flaggy pony wants more flags November 16, 2011 3:24 PM   Subscribe

Pony request: Flag categories to move negativity into the flagging system and out of the comments

There's an ugly pattern that seems to happen a lot around here: A weak FPP shows up, and the comments almost immediately fill up with scathing negativity aimed at the FPP rather than its subject matter. The shopkeeper jailed for gun possession thread (since deleted) is an exemplar.

Here's the thing: A thin post can still spur an interesting discussion, but the chances of that vanish when it gets threadshat upon right out of the gate.

I assert that the incidence of this could be reduced by encouraging people to FIAMO with flags that are unambiguously for (1) weak FPP and (2) threadshitting.

This has been brought up before, and I apologize for beating a dead pony. Mods have said that "other" or "noise" or "derail" can be applied, but I think that's missing the point---none of those labels accurately describe the problem, so people don't use them as often as they ought to, choosing instead to post "this post sucks" kinds of stuff in-thread.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl to Feature Requests at 3:24 PM (110 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I would be more on board with this if it seemed like the people who grump about a thread out of the gate overlapped much at all with the people who are willing to flag stuff. For the most part it seems like that's not the case.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:26 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also this conversation is pretty much already happening in the thread just below.
posted by Gator at 3:32 PM on November 16, 2011


I get where people are coming from but out of the gate assholish "this post sucks" comments very clearly break the guidelines and so they can be flagged that way just fine. My sort of concurrent wishes, however, are

- if you dislike a post, flag it and move on or just move on. "This post sucks" comments even if accurate are a lousy way to communicate with the general population here.
- if you see something you dislike, just flag it. I know there are some people who get sort of flag paralysis because they don't want to flag inaccurately but at some level it doesn't matter. You are sending us a message, you can trust us to figure it out. Flagging is mostly important in the aggregate in any case.

My feeling is that having a flag to say "this post sucks" isn't going to solve the problem of people liking to comment early and angrily about their personal dislikes.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:33 PM on November 16, 2011


I would be more on board with this if it seemed like the people who grump about a thread out of the gate overlapped much at all with the people who are willing to flag stuff. For the most part it seems like that's not the case.

Maybe they would, if it was an option.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:36 PM on November 16, 2011


How about a "shit post" flag that played a sound effect?
posted by Burhanistan at 3:42 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


"if you see something you dislike, just flag it."

Which flag choice should we use?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:42 PM on November 16, 2011


Which flag choice should we use?

Using any flag choice will be an improvement over not flagging. In this example I would have picked "breaks the guidelines" which is what I explained. I am feeling that this is getting circular.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:48 PM on November 16, 2011


Noise or derail seem appropriate enough to me. More options would lead to choice paralysis a la Monty Python...red, blue, no red, wait a minute....argh!
posted by arcticseal at 3:49 PM on November 16, 2011


I think "noise" has a certain poetic fit, but, as Jessamyn said, it really doesn't matter to us. (Although "double post" and "display error" are, for reasons that should be obvious, not the best choices.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:52 PM on November 16, 2011


My feeling is that having a flag to say "this post sucks" isn't going to solve the problem of people liking to comment early and angrily about their personal dislikes.

That's because the flag only lets the user inform the moderators that they thing the post sucks, but the thread-shit lets them inform the membership at large, and especially the thread-poster that they think the post sucks. It's a matter of intent.

Flags won't solve for the latter, ever.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:52 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


How about a "shit post" flag that played a sound effect?

Like a toilet flushing! YES!
posted by Big_B at 4:01 PM on November 16, 2011


Gator: Also this conversation is pretty much already happening in the thread just below.

It's certainly addressing the same problem, and I'll admit I hadn't read its 200+ comments before posting this; maybe this should have gone in there. And I think your comment there does a good job of getting to the heart of the matter.

If there's a difference between my post and the discussion in that thread, it's that I'm trying to emphasize the human-computer interaction aspect here: Less ambiguous flag options would lead to better use of flagging.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:04 PM on November 16, 2011


I apologize for beating a dead pony.

And yet still you beat it.
posted by Decani at 4:05 PM on November 16, 2011


People keep asking for better flag reasons and the mods keep saying "other is good enough".

I've got to ask, is it really that hard to change the flag names? Because it seems to me mods have admitted that the existing flag types kind of suck and users keep mentioning that the flag options cause them to hesitate flagging things that should be flagged because they really don't know what flag means what. Why not revisit the flag labels?
posted by aspo at 4:05 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


(which I know is what the original poster asked, but the mods seem to have ignored that part of the question)
posted by aspo at 4:06 PM on November 16, 2011


Why not revisit the flag labels?

because, similar to the categories in AskMe, changing them is a non-trivial exercise and we would only do it with a seriously good reason. We have changed the flagging options once and it was for a Big Deal Reason. Tweaking stuff here has a lot of associated friction. We don't think the reasons suck. We think the reasons are okay, they don't resonate with some people and we've told them a way around that. Most people seem to use them just fine and don't seem to have problems with them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:07 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why not revisit the flag labels?

I agree. I think we only need two - "Problem post/comment" and "Fantastic post/comment".

If the mods don't need the granularity of the other choices (and I think jessamyn nails it when she says we can trust the mods to figure it out from the context), then let's simplify the system so people don't get paralyzed over which choice is the correct one.
posted by never used baby shoes at 4:09 PM on November 16, 2011 [13 favorites]


If a problem post comes along,
You must flag it
If a comment seems wrong,
You must flag it

Now flag it!
Flag it good!
posted by Renoroc at 4:14 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


aspo: People keep asking for better flag reasons and the mods keep saying "other is good enough".

jessamyn: changing them is a non-trivial exercise

Now we are making progress!!!

How about this: Modify the Javascript that creates the "pick a reason to flag" menu so that it shows additional flag names that map into "other" when clicked.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:22 PM on November 16, 2011


How about this...

It's not about the technical complexity. jessamyn said changing them is non-trivial primarily because of the social complexity. We have changed flag reasons in the past and there's a possibility that we could change them again if we have a compelling reason. So far the reasons haven't been compelling enough—or we're still digesting the large volume of ideas from MetaTalk today—that the social cost of changing flag reasons doesn't outweigh the utility. It's technically easy to add more flag reasons, yes, but that in itself is not a compelling reason to make the change.
posted by pb (staff) at 4:30 PM on November 16, 2011


Also, we're flagging a dead horse, lets merge these threads please, there's great value in the discussions today and having a parallel thread may let something slip through the cracks
posted by infini at 4:45 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


then let's simplify the system so people don't get paralyzed over which choice is the correct one.

Honestly, if someone is getting paralyzed over which choice is the correct one, I think there are larger issues than Metafilter going on.

That isn't meant an insult or slight and yeah, it's easy to see how the flags don't cover everything. But getting paralyzed to the point where one can't pick an option? That's a bit much.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:48 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


if it seemed like the people who grump about a thread out of the gate overlapped much at all with the people who are willing to flag stuff

So what you're saying is that people are not discouraged to flag because the flag categories don't fit, but that some people simply don't flag, right?

Maybe one should add a weekly changing fun flag category to make people curious to click on the [!] button. (personally, I'd like a text window to add my own musings even more, buy hey, I don't even flag that much...)
posted by Namlit at 4:50 PM on November 16, 2011


"But getting paralyzed to the point where one can't pick an option? That's a bit much."

That's not very generous. It's dependent upon how seriously someone takes flagging. People are different. Some people would press a "delete thread" button without a second thought if they were able to. Other people are hesitant to be critical at all, and especially so if the criticism is very broad. People are different.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:53 PM on November 16, 2011


I think there are larger issues than Metafilter going on.

That's a rather uncharitable thing to say. If a flag list is presented, users may have a reasonable expectation that the list includes the acceptable set of reasons to flag. If a user goes to flag and sees that their reason is not on the list, it is not at all unreasonable to hesitate to consider that maybe this isn't flagworthy, or the sort of thing that mods will care about.
posted by dialetheia at 4:54 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


If a user goes to flag and sees that their reason is not on the list, it is not at all unreasonable to hesitate to consider that maybe this isn't flagworthy,

One of the options is "other".

Mods use the flags to be alerted to problems and have been using them for years.. I think it's reasonable to ask them whether they think more flag labels are needed. Do they think it'll help solve more problems or solve them more quickly?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:58 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree that the current flagging options suck.

For a long time I didn't flag anything because most of the time the available options are inappropriate.

'other' is a catchall which suggests that it's for edge cases as opposed to the main use of flagging, which is 'crappy post' or 'crappy comment'.
posted by unSane at 4:58 PM on November 16, 2011


'other' is a catchall which suggests that it's for edge cases as opposed to the main use of flagging, which is 'crappy post' or 'crappy comment'

See, "noise" reads that way to me - is there a nuance that doesn't fit there for you? (And, I suppose, is it a nuance that doesn't come through if you just pick "noise"?)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:01 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


'noise' suggests a meaningless or random piece of spam

I don't know why you guys are fighting so hard against 'crappy post/comment', which would send a clear signal that, y'know, crappy posts/comments should be flagged.
posted by unSane at 5:05 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to try to merge the parallel conversations a bit, jessamyn offered some helpful context to the flag reasons, explaining that mods generally see the flags as sorting into these functional bins:

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

filthy light thief expanded on that and came up with a possible new list of flag reasons:

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

Then there was some interesting discussion of the role that the flag reason list plays in signaling community norms and guidelines here, and the history of the offensive/sexism/racism reason. I think that's about where we left off.
posted by dialetheia at 5:07 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"If a user goes to flag and sees that their reason is not on the list, it is not at all unreasonable to hesitate to consider that maybe this isn't flagworthy, or the sort of thing that mods will care about."

Yeah, that will happen. But there's diminishing returns (and/or increasing costs) to increasing the number of flagging reasons. As I wrote in the other thread:

"...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."

And, as the mods have said, the list of flags has only been changed once, and it was a Big Deal and changing them again would also necessarily be a Big Deal and would have to be strongly justified. A big downside to changing them that hasn't been mentioned is that there would be increasing pressure to continue to change and add flagging reasons to satisfy various perceived needs.

I can imagine that Matt and the mods might decide to very slightly clarify the existing flags, but it's unlikely that there will be numerous additions. This is likely for the best, in my opinion.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:07 PM on November 16, 2011


I think we only need two - "Problem post/comment" and "Fantastic post/comment".

In that case, we only need one flag, since we don't need the "fantastic" flag.
posted by John Cohen at 5:08 PM on November 16, 2011


'noise' suggests a meaningless or random piece of spam

Really? If a comment or post is spam, it blatantly breaks the guidelines. So shouldn't spam be flagged as "breaks the guidelines," not "noise"? (I realize that it will be looked at either way; just saying that I don't think the "noise" flag is specifically directed at spam.)
posted by John Cohen at 5:11 PM on November 16, 2011


I think what the mods have been trying to say over and over is that it doesn't matter just flag it and we'll come look and see already
posted by infini at 5:15 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


This MetaTalk post sucks.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:15 PM on November 16, 2011


I don't know why you guys are fighting so hard against 'crappy post/comment', which would send a clear signal that, y'know, crappy posts/comments should be flagged.

Part of it for me is I feel like there should be a little distance between a pure "I don't like this" reaction and flagging—that is, a focus more on "this is something that seems like it's problematic or needs attention given my understanding of the guidelines" and less on "this is something I just don't like" in terms of how people interact with the flags—and I feel like Crappy Post/Comment collapses that a little by taking away the question of how or why it's crappy.

One of the new flag ideas that's been brought up a few times before is "troll"—basically let people flag stuff because they think it's trolling or bullshit or whatever, which on the one hand I get the idea but on the other it's that same issue: it feels like it becomes more an expression of how someone feels about a comment than about what the feel like is going wrong.

So I feel like the current flag regime at least puts things in the right order: a few different options that hit different possible touchstones of the "how is this a problem" question, and then "other" for stuff where nothing quite fits. And people are really, really welcome to use "other" for stuff that doesn't quite fit if they think something needs attention.

But putting something like "crappy" in the list feels like it's inverting that: it's giving too easy an out on the "what is the problem" consideration that should go a little bit into flagging by making "well, it's crappy, what else is there to say" a short-circuit route.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:15 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


to me, "noise" is "this adds no value" like in signal to noise ratio and the like. "derail" is when someone is seemingly purposefully taking a conversation off track. "breaks the guidelines" is chatfilter and spam and posting people's personal information. "sexism/racism/offensive," "double," and "html" explain themselves. which leaves us with "other" for everything else.
posted by nadawi at 5:17 PM on November 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


nadawi has it.
posted by arcticseal at 5:20 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


fairly unrelated - one of the top images for FIAMO. math professor!
posted by nadawi at 5:25 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's my Brilliant idea: put another "flag post" link down below the comment box. Say "if you are criticizing the post in your comment, use this instead."
posted by smackfu at 5:27 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


it's giving too easy an out on the "what is the problem" consideration that should go a little bit into flagging by making "well, it's crappy, what else is there to say" a short-circuit route.

Well, to be fair, this is pretty much how we talk actually about this stuff on the site anyway, isn't it? We call it threadshitting without specifying the precise behavior, mods refer to crappy, lulzy, or bullshitty comments or people being jerks all the time without nailing down what "rule" is being broken, etc. Don't get me wrong, I love that the guidelines here are loose and interpretive and hard to pin down, and that the mods are very responsive and happy to explain the nuances of these situations, but I think that's part of the dissonance here: the actual guidelines are very fluid and broad, but the stated rules of the flagging form are pretty narrow.
posted by dialetheia at 5:28 PM on November 16, 2011


I thought the chief complaint was that the flags were too vague?
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:35 PM on November 16, 2011


I think she meant "limited" rather than "narrow". And that what isn't limited, is vague. But I shouldn't presume to speak for someone else.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:44 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do not understand people who decide to flag, look at the flag options, realize that their reason for flagging does not fit perfectly in one of the little boxes, and then decide not to flag.

Really? Then just go with 'other' or pick the nearest option. I particularly like the 'noise' option - as in 'this is just noise, it is not a constructive piece of the conversation'
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:45 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


The existing categories do not meet my taxonomical preferences. I need more time on this, but here's a draft:
reason for flagging
- double
---- ok, not a double, but do we have to have another celebrity obit so soon?
- html/display
---- needs image tag/badly formatted
- offensive/sexism/racism
---- zombieist/Xtian-baiting/snowflake-ist
- noise
- derail
---- srsly, you're going *there*/lacks civility/FFS, not again
- SLYT
- SLNYT
- Puh-leez, we've already seen this on Reddit, Digg, facebook, and every aggregator
- grammar/spelling
- breaks the guidelines
- umm, I didn't really mean to flag this, my finger slipped.
- I Just Don't Like This
- other
- somebody needs a: hug/banhammer/more cowbell/timeout/education

urgency
- whenever
- OMG
- W.T.F. Matt

fantastic comment

- worth a read
- amusing
- Sidebar-worthy
posted by theora55 at 5:47 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


The flag labels work fine for me, but I would love to see an actual little colorful flag appear when I flag something. I wonder if there's a greasemonkey script...
posted by rtha at 5:49 PM on November 16, 2011


Also, if you want people to use the contact form, make the contact link BIGGER.
posted by theora55 at 5:49 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd pay good money for FFS and a Needs More Cowbell flags.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:50 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the entire flagging system could be replaced by those two categories, actually.
posted by unSane at 5:51 PM on November 16, 2011


Seems to me that the people that some (most?) threadshitter want more than just the mods know they think the post sucks. They want everyone to know what they think and the flagging system doesn't allow that. Dicks are going to be dicks no matter what tweaks you make to the flagging system.
posted by birdherder at 5:56 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, if you want people to use the contact form, make the contact link BIGGER.

Well, that would have a downside...
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:56 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I really liked the suggestion in the other thread that the ! be turned into a little flag icon. I wonder how many casual users don't even know what people are talking about when they tell them to "Flag" something and have never bothered to click on the little exclamation point.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:59 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


restless_nomad, wow. just wow.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:03 PM on November 16, 2011


(The MeTa for context.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:05 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would buy a "W.T.F. Matt" t-shirt.
posted by arcticseal at 6:05 PM on November 16, 2011


I have one, with the words spelled out, and there are surprisingly few places you can wear it in public.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:06 PM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Here's a classic threadshit for you. Interesting post, first comment derails it by saying site documents are hosted on is wacky. Has nothing to do with posted links.
posted by unSane at 6:28 PM on November 16, 2011


I have one, with the words spelled out, and there are surprisingly few places you can wear it in public.

Yes, the reaction to the comic sans can be pretty harsh, sometimes.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:31 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has nothing to do with posted links.

Deleted, replaced the link per OPs request.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:33 PM on November 16, 2011


guys, what if

what if the flag button TURNS INTO the contact button

it'll be like

"man i dunno what to flag this i'll put 'other'"

and then the internet is like

"TELL ME MORE, I YEARN FOR YOUR INPUT"

and then the user is either drooling or has already closed the window
posted by LogicalDash at 6:39 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't often flag, but when I do, I flag Dos Equis I almost never have a category available that seems to directly apply, and I pretty much always wonder whether it will make any sense to the mods, but say "oh well". I can see lots of people doing the same, but choosing not to actually flag as a result, so makes sense to me.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:44 PM on November 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


I like tags, I mean I like the tags better than the "shitmycontactformsays" entries-

I wonder... can we just tag the comments and posts - so many problems of nuance and meaning resolved taxonomically... ta da... etc
posted by infini at 6:47 PM on November 16, 2011


When I flag, I always hesitate between "noise" and "derail" and have to consciously remind myself of the difference. (I can always figure it out, but it takes a moment).

Also, I often long for a "the commenter did not read the question" flag on AskMe. It feels unfair to flag those answers as "noise", since they are often brilliant suggestions IF ONLY the OP hadn't specifically ruled them out already.
posted by lollusc at 7:00 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't see the deleted comment that UnSane is referring to (hence the trouble with citing soon-to-be-deleted comments). But if I'm understanding that it was a comment pointing out a legitimate problem with one of the links...? That wouldn't really constitute noise. If a linked site has been slashdotted, for instance, that seems fair to discuss in the thread.
posted by cribcage at 7:01 PM on November 16, 2011


This is actually why we have a flagging system instead of an open "Hey Mods!" thread for stuff like this. The initial link went to a site that had other sketchy stuff on it. Initial comment went into the other sketchy stuff at length and ended with "Why is this post here?" The OP emailed us with a better replacement for the link which has exactly the same content, we fixed it, removed the comments, it was fine. So it wasn't what you'd call textbook threadshitting but definitely a situation where someone could have helped make the post/thread better and did something else instead.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:03 PM on November 16, 2011


It was a criticism of the site the linked page was hosted on, not the linked page.
posted by unSane at 7:05 PM on November 16, 2011


RN, I think of it as an upside. Those submissions are pretty zen.
posted by theora55 at 7:27 PM on November 16, 2011


There is already a potential problem with the flagging system that posters don't necessarily understand how their posts or comments go wrong, removing the 'doomed thread' comments makes that worse. I agree we'd desperately need the Needs More Cowbell flag, what exactly it represents I do not know, but I'd use it frequently and enjoy doing so!
posted by jeffburdges at 8:04 PM on November 16, 2011


Rock Steady: "I wonder how many casual users don't even know what people are talking about when they tell them to "Flag" something and have never bothered to click on the little exclamation point."

Mods, I really think this is a good point, and here's why: the other day, I logged out (I know, right? Who does that?!) and looked at the site as if I were a potential new user.

I noticed the sign-up page says something like, "If you want to know more there is a rather lengthy history here" with a link--which not many people are going to click on just because of that description, honestly--and "here's the Wiki", with another link.

My point (I'm getting to it!) is that neither of those linked-to places even mention favorites or flags. Even the "history", which has a list of terms, mentions threads and comments but not favorites or flags.

The FAQs mention flags, but that's not a suggested resource. It's up there, on the top of the page with Jobs, IRL, Archives--There are TWENTY column headings! How many people are actually going through those?

Based on what I've seen, not many. Lots of new people, for instance, don't even know how to format a link, or that there's a grey site for talking about all this stuff.
posted by misha at 8:06 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to say, that "HTML/Display Error" flag is exceedingly satisfying. I think I probably use it way too often, like if somebody messed up the HTML formatting for their comment or whatever. But it's just so much cleaner than diving into the thread and interrupting everything to talk about formatting or messed-up linkages or whatever.

And – I have a rich imagination, yeah, and I'm probably projecting my inner life onto the world here, but – actually seeing that mods respond to those flags gives me this feeling of a kind of comraderie, like I can say "see, I knew they'd take care of that." Like I'm part of a team, I guess. So that, where in the past I've often felt the need to flag and then respond to really offensive stuff, since in the abstract sense I guess I don't know that mods will want to delete it – well, now I can just flag offensive or terrible stuff and then ignore it, saying to myself, "man, they'll know better than me what to do with this, and I'm sure it'll get taken care of."

I guess it's rare to have that kind of faith in administrators, and it's easy to feel like we have a duty to respond when stuff is wrong or looks fishy or is just plain dumb. But I think it's much more communitarian to trust in the mechanisms of our little society and know that the people on our little team, as it were, have got our back.
posted by koeselitz at 8:07 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll suggest a compromise here : Add the Needs More Cowbell flag on next April 1st, but consider keeping it. It's cool if it just doesn't work out, but discuss it.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:07 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


*bakes brownies just for koeselitz*
posted by infini at 8:14 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Based on what I've seen, not many. Lots of new people, for instance, don't even know how to format a link, or that there's a grey site for talking about all this stuff.

I wonder how much a 5 or 6-paragrah "Quick-Start Guide" similar to a PDF you'd get with a software download would help? Rather that solely pointing to the wiki, which is encyclopedic, if there was also something along the lines of "Here's a list of the sub-sites & what they're for, & here's some of the cool features we've built into the site for your use/enjoyment." just the major stuff—Profiles, MeMail, flagging, contact form, names of the mods, favorites, etc. It could be concise.

I know it might duplicate the wiki to some extent, but the site's gotten complex enough that a quick overview sounds useful.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:28 PM on November 16, 2011


Devils Rancher: " I know it might duplicate the wiki to some extent, but the site's gotten complex enough that a quick overview sounds useful."

Well, we could put a post together on the wiki which could serve the same purpose. I know that's not what you were thinking of, but perhaps it wouldn't be too different from what you're proposing. And then you'd have an online resource that wouldn't be in pdf form.

A Metafilter Primer, so to speak.

It wouldn't be hard to set up, and I'd be happy to format it, keep it organized and/or add content as needed. What do you think?
posted by zarq at 8:35 PM on November 16, 2011


We have the Orientation page, maybe that could be reworked or have other stuff added to it?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:36 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, (and I suspected this even as I hit 'post,') the wiki already has the Orientation page.
posted by zarq at 8:37 PM on November 16, 2011


Jinx. :)
posted by zarq at 8:37 PM on November 16, 2011


Maybe change the name or make a huge pointer on the sign up page along the lines of "Beginners Guide to the Gray, Green and Blue" or MetaFiltering for Dummies?







*you can shoot me right here*
posted by infini at 8:43 PM on November 16, 2011


"MetaFiltering for Dummies"
<mourns img tag>
posted by jeffburdges at 8:52 PM on November 16, 2011


There's also the About page, which has a bit of info, but seems incomplete. Unify that with the orientation wiki, & flesh it out a bit? The info's there, but it's buried under a ton of detail, or it's scattered around.

Also, here's a parenthetical thought: you might not lead off telling people "it can be a confusing place." that becomes self-fulfilling. I used to have a sales guy who, when people would ask " how do you drive there?" would always start out with "Well, it's kind of confusing..." and his customers would all get lost. I'd start with "It's easy! Just take 7th street east..." and with essentially the same driving instructions, most of my drive-ees made it fine. Inspire confidence!
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:23 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


the wiki already has the Orientation page.

I never saw that before! That is ADORABLE.
posted by sweetkid at 9:26 PM on November 16, 2011


And then you'd have an online resource that wouldn't be in pdf form.

Sorry, I wasn't actually suggesting anything be in PDF format - it was just a f'rinstance, regarding the intent of the document.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:26 PM on November 16, 2011


Devils Rancher: "There's also the About page, which has a bit of info, but seems incomplete. Unify that with the orientation wiki, & flesh it out a bit? The info's there, but it's buried under a ton of detail, or it's scattered around."

I can do this tomorrow. But if you want me to bring specific content to the forefront, please make specific suggestions
posted by zarq at 9:33 PM on November 16, 2011


Flags [and flagging whys, whens and wherefores ]
Favourites [and maybe a hint on why we don't talk about them so much]
Threadshitting [what is it? why isn't it encouraged? etc]
Threadsitting [etc]
Gentle observations on community communication cultural norms [if possible at all or just point to links and threads]
Chatfilter
Newsfilter
rick
scratch that last one
posted by infini at 9:40 PM on November 16, 2011


[!]=flag button
posted by infini at 9:41 PM on November 16, 2011


zarq, I don't really have anything more specific than my first comment on the subject. I'd sketch out some text, but it's midnight here, and work tomorrow is slated to be insane.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:51 PM on November 16, 2011


There doesn't seem to be a lot of support but I do think the site would be served by adding just a couple of flag tags. Terminology is a problem, but I've thought many times that I'd basically like to see what boils down to a "Weak Sauce" flag for weak posts and a "you shoulda flagged it or taken it to MeTa" flag for the inevitable "this sucks" throwaway comments. These are pretty specific and ubiquitous complaints and I just don't feel like the current flag options capture them. Obviously they could do with better names concocted by people who are a lot better at this than I am, so I suppose this comment should receive the "nice idea in MetaTalk but doesn't seem sufficiently actionable until some unspecified person does the work to make it functional that you obviously don't seem inclined to take on yourself" flag.
posted by nanojath at 9:51 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see this flag layout:

Technical
Content

That's it. "Technical" means double, missing links, etc. "Content" means it is poor, racist, flamebait, etc. I suppose that if the goal is prioritization for the mods then maybe there should just be "flag" and that's it.

Right now, the flag settings rest in the uncanny metadata valley. There is enough options that I feel like I should be able to pick something meaningful but I usually just end up picking "other" and feel dissatisfied with the choice.
posted by chairface at 9:53 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Simple, elegant. I like that.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:55 PM on November 16, 2011


I totally see the appeal of a modded flag system as a redirection option, and wonder what other options could meet that need.

I also wonder if slightly rewording and/or making the "be respectful" reminder more in-your-face might help things a bit.
posted by moira at 10:43 PM on November 16, 2011


"you shoulda flagged it or taken it to MeTa" flag for the inevitable "this sucks" throwaway comments.

i think noise is the best flag for that - not even the best available, but the best description. the people who can't muster anything above meh or this sucks are just making noise and adding no value.
posted by nadawi at 11:13 PM on November 16, 2011


I didn't flag things for the first few years that I used MeFi because it wasn't clear to me what several of the options meant. For a thin post I wondered if "breaks the guidelines" was appropriate or too harsh (like that flag was supposed to be for posting porn or self-linking or something) or if I was supposed to use something else. It wasn't at all clear to me what "noise" meant for years, either.

I get that all that has been explained here a few times, and that's how I eventually learned it, and even found out it doesn't matter too much what flag I use... but the fact that all that needs to be explained over and over makes it kind of obvious to me that the current flag labels are confusing and unhelpful. I get we're a community and all that and we want to encourage people to learn this stuff, but I was pretty active and it was still confusing, and honestly a bit alienating to still not understand so much about it, and I think the current system really does keep people from flagging anything because it kept me from flagging. I'm not sure it would keep people from threadshitting, but even if it didn't, I think the current flag labels are so confusing to new people and even existing members that it's reason enough to change them. At the very least adding a "not a quality post" flag equivalent would have saved me a lot of time and confusion.
posted by Nattie at 1:32 AM on November 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


To clarify, I know we already have flag options for "not a quality post" but that's only clear to people once they somehow read a discussion like this. I mean just having an opaque no-explanation required flag that says something like "weak post" or "thin post" or "not the best of the web" or "editorializing" when applicable. I would think a post is weak, or editoralizing, and go to flag, but none of the options were obvious. Flagging isn't something that should entail that much additional thinking, imo; I already thought about it and know why I want to flag, but then I'm forced to think about semantics for no great reason -- and before I stumbled across the rules, there was no resolution to this and it was just needlessly frustrating.
posted by Nattie at 1:38 AM on November 17, 2011


I have definitely failed to flag on occasion because I couldn't figure out which flag to use, and "other" felt wrong.

I can't however think of a case where I didn't move on anyways.
posted by nat at 2:10 AM on November 17, 2011


Ok, I get those reasons - but what changed about your analysis of the posts/comments in question?

Something spurred you to flag it - why, after reading the potential options ( including what is to me, a pretty clear catch-all) did you decide not to? Is it a 'well, they didn't provide a box for it, so this sort of thing must not be an issue?' Or 'I don't want to spend time thinking about this?' Or something else?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:19 AM on November 17, 2011


I'm a big fan of the 'noise' flag. As mentioned before, I try very hard not to use it for comments that I disagree with but if the comment is blergh useless best of the web?! derp kinda crap then 'noise' would appear to cover it.
posted by h00py at 3:47 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


For me, I had no idea how the mods used the flags until I later stumbled across the explanation. Since I didn't know how much annoyance it would cause to misclassify something, and because I didn't want to look stupid, I just didn't pick an option. My thinking would be "what if I'm supposed to choose that it breaks the guidelines?" for example. It also did occur to me that if it isn't listed as an explicit option, that maybe I was supposed to reserve flagging for serious stuff and not weak posts or editorializing. I also didn't know how much work looking at a flag would be for a mod, so I didn't wany to cause them undue work if I just didn't understand what to do. It sort of felt like being 7 again and interacting with a computer the first time, where I felt like if I don't know exactly what I'm doing then it's most prudent not to do anything so I don't mess stuff up. I'm not saying it's entirely a rational reaction, but it's the default reaction a lot of people have to stuff that confuses them.
posted by Nattie at 4:03 AM on November 17, 2011


Metafilter: if it ain't fixed, why break it?
posted by crunchland at 4:32 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem isn't not enough flags, the problem is there aren't enough good posts. Put another way, you can't flag your way to quality, it has to be designed in.
posted by tommasz at 5:16 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


My feeling is that having a flag to say "this post sucks" isn't going to solve the problem of people liking to comment early and angrily about their personal dislikes.

Will it totally solve the problem? No, but I think it will actually help. The situation as it is now calls for impulse control, and also calls for clicking on something which is too far from the actual reason. It may be abstractly accurate, but if it captured more of what the potential threadshitter needed to say (it doesn't need to go so far as to say "this post sucks donkey schlong," but maybe "poorly framed" "thin topic" or whatever) it may be enough to prevent the potential from actualization. The cost would be more flagging and thus more work for the mods, but then they could up their threshold for how many flags before you have to look at it.

Recently, I flagged a post as a double. Because it was one. And the post stayed. I figured not enough other people recognized it, so the flag threshold wasn't reached. And maybe that's how it should be. A double that few people remember needs to be posted again!
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:50 AM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, maybe a flag for certain reasons (e.g. not html error) should automatically prevent the flagger from posting and vice versa (posting disallows those flags.)

I love technical solutions to social problems!
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:54 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The situation as it is now calls for impulse control

Yes. We actually think impulse control is something that posters should have here and if they don't have it, it's not our job to step in and try to help you with it other than to give good and fairly consistent guidelines about how to interact with this community.

Recently, I flagged a post as a double. Because it was one. And the post stayed.

It may have been a double to something posted years ago and we're sometimes lenient on those depending on the situation. You can let us know which one it was and we can let you know why we didn't delete it.

But honestly, there's not going to be a switch in the flagging mechanism that allows more people to complain about things and as much as technical/content appeals to me personally, it's a non-starter since it's not at all clear what it means.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:01 AM on November 17, 2011


I know there was at least one thing flagged as a double in the past week and I looked and did some searching and just could not find an earlier post, so I left it.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:50 AM on November 17, 2011


It might have been me; I'm still shocked that Penn & Teller's Desert Bus isn't a double post. I know I first heard of it here.
posted by smackfu at 10:08 AM on November 17, 2011


The way I see it, there are really only three reasons to flag: there's a typo the mds can fix, the comment or post is not suitable and should be removed or the post is fantastic and should be considered for the sidebar.

There are lots of reasons for flagging for removal: racism, derails, a comment in the wrong thread. It's perhaps satisfying to hav e and exact reason for removal as a flag, but ultimately for the same purpose: you would like to see theflagged item removed. I'd rather have the tag system be functional suggestions to the mods (fix, remove , fantastic). I don't think we need more specific categories for the "remove this!" flags. In fact, I'd argue that we could make this less confusing by pruning the options currently available.
posted by bonehead at 3:20 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes. We actually think impulse control is something that posters should have here and if they don't have it, it's not our job to step in and try to help you with it other than to give good and fairly consistent guidelines about how to interact with this community.

Don't you end up helping impulsive people anyway, by deleting their "THIS IS A BAD POST" comments?
posted by LogicalDash at 4:43 AM on November 18, 2011


There's a balance to strike there between wanting to encourage impulse control in users over the long run and also not wanting to punish everybody else for someone's short-term failure of impulse control by declining to clean up a mess. It's tricky.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:53 AM on November 18, 2011


Smackfu, I was so convinced that Desert Bus was a double that I searched for it; but I could only find references, no specific FPP on it.
posted by arcticseal at 6:53 AM on November 18, 2011


It may be that the large number of flagging options is enough to make people expect that the reason they want to flag should be there. It may sound counter-intuitive, but one way to fix this issue may be to reduce the number of flagging options.
posted by seanyboy at 7:38 AM on November 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


OK, so, the standard suggestion for people who complain too much is Flag It And Move On, right?

If you want people to do that, wouldn't it be best to make the flag menu more inviting?

I suppose there will be fewer teachable moments if fewer people fail to FIAMO, but on the other hand you're encouraging new users to FIAMO when they otherwise wouldn't try. That means they learn a coping strategy for the urge to threadshit, and they learn it without a mod actually telling them to FIAMO.

Thay'll eventually get their Teachable Moments anyway--or rather, if they don't, that means they never shat in any threads, which I think is the point.

If it's not your job to teach any of this stuff, then I suppose friendly flags are just a way of avoiding work that's not your job. Fewer comments to delete, yay!
posted by LogicalDash at 3:25 PM on November 18, 2011


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