non-users posting by proxy: kosher? July 24, 2002 3:33 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to discuss the appropriateness of allowing non-users to post by proxy, in relation to a conflict here between Medley and myself. [more inside]
posted by bingo to Etiquette/Policy at 3:33 PM (32 comments total)

Medley posted this text for a non-user. The thread is about laws allowing or disallowing women to nurse babies in public. The person Medley quotes is apparently a woman who nurses her child in public in the region in question, so mentioning her perspective is understandable. But please notice that after the first paragraph, she's no longer a source with anecdotal evidence for Medley to post, she's an angry participant in the thread, reacting directly to other posters from a position of anonymity.

I responded: I'm really not interested in agressive arguments from people who are not registered with this board. We can't email them back, we can't respond and know they'll see it, there is no profile and in general zero accountability. What Medley's friend thinks about anyone's morality is meaningless here.

Medley replied: I call bullshit on that bingo. That's completely ad hominem. Either engage with the substance of an argument (regardless of who made it) or shut up. If registration were on at the time of this post, the person would have registered. Now that you've been so unconscionably rude, I'm pretty sure she won't be coming back when Matt does turn registration back on. Good on you for building a community, there. Congrats.

*mutters* and there are those who try to claim that mefi isn't a completely obnoxious boyzone.

Here is my open reply to Medley:

The indignant, vindictive, and personal tone of your user-by-proxy's "post" is a perfect example of why we have limited membership and profiles to begin with. It is a large community, but it has built-in mechanisms to keep the users accountable, and to keep them from feeling like they can't just post whatever they want whenever the feel like it, without understanding that their posting history is going to contribute to the way they are perceived on the site, and the amount of respect they are going to get from other users.

You have allowed an anonymous person to use your MeFi account as a soapbox from which to engage in an agressive diatribe against specific MeFi users. So, while it is okay for your friend to post attacks on other users using your account, it is "unconscionably rude" for me to say that you shouldn't have done so. You are also apparently suggesting that my gender, and hers, are somehow related to the issue of whether or not you should have allowed her to post from your account, and whether I had the right to criticize you for doing so. Is this not the case you're making, and is it really defensible?
posted by bingo at 3:34 PM on July 24, 2002

now boyz...
posted by quonsar at 3:40 PM on July 24, 2002

I wholly agree with every point bingo has made regarding this topic, both here and in the aforementioned thread. I also love the fact that, because someone disagreed with the reasons for her posting by proxy, she immediately paints MetaFilter in its entirety as an exclusionary and misogynistic club.

I call bullshit on that, particularly after a thread in which the majority of posters (both male and female) spoke up on behalf of the women's rights.

We've had "boyzone" and "posting by proxy" conversations before, by the way.
posted by Danelope at 3:56 PM on July 24, 2002

Yes, we've covered this before more than once, and the consensus has been that posting-by-proxy is bad and should be strongly discouraged. Which position I agree with. Yes, we miss out on some other perspectives, which is one of the reasons that I long to see membership opened up again, but for the time being at least Matt has chosen to make (participation in, not use of the links provided by) Metafilter a members-only club in practice and in spirit, and getting around that just because you can is a disservice to all the others who would like to contribute but have no voice here. (I also loathe the fact that there are hidden backdoors into membership--how elitist is that?--while at the same time welcoming and enjoying the contributions of many who have entered that way.)
posted by rushmc at 4:05 PM on July 24, 2002

I also loathe the fact that there are hidden backdoors into membership--how elitist is that?

I prefer to think of it as a Horatio Alger story of success through dogged effort.
posted by timeistight at 4:08 PM on July 24, 2002

Talked here, too.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:09 PM on July 24, 2002

I prefer to think of it as a Horatio Alger story of success through dogged effort.

I can see how you would. But do you view tax loopholes the same way? Unequal enforcement of laws upon different groups of people? Preferential employment practices?
posted by rushmc at 4:19 PM on July 24, 2002

This is a private site, rushmc, and none of us have ownership like we do our government. Matt can do whatever he damn well pleases, and we should be happy that he allows us to use this venue to discuss our ideas without worry of censorship or membership dues.

I registered back in January because of Matt's generosity. I don't see it as elitist at all. He wants more members, but realizes that to open the flood gates would be a serious mistake.
posted by BlueTrain at 4:23 PM on July 24, 2002

Sometimes a member knows someone who has something valuable to add to the discussion. Its usually anecdotal and not controversial - an extra piece of information for everyone to discuss. I've enjoyed the comments of mrs. jonmc (that needed to be said) and I enjoy proxy posts such as "well, my friend lives only a block away from :incident under discussion: and here's what she saw" ... first-hand accounts.

That said, Medley's friend behaved completely innapropriately, coming into the discussion merely to join a fight. Good call, bingo.
posted by vacapinta at 4:25 PM on July 24, 2002

... success through dogged effort.

Hear, hear!

Posting by proxy negates the whole point of membership in the first place and should be strongly discouraged. Otherwise, you might as well allow posting by "Anonymous Idiot" (there are enough identified idiots here as it is, without allowing them to hide ;-]) That's just my opinion, though and there may be circumstances where it is appropriate - can anyone suggest any?

On preview, what vacapinta said.
posted by dg at 4:28 PM on July 24, 2002

Hey folks, would it have been better for ME to post that comment? It did come, after all, from my wife. Oh, and I've been a MetaFilter registered user for ages. Of course, I don't post any more, and the fact that any thread here brings out flaming assholes by the gross is the reason why. Dana was naive enough to think perhaps some actual information would contribute to the usual windbag discussion. Silly her.

Don't bother to show me the door, I can find my own way out.

posted by ffmike at 5:15 PM on July 24, 2002

And I call bullshit on bingo. That post (from the "friend") was the most interesting in the whole thread. In contrast, bingo's initial response to beth's photo made me wince in embarassment...

[preview note - in response to skallas's post one above]

posted by andrew cooke at 5:17 PM on July 24, 2002

Customer: Don't bother to show me the door, I can find my own way out.
Randall: Hey, you're not allowed to post here anymore!
posted by Danelope at 5:53 PM on July 24, 2002

If medley had posted the response without attributing it to someone else (intelectually dishonest as it may have been) then the points would have been responded to in turn, and all of this yammering and yacking about posting by proxy would be moot. Picking at method and manner is a convenient shield to hide behind when you don't want to address the substance of the issue at hand.
posted by Dreama at 5:56 PM on July 24, 2002

While I acknowledge that rules are rules, there are exceptions to most of them anyway. I think in this particular case, due to her first-hand connection to the discussion at hand, Medley's friend's post was well worth a a turning of the cheek.

I don't proclaim to be the oracle of mathowie, but I suspect that the rule is in place to prevent rampant abuse of proxy posting (which most certainly is not occuring) and ad hominem attacks with no accountability (which, frankly are).

Frankly, there's just as much accountability for this non-user as for me. I choose not to have my email address visible on the site, so there's no guarantee that you can email me, and you can't force me to see your response... (although it's as visible to her as to me, since reading the site doesn't require membership) but if Medley's friend's comment was out of line, mathowie could have banned Medley just as easily as he could ban me.

So, a violation of the letter of the law? Yes. The spirit? I think not.

While I personally would have ignored Medley's post, knowing full well that one is not supposed to allow proxy posts, if you felt the need to play MFCop, bingo, couldn't you just have said it, well, more nicely? I could almost see the sneer on your face.

If your concern was to prevent others from being inspired to do the same, you could have made easily made the same point but toned down the indignance and made it much more gentle, and far less obnoxious and authoritarian.
posted by Sinner at 6:13 PM on July 24, 2002

Method and manner is one thing, Dreama, but there is a point to what Bingo said about the friend becoming a participant(and an aggressive one at that).
It's fine if Medley wants to relay an informational comment, but when the person starts having an argument, you end up with a very different situation. Do you really think that if someone had responded to one of The Friend's points, she would not want to respond to that, and so on? It's enough work keeping track of people here. I don't want to have to keep track of who(unnamed) is also posting through them.
posted by Su at 6:16 PM on July 24, 2002

To me, the almost reactionary attitude of dissenters in Idaho and elsewhere (not on this site) is inherently a problem of the hypersexualisation of the female form - quite a powerful force in many modern western males.

Bingo: the thread was well respectful, up to and including the very mild reaction in the forwarded comment from Medleys Idaho Friend.

I don't see what you call aggressive, nor what bradth27 means by 'a screaming match'.
In my view, by reposting the comment, Lyndsey takes responsibility and ownership of the words in there.
Idaho Friend argues coherently and assertively (eg: "Women were not responsible for some men's lack of self-control in the Victorian era and we aren't responsible for that now." [I paraphrase slightly]) Maybe that latter quality is what's making folk uncomfortable. It would be possible to counter Idaho Friend's points in your own manner, assuming the legitamacy of the points, or else look very lame and then point out the etiquette breach, as you saw it. Le'ts face facts: many argue more forcefully and less respectfully on a daily basis - the strongest words used by Idaho Friend were 'Ridiculous...It's ludicrous' - It was after that that Medley called bullshit (literally)- arguably, showing a lack of respect.. I strongly invite Idaho Friend to apply, if & when membership is re-opened - this community can use some direct honest and open communication.

Way to take a consensus and ... dissipate it.

posted by dash_slot- at 6:30 PM on July 24, 2002

Maybe the friend could have posted her story somewhere, and the member could have linked to it. No harm, no fowl.
posted by adampsyche at 7:02 PM on July 24, 2002

birds of a feather flock together.
posted by crunchland at 7:45 PM on July 24, 2002

Uh, what's the deal with the s00per seekr1t backdoors to membership?

I've seen people posting saying "gee it's my first post / comment", yet membership is still ostensibly closed?

That's pretty lame to me.

And someone who doesn't happen to have her own account to post relays her opinion to someone who can. Somehow this is construed as a crime of some sort, then this whole overblown thread ensues. Lovely.

Seems pretty clear to me where the cause of this supposed problem lies.

posted by beth at 7:47 PM on July 24, 2002

I think with the introduction of track-backs, matt's basically said that he welcomes outside opinion. And as beth said, even though membership is closed, there are still people filtering in through some method(s) beyond my knowledge (that mathowie seems to know about), again lending the impression that outside opinion is welcome.

On the actual piece itself, it was forceful but not rude and quite well-spoken. I think the issue's more of a matter of, "I can talk badly about [insert relative and/or friend here], but no-one else can." If you're not a mefite, general consensus is that if you're going to be posting by proxy at mefi, it shouldn't upset those with posting rights.

That's elitist (cum negative connotation), when you think about it, and does indeed seem to be a tangential tactic.
posted by precocious at 9:11 PM on July 24, 2002

I would caution against making assumptions about "first posts." I've been a (legitimately registered) member for 14 months but have never posted a link... I've only commented on other posts.

If you're upset by a "first post," I'd suggest checking the profiles of the member for when they joined, and see if they simply haven't lurked for a long time. That will be the case when I post a link (if ever).

If you assume every "first post" is a new "backdoor member," it may seem like more people are joining secretly than actually are. There are at least 15,000 members, right? Surely there are others like me who participate cautiously.
posted by gohlkus at 10:07 PM on July 24, 2002

Though it may be a bit irrelevant at this point, I also should add that I think Medley's friend's comment, not to mention's beth's postings, improved the thread in question.
posted by gohlkus at 10:14 PM on July 24, 2002

dash_slot: The comment you linked to is not the comment in question, which is farther down the thread, where Medley explicitly states that he/she is posting for a friend.

Dreama: If medley had posted the response without attributing it to someone else (intelectually dishonest as it may have been) then the points would have been responded to in turn, and all of this yammering and yacking about posting by proxy would be moot.

I believe the posting by proxy contained its own share of yammering and yacking, which is part of the issue. And are you suggesting that intellectual dishonesty (your words) is better than an open discussion about what's appropriate?

Picking at method and manner is a convenient shield to hide behind when you don't want to address the substance of the issue at hand.

Do you really think that my objection to the proxy post was an effort to avoid the subject of public breast feeding? Really?

posted by bingo at 1:29 AM on July 25, 2002

Idaho Friend argues coherently and assertively [...] maybe that latter quality is what's making folk uncomfortable.

I think that dash_slot- is on to something. A woman spoke coherently and assertively about something and was called indignant (maybe, but what's wrong with that?), vindictive (uh, where?), personal (again, so what?) and aggressive (oh my! cover your eyes! a forthright woman!) and screaming (again, where?). She was also accused of "attacking" someone. Where?

In the thread in question it was suggested that women who aren't appropriately demure are setting themselves up to be assaulted (no precious "accountability" for male behavior at the site of a boobie, I guess). When beth posted (an actually fairly unrevealing picture), one of the first comments was, by none other than bingo, essentially, "gimme some more" (I guess we just call that sexual "assertiveness"). I could go to 100 other threads and find 100 other ways in which sexist and mysogynist behavior abounds, so I stand by my comment that MF (through no fault of Matt's, except that he's a hands off moderator) has devolved into, at best, an unpleasant place, especially for women. (There's your trifecta, skallas.)

On the separate point of the apparently outlawed proxy-posting (yes, I am quite aware of the general aversion, but scouted around in vain for anything in a rules FAQ), I had hoped that a contribution by someone who would be directly affected by the law in question could be engaged with on its merits instead of in an ad hominem manner. But clearly my expectations are much too high. As others have pointed out, I could have lied or I could have had her post on her own site and then pointed to it. Both of those things are incredibly fine distinctions, of course, but I suppose for the intellectually insecure who can't engage with any substantive idea without an email address to send flames to, that would have been better.

"Idaho Friend" has posted about this whole ridiculous fracas on her own site if anyone's curious [July 24 entry]
posted by Medley at 4:58 AM on July 25, 2002

Bingo: youcorrectly pick up on an obvious error (another one, which i blame on posting at around 4am when v. tired is where i refer to Medley as 'Lyndsey' [btw, a freudian slip in the direction of an esteemed colleague, M]) I meant to link to Idaho Friend's forwarded letter. Still, waddyasay to the rest of my points -
'I don't see what you call aggressive, nor what bradth27 means by 'a screaming match''.
'...counter Idaho Friend's points in your own manner'
'..many argue more forcefully and less respectfully on a daily basis - the strongest words used by Idaho Friend were 'Ridiculous...It's ludicrous' ?

Why such deep offence? Don't you think that's worth exploring (perhaps not in a public forum)?

posted by dash_slot- at 6:48 AM on July 25, 2002

The most-recently-registered metafilter user's profile was created on July 24, 2002.

I started a new metatalk thread to discuss the whole question of is-membership-open-or-not, because I feel it's an important question.

Plus, I'm real curious about the answer.
posted by beth at 8:18 AM on July 25, 2002

the site of a boobie

Wouldn't that make a great domain name?
posted by timeistight at 8:57 AM on July 25, 2002

I notice that Matt hasn't commented in this thread, but on the subject of proxy posting he made his view quite clear on February 10th this year.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:28 AM on July 25, 2002

Bingo, I don't buy your argument. As long as an email address isn't required for membership, there's no difference between an anonymous comment and a comment by proxy. There have been many times I have wanted to respond to someone's comment but didn't because the member's profile had no contact information and the thread was a little old so I had no way of knowing if the member would ever read my response.

Matt's has advised against the practice, and for good reasons. But in this case the comment was left through a very visible easily contactable member. The comment was an articulate response (with a local connection to the topic) to the persistent and offensive remarks left all over that thread and others by bradth27 (who is one of those members with no contact info in his profile). I found bradth27's remarks reflected poorly upon the MetaFilter membership as a whole, and I feel better that we have Medley's friend's remarks on record to counter them.
posted by ewagoner at 12:05 PM on July 25, 2002

I have just re-read the entire MeFi thread. The conflicts that emerged, I believe, came partly out of the odd twists and turns of the discussion itself. Here's what happened as I see it:

1. RylandDotNet posted a link to a story about Moscow, Idaho banning the public display of bare female breasts, in response to the advent of a topless car wash.

2. bradth27 expressed concern that publicly displayed breasts might incite men to sexually assault the topless women in question.

3. LuxFX pointed out that the law would probably fail, if only because it would have the side effect of making public breastfeeding illegal.

4. bradth27 argued that while breastfeeding is a natural act, so is urination, suggesting that the community as a whole benefits if some natural acts are kept private.

5. Several posters argued with bradth27's analogy, stating that breastfeeding and acts of waste elimination are different enough to be regulated differently insofar as their public display goes.

6. bradth27 conceded this point, and stated that even bringing breastfeeding into the argument was a bad idea, because the issue at hand revolved around a topless car wash, in which, unlike acts of public breastfeeding, the display of breasts is clearly meant to sexually stimulate male onlookers.

7. adampsyche argued that there is still nothing wrong with a topless car wash, even if the point of it is for women to arouse men with their breasts.

8. bradth conceded this point, but argued that if we're going to acknowledge that the sight of a breast is sexually stimulating to men, and that there's nothing wrong with that, then we should also acknowledge that it's natural for men to be stimulated by the sight of a woman breastfeeding. This argument might have been stated better, but I believe he was trying to say that, while there is nothing morally wrong with either act, he thinks that both are a bad idea, because both are likely to get men sexually excited and therefore have a disruptive effect on the community. He also clarified that he was not saying such men would be behaving appropriately; but that he believes it would be a problem nevertheless.

9. beth argued that in some cultures, openly displayed breasts and breastfeeding are perfectly normal, that in fact western culture has sexualized breasts out of proportion to their actual connection to sex, and that the best solution is to allow breasts to be displayed in public until everyone starts to see just how natural and nonsexual such a display actually is.

10. beth posted a picture of herself breastfeeding, explaining: I am posting this to show that you don't have to have a cloth over you to be reasonably non-shocking while breastfeeding.

Was the appearance of this photo of an attractive young woman with bared breast in the thread really a demonstration of how nudity can be "reasonably non-shocking"? Was it really meant to be? Was it really such a terrible thing to joke about the strange method of this argument?

11. Dreama took issue with bradth27's opinion, calling him an ass, and arguing that women are not responsible for men's over-reactions to sexual (or non-sexual) stimuli.

12. bradth27 agreed (not with the ass part), but again asserted that there is a difference between the ideal situation in which men don't over-react because they shouldn't, and the actually common situation in which they over-react anyway. He then explained that his perspective comes partly from a job in which he tried to help sex offenders re-integrate with society, and he apologized for his lack of clarity earlier in the thread and for any offense that he had given.

13. Medley then posted the proxy comment by the non-Metafilter user now identified as "Dana." Dana made three major arguments:

a) She pointed out a spelling mistake bradth27 made, and then asked, regarding his suggestion that breasts when feeding should be "sufficiently covered," Sufficient for what? Now, whether you agree with bradth27's answer to this question or not, he had already given it several times: what he meant was, sufficient to insure that nearby men have little or no chance of being provoked into unjustified yet all-too-common acts of sexual assault or harassment.

Ignoring this, or not being aware of it, Dana went on to talk about the social inequity of forcing babies to eat with their heads covered, the natural function of breasts (already discussed and responded to by bradth27), and the non-sexualization of breasts in some eastern cultures (also already addressed).

b) Dreama had told us earlier that she had been harassed by a man while she was breastfeeding, and bradth27 had suggested that this very incident was an example of why he thinks that public breastfeeding should be avoided, even though there's nothing inherently wrong with it. Dana called this idea "ridiculous," and compared it to the notion that blacks and whites should not be allowed to eat together.

c) Dana quoted bradth27's apology for any unintentional offense he had given in the thread, and his plea not to see his jokes as insults but as an effort to take a more lighthearted look at a volatile issue. She responded with:

Is that supposed to make it all better?

(He was not apologizing to her.)


It's easy for you to joke about
it; the ordinance in no way impacts you.

(His whole point, stated more than once, was that in fact the way that men react to the type of situations under discussion was part of the issue, and he had backed that up by describing his work with relapsing sex offenders. Of course, Dana lives near the town with the topless carwash, and we can assume that bradth27 does not, but then, neither do most of the people in the thread. Nor, for that matter, do most of the people on MeFi live in the various individual places that we have political discussions about, but I think it's safe to say that those of us who are actually a part of this community do not make that an issue; we bring our varied perspectives to events all over the world; that's part of the idea.)


The lesson? Don't saddle *me* with *your* morality.

(She is answering a rhetorical question that was not asked; she has oddly placed herself, anonymously, in the role of teacher. What's more, bradth27 made it quite clear, many times, that he did not have a moral problem with uncovered breasts, and that his concerns were about the practical consequences of the same, and that he was not trying to push a different moral view on anyone.)

bradth27 may not have made all his arguments in the most effective way, but if you re-read the thread in question, I think you'll see that he was constantly feeling the need to refine, re-examine, and cushion his remarks, so that what was left was not anger or flippancy or broad strokes, but a clear, considered point of view that was as politely stated as it could be while still being honest about what he believed to be the truth. And (correct me if I'm wrong, bradth27) the reason he was compelled to do so is a concept we have here at MetaFilter called accountability. He knew that people were getting angry at him, that they were calling him unreasonable, and he was therefore compelled to make an effort to preserve the integrity of his MeFi identity, so that people here would continue to take him seriously. Such motivation did not exist for Dana, who proxy-posted in almost total anonymity, even by MeFi standards: all we knew about her was that allegedly she was a friend of Medley's who lived near Moscow, Idaho. Out of the ether, with no name, no nickname, and no posting history, past or future, from which to draw an idea of her reliability or even her existence, let alone a profile, email address, or homepage link, came what I can only see as the most belligerent, obtuse, and ill-conceived comment of the entire thread, a comment that attacked the credibility of someone who had spent the whole thread trying to find the right way to balance honesty with accountability to the community. I also think it's worth mentioning that it turns out that Dana not only has email, but a huge website with her own prolific blog, and a husband who is (or was, au revoir) a MeFi user. Normally these facts would be none of our business, but as she and Medley decided to spew her vitriol from a soapbox, any one of them might have at least provided a sense that here was someone who, despite all indications to the contrary, might have something to say worth listening to.

And so, after I have protested, and Medley has responded: That's completely ad hominem. Either engage with the substance of an argument (regardless of who made it) or shut up. If registration were on at the time of this post, the person would have registered. Now that you've been so unconscionably rude, I'm pretty sure she won't be coming back when Matt does turn registration back on. Good on you for building a community, there. Congrats.

...I can only say: Thanks very much; I tried my best.
posted by bingo at 10:11 AM on July 26, 2002

I have a "personal" friend can he post?, Oh, he already did.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:20 PM on July 26, 2002

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