This is the Internet. Taxonomy is important April 17, 2013 12:08 AM   Subscribe

Trolling on MetaFilter is unacceptable. But what about flaming?

I ask because the ReeMonster comment that incited the argument on that thread was more a flame than it was a troll: aggressively negative towards the subject of the post, to the extent that it comes across as an indictment of the people in that thread who liked the composition in question.

Flaming seems to be somewhat of a grey area on MetaFilter; on the one hand, hostility directed towards other users is considered a no-no, but at the same time, hostility directed at the subjects of threads is permitted to some extent. There have been complaints about that kind of attitude, most recently regarding Margaret Thatcher obituary thread, and in the past about threads on religion and modern art. In general, flaming is high-emotion and very judgmental, which often leaves users feeling as though they've been personally attacked. Attacks on things which are so fierce as to imply that people who like/believe/tolerate/enjoy those things are ignorant or uneducated or actively, malevolently evil are absolutely casting judgment on members within the MetaFilter community, often blindly, sometimes with deliberate or targeted intent.

(I know that in the past, there have been cases of users feeling thus personally targeted and responding directly to their perceived attacker. In some cases, the responding user is reprimanded, and the person who originally posted a provocation is ignored or excused. There have been a number of MetaTalk threads – none come immediately to mind, but I feel this happens somewhat frequently – where users mention feeling frustrated by this pattern, and I think it's directly related to the nature of flameposts.)

So I'm curious where MetaFilter stands on flaming within posts – both what the moderators' official position is, and how members of the community feel about that sort of behavior across the site. I don't intend this to be a callout – ReeMonster's stance within the thread was a sensible one for him to take, and that particular mode of criticism isn't one that I think we've had a discussion about before, at least not directly. I don't necessarily mean for this to be a call for an end to this kind of behavior, either; certainly some users here feel very strongly about expressing their feelings towards certain things, and for some subjects (political discussions especially), some amount of strong negativity is probably necessary for people to express themselves. But I do feel that flaming fits somewhat awkwardly into the site's culture in general, and sometimes discourages people from posting threads or volunteering their opinions on certain subjects where they feel their perspectives be unwelcome or actively attacked, and I think it might be worth people sharing their thoughts on the matter.

Are there good ways to distinguish comments which are merely negative from comments which are aggressively or combatively so? Are there subjects which require that kind of intensity for any kind of worthwhile discussion; are there subjects which are trivial enough that such intensity is never necessary? How do you draw the line? And has anybody developed ways of determining, for themselves, whether a comment they're about to post crosses the line from critical to provocative? How do you express your problems with a subject in a way that doesn't make anybody defensive?

I'm crossing my fingers that this turns out to be a reasonable discussion; again, I don't mean this to be a "let's stop everything like this immediately", nor do I intend it as a call-out. I'm genuinely curious how everybody feels about this matter.
posted by Rory Marinich to Etiquette/Policy at 12:08 AM (89 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

The moderator position is that for the most part, contentless "this sux" sorts of comments, especially in the beginning of a thread are deleted. People who are expressing their thoughts about the subject with some substance, even if they are perhaps extra emphatic or extremely critical are usually okay, unless it becomes an issue where they basically repeat the same thing over and over in an effort to force everyone else to agree with them. Sometimes if it's clear that they are not really getting that their "tone" is coming across as super hectoring or "all you people are idiots," we may speak to them privately to sort of give them a heads-up, or possibly mention it in the thead if it's derailing the whole discussion. And sometimes there are problems with people sort of dropping the exact same sorts of comments repeatedly in various threads when there's already been a lot of meta discussion about that, and if it seems like it's just being done to provoke, then we may take some action.

And there are other instances where we might act on these kinds of comments, but as usual around here, it's often situation specific, and there isn't one single rule about how we deal with that.

Ideally, if someone is using really strong terms that are making you feel offended in the sense that their criticism of the subject seems to suggest to you that they think your opinion is not worthwhile, it's basically better to go ahead and speak to your own thoughts on the issue / subject / person under discussion rather than responding personally. I mean it's fine to make a brief comment that whoa, they are coming on pretty strong, and then continue with the discussion of the topic and say what you feel like saying – which may be arguments that oppose what the other person said. All fine.

But if you really feel that somebody is trolling or intentionally flaming (perhaps behaving in a troll-like way, but not a troll), bring it here, or let us know.

One thing that sort of crops up over and over in Metafilter is when someone feels like they have particular "ownership" of a certain subject area, whatever it may be, because of personal involvement, the work they do, past experience, mega-fan, or whatever, and insist on sort of shouting over other people as their right because they feel like they care more, maybe. Sometimes we need to ask them to dial that back a bit because this is a place for everyone to discuss the topics that are posted, and people with special insights are really appreciated, but they don't neccessarily "own" the topic.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:29 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Personally, I find a good flaming a lot more interesting than, say, a half-dozen paragraph opinion poll or a mod position that's already been stated a hundred times (neither of which I bothered to read).
posted by ryanrs at 1:16 AM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I never mind a grounded, supported 'flame.' I kind of mind the mealy sort of half-assed 'meh' response more: why bother if all you have to contribute is your feeling of 'so what' . Unless you explain why you think it's 'meh' in which case I'll listen.

I think trolling is often immediately recognizable by its marked disregard for any consideration of the others involved in any discussion. As it says in that famous cartoon, the person blurting out "Shitcock!" And then disappearing.

Reemonster's comment fell narrowly into the 'acceptable' category by its citing of two other composers Rmonst feels are similarly weak. If I felt so inclined I could do a little research and figure out if I agreed or not. The statement wasn't made to incite.

Lastly, I value the contrary opinions of the non-'ShitCock!' variety. I think the place would be infinitely weaker for it.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:23 AM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Are there good ways to distinguish comments which are merely negative from comments which are aggressively or combatively so?

Not really, no. Most of the time it depends on which side of the bed the readers got up on that day.

Try not to make it personal and play everything else by ear.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:28 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The internet without flaming is not the internet.
posted by Justinian at 1:40 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this for real??? If someone feels "personally attacked" or "indicted" by another person expressing strong, emotional, or judgmental criticism of the subject of a thread, I would say they really need to get over it, rather than trying to turn the internet into kindergarten song time. Adults are allowed to criticize things. They are allowed to criticize them strongly, harshly, and emotionally. Strong emotions of dislike are valid reactions. If people feel personally attacked by that, it's their own issue to work on.
posted by cairdeas at 2:47 AM on April 17, 2013 [26 favorites]


flaming is high-emotion and very judgmental, which often leaves users feeling as though they've been personally attacked.

I think that's a murky demarcation though; users can also feel personally attacked for a wide variety of reasons that have little to do with what's on the page, and - though I am vocally a member of the "Gentler, Kinder Metafilter" brigade - I also feel that perceived offense, in and of itself, should not really reason enough to shut someone down, if they are not abusing fellow mefites, being racist, sexist, etc; if they are genuinely engaging with the topic.

tl;dr Deconstruction can also be constructive.
posted by smoke at 2:50 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a big proponent of deleting negative turds dropped on a thread, but this was a reasoned, if marginally rude, opinion. Those just need to be dealt with by people who like the music in question. Idk what a "flame" really is I think its sort of an outmoded phrase.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:31 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Flaming and often what gets called trolling are problematic terms, because here and elsewhere the defining feature of them is that they go against the flow of the post or prevailing opinion rather than simply that they lack substance. Plenty of stuff without substance stays in threads. If one likes it, or finds it funny, or agrees with it, it isn't considered flaming or trolling.

That said, it is basically somewhat discourteous to go hard against the topic of a post early doors, and more discourteous to do so the harder you go and the less substance there is. I don't think this is any different to real life: there is a time and place to jump in with versions of "that's bullshit" or "I disagree" when someone is talking about something dear to them. Working against threadshitting is fundamentally a matter of encouraging a politer, more collaborative community.

In summary: this is a question of tone and timing rather than strictly substance or lack thereof. "Flaming" and "trolling" are unhelpful terms and too often bandied about simply because people decide to assign bad faith to someone else they disagree with.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:43 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


My personal view is that negative and critical comments, be they about content or person, make a thread more interesting, so long as they are sincere and supported. A bugbear of mine is that the words "troll" and "trolling" have become so denatured that we now have too many people who use them simply to describe any comment or commenter they disagree with, or are offended by. Making a contrary or dissenting comment is not trolling, if it is sincere. Trolling means to deliberately and maliciously seek to provoke a response, purely for the sake of starting trouble. People these days are far too ready to call "troll" whenever they see a comment they simply don't like. It's nothing more than a playground tactic to try to devalue or dismiss dissent without having to go to the trouble of arguing against it. It's just lazy ad hom.
posted by Decani at 3:45 AM on April 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


Personally I'd like to see more robust, strident, critical commentary on the arts.

If you find a work of art tedious or terrible or hollow, don't nod sagely because everyone else is, because it's the polite or upper class or culturally valorized thing to do. Throw tomatoes.

There's a lot of bad art in the world. Metafilter shouldn't be a place where it's taboo to call it out.
posted by dontjumplarry at 4:00 AM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hostility directed to other users who refuse to participate in Acceptable Groupthink is not only no a "no no around here" but aid and abetted by our increasing posse of moderators, who leave the hostility alone but delete any response to it.
posted by spitbull at 4:37 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nothing was deleted there. If you want to talk about something specific, let us know what you are referring to.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:41 AM on April 17, 2013


Yes the real devils are the ones who make this place possible. Nail on the head.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:09 AM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Personally I'd like to see more robust, strident, critical commentary on the arts.

Yeah, but there's not a lot of substance in the called-out post. It's a "This sux!" stunt post with the names of seemingly unrelated composers that we have to assume also suck for some reason.

You can do intelligent critical posts that are funny, scathing and short, like Roger Ebert on "Kazaam", a movie about a fairy-tale genie starring a famous athlete:
"As for Shaquille O'Neal, given his own three wishes the next time, he should go for a script, a director, and an interesting character."
This tells us the three problems he sees with the movie in a way that also expresses his immense disappointment in the work.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:13 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nothing was deleted there. If you want to talk about something specific, let us know what you are referring to.

Huh! I'd assumed, from your comment, that the sobsister had made a comment calling ReeMonster a troll, because yours is the first comment on the page to use the word "troll" otherwise.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:19 AM on April 17, 2013


I hope the moderator posse all get coordinating cowboy hats in mefi colors.
posted by Mizu at 5:21 AM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Huh! I'd assumed, from your comment, that the sobsister had made a comment calling ReeMonster a troll, because yours is the first comment on the page to use the word "troll" otherwise.

I'd point out the comment that implied trolling in question, but I'll be damned if I help you read the thread you called out.
posted by fleacircus at 5:27 AM on April 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's probably worth noting the distinction between "Shaw is teh stoopid" and the follow up comment with "...breathing, guttural noises, sighs, breathing and plain speech have all been used to greater and more meaningful and intelligent effect by composers like Stockhausen, Schoenberg, Ligeti, Partch, Saariaho, and many more." I kind of think allowance for vitriol in a comment should be awarded based on comensurate wit.
posted by klarck at 5:29 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you find a work of art tedious or terrible or hollow, don't nod sagely because everyone else is, because it's the polite or upper class or culturally valorized thing to do. Throw tomatoes.

There's a lot of bad art in the world. Metafilter shouldn't be a place where it's taboo to call it out.


The problem with this position, which ideally I'd like to agree with, is that there're a whole ton of threads about interesting things which are not immediately accessible in every teeny little way for every person at once. And there's enough of "the emperor has no clothes lol!" on MetaFilter that plenty of threads about interesting art or interesting projects turn into a bunch of people talking about how stupid art is while a bunch of other people try to explain some basic tenets of art to them. It's far more tedious, terrible, and hollow than any work I've actually seen posted to MetaFilter.

If the controversy was only about, say, Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami, artists about whom there's a perpetual "how much of this is just style for style's sake?" discussion, then sure. Critical comments are sometimes useful. But the "I don't get this this is stupid" happens ridiculously often, even in threads whose subject matters are seemingly innocuous and relatively easy to "get". It reflects that a lot of MetaFilter users come from STEM backgrounds, I think; it's popular to attack the arts by claiming they can be as easily "objectively understood" as, say, some scientific topic or other – the difference is that when science is discussed, it's immediately clear to everybody whether they understand enough context to get what a particular experiment/discovery signifies, whereas in art, it's problematically easy to assume that no context exists, or that the context is far simpler than it actually is.

But the thing that's problematic isn't merely negative criticism, it's a particular mode of expressing said negative criticism.

Is this for real??? If someone feels "personally attacked" or "indicted" by another person expressing strong, emotional, or judgmental criticism of the subject of a thread, I would say they really need to get over it, rather than trying to turn the internet into kindergarten song time. Adults are allowed to criticize things. They are allowed to criticize them strongly, harshly, and emotionally. Strong emotions of dislike are valid reactions. If people feel personally attacked by that, it's their own issue to work on.

That suggests you think there's no space for users to attempt to be courteous to other users. I think that entering a conversation which started off as a discussion of a young, successful composer and her award-winning piece, and saying "Astonishingly weak music", followed by citing a number of other "weak" composers, and ending with "Let's see if anyone gives a shit about her music in ten years" is wildly impolite, if nothing else. If I was with a group of people IRL and somebody was that rude and abruptly dismissive of a subject, that person would be called a lot worse than "troll".

I feel there's something weird about allowing for harsh attacks on anything but a user, and then blanket-forbidding user-to-user interactions. Even taz's comment in-thread struck me as odd for that reason. I think that "Back under the bridge" in response to ReeMonster's incendiary yet contentless initial comment was a mild and on-point put-down, and it was weird to have the sobsister get called out for that. Saying "the comment you left was crappy and I'm gonna call you out on it quickly, so as not to make this about you" seems to be a valid way of interacting on the site, and one that is sometimes called out by mods who ignore that the comment it was referring to was maybe not the best either.

ReeMonster's follow-up comments were great, IMO, and it's neat to see the perspective of somebody who's knowledge and love of music is as specific as his is. I disagree with his perspective, but think it's really interesting to have it offered as an angle to the original piece. I do not think his first comment was useful or effective in any way, save that it riled up some people and changed the tone of the conversation to the worse, unnecessarily so.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:42 AM on April 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yeah, count me with those who think ReeMonster's first comment was stupid and not worthy of the person who posted ReeMonster's second comment. We wouldn't be having this discussion if ReeMonster had taken the time to write something worth reading the first time, and I'm glad the sobsister challenged ReeMonster on her/his garbage comment right away.

It's all well and good for Reemonster to claim "I'm not just blindly reacting to shit which I know nothing about" but the better strategy is to actually demonstrate that from the start. Take the time to formulate an actual argument, please.
posted by mediareport at 5:51 AM on April 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


I feel there's something weird about allowing for harsh attacks on anything but a user, and then blanket-forbidding user-to-user interactions.

This is not the case.

I think that "Back under the bridge" in response to ReeMonster's incendiary yet contentless initial comment was a mild and on-point put-down, and it was weird to have the sobsister get called out for that.

"Don't say that people are trolls; if you really do believe they are trolling: flag, contact us, or Metatalk" has been a tenet of moderation here for a long time. We don't want discussions derailed into arguments about whether someone is or isn't a troll, or whether they were just brusque or opinionated, but sincere, or whether they were flaming but not trolling, etc. – and Metatalk was created exactly to handle such situations. "Don't discuss meta stuff in threads" is standard. Anyone is perfectly welcome to refute the content of what reemonster said, or even comment that he didn't need to be so harsh about it, or request further explanation of what he said. But we don't want threads filled with people calling each other trolls. Either it's an actual charge and serious enough to get in touch with us or bring it before other members here, or there's a better way to respond.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:57 AM on April 17, 2013


If you think that comment was harsh, you should try reading the comments in yesterday's Texas thread.
posted by Sarcasm at 5:59 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


taz: Gotcha. So this is specifically about use of the word troll, rather than about the tone of the sobsister's response in general?
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:04 AM on April 17, 2013


Yeah the note was about saying or insinuating that someone is a troll. It's fine to take issue with a comment in a reasonable way. If it's just attacks on each other, we'll probably ask people not to do that.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:12 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that "Back under the bridge" in response to ReeMonster's incendiary yet contentless initial comment was a mild and on-point put-down, and it was weird to have the sobsister get called out for that.

What bunch of bolivating, narrow minded bullshit. How long have you been a member of this site? What part of "Note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site" are you not getting after all these years?

You didn't understand what occurred in the thread, you didn't like Reemonster's opinion, mocked his background, failed to address the substance of his comment and then you come to MeTa crying about trolling, which didn't happen, defending the use of putdowns, which is explicitly discouraged and wailing about how impolite Reemonster was.

Rory, are you secretly a 90 year old guy in seersucker, judging the world as its passing you by?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:54 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


What part of "Note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site." are you not getting?


The unnecessary carriage return.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:55 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


It looks bloated and unseemly if it doesn't line up under the live preview box.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:59 AM on April 17, 2013


I thought the comment was spot on and that the music is crap and I have no idea why it got an award, but then I don't get texting or Facebook either.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:06 AM on April 17, 2013


Is this for real??? If someone feels "personally attacked" or "indicted" by another person expressing strong, emotional, or judgmental criticism of the subject of a thread, I would say they really need to get over it, rather than trying to turn the internet into kindergarten song time. Adults are allowed to criticize things. They are allowed to criticize them strongly, harshly, and emotionally. Strong emotions of dislike are valid reactions. If people feel personally attacked by that, it's their own issue to work on.

Adults are allowed to criticize things, but I think that when people start to criticize things that encompass groups of people, it does in fact get too uncivil for my taste, personally. The quoted call-out is not a great example of it: a few things that I can think of are the lolChristians stuff.

Attacks on things which are so fierce as to imply that people who like/believe/tolerate/enjoy those things are ignorant or uneducated or actively, malevolently evil are absolutely casting judgment on members within the MetaFilter community, often blindly, sometimes with deliberate or targeted intent.

That's the part where I think the problems arise. Can you think of any reasoned criticism that requires assuming everyone who disagrees is stupid or evil? Is there any real reason we can't be better than that?
posted by corb at 7:23 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not criticism that's the the problem, it's the laziness. I'd expand on that, but meh.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:27 AM on April 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm totally for giving people free reign to express their opinions on why they viscerally hate a piece of art in biblically flamerific language if that's what they want to do. I've moved away from expressing myself that way mostly because I don't have the stomach to maintain an extended conversational volley in that mode, and because it's helped my blood pressure, but in general I think giving people that license to express their opinions just as passionately as they feel them is an essential component in keeping this community vital. That's only true, though, if there's a core of good reasoning and analysis at the center of such a comment, because then the people who tend towards more measured dialog have something to respond to.

In this case, I'm totally on Rory's side: there was nothing to that comment, and counting the mere citing of other composers as critical content (???) is a pathetically low bar that I don't want to see entertained on this site. I say this as someone who also went to school for music, who hasn't yet listened to the piece linked in that FPP, and whose tastes I've noticed frequently align with ReeMonster's, so I very may well dislike it myself! I still thought that it was a weak, boring comment that lowered the tenor of the conversation, and I'm not seeing anything in the follow-up that would convince me otherwise.
posted by invitapriore at 7:30 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


That suggests you think there's no space for users to attempt to be courteous to other users. I think that entering a conversation which started off as a discussion of a young, successful composer and her award-winning piece, and saying "Astonishingly weak music", followed by citing a number of other "weak" composers, and ending with "Let's see if anyone gives a shit about her music in ten years" is wildly impolite, if nothing else. If I was with a group of people IRL and somebody was that rude and abruptly dismissive of a subject, that person would be called a lot worse than "troll".

Word, but this isn't real life.

I have, more than once, been guilty of leaving a scathing comment about an article I thought was stupid. Sometimes to my subsequent regret. And I've posted things that people thought sucked, and they said so, and that, it did not feel so good.

But. On the whole, I'd much rather have room for a bit of rough and tumble on a site like this than not.

Because in real life, when you think something's terrible, it's often terribly impolitic to say it. One of the good things about our little shields of psuedoannonimity is that her we are free to say it, to have an honest debate, where if people think something sucks they say it sucks, not I feel that perhaps there are aspects of this which are less than completely awesome. I think it's better for a poster to have to steel themselves a little in the knowledge that when they post something people may harshly critique it than for people to feel they can't harshly critique something for fear of hurting the poster's feelings. We could stand to be a bit more British about this, really. More Oxford Union/Prime Minister's Question Time, less Charlie Rose/Barbara Walters.

You can go too far with this, of course. I was reading an old thread they other day --- a grey thread from 2008, specifically one that called out a potential troll --- and I was astonished at the difference in tone and what was allowed to fly. (It was the grey, of course.) our dear mods do good work, for the most part, and I wouldn't want to go back to that. But I think if anything we're a shade too temperate these days.
posted by Diablevert at 7:31 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


To me the difference between "I really don't like this' and what I perceive of as flaming is the protracted dug-in hateyness of it. And the performative aspect (i.e. the "I am doing this because people are watching me do this") One or two angry comments if they're not directed at specific users or entire classes of users are usually fine. Becoming That Guy/Gal who is angry about a topic and can be counted on to show up in a thread (outside of MeTa) and rant angrily about a thing, less good. I know it's a thing people like about the internet and liked about Usenet very specifically, but we've got limits on what people are allowed to do here angry rant-wise, but the bar is pretty high. Will be curious to see what other people think.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:33 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


At least ReeMonster is concise, and didn't take 15 paragraphs to say "I'm pissed that ReeMonster slagged off this thing that I like. And even more annoyed that you can't allude to him being a troll because he insulted this thing that I like."
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:34 AM on April 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Word, but this isn't real life.

But we're people.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:34 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looking at ReeMonster's further contribution in that thread, it is clear that yo is not just opining emptily in a "my kid could do that" mode as we often see in contemporary (visual) art threads. The specific critiques offered are that it is derivative and banal,superficial and simplistic, and ReeMonster cites other composers to illustrate these points. That's a valid critique.
posted by Mister_A at 7:35 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can you think of any reasoned criticism that requires assuming everyone who disagrees is stupid or evil?

Sure: "America needs healthcare system similar to other countries that have nationalized the field. Those who disagree are more than likely stupid or evil.

I still thought that it was a weak, boring comment that lowered the tenor of the conversation...

The response to that comment raised the tenor of the thread.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:36 AM on April 17, 2013

Looking at ReeMonster's further contribution in that thread, it is clear that yo is not just opining emptily in a "my kid could do that" mode as we often see in contemporary (visual) art threads. The specific critiques offered are that it is derivative and banal,superficial and simplistic, and ReeMonster cites other composers to illustrate these points. That's a valid critique.
Yeah. I just wish that had been the first contribution.
posted by dfan at 7:39 AM on April 17, 2013


Looking at ReeMonster's further contribution in that thread, it is clear that yo is not just opining emptily in a "my kid could do that" mode as we often see in contemporary (visual) art threads. The specific critiques offered are that it is derivative and banal,superficial and simplistic, and ReeMonster cites other composers to illustrate these points. That's a valid critique.

No, it's the outline of a potentially valid critique. Without concrete critical content, it's just noise.

The response to that comment raised the tenor of the thread.

Zorg? Is that you?
posted by invitapriore at 7:40 AM on April 17, 2013


Diablevert: "I think it's better for a poster to have to steel themselves a little in the knowledge that when they post something people may harshly critique it than for people to feel they can't harshly critique something for fear of hurting the poster's feelings. "

Seconding this. Harsh criticisms of content are part and parcel of making FPPs, and something that virtually everyone who posts will eventually encounter. It's not always easy. If you work on a post for a long time and have perhaps become attached to its content or the subject, it can be disappointing to hear people be dismissive. It's always a good idea to keep in mind that such criticisms are rarely a personal indictment against the person posting. People are entitled to their opinions, and to disagree with yours.
posted by zarq at 7:47 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


ReeMonster cites other composers to illustrate these points. That's a valid critique.

To me, the citing of other composers struck me as "this woman sucks, just like these three other composers that also suck." Was there a deeper underlying connection to the citations beyond "people ReeMonster thinks suck"?
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:49 AM on April 17, 2013


Zorg? Is that you?

Don't have time to watch this, gotta reply to Rory's Memail about my bipolar shifts and other impolite insults.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:49 AM on April 17, 2013


Do say: "My good man, you needn't be so blasted opinionated." Don't say: "Crawl back under your bridge, troll."

Remember: at metafilter we are elegant. Elegant! We are not a gang of rude savages! So get out there and use some fucking elegance.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:59 AM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


shakespeherian: "But we're people."

People were always rotten. But the world was beautiful. ;)


I think Diablevert's point is valid. We have different standards for people speaking in person than when they speak online.
posted by zarq at 8:07 AM on April 17, 2013


I would like to seriously suggest to the community that always responding to sincere questions-- even those you think come from a worldview with which you harshly disagree-- with sarcasm or incredulity or rudeness is sort of tired.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:07 AM on April 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


To me, the citing of other composers struck me as "this woman sucks, just like these three other composers that also suck." Was there a deeper underlying connection to the citations beyond "people ReeMonster thinks suck"?

Much as I disagree with ReeMonster's opinion, I think this is a misreading of the statement. I think what he meant was "This woman sucks, unlike these three worthy Pulitzer-winning composers, and she does not deserve to be included in their company." Pretty opaque if you're not familiar with the other composers.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:11 AM on April 17, 2013


Ahh, okay. "She's now in their company" was more of an "and they shouldn't be." That makes me a lot more okay with that comment, actually; thanks for clarifying!
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:13 AM on April 17, 2013


Trolling means to deliberately and maliciously seek to provoke a response, purely for the sake of starting trouble.

A good example of this would be coming into every single David Foster Wallace thread solely to remark upon how pleased you are that he's dead.

You of all people, Decani, are ill-positioned to adjudicate on where the fine line between "articulating a negative opinion" and "deliberately trying to get a rise out of people" lies.

That said, I think ReeMonster's comment was harsh, but clearly he knows from whence he speaks. He has earned his opinion, and is adding information to the thread. That to me makes all the difference.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:15 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Decani's behavior in other threads has nothing to do with the soundness of his opinion in this one.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:20 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


The main thing that upsets me about that thread is that so far people are 0 for 3 on spelling Elliott Carter's first name correctly.
posted by dfan at 8:20 AM on April 17, 2013


I think if you are deliberately trying to disrupt discussion with content-free threadshitting, whether you mean what you say or not, you're out of line. I don't think it matters a single bit whether it's trolling or flaming. Either way, you're being an asshole.

I love passionate discussion and debate. I like when things get heated. Only things I don't like in that context are a) when stuff gets personal, or b) when the only thing you're really saying is "this sucks", regardless of your word count.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:37 AM on April 17, 2013


I think Diablevert's point is valid. We have different standards for people speaking in person than when they speak online.

You know, that's totally true and I think the time for that kind of thinking is past. I mean, I think 'the Internet' and here are, over medium-wide swaths not the kind of place anymore.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:47 AM on April 17, 2013


You know, that's totally true and I think the time for that kind of thinking is past. I mean, I think 'the Internet' and here are, over medium-wide swaths not the kind of place anymore.

Why?
posted by Diablevert at 9:03 AM on April 17, 2013


I rather like the new Flaming Lips album, indeed the whole direction they've been headed in the last few years has rekindled my interest in them after the overblown shit of the Soft Bulletin and especially that embarrassing 'Battles the Pink Robots' era.

Really? Are they bringing the rock again? I might have to check this out.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:07 AM on April 17, 2013


I'm glad you brought this up, Rory, because I've been struggling with this issue myself. When does negativity cross the line? I've been guilty of accusing people in FPPs trolls or concern trolls (not Mefi users, I don't think), and been called on that. I've come to appreciate that there's a history and a context that makes labelling anything online "trollish" into a Serious Accusation.

So I really did a double-take when ThePinkSuperhero, a long-time member, generally awesome person and favoriite commenter of mine, suggested another user was being trollish in a recent parenting thread. I had a bit of an internal debate, and then flagged her comment (which had 20+ favorites), because I felt it broke the rules by not just calling another user trollish, but also asking that user to stop commenting in the thread, which really crossed the line with me.

The called-out user responded, I felt, very graciously, and agreed to stop commenting. And TPS thanked him just as graciously, but...it just really bothered me that because his opinion was not popular in the thread, he was pushed out of the discussion and nothing happened, like that's okay.

We just don't do stuff like that here, and it's still really not sitting cool with me (sorry, TPS!).
posted by misha at 9:10 AM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Your favorite band sucks.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:11 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I totally agree with Decani's comment above.

Would you also like to join the Decani Appreciation Society? We host a lot of fun Decani-appreciating activities, such as Decani appreciation summer camps, our annual Decani appreciation bake-sale, and our bimonthly Decani appreciation lectures (in association with the Conway Hall Ethical Society, London WC1R 4RL). Members of the Decani Appreciation Society are drawn from all walks of life, and include several Lord Justices of Appeal, Cabinet members and winners of Britain's Got Talent. Our motto is "Decani adoremus" and our coat of arms is Decani rampant within a double tressure flory counter-flory Gules. Some of our members were all, "Gules? Really? I mean, let's counter-flory, but I dunno about Gules". But I was all, "IT IS FUCKING GULES, YOU ASSHOLES. SO STOP FUCKING WHINING AND START APPRECIATING DECANI". Associate membership costs only £4.99 per year or £20 for lifetime membership. The Decani Appreciation Society - the adventure awaits you.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:18 AM on April 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


From Bklyn: " You know, that's totally true and I think the time for that kind of thinking is past. I mean, I think 'the Internet' and here are, over medium-wide swaths not the kind of place anymore."

*nod* You may be right.
posted by zarq at 9:19 AM on April 17, 2013


the quidnunc kid: "Associate membership costs only £4.99 per year or £20 for lifetime membership. The Decani Appreciation Society - the adventure awaits you."

Can I bring my uke?
posted by zarq at 9:20 AM on April 17, 2013


...and maybe a stack o' Bibles?
posted by zarq at 9:20 AM on April 17, 2013


Hi misha! I do not mind the callout (honestly, I expected it, and am surprised it took this long). I stand behind what I said, though- the comment I referenced seemed like a big ole' turd in the punchbowl and I wasn't in the mood for it. I don't think anyone was "pushed" out of the conversation; she (FYI, roomthreeseventeen is a lady) could just as easily have decided to stay in the thread, I certainly wouldn't have stopped her. I would have, however, encouraged her to be thoughtful and continue to challenge any comments I felt weren't thoughtful, mainly because I like her and I know she is capable of intelligent, reasoned dicussion. She chose not to stay and I respect that, too.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:22 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why?

I think the annonymity of the web as it used to exist is slowly but surely wearing away, for better or worse. And, frankly, the "ShitCock!" bit isn't working like it used to anymore as people have seen so often.
For myself I (this is largely due to my involvement here) have decided it's better all around not to treat these interactions so trivially. I mean, then why bother? This might be a part 'growing up,' but I also really think there's more and more an accountability that is expected of people on the 'net that mirrors meat-space.

And while I can appreciate the joys of sounding one's barbaric 'ShitCock!' over the roofs of the world, there's a time and a place and it pretty much never finds its voice here in any worthwhile way.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:45 AM on April 17, 2013


"this woman sucks, just like these three other composers that also suck"

ReeMonster wrote that her work sucks, not her. Big diff.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:01 AM on April 17, 2013


I know it's a thing people like about the internet and liked about Usenet very specifically, but we've got limits on what people are allowed to do here angry rant-wise, but the bar is pretty high. Will be curious to see what other people think.

Encouraging thoughtful criticism is good. The occasional that sucks comment is also fine. As always, the specific instances may have underlying factors which make them better or worst examples.

Decani's comment nicely sums up my problems with this MeTa.

Reemonster's original comment invites further discussion if people can get past the emotional aspects of. It's clear that the comment has knowledge behind it and as curious person, one should investigate further to see whether that knowledge is on a solid foundation and if so, what other interesting aspects might be hidden in its cracks and crevices.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:02 AM on April 17, 2013


Thanks, TPS.

And sorry for calling you a he, roomthreeseventeen! That's what I get for assuming.
posted by misha at 10:06 AM on April 17, 2013


Yeah I don't know. I think the "of course you would say that because you are on metafilter and trying to be cool" stuff is more annoying. It happens in like 50% of threads and it is tantamount to calling someone a troll.

Anyone ever try asking why someone thinks your favorite band sucks?
posted by Ad hominem at 10:17 AM on April 17, 2013


I think the annonymity of the web as it used to exist is slowly but surely wearing away, for better or worse.

And? We own this little space, no? And we can decide what goes on here. Metafilter is different from the rest of the Internet in a variety of ways. The creeping erosion of privacy and annonymity elsewhere is due to it being in a variety of powerful corporte and government interests to erode those things. It's not gravity, and we don't have to accept it.

And, frankly, the "ShitCock!" bit isn't working like it used to anymore as people have seen so often.

Who the hell was talking about being okay with deliberate trolling? What I was talking about, and what I think most of the thread was talking about, was harsh criticism of the subject of a post. Sometimes there's a fuzzy area there where people perceive criticism as trolling, but I don't think anyone was taking the position that metafilter ought to be okay with users filing people up for no reason. The question was, should we be okay with people harshly criticising the post topic?


For myself I (this is largely due to my involvement here) have decided it's better all around not to treat these interactions so trivially.

Harshness is orthogonal to triviality.

I mean, then why bother? This might be a part 'growing up,' but I also really think there's more and more an accountability that is expected of people on the 'net that mirrors meat-space.

Well, why bother saying anything at all? Is this a place for debate or an administration station for sunshine and blowjobs? Because sometimes in real life people disagree about whether something's worthwhile, or interesting, or valuable, or funny. Certainly, content-free bleh-meh-your-favourite-band-sucks threadshitting is bad and shouldn't be encouraged. But there's a wide, wide gulf between that and "this is not good and here's why" and in that span there's a lot of room for the scaberous, the hilarious, the witty and the blunt.

I want lemons, not just sugar. Because lemonade is a far superior drink to either simple syrup or lemon juice.
posted by Diablevert at 10:24 AM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


...an administration station for sunshine and blowjobs

Add a third port for charging iPhones and we'll really have something.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:28 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

The internet without flaming is not the internet.
I like flaming, trolling and the Internet. From Fansy to FYAD I enjoy those experiences.

But metafilter is different, it really is. I know it is one of the very few places where I will temper my comments and tone down the vitriol. I think this atmosphere of restraint and the tone of moderation is one of the reasons for the quality of discussion here. Sure, it can be a little bit frustrating to have a thread about Thatcher where non-brits ask us to be a bit less angry or even a release-valve metatalk thread about a bombing in Boston where a difficult subject like NORAID isn't mentioned.

But there are other places for those discussions and as much as I understand the frustration, well over ten years of quality discussion is a remarkable achievement. Even with the cabal and the a-listers getting preferential treatment personalities and personal histories of metatalk sometimes making things seem less egalitarian than they should be, even with the misteps in moderation, I'd rather err on the side of civility in this of all places.

tl;dr If you don't like it fuck off to GBS/Reddit.
posted by fullerine at 10:37 AM on April 17, 2013


Regardless of the level of heat, if a comment is substantive & thoughtful, well-stated, funny - ideally without derailing too much, informative, and/or interesting, I think we have room for it. I do pretty much despise mindless hating, of the Yr Fav Band variety.

This particular comment was not mindless hating. I'm tired of the hating and grar and the general Let me tell you how you suck, because I am cooler than you, but it's not trolling.
posted by theora55 at 10:38 AM on April 17, 2013


Two contradictory cents:

- you can't really ban flaming; people in a diverse unfiltered community are going to take a dislike to each other and will learn to throw elbows in truly ridiculous ways if that's all that's open to them

- in a practical sense, when you meet a link to an actual serious or even moderately involved piece of art with a simple "that fucking sucks" every time, it's a good way to ensure that eventually you'll stop getting links to art on the site. Whether or not you are aware of it, what you're doing is contributing to the long slow Buzzfeed slide of the internet: if people are just going to spit on whatever you show them, why put any effort into it? May as well just be kitty videos and more top ten lists. It's all chum for assholes anyway. Comparatively, finding art to show people is kind of thankless, let alone making the stuff. So it's not so much being a Temple Of Civility on the internet so much as being something more than a bunch of dumb fuckin' consumers whose only thoughts are like! don't like! and trying to think of your role more as promoting the things you do find interesting; that is, if you the reader actually want to discuss & find art on Metafilter (which still seems like kind of an open question).
posted by furiousthought at 10:48 AM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is no cabal. There is also no cable to Kabul asking for kibble.
posted by jonmc at 10:55 AM on April 17, 2013


From Bklyn: " You know, that's totally true and I think the time for that kind of thinking is past. I mean, I think 'the Internet' and here are, over medium-wide swaths not the kind of place anymore."

I've been thinking about this and would like to change my answer above.

I think you're right. Ideally, we should be thinking about adopting one standard for how we interact with and treat people, and not give ourselves free rein to be less polite in anonymity on the 'net than we would be in a face-to-face conversation. You're also right that in many places the line between the internet and real life has thinned a great deal from even 3-5 years ago, too.

I started thinking about whether I maintain different standards in the way I speak to people online vs. how I speak with them in person. My initial reaction was, "Yes, sure I do." But having thought about it the truth is, I really don't. It sounds stupid to say, but that was kind of an eye-opening realization. I am probably about as diplomatic and polite online as in person. And as rude. As boringly didactic. Etc. Although I probably yap obnoxiously about my kids more to people face to face than I do online. I always thought I was more "raw and unfiltered" online. But I'm not.
posted by zarq at 11:06 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is no cabal. There is also no cable to Kabul asking for kibble.


There is also no Kerbal Space Program.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:47 AM on April 17, 2013


ermagerd

the kaberl!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:51 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Zarq, you've always been raw and unfiltered to me. But damn it, you're an American and that's just how we are!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:57 AM on April 17, 2013


I'm not. I'm caramelized and strained through a cheesecloth.
posted by jonmc at 12:13 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really understand the binary view of possible interaction modes that says "In real life, it is often bad form to disagree with the majority view" and "On the internet, you can disagree, so any amount of vehemence is great".

I think there's a third possibility, and while I certainly don't think it should be moderated into existence, I think it would be great if people would, on their own, strive for it: "On MetaFilter, unlike much of real life, you should disagree, but on MetaFilter, unlike much of the Internet, you should exercise tact in doing so."

So when you disagree with the majority, you should do so in a different way than when you agree with the majority. And if you exercise tact, and people still get angry, then it's on them.

I don't always practice this approach, but that's a failing of mine.

Also, I'd like to say that I appreciate that the distinction is being made between trolling and flaming. The latter word is disappearing from the Internet, but I think it's an important distinction. I don't know if I would characterize ReeMonster's comment as "flaming", but it certainly wasn't trolling.
posted by Bugbread at 12:27 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seconding Bugbread's appreciation for distinguishing between trolling and flaming. Trolling involves bad faith or irony of some kind. ReeMonster was writing in earnest. I'd call it rude before I'd call it trolling.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:31 PM on April 17, 2013


And I say that as one who appreciated ReeMonster's ultimate effect on the thread. It was rude, but it was ultimately valuable.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:33 PM on April 17, 2013


According to Bulfinch's Mythology trolls are not affected by flames.
posted by trinity8-director at 12:36 PM on April 17, 2013


Maybe this shitcock cartoon isn't famous enough because I don't think I've seen it.
posted by RobotHero at 1:17 PM on April 17, 2013


Also "the long slow Buzzfeed slide of the internet" is my favourite phrase now.
posted by RobotHero at 1:20 PM on April 17, 2013


RobotHero: "Maybe this shitcock cartoon isn't famous enough because I don't think I've seen it."

Shitcock!
posted by Bugbread at 1:22 PM on April 17, 2013


We host a lot of fun Decani-appreciating activities, such as Decani appreciation summer camps, our annual Decani appreciation bake-sale, and our bimonthly Decani appreciation lectures

There is also the Decani charity cat-pat-athon held every October in aid of deserving Decani! Come and pat a kitty for a good cause!
posted by winna at 1:29 PM on April 17, 2013


And I say that as one who appreciated ReeMonster's ultimate effect on the thread. It was rude, but it was ultimately valuable.

If one was not familiar with ReeMonster's commenting history that first comment (linked to in the OP of this thread) comes off a lot like trolling. Throw out something mean as bait, wait for people to respond and play off their responses. I do not think it was actually intentional trolling achieving much the same effect due to a pithy comment of frustration isn't much better.

I think the thread would have gone better and become less about ReeMonster's qualifications/tastes/attitudes/etc (which now counts for about a quarter of the thread) if ReeMonster had started with their second comment, which actually had substance.

That first comment would work within the second comment but without that context it came off poorly.
posted by mountmccabe at 1:43 PM on April 17, 2013


If one was not familiar with ReeMonster's commenting history that first comment (linked to in the OP of this thread) comes off a lot like trolling.

And honestly, if you are familiar with his commenting history that doesn't necessarily help because he's got a habit of sort of tossing bombs into threads and has had proportionally a lot of comments deleted as a result. And yet he seems to be a smart guy capable of thoughtful and nuanced contributions when he makes the effort. And that "why didn't you make the second comment as your first comment?" question is one I end up asking—either quietly to myself or straight to the actual mefite if we're having a conversation about it—on a regular basis, because it's something people seem to do sometimes even when it seems like they should know better, letting their desire to have their say get ahead of their sense of how to make their opinion into an interesting and substantial contribution to a discussion.

That's one of the tricky things with how people game this stuff out, and why "troll" is a word that is at this point overloaded to the point of having little utility. People say shit rashly, or get ahead of themselves, or are in as shitty mood, or are actually feeling like fighting, or aren't bothering to engage while commenting, or fail to consider that they're bringing in baggage with their comment that they shouldn't expect others to have to unpack for them, etc. All these things can overlap, with good or bad or blank intentions.

Better than calling someone a troll or some such is to just (a) route around something obnoxious if you think it's unworthy of the discussion or (b) engage with what's problematic about the specific statement or behavior in a productive way. Long term behavior problems become more of a mod issue in any case; declaring someone a troll or not won't really resolve anything.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:54 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Rory Marinich: "ReeMonster cites other composers to illustrate these points. That's a valid critique.

To me, the citing of other composers struck me as "this woman sucks, just like these three other composers that also suck." Was there a deeper underlying connection to the citations beyond "people ReeMonster thinks suck"?
"

I think you misunderstand me. The critique on balance is valid. ReeMonster's description of the perceived failings of the piece, and comparisons to other composers, taken on balance, represent more than a reflexive dismissal. If ReeMonster had just said, "this sucks because it sounds like x, y, and z," well then that's a horse of another color. But that ain't the way I took it.
posted by Mister_A at 2:46 PM on April 17, 2013


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