Just the facts, m'am August 29, 2016 5:53 PM   Subscribe

In a post about Colin Kaeperneck and the Star Spangled Banner, Potomac Avenue attributed to Kaeperneck statements the quarterback did not make. In response to a question I asked in the comments, Potomac Avenue acknowledged the attribution was based on a misreading of one of the articles linked to the post. However, this did not result in a correction of the error of fact that’s contained in the original post.

I don’t know whether this type of correction would be the responsibility of the original poster or a moderator.

The FAQ and related post on when to use flagging didn’t mention flagging to correct an error of fact, and I don’t know whether Metafilter has any policy regarding editorial responsibility for accuracy. Is there an assumption that Metafilter makes some effort to ensure the accuracy of factual information posted or should readers take a more or less caveat emptor attitude toward the reliability of information offered as fact (rather than opinion or analysis) in posts on the site?


It's this general question, rather than the specific case that started me thinking about it, that I'm interested in. Who should be responsible for the factual accuracy of posted material: the author, the moderators or both?
posted by layceepee to Etiquette/Policy at 5:53 PM (58 comments total)

Factual accuracy (or lack thereof) is the responsibility of the poster, and not guaranteed in any case. We don't have anything like enough staff to fact-check every post on the blue.

If there's an error in a post, the poster thereof is welcome to contact us and ask us to post their revision. We won't guarantee that we'll do it, especially if there's substantial discussion of that error in the thread itself, because it'd be super confusing, but fast/simple/mostly-unremarked-on stuff is generally fair game, especially if the post hasn't been up super long.

In general, we prioritize continuity of conversation over literal accuracy, and are totally happy to have that accuracy debated and/or corrected in comments. This applies to Metafilter proper and also to AskMe answers, which is another area where it comes up.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:57 PM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


The author cannot change the post, even if they wanted to. The author is responsible for the content of the post.

I think it's ok to leave the post as is, given that it's corrected inside. But I also think it would be ok, to change it, maybe, assuming this wouldn't make the discussion confusing.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:58 PM on August 29, 2016


You know, this is inherent in the medium.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:07 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Muphry's Law: It's "Kaepernick".
posted by Etrigan at 6:22 PM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sorry sorry I'm trying to delete it
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:22 PM on August 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


are you actually deleting it or is a mod.
[elevator closes, MIDI version of Glass Onion ensues]
posted by clavdivs at 6:30 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I refuse to listen to these wild accusations! [the Simpsons]
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:51 PM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Link to post?
posted by andoatnp at 7:15 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Who should be responsible for the factual accuracy of posted material: the author, the moderators or both?

The author, who should contact the moderators, who should immediately correct the post.

Failing that, other users should flag/contact-form and the mods should then contact the author and give them the option of a correction or a deletion. If contact cannot be obtained, deletion is the only responsible course of action.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:30 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


the post
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:36 PM on August 29, 2016


1-800-DOC-TORB...the B stands for BARGAIN!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:29 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I thought we'd had this discussion before, relatively recently, but it was somewhat different in nature. Yet, there's an overlap.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:43 AM on August 30, 2016


If contact cannot be obtained, deletion is the only responsible course of action.

Deleting a Mefite is pretty severe, I mean at least give the user a warning. Don't just delete them from the system all willy nilly.
posted by Fizz at 4:59 AM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


In general, we prioritize continuity of conversation over literal accuracy, and are totally happy to have that accuracy debated and/or corrected in comments.

The precise meaning of "in general" here makes a big difference, but this seems a troublesome standard to me. Consider the case of a post that contained an assertion like "X said Y," where X was a living person. It turns out that X didn't say Y, and the original poster acknowledges in comments that the report that X said that was based on a misreading.

I would imagine that this would be an exception to the general rule. "Continuity of conversation" wouldn't seem to me to be sufficient justification for a post that makes a mistaken assertion about a particular individual. (Even in this case, where the assertion is fairly trivial.)

But in the present case, although the original poster reports they are trying to change it, the post still contains the misattribution.

Also, the remedy Sys Rq proposes suggests that flagging a post for inaccuracy is appropriate, but that wasn't the impression I got from the staff comment from restless_nomad or the FAQ information about when to flag posted material.

I understand there is not enough staff to do fact-checking on all posts in the blue, but the fact that all errors of fact can't be identified doesn't suggest that the staff shouldn't take actions in cases when they are.

I do think it would be responsible to:
1) include correcting errors of fact as an appropriate use of flagging
2) edit posts which contain demonstrated errors of fact once the mods have received documented evidence of the inaccuracy

I do think this is different from the case Too-Ticky references, because that's an instance of someone objecting to the information contained in a linked article. The post, it seems to me, accurately reports that "this linked article says X." I think there's an issue if the linked article is in error, but I don't think Metafilter has the same level of responsibility that it does when it's the post itself, rather than something that's linked to, which is inaccurate.
posted by layceepee at 6:20 AM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I agree with layceepee: in this specific case, the error is up front and blatant and the correction is so far down the thread that it would take a determined person to find it (I just wasted a fair amount of time doing so). Would it really bring down the pillars of MeFi for a mod to add a bracketed correction after "Moreover, he went on, the song itself has a racist history" in the post?
posted by languagehat at 8:39 AM on August 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Historically, we just don't make that kind of correction once the post has been up for a while -- even for more egregious errors than this. It's a policy of long standing, and this error isn't exactly a world-burner (what exactly was the player's stated rationale regarding racism, was it present-only or also-past racism), IMO.

At times we've deleted a post because its factual inaccuracy was so extreme or was causing problems in the thread, and like r_n said we'll sometimes correct stuff within an early-ish time frame... but this is well after the fact and it's already discussed in the thread, and in cases like this, errors stay and it's basically caveat post-reader, we count on people to read the threads.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:54 AM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


(I swear there's a really great example, too, but have had no luck finding it.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:08 AM on August 30, 2016


Historically, we just don't make that kind of correction once the post has been up for a while -- even for more egregious errors than this. It's a policy of long standing

Why has it been a policy?

Restless_nomad's explanation of the policy doesn't seem relevant. (Insufficient staff to do fact-checking; interest in continuity of conversation). We're talking about a case when the fact-checking is done by non-staff Mefites and the proposed remedy is an edit, which wouldn't interfere with continuity.

It is that even the editing proposed (and dealing with increased flagging that might result by adding "factual inaccuracy" as a reason for flagging) would require resources in terms of staff time that could be better used in other ways?
posted by layceepee at 9:56 AM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


No one has actually contacted us (to my knowledge) with the specific instance and desired correction, so I can't really talk about whether or not this one was fixable.

Flagging, by itself, is insufficient because a) there's no way we can intuit what the error is and b) with the occasional exception of obvious typos, we don't edit people's posts without their permission.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:28 AM on August 30, 2016


It's been a policy because we mostly prioritize preserving conversations intact as they happened, and changing a post after-the-fact can make the earlier conversation confusing or nonsensical. This is what r_n said in her first response to you. ("In general, we prioritize continuity of conversation over literal accuracy, and are totally happy to have that accuracy debated and/or corrected in comments.")

It's also because we don't in general make any promise of factual accuracy in posts here. Caveat reader. The staff don't fact-check, and we count on people to read the threads to see if there is any fact-checking by other commenters. The normal and expected response to discovering a factual inaccuracy is what happened here: the poster or someone else corrects it in the comments, within the existing flow of conversation.

If we're asked by the original poster to change a post within the first shortish time after it goes up, we'll usually do that and make a note in the thread. We would have done that in this case if the poster had asked us this early-on. ("Shortish time," meaning: before the whole conversation has proceeded from the erroneous starting point. Once you've got a whole conversation there, we'll leave it.)

If an error is caught later that had no effect on the conversation, like fixing a birthdate, we'll often change that. (But we don't usually do this for archived posts, those pretty much just stay as-is.) If there's some truly egregious error, we might delete the post outright and tell the person to try again -- but we don't always do this even for egregious ones. We've had posts stand where the whole premise turned out to be a hoax, and that became clear only well into the thread. We just count on people reading the comments.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:59 AM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Would it really bring down the pillars of MeFi for a mod to add a bracketed correction after "Moreover, he went on, the song itself has a racist history" in the post?

I think this falls under the prescription to "just roll your eyes" and walk away. (Indeed, maybe that should be the answer to every complaint around here from now on.)

As to the thread in question: well, it isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I think I did good work in there and I'd be bummed to see it disappear.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:03 PM on August 30, 2016


Caveat reader

caveat lector
posted by pyramid termite at 4:05 PM on August 30, 2016


Historically, we just don't make that kind of correction once the post has been up for a while -- even for more egregious errors than this. It's a policy of long standing, and this error isn't exactly a world-burner (what exactly was the player's stated rationale regarding racism, was it present-only or also-past racism), IMO.

Isn't this a perfect example of the virtues of flexible, human "guidelines" as opposed to line-in-the-sand policies?

Pretty terrible error, buried correction. Not good.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:52 PM on August 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


I feel like we've talked policy here, but maybe not laid out the procedure clearly enough.

You make a post. You want to make a correction to the post (whether it's a spelling error, a borked link, or an error of fact.) What to do?

1. Contact us, via the form, as quickly as possible.
2. Include in that message what the problem is, and your word for word replacement text.
3. We'll either make the change or suggest an alternative, depending on the criteria we've talked about above.

As with any change, the faster you get to it and the less conversation about it there is in the thread, the simpler it is for us to just fix it. Days later or after a long in-thread back-and-forth, and we're nearly always going to let it stand. Also, if you contact us requesting a fix that's more than a simple date/typo/link and *don't* give us the fixed text, we're going to ask for it, and that might cause timing issues, too.

If you're NOT the poster, but see a problem, you can poke us as above, or memail the poster directly so they can go through the process, or you can just discuss it in the thread. The latter, of course, makes it way less likely that we'll change the original post.

Hopefully that clarifies things a little!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:13 PM on August 30, 2016


caveat lector

— Hypocrite lecteur, — mon semblable, — mon frère!

Hopefully that clarifies things a little!

It's clear as mud. Anyway, I gotta say I think Joseph Gurl gets it right. It's a little odd to see moderators in a forum who's Prime Directive is nothing if not "flexibility" and "case-by-case basis" suddenly appeal to fixed, unchangeable rules. It's not a big deal and if it's just that no one wants to be bothered, you should say so, but "the rules and hallowed traditions of metafilter won't permit us to do anything" is less than convincing.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:48 PM on August 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


There are actually a few rules and hallowed traditions of Metafilter, and one of them is that moderators don't edit* your posts or comments unless you request it yourself (and even then, not if it's been there a while and the change is going to be weird or confusing). If it's a big deal, it's more likely that the post will be deleted until we can discuss with the OP.

In other words, if you post something, and you come back and look at it later and there's something weird/wrong about it, you don't ever have to wonder did the mods change my text? We won't ever do that. It was likely a mis-paste, or a weird formatting error, or you thought you typed one thing but actually typed another.

Likewise, if you see a post at 8 am and read something like "Person X said Y," you aren't going to come back at 3 pm and see "Person X said Z" (and Z is substantially different, not a spelling error change, etc.) and wonder if you read it wrong before, or read something similar but different somewhere else, or what the hell is going on here anyway?

If you do contact us to make a change in your own text, we will likely do it, if it's undisruptive, and leave a note in the thread (for example, "url changed to original video per poster's request," or "content warning added, per poster's request," etc.). We do not add moderator notes in member posts, and we don't make ongoing changes in post text as more news/info develops. All that info can be found in the comments in the threads, but a hallowed tradition of Metafilter is that the post is going to remain pretty much exactly the same as when it was posted, and nobody has to wonder if their own text or someone else's has been arbitrarily changed significantly, updated, or annotated by moderators. This doesn't happen.

As far as this particular post is concerned, we didn't hear from anyone via mod contact that there was a problem, and nothing was flagged. As far as I know, the first any of us knew about it was when this Metatalk was posted. Posting a Metatalk about a problem in someone's post still doesn't mean that we will just change the OP's text. We still need to hear from the OP what change they want, and evaluate from there, or in the absence of that, decide if it's worth just deleting the post. (Also, a Metatalk thread often it means that we will definitely not alter the original simply because in addition to causing confusion in the original discussion, it causes confusion in the ensuing Metatalk thread.)

So, for this particular post in the blue about Kaepernick: Nearly 5 hours after the post was made, layceepee comments in the thread pointing out the error; a half hour later, Potomac Avenue responds with a comment saying it was his mistake; about six hours later, this Metatalk was submitted, the first we hear about it (about 12 hours after the Kaepernick post was made).

And according to this post, "It's this general question, rather than the specific case that started me thinking about it, that I'm interested in. Who should be responsible for the factual accuracy of posted material: the author, the moderators or both?" which is what we responded to.

If the idea is that we are all just somehow stubbornly refusing to make any change because of some amorphous foolish consistency of THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE, that is not the issue. It is also not the issue that we just don't want to "be bothered."
  • The fact is that substantive changes in text are rarely made hours after something has been posted because the longer between when the post was made, and when a change was made, the more confusing it is for people, and the more people have seen the original and the lower down in the comments is the mod note, and the more conversation has accrued around the original text. If we had been contacted about this earlier, I'd say even at the point where the OP notes that it was their mistake, we probably would have just made the change and included a mod note in the thread explaining the change was made with the permission or by the request of the OP (though over 100 comments had been posted by that time, so it really is a bit of a problem at that point). 12 hours later makes that even less likely, and a Metatalk post about it makes it even less less likely.
  • We do not do moderator annotations in posts, and this is not going to change. We are not going to add or change information as an independent moderator action, and we are not going to start appending stuff like"MOD EDIT: blah blah." To keep this comment from being (even more) ridic long, I won't go into all the reasons why, though we can discuss this together, if anyone wishes to do that.
  • Metafilter is not a primary news source, doesn't have editors, doesn't have fact checkers on staff, so yes, in fact, it really is caveat lector around here... but actually our members do an unusually good job of clarifying and correcting in the comments, so as much as some people protest "I shouldn't be expected to read the comments!" you are (usually) missing the best stuff if you don't. Plus, we are a discussion site, not a news site, so the whole point of Mefi is in the comments, and that is where people drill down on the topic.

________________

Just as an informational recap, if there is an error in a post: Contact us using the contact form, the sooner, the better; we'll work out how to go from there. Don't mefi mail an individual moderator. They may not be working, or may have just handed off to another moderator. Someone is always on duty, and whoever is working will see messages sent via the contact form.

Don't assume we've read comments that talk about an error. We don't read every comment on the site. You can contact us, or you can flag a comment that mentions the error, or a comment where the OP says, "oops I made an error, it should be blahblah." Flagging as "Other" is fine. Flagging your own mention is fine.

If you contact us and are the OP, tell us what change you'd like to make and why. If you didn't make the post, you can try contacting the OP, or if you talk to us, we will try contacting the OP, or, if necessary, decide if the post needs to be deleted just until a change can be made (and then undeleted), or deleted and reposted the following day.

* The only sorts of changes we will typically make without necessarily contacting OP: fix an html problem; fix a very obvious misspelling like "nieghbor" instead of "neighbor" (if it hasn't become baked in with comments in the thread); add an epilepsy warning, or maybe autosound, or PDF; add quotation marks if it is not clear that the text is a quote, and it's causing confusion; possibly add an alternative URL (something like a google cache url, maybe) if people are having trouble accessing a link. We'll usually leave a note like [fixed spelling of Thing] or [added alt url], etc. in the thread.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:29 AM on August 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


(Also, a Metatalk thread often it means that we will definitely not alter the original simply because in addition to causing confusion in the original discussion, it causes confusion in the ensuing Metatalk thread.)

Let's see if I have this straight: if an original writer privately contacts a mod immediately after making an error, then there is a chance of it being corrected. But as knowledge of an error propagates outward from being read by others, to being discussed by others, to being acknowledged as error, to being brought to metatalk, the chances of any correction decline precipitately, ending, I suppose, with there being no chance at all following a metatalk of the metatalk. Does that about sum it up?

Damn Rothko's basilisk, this logic is impeccable. I had no idea.

Plus, we are a discussion site, not a news site, so the whole point of Mefi is in the comments

I am old enough to remember when that was the point at contention.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:00 AM on August 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am old enough to remember when that was the point at contention.

I'm old enough to remember when people were more regularly trying to justify terrible posts, and non-questions on Ask, on the basis of their being good discussion starters. That's the context in which "MeFi: about the links, not chasing comments" comes up.

"MeFi: about community discussion that happens in the comments, not news reporting for news reporting's sake " is a different issue. You can line that up against the other and stare only at the "comments" bits and decide that it's an unresolvable and hypocritical tension on a single dimension, but that's putting some effort into ignoring that MetaFilter's a complicated place with a lot of different dimensions to it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:26 AM on August 31, 2016


Welp, I'm officially frustrated.

If the idea is that we are all just somehow stubbornly refusing to make any change because of some amorphous foolish consistency of THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE, that is not the issue. It is also not the issue that we just don't want to "be bothered."

If you don't want people to think those are your reasons, you should probably offer at least one other explanation. I don't think your suggestion that all the users of the site are such dum-dums that we won't be able to figure out if you've edited a post necessarily counts — especially since even that would be completely remedied by a mod note both on the post and in the thread, the latter of which you already do, and the former you don't do and definitely never ever will, because reasons. What reasons? Are there reasons? That you've devoted so much energy to doing everything but giving them really does make it seem like pure stubbornness. Maybe it's a stubbornnes inherited from the old guard that you're not able to explain? If that's the case, an honest "I don't know" would go a lot farther than doing something like this:

To keep this comment from being (even more) ridic long, I won't go into all the reasons why, though we can discuss this together, if anyone wishes to do that.

Why yes, I wish to do that, since it's the answer to the central question of this MetaTalk post. Are there reasons? Do you know what they are? Could you let us in on them, please?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:34 AM on August 31, 2016


If you don't want people to think those are your reasons, you should probably offer at least one other explanation.

Oh, come on. taz literally just wrote like 1200 words of policy and practice detail and context, on the tail of several other mod comment over the last couple days also giving context and reasoning for how we do and have done this stuff. I appreciate that you are frustrated but your response here is weirdly uncharitable.

It's alright if some folks disagree with our general practice on this front. I'd be shocked if folks were unanimous about it, really, and I get the motivations for having the front page be reliably factual that drive that even while I disagree with any view of that as having been a historical goal of the site or something evidenced in moderation practice. We've talked about all of these things before over the years several times in MetaTalk, and laid out the same basic ground of moderation practice and reasoning.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:51 AM on August 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


that's putting some effort into ignoring that MetaFilter's a complicated place with a lot of different dimensions to it.

I'm honestly not trying to bust your balls just for the sake of it—well, only a tiny little bit, maybe—because I don't think you're a bad guy and I don't think that this is a bad forum all things considered and I think you all generally do a Trojan's work around here. But it's remarkable how often I see "MetaFilter's a complicated place with a lot of different dimensions to it" trotted out as a response to some request or another and it's remarkable how often that looks like "Haven't a clue. We're just making this up as we go along."
posted by octobersurprise at 7:56 AM on August 31, 2016


Asking the moderators to make factual edits on their own, or having that be common practice way after the errors are discovered, creates an expectation that every single post is factually accurate and fact-checked. It's not a good idea.
posted by lazuli at 8:22 AM on August 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


But it's remarkable how often I see "MetaFilter's a complicated place with a lot of different dimensions to it" trotted out as a response to some request or another and it's remarkable how often that looks like "Haven't a clue. We're just making this up as we go along."

I think this is a hugely unfair characterization. You've certainly been around long enough to know that Metafilter is less a place of hard-and-fast rules and more a place of prevailing guidelines, with wiggle room made for exceptions to said guidelines. But as a few mods here, not least of all taz, have detailed how one corrects factual errors in an FPP, I'm having a hard time seeing exactly where the staff is falling short. Unless the expectation is some kind of newsroom editorship combing over individual FPPs for factuality, which I don't think is remotely workable. If that isn't the expectation, then what more can staff do besides the standard operations already in place, i.e., contact form with specific error and specific correction written up?
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:26 AM on August 31, 2016 [5 favorites]


If that isn't the expectation, then what more can staff do besides the standard operations already in place, i.e., contact form with specific error and specific correction written up?

They've said they won't do that except for very minor errors. Even when the poster has contacted them and explicitly pointed out the error. This is what's so frustrating. It can be done, but they flatly refuse. And they won't say why.

Major errors are more important than minor errors. Misleading readers (or having a thread filled with comments correcting or reacting to or repeating inaccurate information) is a more serious issue than mild embarassment over a typo, and not one whit more difficult to correct if the corrections are spoon-fed to the mods.

Oh, come on. taz literally just wrote like 1200 words of policy and practice detail and context, on the tail of several other mod comment over the last couple days also giving context and reasoning for how we do and have done this stuff.

Right. And not one of them gives a reason why editing posts is totally out of the question, just that it is, and always has been, and that's that. Even now, asked at point blank -- even after explicily offering to answer if pressed -- y'all still can't seem to give a reason why that is the case.

So, again: If the OP points out their own error and gives you the correction themselves (or if others point out the error via the contact form and you get the okay from the OP), why can't you just correct it and add mod notes (to the post and in the thread) that say you did so? Would you prefer MeFi to be a place where the distribution of falsehoods is perpetuated?

Asking the moderators to make factual edits on their own, or having that be common practice way after the errors are discovered, creates an expectation that every single post is factually accurate and fact-checked. It's not a good idea.

Literally nobody is asking for that.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:12 AM on August 31, 2016


Sys Rq, I'm not sure what you're reading, but it's certainly not "totally out of the question." As we've said repeatedly, within a limited timeframe, we're happy to make edits.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:25 AM on August 31, 2016


Yeah, I feel like there's a heck of a disconnect here. For the general question of "are we willing to correct something in a post when the poster actually contacts us promptly about it and it's a reasonable change", the answer is yes. We do it now and then. For the specific question of this post, there's a bunch of variances from that, and so we've gone with our usual practice of leaving it be even if it means there's something not strictly factual on the front page.

I can't tell you why a thing we didn't say is policy is policy; it's not. There is a difference between "we will never do x" and "we didn't do x this time" that I feel like is somehow getting lost.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:46 AM on August 31, 2016


I'm not sure why it was too late to fix it when this Meta was posted, and I'm still not sure why it's too late to fix it now.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:23 PM on August 31, 2016 [3 favorites]




Right. And not one of them gives a reason why editing posts is totally out of the question, just that it is, and always has been, and that's that. Even now, asked at point blank -- even after explicily offering to answer if pressed -- y'all still can't seem to give a reason why that is the case.

Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of taz's comment literally explain why moderators do not edit posts. Because it would cause confusion if they did. I'm not sure what more you need.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:44 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sigh. I didn't want to get back into this, since obviously the decision has been made and is firm, but:

> Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of taz's comment literally explain why moderators do not edit posts. Because it would cause confusion if they did.

Exactly what confusion would be caused by a mod note, clearly labeled as such, in brackets, after "Moreover, he went on, the song itself has a racist history" saying, e.g., [This turns out to be wrong; see comment X below—THE MODS]? Nobody's talking about changing the original post or any of the other horrifying scenarios that have been brought up, just a clarification that could not be mistaken for part of the original post.
posted by languagehat at 7:53 AM on September 2, 2016


I think editing the post and adding a note are totally different things, and I think taz and Sys Rq were talking about actually changing the text of the post. For what it's worth, I object to even adding a factual correction via a note like you suggest, because it creates the impression that posts are factually correct unless otherwise noted, and I think that is extremely problematic.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:32 AM on September 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also languagehat, your suggestion would only make a difference to someone who doesn't read all the comments. Metafilter does not offer encouragement to those sort of people.
posted by DanSachs at 9:48 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


First! Now I'm heading to the pub! Hey whadda y'all talking about huh? Ah forgeddit I never read these thread things anyhow. OK vote #1 quidnunc kid everyone!!!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:56 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


languagehat, maybe look at it this way: we've literally never done that. It's not something we do. This is a pretty run-of-the-mill error.

Why is this post so different from every other error in other posts, that we should now start adding annotations from the mods about how accurate a post is?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:26 PM on September 2, 2016


because it creates the impression that posts are factually correct unless otherwise noted, and I think that is extremely problematic.

I don't think that is a reasonable assumption at all, fwiw.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:44 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


> languagehat, maybe look at it this way: we've literally never done that. It's not something we do.

Yes, I get that, and I'm not trying to change your mind. But there maybe shouldn't have been such indignant mod pushback as this:

> If the idea is that we are all just somehow stubbornly refusing to make any change because of some amorphous foolish consistency of THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE, that is not the issue.

Because it turns out that is in fact the issue. Again, not complaining, just clarifying.
posted by languagehat at 5:10 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


So your view is that it's only foolish consistency at work here, with no further reasons given? After reading all the mod comments in this thread explaining the reasons why that's the way we do it?

I 100% accept that some folks don't agree with the reasons we've given.

I'm honestly baffled that several people in this thread seem to think we literally haven't given reasons. That bafflement is maybe coming out as indignance. We've given reasons and you don't agree, that is fine.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:19 PM on September 2, 2016


Maybe this is a clearer way of answering:

--- Why don't you add corrections to posts, in general? ---

Here are some of the reasons:

It would be confusing to readers:
a) if posts changed over time without notice, or with the notice only way way down in the thread.
b) if posts changed while the old comments in the thread remain the same, still discussing the old version of the post, while new readers are seeing the new version. (but deleting all the earlier comments isn't a great way to go, once the conversation is well established)

It would create wrong expectations:
a) that posts are checked for accuracy
b) that mods are arbiters of correctness, or whose correction is right, etc

It would open a can of worms over:
a) how big an error requires a correction? why did we correct post X but not post Y?
b) what about sequential corrections? (a developing story would get several mod notes in a row added to it?)
c) what about archived posts that turn out to have inaccuracies?

(I'm doing this quickly now so probably there are other reasons to add to this list that maybe I'm missing)


--- Ok, well then if you don't want to do it in general, why won't you do it in just this one case? ---

We don't do it in general, and this doesn't seem like a really egregious case that requires special treatment.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:57 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


> Here are some of the reasons

I certainly agree that it would be confusing to readers if posts changed over time without notice, and I would never suggest such a thing. As for the rest, I guess I'm not as worried about "wrong expectations" and "can of worms," because people are going to find reasons to complain no matter what you do (see: this thread). If it were my site, I'd have just added a bracketed, clearly marked explanation as per my above comment, but it's not my site, and you guys have different concerns and experiences, and I'm fine with that. I just don't think it's as obvious a slam-dunk as mods have been implying.
posted by languagehat at 7:27 AM on September 3, 2016


> if posts changed while the old comments in the thread remain the same, still discussing the old version of the post, while new readers are seeing the new version. (but deleting all the earlier comments isn't a great way to go, once the conversation is well established)

even worse, the old comments could be read as addressing the corrected version of the post, which would be no end of confusing and entirely muddle the question of the factual accuracy of both the post and the discussion of it.
posted by spindle at 9:48 AM on September 5, 2016


Also, LobsterMitten DID just add text to a post, not at the request of the original poster, TODAY, fwiw:

http://www.metafilter.com/162096/The-Sandy-Hook-Hoax#6698098

It was, in fact, fairly shortly after posting, so the "within a short timeframe" part is true, but the request was not made by the poster, but by another random commenter.
posted by adrienneleigh at 10:25 PM on September 6, 2016


Adding trigger/content warnings, NSFW warnings, and other "hey, heads-up that this link might be a problem for many users, which was not obvious from the description" warnings is pretty common, and is not the same as disputing the veracity or accuracy of a post.
posted by lazuli at 5:41 AM on September 7, 2016


Yeah, NSFW/graphic/photosensitive/SUDDENLOUDNOISE warnings are the narrow case of after-the-fact heads ups we'll generally (not always, e.g. some cases like someone requesting NSFW on a post already obviously from context about sexy nudey sexual nudity etc.) add to a post without looking for consultation with the poster.

Basically, that's "hey this could be a massive, immediate problem for some folks" stuff, not "hey, you should be aware that this framing may not accurately capture the facts or context of the discussed subject as borne out in the following discussion" stuff.

That aside, thetortoise did in fact email us requesting that change, which is what prompted it in this case.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:20 AM on September 7, 2016


Basically, that's "hey this could be a massive, immediate problem for some folks" stuff, not "hey, you should be aware that this framing may not accurately capture the facts or context of the discussed subject as borne out in the following discussion" stuff.

My question was specifically about a case where a post was factually incorrect, not one where "the framing many not accurately capture the facts or context of the discussed subject." As I pointed out earlier, the post reported that "X said Y" when X did not say Y.

If you don't see a clear distinction between those two things, it helps me understand why the policy and the rationale expressed here for it are unsatisfying.
posted by layceepee at 8:40 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


That seems like an ungenerous reading of cortex's comment. "This framing may not accurately capture the facts" covers misstatements of fact unless you use an unnecessarily strict meaning of "framing."
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:52 PM on September 8, 2016


That seems like an ungenerous reading of cortex's comment. "This framing may not accurately capture the facts" covers misstatements of fact unless you use an unnecessarily strict meaning of "framing."

I think there is a significant difference between "may not" and "does not." Also, cortex's comment suggests the question is about a broad range of circumstances which include mistatements of fact, but is not limited to them. My point is that the way you treat something that is false and the way you treat something that may not capture the context might well be different.
posted by layceepee at 4:10 PM on September 8, 2016


I was in fact talking about that broad range that includes everything from "may not" to "does not", not the specific case that prompted this post. Even you, in the text of this post when you made it, explicitly said you were interested in the general question, not the specific case. Beyond which, the comment you're complaining about was me responding to someone else, about a question about a different thread, making a different point of distinction than the one you're nitpicking, more than a week after you had last said anything in here.

Giving me grief as if choosing to make one kind of distinction in one context proves that I'm unwilling or unable to make a different kind distinction in a different context, as if I were dodging something you had just asked rather than responding someone else about something else, does seem ungenerous indeed.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:18 AM on September 9, 2016


I was in fact talking about that broad range that includes everything from "may not" to "does not", not the specific case that prompted this post. Even you, in the text of this post when you made it, explicitly said you were interested in the general question, not the specific case.

I said i was interested in the general case of posts that included material that was factually inaccurate, not the general case of material that ran the gamut from inaccurate, to possibly inaccurate, to not capturing the full context. If there are distinctions between how those three related but not identical things are handled, I'd be interested in understanding those distinctions.

My comment wasn't intended to give you grief for addressing that particular ranage of cases, but to make the point that, if all those things are treated the same way, that would explain why I think it's a bad policy. Because I think I good policy would treat actual, documented errors of fact differently from potential errors of fact, which might be treated differently from cases lacking complete context. If they aren't treated differently, I don't have any quarrel with you pointing that out, because, as I said, it helps me understand the rationale behind what I think is a flawed process for dealing with errors of fact.

I may have misunderstood the intent of your treating them together in your recent message, and it may be the case that although you discussed them together in this context, they are actually treated differently when they occur. If that's the case, it would be helpful for me to understand what the differences are in handling those three general classes are.
posted by layceepee at 8:11 AM on September 9, 2016


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