Bonfire of Vanity? June 20, 2014 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I am wondering if it is possible to get some kind of statistical data on general site activity that might confirm or deny my general impression that when we have behemoth, fighty MeTas, they seem to suck the life out of the site. I am wondering, for example, if they correlate to fewer average comments, lower than normal FPPs or that sort of thing. And, if my impression is somehow generally confirmed, I am wondering if that might help influence policy on how these bonfires get handled. Because, to me, it seems like letting them go on and on is in vain and accomplishes nothing good.

The past few days, I have kind of been feeling like "It's quiet. Too quiet." here on Metafilter. Like the site just lacks its usual zip. I have seen at least one comment expressing disappointment in seeing too few answers to an Ask they were interested in and thus posting their own Ask. (The Ask they bemoaned as having two few replies had four when they posted the new ask. They are currently at a mere ten replies.) Also, there is currently a piece on the blue that strikes me as fluff, like the online equivalent of watching mindless game shows after a long, hard at work because you are just too physical, mentally and emotionally exhausted to do anything else.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with any of those specific instances. Taken individually, it doesn't necessarily mean anything. I am just giving anecdotal evidence to try to back up my vague impression that the site has not been its usual lively self. And then a casual remark clued me that this Meta on misogyny from 9 days ago is still going (and currently has more than 1600 comments). That is why I am asking this question: This same subjective experience has happened to me before and that has me wondering if this is a real pattern and if that pattern can be confirmed.

The last time I had a vague impression that the site was not its usual lively self, I tripped across a different behemoth, fighty MeTa and here are some outtakes of my observations at that time:

My impression has been that other parts of the site have had less activity than usual in the last two days. I don't have numbers to back that impression up objectively, but it feels to me like this MeTa is sucking a lot of the oxygen out of the site.

I hope the mods figure out how to put this fire out so it can stop sucking up so many community resources. I realize simply closing the thread may not accomplish that. I was trying to stay out of it on the theory that fighting against the fighting is still fighting and posting here amounts to pouring more resources into this discussion when I think it has sucked up too many already. But I guess I am hoping my 2¢ will be all Special or something.

...if there were a thousand more replies on AskMe and MeFi I don't think I would have spent the last two days wondering where all the life of the site went only to notice this bonfire this evening and that it is still going, which made me kind of think 2+2 just might =4. Maybe. As a working hypothesis.

I will close with my opinion that these behemoth, fighty MeTas are a serious drag on community resources because it takes far more cognitive energy to read through and really follow a discussion with upwards of a thousand comments than it would to read ten or fifteen other items (FPPs, Asks, Projects, whatever) with an equivalent number of total replies. It also tends to be a huge drain on emotional energy to deal with something so fighty that drags on and on. It takes time and energy away not just from the people continuing to post in it but also from people invisibly following along who might otherwise be spending that time reading something else on the site and perhaps even participating more in things that are more positive.

I will leave it at that but, suffice it to say, I have a lot of other thoughts on why it is bad to let these bonfires just keep going and going and going, like some demonic Energizer Bunny. So I am hoping for some objective data but also wondering what other people think (since I think it is hard to quantitatively measure qualitative things, like fightiness and emotional exhaustion of unseen members).
posted by Michele in California to Etiquette/Policy at 2:36 PM (119 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

First off, it's tough to show this phenomena with data. You'd probably have to find every 1,000+ MetaTalk thread, then look at the site activity a week after, then compare to weeks where there were no MetaTalk megathreads. I'm not sure if the data would actually show that, because it feels like confirmation bias that how we feel as individual users on MetaTalk would affect our participation on the site to the point where other areas and subsites suffer from inattention as users.

Even if we could show a strong correlation, I'm not sure what the result of it would be -- would we close mega-threads earlier for the sake of the site and just point to our data as a reason why we need to not go on discussing a controversial issue?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:45 PM on June 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


I follow what you're saying, but the thing you want to measure (i.e., site-life-sucking) is not necessarily directly related to the metric you're suggesting to measure it (i.e., frequency of posts). The thing you're caring about is assessing quality, which needs a much harder look at. For example, even if you found a correlation between fighty MeTa's and decline in number of posts (which you well might), that does not necessarily mean that the result suggests a negative impact on the site at all. The opposite might even be true. Perhaps it goes down like this: 1) fighty MeTa happens, 2) users take a break and walk away, garden, drink heavily, do yoga, whatever 3) users reflect on the site and what it means to them 4) creativity boom happens and we all hug.

Or something like that. Who knows.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Most of those giant metatalk threads seem to be dominated by just a few posters so they may be big but I don't know if they really effect too many of the rest of us. I generally try to stay out of them and don't let them bother me much.
posted by octothorpe at 2:51 PM on June 20, 2014 [26 favorites]


Or maybe there is a correlation with weather. It's really nice outside.
posted by aniola at 3:06 PM on June 20, 2014 [33 favorites]


A lot of the big threads depress me. As the Dude wisely says in many cases people aren't wrong they're just jerks. Okay he doesn't say jerks. But close enough. I suppose that's better than the other side in those threads who are usually also jerks but don't even have the redeeming feature of not being wrong.
posted by Justinian at 3:07 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I tend not to comment in the flighty metas but do generally read them since the subject matter is often of interest to me. As a result I actually use the site more when there's a thread like that one that I want to follow.

Which is to say that I think that there are a wide range of reactions to a thread like that one (including no reaction, since not everyone looks at the grey), and that it's highly likely that it all balances out in the end.
posted by scrute at 3:11 PM on June 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


The first time I brought this up, someone else also suggested that beautiful weather was the real culprit.
posted by Michele in California at 3:25 PM on June 20, 2014


would we close mega-threads earlier for the sake of the site and just point to our data as a reason why we need to not go on discussing a controversial issue?

so yeah, it seems the best way to approach high-conflict METAs is to view them akin to paying your taxes. Annoying as hell at times, but they are a big part of what allows this community to function as well as it does. I mean, we're not just making noise out of bad habit (not exclusively anyway). It is about reconciling our differences, trying to figure out how to keep moving forward ... even if it sometimes just feels like spinning our wheels.
posted by philip-random at 3:37 PM on June 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


Well, I'm pretty sure that the proportion of members that hang out in MeTa is pretty small considering active users overall. There's also a not-inconsequential group for whom MeTa is the primary place for them to interact with the community. Therefore, I'm not sure there would be any real causality between trainwrecks in MeTa with lower activity elsewhere. I'm inclined to go more with the (US) weather as a primary cause - it's long been believed that activity is lower generally in the US summer and I see this through a weekly cycle where my Monday is a quieter MeFi experience generally, I assume because it's Sunday in the US (possibly because less people are at work?).

I find it kind of cool that you've put so much thought into this theory, but I think there are too many factors at play to pin the issue on just one of them.
posted by dg at 3:39 PM on June 20, 2014


The past few days, I have kind of been feeling like "It's quiet. Too quiet." here on Metafilter.

I've been skimming through the latest big thread about sexism and haven't felt that the site is too quiet.

It's large site and nobody reads all of it, nobody can. It's easy to get a subjective view of how things are. I have considered tracking the top five tags over the best five years and seeing how they wax and wane, but that sounds like work, so I hearty encourage someone to do it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:47 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I kind of think of it like a party, and late in the evening a group of people will congregate in the kitchen and smoke heavily and drink whiskey and get involved in a heavy discussion about politics or philosophy or whether it is called red lemonade or brown lemonade* or whatever. Eventually people start to drift off until there's just a few left continuing the argument. Occasionally people will drop in and have a listen and either briefly join in, or else roll their eyes and leave and mutter to the others "Christ they're still at it in there." Meanwhile elsewhere the party's still going on and everyone is having fun and chatting about films and music and viral cat videos, or crying in the bathroom about their shit boyfriend, or wondering whether to eat the dip that's been sitting out for five hours.

This is the long way of saying that I don't think the fighty MeTas stop anyone doing anything else they normally do on the site, because eventually there aren't that many people left in them, and it does no harm to just let them get on with it because they're enjoying it and maybe they'll even reach some understanding and share drunken hugs.

it's a local thing and the correct answer is "brown"
posted by billiebee at 3:51 PM on June 20, 2014 [34 favorites]


Very long MetaTalk threads are still a rare occurrence. We've had eight threads with over 500 comments so far in 2014 out of 240. Three of those were site news including announcing FanFare and the funding updates.

Previous years: 2013: 20, 2012: 20, 2011: 19, 2010: 23, 2009: 24, 2008: 8, 2007: 12, 2006: 1, 2005: 4, 2003: 1.

Some of those are site news about features, April 1st threads, Secret Quonsar, weird events etc. So the number of comments isn't enough to determine which threads are fighty and which aren't. I think you'd need to have humans go back and compile a list of contentious threads. (Which is a task I wouldn't wish on anyone.)

From there you could take a look at the number of comments for a week before and after each of the fighty threads and see if there's a pattern. That data is available in The Infodump.

So this is to say there isn't a quick query I can run to get this data. And as others have said, I'm not sure the data would tell you what you want to know if we did find a way to distinguish which MetaTalk threads fall into the fighty category.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:52 PM on June 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


...if there were a thousand more replies on AskMe and MeFi I don't think I would have spent the last two days wondering where all the life of the site went only to notice this bonfire this evening and that it is still going, which made me kind of think 2+2 just might =4. Maybe. As a working hypothesis.

I've been thinking about data and analysis recently, and the importance of testing alternate hypotheses. If you are seeing 2, 2 and 4, it's tempting to think that 2+2=4. But what about 2*2=4? Or 2^2=4? We have to confirm our hypothesis, and rule out others.

So what would these tests look like?

We'd have to establish a baseline for site participation. I'd suggest using only data from when the site had it's maximum number of full-time staff. Then we'd have to quantify which MeTas qualify as "behemoth, fighty," in order to determine our sample. We'd have to control for other factors: holidays, school year, weekends et al. We'd have to control for total number of users, and the number and frequency of posts. And many other things of which I am not thinking yet.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:56 PM on June 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


I know that some of this has been infodumped before, but how many people actually read MeTa as opposed to the Blue and the Green? My hazy recollection, absolutely not backed up with any research, is that AskMe is very popular (maybe more-so before the Google shenanigans) with a bunch of members that stick to that portion of the site. I don't know if contentious MetaTalk threads pull that much attention away from the rest of the site, but even if they do I don't see it as a problem. This is where the community gets together and hashes things out and petitions the mods for a redress of grievances and/or a pony. I'd hit it, Boyzone, dhoyt was jenleigh, cis/trans, Usian, Mass Enspousening, new mods/too much moderation/mods going away, site donations, death/marriage/baby announcements, cat pictures, anything to do with sixcolors, all kinds of stuff that's important to how the site works and how the community wants the site to be shows up here.

Sure there are long, angry, contentious MeTas where people flame out and these threads are probably a lot of work for the mods. But I think that a lot of them have been important to site culture. I don't always comment in these behemoth, fighty MeTas, but I almost always read them and often they've changed the way I interact with Metafilter and with actual IRL people.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 4:14 PM on June 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


The first time I brought this up, someone else also suggested that beautiful weather was the real culprit.

Wait, there's good weather somewhere? It's been raining every day here for like three weeks and shows no sign of letting up.
posted by octothorpe at 4:21 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I know that some of this has been infodumped before, but how many people actually read MeTa as opposed to the Blue and the Green?

Here's a Venn diagram I made five years ago, of logged-in users of various Metafilter subsites; I haven't re-run these numbers any time recently, but while a little bit of shifting wouldn't be surprising I'd guess the proportions remain more or less the same today.

The key takeaway is that if you're willing to go account for a whole month, something close to half of everybody who looks at something anywhere on Metafilter will at least glance at Metatalk as part of that month's activity. That does not mean that they'll spend any significant time there, and it doesn't tell us anything about the order of visits, just that Metatalk isn't quite the "barely anybody actually looks at it" insider desert it's sometimes I think overly characterized as.

On the flip side, it is worth noting that these are number for the span of a month, not the span of a few days, because a few days is a much better picture of the window of casual discovery of any given thread by someone glancing at the Metatalk front page. A thread that lurches along for weeks from one argument to another is still a thread that scrolls off the page two or three or five days later in most cases; to get embroiled in the recent big thread under discussion here, you'd have to hit metatalk, hit "Older posts" down at the bottom of the page, read to the bottom of page two, see 1600+ comments, and then decide at that point that this was worth your time to dig into. It's no wonder that the size of a thread's conversational cohort tends in general to decrease over time; lots of people said their piece and then hushed up or walked away, few new voices are joining the conversation each day, and the people still talking will tend to be the people who already were.

So there's a real tension between the notion that a big fighty thread will suck the wind of the site of the course of a week or two and the notion that enough of the constituent wind-generators in the userbase would actually be embroiled in a given thread after the first 24 hours.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:48 PM on June 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


the constituent wind-generators

Band name!
posted by Dip Flash at 4:52 PM on June 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


> Wait, there's good weather somewhere? It's been raining every day here for like three weeks

Like she said, good weather.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:14 PM on June 20, 2014


He's exaggerating, it was sunny for at least half an hour today.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:25 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I suppose that's better than the other side in those threads who are usually also jerks but don't even have the redeeming feature of not being wrong.

Yeah well that's just like your opinion man
posted by Hoopo at 7:01 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I see your point, but I think that the fighty metas are actually important for the health of the site. Think of it like lancing a boil. That grar has to go somewhere. billiebee recently pointed this out, in the middle of the "revising misogyny on Metafilter" monster thread: Is it just me wondering if it's some kind of unconscious reaction to all the peace and love and warm fuzzies* that has been a result of the State of MetaFilter crisis?

I think that the fighty Metas might be unpleasant but they can also be interesting to read (to a point) and probably contribute to the health of the site overall. In the thread on implementing a MetaTalk queue you can also see hints of this idea in many of the comments.
posted by sockermom at 7:24 PM on June 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


When there are contentious metatalk threads I see flameouts.

When I realize I've been being an asshole I take a time out.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:26 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


fighting against the fighting is still fighting and posting here amounts to pouring more resources into this discussion when I think it has sucked up too many already


The alternative to occasionally fighting is an eternal, slow circlejerk with gentle mood lighting. What good is it?
posted by codswallop at 7:43 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Michele in California: "I will close with my opinion that these behemoth, fighty MeTas are a serious drag on community resources because it takes far more cognitive energy to read through and really follow a discussion with upwards of a thousand comments than it would to read ten or fifteen other items (FPPs, Asks, Projects, whatever) with an equivalent number of total replies. It also tends to be a huge drain on emotional energy to deal with something so fighty that drags on and on. It takes time and energy away not just from the people continuing to post in it but also from people invisibly following along who might otherwise be spending that time reading something else on the site and perhaps even participating more in things that are more positive."

As pb noted above, there are very few of these monster threads - 8 so far this year, which sounds like about the rate we've been going for years. We actually do fewer monster threads now than we did at the large-thread peak in 2009. If this is a drain, it's always been a drain.

But I can't say much about the statistical situation. Others might, I don't know. I only have some opinions on why these threads are useful and even necessary.

Metafilter is a group-run community weblog. We have some of the most awesome moderators on the Internet, but one of their many insights is that they see that letting the community run itself and manage itself to a certain degree is the healthiest thing for that community. So the moderators here do a whole lot to accommodate that self-determination. One of the most visible things that they do in the name of community-fostering is allowing large threads about important subjects to continue as long as possible to allow people to have their say and debate the subject fully, and to get a sense of where the community stands so that they can better moderate with community goals in mind in the future.

Many of these threads have been the locus of major events on the site. Two or three very interesting and important threads on feminism changed this site in subtle but fundamental ways a few years ago - not only this site, but a lot of us personally learned a hell of a lot in those discussions. We've had really important and interesting debates about favorites, and those debates have informed the ways mathowie and the team have grown the site and managed that feature. We've had discussions about what should and shouldn't be allowed in threads; whether people should be allowed to insult each other, and if so how far that goes, where the lines of community can and should be drawn, what it means to argue in good faith - the list goes on and on.

Having a community means talking about the problems we have with each other. The thing that Metafilter does better than any other site, I think, is provide a distinct but accessible space for community members to talk about issues as they come up and to discuss the way the site is running and the way they'd like it to run. That's a huge thing - it frees up the rest of the site for actual discussion about the subjects at hand, but it also provides people a place where they can say what's on their mind about how things are run here, and I think that's deeply valuable. I totally agree that it can be exhausting to spend a lot of time in Metatalk - everybody has to take a break sometimes. But I think it's a fine thing that it's always here, so we can confront our issues, talk about them, and (more often than you'd think) find some resolution.

So count this as an argument in favor of leaving the large threads as they are and keeping them open to the extent that mods do now. I know that we might see some reduction in this with the reduction in staff, and that's fine. But I like it that the moderators here seem to recognize that the deeper Metatalk discussions play an important role here, and try to foster them and keep them running where possible.

I like that. And I don't think we need to go looking for ways to close more Metatalk threads. Close them for the reasons we close them today - if they become completely untenable, if people are way out of hand, etc. But don't close them because of statistics or a vague perception that they drag people down. At most, they only drag down the people who read and comment in them; and it's better to encourage those people to only read threads that they want to read than to remove an important outlet valve and communication space for a lot of the community.

On preview, sockermom said it more elegantly and briefly, but there you go.
posted by koeselitz at 8:14 PM on June 20, 2014 [18 favorites]


I've been here less than at some points, if not "not at all", but it has had very little to do with MeTa, which I have an easy time avoiding, and a lot to do with a general uneasy feeling that when I log in, I'm more likely than I used to be to end up coming across a lot of let's-start-a-fight outrage stuff or generally mean-spirited humor about less-popular groups, or just--I don't know. FanFare for a movie I was looking forward to seemed to be jumping off hard on the side of people wanting to talk about the ways it sucked. I'm not usually that invested in defending them against people who don't like them, but the new OK Go video thread seemed to have a general tone of "yes, well, of course we don't really like their music, but the videos are cool", and that sat poorly.

I'm not sure I'd say it could possibly be the fault of any particular thread, just--things feeling very negative on the whole does not make me want to hang around here more. No one thing that'd be a problem in isolation, but a definite shortage of the sort of stuff that makes me smile, and I need more of that.
posted by Sequence at 8:25 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fighty MeTa posts are obviously a plot invented and perpetuated by Big Popcorn. Wake up and smell the butter, sheeple!
posted by double block and bleed at 8:46 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Data point: Once a fighty MeTa I'm not involved in falls off the bottom of the MeTa front page, I don't even know it's there. For me, this isn't a problem - I don't find the existence of a longboat interferes with my site participation. If I'm involved and I don't want to be, I take it out of my recent activity and don't look back.
posted by gingerest at 9:34 PM on June 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Chrysostom: "He's exaggerating, it was sunny for at least half an hour today."

Fuck, and I missed it?
posted by octothorpe at 9:39 PM on June 20, 2014


So, if I'm reading it right, it seems we have a sort of testable hypothesis here, basically, that there is a constant and more-or-less fixed amount of "commenting power" being expended here on MeFi as a whole, and that this commenting power can either be directed to AskMe, MeFi proper, or MetaTalk (or other subsites), but at the expense of each other.

In other words, if someone is spending their time writing a long response to a Meta thread, they're probably not spending the same time on AskMe or MeFi. This seems like a pretty reasonable theory, on its face.

I'm not able to actually do any analysis right now, but it seems at least like that ought to be testable. If you use number of comments as a proxy for commenting power (which is not ideal, because what you really want is the amount of time spent crafting the comment, but that's not something the site has records of, I don't think) you might be able to see whether AskMe/MeFi activity goes down as MetaTalk activity goes up.

However, regardless of what such an analysis might show, I'm not sure that it would necessarily indicate that any changes are warranted: it might be just fine that the occasional mega MetaTalk thread sucks the proverbial oxygen out of the room for a while, because it means that the site is working over an issue that needs working over. It's not a bug, in other words, that needs to be fixed, but rather a sort of feature.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:57 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't know about the numbers or the impact on the site in general, but I can certainly relate to finding following some of the long-running, seriously contentious threads burdensome and draining. But the thing is (and I know this is obvious but I'll say it anyway): following MetaTalk isn't a job (unless you're a moderator), and I've learned that when I'm getting bad energy off a discussion the direct solution is to stay out of it - don't participate and don't read. At times I've stayed out of MetaTalk entirely for long periods. Certain kinds of FPPs I just don't go into because I know the discussion will rub me the wrong way. The site membership at large having these sorts of discussions - sometimes at length and with a certain amount of vitriol - is a valid thing. It doesn't necessarily require my presence.
posted by nanojath at 10:00 PM on June 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is an interesting question, Michele.

Something I've been wondering, and perhaps somewhat related: Are members who contribute financially (and are invested in the site in a more concrete, literal way than before) more likely to flame out and/or disable their accounts due to a difference in opinion on policy or dislike of a particular post or comment?

I've noticed that a few really great, active mefites who have donation stars on their profile pages have disabled their accounts in the past month or so, usually after oppositional comments. I'm not sure if this is just confirmation bias, and I'm hoping it is.
posted by mochapickle at 10:02 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Was 2009 the year we had the 4th of July weekend megathread? If I remember correctly, that led to the queue on holidays decision in the first place. I could be totally wrong, because it's late and I'm tired, and too lazy to look it up right now.

Anyway, what I wanted to say was that I participated in that thread, and i felt a bit burnt out by metafilter for a while. I have no idea if anyone else has felt that way at all. I can read through and participate in politics threads without that problem, though. So, sort of, in answer to the OP.
posted by annsunny at 10:43 PM on June 20, 2014


As a 'normal' member of Metafilter (not a celebrity but not a lurker) I'm sure I'm not the only one who just ignores Metatalk most of the time. I doubt 90% of the front-page readership has even seen whatever sexism thread we're talking about here.

I run a bunch of websites and I know what's going on: it's summer. People have discovered the outdoors. Don't worry, they'll be back.
posted by mmoncur at 11:09 PM on June 20, 2014


Interesting question, but I kind of wonder. I'm (in contrast) drawn to commenting/answering at other places of the site when there's anyway a discussion going on that catches my interest (even if it's a fighty one that I don't participate in). Maybe it's just me and my rubbernecking self.
posted by Namlit at 11:09 PM on June 20, 2014


Several MeFites have noticed fighty times on here as the moon fills out, followed by less fighty and better times afterwards. Though this won't be scientifically rigorous, have filled out a google calendar to remind me to look at MetaTalk threads for the week before, and the week after, the next six full moons. Will report back at the end of this year.
posted by Wordshore at 1:58 AM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


weregrar
posted by NoraReed at 2:16 AM on June 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


it takes far more cognitive energy to read through and really follow a discussion with upwards of a thousand comments

Stop reading them. Say 'well, people are arguing on the Internet, and I don't think that's for me', then walk away. You're not going to change anybody's mind. Nobody wins. It doesn't end. Seriously, why do you read them?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:06 AM on June 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Confirmation bias confirms confirmation bias.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:34 AM on June 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've been busy at work, my folks are visiting from the UK and general life stuff going on, plus we actually have a summer starting.
posted by arcticseal at 5:54 AM on June 21, 2014


I kind of think of it like a party, and late in the evening a group of people will congregate in the kitchen and smoke heavily and drink whiskey and get involved in a heavy discussion about politics or philosophy or whether it is called red lemonade or brown lemonade* or whatever. Eventually people start to drift off until there's just a few left continuing the argument. Occasionally people will drop in and have a listen and either briefly join in, or else roll their eyes and leave and mutter to the others "Christ they're still at it in there." Meanwhile elsewhere the party's still going on and everyone is having fun and chatting about films and music and viral cat videos, or crying in the bathroom about their shit boyfriend, or wondering whether to eat the dip that's been sitting out for five hours.

Holy krap. For the first time in my life, I want to move to Belfast for the laid back but interesting house-party scene.

Who's in for a destination mefi meetup?
posted by hal_c_on at 6:01 AM on June 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


this won't be scientifically rigorous

That's for sure. Repeatedly exposing your subjects to your hypothesis has a confounding effect.
posted by grouse at 6:37 AM on June 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Good point; I'll include that in the paper.
posted by Wordshore at 7:27 AM on June 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


If it's not the phase of the moon, maybe Mercury is in retrograde?
posted by rtha at 7:43 AM on June 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Alternate hypotheses:
1. Activity on the site is dependant on external factors, like weather or major international events.
2. Contentious MeTa are driven by the lack of interesting topics to comment on.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:55 AM on June 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think we need to check the borse for the current supply of hugs. I'll bet it's correlated.
posted by arcticseal at 8:48 AM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I could afford to donate a few hugs. Where do I sign up?
posted by valetta at 9:45 AM on June 21, 2014


What the hell is wrong with circlejerks and mood lighting?
posted by The Whelk at 10:05 AM on June 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


mochapickle: " Something I've been wondering, and perhaps somewhat related: Are members who contribute financially (and are invested in the site in a more concrete, literal way than before) more likely to flame out and/or disable their accounts due to a difference in opinion on policy or dislike of a particular post or comment? "

Considering it's been less than two months that it's been possible to contribute financially (beyond the $5 sign-up fee) and that grar-filled longboat threads with people closing their accounts have been happening for years and years, I don't think it's possible to say anything useful about it. Certainly not yet. There's not enough data there to support a hypothesis about much of anything.
posted by Lexica at 11:20 AM on June 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think i buy the premise of this. It just strikes me as super specious. It's just way too far in to the zone of something that sounds plausible, and you want to believe it because it always feels true.

But if you actually scroll through those threads, and this is also something testable by data, i think anyone who comments more than twice would be a HUGE outlier. I also think there'd be a huge spike at commenting once and walking away.

It may or may not be possible to test if people keep reading the threads, but i don't see that as a huge drain.

Those threads pretty much usually turn in to a few people, i'd say less than 10 or 20 even, just replying back and forth a ton. This group can rotate if the thread is long enough, but there's definitely a core group of prodigious MeTa commenters.

My proposed alternate hypothesis is that large FPPs only come along once in a while, it's fairly random, and it's often in waves. Like you'll get two big ones in one week and then a relatively quiet next week that maybe has a couple that break 100 comments. There was a noticeable wave in the past month or two of news events and contentious threads, or even just things people wanted to talk about and now we're in a slight lull. If anything, the lower number of fpp comments relates to the FPPs themselves, not MeTa draining it.

Another counterpoint is, if these metas don't exist people will fight about those same things in FPPs. And i'd much rather that if they're going to shit up a thread, they just do it here. Sometimes "just don't do it" isn't really an option since bullshit comments often stand in FPPs unless they're WAY beyond the pale, and call-out comments don't always. If someone wants to defend the premise and validity of XYZ shitty belief they have, let them do it here. It's a lot easier to just not read that stuff, if you need a break/are so inclined if it's up here in the meeting room of the administrative offices rather than down in the main coffee shop.
posted by emptythought at 12:20 PM on June 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have seen a number of comments elsewhere about how exhausting and negative these behemoth fighty MeTas are for other members. So, suffice it to say, I have gotten feedback which generally reinforces my own impression. (I am aware that may be confirmation bias but, given my personal history of seeming to inspire anyone who disagrees with me to be highly expressive of their disagreement, I am inclined to think this is not mere confirmation bias.)

I am a little frustrated that people are arguing against closing these threads (as if I suggested that, which I did not do). I realize why that is happening. It has to do with some of my own framing. But I did state in the post that I understand that simply closing a thread is not necessarily a solution. I am well aware that simply shutting down a fighty thread can cause the grar to spillover into other discussions and that is generally going to be a worse outcome than leaving the MeTa open so people can at least vent.

So let me now clarify that I did not start this MeTa to say "I think we should have a policy of simply closing fighty MeTa's after they reach X number of comments." or anything like that. I think that would be really stupid and counterproductive and would actively encourage people to let the shit fly all the faster in order to get in under the wire, before the known closing point.

Let me state more clearly that I think that a) determining if this impression of mine has any validity and b) if so, considering policy changes to address it is a valuable exercise even if we start from the assumption (as I do) that it would be bad to simply close them for the crime of going on too long. I would, in fact, be pretty horrified if the result of this MeTa was a site policy to close fighty threads after x number of comments. I think that would be a really crude and counterproductive policy.

I found some of the above comments about statistics and the like useful and have further hashed this out with a couple of people since I last commented yesterday. So here are some of my thoughts on why I think this hypothesis likely holds water, in spite of my lack of hard numbers and the difficulty involved in producing hard numbers:

First, my subjective experience of fighty MeTas, regardless of the length, is that they are more of a burden to jump into. There is a higher barrier to entry than for other MeTas. I don't believe this is just me being touchy-feely-oversensitive or something.

In warm-fuzzy MeTas (for example) announcing a wedding or birthday, it is perfectly fine to read the post, skip to the bottom and add your 2 cents worth of "congrats!" or "happy birfday!" No one is going get all up in your face for not reading the other comments. Even if you do choose to first read all other comments before adding your comment, they tend to be shorter (on average). It is common for most of them to be only one or two lines. There tend to be relatively few really meaty comments requiring much cognitive energy. Thus these types of MeTas are not a huge drain on cognitive energy for the site.

Even in the behemoth MeTas about the fundraising crisis, the barrier to entry was lower than in fighty MeTas. It was perfectly acceptable for people to read the post and jump in and say "Is there a donate button? If you give me a way to give you a few bucks, I want to support the site." No one responded to that with "Show some respect man and read the fucking comments! The donation link has already been posted six damn times, you fucking fucktard!" No, someone just reposted the donate link yet again and thanked them for being willing to contribute, while the staff furiously worked on putting together a more transparent, user-friendly means to accept our money. It was not bad behavior, disruptive, a derail, etc for someone to read the post, skip the comments, and promptly reply with their expression of concern, statement about how much they valued the site, or offer of financial support.

Thus I will posit that a behemoth MeTa is not per se a big burden. Simply having a lot of comments does not automatically turn it into a drain on community resources.

So I think, without running any formal statistics, it is reasonably safe to say that participating in a contentious MeTa requires more investment of time and mental energy than other types of MeTas typically do, even if you do not get all het up about it personally. There is much more expectation that you need to read related background info and prior comments before you, yourself, comment in order to try to participate in a good faith, respectful manner and that expectation is not some kind of bs social thing. It exists because you really cannot say anything particularly meaningful and helpful if you do not bother to read the background material and some significant percentage of the comments before interjecting your point of view.

I also think this phenomenon -- that fighty MeTas are a bigger cognitive burden -- gets worse as the Meta gets longer. Though I don't, at the moment, know how to back that up to the degree that I feel I can back up my impression that fighty MeTas generally are more of a cognitive burden on members than other types of MeTas.

Second, the mods have said over and over and over that a) MeTa is the only part of the site where they are required to participate and b) that things going sideways here is a substantial burden on staff resources. (This is, in fact, why they instituted a queue here as part of their effort to stay on top of things in the face of reduced staffing.) So I really don't feel like I need to solicit data or provide hard numbers to assert that behemoth fighty MeTas are a substantial drain on staffing resources. I think the mods themselves have essentially testified to that fact repeatedly in the time I have been a member.

Third, while I realize that MeTa gets less traffic than other parts of the site, I don't think that alone indicates that a really draining MeTa is not a significant drag on community resources. I see a lot of "big names" on MeTa. Thus I think it is reasonable to assume that your "super users" -- your most active participants who form a backbone of the community -- do pretty regularly spend time here. So I think if your most active participants are either posting less elsewhere or posting lower quality comments elsewhere or just being grumpier and less approachable, that alone can have site-wide impact, even if most folks have no clue that a big fighty MeTa even exists. If your most influential members are failing to be their usual interesting, charming, attractive selves because of such a MeTa, I think that will have a depressing effect on the general atmosphere of the site and elicit less positive energy from other users, without them having to have any awareness of the cause of the problem. (I do not mean it necessarily creates a depressed/morbid/unhappy vibe. Just that the vibe will likely be less positive & energetic than usual and this will have knock off effects.)

There are some policy things I would prefer to see discussed here, other than arguing for or against simply closing long, fighty MeTas. I don't see any reason to argue about that since I am not proposing we simply close them. No, my interest would be more in the area of "fire prevention." My interest would be more in the area of "what can we do to make it less likely that we have behemoth, fighty MeTas in the first place?"

(I realize that hashing things out is valuable. I am not talking about putting a stop to that. Healthy debate is necessary to keep the site healthy. Not all debates are fighty and ugly. This one has not been even though a lot of people basically are expressing disagreement with me -- either suggesting I am wrong about the effect or suggesting I am wrong to think we should/could do anything about it.)

I have some kind of half formed thoughts on that (potential policies/best practices) but would prefer to hear community feedback before I attempt to articulate any of that.
posted by Michele in California at 12:29 PM on June 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


You've gotten 50+ comments of "community feedback", but have yet to post what change you're trying to get out of this.
posted by dotgirl at 12:32 PM on June 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


i think anyone who comments more than twice would be a HUGE outlier

A couple of years ago, after analyzing the commenter behaviour on their site, a major Swedish newspaper added a hard quota -- you get three comments per thread, then you're blocked from that thread -- their argument being that 1) it's a common limit for other kinds of debates, and 2) if you cannot make your point in one comment and two followups, chances are that you're not really contributing anything worth reading anyway.

I have no idea if they're still doing it, but I kind of like that idea. I suspect it wouldn't go down well here, though. :-)
posted by effbot at 12:38 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


> Are members who contribute financially (and are invested in the site in a more concrete, literal way than before) more likely to flame out and/or disable their accounts due to a difference in opinion on policy or dislike of a particular post or comment?

It seems logical that members who are very invested in the site are the first ones to
- care enough about the site to contribute financially
- care enough about the interaction to flame out.

One is not likely to be the result of the other; rather, they probably have a common cause.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:39 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Two issues I identify in Michele in California's post are, first, that topics that generate numberless replies detract from other posts, possibly other areas in the Meta-domain we all know and love. Second, that massive comments often generate a fighty atmosphere (please forgive me if I've misstated the intent of your post).

Sometimes it takes a hundred tries before someone finally opens the right door. Fightiness and contention, in my world, are not the same thing, but lie on a continuum. Passion sometimes narrows our choices for us, and we let a strong emotion turn us away from the civil response. This is not to argue that all comments require a civil response: some are best ignored, because feeding trolls is worse than feeding grizzly bears. Sorting this out is the job of the mods, but that doesn't mean that we commentators don't have a dog in the fight.

I don't always read all comments. Sometimes I never read any of them, except in the AskMe, which I always read carefully if I believe I want to respond. Sometimes the comments carry the value of the thread--after all, the comments are as much of a factor that defines us as an online community as are the posts themselves.

Michele in California's idea about compiling some sort of data in this regard is interesting. I don't have a clue how to ask the right questions, but I certainly would find a layout interesting that somehow distinguished between trolls rising to the bait and folks who've been stirred up about a topic. I admit that I can't see the problem with the site's tendency to "breathe" now and then. Even if the trolls have a feast that causes us to lay back a while, maybe that's just a development without any bad sides.

Sometimes heat generates light, but then sometimes all you get is smoke. I have seldom changed my mind about anything that doesn't kick over a few rocks: you can't stomp the demons until they come crawling out. A long comment string is not always a waste of time. A shitfest is easy to ignore. Sometimes it's sad to see a topic eviscerated by trolls. We won't maintain our community posture by increasing the limitations for posters. I believe rules are too scary to employ casually, because structure doesn't always express intentions.

If you are not arguing to close "fighty" threads that generate giga-comments, do you wish to figure out a way to prevent them from happening in the first place? Finally, wouldn't the users of MeFi be the ones to solicit? By that I mean to say that a thread with a gazillion comments is interesting to somebody.

A useful metric in this case would be to divide the number of comments by the number of individual commenters, perhaps after sorting out the trolls. Thread-stitting would apply only to certain individuals, typically the original poster. Back and forth comments indicate a valid exchange. This is where the mods will decide when redundancy is beginning to cripple the discussion.
posted by mule98J at 12:42 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


First, my subjective experience of fighty MeTas, regardless of the length, is that they are more of a burden to jump into. There is a higher barrier to entry than for other MeTas. I don't believe this is just me being touchy-feely-oversensitive or something.

No one is obligated to post in a thread. If it's a serious subject then people should read the thread.

I genuinely don't understand what you are hoping to achieve here.
posted by winna at 12:47 PM on June 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Okay I know it happened way upthread but the "maybe it's the good weather" thing has been stuck in the back of my head for a day. Wouldn't weather on any given day pretty much average out if you have a significant enough area covered in your userbase? I mean, since metafilter skews towards certain areas it's possible to coincidentally have more nice days, but if we, you know, assume the horse is a perfect sphere, wouldn't the "weather" modifier of mood tend to average out across a population?
posted by NoraReed at 1:19 PM on June 21, 2014


Same deal with the full-moon thing, then, right?
posted by box at 1:33 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


But the full moon is pretty much the same around the whole world. I mean, it happens at the same time. Though I guess when night is might change it over the cycle of the day.
posted by NoraReed at 1:50 PM on June 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, heck, you're right. (As I was writing that, I was, like, 'wait, do I have an accurate understanding of how the moon works?' Should've looked it up first.)
posted by box at 2:22 PM on June 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


I had to look it up before I responded, if that makes you feel any better.

how is werewulf formed
posted by NoraReed at 2:34 PM on June 21, 2014 [16 favorites]


If you are not arguing to close "fighty" threads that generate giga-comments, do you wish to figure out a way to prevent them from happening in the first place?

Yes, my preference would be to look for commonalities and see what could be done differently to prevent the strong, ugly responses to begin with.

Finally, wouldn't the users of MeFi be the ones to solicit? By that I mean to say that a thread with a gazillion comments is interesting to somebody.

The problem with that hypothesis is that there is a lot of existing data, both out in the world and on mefi, that strong negative emotional response will get you lots of attention but that attention is usually not a constructive thing and, in fact, tends to actively interfere with anything constructive happening. If the purpose of MeTa is to make the site better, being overly tolerant of fighty, ugly discussion in this space is not a good use of community resources. It would be better to find ways to encourage constructive debate of site issues in place of ugly fights on the same topics.

So, here are some off the cuff thoughts on the types of things that might be addressed in policy to do fire prevention, since simply closing long fighty threads for being "too long" is not likely to work well:

One thing the mods themselves already noted is that, with creating a MeTa queue, they have the ability to work with someone posting a MeTa and suggest, for example, that unnecessarily inflammatory language be modified or removed prior to approval. The two most recent "train wreck" MeTas that come readily to mind for me personally both used inflammatory terms that got big reactions from commenters and the reactions to the terminology seems to have mostly interfered with these MeTas being more constructive. (One of those was before the queue and the mods themselves said they would have liked to have removed or modified one or two lines and they felt, if that had happened, the entire thing would have gone differently and better.)

The other thing these two MeTas have in common is that they were each started by someone with a history of posting similar MeTas and, in at least one case, the most recent similar MeTa occurred not terribly long before the one that went so badly. "Axe grinding" is already something listed as a reason the mods will delete comments. I think it would be reasonable to consider coming up with a similar guideline for posting MeTas. It might not be some hard and fast rule saying "you can only post about a given topic once every six months" but there could be a guideline to help mods factor in "has this person recently posted a MeTa on this topic and, if so, do we think them being the initiator is just going to aggravate people and incline this to go badly, quickly because it comes across like axe grinding?"

The third thing that comes readily to mind is that the ugliest MeTas seem to routinely be started by someone who feels personally mistreated -- someone who was involved in a fight on the blue, someone who is protesting the deletion of their own comments in a "the mods are being mean to me and crapping on my right to freedom of speech" kind of manner or similar victim-card type stance. I don't think the mods should ban "victim"-initiated MeTas but if the goal is to discuss site policy/etiquette/culture constructively so the community can get better at doing X, then it is generally more constructive when a more neutral party initiates the conversation. I think it would be possible to establish some policies that encourage that practice, again, without necessarily being hard and fast rules about who can or cannot post a MeTa. If certain things get addressed well and you, thus, have fewer people feeling mistreated, then there ends up being less reason to have a fighty MeTa about it at all. So getting things more effectively addressed can genuinely reduce the "need" for victim-initiated MeTas by reducing the experience of being victimized by site policy and practices.

I know there are FAQs on the site but I am unaware of any "best practices" guidelines. So one possibility is a "best practices for MeTas" doc could be created (or, if one exists, it could be made more visible). I have consciously chosen to not start MeTas where I felt, for example, that me being the initiator would pretty much guarantee a poor response or because I simply could not figure out how to frame it effectively. If I care about a particular issue, I first try to do no harm. It is usually much less work to avoid doing it badly and wait until I have a better idea of how to approach it (or just hope someone else addresses it at some point and then just participate in the discussion at that point) than to fight at length with people because of poor framing, because I am just "the wrong person" to do it for some reason, etc.

I have a headache and am not at my best so I will stop there even though it feels like it just kind of abruptly ends.
posted by Michele in California at 2:39 PM on June 21, 2014


So long as no-one puts a recipe on MetaFilter for rainbow cake, we will be fine.
posted by Wordshore at 3:02 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


One thing the mods themselves already noted is that, with creating a MeTa queue, they have the ability to work with someone posting a MeTa and suggest, for example, that unnecessarily inflammatory language be modified or removed prior to approval.

I am opposed to editing contentious posts from the moderation queue. Fortunately, I think this idea is a non-starter and I trust our staff to do what they need to do to work with posters outside of some new weird 'best practice' paradigm.

The other thing these two MeTas have in common is that they were each started by someone with a history of posting similar MeTas and, in at least one case, the most recent similar MeTa occurred not terribly long before the one that went so badly.

No, you don't get to say that people can't post MeTas just because they've posted them before. This is a terrible idea. So not only will in your view mods have the responsibility to edit posts, but also to preclude people from posting at all?

I don't think the mods should ban "victim"-initiated MeTas but if the goal is to discuss site policy/etiquette/culture constructively so the community can get better at doing X, then it is generally more constructive when a more neutral party initiates the conversation.

There is no way I want someone who is punitively 'neutral' starting threads about issues with the site, particularly since people who are neutral have no skin in the game and will generally tend to go with the don't rock the boat option. Also, who is going to start a MeTa that they don't feel strongly about? How are you going to even get people to do that?

I think this whole idea is a solution in search of a problem that would cause far more administrative burden on the staff than in addressing any issues. I have no idea why you've decided that long serious threads are a thing to be reduced if not entirely eliminated, but I disagree in the strongest possible terms.

The boyzone threads were long and contentious but they also helped change a lot of unpleasant aspects of the site. For one thing, people don't routinely drop into threads with gross 'I'd hit that' comments in any thread about women. If we had tiptoed around people's sensibilities, the site would still have that culture. No, thank you. I didn't see the problem in the beginning with this thread and I still don't.
posted by winna at 3:02 PM on June 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


The third thing that comes readily to mind is that the ugliest MeTas seem to routinely be started by someone who feels personally mistreated -- someone who was involved in a fight on the blue, someone who is protesting the deletion of their own comments in a "the mods are being mean to me and crapping on my right to freedom of speech" kind of manner or similar victim-card type stance. I don't think the mods should ban "victim"-initiated MeTas but if the goal is to discuss site policy/etiquette/culture constructively so the community can get better at doing X, then it is generally more constructive when a more neutral party initiates the conversation. I think it would be possible to establish some policies that encourage that practice, again, without necessarily being hard and fast rules about who can or cannot post a MeTa. If certain things get addressed well and you, thus, have fewer people feeling mistreated, then there ends up being less reason to have a fighty MeTa about it at all. So getting things more effectively addressed can genuinely reduce the "need" for victim-initiated MeTas by reducing the experience of being victimized by site policy and practices.

I like this meta. Michele in California is trying, in good faith, to improve this place. As much as I wanted to say "no way, dude, this is all wrong", I just read her words and stayed out of it because she cares more about this, than I don't care about this.

And then I read the paragraph above. Brilliant.

Is there a way, that we can have another 'flag'? A flag that says "Metatalk".

So if enough people read a thread, and are bothered enough by its contents or commenters, they can flag it as "Metatalk". If it gets enough (good luck defining that) flags, maybe a metatalk thread can pop up. I'd be more than willing to have that, rather than an individual start one up.

This ensures that:

1. That the users' concerns have a place where they can voice their opinions
And
2. It becomes less of a place to axe grind.

Also, this may just make things easier for the mods, and you will see less assholes with comments like "flag it and move on".

Of course there are problems with this, but I seriously see this as a better idea than this shitty queue or a system where a silly meta gets started and shut down in a matter of minutes because of whatever reason.

This way, mods can still have a bit of warning that something is coming up, and depending on how the back end works, maybe some kind of heading off trouble in the form of "hey guys, you seem to be flagging the jezebel post on the blue. Let's talk about that here, but not drop any c-bombs like in that post".

How about it?

Also, good luck with the headache, MIC.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:05 PM on June 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


I see where you're coming from, but the problem does not seem to be enough of a problem to dedicate those kinds of resources to it. There's a lot more for the mods to do if we ask them to do that stuff and I really think there would be little to no benefit to asking the mods to do more work, especially now.

I think the idea of a Metatalk flag is a really good one. I think that asking people to "be nice" (sort of like "everyone needs a hug") perhaps on the MetaTalk New Post page, might be good as well. It already says "For specific, personal and/or immediate problems, please use the contact form" - perhaps that sentence isn't enough to say "hey if you feel mistreated Metatalk is not the right place for talking about that"?

I really appreciate that you're trying to make the site better. No community is perfect and I think that if the grar-y threads really feel like a drain on resources and feel awful and bad that it might be good to just skip them for awhile. I do that sometimes, anyhow, when I feel overwhelmed by them.
posted by sockermom at 3:11 PM on June 21, 2014


So if enough people read a thread, and are bothered enough by its contents or commenters, they can flag it as "Metatalk". If it gets enough (good luck defining that) flags, maybe a metatalk thread can pop up.

I don't understand - like, an auto-post? Would it just be worded like....I don't even know what. People in contentious fpps find them contentious for very different reasons - sometimes it's because of a particular person dominating the thread, sometimes it's because some number of people are (perceived to be) ganging up on other people or another viewpoint, sometimes it's because the OP gets all "NO YOU GUYS YOU HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THIS THE WAY I WANT YOU TO TALK ABOUT IT!" and all of those things are valid reasons to open a meTa, but a meTa is not supposed to be just "you all in that thread suck" but a "hey can we as a community consider doing or not doing a thing." And I'm having a hard time imagining how that would work for some auto-generated post.

And by the way, I don't see what's automatically shitty about having a queue, and don't see what your flag system would fix with that. What's shitty about having a queue? It's not like there's been a dearth of contentious (and not) meTas since it started.
posted by rtha at 3:12 PM on June 21, 2014


Michele in California: "So I think, without running any formal statistics, it is reasonably safe to say that participating in a contentious MeTa requires more investment of time and mental energy than other types of MeTas typically do, even if you do not get all het up about it personally."

Sure - I would be willing to agree that monster threads take more effort to get into. But you're concluding from that that these threads are a drain on community energy that would be spent otherwise on the rest of the site, and that just doesn't follow at all, I don't think. That assumes that every person comes to Metafilter every day with a precise, set amount of energy to expend, and leaves exactly when that energy is gone. I don't agree with that assumption, because it's not true in my own personal case, and I feel like there are a lot of people like me.

When there's a long thread about something I think is important, I participate on Metafilter much more than I normally would. I spend more spare minutes in that conversation, I think about it in my spare time while on the train or while walking, and it becomes more a part of my life.

Doesn't it make sense to say that these threads often aren't wasting or expending community energy but creating it? I would say that's what they do.

In short, I still don't agree with your fundamental premise that these threads are impacting metafilter quality-wise and making it a worse place. The length of threads doesn't matter, I don't think.

The only thing that improves or worsens Metafilter is the level of dialogue and the relation between the people who interact here. And as I said above those things are often improved by these very long threads.
posted by koeselitz at 3:28 PM on June 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Of course there are problems with this, but I seriously see this as a better idea than this shitty queue

Honestly, I think it's only a lack of actual moderation perspective that makes that view possible, because I can tell you that as much as I'd prefer we had the resources to not worry about a queue, auto-generating generic metatalk threads based on flagging thresholds is a much, much worse proposition. That people sometimes show poor judgement when framing a metatalk post is a different and lesser kind of problem than one of removing judgement in framing from the process entirely, and assuming a flagging threshold drives metatalk posts (a) fails to serve a wide variety of extant valid uses of metatalk and (b) implies cases where the judgement to refrain from posting is removed.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:35 PM on June 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


One person's grar-y fight is another's vigorous discussion is another's schmoopy family reunion.

Ebbs and flows in site activity are normal and don't need fixing.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:37 PM on June 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't weather on any given day pretty much average out if you have a significant enough area covered in your userbase?

It's the beginning of summer in the entire Northern hemisphere, and I am quite sure a significant majority of mefites hail from said hemisphere. It's not the weather on any given day. It's seasonal. I know I myself have barely looked at MeFi this week because ... summer!

I'll bet it would be easy to show that site activity declines around mid-June every year. It's true of every site I read regularly. I doubt even the fightiest of meta threads have any measurable effect, except for effects directly on the relatively few who participate contentiously in such threads (hence, obvious confirmation bias).
posted by spitbull at 3:49 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, once I thought about it I figured there's an uneven enough distribution of people to have weather affect posting. But I'm still curious about the spherical cow version of the problem. I plan to bother my dad with it tomorrow, since he knows about climatey things and indulges my questioning whims.
posted by NoraReed at 3:55 PM on June 21, 2014


It's the beginning of summer in the entire Northern hemisphere, and I am quite sure a significant majority of mefites hail from said hemisphere.

Looking at Quantcast's 30-day numbers, 72% traffic comes from the US, 80% from north america, and eyeballing the rest it looks like well over 90% is from north america and western/central europe.
posted by effbot at 4:02 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think that if the grar-y threads really feel like a drain on resources and feel awful and bad that it might be good to just skip them for awhile.

Just to be super clear, because this seems to be getting said to me repeatedly, I was not participating in the thread and only was made aware that it was still going due to someone else's casual remark. I was in no way looking for that information, predisposed to believe it was a thing, etc. Again: For the second time in my membership here, I happened to have a vague notion that the site was not its usual self, for no obvious reason I could put my finger on (like a major holiday), and then became aware of a super long, fighty MeTa.

So one of my interests was to get feedback on whether or not this is even a thing or just a weird coincidence. If it is just a weird coincidence, obviously, nothing needs to be done.

And before anyone else gets all het up about my last comment, please note that I posted it because of people saying they did not get where this was going and no one seemed able to imagine any policy changes other than "close those long MeTas". So my hope was it would be a conversation starter, not some final solution. I think it would be possible to make policy changes that would be inclined to prevent firestorms. I tossed out some off the cuff, probably half-baked suggestions (knowing that might be inherently problematic) solely for the purpose of getting people talking more constructively.

Also, while I am well aware that discussions of sexism and the like can be firestorms, I have a personal history of working to combat sexism in other male dominated forums. I have generally had better success with trying to actively avoid letting it become a shitshow. Shitshows tend to breed deep hurt of a sort that both sides have trouble letting go of. I have advocated elsewhere that the forum as a whole should agree to not say things like "I'd hit that" while also actively working to avoid a shitshow. I don't think those two positions are at odds.
posted by Michele in California at 4:12 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know, this whole conversation would be much improved if there were a) an IMG tag and b) a GIF of Jenna Maroney on Night Court saying "if only it weren't a full MOOOOOOOO-OOOOON".

I'm just sayin'.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:13 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have advocated elsewhere that the forum as a whole should agree to not say things like "I'd hit that" while also actively working to avoid a shitshow.

Just to avoid potential confusion: By "elsewhere" I mean "on a different forum, not Metafilter."
posted by Michele in California at 4:15 PM on June 21, 2014


auto-generating generic metatalk threads based on flagging thresholds is a much, much worse proposition.

It doesn't have to be auto-generated, I don't even understand how that would work.

But x amount of flags would tell the MOD (moderator on duty), that this post on the green or blue is gonna blow, and maybe it would be a good idea to throw up a post on the grey, so the pressure is released there.

I don't like the idea of a invisible queue, but that's not what this is about. My comment was about how I found MICs idea, and how the idea of a metatalk flag would be able to:

1. Still give the mods some type of control over meta threads being posted at certain times.
2. Allow the user base to feel as if their concerns are being heard.

If you don't like this idea, or pb says it can't work, that's fine. But don't make it sound like I'm suggesting some auto generated meta post that says "Should you ferberize a baby? Talk amongst yourselves. The mods are verklempt."
posted by hal_c_on at 6:15 PM on June 21, 2014


For the second time in my membership here, I happened to have a vague notion that the site was not its usual self, for no obvious reason I could put my finger on (like a major holiday), and then became aware of a super long, fighty MeTa.

Hi Michele,

I am a participant in that trader joes meta. I feel as if I have been participating more on other subsites of metafilter because of it. But I do understand what you are saying. I see the same people in that thread just staying on that thread, and maybe they aren't going anywhere else, but then I think, would they have gone somewhere else had this thread not existed, and I think...prolly. But I'm not sure it would be somewhere on metafilter and not in facebook, or tumblr, or wherever.

Also, the weather. Maybe you aren't feeling it so much, cuz when I was in Cali, the temp didn't move 80-100+ degrees like it did in chicago, so it didn't have as much of an impact on my real life.

But now I sit here, and am jealous of all the Chicagoans who are lining up in quaint neighborhoods for Italian ice.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:28 PM on June 21, 2014


But x amount of flags would tell the MOD (moderator on duty), that this post on the green or blue is gonna blow, and maybe it would be a good idea to throw up a post on the grey, so the pressure is released there.

I still don't understand. The meTa would be framed and posted by the mod on duty? Would it just be, like, "Fight here for [link to fpp]" and then a note in the thread to go to that meTa?
posted by rtha at 6:41 PM on June 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Data point: I'm a participant in the TJ's MeTa (and have been pretty angry about it at various points) and I haven't changed my site participation because of it. On the other hand, I'm currently on vacation right now so my time to participate is a bit less. That's a more important factor than fighty MeTas.

Data point the second: I've noticed posting has been a bit thin lately, too, but I noticed it before the TJ's MeTa so I don't think the two phenomena are related.
posted by immlass at 8:46 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it's a sound theory, and it partially *has* to be true unless lurkers jump in to pick up the slack when members spend extra time on MeTa. That might be true in a couple one-answer, cut-and-try AskMe questions but not in many other kids of threads.
posted by michaelh at 8:55 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


But people participate in the threads they want to. People post in 1000+ MeTa threads, sometimes repeatedly, because they want to. If that's where they want to spend their time, they can. It's all voluntary except for mods.

It doesn't drain or sicken the site at all. If people feel like long MeTas are a bad thing and they don't like seeing them, just skip the grey.
posted by sweetkid at 9:03 PM on June 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


True sweetkid - I didn't mean that it's bad for the rest of the site necessarily, just that there's less activity elsewhere when MeTa is especially busy. I obviously enjoy it on the greywhite.

And yeah, I am sure people spend more time on the site when things are crazy, but not everyone can adjust their schedule or slack at work on demand like that. Some people have a relatively fixed attention budget for the site.
posted by michaelh at 9:23 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I still don't understand. The meTa would be framed and posted by the mod on duty? Would it just be, like, "Fight here for [link to fpp]" and then a note in the thread to go to that meTa?

Oh, so you see a meta as a fight. No wonder you don't understand.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:45 AM on June 22, 2014


obiwanwasabi: Say 'well, people are arguing on the Internet, and I don't think that's for me', then walk away. You're not going to change anybody's mind.

Though I agree with the general gist of your comment and have indeed walked away sometimes - i've had my mind changed a few times by long, contentious Meta threads.

I've seen a whole bunch of minds changed in the Great Feminism Threads of Whenever That Was. There was a slight but distinctly noticeable change in site culture after those, definitely for the better.

So there's some real good to be had in them, if people's individual emotional stamina is up to it when they occur.
posted by pseudonymph at 12:53 AM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's the World Cup and I suspect a lot of people hie themselves off to more sports related sites than this in times of sporting events. I know I do especially as all my substitute teams are crashing and burnin and I am looking for replacements that might actually make it as far as the semis.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:56 AM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, so you see a meta as a fight. No wonder you don't understand.

You're the one who framed this suggestion as a thing that would divert a blow-up from the fpp to the grey.

But yeah, I still don't understand, and your comment there didn't address the point I'm not getting, which is: It would be a mod who framed/posts the meTa, if a sufficient number of flags came up in the fpp, and they would word it like...."Please discuss (is that better?) what you guys are flagging about in this meTa here?" Or what?

I am not trying to jump on you. I am not understanding what it is your proposing.
posted by rtha at 6:56 AM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


You're, dammit. /stupid lack of coffee
posted by rtha at 7:29 AM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's it....burn the site down.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 7:31 AM on June 22, 2014


I'll also note that at least 35 of high-activity users are currently playing Diplomacy against each other. It takes a lot of energy and effort, as you're writing multiple unique missives simultaneously to 6 other people.

So I've certainly gotten quieter on Metafilter, but it's been because I'm busy having fun with other Mefites.
posted by corb at 9:51 AM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's something about the way you're phrasing this situation that makes it seem like MeFi is some sort of commune where we're all supposed to put in a mutually agreed-upon amount of time and effort and thought. It's really not. If someone's not putting in the same amount of time on AskMe or MeFi that they did last week, well, that's how things go. Users are here as a leisure-time activity, not as workers. People participating in one thread and not others are not "taking energy away from the site," they are pursuing their interests at the moment. No one user is guaranteed that all other users will answer their AskMe question or participate in their FPP.
posted by jaguar at 10:22 AM on June 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


I wonder if Diplomacy will bleed bad feeling from the site, or if bad feeling because of Diplomacy will show up here (given that the game seems to be famous for resulting in "You are dead to me, I am not kidding" among some players). Or neither, of course!
posted by rtha at 10:22 AM on June 22, 2014


if they correlate to fewer average comments, lower than normal FPPs or that sort of thing.

Could you please enumerate what "that sort of thing" is? I can provide some data but only if I know what you're looking for.

Right now we have:

1) Number of FPPs on the three major sites (mefi, askme, and meta)
2) Average of comments/answers per post on the three major sites.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:44 AM on June 22, 2014


There's something about the way you're phrasing this situation that makes it seem like MeFi is some sort of commune where we're all supposed to put in a mutually agreed-upon amount of time and effort and thought. It's really not. If someone's not putting in the same amount of time on AskMe or MeFi that they did last week, well, that's how things go. Users are here as a leisure-time activity, not as workers. People participating in one thread and not others are not "taking energy away from the site," they are pursuing their interests at the moment. No one user is guaranteed that all other users will answer their AskMe question or participate in their FPP.

[+] about eight hundred times.
posted by winna at 11:56 AM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Could you please enumerate what "that sort of thing" is? I can provide some data but only if I know what you're looking for.

Right now we have:

1) Number of FPPs on the three major sites (mefi, askme, and meta)
2) Average of comments/answers per post on the three major sites.


I guess you could add "word count" (or "average word count per comment"?) to the list to get some measure of how much people are writing on the different sites.

As I noted above, MeTas with well wishes (happy birthday, congrats on your wedding, etc) tend to have pretty short comments. Mikos wedding announcement is still in my recent activity queue, so I am very aware that most of the comments in it are short. More meaty discussions tend to have longer comments.
posted by Michele in California at 1:22 PM on June 22, 2014


Several MeFites have noticed fighty times on here as the moon fills out

Just for fun, I ran the start dates for big metas (arbitrarily defined as larger than 10× the average meta) through a little program and got the following table:

new: 22 threads
waxing crescent: 15
first quarter: 14
waxing gibbous: 16
full: 13
waning gibbous: 22
last quarter: 16
waning crescent: 16

Of course, big doesn't imply fighty, so this doesn't say much about anything.
posted by effbot at 1:56 PM on June 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Another factor that I attribute what seems to be a lower number of posts on the blue (and possibly green, though I don't have a strong sense of posting numbers there) is FanFare. I know that to the extent that my time on Metafilter is limited, I'm spending more of it talking about TV shows on FanFare.

The underlying premise of this MeTa, that people are participating less because of fighty MeTas, seems to be not just unproven, but flat out wrong. There are too many other things that might be contributing to reduced activity on the blue to declare that it's because people are having long MeTas.
posted by immlass at 2:20 PM on June 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


That is something potentially measurable: "Diversion" of site activity to FanFare since it got started. I don't participate there so it never crossed my mind.
posted by Michele in California at 2:24 PM on June 22, 2014


people are participating less because of fighty MeTas, seems to be not just unproven, but flat out wrong

Well, it's true for the small percentage of users that close their account after getting pulled into a fighty meta...
posted by effbot at 3:41 PM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you're going to test correlations, don't forget to check not just against whether a long meta is open, but also against how many comments it accrued each day. In the current big thread there were days with as few as 2 or 8 or 10 comments. My guess (completely ungrounded, just a guess) is that those days will correlate to lower site-wide activity to a greater extent than the busy days in that thread will?

In any case, my sense of things is that MetaFilter, site-wide, is too busy for me to keep up fully with everything I might be interested in, which wasn't true (for me) 10 years ago or for the first couple years after the $5 doors opened.

So...I'm not sure lower site-wide activity is something to worry about even if it were occurring?

(Also, I like reading those big MeTa threads. And to me they feel more important to site culture than whether any particular FPP on the blue gets 20 comments or 200.)
posted by nobody at 4:00 PM on June 22, 2014


The first time I brought this up, someone else also suggested that beautiful weather was the real culprit.

For what it's worth, if I look at yearly traffic at MefightClub (which is, in terms of stats gathering, effectively 100% tracking only logged-in users because of the registration requirement to read or participate), I've seen an annual gentle downward dip in northern hemisphere summertime. Admittedly, that's a self-selected audience of gamers, but yeah: I put it down to people disengaging a bit from gaming and getting outside when the weather is great.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:06 PM on June 22, 2014


You said your impression was that you had a feeling and then someone told you about the big thread and then you attributed this feeling that MetaFilter wasn't snappy enough, so it must be the big fighty thread that's causing it, and you want to come up with a solution to your bad feeling, but yet, you can't give us the solution, it's just that you had a vague feeling that was bad and here we are, discussing your vague bad feeling and people are trying to come up with data and theories to meet your bad vague feeling about the site not being snappy enough and even though we've brought up weather and full moons and sports and such, we still haven't yet satisfied your vague bad feeling that this site is just not up to snuff lately. And you want to blame it on the fighty MetaTalks. I would posit that this is not about MetaFilter, Michele, it's about you and your feelings.

Because yes, I do read the longboats and sometimes yes, I do comment, but then I do walk away and visit the Blue or the Green. That's a conscious choice. Because I go, Self, wtf? You have high blood pressure, and you have been letting this shit get to you, so walk away.

And then sometimes I go into a thread that might make me angry and I go, Self, you did this last week and it got you angry and then I back out.

And then I look at AskMe and I go, OMG, The Whelk has asked about Maine and I can answer that! Thank GOD for the Whelk! I would love to party with him.

So I am not sure if your question is in good faith, or if it is concern trolling or what. It doesn't seem to be in line with the general tone of the MetaFilter community. It bothers me in a vague way, not sure how to articulate it, but it does. I certainly do not want the website by-laws, such as they are, changed, over your vague feeling that MetaFilter has not been snappy enough and it is a result of a longboat thread over issues that are very important to members here and we do wish to discuss them, no matter how contrary and contentious they may be. Bring it!!! I will discuss!!! Me and Billiebee. Join us. I'll be out back on the porch.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:04 PM on June 22, 2014 [8 favorites]



So I am not sure if your question is in good faith, or if it is concern trolling or what. It doesn't seem to be in line with the general tone of the MetaFilter community. It bothers me in a vague way, not sure how to articulate it, but it does.


Agreed. It seems like MIC just does not want long MeTa threads to happen and is trying to justify that in a vague "let's look at the math" way. I could be wrong.

Personally I wouldn't currently be calling myself a feminist if it weren't for a conversation that happened during ElevatorGate (which I did participate a bit more in than usual because it was over a very hot July 4th weekend and I didn't have much else going on, but again, this site is for people to participate in when it interests/is convenient for them, no shame in that). Also I learned a LOT about trans* issues in some threads without commenting at all, by following the conversation.

So those long threads have a purpose beyond people with opposing views being "grary" or necessarily trying to convert people to a side. They can help people work through personal understandings on a topic, whether or not they end up posting some confessional in the thread about their epiphanies.
posted by sweetkid at 8:27 PM on June 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


I must concur that I'm not sure what Michelle's goal here is either and vague feelings make it all, uh, vague.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:39 PM on June 22, 2014


I'm usually drawn to the longboat MeTa threads. The reason being that many times they're about social justice issues or other such topics that relate to respecting other commentators, or just respecting people in general. I feel that those topics are very important and well worth my attention, but you're right, they do take a great deal of time. I usually have to read all the MeTa comments, all the comments in the original MeFi thread, and many times have to read a fair amount of linked articles just so that I can understand and appreciate the context and scope of the discussion. This usually takes more than one evening, so during that time I'm substantially less active on the rest of the site.

So, Michele in California, I may very well be an instance of the effect that you've noticed, I think. I can't really gauge from the tone of your post if you're trying to imply that site participation decreases due to exasperation, or if you mean that people are so absorbed by trying to work through all of the information in the longboat threads that they don't have time for FPPs, etc.
posted by Shouraku at 9:57 PM on June 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I mostly lurk. I spent a good week on the "mansplaining" thread, lurking in a very engaged way as Shourako just described. While discussing it via text with a local mefite, I made my first post on the blue in a decade. I was so engaged that I broke a decade of silence!

So there's my datapoint.
posted by palegirl at 10:01 PM on June 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thanks, Michele In California. Unfortunately I've run out of weekend so it only handles number of posts per day and doesn't have a lot of the bells and whistles I wanted to add, but here's the bare beginnings of a MetaFilter Metadata Visualizer I've been meaning to write for a while now.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:13 PM on June 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


rtha,

I don't know. It's just an idea that's thrown out there. Maybe someone can add to it, or come up with something better, or maybe the mods can come up with something.

But how about we have a flag for 'metatalk', and we go from there. Or do u think that's just a shit idea, rtha? It's ok if you do, I've had some shit ideas. I just don't accept it's a shit idea because mods might frame it. Maybe it needs no framing. If framing is the problem, maybe the meta can be "mefites flagged this thread for meta" or something.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:11 AM on June 23, 2014


From the OP: Because, to me, it seems like letting them go on and on is in vain and accomplishes nothing good.

I'm a newcomer here, but over the last decade I've hung out for years at a time on several in-depth discussion sites. Long ago I was a mod on one, though I wasn't very good at it, not anywhere near as smart and level-headed as the staff here. I believe threads debating site culture are both normal and necessary. They are lengthy and contentious because the issues are complex, and just because they don't result in consensus or a plan of action doesn't mean they don't advance our understanding.

I've seen some shitstorms in my time. How about a fight on a Surrealism forum? An angry surrealist is something to behold. "You're sheep! Sheep dying on the spew-slick altar of ennui!" I've seen two of the biggest and best sites, one for politics, the other for literature, shut their "meta" boards down when the flamebait and personal vendettas reached tipping point.

It's different here, much more civilised and better structured. Here there are many thoughtful, articulate posters and some very wise moderators. I really don't see there's a problem.
posted by valetta at 3:26 AM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think we need a flag for MeTa. If you feel strongly something should go to MeTa, post there. We have queueing permanently now, so the mods can decide whether it is framed right or not before the user base sees it. We shouldn't have any of those abortive axe-grindy MeTas any more for the same reason.
posted by gingerest at 3:33 AM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I feel like Fanfare is probably pulling some serious time and effort, given how many Fanfare Metas there have been, let alone the actual subsite. And some of it's just timing-- for example, I have been a more prolific responder before but it's been a hell of a semester and also sometimes I just can't say anything useful, so I don't.

But I would be against a flag for MetaTalk. I have often seen comments deleted or grumbling comments posted and kind of braced myself in case things go bottoms-up about a thread I was really into and you know what, generally cogent, smart people go on to say funny and intelligent things, and the thread ends up better than I could have imagined, and no MeTa has to emerge. Not that MeTas are bad! But I can't think of a single one of those cases where I wish it really had escalated into a long and drawn-out thread.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:21 AM on June 23, 2014


But how about we have a flag for 'metatalk', and we go from there. Or do u think that's just a shit idea, rtha? It's ok if you do, I've had some shit ideas. I just don't accept it's a shit idea because mods might frame it. Maybe it needs no framing. If framing is the problem, maybe the meta can be "mefites flagged this thread for meta" or something.

I feel like a good number of times when I've been in threads that have gotten a mod note that says "cut it out, you know where meTa is," no meTa actually happens, and the meTa argument happening in the fpp usually stops. I think that the system there works fine: If someone is sufficiently motivated to frame the issue they're having for meTa, then they should do so. I think a mod-posted meTa based on X number of flags would just give people who want to argue - but can't or won't be arsed to make a meTa themselves - a place to do that. Their other option would be to just stop doing whatever disruptive thing in the thread, and we don't need meTas for that.

Also, I think have mods frame the meTa is not a great idea. They are wonderful people, but they are not psychic, and they should not be expected to know exactly *why* a meTa is needed so that it's framed well. A good part of the time, when someone makes a meTa about a thing happening in a thread, a bunch of people from the thread will disagree with the framing of that meTa, and having mods do it would not be any different. We would still have many people talking about whether the meTa was really on point or not. And if it were just really generic (e.g. "This fpp generated many meTa flags, so bring your non-fpp-issues here"), well, that seems to be overly broad an unhelpful.

As for a flag specifically for meTa, we have noise/breaks the guidelines/derail already, as well offensive/racism/sexism, and all those pretty quickly alert mods that hey there is a potential or actual problem happening right now.
posted by rtha at 5:56 AM on June 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


I feel like a good number of times when I've been in threads that have gotten a mod note that says "cut it out, you know where meTa is," no meTa actually happens, and the meTa argument happening in the fpp usually stops. I think that the system there works fine: If someone is sufficiently motivated to frame the issue they're having for meTa, then they should do so.

I'd agree with that. "Either leave it or take it to MetaTalk" means "stop clogging up this thread"; it doesn't mean "we think this interpersonal conflict has something about it so important that it needs to be a MeTa". Leaving it should definitely be an option, not least because personal-callout MeTas are almost always horrible. They're just an overflow valve to keep the customer-facing parts of MetaFilter clean.

"You know where MeTa is" acts, I think, as a kind of "is your journey really necessary?", and to a lesser extent a "please take grar to the grar disposal area", rather than a "we would love to have a MeTa about this!"
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:19 AM on June 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


The moderators are, in a real sense, management. The queue is already a step to users not being able to post their exact concerns. I don't think we want the mods to be in the role of interpreting what user concerns are, and creating their post.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:16 AM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not on board - at all - with a "MetaTalk" flag.

If we assume that MiC's hypothesis is correct (which I don't believe it is, but for the sake of argument), then long & contentious MetaTalk threads are a detriment.

The idea that a MetaTalk borne out of flags, crafted by a mod, and with no actual purpose or intent behind it other than to "stop bitching in the FPP" will reduce these MetaTalk posts seems flawed. If anything, I would expect they will cause an upswing in both the frequency and contentiousness.

That being said, I still don't see an issue, and continue to view this as a "solution in search of a problem".
posted by dotgirl at 9:14 AM on June 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Thanks Tell Me No Lies.

For the record, I am opposed to a MeTalk flag. I don't see what that is supposed to do at all.

So, Michele in California, I may very well be an instance of the effect that you've noticed, I think. I can't really gauge from the tone of your post if you're trying to imply that site participation decreases due to exasperation, or if you mean that people are so absorbed by trying to work through all of the information in the longboat threads that they don't have time for FPPs, etc.

It could be some of both. But, to try to put it concisely, my concern is that a big, fighty MeTa is a big focus of community energy and that energy is pretty negative. My concern is more in the area of "do these long and ugly MeTas take energy away from more constructive community-building activities or otherwise have effects which amount to doing more harm than good? (And, if so, can we do this better so it turns into more good than harm?)" I don't have any problem with long MeTas per se nor with hashing out community issues (and I don't understand why people keep framing it that way -- I think I have been pretty clear on those points).

As for effect, I am leery of confirmation bias, which is why I framed the MeTa the way I did. I think part of my hypothesis has been better fleshed out and more or less confirmed: Contentious MeTas (whether they are shitshows or not) require significant community resources, more than a lot of other types of conversation. But people have listed a number of confounding factors and people have also testified that, basically, different people react differently to these things, so outcome is variable.

I very much appreciate people weighing in on both sides.

I don't know how to close this comment because I feel people are kind of wanting me to either admit I was wrong or "prove" I was right (and then have the solution) and I don't think there is a very firm conclusion here, either way. If people are tired of the topic, hey, then let it go. There doesn't need to be a firm conclusion. FWIW: Getting feedback on what it would take to even try to draw a firm conclusion has been useful for me personally. (Though I have mixed feelings about saying that since it seems some people might view that as further evidence that I made the post in bad faith and am somehow guilty of something.)
posted by Michele in California at 11:46 AM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


... a big, fighty MeTa is a big focus of community energy and that energy is pretty negative. My concern is more in the area of "do these long and ugly MeTas take energy away from more constructive community-building activities or otherwise have effects which amount to doing more harm than good?
Well, I don't agree that the energy, taken as a whole, is negative. While sometimes things just end up nasty for no particular gain, by shining a light on those negative aspects or behaviours from the community, even the fighty MeTa threads have an overall positive effect, I think. It's how the community shapes its 'code of behaviour' to a large extent. It may be hard to see that in the middle of an argument but, if you step back a bit, hashing these things out in a space where it's safe to express yourself (accepting that you may get a reaction you weren't expecting) is a good thing.

FWIW, I don't think there was any bad faith on your part in starting this conversation - not everything in life can be or should have to be backed up by empirical data or come with a pre-determined solution.
posted by dg at 1:31 PM on June 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


well I agree with sockermom et. al. above who say that contentious site policy threads absolutely do serve a purpose both from an immediate policy direction / social norms informational exercise AND as a pressure valve. The two can and do coexist.

I read through all the big MeTas and typically don't comment because I don't usually feel like I have much to contribute - other, smarter people have generally made my point much more elegantly and succinctly than I could and I generally have little to add.

I do sometimes feel my grar reflex heating up and on the occasions when that's so I usually go outside or try to find some better outlet; I find beating merry hell out of a stuck seatpost in a friend's citybike is cathartic. I don't always succeed at using my inside voice and curtailing my impulse to be a jerk, but I also can't explain how many times I've looked at the preview window with my cursor hovering over "post comment" and gone "ah fuckit, what's the point?" And I really, really, really, really like to win and don't like to be wrong. That competitive mindset is why I still race bikes in my mid 40s.

I feel people are kind of wanting me to either admit I was wrong or "prove" I was right (and then have the solution) and I don't think there is a very firm conclusion here, either way.

that's a valid opinion but keep in mind that you're kind of comparing your internal concerns to everyone else's external posts and there's no real way to prove what emotions are driving it all; sounds like you're trying to compare feelings and emotions to hard data which... idk how easy that really is.

to me it seems more like this thread demonstrates in full the usual proclivity of this site to thoroughly overthink any and all topics to and beyond the point of resolution, and no one here is really trying to "win" the thread, they're just hashing it out. Which is what happens when a bunch of intellectuals get together in the kitchen and debate politics or whatever.

datapoint of one: good TV season is over, the entire internet has been taken over by soccer (which I loathe), it is really really nice outside, I've been riding my bike 8-12 hours a week and working 40, plus the first week of June mr. lfr and I were on the road and I didn't post to MeFi at all, nor did I even think about this place. I don't say that out of contempt or to be dismissive. I will bet 100% of the site here didn't even miss me, and that's a good thing. I wouldn't like to think anyone would panic about my whereabouts were I to go spend a few weeks up the side of a mountain camping, as we tend to do every couple years or so.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:42 PM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


well I agree with sockermom et. al. above who say that contentious site policy threads absolutely do serve a purpose both from an immediate policy direction / social norms informational exercise AND as a pressure valve. The two can and do coexist.

Again, I don't have a problem with hashing things out. I fully understand the value in that. So perhaps one of the problems with this MeTa is some failure on my part to make some sort of clear distinction between that and the sort of fighty, ugly discussion that concerns me. Given the very real challenges in coming up with some kind of hard data, I am not sure it matters very much at this point that this seems to be a pretty muddy point in this discussion (and perhaps is muddy in part due to possibly being one of those things where there is no clear, bright line/clean definition and never will be).

to me it seems more like this thread demonstrates in full the usual proclivity of this site to thoroughly overthink any and all topics to and beyond the point of resolution, and no one here is really trying to "win" the thread, they're just hashing it out. Which is what happens when a bunch of intellectuals get together in the kitchen and debate politics or whatever.

:-)

I don't think it is overthinking at all. I think the discussion made it clear that it would actually require significantly greater resources to draw any kind of firm conclusion, not less thinking or discussion. (It would require more data, more number crunching, more firming up of definitions, etc.) Overall, I have very much enjoyed it.
posted by Michele in California at 4:55 PM on June 23, 2014


i will give my perspective as a mostly MeTa lurker (longtime): I find long MeTa's to be enlightening when the members patiently break down how marginalized segments of the community are affected by casual use of language that to them is hate speech. even though the threads are most often opened by those in the wrong, are often dominated by a few blow-hards who just like to see their own arguments in print,and the inevitable flame-outs are more pitiable than regrettable, I think the community as a whole benefits.
the energy of the site overall, IMO, is a by-product of the hard work put in by the folks who take the time to post such awesome FPP's. If those folks are sucked dry by long fighty meta's then the site overall would suffer, but i don't see that much crossover between names i recognize as awesome posters and names i recognize as usual suspects in long meta's.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:33 PM on June 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


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