Profile Visibility Preferences January 18, 2016 9:47 AM   Subscribe

A proposal for changing the public visibility of certain profile information.

What is the proposal?
Add the option for users to make the Contributions and Social sections of the profile page visible only to members.


What isn’t the proposal?
Hiding individual comments or posts, deleting your history, having no public profile page, or any of the things mentioned by Cortex in this comment.


What would a nonmember see when looking at a profile page?
Current view when logged out
Proposed view when logged out (for a user that chooses this privacy preference)
The logged in view would not change


Why would someone want their contribution and social information visible only to members?
People - particularly women - who write about or comment on social justice topics (or really, anything) are increasingly subject to harassment and threats. In addition, some users have personal circumstances - harassers, stalkers, abusive exes or family members, etc. - that mean they may benefit from having additional roadblocks to someone compiling their information. A random comment on a thread about, e.g., street harassment, sexism in the workplace, abortion, child support, or really any topic could be pulled out of context and highlighted by a Buzzfeed-esque site, a subreddit, or any random individual or group. Anyone who then takes issue with the comment can currently click through to the user’s profile and see all comments they’ve made and, in many cases, determine their real identity from that information. A small speedbump in that process would be helpful. Privacy through obscurity. This issue arose via this recent MeTa.


This is a public site, people who don’t want to be found shouldn’t post anything personally-identifying, right?
I imagine this will be discussed below. A lot of comments are not personally-identifying in isolation, but are identifying when aggregated with the user’s other contributions. Since someone’s credentials or personal story are often essential to a comment -- particularly on the green -- expecting members to never share those details diminishes the quality of the site’s content.


But if someone wants to mine a user’s comment history for information, can’t they just [pay $5, Google it, figure out the link, etc.]? Won’t this make people feel artificially safer than they are?
In the interest of facilitating a productive discussion, let’s assume that users are familiar with how the Internet works. It’s not a perfect solution, but small roadblocks, like the $5 fee, stop a lot of would-be trolls/spammers/harassers. Like with the other visibility preferences, users will be aware that the information is visible to logged-in members.


Can’t people just create a sockpuppet for personal stuff?
Unless a user creates multiple sockpuppets for each aspect of their persona, this seems unworkable to me. That is, answers-cat-questions-sock, answers-[profession]-questions-sock, comments-on-politics-sock, relationshipfilter-sock, comments-on-abortion-sock, identifies-as-a-woman-sock. This would, in my opinion, be similar to the Reddit throwaway model and not really “what we do here.” Also, that’s a lot of $5s.


What if I don’t have these privacy concerns and/or I want my information to remain public?
This is proposed as an optional feature. Folks who want some, but not all, of their contribution history hidden, could opt-in and then link to specific comments or their post history or favorites in the freeform About section.


This doesn’t solve all of my privacy concerns; why isn’t your solution better?
This is a single feature; a starting point that provides a minimal layer of privacy through obscurity with minimal impacts to the site ethos.


Haven’t we discussed this before?

See these related previous MeTas:
announcement: non-logged in users can no longer see contact info. (2002)
I have a question about personal info privacy concerns on MeFi (2006)
All about sockpuppets, privacy accounts, Brand New Day, and other multiple-mefi account things (2012)
Doxxing Policy (2012)
Member websites, members only? (2013)
How to make profile photo/info unfindable to an internet search engine? (2014)


What is different now?
The internet is changing. Doxxing, swatting, rape and death threats, and threatening people’s children are becoming more commonplace. Metafilter has made great strides in becoming less of a boyzone, but women (and other marginalized groups) are increasingly at risk of harm for merely existing on the internet. We should attempt to balance the site’s public nature with the reality of being a woman on the internet in 2016. Again, some background can be found in this recent MeTa.
posted by melissasaurus to Feature Requests at 9:47 AM (370 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite

Just want to toss in a quick thank you to melissasaurus for putting this together and chatting a bit about it last week; this is a pretty good roundup of some of the stuff that has come up in the past when discussing the pros and cons of obscuring information a bit on an otherwise public site.

I'm comfortable with the basic proposal here, and I'm curious to get more thoughts or feedback on that from folks in the community, and talk out any other related ideas that this touches on or that are carrying over from the the tail end of the big discussion we had last week. The post links to this comment of mine from that previous recent thread and I'll highlight it again since it may cover some of the ideas that may come up here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:52 AM on January 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


Anyone who then takes issue with the comment can currently click through to the user’s profile and see all comments they’ve made and, in many cases, determine their real identity from that information.

I would say to the people who object to privacy changes based on possible privacy violations being future, hypothetical possibilities: these things are happening.

Information gleaned from MetaFilter profiles has, in the past, been compiled and used as part of doxxing/harassment packages targeting those users across social media services.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:53 AM on January 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


Is there a reason the "about" section would have to stay visible under this change?
posted by mittens at 9:56 AM on January 18, 2016


I am firmly in favor of this. I understand all the arguments about how this is false security, and it's ok if you think that. You would not need to use this feature. I would prefer a barrier to entry, as I am aware that sometimes all it takes is a little discouragement or hassle to dissuade someone. I would prefer to have this option.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:03 AM on January 18, 2016 [19 favorites]


Is there a reason the "about" section would have to stay visible under this change?

The About section (and the photo, full name, website, and join date fields)—in other words the stuff currently in the "Personal Info" block on user Preferences—is stuff that I feel pretty strongly about keeping as the standard bare minimum of the profile page.

With the exception of the join date, that's all stuff that's optional and free-form, so a user with privacy concerns about any of it has the option of putting something figurative or silly or otherwise non-identifying in there, or eliding it entirely, and taking that approach has been and remains my suggestion where there's privacy concerns at play.

Not so with the Contributions and Social blocks at this point; a user has no control over those currently, and can't choose to elide them other than by outright declining to have ever participated on the site in the first place. So as something to add an optional members-only switch for, that's something I can accept an argument for a change on, to add some user control where there hasn't been any before.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:06 AM on January 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


I am in favor of this idea. I don't have any personal concerns with how it's done now, but since Cortex seems comfortable with the technical issues involved I see this is a win for those who want / need it, and a non-issue for those of us who have never thought about it before.

I will add one question though. Why do we need any part of the profile public? If we are going this far, can we just make the entire profile members only content and be done with it?
posted by COD at 10:07 AM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is a fantastic pony. 100% in agreement.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:08 AM on January 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


Why do we need any part of the profile public? If we are going this far, can we just make the entire profile members only content and be done with it?

I feel strongly about maintaining the basic principle that MetaFilter has public-facing profile pages, even if any given user chooses to aggressively minimize the public-facing content on it. It's part of MetaFilter's structure and identity, and creates a basic consistency in the UI even if the available content of profile pages may vary significantly.

Anyone who needs to literally not have it know that they're on MetaFilter, to the point where they'd need to not have an even minimal public profile show up, is in need of more privacy than MetaFilter is able to provide.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:11 AM on January 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


"The About section (and the photo, full name, website, and join date fields)—in other words the stuff currently in the 'Personal Info' block on user Preferences—is stuff that I feel pretty strongly about keeping as the standard bare minimum of the profile page."

I don't understand this at all. Your position means that for the most identifying information, mefites will only have the current choice -- either expose it to everyone or no one. But the less identifying information, the contributions, which requires a motivated sleuther to glean info anyway, is the section you want to obscure. This seems exactly backwards to me.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:11 AM on January 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's less about the information itself than how directly the user controls the information, IF. If you think about it as showing the user-editable stuff and not showing the stuff that aggregates on its own, it makes sense.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:15 AM on January 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm in favor of this pony. It's a small obstacle to doxxers but it's good to throw one more thing in their way.
posted by immlass at 10:17 AM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't understand this at all. Your position means that for the most identifying information, mefites will only have the current choice -- either expose it to everyone or no one.

I talk at a bit of length, in the comment of mine that's linked in the post and which I reiterated in my first comment here, about setting expectations as part of how we can deal with the problem of privacy and especially imperfect or porous "privacy" in the future, and that's what ties into this:

Making stuff member's only is a shallow speedbump. It will slow someone down a little bit, and for a lot of someones that may be enough to make them stop caring. But it's still shallow. It's still very, very permeable. For five bucks and some elbow grease a person can look at every bit of members-only profile info they want.

So: if having your full name be easy to retrieve by a rando on the internet is a major privacy concern, you need to not list it on your profile page. Likewise personal photos, or lengthy/identifying biographic info or links to other places on the web. If it's a serious privacy or security or safety concern, making it members only is a paper-thin barrier and should not be thought of as any more than that. That's why those fields aren't mandatory, or content-enforced; it's also why we don't propose to treat them as "private" by offering a far-too-insufficient toggle on them.

The less sensitive stuff is precisely the stuff where having a bit of a speedbump, even an imperfect one, is less of a problem. If it makes a user a little more comfortable to know that lazy randos won't get a jump start, great! It won't solve anything fundamental since, as you say, a dedicated sleuth can still find the stuff, but it's a compromise that some folks may like to be able to employ.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:18 AM on January 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


I too am a big fan of the 'small obstacle' concept. The only complaints I can think of would be from people not wanting to pay $5 to see others info/join/comment/etc.; and from 'all info should be free' folk; in which case they can put all the info they want into the non-member view part of their profile.
posted by buzzman at 10:21 AM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm generally in favor of this, but I wonder if, as an alternative, it would it be possible to just set field-level visibility options on every field, so each individual user can select what is hidden and what is visible to someone who isn't logged in?

Maybe people want their MetaFilter posts to be visible, but not their AskMe questions. Or their comments, but not their submissions, etc.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:22 AM on January 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I like this.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:22 AM on January 18, 2016


I'm generally in favor of this, but I wonder if, as an alternative, it would it be possible to just set field-level visibility options on every field, so each individual user can select what is hidden and what is visible to someone who isn't logged in?

That would be super fiddly, both for us to implement and for users to navigate on the Preferences page, so I'm not inclined to go in that direction, though I follow you on the motivation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:24 AM on January 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


and from 'all info should be free' folk; in which case they can put all the info they want into the non-member view part of their profile.

They won't even need to do that! The proposal is to provide the option of hiding the Contributions and Social sections on one's profile, not to make that compulsory.

I am totally on board with this pony.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:25 AM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't think of any reason to oppose this.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:28 AM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm in favour - my only issue is that it would disqualify MeFi from being it it's own SocialStuffs section - basically, to have a site accepted it can't have what is being asked - hide most of the profile from non-logged in users. That looks a bit hypocritical to me, although that's something that everyone can live with.

The question is about the implementation. I'm with NotMyselfRightNow, even if it's hard to pull.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:30 AM on January 18, 2016


I am strongly in favor of this. I get the false security arguments that people are making, but I basically structure my internet use around the idea of small roadblocks and calculated risks anyway. Especially if it would not be a major technological burden to the mods, I would very much like it if this was the case.
posted by sciatrix at 10:30 AM on January 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


I am interested in hearing all arguments because that's what we do here and I think that's what we should do here, but that this feature is optional and will provide an additional level of security to those who feel they need it to continue to contribute here safely makes the green light (from a community-building rather than a technical implementation perspective) seem like the only option.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:32 AM on January 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


To be clear: am I correct in understanding that this behavior is opt-in? That is, that behavior will remain identical, with Contributions and Social displayed, for current and future new users, until they take positive action to change this preference?
posted by 7segment at 10:36 AM on January 18, 2016


Both of my thumbs are up for this one.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:36 AM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


To be clear: am I correct in understanding that this behavior is opt-in? That is, that behavior will remain identical, with Contributions and Social displayed, for current and future new users, until they take positive action to change this preference?

Correct. Default profile visibility will not change, but users who want to hide those on their own page will have the option to so so.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:38 AM on January 18, 2016


I can't think of any reason to oppose this.

As someone who posts using his real name, I vigorously agree that PB should drop whatever he's holding right now and get to work on this immediately. Unless he's holding heavy, then by all means, be careful of your feet.

But yes, this feature, as described here, would remain optional for everyone. One could use it or not as they see fit, along with the ability to change their mind at any point in time and not have to get anyone's approval to do so.

Suggestions:
I propose that the specific date a user joined not be visible in the proposed logged out view. Either take it off completely or simply list the year. The rational is that this is system level info that a user can not change (unlike the full name field) and as such is of no importance to non-logged in users. I'm thinking of a stalker being able to pinpoint a user by their specific join date and yeah, fuck that. In fact, I'd say take off the name field for logged out viewers also. Just leave the Blurb info and make it explicit that this information is visible to nonlogged in viewers. Then, if we really want to get fancy, have Blurb fields for logged and non-logged in viewers.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:43 AM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I may have missed this, but: How will users learn about this option? Will it be clearly marked out on the edit profile page?
posted by mittens at 10:50 AM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


How will users learn about this option? Will it be clearly marked out on the edit profile page?

It'll be on the Preferences page, yeah; pb's looking at basic implementation stuff in anticipation of this but we'll nail down the details in the next couple of days and then get it up there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:54 AM on January 18, 2016


Like.
posted by Fizz at 10:57 AM on January 18, 2016


I like this idea, would go a bit further and suggest that this should be ON by default for all users. The burden should not be on threatened people to have to figure out how to get the website to protect them, the website should protect everyone by default, and "exhibitionist" users should be the ones who can take the time and energy to find out that they have the option to make more of their profile public.
posted by rustcrumb at 10:57 AM on January 18, 2016 [28 favorites]


How will this work with the infodump (or even targeted searching)? I'm happy that the speedbump of needing a membership is absolutely sufficient, but being able to search username site:metafilter.com seems exactly the kind of thing that gives the doxxer the thrill of the chase, and frankly is as likely to be their first port of call as looking for a user profile page.

But I'm 100% in support of the principle.
posted by ambrosen at 10:58 AM on January 18, 2016


This makes sense to me.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:00 AM on January 18, 2016


yes, I like this proposal!
posted by pointystick at 11:04 AM on January 18, 2016


This pony is a good pony. The amount of harm caused by this feature seems like it would be truly negligible, while the potential good it might do is great. Make it happen, Cap'n.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:04 AM on January 18, 2016


How will this work with the infodump (or even targeted searching)?

It will have no effect on either, and shouldn't be expected to. Stuff posted on the site will remain fundamentally searchable as publicly-indexed content; there's no way to change that without breaking major assumptions about how MetaFilter works.

The Infodump, in any case, is a significantly more roundabout way to search for user-specific content than basic web searching would be, or I'd look harder at whether to reconsider how it works. In practice once you're mucking about with Infodump data you're already quite deep in the weeds.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:04 AM on January 18, 2016


Sounds good. I'll confess I prefer the "login to see this user's profile" option on forums and I don't see a compelling argument posted here against it (sorry, Cortex) but I understand that Metafilter's mores are what they are. So I think the idea of restricting what we can restrict is good. (And obviously I've taken the existing route of just making my profile nonsense).
posted by selfnoise at 11:08 AM on January 18, 2016


Honestly, I didn't realize that profile pages were visible without login until people started talking about it in that thread. I just assumed they were hidden like on many other forums, as selfnoise points out. So while it may be a Metafilter custom to maintain a certain level of public profile visibility, it's also news to me and I've been here a while. Could the profile edit page have a message noting what fields are visible to non-members (say, on the Personal Info section since that's going to remain visible and isn't clearly marked as optional), the same as there is a note saying that non-members will never see one's email regardless of member visibility?
posted by Errant at 11:15 AM on January 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think this is an extremely well-written proposal/pony (thanks, melissasaurus!) and I am fully in support of it and would use it myself. My preference is to lock down social media as much as possible within the constraints of the service and, insofar as MetaFilter can be conflated with social media, I would like to do that with my profile here.
posted by librarylis at 11:17 AM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I like this pony very much. I will feed it sugar cubes and braid its tail.

A++ let's do this thing.
posted by cooker girl at 11:17 AM on January 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


i have a problem with this, but it's a bit of a weird one, so i'll try to explain it clearly.

my problem is something that first struck me in the recent EL thread. it is related to "but the internet is public", so apologies in advance. but it's kind-of the opposite take on that: i am not saying "the internet is public so don't be silly", but rather "the internet is public and you are over-estimating the security of metafilter" (and this change could make that worse).

in particular, i am worried about two common cognitive biases (although tbh i can only find mention of one on a quick search of wikipedia). the first is that people under-estimate risk in familiar situations. the second is that people tend to take more risks as perceived safety increases.

the first means that, because people are familiar with metafilter, they feel safer here than they should. the second means that making metfilter feel even safer makes people take even more risks.

so i am worried that (1) people are already posting too much information here and (2) that this change will encourage them to post more. under the guise of protecting people, it will actually encourage people at risk to place themselves in more danger.

(and so, in this context, the recent EL thread is not so much about "this PDF is going to be seen by the world", but rather "suddenly seeing existing information is in a new, foreign context, i now see how truly dangerous it is").

one response to this is that i am not respecting people who are making their own, difficult decisions about what to post. this is why i didn't mention this earlier, and why i am donning my flame-proof underpants now. all i can say in my defense is that cognitive biases are real and we all suffer from them, and that with this change, which runs the risk of making things worse, i felt it best to speak out, if just once.
posted by andrewcooke at 11:17 AM on January 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


The "Info" and "About" sections should be included in this.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:20 AM on January 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I would be deeply grateful for this.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:34 AM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I would go even further and suggest that most fields could have a "don't show to people I haven't linked to specifically" option in addition to logged in or not. But I also remember when all of us were Atrios.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:34 AM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


In the interest of facilitating a productive discussion, let’s assume that users are familiar with how the Internet works.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2016 [17 favorites]


Hear, hear. The instant visibility of my entire posting history to all and sundry has always made me feel a little uncomfortable. Thank you, melissasaurus, for voicing this concern and putting together a good proposal.

Wrt the actual safety value of this in the face of creeps: I can think of scenarios where a speedbump could make all the difference. Many harassers are lazy, or drunk, or their emotions cool down after a while. This could be a simple way to prevent something nasty but spur-of-the-moment.

I'm happy it's getting traction here. The community obviously cares.
posted by sively at 11:39 AM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Another vote strongly in favor.
posted by spitbull at 11:50 AM on January 18, 2016


I agree as well.
posted by dhruva at 11:51 AM on January 18, 2016


I also think that the 'search' field should allow only logged in members to search for users' comments.
posted by dhruva at 11:58 AM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


This sounds great.
posted by Adridne at 12:02 PM on January 18, 2016


Oddly, the "Contributions" hurdle would be easily surmountable by a Google search while an "Info"/"About" hurdle would pretty much require someone actually ponying up the $5 and joining. How does it make sense that this proposal includes the former but excludes the latter?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:03 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is a great pony! I would love to have this option. Thanks to melissasaurus for this comprehensive and well laid out MeTa and to the mods for being receptive to this idea.
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:07 PM on January 18, 2016


Given that you can control the information displayed in the "About" and "Info" sections (with the exception of your "join" date), I think leaving them displayed is the right choice.
posted by dotgirl at 12:08 PM on January 18, 2016


I like it. Please may we have it?

(I also want an edit function for my, retrospectively obviously idiotic, contributions so I can actually attribute them to someone else....)
posted by taff at 12:10 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I also think that the 'search' field should allow only logged in members to search for users' comments.

That's how it works now. Only members can use the activity search.
posted by pb (staff) at 12:10 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Given that you can control the information displayed in the "About" and "Info" sections (with the exception of your "join" date), I think leaving them displayed is the right choice.

Right, but there is a subset of people who would like this information available only to other members. So should they shoehorn this info into the other fields?
posted by selfnoise at 12:14 PM on January 18, 2016


Another vote in favor. Thanks, melissasaurus and all the mods for this.
posted by thetortoise at 12:16 PM on January 18, 2016


"Given that you can control the information displayed in the 'About' and 'Info' sections (with the exception of your 'join' date), I think leaving them displayed is the right choice."

All of the stuff that's included in the "optional fields" of the profile settings page -- location, occupation, gender, relationship status, IM, social networking -- is also entirely under the user's control and yet it's explicitly made invisible to non-members. We don't even have a choice about that.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:18 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


i love this a lot. if it does in fact get implemented i think perhaps there should probably be a banner announcement on how to make the change in our profile, as per many other site notifications, maybe? idk? i feel like it would be helpful but i'm sure there is a way it could be terrible as well

this is confused migraine ambivalence sorry
posted by poffin boffin at 12:19 PM on January 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is good, and I second poffin boffin's suggestion about a banner announcement.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I support this pony, a lot, but I'd like to suggest an add-on pygmy goat: ability to hide location from even logged-in users. I consider my location a much more private piece of information than pretty much anything else that is or might be in my profile. My location is what would let someone mail me a dead rat, or SWAT me. But here's the thing: because Mefi uses location settings to notify me about IRL events, I have put a relatively specific location into my Mefi profile when I would pretty much never provide that exact a location on other websites. I've been cyber-stalked. I have no interest in experiencing that again. However, I also am very interested in getting IRL alerts, and right now the only way to do that (that I know of) is to provide a location in my profile. For public viewing. Right now I solve for that by slightly obfuscating my location at a level that doesn't interfere too much with IRL alerts, but it's still super-uncomfortable for me to have the info hanging out there.

Assuming I want IRL alerts, I have no option to not show my exact(ish) (for some people, literally "exact", by GPS coordinates) location information - that I only want to use for IRL notifications - to all and sundry. Even the ability to make it logged-in-users-only doesn't make me entirely comfortable, because I don't want anyone who just wanders to my profile to have that exact a fix on my location. I'm ok with the mods having it - hell, they have my credit card info too - and I'm ok with whatever bots sends out IRL alerts using it, but that's it. I would really, really like one of two things to happen:

1. Ability to hide location from profile, even from logged-in users (you could give us levels of hiding to choose from, perhaps, since obviously not everyone is as paranoid as me).
2. Ability to set "Mefi IRL location" as a private system preference, completely separate from any user-profile location info I choose to provide or not provide.
posted by Hold your seahorses at 12:43 PM on January 18, 2016 [56 favorites]


Strongly agree with this proposal.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:45 PM on January 18, 2016


Also, I agree about the location being an issue.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:46 PM on January 18, 2016


I strongly agree with this proposal's goals, requests, and what's been said so far about implementation.
posted by kalessin at 12:46 PM on January 18, 2016


Great post, Melissasaurus. Thank you for writing it.

I was wondering, given the title of the Meta, whether it's thought that discussion here should be limited to this feature, or whether some of the issues cortex mentioned in the other thread (linked to above), and the larger question of balancing intimacy/community with the new internet & its risks might be ok to talk about, once the feature discussions is hashed out.

Which, for the record
- completely in favour of the idea
- wonder why it's opt-in; I don't know MF's demographics but suspect at least half its membership might be vulnerable
- appreciate it for its speed-bumpiness & (I think mostly) uncontroversial nature, yet share andrew cooke's concern about our cognitive biases and wonder what if anything we could/should do or say about that.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:51 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


yes! I like this!
posted by sweetkid at 12:52 PM on January 18, 2016


Sounds good!
posted by minsies at 1:01 PM on January 18, 2016


I could have sworn I wrote "discussion", dang, tired, sorry
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:02 PM on January 18, 2016


i think perhaps there should probably be a banner announcement on how to make the change in our profile, as per many other site notifications, maybe? idk?

Yeah, I've been mulling that. Given that the change is about privacy stuff there's definitely that moment of "uh, wait, do we shout about this?" but since it's not about any specific user's privacy situation that's probably not an issue in this case. But I share your note of ambivalence.

Default approach would be a sidebar rather than a top banner as a somewhat less invasive but still more-visible-than-just-a-metatalk-post approach, but we'll chew on it in any case.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:05 PM on January 18, 2016


I support this pony, a lot, but I'd like to suggest an add-on pygmy goat: ability to hide location from even logged-in users.

This is something I've been thinking about doing, actually! More or less independent of and earlier than the recent discussion that this is coming from, but it falls in the same territory. It's really handy for users and for the site to be able to use location info (IRL stuff, in particular) but there's not a real big reason for that to need to be public to members on profile page. So something in the way of an option to choose between the current members-only view and private view seems like a good possibility there, and we'll look at it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:07 PM on January 18, 2016 [25 favorites]


wonder why it's opt-in; I don't know MF's demographics but suspect at least half its membership might be vulnerable

Opt-in because the current option is a very long-standing part of MeFi's profile page identity and because (per my comments in the previous thread) this is something intended as an option for folks who are making an active risk-assessment decision, not something that we're declaring is actively necessary for the safety of users in general.

It'll be very easy to turn on, but it's something someone should be making an informed decision to turn on, rather than something that should blindside tens of thousands of users who aren't concerned about this specifically.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:11 PM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, plenty of users don't know PDFgate even happened.
posted by sweetkid at 1:25 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


i would throw a parade for this pony.
posted by nadawi at 1:26 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


plenty of users don't know PDFgate even happened.

Yeah, I read MetaTalk pretty regularly, but I was out of town when that whole thing went down, so I'm only just now reading that thread.

Also, I'll second that I would like the option to hide the super specific location thing while still being able to receive IRL alerts.

Default approach would be a sidebar rather than a top banner as a somewhat less invasive but still more-visible-than-just-a-metatalk-post approach, but we'll chew on it in any case.

Is there a relatively easy way to make a banner that's only visible to logged in users? Maybe that's not logistically feasible, but it seems like it could get around the concern about over publicizing a privacy feature.
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


In favor. Actually, having a third set for people you've linked to/approved makes lots of sense too.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:34 PM on January 18, 2016


Banner, or just MeMail everybody.
posted by notyou at 1:34 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


In favor. No real reason not to.
posted by Splunge at 1:39 PM on January 18, 2016


I like it. I would like it better if the whole profile page were blank to anyone who is not logged in, but apparently that's off the table.

What no one has suggested (and i'm guessing Cortex will shoot down) is the possiblity of having a waiting period on new accounts viewing info, much like there's a waiting period on posting AskMes. So if someone did join just to see profile information, they would hopefully get distracted by some new internet outrage and forget about it by the time the week is up.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:42 PM on January 18, 2016 [11 favorites]



I support this pony, a lot, but I'd like to suggest an add-on pygmy goat: ability to hide location from even logged-in users.


I like both of these ideas. I've benefited a lot from having my personal information available and will probably keep it that way but if this is something that people want, I can really see a benefit of saying something like "I want to know about meetups but I'd prefer not having my profile information linkable for the purposes of AskMe questions or anything but meetups"
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:46 PM on January 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


Great post melissasaurus, thanks, and I'm 100% in favour. I'd also support hiding location, at least from non-members. I have mine there because I live in hope of a close-enough meetup and also because it saves some "I'm not in the US" time on the green, but I also live somewhere very small with few other MeFites so it feels like a fairly significant possible identifier.
posted by billiebee at 1:57 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


100% yes.
posted by naju at 1:58 PM on January 18, 2016


sweetkid: "Yeah, plenty of users don't know PDFgate even happened."

I didn't, and I usually pay attention to MeTa.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:14 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Enthusiastically agree, especially location.
posted by corb at 2:22 PM on January 18, 2016


Absolutely in favor.
posted by wintersweet at 2:23 PM on January 18, 2016


I really really really like this idea. I've been worrying more and more about stuff like this and would love this extra wee layer.
posted by ukdanae at 2:23 PM on January 18, 2016


This is proposed as an optional feature.
As long as it's optional, I think it's a fine idea, but how will this affect non-members? Do we have any of their input on this proposal?
posted by FallowKing at 2:27 PM on January 18, 2016


Non-members don't really get a say in this, no. Nothing against them as a cohort—nothing wrong with being a lurker/reader—but they aren't really stakeholders on this particular question.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:29 PM on January 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


Yeah, non-members by definition don't have profiles, so they don't get a vote.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:31 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think this is neat, and I support it. (I'm also ok with hiding location from other users.)

I do not think that sidebar alone is a good way to announce the feature, though, because I don't think it's all that visible.
posted by jeather at 2:34 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I heartily suuport this proposal.

I also support the addendum of having the ability to hide location data.

Thank you OP for the succinct and well laid out post.

I asl think a banner - for logged in members - announcement would probably be best the best way to notify the community.

If it is technically feasible I would also support this addendum:
- A specific time-out period between new members paying thier fee and receiving thier usename, and them being able to access all the hidden profile page info of other members. It wouldnt need to be long , just something like 24 - 72 hours. This migt enhance the 'soft speedbump' effect of deterring trolls from signing up solely to get peoples info.
posted by Faintdreams at 3:04 PM on January 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


Like wearing a hood on a soap box
posted by clavdivs at 3:07 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


^(?)
This is why we should do this. The community should have control, as to access or lack of information as the site allows. Arguments that this does not help with privacy do to other search means is simply something that must have pushback.
posted by clavdivs at 3:14 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is eminently reasonable. Yay for a great suggestion, well-crafted!
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:20 PM on January 18, 2016


One more in favor. It's a small thing, but it seems like a reasonable small thing to do.
posted by brennen at 3:34 PM on January 18, 2016


This seems like a really good idea.

Also, this is hands down the best constructed MeTa I have ever seen. Well done, melissasaurus. You've made a grizzled, cynical privacy lawyer very happy.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:35 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


When these (and some more extreme) ideas came up in the EL meta, I was skeptical, but props on a very well thought out set of proposals and anticipations of counterarguments.

I have no objection at all. Good post, smart framing, thoughtful presentation, good idea all around.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:44 PM on January 18, 2016


yes I said yes let's do this Yes
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:51 PM on January 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


Aye. In favor.
posted by HotToddy at 3:58 PM on January 18, 2016


Totally disagree with this MeTa-proposal, which would inevitably lead to the destruction of our society.

Because ...

Uh ...

Umm ...

Uh ...

Umm ...

So ... Vote #1 quidnunc kid!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 4:12 PM on January 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yes good.
posted by clavicle at 4:14 PM on January 18, 2016


Since reception on this has been quite positive so far, I'd like to hear other suggestions for privacy and reducing dox-ability. Is that appropriate for this thread? I also like the suggestion of a waiting period for members to be able to view profile page info.
posted by thetortoise at 4:22 PM on January 18, 2016


Suggestions are totally fine, yeah, though I'll note that this particular change being an easy go shouldn't be taken as an implication that others will be as well. This one has the benefit of being fairly low impact and having gotten a little discussion ahead of time about practicalities, and I can think of a lot of other well-intentioned ideas that might be good in abstract but not really practical for MetaFilter. Putting that out there in the spirit of setting expectations.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:25 PM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


As said above, I see no reason to oppose this.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:27 PM on January 18, 2016


I support this proposal, and the additional suggestion to have a short waiting period for new members to view hidden profile info.

I also have another suggestion: when adding a user as your contact, include an option to let them see your profile info even if it's blocked to everyone else. This way people can let their own social circle stay up-to-date on what they've been posting, but it would be entirely within their control. Any thoughts?

(A blacklist, where everyone except specific members can see your info, would be not only controversial but also useless, since the blacklisted users can just log out.)
posted by Rangi at 4:32 PM on January 18, 2016


This is a good idea.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:42 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the stuff about "Metafilter's identity". What does freeform profile information have to do with Metafilter's identity? Metafilter's general reputation is "people make great comments", not "people's profiles are particularly entertaining". I see no reason beyond this nebulous "identity" - which only cortex is championing without explaining what he means - to have it be always visible.

Also I vote opt-OUT because there's going to be many members that have left the site (temporarily or permanently) but haven't buttoned who may not want to deal with having to go back to the site to try and finagle privacy information.

Banners are way more obvious than sidebars, especially on mobile. This is just as crucial as the fundraiser, more so than Mefi Mall or December Best Posts, so make it as explicit as possible.
posted by divabat at 4:52 PM on January 18, 2016 [22 favorites]


Also is this the thread to talk about writing a policy addressing people that want to repurpose Mefi comments or should that be a separate thread?
posted by divabat at 4:55 PM on January 18, 2016


Divabat makes a good point about former members. Could users with disabled accounts have those accounts set to private?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:57 PM on January 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


By the way, about locations being set as exact GPS coordinates—you don't have to pick your actual precise location. Say you live somewhere in NYC; just type "New York City" into the picker tool and it will default to the exact coordinates of City Hall (or something). Which is why many New York MeFites all seem to live in the same building in downtown Manhattan.
posted by Rangi at 4:58 PM on January 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Buttoned members already have their profiles scrubbed, I think. I'm more talking about dormant members, unbuttoned but inactive for whatever reason.
posted by divabat at 5:14 PM on January 18, 2016


Another reason to keep freeform profile information hidden: other people may have linked directly to a comment of yours on their profile (I see a fair few "here are my favorite mefi comments!" On profiles) which creates a spotlight effect just like the PDF did. You may not have consented to your comment being linked like that, but now you don't really have any recourse beyond trying to contact the Mefite who linked you and hoping they're willing or able to change it in time.
posted by divabat at 5:17 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


For the developers of MeFi itself, how difficult would the lift be to actually have the option to block profiles entirely if not logged in?
posted by qcubed at 5:26 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


When did profiles become even partially public? I've been a member under this and another username for over a decade and I didn't know until about a minute ago that the public could see any part of my profile. Has it always been like this?

I agree with this pony, the location request and the time delay for new users. In fact, I don't see why nonmembers need to see any part of my profile at all.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:26 PM on January 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


> Buttoned members already have their profiles scrubbed, I think.

No -- the portions of the profile that we're discussing here (Contributions and Social blocks) are still visible on disabled accounts.
posted by Westringia F. at 5:28 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sorry to tack a tail on your pony, but I would love it if the easy link to see all of a user's Asks would be made members-only. I sometimes feel very uncomfortable to realize the fact that despite keeping a pretty low profile in terms of oversharing in individual places, the totality of my Asks makes me very identifiable as myself to someone with an interest. No one question felt particularly anon-necessary, but in retrospect I feel weirdly uneasy about the pretty clear picture they all paint added up together.
posted by threeants at 5:42 PM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


threeants, that is exactly the pony being proposed.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:44 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


um, why yes, of course, I simply wanted to demonstrate the sheer depth of my support by approaching this thread under the clever guise of a feckless naïf
posted by threeants at 5:46 PM on January 18, 2016 [41 favorites]



> Buttoned members already have their profiles scrubbed, I think.


The only difference between being logged out and closing your account, in practice, as long as you did it on your own terms, is that you have to contact a mod to open your account before logging in and posting again. That takes like two minutes, and then all of your same account activity is there.
posted by sweetkid at 5:48 PM on January 18, 2016


I am not sure how well I'm going to convey this - this may well be a future regret… but it occurs to me that MetaFilter's value proposition, i.e. content, entirely relies on members' willingness to share more or less personal insights (and sometimes, identifying details). I.e. our experience is the actual content, the value here. Participation involves a pull factor, which is a desire to express, contribute, in some cases provide answers/assistance, as well ask questions. There's also a strong community-driven push factor, which is the expectation that people situate their insights, content, etc. in their personal experience (an important currency of authority here, let's not kid ourselves).

Participating puts people at risk, some more than others. I'm not sure it's possible to quantify that risk, in the absence of data, and in the context of differing definitions of risk, as well as personal comfort with it. I'm not sure, in that case, that it's up to anyone but individual users to decide what's "actively necessary" to mitigate it. I think it's up to individuals to define the risk, as well. In some cases, it means threat of harassment or worse. In other cases, it could mean vulnerability in terms of employability. This concern may or may not seem reasonable to people with different levels of comfort with risk (and security, in terms of a livelihood), but it doesn't invalidate it. People talk about potentially stigmatizing experiences on here, like mental illness, which could - given identification - very conceivably affect how things work out in their actual lives. They - we - talk because we want to, because this carries the feeling of intimacy. There are other places to go for that kind of discussion, true. But I think it's worth considering that people talking about sensitive subjects here - mental and physical illness, minority identities - are taking on some risk, including the risk of experiencing personal distress, and respecting that.

Willing to bet that those kinds of "hot" and deeply personal issues and threads - the ones people are least good at doing risk assessments about - are the ones that tend to generate the most interest, in terms of searches/lurkers. If that's true, I think people's sense of comfort really ought to be prioritized, given the actual and potential and perceived psychological cost to them.

In that context, and in the context of the changing online environment, and the ways it impacts people's lives, I'm not sure what to make of "take it or leave it, if you don't like the risk, MetaFilter's not for you".
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:51 PM on January 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


double block and bleed: "When did profiles become even partially public? I've been a member under this and another username for over a decade and I didn't know until about a minute ago that the public could see any part of my profile. Has it always been like this?"

I could be mistaken, but I believe that is unchanged since Day One.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:03 PM on January 18, 2016


Yeah, profiles have always been public, with the exception of a few info fields marked out accordingly in Preferences. What they haven't been, and won't ever be, is indexed by search engines; we have a noindex tag on all profile pages so that Google et al will ignore them when crawling the site. So regardless of what the public-facing content of your profile page, that won't end up being something someone can find you by casually googling.

Which, as with all things, comes with the caveat that "noindex" is a voluntary protocol—the page is still literally accessible if someone goes looking, and while its in the interest of any reputable search engine to abide by the noindex rule there's no such motivation for a notional bad actor to do so.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:08 PM on January 18, 2016


I think people's sense of comfort really ought to be prioritized, given the actual and potential and perceived psychological cost to them.

You also don't want to give them a false sense of comfort, as at least one user noted above. It's not callous to admit that there are limits to the protections that nominally public online communities can provide.
posted by anifinder at 6:15 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I agree with anifinder. Security is good. False security is worse than doing nothing.
posted by Justinian at 6:20 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Agree. But it might be that there are other ways to promote actual security, that we might discuss, some of which might not have been part of the practice here to date. I'm no techie, but there must be a few ideas worth at least talking about.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:23 PM on January 18, 2016


The recent MeTa that melissasaurus linked to at the end of the OP in this thread suffered a great deal of disagreement and hurt feelings over discussing the differences between security and false security. I figure folks may be up for another round here, for sure, but I would advise careful language and as much assumption of good will as possible if we pursue it here as well.
posted by kalessin at 6:28 PM on January 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Glad to see this discussion up, and greater control over the public visibility of elements of my user profile is definitely something I'd appreciate.
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:31 PM on January 18, 2016


Forgive me if I am repeating something from above. What happens to accounts that are closed? Assuming someone had a brand new day or just left and now lurks, can a closed account have this information hidden default or would someone have to reopen the account and flip the switch and then reclose it?
posted by AugustWest at 6:35 PM on January 18, 2016


Woops, I didn't read to the end of that thread, kalessin! Thanks I wouldn't have said anything if I'd seen that.
posted by Justinian at 6:36 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Good MeTa, good discussion.

As someone generally pro-transparency and pro-openness, who also had to contact the mods to get them to delete a comment because my bosses came down on me, it's kind of a sad thing that this has to be mooted — one of the things I like about MeFi is the feeling of the Old Web, where part of the comfort of community came from knowing — if not in real life, at least through the comments — most of the fellow participants. Restricting profiles further feels like a retreat from that.

But this seems like a legitimate response to the growing pains of the community, and after the large, ongoing, coordinated sexist harassment campaign of GamerGate, it seems like a necessary compromise to let people who feel like they need this extra speedbump to have it. It's sad that it's necessary, but I think the utility of having people (mostly women) feel more able to participate without the likelihood of being a target of opportunity is worth making the barrier between MetaFilter and the rest of the web less permeable.
posted by klangklangston at 6:44 PM on January 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


> one of the things I like about MeFi is the feeling of the Old Web, where part of the comfort of community came from knowing — if not in real life, at least through the comments — most of the fellow participants.

You know, I had that exact same initial impulse. What it came down to for me, though, was the "fellow participants" part. We're not talking about obscuring the contribution history altogether; we're talking about hiding it from people who aren't fellow participants, people who aren't members of the community. Other MeFites -- people who have a least invested enough in the community to pony up $5 (which, yes, isn't much of an investment, but it's something) -- would still be able to know one other through our contributions.

So in the final analysis, I don't think we'd actually be losing that much in terms of the "Old Web" community feel. (And -- as you also pointed out -- the benefits for participation are pretty great.)
posted by Westringia F. at 7:05 PM on January 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


I like the idea of social media profiles being visible only to members. This proposal gets my vote.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 7:09 PM on January 18, 2016


If Mefi does move forward with this, will the "view all content" links -- which you could type in manually, or be linked to -- still be available if you are not logged in?
posted by jeather at 7:16 PM on January 18, 2016


I support this proposal too, for what it's worth.
posted by Alterscape at 7:16 PM on January 18, 2016


This is a really fantastically presented MeTa, by the way. Well done melissasaurus.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:20 PM on January 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


To amplify jeather's great question: what would the behavior of URLs like

https://www.metafilter.com/activity/<UserNumber>
https://www.metafilter.com/activity/<UserNumber>/posts/ask
https://www.metafilter.com/activity/<UserNumber>/comments/mefi

&c. be?

Is the proposal simply to obscure them by removing the links from the profile-page display, or to make them completely inaccessible to non-logged-in users?

Also, the more I think about it, the more I feel that the corpus of one's MeFi output need not be accessible to non-MeFites by default. I could see an argument for throwing the entire https://www.metafilter.com/activity/ subdir behind a membership wall....
posted by Westringia F. at 7:27 PM on January 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


I support the proposed changes, and I like the additional idea of providing the option of hiding one's location.
posted by wintermind at 7:32 PM on January 18, 2016


This is a great idea.

Incidentally, if MeFi were ever to institute a formal RFC process for feature requests, this would make an excellent template.
posted by invitapriore at 7:58 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


One more thing to hide: The search box for searching within a user's activity. And as someone upthread pointed out, the hiding should involve not only the links, but any attempt to access material by manually creating the required URL.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:02 PM on January 18, 2016


+1000000000 for this.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:06 PM on January 18, 2016


One more thing to hide: The search box for searching within a user's activity.

That's already members-only.

...the hiding should involve not only the links, but any attempt to access material by manually creating the required URL.

Yes, that's what we're planning. The URLs will display a message that it's only available to members.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:20 PM on January 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


Yes please, with strong feelings about it being the default rather than the other way around.
posted by moira at 8:59 PM on January 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


This proposal seems good. Sure.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:13 PM on January 18, 2016


I'm in the "false sense of security" camp, but perhaps some security theatre is exactly what's needed...

For one thing, I think "the call is coming from inside the house," as it were, that the greatest threat is more likely from other 5bux-paid Metafilter users than from non-users. Certainly the most threatening incident I know of, the Mormon-SWATting, seems to have been an inside job in this sense.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:22 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Positive policy proposal pitch-perfectly presented.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:31 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I know it's even in the post here but seriously - doesn't Google arguably provide at least an equally effective means of stalking people? The proposal itself truly doesn't matter much to me one way or another because, you know, I have an account and I'm not planning on getting banned anytime soon. And while I've revealed some things here myself I don't want associated with my real identity the only measure I trust to provide any real safety about that is to say little more specific than, say, what town I live in. On the other hand I'm also not actually necessarily convinced that this proposal would give "a false sense of security" - most people here are smart enough to think the same things I am thinking right now. It's just... a little underwhelming in what it seems to accomplish.

And as other people said if you're going to do it you might as well hide the "about" section too.
posted by atoxyl at 9:46 PM on January 18, 2016


That was kind of nebulously negative, sorry. If you think you have good reason to believe it will help then maybe I'm wrong. The downside (as far as comes to mind right now) is just that it keeps non-paying readers ("lurkers" seems too creepy in the context of this discussion) from following up on the contributors they find the most interesting, as I know I would do before I bought an account.
posted by atoxyl at 9:53 PM on January 18, 2016


I'm in the "false sense of security" camp, but perhaps some security theatre is exactly what's needed...

Maybe there are some things that work or could help, though?

From the little I've read about it, use of multiple identities can be really helpful in terms of distributing kinds of information and minimizing risk (the "several socks" idea Melissasaurus and probably others dislike). I know some have written that this works against some sense of accountability that a single stable identity can support (although not always, I've seen some wacky stuff on FB, where people use their real names).

I definitely haven't thought about this as much as others have, but what about allowing more than one sock puppet, but less than say (arbitrarily) three or four? (Because with a single sock puppet, it's just shifting the vulnerability away from a formal online identity, all the biographical details still get concentrated into one id.) Or maybe I'm wrong and there's no hard upper limit on the number of socks? I thought just one was ok.

My idea is that existing moderation practices, along with community pressure, would still dissuade people from being jerks with e.g. 3-4 sock capacity. I think people are, actually, invested in even their socks. But I don't know, interested in thoughts on that.

I've just discovered that there's a really interesting literature on online privacy, security, risk, and biases (and the effects of primes / nudges, for example). Would be very interested to hear what people here who've worked with this and thought more about it have to say...

Another thought I had was that there are probably better and worse ways of fudging identifying details while communicating the essence of an idea. I imagine success at that has something to do with internal controllability, skill in delaying gratification, and writing skill (among probably a lot of other things). Not much can be done (at least online) about most of that, but I wonder whether practicing writing with identity obfuscation in mind, or at least reading about it, and seeing a few examples, might help a bit.

All that might be useless or understood or unknown, I dunno, and there's more I haven't thought of, I'm sure.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:00 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think "the call is coming from inside the house," as it were, that the greatest threat is more likely from other 5bux-paid Metafilter users than from non-users.

As was discussed in great length in the PDFgate thread linked in this MeTa, one major concern some mefites who have been victims of stalking, domestic violence, or other threatening behaviors, have is that these (presumably non mefites) will be able to identify them or gain information about them by combing through their posting history. Obviously there are multiple ways to do that, but it seems like this proposal will at least provide one barrier to that.

There is also the very valid concern of being targeted, especially by the MRA types, for doxxing or other harassment based on comments that MRAs or other nefarious groups might deem offensive. Again, this seems like one barrier that might help shield mefites from that. I feel like those types often has a pretty short attention span and may very well be dissuaded by this kind of thing. It certainly can't hurt.

I also really like the idea of having some sort of time frame (24 hours, 72 hours, or even a week) where new members will still have this profile info hidden from them.

Certainly the most threatening incident I know of, the Mormon-SWATting, seems to have been an inside job in this sense.

Unless there was a later update I missed, I don't think there was anything that conclusively proved this was an "inside job" or any kind of job; I'm not saying it wasn't, but to my memory, the only proof was potentially suspicious timing.

More generally, I have a lot more faith in my fellow mefites than the internet at large, and the mods have tools at their disposal (such as the banhammer) that can help mitigate any harassment perpetrated by other mefites.

Lastly, having finally made it through the PDFgate thread, I am even more in favor of this pony than I was prior to learning about that thread. And this really was an exemplary MeTa post.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:03 PM on January 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm a big fan of this proposal. I don't think it's a false sense of security-- piecing together from Google a complete story of which comments were made in a person's history and in which order is nontrivial and will be a roadblock in at least some form. It will definitely give a less impressionistic or narrative view of a user without putting in some elbow grease.

There are a lot of aspects of women's lives where we suffer from a "false sense of security"-- wearing a skirt in public, when any stranger can reach up it or take an upskirt photo. Living in a house or apartment with windows, where someone might be able to see us, photograph us, masturbate at us, or track our movements if we don't keep the curtains shut at all times. Being stalked by someone and expecting the law to intervene when actually, they can't do anything about the level of activity taking place. Etc. It would help me feel a little more secure if it actually took some effort to pore over my Asks/comments/etc., especially since they leave a kind of snail-trail that can reveal more than each Ask or comment can atomically.

I think the sense is that most women know that this can happen. When it does happen, it can be shocking and traumatizing, even if you knew it was possible-- the same as when someone stalks you. You always KNOW that you can't stop someone from stalking you (until things get bad), and yet we live with a false sense of security every day, in order to be able to live normal lives. (Unless we are being affected by stalking.) It's about calculated risk, and this seems like a low-impact way to file down that risk a bit more and preserve a valuable community we have here. If there's a way to throw a banana peel in the way without greatly compromising the way we use Metafilter, I think it's worth considering, and in this case worth implementing.

It does seem like the "false sense of security" comments come from people with a slightly more academic view of the problem. Not always, but if you are one of those people, it might be wise to interpret in the best faith possible.
posted by easter queen at 10:09 PM on January 18, 2016 [17 favorites]


I like the proposals and don’t feel it’s a false sense of security problem. Locking your doors will not keep anyone with the will and the skills out of your home or car. It will keep most people out though.

It’s not just serious cases that would benefit. It would work very well to stop your boss, your mom, your business rival from casually clicking around and putting the pieces together, "Hey, I know that person".
posted by bongo_x at 11:04 PM on January 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sounds like a fine step to take, can't hurt, more to gain than lose.
posted by Miko at 11:09 PM on January 18, 2016


Yeah, I think of it in terms of keeping the curtains closed to casual passers-by.
posted by moira at 11:15 PM on January 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Seems a reasonable proposal, no objections here.
posted by Sebmojo at 11:26 PM on January 18, 2016


I'm in favor of this because I feel bad saying "no" to the person who crafted this elaborate meta.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:29 PM on January 18, 2016


This seems like an eminently useful suggestion for those that it impacts and, for anyone else, there's little to no impact, so all good :-).

I really just came here to say this is MetaTalk post was extremely well-crafted - foreseeing and answering most likely objection. Well done!
posted by dg at 11:46 PM on January 18, 2016


Another voice agreeing with the proposal and also the amendment to make location private as well. Thanks for all the work that went into these!
posted by salvia at 12:18 AM on January 19, 2016


foreseeing and answering most likely objection.

Yes, it seems all our expectations have been pretty tightly set.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:45 AM on January 19, 2016


Yes to this. Good proposal and well-framed. Also yes to hiding location.

Personally I'm too private to show my map location even if it was hidden from non-members, but I imagine plenty of people would like to. I don't live in a big city. I tried just entering my state, but Google Maps plonks a pin on the capital. Which, if someone was hunting me would be usefully misleading, but would make anything I might post about cow-pats and back paddocks a bit suss. It means I miss out on IRL alerts, but I can check Upcoming Meetups in the MetaTalk sidebar.

But I digress. In short, I say YES.
posted by valetta at 12:48 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Totally agree with the proposal, and with having an option to make location completely private (so IRL alerts still work).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:49 AM on January 19, 2016


If you think about it as showing the user-editable stuff and not showing the stuff that aggregates on its own, it makes sense.

I think this is a good summary and helped me understand what is being asked for here. I'm fully in support of this change even though I probably won't use it. I can see the utility of such a thing for many people and there's no significant downside anywhere I can see. I'm even in favour of a banner advertising the change and I mildly dislike the banners in general.

I like how I can set an email address in my profile and hide it so no one except me and the mefi staff can see it. Logging the address is useful beyond just sharing it with other members. And I think the location is the same. It has utility beyond just sharing it with people and there are definite downsides to having it visible, so it makes sense to me to be able to set it but hide it completely.

Going for a non-precise location setting may be enough when you live in a big city and/or are surrounded by other members. But when you're the only mefite for literally 50+ miles, such as I was until recently, fudging it a bit does nothing to hide you unless and until you've gone so far that you break the utility of IRL alerts etc. And I wasn't somewhere obscure or rural either, this was in the middle of a well populated part of Germany where apparently metafilter just isn't A Thing. This kind of exposure is more likely to affect non-US mefites which I think should give it more weight towards being adopted when the US-city-based moderators consider the change.
posted by shelleycat at 2:56 AM on January 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't know MF's demographics but suspect at least half its membership might be vulnerable

Just to point out that not all of us who are vulnerable would necessarily like to take advantage of the feature anyway. For the same reason I refuse to avoid shortcuts through dark alleys at night despite having been assaulted several times.
posted by Dysk at 3:11 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel like my last sentence up there is clunky and awkward. What I'm trying to say, I think, is that when the mods think about who might get use out of a private location setting when deciding if the change should be made, don't forget to consider what it is like for those of us living out here where mefi members aren't so thick on the ground and foreigners can stand out more. Which I'm sure you will anyway but still.

Then I wrote a comment here about how incredibly easy I am to find with that old location setting because of my foreignness but I deleted it again because why ask for trouble.
posted by shelleycat at 3:13 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I support this pony and the the pygmy goat. Thanks melissasaurus for the work and clarity.

>how will this affect non-members? Do we have any of their input on this proposal?
Seems a sisyphean task to survey ~7,399,875,000 non-members for input.
posted by cocoagirl at 3:32 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Terrific post, I agree with the proposal - if people think this will help, then go for it.
posted by gadge emeritus at 3:50 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Should the infodump be login only?
posted by zamboni at 3:57 AM on January 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I agree with the proposal!
posted by kimberussell at 3:58 AM on January 19, 2016


Another voice in favour here. I also agree with the additions of (1) being able to make location private but still get IRL alerts (2) a banner to notify people of changes, since the sidebar is of no use to people who either access via mobile and/or only use one or more subsites but not the main page and (3) a time delay for new members to be able to access the member-only parts of user pages, although I recognize that this one may have technical barriers.
And nthing that this is an excellent Meta - thanks melissasaurus.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 4:32 AM on January 19, 2016


I can't think of a reason not to implement this. Thanks

Honestly, I didn't realize that profile pages were visible without login until people started talking about it in that thread

I knew search didn't work, but count me as another one who thought they were already blocked. I'd swear that when I recently temporarily disabled my account I kept getting a "you are not logged in" kind of message when I'd accidentally click on a name. In fact, I expanded some of my info because I so sure the page was blocked. Weird.

Thanks melissasaurus and cortex.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:29 AM on January 19, 2016


I had not written out the urls I was referring to (under the /activity/ subdirectory) because I wasn't sure which way the mods were leaning and in case they would be viewable by non-members I didn't want to make it easy, but I appreciate knowing this was an unnecessary step.
posted by jeather at 5:29 AM on January 19, 2016


I pretty much never weigh in on MeTa, and I'm really *really* in support of this. Basically, my fear is someone at work being vaguely familiar with Mefi but not a member, catching what my username is, going home, looking up my profile, and then reading all my AskMe answers that are about bras and breastfeeding and babies. Which would not be the end of the world but still pretty darn embarrassing because boobs.
posted by whitewall at 5:37 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


[making location invisible by default seems like a good idea to me.]

i've been thinking more about how to handle unconscious bias across the site and have three suggestions.

first, because it's hard to think about unconscious bias directly ("what are my unknown unknowns?") i looked around for approaches to other biases. racism is an obvious one, so i tried to translate some of the ideas in these guidelines across to anonymity. out of that came the idea that idea that mods could take a more active role:

a culture that actively protects anonymity. mods that react to posts disclosing identifying details that help or trigger identification (location, history of abuse, drug use, etc) by anonymising the comments. and tools to support that, which might include "one click anonymisation" for mods, and some way for people to flag to mods (a hidden option in their profile) that they feel particularly vulnerable.

so, for example, someone who is worried about a violent ex-partner can indicate this (privately) to mods, and when they post something particularly revealing the mod might say "hey, just checking you thought this through" or "would you like me to anon this comment?"

second, a fairly blunt idea i had earlier, to help people "stay alert", is to add reminders that the site is not as closed and friendly as it may appear.

extend "everyone needs a hug" with other, randomly selected messages, like "we're a small community, but it's a big internet" etc.

third, something that has bothered me on commercial sites is gamification. for a long time it has been clear that places like facebook, or social games, exploit subliminal desires for approval, with likes, badges, awards, etc. whether you like it or not, you start to associate with your "score", which pushes you to participate further. so...

reduce the unconscious push to comment by removing gamification features. in particular, remove favourite counts.

finally, i wanted to comment on being "too academic" and not relying on "good faith". again, using racism as an example of unconscious bias is illuminating. when someone claims to "not be racist" do we treat that claim with good faith, or are we sceptical? when someone points to studies saying that racist bias is ubiquitous do we call that out for being "too academic"? (actually, this question isn't purely rhetorical - i've been worrying that i am victim blaming, or that there's some power inequality that means that talking about racist bias is ok, but that trying to help people stay "below the radar" by considering their biases is not. and it's quite possible i've missed some answer that is well known in activist circles. for what it's worth a large part of my motivation here comes from askme losing their best - by a long way - commenter in the pdf thread. i feel like the site may have failed that person and encouraged them to place themselves in danger. not just the site, but small things like me favouriting their comments...)
posted by andrewcooke at 5:39 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


You know you can already hide favourite counts, right?
posted by Dysk at 6:15 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I really think that it's OK to trust that people can decide their internet sharing boundaries for themselves, andrewcooke, aided by the few tweaks suggested in the original post. Metafilter doesn't need to take on the responsibility of keeping track of everyone's risk factors and chiding them for oversharing.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:25 AM on January 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


Count me in favor of this proposal.
posted by Gelatin at 6:29 AM on January 19, 2016


I may come back to this with a longer comment on the issue of not entirely hiding profiles, but in the meantime I want to add my complete support to this proposal and to the suggestion to hide location (seriously wtf is that public for??).
posted by odinsdream at 6:32 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


And make it opt-out and a banner notice. I literally don't understand what currency we'd be fucking up by hiding this already non-indexed information. But I'll try to make a more substantial comment when I'm not feeding children cereal.
posted by odinsdream at 6:35 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wanted to clarify my remark above regarding a "false sense of security" because I am very much in favor of this proposal. What I mean is to avoid misleading users by making sure that it is easy to understand what aspects of their profile, posts, comments and other MeFi activity are private, public or semi-visible (and to whom).

When you have transparency, you trust your users to make the privacy trade-off which makes the most sense for them.
posted by anifinder at 6:39 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I actually think this proposal doesn't go far enough, and I think that the obscured profiles for non-members should not be opt-in, but in fact be the blanket behavior sitewide. Here's why: If a non-member looks at the profile of a user and they see some information (the "Info" and "About" sections, as proposed) they are likely to assume that this is all the info that MetaFilter has to offer about this person. If they see that different users have different levels of information displayed, they know that a $5 account is all they need to get that additional info for all users. Similarly, I think we should avoid any kind of "This information is available only to logged-in users" message, as it makes it perfectly clear what one has to do to get at that information. MetaFilter's "retro" UI and "old-school" culture makes it very believable to non-users that we simply don't have any way of tracking activity or history of individual users. By highlighting the need for an account to access certain information, we are effectively lowering the speed bump created by requiring an account, if that makes sense.

I understand that my suggestion would create a much more significant backlash, and that having this feature be opt-in is maybe a reasonable compromise, but I think it greatly weakens whatever protection we hope to offer by instituting it.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:54 AM on January 19, 2016 [32 favorites]


making sure that it is easy to understand

One of the things I like about facebook is their "view profile as" option. So you can see how your profile looks to any of your contacts to make sure you are sharing what youthink you are sharing. This may be a bit too fiddly for MeFi but the idea of "View profile as non-user" and "view profile as logged in MeFite" along with the obvious "view profile as me" default might be helpful for people. I know we have the shaded areas of the preferences page, this could be as simple as an example user page with the three views shown on the wiki or help pages somewhere.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:14 AM on January 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


Count me as a vote for this pony as well as being incredibly naive in that I did not know my user profile was visible to non-users. I really didn't. I just assumed (yes, yes, I know) that it was only visible to logged in members. I mean, I don't have anything to hide from anyone specific on it but still.
posted by Kitteh at 7:22 AM on January 19, 2016


Valid points, Rock Steady.

Myself, I don't get why any profile information should be visible to non-members. I didn't expect it to be so here when I was a lurker an interested bystander. If I'm refused permission to view a profile on some site I'm not logged in to, I don't see it as anything problematic, I don't feel cheated, I find it perfectly acceptable.
posted by valetta at 7:25 AM on January 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure trying to keep the fact that profile information is visible to members some sort of secret is particularly viable, nor do I think it logically follows from some profiles having more information on them than others - that just implies that it's possible to decide what's visible on your profile to some extent.
posted by Dysk at 7:28 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, as I see it, there are four possible ways to implement the visibility prefs:
  1. Public by default, not user-changeable (status quo);
  2. Public by default, user-changeable to members-only (proposed at the top of this thread);
  3. Members-only by default, user-changeable to public;
  4. Members-only by default, not user-changeable.
I feel quite strongly that if this is to be done -- and I believe it should -- it must be done as #3 or #4, because it is fundamentally unfair that people whose accounts have been disabled (be it by choice, by boot, or by circumstance) would have fewer privacy protections than those who are active members of the site.

Between #3 & #4, my slight preference would be toward #3; I can envision situations in which one would want to make ones MeFi contributions public. I can see the arguments for #4 too, though, so it's pretty close to a toss-up.

#2, however, seems like a massively unfair implementation. It's also confusing (esp. considering how many of us were operating under the assumption that #4, not #1, was already the status quo) -- it makes much more sense to have to actively take steps to remove privacy protections and choose to "go public" than to have to [know about & be able to] take action to hide.

In short, I am NOT voting #1, quidnunc kid or otherwise. And I am definitely not voting #2.
posted by Westringia F. at 7:34 AM on January 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


feel quite strongly that if this is to be done -- and I believe it should -- it must be done as #3 or #4, because it is fundamentally unfair that people whose accounts have been disabled (be it by choice, by boot, or by circumstance) would have fewer privacy protections than those who are active members of the site.

They signed up for a site that had #1, so it seems weird that they would retroactively have expectations that this would change after their ceasing to use the site...
posted by Dysk at 7:37 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


In which case that argument could be made for active users as well and there would be no reason to entertain anything besides the status quo.
posted by Westringia F. at 7:39 AM on January 19, 2016


...which is why I'm in favour of the change being opt-in.
posted by Dysk at 7:40 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


As much of this thread shows, they thought they signed up for #4 but got #1 instead.

I vote #3 - I do use my Mefi profile as a "find me here too!" on other sites, so I have some utility in keeping it public, but I'm not everybody (and really if it had to be #4 I won't complain). And I would rather it be wholly private, rather than this half private half public thing for some "Metafilter identity" that I can't consent to if I don't understand what it is - and besides, why is it suddenly Metafilter's business to market their "identity" based on what's on our profile? Keep it to the stuff that's on the more obviously public parts of the site.
posted by divabat at 7:41 AM on January 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


I agree wholly with divabat.
posted by kalessin at 7:49 AM on January 19, 2016


So I'd like to expound a bit on my earlier comment, wrt the idea of preserving some nebulous "flavor" or something about profile functionality by not simply hiding them completely.

First, I truly, literally do not understand what cortex's position is on this, which is kinda surprising because normally I can latch on to what he's saying very easily, even if I might take a different position myself. In this case, I truly do not understand what it is about any public-facing (e.g., open to the entire internet) information that is worth preserving at all.

The community exists because of members. We're the audience. Our contributions are what make Mefi a place worth reading. Besides ensuring ad revenue is as successful as it can be, I'm not sure why any of our decisions should first rest on "but what does The Internet think about this" and not exclusively on what's best to help and protect members.

In that regard, certainly I see a benefit to ensuring some basic level of information is available between logged-in members, to preserve a sense of accountability and transparency. No such commitment exists to service the needs of random visitors. In fact, most "normal" forums you'd find heavily limit profile information for unregistered users. Even shamelessly invasive companies like Facebook and LinkedIn give more lip service to privacy settings and visibility than we're doing here, which is kind of embarrassing. I get emails, for example, whenever someone on LinkedIn just views my profile.

Anyway, I guess I'd wrap up by saying I'm a bit disappointed by cortex's contributions on this so far, as I was hoping for something much more aggressively pro-user, like hiding everything by default, imposing technical hurdles on would-be site scrapers, such as:
1. Timeouts for logged-in first timers to see any profile stuff
2. Behind the scenes alerts for people crawling profile pages with scripts
3. Referral blocking - if you hit a profile page from a non-mefi site, trigger some alerts, drop to a homepage or something, come on.

I guess, in all, I'm looking for more of an acknowledgement that we should be moving way the fuck out of the boyzone interpretation of "info is free! world wide web of ideas!!1" and way the fuck into an understanding of the internet as it currently exists for POC, women, and other visible minorities for whom extreme care is already taken on all kinds of levels. Hell, I recently stopped sharing photos (not even selfies) on Tumblr because they weren't stripping EXIF data, meaning people could scrape my GPS locations if I had forgotten to sanitize the file before uploading it. With all due respect, if you don't have a problem with feeling hyper-aware of your privacy on the internet, as relates to your personal safety, you're likely already in a privileged group and honestly I'm not sure why your ideas on "the open internet" are relevant to this discussion.
posted by odinsdream at 7:52 AM on January 19, 2016 [20 favorites]


i can understand the arguments for just hiding everyone's profile stuff and letting people show what they want, but i disagree with them because i think changes go better at mefi specifically when the change is opt in. i think one reason this suggestion has gone so well is because it will only change for those who want the change. i'm all for banner and side bar and new metatalk announcing the change so everyone gets a fair chance at knowing the changes are available.

i honestly don't understand arguments that hinge on what former members or lurkers would prefer.
posted by nadawi at 8:07 AM on January 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


If I got to choose, I'd have it opt-in for current members (but made very obvious, in both memail and top banner), done automatically for closed accounts and for new members (who could choose to opt out if they wanted to).

That said I don't object to members-only for everyone, no choice.

I do like a 24h wait for new users also.
posted by jeather at 8:08 AM on January 19, 2016


Is there a reason “about” section would have to stay visible under this change?

Understanding that this is totally optional, I personally very much like the idea that users’ join dates remain visible. Knowing that community members have been around for a while is part of the site’s appeal, and gives lurkers a little bit of flavor to latch onto. (For similar reasons, I’d also be cool with profile pictures always being public.)
posted by Going To Maine at 8:13 AM on January 19, 2016


Lurkers can latch onto the actual FPPs and AskMefi questions and such if they want "flavor", that's why they're on Mefi in the first place. They're not on Mefi because "oooh this member has been here since 2004!".
posted by divabat at 8:23 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I support this proposal, and the additional suggestion to have a short waiting period for new members to view hidden profile info.

It could be tied to the delayed front page post logic.
posted by zamboni at 8:35 AM on January 19, 2016


I love this proposal!! I've specifically not linked my page up to all the other social media in the past, but would do so more in this format. Not linking has always just been a speedbump anyway for all that shared stuff.

I also love the hidden location as an extra setting amendment.

I'm proponent of the idea that site behavior changes should be opt-in.

I'm unsure if making all the different fields have independent visibility would actually be that fiddly on the user side. No idea about implementation. But, I'm pretty ambivalent about it and suspect most folks would go pretty close to all-out or all-in, so fine with the rough grained proposal.

I'm likewise a bit confused with the public "About" section. I get that it's easy enough to just leave it empty if you are trying to maintain a bit more privacy. I guess on this point I'm not sure I have a strong preference, but I do remain confused why we shouldn't allow users to turn it off on the public side.

I'm not in favor of automatically hiding past account member pages automatically. I think that goes against how Metafilter normally does things re: disappearing past established content. I say this with the assumption that if individuals were to contact an admin, the profile settings would be changed on an individual basis on request.

I'm also not in favor of trying to 'obscure' from the broader internet that internal vs. external member profiles is what we would be doing here. Both on a philosophical level and also because I do like accept and have chosen to have my profile here and public facing, and I think that should remain an option.
posted by meinvt at 8:39 AM on January 19, 2016


I support this change and would like to say that stuff like this MeTa Cortex linked to above -- along with some personal issues that have happened with other MeFites in the past -- is why I've essentially quit contributing on the Blue and Green altogether, but am still comfortable commenting on FanFare.

People shouldn't have to leave the site or go full-time Lurker status if they enjoy being a Metafilter member out of fears for their own safety or other unforeseen, yet confrontational consequences that occur online or offline, and it degrades the quality of the overall discussion around more difficult topics if people with firsthand experience are too afraid or intimidated by the possibility of those consequences to comment (e.g., SJW issues, regional/national prejudices, rape, pit bulls, religion and politics, just to name a few topics that have gotten people especially riled up in recent months).

BRB buying a shiny new saddle for this pony -- option #3 or #4 is my personal preference.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:02 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I support this change, I support the idea of also obscuring location, and I appreciate melissasaurus et al. having taken the time to thoughtfully compile all the contextual info about how this sort of thing has been discussed previously and why it's being suggested now.

Inside baseball stuff like this can be confusing to those of us who mostly avoid the gray, so this is helpful.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:05 AM on January 19, 2016


With all due respect, if you don't have a problem with feeling hyper-aware of your privacy on the internet, as relates to your personal safety, you're likely already in a privileged group and honestly I'm not sure why your ideas on "the open internet" are relevant to this discussion.

So just to the situation here absolutely clear, I am someone who has experienced violence and police harassment because of my identity, and I have been stalked online. For a while, I did indeed practice that kind of hyper-awareness (both online and in the real world) but at some point, I got rather sick of it. These days I am entirely aware of the risks that I am taking, both online and off, but I take them anyway, as an act of defiance, as a refusal to capitulate to the idea that I, because of who I am, should live life differently and in a more careful way. A sort of always-on solitary Slutwalk or something. Now, I don't wish to advocate for this being the 'right' way of doing things, or in some way 'better' than being careful or prudent - in many ways, what I do is fucking stupid, and it has caused me real problems in my life - but I also do not want anyone going round entertaining the assumption that simply because I do not want to hide I am some super-privileged dudebro. I have privilege in some ways for sure (we all do) but I am also oppressed in many ways, a member of several minority groups whose needs are often not considered, and who are often targets.

I like the open internet. It is where I grew up in many ways, and those norms of openness are very very important to me. I would like to at least retain the option of continuing to enact that openness myself, though I do not wish to force that choice on others. I would like to imagine that my contributions and ideas are relevant here, and I'm not sure that making assumptions about anyone's identity based on their ideas is wise, nor is discounting whole categories of voices.
posted by Dysk at 9:05 AM on January 19, 2016 [20 favorites]


#3 makes sense, even if it is a minor inconvenience for everyone who wants to make their profile public, because that is a pittance to pay for a modicum of safety.

#4, though, doesn't. What is the purpose of preventing all MeFites from ever making their profiles public? Shouldn't that be each user's choice?
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:07 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Good morning, catching up.

- pb and I and some of the team worked yesterday on hashing out some of the display and implementation details for the core proposal here; he's got the start of a working version on the test server of the privacy toggle in Preferences for hiding the "Contributions" and "Social" blocks, and is working now on the logic hiding the secondary "activity" links jeather and Westringia F. mentioned yesterday.

- Likewise we've gotten started on the location-hiding option and a little reorganization of that related stuff on the profile page. The plan is to go from the current "either you can list coordinates but all members can see it, or you need to leave that blank" setup to having the additional option to instead list coordinates but have them private to everyone but the server/mods (and the mods won't go looking). The coords don't get touched by many parts of the site so that shouldn't require us to futz with much secondary stuff, but we're trying to dot and cross our i's and t's respectively.

- The temporary persistence of non-member view of profile pages for brand new users is an interesting idea and we're discussing how it could work internally; making it somehow a part of the standard "new user" limitations kit is certainly a possibility. We'll think through the ramifications of it a little more and see if there's any tricky bits. (One thing in general on "new user" stuff is that also affects existing users transitioning to a new account, though the short answer there has always been "well, that's inconvenient but it's also just a few days", as it's basically never a literal emergency.)

- Sounds like people are supportive of a banner to announce the new feature, and nobody's voiced any serious concern about doing so which was the main thing I wanted to listen for, so we'll plan to go that route instead of just sidebarring. A members-only banner is totally doable and I think makes the most sense.

- The point Rock Steady made about not saying "available only to members" on the secondary activity pages is a tricky one. I agree with the motivation of not wanting to specifically call attention to members-only functionality in a notional bad-actor situation, but it's also something where communicating clearly why we're declining to serve a page and that it's not just a general error or something broken is important. We're brainstorming about phrasing there now, and if folks have specific split-the-difference thoughts on wording there they're welcome to toss 'em out in here. (We have other pages on the site that similarly deliver "this isn't available to non-members" messages, but those generally don't have the conditional member-specific angle so the feel is slightly different. Otherwise it'd be an easy thing to shrug and just duplicate the wording of.)

- Moving all profiles to minimal by default—the opt-out variant—remains a non-starter. I really appreciate that some folks would rather we went that way, but it would be a very aggressive move that assumes that tens of thousands of people want that decision made on their behalf and without consultation or agency. This core proposal was to give users the option to use this function, and that's what our aim is, and I'm happy to support that, but that's what we're talking about.

- We can look closer at the tricky overlap of closed/banned accounts, but to be super clear: anybody with a currently closed account, even someone banned with extreme prejudice, can contact us about flipping this switch after the fact if that's something they want. Certainly folks who have quit on their own terms can do so. That's consistent with how we've handled this stuff historically; we're not going to be dicks about "well you aren't a member anymore so..." about this kind of thing.

This is a site that's been around for more than sixteen years. We have a lot of things here that are as or nearly as old as the site itself; users having significant individual control over the content of their profiles is one of those things (and is something this core proposal supports); users having a standard public but non-indexed profile as the default is another of those. It's okay if you don't personally see any value in that, and we're making this option available for folks who want to get away from that default in any case, in furtherance of the ability already to have a very-nearly-empty profile if that's your preference. But there's a big gap between "I want to have control over the presentation of my profile page" and "I want to dictate a change to everyone else's profile page". The former I'm all for trying to support better here; the latter is very out of character with how we've dealt with this stuff for the whole history of the MetaFilter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:31 AM on January 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


Lurkers can latch onto the actual FPPs and AskMefi questions and such if they want "flavor", that's why they're on Mefi in the first place. They're not on Mefi because "oooh this member has been here since 2004!".

I dunno - personally, I latched more onto the presence of particular users than particular FPPs (or questions, but I'm in the minority that rarely stops by Ask. Knowing that folks had been around for a while was nice. (Anyhoo, the point is sort of moot, because not everyone will be adopting the new account style.) More generally, I think it’s nice for profiles to have as much anonymous (or pseudonymous) flavor available as possible, because it adds to the site. If we had consensus about what “acceptably anonymous flavor” is, I’d be happy if that was all that remained.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:36 AM on January 19, 2016


cortex: "We're brainstorming about phrasing there now, and if folks have specific split-the-difference thoughts on wording there they're welcome to toss 'em out in here."

Maybe something like "This information [page/data/etc] is not publically available"? It makes it clear that it is available privately without specifying exactly what must be done to access it, unlike "available to members".
posted by Rock Steady at 9:46 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


something where communicating clearly why we're declining to serve a page and that it's not just a general error or something broken is important

Don't fail to serve the page - just hide the information. Nobody needs to know what is hidden or that anything is different. If I went to a profile page and all it had was the profile name, I'd just presume the profile is private. That removes the need to say anything at all.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:58 AM on January 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


To be clear, I'm not talking about the profile page itself there. I am in 100% agreement that nothing needs to or should go on the profile page to indicate stuff is missing. I'm talking about the secondary activity links that the Contributions index links into, like the list of my posts to the blue if you click on the little "57 posts" link on my profile page. Those pages, if we decline to serve them, need something on them rather than a blank or absent page. The question is what to write there.

The "is not publicly available" wording may be a good compromise there, Rock Steady, yeah.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:01 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The links themselves should be deactivated. If a user then tries to manually type in what it would have linked to, a 404 is not out of the question, unless you're trying to maintain existing link continuity.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:05 AM on January 19, 2016


Wouldn't a 403 would be more appropriate if we're just returning HTTP error codes?
posted by Dysk at 10:13 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Could it redirect to the login page? That's what the Recent Activity url does if you're logged out.
posted by yarrow at 10:15 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Moving all profiles to minimal by default—the opt-out variant—remains a non-starter. I really appreciate that some folks would rather we went that way, but it would be a very aggressive move that assumes that tens of thousands of people want that decision made on their behalf and without consultation or agency.

Isn't doing the reverse also making assumptions about what tens of thousands of people want? Already here we have a ton of comments from people who signed up assuming it was members-only to begin with and are taken aback that it isn't.
posted by divabat at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just want to ask - is this very narrowly framed Meta, and this very specific pony, the limit of discussion on privacy? Given the broad enthusiasm demonstrated for identity protection? Absolutely nothing else is going to be put forward for consideration by the community, whether in this Meta or another?

Because this is (imo) a good but truly modest proposal.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah I have found the number of people who are unaware of their public profiles here to be pretty startling. If nothing else, it might make sense to send out a memail blast or setting up a page linked from the banner describing what's private and public.
posted by selfnoise at 10:30 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is really awesome.

Just want to ask - is this very narrowly framed Meta, and this very specific pony, the limit of discussion on privacy? Given the broad enthusiasm demonstrated for identity protection?

I'd really like to see someone put together a proposal of this clarity, thoughtfulness, and modesty regarding a FAQ change aimed at journalists and non-members that explains that the site's default position is that people assembling pdfs of Metafilter comments or writing articles about events here in the popular press ask permission for quoting us. Ideally, it would be linked in the line at the bottom of the page that states that "All posts are copyright of their original authors."

I understand that there's an ongoing argument about instilling a "false" sense of security, and it seems like we might try to hash that out separately from the specific incidents that we've encountered in the past.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:33 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Isn't doing the reverse also making assumptions about what tens of thousands of people want?

No, it's declining to make an assumption about what they want, while making the option to choose what they want available to them.

Already here we have a ton of comments from people who signed up assuming it was members-only to begin with and are taken aback that it isn't.

And they can now change their profiles as they see fit, at their option. I am genuinely sympathetic to anyone who misunderstood that profiles are public, but profiles have always been public, and have been documented as such on the site. We're not going to alter the basic and well-attested functionality of the site just to avoid the possibility of any existing or future users being mistaken about an aspect of how the site works, even if I can understand the well-meaning motivation behind the idea.

It's a user education issue and, like most user education issues, one we'll never be done with because (a) new people sign up and miss previous discussions and (b) folks who've been around for a while miss or forget stuff in the FAQ or discussions. Continuing to periodically discuss this stuff, post occasional roundup stuff, etc. is totally doable is the sort of thing I expect us to keep doing.

Just want to ask - is this very narrowly framed Meta, and this very specific pony, the limit of discussion on privacy?

No, and folks are welcome to discuss other ideas, whether in here or in future MetaTalk threads. That said, discussing it isn't the same thing as granting that it'll be approved, and I think this particular proposal is a workable one that we can support admin-side in part because it's grounded in a pretty clear understanding of how MetaFilter works and what is vs. is not a plausible change to the site.

There are competing philosophies on how and when and whether to manage privacy on a site, and MetaFilter is not going to be able to support all of those. And where MetaFilter falls on the visibility and privacy spectrum has been pretty consistent and pretty clearly staked out in community discussion for a very long time now; while I can't and won't fault anyone for preferring some other philosophy or approach, it's unrealistic to expect large shifts there. Ultimately MetaFilter can't be everything to everyone, and we're going to have folks who feel that the site does too little, and others that it does too much, on a whole lot of different things.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:34 AM on January 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


Isn't doing the reverse also making assumptions about what tens of thousands of people want?

It's assuming they want the site to continue behaving for them as it has in the past. This is generally held to be a good principle in user interaction design, so much so that there's a name for it.
posted by 7segment at 10:41 AM on January 19, 2016 [9 favorites]



Isn't doing the reverse also making assumptions about what tens of thousands of people want?


Website default settings are already doing that, on all websites. The big thing is trying to ascertain whether the propositions and settings of the site are being made clearly. I think mods have been very clear that they are not trying to do anything shady. At this point, then, absent a poll-the-audience option, there is always going to be some value-laden baggage with whatever the defaults are and whether those defaults should change.

Giving users more-restrictive options but having status quo be the default and some sort of "Hey privacy options have changed!" notification that is visible seems to split the difference reasonably. Otherwise you're basically playing a "the lurkers support me in email" game. I respect and appreciate that some people in this thread have been surprised at the visibility of some of the content on their profile page but it is a huge leap to go from there to your "what tens of thousands of people want" statement, and it's obscuring the very real challenges in trying to make any change to a site with an active involved userbase that numbers in the four to five figures.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:49 AM on January 19, 2016 [19 favorites]


Could it redirect to the login page? That's what the Recent Activity url does if you're logged out.

I don't think it should redirect to the login page (which I assume also includes a create an account link). We want people to create accounts so they can contribute, not so they can see others' contributions more easily. If people are led along the create-an-account path when they want to see contributions, this implies that's a good reason to create an account. Obviously, we can't stop anyone from creating an account for that purpose, but this seems to be encouraging rather than just allowing it.

Also, there needs to be a way for people with closed accounts to request their contributions be made private. I had a previous account that I closed in part because I was contacted by someone via email who declined to identify themselves (though I have a pretty good guess) and had clearly identified me. The email felt threatening to me in tone, though it did not make explicit threats. When this pony goes live I will immediately be emailing the mods and requesting that the settings on that account be changed to private.

On the question of user education, what about an account setup "wizard" that runs automatically when you create an account and users can run later if they want? So it would show you pics of the various themes and ask which you want, ask privacy questions "Do you want people without metafilter accounts or who are not logged in to be able to see your activity?" Maybe put a little "i" icon next to some settings to explain what this means/why it might matter. Users would have to set up their account before they could actually use it. Much like setting up a new windows computer or a new smartphone.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:11 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


If I were joining a site and it popped up some hand-hold-ey 'wizard' to run me through a straightforward settings page, I would immediate abandon that account and site. I can't imagine I'm the only person who feels that way either. Pretty sure the 'new account' process points you at both the FAQ and preferences page already anyway?
posted by Dysk at 11:17 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


When this pony goes live I will immediately be emailing the mods and requesting that the settings on that account be changed to private.

That is the way people with closed accounts can request that their contributions be made more private. They're known for being very responsive to contact form messages from even closed accounts etc (which is my experience too), so I don't see it being a big problem.
posted by shelleycat at 11:29 AM on January 19, 2016


Dysk,

To your earlier comment, clearly you have experience with being tracked online. Just because you've made a choice to be public certainly doesn't mean I'd think your comments aren't helpful. I was speaking more to people who literally have never considered this and for some reason feel compelled to let everyone else know how Not A Big Deal it is to be on the internet, because of their personal experience never meeting resistance.
posted by odinsdream at 11:32 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


If I were joining a site and it popped up some hand-hold-ey 'wizard' to run me through a straightforward settings page, I would immediate abandon that account and site.

I don't think it has to be some sort of one-question-per-screen tedium, and maybe wizard was the wrong word. My point was that "Now select your settings." could be a step in the account creation process, rather than something that maybe you stumble across later or maybe you don't.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:39 AM on January 19, 2016


On the question of user education, what about an account setup "wizard" that runs automatically when you create an account and users can run later if they want?

Please make this an animated picture of mathowie.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:09 PM on January 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


As one of those longtime users surprised by what is publicly available, I want to say also that I don't have any real problem with what is publicly available. It's been 10 years since I've had the occasion to look around as a non-member. I don't recall if I looked at users' profiles when I was lurking, but it's reasonable to assume that I did and just forgot that that's how things worked. I wouldn't mind making the visibility status of profile information more explicit when editing that page, but I don't think I would have done anything differently. Regardless, I am fully in favor of user's profile privacy being under user control to the largest extent possible.

I am having some difficulty with what I perceive to be a shift in community philosophy regarding the difference between members and non-members. To me, the difference is that members can write things and non-members can't, but that's pretty much it. That relatively thin membrane is actively important to me; it's what allows me to bring Metafilter into my personal life as much as I bring my personal life to Metafilter. I was disquieted by the suggestion towards the end of the other thread that there be a members-only subsite, because that's antithetical to what I want this site to be and what it has been to me. Much of Metafilter's value to me is that the conversations and contributions are public, that I feel like I'm talking in a visible and engaging arena. I can write things here and link to them elsewhere; I can point people to these conversations; the conversations can extend out into my everyday life.

It seems to me like there is an alternate philosophy in which membership is the difference between the "Metafilter family", "brothers and sisters", and non-members who are perceived to be interlopers and party-crashers on a private conversation, barely-tolerated guests. Based on the last few big Meta conversations I've read, this seems to be an increasingly popular philosophy. I could be wrong about that, it's just an impression and I haven't made a careful study of it. I don't think there's anything wrong with that philosophy, and it's a user experience which many other places offer, but it isn't the way I see this place at all. I signed up to talk with the people here about interesting things, but I didn't sign up in order to only talk to or be seen by the people here, and Metafilter as part of an open-communication society is important to me in non-boyzone ways. This is a platform on which I can make myself more visible when invisibility is the microaggression. It matters to me that other people can see me here whether they are members or not, and that's as informed by minority experience as the real concerns we're addressing in this feature request.

I feel like we're increasingly talking about non-members as though they are an irritant at best and malevolent at worst, such that any steps to shield us from them can only be considered a common good. I wish to present the view that the public visibility of my contributions here is not an accident of the indifferent internet but a main attraction of the site for me. It's why I'm here instead of any number of other less-visible places. It may be that that value is deemed to be less important to the community in aggregate, and that firmer walls and more insularity provide more value to more people. It's a long conversation with a lot of nuance. I just want to put another perspective out there.
posted by Errant at 12:17 PM on January 19, 2016 [36 favorites]


I've just read through all the comments on this page and am really, really surprised to see that so few people are uncomfortable with this, because I am. Though, since it's clearly important to a lot of the people on the "yes" side, I am definitely willing to go along with it in the name of not being a dick. However:

I read Metafilter for a long time before I joined, and the accessibility of people's contribution history had a lot to do with my eventually being interested in joining, because it made it a lot easier to see it as a community rather than a long string of comments. I used that feature a lot (and still do), not because I want to look for vulnerabilities or make unwanted contact, but because when I see someone make a really great comment I'm interested in hearing more from them. Since the site is oriented around large-group conversations that aren't supposed to be dominated by any one person, I feel as if, without that feature, my experience on Metafilter would have been much more of a strangers-passing-in-a-crowd kind of thing, and it would have taken a lot longer to feel like I had a handle on what kind of place I was in.

(And OK, so this sheds a slightly less flattering light on me, but . . . ever had that experience where you've been feeling kind of disheartened by seeing an opinion you think is especially dickish expressed a lot on Metafilter, and suddenly one day you snap to the fact -- and confirm it via looking at contribution history -- that it's mostly just been one user expressing that opinion in a whole bunch of different threads, and you feel much better?)

I'm a woman, but I've never experienced sustained online harassment, or been in non-Internet danger from someone I got in touch with via the Internet, so obviously that's coloring my view. And, like I said, other users' strong opinions about their personal safety should be prioritized over my nebulous feelings about specific aspects of site experience. But I really hope that after this is implemented the majority of profiles will still be fully visible, because I do think it would be a loss.
posted by ostro at 12:18 PM on January 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


And seeing Errant's comment, strongly agree. There are things that I don't talk about on Metafilter because of privacy concerns, and I would probably become more comfortable talking about some of them if my contribution history wasn't accessible to non-members. But even so, I wouldn't make the switch for my own profile, because provided I have the protection of anonymity, I kind of do want to be as visible as I can.

I don't oppose this proposal, because I know that for other users that tradeoff may not be worthwhile, but for me it is. Definitely wouldn't want all contribution histories to be hidden from non-users, as a few people have suggested.
posted by ostro at 12:45 PM on January 19, 2016


I feel very much as Errant does. I don't mind obscuring more profile information, but I would regret the site moving further down the path of becoming more of a closed community forum and less a collaborative, open creation.
posted by Miko at 12:51 PM on January 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


As someone who agrees with the pony being trotted out in this post, I'm at the same time against obscuring our posting history. I joined metafilter understanding that it was an open, publicly available forum and I like it as open and collaborative. I go other places for walled garden discussion.
posted by immlass at 1:05 PM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


- Moving all profiles to minimal by default—the opt-out variant—remains a non-starter.

I don't really feel strongly about this pony either way, but it seems strange that you're taking such a strong position on this element. I don't think you've made a very strong case for it. It's your prerogative to put your foot down, obviously, but it seems like an odd place to draw a line.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:08 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Check jessamyn's comment above for a good explanation.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:12 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I like this idea, would go a bit further and suggest that this should be ON by default for all users.

I do not have time to read this entire discussion, so apologies if my idea is a repeat:

It should be the default and you can opt out instead of opting in so as to provide plausible deniability to vulnerable people. If you make it opt in, the people who actually need it the most are being asked to signal in public that they are hiding something. If you make it opt out, then tons of new users who do not care one way or the other and just do not know how to use the site will automatically get their info hidden too. This means having your info hidden is now a signal of "I am a newb/lazy/do not know how to use the site...or possibly have an actual problem." Otherwise, everyone who hides their info can be assumed to be someone with something to hide, making it easier for stalkers to infer which people here might be the person they are looking for.

I would also generally be in favor of developing a FAQ or something...possibly a private FAQ where you email the mods and ask for it if you have a stalker or similar issues. It would be nice to make some best practices available to members without it becoming a list of tips for stalkers.
posted by Michele in California at 1:32 PM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I would also generally be in favor of developing a FAQ or something... possibly a private FAQ where you email the mods and ask for it if you have a stalker or similar issues. It would be nice to make some best practices available to members without it becoming a list of tips for stalkers.

I like this idea, and this is something MeFites could potentially take responsibility for, as with the wikis, so it wouldn't have to be yet another thing for the mods to do.

There are two scenarios at least I would like to see community best practices for:
- what to do if someone is stalking or harassing you and your presence on MeFi is making you more vulnerable
- what to do if you find out someone is using comments/posts without permission (as with the EL doc)

I realize the first especially is not a simple situation, but I am curious what would be acceptable to ask from the mods in that scenario (e.g., how many comments can be changed or deleted, what parts of your identity here can realistically be obscured).

(Sorry if this all sounds off or clueless. I have not been in these situations myself and am just trying to brainstorm.)
posted by thetortoise at 1:54 PM on January 19, 2016


Short answer: If someone wants to remove some old comments etc, they need to come talk to us directly. It's impossible to make blanket statements about what we can do, since it will depend so much on the specifics of each case.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:57 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


BTW, although I am OK with the basic proposal here, I am not thrilled at the fact that it went from first presentation to the Metafilter community to mods posting about how they're working on implementing it in 24 hours. Not everybody checks Metatalk every day.

I actually would probably be more comfortable with the decision coming already-made from the mods than with this. It feels kind of like the discussion was nominally open to all members but in practice was done and decided once the most invested group of members -- those who check Metatalk every day -- had gotten a chance to vet it. Especially since, in the US, the single day in question was a public holiday.
posted by ostro at 2:03 PM on January 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


Whichever way this goes, it looks like this should be announced via either email or MeMail since it will affect everyone
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:09 PM on January 19, 2016


it looks like this should be announced via either email or MeMail since it will affect everyone

My vote is that a banner will be sufficient.
posted by JenMarie at 2:12 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like this idea. I often don't post a lot of personal information for safety reasons as others have mentioned. I'm not sure that this will change that about me, but I like how it protects others.

The one thing I would love to see stay public is music posts associated with your profile. I would be happy with the link still being public, even if getting to it from your profile page is disconnected. I know there are other sites out there, but I really enjoyed being able to share the awesome music/playlist page of my stuff to friends and acquaintances. The I only shared this page with people whom I wouldn't mind seeing my general mefi posts; it's not a professional thing unless your mefi identity is part of your professional online identity.
posted by frecklefaerie at 2:14 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


BTW, although I am OK with the basic proposal here, I am not thrilled at the fact that it went from first presentation to the Metafilter community to mods posting about how they're working on implementing it in 24 hours.

In this case, this is something that's been under discussion for several days; as noted above, it was brought up last week and the new post here deferred to this Monday just to give that previous discussion a little distance. But so, yes: we were talking about basic implementation ideas before it ever went up, because it had already gotten less formally proposed and discussed a bit by some of the community.

If we were looking at a new-default, opt-out situation, I'd feel much more strongly about floating this at length for community input; given that it's opt-in and that I'd had a chance to talk a little about the idea and scope with melissasaurus before the thing even came to MetaTalk, that's far less of a concern to me here, though I appreciate where you're coming from in general.

More generally on this point, though: ultimately, MetaFilter isn't a democracy, or a consensus-driven model in the real-deal organizational theory sense; it's a staff-run community space, and I think community feedback and buy-in is really important but it's absolutely not a given that decision-making is gated on any kind of specific threshold of time or affirmative discussion. Many, many changes to the site are either to some extent fait accompli or varyingly-rapid "sure, pb can build that" responses to pony requests; I'd say on average the time from proposal to approval for stuff we do say yes to is a lot less than 24 hours, though it'd be interesting (if research-intensive, so I'm passing on this one) to analyze that by reviewing the MetaTalk archives.

This change is slightly bigger than average, but less so than some other stuff that's been discussed in the past.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:26 PM on January 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


Back in (from looking at the timeline, what must have been) 2002 (before profiles were locked down but during the signup freeze) I saw a particularly insightful comment, long since forgotten, and actually emailed its author personally saying "hey thanks, this comment's amazing, really made me think. sorry for going to your personal email to say that, but I don't have an account and can't get one right now". That user emailed me back "thanks for your kind words, not creepy, I'm sure you'll get an account eventually!"

I remember that as being a really touching, personal moment, where I felt welcome in the community even if I wasn't and couldn't be a member at that point in time. As Errant said, this thread feels the opposite, where most commenters are treating nonmembers as scary, malevolent parties. The vast majority are not.

Note that, of the people requesting this feature, none are saying "having this available would have resulted in my acting differently which would have benefitted myself and the site as a whole". Instead, they're saying "I didn't understand how things work, so you need to change things to work like I thought they did". This is a very entitled stance.

The mods' position heretofore of "membership isn't a significant enough barrier to entry to warrant defining separate site behavior" surely isn't ideal, but this thread started off with people saying "but it's something, and something is better than nothing". It's gone from that to "actually, we could MAKE it significant!" with all kinds of suggestions about making the preference default-on for the entire userbase, modifying signup behavior, adding a separate tier of visible-to-contacts-only, on to odinsdream's ideas about policing invisible behavior.

The last point particularly bothers me. There's certainly a portion of registered accounts which have never posted or which post a couple times a year. I think everyone's basically OK with this at the moment, but if profile data becomes privileged information (beyond what is already), all of a sudden these accounts are suspicious. Until now, bannable offenses were pretty much limited to on-site activity: self-links, PII about other site members, obvious abuse, etc. We're looking at moving to a place where "lurker" is synonymous with "potential spy" and I don't think that's a great standard to be bringing to the community.
posted by 7segment at 2:51 PM on January 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


"I'm a big fan of this proposal. I don't think it's a false sense of security-- piecing together from Google a complete story of which comments were made in a person's history and in which order is nontrivial and will be a roadblock in at least some form. It will definitely give a less impressionistic or narrative view of a user without putting in some elbow grease."

Due to the still-kinda-crappy nature of MeFi search, and that it's pretty trivial to craft a robust Google search (though less easy than it was when it was straight Boolean), it's actually easier to come up with a complete list of all of a member's contributions through Google and a couple of scripts than it is through MeFi, at least in my experience.

One of the assumptions that I've seen made here that I think is worth pushing back against is the idea that people saying this is a false sense of security are the ones who have never had to think seriously about their security and privacy online — I can say for myself that's very much not the case. I tend to assume that at least some of the comments are from people who have had to think through digital OpSec or something similar, and recognize how truly difficult being part of a community while maintaining strict privacy truly is. At least some of them are also likely to be longtime MeFi members, around long enough to remember that we've been talking about this for a long time. MeFi used to be a lot more open to that when the community (and internet participation in general) was much smaller.
posted by klangklangston at 2:58 PM on January 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


saying non members aren't germane to the conversation of what visibility profiles should have isn't the same as saying they're scary or malevolent or unwelcome or whatever and it seems pretty overblown to frame it in that way. it's saying that the wishes of non members to want to poke around shouldn't be held higher than the contributing members wishes to obscure some stuff.
posted by nadawi at 2:59 PM on January 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


all kinds of suggestions about making the preference default-on for the entire userbase,


To clarify my point (or position): I think it is a bad idea to implement this as a security feature and make it opt in. That is like saying "We are a nude beach, but if you have something to hide, feel free to cover up." That is the worst possible way to "help" people hide something. It actively draws attention to their need to hide something. Better to say "We are clothing optional.", so to speak.

I don't care either way. I intend to keep mine publicly viewable. I manage any privacy concerns I have via other avenues. I just think it is worse than the current status quo to say, in essence, "We have vulnerable people and we expect them to publicly signal their vulnerability." I think that line of reasoning is fundamentally broken.
posted by Michele in California at 3:02 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


To use that metaphor, making this opt-out is akin to forcibly clothing everyone, then giving them the option to take the clothes off again.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:16 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just think it is worse than the current status quo to say, in essence, "We have vulnerable people and we expect them to publicly signal their vulnerability." I think that line of reasoning is fundamentally broken.

Even now, people opt to put more or less information in their profiles than others. It doesn't seem like this will visibly look much different than now.
posted by JenMarie at 3:26 PM on January 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


nadawi: I'm in agreement with cortex' comment viz. non-members being non-stakeholders in the issue at hand. I'm talking about comments like this and this which recommend obfuscating/deterring the creation of and crippling the functionality of new accounts, respectively. This goes beyond profile visibility and pretty far into assuming-the-worst-of-potential-new-members territory.
posted by 7segment at 3:30 PM on January 19, 2016


To clarify my point (or position): I think it is a bad idea to implement this as a security feature and make it opt in.

It's not a security feature, it's an options preference. We're not providing this because we think it's necessary to the safety and security of MeFites in general that this information not be publicly available; we're providing it because some folks would personally prefer to have that option.

It actively draws attention to their need to hide something.

The problem of conspicuous non-disclosure as itself a kind of disclosure is a big hairy one with a whole lot of angles on it, and it's something I think about a lot and we have to deal with various aspects of from a mod perspective over time. That said, it's very possible to grant too much priority to the idea of avoiding any potential partial disclosure-by-non-disclosure and so end up wandering down a path toward a bunker mentality. In the end, deciding what one is or is not worried about signaling by taking a given precautionary measure is part of a personal risk-assessment and can't be completely routed around in this context in a reasonable way.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:40 PM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm talking about comments like this and this

i don't see either of those linked comments as an example of treating nonmembers as scary, malevolent parties. or pretty far into assuming-the-worst-of-potential-new-members. there are already one or two things that are not allowed to non-members beyond posting/commenting (seeing search results from specific accounts) and not allowed to brand new members (immediate posting to the front page). no one is wielding pitchforks here.
posted by nadawi at 3:45 PM on January 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


I agree with 7Segment.
posted by josher71 at 3:51 PM on January 19, 2016


I go other places for walled garden discussion.

Other than a super brief mention (mine) as a passing thought in the other thread, more in terms of reflecting on other spaces for comparison, I don't think anyone's put that forward as a serious suggestion. As far as I can determine, the concern that people (including me) have is of leaving enough of a trail, through comments and questions made via a given online identity, to make it more or less easy for personally identifiable information to be compiled, such that it increases that user's vulnerability.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:52 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


And it's true that a decent Google search should be able to facilitate that anyway through the comments.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:55 PM on January 19, 2016


saying non members aren't germane to the conversation of what visibility profiles should have isn't the same as saying they're scary or malevolent or unwelcome or whatever and it seems pretty overblown to frame it in that way. it's saying that the wishes of non members to want to poke around shouldn't be held higher than the contributing members wishes to obscure some stuff.

If I were saying that the one means the other, yes, it probably would be overblown, but since I'm on the record in the very same comment as favoring the ability of members to obscure as much of their profile as they desire, that's probably not what I'm saying.

Not wishing to go back through the previous thread and pull out specific comments, especially since those commenters may not have joined this discussion yet, I saw a prevailing sense of "I wrote in the EL thread for my Metafilter family, not for outsiders", "it's egregious that a NON-MEMBER was able to associate my comments with my profile", and other such things which I am obviously paraphrasing here. Especially, the idea that the annotated PDF was more hostile to the community and the women in it because it was made by someone outside the community, as in a non-member, speaks to me of a distinction that I do not make and that I don't think we have historically made, at least so strongly. In my opinion, a person who reads a multi-thousand-comment thread and comes away inspired enough to want to share it and continue the conversation elsewhere is a part of the community whether they have paid $5 or ever commented in a thread.

None of this is to defend the validity or execution of the PDF idea, which is why I stayed out of that thread, but it seems quite obvious that it was a mistake born out of a sense of connection and a desire to participate. Intent doesn't mitigate harm, and harm must be reduced regardless of intent, but nonetheless negligence vs. malice is a distinction with a difference. As a community, we have historically felt very receptive to and supportive of people operating in good faith, and we have tended on the whole to treat non-members as future members who just haven't signed up yet. It feels less like that than it used to at the present moment. Maybe that's inevitable given the general shift in atmosphere across the internet and in American society, and as I said before, it may well be that more insularity is the best thing for the majority of the community going forward. I'm not exactly ignorant to the dangers and methodology of gamergate-style attack protocols, and it's not paranoia when someone really is out to get you. This is a conversation we'll keep having, and it's also clear in this instance that some extra controls are called for. In my opinion, that welcoming atmosphere is worth being mindful of and attempting to preserve as we make the adjustments we decide to make.
posted by Errant at 4:00 PM on January 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


The people who are saying they want it are supposedly wanting it for security reasons:

Why would someone want their contribution and social information visible only to members?
People - particularly women - who write about or comment on social justice topics (or really, anything) are increasingly subject to harassment and threats. In addition, some users have personal circumstances - harassers, stalkers, abusive exes or family members, etc. - that mean they may benefit from having additional roadblocks to someone compiling their information. A random comment on a thread about, e.g., street harassment, sexism in the workplace, abortion, child support, or really any topic could be pulled out of context and highlighted by a Buzzfeed-esque site, a subreddit, or any random individual or group. Anyone who then takes issue with the comment can currently click through to the user’s profile and see all comments they’ve made and, in many cases, determine their real identity from that information. A small speedbump in that process would be helpful. Privacy through obscurity. This issue arose via this recent MeTa.


I am not talking about a bunker mentality. I just think it is disingenuous to pretend this preference is not being offered as a security feature.

My profile will remain public. But for the people who do feel some need for this privacy feature, how it gets implemented is likely to have an inordinately high impact on their life. If newbs do not care whether or not their profile is public, then they shouldn't care that the default settings are being used as smokescreen for the people who actually need increased security.

But I will step away now. Because I am not someone directly impacted by this. I would just hate to see someone get hurt because a security feature was implemented in a manner that backfired for them personally.
posted by Michele in California at 4:13 PM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Not wishing to go back through the previous thread and pull out specific comments

people reacting strongly to the honestly pretty fucked up thing that happened with that pdf isn't a good place to pull what people really think about this site's members and non members. things got heated and personal all over. if you want to discuss what happened in that thread, that thread seems like a place to do it. to bring all that here when none of it has been on display in this conversation seems like it mostly serves to raise the heat in the room.
posted by nadawi at 4:25 PM on January 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


I like this pony and while I would prefer it be on by default, I am okay if the current setting is the default.

While we're discussing potential changes: Can it be possible to anonymously mark attendance for IRL events? If someone doesn't want location divulged, it would also help to not be marked as attending gatherings, while still allowing event coordinators to have an accurate headcount. It's up to the participant if they want to reveal their username in person at the gathering.
posted by halifix at 4:27 PM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I actually want to know ahead of time who has RSVP'd for an IRL event; it factors into whether I want to attend.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:29 PM on January 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


And it's true that a decent Google search should be able to facilitate that anyway through the comments.

Which is why I personally think other approaches (excluding a walled garden) are worth considering.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:30 PM on January 19, 2016


Oh, you made me think of a possible, work-heavy improvement on that. Add a third setting so only people you have linked to can see you on attendance list.
posted by halifix at 4:33 PM on January 19, 2016


to bring all that here when none of it has been on display in this conversation seems like it mostly serves to raise the heat in the room.

This conversation is entirely about how we wish the site to treat non-members. The demeanor to which I refer has examples in that most recent thread but was noticeable to me before then and is noticeable to me in this conversation as well. I'm not trying to pick at anyone's specific comments but talk about site culture more generally. If you do not perceive that shift in attitude, then ok, we disagree, and maybe I'm wrong. I've said what I have to say about it.
posted by Errant at 4:41 PM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


it factors into whether I want to attend.

Yeah, and in fact, whether a person feels relatively safe attending, in some cases.
posted by Miko at 4:41 PM on January 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


I was thinking in terms of the security of the anonymous attender. There's the conflict between safety of the group through knowledge of participants, and personal security through obscurity, but I don't see how allowing anonymous attendance is any different from people currently not marking attendance just showing up at gatherings. (I'm not sure how often that happens.)
posted by halifix at 4:55 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


This conversation is entirely about how we wish the site to treat non-members.

That's one way of looking at it. Seems to have come up in terms of protecting members. As has been mentioned, this is still way less firm a barrier than you'd see on LinkedIn, FB, most forums (including those with open discussions), etc.

But I mean, not really sure what the concern is. People can still see (all) posts and questions, they just wouldn't be able to connect them to a profile and create a narrative about that person through the MetaFilter interface for those who didn't want that. On this scheme, if you opted not to go for that, they'd still be able to see your profile, and connect all your comments with your username, if you wanted them to. And they could do a google search if you didn't.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:59 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The demeanor to which I refer has examples in that most recent thread but was noticeable to me before then and is noticeable to me in this conversation as well. I'm not trying to pick at anyone's specific comments but talk about site culture more generally.

It feels to me like there's some pushing of the Overton window on how the site should function toward the idea of "protecting" (by obscurity, not by actual security) members at the expense of welcoming new members or prospective members. One of the things that I was happy about the EL thread was that it got people to join the site. A lot of people in the thread were happy about this and welcomed the $5 newbies. If I were one of them, I wouldn't feel like this community was very open to new members.
posted by immlass at 5:04 PM on January 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


This conversation is entirely about how we wish the site to treat non-members.

No, it's absolutely not. I like this for me.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:10 PM on January 19, 2016 [14 favorites]


Making all this stuff optional seems fine to me but I really feel like it should remain opt-in rather than opt-out. I mostly agree with what cortex has said about it.
posted by Justinian at 5:26 PM on January 19, 2016


This conversation is about how non members interact with profile pages, AND about how members interact with profile pages. It's bith.

NOT ALL NON MEMBERS
posted by disclaimer at 5:37 PM on January 19, 2016


Nth-ing opt-in rather than opt-out.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:37 PM on January 19, 2016


I would personally appreciate steering clear of "not all X" jokes at this time.
posted by kalessin at 5:39 PM on January 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


at the expense of welcoming new members or prospective members... I wouldn't feel like this community was very open to new members.

I think it's clear I've got mixed feelings about this proposal, but how does this idea "not welcome" new members? Not that there's anywhere near enough information to really talk about it this way, but what percentage of "welcoming" do you think can be accounted for by access to individual users' profiles, given that the entire site's available for perusal, via conversations and ?

I am guessing, based on past Metas, that new (2010s vintage) users most often first encounter the site through AskMetafilter, because they're searching for answers to particular questions (presumably). They discover, and are intrigued by (hopefully; usually) high-quality content, irrespective of individual personalities. It's a wash of information (i.e. our experiences, insights, knowledge, curiosities, anxieties) organized around a question, or a cultural artifact, if it's the Blue - bits of writing attached to thousands of unknown names. Visitors poke around a bit more, start to get a sense of the general vibe; probe a bit further, maybe after a while start to pick up on particularly strong voices/bits of writing and associating them with usernames.

The whole site is still there. It's just the profiles under discussion here. Which belong to the real life individuals, with real concerns, who are creating that content by contributing their voices and personal experiences and vulnerabilities.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:40 PM on January 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think there's a lot of non-members would be more likely to join if they knew certain personal information, if they choose to add it, would not be easily scraped.
posted by halifix at 5:55 PM on January 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


This conversation is entirely about how we wish the site to treat non-members.

No, it's absolutely not. I like this for me.


I was unclear and apologize. This conversation is about how we would like the site to look to non-members, with regard to our personal parts of the site.
posted by Errant at 6:16 PM on January 19, 2016


I would like to add my voice to those in favor of opt-in (and I say this as someone who has been contacted by a non-member as recently as three days ago, asking a question about a question I asked almost ten years ago).

As a long time member, I also feel strongly like this conversation -- specifically the opt-in or opt-out part -- should be something the wider user base has the opportunity to weigh in on before a decision is made, and I wish this meta were sidebared for a day or so to alert people (particularly following the US holiday weekend) that this is something being considered. I understand this has been discussed in MeTa for quite some time (I caught the tail end of the .pdf thing) but this is a significant change in the way Metafilter displays information and (like it or not) the face it shows to non-members about the nature of our community, and I think it deserves a wider conversation than that taking place by the relatively few people who happen to be sitting around the metaphorical table right now.
posted by anastasiav at 6:44 PM on January 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


Maybe so (I'd also be interested to see how many like the idea of some measure of profile - actually, person protection), but it's already been decided.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:52 PM on January 19, 2016


Thanks to all who worked on this. I agree.
posted by ltracey at 7:19 PM on January 19, 2016


how does this idea "not welcome" new members?

It's trying to shift the Overton window of site culture toward the assumption that non-members are hostile and that more and more of the site should be hidden from them, and that people who want to keep the site working the way it always has need to opt out. And it's taking place in a discussion that was spawned from a MeTa about how outsiders exploited the EL thread and some of the heat is carrying over from that. YMMV, and this is, I think, my third time to say something about the Overton window, so if you're still unclear, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to repeat myself again.
posted by immlass at 7:20 PM on January 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


Please forgive me for not reading all of the preceding comments before adding my own, I just need to say: very much in favor.
posted by Dashy at 7:35 PM on January 19, 2016


I personally think it's a simplification to frame this in terms of members/non-members. Anytime there are options to lock down my online identities and separate them from one another, I've opted to do so, often to a granular extent. I don't attach my name to my music project (how's that for lack of credit - I simply don't care). It's because I consider it incredibly important to consider who can see what - my family, extended family, employer and coworkers, clients, acquaintances, trusted friends, online friends, etc. - each are circles that know a very specific "me", and I can't afford to let the full extent of who I am be visible to most of them. I envy those who can just put things out there and not worry, but things aren't so simple for me. I could be fired or disowned for the things I share in various places, because the world I've experienced is much more judgey and conservative than I'd like for it to be. Even if it's nothing drastic, I still want to be respected professionally. But it's also incredibly important for me to participate online and be who I am, in all my messy glory, so the dilemma presents itself.

For me it's not about non-members being scary or hostile entities, and members being trustworthy. I don't necessarily trust lots of Mefites either. Instead, it's about keeping the different parts of my life as compartmentalized as possible online, to at least try to exert some control over who can see what. Even if it's a fig leaf, it's something. For the most part, to get by with slightly less anxiety, I rely on the fiction that I'm too boring for anyone to bother stalking a whole lot. But I know people do, and anything to make it harder to form connections is welcome.

I'm going to participate online. It's just a matter of doing so while minimizing risk of blowback in various scenarios as much as possible. If I have that option, I take it every time. The older I get and the more my online activities develop a permanent, easily searchable, easily traceable record, the more concerned I am about this stuff. It's a bummer to think about all this, but it's not going to go away. And it's only going to get worse.
posted by naju at 8:11 PM on January 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


I absolutely understand why some members are saying that this proposal is another way to make this community more closed. Being opt-in mitigates some of that, but much of the personal information displayed on profile pages was optional already - fields could be left blank if that was information a member didn't feel like sharing. As for a member's comment history, I know some folks who read metafilter for a while without joining and found the ability to see what a member has written previously to be a good and helpful thing in terms of finding more useful/interesting content and getting a feel for the community here.

I realize we rank members higher than non-members with regards to almost everything, but non-members click ads and spread the word of this site too, and some of them, if they like what they see, even sign up. We would be, in effect, putting a paywall in the way of some of metafilter's previously available functionality, and I think that would definitely present a change of face to non(yet)members.
posted by dazed_one at 8:14 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's trying to shift the Overton window of site culture toward the assumption that non-members are hostile

This idea arose from the fact that some non-members are actively hostile to particular members.

Beyond that, as naju and quite a few have expressed so far, concerns have nothing to do with the idea that "non-members are hostile". Identity / reputation management is important to a lot of people, it has real-world implications.

and that more and more of the site should be hidden from them,

What "more and more", 99.9999999999999% of the site will be as it is.

Right now all I'd personally be thinking about would be maybe a looser approach to # of sock puppets, maybe some potentially helpful signposting.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:05 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Last one from me, because I'm aware I'm talking a lot - the internet has actually changed since 199x. If it does turn out most members want the Overton window to nudge over an inch, maybe it's not a terrible idea. YMMV.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:08 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


If it does turn out most members want the Overton window to nudge over an inch, maybe it's not a terrible idea.

It's not possible--or at least not realistic--to poll the userbase, and barring doing so, there's no way for us to know what "most members" prefer. It's also been made eminently clear that site policy is not decided by referendum (thankfully).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:18 PM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Right now all I'd personally be thinking about would be maybe a looser approach to # of sock puppets

I am completely opposed to this idea.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:38 PM on January 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


This is the third open meta thread where I'm posting that opt out is uncool so I think you all can figure out where I stand on this issue now. The feature as suggested in the original post here strikes me as well thought out and suitable as is.
posted by shelleycat at 11:41 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Widespread use of sock puppets is antithetical to the whole idea of Metafilter IMO.
posted by Justinian at 12:24 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


You can say it's "antithetical" but how come some of my best friends are thetics? It's political correctness gone mad.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:47 AM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Make me great again
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:53 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Widespread use of sock puppets is antithetical to the whole idea of Metafilter IMO.

I thought maybe 3-4, max, just to prevent concatenation of biographical/potentially identifying details within a single identity/username (because a single sock would just hold it all in one place anyway), for people who are worried about that. As I said above, my guess would be that moderation practices & community pressure would constrain problematic behaviour.

I would bet a bunch of people have at least one sockpuppet already. (Ironically, this is my only account here atm. I did have another account prior to this.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:59 AM on January 20, 2016


Michele in California: To clarify my point (or position): I think it is a bad idea to implement this as a security feature and make it opt in. That is like saying "We are a nude beach, but if you have something to hide, feel free to cover up." That is the worst possible way to "help" people hide something. It actively draws attention to their need to hide something. Better to say "We are clothing optional.", so to speak.

But this IS exactly what is happening - it is becoming optional to display some of your profile information. It being opt-in or opt-out does not inherently make a judgement about WHY people are or should be hiding anything on your profile. I don't think it at all follows from it being opt-in that everyone who does opt in does in fact have something to hide. Not everybody who is vulnerable will opt in, and not everyone who will opt in is vulnerable. I do not believe the correlation you are positing actually exists.


cotton dress sock: This idea arose from the fact that some non-members are actively hostile to particular members.

Beyond that, as naju and quite a few have expressed so far, concerns have nothing to do with the idea that "non-members are hostile". Identity / reputation management is important to a lot of people, it has real-world implications.
[...]
Right now all I'd personally be thinking about would be maybe a looser approach to # of sock puppets, maybe some potentially helpful signposting.


So are some members, as has been keenly demonstrated time and time again. To mention just the most egregious example of what's happened to me personally, there was that time someone registered a sockpuppet purely to attack me in meta (and then that whole debacle spilled off mefi too). Pretty fuckin' sure that person was a member. But just generally, ask trans mefites about how friendly members here are in general (and how often discussion - often about specific members - that gets shut down here pops up on reddit or elsewhere).
posted by Dysk at 3:13 AM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I agree with this for many of the reasons described above (so I will not reiterate). Thank you for the work on developing this proposal.
posted by anya32 at 6:18 AM on January 20, 2016


Changing your profile to private is only conspicuous if:

1. Someone has already seen your profile and
2. There is a big announcement on the site that says "HIDE YOUR PROFILE INFO TODAY."

That's why I think memail and/or email is a better way to communicate this change, since it eliminates the "conspicuous" aspect of this change.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:07 AM on January 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's trying to shift the Overton window of site culture toward the assumption that non-members are hostile and that more and more of the site should be hidden from them, and that people who want to keep the site working the way it always has need to opt out.

I think that's a pretty narrow perspective on this. Online identity sharing is a tricky area (how much flak did Facebook and Google get around requiring real names/verifying identities?) and I am - as with most things internety - in favour of giving users choice and control over what they share, how and where it gets shared, and who can see it. That isn't saying that non-members are hostile, but it is saying that members who help create and develop the content of the site should have ability to control what aspects of their identity are attached to that content. And while that might be off-putting to some non-members, it might also be inviting to others to see that this site is trying to be conscious of the fact that online identities can be a matter of choice and providing some controls around that.

To some extent we've always had that, with the free form fields. This just adds some more options. I think it's a good pony.
posted by nubs at 8:33 AM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Right now all I'd personally be thinking about would be maybe a looser approach to # of sock puppets

This is antithetical to Metafilter values IMO. Big, big negative. We have anonymous questions if your problem is you don't want identifying information on the green, and as far as the rest of the site goes, you are your words. If you don't want to own them, maybe you don't need to say them. What makes Metafilter different and better compared to other sites on the web is we know who we're talking to (even if we only know the consistency of the handle and not the real person behind it). Multiple socks would demolish that, and as Dysk notes, we've already seen a person on the site get a sock and abuse existing members. It was the first thing I thought of when I saw the multiple-sock proposal.
posted by immlass at 8:37 AM on January 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


Online identity sharing is a tricky area (how much flak did Facebook and Google get around requiring real names/verifying identities?)

Metafilter mostly does this right already: we attach our words to our identity so there's not much in the way of anon driveby crap or nasty sockpuppeting stuff (see also: Scott Adams) but people control what they say and what they put in their profile. Most of the measures proposed here, including the OP, which I approve of, are the security equivalent of "the club" on a car: enough to discourage the casual aggressor but not enough to stop a determined stalker. And the more changes Metafilter makes to discourage casual readers (sometimes aka lurkers), the more it discourages casual readers who might become members.
posted by immlass at 8:44 AM on January 20, 2016


Question for cortex/pb: Do we have any stats about how often /user pages and /activity pages are visited by logged-out visitors?
posted by Rock Steady at 8:53 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


i'm opposed to multiple sockpuppets, but i do have one sock that i use to ask or respond to things that i know my family is googling that week - recipes, home repair, etc. i created the sock, emailed the mods (maybe the other way around?) and make sure to never abuse it (talking as me in a thread - coming back in w/ my sock, leaning on personal information shared w/ me by mefites when using my sock, etc). i would be pretty bummed if the anti-sock talk reached a point where people pushed to do away with socks all together.
posted by nadawi at 8:54 AM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


And the more changes Metafilter makes to discourage casual readers (sometimes aka lurkers), the more it discourages casual readers who might become members.

I lurked here for years before joining; I doubt I ever looked at a profile page before I signed up. At least, if I did, I don't recall it. I'm not really sure this impacts the casual reader/lurker much at all, is what I'm trying to say - I think they are here for the content, not for the user. I don't think we're really in disagreement except over the point about the impact of this change on those lurkers, which I think is a really hard one to assess because I also can see an argument for how these features might make someone feel more comfortable about signing up.
posted by nubs at 8:54 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, to be clear, we're not going to look at encouraging an expectation of folks running multiple spare accounts. Having a sock for privacy or sensitive info is fine; moving from one account to another after a period of years because of some unforeseeable privacy/safety issue is understandable. Moving frequently from account to account or running multiple active accounts at once and moving between them is stuff we write to people about to figure out what's up, because it's not something we expect to see and not something we consider an okay use of the site in general.

As with all things: if someone has a specific exceptional circumstance they want to talk about with us, we'll hear you out and accommodate you if possible. I can think of a fingers-on-one-hand number of situations where we have needed to deal with a really unusual account-identity situation and have given advice about complicated sock stuff, and that's fine. Doesn't hurt to ask, in any case; we have no problem talking it through and it stays a private conversation. But those are exceptional cases, not what folks should view as standard MetaFilter behavior.

The basic assumption here is you have an account, and that's who you are. The standard exception there is having a spare sockpuppet account for sensitive or privacy-related stuff , and that's totally fine too so long as its something that you handle with appropriate care. This post from a couple years back remains a good rundown of the details.

Again, if you need for some specific reason to do something beyond that, you can talk to us about it. But moving to a model where people are expected to run multiple simultaneous accounts for the specific purpose of actively diffusing a sense of continuity of identity on the site isn't something that's going to be workable. If your needs are in that territory, it's something to have a conversation with the mods about but in all but very exceptional cases something that's probably a case of expecting MetaFilter to be a different website than it actually is.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:59 AM on January 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


I took a quick look at Overton Window on Wikipedia. I don't see what that concept has to do with this suggestion. I agree with the concerns that this change is a big change for the site. I am actually against making the change. But I was not directly impacted by the EL PDF. I searched it. My name was not in it.

I just think if you are going to do this -- which appears to have already been decided, so I see no point in arguing that -- you need to own up to the fact that this is primarily being discussed at all as a security measure for particularly vulnerable people. Thus, it needs to be implemented in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of those individuals. If you aren't making that scenario the measuring stick for this feature, you are potentially making their problems worse, not better. To my mind, if you implement this at all, it needs to clearly be helpful to people with ugly scenarios, like a known stalker. If it does not help them, if it just serves as yet another minefield for them to navigate in an already crazy making, dangerous situation, then I think you are harming the site for zero gain. I see that as a lose-lose situation.

However it gets handled, I hope it will be done with that in mind and not with a pretense that "It is just a preference, not a security feature". I agree that memail notification of the change is far preferable to posting a banner.

So, hopefully that makes my point of view as clear as possible. Either way, it won't significantly impact me. Thus, I think this will be my last clarification.
posted by Michele in California at 11:28 AM on January 20, 2016


how is a memail different than posting a banner for logged in members, except it informs people who have memail turned off?
posted by nadawi at 11:54 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


cortex, how does one go about beginning a discussion with the mods about matters like this, with the hope of producing such a clear and well-thought out MeTa post? Are you open to some kind of site policy or FAQ entry that we discourage quotation of comments in outside spaces without permission?

I don't think I've ever seen the mods chime in on this, though you've obviously targeted the spammers who copy the whole site and repost it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:55 AM on January 20, 2016


Sorry, nadawi, I missed that the banner was members-only. In that case either option is fine.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:22 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


anptherpanacea, I'd assume that one would just hit them up on the contact form with a "hey, I'd like to propose a thing on MeTa, can you help me make sure I do a good job?" and then take it from there.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:44 PM on January 20, 2016


cortex, how does one go about beginning a discussion with the mods about matters like this, with the hope of producing such a clear and well-thought out MeTa post?

I feel like I should emphasize that I credit the clear structure and attention to detail in this post entirely to melissasaurus; we talked a bit about scope and expectations but the post text itself, and the idea to make it, are both entirely hers and not something that having a conversation with mods ahead of time will guarantee or anything.

That said: the contact form is always a good place to start if you want to hash out an idea with us, so if you're in a sort of actively-contemplating-a-post place and want to talk it out privately, that's always totally fine. It's also okay to talk out some of the stuff in here if you're so inclined, as sort of a catch-all place for some of these related idea anyway.

Are you open to some kind of site policy or FAQ entry that we discourage quotation of comments in outside spaces without permission?

Yep, we can talk about that. I mention it in early on in this comment from the other thread, but to reiterate, I think we could amend/supplement the FAQ on copyright to include an explicit recommendation to think about the sensitivity of quoted materials context and more actively attempt to get permission first where that's a factor. That sort of thing isn't really enforceable, but it'd be reasonable to signpost it there for the folks who are at least making an effort to be conscientious about such stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:45 PM on January 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think this feature is a good idea and a sensemaking compromise for a lot of interrelated and disparate ideas and concerns.

> I feel strongly about maintaining the basic principle that MetaFilter has public-facing profile pages, even if any given user chooses to aggressively minimize the public-facing content on it. It's part of MetaFilter's structure and identity, and creates a basic consistency in the UI even if the available content of profile pages may vary significantly.

I kinda feel like this could also be used as an argument for the narrower-view profile pages being the default. Those with more stringent personal privacy needs should minimize how they use those open fields, those who have a personal wish to put more info about themselves out there can go nuts.

But there's no big rush to decide that policy issue Once Only, For All Time. Go ahead and make the narrower view opt-in. See how things evolve with site usage, and perhaps revisit in the future whether a shift in the default setting seems natural or disruptive or something else.
posted by desuetude at 1:59 PM on January 20, 2016


I'm not really sure this impacts the casual reader/lurker much at all, is what I'm trying to say

We had different use cases as lurkers. *shrug*

I just think if you are going to do this -- which appears to have already been decided, so I see no point in arguing that -- you need to own up to the fact that this is primarily being discussed at all as a security measure for particularly vulnerable people. Thus, it needs to be implemented in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of those individuals.

I disagree with this completely. If people want to make themselves less vulnerable, there are already ways to protect your profile (blanking it out and BND for a start). Anyone who is a serious stalker will pony up the $5 and lurk and see the information on your profile if they really want to. That's unfortunate, and I would hate to be in that position, but holy shit if I had a stalker I would not be on this site at all.
posted by immlass at 2:31 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


From what cortex said earlier, this is just an options preference, right? I don't see how this changes site culture or affects anyone who won't use it.
posted by thetortoise at 3:56 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I took a quick look at Overton Window on Wikipedia. I don't see what that concept has to do with this suggestion."

The "window" is the bounds of normalized practice. Overton was the one who described that window. The current window of normalized practice is that activity is pretty open to perusal by non-members (or logged-out members). This would shift the normalized practice away from that current practice of transparency and openness due to concerns about non-members, because they are the only ones who would notice a change.

"I just think if you are going to do this -- which appears to have already been decided, so I see no point in arguing that -- you need to own up to the fact that this is primarily being discussed at all as a security measure for particularly vulnerable people. Thus, it needs to be implemented in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of those individuals."

No, some of the people involved would consider themselves exceptionally vulnerable ("particular," in this case, would be too broad — people can feel particularly vulnerable on issues without feeling more vulnerable on the whole), and some would not. Some of those who will likely participate won't do so because they feel more vulnerable, but because they have a different comfort level with the accessibility of their online identity. Different comfort levels do not inherently imply more vulnerability, and as we've seen already in this conversation, some people who have a history that would imply above-average vulnerability have stated that they would not be using this feature. Given the discussion we have here, the correlation would seem to be extremely noisy, reducing the utility of an inference like "Those who make their commenting history unavailable to non-members are exceptionally vulnerable."

I can see the logic that you are using, but as much as anyone must "own up" (which seems to imply a dodging of responsibility or duplicity), the data does not seem to support your hypothesis. For an analogy: The use of favorites may imply approval of a comment or post, and those posts and comments with more favorites are likely more popular and more positively received than those with fewer favorites. However, the individual meaning of any given favorite is variable enough — e.g., not just approval but also bookmarking — that inferring meaning from an individual case is impossible absent further context. People favorite things they disagree with, people favorite things they want to respond to, people favorite comments that mark their reading place in a thread.

Further, while individual members may treat this as a security precaution, the weakness of the measure as well as the discussion of the implicit norms of openness versus privacy would imply that it should not be treated primarily as a security precaution both because it is likely to have other uses and because imputing to it a signal of vulnerability actually weakens the utility as a security tactic.

You've reasoned yourself into a false dilemma, and the solution you propose would encourage the problem you believe you are solving.
posted by klangklangston at 3:59 PM on January 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sorry this is late, but I did just want to briefly reply.

To mention just the most egregious example of what's happened to me personally, there was that time someone registered a sockpuppet purely to attack me in meta (and then that whole debacle spilled off mefi too).

I'm really sorry that happened to you, Dysk.

Yeah, to be clear, we're not going to look at encouraging an expectation of folks running multiple spare accounts.

I wasn't confused about that, just sharing my thoughts, but thank you for confirming. I suspect having recourse to a few socks here, if permitted, would wind up working differently than it does in other environments. A handful of people having abused identities in the past doesn't mean most would have the same intentions in future, given particular constraints to work with. But, moot point, I know.

If people want to make themselves less vulnerable, there are already ways to protect your profile (blanking it out and BND for a start).

Yeah, except the tension between the need for disclosure to a felt community vs. self-protection comes up again and again. Yes, ideally one's risk assessment would be perfectly gauged at all times, but as people have said here and elsewhere, many derive value from self-expression (given the subjective sense of comfort and trust exchanged with active participants). The site certainly benefits from it, too. Practically speaking, people use socks (which collect the same risk) or ditch primary accounts for BNDs. I don't think that happens particularly rarely, seems quite common. Does it help, who knows.

And the more changes Metafilter makes to discourage casual readers (sometimes aka lurkers), the more it discourages casual readers who might become members.

Some assumptions here: a) that reading profiles is currently an important hook for casual readers (unclear, and unlikely, imo); b) that not being able to read profiles wouldn't incentivize lurkers to join (which as gross as I think that is, could happen, even if access to that info wasn't important before); c) that there's a squadron of Mefites intent on locking things down (untrue and unfair).

Anyway, the plan's what it is. Carry on.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:34 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying it didn't happen, but medium blue stocking attacked more than just one person on MeTa.
posted by kalessin at 5:38 PM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


that there's a squadron of Mefites intent on locking things down (untrue and unfair).

Based on my reading of this thread, I disagree strongly with this point--people may not be organized but there is definitely a push to lock more things down. I'm gonna keep pushing the other direction and you're free not to like it and think I'm wrong.
posted by immlass at 6:17 PM on January 20, 2016


I understand what people are saying but would like to make super clear why I want this pony.

Recently, non-members compiled many user comments from one of the most popular FPPs in a long time, and turned them into a PDF file. They published this PDF on the internet without the permission of the users.

Not only were our user names in this PDF, but they were live links. A person could have clicked on the many times I was (illegally) in this PDF and BANG they saw my profile page. On my profile page, they could see other comments I made and other questions I asked.

If something like that were to ever happen again, I want the peace of mind to know that at the very least, a person intrigued by my comments who wanted to know more about me would have to at least pony up $5.

I give consent for the information I choose to share on THIS website. I do not give permission to have this shared outside of this website. But Because Internet, if my comments are spread elsewhere, I do NOT want people to be one click away from seeing everything I've posted here.

I am completely minimizing the very real safety concerns that people had about our user names and links being in that PDF and by extension, our profiles being too visible for our comfort levels. It was a very scary time for more than a few members and we lost a few over the incident. While the issue was resolved, if we can choose to keep profile information private to members, that's something I would appreciate.

And if someone doesn't want to have this more private setting for non-member views, then fine.

But respect that some of us were recently really unsettled and freaked out over a situation and just let us have our damned pony without minimizing why this is actually important to us or telling us we're wrong.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:20 PM on January 20, 2016 [13 favorites]


there is definitely a push to lock more things down.

Yeah, I mean reading down the thread, I'll agree with you that many many people are pleased with, or sympathetic to the idea of protecting their identities, and are interested in looking at ways of doing that. I think that's interesting, and worth listening to, personally.

But going from that interest or need to "must lock all things down" is a whole other thing.

There are probably a few ways of promoting the feeling of safety. This one was (largely) uncontroversial and I guess easy to do.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:03 PM on January 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


Arguing that republishing comments from MeFi elsewhere on the web is illegal is a huge, huge stretch, and counter to a large swath of what the internet is actually built on. I'm sorry that it freaked you out, but what you say here will be inevitably republished in many, many forms that you have only mild control over. In almost all cases, that's entirely legal and actually a good thing that the freedom to do so exists. And linking to comments you've found elsewhere is generally good, ethical practice when quoting. If the PDF hadn't used whole comments, but rather substantial pieces along with a link, it would be pretty inarguably legal, fair use of your comments.

MeFi is not a closed platform, nor should it be. And part of the ongoing ethos of the community is that our identities are persistent through our posts and comments. This has been the general assumption for users for over a decade.
posted by klangklangston at 7:52 PM on January 20, 2016 [17 favorites]


I give consent for the information I choose to share on THIS website. I do not give permission to have this shared outside of this website

I believe this stance is completely at odds with the stated terms of use of the site, so I’m pretty sure your de jure state is going to be disappointment.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:08 PM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


But respect that some of us were recently really unsettled and freaked out over a situation and just let us have our damned pony without minimizing why this is actually important to us or telling us we're wrong.

I'm currently kind of bothered by the fact that someone with a blank profile and a sockpuppet handle won't let arguing with me go when I think I've made several increasingly hard "soft no"s and this person isn't listening to me, but is still insisting on trying to come to some kind of agreement that is not to be had, so I feel you on that.
posted by immlass at 8:19 PM on January 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


You had some things to say that I wanted to respond to. I'm under no illusion you'll agree with me, don't worry.

My profile's not blank, I've got some excellent (imo) soup recipes there.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:33 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder if we here at Metafilter, especially those of us who post FPPs, should think twice about what we post here, as Metafilter itself draws great attention to other sites, some of which involve people sharing identifying information and whose authors may not consent to its being amplified in such a visible way.

I hope not, but I do kinda wonder.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:56 PM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


"If the PDF hadn't used whole comments, but rather substantial pieces along with a link, it would be pretty inarguably legal, fair use of your comments."

No, I'm certain that would not have been covered by fair use, either. It's worse that it was whole comments, but the big problem is that it wasn't quoting comments, in whole or in part, as part of an original work of reporting, criticism, parody, etc., but rather was just condensing an existing publication (which the thread as a whole was). That's just republishing someone else's work. Which was actually the point -- there was a very slight amount of original content in the form of its organizational structure and section titles, but I don't think that anyone could argue that it was an original work that examined emotional labor and used the EL thread as support.

Even though we individually retain copyright of our individual comments, in most cases people quoting those comments elsewhere -- as opposed to repackaging them wholesale into another format -- is most likely covered under fair use, as you say. But that PDF isn't even close.

"I wonder if we here at Metafilter, especially those of us who post FPPs, should think twice about what we post here, as Metafilter itself draws great attention to other sites, some of which involve people sharing identifying information and whose authors may not consent to its being amplified in such a visible way."

I absolutely believe we ought to think twice about our posts in the way that you describe. I wrote that repeatedly in the other thread and I am unhappy with how the focus of that discussion was all about worrying about what other people might do and not so much worrying about what we do.

That's not to say that I believe that there would be that many posts that, after such consideration, wouldn't be made or would require permission. I don't think there's ever been anything more than a handful of posts where this might be true. But I can imagine a situation where a MetaFilter member is aware of something amazing like the EL thread that occurs on a much smaller site and decides to make a post about it, perhaps even linking to individual user's posts. Especially if the post called attention to a particular comment about sensitive, personal information -- that's an example where the post shouldn't be made, or permission should be gained. I'd like to think that people would do this automatically -- maybe they'd think that no matter how great was that discussion on that small site, it might not be a good idea to throw so much more light on it with a MeFi post. But then, the author of the EL document never thought twice about these problems and a big part of the community didn't think about these problems even after we learned that the document was being passed around on Facebook. So I am concerned, and I do think that we should be thinking about our own ethical responsibilities when we use MetaFilter to throw a spotlight on something elsewhere.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:07 PM on January 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


Ivan - Thoughtful response, and I think I agree with a lot of it, but I worry about something (none of this is about the EL pdf, which is a pretty clear-cut violation, at least in retrospect). How are we to know whether the person who put something on the Internet would consent to its being amplified and promoted (by being an FPP here) without asking? I'm sure we'd all agree that asking for consent to post things on Metafilter is a non-starter as a general policy, but where do we draw that line, how do we know, how can we be expected to anticipate people's reasons for posting things online and for (perhaps) not wanting a bunch of attention to be drawn to those things?

(I understand this is unnecessary and superfluous hypothesizing, but it feels like the main thrust of the thread has run its course and this is at least tangential. Nobody should feel remotely compelled to respond, as it's at least somewhat of a derail, I know.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:41 PM on January 20, 2016


Recently, non-members compiled many user comments from one of the most popular FPPs in a long time, and turned them into a PDF file. They published this PDF on the internet without the permission of the users.

We already have protection against this in the form of all member's posts being copy-write protected. Whether and how this is enforced is up to the mod team.

Not only were our user names in this PDF, but they were live links. A person could have clicked on the many times I was (illegally) in this PDF and BANG they saw my profile page. On my profile page, they could see other comments I made and other questions I asked.

This is a feature, not a bug. What you say on metafilter is tied to your username. Post accordingly.

If something like that were to ever happen again, I want the peace of mind to know that at the very least, a person intrigued by my comments who wanted to know more about me would have to at least pony up $5.


I just plain don't agree with this. It is negligible protection in terms of identity safety, and user comments are still searchable via google.

I give consent for the information I choose to share on THIS website. I do not give permission to have this shared outside of this website. But Because Internet, if my comments are spread elsewhere, I do NOT want people to be one click away from seeing everything I've posted here.

Metafilter is not a walled garden. It is a community weblog - one that filters and disseminates interesting material from all over the web back to readers who are both members and non members.

But respect that some of us were recently really unsettled and freaked out over a situation and just let us have our damned pony without minimizing why this is actually important to us or telling us we're wrong.


You have my respect, and I appreciate you spelling out exactly what and why you want things to change, but I still disagree.
posted by dazed_one at 11:10 PM on January 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


"But that PDF isn't even close."

Noncommercial but non-transformative; creative nonfiction; entire or partial work (as I proposed) is ambiguous, but let's assume that even an abridgment captures the "heart" of each comment, but recognize that any single given quote could likely be elided without significantly harming the PDF; zero effect on the market for any of the copyrighted works.

There would be a separate possible argument from MeFi itself that its copyright in arranging and display of the underlying licensed content had been infringed, and that the market for people to come and see MeFi's advertisers had been diminished by the aggregation and abridgment, but given that this came to notice (and many of the complaints center on) the idea that MORE people had seen the content, not fewer, that claim seems hard to sustain.

So, no, because of the dual points that the PDF authors weren't profiting from this and that neither were the authors of the content, it's hard to argue that this would be not "even close." Especially when you notice that cases involving content aggregation, whether Google or TheFlyontheWall.com, have largely hinged on the commercial nature of the infringement, and that complaints about file sharing also rely on the notion of diminishing the market. It'd even seem that the notion of individual authors retaining copyright rather than assigning that copyright to MeFi would make the case for infringement harder, not easier, because the market for the underlying content is one that individual MeFites are very unlikely to benefit from, and impact on the market is the strongest of the four tests for whether a use is fair.

And endorsing an idea that this is obviously infringement ends up going some places that most people here are very unlikely to endorse — it would basically mean that all fan-fiction, most mash-ups, Tumblrs, fan art, etc. etc. would all be infringing, because they all reference a substantial piece of the underlying copyrighted work, and while "transformative" has become somewhat broader, even small pieces (e.g. Gilbert O'Sullivan's couple bars) in larger compositions have been found to be non-transformative. The notion of "curated" media reproduction in fan pages would be entirely infringing. What repeatedly saves such content are the two points of it being non-commercial and not hurting the market for the underlying work. (Other countries, like Canada, explicitly have carve-outs for "non-commercial user generated content" because of this.)

There are reasonable criticisms of how the PDF was created and reasonable issues of unintended consequences — everything from privacy and safety to the amount of deference and consideration due fellow members uncomfortable with being quoted — but arguing infringement is at best a distraction and at worst seriously misleading about the rights and responsibilities third parties have with regard to every bit of content published through MeFi, including this one.
posted by klangklangston at 12:29 AM on January 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


We already have protection against this in the form of all member's posts being copy-write protected. Whether and how this is enforced is up to the mod team.

Given that each comment's copyright is retained by the comment author, isn't it up to each of us individually how we choose to enforce the copyright on our individual comments, and not the mod team? In retaining the copyright, you retain control, but also responsibility...
posted by Dysk at 1:02 AM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I keep wondering about these massively long and/or multiple threads about this issue and the Streisand Effect.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 1:23 AM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


how is a memail different than posting a banner for logged in members, except it informs people who have memail turned off?

Because a banner goes to everyone and I can immediately see what it says, so no big deal. Whereas a mefimail goes only to me and I have no idea what's in there, causing a huge anxiety spike until I either read it or delete it unread. Unfortunately I've been conditioned into this response by shitty messages from other members but apparently it's pretty well set by now (even though I don't really remember the original shittiness).

So I have mefimail turned off so no big deal. Except I no longer 100% trust that the setting I chose will be respected which is shitty in its own way.
posted by shelleycat at 1:33 AM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wait, what? If we turn off MeMail that setting may not stick?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:40 AM on January 21, 2016


No, just chatter about over riding it in specific situations.
posted by shelleycat at 1:46 AM on January 21, 2016


Users float all kinds of ideas in MeTa that will never see the light of day. I wouldn't worry.
posted by Dysk at 1:51 AM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's smart to oppose ideas you don't like here. I've been silent before on ideas that I thought the mods would never go for, to be really surprised when they implemented them because they thought it was what everyone wanted. Then the mods were surprised when they found out the opposite.
posted by grouse at 5:13 AM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


You have my respect, and I appreciate you spelling out exactly what and why you want things to change, but I still disagree.

This is also my general feeling. I appreciate that everyone's ideal MetaFilter is different but I feel pretty strongly that while hiding some things may be made optionally available, the defaults stay where they are for members.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:47 AM on January 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


I feel pretty strongly that while hiding some things may be made optionally available, the defaults stay where they are for members.

Exactly.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:39 AM on January 21, 2016


Don't like to post personal stuff in the thread but if the person who memailed me and buttoned is reading: we are cool, you and I. You are not the person whose behavior was concerning to me.

I've said upthread (and will repeat) that I'm fine with the present pony, and support its implementation on an opt-in basis. And I also support notifying users so they can change settings even if they aren't regular MeTa readers. But I don't want Metafilter to change how it handles things significantly. The EL PDF was an outlier situation (and honestly given the number of people who wished for a summary in-thread, I can see why someone would summarize it even though I understand why people were upset about how it was done and the linking of profiles and comments and that it made users feel very unsafe). In particular, I think the decision to give users the ability to opt out of showing public profiles is a good response to a specific and current concern.

It's the idea of shutting down more and more parts of profiles and deciding that non-members should be treated as hostile stalkers that I'm against. Especially as a response to what is currently a one-off event. I want people to feel safe but for all the boyzone and crap that goes on here, I currently feel safe. The self-protective measures like blanking profiles (and I don't care about soup recipes, I care about knowing who/what you are without creeping through your posting history, which feels gross and stalker-y to me) are what unnerves me personally. I don't get to tell people not to blank their profiles, though; I'm similarly against privileging other people's fear in changing how the sire operates.
posted by immlass at 7:59 AM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter is an incredible resource. It is amazing how often the first search on a question or need will return an AskMe thread that's utterly relevant and useful, or a search for an explainer on some complicated current event results in a blue thread with informed and considered perspective. MetaFilter's openness to the rest of the web is one of its great strengths. It's also its most significant means of support.

Though I have no problem with restricting profile viewing to nonmembers, I am also one of those who would not like to take further and further steps into closing the site's gates and considering ourselves a community speaking only to one another. That would feel, to me, like a sad narrowing of the potential of a resource like this.

It's a privilege to be a community member here, and one that comes with risks and responsibilities, but also with so much value for learning and growth, not just for those who have a membership, but for the countless others who lurk as non-members (as I did for four years before joining) or stumble across it in search. It makes sense that some privileges are only for members, and I already keep my profile pretty empty, but I hope that things don't progress in that direction too much further. I appreciate cortex's clarification that the basic open premise of the site won't be changing - that helps us all plan accordingly - and just want to visibly join those who say that there is a good and needed place for restricted, private or sem-private community fora on the web, but that place is different from MeFi's niche.
posted by Miko at 8:14 AM on January 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


creeping through your posting history, which feels gross and stalker-y to me

What is the point of the comment history if not to be looked at? This is a question that has vexed me for a long time.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:29 AM on January 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


creeping through your posting history, which feels gross and stalker-y to me

This is a strange attitude. Users make interesting posts and comments, some users do this rather consistently. Using the comment and post history function to find these posts is just one way in which posting history is a useful tool. Can we not demonize people who do this, please?

The next step seems to be saying that following someone as a contact and seeing the interesting comments they make on a sidebar makes one a creepy stalker.
posted by dazed_one at 8:51 AM on January 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have completely lost track of this thread- Would the mods, if they do plan to implement any changes besides the original pony as described in the original post, be willing to post a new MeTa with the exact details of the proposed changes before implementing them?
posted by Wretch729 at 8:58 AM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'd rather not split the discussion further if we can avoid it. The current plan is:
(a) implement the pony pretty much as described, let people opt in to it, put up a banner or other notification to let people know, and also
(b) implement a new ability to give the system your location for IRL Alert purposes but not have it be public (previously that wasn't possible).
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:13 AM on January 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Thanks LM, I understand not wanting to split the discussion and risk repeating stuff. Maybe just repeating that summary at the end of the thread then? Or at least within the last 10 comments so it shows up on people's recent activity? Last I checked there was a parallel debate about how to inform users of the changes but I lost track of whether it was resolved.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:26 AM on January 21, 2016


I don't post nearly as much as I would like because there is someone who used to be in my life who likes to pop up now and again to terrify me. Unfortunately, when I made this account eleven years ago, I wasn't bright enough to choose a username that I didn't use anywhere else. If I could change my username, I would.

I hesitate to start a new account because I post a yearly thing (the holiday gift drive) and using a new name to do it would ultimately tie the new name to this one. Having a second account for posting things while keeping this one for things like that isn't within the rules. So... I just don't really post a lot.

Also, I somehow got the idea that the "About" blurb field was viewable only by logged-in users. AHHHHH. I had my address in that field for about a month this year and for a longer time last year so people could mail me items and cards for the gift drive. That's definitely my mistake; I'm not sure why I thought it was a more private field, but it's good to know I'm not alone. I'd really like a free-form text field for members-only viewing, however, if the "About" field isn't going to be changed to have that as an option.
posted by houseofdanie at 9:35 AM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just briefly: You can absolutely make a new account and switch over to that one for everything but the gift drive. That is totally kosher. Let me know if you'd like to talk more about it.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:40 AM on January 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


Oh - I'd like to add that I know that things visible to logged-in users aren't really private, but having that slight barrier means a lot.
posted by houseofdanie at 9:42 AM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Will it take another MeTa to suggest pairing the functional changes with changes to the FAQ so folks know what our privacy options are? Or is that also part of the planning?
posted by kalessin at 10:34 AM on January 21, 2016


We'll update the FAQ to reflect the new stuff, yes.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:40 AM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Could we do this automatically for disabled accounts as well? Because disabling an account right now does nothing to prevent stalking, doxing, etc. concerns, other than the hope that a past username will fade into the background.
posted by likeatoaster at 3:09 PM on January 21, 2016


People who've disabled their accounts can email us or use the contact form to ask for this, and we can set the option for them.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:15 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Totally.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:48 PM on January 21, 2016


Yes, please do this! I know plenty of folks who might try to "check up" on me who would be stymied by such a simple thing.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 5:24 PM on January 21, 2016


"Especially when you notice that cases involving content aggregation..."

The PDF wasn't aggregation any more than a Reader's Digest Condensed Book is aggregation, which makes your entire comment moot since it hinges on that status. The PDF wasn't a mash-up and it wasn't even remotely similar to fan-fiction. I don't even. I agree that individual commenters would face an uphill battle on this, but I don't agree that MetaFilter itself would have a problem because the PDF is a republishing of the thread qua thread and the very nature of the document is such that it diverts traffic away from MetaFilter.

However, I do agree that an emphasis on the copyright violation in this case is not generally helpful in that this is an extreme example and members should not have the expectation that they have copyright control over their comments ever appearing anywhere else, because they don't. The real issue is potential harm. But the copyright issue does intersect with this insofar as when there is an equivalent of content-scraping and republishing by third parties which includes comments of a sensitive nature, MetaFilter does have the option of protecting those interests by asserting copyright.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:07 PM on January 21, 2016


MetaFilter does have the option of protecting those interests by asserting copyright.

But Metafilter doesn't own the copyright--Mefites do (for their contributions).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:36 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


"The PDF wasn't aggregation any more than a Reader's Digest Condensed Book is aggregation, which makes your entire comment moot since it hinges on that status."

You're wrong twice. First off, it was aggregation as far as copyright is concerned because individual authors maintain their copyright. The aggregation and display claim is the same claim that MeFi itself would have. Second off, the comment does not hang on that distinction. However, it is the most salient recent analogy to be considered by the courts, post-1976, even if many (like the Righthaven cases) end up being decided on other grounds or settled without a final ruling.

The PDF wasn't a mash-up and it wasn't even remotely similar to fan-fiction. I don't even.

I know that you don't even. You should try to.

The similarity comes from it being a non-commercial, non-transformative use of a substantive part of a copyrighted work that does not diminish the overall market for the underlying content, but rather expands the market and makes it more accessible. The point being that the intent and use, and the effect on the market, matter more than what the underlying content is.

"I agree that individual commenters would face an uphill battle on this, but I don't agree that MetaFilter itself would have a problem because the PDF is a republishing of the thread qua thread and the very nature of the document is such that it diverts traffic away from MetaFilter."

The argument was that profiles here needed to be obscured because more people would find out about them through this document and follow the links back here. And the places where the PDF came to greater attention linked back to MeFi, and (while I haven't seen the logs) I presume a significant number of people were exposed to it, and some commented that they joined MeFi specifically because of it.

This is distinguished from other situations, like comment scrapers, where the express intention is for them to profit by free riding on MeFi content, in which case MeFi would have a claim.

Further, this came out of an assertion upthread that the PDF was an illegal reproduction of that user's comment. It's not. That's why I framed it in those terms.

" But the copyright issue does intersect with this insofar as when there is an equivalent of content-scraping and republishing by third parties which includes comments of a sensitive nature, MetaFilter does have the option of protecting those interests by asserting copyright."

… if the goal of the scraper is to profit off of the content, or if the republishing has a negative effect on the market for MeFi's aggregation and display, yes. But then the salient feature isn't whether or not the comments include anything of a sensitive nature. You get the same copyrights from a comment about your dog as from a comment about your genitals.

Like I said way upthread, I'm fine with the change being proposed, and if it helps more people feel comfortable, that's to the good. But coming up with specious copyright theories in order to cast the underlying PDF as illegal therefore opprobrious is something worth pushing back against, both because it's a mistaken view of the protections available and because it's unconnected to the legitimate reason that some members are concerned by the PDF. If the community wants to have a different license agreement with MeFi proper, that's something that should be discussed separately.
posted by klangklangston at 11:58 AM on January 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


"But Metafilter doesn't own the copyright--Mefites do (for their contributions)."

and

"First off, it was aggregation as far as copyright is concerned because individual authors maintain their copyright."

Even while individual commenters retain copyright for their comments, the thread is protected separately by copyright as a collective work, owned by MetaFilter. The PDF isn't an aggregation, the thread isn't an aggregation, and all the analysis that hinges on this confused idea is mistaken.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:28 PM on January 22, 2016


I can't think of two people I'd like to see snarking at each other less than you too. Plus you both agree that this is not ultimately a copyright issue, but rather about privacy and developing norms for outsiders that foster the creation of safe spaces for insiders.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:02 PM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The discussion of copyright is still helpful, because we have seen how incomplete ideas or mistaken expectations about copyright can play into individual decisions about safe a space this is, or can be, to contribute writing.
posted by Miko at 4:27 PM on January 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Agreed, I'm fascinated by this copyright discussion and it's great to have such articulate, thoughtful people to learn from. I'm still unsure, in fact, if (or why/how?) Metafilter itself holds copyright over the words I type here.

I'm sure I'm not alone in having always assumed that the footer "All posts are (C) their original authors" means that I alone hold copyright for this self-referential sentence, but Ivan Fyodorovich isn't known for making half-cocked, inaccurate statements, so I'm very curious if he's right and if so what that means for me and other users in the event that our posts are used by others elsewhere.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:02 PM on January 22, 2016


FAQ answer on copyright:
On the footer of every MetaFilter page is: © 1999-2015 MetaFilter Network Inc. All posts are © their original authors. What this means is that people own their own content. So if you wanted to publish a book of your own MetaFilter comments, you could. However if you wanted to publish a book of other people's MetaFilter comments you'd need to speak with those individual users; MetaFilter is not the owner of the copyright of that content.
(that date needs updating)
posted by andrewcooke at 3:07 AM on January 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


you can "best analogy" and "salient" all you want but the copyright discussion is, with respect, goofy as hell unless you guys are going to start citing shit.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:14 AM on January 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


you can "best analogy" and "salient" all you want but the copyright discussion is, with respect, goofy as hell unless you guys are going to start citing shit.

Agreed. Here's a helpful link!

I'm now looking forward to the legal longboat; I know we have lots of practicing attorneys, here, but I didn't realize there were that many intellectual property lawyers on Metafilter.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:13 AM on January 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


You can google "collective work" combined with "copyright". It's common, and it's not the same thing as, say, content aggregation (although aggregation isn't a legal term of art, as far as I know, while collective work is). I could be misunderstanding klang's argument, but it's seemed to me that he has been thinking of this in terms of IP law related to content aggregators, and not as related to collective works. But MetaFilter is much, much more like a collective work than it is the product of a content aggregator. A thread is a discussion, the post is like a solicitation for contributions to that discussion, the thread is a thing in itself, which you can see demonstrated in innumerable examples as to how we discuss threads and comments within threads. Specifically, we talked about the "EL thread" -- even from the standpoint of the PDF, the EL thread is understood as a collective work.

Sometimes with things like books of essays or magazines or the like, it's work-for-hire and the copyright is held by the publisher (or whomever) for the thing as whole, like anything else. Still other times, the individual works were previously published, the coprights on those held by their authors, but the copyright on the collection is held by the publisher (or whomever). And in yet other cases, more like MetaFilter (or klang's MeFi magazine?), the works are originally published in the collection and were solicited as part of that collection, but are not work-for-hire, and while the copyright for the individual works is still held by their authors, the collection is also copyrighted by the publisher (or whomever).

When someone infringes on a collective work as a collective work (as opposed to just republishing an individual component), they're probably infringing on both the collective work and the individual work. But sometimes, and especially in the case of MetaFilter comments, the copyrightable status of an individual comment might be questionable (if, for example, it's very short, or, as a practical matter more generally, not something you'd easily be able to enforce) while, in contrast, the status of the collective work is more clear and as a practical matter more easily enforceable. This is, I think, the case with the PDF and content-scrapers. Note that klang's argument -- and the general assumption here that copyright about comments and site content must exclusively be held by either MetaFilter or the individual commenters, but not both -- would mean that whenever MetaFilter files a DMCA claim against a scraper, it wouldn't actually have the right to do so -- which isn't the case. (Or, alternatively, there'd need to be some clarification that it is in fact the case that we individual members have authorized MetaFilter Networks to file DMCA claims on our behalf.)

All that said, anotherpanacea was right that klang and I agree that the important thing in this discussion is not copyright, but rather privacy and harm and ethical responsibility, and so the copyright stuff is a distraction. That's why I dropped the argument last night, and presumably why klang did, as well. But Miko is correct that people have mistaken ideas about how much copyright protects their comments here, and I agree with both klang and Miko that there's a problem with unrealistic expectations. Almost nothing we see is like that PDF -- in almost all other cases (aside from content-scrapers), copyright doesn't matter because the reproduction is fair use. And people really are confused about this -- even when there's a thread here about comments being quoted in a newspaper, which is unquestionably fair use, there's usually someone who brings up the copyright notice at the bottom of the page. So maybe there needs to be some more explicit communication to the membership about the copyright status of their comments here and what that does and doesn't mean.

Although klang believes that the non-commercial nature of the PDF is dispositive, and therefore the PDF is very much like all the other examples, I don't agree with this. It's debatable, but I'm deeply bored with the argument because neither of us are lawyers, much less lawyers expert in copyright, and the simple truth is that the precise status of the PDF would be hashed out in court, if it came to that.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:06 PM on January 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can a mod chime in on the copyright issue?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:46 PM on January 23, 2016


OH GOD EVERYONE STOP WITH THE MOON LAW and crowdfund a real copyright lawyer if you so badly need an answer.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 3:55 PM on January 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm an IP lawyer, but my specialty is patent law, not copyright, so grain of salt etc. I've avoided the legal discussion because I think the privacy/safety/ethical issues are more critical, and anything else is in danger of being a distraction.

My quick take is that this should be analyzed under the area of derivative works and compilations (link is to a Copyright Office circular; pretty clear explanation). The PDF is a derivative work - a condensation of a preexisting work, specifically - and is considered a compilation of a website's text. The PDF showed a fair amount of original selection and arrangement (the structure and organization of comments into different headings), and that selection and arrangement - but only the selection and arrangement - would be copyrighted by oklima et al. But only those additions would be protected under that copyright. The previously published work - the comments - retain their existing copyright, and require permission from the copyright holder(s).

Who are the copyright holders? Well, copyright is a bundle of rights, and different rights in that bundle can be given to different people. Metafilter the website has a non-exclusive right to display and distribute the comments in this specific medium, at least. That's what people like Miko are saying - "When a person enters comments on a blog for the purpose of public display, he is probably giving an implied license at least for that display and the incidental copying that goes along with it." But the header states that the author retains copyright - of the content itself and several other rights, presumably, including the exclusive right to prepare derivative works. So Metafilter has some implied rights, and individual comment authors retain right to their comments and the right to adapt them into other works. Both are potential claimants in an action, arguably, for different reasons.

This all points to fairly clear copyright infringement, in any case. The next question is whether that infringement is excused because it falls under fair use. That's always a tricky question. There's no such thing as a slam dunk fair use case, because it's a very subjective judgment and there's so much wiggle room in figuring out and weighing the four factors. There are arguments on both sides and I should leave it at that, though I do have some opinions that point to this not being fair use. There are full comments taken and a big chunk of the thread, and that chunk is the "heart of the work," the most memorable and insightful comments from the thread. Even if this is non-commercial and for education purposes, you can't just wholesale lift huge swaths of text. I think people get confused because they devalue text on websites. But text is analyzed the same way we analyze photos, etc. A small or reasonable portion might be OK for these purposes, but this amount is well past that, I think.

Some flaws are in thinking that 1) attribution and credit makes things OK somehow. It doesn't affect the above analysis, and 2) publicly visible = public domain. But mere visibility on a website doesn't change or negate copyright.
posted by naju at 4:11 PM on January 23, 2016 [12 favorites]


(I didn't cite case law or anything. Because it would require actual work. But a real analysis would require that, obviously.)
posted by naju at 4:25 PM on January 23, 2016


(to chime in--I totally agree that copyright isn't really the issue with the EL pdf; I'm just interested, although I know this is boring to some. I was hoping it wouldn't be distracting, since the discussion had more or less petered out by the time this came up.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:43 PM on January 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Acknowledging that copyright isn't the primary issue, would it be at all useful for people that don't want their content republished to include a statement to that effect on their profile to make that clear? It would at least give a stronger basis for a take-down request if it came to that. Maybe. Depending on which jurisdiction/s it involves.
posted by dg at 12:19 AM on January 24, 2016


Acknowledging that copyright isn't the primary issue, would it be at all useful for people that don't want their content republished to include a statement to that effect on their profile to make that clear? It would at least give a stronger basis for a take-down request if it came to that. Maybe. Depending on which jurisdiction/s it involves.

Regardless of the particular legal details, I think relying in any way on the legal protections afforded by copyright to prevent people reusing your comments or linking to them in an objectionable way off-site is a complete non-starter. Such a statement might be instructive to someone taking the effort to look at your profile before republishing anything of yours if they are also interested in respecting your wishes, but that is it. 99% of the time, I doubt the former will be the case, even if the latter is. Your legal protections on the basis of copyright also do literally nothing to prevent any kind of offsite linking of your comments, in any context whatsoever.
posted by Dysk at 12:33 AM on January 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


What Dysk just said remains an important point that relates to calibrating reasonable user expectations. It's also worth noting that, if a given party copes and reuses a given user's content, there is little action available to the regular person beyond a cease and desist letter. If a letter like that is ignored, there's no recourse for anyone who believes their copyright has been infringed aside from taking on the burden of legal action. There is no enforcing body that can be invoked to prosecute that on their behalf, as I understand - it's considered a civil matter. And IANAL, but as I understand it, one reason copyright law is such a difficult realm is that it's so largely based on case law, and those with the most compelling interest to litigate it (the likes of Disney et al) pursue their judgments, whereas smaller-time authors can rarely afford the legal costs of pursuing their claims to satisfaction. And finally, I doubt that many people have taken the step of registering their comment content, which can support civil copyright claims and make it easier to claim damages (info on that at the link).
posted by Miko at 8:26 AM on January 24, 2016


Infringement regarding comments here are almost always going to be online. Filing a DMCA claim is very easy and will usually result in a quick takedown by the ISP.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:02 AM on January 24, 2016


A DMCA claim against quoted and properly attributed text will not always be valid - see how countless FPPs on the blue use pull quotes, for example - a link to a thread with a comment reproduced in full is fair use in many contexts. And again, if they're linking to your comment rather than reproducing it, it can be just as problematic for sensitive personal information, and leave you with literally no recourse whatsoever.

Small community, big internet.
posted by Dysk at 10:14 AM on January 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I figured all that. There's also the possibility of giving people a false sense of safety if they rely on copyright as a means of protecting their privacy. Still, it may help in a scenario such as the .pdf one if the publishers hadn't been cooperative, as IF points out. Not by any means a solution in and of itself, for a number of reasons, but potentially a tool available in limited circumstances.

What a world we live in where women still have to be careful what they say and where :-(.
posted by dg at 12:56 PM on January 24, 2016


It can certainly help. I don't mean to imply that resort to action to protect copyright is always worthless and futile. But in the context of a place like this, it seems to me that it's important and helpful to recognize that people have a lot of varying perceptions of copyright law, how powerful it is, what's needed to constitute a cause of action, what protections it affords and doesn't, and so on. It seems to me that there are a lot of popular perceptions about copyright in circulation, in the wider world as well as onsite, and that mistaken impressions aren't uncommon. I think people are better off if they have the information to make realistic assessments about what copyright law affords them and what its limitations are.
posted by Miko at 2:15 PM on January 24, 2016


anotherpanacea: "I can't think of two people I'd like to see snarking at each other less than you too. "

Really? What about jessamyn and cortex? Or, say, pb and poffin boffin?

Maybe we could come up with a whole ranking table of most to least desired snarking pairings.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:01 PM on January 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


When me and Jess do it it's usually funny.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:29 PM on January 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Just because I can't think of a worse pairing doesn't mean there isn't one, just that I need help.

Part of the problem is most of my favorite Mefites are snarky by nature. So seeing my favorite snarks snarking is no tragedy at all. Plus intramod snark is usually pretty funny.

One possible category is famous people: I'd hate to see xkcd snarking at hodgman or cstross snarking at stevewoz.

The other category is folks I like a lot in real life. Don't mess with omiewise or Mrs. Pterodactyl, you know?

But for the most part I think the Ivan v klang snark is about as bad as it could get: two smart, thoughtful, generally charitable people who almost certainly don't disagree substantively on anything that warrants high temperature exchanges.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:15 AM on January 25, 2016


But for the most part I think the Ivan v klang snark is about as bad as it could get: two smart, thoughtful, generally charitable people who almost certainly don't disagree substantively on anything that warrants high temperature exchanges.

And with such brevity and calm.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:45 AM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think the Ivan v klang snark is about as bad as it could get

Hmm.
posted by Miko at 7:39 AM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


When me and Jess do it it's usually funny.

And if it's not, we're doing it wrong!
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:46 AM on January 25, 2016


The Contributions/Social block visibility option and the new private geographic coordinates option are now live, along with an FAQ entry update and a member-facing banner pointing to the new MetaTalk post.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:26 PM on January 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


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