having an opinion.

Why does it matter what the result of one's post is? You don't win by having more/less/better/worse comments. You post because you find something interesting. Anything past that is just ego.
posted by spicynuts at 10:03 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Why does it matter what the result of one's post is?

Well, for starters, that whole "pearls before swine" thing. Why post an interesting link if you think that the same old inane response will occur? If we're just here to post links then we should be getting a cut of the ad revenue.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:06 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Often recently there had been a day or two without any new threads to Metatalk, and sometimes there are long hours of lulls between posts on M-F. I'm just saying. Related?

I've noticed that the place seems to be quieter on the weekends than it used to be but not so much of a lull on the blue. Long periods without MeTa threads is AOK with me and I'd love to see that continue. I like to think people are getting better at using the contact form.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:09 AM on September 26, 2011


If anything kills Metafilter, it won't be greater tolerance of people and commenting styles; it'll be sniffy insistence on trying to "enforce" the oh-so-tearfully-missed high standards of those fondly-remembered halcyon days when Mefites all wrote like literature grads, thought like Socrates, and interacted with all the style and wit of the Algonquin round table. Perhaps it would help if we insisted people put a fish in their pants prior to posting.
posted by Decani at 10:09 AM on September 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


spicynuts: " Why does it matter what the result of one's post is? You don't win by having more/less/better/worse comments. You post because you find something interesting. Anything past that is just ego."

In general, I agree with you. Once you click post, your FPP belongs to the community and its time to let it go.

But I also prefer that my posts don't get dragged into MeTa. People point fingers when threads get nasty: Why did he post that? What was he thinking? Etc. Have been down that road several times before and really dislike it.
posted by zarq at 10:18 AM on September 26, 2011


I've been thinking about writing up a MeTa post calling for "Practicing the Gentle Art of Non-derailment" for a couple weeks now - my life has simply been too nuts to sit and spend the time on it so I haven't. Maybe it would help?

(Basically I'm of the idea that we should use being a self-policing community, in the sense that we collectively could agree to not respond to derails. I honestly think it would help to have a visible collective commitment set forth, that people could choose to join, because refraining from posting is invisible and feels less of a positive action than visibly participating in a group effort.)
posted by flex at 10:21 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]



Why does it matter what the result of one's post is?


Maybe we could use a blog post titled Nihilism and the Art of Not Fucking Up an Online Discussion, too.
posted by jamjam at 10:22 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


But I also prefer that my posts don't get dragged into MeTa.

I respect that this is your feeling, but it's also my feeling that this is a totally avoidable part of people's MeFi interactions. People have to balance their priorities here. If your posts staying out of MeTa is a top priority, you can make this happen.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:22 AM on September 26, 2011



Well, for starters, that whole "pearls before swine" thing. Why post an interesting link if you think that the same old inane response will occur? If we're just here to post links then we should be getting a cut of the ad revenue.


Did we change the original philosophy which is "Metafilter is about the links, not the comments"? It very well could have, but back in the day the idea was that yes, we are just here to post links.
posted by spicynuts at 10:22 AM on September 26, 2011


it'll be sniffy insistence on trying to "enforce" the oh-so-tearfully-missed high standards of those fondly-remembered halcyon days

Yes, this is pretty poisonous. And old-timers are directly to blame for this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Did we change the original philosophy which is "Metafilter is about the links, not the comments"?

This has always been an irritating philosophy. If Metafilter is about the links and not the comments for you, fine. Don't read the comments. But don't tell other people that they're interacting with the site incorrectly. I'm pretty sure that plenty of people read Metafilter because of the comments and discussion.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:33 AM on September 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


Well, then people shouldn't be getting their panties in a bunch about "What I do know is that this kind of thing kills online communities as it inevitably drives people away" when in fact we have very good moderators and a community that tends to adjust well to growth/culture changes within the parameters of moderator enforcement.
posted by spicynuts at 10:33 AM on September 26, 2011


But don't tell other people that they're interacting with the site incorrectly. I'm pretty sure that plenty of people read Metafilter because of the comments and discussion.

I was simply setting the framework for how I've seen other attempts at this conversation go. I have my own thoughts on that 'philosophy'.
posted by spicynuts at 10:35 AM on September 26, 2011


jessamyn: " I respect that this is your feeling, but it's also my feeling that this is a totally avoidable part of people's MeFi interactions. People have to balance their priorities here. If your posts staying out of MeTa is a top priority, you can make this happen."

I'm talking about something different than what I think you're referring to?

I prefer it when my MeFi FPP's don't spawn angry MeTa FPP's. Meaning when I post something and people (not me) get into an argument in the thread and that then gets dragged to the gray. Like the Kiki Kannibal post, which I thought was a fascinating and tragic story, but apparently pushed all sorts of buttons for people here.

It hasn't happened lately.
posted by zarq at 10:35 AM on September 26, 2011


boobies
posted by Gator at 10:37 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think more RTFA would help, and yet I did R it and still managed to enter the deletable part of the conversation. And I may even have been responding to one who R'd. Maybe it was the Socratic nature of questioning assumptions that made it seem OK.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:37 AM on September 26, 2011


I'm talking about something different than what I think you're referring to?

I don't know what you're referring to. I'm just saying with hot button topics, no matter how carefully phrased, there is a non-zero chance that a post will wind up in MeTa. However, hot button topics are a very small percentage of all the possible things that people can post about. Everyone's got their preferences of what they like to post about, but balancing what you like to post about versus what usually winds up in MeTa is a line that can be adjusted a large amount. The Kiki Kannibal post had almost no chance of not winding up here, for example.

The AA/MeTa/therapy mantra is always that you can't change other people. That said, I think people can often predict what other people might do and remove themselves from the fallout zone pre-emptively if being in the fallout zone is unpleasant for them. This is basically my approach. I make posts about math and space and occasionally other stuff like poetry or history with the occasional obit. Very low chance-of-MeTa which is how I like it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:41 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the inanity is already here, how would raising the price of admission stop it? Barn door, open. Horses, gone.
posted by crunchland at 10:42 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was simply setting the framework for how I've seen other attempts at this conversation go. I have my own thoughts on that 'philosophy'.

Sorry about that. In my head, I was addressing a collective "you." Looking at my comment, it reads as a "spicynuts you."
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:42 AM on September 26, 2011


I'm sort of against the expansion of "Threadshit" beyond gripey "this post shouldn't exist and you're doing it wrong" type comments (which I am all for the extermination of on sight) - contentious derails are their own thing.
posted by Artw at 10:46 AM on September 26, 2011


Raise the cost of entry to $10?

That's what Something Awful costs, btw.
posted by asockpuppet at 10:52 AM on September 26, 2011


If the inanity is already here, how would raising the price of admission stop it? Barn door, open. Horses, gone.

Oh, I've got it: create a new sub-site, and require everyone to re-register and pay $10 this time around. No one else can claim your user name, but user numbers start again. Posts from the blue appear there, but without comments, and users of this new sub-site could comment like normal, just without the noise of, you know, everyone else.

I call it Meta-MetaFilter.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:53 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


cortex: "That said, someone repeatedly derailing threads is a problem independent of the "but it's just their opinion" thing, and one thing you can do is drop us a line if you see that particular dynamic playing out repeatedly—it might be something we haven't had our eye on, and we can look into it a little bit and maybe talk to that person about finding some middle ground where they can engage in a less potentially frustrating or derailing way."

Good idea, thank you.
posted by zarq at 10:53 AM on September 26, 2011


contentious derails are their own thing.

We should have a name for them. Railshitting?

No, too much like Abraham Lincoln, who was, after all, called Railshitter.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:54 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I post for the lurkers just as much as I do for the community. I'd even wager that they make more clicks than members. Comments are just a bonus.
posted by troll at 10:55 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Raise the cost of entry to $10?

asockpuppet: That's what Something Awful costs, btw

Crap! Then $20, same as in town. Meta-MetaFilter can't be associated with that hive of scum and villainy.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:56 AM on September 26, 2011


How about some actual consequences for repeat offenders? A lot of the time people might not even realize or care that their comments have been deleted, especially if they were drive-bys.
posted by ODiV at 11:01 AM on September 26, 2011


contentious derails are their own thing.

We should have a name for them. Railshitting?


Derails are just derails. TBH even most "derails" are just conversations you're not interested in, and a MeFi with rigorous enforcement of ontopic chat would be pretty damn boring.
posted by Artw at 11:08 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


jessamyn: " I don't know what you're referring to. I'm just saying with hot button topics, no matter how carefully phrased, there is a non-zero chance that a post will wind up in MeTa. However, hot button topics are a very small percentage of all the possible things that people can post about. Everyone's got their preferences of what they like to post about, but balancing what you like to post about versus what usually winds up in MeTa is a line that can be adjusted a large amount.

Ah. I understand.

The Kiki Kannibal post had almost no chance of not winding up here, for example."

Which I thought was a shame, especially since there was an interesting discussion that grew in the original thread's comments regarding parental responsibility and the details of her situation and legal case as time went on. But it certainly did not occur to me at the time that several people here would jump in and victim-blame regarding her rape.
posted by zarq at 11:09 AM on September 26, 2011


There are no rails. This isn't a train. On-line conversations are not linear. Sure, the secret to glittering, informed, on-topic conversation is to never post anything but glittering, informed, on-topic comments. And yet, even that wouldn't prevent so-called "derails." Early thread-shitting is a bad thing, sure, but ill-defined by necessity, in my opinion, at least by the standards being discussed here. A quick parsing of the post in question suggests the following possible "on-topic" subjects:

Chris Phillips
journalism
photography
teaching public school
teaching college
having three master’s degrees while...
being underemployed and
being deeply in debt
Montclair State University
Existentialism
Dostoevsky
Sartre
Walter Kaufmann
jails
hospices
nursing homes
Baltimore
Scottsdale, Arizona
philosophy
giving philosophy back to the people

These are all to some degree on-topic because they were details included in the original post. Okay, Scottsdale, Arizona is not a legitimate candidate for primary discussion. It can easily be shown not to be the primary focus of the link, but I suspect that positive reaction to any number of these other side-subjects would not have been deleted. It's mods choice, ultimately, with flags to guide them, and my point isn't to complain about the deletions, anyway (I didn't post in that thread), it's simply to point out that there simply isn't any programatic way to determine what is and isn't an allowable derail, so we shouldn't expect to not have to hash this out on a case-by-case basis pretty regularly. It won't kill MetaFilter if we have to kill the occasional derail. That's why we have mods in the first place, isn't it?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:16 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Zen and the Art of Not Fucking Up an Online Discussion

Weirdly, a lot of the blog post will focus on restoring a 1957 Harley-Davidson XL Sportster 883 to its former glory.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:17 AM on September 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is why I never read the comments in a thread before making my free-standing substantial contribution.
posted by Eideteker at 11:19 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I gave myself a gold star for not responding to the threadshitting. I don't know why, but it's so challenging!

Here's a proposal for a new t-shirt that I just whipped up.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:22 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like it!
posted by Think_Long at 11:27 AM on September 26, 2011


I didn't click on the link but I hate it!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:30 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can't believe you used that font.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:31 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did we change the original philosophy which is "Metafilter is about the links, not the comments"?
This has always been an irritating philosophy. If Metafilter is about the links and not the comments for you, fine. Don't read the comments.


I don't think it's quite that simple. The quality of the links on the main page is directly related to their intended purpose.

Just to pull an example out of thin air, a single link to a reddit thread about the most offensive joke you've ever heard might spark lots of comments, but it's still an extremely low quality post for the front page.

The "Metafilter is about the links" policy keeps this sort of thing in check.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:32 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


everal people here would jump in and victim-blame regarding her rape.

Every single thread about rape has a non-zero chance of winding up in MeTa, period.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:36 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, Scottsdale, Arizona is not a legitimate candidate for primary discussion.

Well, the original deleted comment was a special double-threadshit -- it veered off topic in the direction of what a shithole Scottsdale is, then proceeded to rip the subject of the post, who was a bad person who had bad philosophy and should feel bad for living in that bad place, and how could anyone take them seriously if they lived in Scottsdale?

I did an "Ugh," *close window* double-move when I saw it.

>I assumed it was referring to this morning's other stupid derail (no obese Germans)

I got sucked into that one, and was pretty glad that thread got cleaned up. My comment deserved to be deleted, and I was aware of that when I made it. It's a kinda rare slip for me, and I'm not proud of it. That was some wackadoodle bullshit, though.

If a more stringent deletion policy is slowly coming to the fore, bring it on, I say. The people who will stomp off will most likely be the threadshitters anyway, instead of the people they're chasing off, like LH.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:39 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


> The "Metafilter is about the links" policy keeps this sort of thing in check.

Not really, though. There have been plenty of decently framed posts that were derailed out of the gate by someone not reading the link and just trying to get in a lazy snark. That's really not even what we're talking about here.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:39 AM on September 26, 2011


Does anybody else feels that a lot less is happening right now on the Blue & the Gray, than it used to? Often recently there had been a day or two without any new threads to Metatalk, and sometimes there are long hours of lulls between posts on M-F.

Since January 2006:

Average Metatalk posts per day have dropped from 7 to 4.

Average Metafilter posts per day have risen from 26 to 29.
posted by Meta Filter at 11:48 AM on September 26, 2011


That's really not even what we're talking about here.

Are you accusing me of a derail? :-)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:50 AM on September 26, 2011


Is there a way to get a "number of deleted posts" for a similar time period? I'd also be curious if such a stat could be provided by month as well over several years (thinking of the Eternal September" effect) .
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:50 AM on September 26, 2011


jessamyn: "Every single thread about rape has a non-zero chance of winding up in MeTa, period."

Which is rather sad, I think. But good to keep in mind in the future.
posted by zarq at 11:52 AM on September 26, 2011


I meant number of deleted comments rather than posts, sorry.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:52 AM on September 26, 2011


How about some actual consequences for repeat offenders? A lot of the time people might not even realize or care that their comments have been deleted, especially if they were drive-bys.

This mostly takes the form of talking to them about it in a "hey, this needs to not happen so much" vein. We try and keep an eye out for it when it comes to stuff like flags or deletions that fit a pattern, but to some extent I think people may do this in a below-the-radar way where if one of us mods isn't actually reading the same threads as they are on a regular basis it might not be something we notice.

So, again, flagging is good, letting us know is good if it's more of a subtle/complicated/slow-burn problem you feel like you're noticing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:53 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


A quick parsing of the post in question suggests the following possible "on-topic" subjects:

Chris Phillips
journalism
photography
teaching public school
teaching college
having three master’s degrees while...
being underemployed and
being deeply in debt
Montclair State University
Existentialism
Dostoevsky
Sartre
Walter Kaufmann
jails
hospices
nursing homes
Baltimore
Scottsdale, Arizona
philosophy
giving philosophy back to the people

These are all to some degree on-topic because they were details included in the original post.


Pulling phrases that appear in the original post is a bad way to make a list of things that are somewhat on-topic. There is no way someone could read that OP and think "This is the right place to talk about Scottsdale, Arizona".
posted by 23skidoo at 11:53 AM on September 26, 2011


Which I explicitely said.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:59 AM on September 26, 2011


Scottsdale, Arizona is not a legitimate candidate for primary discussion. It can easily be shown not to be the primary focus of the link, but I suspect that positive reaction to any number of these other side-subjects would not have been deleted.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:00 PM on September 26, 2011


There's a huge difference between a derail and an interesting turn in the discussion. Pretending that you don't know the difference is just playing dumb.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:01 PM on September 26, 2011


METAFILTER: I'm talking about something different than what I think you're referring to
posted by philip-random at 12:03 PM on September 26, 2011


This mostly takes the form of talking to them about it in a "hey, this needs to not happen so much" vein.

Out of interest, how often does this happen? How many active users actually get "talked to"? And how many of these only get "talked to" once?
posted by philip-random at 12:09 PM on September 26, 2011


I would like to see exit interviews for oldtimers who are leaving. I think people leave because they see less and less of their friends in the threads, not because we have gotten worse since the days when the first 5 comments of any thread were "I'd hit it"
posted by Ad hominem at 12:10 PM on September 26, 2011


Not really, though. There have been plenty of decently framed posts that were derailed out of the gate by someone not reading the link and just trying to get in a lazy snark. That's really not even what we're talking about here.

I am honestly going to start flagging out-of-the-gate jokes even if I find them funny, because they encourage people to try to get in with a quick joke even if their joke is stupid. Often the first 10-15 comments in a thread are throwaway references to old MeFi memes or puns based on the body of the FPP where it's obvious you didn't even glance at the links.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:10 PM on September 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


There's a huge difference between a derail and an interesting turn in the discussion. Pretending that you don't know the difference is just playing dumb.

I can recognize the difference after the fact, but I can't predict the difference based on the topic. There could have been interesting turns in the discussion about any of thoe points listed, or derails about any of the points listed. One could derail the primary focus of the conversation with a nice turd like: philosophy is nothing but mental masturbation. One could have had a nice turn in the discussion about Scottsdale, Arizona by bringing a personal anicdote about how Scottsdale, Arizona is becoming a new Mecca for philosophers. Sure, I can recognize a thread-shit when I see one. But my point is that you can't really accurately programatically predict which direction of conversation is going to be fruitful. You just have to have the conversation, and then react.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:11 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's also perfectly possible to drag a thread down a conversational rat-hole by remaining perfectly on-topic.
posted by Artw at 12:13 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am honestly going to start flagging out-of-the-gate jokes even if I find them funny, because they encourage people to try to get in with a quick joke even if their joke is stupid. Often the first 10-15 comments in a thread are throwaway references to old MeFi memes or puns based on the body of the FPP where it's obvious you didn't even glance at the links.

Meh. Asides from the threadshitty ones and the standing-on-head-with-no-underwear outright bizarre attention seeking ones the worst these do is form a layer of conversational fluff that is more or less neutral.
posted by Artw at 12:17 PM on September 26, 2011


Out of interest, how often does this happen? How many active users actually get "talked to"? And how many of these only get "talked to" once?

I wouldn't know how to count it up, it's kind of a fits-and-starts thing and not something we do any real quantitative record-keeping on. I'd say I probably talk to someone about "hey, not so much of that?" type stuff at least once a week, though sometimes its "this is a serious problem, fix this" and sometimes its more "you seemed surprised by the reaction you got, here's some context/advice". Some weeks its quiet, some weeks it feels like there's a lot of it going on. Often it comes in pairs or small groups if we need to talk to people who are reacting badly to one another in a characteristic way.

Most folks we write to we write to once, I'd say, since it's usually more of a one-off situation with someone having a bad day or being new to the site and not quite twigging to the atmosphere or community expectations right out of the gate. Less often it's a recurring thing where we're working with someone more on a recurring or regular basis.

The worst case scenario is us having to talk to someone a lot or talk to them about a pretty serious needed correction and just having it not work and not work and not work, until we're left with nothing but timeouts or bans to solve the problem. But that is thankfully pretty rare.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:18 PM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


the worst these do is form a layer of conversational fluff that is more or less neutral.

That's the worst they do for you. For me they make reading the entire post annoying. For me they make MetaFilter increasingly annoying. I wrote the meta because the last few months I have been doing a lot of eye-rolling at all the crap I find in more and more posts. I find myself scanning few the first couple dozen posts sometimes (and inevitably missing a couple really good posts) thinking "when will this crapflood end?".

It's annoying and when people get annoyed enough they go to other places and do other things that are less annoying and that is the worst that can (and does) happen in online communities.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:22 PM on September 26, 2011


Meh. Asides from the threadshitty ones and the standing-on-head-with-no-underwear outright bizarre attention seeking ones the worst these do is form a layer of conversational fluff that is more or less neutral.

I'm fine with jokes peppered throughout the thread, but there tends to be a huge cluster of them at the top of most threads, which IMO increases the likelihood that one of them will set off a preemptive derail & result in massive deletions. If someone shits on Scottsdale for lulz 50 comments into a thread, it's a lot easier (though of course not guaranteed) for the momentum of the discussion to mostly get past it. If someone shits on Scottsdale for lulz as comment 2, that's the conversation.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:22 PM on September 26, 2011


There's a huge difference between a derail and an interesting turn in the discussion. Pretending that you don't know the difference is just playing dumb.

A profound statement of the obvious from the Conflict Resolution wars:

Conflict doesn't officially exist until one party takes issue with (is hurt) by something another says or does.

So, good or bad, ethical or unethical, moral or immoral, a random comment from a passing stranger remains just that until I choose to take issue with it. Which isn't to say that I'm WRONG for taking issue -- just to clarify how subjective it can be. So it is with derails, I suspect. Though no doubt some topics are more likely to grow fangs than others.
posted by philip-random at 12:23 PM on September 26, 2011


it was the first comment and had just about zero to do with the subject matter

So, I made the initial comment that generated the derail, and while I do apologize very much for engendering a derail, I also stand by the comment and its relevance (not primary relevance, but relevance) to the subject of the post, and vehemently dispute that it was either threadshitting or first-postery.

I saw the post. I clicked the link. I read the linked article. My reaction to the article was "That's an interesting article, but I find it bizarre and offputting that someone whose goal appears to be to engender meaningful discussion and introspection has chosen to live in a city which I have experienced to exemplify the least thoughtful aspects of modern society: heedless consumerism, deeply unsustainable and environmentally damaging urban planning and "design" (deserts full of golf courses are among the most blatantly pointless wastes of resources there are), and a totally homogeneous landscape of available services.

That struck me as utterly in opposition to what Phillips says he's about. So I posted a comment to that effect. That it was early in the thread is not evidence of first-postery, but of the fact that I happened to see the link and read the article very shortly after the post was made. Unfortunately (and this is the part I do very much regret) I didn't phrase my comment very well. In fact, I phrased it pretty poorly, and it engendered a derail for which I am indeed sorry.

I am not sorry, however, for the sentiments expressed in the comment or for expressing them in the first place. Folks can call me a threadshitter or a "posturing scenester" if that makes them feel better, but my reaction to the post was mine, was genuine, and (in my opinion) relevant to the subject. It was just my phrasing that sucked shit. Like I said, sorry for that part.
posted by dersins at 12:23 PM on September 26, 2011


> Why does it matter what the result of one's post is? You don't win by having more/less/better/worse comments. You post because you find something interesting. Anything past that is just ego.

Comments are a form of community feed-back. If the majority of comments are along the lines 'this is stupid, why is this even here' or are so ridiculously off-topic that it's obvious that hardly anyone thought the links were even worth looking at, the person who made the FPP is likely to get the impression that nobody's interested in that topic here, and take the hint and stop making posts about it.

This is not entirely illegitimate. Really thin posts will get criticized for being thin, poorly written articles will get criticized for being poorly written. However, there's an inherent problem with the nature of FPP's and the comments on them: People who are are interested in the topic are going to read the linked articles and watch the linked videos. This gives people who don't give a shit about the topic plenty of time to fill up the thread with snark about how much they don't care about it. By the time anyone who is interested gets back from following the links, they're also likely not bother commenting, after all who cares?

In the end, we end up with less interesting posts on MetaFilter and less comments from people who know stuff about the topics of the posts and have stuff to say about them. And it's a given that no topic interests everybody.

So, absolutely flag the hell out of that crap. If you see it happening in a thread about a topic you don't really care about, but you recognize it for what it is, flag it anyway. We need people with a diverse set of interests to keep the site interesting, and worth reading and participating in. Snark has a structural advantage, and left to itself it will completely swamp all other content. It takes moderation to combat that, so keep flagging.
posted by nangar at 12:24 PM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, and just so you know, I'm sick and traveling and using a borrowed shitty computer, so I'm unlikely to stick around for very much of any pile-on to come. I mostly just wanted to both clarify my position and apologize for creating a derail in the original post.
posted by dersins at 12:28 PM on September 26, 2011


I saw the post. I clicked the link. I read the linked article. My reaction to the article was "That's an interesting article, but I find it bizarre and offputting that someone whose goal appears to be to engender meaningful discussion and introspection has chosen to live in a city which I have experienced to exemplify the least thoughtful aspects of modern society: heedless consumerism, deeply unsustainable and environmentally damaging urban planning and "design" (deserts full of golf courses are among the most blatantly pointless wastes of resources there are), and a totally homogeneous landscape of available services.

And after thinking about it, you seem to have re-written your comment in a much more thoughtful way, just now. What you said just now seems apt in regards to the original post, to me.

[scottsdale-ist, a bit, myself]
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:35 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm fine with jokes peppered throughout the thread, but there tends to be a huge cluster of them at the top of most threads, which IMO increases the likelihood that one of them will set off a preemptive derail & result in massive deletions.

TBH when I post I now wait for those fluffy soft one liners, as if a few of those turn up the threads it mean that people are on some level enngaged and care about the post, and the threadshitters and angry snarkers taking swings at it for some weird irrelevancy from the start don;t get poll position and are less likely to dominate the thread, and to a certain extent may actually be warded off.
posted by Artw at 12:35 PM on September 26, 2011


I contributed to the derail, and I'm glad the whole ridiculous mess got deleted.
posted by rocket88 at 12:54 PM on September 26, 2011


I didn’t see it, so I can’t comment. I can say that as a poster the one thing that will fuck up your thread most of all is someone saying something negative and contentious of marginal relevancy right out of the gate as people will cling onto that and never let it go. Times that by some large amount if it’s a canned argument that people have already fought over – like, for instance, flyover states versus the nice bits of America . If the comment or follow up comments contains the word “privilege” then you might as well shout “you sank my battleship!” and unfollow that thread, as no further good will come of it.
posted by Artw at 1:19 PM on September 26, 2011


Artw: "If the comment or follow up comments contains the word “privilege” then you might as well shout “you sank my battleship!” and unfollow that thread, as no further good will come of it."

Not always.
posted by zarq at 1:27 PM on September 26, 2011


I really hope no one judges my entire character based on their opinion of the city in which I choose to live. You might think I was a huntin' fishin' beer-drinkin' pick-em-up-truck-drivin' cowboy wanna-be.
posted by The Deej at 1:27 PM on September 26, 2011


Did you have to shoot the pick up?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:37 PM on September 26, 2011


Dammit, I should have added gun-totin'!
posted by The Deej at 1:41 PM on September 26, 2011


Sorry for the joke. I'm killing MetaFilter.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:41 PM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am not clear what we can do if the subject of the thread is privilege, and the discussion must necessarily involve that discussion. I suppose we could come up with some other word for the phenomenon, but that seems like it is throwing out useful language because some people would prefer not to have the discussion that accompanies it. In which case, any word we come up with will eventually be dismissed.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:42 PM on September 26, 2011


MetaFilter: I'm killing MetaFilter.
posted by goethean at 1:43 PM on September 26, 2011


For what it's worth, I thought restless nomad was perhaps overzealous in her comment deletion. It's not like people were hurling racial slurs at one another.
posted by clockzero at 1:43 PM on September 26, 2011


Feels far from uncommon that I'll look at comments when there are 15-20 of 'em, see that upwards of 80 percent are snark and threadshitting, feel like it's yet another thread that's more Farky than one might (reasonably?) hope for on this site.

Dunno how many other users have the time, inclination and memory to check back later, but I don't.
posted by ambient2 at 1:44 PM on September 26, 2011


I am not clear what we can do if the subject of the thread is privilege, and the discussion must necessarily involve that discussion.

Refer to the earlier clause regarding the comment being 'something negative and contentious of marginal relevancy" and see if the statement actually matches it?
posted by Artw at 1:45 PM on September 26, 2011


Well, certainly if the subject is not privilege, it will be a derail.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:51 PM on September 26, 2011


I could probably throw Wikileaks or Apple into that category as well, but they are lightweights by comparison.
posted by Artw at 1:57 PM on September 26, 2011


One of these days I need to write up a blog post titled Zen and the Art of Not Fucking Up an Online Discussion.

Shouldn't that be Zen and the Art of Metafilter Maintenance?
posted by polymath at 2:00 PM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is there a way to get a "number of deleted [comments]" for a similar time period?

The average number of deleted comments per day went from about 6 to 10 while the average number comments went from 1100 to 1600.

So the number of deleted comments has been rising faster than the number of total comments, but the number of deleted comments remains small enough to be basically insignificant.

I'd also be curious if such a stat could be provided by month as well over several years (thinking of the Eternal September" effect) .

There are no cyclic patterns in the data. Just a slow upward climb.

MetaFilter: I'm killing MetaFilter.

Rumors of my death....
posted by Meta Filter at 2:03 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's the threadshit that kills communities, I think it's people's inability to IGNORE the threadshit that does it. I fell victim to this in the post in question and my comment was rightfully deleted. If all of would learn to ignore anything not related to the actual post, then attention whores would starve and die off.

We can't get users to agree what constitutes a spoiler so non response it not going to happen. Which means it is better to avoid the threadshit in the first place.

I think the first 10 comments to any post should require mod approval, thus preventing the early derails.

Totally unworkable as we don't have 24X7 mod coverage.

jessamyn: "Every single thread about rape has a non-zero chance of winding up in MeTa, period."
zarq: Which is rather sad, I think. But good to keep in mind in the future.

Maybe a bit but I think like police brutality rape has been played out here on Metafilter and posts about it should be exceptional both for their content and their relevancy. If the motivation for a rape post is "cry about this bad thing that has happened" or "be outraged that this thing has happened" or "be shocked that such a thing can happen (even though we've had dozens of posts in the last ten years citing example of variations of this thing happening)" then that post probably shouldn't make it to the front page.
posted by Mitheral at 2:11 PM on September 26, 2011


Meta Filter - interesting stats - thank you very much for the research.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:24 PM on September 26, 2011


The premise of this meta is wishful thinking/hoping as evidenced by the number of longtime members who do this kind of thing repeatedly. It may make some stop and think but the urge to be *oh so clever* is apparently irresistible.
posted by futz at 2:35 PM on September 26, 2011


futz: “The premise of this meta is wishful thinking/hoping as evidenced by the number of longtime members who do this kind of thing repeatedly. It may make some stop and think but the urge to be *oh so clever* is apparently irresistible.”

People can change. I know it's hard to resist that urge – honestly, I'm a prime offender in this regard, and I do think it's difficult sometimes – but all it takes is looking around and noticing what's going on. And if we give up hope that people are capable of that, I don't think we have anywhere to go with this.
posted by koeselitz at 3:13 PM on September 26, 2011


growabrain: "Does anybody else feels that a lot less is happening right now on the Blue & the Gray, than it used to? Often recently there had been a day or two without any new threads to Metatalk, and sometimes there are long hours of lulls between posts on M-F. I'm just saying. Related?"

It's Spring in the US. I have no data to back this up, but my observation over the years has been that MeFi is much busier (and more bad-tempered) in the colder (US) months than at other times. More people are staying inside during that time, I guess.
posted by dg at 3:14 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Except it's autumn.
posted by crunchland at 3:16 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


2012 will feature both an election and an Aztec sky-god apocalypse - fun time for MeFi!
posted by Artw at 3:20 PM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


It may be autumn, but it's still pretty darn hot.
posted by Gator at 3:28 PM on September 26, 2011


*reads a few comments, then just fucks right off*
posted by nola at 3:30 PM on September 26, 2011


2012 will feature both an election and an Aztec sky-god apocalypse ...

I also hope those will turn out to be distinct events, Artw.
posted by jamjam at 3:33 PM on September 26, 2011


I dunno, it seems like Tonatiuh could probably do pretty well in the current GOP primary field as long as he can posture the Latino thing carefully and get his talking points polished up.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:36 PM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


crunchland: "Except it's autumn."

Heh, it's early and I've only had one coffee. Ignore what I said, as it's obviously completely wrong :-(
posted by dg at 4:00 PM on September 26, 2011


Meta Filter - interesting stats - thank you very much for the research.

No problem. Also, while it's a little out of date there is always FishBike's very useful graphs page.
posted by Meta Filter at 4:41 PM on September 26, 2011


It would be my fate to go through the summer we've just had, straight back to spring again. Yeah, the heat is making me a tiny bit cranky.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:06 PM on September 26, 2011


Hitler?
posted by Meatbomb at 5:21 PM on September 26, 2011


First!
posted by Metro Gnome at 6:05 PM on September 26, 2011


Last!
posted by Winnemac at 6:09 PM on September 26, 2011


Average Metatalk posts per day have dropped from 7 to 4.

*sacrifices bunny in thanks to the goddess*
posted by mediareport at 6:11 PM on September 26, 2011


The drop in MetaTalk posts must surely be an outcome of moving meetup posts from Metatalk to IRL?

Presumably that means that also means that posts stay on the Metatalk front page longer and have longer to collect GRAR.
posted by Rumple at 6:17 PM on September 26, 2011


I think there's a kind of comment drift that happens where, instead of commenting on the original post, people start to comment on the comments, and then people start to comment on those comments, until the thread wears itself out.

Those comments become "discussion" which seems like a good thing, but I wonder what it would be like if the page was engineered in such a way that the original post was always at the top of the page? Like some kind of split seen effect, like when you freeze the header rows of a spreadsheet.

Might this have the effect of keeping the original post in the forefront? Or would it just be annoying?
posted by jasper411 at 6:30 PM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The drop in MetaTalk posts must surely be an outcome of moving meetup posts from Metatalk to IRL?

*pauses with knife in air over bunny's heart*

Never mind.
posted by mediareport at 7:57 PM on September 26, 2011


Hitler?

I hardly knew her!
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:15 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is there an absolute reason why posts should remain in their posted order? We could put favorites to good use here if we allowed them to bump valued posts to the top in order of their favorites value, the rest by time. It would cut down on snark generally.
posted by Brian B. at 8:36 PM on September 26, 2011


Oh good god no. The absolute reason why comments are in the order they're posted is because that's exactly how they're meant to be. Context is derivable from the order in which folks commented where it's not otherwise made explicit by quotation or whatever, which is part of what keeps the overall footprint of any given comment lower. Re-ordering comments dynamically would remove tons of context and make a lot of comments far less comprehensible.

That's before even wandering into the tarpit that is the favorites-as-correlating-directly-to-quality debate or the problem of favorites distribution generally tailing off over the life of a thread, and the feedback loop problems likely to come with sorting much-favorited early snark/jokes/rebukes even higher in the thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:50 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re-ordering comments dynamically would remove tons of context and make a lot of comments far less comprehensible.

Most threads are likely digested as randomly as they are created, because of the way we tie into them. And if they are read meticulously in order for a reason, one can only pretend that posters also read everything else first. Speaking only for myself, I'm alerted to most controversial comments by the quotes they receive, and I go find them from there if I want to see who said such a crazy thing. So it would give more context to me, as weight, to order it as content-filtered in relative descending value, even as an option. For the sake of argument I'll go ahead and say that no serious context exists, assuming properly quoted material to remove that as a sticking point.
posted by Brian B. at 9:17 PM on September 26, 2011


You might like this, Brian B.
posted by troll at 9:25 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


What he said, more or less. If you specifically prefer a filtered view over the preservation of chronology and context, that's your call and there are third-party approaches available. It's just absolutely, positively not something we're doing server-side. There are a lot of folks on the site who do, in fact, read threads in order and to the extent that it's reasonable read them for overall content and not just the crazy/dramatic/fighty bits.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:34 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, troll, but at the risk of being misunderstood, I also wanted to raise the quality somewhat, and put votes to a working result. Another way would be to sell the favorites, and charge one per post, making the rest transferable for good posters to use or give freely. Then favorites would really take on value, and the app you link would be very worthwhile. Thanks again.
posted by Brian B. at 9:41 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


As cortex observes, more favorites are dispensed to comments toward the top of a given post in relation to later comments, even if the later comments are objectively more valuable. Completely aside from Frist Post! frenzy, this becomes sort of a carrot for people to post fast and be jokey. If anything were ever to be done about modifying favorites at all, some measure that disrupts this particular pattern would probably be salubrious.
posted by taz at 10:33 PM on September 26, 2011


So, as you may or may not know I've spent a bunch of time at Reddit lately. It's a fun, fast paced site and I like the easy attitude towards posting links, which gives it a very different feel and makes a nice change from Metafilter where each post has to bs an elaborate apology for itself lest threadshitters and concern trolls stomp all over it, but one thing I would say is this: if you want to foster a sense of community and encourage good discussion do not emulate any aspect of their comment system whatsoever. That would especially include threaded discussion, explicit up/down votes and any kind of ranking based on those votes.
posted by Artw at 11:26 PM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Artw: "That would especially include threaded discussion, explicit up/down votes and any kind of ranking based on those votes."

God, I've really grown to hate threaded discussion formats. Yes, they pull trolls and derails into their own little houses but they encourage people to go one-on-one with each other (which is a recipe for flame-out and makes it hard for anyone else to participate), they give every level of the thread a point/counterpoint feel (which seems to generate arguments out of nowhere), they make it extremely hard to follow the timeline of the conversation (why is person X so fighty all of a sudden? oh yeah, nine threads down someone called them a nazi) and they degenerate into one-word-per-line snarkfests at the far right of the page. Since livejournal died I haven't participated in a single threaded discussion anywhere and I don't miss it.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:12 AM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


When we reach 666,665 users, Miguel Cardoso will return with a new account. He will come in one of the pre-chosen forms - a rabbit, a pancake, or a sock. Many of you will now what it is to be roasted in the depths of the sock that day I can tell you.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:13 AM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


If the inanity is already here, how would raising the price of admission stop it? Barn door, open. Horses, gone.

Oh, I've got it: create a new sub-site, and require everyone to re-register and pay $10 this time around. No one else can claim your user name, but user numbers start again. Posts from the blue appear there, but without comments, and users of this new sub-site could comment like normal, just without the noise of, you know, everyone else.

I call it Meta-MetaFilter.


I was thinking about something like this a few days ago when I had a post go inane - maybe the difference is that its for over 40s? ;p Ok, mid thirties maybe? a few gray hairs?
posted by infini at 3:54 AM on September 27, 2011


I participated tangentially in the early derail. Lesson learned (FIAMO) and I apologize.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 4:37 AM on September 27, 2011


Artw: "and makes a nice change from Metafilter where each post has to bs an elaborate apology for itself lest threadshitters and concern trolls stomp all over it, "

Each post? You're exaggerating the situation. Threadshitting and concern trolls only rarely show up in threads here. And then typically only when a post has either been poorly framed or if people are being asinine, or not acting in good faith. People yelling at each other about specific topics is not even a feature of every post on those subjects.

You and I are two of MeFi's most prolific posters. We have close to 900 posts between us, and perhaps more than that if we count deleted threads. So you're well aware that there are quite literally dozens of FPPs made on both the blue and green every single day and 99% of them go perfectly smoothly. They don't feature apologies, threadshitters, deleted comments, people shouting each other down or "concern trolls," and bitter/angry/potentially-derailing comments in them from people with axes to grind are ignored or fly under the radar.

That said, having even a single contentious AskMe or MeFi thread dragged into MeTa and argued out can eclipse the majority experience. But let's not overstate things.
posted by zarq at 5:07 AM on September 27, 2011


I was thinking about something like this a few days ago when I had a post go inane - maybe the difference is that its for over 40s? ;p Ok, mid thirties maybe? a few gray hairs? --- Back in the days when I ran a dial-up BBS called "Crunchland," we had a thing called "Kiddie Crunchland." When a new user would log in and had to create their account, they were asked their age. If it was less than 18, whenever they logged in, they'd be shunted off to a separate message board, just for them. Everyone older than that experienced a completely different message board. The feeling was that kids wouldn't enjoy the adult message board, and adults wouldn't enjoy the kid's message board, so never the twain would meet.
posted by crunchland at 5:35 AM on September 27, 2011


On one of the last discussion of the early derails topic, someone brought up the idea of a five or ten minute delay before comments could be posted. I absolutely lurve that idea. It might not have helped with the Scottsdale post, but it would give people a chance to at least click the links before the commenting begins. If the post is flaggable, but not open for comments, people might be more likely use the flags or contact form on a questionable post instead of rushing in to derail it with complaints or criticisms.
posted by Dojie at 6:59 AM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


contentious derails are their own thing.

We should have a name for them. Railshitting?

No, too much like Abraham Lincoln, who was, after all, called Railshitter.


It's pronounced 'ralph' though.
posted by Not Supplied at 7:15 AM on September 27, 2011


The delay on comments would also stop the "In before deletion" crap. Or at least minimize it.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:03 AM on September 27, 2011


Dojie: " If the post is flaggable, but not open for comments, people might be more likely use the flags or contact form on a questionable post instead of rushing in to derail it with complaints or criticisms."

You're assuming that the snarky or threadshitting comments always come in within the first few minutes. Is there any evidence to suggest that those comments are more likely to happen within that time frame? Also, derails at the start of a thread are more common, but they can happen throughout.

It seems unlikely that a delay would encourage people to click through who aren't already inclined to do so.
posted by zarq at 8:16 AM on September 27, 2011


God, I love the idea of a short (~5m) "incubation period" for all new posts before commenting is enabled. I love it so hard.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 8:46 AM on September 27, 2011


Or you restrict early commenting for anyone who pulls that kind of shit. Or ban them.

Man, I'm all for harsh moderation lately. I think this is like the Internet version of becoming more conservative as you age.
posted by ODiV at 9:55 AM on September 27, 2011


Hmmm...
posted by Artw at 1:25 PM on September 27, 2011


Hmmm...

Please use actual words to describe what you are hoping we might pick up through osmosis because I can tell you, I am not feeling particularly psychic today.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:27 PM on September 27, 2011


"An agent of Satan has been called home to his reward" as second comment in an obituary thread, on the grounds of being largely ignorant of their work and a bit of a snob? I'm not really sure what I should be spelling out here. I don't think that's okay? I think that's actually kind of crappy? And a crappy example of the kind of negative shit we've been talking about here?
posted by Artw at 1:38 PM on September 27, 2011


Did you flag it?
posted by Gator at 1:39 PM on September 27, 2011


"Agent of Satan" seemed unnecessarily crappy to me too, although I'll cop to having merely eyerolled rather than flagging.

And speaking of negative shit: the Radiolab post is full of drive-by "well I hate Radiolab so there!" threadshitting, to the point that it got in the way of some posters who actually wanted to respond to the original article.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:45 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Artw: ""An agent of Satan has been called home to his reward" as second comment in an obituary thread, on the grounds of being largely ignorant of their work and a bit of a snob? I'm not really sure what I should be spelling out here. I don't think that's okay? I think that's actually kind of crappy? And a crappy example of the kind of negative shit we've been talking about here?"

Seconding Gator: did you flag it?

Also, if you're saying that the mods should delete comments that do not treat the subjects of obit threads as sacrosanct, I suspect that's not very likely to happen. Obit threads are not shrines, after all.

The comment was asinine. But it has been up for over two and a half hours and everyone in that thread has ignored it. So it is negative shit, but did not have the effect we've been discussing.
posted by zarq at 1:49 PM on September 27, 2011


I didn't want to say so in that thread, but anybody who hates RadioLab needs a medical examination that begins by asking if they smell toast and have gone blind in one eye, because there is a great likelihood that their dislike for that wonderful show may be a sign of a disruptive medical event.

Oh no, it has sound effects. SO DOES THE WORLD.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:49 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Liking RadioLab is very uncool on metafilter.
Liking RadioLab is pretty cool everywhere else.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:29 PM on May 13 [+] [!]

posted by zarq at 1:51 PM on September 27, 2011


Did you flag it?

No, I used it as an example. If I had not used it as an example and was feeling sufficiently crabby then it would probably mean a flagging. It would not, to be honest, be a flagging with much hope of action.

The comment was asinine. But it has been up for over two and a half hours and everyone in that thread has ignored it. So it is negative shit, but did not have the effect we've been discussing.

It didn;t generate a little chorus of helpers, no, but it is 100% the kind of comment that I would see in an FPP I'd made and think "fuck you, why do I bother?" though.
posted by Artw at 1:52 PM on September 27, 2011


don't think that's okay? I think that's actually kind of crappy? And a crappy example of the kind of negative shit we've been talking about here?

Yeah I don't know. It's about a sitcom guy so I assumed it was some sort of joke I didn't understand since people didn't seem to be up in arms about it. It had a single flag which isn't usually hitting our "go check this out" level for an otherwise calm MeFi thread. That helpful?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:53 PM on September 27, 2011


Just think of all the "burn in hell you evil bastard" quips we'll see when Cheney bites the dust.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:55 PM on September 27, 2011


Just think of all the "burn in hell you evil bastard" quips we'll see when Cheney bites the dust.

Well, out Vice President was responsible for more than his share of bad sitcoms, so je may have earned it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:56 PM on September 27, 2011


I too am sick to the back teeth of axe-grindey political posts and inane non-witticisms cluttering the first page of so many threads. Sure, I could FIAMO, but who wants to flag 10 comments in a row? Flagging is an awkward operation requiring 2 mouse clicks, and doubly awkward on mobile. I would prefer moderators swing the banhammer harder, or that if more than a threshold number of people flag something, it be folded out of view.

But neither of those things are likely to happen, so I just read and post less because I am tired of Teh Stupid. Glorification of ignorance has become endemic on any thread involving law or economics; I originally joined MeFi because it was such a good place to read respectful, informative discussions of such complex subjects. It is turning into a sinkhole of lowbrow partisan aggression. Ironically, this makes me less and less sympathetic to the positions of the most passionate.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:01 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just think of all the "burn in hell you evil bastard" quips we'll see when Cheney bites the dust.

Sadly I could not preface it with a claim to be largely unaware of his works.
posted by Artw at 2:05 PM on September 27, 2011


Artw: " It didn;t generate a little chorus of helpers, no, but it is 100% the kind of comment that I would see in an FPP I'd made and think "fuck you, why do I bother?" though."

Been there.

But one comment usually doesn't do that for me.

Five, Ten, Fifteen... sure.
posted by zarq at 2:13 PM on September 27, 2011


I'm not really holding it up as an example of a deluge, more of a single raindrop. But after a while the pitter-patter of those can get pretty annoying.
posted by Artw at 2:14 PM on September 27, 2011


Agreed.

I'm trying to devise an "Unleash elizardbits" button. Pressing it would launch her into a thread, where she would humorously snark an offender to shreds.

Right now, the super secret implementation mechanism involves liberal helpings of cake and chocolate milk.... ;)
posted by zarq at 2:26 PM on September 27, 2011


where she would humorously snark an offender to shreds.

While this may be immensely satisfying, I'm not sure it actually helps make the problem any better at all.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:29 PM on September 27, 2011


I was joking.

Am aware that engaging people who threadshit at their level (or by mocking them) isn't the answer.
posted by zarq at 2:41 PM on September 27, 2011


Sure, I could FIAMO, but who wants to flag 10 comments in a row?

The mods have repeatedly expressed that flagging that many comments in one thread is not actually helpful. If a thread is clogged with crappy comments that you think should be deleted, the best process (as I remember it from previous MeTas) is to flag one and then use the contact form to give the mods a heads-up: "Hey, lotsa crap in this thread, please check it out ASAP."
posted by Lexica at 2:50 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sure, but this too is a slow process. I agree strongly with the premise of the initial post: that such threadshitting is becoming a norm. So many threads get bogged down in snark or in the usual suspects trading the usual aphorisms on perennial topics.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:01 PM on September 27, 2011


anigbrowl: "So many threads get bogged down in snark or in the usual suspects trading the usual aphorisms on perennial topics."

There are what, 50 posts on the front page right now? How many of them have gotten bogged down in snark? How many of them are derailing because of the "usual suspects?"

I haven't even looked at them all and I'm absolutely positive that the answer is "not many of 'em." If it's as many as five I'd be surprised. Ten or higher, I'd be shocked.
posted by zarq at 3:14 PM on September 27, 2011


As a rough proxy, a search for 'threadshitting site:metafilter.com" restricted to calendar years shows that 2011 has already exceeded 2010's incidence, from which I conclude that shitstorm levels have increased by approximately 17%.

2007 - 39
2008 - 61
2009 - 185
2010 - 134
2011 - 138
posted by anigbrowl at 5:12 PM on September 27, 2011


I conclude that people have picked up on the term and are joyously parroting it with an ever-broadening scope of intended meanings.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:15 PM on September 27, 2011


The solution is to require the first seven posts contain five well-written, complete sentences.
posted by polymodus at 9:07 PM on September 27, 2011


Glorification of ignorance has become endemic on any thread involving law or economics; I originally joined MeFi because it was such a good place to read respectful, informative discussions of such complex subjects. It is turning into a sinkhole of lowbrow partisan aggression.

A function of growth and the 'Lowest Common Denominator' principle in action. Is going back to growth limitation a possibility that is a viable consideration? (it may not be in MeFi's plans anymore)
posted by infini at 1:00 AM on September 28, 2011


Deleted a bunch of comments - let's try this again, was a moderator's comment found in this thread. The thread itself is not important and neither is the link really. What I feel is important is a growing Metafilter trend.

I thought this was going to be a comment about deleting comments, but sadly nobody seems to care about that particular trend.

Also, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

(And to answer the mods inevitable BUT WHAT SHALL WE DO ABOUT THE ASSES? the answer is what we used to do with the asses when it was just Matt: temporarily ban them for a week. It's fast, effective, and doesn't throw comments down the memory hole.)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:15 AM on September 28, 2011


anigbrowl: "As a rough proxy, a search for 'threadshitting site:metafilter.com" restricted to calendar years shows that 2011 has already exceeded 2010's incidence, from which I conclude that shitstorm levels have increased by approximately 17%."

Rather contortionist reasoning there, don't you think?

I can't believe I have to say this, but a google search of how often a word is used on MeFi does not prove your point.
posted by zarq at 7:24 AM on September 28, 2011


And to answer the mods inevitable BUT WHAT SHALL WE DO ABOUT THE ASSES? the answer is what we used to do with the asses when it was just Matt: temporarily ban them for a week. It's fast, effective, and doesn't throw comments down the memory hole.

Stuff got deleted back in the day, too, actually. The main difference is that originally when they got deleted, they got deleted and weren't even in the database anymore, so when someone was like WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT?! it was a he-said-she-said situation where either Matt's memory was perfect or it was an argument about what even happened. There was an actual memory hole back then that has been subsequently plugged up so at least we do have the history of what went down these days. Entire posts used to get nuked from the db; fixing that for Metatalk was one of the first things I pestered Matt to do when I got hired.

Plus Matt, solo and overworked, wasn't as up to leaving notes about what had been deleted (so WHAT HAPPENED HERE?! metatalk threads were a lot more likely of an outcome) or tackling metatalk discussions about such stuff at length, and so was less conversational and more often pretty visibly grumpy when people were acting like jerks about stuff.

These days, with a larger user base, one of the notable changes as far as I can tell is that we have proportionally a lot fewer, and less visible, asses-who-can-only-be-dealt-with-by-timeouts, and a less stiflingly in-group dynamic to how bad behavior cascaded into cult-of-personality stuff in Metatalk and across the site in general. It's harder to be an effective Paris Paramus these days, which is for the best for everybody who doesn't come here specifically to enjoy the ritual of being publicly annoyed by a PP type.

Aside from which, we have enough staff now to be more reasonably able to take the more middle of the road tack of talking it out with folks when there's a problem instead of just kicking them to the curb for a week or forever when they're having trouble getting along. People still get timeouts and still get banned now and then, but we've got more tools and options available than did an overworked and underpaid Matt taking on all comers and wrestling with whether to even bother keeping the site going.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:49 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's fast, effective, and doesn't throw comments down the memory hole.

Yeah just piping up to say the glory days weren't really all that. back in the Just Matt days you got your account timed-out by Matt physically changing your password to BANNED and then he had to remember to change it back. Meanwhile banned people tend to send a lot of outraged email [I probably would too] meaning that all that's really changed is that we've kept the person from stinking up the site, not actually lessening our workload at all.

We don't give people a week off more frequently than we do for two main reasons, one because it's sort of not that effective really [person comes back and if they're still doing that thing we just have to re-give them a week off or potentially ban them for life] and two because it's actually some work, not just the person who is not happy but other people who are less ban-friendly who don't think this is a good way to manage a community. Since everything we do is either pretty visible or at least able-to-be-discussed here, it's a solution that we only trot out if it's clearly warranted, not just because we're exasperated. Having someone banned and then having their behavior being discussed in MeTa when they're not able to reply is sub-optimal but is one of the bad options that can happen.

That sort of thing is most effective when there's a good user having a bad day or a bad week, or a bad month and maybe some time away from the site would actually be useful and then they can come back and be back to their old selves again. While the idea of giving people timeouts for being irritants does appeal in some sort of mod-vengeance way, it's not workable for the site the way it currently runs. I sympathize with people who find the threadshitting irksome as well as the people who find deleted threadshtting comment irksome. We try to find a balance in there somewhere.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:07 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


back in the Just Matt days you got your account timed-out by Matt physically changing your password to BANNED

Someone, some time, must have figured that out, right? Right? Please tell me I'm right?
posted by dersins at 8:35 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


jessamyn: "back in the Just Matt days you got your account timed-out by Matt physically changing your password to BANNED"

Oh man, that's hilarious.
posted by zarq at 8:44 AM on September 28, 2011


Wait until I go back in time and tell quonsar.
posted by crunchland at 9:14 AM on September 28, 2011


It pleases me to imagine that there are still accounts out there that matt forgot, just waiting to be reaccessed by typing "BANNED" as the password.
posted by Think_Long at 10:33 AM on September 28, 2011


I can't believe I have to say this, but a google search of how often a word is used on MeFi does not prove your point.

And there was me thinking that 'shitstorm' guaranteed an easy laugh.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:37 AM on September 28, 2011


I think that those who care most about this problem should form some sort of super team that dives into threads early on with substantive, on-topi, thought-provoking comments, thus reducing the chance of a derail.
posted by snofoam at 10:50 AM on September 28, 2011


It pleases me to imagine that there are still accounts out there that matt forgot, just waiting to be reaccessed by typing "BANNED" as the password.

Alas, I'm pretty sure we converted all the old-school bans to proper modern bans in the current account management system.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:52 AM on September 28, 2011


boooo
posted by Think_Long at 10:59 AM on September 28, 2011


proper modern bans

So you changed their passwords to BANHAMMERED?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:24 PM on September 28, 2011


B@@NXX0RD
posted by mkultra at 12:57 PM on September 28, 2011


You're not still storing the passwords in plain text are you?
posted by Mitheral at 12:59 PM on September 28, 2011


No, I think they're stored in Rich Text Format now.
posted by mkultra at 1:01 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Absolutely not, we haven't for a long time. Mod-level people [cortex and restless_nomad and I] don't even really have access to where the passwords are stored [i.e. it's not available in the admin interface] without digging around in the database itself.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:01 PM on September 28, 2011


Yeah, we've been in the modern "forgot your password? Time to generate a new password without any human intervention" place for a while now, thankfully.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:21 PM on September 28, 2011


Hi, everybody!

Is this the thread where we talk about how much Scottsdale, AZ, sucks?
posted by krinklyfig at 8:38 PM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


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