Proposed feature: inner circle of MeFites March 17, 2014 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Periodically I've wanted to pose a question to a fair number of anonymous internet strangers, but still wish to keep off the internet itself because people involved might recognize themselves in it, and I want to protect either them or myself.

I would like it if MeFi could establish a private site that is accessible only to those members whose answers have been well rated. Anyone could ask a question to this site, and see the answers to their question, but only the people selected to provide answers would be able to see the other questions. This would permit a level of privacy that mere anonymity could not provide. A bonus feature would be the ability to have a pseudonym within that space.

I recognize that this would severely restrict the utility of those answers to the worldwide web of people out there. But it would provide an incredible service to people wanting to keep private things private and still get help. And of course, questions posted there would need to be approved by a moderator. Questions lacking identifying information would be denied. Maybe charge extra for access, since askers aren't contributing to the larger community.

Would MeFi consider developing this? Do others think this would add enough value to justify it? Would selected Mefites want to provide answers? Is there any other way to benefit from the content generated that doesn't involve posting it openly?
posted by Capri to Feature Requests at 12:06 PM (199 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

MeFi could establish a private site that is accessible only to those members whose answers have been well rated.

Forget it kid, you'll shoot your eye out. Seriously though, while I totally understand the sentiment behind this, I don't think it would ever happen or be a good idea. I have many questions I wish I could ask but I know the details would give it away in a heartbeat. But this is not something I think is a good idea, and will probably get brushed away under the idea that metafilter can't be everything to everyone. No pony.
posted by cashman at 12:12 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are no rated users here and there never will be, hopefully.
posted by planetesimal at 12:13 PM on March 17, 2014 [77 favorites]


In my opinion, the Groucho Marx philosophy of clubs would apply in this situation.
posted by chococat at 12:17 PM on March 17, 2014 [25 favorites]


There's a Cool Kids Club vibe to this idea that makes me feel kind of icky.
posted by Elly Vortex at 12:17 PM on March 17, 2014 [57 favorites]


Would MeFi consider developing this?

No, there's a few different parts of this that are each basically unworkable as something we'd be in a position to support.

- I would like it if MeFi could establish a private site that is accessible only to those members whose answers have been well rated.

That's basically at total odds with the general ethos of the site as a place where folks are free, with five bucks and some basic capacity for self-control, to participate in good faith and with the benefit of the doubt. We don't have any qualifying exams for participation here, short of "don't be a spammer or a tremendous asshole".

Beyond that, setting a process of rating and thresholding participation is a great big headache. People have mixed feelings about favorites, and those do nothing; gatekeeping participation on something along those lines is hugely more problematic.

- This would permit a level of privacy that mere anonymity could not provide.

Privacy enforced by the expectation that folks with access won't cross the privacy barrier is not any reliable sort of privacy, and history with the existing Anonymous Ask Metafilter feature on the site has made it clear to me as a moderator that even with a more binary, mechanically-enforced privacy function people still make errors or feel regrets on a regular basis. This is nice as an idea but impractical as a reality.

- Questions lacking identifying information would be denied.

See above about the difference between actual privacy and gatekeeping. People need to decide what they're comfortable submitting on Ask, anon or otherwise, on the assumption that it will be publicly viewable by the world; adding notional but unenforceable extra privacy with the tradeoff that questions need identifying details is actually just setting folks up for potential nasty surprises.

Basically I feel like this is an idea that has totally understandable motivations behind it but is also totally unworkable in practice, at least as an extension of Metafilter. It would need to be managed very differently and with very different community expectations and culture than the rest of the site we have, to solve what is a pretty narrow band of problems with the existing system.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:18 PM on March 17, 2014 [21 favorites]


whose answers have been well rated

The deliberately ambiguous purpose of the "favorites" feature -- it's a bookmarking feature and an upvote and a dessert topping! -- kinda kills this one right out of the gate.

Add the (perceived or real) elitism implied by establishing an "inner circle"...
posted by ook at 12:18 PM on March 17, 2014


...the cabal prevented me from completing that sentence
posted by ook at 12:19 PM on March 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


The NSA knows everything you do but it's OK if you want to pretend you still have secrets.
posted by bukvich at 12:22 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Having any sort of tiered membership (other than "mods / not-mods") seems very not MetaFilter. Also, I think the answer to this question:

Is there any other way to benefit from the content generated that doesn't involve posting it openly?

... is to use the standard anonymous question feature, and obfuscate the details enough so that no "people involved" can "recognize themselves in it."

The more I think about it, the less clear it is to me why you want MetaFilter to be the solution to your problem. I mean, asking a bunch of strangers on the Internet about your problems is not going to work in every situation. If it is a minor or casual thing that no one in your real life would conceivably care about, you can post with your usual handle; if it is sensitive or embarrassing or needs to be kept secret from your real life for some reason, you can use a sockpuppet or the anonymous question feature, and in either event anonymize the details to ensure the secrecy-through-obscurity.

If you think about it, anonymizing the details in this way has the further feature that you are reminded as you draft your post that no one on here knows the people, places, events, etc., of your real life, so you need to explain them rather than just putting in the names or other identifying features. If the situation is simply so complicated that you can't anonymize away and explain the identifying info, then you need to either clarify the question further in your head before you post or seek alternate assistance - like a trusted friend or a therapist or a domestic violence hotline or a lawyer. Neither MetaFilter nor any subset thereof is going to be the place to resolve intricately detailed questions that require lots of background such that the participants would be able to firmly identify themselves, if they were to come across it.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 12:25 PM on March 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


I see there's a lot of people who don't have the Metafilter Platinum™ package.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:31 PM on March 17, 2014 [42 favorites]


Separate from the other problems, "inner circles" tend to slowly but surely dissolve message board communities like this. Although things are relatively large and diverse enough that no such group should gain any significant influence.

What problems or questions do you have that can't be doctored into a more anonymous version? Even the extremely specific questions make me occasionally think "that sounds like Mme. Such-and-such," but the odds are incredibly low that I know the person.

My counterpony would be to request some kind of anonymous answer feature so people don't have to out themselves in certain areas of expertise or life experiences, but I don't even know if that's already included.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 12:31 PM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think this idea is not a good one. You are putting too much trust in "high rated" users. There is no guarantee they will respect your desire for privacy; and creating the illusion of safety and privacy by having an invite-only pseudo-support group is dangerous.

Any Ask that is too delicate to handle being posted anonymously here is probably something that is best handled by a pro (therapist, etc.), or in the context of some sort of professionally-overseen support group that has protections in place for when (not if) "helpful" people overstep boundaries.

Strongly advise against it.
posted by nacho fries at 12:32 PM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I see there's a lot of people who don't have the Metafilter Platinum™ package.

If you're A-List Preferred, you get first comment on any FPP, and for every favorite you get 5!
posted by Beardman at 12:35 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't trust the people who have responded to this pony so far. I think only M+ certified members should be allowed to respond.

Mods, could you delete all the preceding comments, please? Oh, you should also delete mine since I'm not at M+ yet (though working very hard at it).
posted by alms at 12:40 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I see there's a lot of people who don't have the Metafilter Platinum™ package.

I'm holding out until I can get Professional White Platinum.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:41 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


All Mefites are equal, but some are more equal than others.

No one believes more firmly than Comrade Capri that all mefites are equal. She would be only too happy to let you answer your questions for yourselves. But sometimes you might post bad answers, comrades, and then where should we be?
posted by Flood at 12:42 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is no cabal.

For a reason.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:42 PM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I rate myself very highly. Ask me anything you want and the worst that will happen is I'll try to get you into Can.

or you might get busted by the Treasury Dept, but that almost never happens anymore
posted by philip-random at 12:43 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Would selected Mefites want to provide answers? Is there any other way to benefit from the content generated that doesn't involve posting it openly?"

I don't know if this is a direction you personally would want to go, but periodically someone me-mails me and says, "I've seen your answers on Ask and I have this serious private issue that I don't feel comfortable posting but I wonder if you'd give me some private feedback?" Often with the note that they've sent it to a dozen or so mefites whose AskMe answers they find helpful of insightful on similar sorts of questions. It does lose the "discussion" aspect which I feel like always helps me clarify my thoughts before answering an Ask, so my help probably isn't as helpful, but I ALWAYS answer these and I don't consider them an imposition at all. I'm flattered to be asked and pleased that I can help someone out, even a little bit, when they're struggling with something. I can't speak for everyone, but a couple of other mefites I've talked to who are frequently cited as also being recipients of the same memail questions as I am feel similarly. (I mean the memail will say, "I'm also sending this to X, Y, and Z.")

Well, I always answer them with the caveat that sometimes I'm slow about checking my memail; I have 18 unread messages in there right now and it's starting to stress me out.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:44 PM on March 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


I just sent you a memail!
posted by cashman at 12:51 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think there a very good way to rate someone's AskMe participation holistically. Neither favorites nor Best Answers work because both those methods of validating someone are optional and everyone uses them quite differently in different contexts.

A "Best Answer" or a favorite in a question about dealing with a difficult human parent is a very different thing than a "Best Answer" or a favorite in a question about assembling a home theater system, and both of those are quite different from "Best Answers" or favorites in question about music to listen to, things to name your cat, or what the name of the movie with that guy in it is called. And I've seen the same person provide a fantastic, detailed answer in one category and really just jaw-droppingly shitty advice in others.

On top of that, the "good at AskMe" and "trustworthy person" Venn diagram is just that: an overlap, not a logical conclusion.
posted by griphus at 12:54 PM on March 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


When people talk about those unread messages, they mostly are the automated ones from mathowie.
posted by planetesimal at 12:55 PM on March 17, 2014


I could use the edit window to correct the phrase "human parent" but I am choosing not to.
posted by griphus at 12:55 PM on March 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


griphus: "And I've seen the same person provide a fantastic, detailed answer in one category and really just jaw-droppingly shitty advice in others."

Same.
posted by zarq at 12:57 PM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


griphus: "I could use the edit window to correct the phrase "human parent" but I am choosing not to."

Lizard parents are easier to deal with though. A nice sunny rock. A phone call on holidays. A few juicy mice. They don't ask for much.
posted by zarq at 12:58 PM on March 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


Are we human? Or are we parent?
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2014 [20 favorites]


If I'm interpreting this correctly, you're proposing a more confidential version of AskMe so you can have a greater level of specificity? So that instead of "I work at a large company in the Midwest US and my boss is doing something unethical" you can say "I work at Chicago Beefworks and the CEO, Hectonkle Jones, is embezzling from the Mustardcorp account" or something similar.

If that's the case, I'm not sure this would work in practice. Your question may not be visible to the internet at large, but you have no idea whether Hectonkle Jones or one of his lawyers is also a highly-rated Mefite.

I've seen this shake out before: someone posts a highly personal and specific dilemma in a forum that they're sure is safe... and it isn't. Either another member has a connection to the situation, or some asshole decides to interfere, or the poster just forgets to log out and happens to share a computer with the subject of his post. It happens over and over again. Having that extra locked door will give you more privacy, but it's not a guarantee that your question is protected from the wrong set of eyes.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Would MeFi consider developing this?

Nope. I can see why it would have value to other people but all it spells is H-E-A-D-A-C-H-E from my vantage point. That is, it solves a problem for users but creates huge moderation concerns issues. The main one of course is that the site is for everyone and access to the site resources are for all members and nearly all the stuff except some specific profile stuff is available to the entire world. People's handles and their contributions here are their reputation and a big part of what makes MetaFilter what it is: a social network for non-friends where people can have enough trust in each other to ask difficult questions and discuss difficult topics. It's certainly nowhere near perfect, but the ways in which it is imperfect wouldn't be helped by creating a meritocracy and/or divorcing people from their contributions. I get why that would be a neat thing to have in a general sense, but it wouldn't work for MetaFilter, it wouldn't be MetaFilter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:04 PM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Are we human? Or are we parent?

We are Devo, obviously.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:04 PM on March 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


I see there's a lot of people who don't have the Metafilter Platinum™ package.

Platinum? What do I look like, some sort of plebe? I've got the black background, TYVM.
posted by asterix at 1:06 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Can't you just memail the users you think are highly rated users anyway?
posted by corb at 1:12 PM on March 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


This entire Meta displays a serious lack of understanding of the philosophical underpinnings behind Metafilter.
posted by Justinian at 1:14 PM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Even if something like this were enacted, what makes you think that you would be accepted into the trust tree?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:14 PM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Quick, close down the Mustardcorp account. We've been discovered. Meet me in Tuscaloosa next Groundhog Day. Until then, no contact, absolutely none. Green Eagle out."
posted by benito.strauss at 1:18 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Here's one practical problem with this idea: inevitably a member of the inner circle would post a question with identifying details and information about the real identity of the asker somewhere public.
posted by medusa at 1:19 PM on March 17, 2014


planetesimal: "When people talk about those unread messages, they mostly are the automated ones from mathowie."

No, those I happily delete, it's the ones where I'm like, "Oh, this is from a real person, I should give this time and attention so I don't want to open it now because I'll forget to reply and I only have two minutes right now" that tend to stack up on me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:20 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


FWIW I have on a few occasions gotten PMs asking me for advice about stuff the asker didn't want to make an AskMe about. So feel free to do that, if there are specific people whose advice you'd like about a private matter.
posted by Sara C. at 1:23 PM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


As someone who tries in good faith to answer the questions of internet strangers but suspects I'm not "highly rated" this MeTa makes me sad.

I also kind of think that anonymizing some details is a feature, not a bug. It's good to remember that you're posting something that a lot of people can read. And I like the idea that as an occasional anonymous asker, my questions have more potential utility to people who aren't me if they aren't 100% situation-specific.
posted by mlle valentine at 1:27 PM on March 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


I welcome PMs in my profile and quite a few people have taken me up on it as well, because they need the extra privacy. I really enjoy getting these messages because it means a lot to me to be able to use my experiences to help other people.

So perhaps just a me-mail to people that you were hoping would answer your question is the best way to go here. I think that most people here would be totally fine with that.
posted by sockermom at 1:30 PM on March 17, 2014


If you want speed dial for your favorite MeFites, then MeMail the MeFites you want in your circle and see if they'd be interested in forming a small group. There are several ways to coordinate a small private group online.

There is no other way to make MetaFilter VIP Gold Status Members Only After Dark: The College Years work outside of that kind of discreet context.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:30 PM on March 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah, this is what MeMail is for.
posted by The Whelk at 1:35 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I still don't understand the question. So you want a space where you can ask something specific like "zarq and Brandon Blatcher threw up on my new sofa at my St Patrick's Day party in Chicago, how much should they pay for cleaning" - which you couldn't ask on regular AskMe because zarq and Brandon Blatcher would recognize themselves? What happens if zarq and Brandon Blatcher are in the sekrit group of trusted mefites? Do you need a super sekrit group then? This doesn't make any sense to me.
posted by desjardins at 1:38 PM on March 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


The advantage of annonymizing an anonymous Ask is that it forces you to really think about the elements of your question and thus your dilemma and etc - leading, potentially even, to figuring out an answer on your own (invocation of the 'Invisible AskMe Chorus' and so on), which is a serious feature.
Also this makes me sad because there's no way I'd be 'valued member' and etc, which then offends me, regardless how right that supposition might be.
Besides, the Cabal dues (of which, of course, there are none) are expensive enough...
posted by From Bklyn at 1:41 PM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I have been on email lists, discussion boards, etc for a lot of years. I have heard or seen people ask a small group of folks something 'private' -- say about their child's school situation -- only to find the "enemy" was on the same list and printing out every email and using it against them. I also have a long history of seeing my private emails forwarded without my permission.

Don't put anything in writing that you would not post to the front page of the newspaper. Don't assume you know who the group is when you talk to any group. Unless you are talking to hand-picked trusted persons, all of that is incredibly stupid to assume you can put trust into it.

I have also been on email lists or forums that got invaded by multiple members of some other list or forum when someone began talking about them. One person was a member of both, repeated the trash talk, and the shit really hit the fan.

This idea is not workable on just so very many levels.
posted by Michele in California at 1:43 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


desjardins: ""zarq and Brandon Blatcher threw up on my new sofa at my St Patrick's Day party in Chicago, how much should they pay for cleaning""

That wasn't me. Brandon will cover it.
posted by zarq at 1:49 PM on March 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


Frankly, I find this idea downright offensive.
posted by desuetude at 1:55 PM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Let's break this up into bits:

accessible only to those members whose answers have been well rated.

So that seems to be about a quality guarantee regarding answers. Some kind of AskMePlus. The problem is, obviously, that well-rated (by the way: on the basis of what? Best answers? Favorites? "Fantastic" flags? Mod vote??) members can't be guaranteed to give better answers in new scenarios. Apart from the two geniuses, perhaps, and one would easily be able to pick those out from the usuals Ask threads as well.

Anyone could ask a question to this site, and see the answers to their question, but only the people selected to provide answers would be able to see the other questions.

The dynamic created by such a setup is not unlike the masses' pilgrimage to the oracle. I think, that type of class distinction is about the least we need here. It also would unfavorably feed the paranoia of all those who anyway like to think that dark forces steer Metafilter, as it is now. And I can see zero benefits.

This would permit a level of privacy that mere anonymity could not provide.

How that? How much more anonymity than "anonymous" is necessary? Protecting the subjects of one's question is combined with a writing effort, true, but it can be done - or, if it can't, that question is clearly not fit for the internet.

A bonus feature would be the ability to have a pseudonym within that space

From an outside perspective it's unclear what that bonus would be.
posted by Namlit at 1:57 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


What makes you think you would qualify to be in the inner circle?



I know I wouldn't.
posted by edgeways at 1:59 PM on March 17, 2014


The MF networks functions just fine in "warts & all" mode. The last thing this place needs is some grading policy based on some subjective evaluation of what is deemed "high value".

Do others think this would add enough value to justify it?
I wouldn't. In fact, it would subtract value for me. The value I find in the here is that this site does not do things like this.
posted by lampshade at 2:01 PM on March 17, 2014


[brushing my teeth - just in case]
posted by Namlit at 2:07 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


dark forces steer Metafilter

His name is Charon and personally I'm delighted to see that sort of diversity in the MeFi hires. It's been wall-to-wall humans, save for that clan of Morlocks they hired to help out pb.
posted by griphus at 2:08 PM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Aside from the logistical and philosophical problems with this idea, the select group of sage advisors would likely differ for everyone. It makes much more sense to do as Eyebrows McGee suggests and memail the users you'd like to hear from.
posted by JenMarie at 2:09 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


So, what would this accomplish (in a good way) that anonymous ask + throwaway email does not?

What if the rockstar answerer you wanted to answer you is busy/isn't even invited?

I personally have solved this dilemma by google-chatting or whatever it's called now with my favorite answerer nearly daily.
posted by RainyJay at 2:10 PM on March 17, 2014


His name is Charon and personally I'm delighted to see that sort of diversity in the MeFi hires.

Plus he's just pretty happy to be off that river and able to spend time on larger bodies of water. I've spent some fun afternoons sharin' Charon's outlook on the topic of the seas.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:11 PM on March 17, 2014 [14 favorites]


Would the selected Mefites get cool hooded robes to wear? If so, I am in favor of this proposal.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:12 PM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I, for one, welcome our new "cabal."*
[*"Cabal" not an actual quotation.
[Well, OK, the second [and third] "cabal"s are quotations]].
posted by Mngo at 2:15 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can see some vague issues with anonymous asks. I've asked two in my time here, and both had problems where I anonymized some details and all the answerers glommed on to that stuff rather than really answering my questions. So I get it? I just don't think DoublePlusAsk is the solution.

Personally I've come to see answers to anonymous Asks as food for thought, not oracles. Because, yeah, I can't possibly provide all the necessary information, and things inevitably get garbled in the anonymousness.
posted by Sara C. at 2:19 PM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Charon is a member here - but not Pluto? Way to arbitrarily discriminate against dwarf planets, MeFi. "Oh sure your satellites can join but you Trans-Neptunians always wanna start something". Disgusting. Just because you haven't cleared your orbit doesn't mean you're a bad plutoid, guys.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:19 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


> it's a bookmarking feature and an upvote and a dessert topping!

Use it in the home! The Office! On fruits!
posted by jfuller at 2:19 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are no rated users here and there never will be, hopefully.

Well, there are Mad members, Bad members, Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know Members, and, on beyond zebra, lies... the Whelk.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:20 PM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


prize bull octorok: "Would the selected Mefites get cool hooded robes to wear?"

Cash bonuses.
posted by zarq at 2:20 PM on March 17, 2014


I like the answers, good perspectives. But to be clear, I'm not asking if I can put in specifics like people or company names. I might, however, want to paste in an entire email from someone and say, "I interpret this to mean X. Am I wrong?" and the person who wrote it could come across it and be hurt, angry, whatever. And the reason I'd want to paste in in verbatim is because any filtering I do to describe it would put my gloss on it, and then of course the answer would be, "You nailed it, chicka."

Or a while ago I had a dispute with my child's teacher over something. I was worried that she, or her colleagues, might recognize the situation due to its weird factual scenario. I did use the MeMail feature to write to three awesome Mefites for their personal take on the thing, and even then I was careful to anonymize it (although I think I didn't leave in enough of the true facts for it to generate helpful answers). But I felt that I was abusing these Mefites by targeting them specifically, that I was putting them on the spot. I like the voluntary aspect of AskMe, and felt that I'd crossed that line.

By "highly rated" I didn't mean some sort of elite corps, or that they'd be uniformly good (god knows the answers posted aren't uniformly good, but they're still valuable), or that it's some special club. I just meant that some MeFites are particularly dedicated to answering, and their answers are fairly well respected as evidenced by the + given to them. This isn't some sort of exclusionary proposal, just a way to ask a question to a lot of people and get an answer that isn't plastered on the web for everyone and their colleague to print out.

But I see that this is going no where. Does anyone know of a site that does offer this? Cuz I'd love to bother them with my personal questions, and keep at least a modicum of privacy in the process.
posted by Capri at 2:23 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Charon is a member here - but not Pluto? Way to arbitrarily discriminate against dwarf planets, MeFi. "Oh sure your satellites can join but you Trans-Neptunians always wanna start something". Disgusting. Just because you haven't cleared your orbit doesn't mean you're a bad plutoid, guys.


Wasn't pluto downgraded? Wouldn't that be "heavenly bodies formerly known as a planet"?
posted by Michele in California at 2:24 PM on March 17, 2014


I might, however, want to paste in an entire email from someone and say, "I interpret this to mean X. Am I wrong?"

Personally I don't think this is a superb use of AskMetafilter.
posted by Sara C. at 2:29 PM on March 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


I might, however, want to paste in an entire email from someone...

I think one of the issues with that is there's nothing keeping that particular someone from being in the inner circle and then you're in deep shit. Not only did you just post a private thing semi-publicly, you posted it in a way that practically brings in proof of your violation of their trust in on a silver platter.

That sense of secrecy and trust is illusory at best if it depends on the gamble that a certain person who is potentially cognizant of AskMe is not in the inner circle.
posted by griphus at 2:30 PM on March 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


But I felt that I was abusing these Mefites by targeting them specifically, that I was putting them on the spot. I like the voluntary aspect of AskMe, and felt that I'd crossed that line.

If they answered your question, I highly doubt they felt taken advantage of. I think you should keep doing that, or reach out to people in your real life.

Either way, I think posting personal correspondence like that on the internet is a bad idea.
posted by girlmightlive at 2:31 PM on March 17, 2014


I know of no such website.

I am very good at search/replacing identifying details, and forwarding on email chains if needed. At work, just forwarding if I need someone to handle it.

Hell, anyone can MeMail me and I'll look over this sort of thing.
posted by RainyJay at 2:35 PM on March 17, 2014


One option which might work in at least some situations is to ask your question in Chat. It's not anonymous, but it's also not public and it's ephemeral outside of any logging that individuals might be doing, of which I doubt any are displayed publicly (though there's nothing stopping anyone from doing that aside from common decency). It's worked for me in the past.
posted by Scientist at 2:43 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Consider this: Even if there were a super-private-awesome askme, there is nothing to stop one of those super-awesome-sekrit mefites from pasting your email into somewhere public. I mean, it would be totally dickish of them, yes, but the kind of privacy assurance you seek from a bunch of strangers on the internet is going to be very hard to guarantee.
posted by rtha at 2:46 PM on March 17, 2014


That wasn't me. Brandon will cover it.

Heyyyy - He still hasn't sent me the cookies he owes me from that Obama bet, so don't bet on it. To be fair, they're probably pretty stale by now, after a year and a half.
posted by cashman at 3:07 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've helped people out over memail a few times, when they have asked. Just like Eyebrows McGee, I'm flattered when people ask for my advice. It's kind of fun! I'm going to add a little note on my profile page à la soccermom to say that I'm totally OK with getting memail questions.

Otherwise, I also recommend chat. Scientist has already laid out the benefits. It's particularly good for questions about haircuts, comics, GNU/Linux and suggestions for FPP, but that's only this week. Next week there might be some different topics.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 3:15 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would like it if MeFi could establish a private site that is accessible only to those members whose answers have been well rated.

Ugh. You can't go around calling this a community and citing all the members logging in and then say "hey...let's make it even more exclusive".

Also, OP, even if there was an exclusive part of the community, there's a good chance you would not have access to it...like most other members of the "community".
posted by hal_c_on at 3:20 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I marvel/worry sometimes at the faith people place in ask me - and I say this as a heavy user of the site.

I mean goodness, it's great for some different perspectives or a quick fact check but far out we are just people idly answering questions from an extremely limited vantage point with often very small knowledge or expertise to be answering.

Rather than something like this, I would submit that if you have a truly important question, this is definitely not the venue to air it. Ask an expert.
posted by smoke at 3:43 PM on March 17, 2014


I propose we just let elizardbits answer everything. Preferably with puppy gifs.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:49 PM on March 17, 2014 [17 favorites]


Where's she been, anyway?
posted by mudpuppie at 4:00 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think this is crying out for a vote#1 quidnunc kid post, myself.

In the absence of that:
I regularly post on a closed members-only forum loosely associated with my profession (ie you need to prove your licensed status to get an account). We STILL get hacked every so often, sometimes by journalists, once by a pressure group (with some really shitty outcomes - people have been suspended from work for ill-advised things they've posted there, and the site has been sued several times). Users give out passwords, people clone or reactivate accounts.

If a system that makes that sort of effort to screen out random users is still not secure, there is no way that SuperMefi will be secure. So if you will have to post as if it's on an open website anyway, and might as well just keep on using AskMe. Or just talk to your friends, which is the safer option.

(I've made the forum sound really exciting haven't I? It's not, but as a profession we aren't allowed to disparage colleagues, and people have had their drunken rants printed out and sent to their bosses)
posted by tinkletown at 4:05 PM on March 17, 2014


desjardins: "I still don't understand the question. So you want a space where you can ask something specific like "zarq and Brandon Blatcher threw up on my new sofa at my St Patrick's Day party in Chicago, how much should they pay for cleaning" - which you couldn't ask on regular AskMe because zarq and Brandon Blatcher would recognize themselves? "

(Let me be clear I don't support this idea, but) One of the things I suspect is driving it is that with persistent pseudonyms on MetaFilter (and many people being quite open about their IRL identities), this is almost as strongly a reputational community as "real life" is. I know that occasionally I have had an issue I've been struggling with personally that is sort-of embarrassing to me, and I've been reluctant to AskMe because it is important to me that other MeFites think well of me, because I think well of all y'all. And it's silly, stupid stuff that is basically entirely in my own head -- it's not a reflection on the community at all, which is generally very open, welcoming, and understanding on Ask -- but, oh, one time I was struggling with a parenting issue that felt like THE END OF THE WORLD as they so often do, and I was embarrassed to ask because I thought you guys might think I was a bad parent. Which is a silly thing to worry about, but when you're under emotional stress you're often not the most rational to start with.

I know some people use sockpuppets or anonymous asks for that, but I a) worry that people would recognize me from my writing style and b) am already not thinking the most clearly if I'm freaking out about a serious problem and somehow the top concern in my mind is WILL PEOPLE THINK I'M A BAD PERSON?

Anyway, I totally recognize the impulse to ask among a smaller, private group of trusted friends and not have it on the public internet forever, but still get the immense benefits of the AskMe. I just don't see a way to do both. :)

Juso No Thankyou: "It's particularly good for questions about haircuts, comics, GNU/Linux and suggestions for FPP, but that's only this week. Next week there might be some different topics."

One week we figured out how fast the earth's topsoil would deplete if all human poop was shot into the sun.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:06 PM on March 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Where's she been, anyway?

She's on MefiPrivate, aren't you?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 4:09 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I might, however, want to paste in an entire email from someone and say, "I interpret this to mean X. Am I wrong?"

I know I would never trust you nor will I ever memail you now.
posted by desjardins at 4:14 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Pfff MefiPrivate is full of posers, it's almost as bad as Metafilter Gold.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:16 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the main thing is that there are a lot of little spin-off sites with varying degrees of privacy (from being entirely behind a password to being as public as MeFi) but they're all their own thing except for the fact that some of the members originated on MeFi.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:19 PM on March 17, 2014


Pfff MefiPrivate is full of posers, it's almost as bad as Metafilter Gold.

Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.
posted by Michele in California at 4:19 PM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Anyway, I totally recognize the impulse to ask among a smaller, private group of trusted friends and not have it on the public internet forever, but still get the immense benefits of the AskMe. I just don't see a way to do both. :)

1. cultivate a trusted group of people on twitter
2. lock down your twitter
3. ask away

Yeah, you're limited to 140 char per tweet, but I find tweeting "hey does anyone have experience with $embarassing_topic" and then taking it to DM to be very useful. I suppose this would work on FaceBook, but their security settings are fluid and mysterious.
posted by desjardins at 4:20 PM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I support this idea if usernames are randomized and not even the members know who is in the group.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:23 PM on March 17, 2014


As a counter proposal, What about a checkbox that's just "Don't index this question on search engines?". Maybe make that the default on anonymous questions?

I hate the "power user" idea and one of my favorite things about this site is that there isn't any such thing. Some people contribute a lot, but there's extremely little to no "ohhh shut up because that one super knowledgeable person called you out/dumb" piling on stuff that's based entirely on user rep.

This is a good thing. This keeps this site from being a catty fuckfest at least in the ways tons of other sites can be. The low level and occasional wingmanning of that variety that goes on here is likely impossible to prevent, but hey, nothing is perfect.

I like the answers, good perspectives. But to be clear, I'm not asking if I can put in specifics like people or company names. I might, however, want to paste in an entire email from someone and say, "I interpret this to mean X. Am I wrong?" and the person who wrote it could come across it and be hurt, angry, whatever. And the reason I'd want to paste in in verbatim is because any filtering I do to describe it would put my gloss on it, and then of course the answer would be, "You nailed it, chicka."

If you wanted to sell this concept, you really should have come up with a better example... because this strikes me as a really bullshitty thing to air online actually, and i'm usually against "keep those words up out your mouth/why are you putting this on blast/eww shut up don't bring that up publicly" type of attitudes and quips when someone is being a prick or whatever and someone calls them out(generally in non-mefi spaces)... But somehow that usage just strikes me as super catty and gossipy and makes me dislike this idea even more.

"Lets all sit around and talk shit about this person i know in meatspace in a place they won't be able to see" is gross, and not a website i'd want to go on. It's honestly like isanyoneup levels of gross to me, and i can't even explain why. Maybe it's because i've had repeated problems with people i've personally known and trusted crafting little private spaces and groups to talk shit on me? I don't know.

I wouldn't want to hang out at a place that cultivated a space for things like that though, even if i wasn't even part of that space.
posted by emptythought at 4:23 PM on March 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I hate the "power user" idea and one of my favorite things about this site is that there isn't any such thing. Some people contribute a lot, but there's extremely little to no "ohhh shut up because that one super knowledgeable person called you out/dumb" piling on stuff that's based entirely on user rep.

So...you're not constantly checking comment-to-favorite ratios to determine who to curry favor with, who to snub, and with whom to form allegiances you will one day abandon when the numbers indicate they no longer wield influence as they once did? Am I...am I doing Metafilter wrong??
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:27 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Pfff MefiPrivate is full of posers, it's almost as bad as Metafilter Gold.

Do you remember mathowie's short-lived "A Mefi of One" campaign? An extra $5 and you can only read your own posts and comments.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 4:35 PM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


But isn't there already an inner ci-

*collapses into koi pond, throwing knife lodged in back*
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:37 PM on March 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Being detailed about your problems to someone who has a trusted track record of good advice and reasonableness and a motivation to help with the guarantee of privacy and confidentiality is called therapy, and unsurprisingly that is the most common AskMe response.
posted by Mizu at 4:52 PM on March 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


Unless you have a rating of four or five MeowMeowBeenz, you oughtn't be making pony requests.

Crap, I just dropped to a two.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:08 PM on March 17, 2014 [25 favorites]


I don't think I've had 18 personal memails since the memail system started.

Obviously I am not in the cabal.
posted by gaspode at 5:52 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think I've had 18 personal memails since the memail system started.

I predict that won't be true anymore within about 5 minutes. Also, have you been enspousenated lately?
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:08 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've said before that for a community that tries very hard to make everyone feeling welcome, making jokes about a cabal is not doing anyone any favors.
posted by kalessin at 6:18 PM on March 17, 2014


You could call it "UltraFilter"
posted by Renoroc at 6:28 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


What about a checkbox that's just "Don't index this question on search engines?". Maybe make that the default on anonymous questions?

Would do nothing to slow down e.g. scrapers, which are certainly not going to noindex the content they scrape and repost since they're pretty much universally chasing ad revenue on their shitball content farms. noindex is a useful tool but also one with very limited security. Carrying this further to try and give it teeth would mean also locking such questions out of RSS, hiding them from user activity feeds, blocking them from non-users, etc.; do get anywhere meaningful obstructive would require basically the exact same brick wall approach that's a non-starter in the main proposal of this post. And even then it's still tissue-thin privacy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:39 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


kalessin: I've said before that for a community that tries very hard to make everyone feeling welcome, making jokes about a cabal is not doing anyone any favors.

Putting aside the fact that I personally don't find the cabal jokes on here to be all that amusing, that's ridiculous. In fact, I don't even know what to say if you're actually being serious that the people making these jokes somehow cause you (or others) to feel unwelcome. Perhaps you were attempting a joke of your own that I'm not getting because I haven't read this thread from top to bottom.
posted by gman at 6:45 PM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


MeFi Chat.
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:53 PM on March 17, 2014


How would MeFites who fail to remain worthy be ejected from the inner circle? Hopefully with a trapdoor cartoonishly opening beneath them and a long, dwindling scream.
posted by XMLicious at 7:03 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


No no one of those big hooks that keeps yanking Daffy Duck off the stage.
posted by griphus at 7:07 PM on March 17, 2014


I marvel/worry sometimes at the faith people place in ask me

Mostly I think people take it for what it is, but a certain percentage of the questions are wildly misplaced and one fears for the trust displayed.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:13 PM on March 17, 2014


cortex: " People have mixed feelings about favorites, and those do nothing;"

They populate the popular page.
posted by Mitheral at 8:21 PM on March 17, 2014


People are welcome to PayPal me five bucks each and I'll set up a website or whatever, I hope y'all like Google Drive.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:55 PM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


there are Mad members, Bad members, Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know Members

Pete Burns is a member?
posted by bongo_x at 8:57 PM on March 17, 2014


gman, thanks for obscuring what I said with lots of double-think.

Let me repeat. Making jokes about a cabal does not help anyone:
- It only amuses people who think that jokes about a cabal are funny.
- It doesn't reassure and in fact gives more ammo to people inclined to believe in a cabal.
- Most of us who don't care about whether or not there is a cabal don't find it funny.
- It may inconvenience mods who have to do extra work to try to defuse any tensions created in any new doubts raised by jokes about a cabal.

Why do I assert this? 20 years ago I participated in another large online community where folks had various beliefs in a cabal. And those who felt they were insiders made jokes about a cabal and it only got worse and it never got better.
posted by kalessin at 8:58 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Making jokes about a cabal does not help anyone:
- It only amuses people who think that jokes about a cabal are funny.


These two statements would seem to be at odds with one another.
posted by asterix at 9:24 PM on March 17, 2014


There is no cabal. Jokes about the existence of a cabal make me laugh. Or at least chuckle. As someone with plenty of my own paranoid tendencies, the idea of a group of superusers who would waste their time by being overlords on Metafilter is pretty absurd. Hence, the chuckling.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:30 PM on March 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


I actually like the jokes about the cabal, along with "MetaFilter: XXX" lines and a lot of the other community jokes. People who don't care about any cabal can ignore them. People who don't find them funny can ignore them — I'm sure every member has got their own set of frequently deployed tropes that they don't like.

People who are worried about a cabal can worry about it regardless of whether or not people mention it. Heck, if there were a cabal I'd assume rule number one would be "Don't talk about the cabal". Conspiracy theorizing, esoteric knowledge, and all kinds of fnord are old Internet traditions that I think many enjoy.

I think the final word is the just plain straightforwardness of the mods. If they were joking around about a cabal I can understand asking them to stop. But don't think I've ever heard them say anything other than "There is no cabal. It's a joke some people make with no reflection in reality". MetaFilter isn't restricted to being a "safe place", and if people can't take the mods statements as re-assurance enough we'll have to start banning a whole lot of things to remove their unease.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:37 PM on March 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


>> Making jokes about a cabal does not help anyone:
>> - It only amuses people who think that jokes about a cabal are funny.

> These two statements would seem to be at odds with one another.


Hi, I'm a logician.

Those two statements *aren't* contradictory. But they do imply either

1) no one finds them funny, or
2) amusing people does not help them.

We've got at least two people who claim to find them funny, so 1) is not true. So what kalessin is stating implies that "amusing people does not help them". Let the argument resume from there.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:43 PM on March 17, 2014 [14 favorites]


Now that the world is getting all postmodern science fictional anymore I'm finding the best thing to do is achieve truth through force majeure. In this situation, users are concerned about the existence of a shadowy cybercabal influencing their Metafilter discussions. The only way to be sure is to form such a cabal, which you could be certain existed.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:45 PM on March 17, 2014


Kalessin, I can understand how your past experience influences your take on current events, and I sympathize. However, at the same time I must admit to being someone who DOES find the cabal jokes amusing. Obviously, this is a matter of personal taste -- or lack thereof -- but the reason I find them funny is that the idea of a Metafilter cabal seems so patently ridiculous to me, particularly in light of the above discussion, in which sentiment runs pretty much universally against any type of exclusivity. And while it's true that inside jokes can constitute a barrier to inclusion, I still think that for better or for worse they are part of what makes a community a community. Or, on preview, what benito.strauss said in his first comment directly above.
posted by littlecatfeet at 9:46 PM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Why do I assert this? 20 years ago I participated in another large online community where folks had various beliefs in a cabal. And those who felt they were insiders made jokes about a cabal and it only got worse and it never got better."

Twenty years ago my Canadian wife left me and what followed were the worst three months of my life. This is why I feel certain that it's harmful for people to joke about Canadians, or wives, or me. It hurts people, man, just fucking hurts them.

Unfortunately, my MetaTalk proposing a ban on joking about Canadian wives, or me, didn't go well. I blame it on the cabal.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:01 PM on March 17, 2014 [14 favorites]


My counterpony would be to request some kind of anonymous answer feature so people don't have to out themselves in certain areas of expertise or life experiences, but I don't even know if that's already included.

If you mail the mods with an answer to an AskMe question, they'll post the responses for you as "A response from someone who prefers to remain anonymous." So the functionality is there, in a limited sense that seems appropriate to me. YMMV.
posted by bardophile at 10:22 PM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Hey folks, it's your funeral.
posted by kalessin at 10:25 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, come on.
posted by nacho fries at 10:36 PM on March 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hey folks, it's your funeral.

The cabal jokes are very nearly as old as my account so it's been a long-ass funeral. Use the search function, have a look for yourself.
posted by furiousthought at 10:39 PM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I guess my original abrasive comment got deleted, but I will reiterate that I believe yours is an awful idea, and would be detrimental to this site.
posted by scottymac at 10:51 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Way to ruin the whole cabal joke thing for everyone.
posted by bongo_x at 11:15 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Pete Burns is a member?

No, but, weirdly, Lord Byron is.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:59 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I understand the point about the cabal jokes. I don't agree, but I get the point - and it's maybe particularly salient considering the topic of this post - exclusion.

The reason I think the cabal jokes are funny/harmless is because I'm about as positively positive there is no cabal nor that one would be tolerated as can be - the joke is about exactly what Metafilter is not.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:36 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


kalessin: Hey folks, it's your funeral.

Do you not see the irony in continuing to press the matter by saying this about people who are making obvious and harmless cabal jokes, considering that you're making it very difficult to take other possibly legitimate concerns of yours seriously in the future?
posted by gman at 4:09 AM on March 18, 2014


- It may inconvenience mods who have to do extra work to try to defuse any tensions created in any new doubts raised by jokes about a cabal.

Is this an actual problem? In my experience, there's been a lot more "cabal jokes aren't funny" complaints than legitimate accusations of conspiracy.

And those accusations of conspiracy tend to go hand-in-hand with complaints about something the conspiracy-accuser posted that was deleted or just not take well by the community. The grievance might be made in all sincerity, but isn't any less a failure of Occam's Razor than 95% of cries of conspiracy anywhere else.

I think there's a lot of dumb running jokes, but I also know things I think are funny other people find dumb. There's a time and a place for different gags. If someone takes seriously such jokes in the context of a thread where the mods emphatically make clear that an official inner circle is both technically and socially unworkable, then that is a problem far beyond the blame of dumb jokes that have been floating around since Usenet.
posted by griphus at 4:43 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


There is a possible feature that might contribute to this from Livejournal that I've used in the past, screening replies. I have posted difficult or highly personal questions to my livejournal, and set the comments to be screened. Some replies would include an okay to set them as approved and public, and a lot I left as screened so only I could read them. I could've asked people to email them to me, but this was faster for people to comment.

MeMail makes more sense IMO though. You can create a sockpuppet with the mods' awareness that you restrict only to the very personal questions, or just set up a throwaway gmail account to use with anonymous questions. Clunky, but a lot more secure than a limited circle.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:04 AM on March 18, 2014


I am attempting to bring my experience of being an insider in the prior imaginary-cabal-having-community forward for the benefit of this newer community. I see clearly that the folks still posting to this thread don't care for it.

gman, your sort of weird and hyperbolic aggression about it is kind of interesting from a philosophical standpoint but I'll leave you to it.
posted by kalessin at 5:55 AM on March 18, 2014


I wince very slightly at the cabal jokes because that word is linked very strongly in my head with all of those antisemitic conspiracy theories. And while I'm all for reclaiming words and making fun of serious things, the jokes never quite read right to me. I'm not advocating for a ban, just explaining why to me it's not quite as funny as it seems to be to some.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:56 AM on March 18, 2014


I think the cabal jokes are usually pretty funny; I've made them myself here and there and will probably do so again. I'm going to guess that they won't actually be the cause of metafilter's funeral and people who think so should maybe chill a little.

On preview: Not that experience isn't useful and good, but it's not always relevant, you know?
posted by rtha at 5:57 AM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am attempting to bring my experience of being an insider in the prior imaginary-cabal-having-community forward for the benefit of this newer community. I see clearly that the folks still posting to this thread don't care for it.

I appreciate your concern born of experience but believe that the differences between that place and this should lessen your concern, as explained by folks above. Disagreeing with your interpretation of the site's dynamic is not the same as dismissing your experience.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:10 AM on March 18, 2014 [8 favorites]


kalessin, you can maybe look at it this way: your data set now contains two points: the previous community where jokes about the cabal apparently ruined everything; and this community, where jokes about the cabal have been going on for more than a decade without apparent harm.

I really don't buy the "gives ammo to people inclined to believe in a cabal" part of your argument -- I can't remember any examples of this happening here, ever. People flame out and make wild accusations all the time, against the mods, against the community in general, against specific users, but I can remember zero cases of people being angry at "the cabal" (or any other imaginary inner circle of users) for ruining their day. (If I'm wrong about that I'd love a link; that'd make entertaining train-wreck reading.)

As for the "people aren't amused by jokes they don't find funny" part, well, fair enough. Comedy is hard.
posted by ook at 6:15 AM on March 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


I am attempting to bring my experience of being an insider in the prior imaginary-cabal-having-community forward for the benefit of this newer community.

I think people would be more inclined to take your complaints seriously if you provided anything more concrete than the fact that a community twenty years ago suffered in some unstated way because of jokes similar to the ones made here. Context, repercussions, anything at all beyond "trust me, this is bad" because, well, why should we trust you when we don't even know what your experiences are.

At this point, Dip Flash's issue that cabal jokes remind him of anti-Semitic tropes has more "try to be thoughtful when making certain jokes" weight behind it than your list of opinions and theoretical situations.
posted by griphus at 6:22 AM on March 18, 2014


Also, I don't think anyone at all cares for things like this.
posted by griphus at 6:29 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm a Jew, and I'm offended by the idea that people ought to take cabals more seriously in light of that. It is a small delight of this world that cabal accusations are worthy of mockery.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:42 AM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


I mean just to be clear, I am also Jewish, any issues I have with cabal jokes exist wholly outside that context, and I've actively and unapologetically made jokes on MeFi that Dip Flash would find absolutely beyond the pale.

And all that being said, it's still a better argument for minding what one says than cryptic warnings of community collapse.
posted by griphus at 6:52 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I thought the proper internet procedure was to stomp off and start one's own superior internet board? Is that too last decade?
posted by Lardmitten at 7:20 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I see where you're coming from, griphus - my disagreement happens at a different juncture.

In a sense, the anti-Semitism angle could be a better argument, because anti-Semitism is a confirmed thing and we could all look at history and see for ourselves the connection between the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and cabal jokes. Where this falls flat for me, however, is that it's not actually responsive to the wants and needs of many Jews. I don't want people to labor under the false impression that they ought to refrain from joking about shadowy cabals on *my* account. I and others don't like being spoken for in this way, irrespective of whether or not Dip Flash is himself Jewish.

I mean, hell, if you really wanted to get granular and high-minded about it, you could look at how the appropriation and mockery of oppressive imagery is often a highly visible part of Jewish culture (see, The Producers). It's just our little way of dancing on the graves of our enemies.

At least kalessin is drawing from sincere and genuine personal experience. Kalessin can honestly report what kalessin feels. The extent to which individuals and groups hash these things out is a separate kind of issue.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:27 AM on March 18, 2014


I wince very slightly at the cabal jokes because that word is linked very strongly in my head with all of those antisemitic conspiracy theories.

Yeah I'm Jewish and unfortunately I think this is exactly why I find this joke funnier than it might be otherwise. One of those "Yeah me and my buddies make jokes about when our International Jewish Conspiracy golf shirts are going to be back form the embroidery place" situations that probably is better suited to a smaller group. In my opinion the problem is more that it could be seen as an in-group/out-group thing and then the follow-up question is "Is that an obvious joke?" (like paphnuty) or a less obvious joke (like ... I don't know, some of the Free Quonsar stuff back in the day had a 'kidding on the square' aspect to it). People's opinions on this will, of course, vary somewhat but it's actually sort f important to get some normative idea about whether most people get it as a joke or that there's some faction who is made actively uncomfortable by it.

That said, this isn't really The Cabal Thread so maybe people who feels strongly about it can think about whether this is an idea that needs its own thread later on?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:37 AM on March 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't want people to labor under the false impression that they ought to refrain from joking about shadowy cabals on *my* account.

Yeah, I mean, I basically just assumed Dip Flash has a personal reason to bring up being reminded of anti-Semitism by such jokes. I took that comment as alluding to the difference between dropping a Protocols joke in a thread where it's mostly just taking the piss out of supremacists (which I have done and will continue to do), and doing so in a thread about remembrance (which I think is super gauche, but others may rightfully disagree!)

I don't think that is a realistic problem we're having -- I stay out of Shoah threads, but I don't see them popping up on MeTa with any frequency -- but I didn't really take in anywhere past "this is a legit but personal issue I have with this [as a Jewish person]" which is perhaps my faulty assumption.

On preview: at this point we're dissecting an offhand comment regarding a volatile issue that reflects on a derail of the original subject of the MeTa so imma just step back.
posted by griphus at 7:58 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Either way, we agree that actually setting up an inner circle is not something that MeFi will or should do.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:01 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Is that an obvious joke?" (like paphnuty)

Jesus that's cold, I really liked that guy.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:12 AM on March 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Paphnuty thought it was funny to make cabal jokes, but little did he know that the Cabal wasn't fond of that. Damn shame what you people did to him, whoever you are.
posted by planetesimal at 8:29 AM on March 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


furiousthought: "The cabal jokes are very nearly as old as my account so it's been a long-ass funeral."

Way older than that; I see them as a direct descendent of the USENET Cabal jokes. That is what makes them so funny here. On USENET the existence of a Cabal was plausible because it was a distributed system where some key admins could act as gatekeepers against the will of the users but they'd have to do it in semi-secret. Metafilter is an absolute dictatorship; existence of a cabal is nonsensical. It's a meta-meta joke and so very Meta appropriate.
posted by Mitheral at 8:38 AM on March 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yeah it's more like "There is a cabal. His name is Matt."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:42 AM on March 18, 2014 [9 favorites]


Found him!
posted by benito.strauss at 8:50 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't have any strong feelings one way or another about cabal jokes. But I have a long history of a/b testing moderating stuff online. And I will suggest that fighting with people about the cabal jokes because you think it's so harmful is probably "putting out the fire with gasoline" a la The Streisand Effect.

I did once decide that a particular meme in a particular forum was very problematic and I specifically set the goal of rooting it out and killing it. I successfully killed it, to good effect. I never once told anyone "This meme is a terrible idea and you people should stop doing it." That tends to be about the most ineffectual thing you can do.
posted by Michele in California at 9:45 AM on March 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


answers - $5

answers that will bolster your self-esteem and protect your fragile ego - $50

right answers - $1000 and up
posted by bruce at 9:47 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Okay; enough, people.
posted by Wordshore at 10:12 AM on March 18, 2014


Either way, we agree that actually setting up an inner circle is not something that MeFi will or should do.

Especially if one already exists.
posted by perhapses at 12:08 PM on March 18, 2014


Either way, we agree that actually setting up an inner circle is not something that MeFi will or should do.

Especially if one already exists.


"He thinks he's in the inner circle!" cackled three people at once, each unbeknownst to one another, each seated on their own separate throne, in what each had incorrectly assumed was the antechamber of the one true inner circle.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:12 PM on March 18, 2014 [14 favorites]


There may not be a cabal, but there are certain users who can tell which joke are funny and which are not. Since I frequently make jokes which turn out not to be funny, I wounder if I could submit my jokes in advance of posting to those users to be evaluated, thus saving me the humiliation of their unfunniness being seen by all.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:34 PM on March 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Where's [elizardbits] been, anyway?"

From reading her Tumblr, it seems that lately she's been spending all her free time assassinating people.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:35 PM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm not really in the business of trying to reverse psychology anyone into agreeing with me or bending them to my will. I've said before and I will happily repeat that I don't think cabal jokes do anyone any favors. I have heard the dissent and I understand where it comes from.

But it's not going to change my response. And I don't think that sort of gently disagreeing with the majority opinion is having a fight about it. I'm saying it gently, if repetitively.

Personally I don't give a shit about the jokes' impact on me personally. I don't particularly find them witty or amusing. They're not clever in general, so I will mostly just ignore them when they come up. At worst, telling a cabal joke is for me a sort of neutral commentary on where that person's situated at the moment with the subject matter and the community.
posted by kalessin at 3:13 PM on March 18, 2014


MeMail makes more sense IMO though. You can create a sockpuppet with the mods' awareness that you restrict only to the very personal questions, or just set up a throwaway gmail account to use with anonymous questions. Clunky, but a lot more secure than a limited circle.

If you have enough "sensitive highly personal" questions that making an account just to post a lot of them seems worthwhile, then i think the "get a therapist" comments you'd receive would be even more on point.

Not to mention, that if you're already planning on asking a bunch of them, i'd be suspicious that you're going to be one of those frustrating AskMe users who constantly asks "i'm shooting myself in the foot with a shotgun, can anyone suggest a better way for me to shoot myself in the foot?" type questions, and asks more questions about the same bad situation they continue to willfully be in over and over and over and over.

I don't really know where i'm going with this entirely, but yea, i just think that if you're already planning to use askme that way you're planning to use it in a way that it isn't really best at working. I hesitate to say it's not for that or whatever, since i can't speak for everyone who participates or the mods... but it feels like buying a tiny pickup truck to haul lots of heavy loads, in which you'll constantly be loading it to its absolute maximum. It just doesn't really feel like that sort of usage model is what it was intended for.
posted by emptythought at 3:15 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


kalessin, I am not talking about reverse psychology or bending people to your will. I am just saying that if you think this meme is bad for the community, you are inadvertently promoting it. For one thing, your comments are keeping the discussion of it alive. For another, your open criticism will make a lot of other people feel compelled to defend it JUST CUZ...REASONS.

I have sympathy for your view but there are ways to defuse the tension and harm you perceive. This is probably not it.

I really do have a lot of sympathy for your position. I have often been the "oversensitive" and "crazy" person who felt that x, y, or z needed to stop. A number of forums practically died on the vine after I left, some of which had come to life because of my participation. I have taken college classes (like Social Psychology, Negotiation and Conflict Management) relevant to managing social dynamics. I am pretty socially observant and I have a lot of volunteer experience as a moderator and in similar public outreach type positions pre-internet.

I spoke up in hopes of helping you with your concern. If I knew you better, I might have written privately. But long experience (plus research) tells me that sending a private message to a total stranger is more likely to be taken as an attack than trying to comment publicly in a helpful way -- even though that is also highly likely to be taken as a criticism, an attack, etc. no matter how carefully I frame it.
posted by Michele in California at 3:34 PM on March 18, 2014


I can disagree with you without taking constructive criticism as either nonconstructive criticism, attack or whatever negative read you think I'm getting from it.

I think we may just wish to agree to disagree, Michele. I fear that your responses to me are pushing the topic as well. If you wish to stop talking about it, that's a thing you can do as well.

I'm always open to criticism. If I find it helpful I usually try to implement it. I always try to (though certainly am not guaranteed success) respond constructively. Feel free to drop me a memail whenever you like. Or Gmail too, honestly.
posted by kalessin at 3:42 PM on March 18, 2014


Not to mention, that if you're already planning on asking a bunch of them, i'd be suspicious that you're going to be one of those frustrating AskMe users who constantly asks "i'm shooting myself in the foot with a shotgun, can anyone suggest a better way for me to shoot myself in the foot?" type questions

Eh, I've considered getting a second account for all my "so let me tell you about my poop" type questions, maybe relationship or sex stuff, questions that might make people think I'm extremely stupid or shallow, etc. I don't think these questions would be related to each other, or that I would get the account because I knew I wanted to ask a series of these types of questions. It would be just in case, mostly.

I could also use that account to answer people's questions when I wouldn't want my answer traced to my real identity (especially NSFW type stuff).

I haven't ever done it mostly because I'm lazy, and because right now I think I need less oversharing on the internet, not new ways to facilitate the habit.
posted by Sara C. at 3:57 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


empthythought, I have a sockpuppet account (emailed mods to ask, explained what for) for pretty much that exact reason. I don't say things on the internet that I'm not prepared to be accountable for (oh the fanfic shame) but I have wanted to discuss things that I can't due to the privacy of other people in my lives where they would be clearly identifiable simply by relation to me.

My metafilter userid is the same I use for most of my internet activity. I'm very careful with my sockpuppet account to only use it to ask questions in one specific domain or to answer questions that I can't answer as viggorlijah for the privacy of others. Even then, there are still limits and I would go through the mods for more complete anonymity. Or ask a friend to post on my behalf.

I think metafilter's balance where the mods are strict on multiple accounts and provide a fairly easy anonymous posting is helpful. The expectation is that people have one main account and at most one very limited sockpuppet account, and that gives the mods the ability to cut people with Serious Online Issues who want to troll or game the site.

Sure you can set them up now with multiple gmail accounts and switching your IPs when you log-in and so on, but that is a high enough bar to filter out most annoyances.

The idea mooted in this post is really about where to shift the burden of work: should users have to create sockpuppet accounts within mefi guidelines or go to some effort to anonymize their questions, or should the mods have additional gatekeeping and security/privacy levels to create a more secure subsite?

I prefer the more open site.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:22 PM on March 18, 2014


This is all just psyops to make us "realize" the cabal is a ridiculous idea and there is no
posted by lordaych at 7:19 PM on March 18, 2014


Connection reset by peer

NO CARRIER

Code Blue EKG Sound

A million taco shells, crushed
posted by lordaych at 7:20 PM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


How would MeFites who fail to remain worthy be ejected from the inner circle? Hopefully with a trapdoor cartoonishly opening beneath them and a long, dwindling scream.

MetaFilter has a variety of Ninjas of varying trust levels. Sometimes you need to use an old ninja to fix a newer one but most of the ninjas are very trustworthy if you give them enough cheese.

So Many Ninja
posted by lordaych at 7:24 PM on March 18, 2014


Also, "Fabricate Mallet" is an anagram for "MetaFilter Cabal." How do you think the banhammer was built, and how it is decided upon whom to unleash it?
posted by lordaych at 7:34 PM on March 18, 2014


Get yr mitts off my mallet, you godless heathen.

(who let the riffraff in?)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:13 PM on March 18, 2014


MetaTalk: Hi, I'm a logician.

sorry, had to
posted by klangklangston at 11:42 PM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


There are no Ninjas.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:00 AM on March 19, 2014


If I wanted to anonymously ask a question of a certain subset of the people here, I would create a sock puppet account and memail my question to those people. (If that's something you can get away with under the rules on sock puppets, of course.)
posted by pracowity at 2:22 AM on March 19, 2014


I don't think so. The guideline is pretty much "stick to one main identity", and the exceptions that are there (sock puppet for privacy-sensitive questions, etc.) mainly play out in public. That is, at least there's a public record of postings for the sock puppet account, which is just about as transparent as it can be to the general public without revealing the connection between the accounts; plus it helps mods keep track of whether people are sticking to the "one question per week (per actual person)" rule. Anonymous/-ish MeMails as a means of asking questions is pretty much untested and I think it would best remain that way — I can't help but see vast potential for abuse and confused emails from folks saying they got weird asky messages from strangers.

Sorry to shoot you down so directly, it's obviously a suggestion made in good faith but my perspective as a mod would be pretty much a plain nope on this one.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 3:50 AM on March 19, 2014


Well, at least pracowity knows he's not insane.
posted by gman at 4:37 AM on March 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


good news!


wait...
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:21 AM on March 19, 2014 [9 favorites]


I take great pleasure in calling my local monopoly cable provider "The Cable Cabal."

I don't think this is anything Metafilter could set up, but I don't see any reason why you couldn't identify the Mefites whose opinions you were interested in and invite them to join a private forum elsewhere.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:25 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


A cabal? I thought we were a clique!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:02 AM on March 19, 2014


I assumed we were a lodge, with fezzes and stuff.
posted by jonmc at 10:28 AM on March 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


klangklangston: "MetaTalk: Hi, I'm a logician. "

I put on my robes and Boolean hat...
posted by zarq at 10:36 AM on March 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


- The food here is terrible.

- Yes, and the portions are so small...

posted by y2karl at 12:24 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


> I put on my robes and Boolean hat...

I shit you not I've got a purple knitted beret with Stokes' Theorem on it.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:58 PM on March 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


pix plz.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:02 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Facio Integralis!
posted by benito.strauss at 2:56 PM on March 19, 2014 [11 favorites]


Best!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:58 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cooooool!
posted by zarq at 2:58 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


One of the good things about places like MeFi: Feeling like a math moron.

(had to look it up)
posted by Michele in California at 3:15 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Michele, don't feel like a moron. The woman who knitted it had no idea what it meant either, and I have no idea how someone would even start to knit something like that.

Also, even though Stokes' Theorem is pretty cool because of what it means, I also think it just looks cool, what with the two swooping integral signs and the funky Greek letters.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:26 PM on March 19, 2014


benito, I don't have self esteem issues. I was inducted into Mu Alpha Theta at age 16 in 11th grade, a college level math honor society requiring you to be taking college level math and maintaining ...whatever GPA in it. I was one of the top three math students of my graduating high school class. I got to college and already had more math than many people with bachelor's degrees, was given a placement test and advised I would need to take calculus next -- and my major was undeclared and I later declared as a History major, so this had nothing to do with what I needed to know for my area. I ended up dropping out of calc and very embittered, tested out of college algebra in my 30's and took a stats class for my degree (which is still not complete, cuz life got in the way).

I LOVE seeing this shit. Please, make me feel like a moron. Do it again.

Thank you.
posted by Michele in California at 3:35 PM on March 19, 2014


Ah, Michele, I mis-read your comment and didn't get the self-mocking tone. Apologies.

When you teach math you run in to soooo many people who say "I can't understand math. I'm stupid." and honestly believe it. In those cases step one is to stop them from using self-abusing language like "stupid", or "moron". My instincts just kicked in.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:42 PM on March 19, 2014


Also, I can't resist it —

MetaFilter: Please, make me feel like a moron. Do it again.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:43 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Um, it's not self mocking. It's a flat out honest statement: I love running across this stuff here and on HN. I love running into people who casually discuss math topics that are over my head. I really, honestly do. It has nothing whatsoever to do with low self esteem or any of that. I just like math and I like seeing people share it with knitted berets and whatever. It warms my heart.

Anyway, shutting up now cuz I actually am trying to work. If you still don't understand me, no more clarifying will ever help.

:-XXXXXXXX
posted by Michele in California at 3:46 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


I shit you not I've got a purple knitted beret with Stokes' Theorem on it.” — benito.strauss

Oh, so you're the person I should email if I ever find the gumption to work through the copy of Wald's General Relativity I bought that one time in a fit of unmerited ambition.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:18 PM on March 19, 2014


I've seen some incredible math tattoos at the Joint Math Meetings. Someone should probably start a Tumblr.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:48 PM on March 19, 2014


I'm on my phone, but there was for years a fantastic website of science tattoos, including many math. I very much hope it is still active.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:59 PM on March 19, 2014


Shocking idea, agree with everyone who disagrees with it for all the reasons said.

That said, I admit I'm sitting on a sensitive question for which any adequate answer would absolutely rely on non-anonymizable particulars. I've drafted it oh about seven times, and have often thought I'd love to just spit it out and then see it magicked away.

But, yeah, as someone said, some part of the question is often clarified in the rewrite. Then the situation changes and I start again :/
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:41 PM on March 19, 2014


Sorry, IF, I finally gave away my copy of Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler a few years ago. It's not going to happen this life-time.

The guy collecting science tattoos is Carl Zimmer. And he got a book deal out of it! Oops, I mean another book deal — it's like his 10th book or something.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:47 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Apropos of nothing in this thread, I'm congratulating myself on not doing a Sarah Palin/ICANN post. Now that I've typed that last sentence I'm thinking maybe I should.
posted by rdr at 9:29 PM on March 19, 2014


I've already set up a functioning website for *inner circle* Mefites, and we're just having all kindsa fun and intellectual stimulation, and we're answering each other's questions like, fucking superbly and shit! Trading the hippest insider links AND, we're constantly chatting about all you *non-inner circle* Mefites and what losers you are! But if you don't already know about it, well… hey, you're out with the out crowd!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:02 AM on March 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Keep your eye on cabal!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:24 AM on March 20, 2014


Calm down! I will advise you! Once I find the appropriate hat....something pointy, or maybe a Glinda the Good Witch costume.

Though I have a different, better idea . How about a site where we answer questions in question or riddle form? I feel like then we could become better advisors to ourselves!
posted by discopolo at 8:04 AM on March 20, 2014


Though I have a different, better idea. How about a site where we answer questions in question or riddle form?

Artichoke, because moss, discopolo.
posted by Wordshore at 8:48 AM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


The MetaFilter cabal consists of any member I've ever hugged in person. You know who you are.
posted by ColdChef at 3:05 PM on March 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's like in Ocean's 13. "You hugged ColdChef. You should know better. "
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:23 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's official: Now, all you people know I am not in the cabal.
posted by Michele in California at 3:59 PM on March 20, 2014


What if someone only hugged ColdChef while he was sleeping or passed out? Asking for a friend.
posted by planetesimal at 4:37 PM on March 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I dreamt that ColdChef hugged me once. Does that count? That was cool. But then he started applying makeup to my face, which was not so cool. Come to think of it, it actually was quite cold.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:00 PM on March 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh, shit. We're all dead and are just waiting in his overflow freezer, aren't we?
posted by planetesimal at 6:13 PM on March 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


The inner circle ala a special snowflake's chance in Hell. Metafilter is other people.
posted by y2karl at 2:01 PM on March 22, 2014


It's… it's PEOPLE!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:15 PM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


« Older MeFinal Four Pick 'Em   |   advertising budget for FY2014 is through the... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments