Wait, do we really need three active syria threads? September 2, 2013 7:29 PM   Subscribe

So this popped up on the front page yesterday. Upon seeing it again today i realized something...

What about this thread and this one?

In the past i've seen a pretty hard line taken on "well there's already an open thread on this", even on big name developing situations/issues like the Zimmerman/Martin case.

But now it pretty much seems like as soon as the old one ages for 5-7 days a new one pops up and gets the greenlight. Whats up with that?

I'll add that i didn't just contactform this because i thought it would seem like rules lawyering bullshit even though i have no horse in the race. You know, along the lines of "well why was this post ok but this one wasn't?" i don't actually care about that crap. I was more asking this as a question to everyone in general if constant threads on stuff like this was what they wanted. Because that's been contentious in MeTa before. This is more of a "is this working how it's supposed to?" question.
posted by emptythought to Etiquette/Policy at 7:29 PM (40 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Yeah, now that Syria is turning into a major story, we're not going to have a zillion open threads about it. I was on the fence about the last one, but it's a really good background piece on Syria and why it's a really complicated situation over there. The previous two posts from the last week were a little different, one was half about Miley Cyrus, the other came before we knew the situation. I suspect the most recent post will be the most recent Syria post for a while, unless something really major goes down there.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:30 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good answer, Matt.
posted by HuronBob at 8:15 PM on September 2, 2013


Matt answer, good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:20 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Answer good, Matt.
posted by HuronBob at 8:32 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Answer, Matt!

Good.
posted by Dasein at 8:34 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Towards Magneto!
posted by lalex at 8:37 PM on September 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


The obvious solution to this is to create two more Miley Cyrus threads, thus restoring MetaFilter to its natural balance.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:47 PM on September 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


nickyskye's post was good too. Just saying.
posted by homunculus at 8:50 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


See Matt answer. Answer Matt answer!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:50 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


nickyskye's post was good too. Just saying.

And on e.g a Syria-specific blog every post would be a good post. On Metafilter, we don't really do that; it's gonna be fewer threads, farther apart, with folks encouraged to add links to the existing threads for the most part. "Just saying" doesn't change any of that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:03 PM on September 2, 2013


"Just saying" never changes anything.
posted by John Cohen at 9:08 PM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


And on e.g a Syria-specific blog every post would be a good post.

Actually the twerking post would still have been terrible.

Hey, I'm in favor of less threads. I think the sabre-rattling one is more than sufficient for now. I just wanted to give nickyskye credit for finding a good link. Carry on.
posted by homunculus at 9:36 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, with the post that stuck though that's four. Seeing as how it was less than a week ago.

The newest one compared to that one is a fairly cheap buzzfeed style post that several people have poked holes in, kinda as far as content goes even below the level of what someone like homunculus would drop in an existing thread.

Kinda strengthens my argument about this getting demon-dialed as an FPP, although before noticing it i was 100% in agreement with you Matt.

What you said stands if you consider that post the most recent one. The actual chronologically most recent post kinda doesn't make sense in that context.
posted by emptythought at 11:11 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


kinda as far as content goes even below the level of what someone like homunculus would drop in an existing thread.

Eh?
posted by homunculus at 11:35 PM on September 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


To clarify, i was talking about the "9 things you might not know about syria!" single link fpp, and saying that it didn't even clear the bar of an interesting link you'd drop in an existing thread about something.

this post kinda sums up my feelings about that article tbh. It's like buzzfeed level.

you're great at the link dropping thing by the way, quality stuff. I don't know what else i'd do on the crapper at work if it wasn't for that. I was just saying that it was barely even what i'd expect from a reply, much less the tentpole of an FPP.
posted by emptythought at 12:27 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey, homounculus' drop ins are almost always true Value Added to a serious-issue-based thread (and also the name of my next band). But it's not always easy to find the best Value Added links in a long (and often opinion-heavy) thread (except by looking for 'posted by homunculus').

There should almost be a way to highlight such things other than using the favorite [+]... kind of a "Public Flag" (as opposed to Public Flogging) and when something like nickyskye's post gets deleted with a "belongs in existing thread", it could be automatically inserted and highlighted. T

he highlighting would do wonders for any thread about an ongoing story... like the Diana Nyad thread which started as she was "just a few miles from completing" her historic swim; it would've been nice to quickly click to the first comment that has a link to pictures showing her finishing...

Highlighting. Like Chapter Breaks for MeFi Threads. I have no clue how to implement that; I'm leaving it to you smart people.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:32 AM on September 3, 2013


Metafilter: I don't know what else I'd do on the crapper at work.
posted by zarq at 3:09 AM on September 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Posters who get their posts axed are often encouraged to drop their links as a comment in an existing post. I'm not sure that there's any reason to change that. Adding their content to the existing post itself would require the mods to do some sort of judgment as to whether the links would add or detract from the post. I think we all know that way lies madness.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:16 AM on September 3, 2013


BTW, homunculus drops in fantastic links that inform and entertain readers both on and off the toilet.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:21 AM on September 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


In the past i've seen a pretty hard line taken on "well there's already an open thread on this", even on big name developing situations/issues like the Zimmerman/Martin case

To be fair, this has actually not been a hardline as much as you might think it has. A more realistic guideline is "Well, there's already an open thread on this UNLESS SOMETHING BREAKING HAPPENS". For example - I created a Zimmerman/Martin post when the trial first started, but even though there was an open thread on it, if memory serves, another thread condemning the treatment of Jeantel and yet another thread of reactions to the verdict were allowed to stand as well.

I think the standard is more "don't spam the front page with this" more than anything else.
posted by corb at 6:19 AM on September 3, 2013


If they're significantly different in scope, even if they are related to the same ongoing event, think it's often a good thing that there is more than one thread, especially if there's a lot of commenting. Elections - especially US ones - seem to throw up multiple threads. And the Boston bombing produced two threads, one started just four days after the other - a good thing in that case as both attracted many comments.
posted by Wordshore at 7:44 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Keep it to a dull roar" has been my take on big bustling developing news story things, yeah. It's not so much "one thread at a time, period" as it is an expectation that people will try and show restraint about not littering the front page with a lot of little things and that they'll be cool about the pruning of posts that comes with enforcing that idea.

Big complicated stories/events/etc that have a lot of intersections with pop culture commentary and criticism are the likeliest things to push on the limits of this stuff a bit because there's not just the "and here's a new development in story x" but a lot of "here are a bunch of different angles to things about or affected by or based on or deconstructing x" going on, and that can end up leading to people wanting to make a new post that's not about x so much as some meta-x thing that didn't even exist when the original post-about-x got made, etc.

It's a collective balancing act finding a way to try and accommodate some of that desire to have discussions driven by novelty and partitioning of a story without having the site turn into Topic Xfilter for the duration.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:46 AM on September 3, 2013


it could be automatically inserted and highlighted.

People can do that themselves, there are a fair number of good reasons to not automate this sort of thing. One of the downsides to a website where we sort of know each other and are nominally a community is that people understand the sort of choices we make like "We've got too many Syria threads" or "The other James Brown obit thread was better" sorts of things. Especially since many of us are in the super-annoying watch-and-wait phase to see what the US decides to do, there's a lot of agita and not as much news as waiting-for-the-news going on. And not denying that a single link buzzfeedish thing might not be the best Syria link to start The Syria Thread, but that's the way things tend to go here and I think a better approach is making meatier posts about current event topics to make a more MetaFilter style post and less of a "tossing this up on facebook/Reddit" style post. No big deal certainly, but I think this is just a downside to how things work here but not necessarily one that requires remedy on our end.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:15 AM on September 3, 2013


Personally, I don't mind seeing multiple threads on a topic, but only if the FPP that created the thread provides something that I might have missed otherwise. One example of this is the ongoing NSA/Snowden saga - there was a nice FPP on Laura Poitras, another on the NSA's goal of reducing SysAdmin headcount by 90 percent, and another on the "black budget" of various three-letter agencies. Those threads provided a good discussion and while I might have found some of that stuff on my own, I definitely would not have found them here if those posters had just dropped comments in an existing "Snowden/NSA/surveillance-related" thread - I just don't use MeFi that way. So I really like that we get new posts, as they allow for new opportunities to reflect upon new information.

Obviously the Syria situation is different, but if there are significant developments every few days (or especially if there is some amazing journalism taking place that might be missed otherwise), I don't mind new FPPs on the subject. (Though I understand how that makes the job of the mods more difficult)
posted by antonymous at 10:41 AM on September 3, 2013


I understand that "maybe drop the link in the existing thread" isn't really meant to be dismissive, but oftentimes that "existing thread" is several hundred comments long with ebbing and flowing sub-conversations - and maybe a late-night derail into beer preferences. Without significant dedication to the thread, most users will miss a new link. I loved the way 2012 election links were quarantined into superthreads, but I'm sure I missed some good stuff too. So, I don't know, maybe it'd be nice to have a way to show or highlight new links (that) have been added to a superthread.
posted by klarck at 11:58 AM on September 3, 2013


homunculus: Eh?

What emptythought was expressing is a classic philosophick conundrum. It's classic Cartesianism: who, in the final instance, receives and reads metafilter posts? It is the intellect, the thinker in in the mind. But then: who thinks the thoughts of this reader of metafilter comments? The answer is, of course, yet another homunculus. But who reads the mefi comments of that homunculus? It's yet another... and so on. One homunculus beneath another one, ad infinitum. So what emptythought was saying is that in this philocophick conundrum, we are all homunculi, making you the best, and most likely the only, commenter on metafilter.

It also goes without eponysterical saying that emptythought would expect the mind to be empty of homunculi.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:55 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


it didn't even clear the bar of an interesting link you'd drop in an existing thread about something.

Sez you.

I got a lot out of that link. I would not have come across it had it not been posted.

Taking churlish digs at posts just because they don't happen to meet your pet standards isn't very community-minded. Obviously, the post was within site guidelines, else it would've been axed. If you feel otherwise, flag it and/or report to the mods.
posted by nacho fries at 2:14 PM on September 3, 2013


Hey, taking churlish digs at posts is practically a sport around here. :)
posted by zarq at 2:41 PM on September 3, 2013


Given the importance and complexity of the situation and policy options, I believe we ought to be able to have more than one thread going.
posted by humanfont at 3:16 PM on September 3, 2013


What's kind of sad is how the "Fettering discretion" thread got threadjacked into a very tangentially related discussion of American failures in Iraq by a couple of folk, without much, if any, modly objection. Yabba-dabba-do American Labor Day holiday and all, but, damn, topic drift on an open thread = ++ungood.

Or so I've been led to believe.
posted by paulsc at 4:02 PM on September 3, 2013


without much, if any, modly objection.

We can only look at what we actually see. Use the flagging and/or Contact Form if something is actually bothering you. Otherwise topic drift is just sort of a thing that happens sometimes and if no one minds, it's a non-problem.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:09 PM on September 3, 2013


Also, one of the nice things about a thread like that is sometimes you can make a statement that is on topic yourself and re-route it back as people start to answer.
posted by zarq at 4:23 PM on September 3, 2013


I think there's some status signalling going on in people's disdain for that WaPo post on Syria. "Oh, it's listicle not a 5,000 word article, quick let me remind everyone that I know *listicles bad*".

Though it was sort of patronising and heavily biased to US interventionism (and credulous about the chemical weapons attack), it was also a really helpful basic FAQ sheet for those of us (and there are many) who are confused about Syria and for that reason have been somewhat disengaged with the conflict. Reading it gave me the confidence to dive into more thoughtful and in-depth coverage like that fantastic email from William Polk posted in thread. It was actually a sort of turning point for me in terms of starting to intellectually engage with the subject.

In short, sometimes a BuzzFeed approach is exactly what's needed.
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:21 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are so many nuances to the potential conflict that perhaps multiple threads are the best way to tackle them all. To wit:

1) The United States has spent more than a decade at war; is now the time for another war?
2) President Obama was a strident opposer of the Iraq war and now he wants to wage war on Syria
3) Unlike Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria is the client state of two major world powers who seem to have the will to react militarily to another American adventure
4) The GOP, classically seen as a party of warmongerers, actually oppose the African-American President's desire for intervention in the Syrian Civil War. What might those reasons be?
5) There is apparent proof of chemical weapons being used against a civilian populace by parties unknown
6) Is the Western World morally culpable if they do not interfere?
7) How will the regional players (Iran, Israel, etc) react to a potential war?

I think a maximum of 5 concurrent threads is the best way to get the best cross-section of Mefite reactions to this debacle.
posted by Renoroc at 6:47 PM on September 3, 2013


"... Otherwise topic drift is just sort of a thing that happens sometimes and if no one minds, it's a non-problem."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:09 PM

But, of course, if "someone" minds, we can't ever know who minded, if I understand how things work around here, right? So, mod action is just the action demanded by community reaction, as expressed in the flag queue and the Contact form?

Riiiiight. Gotcha. Thanks. Ever has it been thus, I'm sure.
posted by paulsc at 7:57 PM on September 3, 2013


The way I read jessamyn's comment was to mean that mods are not likely to notice anything is a problem until they're first alerted to it by someone. Unless it's MeTa, mods aren't required to read every thread so they must rely on community members to raise issues via flagging/contact form.

But just because something is flagged/contact form is utilized doesn't mean any action will occur as a result--they do have discretion, you know. If you don't believe me, go ahead and use the contact form and see whether they take action or not. I've used it on a few occasions where something looked a little off to me and in both cases the response I got was something like, "Hey, yeah, I see where you're coming from but this is okay, we'll keep an eye on it, though."

Also: why should you care who minds?
posted by MoonOrb at 9:03 PM on September 3, 2013


What MoonOrb said: the key notion is that if no one tells us about something when it's happening, there's a reasonable chance we won't know it's happening and so any sort of handwringing about why nothing was done or where the modly attention was doesn't make a lot of sense. It's like complaining that no one came to the meetup you didn't actually announce.

But, of course, if "someone" minds, we can't ever know who minded, if I understand how things work around here, right?

Depends on the situation, really. As a question of exactly who flagged what and when in some arbitrary example where there's not something especially odd going on with flagging behavior, no, that's generally not up for public discussion; the intent of the flagging system is to be a lightweight, drama-free avenue for letting the mods know something might need looking at, and making a public thing out of the details there largely defeats the purpose of the whole thing.

But plenty of stuff where someone's got a substantial complaint about something—especially such that it conflicts with how the mods are viewing the content/issue/dynamic/whatever, or in cases where it's sort of an unusual situation that we're just actively chewing on instead of immediately taking acting—is stuff that ends up being discussed in Metatalk. And folks regularly publicly ask questions over here about what happened with a thread or comment deletion or why something was done (or not done) the way it was. The site's got this public forum for stuff in addition to flagging and the contact form specifically to provide that user-facing channel for such stuff.

If you've got a more specific example or case study you're thinking about, clarify that and we can talk about it specifically. As stated, your vignette of how things work around here seems a little off the mark.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:57 PM on September 3, 2013


But, of course, if "someone" minds, we can't ever know who minded, if I understand how things work around here, right?

You do realise that, exceptionally talented, hardworking and diligent though PB is, he hasn't yet implemented the "Minority Report" thought-activated MetaFilter extension for the mods?
posted by Wordshore at 6:03 AM on September 4, 2013


So, mod action is just the action demanded by community reaction, as expressed in the flag queue and the Contact form?

Yes, sort of. If you add to this list the things that people mention in MeTa (as you just did which was the first time I'd seen that thread, a thread that hadn't gotten a flag since Saturday I believe) and the things that we see on our own when we're noodling around on the site. And then once we notice something we may or may not do anything about it, or just put it in an open tab and watch it refresh for a while and see if things appear to be ramping up or cooling down.

A lot of MeFi threads in particular do tend to turn into a few people talking about a specific thing that may or may not be on the topic of the original post after a few days. If all those people are having an okay conversation and no one is feeling like "Hey I wanted to talk about the original thread topic, not this derail-y topic!" then that's sort of things working as we expect. If people have problems with how a thread is going, we expect them to let us know. It's a chatty bunch here and different people have different tolerances for sidebar conversations taking over a thread. We're a bit more hardass on keeping threads on topic earlier in the game, to give a thread a chance to at least get started, but after a few days we're not really noticing that sort of thing unless people let us know about it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:05 AM on September 4, 2013


I loved the Miley/Syria combo thread! It was relevant to discussions elsewhere on the Interweb, and ones taking place in non-web life. (I mean, serious people were obviously watching "Breaking Bad" and reading reviews/recaps that Sunday night and then paying attention to Syria news. They didn't waste their time on getting bogged down with pop culture. He said, with a sniff and a heaping dose of irony.) I just want to state that for the record. Metafilter exists for that sort of discussion.
posted by raysmj at 8:12 AM on September 5, 2013


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