Cam Barrett posts on Camworld November 18, 2000 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Cam Barrett posts on Camworld: "I just realized that I'm not reading Metafilter as much anymore. I remember when Matt came up with the idea, built the site, and then invited everyone to help build it into a cool community site. Lately, it seems like I'm not really reading Metafilter as much as I'm scanning it every couple of days. No longer am I reading the commentary unless it's about something I care about. And I realized that this is because the noise has surpassed the signal. There is now far more noise and crap being posted in the comments than there is thoughtful commentary and observations, which is what attracted me to Metafilter in the first place. And I think, this is exactly what happened to Slashdot as well."
posted by Mo Nickels to Etiquette/Policy at 6:33 AM (21 comments total)

This was my response to Cam, plus many additions. This is a complicated topic and my thoughts are not completely clear on this issue.

I wanna be positive because I like Metafilter. It's one of the handful of places that I visit and contribute to regularly. I like many of its people, I like its interface, its intent, its utility, its cost-free nature. I like it.

On the other hand, it has social problems.

Part of it has to do with exploding membership. I believe Metafilter has added at least 500 users in the past few months. This is a sign of success: users are visiting, signing up and participating. This also means more users with less feel for Metafilter customs, users with new goals, new perceptions of what Metafilter should be, users with fewer ties to the blog nation and the (normally) evident understanding of what makes a blog--even a meta blog--work.

I was user 1700 on Slashdot some two or so years ago. Now there are more than 300,000 registered users, I believe, and the signal-to-noise ratio is higher than it's ever been. Slashdot's moderation helps, even if it's not perfect. (I now set the include level to 2 or higher: that still usually nets me a good 40 or 50 comments on a day-old discussion). But Slashdot has other problems: the news is late (by days, usually) the editing is sloppy, the fact-checking is non-existent and it is in desperate need of "forum leaders," (not self-appointed) smart people who can seed the discussion areas with intelligence, good links and sanity.

Metafilter, like Slashdot before it, is passing through the familiar cycles of all discussion forums. I think if Metafilter continues to scale so well technologically (as Rebecca so rightly pointed out that it has), it will encounter social problems near-identical to those of Slashdot. They've already started and it sucks.

I couldn't say what I think caused the quality of Metafilter posts and discussions to so seriously degrade. One idea is that members seem to be more careless. Look at the comments, the constant tom-foolery, the lack of world-awareness, the cookie-cutter rhetoric, the humdrum prof forma opinion recitals, in general, the diminished level of discourse. There's a consistent disregard for topicality and appropriateness there that I didn't used to see on Metafilter.

Then there's the lack of discretion being practiced in choosing new posts. I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Metafilter has lost a good deal of that specialness that came from one-of-a-kind links and discussion. It's becoming as generalized as Pathfinder and as worthless as the discussions at Ain't-it-Cool-News.

Maybe it would be better if places like Slashdot and Metafilter *weren't* free-for-alls. Some people *should* feel unwelcome and I don't mind sounding elitist about it.

NOTE: It's an Internet chestnut by now that entropy will destroy all good things on the network in the end. And I'm fully aware that this sort of argument has always been made: the newcomers are ruining everything. I'm not sure that's what I'm saying, but it bears looking into. I hesitated to say anything at first when I saw the change in Metafilter. Why fill that Chicken Little role? In the past, I usually just abandoned similar mayhem and found something peaceful elsewhere. Not this time. I want to see this work. I like Metafilter. I don't want to see Metafilter dragged under by the careless with the consent of the you're-not-the-boss crowd.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:19 AM on November 18, 2000

I too, love what Matt has done with Metafilter. I am hugely disappointed to see the large number of posts by obnoxious newcomers, especially from the same people again and again. Metafilter should not be a conversation, so to speak, as it should be a discussion. Many of the threads recently have been very conversation-like, reminding me of the AOL stereotype "Me too" responses that add nothing to the discussion but noise.

Online community management is definitely going to be one of the problems we have to solve, and not just for sites like Metafilter, though Metafilter is definitely one of the pioneers in this arena. At my job, we build and maintain online communities for software developers. We have an entire group of people who do nothing but solve problems and document solutions regarding online community development. This is somewhat of a new field that grew out of the need to manage these fast-growing communities.

I highly recommend Amy Jo Kim's book on Online Community Development. It's, to date, one of the only books on the market that addresses many of the issues we're facing today.
posted by camworld at 11:55 AM on November 18, 2000

I think that one of the problems with "The way MetaFilter has gone" is that people with some sort of vision, or the old skooler MeFiites who think it's going somewhere aren't doing anything about it.

Stuff that's been on peoples' minds lately is largely political. Even before the rush of political threads for the past two or three weeks there were many, many conversations about Neat-o Nader, Bad Bush, and Goofy Gore.

Many people find the stuff dull, aren't concerned with the discussions or conversations or me toos that are included, and just get tired of what's going on on MeFi.

But I still don't know what's supposedly wrong with MetaFilter. I've been scratching my head about this as I've seen people complain since I joined in April or so, and have yet to receive an actual answer.

Maybe I'm the cause, I highly doubt I can be part of the solution to change that. But if you're "disappointed in the direction MetaFilter's taken" but love it and want to save it from whatever it is, well by all means, go ahead. Post links to things that you want to talk about here, post links, start threads and begin actual discussions.

Rather than bitching about a lost past, which is as effective as bitching about a supposed A-list, or bitching about the cold weather in Canada, do something about it.

Tell us what we should be discussing. The guidelines say "think about what other people want to talk about and make it interesting" in so many words. Well, on Thursday over the period of an hour and a half alone, there were over 100 posts. Obviously people are finding this stuff interesting, and obviously people are talking about it.

If we've gotten off track from the original vision of what MetaFilter is, for goodness sake, let us know! We love MetaFilter and we want to continue enjoying it too. We can only do our part in the way we know how, which is what we're doing.
posted by cCranium at 1:59 PM on November 18, 2000

Well, I'm confused.

Apparently all these people want MeFi to retain something it used to have and has apparently lost, or is in the process of losing.

Apparently when prompted to toss out ideas about how MeFi can retain or regain this unknown beast, no one has any ideas.

I'm not talking out of my ass in the above post. I know that's an unusual thing for me, but it's true. To "save" MetaFilter, you users with ids below 796[1] have to tell us users with ids above 795 what it is you want, what it is you feel you're missing. Then, and only then, will we be able to work with you to keep MeFi a great place.

So what exactly is it you want? If you aren't able to say, and you experienced this, then how are those of us who don't know supposed to help bring it about? We're just doing what we think is right - post a link, discuss the link.

[1]: I'm using myself as the cut-off point, because this discussion's been going on at least since I joined. I don't have a clue what's missing, so theoretically speaking anyone who joined after I did will also not have a clue.
posted by cCranium at 9:40 AM on November 20, 2000

cC, I don't know if it is a matter of apathy that folks aren't responding to this thread, or the fact that threads in MetaTalk are easily buried and lost, but I agree that there should be come sort of action taken to determine what direction MeFi should go. Truth be told, I don't believe that most members (especially new users like yours truly) have a coherent idea of what MeFi was, is, and could become, and other than Matt's guidelines.

I can only draw on my experience with normal communities given that my exposure to online communities is still scant. If this were a regular community, I would recommend a town meeting type discussion where "stakeholders" representing long-time members, recent members, and the expert-types among us can develop a coherent vision for the community.

But, online things are somewhat different, and the nature of the web asks for less structure (as it should be). However, perhaps raising the profile of this discussion should be in order so that members can decide what MeFi should be, and teach themselves accordingly.

Or am I talking out of my ass?
posted by Avogadro at 6:16 PM on November 20, 2000

cC and everybody else, the problem isn't easily solved, so that's why you've heard nothing from me and most people. I used to fret over this day and night (I'll dig for a discussion about community development I had on an editthispage site early this year, one that Dave pointed to from scripting). One of the earliest users said the site started sucking in January of this year (he still says it sucks whenever we talk about it). I did a lot of research on online community development, and there are a few classic works. One such paper talked about the classic growth stages, and I think metafilter, like every other community has followed it (I can't find a link to it right now). With an open membership and posting policy, things tend to follow the progression of mailing lists around here. There's not a lot you can do to stop it, once it's gone down a road you didn't want it to. There's always the possibility of starting new instances, with a higher level of entry, to ensure that the growth is slow, but those sometimes suffer from the lack of new voices.

I think about it a lot, but it's nothing that can be solved easily.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:32 PM on November 20, 2000

I know it can't be solved easily, and I know that's why people aren't responding, and that's ultimately why I posted the second message, to goad people on, hoping to open up discussion and get some ideas about how we can all work to make this place something good for all of us.

With all honesty, MeFi started boring me too over the past 6 weeks or so, because there's been just too much politics, even for me, but I still visit far too many times a day, because what I perceive as the "spirit" of MetaFilter is still there.

This week's actually been pretty good. We got to mock A-List thinking, which is fun every few months, we've got some Netscape bashing and standards supporting stuff, and the dreaded cunt thread is actually remaining civil and interesting.

I think that we got flooded with political posts because it's important, and because people were interested in it. Now that most of the buzz has died down as everyone waits for the recount to finally be over, we're able to focus on other topics again.

I've always gotten the impression that there was a lot more thread time devoted to finding little-known sites, and discussing design, and in general more time on the site was given to lower-end discussions during the first few months of MetaFilter. It seems that people want to get back into that, discussing the technology of what we as web designers and developers do.

My real point, after all this, is that MetaFilter can only be what we, as a community, make it. If we want less political threads, if we want more discussion about a site's design, or merit, or whatever, then we who want that sort of thing need to make a concerted effort to find sites to rant or rave about, and people who are interested in that sort of thing need to make themselves known here.

As for signal to noise, I think the ratio's still a far cry better than /. and most online discussion places. There are rarely trolls. There's some topicality blurring at times, but for the most part it's harmless since it usually only happens in near-dead threads. The discussions that do take place are almost completely topical and often civil. There's heat in many, but for the most part it's passion, not hatred, stoking those fires.

And there's no cries of First Post here, which is always a good thing.
posted by cCranium at 6:33 AM on November 21, 2000

Can people be a little more specific here. Apart from a few indirect references to the election overdose and some nostalgia about the good ol' days, all I'm getting is a sense that some people think something important is being lost.

Personally, I think its just patchy, some things are worse but in other ways it's better. As a member since July, no doubt I'm part of the problem although I read Mefi for a number of months before joining. I think that the number of lousy posts was about as high then as they are now. Can someone please tell me the date when Metafilter started to suck so I can look in the archives?

Like I said it's patchy. I think I'm choosy about which links and comments I bother to read. Sometimes I get annoyed at some of the brainless topics which sometimes attract the most excited discussions. I'm not big on web design topics or the more incestuous weblog gossip. I'm not at all upset by topics about politics and religion, although I know that others hate them with a passion. On the whole I would say I am well served by Metafilter, I've read some excellent and thought provoking stuff and I've learnt many things from the people here.

I can't help wondering whether this more about some people preferring to live in small towns rather than big ones. How about putting forward a few examples? What are people unhappy about? Can you point to some threads from past that were what Metafilter should try to aspire to? Or some threads which demonstrate how far Metafilter has descended into Suckdom?

posted by lagado at 7:14 PM on November 21, 2000

lagado: I don't think people can be specific, which is what makes it a difficult problem to solve.

I think a lot of it is because there are a lot of new users (a good thing!) there are a lot of new people to meet, and it's hard to know >2000 peoples' quirks and posting styles, so it doesn't feel as much like a close-knit group.

That isn't an insult, or an a-list thing, or anything like that, honest, it's just logic. When you've got say 100 regular posters, it's fairly easy to keep track of the fact that thirteen wants to buy an island, aramaic is the world domination guy, baylink's the libertarian, stuff like that.

It's also reasonably easy to keep up with their web pages, for the really interesting ones at least, so it's very very easy to consider them friends. Once you have some 500 regular posters, well, these are just people. They're no longer your friends, you don't know where they're coming from, you don't know any of their history.

And that shared history, I think, is ultimately what's missing. Massive growth spurts like MeFi's been going through lately pump a whole lot of new voices into the mix, and until it settles down to the point where we can get a grasp on who each other are - and it will plateau eventually - the sense of community (defined for my purposes as a group of people who know and care about each other) gets lost.

What happens then is that sub-communities start to form, and that's happening here on MeFi, too. The talk about the A-list is part of that, though "they" were already a community (people like Derek Powazek and Jeffrey Zeldman have known each other for years, of course there's going to be some in-jokes we don't know about) before MeFi came around.

Sub-communities will form, here at least, in the threads that address topics they enjoy. The political threads will often have many of the same posters (tiaka, johnb, sudama come to mind as a few politically active people, rcb, zeldman, megnut, mathowie regarding weblog community threads for instance) discussing the same genre because it interests them.

Is there a way to make over 2000 people all feel like we're all members of the same community? I doubt it, at least not in the "group of friends in a dark, smokey bar talkin' 'bout shit" sense of community. But sub-communities under the MeFi umbrella (and I don't mean multiple MeFis, I mean thread genres [as a very, very poor means of classification]) will definetely happen.

Not every thread is going to interest every person, and it shouldn't have to. If you don't find a thread that interests you (generic you, not anyone in particular) and you want to talk with the people at Metafilter, then it's up to you to create a thread and spur on the discussion.

Blame is a poor poor word, and I certainly don't mean to imply anyone's at fault, but I can't think of anything other term. If the genres of threads that you like die out, then who's to blame?
posted by cCranium at 9:15 AM on November 22, 2000

Okay, concrete ideas. Please be merciful and merciless at the same time.

A little background. None of this is noteworthy but it may help explain my biases. I'm an ex-journalist, newspapers and radio. I've been on the Internet since 1992. My current personal site is the inheritor of a tradition I began with a Tripod page some years ago. I own (I think) or administer four domain names. I run two sites now, I retired one in February. One of those sites concerns usage of the English language. I am the mailing list mom for a French-language discussion list concerning Mac OS X. I am a student, a writer, a former editor, a bibliophile, an information pig. Everything below applies to how I currently operate or have operated in the past.

How I pick links:

I assign a negative value if:

I saw it on more than one other site. The story or material is more than a day old. It comes from a major news source (Reuters, AP, AFP, New York Times, Washington Post, Salon, MSNBC, The Onion, others). It comes from another blog, except specialized low-traffic blogs (NASWeblog is a good example). It comes from an un-trusted news source (Fox, World Net Daily, The New York Post, Drudge Report, etc.). It comes from a source with unadulterated bias (The Nation, The Spectator, etc.) It is likely to appear on another high-traffic specialized site (Linux stories likely to appear on Slashdot or Kuro5hin, etc.). It involves too many acronyms. The subject is too-specialized but not interesting enough to be considered appropriately random. There are a lot of unforgivable typos, spelling errors, grammatical errors, words in all capital letters, exclamation marks. Each exclamation mark is a negative point. There are no real sources: no links off site, no bibliography, no sources with complete names, a lot of unnamed "officials" and "experts." It seems like a troll, even one in a professional publication. It is written by or concerns Dvorak, Paglia, Eric S. Raymond, or anyone else that is often and widely quoted elsewhere (this includes most politicians, most movie and rock stars and anyone likely to appear as a guest on Letterman or Leno), excepting when these people comment well outside of their usual expertise or operate outside their usual arenas. I recently linked to this site or person. It uses over-used rhetorical devices, funny-once (see note) or cutesie items: dog and pony show, in a world where, redux, "Enter X.", first of all, Micro$oft, etc. It uses unnecessary curse words (see note). It appeared on Chuck Shepard's News of the Weird or Need To Know. It is a press release, a re-write of a press release or sounds like a press release. It is a too-well-trafficked topic: gun control, abortion, death penalty, open source, black helicopters and aluminum hats, etc. It is composed mostly of non-primary sources (people quoting people, or worse, one side claiming the other side said or did something without the other side being represented in the link). The site is filled with self-references, self-promotion, the phrase "in my book I write" or includes a link to a bookseller so one can "read the rest." The site has more than a reasonable number of ads. There are too many links to Amazon. A music file plays when you visit the site.

I also usually prefer not to include links about interface design, the nature of weblogging or anything from or about Jorn Barger.

I assign a positive value if: It concerns something I read offline recently. It has heart. It's really funny. It's titillating but not obscene (yeah, I know, your mileage may vary). It makes me feel stupid because it's way over my head or it's something I should have already known but it passed me by. It's outside my usual surfing habits. It has an .edu, .org or foreign root-level domain. It reveals an appalling, obvious injustice that does not take political sides. I found it through a malformed search request. The source is consistently good. It's a first-person perspective but it doesn't wallow in ego or first-person pronouns I, me, mine, my. The writing is very, very good or maybe I've never seen it put quite so well before. It's a new kid or talent looking for a break who is well-deserving of a little attention but spends no time on self-promotion. It's an honest-to-God scoop: I am the first person to write the story or discover the fact, not the first person to link to the scoop elsewhere.

As you can see, a link is more likely to get eliminated than it is to get added.

What is a necessary curse word? Answer: the sentence or paragraph would fall apart without it as it takes on a necessary grammatical function (see Jesse Sheidlower's book "F-Word" and the follow-up volume for an idea on this subject). In a well-written article, obscenities used as insults, interjections or as adjectives (an exception to the above answer) can usually be deleted without harming the work. This applies to comments in discussion forums as well.

Regarding: asterisking (f**k) or Dagwooding (@#$!): If you can do without the actual word itself, then you can do without the self-bowdlerizing as well.

For a good understanding of "funny-once" items, read "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress."

Before posting, if I like the topic but I'm not in love with the link, I look for better information on the topic. If the article is a wire story, I try to find it on the originating site (which sometimes allows you to get pictures, sidebars and follow-ups that may not appear elsewhere).

To make sure the link is kind of rare, I save the link until I've finished my surfing session. I think twice about it and I look for identical links on blogs elsewhere. I post it if I don't see it and still like it. Less than half make it to the posting stage.

I am fully aware that many of my own articles would fail to meet the above criteria in order to qualify as viable links.

Why and how I make comments:

I only make comments if: my idea has not already been expressed (maybe even if previously expressed poorly), I would like to emphasize a previous poster's intelligent remark, I have new information, I have good links, I think another poster is out of line (see note).

I do not make comments in order to drive traffic to my own site (see note), to always have something to say, to create an online identity for myself, to shoot down people who made comments I didn't like in another forum or on another topic. I do not make comments to hurt, maim or kill.

What makes another poster out of line? Answer: an out-of-line poster is one whose main action seems to diminish others, spew rhetoric, or willfully and knowingly misunderstand comments or intent of another poster. This kind of behavior is best handled with irony and wit rather than a red-hot-burning keyboard. I sometimes fail at the wit and irony.

A variation on the out-of-line poster is the one who thinks levity is always called for. I don't believe that. If it feels like levity is called for though everyone else is discussing seriously, then that's a great sign that you might want to keep it to yourself. I've had some good laughs on Metafilter and they're almost always caused by a well-written, well-placed comment. We've got some clever people here who know that high-volume and high-quantity do not equal big funny. Curse words do not make anything funnier.

Why do I think some people make comments to drive traffic to their sites? Because I get a bit of traffic from Metafilter myself from people checking my user ID. A troll is a troll is a troll, and as spam proves, some people think the scatter-shot method is a good way to promote themselves. The interesting thing is that these sort of folks generally have shoddy, amateurish web sites filled with detritus and crap everybody else thought, saw or read a long time ago.

I sometimes spend a fair amount of time composing a discussion comment only to not post it or to save it to my hard drive. Like the links, I'd say less than half of my initial urges to post a comment actually result in one.


This is how I do it. It's not a mandate, recommendation, order, command, advisory and maybe not a how-to. It's not complete, that's for sure.

What it illustrates, in probably too many words, is what I believe about the Internet:

First, the best weblogs are kept by people with good discretion, careful work habits and appropriate self-control.

Second, the Internet needs nothing more than a good editor with a blue pencil. Webloggers can be that editor.

posted by Mo Nickels at 11:44 AM on November 22, 2000 [4 favorites]

Wow, Mo, that's an excellent post, thanks. That's a far greater analysis of your thread and comment posting habits than I could possibly make about my own. Definetely gives me something to think about.

To answer lagado directly (which I didn't mean not to do in my last post) I'm going to dig through threads I've posted in. It's the easiest way to find old ones I enjoyed. :-)

here is an example of something I felt was a magnificent thread.

this thread is probably the first (and last) I've ever seen on how users perceive the status bar. It really opened my eyes to the fact that different people use the web in different ways then myself. It also includes some funny posts, some off-topic banter. Up until just past the middle when the flamage started it was a very good thread. It also demonstrates an aspect of community. When Yarf attacked Zeldman, *BOOMPF* people were being comparitively civil in their bashing of him/her.

And then there's the conversations about trivial things, like saying hello in the morning.

Heh. I've just spent far too much time wading through the MetaFilter archives, and I'm no where near done listing every interesting conversation/good thread we've had on MeFi. Which is probably why we all like it so much.

Anyway, the above are just a few examples of why I like MeFi, and what I think MeFi's about: Everything that interests me, and stuff I never knew did.

(oh, and as an aside, I love it when people call me cC. That's the exact abbreviation of my nick I prefer. It gives me happy fuzzy warm feelings, and I have no idea why.)
posted by cCranium at 2:17 PM on November 22, 2000

And, of course, the best thing to come of this thread is Mo's Law of Poorly-Timed Levity, now a MetaFilter tradition. :-)

I just want people to remember Mo's Corollary Law of Poorly-Timed Seriousity.

Has anyone else been much happier with MetaFilter over the past week or so? With the election fooforaw fading into "Oh, that's still happening?" there's been a lot of enjoyable threads, and some really good links, too.

posted by cCranium at 4:57 AM on November 24, 2000

mathowie writes: One such paper talked about the classic growth stages, and I think metafilter, like every other community has followed it (I can't find a link to it right now).

I don't know if this what you were looking for -- it's about mailing lists, but a lot of same ideas seem to apply:

The Natural Life Cycle Of Mailing Lists
posted by webmutant at 8:47 PM on November 25, 2000

yep, that's the one I was looking for.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:11 PM on November 27, 2000

So if everyone checks out that mailing list cycle, you can see this thread is openly discussing how we're at stage 5.
5). Discomfort with diversity (the number of messages increases dramatically; not every thread is fascinating to every reader; people start complaining about the signal-to-noise ratio; person 1 threatens to quit if *other* people don't limit discussion to person 1's pet topic; person 2 agrees with person 1; person 3 tells 1 & 2 to lighten up; more bandwidth is wasted complaining about off-topic threads than is used for the threads themselves; everyone gets annoyed).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:14 PM on November 27, 2000

I think we're rapidly approaching 6.2: maturity. This discussion's waned somewhat as the political threads have calmed down, allowing other topics to get some play. Also, I've seen waves of "MeFi: Noise more than signal?" threads pop up occasionally, then wade down.

I think it's helped that most people have now already been a part of at least one online community, so they're able to run with the life cycle a little bit. Sit back and say "Okay, it's pretty mellow at this point, there'll be something that catches my eye in a few days, or a week or something."

Also, it's hard to keep up actively participating in every thread of a community. After you've been around and you know most of the regulars ("Norm!") you're able to sit back as other voices defend your view point. More people mean more people that will have the same viewpoint as you, and possibly able to better express it.

I know I partake in waves of lurk/post far too much/lurk/repeat, especially as my deadlines at work ebb and crest also. (Usually it's an inverse proportion. :-)
posted by cCranium at 4:53 PM on November 27, 2000

I can also get specific: I HATE it when someone uses MeFi to accuse another user an etiquette transgression. I hate it even more when several MeFi users gang up on a transgressor. Probably I'm in a minority here (at least among those who speak up), but I hate the accusers MORE than the transgressors. That's right, I don't like it when people link to their own sites, but I would rather see someone do that than see someone flame someone else because they did that.

Once before, I came up with a solution for this problem. I'll post it again:

(1) someone (Matt? Matt & company?) becomes a moderator.

(2) anyone who sees a rule transgression is welcome to inform the moderator via email.

(3) the moderator (if he wishes) can then take action (deleting the post, posting an admonishing reply, kicking the poster off MeFi, etc.)

(4) publicly accusing someone (rather than emailing the moderator) would be considered a transgression.

If this plan went into place, we'd have no flame wars. People who posted nonsense would be dealt with by the moderator. If someone linked to their own site, the moderator might remove the post. Or, the post would remain and get no replies (or only non-flame replies, which hopefully would be interesting).

If you get rid of the flaming and insulting and accusing, you might be left with some interesting content.

Perhaps my solution is unworkable. If so, I hope my point doesn't get lost in the details. What sort of posts do we want on MeFi? Interesting ones! What's interesting? Well, that depends on who you are and what you like. We're not all the same (see my note, below). But hopefully none of us enjoys nasty accusatory posts.

(Or am I wrong? Do some of you enjoy the fray? Do you like insult slinging? Do you like seeing people get hurt? I hope not.)


(NOTE: I find it interesting that cC finds taskbars more interesting than social customs. No offense to cC intended, but he and I are obviously very different. (I posted the "hello in the morning" thread.) My feelings are the exact opposite of his.)
posted by grumblebee at 10:20 AM on December 6, 2000

I hate the accusers MORE than the transgressors. That's right, I don't like it when people link to their own sites, but I would rather see someone do that than see someone flame someone else because they did that.

Hear, hear! Though I don't know if having a moderator is the best strategy. When I see a simple mistake (double post, bad link, etc.), I usually try to contact the person making the mistake so that it can be remedied, or at least acknowledged on MeFi so as to prevent someone else from making the mistake public. However, when it comes to making judgement calls such as determining whether a thread has gone aflame or is merely a heated discussion, I am unsure if a moderator will be able to tell the difference. I would rather trust the ability of MeFilistines to police themselves rather than rely on artifice to create socially acceptible boundaries. To me, the presence of a moderator cries out, "You are not trusted to act civily; we are watching you!" MeFi, compared to other online forums, has been civil, and in my opinion, it is because most of us hold ourselves to a higher standard.

By the bye, my read was that cC found both topics interesting. I sure did.
posted by Avogadro at 11:53 AM on December 6, 2000

grumblebee, there was certainly no offense taken, and it's the differences between (the communal, not the you-and-me) us that make things here interesting.

I'm of two minds about moderation. I don't think it would hurt, but I think some clearly defined rules would alleviate many of the problems grumblebee mentioned.

(differing again, sorry. :-)

The way I understand general acceptance of self-linking is in the original link, it's a definite no-no. In the thread body, it's acceptable if the link obviously adds to conversation (ie, "I did some research about this topic, and have a bunch of links here you can check out ")

Link length could be enforced by restricting the size of the intial link text textarea, and stating what that length is.

I do agree that there shouldn't be conversation about the appropriatness of a post, a post's length, or anything else that belongs here in Metatalk. Perhaps moderators could be used to move posts to Metatalk, but from a technological standpoint, it's probably an icky thing to implement.

I also agree that getting rid of the flamage and accusatory tones that creep in will improve the signal to noise ratio.

If it's made clear in the guidelines that Matt and only Matt (or a moderator, should that be the chosen route) is permitted to comment on the validity of link or thread posts, then people will stop doing it. Metafilter currently takes a lot from the Usenet community-enforced-rules book, so the community tries to enforce them.

From what I understand, MeFi's design doesn't really allow for multiple moderators, and it'd be a pain in the ass to implement, so it'd likely be almost completely up to Matt, and we pester him with lots of stuff already.

Neither Matt actively moderating moreso than he does now, nor multiple moderators are, I fear, a feasible short-term solution. Updating the posting guidelines just may cut back on the more blatant transgressions, and all that needs to change is a bit of text.
posted by cCranium at 11:59 AM on December 6, 2000

I pretty much agree with everything you wrote, cC.

A simpler version of my system would be to just make a rule against flaming and accusation. If you have a beef with someone, email them about it. Otherwise respond with silence.

People who post flames and accusations would then be violating the rules, and we could tell them so--via email, of course.

I DO think people should be allowed to openly discuss problem threads here in MetaTalk. After all, complaining that a thread is too long or self-linking IS MetaTalk.
posted by grumblebee at 12:37 PM on December 6, 2000

I nominate DoublePostGuy as the official transgression notifier. The only mandate being that the Guy has to continue the Haiku trend, and can't use the same one twice. :-)
posted by cCranium at 6:00 AM on December 7, 2000

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