Take your time November 16, 2011 9:13 AM   Subscribe

There should be a 15 minute waiting period after an FPP is live on the Blue before anyone can post a comment on it.

By my accounting, threads, when they go wrong, go wrong in the first 30 minutes of their posting. A waiting period would be especially helpful with single link posts, where it would discourage people from clicking, skimming, and returning to thoughtlessly bash the link, the poster, and whatever general concept they think it represents. Meanwhile, those who care about the content could watch, read, play or whatever, and return in time for the start of live comments to have a meaningful discussion.

The actual timing here doesn't really matter... I think 15 minutes is right, but less (10, 7, 5, 1.5, whatever!) would help too. More would be OK I suppose, but does risk losing comment volume which is of course the reason for Metafilter existing and all that haha.

What do we lose by doing this? Has it been proposed before? I know it's a departure from the current state of things--could it be tried out on a random day? These are all questions.

I'll be back in 15 to see if you all agree. ;)
posted by Potomac Avenue to Feature Requests at 9:13 AM (289 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

FIRST
posted by Think_Long at 9:17 AM on November 16, 2011 [46 favorites]


How else am I going to come back to the tab and offer half baked reactions to a video that I'm only 1/3 of the way through?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:17 AM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I actually agree with this proposal
posted by Think_Long at 9:17 AM on November 16, 2011 [17 favorites]


I like this pony.
posted by bfranklin at 9:20 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think that you can force people to read content, or to be thoughtful in their responses.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:23 AM on November 16, 2011 [13 favorites]


This will just discourage interaction on the website, in my opinion. The problem isn't when people snark, it's that people snark. Plenty of people come in later on and snark.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:23 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Potomac Avenue: "By my accounting, threads, when they go wrong, go wrong in the first 30 minutes of their posting. "

Threads go wrong for all sorts of reasons, and not always in the first 30 minutes.

Potomac Avenue: "Meanwhile, those who care about the content could watch, read, play or whatever, and return in time for the start of live comments to have a meaningful discussion."

And those who really, really hate the content of a post, or how it is framed, or have a bug in their bonnet about it for some other reason, will spend those 30 minutes gearing up vomit all over a post when the time is up. Introducing a delaying tactic is not going to force people to RTFA. People have ample time to do so now and don't bother.
posted by zarq at 9:24 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


What do we lose by doing this?

The biggest downside is that it breaks basic expectations about how comments on a site work. When that's one of the core functions of a site, that means a hell of a lot of potential friction and a need for a bunch of on-going user education and a need to figure out overtly or not to signpost the YOU CANNOT COMMENT YET, IT'S NOTHING PERSONAL AND IT'S ALSO NOT A BUG thing for every thread its active in.

It's enough friction that it gives me a lot of pause regardless of anything else with the idea.

Beyond that, I'm in a place where I appreciate the idea but am skeptical about its effectiveness. I feel like there's a really good chance that putting a fifteen minute wait on comments would largely lead to dumb comments at minute sixteen instead of minute one: it's still the start of the thread, and it's still largely the result of the people least willing to stop and read going for easy early comment fodder. But it's hard to know for sure.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:24 AM on November 16, 2011 [21 favorites]


This won't stop me from making stupid, thread killing comments when I read the post an hour after you post it.
posted by theichibun at 9:24 AM on November 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


One could also say that when a thread goes right, it goes right in the first 30 minutes of their posting. That is, if there is no discussion in the first 30 minutes, the thread will likely be a short one.

Also, for those rare threads where the OP wants to post more information in the first comment or so, that becomes no longer possible with this proposal.
posted by mysterpigg at 9:25 AM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


It has been proposed before. It's a technical solution to a social problem, which doesn't ever really seem to work out.

Also, I question your assumption that "threads, when they go wrong, go wrong in the first 30 minutes of their posting." Sure, that sometimes happen, but threads sometimes go off the rails further along, because of random incendiary comments or people who decide they need to occupy the thread.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:25 AM on November 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Also, how would people post "in before deletion!" comments on duplicate/banhammer-worthy posts?
posted by mysterpigg at 9:28 AM on November 16, 2011


Also, how would people post "in before deletion!" comments on duplicate/banhammer-worthy posts?
posted by mysterpigg


Another advantage of the idea: if a thread survives 15 minutes--it's probably going to stay! No more yammering about or/and yearning for deletion.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:31 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just offer a higher-level account status, perhaps something that you can pay extra money for (or that others who appreciate your commenting can buy on your behalf.) With this higher status, you get to see posts earlier, and comment on them earlier, before the *rest* of the community gets into the game.

we could call it TotalFilter

now where have I heard this before?
posted by davejay at 9:35 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


davejay: "With this higher status, you get to see posts earlier, and comment on them earlier, before the *rest* of the community gets into the game."

Yeah, but consider the level of community karma you'd have to build up just to get a consensus that you're worthy of promotion.
posted by zarq at 9:37 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would appreciate having 15 minutes to fine-tune my delightful zingers.
posted by brain_drain at 9:39 AM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's a technical solution to a social problem, which doesn't ever really seem to work out.

It's not that they don't work, it's that they very seldom work as expected. I am not totally opposed to this idea as an experiment, but we are really, really not set up for experiments which makes this sort of thing rather riskier than it's worth.

It does seem that early threadshitting is a problem that pretty much everyone agrees on, and there's probably a way to mitigate that (beyond what we're doing now, which is deleting more stuff faster - that does help, but a) people don't like deletions so it does generate some aggro and b) since it's time-sensitive it's super dependent on whether people flag and when whoever's on duty happens to click refresh.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:39 AM on November 16, 2011


I would also like this pony. I vote we put this one on the Pony Express.

He says, fresh from dropping a drive-by joke in the knitting thread before watching the video.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:39 AM on November 16, 2011


Just offer a higher-level account status, perhaps something that you can pay extra money for

MetaFilter: Platinum
posted by Think_Long at 9:40 AM on November 16, 2011


Beyond that, I'm in a place where I appreciate the idea but am skeptical about its effectiveness.

I'm in the same spot but I would love to see how an experiment would turn out. 48 hours? Pretty please? Crystalline carbohydrate of your choice on top?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:40 AM on November 16, 2011


Man, I think this is a great idea and would like to see it tested out. It really feels like it could solve a lot of frustrating issues I see with people posting knee-jerk or dismissive stuff without reading or absorbing the content. I can be guilty of that too and an imposed moment to think about things before jumping into the fray would be welcome. I'm leaning towards 10 minutes and I think even that short barrier would work wonders. The initial confusion could be easily solved by a 1-2 sentence explanation. There are other MeFi limitations that require a simple explanation (limiting number of posts you can make in a certain period, for example.)
posted by naju at 9:41 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


It would lead to pent-up frustration in commenters when they aren't allowed to post, making their comments all the more aggressive once they do post.
posted by John Cohen at 9:41 AM on November 16, 2011


I'm in the same spot but I would love to see how an experiment would turn out. 48 hours? Pretty please?

If it were something that involved no serious friction otherwise, I'd be totally down with a try-and-see approach, but this is again talking about a fundamental change to how this place works. That's a lot to bite off for Let's Just See, basically.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:42 AM on November 16, 2011


So let me tell you something. If I went to a site that was largely about the discussion of things and I couldn't discuss things, I wouldn't want to come to that site. I wouldn't spend 15 minutes getting a thoughtful response ready. I wouldn't come back later. I just wouldn't come back.

This being MetaFilter and the awesomeness that goes with it, someone would come up with a Greasemonkey script that would hide threads that haven't hit the waiting period yet. So in essence you wouldn't be making people wait, you'd be shifting the time since users of the script wouldn't see the post until they could actually comment.

I also didn't mean my previous as a joke. I usually read the site once or twice a day. So I see threads hours after they've been posted. If I'm going to make a stupid comment I can still do it since that waiting period wouldn't really apply to me in reality.

If I'm going to not read the article and respond anyway, I can still do that under your proposal.

There is no harm in commenting in a post that is obviously going to be deleted. It's gone except for people using a script.

The problem here isn't that people are posting quickly in a thread without reading the article. It's that people are posting in a thread without reading the article.

Time waiting after the post ≠ Time waiting after reading the thread.

A better solution would be to make me have the thread open for X amount of time before I can comment. But I think that's stupid as well.

In theory, Good Post + Good Topic = Good Discussion. If you don't want shitty comments in your post than make a better post.
posted by theichibun at 9:42 AM on November 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


The biggest downside is that it breaks basic expectations about how comments on a site work. When that's one of the core functions of a site, that means a hell of a lot of potential friction and a need for a bunch of on-going user education and a need to figure out overtly or not to signpost the YOU CANNOT COMMENT YET, IT'S NOTHING PERSONAL AND IT'S ALSO NOT A BUG thing for every thread its active in.

You could have a countdown timer like on the post-new-askme page.

You could randomize for a week and see how it goes. Low cost, and settles the question better than lots of just-so-storying.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:43 AM on November 16, 2011


I wonder if this might actually have the opposite of the intended effect?

I get that the idea is to have the discussion start off with a better proportion of substantial comments, by giving people time to actually read the linked article before the comment window opens.

I just wonder if what would actually happen is that people who are emotionally invested in being one of the first to comment would also be most strongly motivated to figure out when the comment window will open and get their comment in at the beginning?

Or put another way, would it end up just being more of an obstacle to people who primarily want to engage in a real discussion, than it would to people who just want to be first? If so then we'd see more of the latter at the top of the thread, rather than less.
posted by FishBike at 9:43 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


What if we were all limited to a certain number of comments per day? Like, 10?

It's like what Chris Rock said, you would completely eliminate the problem of innocent bystanders getting killed in shootings if you made bullets cost $1,000 each.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:44 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


If it were something that involved no serious friction otherwise, I'd be totally down with a try-and-see approach, but this is again talking about a fundamental change to how this place works. That's a lot to bite off for Let's Just See, basically.

Did I mention the crystalline carbohydrates were going to be YOUR CHOICE?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:45 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


cortex: If it were something that involved no serious friction otherwise, I'd be totally down with a try-and-see approach, but this is again talking about a fundamental change to how this place works. That's a lot to bite off for Let's Just See, basically.

Oh come on, if I remember correctly, November's the month MeFites embrace major changes thrust upon them.
posted by gman at 9:46 AM on November 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


theichibun: " In theory, Good Post + Good Topic = Good Discussion. If you don't want shitty comments in your post than make a better post."

Well-constructed posts on interesting content might decrease the number of shitty comments, but certainly don't guarantee they'll be snark-proof or that people will RTFA. There is no way to guarantee that.
posted by zarq at 9:48 AM on November 16, 2011


I feel like an experimentation phase would either mean people would be on their best/worst behavior during it, depending on how they feel about the idea.

Of course, that would be a social problem, too. Maybe we could find a technical solution to it.

Like electrocution.

I would be interested in seeing if the theory "when they go wrong, go wrong in the first 30 minutes of their posting" is actually true. I can definitely think of times when that's been true. But I can think of other perfectly great threads that train wrecked deep in the discussion too. I wonder if this isn't just because all threads have a beginning, so it only seems that way. An experiment I'd be interested in would answer this for me. With graphs, preferably.

Of course, finding a agreed-upon definition of "go wrong" is an entirely different beast.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:49 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


gman: " Oh come on, if I remember correctly, November's the month MeFites embrace major changes thrust upon them."

I have favorited your comment and would like to subscribe to your faves newsletter.
posted by zarq at 9:49 AM on November 16, 2011


An exercise:

User A sees a post when it comes up, but has to wait 15 minutes to comment.
User B checks the site less often and sees that same post 15 minutes after it comes up, and can comment immediately.

Explain why User B's comment will be better than User A's would have been if User A had been allowed to post.
posted by smackfu at 9:50 AM on November 16, 2011 [17 favorites]


I like this idea in principal, and think it may be worth a shot.

But I wonder if it won't lead to more "FIRST" type commenting. There would presumably be some kind of countdown, and people would be sitting there with their finger hovering over the post button....
posted by auto-correct at 9:51 AM on November 16, 2011


How about just putting the members who consistently display this behavior on the (however-many-minutes) timed-wait for commenting? A three-strikes-you're-out, sort of thing.
posted by flex at 9:52 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


flex: "How about just putting the members who consistently display this behavior on the (however-many-minutes) timed-wait for commenting? A three-strikes-you're-out, sort of thing."

What criteria would you suggest?

Would this comment qualify?

(Using one of my own comments so I'm not singling anyone out.)
posted by zarq at 9:55 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cortex seems like a righteous dude, but I'm not letting him thrust anything on me in this or any other month.

Otherwise, this is a technical solution to the social problem of people being jerky or argumentative or hot headed or just having a bad day. More than likely, it would be a race to get the first comment in on that 16th minute.

This one of those things where a bit of self policing from the community and less moderating would be good. If you see someone saying something stupid, don't respond to it directly, flag it and then make a relative comment about the post. Will this work all the time? No, but I like the idea of an individual being able to make choices and take action instead of calling for the mods to do something overt.

Flag the bullshit and stick to commenting on the smart or neat stuff you like.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:55 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hitler. Thread has been shat upon at approximately minute 43.

I actually agree that it would be nice to have a 5 minute delay on commenting.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:56 AM on November 16, 2011


Explain why User B's comment will be better than User A's would have been if User A had been allowed to post.

User B is very rare. A very small number of commenters will get to the post within seconds of 15 minutes after it goes up. Most people will get there considerably before or afterward. Thus someone who gets to the post 16 or 17 minutes later won't have a more thoughtful comment than they would otherwise, but their comment won't be among the first comments in the thread.

Basically, there will be a pool of people like User A who will theoretically fill the beginning of the thread with thoughtful, RTFA-type comments, reducing the power of the small number of User B commenters who post something irrelevantly controversial because they happened to hit the post right around when the comment period begins.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:56 AM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


The people who don't take their time still won't. Those who do don't need this. For me, this means I'll never comment on a post that was posted within 15 minutes of me reading it. I have enough to do without Metafilter homework.
posted by spaltavian at 9:57 AM on November 16, 2011


I really like this idea.

smackfu: Explain why User B's comment will be better than User A's would have been if User A had been allowed to post.

Snarky, thread-killing comments are more likely to come from people who comment in every thread and seemingly never leave the site.
posted by painquale at 9:57 AM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Snarky, thread-killing comments are more likely to come from people who comment in every thread and seemingly never leave the site.

Anything to back this up?
posted by spaltavian at 9:59 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like this spirit of this, but it won't work, I don't think. If someone is going to skim and post in the first 15 minutes, they'll skim and post at any time after that. It will simply delay the derail by 15 minutes.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:59 AM on November 16, 2011


Of course, finding a agreed-upon definition of "go wrong" is an entirely different beast.
posted by MCMikeNamara


True. My definition of Go Wrong in this case is almost purely when posts are derailed before they're allowed to flourish. The whole problem with most bad comments early in a thread is that the folks who drop by a seemingly random thread to give their worthless snipey opinion immediately go and do something else and never return. The larger the site grows, the more these occasional users appear and do damage that no amount of socializing and metatalk requesting can change--they simply aren't listening, and once you educate one there are four more in their place.

I strongly disagree that this solution would lead to people hovering over the post button at the 15th minute. The problem with bad commenters (or folks having brain farts) is LACK of time, not surpluses of time. Maybe we'll get a few FIRSTIE instant jokes, but we get those now anyway. Having to think for 15 minutes about whether to just come out and crap on a subject/website/piece of art can't help but reduce Drive-bys in my opinion.

Whether its worth it to disrupt everyone and risk pitchforks/torches etc that's a harder question I leave to the mods. But it would definitely work.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:01 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


"By my accounting, threads, when they go wrong, go wrong in the first 30 minutes of their posting. "

This is like saying "I heard that most car accidents happen within 5 miles of your home; that's why we're moving to another home."

I don't think it works like that.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:01 AM on November 16, 2011 [19 favorites]


I dislike reading a four page blue treatise until I've decided I care about the thread. I'd much rather read 24 one-line jokes, snarks, related links, links forgotten by the poster, clarifications about the link's contents, etc. first. Brevity is a virtue.

In fact, I'll wager this pony encourages derails by giving any ranters a 15min head start. Do you seriously think anyone would spend those 15 min carefully weighing a sex positive vs. sex negative articles merits? How about Blazecock Pileon in an Apple critical thread? How about Ironmouth or delmoi in a bitcoin thread? WikiLeaks thread? Religious extremism thread? etc.

Yes, there are derails caused by short quick comments, but long rants cause just as many or more derails, well you could obviously pack more derail material in. If most people are reasonable, then you want more early comments, not fewer. Early comments dilute the rants and derails.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:01 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another advantage of the idea: if a thread survives 15 minutes--it's probably going to stay! No more yammering about or/and yearning for deletion.

Is this a real problem? I've only really seen it on threads that were - in fact - deleted. Maybe the mods actually spend a lot of time deleting these comments in undeleted threads, but that's not really your problem, nor mine to deal with.

I think this is a terrible idea simply because this site (especially the Blue) is so discussion-centric. As I said earlier, threads, right or wrong, generally have their direction set early on. You are proposing killing all the ways a thread can go right within that time in order to eliminate all the ways it can go wrong. In short, threads have momentum.

There are also certain use cases where you are effectively eliminating discussion in general. Consider a slyt cat video. If I have to wait 10 more minutes after watching a 5 minute video (which is kinda long for a cat video) just to post about how cute/awesome/stupid/witty/etc I thought it was, then I would probably not bother. Now, you may think this is a feature, but I assure you it is not a feature to the many people who come here for the discussion just as much as the links.
posted by mysterpigg at 10:02 AM on November 16, 2011


Does anyone else think that this is an odd pony request to be made on Censorship Day?
posted by TheCavorter at 10:02 AM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


This does not make sense for any post that takes less than 15 minutes to fully read or watch or play or whatever.

Also, 30 or 40 comments could appear all at once at 15 minutes.
posted by longsleeves at 10:04 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, one of many problems is that Mefi is rarely first with a link; so why shouldn't I be able to comment on something that I read 2-3 ago?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:05 AM on November 16, 2011


5 minutes is like a more reasonable time length, I think. The no-comment time length should be such that anyone who comments within that time almost certainly didn't engage with the content of the links. There are plenty of links that demand less than 15 minutes of engagement, but very few that demand much less than 5.

This punishes people who want to comment on something that they've already seen online before it was linked on Metafilter, and some FPPs link to a page with some cool Javascript or something like that which doesn't demand 5 minutes of engagement, but other than that, 5 minutes seems like a decent choice for a bare minimum.

Anything to back this up?

Other than the fact that any comment is more likely to be from someone who comments in every thread and seemingly never reads the site, nope, nothing solid. It's a hypothesis.
posted by painquale at 10:06 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why 15 minutes? Why not an hour, or a day? Or we could remove commenting altogether.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:06 AM on November 16, 2011


Potomac Avenue: " I strongly disagree that this solution would lead to people hovering over the post button at the 15th minute. The problem with bad commenters (or folks having brain farts) is LACK of time, not surpluses of time. Maybe we'll get a few FIRSTIE instant jokes, but we get those now anyway. Having to think for 15 minutes about whether to just come out and crap on a subject/website/piece of art can't help but reduce Drive-bys in my opinion. "

Derails don't just happen because of snark. For example: derisive comments (especially when aimed at other users,) and axe-grindy rants are both common and can happen at any time in a thread.
posted by zarq at 10:06 AM on November 16, 2011


What if you can make a comment, but it's hidden for the first 15? Downside being people might not read the disclaimers saying 'Nobody will see this for ____ minutes' post spamming or bugging the mods.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:07 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


How about a new post queue with no comments, that's only accessible to registered users to read, and only flags and favorites are available, and it's not in the RSS feed and not on the front page, and has a hold time of an hour.

Then when news breaks, mods can take the time to delete all the terrible FIRST POST obits, and spam, doubles, flamebait, etc, never even hits people's feed readers.
posted by empath at 10:07 AM on November 16, 2011


zarq, I'm just saying it makes more sense to impose something like this on the few who are the loudest, rather than the many who mostly don't do this, across the board.

Right now there isn't really a deterrent to dropping a snarky/dismissive/lazy comment. If there were, it would happen less often, and other users/new users would get the idea that it isn't acceptable.

If it's a behavior you want to stop, you have to target it more precisely. 15 minutes for everyone on the site is too big a net, IMO.
posted by flex at 10:07 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Having to think for 15 minutes about whether to just come out and crap on a subject/website/piece of art can't help but reduce Drive-bys in my opinion.

There's more than one FPP up at a time. No one is going to spend 15 minutes thoughtfully considering their responses, they're just going to find a thread that went live 15 minutes ago and snark in that one.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:07 AM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


What if you can make a comment, but it's hidden for the first 15?

This would functionally remove one of the operating barriers to excessive FIRSTiness: the social pressure that comes to bear on folks who are second or third to a given joke. Instead you get a fifteen minute blind-joke round where we only find out how many people went there and who went there best/worst after the quarter hour elapses.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:08 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Having to think for 15 minutes about whether to just come out and crap on a subject/website/piece of art can't help but reduce Drive-bys in my opinion.

I honestly think that what will happen is that people will have 15 minutes to compose a multi-paragraph drive-by snark, and they will all post it at the same time as soon as it goes live.
posted by empath at 10:08 AM on November 16, 2011


It's a technical solution to a social problem

yeah as much as I'd love a way to curtail early threadshitting, I'm not sure this is it. Not with this userbase.

It's sort of a two-pronged problem. On the one hand, the threadshitting can be a problem if it's toxic type "I hate this and you suck" stuff. On the other hand, there's the issue of peoples' responses to the more lulzy jokey sort of early thread comments (stuff that's firmly okay in the guidelines) which is sometimes extreme irritability and more resultant threadshitting only this time people feel righteous about it because they were provoked.

So, a middle ground of a fewer early "who cares" comments and some understanding that they will sometimes happen is always what I wish for though it may be unrealistic.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:09 AM on November 16, 2011


Oh, and one last thing. People comment in the thread without reading it HOURS after a post goes live. For this to work as intended, you'd have to make it so you can't post a comment for 15 minutes after you read a post, not after the post was made.
posted by empath at 10:10 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


empath: "How about a new post queue with no comments, that's only accessible to registered users to read, and only flags and favorites are available, and it's not in the RSS feed and not on the front page, and has a hold time of an hour. "

Why not just switch to total moderation? Every comment should have to be approved by a mod before going live.



All at once, on several continents, every one of the mods just pulled out their banhammers at the exact same moment and gestured with them menacingly in my direction.
posted by zarq at 10:11 AM on November 16, 2011


I'm just saying it makes more sense to impose something like this on the few who are the loudest

Oh, dear. That is the worst idea I have heard this week and I listen to talk radio.
posted by longsleeves at 10:12 AM on November 16, 2011


This doesn't make any sense in cases where the link you posted is something I already read/know about. My ability to make a prescient comment immediately would have little correlation with the exact time at which you posted something I already am familiar with.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:12 AM on November 16, 2011


There's more than one FPP up at a time. No one is going to spend 15 minutes thoughtfully considering their responses, they're just going to find a thread that went live 15 minutes ago and snark in that one.

I think the primary purpose of this plan isn't to change the behavior of snarkers (snarkers gonna snark). It's to change the way that threads develop. For any particular FPP, the pool of people who might make one of the first 10 comments changes from people who didn't RTFA to people who people who did RTFA as well as people who didn't.
posted by painquale at 10:13 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would lead to pent-up frustration in commenters when they aren't allowed to post, making their comments all the more aggressive once they do post.

Hmmm.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:13 AM on November 16, 2011


flex: "zarq, I'm just saying it makes more sense to impose something like this on the few who are the loudest, rather than the many who mostly don't do this, across the board. "

OK, but as much as I'd LOVE to see a couple of serial threadshitters silenced, I suspect this would turn into a total catastrophe.
posted by zarq at 10:13 AM on November 16, 2011


Not with this userbase.

All your userbase are belong to nobody.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:16 AM on November 16, 2011


I'm against this idea, but I think it would be hilarious to see what kinds of thoughtful analyses could come out of forcing 15 minutes of contemplative time on an post with a 60 second SLYT of a kitty.
posted by phunniemee at 10:17 AM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


compose a multi-paragraph drive-by snark

That's fine. Then it's criticism rather than snark.


Derails don't just happen because of snark. For example: derisive comments (especially when aimed at other users,) and axe-grindy rants are both common and can happen at any time in a thread.

That's true, and this solution does nothing about that. But you have to admit they're easier to deal with/ignore if they come in after discussion has begun.

There's more than one FPP up at a time. No one is going to spend 15 minutes thoughtfully considering their responses, they're just going to find a thread that went live 15 minutes ago and snark in that one.

That is easier to deal with though because for 15 minutes (or 5 or 10 or etc) people who ARE interested and like the subject/link have been noticing and amassing to be there to start commenting in earnest.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:17 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


If threadshitting is by users who comment immediately after the post has gone live, this can be determined by data from the infodump. Select a few threads at random, identify the problem comments and compare with the time the post has gone live. If there's a strong relation, then I suggest a 5 min delay will be enough to deter them.
posted by dhruva at 10:19 AM on November 16, 2011


Do those of you who not want this think that it's good for people to be able to comment without having followed any of the FPP links? What if the time limit was 60 seconds? It might not do much good, but what is the harm?
posted by painquale at 10:19 AM on November 16, 2011


If you really want people to read a question, you give the poster the option of leaving a skill-testing question for potential commenters that can only be found by reading the article...that way, if people want to post, they have to at least skim the article and find the answer before the "post" button will activate.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 10:20 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


a question = an article.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 10:20 AM on November 16, 2011


phunniemee: "I'm against this idea, but I think it would be hilarious to see what kinds of thoughtful analyses could come out of forcing 15 minutes of contemplative time on an post with a 60 second SLYT of a kitty."

I laughed.
I cried.
I hugged my kids.
I ate a sandwich.
I got bored.
Ennui.
I watched it again.
I made a decision.
I would post my 80,000 word anti-SLYT manifesto to every appropriate post in the future.
posted by zarq at 10:20 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree that it's problematic when people jump in to tear down something they haven't wholly examined.

On the other hand, it seems as though there's also a growing problem with people who feel it's necessary to rip into anybody who missed a detail in the post with a pretentious, condescending, and insulting comment to the effect of 'go RTFA now and STFU.'

I guess I understand this. People are really frustrated by the fact that other people don't seem to have read the article, and it's natural to let one's frustration with that general problem enter into one's interactions with individual people. Maybe it's better to keep in mind that the person you're talking to isn't necessarily an embodiment of a broader problem; they're just a person that may have missed something in the link. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, and responding with something more like 'actually, here's a thing in the linked article you may have missed,' is a lot more conducive to good conversation.

And I have a funny feeling that giving people the subtle hint that they need to read the article, while also working to make the conversation-space healthy and welcoming for everybody, will really help take care of the problem where people just skim the article without reading it and then come in to bash it.
posted by koeselitz at 10:21 AM on November 16, 2011


Or we could remove commenting altogether.

Hmm. What about that? What if we allowed users to make FPPs and turn comments off? I'd suggest that any post that the poster designated as "Comments Off" would need to be approved by the mods (like Anonymous AskMes) and that it only be allowed for things that didn't really invite a conversations -- something like a great photographer's gallery, or a silly YouTube video. We'd still get the great link, we wouldn't lose a great deal of interaction (and if someone had something REALLY important to say about it they could start a MetaTalk thread), and we'd eliminate a vector for "I seen this alrdy old shit" type threadshitting.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:23 AM on November 16, 2011


A 15 minute waiting period will give me plenty of time to come up with clever one-liners.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:24 AM on November 16, 2011


I suspect this would also make the beginnings of a thread non-linear. If several folks have fifteen (or however many) minutes to compose their reply, then they'll be posting them at the fifteen minute mark without having seen the replies by everyone else doing the same thing. Consider how handy preview is when responding to a post.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:24 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: "And I have a funny feeling that giving people the subtle hint that they need to read the article, while also working to make the conversation-space healthy and welcoming for everybody, will really help take care of the problem where people just skim the article without reading it and then come in to bash it."

Dude, someone once complained that the body of a post I'd made didn't include a development that happened more than 24 hours after the post was created.

There is no fix for that sort of thing.
posted by zarq at 10:25 AM on November 16, 2011


It might not do much good, but what is the harm?

It decreases usability of the site. Most threads don't End Badly, and so most threads don't need this pony applied to them.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:25 AM on November 16, 2011


What if we allowed users to make FPPs and turn comments off?

Wait, what? This akin to In Focus disabling inline images.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:25 AM on November 16, 2011


It's the 80/20 rule - 20% of the userbase is going to cause 80% of the problems. Actually I suspect the ratio is even more skewed here.

Really, I'd love for it to be acknowledged at some point that it only takes a few to run off many, many more. Why should everyone else have a comment delay "discipline" imposed on them? Isn't that going to irritate the users who aren't a problem - and is it really going to affect the users who are?

I thought this comment by taz was right on the money. It takes both sides restraining themselves. But the only tools the "many more" have right now are flagging, and refusing to engage with a threadshit. Neither is visible or rewarding, and they don't deter the few. Why not focus on the few rather than the many?
posted by flex at 10:25 AM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you don't like the first few comments, flag them.
posted by spitbull at 10:26 AM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yes, you've added more people who RTFA, painquale, but you've also encouraged rants and other long comments. All the early one-liners set a high bar for brevity, humor, etc.

You could however write a greasemonkey script that offered 5min and 10min buttons, which jumped that far down the thread.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:28 AM on November 16, 2011


It decreases usability of the site.

It decreases usability insofar as it doesn't let you do something that you could do before. But why is that a negative in this case? Decreases in usability are not universally bad.
posted by painquale at 10:28 AM on November 16, 2011


Koeslitz: I definitely agree, but the main problem isn't people MISSING things from the article (that's AskMes problem heh heh.) I think the worst ones can be clearly defined as: Comments that are not about the article at all, but about the subject of the post.

Post: A parody video of Kirsten Dunst from SNL.

Comment #3: People still watch SNL?
Comment #4: Kirsten Dunst sucked in that memory movie what was that called?
Etc.

Then they never return to the thread again.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:29 AM on November 16, 2011


t really feels like it could solve a lot of frustrating issues I see with people posting knee-jerk or dismissive stuff without reading or absorbing the content.

If you want to solve that, allowing the poster to set questions you have to answer before you post, based on the content, would be a better technical solution, if we're trying for technical solutions to bullshit behaviou.
posted by rodgerd at 10:30 AM on November 16, 2011


If several folks have fifteen (or however many) minutes to compose their reply, then they'll be posting them at the fifteen minute mark without having seen the replies by everyone else doing the same thing.

I agree this could be troublesome. But if the comment box isn't open until then, do you really think people will be just sitting there looking at the blank thread waiting or writing a comment in google docs or something?

This isn't how the net works. Most people around when it goes live will see the thread, click the links perhaps or perhaps not, and then move on. 15 minutes later they may think, Oh I can comment now, and return to the thread and do so.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:32 AM on November 16, 2011


I appreciate the impulse behind this idea but technical solutions to societal problems are seldom effective. I think a bigger community effort to make threadshitting unacceptable behaviour would be helpful though, including heavy flagging of early threadshits.
posted by unSane at 10:32 AM on November 16, 2011


Rock Steady: " Hmm. What about that? What if we allowed users to make FPPs and turn comments off? I'd suggest that any post that the poster designated as "Comments Off" would need to be approved by the mods (like Anonymous AskMes) and that it only be allowed for things that didn't really invite a conversations -- something like a great photographer's gallery, or a silly YouTube video. We'd still get the great link, we wouldn't lose a great deal of interaction (and if someone had something REALLY important to say about it they could start a MetaTalk thread), and we'd eliminate a vector for "I seen this alrdy old shit" type threadshitting."

It would create more work for the mods, since people would come to Meta and have proxy conversations about posts they couldn't comment on. Many already do it when told to take an argument here instead of continuing it on the blue.
posted by zarq at 10:32 AM on November 16, 2011


Hmm. What about that? What if we allowed users to make FPPs and turn comments off?

Oh heck no. Nothing wrong with a site that wants to not have comments on its threads, but that would be completely alien to Metafilter. This is not a thing that will be happening.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:35 AM on November 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


I wish there was a 15 minute waiting period for posting other random out-there technical solutions in this thread before exhausting the possibility that mine might work but I've had way too much coffee today so that's probably just my pumping blood vessels talking.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:37 AM on November 16, 2011


Yes, you've added more people who RTFA, painquale, but you've also encouraged rants and other long comments. All the early one-liners set a high bar for brevity, humor, etc.

That's an interesting response. But as others have noted here, there is still going to be plenty of snark, one-liners, etc. in the beginning of each thread. What this proposal does is make it more likely that some of the initial comments will be long and will engage with the article. Brevity and humor aren't the only sorts of virtues. I think it would be best for the first 10 comments to have a smattering of short pithy one-liners as well as longer comments that engage with the article.
posted by painquale at 10:37 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hi5 painquale.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:39 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


When making a FPP, you need to include a question that can only be answered correctly by someone who followed the link. Those who answer correctly may comment.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:40 AM on November 16, 2011


painquale: "What this proposal does is make it more likely that some of the initial comments will be long and will engage with the article."

You're making a huge assumption here. There's absolutely no proof that a 15 minute block on comments would make any specific type of response to a post more or less likely.
posted by zarq at 10:41 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it just moves the point at which people can make deraily comments. There are lots of comments made far into the lifetime of a post that, if they had been made when the post went live, would've derailed them completely.

One other way to tackle this, however, is a time-sensitive message that pops up when people make comments within 15 minutes or so. I don't know what it would say exactly ("Note: Everyone needs a hug" is always applicable, though) but I'm sure something could be written that might make people think about their comment again. It wouldn't stop everything, but it might lessen the amount of early fighty comments.

To be clear, what I'm talking about is an enforced preview for early comments, rather than forbidding people from commenting early on.
posted by Kattullus at 10:42 AM on November 16, 2011


Potomac Avenue: “I think the worst ones can be clearly defined as: Comments that are not about the article at all, but about the subject of the post.”

Then we're not really talking about the "RTFA" problem, I guess – we're talking more about a specific kind of derail-by-association. I still think this sounds like derailing, though, so the solution is still probably to flag such comments as derails. Maybe the mods can say whether they'd delete the comments you give as examples. I guess it's tough, because you get into this whole question of whether it's even feasible to demand that every comment be exactly on topic; at that point I can understand that the mods probably don't want to be policing conversations that heavily.

“I wish there was a 15 minute waiting period for posting other random out-there technical solutions in this thread before exhausting the possibility that mine might work but I've had way too much coffee today so that's probably just my pumping blood vessels talking.”

Well, a lot of people have given a version of what seems to be the consensus – that this is, as the phrase has it, a technical solution to a social problem. For me, I guess it's not so much that it's that exactly; it's more that this is a problem that I think requires engagement rather than disengagement. Maybe there's some other easier way, but at this point it seems to me that the only way to deal with this kind of dismissive semi-derail is for someone to be there to jump in and say: "well, you may bash it, but I liked it; and here's some stuff I thought about it..." to offer the conversants a conversational direction that makes more sense.

Finally, one of the little things that gets under my skin about this plan is that it pretty flatly assumes that every single comment that happens before the 15 minute mark right now is worthless and should be prevented. I think that's sort of a silly generalization; in fact, I get the feeling most threads are okay without this kind of limitation. What we're doing here, I think, is taking one problem the site sometimes has and assuming it's exactly the same in every thread across the board. Whereas there are plenty of great discussions that start in threads right after the bat and don't need that 15-minute waiting period; do you really want to stifle those conversations by locking people out of commenting?

My guess is this would cause a dramatic decrease in the number of comments, because we couldn't comment on the first one or two threads listed on the page. It's easy to say 'that's okay, all of those comments are worthless anyway,' but I'm really not convinced that's the case.
posted by koeselitz at 10:47 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if it might work just as well to flag threadhitty and snarky comments and trust the mods to delete them if they are genuinely distracting?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:49 AM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also: my feeling is that these kinds of deraily comments happen more after the 15 minute mark than before.
posted by koeselitz at 10:50 AM on November 16, 2011


I wonder if it might work just as well to flag threadhitty and snarky comments and trust the mods to delete them if they are genuinely distracting?

This is a good current-system solution, yes, and to some extent people just being collectively more vigilant about flagging early-thread noise and declining to respond to it would solve a lot of these problems. It's hard to make it a 100% sort of thing that way but I feel like there's at least room for improvement.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:53 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like the word "threadhitty".
posted by FishBike at 10:54 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps if comments where invisible for the first 15 minutes. Once the floodgates are opened, the likely ensuing mess of comments, making the same or similar jokes or snark, may condition us to be less jokey/snarky.

Probably just make a huge mess though...
posted by Packed Lunch at 10:56 AM on November 16, 2011


Packed Lunch: "Perhaps if comments where invisible for the first 15 minutes."

Already asked and answered.
posted by zarq at 11:01 AM on November 16, 2011


and to some extent people just being collectively more vigilant about flagging early-thread noise and declining to respond to it would solve a lot of these problems

I'm telling ya, people, we need a Cheerful Anti-Threadshit Posse.
We're all in this together, amirite?
posted by flex at 11:02 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


We could, instead, just have a age limit to posting
posted by infini at 11:03 AM on November 16, 2011


flex: " I'm telling ya, people, we need a Cheerful Anti-Threadshit Posse. "

CAT Pee?
posted by zarq at 11:03 AM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also how long before someone creates a greasemonkey script that allows you to post your inane first-in snarky comment, written within seconds of seeing the post, automatically at the moment commenting is enabled, right? Every technical solution has a workaround.
posted by spitbull at 11:03 AM on November 16, 2011


You know what, I'm going to go take a walk, zarq, and since you're currently at over 10% of the comments in this thread, maybe you might want to join me.
posted by flex at 11:05 AM on November 16, 2011


infini: "We could, instead, just have a age limit to posting"

Mathowie's Run: Commenting Must End At 30.


Of course, this would mean that Matt himself would be barred from commenting.... :)
posted by zarq at 11:05 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


flex: "You know what, I'm going to go take a walk, zarq, and since you're currently at over 10% of the comments in this thread, maybe you might want to join me."

It was a JOKE. Yeesh.
posted by zarq at 11:06 AM on November 16, 2011


This is a good current-system solution, yes, and to some extent people just being collectively more vigilant about flagging early-thread noise and declining to respond to it would solve a lot of these problems. It's hard to make it a 100% sort of thing that way but I feel like there's at least room for improvement.

I wonder if it would help to have a "flags" counter, visible only to the author, beside each comment?

Right now we've got a sort of positive feedback mechanism. People use that mechanism sometimes to indicate to the author that they liked, agreed with, or laughed at a comment, without having to post a comment just to say that. And the author sees these as an indication people liked what they wrote and is encourged to write more like that.

So maybe we need the opposite, as well, so that people feel they can register their dislike of a comment without having to post an otherwise non-substantial comment of their own just saying that. And the author might see the flags piling up and be encouraged to write less like that in future.

But no list of who flagged the comment, and nothing visible at all to anyone but the author and the mods, of course.
posted by FishBike at 11:08 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


How about a comment allowance system?

Each day, you start with x comments. Every time you make a comment, decrement x.

If you have zero comments, you can't comment any more until your allowance gets filled up again.

But there's a little button next to your comment that allows me to donate one of my comments to you, so you can keep going.

Of course, it's massively game-able, but that's what I like about it.
posted by unSane at 11:11 AM on November 16, 2011


flex: “You know what, I'm going to go take a walk, zarq, and since you're currently at over 10% of the comments in this thread, maybe you might want to join me.”

Whoa. Where did this come from?
posted by koeselitz at 11:11 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


This thread is like a Hall of Fame for terrible ideas.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:12 AM on November 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


I wonder if it would help to have a "flags" counter, visible only to the author, beside each comment?

Really hesitant to go there, as we've been pretty consistent about just not surfacing flag data period.

What me might do on the mod side is instead try and pay more specific attention to the early-comment-chaff phenomenon and just be quicker to straight up tell someone if we're seeing a pattern of behavior there. It's slightly touchy because I don't want to tell someone, "hey, you seem to like to hang out on mefi, cut it out" in so many words, but to the extent that part of the problem is repeat offenders we may not be helping ourselves out much by assuming they will figure this out on their own.

How about a comment allowance system?

Heck no.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:15 AM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


You're making a huge assumption here. There's absolutely no proof that a 15 minute block on comments would make any specific type of response to a post more or less likely.

It's a claim I'm making, not an assumption. Right now, in the first 14 minutes that it is possible to comment in a thread, there is no chance that someone will make a comment that took them 15 minutes to compose (including time spent reading the article). Plenty of other people comment in these 14 minutes, which skews the kind of comment that happens early on. This proposal will make it possible for comments that demand 15 minutes of attention to appear in the first 14 minutes that it is possible to comment. The only assumptions I'm making is that there are people who spend 15 minutes composing comments (including reading time), and that they will be around when new FPPs go up and will comment on them. If all of the above are true, we should expect 15-minute comments to appear earlier in the thread. I don't really see what you are disagreeing with here or what sort of proof you're demanding.

(I do think 15 minutes is probably too long. 5 minutes is better.)
posted by painquale at 11:16 AM on November 16, 2011


koeselitz: " Whoa. Where did this come from?"

Apparently I am not funny. :P
posted by zarq at 11:19 AM on November 16, 2011


This was discussed in the thread about languagehat leaving. I'll say here what I'll say there: when people start an FPP with a surprising or counterintuitive quote from the article, there are inevitably a half a dozen comments arguing with the quote, which is a really stupid thing to do. The quote was supposed to be surprising; that's why they quoted it.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:20 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just want to point out that my one comment in this thread was actually a joke, because I was basically suggesting we make a MetaFilter equivalent of TotalFark.

putting this disclaimer here, because this has certainly become (as noted above) the hall of fame for bad ideas
posted by davejay at 11:23 AM on November 16, 2011


I've had this same thought, but I agree with theichibun that it wouldn't actually help anything - people are just ask capable of avoiding the articles 15 minutes from now as they are right now.

My impression is that this occurs most often when someone posts an article about a topic that is already in the "public conscious" - for a recent example, if someone were to post an interesting article about Penn State and Sandusky. Mefites have already been thinking about the Penn State scandal for awhile now, so they naturally want to express their opinions. There's really no fix to this except, I suppose, to carefully frame the FPP to avoid mentioning the topic, or to avoid topics like this altogether.

when people start an FPP with a surprising or counterintuitive quote from the article, there are inevitably a half a dozen comments arguing with the quote, which is a really stupid thing to do. The quote was supposed to be surprising; that's why they quoted it.

...and the second-most-common occurence, IMO, is when someone uses a sensational (or even deceptive) pull-quote. Personally, this one annoys me because I don't really understand the motivation to do this. I guess the poster really enjoyed the article but wanted to make sure the discussion followed just what he or she found interesting? Or they didn't realize that the pull-quote could be construed differently than they intended? I'd much rather read the article without any kind of spin in the first place (in my ideal world, editors wouldn't write headlines, but rather we'd just judge an article's contents by the first sentence/paragraph).
posted by muddgirl at 11:24 AM on November 16, 2011


Oh, and on a serious (but not heavy) note: if you delay commenting, you will delay both the good and bad comments. In theory, you will skim off the knee-jerk stuff, but you're assuming people will sit around for X amount of time reconsidering their position, which is unlikely. What would likely happen, at best, is people would experience the commenting-is-on moment as they do the FPP-is-posted moment; as something that they respond to as they discover it, not on a timer, so the likelihood of thoughtful or thoughtless comments hitting first are about the same as if there was no timer.

although if this feature was implemented, I would look forward to the first pony request for something to indicate on the front page whether or not commenting was open
posted by davejay at 11:26 AM on November 16, 2011


And muddgirl said it better than I did, with "people are just ask capable of avoiding the articles 15 minutes from now as they are right now."
posted by davejay at 11:26 AM on November 16, 2011


The 15 minute rule would not have stopped this pointless comment!
posted by mazola at 11:32 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


And muddgirl said it better than I did, with "people are just ask capable of avoiding the articles 15 minutes from now as they are right now."

I guess I'll stop saying this after this comment, but this misconstrues the main purpose of this proposal. It is not to make it so that people who don't read the articles will start reading the articles. It is to make it so that people who do read the articles will be able to contribute earlier in the thread.
posted by painquale at 11:36 AM on November 16, 2011


FIRST!
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:37 AM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


By my accounting, threads, when they go wrong, go wrong in the first 30 minutes of their posting.

It strikes me that delaying the commenting time would serve only to postpone this event.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:44 AM on November 16, 2011


painquale: " It's a claim I'm making, not an assumption.

Here's what you originally said: "What this proposal does is make it more likely that some of the initial comments will be long and will engage with the article."

This assumes a number of factors, including:

1) That people will spend their 15 minute window crafting long responses.
2) That the 15 minute comment block will somehow encourage people to RTFA or engage with its content.
3) That people who are likely to post snark anywhere in a thread will be either discouraged from doing so or lose interest in doing so if blocked for 15 minutes.
4) That people who compose comments that take 15+ minutes do so in a vacuum, and not in response to other comments.
5) That snark / derails mostly happen in the first fifteen minutes of a thread

There are probably other inherent assumptions that I'm missing.

The first three of these are not proveable. The fourth and fifth could be theoretically proveable. But until someone does a study, they're assumptions.

Right now, in the first 14 minutes that it is possible to comment in a thread, there is no chance that someone will make a comment that took them 15 minutes to compose (including time spent reading the article). Plenty of other people comment in these 14 minutes, which skews the kind of comment that happens early on. This proposal will make it possible for comments that demand 15 minutes of attention to appear in the first 14 minutes that it is possible to comment. The only assumptions I'm making is that there are people who spend 15 minutes composing comments (including reading time), and that they will be around when new FPPs go up and will comment on them. If all of the above are true, we should expect 15-minute comments to appear earlier in the thread."

I understand what you mean now. But given the number of assumptions about mefite commenting behaviour your statement involves, it's impossible to predict if people would react this way to a 15 minute comment block.
posted by zarq at 11:49 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess I'll stop saying this after this comment, but this misconstrues the main purpose of this proposal.

Dude, it says right in the proposal "A waiting period would be especially helpful with single link posts, where it would discourage people from clicking, skimming, and returning to thoughtlessly bash the link, the poster, and whatever general concept they think it represents." It's not misconstruing anything, it's responding to what the person who came up with this idea had to say about it.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:49 AM on November 16, 2011


How about each user makes it a point to avoid engaging with any poster or comment that says things they feel are derailing to the thread, regardless of whether those comments were posted after 5 or 25 or 250 minutes?

It seems to me that that would be the simplest and less irritating solution. You don't want to talk about how X author sucks anyway? Ignore, ignore, ignore. And flag, if that is appropriate. A mandated 15 minutes of silence sounds ridiculous, to me.
posted by lydhre at 11:50 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I generally avoid all this unpleasantness by making the first comment in my own threads to ensure that supportive, gentile, erudite tone is established from the outset.

In lieu of a waiting period, a modest remuneration to the poster would suffice, and then payee could snark away at will. Sort of a barf-on-a-post-early get out of jail free toll.

Alternately: severely flagellate all the first commenters routinely. (Sorry, Think_Long, in this thread that means you. Submit nicely now.)
posted by madamjujujive at 11:50 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


painquale: “Right now, in the first 14 minutes that it is possible to comment in a thread, there is no chance that someone will make a comment that took them 15 minutes to compose (including time spent reading the article). Plenty of other people comment in these 14 minutes, which skews the kind of comment that happens early on. This proposal will make it possible for comments that demand 15 minutes of attention to appear in the first 14 minutes that it is possible to comment. The only assumptions I'm making is that there are people who spend 15 minutes composing comments (including reading time), and that they will be around when new FPPs go up and will comment on them. If all of the above are true, we should expect 15-minute comments to appear earlier in the thread. I don't really see what you are disagreeing with here or what sort of proof you're demanding. (I do think 15 minutes is probably too long. 5 minutes is better.)”

The curious assumption you're making is that the quality of a comment correlates directly to the aggregate of the time spent reading the article and the time spent writing the comment. This seems to me to be emphatically not true.
posted by koeselitz at 11:51 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've found painquale persuasive here. Even a three minute restriction seems like it would cut down on the worst of the chaff, whose principle is something like: "I saw the post title and this is my clever response."

If this were also part of a three-minute edit window for the FPP I think we'd have nirvana.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:55 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


You don't want to talk about how X author sucks anyway? Ignore, ignore, ignore. And flag, if that is appropriate.

I should keep count of all of the "I flagged this, because you're an idiot..." remarks that I delete. This is definitely the best case scenario but not really in line with the way people function.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:56 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


ONE-HUNDRED-THIRTY-SIXTH!!!!1
posted by not_on_display at 12:08 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would support an experimental week of this.
posted by codacorolla at 12:25 PM on November 16, 2011


I appreciate the current system very much, and personally try to always post positive comments when I like something and ignore/flag everything else, but it is possible that it won't continue to work for 3 reasons:

1. The userbase is growing
2. The user base is changing
3. The web is getting older

1. As we get more people but a relatively fixed # of posts, the % of comments that can ruin or destabilize a thread grows. So does the amount of flaggers it is true, but is that % growing as well? I would submit it is not--newer folks are loath to flag or don't realize moderators delete pointless one-line jibes or fighty derails. It's simply a numbers game especially given #2.

2. Used to other venues on the web, new users come in thinking that they can comment with anonymity rather than accountability. Blogs (which MF still is) are becoming less and less the model of communication and sites like Reddit and Youtube are, where you engage in short bursts with broad, often tangential, issues rather than compose responses to the specific content. This will continue to be the case with many new users who only engage rarely and as #1 occurs, this will get worse. The pool of users to whom snark, tone-deaf lols and single-note rants are normal is growing, AS WELL as that of those who think arguing with or sniping back is only recourse. Users to whom positivity, FIAMO, and gentle disagreements are the answer is shrinking, not terminally, but perhaps enough to threaten the balance in any given post.

3. This might be my most disjointed point but it seems, as many have said itt, that there are plenty of places to see stuff faster than on MF. MF is often late to the game when it comes to the latest whenever. Now when someone steps into a thread about, oh, Anorexia websites (my biggest failure as a poster!) or a comedy series on Funny or Die, they've either discussed the specific content, or the general themes or website it's been posted on and so on. So essentially everyone's ready to go with worthless comments and fighty responses. And when I hear something like "Yeah, one of many problems is that Mefi is rarely first with a link; so why shouldn't I be able to comment on something that I read 2-3 [weeks?] ago?" it makes me want something like a waiting period MORE. If you've already said what you have to say about a link or an issue elsewhere, you're more likely to say it worse and/or in fewer words. As issues and types of issues ("I hate advertising, Facebook/Social Networking is bad, Comic Books aren't art, etc etc) get stale, so do the responses more get short-tempered and less charitable (cf. the first What Are You Reading feminist thread vs some later 100th iteration).

Certainly it would be nice if the current (not-really-that-bad) level of early thread problems can be held back or reversed with the current methods. But it might not. And maybe this solution isn't the answer, but I hope the mods are thinking of a non-tech solution in case the current social one continues to allow the crap to creep upwards.

(Please correct any errors I've made in facts here TY)

posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:28 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


zarq, I don't think I'm assuming any of the things you think I'm assuming. I don't know which of them I agree with, and I'd be perfectly happy to accept that they are all false. (Mmmmmaybe I'm assuming 4.)

23skidoo: It's not misconstruing anything, it's responding to what the person who came up with this idea had to say about it.

OK, that's fair. Apologies to muddgirl.

koeselitz: The curious assumption you're making is that the quality of a comment correlates directly to the aggregate of the time spent reading the article and the time spent writing the comment. This seems to me to be emphatically not true.

I don't really want to make any claims about comment quality. I think that people who spend 15 minutes reading the article and writing the comment (remember that the 15 minutes involves reading time) will be people who have read the article, and that it's desirable for there to be comments early in a thread by people who have read the linked article. You can disagree with that latter bit, but it seems to me that it could help kick off conversation and help threads from getting derailed early on. I have a really hard time thinking that it could be bad to have early comments by people who have read the article.
posted by painquale at 12:33 PM on November 16, 2011


I like the idea of this as a trial run, for a month or so. Sure, like the obscured favorites count exercise of '09, some technically savvy folks will craft work-arounds, but that's not a reason to not try it.

And everyone who says "people will just wait 15 minutes to snark" are ignoring the prime purpose for this: anyone has a chance to read a bit of the linked material, and someone might then post informed comments on the topic before the thread is derailed by snark or uninformed assumptions. The goal is not to force the drive-by snarkers to read the post, but to give those who want to read the content a snark-free field to start the discussion.

Anyhow, who would really figure out how much time they had to make a snarky comment, when they could check the next thread down? So what if they write up a longer retaliatory comment? I agree with Potomac Avenue's comment -- "Then it's criticism rather than snark."
posted by filthy light thief at 12:39 PM on November 16, 2011


Bunny Ultramod: I wonder if it might work just as well to flag threadhitty and snarky comments and trust the mods to delete them if they are genuinely distracting?

cortex: This is a good current-system solution, yes, and to some extent people just being collectively more vigilant about flagging early-thread noise and declining to respond to it would solve a lot of these problems.

Following these comments, a question to the mods: how many (early) threadshits and potential derailings are deleted because of flags vs mods reviewing threads for such muck? Are you ever overwhelmed by flags, or is the system built in such a way as that isn't a problem?
posted by filthy light thief at 12:43 PM on November 16, 2011


Actually, thinking about it a little more, yes, I'm assuming zarq's 4: "That people who compose comments that take 15+ minutes do so in a vacuum, and not in response to other comments." I'm assuming that people would read linked articles in threads that have no comments yet. I guess this could be false. Maybe everyone decide what links to check out based on the size of comment threads, and maybe no one reads articles that have no comments.

But all I really need to assume is that there are some people who would read the article links before the countdown-to-commenttime was over, and that doesn't seem like a stretch to me. In fact, I can imagine that if we did institute such a countdown, some people, upon seeing that they have 14 minutes to read the article before commenting, would be encouraged to read the article then, to be one of the first with a well-informed opinion.
posted by painquale at 12:43 PM on November 16, 2011


before the thread is derailed by snark or uninformed assumptions

How often is a thread derailed by snark or uninformed assumptions? I'm not asking for a guess, I'm asking for a real percentage of the time.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:46 PM on November 16, 2011


- When I read this I immediately thought YES and furthermore decided that I would in fact time-shift those first-15-minutes comments 45 minutes in the future, because hahaha. Obviously I must never be allowed to run an internet forum

- The risk-reward mechanics for early zingers are fucked up, towards favoring rewards. Zarq, you linked to one of your comments ("Would this comment qualify?"), and it's a pretty decent comment, not wrong, a complete sentence, but you don't actually think it was 80 favorites decent, do you? And actually it's a version of the threadshitting mechanic - readers start reading a thread and upvote the first thing they agree with, a lot of times, it seems. Not to say that you are favoriting wrong. But a similar impulse, no?

- Threadshitting, though I hate it, doesn't have a firm definition and easily becomes a meaningless term, like "trolling" is a lot of times. I don't hate pithy, negative comments if they are creative, or at least show some self-awareness that the author might look like a grouch for saying it

- Derailing threads is not absolutely a bad thing, either - it can be a lot of fun if it's in good spirits! The problem is people seizing on a pet peeve that's only tangential to the topic. "That rocket scientist wears a fedora!" "Get 'im!"

- In other probably bad behavior-modifying programming decisions, you could make it so people have to click on the link in order to post a comment, couldn't you? (One downside would be posts with explicit content, but that could be solved culturally by having people with nothing to lose by clicking scout the links. I'm sure there are other downsides)
posted by furiousthought at 12:47 PM on November 16, 2011


I like the idea of this as a trial run, for a month or so.

I think the odds of us doing that sort of experiment again, given the community response to that one, are, shall we say, rather low. It's a tremendous amount of work, stress, and aggro for the mods and everybody for a really uncertain payout.

I am idly trying to figure out a way to pitch the standard MMO Live Test Server concept in a way that works here, and not getting much of anywhere. Barring that, I think, we're not likely to just try out massive new features without a compelling case for them.

how many (early) threadshits and potential derailings are deleted because of flags vs mods reviewing threads for such muck?

I get some, but there are a lot more that I don't get because they don't get flagged until there's a substantial enough response to them that it's hard to delete. I suppose the real extra-mod-burden way to deal with this would be to have all comments in the first ten minutes emailed to us like the FPPs themseves are. (Don't hit me, guys! That's not a suggestion!)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:47 PM on November 16, 2011


Nah, think it would cut down the laudatory "awesome! Thanks for the link". Also many times I have seen the links before so why should I wait.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:49 PM on November 16, 2011


Metafilter: dumb comments at minute sixteen instead of minute one.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:50 PM on November 16, 2011


Following these comments, a question to the mods: how many (early) threadshits and potential derailings are deleted because of flags vs mods reviewing threads for such muck? Are you ever overwhelmed by flags, or is the system built in such a way as that isn't a problem?

If anything we could use more/quicker flagging than we currently see. It's a lot easier to clean up an early bit of chaff if we see it while it's still early; sometimes something that would probably have been a slam-dunk deletion in isolation gets wrapped into a bunch of replies within an hour or two and then cleaning it up would be more disruptive than leaving it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:50 PM on November 16, 2011


I'm not asking for a guess, I'm asking for a real percentage of the time.

Sorry, the peer-reviewed studies aren't quite in yet - still waiting for funding, I'm afraid.
posted by dialetheia at 12:51 PM on November 16, 2011


painquale: "Maybe everyone decide what links to check out based on the size of comment threads, and maybe no one reads articles that have no comments. "

Because I usually surf mefi on my smartphone, I tend to read threads before clicking on links, especially in threads where the focus is a video. I may not be typical of the userbase in this.
posted by zarq at 12:53 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just an idea - haven't thought it through. What if you rate limited commenting for the first X minutes? Don't tell us what X is though. That will allow the mods to clean up something going off track early, and maybe the preponderance of good comments early will help keep it from going off track later.
posted by COD at 12:57 PM on November 16, 2011


sometimes something that would probably have been a slam-dunk deletion in isolation gets wrapped into a bunch of replies within an hour or two and then cleaning it up would be more disruptive than leaving it.

This would probably be another experiment, but deleting every comment that replies to a slam-dunk deletion-worthy threadshit might actually provide a decent incentive for other posters not to immediately pile onto an obviously shitty comment and continue the derail. The way the incentives are now, it is in a threadshitter's best interests to provoke a torrent of angry replies; that minimizes their chances of deletion.
posted by dialetheia at 12:58 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't a 15-minute wait period discriminate against speed readers?
posted by John Cohen at 12:58 PM on November 16, 2011


Why do people keep parroting the line that 'technical solutions to social problems don't work'? It sounds clever, but it's nonsense. What do you think a lock on a door is?
posted by joannemullen at 1:05 PM on November 16, 2011


> What do you think a lock on a door is?

A false equivalency.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:07 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Here is my proposal. You have to spend favorites to comment. Within the first 10 minutes it costs double. You also get charged one favorite per flag. All new users start with 10 favorites, to spend as they see fit. A FPP costs 5 favorites. You can buy more favorites by writing Matt a check.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:08 PM on November 16, 2011


What do you think a lock on a door is?

An admission of failure.
posted by unSane at 1:15 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I got questions:

1. Does much of the userbase really interact with threads within 15 minutes of them being posted?

2. Why would we expect time delay to do anything other than prevent people from commenting during the time delay?

3. Is thread-shittery really becoming the sort of problem that needs a systemic solution? Really really?
posted by .kobayashi. at 1:17 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


.kobayashi. Your first 2 questions have been answered in depth above. As for 3. my personal answer is no, but the issue is coming up more and more, and eventually could become a huge deterrent to reasonable discussion. If not this solution then what? More of the same? That seems short sighted.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:22 PM on November 16, 2011


I think this is a good idea with some potential to affect problematic behavior. In addition, I would rather see this tried (maybe with a big banner below the post explaining when it would open for comments) than see more aggressive moderation.
posted by prefpara at 1:23 PM on November 16, 2011


3. Is thread-shittery really becoming the sort of problem that needs a systemic solution? Really really?

If this thread exists because of some desire to hash out why Artw left over his last post, that would be unfortunate, because there was no threadshitting or trolling or anything near it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:23 PM on November 16, 2011


It does and it doesn't. ArtW is one of my favorite posters and I'm sorry to see him go, whatever the case was about his departure. It got me thinking about threadshitting and other early-hour thread problems in general. Thanks for bringing it up when nobody else had though!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:27 PM on November 16, 2011


I'm imagining a bottleneck of one-liners and the same obvious joke over and over all coming in at once at minute 15 + 1 milisecond. I also don't think an aribitrary number can be picked--we have single links to youtube videos of 2 minutes in length. We also have links to articles that would take longer than 15 minutes to get through in their entirety. Or occasionally links to full movies (or other content) that some people may have seen already and want to comment on. I don't know if the would solve the problem of people not reading the links before commenting, or if that's even the problem.
posted by Hoopo at 1:31 PM on November 16, 2011


.kobayashi. Your first 2 questions have been answered in depth above.

My goodness, it's as if I were a net negative to the development of this thread. But... but... my questions came four hours into this thread! How could this be? Maybe, just maybe, if we had a four and a half hour waiting period, I wouldn't have been so rash.
posted by .kobayashi. at 1:33 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sweet burn bra. But you're also proving my point further because this is the last response anyone will have to you itt.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:37 PM on November 16, 2011


and I didn't mean for the first post to be snippy, I just wanted to respond to the third question more, since it sort of might be the biggest problem with my solution in this thread: It's simply overkill to a non-major issue.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:39 PM on November 16, 2011


What do you think a lock on a door is?

An example that will prompt answers illustrating that snark shows up throughout a thread, not just at the beginning.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:40 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I am idly trying to figure out a way to pitch the standard MMO Live Test Server concept in a way that works here, and not getting much of anywhere."

That is an interesting idea.

"Why do people keep parroting the line that 'technical solutions to social problems don't work'? It sounds clever, but it's nonsense. What do you think a lock on a door is?"

It's a social solution to social problem. A lock is a very modest barrier to entry for anyone who actually wants to enter in contravention to social norms. As such, it is much more successful as a social signal than as a technological barrier.

This has been a pet subject of mine for many years. If you stop and really consider the issue, you'll realize that almost all privacy barriers are social conventions. Where there are physical/technological barriers, they function primarily as social signals, and rarely as adequate physical barriers to anyone motivated to violate privacy. There are many, many more unconscious and socially conventional actions we take every day to respect other people's privacy than there are physical/technological barriers to privacy violations.

Technological solutions do work well when they function as social signals when some large minority otherwise fails to recognize the existence of a social convention. Sooner or late, though, the convention becomes fully integrated into the community and that signal is largely unnecessary. If it's possible to promulgate a convention directly, that's quicker and more efficient.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:41 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


There is no critical mass of threads that go 'wrong' on Metafilter because of the comments.
posted by Kwine at 1:56 PM on November 16, 2011


This would be a horrible, terrible, no-good, awful idea for askme. It would suck most for those locked in their rooms.
posted by bonehead at 2:04 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


After waiting an inordinate amount of time before posting I declare this idea to be an extremely poor one.

I have spoken.
posted by Decani at 2:04 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, you've typed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:06 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


we're not likely to just try out massive new features without a compelling case for them.

I do understand the rationale behind that stance, but it's a shame, in my opinion. There's no way that something like AskMe (Too much work for the mods!) or MetaTalk (What if people start complaining about every deletion?!) would be added to the site today. I really love MetaFilter, but I wish there was a way we could be more experimental about what goes on here.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:07 PM on November 16, 2011


If anything we could use more/quicker flagging than we currently see.

Unfortunately, it still feels like a majority of the active users think flagging is a Big Deal that you should only use in the most dire of circumstances. That it's somehow equivalent to censorship, or downvoting, or auto-deletion, or something else other than what it actually is, which is a non-gamable alert system to let the mods know they might need to look at something. I've seen any number of people (usually in the MeTa that results from a thread going to crap) saying things like "yeah it was a really crappy comment, but I didn't think it was flaggable/worth flagging."

I really wish you guys would do some brainstorming about how you can better educate the membership on what flags do and more importantly how you can encourage the userbase to actually use them. Yes, yes, it's in the FAQ and it's been talked about in MeTa a million times, but since you know that people aren't using the feature despite those gentle little reminders, maybe you could think about ways to change that, make it more visible. And no, I don't mean visible flag counts, because that way dragons lie, but some way to publicly hammer it into collective heads that flagging is something you WANT us to do.

Like I've said several times before, people take their cues from what they see.
posted by Gator at 2:09 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think that's true - there was definitely a compelling case for Metatalk - it's not like it created the market for complaining about deletions - it just moved that market away from the first page.
posted by muddgirl at 2:10 PM on November 16, 2011


That was in response to Rock Steady.
posted by muddgirl at 2:11 PM on November 16, 2011


Like I've said several times before, people take their cues from what they see.

How about a popover when a user first opens a thread, reminding them of flags? It could even been animated!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:11 PM on November 16, 2011


Of the roughly 10000 posts in the last 10 months....

Number of times posted within the first fifteen minutes of a new post:

743 mrgrimm
745 Lovecraft In Brooklyn
804 DU
807 EmpressCallipygos
819 Artw
842 homunculus
918 delmoi
998 The Whelk
1005 hippybear
1354 empath



Number of times posted with the first fifteen minutes of a new post AND only posted once to the thread


172 kmz
175 The Whelk
178 Faint of Butt
185 2bucksplus
196 FatherDagon
212 tommasz
233 Decani
245 Thorzdad
428 DU

posted by Meta Filter at 2:15 PM on November 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


I really love MetaFilter, but I wish there was a way we could be more experimental about what goes on here.

Part of the downside to having what is largely a tight cohesive community is the resistance to new stuff. I think there's a real difference between rolling out features [we managed geolocation stuff in travel questions decently easily as well as many other things including IRL] and rolling back or otherwise altering the way the site functions. If there's a new feature you can just not use it. If the site functions differently, that affects everyone and if it's happening to solve a problem that is caused by a very few users, that's usually seen as unfair and not okay by a large chunk of the userbase. We have a bird's eye view of some of this stuff, but other stuff we rely on user feedback and sometimes when WE see as user feedback is different than what we'd get, say, if we polled everyone. People tend to overreport that which they don't like and a lot of people don't always speak up to say "Stay the course!"

And yes I think a lock is a technological solution to a social problem. But at some level it admits, like Unsane says, that your social system isn't quite doing what it should.

I really wish you guys would do some brainstorming about how you can better educate the membership

Short of consistently saying this all the time "Please use the flagging feature" there's really not another way we're likely to get this across. People use it, but often we see that they're often complaining about something without flagging it at which point we say "Please use the feature that was designed to help ameliorate this very issue" and hope they'll learn it for next time. We don't really have an interest in more aggressive user education here for the most part and we'd like people to use flagging still when it's appropriate and not because people think we're somehow interested in more flags. We're interested in more appropriate use of flagging, not just more flagging across the board.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:18 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


homunculus usually just posts more links to related to the subject. I'm not sure he ever talks.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:20 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a social solution to social problem. A lock is a very modest barrier to entry for anyone who actually wants to enter in contravention to social norms. As such, it is much more successful as a social signal than as a technological barrier.

What if there was a compromise. Instead of flat-locking threads for the first fifteen minutes you instead institute a small barrier to entry that also reminds users of the purpose of commenting (which is to discuss the link, not to discuss the site or the poster or the wording of the post or tangents that they find interesting).

Within the first fifteen minutes of a post going live, instead of having direct access to the comment box, you have a large, clearly worded explanation of what is expected of comments, and a button that you click that says "I have read or watched the item(s) linked in this post, and would like to comment on them."

This is a more social solution that doesn't entirely alter the way the site functions, but still gives mods a way to impart site policy to the users.

Maybe you could also have the poster opt in or opt out of this system, depending on what they think of it.
posted by codacorolla at 2:20 PM on November 16, 2011


Of the roughly 10000 posts in the last 10 months....

Neat! Hey can you run those numbers again only making them number delimited [commented within the first ten comments instead of 15 minutes]?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:21 PM on November 16, 2011


homunculus usually just posts more links to related to the subject. I'm not sure he ever talks.

Good point. Let me check my scripts.
posted by Meta Filter at 2:24 PM on November 16, 2011


Oh, come on. Ho-monkey has plenty of good non-linky things to say.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:25 PM on November 16, 2011


I think he talked to me once, I'm not sure though


in other news, would changing the exclamation mark to a flag icon help any?

*ducks the changebricks*
posted by infini at 2:25 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or a skull and crossbones.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 2:27 PM on November 16, 2011


Number of times posted within the first fifteen minutes of a new post:

743 mrgrimm
745 Lovecraft In Brooklyn
804 DU
807 EmpressCallipygos
819 Artw
842 homunculus
918 delmoi
998 The Whelk
1005 hippybear
1354 empath


Well, those are some ironic statistics.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:32 PM on November 16, 2011


By way of explaining myself, if I post in the first 15 minutes of the thread, its usually just by way of saying something like 'i like this' so it'll be in recent activity, or it's something I've already seen (like the one about the drug ads). I probably threadshit every once in a while unfortunately, but I don't think it's a significant percentage of those posts..
posted by empath at 2:33 PM on November 16, 2011


An update to the list of flagging reasons might help get people to use flags more consistently or appropriately - there have been countless times I've opened the flag dialogue, said "well, none of these really fit, exactly..." and ultimately decided not to flag because none of the options made any sense for the situation. "Other" is OK but I feel weird about using it for some reason - just not enough context, and I worry that I must be flagging incorrectly since it doesn't fit in any of the specified bins. Maybe I'm just hyperliteral, but I would guess I'm not the only one following this thought process. Besides, for newcomers, the list of flag reasons probably functions as a complete list of acceptable reasons to flag a comment. If there are other common and acceptable reasons to flag (e.g. personal attacks), a newcomer would probably expect them to be listed there.
posted by dialetheia at 2:35 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


OTH, if you are flagging a comment, "it breaks the guidelines" should probably fit.
posted by smackfu at 2:39 PM on November 16, 2011


A salient point mentioned up thread: Metafilter isn't the place to go for new stuff. In fact, we can't post "new" or original content here, it's part of the charm of the place (no self-links, GYOB and so on). Everything here came from somewhere else, and a lot of people read a lot of those sites too. Any kind of enforced time limit is pointless when we're talking about something the poster found on any even slightly popular website, or any sort of post having to do with any widely known cultural or pop-culture event.

A fifteen minute limit assumes that Mefi is the only place people could possibly see the posts in question, which is absurd, given the nature o the site.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:39 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Recalculated. (the first run was tripped up by posts that happened after 24 hours)


Of the roughly 10000 posts in the last 10 months....

Number of times posted within the first fifteen minutes of a new post:


198 zarq
222 phunniemee
231 Artw
237 2bucksplus
245 empath
268 hippybear
270 kmz
283 griphus
483 DU
551 The Whelk



Number of times posted with the first fifteen minutes of a new post AND only posted once to the thread


95 Mister Fabulous
95 griphus
96 Trurl
110 theodolite
121 kmz
133 Faint of Butt
138 phunniemee
138 The Whelk
180 2bucksplus
256 DU

posted by Meta Filter at 2:40 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Other" is OK but I feel weird about using it for some reason - just not enough context

Since the flags are intended to tell the mods "Hey you should take a look at this" Other is perfectly fine to use. Sometimes I think the flagging feature should have fewer options because basically we see them in a few ways which I've outlined before

- look at this fast [breaks guidelines, racism &c]
- look at this when you can [noise, derail, other]
- fix this [double/html error]

I think for every person who doesn't see their reasons there, there are other people who really don't want to scroll through ten choices. We've been pretty resistant to changing the list of reasons unless there's a shift in how the site functions or unless we see something new that is emerging bad behavior. If someone is personally attacking someone else, that breaks the guidelines, plain and simple.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:41 PM on November 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Why don't you guys just implement jessamyn's new flag options above? Those seem to make more sense then the current list, which are rather vague and unhelpful.
posted by 1000monkeys at 2:43 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


What me might do on the mod side is instead try and pay more specific attention to the early-comment-chaff phenomenon and just be quicker to straight up tell someone if we're seeing a pattern of behavior there. It's slightly touchy because I don't want to tell someone, "hey, you seem to like to hang out on mefi, cut it out" in so many words, but to the extent that part of the problem is repeat offenders we may not be helping ourselves out much by assuming they will figure this out on their own.

I reckon that is a simple, excellent idea that could well reap some benefits. For those that are serial jokesters, it may well curb their inclinations, and for those of us who simply slip up every now and then it will be a timely reminder. :)
posted by smoke at 2:44 PM on November 16, 2011


Recalculated. (the first run was tripped up by posts that happened after 24 hours)

Oh thank god. I was seriously starting to re-evaluate how I spend my time if I was posting that quick after that many posts.
posted by empath at 2:45 PM on November 16, 2011


Hey, I'm famous!

For what it's worth, a lot of times I comment early so I can follow the thread in my recent activity. I realize I could bookmark/favorite it, but wrangling two recent activity tabs is more than I want to do.
posted by phunniemee at 2:45 PM on November 16, 2011


I don't think you have to worry about it, phunniemee, as I recall (and peeking at your history), your comments all tend to be productive or thanks for posting type comments not derails.
posted by 1000monkeys at 2:47 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting stats Meta Filter. I wonder though if that number includes deleted comments.

Question for the mods: Is there a system where you are able to keep track of deleted comments per user? Like if you just deleted my 5th threadshitty comment in 2 days, you'd get a message that says that?

I ask because there is the flag system in place and I do use it, but is someone keeping score per user for the mods to call out those people that are having lots of threadshitty comments deleted? I'm not saying get out the pitchforks and torches and do this publicly, but if the mods handed out timeouts for "too many deleted threadshitty comments" to those people who are doing it, well, then that makes sense to me. Seems to me most of us are using MeFi in good faith and if you aren't, well then maybe you should find somewhere else to play.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:47 PM on November 16, 2011


I hate technical solutions to social problems that function from the expectation that users need to be prevented from doing not-good things rather than good things.

I love humanitarian solutions that assume most people can recognize a problem, discuss it and then be trusted to use the tools they have right there in their own toolboxes...judgment, restraint, compassion, common sense and so many more that also get the job done. Which all incidentally work in tandem and converge on the same basic goal of making this place a more enjoyable experience for everybody.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:47 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


NoraCharles:Interesting stats Meta Filter. I wonder though if that number includes deleted comments.

Ooh, good point.
posted by 1000monkeys at 2:49 PM on November 16, 2011


I'd like this, but in truth, it probably wouldn't affect me much, since I'm caught myself leading with a stupid snarky comment in the past, and I've always hated seeing it festering up there at the top of the thread.

Now, I try to force myself to wait until at least a half dozen or so others have already commented, even when I have something non-jokey to say.

I'm not even sure why anymore, It's just become a habit at this point.
posted by quin at 2:49 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


A possible re-working of jessamyn's flagging options:

- look at this fast
- look at this when you can
- fix this [double/html error]
- fantastic comment

By not telling the user why to use fast vs whenever for problems, it makes things even more simple.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:50 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm in the habit of adding additional links in the first comment of my own posts. I do it when I either can't figure out where to add a link in the flow of a post, or just plain forgot a link. Or sometimes if I'm afraid a post will sound too shill-y if a link is included in the main body.

Suggest you recalculate to eliminate people who comment on their own FPPs. Would shift the numbers and be more accurate if you're looking for potential threadshitters.
posted by zarq at 2:51 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


[thoughts continued] Without qualifiers, users can choose if a flag is critical or just worth a second look. And don't forget fantastic comments!
posted by filthy light thief at 2:51 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


zarq - I've done the same, and thought about it in this context. I still think it would be interesting to try a 10-15 minute "quiet period" would be interesting, as it might also change how I craft posts where I would previously rely on comments to elaborate the post (or know I could comment if I missed something, allowing me to be a bit more hasty in posting).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:53 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It'd be neat to look at the qualitative side of these stats. I'd be curious to see some random (and anonymized) comments from the first 15 minutes of a random sampling of posts on the blue. Perhaps 10 comments from 10 different blue posts in the last year, repeated 10 times. Granted, the comments would be out of context, but I think it'd still show a lot about the type of comments we're dealing with here.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:53 PM on November 16, 2011


Sometimes I think the flagging feature should have fewer options

That would be great too, actually! It would circumvent my analysis paralysis entirely. I love the list you just gave there, and it really does help to have some context on how the mods interpret each flagging reason. I would absolutely love to see filthy light thief's proposed replacement for the flag reasons implemented.
posted by dialetheia at 2:54 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter isn't the place to go for new stuff

If I haven't seen it, it's new to me!

/not even internet cool
posted by Hoopo at 2:55 PM on November 16, 2011


Of the roughly 10000 posts in the last 10 months....

Number of times posted within the first 10 comments of a new post.


394 griphus
413 kmz
453 Artw
488 flapjax at midnite
500 filthy light thief
513 Lovecraft In Brooklyn
535 empath
723 hippybear
930 The Whelk
1020 DU


(I can also do the one that picks people with only one comment if desired. I'm not sure how useful it is)
posted by Meta Filter at 2:56 PM on November 16, 2011


Filthy light thief, we need an [even MORE inside] window! :)
posted by zarq at 2:58 PM on November 16, 2011


Is there a system where you are able to keep track of deleted comments per user? Like if you just deleted my 5th threadshitty comment in 2 days, you'd get a message that says that?

We have an interesting little thing that tracks flagging but not deletions. That is, we can look and see what you've had deleted, but the thing we have visual confirmation for is how much you're being flagged. We don't have any automatic notifications that tie into any user behavior, just posts [we get a user's first FPP, watchlisted folks' FPPs, and "there's an anon question" notification emailed to us. I think we also get all FPPs emailed to us but I just file them immediately.]. You can see what mine looks like here. All the little triangles pop open into expanded lists. This can help us see if someone's been having some sort of bad day or hard time which is useful when you see a flagged comment or two and say "what is going on here?"

My other feeling about the list of flagging options, however, is that it's important to show what sort of things are reasons to flag. So I feel that having a flagging option for racism/sexism/homophobia is important not because it tells us "look at this quickly" but because it sends a message that that sort of thing isn't okay here. I'd feel weird losing that and while I know the shortened list is appealing to some folks, I'm not sure it's really the overwhelmingly better option, though it's something we've thought about.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:59 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting stats Meta Filter. I wonder though if that number includes deleted comments.

Unfortunately no. Deleted comments can only be inferred from the infodump, a process which is at its most inaccurate at the beginning of threads.
posted by Meta Filter at 3:02 PM on November 16, 2011


My other feeling about the list of flagging options, however, is that it's important to show what sort of things are reasons to flag

I try, but too often I gotta go with "other" because I'm confused about what category something goes in. Maybe if we had an ASBO tag or something.
posted by Hoopo at 3:13 PM on November 16, 2011


I don't think these stats are that meaningful though Meta Filter the User. The issue isn't the top posting people post too many one liners because they are funny and smart (well, for most of those folks), but that there are THOUSANDS of new posters (last couple of years) who post only in the first 15 minutes of every thread with tone deaf, non-metafiltery comments. Can you figure out, say, what % of users with less that 100 posts make those posts only the first 15 minutes of every thread?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:21 PM on November 16, 2011


I've also found painquale fairly persuasive here and even though from the start I doubted that this would be implemented, the discussion has made it worthwhile, so thanks to Potomac Avenue.

My impression is that the comments above the fold set the tone for the thread and that these too frequently show little sign of having read and thought about the link. For that reason I'd love to see the first half dozen comments being subject to stricter moderation, with anything that doesn't substantively contribute to an informed discussion squashed, but I'm aware that my perfect Metafilter is not that of the majority of the active userbase. Also, it would make deletion explanations even harder for the mods to explain...

I just wonder if what would actually happen is that people who are emotionally invested in being one of the first to comment would also be most strongly motivated to figure out when the comment window will open and get their comment in at the beginning?

A number of people raised objections along this line, which it seems to me could be overcome by making the time interval random, between say 4 and 7 minutes. This would discourage automated alerts when the window opened. Of course, someone determined to have the first comment in a particular thread could just sit around refreshing, but that's more likely to be the comments that are clear delete-fodder, rather than just weak.

The risk-reward mechanics for early zingers are fucked up, towards favoring rewards. ... And actually it's a version of the threadshitting mechanic - readers start reading a thread and upvote the first thing they agree with, a lot of times, it seems.

Absolutely. There's too much rushing to post that early populist zinger that gets dozens of favourites, which leads to a bunch of snark and jokiness at the start, IMO reducing the likelihood of thoughtful contributions.

If you really want people to read a question, you give the poster the option of leaving a skill-testing question for potential commenters that can only be found by reading the article...that way, if people want to post, they have to at least skim the article and find the answer before the "post" button will activate.

Of all the impossible ponies, this is the one I will dream about most tonight.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 3:21 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a side note, I love this Meta Filter robot doing calculations and speaking to us calmly and statistically in a nice robot voice.
posted by kingbenny at 3:24 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


kingbenny, it's more amusing given that Meta Filter first commented for the lulz. The transition from joke-bot to stat-machine has taken a while, maybe something about upgrades.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:30 PM on November 16, 2011


- look at this fast [breaks guidelines, racism &c]
- look at this when you can [noise, derail, other]
- fix this [double/html error]


I love this idea.

99.9137% of the time, if I have something to alert a mod about, it falls into these 3 categories. After that, it is their decision will do with the flag appropriately and I trust their choice of solution. My view of what is wrong with a comment or post is not always the correct view. I could very well be not getting the point of the comment.

For more serious issues, I might email.
For emphatic raves about a great post, I would also email.
posted by lampshade at 3:34 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


My other feeling about the list of flagging options, however, is that it's important to show what sort of things are reasons to flag

Oh definitely, and that was pretty much the point of my first comment on the matter - that people (especially new members) might tend to see the flag list as a list of guidelines governing both site behavior and about acceptable reasons to flag. If that's the function that the flag list is going to serve, though, I just wish it was more complete and a bit less vague, because a lot of important social rules here (e.g. no personal attacks, no dominating threads) can get hidden under "it breaks the guidelines" in just the same way that the "offensive/sexist/racist" guideline would be effectively hidden with a condensed flag list.

Anyway, if part of the point of the flag list is to signal site expectations, "it breaks the guidelines" is pretty self-referential and unhelpful. I am always hesitant to use "breaks the guidelines" because the guidelines are themselves pretty amorphous around here, and so few things are really strictly always against the rules that it feels like the violation has to be pretty serious to warrant using that flag reason. Anyway, sorry if this is all a pedantic derail - I just wonder why people don't use flags more often when they see shitty comments, and I do think that the somewhat-confusing list of reasons might be part of it.
posted by dialetheia at 3:38 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


tl;dr
posted by Cranberry at 3:45 PM on November 16, 2011


I like the idea but with a slight modification: I don't think the problem is with people posting early but rather with people who habitually post early , presumably for the attention factor. My modification to limit this behavior would be to limit all users ability to post in the first 10 or 15 minutes to a set amount per day (or week). What that magic number is I do not know (2 a day?? 5 a week??) but limiting the behavior of the disruptive target group I think would be a good idea.
I am not saying that everyone who happens posts early is doing so for disruptive purposes but rather that those who habitually do so should be limited for the betterment of everyone else.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:58 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


jessamyn wrote:
"My other feeling about the list of flagging options, however, is that it's important to show what sort of things are reasons to flag. So I feel that having a flagging option for racism/sexism/homophobia is important not because it tells us "look at this quickly" but because it sends a message that that sort of thing isn't okay here. I'd feel weird losing that and while I know the shortened list is appealing to some folks, I'm not sure it's really the overwhelmingly better option, though it's something we've thought about."
...and dialetheia responded:
"Oh definitely, and that was pretty much the point of my first comment on the matter - that people (especially new members) might tend to see the flag list as a list of guidelines governing both site behavior and about acceptable reasons to flag. If that's the function that the flag list is going to serve, though, I just wish it was more complete and a bit less vague, because a lot of important social rules here (e.g. no personal attacks, no dominating threads) can get hidden under "it breaks the guidelines" in just the same way that the "offensive/sexist/racist" guideline would be effectively hidden with a condensed flag list.

Anyway, if part of the point of the flag list is to signal site expectations, "it breaks the guidelines" is pretty self-referential and unhelpful. I am always hesitant to use "breaks the guidelines" because the guidelines are themselves pretty amorphous around here, and so few things are really strictly always against the rules that it feels like the violation has to be pretty serious to warrant using that flag reason."
What you and jessamyn are describing is how the flagging system works as much as a social mechanism to signal inappropriate behavior as it does as a technological means to regulate inappropriate behavior.

This is why, despite the fact that I very, very infrequently flag comments, back in 2007 I felt strongly that "sexism" should be added to the list of flags. In my view, the bigger problem then wasn't that MetaFilter lacked an administrative means to restrict sexist comments which created a hostile environment for women, but that the community as a whole lacked a promulgated standard of behavior which made it clear that such behavior was unwelcome. A sexism flag signaled this and subsequently altered community norms for the better.

As always, what is practical and not what is ideal is primary. Most of the community standards and expectations and whatnot are hashed out in MetaTalk, but only a small and dedicated subculture of MetaFilter even reads MeTa, and far fewer participate. Yes, that tiny minority is disproportionately influential, but while it may be necessary, it's not sufficient. Ideally all these social norms would be listed somewhere and every active member would read them. In practice, of course, that doesn't happen and will never happen.

Similarly, the flagging list is a necessary compromise between a specificity sufficient to signal community norms, and a succinctness that avoids an overcomplication which would dilute the signal and encourage disregard.

Despite the discussion here, I can confidently predict that my own flagging will not appreciably increase—I'm among those who very rarely flag, feeling that it is an extreme statement and not some mild and somewhat ambiguous signal to the mods. Why? Well, I'm very disinclined to appealing to authority to solve social problems. I dislike "tattling" and I believe that, by and large, encouraging that kind of behavior has a greater cost in the breakdown of social trust than it does the benefit of reduced bad behavior. Even when I'm aware that something like the MeFi flags are not so serious, this disinclination runs so deeply in me that I am extremely reluctant to use them. Maybe other people have other reasons for not using them, though I suspect a good number feel the same way I do about it.

And so, again, I'm inclined to say that discussions and private conversations within the community are ultimately the most effective way to regulate the behavior we're discussing here. People above have discussed being examples of good behavior at the beginning of threads and that's always an important component. So are other things. I'm disinclined to think that a technological change or asking the mods to work harder are really going to be good solutions.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:13 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dear Mods,

Regarding doing a large scale test or experiment of the site's functionality, I can understand your extreme reluctance to repeat anything vaguely resembling the Clusterfuck of '09.

But I think the site could use (and perhaps "needs") a way to try out experiments on a large scale. A sort of known and open way to do experiments, with the goal of improving the site for the users. Perhaps settle on a standard time every yea

rs, say May and September. Or just August, because it is truly the finest of all the months. So every August the site tries out a few things, while in July, ya'll put a banner on the front page of every sub-site saying "Hey, in August, we're going to be trying X". There's plenty of lead time, no sudden surprises, there's an acknowledged timeframe for how long the change will occur and a understanding about what will happen at the end of that time frame. Will it cause all crankiness to go away? No, of course not, but it would help with making the experiment more transparent.

A more tangible benefit would be that ya'll can say "Hey, we tried X, in August of 2015. It didn't work because of Y and Z, so no we won't be implementing that feature." That sort of hard evidence would appeal to the more literate minded of the community.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:15 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Even when I'm aware that something like the MeFi flags are not so serious, this disinclination runs so deeply in me that I am extremely reluctant to use them. Maybe other people have other reasons for not using them, though I suspect a good number feel the same way I do about it.

Which is totally your prerogative and you can do or not do what you want with the flags, but practically speaking they are a very useful, low-friction, low-drama way for folks to point out stuff that needs attention. Especially so for situations where the problem isn't that we're collectively grappling with a community identity or working through a difficult discussion one idea at a time but rather that someone is bored and leaving sort of dumb or derailing comments in a thread for no particularly good reason.

I'm a big fan of using more words to work out problems a lot of the time, and I think careful discussion can be a very good way to improve a situation in a lot of cases. But throwing more words at someone just kind of thoughtlessly throwing chaff out in the beginning of a thread is likely to make more of a mess of that thread, not less.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:28 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


but that there are THOUSANDS of new posters (last couple of years) who post only in the first 15 minutes of every thread with tone deaf, non-metafiltery comments.

Do we need unchecked growth?
posted by infini at 4:29 PM on November 16, 2011


Yeah, cortex, that's a good point and I guess that if there's not a better solution to the threadshitting problem, flagging will have to do. But still...MeFi is a remarkably successful community site because, in large part, it has a strongly promulgated and shared collective ethos. Including "don't threadshit" in that ethos doesn't seem like such a big thing compared to everything else that's already part of it. I'm constantly amazed that in this day and age people write complete sentences here. Discouraging threadshitting seems minor in comparison.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:38 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Number of people who posted a single comment in a thread, earlier than 15 minutes in:

Of 8623 (<1>
Of 9827 total commenters, 3483 did it (35%)

Note that 87% of users who have posted this year have <100 comments.
posted by Meta Filter at 5:04 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I see where you're coming from, Ivan, but the advantage of going through the mods for that sort of simple discouragement of behavior is that the signal is much less noisy when it's one of us saying "hey we don't do that here" vs. some random dude (or That Dude I Can't Stand) saying "hey we don't do that here" (which is not a conversation we want to occur in the blue anyway.)

Flags are the signal to us that there's a community feeling that the comment/post is problematic - we're the Designated Messengers. (It's not purely mechanical, of course - we're always making the judgement call.) We can deliver the message is a much more objective way, because it's our job. The actual sussing out of What We Do Here happens on the gray, but I really really don't think every instance of lulzy inappropriate snark needs to generate a MeTa.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:08 PM on November 16, 2011


Interesting stats. I wonder if this might have anything to do with all those discussions we've been graring around on of late
posted by infini at 5:08 PM on November 16, 2011


Number of Meta Filter accounts that have grasped the concept that < is a bad idea in html: 0


Number of people who posted a single comment in a thread, earlier than 15 minutes in:

Of 8623 (<100 comments) commenters, 2369 did it (27%)
Of 9827 total commenters, 3483 did it (35%)

Note that 87% of users who have posted this year have <100 comments.
posted by Meta Filter at 5:17 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I think there's value both in trying to sort of collectively shape the ethos (through e.g. Metatalk discussion about this stuff to make it more present in the minds of the regulars) and trying to deal with some of the persistent low-level behavior issues in a more directly reactive fashion from the mod side. It's not either/or; we can both value the sort of self-aware nature of this community and its sense of boundaries and behavior expectations as a social entity and try to find low-friction ways to just clean up small messes without making them conversation pieces in the process.

So, working toward a shared understanding of the idea that sort of lulzy or bullshitty early comments in threads is not a great idea is a good thing, but so is helping us actually clean those up efficiently in the cases where they happen anyway. Ethotic discussion and proactive flagging are the peanut butter and chocolate of improving this situation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:24 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Am I right in assuming that the less than 100 comments people are the n00bs and does that feel disproportionately skewed somewhat in the behaviour so displayed?

Maybe we're grarring because we go round and round with what we know but there's 90% or so of the "offenders" who may not know any of this at all - there's no introductory class on the unspoken yet recorded norms of this community. Perhaps this signals that it may be time for an FPP on MetaFilter 101 or some such including an introduction to the grey?
posted by infini at 5:31 PM on November 16, 2011


There is also enormous utility in the already reddit crowd writing "meh ...", saves me considerable time anyways.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:02 PM on November 16, 2011


I just ate a Russian manufactured packaged 'tiramisu' cake. It was nothing like tiramisu, but I liked it. It was a delicious cultural misunderstanding.
posted by jonmc at 7:10 PM on November 16, 2011


Of 8623 (<100 comments) commenters, 2369 did it (27%)
Of 9827 total commenters, 3483 did it (35%)


Taking the difference, it looks like of the 1204 accounts with 100 comments or more, 1114 (93%) have commented within the first 15 minutes at least once. That seems kind of notable.

The innocuous interpretation is that most everyone who gets a chance will post early in a thread at some point, and frequent commenters get more such chances. Alternately, the more you comment on MetaFilter, the snarkier you become. It's also entirely possible that the snarkiest among us tend to snark early and snark often.
posted by parudox at 7:18 PM on November 16, 2011


It's really worth emphasizing in the context of those numbers that lots and lots of early comments in threads are totally fine. People make positive contributions right out of the gate on a regular basis, substantial or otherwise. Folks making lazy comments early is a problem worth working on, but part of why "just delay comments for fifteen minutes" is a problematic scheme is that there's nothing specifically bad about comments that happen early as a general class.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:27 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief said:
A possible re-working of jessamyn's flagging options:

- look at this fast
- look at this when you can
- fix this [double/html error]
- fantastic comment
I propose
- Fuck no
- Ugh
- Oops
- Yay!
posted by kitarra at 7:35 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


...lulz aside, I very much agree with Jessamyn's sentiment that it is valuable to signal in the flagging menu that racism/sexism/homophobia are not OK. What about a combo?

- Urgent flag [racism, sexism, homophobia, or otherwise breaks the guidelines]
- Pressing flag [noise, derail, snark, other]
- Fixit flag [double/html error]
- Awesome flag [for fantastic posts]
posted by kitarra at 7:44 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: Frustration. zarq's done this with me before in MeTa and I don't think he realizes how discouraging I find it. While trying to participate in this thread, to make a point I hadn't yet seen made, I felt immediately challenged, then I felt peremptorily dismissed. When I tried a bit later to follow up on something else in a positive manner (something I've recently made a post about) it was immediately used as a chance to make a joke (which felt mocking, like I should be checking what I write with a finetoothed comb so no one can pick it apart, before I bother to comment). At that point, I figured I'd better go be productive IRL instead.

I like zarq; I don't think his intentions were malicious. But it underlines something I often perceive here - it's easy for just a few users to take up a lot of air in the room, and I do wish people were more aware, or cared more, about the effect that can have. Threadshitting is one facet of this.
posted by flex at 7:51 PM on November 16, 2011


just to chime in (didn't read comments) i agree, but 5 or 10 minutes -- and mostly to have mods be able to review and delete bad posts.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:58 PM on November 16, 2011


I really like jessamyn's shortened flag list:
- look at this fast [breaks guidelines, racism &c]
- look at this when you can [noise, derail, other]
- fix this [double/html error]
When I was a new user, I was confused by the list of flagging reasons (as others have mentioned), and I did think of the list as exhaustive. When I did use it, I frequently flagged things like personal attacks as "other" because I wasn't sure what category they were supposed to go in. I don't think I got really comfortable using flags until jessamyn explained them this way in an earlier thread.

I think jessanyn's modified list is a lot clearer. It's still clear what kinds of things aren't acceptable, but it's also clear the list isn't supposed to be exhaustive.

It's also worth pointing out that the flag lists for comments and posts don't have to be the same. "Double" and "html error" aren't relevant to comments. "Breaks guidelines" has to be to cover "personal attack" (comments) and "breaks posting guidelines" (self-link, editorializing, stunt-post etc.).

So the comments flag list could be something like:
- look at this fast [personal attack, sexism, racism &c]
- look at this when you can [noise, derail, other]
- fantastic comment
The flag list for FPPs could be something like:
- self-link
- breaks guidelines
- double
- html error
I think anything we can do to make this feature more intuitive and get users to use it more would help.
posted by nangar at 8:01 PM on November 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


nangar, those are pretty great.

I noticed right after posting my comment that the flag discussion seems to have moved here.
posted by kitarra at 8:22 PM on November 16, 2011


In my opinion, "classism" needs to be added to the "racism/sexism/homophobia" flag. In fact there's a lot more overt classism here than any of the others.
posted by spitbull at 8:43 PM on November 16, 2011


it's easy for just a few users to take up a lot of air in the room, and I do wish people were more aware, or cared more, about the effect that can have.

I totally agree with this. Not to single anybody out, but there are usernames in the data above that I recognize for exactly this reason—not because I think they post comments that are good or bad, not because I agree or disagree with their politics, but solely because of their activity levels. I think it detracts from the site. I think the site is less fun to read as a whole, the more of its content comes from a few members. (Any few.)
posted by cribcage at 8:48 PM on November 16, 2011


Could we consider changing the "flag" terminology to make it more inviting/less serious-sounding? Like use something like "Alert the mods" rather than "Flag this post"? And/or maybe have an option on the drop-down menu that's more along the lines of "Possibly problematic" or "Just a heads' up" or something that you can select that makes it feel less like you're making a Serious Accusation of Terrible Behavior?


Note that 87% of users who have posted this year have less than 100 comments.

You can't do this based on recency of sign-up/user number, can you? Because I'm guessing there's a wide mix of longtime lurkers/light-commenters and brand new folks and everyone inbetween.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 9:02 PM on November 16, 2011


flex: "koeselitz: Frustration. zarq's done this with me before in MeTa and I don't think he realizes how discouraging I find it.

No, I didn't.

While trying to participate in this thread, to make a point I hadn't yet seen made, I felt immediately challenged, then I felt peremptorily dismissed. When I tried a bit later to follow up on something else in a positive manner (something I've recently made a post about) it was immediately used as a chance to make a joke (which felt mocking, like I should be checking what I write with a finetoothed comb so no one can pick it apart, before I bother to comment). At that point, I figured I'd better go be productive IRL instead.

About my first two responses to you: I was serious in both this comment and this one and not trying to challenge you. The first comment was a direct follow up to your initial proposal -- a request for clarification. I was concerned that what you were suggesting would require the mods to establish a baseline level for initial threadshitting comments, and I don't believe that would be feasible. Your subsequent explanation made sense and I acknowledged that, but also voiced a general concern that what you were suggesting really wouldn't be workable. My sense is that your suggestion would result in a flood of angry-at-the-mods Meta posts. Of course, I'm not sure that would happen. But it seems likely to me. I could have (and should have) said so, rather than making a very general statement.

About the joke: In making a silly joke, it wasn't my intention to dismiss what you were saying. In fact, I was composing another non-jokey response to you when you told me to take a walk, and decided not to continue because I thought you had made clear that you weren't interested in my input.

Part of my normal participation in Meta, especially in long threads, is to joke around a little and try to keep things light-hearted because threads like this can be heavy and grar-filled. I'm not the only person who does so. I saw something quirky that amused me and commented on it.

I'm sorry if I made you feel I was trying to shut you down or was mocking you. Was honestly not trying to do either. It was a thoughtless joke.

If you're seeing this as a pattern that's bothering you in the way I'm interacting with you, I'll try to keep an eye on it in the future.

But it underlines something I often perceive here - it's easy for just a few users to take up a lot of air in the room, and I do wish people were more aware, or cared more, about the effect that can have. Threadshitting is one facet of this."

I think there's a huge difference between participating in a conversation and monopolizing it. I do not believe I was doing the latter here. In fact, I generally make a conscious effort not to. Having re-read the thread, I don't believe that my comment volume here monopolized the conversation inadvertently, either.
posted by zarq at 9:06 PM on November 16, 2011


Just in case nobody has mentioned it (I've only read half the thread)...

Yes zarq, that comment was totally threadshitting. It was worth 82 favourites though..
posted by Chuckles at 10:08 PM on November 16, 2011


What? That comment isn't threadshitting at all. It's somewhat humorous, but it's exactly on topic. What exactly is your definition of "threadshitting"?

Also, flex: that sounds a bit like the drama is imagined. I can't see any indication that zarq was trying to shut you down or mock you. I'm sorry if it seemed that way to you, but maybe open up to the possibility that he's not trying to attack you.
posted by koeselitz at 1:27 AM on November 17, 2011


Great idea. Huzzah. (that would be an un-ironic huzzah)
posted by bardic at 1:45 AM on November 17, 2011


"threads, when they go wrong, go wrong in the first 30 minutes of their posting."

I think this is a misleading conclusion. The "first 30 minutes" of a thread is totally arbitrary.

People stagger into the site all day/night. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the first 30 minutes of a thread's life. Just because you delay the comment function doesn't mean that the member who strolls in at minute 31 isn't going to be a jerk.
posted by like_neon at 2:37 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually it sounds more like what is being suggested is a 15 minute wait period for each individual person. ie As soon as you open a thread, it triggers a 15 minute timer before you can comment, thus forcing you to seriously reflect on What You Are About To Do To The Community.
I have grave doubts about the viability or prudence of such a feature.
posted by like_neon at 2:45 AM on November 17, 2011


So the solution to people being angry and frustrated about a post is to force people to be in that state for longer?

Also, I would like to post comments by email.

TO: 21210@metatalk.metafilter.com
FROM: blue_beetle@example.com
SUBJECT: Nobody reads subjects
BODY: FR1ST!
posted by blue_beetle at 5:25 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The method suggested by the OP punishes those who play by the rules. To change the behaviour of "this user base" I would suggest people flag the abusive/obnoxious comments heavily and that the mods do more than just delete the comments by giving timeouts to threadshitters.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 5:38 AM on November 17, 2011


Chuckles: " Yes zarq, that comment was totally threadshitting."

OK. Why? This was precisely why I brought it up as an example: I'm not sure everyone's definitions of threadshitting are equal.

I mean, isn't threadshitting an off-topic or inappropriate comment that has strong potential to torpedo a thread?
posted by zarq at 7:01 AM on November 17, 2011


the mods do more than just delete the comments by giving timeouts to threadshitters.

We actually do this, just not often. It's definitely one of the things we've contemplated "Hey you seem like you're participating here in bad faith by consistently threadshitting when other people are trying to have a discussion" We do this more frequently in a "take the night off" way when it seems pretty clear that someone is drunk posting or otherwise just not able to keep things under control. Repeated threadshitting in AskMe really does result in time off, it just happens a lot more rarely.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:29 AM on November 17, 2011


zarq: I appreciate your thoughtful response - thank you.

koeselitz: I never thought he was trying to attack me. I was getting frustrated, and I left. You asked a question about my comment and there was no clear indication that it was rhetorical, so I answered it - some hours later. If I did not express how I felt, there would be no way for anyone to understand where I was coming from. I did not imagine how I felt. I hear a fair bit of condescension in your comment, whether you intend it or not.

From zarq's perspective, he was participating in a conversation. From my perspective, he was sort of acting as an unofficial authority, pulling apart the ideas and thoughts people were offering up in the thread, rapidly, one after another. That can be intimidating. I'm sure he meant it in the spirit of a back-and-forth, but a thread is not a conversation with one person or a small group; there's a lot of people who could participate, and a lot more people reading. I was participating to put my thoughts in front of a large crowd, to contribute a small piece to the thread, one of many angles on the issue at hand. When one well-known voice immediately dismisses (or jokes about) what I've said, other participants are more likely to misunderstand or pass over my contributions. This is frustrating if it happens repeatedly.

This ties into my point, which cribcage picked up, that the few users who are comfortable talking early and often on MeFi may not be aware of the effect they have - and that's probably because the reactions/effects tend to be not-visible: others choosing not to participate. With no way to read expressions or get a sense of emotion, and without actually being friends with most people here, it's easy for exchanges to come off more confrontational, and dismissive, than intended.

And so (back to the thread topic) I find a certain type of threadshit irritating directly as a result of this - we don't need to hear that power-user-X doesn't find a certain post or link or topic is done to their taste, as soon as it's posted. Yes, power-user-X is just expressing themselves, maybe getting a bit of thrill off some favorites or their own quick wit, but it hurts the community - that negativity ripples down in unseen ways, and shuts other users off from participating. If those users were made more aware that the community-at-large does not want to privilege their behavior over the hundreds of other users who might contribute instead, that would help. I don't think a comment-wait-timer is the solution to that problem. I do think changing the flags might work well in raising this awareness.
posted by flex at 8:42 AM on November 17, 2011


Chuckles: Yes zarq, that comment was totally threadshitting. It was worth 82 favourites though..

zarq: OK. Why? This was precisely why I brought it up as an example: I'm not sure everyone's definitions of threadshitting are equal.

I don't think zarq's comment was threadshitting ("this topic/product/message is dumb" -- which is on topic, but doesn't do anything to further the conversation), but it was a quick snarky comment on topic about how the new information was something we all saw coming (and possibly had read about before).

Maybe if he didn't post that comment, more people would have read linked article (and there was only one article of interest in that topic - the first link was to Wikipedia, the third to a short opinion piece that referred back to the second link) and pulled out more sad facts or comments (“It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts. ), but in the end, the thread was largely preaching to the choir.


With that, I think it's good to recognize the types of posts made on MetaFilter. Off the top of my head:

- confirmation of prior assumptions / preaching to the choir (Round-up Ready crops lead to Round-up Resistant Weeds: consensus is that Round-up Ready crops are a bad idea)
-- chance of people reading the article and adding something new: low to moderate
-- chance of snarky/quick comments: high
-- chance of threadshitting: low to moderate

- new angle/facts on contentions topics we've already discussed / everyone has picked their side already (politics, Israel/Palestine, Apple/PC/Linux: the news may be interesting, but most people already know how they feel about the players in the story)
-- chance of people reading the article and adding something new: low to moderate
-- chance of snark/quick comments: moderate to high
-- chance of threadshitting: very high

- interesting story/topic that few have heard about before (if it's a quick read, there might be additional comments, but if it's a long post, most early comments will be short and positive, as there's a lot to digest before adding more)
-- chance of people reading the article and adding something new: low to high (depending on post length)
-- chance of snark/quick comments: low
-- chance of threadshitting: low

- expansion on an interesting story/topic that people know about (if it's short, people might read/view and expand upon it; if it's long or a mega-post, people will say thanks and add their own personal stories without commenting directly on the content of the post)
-- chance of people reading the article and adding something new: low to high (depending on post length)
-- chance of snark/quick comments: high
-- chance of threadshitting: low

- cute/short video (everyone loves cute videos, or finds them too sweet/artificial, or finds a hidden marketing angle and shares their cynicism)
-- chance of people viewing the video and adding something new: low to high
-- chance of snark/quick comments: high
-- chance of threadshitting: low to moderate
posted by filthy light thief at 9:14 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


furiousthought: "- The risk-reward mechanics for early zingers are fucked up, towards favoring rewards. Zarq, you linked to one of your comments ("Would this comment qualify?"), and it's a pretty decent comment, not wrong, a complete sentence, but you don't actually think it was 80 favorites decent, do you?

Not really, no.

I honestly don't pay all that much attention to favorites.* So I had to look it up in the infodumpster, but it turns out I've had exactly 11 comments on the Blue (out of just over 6000!) with 50+ favorites. (And just 2 in Meta out of 3800.) It's apparently a very rare occurrence for me. I certainly think I've made better comments than that one over the years.

Your comment (and also filthy light thief's) about threadshitting and derails make sense and are as good an explanation as any to why that one comment received more favorites than others I've made in the past.

Meanwhile, I posted what I thought was something really fascinating about the Japanese and fishing later on in the thread that seems to have gone almost completely unnoticed. :P



* However, I do find favorites statistically interesting in one regard: whether posts I make get more favorites than comments. I find it weirdly amusing when that happens. So once a month or so, I go through my posting history to see if it's happened again.
posted by zarq at 10:12 AM on November 17, 2011


I've talked about this before but a simple message is easy to favorite. A longer more engaged, nuanced comment is less likely to pick up favorites. I've noticed this in myself, but I try to be better about rewarding thoughtfulness and engagement, even if I don't necessarily find myself nodding along with everything that the poster is saying, though it's not a habit yet. It's easier to say "yeah!" to a simple idea. It's hard not to think that a favorite means complete agreement with a comment. I've been trying to wean myself off that attitude, but it's very ingrained in me by now.
posted by Kattullus at 1:40 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


flex: " From zarq's perspective, he was participating in a conversation. From my perspective, he was sort of acting as an unofficial authority, pulling apart the ideas and thoughts people were offering up in the thread, rapidly, one after another.

Whoa.

You're now accusing me of acting like a one-man thread wrecking crew?

Up until your comment to me that you felt I was monopolizing the thread, nearly every one of *my* comments in this thread were not 'me pulling apart ideas and thoughts people were offering in thread, rapidly, one after another.' They were either dumb jokes, or mostly reasonable, *short* responses to people, based on my personal observations and experiences. I even pointed out to someone that a question they had raised had been already brought up upthread and answered earlier by cortex.

That can be intimidating.

I was not imposing my point of view on anyone, preventing them from fleshing out their stated ideas or trying to intimidate them. I stated my own opinions.

Where exactly did I attempt to intimidate anyone in this thread?

I didn't even get into a detailed conversation with painquale until after you objected to my behavior.

I'm sure he meant it in the spirit of a back-and-forth, but a thread is not a conversation with one person or a small group; there's a lot of people who could participate, and a lot more people reading. I was participating to put my thoughts in front of a large crowd, to contribute a small piece to the thread, one of many angles on the issue at hand. When one well-known voice immediately dismisses (or jokes about) what I've said, other participants are more likely to misunderstand or pass over my contributions. This is frustrating if it happens repeatedly.

Let's be clear:

I responded to you two or three times in a thread with over 100 comments, one of which was clearly a direct response to a reply you made to me.

I made a dumb joke. It was not my intention to dismiss you and I have already apologized for doing so, even inadvertently.

But you've now accused me twice of several types of behavior I am pretty sure I did not do here. To you or anyone else.
posted by zarq at 2:16 PM on November 17, 2011


I think it's worth pointing out, zarq, that there's a substantial difference between "attempting to intimidate" and what flex seems to be saying, which is that he (she? sorry, flex) finds you intimidating. The former you can certainly argue - the latter you really can't.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:37 PM on November 17, 2011


Saying " That can be intimidating" is not the same as "That's intimidating me." flex is making a blanket statement implying that others also find the behavior intimidating as flex didn't limit it to her/his own experience.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:03 PM on November 17, 2011


No.

The way flex is framing this, "that's intimidating" as opposed to "that's intimidating to me" clearly means she is saying I am intimidating other people in this thread.
posted by zarq at 3:04 PM on November 17, 2011


Jinx!
posted by miss-lapin at 3:08 PM on November 17, 2011


Well, if flex finds a behavior intimidating, then yes, that behavior can be intimidating. Whether or not other people find it intimidating isn't quite the point.

It's rather like something being offensive. I can say or do something that offends someone else without intending to, or even being aware of their reaction. But what I can't do at that point is say "That wasn't offensive!" It's not an objective state of being - being offended, or intimidated, is an emotional reaction to something, and people react emotionally to things in ways that are illogical, unhelpful, or unique.

The real question is, do you care that flex finds your behavior intimidating? You may not; you certainly don't have to. If you do, though (and your reaction suggests that you do) the best way to deal with it is to work with flex to figure out why and if it's a fixable thing, or if just saying "Hey that wasn't my intention, allow me to encourage you to keep participating" is going to make the situation work better.

(And yeah, people generalize "I am offended!" to "That is offensive!" in the exact same way and get the exact same defensive reaction and it gets exactly nowhere, which is why I feel compelled to point it out.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:16 PM on November 17, 2011


Parsing this out a little bit: there's engaging in goon-like intimidation (this is my thread, maybe you wanna find another one before something bad happens) and then there's being intimidating in the sense of being a presence in a thread that leaves other people feeling like they don't know if the could or should stick their neck out. The former is way different in character and overtness from the latter, and as far as how social dynamics in non-mafioso contexts play out the latter is a lot more likely to ever be an issue.

And to an extent I think it's a legitimate thing for folks to think about in the context of being a hardcore regular somewhere—you're comfortable expressing yourself, you're used to the hustle and flow of the place, you don't have any real reservations about being a very vocal participant in a conversation, and so because of all that you don't really have to have any ill-intent or to want to or mean to make other folks feel excluded to sometimes be a pretty overwhelming presence in a discussion.

In that sense, it's sort of like a social gathering where four people at the table know each other really well and the other four are new to the group; everybody can be there with basically the same good intent of being social together and still the core folks can end up through their extreme familiarity with one another being sort of an intimidating social presence. The folks who are less comfortable with the social dynamic can end up feeling like they're fifth-wheeling or like they don't really have an opening to be heard.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:22 PM on November 17, 2011


Honestly I didn't have a dog in this fight until now. Because a vast majority of people use imprecise language (I'm offended vs that's offensive) doesn't change the fact one statement is limited as you previously pointed out and another isn't. The statement is general although conditional so no I don't think it's legitimate to frame this as Zarq's reading into a subjective experience of flex's experience of his participation in that thread.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:28 PM on November 17, 2011


Does it make a substantial difference to the course of the conversation if the behavior is intimidating to flex and flex alone, or intimidating to flex and various other people who just haven't chimed in yet?

Because yeah, I'm with cortex - there is a definite intimidation factor in forums in general where you have newer people/lurkers trying to talk at the same time as established old hands. I know I have certainly lurked on forums where I found that exact behavior intimidating as hell. So ok, that behavior is now intimidating to flex and me. (To be totally clear, I don't personally find zarq intimidating, but that's very much not the point.)

My point is getting defensive is going to go nowhere and lead to nothing but ill will, so I strongly suggest another rhetorical tactic.

(I can't remember if it was this thread or another where someone was saying we really don't explain anywhere what sorts of things derail a thread - this is one of them! Also I'm feeling really pedantic right now.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:36 PM on November 17, 2011


Um yes to answer your question it does. I lurk mainly because I'm generally intimidated by the users here. Honestly I'm way beyond my comfort zone right now. but I know that's me. Other people are more comfortable with various shades of involvement. To try and moderate to make noobs more comfortable seems to me to be a specious argument. There's a range of acceptable ways to interact that are clearly defined and Zarq seems within them because flex didn't limit her/ his message. Honestly your defense here makes me want to upsets me be ause I understand my response is subjective and I deal with it. Apparently flex doesn't have to do the same? plus flex isn't a noob so it's a not exactly accurate.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:50 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Damn mobile devices and typos.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:51 PM on November 17, 2011


I recognize what cortex and restless_nomad are saying about the intimidation factor of the comfortably established for the 'not quite there yet' poster...
posted by infini at 4:10 PM on November 17, 2011


To be totally clear, I'm not moderating anything here. Zarq's contributions to this thread have been totally within bounds. Flex's reactions to those contributions have also totally been within bounds. It's MetaTalk - the bounds are really big.

What I am doing is predicting an outcome. The "This pissed me off" "Why are you accusing me of trying to piss you off?" "Now I'm REALLY pissed off" spiral is predictable, and, as a moderator of long, sad experience, really obvious. It seemed worth it to me to attempt to get everyone to take a step back and look at the pattern before it devolved into its usual finale.

Maybe I was wrong.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:10 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seemed worth it to me to attempt to get everyone to take a step back and look at the pattern before it devolved into its usual finale.

There's a story that one of the Roman Emperors had an aide specifically assigned to follow him around all day and periodically whisper in his ear "You are not a god. You are not a god."

If you're going to keep attempting these superhuman feats we may need to get one for you :-)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:24 PM on November 17, 2011


*bakes meat stuffed pastry for restless_nomad*
posted by infini at 4:28 PM on November 17, 2011


I am vocal. So are dozens of other mefites. I have not violated any site rules or guidelines.

I engaged several people in meta in a manner I've often done before and others do all the damned time.

I believe I am still within my right to participate here, regardless.

I have been accused now of several things by flex. Proof? I'm sure that's forthcoming.

Now at least one of those specious, unfounded accusations is being supported by a mod. With no damned evidence. Restless, you are twisting flex's words to make it seem as if they said something they did not. I have no desire to argue hypotheticals. This isn't an intellectual exercise! I have enough on my plate now defending myself against what I have actually been accused of.

You're damned right I'm defensive. I have every right to be.
posted by zarq at 4:38 PM on November 17, 2011


Huh.
posted by Gator at 4:42 PM on November 17, 2011


hi zarq, I like you and consider you a friend. And I don't know how to put this, but what say you step back from the puter, take a deep breathe and go see if you can take a walk in the crisp November air for a while?

Also, in this case, its not a matter of you misbehaving in any way nor violating guidelines at all.

Its more like you own this thread kind of a feeling... doesn't happen all that often that I have personally noticed but here, now, I can see this happening.

Memail me if you prefer.

take care
posted by infini at 4:51 PM on November 17, 2011


Yeah, zarq, I think you're reading malicious intent where there is none.
posted by lalex at 4:55 PM on November 17, 2011


Hi, wow, I did not expect to come back to this. I like zarq (didn't I say that already in this thread?*). I don't want him to be this upset, or read accusations into anything I've said.

Honestly, last year I probably wouldn't be making this comment. And a few years ago, I might have made a couple comments, but I wouldn't have said I was frustrated - I would have just slunk off quietly and felt crummy. So, progress.

zarq, I'm not "accusing" you anywhere. Let me go back and pull from my comments so far in this thread:
*"I like zarq; I don't think his intentions were malicious."
*"zarq: I appreciate your thoughtful response - thank you."
*"I never thought he was trying to attack me. I was getting frustrated, and I left."
*"I'm sure he meant it in the spirit of a back-and-forth"

I did say "That can be intimidating" and I did mean it generally, having felt that way myself, and having spoken to other members who do feel that way when similar things happen. restless_nomad expressed it very well here. I was trying to express - first abruptly (because I was frustrated), then more calmly (after a walk-away), that a user making a lot of comments in a thread sometimes makes it harder for other users to comment. I never said "monopolizing", because I don't think you were monopolizing this thread. But you were sort of "taking on all comers" by responding quickly to a lot of people with your thoughts - which were often of the "that won't work (because)" type. And I feel that sort of thing, from anyone, can be discouraging to less-active users trying to contribute.

You're perfectly within your rights to interact with the community in this way. There is nothing at all technically wrong with how you're interacting. But I was frustrated, and I don't think you intended your pattern of interaction to make anyone frustrated, and I felt I should explain myself after I'd had a break for a bit. I feel you meant it as conversational, like you said, but I also feel making a larger proportion of comments in any given thread is often problematic for reasons I've already expressed; and that jokes, and short comments, can be tricky, and hard to read, and more often perceived negatively than neutrally.

I am only trying to voice a perspective that is rarely voiced, which is that more-active users are probably not aware of their effect on less-active users. That's it, that's all. I thought it a bit ironic I felt the way I did in a thread dealing with another facet of that very topic. I don't think the answer is simply "less-active users should just deal with it", I think bringing an awareness to more-active users might help.
posted by flex at 9:27 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


flex – sorry, I haven't put the time into responding to you that I would have liked to, and some of my comments to you above have been a bit brusque. I'll try to be more clear.

flex: “I am only trying to voice a perspective that is rarely voiced, which is that more-active users are probably not aware of their effect on less-active users. That's it, that's all. I thought it a bit ironic I felt the way I did in a thread dealing with another facet of that very topic. I don't think the answer is simply &;lsquo;less-active users should just deal with it’, I think bringing an awareness to more-active users might help.”

Well, I appreciate that that's what you intended to do. I don't think it was really a very good idea to do that by calling out a particular person by name, however, especially given the fact that you don't seem to have intended to "accuse" zarq here. Mostly, I think the trouble stems from this:

flex: “You know what, I'm going to go take a walk, zarq, and since you're currently at over 10% of the comments in this thread, maybe you might want to join me.”

I know you were frustrated at that moment, and it seems like for various reasons (personal or otherwise) you felt a bit marginalized by the way the conversation was going and by the way zarq was responding to you. But – well, it's really hard not to read this is as "you're talking too much, and you need to shut up." That is emphatically not what you said; but the implication is there, whether you intended it or not.

I probably feel this more keenly because I'm occasionally a heavy participant in various threads and have had thread stats like this lobbed at me, too. I will say that I don't believe this is "a perspective that is rarely voiced." I've heard it a lot. Heck, it's happening in another thread on Metatalk right now, with a whole bunch of people telling The Whelk he needs to comment less in the OWS thread. And it's kind of a tough thing, because it's very hard for a person to take that criticism and use it constructively.

My perspective is this – on the internet, all we have is our words. Our words here constitute our entire existence to each other. We are not sitting in front of each other, experiencing each other with our senses; where our words end, our existence ends for each other. So when we say 'you need to comment less,' it's pretty much equivalent to a request that someone stop having a presence on the site, even if only for a while. Does it really make sense to request that community members who are participating honestly and thoughtfully stop participating, and curtail the amount they give to the site?

I'm trying to understand this, though. I guess one of the touchstones we've been using in this conversation is whether someone is "taking on all comers" in a discussion. I still don't feel as though that is a bad thing in itself, however; being willing and ready to respond to people in a thread is generally a good sign, a sign that one is actually willing to be a responsive participant in a conversation. Thinking about it, maybe what you're concerned about is that one person comes to stand for a whole side of the conversation, and feels the need to respond to anybody not on that side. That's a possibility, and I can think of times when this has happened. I don't think this thread is one of them, but I'll admit that it is a possibility.

Ultimately, what's hard for me here is that I'm not seeing where this enters the realm of stuff that can be directly and simply dealt with in a community. I can see where it might be hard to adjust to a few of the natural features of online discourse because certain aspects of internet discussion feel stifling at first. But – I still feel as though those are natural features of online discourse; and ultimately we have to either adjust to the way conversations happen on the internet or give them up entirely. I have some friends that tend to be verbose, and I have other friends who tend to use few words; I accept either from them so long as they meet certain criteria I have for my own comfort (ie they're not yelling at me, they aren't insulting, etc). I feel like this is pretty much the same thing as that – and my own feeling is that it's hard to say anybody here has crossed the line into unacceptable discourse. And while I know you're not trying to accuse anybody here of conversing in an unacceptable way, I still don't think we're talking about a community problem that can be solved by discussing it together.
posted by koeselitz at 8:29 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I should say that I have the distinct awareness that my experience here is not other peoples' experience. If you feel differently, I still want to hear about it, because that's the only way I'll get a better idea about how other people feel here. So please correct me if I'm wrong.)
posted by koeselitz at 8:30 AM on November 18, 2011


I like how cortex put things:

In that sense, it's sort of like a social gathering where four people at the table know each other really well and the other four are new to the group; everybody can be there with basically the same good intent of being social together and still the core folks can end up through their extreme familiarity with one another being sort of an intimidating social presence. The folks who are less comfortable with the social dynamic can end up feeling like they're fifth-wheeling or like they don't really have an opening to be heard.

I think it behooves us grizzled vets to try to be aware and sensitive to newcomers and the quieter folks among us.

Despite being a longterm member, I remember that feeling, I know that feeling. There are a lot of smart people on mefi and in my early days - and still sometimes now - I can feel intimidated, not cool enough, not quick witted enough, not smart enough, or not whatever enough to jump in. And then periodically you make a heartfelt point - particularly here on metatalk - and people jump on you, snark at you, or perhaps the biggest ignominy of all, totally ignore you.

But by and large, after all these years, I have mostly overcome this feeling. Personal attacks are really pretty rare, which is why they are so unsettling when they do occur. More often, there are a lot of ruffled feathers even when malicious intent was not there - easy to have happen when comments fly by fast and when we only have the benefit of words and not faces to read. I am not saying this particularly to you, flex, but more to any of the infrequent commenters, lurkers, or newbies - just jump in. If you think a few people are dominating things, the best way to mitigate that is to enlarge the conversation further. At heart, I believe most people here are kind and the mods break up any knife fights. Don't take things too much to heart, let slights pass you by. I am here almost a decade and I don't think I have ever had any ugliness with other users. I certainly could, I have been slighted, criticized, and contradicted -- but that is when I walk away. Life is too short to spend it arguing with strangers to a point of upset. If I want to fight with people, that's what my family is for ;-)
posted by madamjujujive at 11:05 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: My perspective is this – on the internet, all we have is our words. Our words here constitute our entire existence to each other. We are not sitting in front of each other, experiencing each other with our senses; where our words end, our existence ends for each other. So when we say 'you need to comment less,' it's pretty much equivalent to a request that someone stop having a presence on the site, even if only for a while. Does it really make sense to request that community members who are participating honestly and thoughtfully stop participating, and curtail the amount they give to the site?

I see where you're coming from. But, and coming from someone who's in the top 50 of most MetaTalk comments made (finding this out was a shock to me, I'll admit) this may sound a bit absurd, there's value in keeping quiet.

To make an imperfect analogy... commenters have a gravity. The more they comment, and the longer the comments, the greater mass they have, the more they distort the space of discussion around them. It's important not to mess up the orbits of other commenting bodies, to let them go their own path, so to speak. Also, people feel the need to answer what others are saying and if too much is being said for anyone to keep tabs on everything, some concerns and ideas may pass by unremarked because another topic or user is dominating.

Yes, discussion threads can in theory go on forever, but it takes time to read comments, and time is always limited. Giving people the time and space to form their own thoughts is important. Some people think well in a quick back and forth discussion, but others need a few seconds of silence to gather their thoughts and form them into shape. If people aren't letting these quiet moments happen, then a whole lot of perspectives will get lost.
posted by Kattullus at 7:40 PM on November 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've spent the last 24 hours composing a response to all of this. But truthfully, it's not worth the effort. It's not worth the time, energy or angst of a continued conversation. So I'm bowing out.

If y'all feel I'm talking too much in Meta, that's fine. I'll stop. I've already been participating less on the Blue of late.

I am tired of trying to be helpful to others here and participating in good faith, only to have my ass repeatedly handed to me for my trouble. Enough is enough.
posted by zarq at 11:54 AM on November 22, 2011


My impression wasn't that anyone was impugning your good faith, zarq. No one is suggesting you're not a valued member of the community. No one is telling you to stop commenting. No one is ascribing malice to being a vocal member of the site. This discussion was about how high-volume commenters (including myself) should think about how their high rate of commenting can keep other people from speaking up. That is what I took from it, at least.
posted by Kattullus at 12:24 PM on November 22, 2011


Kattullus: "No one is telling you to stop commenting.

Not outright, no. But that's clearly the only logical conclusion I can draw, isn't it.

This discussion was about how high-volume commenters (including myself) should think about how their high rate of commenting can keep other people from speaking up."

This is not an abstract discussion. I'm being called out by name and my participation here is being called out as problematic.

I'm done here.
posted by zarq at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2011


::rolleyes::
posted by unSane at 4:05 PM on November 22, 2011


I'm closing this up. It's taking an odd turn and people need to take that stuff to email. Please open a new thread if there's MeFi stuff that needs discussing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:49 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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