Dead Pony Request April 24, 2016 10:46 AM   Subscribe

ObitFilter - Maybe it's time. Awesome people seem to be dying at an unprecedented rate, and the MetaFilter Front Page is filling up with Obit posts. Frankly, it's getting depressing scrolling the main site and seeing obituary post after obituary post. When someone famous dies we can generally assume that someone will post about it. Why not create a new section for Obituaries Only. This will keep the Main Page from being cluttered up with obituaries all the time, while still providing a space for them. When someone prominent passes, we can post about it "on the black," and when people hear about someone passing they can go to ObitFilter to join in the grieving without being distracted by election posts, cat videos, etc.
posted by Cookiebastard to Feature Requests at 10:46 AM (157 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

While a new section of the site isn't really on the table, we have been talking about raising the bar on obituary posts, as they have been dominating the front page more than in the past, and we'd certainly like to hear from the membership where you think that bar should be set. I stumbled across this BBC article the other day pointing out that more famous people are actually dying -- it's not just an observer bias -- and it's a combination of television fame entering the world (instead of just politics and movie fame) and of Baby Boomers getting older. They have some interesting statistics on how their obit pages have been trending upward the last couple of years.

So it looks like there actually are more beloved famous dead people -- it's not just in our heads -- but we're also hearing pretty clearly from people contacting us that there are just too many obituaries on the front page of MetaFilter. Which means we're going to need a new consensus about what sorts of obituaries are good FPPs, and the mods are going to have to delete more obituaries that don't meet that consensus.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:48 AM on April 24, 2016 [18 favorites]


As long as everyone tags their obits with obit or obituary you can just filter them off the front page, though, and never see another one again. "Create a new metafilter site" should not really be the default request for the "i don't want to see so much of this thing anymore" MeTas.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:00 AM on April 24, 2016 [76 favorites]


I strongly agree with what proffin boffin said. I need to think a bit more before putting into words why I so strongly agree, but I definately agree.
posted by Faintdreams at 11:08 AM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, a separate subsite isn't on the table.

But it's worth opening a discussion about where the bar is for obit posts. Historically, obits are a frequent kind of first post, maybe because people feel like it's a "safe" kind of post to make - either that the subject-person has been sort of certified as notable by a newspaper writing an obit in the first place, or that folks feel like it's churlish to delete posts memorializing someone who's just died.

With the frequency we're seeing lately, I agree we need to raise the bar. I'd be inclined to raise it somewhat on both the notability-of-the-person and the quality of post. So, a middle of the road celebrity/entertainer, we may not need to have a post on that person. Or, a higher-profile person but a thin post, we can maybe wait and see if a better post comes along.

Bugbread suggested a little while ago that people post about interesting people while they're still alive, which is a great idea.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:16 AM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like obituary posts - not so much for people like Prince where there's obviously a lot of widespread news coverage but there have been some interesting posts about semi-obscure people who I wouldn't have otherwise come across.

I personally don't find them to be depressing - the point of an obituary for me is the examination of a life lived, it is in many ways a celebration. None of us get out of this alive, you know.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 11:18 AM on April 24, 2016 [52 favorites]


I feel like we have sort of three main categories of obit:
1) Huge cultural figure, major political figure, etc
2) Middle of the road
3) Obscure but interesting

I'm mainly thinking about category 2 as what I would be inclined to delete more of... the ones where it seems like "hey I saw in the news, remember this person from that thing a few years ago? let's all take a moment" and then the thread is mostly dots and people saying "wow a lot of people are dying this year". I'm not faulting the people who post these, I think it's totally understandable, but this is the kind of thing I think doesn't add a lot to the site and we could stand to have less of.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:22 AM on April 24, 2016 [15 favorites]


I love obituaries in general, so I'm probably the wrong person to comment on the depressing nature of obit-filter. But I guess I'm going to put in a plea for keeping some of the obits of people who weren't beloved public figures. I think that the obits for Prince or Bowie are really valuable and generate some great comments, but I also don't need this site to hear smart and moving commentary on what Bowie and Prince meant to people. I like the obits of people who I would otherwise not have been aware of. So please keep at least some of the theater caretaker apartment guy and the last Crow war chief, even if you raise the bar on the quality of those posts a little bit.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:22 AM on April 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


And yeah, to be clear, category 3 is the one I like best.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:23 AM on April 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


You mean move them to where nobody will see them? No, thank you.
Reasons: I like them, no one has to read them if they don't want to, and there is no need to fragment things any further.

Next thing you know, people will be asking for a calico-colored MetaCat page.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:23 AM on April 24, 2016 [13 favorites]


I wouldn't mind fewer obit posts (I'd really like fewer obit posts), but I'd want to figure out a way that notability doesn't end up favouring dead white male nerdy Americans, because it seems like it would end up leaning that way.

Ideally I think this would be specifically a higher bar for actors and musicians, especially in the first 24-48 hours after their death, because I think that is where (on preview) we see a lot of LM's (2).
posted by jeather at 11:25 AM on April 24, 2016 [11 favorites]



Next thing you know, people will be asking for a calico-colored MetaCat page.


Welll, while I'm here...
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 11:26 AM on April 24, 2016 [19 favorites]


Next thing you know, people will be asking for a calico-colored MetaCat page.

You say that like it would be a bad thing.
posted by cooker girl at 11:27 AM on April 24, 2016 [19 favorites]


Perhaps instead of a subsite (wholeheartedly agree with poffin boffin there), and instead of raising the bar, just place a 72 hour moratorium on the middle of the road ones. If someone's a Big Furry Deal, w/e. Someone obscure, w/e. Someone mehhhhh... wait 72 hours which would give people time to contextualize.

Saying that as someone who has zero problems with any obitfilter or how it's been going lately, because it's not like there's a maximum number, they're not offensive, they rarely generate more heat than light (apart from Big Furry Deals, which aren't going anywhere anyway), and the scroll wheel on my mouse still works.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:39 AM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm unclear on how you plan to tell the difference between Middle of the Road vs. Obscure but Interesting.

(Or even between Major Figure vs. Middle of the Road). These boundaries aren't clearly defined, and I really enjoy obits on people I actually didn't know much about beforehand. I'm less likely to comment in them substantially, because I'm just learning about them, but that doesn't mean I didn't get anything out of the post. On the contrary.

I'd prefer we raise the bar on the *quality* of obit posts rather than try to police Who Is Worthy enough to get one.
posted by nat at 11:44 AM on April 24, 2016 [30 favorites]


When someone prominent passes, we can post about it "on the black,"

While the little goth who owns a corner of my heart appreciates the thought of a separate black subsite for Death, "the black" is where MeFi Music already lives.
posted by billiebee at 11:45 AM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also I have no problem with the amount or even the quality of all the recent obits. Like every other FPP, if I'm not interested I skip it.
posted by billiebee at 11:46 AM on April 24, 2016 [17 favorites]


Like election posts, with correct tagging they can just be filtered off the front page.

On the quality issue; I would prefer multi-linked posts with some content. One sentence single-link "rush obituaries", which to be honest are often no different than a tweet, don't feel right for MetaFilter.

Longer ones, which actually are obituaries, seem a bit more respectful and give people something substantive to comment off. It's been good to see several like this of late (good as in the actual text, not the person dying); the Victoria Wood obituary is a great example.
posted by Wordshore at 12:17 PM on April 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


On the quality issue; I would prefer multi-linked posts with some content. One sentence single-link "rush obituaries", which to be honest are often no different than a tweet, don't feel right for MetaFilter.

This is where I'm at. I don't think we should have a bar for 'whose death is significant or interesting enough for Metafilter.' It feels... off. A great way to alienate someone, anyway. I mean, if I posted an obit and heard back, "Sorry [x person] doesn't merit a mention," I would leave in a cold minute and never return.

However, I agree with the folks here who think it's a good thing to make sure that the posts themselves are high quality and properly tagged, both for easier filtering if people want to avoid them and to lead to better discussion. There's no reason to keep short, context-free obits of anyone, no matter how well we *should* know them from their fame.
posted by mordax at 12:47 PM on April 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think an easy general guideline could be whether the post could stand even if the person hadn't passed away.

That Victoria Woods post linked above is written as an obituary, but something very close to it could have been posted while she was still alive. OTOH a thin post like "[Person] died, here's an obit over at [newspaper]" would get deleted immediately if they'd been alive (and the post had been "Here's a short overview of [Person]'s life over at [newspaper]").
posted by bjrn at 1:03 PM on April 24, 2016 [19 favorites]


I think the real key to whether an obit post is worthwhile is how much there is to say about it.

For instance, Bowie, Prince... people here had a lot to say about those passings and that was good. And Jason Molina, who died back in 2013, could be considered a minor figure, culturally, but his music having been woven through with his depression and with him dying disturbingly young... Some of us had strong feelings. That obit post made a lot of sense, even if he wasn't a major star.

On the other hand, Doris Roberts, of Everybody Loves Raymond and various other hit shows and movies could be argued to be a figure with farther reach, culturally speaking. But when a person dies of natural causes at 90, what is there to say, but aw sad, dot dot dot? Not to pick on that post or its author, which was clearly within the existing guidelines. But if we're looking at what we currently allow that we might like to trim, I'm thinking the target area is somewhere in there.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:17 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also... just a thought, but if did want to have an obit section, hypothetically speaking, I wonder if it might make sense to tuck it in as a sub-subsite, like FanFare Talk is within FanFare. Because I don't know how excited I am about a new subsite "obits.metafilter.com" but if we wanted to have a section that fed a block on the front page or something and could be accessed by clicking through, that would make sense to me.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:20 PM on April 24, 2016


I guess one problem is that I'm not convinced that the mods can always predict how much people will have to say about someone, especially if that person's impact was culturally or sub-culturally specific. I'm 100% certain that there are people who seem obscure and not-very-interesting to me but who meant a huge amount to other people here, and I'm not sure that I could predict who they would be, and I think the same might be true of anyone making that determination.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:25 PM on April 24, 2016 [18 favorites]


I know the great Ethopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria died a few weeks ago, and Congolese soukous musician Papa Wemba just collapsed on stage in the last day or so. I considered making obit posts for both of them, but I know there's been a lot of "too many obits!" grumbling lately and it makes me way too self-conscious to post anything.

As far as these three categories ...

1) Huge cultural figure, major political figure, etc
2) Middle of the road
3) Obscure but interesting


Well, from whose perspective? If you're Congolese, I suspect Papa Wemba is category 1. If you're just a serious music fan, he's probably category 2. And for the majority of Metafilter readers I guess he's category 3 at best. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to second-guess that before posting, though.
posted by Mothlight at 1:27 PM on April 24, 2016 [47 favorites]


I'm really fine with obit posts because they aren't highly likely to disproportionately use mod resources, result in people buttoning, or otherwise be toxic to the site (the exception here is when famous, awful people die, I guess). But they fall in, to me, the same category as "you tube videos of things i don't want to look at" or "posts about comics or video games" or other things that are of enormous interest to many people but just not to me, so easy for me to skip and think nothing of it.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:39 PM on April 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


> If you're Congolese, I suspect Papa Wemba is category 1.

He's category 1 for me, and I'm not even Congolese. To be honest, I was hit harder by his death than Prince's. If I were still posting, I would have done an obit post for him, but it would have gotten five comments, which is one reason I no longer post. Anyway, thanks for mentioning him; I truly appreciate it.

On topic: I don't care how many obit posts there are. If I'm not interested, I skip 'em, just like with politics posts.
posted by languagehat at 1:56 PM on April 24, 2016 [15 favorites]


I don't totally understand the whole "too many X posts" thing. It's so easy to just ... scroll past stuff.

What, exactly, am I missing?
posted by dotgirl at 2:07 PM on April 24, 2016 [27 favorites]


ObitFilter: have a sad
posted by Going To Maine at 2:16 PM on April 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


We've always tried to have a balance of different kinds of FPPs, and days where there are four or five obits together, that does begin to feel like it's maybe too much of one thing/one kind of thing. We've also just had a lot of death-focused posts lately -- obituaries, suicides, etc. -- and that can understandably get a bit wearing. And we do hear from members who begin to find it distressing when death dominates the front page.

It's also a situation where it can be hard to disentangle the quality of posts from the importance/belovedness of the person and/or people's emotional investment in their work and death, which can make it tricky to delete posts. Talking a little bit about what makes for better and worse obituary posts makes sense to help people make higher-quality posts.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 2:27 PM on April 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


The number of particular things on the front page are always going to ebb and flow - it happens with politics just as much or more as it does with obituaries. One of the strengths on MetaFilter is the lack of categorisation, in my view - it's largely a stream of curated items people thought were interesting enough to put together and post. Dividing that up into 'posts about x go here, posts about y go over there' would just fragment that.

It's no different to any other topic - if you're not interested, scroll on by. If there is a need to perhaps raise the quality of obituary posts, a restriction on posting them for, say, 24 hours after the person in question dies might help filter out the rushed posts in favour of more thoughtful ones. You could also go a step further with mandatory tagging triggering a 'hold for review' status for these.

It all seems like the same old idea of building a technical solution for a community issue that may or may not exist. Sure, there are more of these posts lately, but that's because more well or moderately well-known people are dying. That this would result in more such posts seems obvious and correct to me.
posted by dg at 2:31 PM on April 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


For "Middle of The Road" obits (and wouldn't they still be alive if they hadn't been standing in the middle of the road?), I would suggest that you hold off long enough to be able to collect multiple links, including profiles and interviews from when they were still alive and kicking. Or, if you have a relatively specialized interest, collect info on the last 3-5 notables in that field to pass away and do a MegaObit.

I recently posted about a still-active MAD magazine writer who had just celebrated his 95th birthday as kind of an "Anti-Obit", but considering that many of MAD's most notable contributors over its 65 years of publication are still alive and half of those are still contributing while well past 'retirement age', I realize that inevitably, I'll have to do an FPP about "the Late, Great Gang of Idiots" and I am totally not looking forward to that. And while I know we already got a career retrospective for cartoon legend June Foray when she won an Emmy at age 94, I really really want her to get another when she passes OR when she hits 100 (September of next year) because there are some of her dozens of voices we didn't include in the previous post.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:50 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel like the best thing would be to raise the bar for obit posts across the board. Moderating based on the "worthiness" of the subject seems like a break from the traditional MeFi philosophy that almost anything can be interesting if presented correctly, as well as being something that would be impossible to do without creating more problems than it solves. Moderating based on post quality is something that has always been a part of site process, and is something that I would have an easier time trusting the mods to do fairly and consistently. It would still open them up to more protest MeTas, but I think that judging based on subject (especially when the subject is a dead person who was presumably important to the poster) would lead to a whole new class of MeTa that we've never had to deal with before.

What the guidelines for a high-quality obit post would look like I am not sure (I'm uncomfortable with using "multiple links" as the main criterion, since I see a lot of quality single-link posts and a lot of multi-link posts that are mainly filler) but that's what I would prefer to try and hash out here in this thread, rather than coming up with some kind of rubric for deciding whether or not a particular person's life was worth memorializing on the Blue.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:52 PM on April 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


I have no problem with the rate and quality of obit threads as I have seen them on the site.

Seriously, as far as best of the 'net goes, the fact that I can learn when (and I'm making these up) my favorite author from childhood, the world's most famous apple peel artist, or the producer of Friends died.... I mean that's just kinda neat.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:08 PM on April 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Kill categories 1 and 2.


RIP, beloved categories, RIP
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:10 PM on April 24, 2016


That's an interesting BBC article. It talks about the main driver being that there are simply more famous people, and, unsaid, but probably also true, people read obituaries, which spikes traffic.

I'm curious about the average age of Metafilter users, though. It's starting to seem, to me, that of the many unwanted gifts that come with middle age, the death of people who had an impact on you in your youth is one of the more insidious. The meme/quote I've seen running around a lot recently about how we're not mourning the famous person we've never met, we're mourning the person who we were at the time we found out about them, I think it sort of holds true. For my own part, as much as I completely understand how seeing three obits in a row like earlier this week isn't the best thing to see, each one was something that I found, if not useful, because that's a bit morbid/obscene, important? The Prince thread was obviously a thread for a large portion of the community to come together to celebrate a person who occupied a unique place in society and the arts. But right after that, the thread about Chyna gave members a place to mourn an important figure in wrestling, and to be honest, there aren't a lot of places where I can do that IRL, let alone on other sites without having to deal with people trying to tell me wrestling is fake. And right after that, honestly, I doubt I would have heard about the passing of the member of Negativland otherwise, which gave me a pause, and had me remembering sitting and listening to my local college station and being blown away by their work, something I'd literally never heard before, and reminded me how much of my worldview has roots in things like that.

Are there a lot of obit posts? Yeah. For me, at least, I think the next five to ten years of my life are going to involve being stunned on an all too regular basis by the passing of someone I admired, and struggling to find an outlet for the strangled pain of yet another loss. While Metafilter was obviously not founded with intent of hosting memorial services, it is a community, a strong one at that, and one of its strengths is that it provides a place for us all to come together and give each other the chance to grieve among friends, to share, rather than sit alone, wishing we could explain why this or that person meant so damn much to us.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:17 PM on April 24, 2016 [16 favorites]


I saw this, thought of that recent MeTa pony asking for folks to post about still living folks, and thought "Yeah, this MeTa is beating a dead pony request."
posted by Michele in California at 3:42 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, I kinda liked the 400-year-late Obit post for William Shakespeare yesterday, with its lead link an "Obituary" from the New York Times, which showed that the NYT and its editors are well aware of the current boom in Dead Celebrities, and as one of The Grey Lady's harshest critics around here (not EVERYTHING they publish is FPP-worthy, especially not their 'trend pieces'... please remember, they still consider David Brooks and Thomas Friedman relevant), I considered it one of the paper's BEST 'soft news' pieces of the year.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:13 PM on April 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


i don't care what you do, but i would like to know what LMs are.
posted by andrewcooke at 4:19 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am glad that category 1 obits hit the blue. When David Bowie dies, I want to know and I also want somewhere to talk about it. The thing with David Bowie is that we are all familiar with his work and the thing we want to talk about is the fact that he is dead.

The problem with both categories 2 and 3 is that a large number of people are getting their first introduction to the person's work in the context of the obit thread. And so, naturally, they want to talk about the person's life work, but obit threads are sort of counterproductive to that, in part due to the '.' avalanche.

So, for people who aren't major cultural touchstones, my preference would be if users took the news of their death as an incentive to start putting together a post and then, rather than rushing out an obit thread, waited a few weeks and just made an FPP about this awesome person who happens to be dead.
posted by 256 at 4:26 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


FWIW, some blowback from elsewhere. (Not sure if anyone actively monitors the @metafilter Twitter account and would have seen the mention.)
posted by asterix at 4:29 PM on April 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


It wouldn't require a subsite, but you could handle obituaries the way you're handling the overabundance of political threads by limiting the site to one active obituary thread at a time. "...we're asking folks to confine remembrance links to the open obituary thread" or "we have so very many obituary posts and are trying to corral them all, sorry."
posted by Jeff Howard at 4:41 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Jeff that's either a really terrible serious suggestion or a really tacky sarcastic one and I'm not sure which
posted by flatluigi at 4:45 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, I mean, I'm just kinda wishing so many people weren't dying so often recently. But yeah, I see where y'all are coming from.
posted by Cookiebastard at 4:47 PM on April 24, 2016


A problem I have is that a lot of obit posts are thin, so overall I tend to skim past ALL of them (I'm typically uninterested in the Big Name obit threads, which are not actually that common because there aren't that many Big Names) and this means I miss interesting threads because I don't click through as they are overwhelmed by "hey this famousish person died, here's the imdb link".

I know this is my loss, but I think that raising the bar on the QUALITY of an obit thread -- with the possible exception of some like Prince or Thatcher -- will help.

(I say this as someone who has written not particularly awesome obit posts.)
posted by jeather at 5:04 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm one of the people who finds all the obit posts kind of distressing. I understand that everyone dies and I can just scroll past them, etc. (and I do, most of the time). And maybe it's because I deal with some anxiety anyway, but the constant reminders can be upsetting at times, especially when it's people dying at relatively young ages.

I have, for the first time, set up my filters to hide all posts tagged "obit" or "obituary" but immediately discovered that not everyone uses either tag in posts about someone dying. And I also have to then remember to click on "My Mefi" when I come to the site, as the default is the non-filtered version (as far as I know - is there any way to make "My Mefi" my own default version?)

Anyway, I'm not saying this because I expect any sort of special snowflake treatment, and I don't know what the best solution would be. But I just wanted to add my own data point that I've pretty much just ended up avoiding Mefi over the last couple of days for the most part, because I need to get out of the headspace of: People die! All the time! For no good reason! You or your loved ones are next!
posted by triggerfinger at 5:06 PM on April 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


we're also hearing pretty clearly from people contacting us that there are just too many obituaries on the front page of MetaFilter

So what percentage of members does that group make up? I mean, except in threads like this, are people contacting you and saying "the number of obits is fine"?

I came in late to the last thread on this topic and stayed out of it. But since the topic of quality has come up again, I'd like to just point out that the Bowie thread was mine and it was only my second post ever. So maybe when people are commenting on the quality of threads, maybe pause and consider the context. For those that think it was thin, do you recall what your second post was like?
posted by Beti at 5:09 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Would have liked to have seen a Papa Wemba obit as this is the first I've heard of it. How about we celebrate more awesome people that are alive as well?

In scanning posts from the last few days I see about 1 obit post/day (including William Shakespeare). I wouldn't characterize the front page as being "cluttered up with obituaries all the time" and "filling up with obituary posts". Can we have data driven decisions please?
posted by euphorb at 5:17 PM on April 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm torn on this. On the one hand, it is really depressing and difficult to see an obit post come up so regularly these days on the Blue. I feel the same way about other topics, though, and it makes me wish I could blacklist posts by tag so that when I hit the Blue or the Green, things are as filtered as they can be. My MetaFilter doesn't really serve that need since it focuses on what you do want to see but gives no way to filter out what might be bad within those topics you do like. But MetaFilter is also my go to source of news lately and when I do hear about a celebrity death elsewhere I immediately hit the Blue to see if there's an obit post for them yet so I can see how others are reacting to the news. So I see both sides of the argument (or at least I think I do).

Would it be feasible to have a toggle that would hide posts that are tagged with "obit" or "obituary"?
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:22 PM on April 24, 2016


But since the topic of quality has come up again, I'd like to just point out that the Bowie thread was mine and it was only my second post ever.

jessamyn said a while back that obits are often people's first posts, so I hope the mods are keeping that in mind when axing them.
posted by Etrigan at 5:30 PM on April 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I left it out of my previous comment, but I would also be fine with the status quo. I know that some people find obit threads sort of irritating in general (not "best of the web", don't like the dots, etc.) but they don't bother this member. Sometimes I stick my head in to see if anybody has a particularly interesting story about the person who's died, but generally I just scroll on by. Since there's no limit on the number of FPPs allowed per day, it's not as if they're pushing out things that I'd find more interesting.

If we change anything, I'd like to see higher quality posts—curated links that showcase what was interesting and notable about the subject, similar to what one would expect from a post about a living person. In fact, I'd say that that's a good litmus test: if you could take away the fact of the subject's recent death, would it still be a viable post? Basically, we should hold posts about dead people to the same standard as posts about living ones.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:42 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Would it be feasible to have a toggle that would hide posts that are tagged with "obit" or "obituary"?

i think that's what "my mefi" does (although i do not use it myself). go to the front page, click on "My Mefi" on the right end of the lowest menu bar, and follow instructions.
posted by andrewcooke at 5:49 PM on April 24, 2016


I am fine with the obit posts.
posted by mmmbacon at 5:51 PM on April 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


oh man, I didn't realize I could add blacklisted tags too. sorry about that, request rescinded. thanks, andrewcooke. <3
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:56 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


oh but wait, no -- my request still stands, because I'd rather go to the Blue and read things as they're posted, but have the ability to toggle at least obit threads off from THERE, not build my own Blue using MyMefi.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:58 PM on April 24, 2016


flatluigi, I don't agree. It's analogous to remembrance slideshows at the Oscars or the aggregation of traditional obituaries in a newspaper. It has the benefit of not changing the structure of the site and mirroring a strategy that is already in active use for this type of problem.

Forced aggregation could apply to any class of FPP with a common theme, from the US election to SLYT animal hijinks to notable deaths.
posted by Jeff Howard at 5:58 PM on April 24, 2016


I do not care about how many obits are on the front page. If I don't want to read it then I don't have to read it. Making these decisions takes up 0% of my day.

If you don't like seeing tons of obits on the front page (which you totally do not have to read) then maybe take some time to post things to the front page that you do like so that many people can also feed their brains and you might inspire conversation about thing you like.

I don't mean to come down on anyone but would like to point out that it's real easy to criticize when you're not the one doing the work (this extends to all of life not just mefi.)

Hugs for everyone that wants one.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:59 PM on April 24, 2016 [13 favorites]


Forced aggregation could apply to any class of FPP with a common theme, from the US election to SLYT animal hijinks to notable deaths.

That would be a massive change in how the site operates.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:03 PM on April 24, 2016


yes, but if we could possibly manage to aggregate SLYT animal hijink threads with the US election it would vastly improve both of those!
posted by MoonOrb at 6:09 PM on April 24, 2016


When rejecting obituary posts for not having enough information, please take a moment to consider the wording. The last one felt pretty callous.

The clear solution to avoiding so many posts of this type is for all of us to download ourselves into immortal android bodies. I consider it a major failing of all insanely rich people that none of them are funding this.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:13 PM on April 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


If you don't like seeing tons of obits on the front page (which you totally do not have to read) then maybe take some time to post things to the front page that you do like so that many people can also feed their brains and you might inspire conversation about thing you like.

I don't mean to come down on anyone but would like to point out that it's real easy to criticize when you're not the one doing the work (this extends to all of life not just mefi.)

Please consider that not all of us see an obit post and go, "Hmm, don't want to read that so I wont." It's that some of us see an obit post and go, "Fuck, this sucks" and it digs a little at us for the rest of the day. Asking for the ability to move/hide obit posts for those of us that fall into the latter category isn't an outrageous request -- telling us that we should contribute more posts to drown out the noise that obit posts sometimes make or trigger? Bless your heart for suggesting such a thing.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:15 PM on April 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


It seems that a consensus to tag (or flag and have mods add a tag to) obituary threads with #obit or whatever would allow for those who find such things triggering to filter them out via mymefi without toggles on the profile page or a new subsite or whatever.

Memento mori, sic gloria transit mundi, etc.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 6:33 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Hermione Granger, please consider that I've been dealing with chronic depression for 34 years and I don't necessarily want to see or read obits all the time, either. It can indeed suck to see those things and, yes, it can impact the day. I get that.

I didn't tell anyone to do anything. I made a general suggestion. You can disagree with me without pulling the bless your heart bullshit.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:47 PM on April 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


poffin boffin: "As long as everyone tags their obits with obit or obituary you can just filter them off the front page, though, and never see another one again."

Man, it's not just Google, it's like everyone hates people who read sites using RSS nowadays.

Though, you know what? If it's a possible pony request, would it be possible to create on-the-fly RSS feeds that filter out tags instead of selecting by tags? Right now I can subscribe, for example, to the MeFi "obituary" tag and get an RSS feed of every post tagged with "obituary." I can't, however, subscribe to a feed of everything except "obituaries".

It seems like something that would be hard to code, so I've never requested it, but who knows, maybe it's actually easy, like "oh, we just switch a == in the code to a != and we're good". I mean, I doubt it, but I'm no pb, so I dunno. Mods/pbs, is that even remotely feasible?
posted by Bugbread at 6:54 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I want to see Metafilter policing notability.

I don't know how difficult this would be from a technical standpoint, but here's a middle-of-the-road solution. Have obit posts somehow be marked as such in the backend of metafilter. So you go to make a new FPP and there's a box you check if it's an obit post. Those posts go into a queue like Metatalk posts and mods can check them for quality of links etc. before approving the post. Once posted there can be a marker on the post so people can skip if they choose. A little black ribbon (like the mourning armband kind of ribbon) or a white flower maybe. (like an emoji size icon as the first character of the post).

Another benefit of this would be that one would think it would make it easy to scrape together some page of obit posts by date of death or whatever. Like looking at the obit tag, but better curated/organized. Maybe once you check the obit box you can specify a few more things (Actor/musician/politician/etc. DOB, DOD,) and those can be scraped into the obit-viewing site. (which in case this is unclear, wouldn't be a ObitFilter, it would just be basically a page on the wiki created by scraping posts created in this way).

I wonder is some of the code for Anonymous AskMe's can be repurposed to set something like that up?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:04 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


If we change anything, I'd like to see higher quality posts—curated links that showcase what was interesting and notable about the subject, similar to what one would expect from a post about a living person.

I think a very simple way to promote this would be to have a site norm that we wait a week after somebody dies to do an obit post. I think we'd have better posts and better discussions. I think that's better than having a norm that some people's deaths aren't notable enough to be talked about here.

I mean, yes, that means that, in the case of someone really famous, the whole rest of the Internet would have already talked about that person's death. I am OK with that because I am OK with and to some degree supportive of MetaFilter not looking like the whole rest of the Internet.
posted by escabeche at 7:14 PM on April 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Would it be possible to ask the mods to add "obit" and "obituary" tags to any obituary posts they come across which are lacking said tags? That would probably help people filter them out, if that's what they want to do.

I feel like having a toggle for obituary posts on the main page would be kind of a clunky solution, and would potentially be a slippery slope as well since I can think of lots of other types of posts that some people would probably rather not have to see. I can see it turning into a mess real fast if we tried to accomodate those types of requests on the regular.

Meanwhile, we have a pre-existing system in the form of My MeFi that lets people select what types of posts they want to be looking at, and it's not as if there's any stigma to using it—using My MeFi to filter the site is using MetaFilter as it was designed to be used. I don't personally browse that way, but it's a valid way to interact with the Blue.

If people want to specifically disappear posts from the main page that contain certain tags or whatever, I feel like that's a classic example of a feature request that would best be fulfilled by a greasemonkey script.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:19 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you're thinking of making a post about an interesting person, I don't suggest waiting three years to do so because they might die in the meantime.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:22 PM on April 24, 2016


Relatedly, I feel like we have a whole lot of different technical solutions being proposed for what is clearly a social problem (to the extent that there is a problem here to begin with, which I don't think we have a consensus about) and I really think that runs counter to longstanding management philosophy here at MetaFilter. The mods have expressed a willingness to raise the bar on obit posts and weed out the weaker ones more aggressively, and for whatever it's worth I feel like this thread will be a lot more productive if we try to focus the discussion toward figuring out what that new moderation standard should look like, rather than spending our time coming up with feature requests.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:24 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I understand the folks who don't find the preponderance of obit threads depressing (or who find them depressing but are still pro-obit) and think the rest of us are being oversensitive and should just shut up and deal with it or stop reading MeFi or switch from RSS to filtered MyMeFi or the like. Those are all sensible objections.

What I really don't get are statements like "if I'm not interested I skip it," "easy for me to skip and think nothing of it," "I don't totally understand the whole "too many X posts" thing. It's so easy to just ... scroll past stuff," "if you're not interested, scroll on by." - That is, all the people who not only disagree with anti-obit folks, but who can't even understand why some might object in the first place.

Some of us find death depressing and scary and terrible. If you don't, that's great. If you do find it depressing and scary and terrible, but not so much that you find yourself thinking "Maybe I should stop reading Metafilter," then that's great, too. But for some of us, constant reminders of mortality are really unfun, to the point of "maybe I should just stop reading MeFi". I can't skip a constant reminder of mortality because I don't know a post is another reminder of the looming reaper until I've already read it, and then it's too late. It's like saying "If you don't want to lose the Game, scroll past any threads that mention the Game" -- once you know if it mentions the Game, scrolling past it doesn't make any difference, you've already lost the Game. And adding more high quality posts doesn't make a difference, because the issue is the frequency of posts mentioning the Game, not the ratio of Game to non-Game posts.

Again, I'm not talking to/about all pro-obit folks. If you're thinking, "Yes, I understand that for some people seeing a lot of obits on MeFi can be depressing, but..." then this comment isn't about you. You're in the "understanding but disagreeing" camp. I don't think folks in this camp should bend over backwards to accommodate us. Based on the conversation in my last MeTa on this topic, I gather that the overall position of MeFi is that I'm just too sensitive about death. That's totally fine, and I get it. This comment was just about the "Not only do I disagree with anti-obit people, I cannot comprehend why they could possibly dislike obits" folks.

As far as solutions, like I say, I'm clearly in the minority, so it's not on y'all to accommodate me but on me to find a personal solution. I had forgotten the MyMeFi option, and if a filtered RSS feed isn't an option, I guess I'll use My MeFi. Kind of a bummer that RSS isn't an option in that case, as the only non-RSS site I read is Facebook, meaning MetaFilter won't exactly be in illustrious company. But, again, my problem, not y'all's.

Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: "Relatedly, I feel like we have a whole lot of different technical solutions being proposed for what is clearly a social problem...I feel like this thread will be a lot more productive if we try to focus the discussion toward figuring out what that new moderation standard should look like, rather than spending our time coming up with feature requests."

Yesish noish? I mean, if we create an obit-only solution, yeah, I agree (obit.metafilter.com, etc. would be opening the floodgates for all kinds of "move it to its own subsite!" arguments on MeTa). But a My MeFi for RSS would be useful for all sorts of topics, not just obits. Politics, cats, circumcision, identifying portobello mushrooms, etc. It would really be an awesome thing for RSS users, and while there aren't that many RSS users in the world at large, there are quite a few here. If it's not feasible, it's not feasible, but if it were feasible, it would be much more effective at resolving this issue than arguing about moderation standards again.
posted by Bugbread at 7:32 PM on April 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think so long as obits meet the standards of any other post type, we shouldn't add new limits. All posts have to be interesting and not just timely, and meet the guidelines. All posts get the bar raised on them when similar posts are coming in around the same time.
posted by michaelh at 7:38 PM on April 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


(Again, to be super clear, if you're thinking, "Yeah, but..." regarding my above comment, then my comment wasn't about you. It was exclusively about the "I don't even get the objection in the first place" comments)
posted by Bugbread at 7:41 PM on April 24, 2016


If the ability to opt-out via tags in RSS, plus mods adding necessary tags (if not already tagged), is a doable thing that seems like the obvious solution in conjunction with MyMefi.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:44 PM on April 24, 2016


You can already subscribe to your MyMefi with RSS. So set up your tags to exclude "obituary" and "obit" and swap your subscription to the main site for a sub to MyMefi.
posted by gingerest at 7:55 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I do not care about how many obits are on the front page. If I don't want to read it then I don't have to read it. Making these decisions takes up 0% of my day.

That's my general feeling. I would always add obit/obituary tags to obit posts when I was a mod and I see that people tend to add them now. It seems like there might be some nifty tool where people could have a (short?) list of blacklisted tags that would affect their front page (not My MeFi) view. Or is there a way to make My MeFi the default main tab you see when you load metafilter.com? As I said, I don't mind the obit threads but if I could never read another rape thread on MetaFilter, it would improve the site for me, so I think I get where people are coming from generally even if this would not be the example I would personally use.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:57 PM on April 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


gingerest: "You can already subscribe to your MyMefi with RSS."

Wha...

What the...

This is some next-level "You had the power in your heart all along" shit right here.

This is like finding out that you've got a closet full of unopened Christmas presents.

(´∀`)!!!

Okay talk to yall later got a lot of presents to open!!
posted by Bugbread at 8:08 PM on April 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


Wait, Bugbread, how long did you leave those presents there? You were supposed to open them four months ago!

1) don't eat the cheese
2) that gift certificate is expired
3) the gift with the air holes? Just don't open that one. It's for the best.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:19 PM on April 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


Just for the record, I'm in the "I sympathize but I disagree" camp for the front page toggle proposal. I have no real opinion about RSS-specific changes. I wanted to clarify where I'm at, since I was addressed directly.

If seeing mention of death on the front page (or sexual violence, or torture, or lots of other subjects really) is making members question whether to continue using MetaFilter, I think we should try for a reasonable accommodation for those users. I feel like My MeFi already is that accommodation, though. Maybe we tweak it to work better, but a de novo feature for the front page doesn't make sense to me. I think I'm splitting hairs though at this point so I'll leave it be for now.

Anyway I feel like that issue is somewhat tangential to the main one here, which is simply that there are lots of obit posts on the Blue, there's always been a faction of the userbase which dislikes them, and not all of them are even of good quality.

I still say that the best way to reduce them and improve the front page in general is to raise that quality bar. If the post wouldn't have flown while the subject was still alive (or a decade after their death) it shouldn't fly just because the subject has recently died. I think thin or marginal obit posts can sometimes get a bit of a pass both out of respect for the dead and also because there's sometimes an obvious need for community members to be able to collectively mourn someone's passing.

Those are both valid motivators but I think that requiring obit posts to be good enough to stand on their own is both respectful (in that if someone is going to be memorialized, we should at least put a bit of effort into it) and will cause minimal interference with the emotional needs of the community (since the people whose deaths cause the biggest outpourings of grief will certainly be given quality obituaries if we can just wait long enough for someone to put together something fitting). If we can shift community expectations and moderator practice in that direction, I think it would help everyone and the community as well.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:26 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm in the general camp of not minding the quantity of obituary posts in the abstract, but I would definitely appreciate seeing more of them be posts with a more comprehensive description, links and summary of the individual's life. With that said, as we all age and the world becomes 'smaller' there is only going to be a steadily increasing number of people dying that are familiar and important to members. Entirely anecdotally, if I start to type my local newspaper's name into google it autocompletes both the remainder of the name and the word obituary to that search. A daily check of the obituaries is a normal and healthy part of life, particularly as we age. I wouldn't want it to ever feel like we can't acknowledge, discuss or even learn about someone who passed away just because it was in close proximity to someone more famous.

Back to my first point. I'd still love for the bar on what makes a good obituary post to be raised so that they stand on merit even after the initial shock is passed and remain a source of interest a few days/weeks later.
posted by meinvt at 8:39 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


It seems like there might be some nifty tool where people could have a (short?) list of blacklisted tags that would affect their front page (not My MeFi) view. Or is there a way to make My MeFi the default main tab you see when you load metafilter.com?

Just wanted to add that me not liking lots of obit posts has literally zero to do with the quality (or lack thereof) of the posts themselves, which is something that I'm mostly neutral on. I've really enjoyed the Prince thread and I liked the David Bowie thread as well. I would mainly like to be able to filter obit threads out of my default view in some way, as jessamyn mentions. If someone dies and I want to see or comment in the thread about it, I'll know how to find it.
posted by triggerfinger at 9:09 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sorta off topic, it's my birthday today and I'm relieved I haven't seen any death notices on it as of nearly 10 p.m.! Whew! No big rockstar deaths so far!

of course then I saw one on nymag.com, but I've barely heard of that guy so I'm gonna ignore it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:51 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm going to ask what may seem like a silly question to people: Why aren't people just bookmarking mymefi as their mefi bookmark and/or just using that address instead of popping to metafilter.com?

I realize it won't catch things that don't get tagged with [whatevertag] but it seems far more workable than a subsite or using a flamethrower on all obit posts.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:10 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


oh but wait, no -- my request still stands, because I'd rather go to the Blue and read things as they're posted, but have the ability to toggle at least obit threads off from THERE, not build my own Blue using MyMefi.

What's the difference between what you're asking for and the result you get by adding obit and obituary to the exclusion box on My Mefi and nothing else?
posted by jacquilynne at 10:59 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I get an empty My MeFi page? Am I doing something wrong?
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:09 PM on April 24, 2016


Sorry, I see what has been happening on my end and why it wasn't working. My bad. Sorry for the confusion. It works now and I'll use it instead of the regular Blue. Thanks for your patience on this -- it's been a rough week and I am pretty confused by everything right now.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:13 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


In theory, my attitude is thus:

When other people do things which upset you, you can attempt to control your upset or attempt to control other people.

Guess which works more often in the long run.

In regards to obituaries, as Bunting wrote in Villon:

DEATH is written over all.

I can tell you this -- that will matter more and more as the.years go by.

Changing things for you alone by you alone always trumps demanding things be changed for everyone by someones else because you are personally inconvenienced. This is my opinion.

We are living in tough times. And they are going to get tougher. And DEATH is written over all.

And yet, and yet, as Kenko wrote, what makes life so precious is its impermanence.

As several have pointed out, you have the power to personally change what you personally read. So, thread the needle.
posted by y2karl at 11:29 PM on April 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


we're also hearing pretty clearly from people contacting us that there are just too many obituaries on the front page of MetaFilter

I just want to chime in and say, I am okay with all of the obituaries on the blue. I feel like we have problem bias here - you are only hearing from the people who are most upset about it, and the rest of us are not messaging the mods because we are okay with the status quo. That's not to say I don't feel sad when I see the obit posts - I absolutely do.

I also really dislike the 3 categories that were discussed above. There's no clear way to discern if a person falls into a good enough category to post about. I think we should just have people tag their posts as obit so people who want to can filter them out, but otherwise, a post should be allowed if it's a decent post.

If we start policing this, are we going to police everyone's triggers? It just seems crazy to me. Some people are triggered by death, some by sexual trauma, some by politics, etc. etc. I don't want the blue to become a place where we have to be really careful of what we post because it might offend someone or hurt them. Trigger warnings are okay, but to suggest that some voices should be silent because some of us cannot handle the news of everyday life borders on censorship.
posted by FireFountain at 11:42 PM on April 24, 2016 [15 favorites]


y2karl: "In theory, my attitude is thus:

When other people do things which upset you, you can attempt to control your upset or attempt to control other people.
"

In reality, though, you end up finding out that there's already a technological solution that doesn't require you to change your personality or other people to change their behavior! Reality is awesomer than theory!
posted by Bugbread at 11:58 PM on April 24, 2016


(That maybe came off as snark, but it wasn't meant to be, I'm just still super-happy to discover the My MeFi RSS feed. Go pb!)
posted by Bugbread at 11:59 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd like to just point out that the Bowie thread was mine and it was only my second post ever. So maybe when people are commenting on the quality of threads, maybe pause and consider the context. For those that think it was thin, do you recall what your second post was like?

Right, but that's the point. If you know you're probably not going to do a very good job at an obit thread, don't bother. Plenty of other people will have heard the news, and maybe one of them will care enough to put in more than a minute into doing the departed justice.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:22 AM on April 25, 2016


Obit threads are somehow exempt from NewsFilter prohibitions. Huh.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:38 AM on April 25, 2016


I am also fine with the obit posts as they currently are and disagree that news of death is something that needs to be shunted to a subsite or otherwise hidden away from everyone as a default. It's as natural an occurrence as weather, politics, and art -- all of which can be upsetting at times.
posted by kimberussell at 3:48 AM on April 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


I have no problem with the current manner in which this is handled. It's not broke, don't fix it.
posted by HuronBob at 4:25 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


it's been a rough week

Hope your weeks and days improve, Hermione Granger; sending you good wishes and supportive hopes.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 4:42 AM on April 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


Um, Bugbread, I thought I said that...
posted by y2karl at 5:08 AM on April 25, 2016


Random proposal for a technical solution (to part of the problem, not the whole problem):

All obituary posts must be tagged "obituary." Anything with the obituary tag gets held for 48 hours. At the end of the 48 hours, if there is more than one post, the mods pick the one that seems to be the most substantive. That might cut down on the phenomenon where thin obit posts push out better ones, because better ones take longer to research. And it would also mean that people who are bothered by obit posts would better be able to filter them, since they would all have to be tagged. It would also give the mods some time to reflect on and discuss with each other whether this particular obit post met whatever threshold they determine should exist.

I am absolutely sensitive to the concerns of people who find obituary posts depressing. Generally speaking, I see obituaries as celebrations of people's lives, not announcements of their deaths, although obituaries for people who died very young or tragically don't always seem that way. But I can totally understand how it could feel like a constant, anxiety-provoking reminder of mortality.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:44 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


y2karl: "Um, Bugbread, I thought I said that..."

Sorry, yeah, you did. I read it but it didn't register.
posted by Bugbread at 7:06 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


An imposed time lag limits exactly the catharthis that obit threads can bring. Something horrible has happened. We rush to grieve amongst the community that will understand our grief. A mandatory waiting period denies that response, and denies more than likely (given the length and duration of the Bowie thread, which will surely be matched by the Prince thread) a sizeable chunk of the active members of the site the very thing they are looking for. Being made to wait at a velvet rope for a timer to count down until it's acceptable to mourn is more than a little off.

In more personal terms, sadly, for me, there have been entirely too many obituaries of wrestlers in the last year. I'm not a member of other forums where wrestling is discussed for a lot of reasons. On the other hand, I've noticed that here, I'm not all that alone, and there are other Mefites who share my interest in wrestling, and who also feel the passing of great wrestlers as keenly as I do. I literally have had no other outlet for that, but here I can talk about the tears I shed waking up to find that a childhood hero had died. Force me to wait for an arbitrary time limit because some people can't handle scrolling past things that don't interest them, or aren't willing to use the tools repeatedly discussed in this thread is something that goes in the "hey, maybe this site isn't so much for me anymore" pile.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:28 AM on April 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


I can totally understand how it could feel like a constant, anxiety-provoking reminder of mortality.
Unto the Death gois all Estatis,
Princis, Prelatis, and Potestatis,
Baith rich and poor of all degree:—
     Timor Mortis conturbat me.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:31 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't know why obit posts should be treated any differently than other posts. If it is a well framed post with interesting article or a really interesting obit, let em stand. Like any post, if you don't like it, don't read it.
posted by AugustWest at 7:39 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Agreeing with "keep the obits". Definitely. Tag them for the mortality-sensitive, although ... ok biting my tongue. They can use the tags. Perhaps there could be a tag style guide for all the things people don't want to see, posters could be referred to a list, or mods could put them in. No holds. No tiering of obits/people (???). Anything else is ... carrying on biting my tongue.

Re quality bar, what, people who pay 5 bucks post what they're moved to when they can, that's the point. Idk. Most do a good job, many do a great job. If people are really concerned with quality, again, have a style guide somewhere, link to it. (Or pros could be hired. Or people could just google an obit written by a pro, I mean...)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:03 AM on April 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I like reading about dead people through all the links provided in an obit thread. I don't find them depressing, and I don't think that talking about dead people (or really, knowing that other people are talking about dead people) is depressing.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:54 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


So it seems as if my main concern about seeing too many obit posts and having the major sads about it can be fixed by screwing around with my settings. (MeTafilter has, like, settings?! Learn something new everday!) And that if I want to look at obit posts sometimes I can also screw around with the settings.

As far as quality of obit posts, I feel like it's the same as quality on ____ posts. Some, like the Bowie one, are great posts that inspire great threads. Others, well, welcome to the internet.

Thanks y'all for your perspective on this!
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:58 AM on April 25, 2016


BBC: A eulogy for the living

'BBC TV is to double the time given to its Christmas obituary progamme after the deaths of more than thirty stars including Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Victoria Wood and Prince.

'Fi Glover of The Listening Project on Radio Four tells us to use our grief for those in the public eye who have died to bring life to our relationships with family and friends.'
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:05 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Right, but that's the point. If you know you're probably not going to do a very good job at an obit thread, don't bother. Plenty of other people will have heard the news, and maybe one of them will care enough to put in more than a minute into doing the departed justice..

Yep, you definitely have the right end of the stick here. I thought it was a crap post and did it anyway.

I thought it was sufficient or I wouldn't have posted it. It's not like most people around here didn't know who he is. They brought their own favorite links and personal connections to the discussion. If someone wasn't known the whole world over, I can see how a longer post would be necessary to tell us about the person.

But in any case, the only way new posters like me are going to get better is to keep practicing. Are we only supposed to practice on other types of posts?

Can't wait to try and post again!
posted by Beti at 9:07 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Beti, your Bowie post was very good. It presented a news item along with context and substance pretty darn well.
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:15 AM on April 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


I thought it was sufficient or I wouldn't have posted it. It's not like most people around here didn't know who he is. They brought their own favorite links and personal connections to the discussion. If someone wasn't known the whole world over, I can see how a longer post would be necessary to tell us about the person.

As I said in the Site of the Dead MeTa:

"Obit posts should have length inversely proportional to the notoriety of their subject. Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow needs links and explanation, because so much of the value in that discussion comes from learning about the person. David Bowie doesn't, because so much of the value in that discussion comes from other MeFites sharing stories."

Your post was more than sufficient, Beti.
posted by Etrigan at 9:23 AM on April 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is interesting...
posted by HuronBob at 9:27 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think notability is a poor criterion. There's nowhere you could go in the last few days that wasn't filled with Prince songs, Prince fan art, Prince retrospectives, purple-lit buildings, breathless articles about what Prince meant to the author, "experts" talking about how influential Prince was without saying anything that wasn't already said by someone else. I hadn't looked at any of my electronics yet on the day he died, then my phone chimed and someone had texted me about it.

I didn't need Metafilter to tell me Prince died, nor to tell me all the ways he was a musical genius. I didn't learn anything new reading the Prince obit post, except that wow, some people are really attached to their celebrities.

I'd much rather hear about someone I didn't know as much about, whose passing may have escaped notice, or who had an interesting life that wasn't really as prominent in the social sphere. But while there's a not to obscure-but-interesting, I feel like a lot of things that would be interesting to read about will fall through the cracks.

I trust the mods to run the site, but I don't trust anyone to decide for me who is notable and who is not. Notability is linked with representation, and representation by default (at least in the US) is biased toward white men. Death shouldn't be a popularity contest.

bugbread's request is much better I think.

Other than that, I support the tagging/hiding solution. The site already provides tools for users to do such things.

That said, I apologize for not including "obit" or "obituary" in my recent Doris Roberts post, I thought I had typed at least one of those in. I've added them to that post.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 9:42 AM on April 25, 2016


This is interesting...

Thanks for that. In the future, whenever I'm feeling particularly down about my life, I can remind myself that at least I needn't make ends meet by being outraged by online grievers.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:45 AM on April 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


This is interesting...

You may want to check that byline before repping a dude whose previous article was "We need to fix our toxic rape laws before the names of more innocent men are trashed."
posted by griphus at 10:01 AM on April 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Wanted to chime in and agree that doubtless a plurality of users have neither read nor commented on this thread, or registered an objection to obituary posts, or even posts of marginal relevance. Because they read if interested, or pass on by if not.

Can we please not modify metafilter because some people are unable to handle the ebb and flow of world events and pass on by? I know lots of news is a total bummer, but I would never, ever want a newspaper to not cover a war somewhere in the world, no matter how remote, and I wouldn't even want it to slide off the front page, regardless of my mood or interest in reading it.

Nobody is equally interested in every single post, but I don't think any group of users and their emotional needs should decide that some don't belong, or that any one person isn't notorious enough, for the rest of the users. I have very strong words about not wanting to confront death, but this neither the time nor the place, so I will say that I am sympathetic to these feelings. However, some people's desire to not have these feelings doesn't trump other people's right to feel them as natural and explore them. For some of us, the metafilter discussion is as close to a funeral for a well-loved figure as we're ever going to get. Don't deny that to people. Let them feel and grieve.
posted by Strudel at 10:39 AM on April 25, 2016 [13 favorites]


MetaFilter threads with anecdotes and links and stories and information I probably would never see elsewhere are really the only upshot of somebody like Prince or David Bowie dying. Yeah, you can get obit threads for C-listers where there isn't much to say besides . and I don't envy the mods who have to decide which of those to axe but obituaries are one of those things that MetaFilter Does Well and I would like to see the status quo preserved.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:54 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thanks, y'all. I was feeling a tad bruised. But seriously, I could get behind a style guide for obit posts.
posted by Beti at 11:37 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Chiming in to say that I am fine with the quantity of obit posts as is and also deeply sorry that we didn't get one about Papa Wemba.
posted by lalex at 11:39 AM on April 25, 2016


I appreciate thoughtful, well-crafted obits but also feel that fig leaf obituaries are fine, and nobody should feel bad about wanting to open a space for sharing and discussion. I don't remember or care that Adam Yauch's obit was a single link post; I remember the outpouring of love and links and stories that followed. As to the long term merits of a thin post after the initial mourning period: comments last longer than links.
posted by Lorin at 11:44 AM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Mortality rates are pretty constant (in the US at least) to slightly declining. But, those who were at the forefront of popculture 30-50 years ago are subject to the same realities of mortal humankind. In other words, nostalgia is about dusting off the dead and recycling it for enjoyment. David Bowie, Prince, et. alls' death gives us yet another moment to do so.

Pop culture is about the mixing of the person with their ideas and ideals. It touches artists, musicians, actors, dancers, even technologists and visionaries. Here are some other realities. This site has been around for a decade and a half, that means all the pets from the "what should we name our cat?" threads from years ago are going to start dying too. In the greater context of the internet and metafilter, maybe they too are worthy of a celebration of their life. Heck, we've outlived various websites and communities, outlasted various personalities, and organically grown as a community.

Go into any town and count the living. Then go to the cemeteries and count the dead. After that, go to the town hall and ask to see the death certificates for those that were cremated. The reality is that the dead will always outnumber the living - wherever you go. Pop culture is built on the bodies of the dead artists that inspired younger generations.

Anyways... I'm not for adjusting the bar or decreasing the frequency or a sub-site (graveyard.metafilter.com?). I think the reality is that the longer you live - whether you are a person, a cat, a celebrity, even this website, or what have you - your relationship with death will be confronted by the fact that all things come to an end.


... except a sausage - those have two.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:44 AM on April 25, 2016


I would also be in favor of seeing fewer obituary posts, and I'll be changing my bookmarks and RSS feeds accordingly, thanks to this thread. I also think it would be a neat idea to have a Preferences toggle that switches "MetaFilter" and "My MeFi" in site navigation to aid folks who prefer that view.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:53 AM on April 25, 2016


It sounds like a technical fix, making sure to add 'obit' and/or 'obituary' to every relevant post, would help everyone involved and especially the MyMefi users.

It's worth thinking about how to convey that to the broader userbase--so few of us read MetaTalk and MeTa readers are not likely to be those first-time posters who are starting with obits.

Listing this on the FAQ? Adding a line to the FPP form? Mods going back in and adding the tag when requested? Mutual contacts doing so? Users knowing to send a request to the mods to add a tag when one is not in place?
posted by librarylis at 12:11 PM on April 25, 2016


I already add the tags whenever I notice they're missing. If you notice they're missing from a thread, let me know and I'll add them.

If anyone wants to post about Papa Wemba, please do, he seems like both a type 1 (hugely important) and a type 3 (someone I didn't know before but is really interesting).
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:24 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


An obit thread is a wake, a party both solemn and festive, to remember and celebrate someone's life. Let the obits roll. Don't want to read them? Scroll.
posted by valetta at 12:51 PM on April 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


It would also be cool if the Sidebar were visible on the My MeFi page, if it is going to serve as a replacement landing page.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:32 PM on April 25, 2016


Let the obits roll. Don't want to read them? Scroll.

*eagerly waits for the rest of the verse*
posted by cynical pinnacle at 1:52 PM on April 25, 2016


I appreciate lengthy well-researched obit posts. I wish my post about Prince had been longer. Understand why it bums people out to see so many but any solution to limiting them (including mods deleting good, well researched ones) seems to bring up bigger problems. For instance, True Crime Diary deserves a post by itself and I'm glad to have been introduced to it, even if I wish it was under different circumstances.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:09 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Don't want to read them? Scroll."

That's true about everything. Such as election posts. There are actually people in this thread who endorsed the "just scroll past" response to obituary complaints who previously objected to the quantity of US election posts. I'm puzzled by this.

I find "scroll past" persuasive only up to a point. There's always going to be posts and topics that are very uninteresting to each mefite and so, obviously, scrolling past or using mymefi to filter should be the first response. But it's also the case that the quantity of posts to the front page and the diversity (or lack) of topics posted to the front page have a noticeable impact on the character of the site. A few US election posts are fine. One every day would not be fine. This is true about everything.

Too many weak posts make the front page less useful and less interesting, even if you scroll past. Using mymefi and filtering by tags and avoiding the front page altogether is, to me, contrary to the communal spirit of MetaFilter -- although, to be honest, the high volume of posts to the blue has already mostly ended my ability to interact with MeFi on that basis. I see only a quarter of the posts, read even fewer.

We don't need a subsite for obituaries, just as we don't need a politics subsite. But I do think that we need some restraint on the idea that things should be posted just because they're noteworthy -- in this respect, obituaries are very much a part of newsfilter. People rush to post such events because they feel that such posts should exist. Sometimes we get very good threads out of it -- enough so that most of us agree that some newsfilter threads which really just exist to provide a space for discussion are worthwhile. But this is very much something that is best in moderation, because often such threads aren't good discussion and the more of them there are, the more likely it is the net benefit is negative.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:21 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


That's true about everything. Such as election posts. There are actually people in this thread who endorsed the "just scroll past" response to obituary complaints who previously objected to the quantity of US election posts. I'm puzzled by this.

It's easy for me, for example, as a person who has complained about election threads but also thinks people can scroll past unwanted threads to reconcile this seeming contradiction:

The problem with election threads is not that their mere presence on the front page upsets me; it's that I believe they're an overall negative for the site because they disproportionately use mod resources, engender bad will between members, and result in people leaving the site. Just scrolling past these threads solves this issue perfectly for me, and that's how I handle it. But it doesn't solve what I see is the larger problem, which is that I think they're not great for the site. Obituary threads, with very few exceptions, don't share these characteristics.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:38 PM on April 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


The other thing about obituary threads, relative to election threads, is that they're actually about a reasonably diverse array of topics. Lots about pop culture, of course, but also politicians, scientists, writers, etc. And they're not all about Americans. So they're not as inherently one-note as election threads.

(For all that it matters, I don't particularly care about the volume of election threads or obit threads, though if I had to choose one of the two to axe, election threads would certainly be the choice.)
posted by jacquilynne at 2:45 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I totally see the mod-resources + community grar distinction. But I also think that many people don't like a large number of election posts more generally. I'm mostly just responding to the "scroll past it" response which I think is glib -- I'm suspicious about it in that although it should apply to every possible kind of post, I think that most everyone who adopts that position about X kind of post would find that there is some Y kind of post which they would object to and "scroll past it" wouldn't be persuasive.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:51 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


FWIW I really strongly disagree with culling obits by notability, and yeah, I'm not happy about the decision on McNamara -- although if it's a thinness of post problem then maybe. (As many people have pointed out though making a post thick doesn't make it good!) I really don't think this should be standard mod policy and I'm a little annoyed it seems to have gotten implemented as such already despite the ongoing discussion here.

And it seems there are technological solutions already present (MyMefi, including rss feed) for people who really want to lower the number they see.

For those people there also is a request to load MyMefi as the standard view for people who choose it-- is that doable? Let's do that instead of judging which dead people are interesting.
posted by nat at 3:22 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


The McNamara delete was more of a: this surprising death just happened, and the post is in-effect just saying "ack, this terrible thing happened!" (which is totally understandable!) -- more an announcement of the event, rather than a more considered obit with, eg, some things her colleagues etc have written in appreciation of her etc. So yeah, it was a "wait a bit and put together more of a post" thing. I emailed with the poster at the time of the delete to explain.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:30 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the explanation, and I'm glad you sent the poster a longer explanation too.
posted by nat at 4:09 PM on April 25, 2016


I definitely think the Michelle McNamara post was a good delete. I am totally willing to believe that McNamara was a fascinating person who merits an obit thread, but that post didn't make a case for it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:33 PM on April 25, 2016


Dearest mods - is there anyway to highlight mymefi on the sidebar of the front page or as a notification at the top of the page that people can x out of?

It seems like it would come in super handy for a number of users but that people just don't necessarily know what that choice is about on the subnav tab menu.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:20 PM on April 25, 2016


I just want to chime in and say, I am okay with all of the obituaries on the blue. I feel like we have problem bias here - you are only hearing from the people who are most upset about it, and the rest of us are not messaging the mods because we are okay with the status quo.

Seconded. I feel like many in this thread have portrayed the options as exclusively consisting of "people who really hate seeing obituary posts" vs. "people who don't mind obituary posts"... as if there aren't also "people who really appreciate obituary posts." I am emphatically in the last of those groups, and I also emphatically disagree with any sort of notability criterion.
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:08 PM on April 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


I find it annoying that we have a bunch of people in here saying "suck it up, buttercup" in response to members saying that they are distressed by seeing death on the front page of MeFi. Sure, your average well-adjusted person with no major psychological issues might be able to easily shrug off something like that, but there are a lot of people out there (and here on MeFi) who do have significant psychological issues that cause them to be distressed by things that you might not personally consider a big deal. Their distress is no less real just because it is caused by something that most people wouldn't find majorly bothersome, and they are no less valuable as members, no less worthy of consideration as people, just because for whatever reason they have a harder time dealing with death than you do.

I find the "just deal with it, death is normal" standpoint particularly shitty given that nobody has asked for a change that would impact anybody else's experience of MeFi. People have asked for a higher quality bar on a type of post that is often mediocre in quality, and we're discusssing that. People have asked for ways to personally filter the site so that they can enjoy a version of MetaFilter that doesn't traumatize them while at the same time others may continue to post as they please. (It's turned out that those filters already pretty much exist, and that we may be able to satisfy those members' needs without making any technical changes at all.) If accomodating people's request to not be traumatized is something that you feel the need to scoff at even when those accomodations would come at literally zero cost to you, then I don't know what to tell you. Grow up, maybe. The world is a big place and it should have room for more than just Internet Tough Guys who laugh in the face of obituaries.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:17 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Dead Pony Request" is my favorite Guided By Voices record.
posted by naju at 8:07 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Really, I think the complaint is that we just have too many cool people dying within a short period of time. And that's a complaint for the universe, not so much Metafilter.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:19 PM on April 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: I find the "just deal with it, death is normal" standpoint particularly shitty given that nobody has asked for a change that would impact anybody else's experience of MeFi. People have asked for a higher quality bar on a type of post that is often mediocre in quality, and we're discusssing that.

As I see it, that is a change that would impact other people's experience of MeFi.
I do agree that 'just deal with it' is uncool. It's a good thing that there are filtering options, like you said.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:49 AM on April 26, 2016


I'll tell ya, I wish more than anything that I didn't have the life experiences that make it difficult for me to be so sanguine in the face of near-constant reminders of death, but it is what it is and here I am. Sometimes I'm able to deal with it better than others, and right now is not currently one of the easy times. And while I would never dream of asking the world to adjust to accommodate my issues, I do maintain the hope (wrongly, perhaps) that people show a minimum amount of sensitivity when discussing things that are difficult for other people even if they do not happen to affect them in the same way. I am very appreciative to everyone in this thread who has basically said "it doesn't bother me and I don't think we need to change anything, but I do understand that it may be hard for others." People who have said the equivalent of "suck it up" - not so much.

I've set all my bookmarks to be My MeFi and I think that will work really well for me. But I'm still hoping one of the mods might be able to tell us if it ever might be possible for people to make My MeFi our own default home page (so we can still see the sidebar). Thanks.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:35 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't like all the obit posts. My friends die, on average, once every three months, and I just had a family member kill themselves. Lately coming to MeFi has been a big heaping wallop of "everything is death and everything you love is death and shit and the world is shit."

I'm not saying people should change for me, but I just wanted to pose a counterpoint that it's not the same as irritation because there's too many posts about ska or whatever.
posted by corb at 6:53 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


In a possible good suggestion: what about just holding all obit posts to a 72 hours rule? The truly notable or very interesting, people will still want to talk about after three days - the mediocre will likely be forgotten by that point.
posted by corb at 6:55 AM on April 26, 2016


When someone famous dies people post about it with such frequency that there are sometimes multiple obit posts on the front page before the mods can even remove them. A waiting period won't change the posting frequency, it just makes more work for the mods. People want to talk, and they don't want to wait three days to do it. I am sensitive to the fact that these posts make people feel bad sometimes, putting a "holding" time limit on obit posts is actually not a way to address the "there are too many obits on the front page" issue.

I am really liking the idea of "Hey can I have the sidebar on MyMeFi?" as a way to address this. The thought of having a rape-and-politics free MeFi would make me a lot more optimistic about spending time on the blue.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:28 AM on April 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


...what about just holding all obit posts to a 72 hours rule?

I could be wrong because I have a really, very apparently different relationship with death and dying than a majority of people, but when you find out that That Person Died, the reaction is instant. If they were particularly important, you'll still be grieving 72 hrs later, but as a community I think a lot of people expect to be able to come here and talk about the life and the death of the person who died with their friends and fellow community-members. Knowing that you won't be able to, by edict, talk something with your friends in a public forum (as opposed to email or slack or whatever) and shares stories and run into people who knew the deceased. I think this is one of those cases where additional bureaucracy -- a hard schedule for talking about the recent dead -- doesn't work well with the emotional component of these threads and in the meanwhile the mods will have to a) nuke obit post after obit post after obit post by people who do not have Deleted Posts installed and b) watch out for conversations about the deceased potentially derailing literally every thread.
posted by griphus at 7:29 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


The thought of having a rape-and-politics free MeFi would make me a lot more optimistic about spending time on the blue.

yes please what can i do
posted by griphus at 7:30 AM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am really liking the idea of "Hey can I have the sidebar on MyMeFi?" as a way to address this.

I am very much liking a MyMeFi with sidebar idea. Everyone has their set of "Oooh, I'm into that" topics and everyone has their set of "I never want to see a post on that again" topics. There's a few topics which crop up on a frequent basis which put me in a misanthropic "humanity has utterly failed" bad state of mind and - worthy though the FPPs are to some others - I would love to filter them out, but with added sidebar on the erm side.

In parallel, a few more guidelines on tagging to help the precision and recall aspects may also be useful, please. Unless (quite possible) I've missed some, the only guidelines to tagging are:

http://faq.metafilter.com/92/What-are-some-guidelines-for-tagging-my-posts

Am ashamed to say that, even with an Information Science background, I keep fumbling around when whittling posts at what tags to include, worried that I've put in too many, too few, not the right ones, etc. If I can help in some way on pulling together more tagging guidelines then happy to do so.
posted by Wordshore at 7:57 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


What we are hearing pretty clearly, though, is to hold obituaries to the same level as the rest of newsfilter and to delete posts that are just "this person died and you must know it this instant" and look for "better" posts, whether "better" constitutes "link to a really good obit" or "some nice reflective esaays" or "a retrospective on their work" or "analysis of what this means for their field." (As in, there's no single standard for "better," different decedents and different posters will have different treatments, but a quick-hit "TMZ has an uncorroborated report that a celebrity died, let's get this up as fast as possible" isn't it.) As part of that, a post a day or a week later is totally fine and people shouldn't feel shy about taking some time to put together something really nice.

Not looking at a hard 72-hour hold or anything, but ensuring we're holding obit post quality to a similar level of quality to the rest of "news" type posts, even if that means deleting a couple of quick-hit versions.

(My MeFi sidebar is probably doable, we're talking about some of the specifics now.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:27 AM on April 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


corb, i'm sorry for your loss.

i just lost three close people in a short span of time, also.

(my personal feeling is that cultural silence on death is unhelpful - i believe that pretending we're immortal does us no favours, and feel strongly that not having a space for talking about dying, not knowing *how* to talk about it, so often - is unhelpful, because it *is* normal... i think having lacked that space has made things a little harder for me, personally. i also have always gotten a lot from obituaries, whether that's an opportunity for reflection on what it means to live a good life, or a way to think and *feel* through - in common with others - how someone whose presence and work affected us on a personal and collective level. and this moment, of major influencers going, is something we are all experiencing. but i am sorry that i was insensitive to people who are grieving and who are not being helped by the uptick in death talk on this site.)

i think this filtering solution is great, and think having it be more obvious is great, too.

i also think that if people feel the proportion of bad to good things on here is off, another way of remedying that is to contribute more posts about subjects of interest, which each of us can do.

i am anti hold ftr. timing sometimes being more important for the community in the moment than "quality" might be from a legacy standpoint, and as a bunch of people have said, comments and links emerging in discussion are often what make threads about those who've had a broad cultural presence, at least. contextualizing the life and work of possibly lesser-known individuals seems like a good thing. (i don't think a style guide, or even just a page linking to good examples of these, is beyond imagining.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:10 AM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


my personal feeling is that cultural silence on death is unhelpful

Just speaking for myself, as someone who doesn't enjoy seeing obits on MetaFilter, I would say that I am not "silent" about death - I think and talk about it rather a lot, actually - I just prefer to address it how and when I choose, rather than coming across it randomly in the MeFi stream. Interestingly, other posts about death (disasters, crimes, funereal practices, etc) generally don't affect me in the same way an obituary does. Maybe there is something about the focus on the deceased and/or the act of death itself? I don't know.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:43 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have no issues with the quantity or content of obituary posts. People should tag them so people can use tools to filter them as needed, but other than that, I see no reason they should change. MeFi is one of the main places I go when someone notable dies. I love the anecdotes and stories people share in the threads. It would really suck if there was an arbitrary time limit on how long someone had to be dead before someone could post about them.
posted by missmerrymack at 11:13 AM on April 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


to delete posts that are just "this person died and you must know it this instant" and look for "better" posts, whether "better" constitutes "link to a really good obit" or "some nice reflective esaays" or "a retrospective on their work" or "analysis of what this means for their field."

In my opinion, this isn't a priority for the obits posted here. Mostly because we have the rest of our lives to read books, essays and remembrances. What's special about the internet is sharing that real-time initial reaction and discussion.
posted by girlmightlive at 11:41 AM on April 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


It also seems strange to me that obits must be fleshed out when 75% of the comments in the thread are single dots.
posted by girlmightlive at 11:54 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


rather than coming across it randomly in the MeFi stream.

I have no dog in this fight. It's a small fraction of obits that I've ever had anything to say about and a much larger fraction that I've just skipped over. Major cultural figures aside, there's usually very little to say about obits. I'm delighted to see that people can tune them out if they wish and I wouldn't mind terribly if I never saw another obit on metafilter again.

All that said, coming across content randomly—with the exception of things like anus—is the way metafilter's non-curated feed has traditionally worked. Giving users much more power to curate their own feed wouldn't be a disaster, but it would be a real departure from the "open forum" model that's always been stressed here.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:57 AM on April 26, 2016


It also seems strange to me that obits must be fleshed out when 75% of the comments in the thread are single dots.

yeah - as someone else pointed out above (or in the other meta that was linked to), that is performative (and time bound). a way of paying respect, in the moment you feel moved to, with others who feel the same way, at the same time.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:59 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


It also seems strange to me that obits must be fleshed out when 75% of the comments in the thread are single dots.


Maybe one outcome of putting together more substantive material for obit posts would be more discussion. There would be something to talk about rather than just reacting to the death itself.
posted by JenMarie at 1:04 PM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


"It also seems strange to me that obits must be fleshed out when 75% of the comments in the thread are single dots."

and

"What's special about the internet is sharing that real-time initial reaction and discussion."

To my mind, these two points together really undermine the rationale favoring (mostly) unrestricted obit posts. If most obit posts had a bunch of really good comments -- and, yeah, some of them do but most of them don't -- then it would make more sense that the discussion in the threads is what makes them valuable and it would also mean that the immediacy isn't crucial, but rather the substantial content of the thread. But most threads are almost entirely the mourning dots and people are strongly defending the immediacy of the posts.

Which together implies that what the community gets from obit threads and what's really being defended here is MetaFilter being a sort of combination news and communal grieving outlet. Which makes some sense, don't get me wrong. But this is almost exactly the same impetus for any and every newsfilter post -- we want to see it here and we want to experience it communally. And, again, sometimes this works out very, very well. With historically important events, like 9/11, that whole rationale (immediate and communal reaction to an external event) is sufficient even though it's normally not what MetaFilter is really about. But often it's just using MetaFilter like an open web forum or social media site or whatever, which emphatically isn't what MetaFilter is.

Obituary threads are better than other newsfilter in that they are almost never grar and toxic (though when they are, they can be among the worst threads). Obituary threads are worse than newsfilter because they are rarely filled with valuable discussion or anecdotes (though when they are, they are among the best threads). This complicates things.

And, also, apparently a whole bunch of people really like them and another bunch of people don't really care. Which is fine. MetaFilter has made an exception with newsfilter-style posts where "better posts and less grar" is a higher standard that nevertheless allows for posts that otherwise nominally aren't quite what MeFi is about. I do think that the acceptability of some newsilter has led people over the last ten or so years to believe that MetaFilter is really mostly about that category of posts and that there isn't, or oughtn't be, a higher bar set for this kind of post. I think the slippery slope has always been a concern and we've slid down it a little bit (but not nearly as badly as I feared back in the day).

Although obituaries are very much like newsfilter, there are ways in which they're exceptional and, I guess, it makes some sense to just carve out an exception in their case, as well. I'm obviously inclined to favor the guidelines that Eyebrows McGee is describing -- that they should meet a higher bar just as other newsfilter posts do -- but, really, I think that the community feedback in this thread is pretty clear that those qualities of a post are mostly beside the point with obituary posts, given what the community wants from them. So I sort of think the mods should just give in on this. Some of us don't like lots of obit posts on the blue. Some people are upset by them. We can scroll past or filter. And, if things get out of control someday (soon?) then at least we will have the satisfaction of saying "I told you so". Bottom line, though, is that many people have made it clear that they want MeFi to function as an immediate communal grieving opportunity.

"Maybe one outcome of putting together more substantive material for obit posts would be more discussion. There would be something to talk about rather than just reacting to the death itself."

Well, again, this is what I think obituary posts on MetaFilter should ideally be. They should be substantial and the threads should include substantial comments. I was leaning toward the 72-hour wait proposal, until I realized that this would be a huge pain in the ass for the mods. But the idea was to emphasize the substantial post and substantial comments and de-emphasize the immediate announcement style posts with mostly empty threads. Except that basically a whole lot of people have explained how the latter is exactly what they want from obituary posts and threads. I don't know how to resolve this, but I didn't know how to resolve the similar expectations about newsfilter posts back in the day -- a whole lot of people thought then and think now that current events should be posted just because they're noteworthy and people can talk about them. Arguing that in principle this isn't how MetaFilter works turned out to be kind of dumb, since it became clear that to at least some degree it is how MetaFilter works. Within reason -- which is how things have turned out. So obit threads are what they are.

There's pushback on this now because there are more of them, just as there's pushback when current evens (or election) posts spike in frequency. But this isn't going to be resolved by deciding it from first principles, that either obit posts are all okay or all not okay. The past status quo has apparently been pretty acceptable and the present change, with somewhat more obit posts, is pushing some people's limits. But from the feedback in this thread, it seems to me that the majority think there's not really a problem. So maybe, for now at least, there doesn't need to be a solution.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:22 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


So maybe, for now at least, there doesn't need to be a solution.

Well, a tentative amen to that.
posted by y2karl at 9:22 PM on April 26, 2016


A thought on Obituaries (of the newspaper variety)

BTW, I withdrew from this discussion when I reviewed my posting history and realized how many Obitfilters I've posted myself (a lot), including the one for Ronald Reagan (on which I included the note: "MeFites are advised to please avoid piling onto the subject or the messenger".)
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:32 AM on April 27, 2016


Oh hey, I just posted a fpp obituary and then saw this thread here afterwards. I'm glad I tagged it 'obituary' (also I just saw that one about Papa Wemba has gone up, so that's 2 obits today).

It looks like it'll be hard for any mefites (including mods) to judge the status of the deceased strictly in terms of the categories #1, #2 and #3, although the aspiration seems worthy enough – I take it that newspaper editors have to make judgements about which obits to run, and they do so not just on the basis of the perceived prestige of the person, but also judging on how interesting their life was / will be to their audience (after all, obituaries are not just about remembrance, but about telling stories). There's an interesting episode of the BBC's 'The Last Word' programme (here) where its presenter, Matthew Bannister, discusses these decisions with The Economist's Obituary Editor, Ann Wroe.

It certainly looks easier to judge whether the fpp is up to a high enough standard – it's not unusual for fpps to be taken down for being a bit 'thin', this shouldn't be an exception.
posted by Joeruckus at 6:48 AM on April 28, 2016


I'm glad Papa Wemba got his due, and I'm also glad Jenny Diski got hers—who knows when I would have found out if that hadn't been posted? Please don't put any significant curbs on obit posts; they've become an important part of the site.
posted by languagehat at 8:03 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


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