A moment of mod appreciation February 14, 2017 4:00 PM   Subscribe

I didn't realize how much I'd learned from this community about how to moderate a community...until the community I moderate started talking politics. What skills have you realized you honed on MetaFilter without noticing it?

I moderate a private forum that's had some forum drama lately, and I've been pleasantly surprised by how intuitive the questions of how to deal with the drama as a moderator have felt to me. In my years of lurking and posting on Mefi I feel I've acquired an almost instinctive sense for when to mod post to remind people to cool it, how to attempt to surgically remove a counterproductive exchange without maiming the thread around it, and when to close up a thread that's gotten out of hand. I even realized I had a mental list of "subjects this forum doesn't do well" and was monitoring threads on those topics more closely right out the gate.

This has been a marked contrast with my fellow moderators who seem to be at a bit of a loss as this forum has historically been a pretty low-drama place. I'm taken aback that I may have learned something useful on Mefi over the years beyond "should I eat this wheel of brie I left out in the yard for six weeks y/n". I thought I was just wasting time on here, dammit! I had no intention of picking up any valuable life skills!

All of which is to say: thanks, mod team, for showing me how it's done. You guys are the gold standard and I'm glad I could learn from the best.

But now I'm curious: what skills have you learned on Mefi without realizing it until suddenly you were able to rise to the occasion with those skills in a moment of need?
posted by potrzebie to MetaFilter-Related at 4:00 PM (54 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks for the kind words! I have to say, I learned quite a bit about modding in my pre-Metafilter career from reading MetaTalk (even though not all the lessons were directly applicable.) I have also, via AskMe, been able to tell any number of distressed people that what they were dealing with was perfectly normal and other people got through it, too. Which has been surprisingly valuable.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:01 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]

I've gotten much better at knowing when to STFU in real life. Thanks, Metafilter!
posted by Stanczyk at 4:03 PM on February 14 [24 favorites]

I learned HALT here. It's surprising how often I am hangry.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:08 PM on February 14 [40 favorites]

Aaaaaand now I've just learned HALT here, so there's that.
posted by tzikeh at 5:15 PM on February 14 [14 favorites]

There's a difference between "this needs a response" and "this needs a response from me

I don't remember which mod wrote that in Talk a few years ago but I have it memorized and I think about it literally every time I comment. I think it's profound.
posted by not_the_water at 5:22 PM on February 14 [28 favorites]

I learned the bar for certain kinds of jokes is extremely high, and that even when you manage to pull these jokes off, you probably didn't make the world a better place. Also, not everyone will agree when a joke has been pulled off.

This said, I still prefer the company of those who try to stick a joke and fail every time, to those who are too afraid to offend to make jokes. I just try to better read a room these days.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:38 PM on February 14 [5 favorites]

What skills have you realized you honed on MetaFilter

How to avoid working.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:50 PM on February 14 [35 favorites]

the bar for certain kinds of jokes is extremely high

And, luckily for me, for other kinds it's pretty low.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:50 PM on February 14 [4 favorites]

the bar for certain kinds of jokes is extremely high... for other kinds it's pretty low.

The challenge comes from telling which bars are for high-jumps and which are for limbo.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:06 PM on February 14 [4 favorites]

A mefite, a redditor, and a goon fall over a low bar...
posted by rtha at 6:10 PM on February 14 [7 favorites]

Who the hell leaves Brie around for six weeks?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:45 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]

I can say "My hovercraft is full of eels" in many languages.
posted by scratch at 6:57 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]

I've learned how to withdraw from certain threads. To just actively choose not to be a part of those conversations for my own mental health and well being. I've also learned to be the type of member I want others to be. This place keeps me sane. So thanks to everyone for being a part of that.
posted by Fizz at 7:30 PM on February 14 [6 favorites]

I have always paraphrased this famous "relationship hack" as "negotiate from your 100%" and I really do find it is a skill that has improved my life.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:04 PM on February 14 [12 favorites]

Well, being a regular MetaTalker has made it clearer when online commenters are pushing the conversation in unproductive directions, but I don't moderate anywhere and I probably don't ever want to so my super psychic powers are wasted.
posted by Jpfed at 8:39 PM on February 14

I learned how easy it is to have an opinion on everything!
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:40 PM on February 14 [7 favorites]

I learned 3 and out - if I can't make my point in 3 comments then maybe I can't make it or people don't want it to be made and that's enough trying. In general walking away is better for my mental health than flogging a dead horse, and closing tabs, removing threads from recent activity and now Brand New! hiding US politics posts makes my life better than choosing to be stressed out by conflict and misery. Also I think it was DirtyOldTown (but I can't find the comment) who advised treating a comment deletion less like the mods chastising you and more like them saying "Dude, be cool" and I thought that was brilliant.
posted by billiebee at 2:07 AM on February 15 [11 favorites]

Found it!
posted by billiebee at 2:16 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]

posted by jonmc at 6:12 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]

I learned I am not going to convince anyone that my stance on Israel/Palestine is valid. zI've also learned there's a good chance I am wrong.

Subsequently, since there's no upside for me to participate in these discussions, I don't.

My life improved immeasurably once I decided I/P discussions can happen just fine (or not) without my contributions.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:14 AM on February 15

There was a great AskMe comment about babies, something along the lines of:
People try different things to get their baby to sleep/stop crying/whatever, and sometimes nothing was going to work except waiting for the baby to do that thing of their own accord. But the parents don't realise that, and assume whatever they were doing at that point was what worked. So they tell other parents, "the only way to get your baby to do X is to do Y! If you're doing Z, you're doing it wrong!". When actually what they were doing only seemed to work. Or maybe it did work, but it won't work for other babies.
So I always try to qualify my (solicited!) parenting advice with "what seemed to work for us was...".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:35 AM on February 15 [7 favorites]

It may make the mods life easier but the delayed posts is not the way to go I think. Frustrated posters are not happy posters. For a variety of reasons .
posted by unliteral at 6:40 AM on February 15

Who the hell leaves Brie around for six weeks?!

To be fair she did ask to be left alone. And you know how nasty she can get.
posted by Splunge at 7:17 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]

I've learned so much from jessamyn with regard to just being a normal, non-(ridiculously)-self-centered human being, it's actually a little embarrassing. Thanks, jessamyn!
posted by heyho at 7:31 AM on February 15 [16 favorites]

What skills have you realized you honed on MetaFilter without noticing it?

I don't know, because I haven't noticed it.

thread solved, close 'er up
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:11 AM on February 15 [9 favorites]

I quite literally just finished posting my first substantial online forum contribution for my first online class ever and I was like, "hm, holy shit, that was like posting a really intense MetaFilter comment."

I think if I (reasonably) approach each week as though the professor has created a MeFi post I have to write a good response to, I might have a little more fun with this than I originally thought. Thank you, MetaFilter!
posted by juliplease at 11:20 AM on February 15 [8 favorites]

1 - The ability to realise when a topic is genuinely *not about me*.
2 - Active Reading
I'm a pretty good Active Listener, but my Emotive Reading Comprehension has definitely improved since taking part in MeFi threads
3 - Concise writing vs Storyteller writing.
Depending on context verbosity often doesn't help someone understand a thing.
4 - How to quickly summarise trends in a wall of text
5 - How to better *use my words* and vocalise my feelings so my partner can understand my thought processes
posted by Faintdreams at 1:13 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]

oh! I almost forgot.

"Flag It and Move On" really works !

Which is really specific to Mefi, but still letting things slide when communicating online is a thing which I have learnt to do better.
posted by Faintdreams at 1:17 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]

Metafilter has taught me how to be a much better advocate, especially when it comes to issues of racism and LGTBQ rights. For example, I always had a really visceral, negative reaction to people using the "reverse racism" argument, but I wasn't good at forming a short, coherent response. Then, somewhere on mefi I read a comment that defined racism as discrimination+power (or something like that). I have absolutely used that IRL as a way to push back on people employing "reverse racism" as a rhetorical technique.

Metafilter has also taught me the importance of always listening to people who are speaking from their own experiences. Also, I've become much more aware of cultural appropriation and the ways it can be harmful.

Another example: I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit how many years I spent using the word "gypped" without knowing how hurtful and offensive it is. Once I did find out through reading some discussion in the mefi archives, I made sure to strike it from my vocabulary. Not that long ago, a family member used the phrase, and so I was also able to pass this lesson on to them.

There are a million other things like this, most of which I'm not even aware of until I'm interacting offline or in another forum with people who don't have the same frame of reference as the one I've gained through the collective wisdom of mefi.

I'm not sure if these things actually count as skills, but I guess they go under the broader heading of life skills/emotional intelligence.
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:43 PM on February 15 [12 favorites]

I'm better at understanding the perspectives of women, minorities, and people who have life experiences different from my own in general, simply by reading those perspectives here a lot. A lot of that stuff can be painful to read (and, I'm sure, write), but it's an education.

When I disagree with someone, I'm better at focusing on the point of disagreement and clarifying/supporting my position (and when I can't clarify/support my position, maybe I just shut up).
posted by adamrice at 4:35 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]

I've been on the MeFi sites in one form or another for the last 13 years. The most valuable lesson I learned is what conversations to stay out of. Some conversations are bound to bring out the worst in me, no matter how I try. Furthermore, I've learned that it's just not worthwhile to try and convince everybody. Some people just will not be convinced. Others I simply dislike. And why spend my time talking to people I dislike?

In a previous era of my life, I'd spend a lot of time arguing with people on MeFi about Contentious Topics. I was actually under the impression that, by arguing with people on Metafilter, I somehow wielded some kind of cultural influence. I seriously don't know what the fuck was wrong with me.

This culminated years ago when I was in a doctor's office and was so glued to some stupid argument I was having that I couldn't stop reading long enough to let the nurse take my goddamn blood pressure. I was actually reading my stupid phone whilst this nurse was trying to take my goddamn blood pressure. And of course my blood pressure was stupid high. She thought I was fixin to die! And wow, was that a wakeup call!

So yeah, I'm a lot better now.
posted by panama joe at 8:50 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]

In my years of lurking and posting on Mefi I feel I've acquired an almost instinctive sense for when to mod post to remind people cool it

I've learned this too! I've been posting discussion prompts about a lot of controversial political and social topics on Facebook and have had a few people thank me for facilitating an unusually calm discussion. Thanks for the lessons, mods :)
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:11 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]

If someone offers you advice, but you think it's bad advice, it is sufficient to simply not take their advice. You do not need to convince them that their advice is bad.

I've learned this often applies in life as it does on AskMe.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:35 AM on February 16 [5 favorites]

I actually learned a lot by not having an account for a while. When I couldn't comment, I realized that I don't actually have a valuable contribution to make all the time, and that it's ok.

Sometimes it feels like a race to claim some insight as your own and get all the points for saying it first. It's validating. It became this compulsive thing for me, especially when I got stressed out.

So I cut myself off entirely, and I felt so much more at ease. Not being able to comment made me realize that I'm not usually the only one who has a particular thought, and I'm not often going to be the one who says it best. And that's ok.

We all have our strengths and it's ok to know what they are and are not. Being able to hang back and just listen is something I should have learned many years ago. I'm still working on it, but I'm happier the less I try to horn in on every conversation. As much as I feel like an idiot for having to say that, I hope it's at least a little relatable for someone.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:15 AM on February 16 [12 favorites]

It's good to listen. It's OK if no one knows I'm clever. It's even OK if no one knows I'm right.

You can break up with someone for any or no reason at all.
posted by French Fry at 8:16 AM on February 16 [5 favorites]

A moment of mod appreciation

Totally happy to see another moment of mod appreciation! Although, it should be obvious to any rational actor that this will lead to the inevitable destruction of our society.

Let’s face facts: when we first started acquiring mods, back in 2005, we had to get a pretty hefty mortgage. But thanks to the appreciation of the mods over many years, we now find that their market value is many times what we paid for them. They’ve been appreciating every year, and this current moment of appreciation just caps off a dramatic return on our investment.

In that context, all our accountants now agree that it would be foolish not to cash in on these capital gains. Indeed, we would be financially irresponsible if we didn’t put our mods on the market and release much-needed equity. By “downsizing” to a smaller team of mods (say, just quidnunc kid - a single authority with ultimate power) we will obtain a huge cash windfall, and we won’t have the ongoing costs of maintaining the mods - you know, keeping them well-vacuumed, re-painting them every so often, fixing their leaky guttering, etc etc.

So let’s make a move that makes sense for MetaFilter, and sell our mods to some rich property developers. We’ll spend half the cash on ourselves, and with the other half we can settle down in a much more compact, newly-built quidnunc kid regime. Sure, it might be a move to the “wrong side” of town, and we’ll all have to share a single bathroom, but I think it makes sense. So buy #1 quidnunc kid! He has a good-size entertaining area and is conveniently located next to some schools and transportation links. And if he’s also right next to that old meat-rendering plant … well, you’ll get used to the smell, right? I mean, when you’re housed in a quidnunc kid regime, believe me - the horrifying stink will actually be the least of your worries. Buy #1 quidnunc kid!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:28 AM on February 17 [7 favorites]

So let’s make a move that makes sense for MetaFilter, and sell our mods to some rich property developers.

I must disagree. The cost of mods currently appears to be stable, if not increasing; but much more importantly, they provide ongoing value by harvesting gold from trolls, keeping the members of MeFi warm and lit through the controlled caging of flameouts, and ensuring poorer members get appropriate protein through the redistribution of contained Spam. They are an investment with strong returns.

(More seriously, when I was depressed and housebound a few years back I read extensively through the Human Relations tag, and I think this gave me a much better barometer for what is usually considered normal than I would've gotten from many places otherwise.)
posted by solarion at 2:39 AM on February 17 [2 favorites]

MetaFilter taught me how to be a part of an online community without making myself a martyr. I left Facebook ten years ago (shortly after it was opened to more than college students) because I'm a sensitive person who would never sleep because so many people are wrong on the internet. I've left every online community I've ever been a part of because I felt like people hated me or like I hated everyone else. So naturally, I quit MetaFilter under my first username after a mod admonished me for being too fighty and I was so enraged about it that I left for several years and then spent several more reading without becoming a member so I didn't have to stress about commenting. Dipping my toe back in and being more considerate about not trying to score points worked out so well that I've been participating more in other places (Ask a Manager, Autostraddle) and finding that people actually like me! I've always felt like people liked me a lot in the offline world once they got to know me and had a lot of confidence in that way, but I despaired for a long time that I could not get along with people online.

It seems like a very silly thing to worry about, but I've almost written several AskMe questions over the years about how I can be a part of an online community without feeling so much stress about having to defend my opinions. It's been wonderful to read this Meta post and realize that I've figured it out over time just by observing here. I've been able to witness how some users disagree with the crowd and/or make fools of themselves when they're passionate about something but still manage to recover and remain in the good graces of everyone involved. I've also accepted that while having an opinion at odds with the majority of users here often means that my opinion isn't as well thought out as it should be; on other topics, like fat positivity, it truly doesn't matter how many people agree with me. It's my body and how I take care of it depends only on what I think.

This has been huge for me. It can be very isolating to feel like you can't participate in discussions about even mundane things because it will end up in a fight. It's embarrassing to be a person so sensitive that I can still feel the same original level of indignity and anger because of a rude answer to one of my questions on Ask that happened over five years ago. This time around, I know not to ask highly emotional personal relations questions that I already know the answer to and I also know that some users like to answer in flippant and combative ways and it has nothing to do with me and isn't my job to call them out about every time.

Alas, I still have not learned how to write a coherent comment in the tiny phone editor box.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 9:21 AM on February 17 [11 favorites]

The magic of "I'm sorry, that won't be possible". They don't have to know why not! It's amazing!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:47 AM on February 17 [6 favorites]

What skills have you realized you honed on MetaFilter without noticing it?

My dullness has aquired an awesome patina.
posted by y2karl at 10:45 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]

That sounds more like a "buffing" issue rather than than a "honing" one...
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:51 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]

I've enjoyed seeing MeFites doing varyingly ad hoc moderation elsewhere on the internet now and then; it's gratifying to see some of the site's culture and ethos propagating outward like that, gives me a little bit of hope for the internet.

I've spent basically my whole adult life on this site so it's difficult in a lot of cases for me to even identify stuff I learned here vs. stuff I learned, period.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:29 PM on February 17

I have learned I am not as much like other people as I thought I was, and that I am not as good a person as I thought I was.
posted by jamjam at 5:30 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

It's been ages and ages since I let myself get sucked into an online flame war; it just doesn't really happen at MetaFilter and watching the mods calm the waters over the years I've really internalized that nothing good comes from letting a flame war spiral up.

I've also learned that I don't have to have the last word. I sort-of like having the last word (and Mother of Eyebrows would give me a look and tell you I am her answer-backiest child), but at MetaFilter it's really okay to just bow out of a thread where you're not getting your point across, or where someone is being a jerk to you, and there's no particular loss of reputation for not coming back and showing you have answers to every contrary point. That's something that's always been really tempting for me just, like, as part of my personality, but also after going to law school and learning it was my actual job to rebut every point ... so a space where you can just step away from an argument or disagreement and nobody goes all Nelson Muntz at you or counts up their points for winning has been a very good influence on me. The part where you don't lose face for not fighting an argument to the death is just ... that is not a thing I had been exposed to before in my life and it still kind-of blows my mind about this place.

Also I learned somewhere in ask (and one day someone will link the comment again and I will bookmark it so I don't lose it ever again) that if you're procrastinating doing something because it's too stressful to think about, and every time it crosses your mind you don't push it away but rather sit there and think about how horrible and stressful the thing is, VERY QUICKLY it becomes worse to sit there thinking about how stressful it is instead of just getting up and doing it so you can stop thinking about it. My therapist thinks this is kind of fucked up, but it works so well, you guys! I'm so much more efficient at scrubbing the grudliest pans and answering terrible e-mails and calling customer service since I learned this! It's so much easier to call Verizon and have it over with than to sit there all afternoon thinking about how much I'm going to hate calling Verizon!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:13 PM on February 17 [7 favorites]

There was a great AskMe comment about babies, something along the lines of:
People try different things to get their baby to sleep/stop crying/whatever, and sometimes nothing was going to work except waiting for the baby to do that thing of their own accord. But the parents don't realise that, and assume whatever they were doing at that point was what worked. So they tell other parents, "the only way to get your baby to do X is to do Y! If you're doing Z, you're doing it wrong!". When actually what they were doing only seemed to work. Or maybe it did work, but it won't work for other babies.

OK just to pimp my own comment, is it possible you're thinking of this?

You sound fine to me. Here's what's going to happen; you'll keep on going on dates, you'll keep on trying out different advice you read in books and hear from people on the Internet, and at some point you'll meet someone who's exactly right for you and settle down and for the rest of time you'll tell your single young friends about the book you happened to be reading the week you met your husband and how it contains the secret to true love and happiness.
posted by escabeche at 6:01 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]

How to ignore trolling, sniping, or other juvenile attempts at getting a rise in a twitter debate

Spotting patterns of GRAR in the rest of the internet before they even start, and muting or blocking out i.e. taking a walk before it's even necessary

The security of knowing this place exists makes a big difference when facing the rest of the webz

Understanding what community really means (thank you for the letter, GenjiandProust, I will be writing back a reply soon - for international letter writing day)

Understanding intersectionality, gender, race, politics, justice, and, most importantly, wisdom. {this one can be linked to each moment in a thread but I'm too old and lazy now}

recognizing when performance needs to be art but knowing the audience isn't the blue (ha, n00bs)
posted by infini at 8:04 AM on February 18

Stuff I learn that transported over to meatspace:

Ask vs Guess culture
Playing the game on easy vs Chieftain re: race & gender
Having a go to place that was consistently there no matter how often and how far I moved - between 2007 and 2014 I had simultaneous and valid working permit residence in the United States, Singapore, the Netherlands, India, Finland, and a business visa to Kenya.
posted by infini at 8:08 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]

Thinking about virtual capital and complex adaptive systems.
posted by infini at 8:10 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]

First, from the very beginning, to be smart.

How to shut up and listen. I delete about 30% of comments before posting. There are things I disagree with, but the fact I disagree doesn't contribute to the discussion.

How to talk to people that don't get it - thanks to Heyho taking the time to talk to me.

Ask v Guess.

To be a feminist, albeit not a perfect one, and to use that word.

How to make an excellent Spaghetti Carbonara.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:54 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]

Hmmmm. I was on the wifi at the public library today surfing while I waited for a friend. Went to link to MeFi, and the connection was denied, because it was a forum. And I thought: wait a minute! This is MetaFilter, and we have awesome mods, and we're a civilized forum because of it. Not like those *other* forums. And that's one of the things that I learned from MeFi--don't waste time online with forums.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:53 PM on February 21

It's not a forum it's a blog! :P
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:53 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]

It's not a compound, it's a ranch!
posted by taz (staff) at 2:00 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]

I've learned a lot about people whose lives differ from mine in various ways. It's great and I'm happy for the chance to do that.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:14 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]

I learnt that if you answer an Ask and someone else doesn't rate your contribution or is critical of it, then that's fine.
posted by esto-again at 6:46 AM on February 24

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