let's talk about the U.S. politics megathreads June 6, 2017 11:13 AM   Subscribe

There's a small discussion at the end of the May 30th U.S. politics thread (starting here) about when the megathreads should be "rolled over" into a new thread. Let's talk about that, and whatever else folks want to talk about with respect to the megathreads.

I don't know if I'll be around when this gets posted, so I'll post my own comment from the megathread here below the fold:
Just leaving this in the now-dead thread (I KILLED IT!): my own feeling is that these politics should "roll over" to a new thread at around 3000 comments instead of letting them limp along for some arbitrary date and event. (Especially when Trump has a habit of blowing up all our best-laid plans by doing something like tweeting "covfefe".)

To do otherwise seems exclusionary to folks who aren't on newish devices with fast internet - I normally am, but I'm traveling this week and FEELING the impact of less-great connections or trying to view this thread on a (new!) mobile device. tbh I'd prefer the boundary at less than 3000 comments but 3K seems to be where everyone has settled.
Discuss!
posted by lalex to Etiquette/Policy at 11:13 AM (273 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

My laptop starts to load the threads at a crawl at around the 2800 comment mark, but 3000 seems like a good number.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:17 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I start to lose the ability to comment on mobile and tablet at 2000 comments. I'm running the latest version of Android OS on both, on a new phone and tablet.
posted by zarq at 11:19 AM on June 6 [4 favorites]


A request for later this week: Please liveblog the upcoming hearings in Chat and not in the main thread!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by melissasaurus at 11:19 AM on June 6 [15 favorites]


Throwing in my opinion that around 3000 is when i have issues on my (current generation model) phone starts to get angry at me. I personally think that's probably a save number, but others may have lower thresholds.
posted by Twain Device at 11:20 AM on June 6


I think 2500-3000 seems like a good place to rollover. Are there any times when it would make sense to extend the 3000 post limit--e.g. for particular events?

Also, I am in total agreement with melissasaurus regarding liveblogging: Contextless quotes and reactions to those quotes really belong in chat.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 11:25 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


3000 works for me, but I don't access MetaFilter from a mobile device.
posted by diogenes at 11:26 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Also, can the people who have been putting multiple "New thread!" links in a comment at the end of each politics post maybe consider that you don't need to do it 19 times (which actually happened this morning.) We are all perfectly capable of seeing and clicking on a single link. No one requires 19 links to the same page separated by blank lines, turned into a 40 line comment.
posted by zarq at 11:26 AM on June 6 [13 favorites]


I'm OK with 3000 comments. It gets difficult for me around 2500 but I'm willing to suffer a little. Could we post in the thread when there is an active chat going on? That might make it easier to move more people over to chat in real time.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:33 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


2700 would be s happy medium for all my devices.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:36 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


2500 is when it starts crapping out for me. I also wonder if we could have a separate "Politics Megathread Chatroom", maybe? Because main chat is also for like, pictures of awesome dogs and stuff, so you don't really want to come in there and be like THE WORLD IS ON FIRE.
posted by corb at 11:41 AM on June 6 [4 favorites]


The status quo seems to be that someone will make a new thread at some point around when the threads get so long (usually in the 2500-3500 range). Having the site itself make an automatic new thread at some hard comment number isn't something we're considering, I don't know if that's what you're suggesting.

But also, we don't want to enable super noisy commenting. I know people want to hang out. But at the same time many people also want the threads to be relatively good on signal-to-noise ratio, and the thread can't do that and be a perpetual livechat. I think there's a handful of people who seem to live in these threads and make fairly repetitive chitchat/sorta noisy comments. I assume this is connected to the kind of addictive behavior of waiting for the "x new comments" inline updater and the seeming expectation that if there's no "x new comments" update in a few minutes someone needs to make a noise comment just to keep things lively -- and this is a habit we need to begin stepping back from.

So I've been sort of wanting these threads to stretch out a bit. If there's a relatively slow news night, even if it's already a long thread, it's better to hold off making a new thread until the morning, and the natural throttling at the tail end of a long thread can help keep the noise comments down.

Also, a related point: Less doom/we're all fucked forever stuff. This doesn't mean everyone should be rosy, at all. But sometimes we get detailed post-apocalyptic fanfic, or angrily telling people off for saying anything even remotely forward-looking or positive, and that's just not sustainable in terms of the psychological health of people on the site. I understand it's coming from an honest place, and that there are very good reasons for pessimism anger and fear. But you're in a room with a bunch of other people, and every one of those comments is a hopelessness coin you're depositing in other people's banks. We need to watch out for each other.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:44 AM on June 6 [86 favorites]


I'm ok at around 3000, though some flexibility to get a new thread around a major event makes sense. Classic theme makes a big difference if your devices are slowing to a crawl, but I know it still gets bad on mobile at some point.

It would also be great if people could remember to search the previous thread before posting links in the new one, or it just fills up with duplicates.

For the Comey hearing and similar events, there's always a bit of a divide about liveblogging. Obviously, context-less stuff like "wow" doesn't belong in the thread, but there are always some people who seem to want zero live comments about the event at all (which doesn't seem that practical), some people who can't watch live who don't want to come back to a few thousand comments, and and other people who say they appreciate contextual liveblogging (i.e. with quotes about what you're talking about; comments contain multiple complete sentences; etc...). And people just kind of state these conflicting personal preferences, none of which are inherently wrong, and I'm not really sure what we do about them.
posted by zachlipton at 11:44 AM on June 6 [8 favorites]


Having the site itself make an automatic new thread at some hard comment number isn't something we're considering, I don't know if that's what you're suggesting.

Just popping in to say that is definitely not what I'm suggesting!
posted by lalex at 11:46 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


I already put this at the bottom of the previous thread on the blue, but we can call the new imperative "Metafilter Starts new Thread every 3000 comments".... or "MST3K". To quote the semi-familiar theme song, "In the not-too-distant future... you should really just relax..."

But seriously, if the issue of when to start a new thread can be hammered out here, and made 'casually official', it will eliminate the need for comments ABOUT the number of comments within each thread. Which will effectively reduce the number of comments... see how that works?
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:49 AM on June 6 [8 favorites]


I think the context-free liveblogging "omg" "DID YOU SEE HIS FACE?!?" stuff is unnecessary, but I really like the contextual liveblogging.

I also really like jokes riffs and stuff; that's essentially why I'm here. I mean, not exactly, but if I wanted a straight news thread I'd just curate my Twitter list like so. I'm here because I want to hang out and talk about this crazy stuff with this particular community.

I thought EarBucket put it well: "Which is to say, I like that these threads are both my best resource for the news of the day, and the funniest political commentary I've found anywhere. The jokes are part of the character of the place; it wouldn't be Metafilter without them."
posted by lalex at 11:52 AM on June 6 [39 favorites]


addictive behavior of waiting for the "x new comments" inline updater

Oh also - if anyone's been feeling like this isn't good for their mental health: you can turn off that inline updater! Go to Preferences, then Display Settings, and uncheck "Inline comment updates."
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:55 AM on June 6 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: We need to watch out for each other.
posted by Fizz at 11:59 AM on June 6 [7 favorites]


you can turn off that inline updater! Go to Preferences, then Display Settings, and uncheck "Inline comment updates."

*recoils in horror*
posted by Melismata at 12:00 PM on June 6 [19 favorites]


every one of those comments is a hopelessness coin you're depositing in other people's banks

Trickle Downer Economics
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:01 PM on June 6 [33 favorites]


It would also be great if people could remember to search the previous thread before posting links in the new one, or it just fills up with duplicates.

To what extent is there an expectation that these threads are meant to function as one single very-long 300,000-comment thread stretching back to like May of 2016 or something?
posted by beerperson at 12:10 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


"I also really like jokes riffs and stuff; that's essentially why I'm here. I mean, not exactly, but if I wanted a straight news thread I'd just curate my Twitter list like so. I'm here because I want to hang out and talk about this crazy stuff with this particular community. "

Which is fine, but the pace of the threads is burning out the mods. It would be really helpful if people could exercise some self-control about the amount of noise they propagate in those threads, including extended riffs and rehashes of ancient arguments.

People have also begun using them to live blog unrelated news, which is a no, and while we keep asking people not to single-link Twitter repost, people keep doing that. Maybe gather up several and post them together? Maybe wait for a roundup of outrageous tweets and reactions?
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 12:11 PM on June 6 [23 favorites]


I have a better idea. Maybe you Mods should just Hell ban Trump, already? How much of his shit do the rest of us have to put up with? If he stops doing stupid shit every 20 seconds, maybe the threads wouldn't get so big. I know the CabalThere is no CabalTM has put him on super secret probation, but enough already. Permaban his account, and let's get on with the important business of hating Mike Pence.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:31 PM on June 6 [9 favorites]


To what extent is there an expectation that these threads are meant to function as one single very-long 300,000-comment thread stretching back to like May of 2016 or something?

The new Human Centipede movie is wild
posted by naju at 12:37 PM on June 6 [7 favorites]


can we get a bot that automatically comments three thousand zero zero, thread's over, oops, out of time when we hit the limit or should I just take it upon myself to do this
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:38 PM on June 6 [29 favorites]


Just popping in to thank the mods again from the bottom of my heart for creating the US Politics hider thing so that on the rare occasions these days when I can bear to see what's happening anywhere online I just basically see Johnny Wallflower's posts about puppies and kittens. And also, seriously, are the mods on some kind of rota for staffing those threads whereby you each get like a week a month where you don't have to go anywhere near them? Because you really, really should be.
posted by billiebee at 12:57 PM on June 6 [11 favorites]


Also, a related point: Less doom/we're all fucked forever stuff.

Hmmm...

{Strokes chin, thoughtfully}
{Finds, adds, relevant Benny Hill chase tune video to forthcoming UK election FPP}
posted by Wordshore at 1:07 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Which is fine, but the pace of the threads is burning out the mods. It would be really helpful if people could exercise some self-control about the amount of noise they propagate in those threads, including extended riffs and rehashes of ancient arguments.

Over time, several mods have pointed out that propagating noise is a behavior that makes their work more difficult. Yet it keeps continuing. Respectfully, I don't think this is an argument that has had much effect. I sincerely don't mean this as a criticism. But perhaps from a different direction.....

--

A higher level of noise in those threads reduces their usefulness to all of us.

If you are in those threads to learn what's happening, get superior analyses and links from your fellow mefites and just plain commiserate with the rest of us, then when you contribute to hundreds-of-comments-long derails or add useless [fake] comments, or drop a content-less link to a single, uninformative tweet, you're not helping. You're making the threads harder to read.

I'm the first to admit that I've been guilty of this. But I've been thinking about it a lot more since the election and have been making an effort. I like the liveblogging. But it's better for the thread's readability if we don't do it. So let's not. We can totally refrain from dropping hot takes about covfefe or any other bullshit into threads, too. Or writing doomsday fanfic, as LobsterMitten said.

High levels of noise also make it more difficult for people who are not reading the threads obsessively to follow along. If they are trying to catch up after a day or more, the noise means large sections of each thread have to be slogged through to find meaningful content. How often have we gone to bed and found 300 comments have happened in the last few hours?

We need to watch out for each other.

And there are lots of different ways we can do that.
posted by zarq at 1:08 PM on June 6 [21 favorites]


All the comments should just go in one super long, super laggy million+ comment thread.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I know that I, personally, would rather sit and watch a metafilter page spin and sputter and attempt to load than watch anything actually going on...out there.
posted by phunniemee at 1:10 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


Just popping in to thank the mods again from the bottom of my heart for creating the US Politics hider thing so that on the rare occasions these days when I can bear to see what's happening anywhere online I just basically see Johnny Wallflower's posts about puppies and kittens.

Yes. Thank you so much, and with great sincerity. My mental health has been immeasurably enhanced by the ability to turn politics off here and keep everything else.
posted by selfnoise at 1:13 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Just IMO, I don't think that the gloom-and-doom has been problematic. Once in a while, while we're fantasizing about (for example) what this person or that person should do in Washington, it's good to get a reminder that no, the idiots in Congress are not actually going to do anything because Party Loyalty. It's good to have that reminder, and I'm not seeing it abused in the recent thread.
posted by Melismata at 1:14 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


I'd like to see the mods delete comments that are quotes of an entire previous comment with just a few words of new content. In general, your comment should be longer than the bit you quote and you don't need to quote the whole thing. Yes there are exceptions, but quoting 3 sentences and then adding a single word is really tired.

I get the feeling that there are not many deletions happening in these threads. I don't know how often noise is deleted on other blue threads, though. If deleting noise would speed up the threads and make them last longer, I suggest that more deletions for noise would be a net positive.
posted by soelo at 1:34 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


A higher level of noise in those threads reduces their usefulness to all of us....I like the liveblogging. But it's better for the thread's readability if we don't do it. So let's not. We can totally refrain from dropping hot takes about covfefe or any other bullshit into threads, too.

I've been feeling the same way, I think -- that there is utility, but marginal utility, in the more liveblogging-y ways of engaging with the site; it's fun, it's useful, but it comes with the cost of limiting a discussion's overall usefulness and creates a strain on both the mod team and on readers' limited time (let alone on the literal strain on mobile devices). Merely waiting a few minutes before commenting can prevent multiple answers to a question, or several people all hurriedly pasting the same link (and then getting flagged and deleted, which takes a nonzero amount of time). The daily press briefings are super interesting to watch, and I continue to appreciate people's commentary, but shifting the commentary from 'live!' to 'okay that happened, here's a summary' is a needed change (that's already happening). As a guide to commenting, 'wait and see if this needs to be said, and if it needs to be, see if it can be rolling into another comment rather than two or three separate ones' continues to be good policy.

But. Sometimes -- sometimes! occasionally! -- there's an actual, real thing that's happening (or that has happened) that really deserves not-quite-live-blogging. For events known in advance (ie, party conventions, congressional testimony) there's a discussion to be had about whether that should be actively pre-directed into chat or fanfare or a politics subsite or any of a dozen other old pony requests/proposals. But for Weird Stuff That Happens Unexpectedly, I think it's important that we keep hot takes and liveblogging down in general so that there's space for it when it's most deserving of it -- in other words, I think it's less that we need to ban hot takes entirely than that people should hold back except in the most exceptional circumstances; a kind of hot covfefe take filter, if you will, because if the president of the united states of american spouting literal gibberish isn't the kind of occasional in which we can join together for collective commiseration and confusion, I don't know what would be.

More signal, less noise -- yes, absolutely; that's something we need to all keep in mind, and make an effort not to fill new threads up too quickly. That seems like it's creating an untenable burden on the mod team, and for that if no other reason things should change. But sometimes it's important to make a bit of noise.
posted by cjelli at 1:38 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I'd like to see the mods delete comments that are quotes of an entire previous comment with just a few words of new content. In general, your comment should be longer than the bit you quote and you don't need to quote the whole thing. Yes there are exceptions, but quoting 3 sentences and then adding a single word is really tired.

what
posted by zarq at 1:45 PM on June 6 [54 favorites]


Yes, I am a terrible person.
posted by zarq at 1:45 PM on June 6 [14 favorites]


"Just IMO, I don't think that the gloom-and-doom has been problematic."

That's because we've been deleting really egregiously upsetting ones -- suicide fantasies, long dystopic discussions into how specifically everyone will die, violent revenge fantasies -- but the mods still have to see them and engage with them and it's wearing on us. So think twice about things in that neighborhood. Some of them are fine; some of them are really upsetting. Months and months of reading the worst of it is getting hard.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 1:54 PM on June 6 [101 favorites]


Ah, I didn't know that about the deletions. Well, again, THANK YOU EYEBROWS MCGEE AND THE OTHER MODS!!
posted by Melismata at 1:57 PM on June 6 [23 favorites]


I feel like I have very little to complain about with these threads.

Yes, they're long and move super fast. But we have never - NEVER - had a situation like the current one in the history of our country. In two weeks, they packed in a full Watergate and a half, as well as a diplomatic crisis, a NATO crisis, and head-spinning revelations about a hostile nation-state taking over our government. That's AFTER stealing a Supreme Court seat and two special elections taking place.

Yes, there's a lot of joking around in the threads. But Kushner's building really is at 666 Fifth Avenue, Trump really did tweet his complaints about Obama's golfing, Trump's Razor really has been a working model of the administration, covfefe happened, and Reality Winner is being prosecuted. (That last one, I think, is 2017 jumping the shark. That can't be taken back.)

Yes, it's hell on the mods. This is the part that bothers me the most. I'm really, really grateful to them, and I promise to up my voluntary contribution, because they are helping keep me sane. And yeah, I do wish people would stop re-litigating the damn primaries. (But then Hillary tweets about covfefe, Bernie endorses or fails to endorse someone, and well... ) Be kind, people!

Yes, people re-post a lot of links. On the one hand, people should be more careful. OTOH, they're just posting a link and I can skip it over - they're not trying to deny TWENTY THREE MILLION PEOPLE healthcare, and then acting smug because it's covering a million more people than their previous attempt.

So now I'm thinking, given that I have so little to complain about, I'm probably part of the problem.
Sorry.
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:58 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


I'm sure this is entirely a personal thing, and I don't mean to yuck any yums, but since we're airing things - I'm kinda put off by the tone of the FPPs when I come across them. They're reading these days as if they're Fanfare threads recapping what your favorite love-to-hate Mad Men characters were up to this week. I'm definitely not looking for dour and unfun, nor do I expect impartiality, but maybe dialing back the zany hijinx woooo-can-you-believe-this-shit atmosphere a notch or two could be good. It seems to be veering into either breezy politics-as-sports banter, or manic, or both, I can't tell. Feel free to ignore as everyone else seems to love it, just thought I'd speak my piece!
posted by naju at 2:00 PM on June 6 [21 favorites]


probably extremely myopic of me, but i find it hard to believe that anybody reads any websites on a phone.

okay, i'll just go lie down against this tree and wait to be harvested
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 2:01 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


i have myopia from reading websites on my phone
posted by beerperson at 2:04 PM on June 6 [11 favorites]


Was having major lag with typing on the laptop at 3k, but my mobile was not happy a lot earlier. I'm more into a 2-2.5k post soft limit, so as to go on the side of caution.

I'm the one who posted a block of "new thread" links. Only reason I do that is because I keep seeing people commenting at the end of the old one, and figure that people have missed the link. I've done it myself when it's a two word link in the middle of a paragraph. If it's that annoying, no worries on not doing it.
posted by MattWPBS at 2:07 PM on June 6


(19 is way more than was meant to be there though, I blame paste lagging)
posted by MattWPBS at 2:08 PM on June 6


I've been flagging (as "duplicate comment") comments which have a link that had already been posted in the same thread. I'm not sure they're being deleted, however.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:08 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


In some cases yes, in some no.

Speaking for my own practice, often I'll delete them if they've been posted shortly before, or if there's previously been a discussion about that article. But if it's a plain link the last posting of which was 10 hours prior, and/or didn't get any particular discussion, I often won't, since I figure people may not have seen the story. Ditto for some level of redudancy between threads; I figure people may not have been following the previous thread to the bitter end.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:12 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


but maybe dialing back the zany hijinx woooo-can-you-believe-this-shit atmosphere a notch or two could be good. It seems to be veering into either breezy politics-as-sports banter, or manic,

You're not alone. I've felt that same way, and it is off-putting. Maybe it's because a lot of these political mega-posts are being created by a few regulars and so they've taken to creating them in a particular style and with a particular tone.
posted by Fizz at 2:15 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


I was going to pop in and add my thanks and gratitude to the mods for all the hard work they do in wrangling the Monster Politics Threads, and then read this: That's because we've been deleting really egregiously upsetting ones -- suicide fantasies, long dystopic discussions into how specifically everyone will die, violent revenge fantasies -- but the mods still have to see them and engage with them and it's wearing on us. So think twice about things in that neighborhood. Some of them are fine; some of them are really upsetting. Months and months of reading the worst of it is getting hard.

You guys really are going above and beyond. This is as good a reason to dial way back on the doom and gloom - it looks like the mods are getting inundated with this stuff, and if the Debbie Downer posts that we can see are upsetting, imagine how bad the ones that get deleted are.

There is fanfiction dot net and Archive of our Own for all our apocalyptic darkfic pleasures. Let's try to hold each other up instead of drag each other (and the mods!) down. There's enough awful non-fiction stuff happening as it is.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:19 PM on June 6 [8 favorites]


MattWPBS: " Only reason I do that is because I keep seeing people commenting at the end of the old one, and figure that people have missed the link. "

When I do this it's because I'm responding to a discussion in the current thread that would / should lack context in the new thread. And I say should because there are a lot of comments at the top of the new thread that are, intentionally, verbatim of the commenter's comment at the end of the old.
posted by Mitheral at 2:20 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


They're reading these days as if they're Fanfare threads recapping what your favorite love-to-hate Mad Men characters were up to this week.

That's me, for the last two posts at least, and I'm sorry they've come across like that because I definitely take this administration VERY SERIOUSLY.

I'll be honest and say that I've put a few of these megathreads together over this U.S. election cycle, and I don't actually get the impression that a ton of folks actually click through the links and use them as a starting point for thread discussion. (This is totally fine as I expect most people have read some version of each of the stories.)

At times I've considered putting together a megathread post full of more obscure, odd political stories, but while I do try to put together links and news events that have interested me over the last 24 hours or so, the (reasonable!) expectation seems to be that these posts act as a sort of summary of current events.

So I think that post style, which is definitely different than my usual Here is a Thing post style, maybe makes it feel like the post is more of a community camaraderie thing than just a recitation of current events? And certainly it's just a kind of indicator of Where My Head's At right now, which is some combination of despair and disbelief and feeling like everything's crazy and one coping mechanism is humor.

I don't expect to be making more megathread posts soon because I don't want to get into the "regular megathread poster" habit, but I definitely appreciate the feedback!
posted by lalex at 2:21 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


Well, again, THANK YOU EYEBROWS MCGEE

Sincerely, because there's no way to read that that doesn't sound sarcastic. Inherent in the name.
posted by bongo_x at 2:27 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


I don't expect to be making more megathread posts soon because I don't want to get into the "regular megathread poster" habit, but I definitely appreciate the feedback!

No problem. And definitely take it with a huge grain of salt! Tone is a very subjective, difficult thing and you can never please everyone.
posted by naju at 2:27 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Hi, petebest, longtime poster, first time for a reason.

I'm not clear why the length of the threads is a technical issue, to the extent that it is*. I mean, it's essentially text, css, and a favorites ajax script?

I'm not asking for a walkthrough of the sausage factory, I'm sure it's appropriately gruesome and packed with Sorkinesque commentary; I'm just asking if we can serve up these threads in such a way that their content is relevant only academically and not technically.

*It seems obvious that the longer the thread, the more lag there is in commenting due to the widget that "live previews" the comment. If we can turn off in-thread new-comment notification, can we turn that off?

I'm willing to go full CLI, and I'd bet most of the megathreadders who bother to wade in after the first day would too . . .
posted by petebest at 2:50 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I don't expect to be making more megathread posts soon because I don't want to get into the "regular megathread poster" habit

Seriously wise for it not to creep into a habit, a thing that increasingly distracts from normal thoughts and routines. When you are so distracted by trying to monitor an election thread while working out FPP formatting in your head that you crash your combine harvester into a duck pond - that's a good indicator it's time to ease up and hand over the baton of posting. Don't ask me how I know this.
posted by Wordshore at 2:56 PM on June 6 [36 favorites]


naju: "They're reading these days as if they're Fanfare threads recapping what your favorite love-to-hate Mad Men characters were up to this week."

This "love-to-hate" response to Trump is a really great characterization of what I find so off-putting about the liberal reaction to Trump the last year or so. People are just too *excited* (almost happy?) to be so dismayed about Trump and his hijinks. And there seems to be very little appetite for distinguishing what is serious (e.g. bombing Syria) from what is trivial (e.g. covfefe): rather it is simply all part of the 24/7 Trump Show.

Posting thousands and thousands of comments about Trump every week is still granting him the headspace that he so badly craves. He wants you to pay attention to him, whether it's positive or negative. Hence my private act of resistance is try to ignore Trump as much as humanly possible, and I would encourage you to do the same. Don't worry -- his hold on the media means you'll still learn everything regardless of what you want.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:59 PM on June 6 [10 favorites]


Guys, whatever else we decide to do or don't do with these #potus45 threads, please bear in mind that they're hard on both the mods *and* the site.

Whether it's the threads themselves that are keeping you sane, or the ability to hide those threads, if you can spare a few bucks, please feel free to follow that Fund Metafilter link in the footer and show your appreciation.

paid for by the committee for the preservation of the right to quote a bunch of lines and then add a single snarky word in response, but only like, once per calendar quarter per mefite, and only if it's genuinely funny and does not consist solely of FTFY
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 3:11 PM on June 6 [5 favorites]


> Hence my private act of resistance is try to ignore Trump as much as humanly possible, and I would encourage you to do the same.

Sorry, I'm glad that's working for you but it hasn't been working for me.

My work depends on the National Science Foundation, my child relies on Medicaid, and I'm represented in Congress by a Trump transition team member. Your mileage may vary, of course.
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:11 PM on June 6 [32 favorites]


I think it's really, really hard to know what exactly is signal and what exactly is noise in the threads. Like, the covfefe thing - yes, there was a burst of jokes and humor, but it was after thousands and thousands and thousands of comments where we were all staring despair in the face. And finally there was something funny that came tinged with hope - so we could joke and hope darkly and mostly silently that this was the end, the actual end, and be together. Like - something we could laugh about that didn't risk the end of the world, and those moments are so goddamned rare these days.
posted by corb at 3:12 PM on June 6 [7 favorites]


The lag on my laptop is around 2200 comments I think. Will try turning off inline comments.

I'd also like to see comments about the UK election going in that thread rather than the US one. They get lost in the megathreads.

Thanks to the mods for keeping on.
posted by paduasoy at 3:15 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Hence my private act of resistance is try to ignore Trump as much as humanly possible, and I would encourage you to do the same.

Yeah, I can't do that. A lot of us can't do that. It's literally, actually a matter of either our livelihoods or our personal safety. I mute him when he's on TV, I deliberately don't look at video of him, but I have to follow the news. We are well beyond the point where ignoring him does any good. That point was during the goddamn primaries. Now he's the president and hundreds of millions of lives are subject to his whims. Ignoring him is not really an option.
posted by yasaman at 3:19 PM on June 6 [23 favorites]


This is a dumb idea so nobody read this: What about a new flavor of MeFi politics.metafiler.com?
posted by guiseroom at 3:44 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


RedOrGreen: "My work depends on the National Science Foundation, my child relies on Medicaid, and I'm represented in Congress by a Trump transition team member. Your mileage may vary, of course."

yasaman: "It's literally, actually a matter of either our livelihoods or our personal safety."

Did I say I was unaffected by Trump? No, of course not. My livelihood too depends on funds that Trump has threatened, I am represented by a Republican, and I live in a country that has now pulled out of the Paris agreement.

But obsessing over every second of Trump coverage won't make a difference to those outcomes. The relentless coverage on Trump's every move and word collapses the distinction between the significant and the insignificant (for example, does it matter that Trump has suggested solar panels for his border wall?), and it drowns out everything else.
posted by crazy with stars at 3:44 PM on June 6 [15 favorites]


Wow, crazy with stars' comment does not deserve righteous pushback. I get exactly what they are saying. I agree there is a weird glee about some of the comments in these threads and its not like they said give up caring about Trump's damage or to stop fighting. But I do think some people could dial it back a bit.
posted by agregoli at 3:45 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


Whoops should have previewed, sorry!
posted by agregoli at 3:46 PM on June 6


agregoli: "Whoops should have previewed, sorry!"

I hope you still agree with me!
posted by crazy with stars at 3:48 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


I do!
posted by agregoli at 3:49 PM on June 6


Wow, crazy with stars' comment does not deserve righteous pushback.

I think there was a lot of restraint and probably people biting their tongues. No one is required to read the political thread.
posted by bongo_x at 3:58 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


Well, there's a difference between Trump coverage and Trump administration coverage. I agree, we should give less headspace/threadspace to Trump coverage. I certainly try to, because he is a gaping narcissistic void of a person and attempting to figure out his motivations and his issues is besides the point. Paying attention to Trump administration coverage remains a matter of self-interest and self-protection. Sometimes these areas of coverage overlap, but as an example, I think we can all agree it does not fucking matter how he likes his steak.
posted by yasaman at 4:04 PM on June 6 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: working out FPP formatting in your head that you crash your combine harvester into a duck pond
posted by sammyo at 4:07 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


I just want to say that I stay out of those threads because they're technically, psychologically and literally unreadable to me but I thought it was just a "me" problem. But like all the reasons I can't read them are things that the mods and participants are begging the community to stop doing. So how is anyone even reading these at all.
posted by bleep at 4:11 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


No, no one is required to read it. But many of us find it useful...when people aren't cluttering it up.
posted by agregoli at 4:12 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


And even if they are reading the thread, no one's required to read every single comment either. You can skim for links and scroll past everything else.
posted by yasaman at 4:15 PM on June 6


My wish is for spitbull's citation guideline to be the standard when linking. It's really helpful to see the author (or at least the publication name) and headline. For me the context-less links are part of the clutter; I'm going to skip clicking if it's not linking to something that needs/deserves the click.

Maybe the authors of New Threads could include the guideline in the post itself?
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 4:19 PM on June 6 [8 favorites]


But also, we don't want to enable super noisy commenting. I know people want to hang out. But at the same time many people also want the threads to be relatively good on signal-to-noise ratio, and the thread can't do that and be a perpetual livechat.

That ship has sailed, I'm afraid.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:20 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


Before explaining why something noisy actually belongs in the thread, could we think about why it wouldn't make more sense in Chat? For example, real time comments on press briefings would go in Chat while a summary of the important (if any) points can be posted in the thread.
posted by soelo at 4:21 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


It's immensely harder to pan for gold in a thread full of jokes. Com'on now.
posted by agregoli at 4:22 PM on June 6


yasaman: "I think we can all agree it does not fucking matter how he likes his steak."

I certainly agree with you, but a search for "trump steak" shows that there have been 97 comments with those two words, nearly all about Trump's preference for well done steak. Clearly there are a lot of people who want to talk about it.
posted by crazy with stars at 4:25 PM on June 6


Something I read over the weekend seems to fit with crazy with stars' point:
A few weeks after Trump’s inauguration, Russian writer Masha Gessen spoke to Slate’s Michelle Goldberg about life under autocracy. She spoke from the perspective of someone who had left Putin’s Russia for the U.S. three years earlier and could see more clearly than she used to the toll it had taken on her mind. “In the last three years,” Gessen said, “since I got to this country, I realized what a mental price I had paid for living in a state of siege and a state of battle for a decade and a half.” She called this experience “intellectually deadening. When you are fighting, you stop learning. You stop reading theory. You stop reading about things that aren’t part of the immediate fight.”

Life under autocracy, in other words, forces everyone to think and talk about the autocrat all the time. By virtue of his power, an autocrat imposes himself onto all of our thoughts, forcing us to adopt his vocabulary and inhabit his mind in order to try to understand what he’s doing and why. Ever since his rise to power, Trump has served as a vulgarizing agent. Like a true autocrat, he has situated his stumpy body on all of our shoulders and spends his days burping into our faces while we are forced to connect with the people we love by discussing the tenor and odor of the burps.
Which is to say, of course you can't ignore him. You can't afford to, and you wouldn't be able to anyway because he's saturating everything. But - keep plenty of mental spaces for yourself. They're valuable. Don't let these exhausting, malevolent forces deaden your spirit and intellect. Unplug from the constant stream when you can, and place value on your own language and your own thoughts, and don't allow anyone else to colonize your mental space. I think it's absolutely worth making a conscious effort to do these things. It doesn't mean ignoring, it just means not being swept up in this massive project of reframing our realities.
posted by naju at 4:26 PM on June 6 [33 favorites]


I jokingly pony-requested an Orange subsite just for Trump stuff months before the election, and I was only half joking really. The ability to make it all go away is an amazing idea (and technologically sweet), but we're all struggling with the fact that Metafilter is different now, America is different now, the world is different now. I'm sorry it's hard on the mods directly. It's hard on all of us, too, either directly or indirectly.

If there were an explicitly political chat room, I'd feel a lot more comfortable checking that out and taking some of the nervous updating/unmoderated noise in there. I'm not familiar with the culture of MetaChat and it seems foreign and scary, but if I knew there was a place just for releasing steam from these threads, I would definitely go there. (Or if y'all tell me that the current chat is really for exactly that and I should try it already, I will do that too.)

Thanks mods for your work. As always, you make this a better community than we could be on our own.
posted by rikschell at 4:31 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I'm not clear why the length of the threads is a technical issue, to the extent that it is*. I mean, it's essentially text, css, and a favorites ajax script?

Per comment, I think. Which can add up, especially with refreshing the thread.
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:32 PM on June 6


I'd like to suggest starting a new political omnibus thread when Comey starts his testimony, just to make it easier to find the thread and the beginning of relevant comments.
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:35 PM on June 6


I'd also like to thank the mods for all the suffering they endure and the patience they exhibit.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:45 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


Per comment, I think. Which can add up

Yikes. Is there a way around that with a theme? POTUS45 Theme: green text on black with no nothin'. Light and tight, right?
posted by petebest at 4:52 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


I've been reading and occasionally commenting in the election2016 and potus45 threads since last year, and I appreciate them a lot and I like both the serious and less-serious commentary. But. I agree they are super noisy and it would be a full-time job just to actually read all of them, and that has negative effects on the mods and on ability to participate etc.

Can we consider posting more but smaller and more-focused threads, instead of one giant catch-all thread every N days? I know the mods have not wanted to have too many open and active threads to handle simultaneously, but since a single catch-all politics thread gets the comment traffic of like twenty normal threads, I'm not sure it's actually helping in practice.

My vision is that we could have a Foreign Trip thread that's just about the foreign trip, and a Comey testimony thread that's just about the Comey testimony. And people with limited time (like me) can read just the threads they're most interested in, and maybe actually get to the end of them before commenting, which would help us not post the same thing that five other people posted. And if there are already two or three active threads about big important things, and then a fourth thing happens, maybe we don't need to talk about the fourth thing?

With a thread about one specific topic, I hope there would be less tendency for commenters to spiral back into rehashing old debates just because there's a slow news day. Maybe some of the less-valuable comments would just naturally fade away without their natural habitat, the catch-all thread. But even if the total number of comments stayed the same, they’d be much more useful and enjoyable to me if they were sorted into a few different threads instead of just one.
posted by mbrubeck at 4:54 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure issues fall into neat divisions like that anymore, if they ever did.
posted by rikschell at 5:03 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


I skim the megathreads when they're short enough for me to load them on my phone/tablet (somewhere around 2k comments), but don't read them carefully. As a casual megathread reader, I really, really wish the signal to noise ratio was better.

I read/skim the megathreads for links & thoughtful comments, and I don't even mind jokes (when they're good, which is subjective), but the chatter is really frustrating. I've been noticing that there are fewer contextless comments (e.g. "wow" during a press briefing), but there's a lot of back and forth about random stuff. For example, there was a derail (I think in the current thread) about Pittsburg's colors - that kind of thing is just clutter if you're trying to catch up on hundreds/thousands of comments. There was also some talk about how UK voting and vote counting works. I actually found that really interesting and am glad to have read it, but I don't think it belongs in a megathread.

And thank you, mods. It must be crazy difficult in many different ways to moderate the megathreads, and we really appreciate your work.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:05 PM on June 6 [5 favorites]


It's a bit of an odd thing because the thread doesn't have an editorial voice. Drawing distinctions between the significant and the insignificant is something that editors do, and we have hundreds of years worth of newspaper history in how we lay out pages to say "this is really important; this is sort of important; this isn't very important; this isn't even in the paper at all" that we haven't adapted to the web very well at all (on Twitter, every headline is equally important unless you put the little siren emoji first).

So when it comes to the thread, everything looks pretty much the same whether it's important or mundane, and the thread is basically the aggregation of all our editorial judgements. I realize it often doesn't look like I have a filter, but I do, in fact, see news stories and articles I don't think are worth people's time, and I refrain from posting them. Half the time, somebody else posts them eventually. Sometimes, I even actively hope that some story (usually of the form "person nobody should care about said or did stupid thing") manages to escape everyone's attention because no good will come of it. And that's going to be inevitable given the format, because the standard for inclusion in the thread, barring mod deletion for things completely off-topic, is "does any one of the many people in this thread feel like posting it?"

So is the solar panel thing really important? No. And I say that as the person who posted it. Neither is the Vice President's beehive. But we've never really defined significance or importance for the purpose of the thread, and besides some of us expressing our personal preferences, I'm not sure how we can.
posted by zachlipton at 5:06 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


If there is interest in a chat room dedicated specifically to politics, we can kick that around mod-side. (You guys could even live-chat spiceytime and then someone could come back and report the Sense Of The Chatroom and all its best jokes in one chunk in the thread instead of 47 liveblog comments.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:11 PM on June 6 [27 favorites]


I use the megathreads in two modes (and this may go for a lot of folks). Sometimes I have it open in a window and read through what's going on currently, updating as I go, sort of in the background at work sort of thing. Sometimes I'm reacting to news and trying to scan and skim and figure out what's going on around a particular thing.

These two modes don't really go together well. The first is really more like chat. The second relies more on context. The megathreads want to be like chat, but saved forever instead of ephemeral. In order to push enough people over to chat to make chat viable (people hanging out there conversing), we'd need to work to change the culture of the site. I don't know that that's tenable. One reason people want a thread rather than a chat, I think, is that it IS saved. This all seems so important and confusing, it needs to be on the public record, not disappear into the ether.

Chat would be great for taking off some of the Pittsburgh-colors stuff, but only if we all decide that's how it HAS to work, "take it to chat," is as clear as "take it to MetaTalk."
posted by rikschell at 5:22 PM on June 6 [5 favorites]


Just as a data point, I post rarely in the mega threads anymore because there has been so much noise about how much noise there is, and so many complaints about jokes and negativity that it feels like I have pretty much been disinvited to participate. Dystopian humor is basically my voice, so the people arguing to turn these threads into their private news feeds are also limiting participants. Not complaining for myself, really, just using my own participation as an example. Doesn't mean they're wrong to want to turn a conversation into a lecture or newsfeed. Just saying let's be careful not to exclude too many voices in the service of utility. We are a large and diverse community and we don't all want or need the same things. My two cents, nothing more. I may be wrong.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:24 PM on June 6 [22 favorites]


If there is interest in a chat room dedicated specifically to politics, we can kick that around mod-side.

I would love this so I could not be there. I fall much more along the "ignore the autocrat, don't ignore the autocracy" side of things, but I'm aware that my approach isn't everyone's. But the livebloggy stuff sort of kills a thread dead for people who aren't there at the time, whereas a lot of "Oh wow this is super shitty here are links to read more!" does not have the same negative effect.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:28 PM on June 6 [17 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: That's because we've been deleting really egregiously upsetting ones -- suicide fantasies, long dystopic discussions into how specifically everyone will die, violent revenge fantasies -- but the mods still have to see them and engage with them and it's wearing on us. So think twice about things in that neighborhood. Some of them are fine; some of them are really upsetting. Months and months of reading the worst of it is getting hard.

I really wanted to bring attention to Eyebrows McGee's comment because what she describes makes me think of vicarious traumitization--i.e., when people who works on the front lines helping people cope with trauma start having (often less severe) traumatic symptoms. It's common in mental health care, climate science, first response work, and other professions where people serve those impacted by trauma.

While I'm not saying that the mod team are experiencing that phenomenon, I do think that it's extremely important to consider how venting that sort of despair in graphic terms can affect others.

I think many of us are experiencing this new world as an on-going trauma, and that's a totally valid response, especially since there's a limited amount that any single person can do to resist. I get the desire to unload some pretty dark thoughts and doomy-gloominess, and since MF is a space where many of us have been coping, I get why one might want to seek validation on here for those thoughts.

However, the kinds of posts that Eyebrows McGee noted are very hard on the moderators, as well as the rest of the community, so here are some other resources for helping to cope:

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255. If you're having suicidal thoughts, consider giving this hot line a call.

Veterans Crisis Line: Same number as above, but a different website for any of the lovely veterans who have been part of the group as we cope with this situation.

RAINN: The Rape Abuse Incest National Network--if you're a survivor feeling triggered by the election of a admitted sexual predator, RAINN can talk to you (1-800-656-HOPE).

Finally, if you can reach out to a therapist, a trusted religious/spiritual figure, or family member, please consider doing so--humans are extremely social, and we have a difficult time surviving trauma trying to go at it alone. If anyone else has more resources for struggling community members, I hope they will get posted.

As always, stay safe and practice self-care--it's more essential than ever.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 5:31 PM on June 6 [18 favorites]


(Sorry, crazy with stars, I didn't mean for my comment to come across as "righteous pushback". It was written in haste before I left for dinner. I'm very happy for people to engage or disengage however they wish - as long as they vote, which is my minimal request threshold. Just, stepping away hasn't worked for me, and the in-thread camaraderie is helping me out in this ongoing hostage situation.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 5:49 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


It's common in mental health care, climate science, first response work, and other professions where people serve those impacted by trauma.

This is not the first time the mods have suffered due to traumatizing MetaFilter content, for sure.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:52 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I post rarely in the mega threads anymore because there has been so much noise about how much noise there is, and so many complaints about jokes and negativity that it feels like I have pretty much been disinvited to participate.

I'm not saying it's all correct, but I said the other day that the sheer amount of traffic would indicate that the politics threads operate the way most people want them to.
There have been complaints that the rest of the site suffers, too much traffic, too unwieldy, too many jokes, too many derails, etc.

I feel like there's a constant refrain of "nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded".

The mod issues I sympathize with. I'd have a politics sub site.
posted by bongo_x at 5:55 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Is "most people" accurate? Or is it more like a very, very garrulous and posty minority?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:15 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


Anecdotally; I'm using a 2008 MacBook and never really have a problem with the size of the threads, but I'm using the plain theme.
posted by bongo_x at 6:16 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


This is not the first time the mods have suffered due to traumatizing MetaFilter content, for sure.

Well, okay, but at some point this is going to come down to what they can continue to deal with. I like the Trump threads, but they're huge, fast-moving, contentious, and aren't going to end anytime soon (even if Trump gets arrested for treason tomorrow). They may have to just insist we all go to Chat at some point, and stop allowing new Trumpfilter posts. I won't be thrilled if that happens, but I'd understand.
posted by uosuaq at 6:30 PM on June 6


I do like mitheral, reply or respond to a comment in the same thread I read it. Sometimes that means at the end of a thread that's already been replaced by the new one. That's on purpose, and doesn't mean I didn't see the link.

(also, even if I miss it, I can surmise that there's a new thread when the last comment is hours old. Chances of that in the live thread are slim)
posted by ctmf at 6:36 PM on June 6


The day is only so long, and the big politics threads are just too noisy for me to find any pleasure reading them at all. I guess if they keep that noise contained in just one place at a time they are at least serving a function, but there are much more interesting ways to talk about politics and to interact.

So yes, put me in the camp of people who would be pleased to see a separate chat area created for the social/noise/whatever stuff, backed up with a robust deletion policy when it threatens to return to the blue.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:44 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


Also, mark me down as one who thinks the jokes and riffing are part of the attraction. Also the smart commentary. It's the whole thing that makes metafilter what it is. I'm sorry it's hard to moderate, but I think the solution of "change what metafilter IS" isn't ever going to catch on. And I wouldn't like it if it did. Perhaps begin with "assuming the threads are going to be like that, THEN what do we do about mod burnout?"

(Not that you haven't. You're smart people and I know that. But I think you're pushing a rope uphill here.)
posted by ctmf at 6:45 PM on June 6 [9 favorites]


Has anyone done an actual analysis of the political threads? Is it a shifting repetitively large cross section of the Mifi community or is it a tiny subclique rehashing and rehashing?
posted by sammyo at 6:47 PM on June 6


Well, okay, but at some point this is going to come down to what they can continue to deal with

I don't think anyone wants the mods to be harmed by doing their job.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:48 PM on June 6


Can Frimble deputize a volunteer single-thread mini-mod? You posted it, you mod it!
(kidding, could be anyone sufficiently able)
posted by ctmf at 6:50 PM on June 6


I take that back. I think in the last there were people who cared more about what they could not couldn't post than the mods. (Not in this thread, though.)
posted by Room 641-A at 6:52 PM on June 6


I think this was discussed a bit in the recent-ish participation thread? There's this:

In any given month during the megathread era, two thirds of active commenters that month never commented in a megathread.

although another way to read it is that 1/3 of active commenters participated in a megathread. Judging from the Popular Favorite posts and comments page, an admittedly not-great metric, it does seem like quite a few people are reading and following the posts.
posted by lalex at 6:54 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


I read them devotedly but rarely post since I don't want to contribute to a signal-to-noise ratio getting bad enough that we maybe don't get to have the megathreads anymore. They're so important and useful to me that I don't participate in them - no idea how you'd quantify that kind of investment in them. Unless maybe you can look at how many users have added a thread to their recent activity, in addition to how many are actually participating in it.

That said, mod mental health is more important to me than having those threads as my one stop shop for news, snark, and chatter. If they need to be pared back or otherwise reconfigured or new ground rules set so as to not traumatize the mods, so be it, that's the paramount concern in my book.
posted by Stacey at 7:11 PM on June 6 [18 favorites]


I'm glad people get something out of the jokes, constant rolling commentary, and venting, but everything the mods have written reads to me like they're quietly begging for this to stop. Like, seriously, I understand that people obviously get something out of these threads on various levels, but this seems more and more like something the site cannot actually handle. It seems like it's no problem, because we have the threads, right? But there's a huge labor cost involved. These threads demand constant attention that the mods have repeatedly described as being hugely emotionally taxing. People complain about the threads not really loading past several thousand comments, but imagine that there aren't just difficulties displaying the page itself, but difficulties for the human people who run this site. Everyone seems to have this idea that because these threads exist, they are therefore reasonable and sustainable, but they very clearly aren't.

I'm veering into projection here, but it almost seems like the mods recognize what people get out of these threads, and they love the site and its community too much to say no, as much as they might want to. I was opposed to the megathreads from the start, for my own reasons, but to hear the mods describing the violent/apocalyptic/suicidal fantasies they have to deal with, it feels like we need to seriously consider that this site can't and shouldn't provide this platform anymore.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:13 PM on June 6 [34 favorites]


Just brainstorming here--Would there be a way to hide the riffing-type comments behind something like a spoiler tag? That way the discussion could stay in one place, the "content only!" folks could skim quickly, and the folks who want riffing could just load the riffing comments on their own. Or would this still pose a loading lag issue?

(Before you start chucking rotten tomatoes at me, I'm sorry I don't know nearly enough How To Website to distinguish between Unreasonable Ask and Yes We Can Totally Do That Because Technology.)

(Bias disclosure datapoint: I haven't had lag issues at 3k+ comments on 2012 laptop with not-great internet connection, I like the riff but it does get excessive sometimes (but it's nice to have an archive of the jibe/zeitgeist), and I was afraid that we were building too much Surely This optimism but now find out that we didn't even see the darkest comments thanks to swift mod intervention...)

And once again, a heartfelt THANK YOU to the mods! You have done so much for our mental health and saved many a day from getting ruined by things (e.g., the super-downer/dark comments?) I didn't even know were happening.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 7:18 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


The problem, to my eye, is that not only do different folks want different things from the megathreads, but a lot of those things are things that Metafilter (unlike, say, forum software) handles on a subsite level. A broad subject mandate, a scannable, curated collection of links, multiple sub-conversations, a variety of tones and levels of detail in different conversations - we're talking about a subsite's worth of *complexity* that's currently being handled by single consecutive threads. It can't work well.

And yet, we don't have the resources for a subsite (and I don't think any of my colleagues would care to contemplate an entire politics subsite. You know those joke cans with huge fake snakes squished into them? Yeah. The current system is doing *something* to contain the situation, at least.) I'm not sure what a good solution is - I've been struggling to really define the problem in ways that aren't just "you and you and you, you talk too much. You over there, knock it off. And you, yeah you, buddy, why are you flagging *that*? Don't you know I'm busy?" Because that treats the symptoms as far as our attention and y'all's flagging goes, but it's not really solving the problem.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:36 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


the people arguing to turn these threads into their private news feeds are also limiting participants.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:24 PM on June 6


Also limiting precipitants?! Huah? See? Cause it . . Raining . . Heh hehe.

And yes,I like the thread to be both heads-down digging and turnng things over, and at the same time clever, silly, and sweet. M*A*S*H* but for the Interbitty desk rangers . . .
posted by petebest at 7:37 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


There's another aspect to this that bugs me, and maybe it's none of my business, but I see lots of heartfelt thanks for everything the mods do, and it leaves me wondering if we're actually paying them enough for this. That's not to call people out, because I know people are genuinely appreciative. Lots of people have said "these threads have kept me sane, thank you so much," but if everyone wants a big group therapy session along with a news aggregator and joke repository, that's a ton of additional labor in every sense. There's a whole other site to run, and I knew these threads were demanding, but I'm beginning to realize just how demanding they are.

I'm sure lots of people know what it's like when a coworker quits and you're suddenly doing twice the work for the same pay you got before. Your job title stays the same, your pay stays the same, but you take up the slack because you need to. How much have the mods taken on with these threads, for no extra pay? How much extra are users on this site asking them to do without proportional compensation?

I feel awkward bringing up money like this, and it may really not be my place. It may not be money that's the issue. I just want to ask whether or not a heartfelt thanks is really enough for everything they're doing. Unless donations get distributed like tips, this seems like one of those situations where again, we need to consider exactly what we, as users of this site, are demanding of the people who work here.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:51 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


And yet, we don't have the resources for a subsite

Well I don't want to get ALL in your business and I'm sure you've thought about it a lot. On preview, shapes... has a similar question - how much money to make the problem go away*? I know I'd pay more than I do if we're shooting for a target that seems achievable. Within reason, of course.

*I'm exaggerating - to make it livable.
posted by ctmf at 7:56 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I want to be sure to add that I'm also not calling out people who won't or can't pay more, for whatever reason. I don't have a lot of money, and I use this site thanks to other people's contributions and support. I think paid access to any aspect of it (besides the membership fee) is antithetical to what I, and I think everyone, including the mods, would expect from this place. When I talk about money, I'm not directing anything to individuals, but to the site community as a whole.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:04 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


(and I don't mean, pay you more to suffer - I mean hire say, 4 more mods for 24hr coverage of a new subsite, then make it, and how many people would pay more if such a thing existed, which is impossible to guess)

(and it's hypothetical question, I don't actually want numbers unless you think it could work)
posted by ctmf at 8:06 PM on June 6


Yeah, I also would be interested to know if the problem is "mods are overworked, another mod would help, start fundraising, guys" or the problem is "I swear to Christ if I have to see one more politics thread do X I'm going to start screaming loud enough to be heard from the other coast."
posted by corb at 8:12 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


(and it's hypothetical question, I don't actually want numbers unless you think it could work)

Kind of a whole business case worth of speculation, really, which we may do at some point but not off-the-cuff for sure.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:46 PM on June 6


"...but everything the mods have written reads to me like they're quietly begging for this to stop. Like, seriously, I understand that people obviously get something out of these threads on various levels, but this seems more and more like something the site cannot actually handle. "

Your whole comment was great and I think you've gotten to the heart of it.

Here's the problem as I see it:

1. These threads are unsustainable and they are, in their own way, killing MetaFilter.
2. Eliminating the threads entirely -- either by going back to flooding the front page with more politics posts, or by essentially banning the whole topic (save the infrequent things that clear a very high bar) -- could also kill MetaFilter.

There is something essentially MetaFilter about those threads. They serve a core need to the community. If MetaFilter doesn't fill that need, it will lose an important part of its appeal to its users and this will increase stagnation. But they are also alienating to part of the community, so that's also a big cost, and, furthermore, they are overwhelming the mod team's capacity.

We can't keep them, and we can't get rid of them.

But it may well be that there's a lesser of those two evils. If there is, I think it's eliminating those megathreads and ensuring that their content doesn't spring up as just more posts. That is, we'll have to let this function go. And I feel really not right about that. I do really feel like it would be a kind of "beginning of the end" sort of thing. But I am also feeling like this crisis within MetaFilter itself is sort of a "beginning of the end" thing. The status quo clearly can't go on forever.

I had assumed at the time that the mods allowed the previous megathread to get extra-lengthy because they see the decreasing utility of the existing thread to be a feature, not a bug. I think that there's an implicit message that we, the community, have to solve this problem ourselves. We have to collectively limit those megathreads and eliminate most of the problems associated with them. Can we? That would be ideal. I think the mods have been sort of hoping that we'd figure this out, with their encouragement. I don't know if we will.

If the site has to change its policies, though, then I would suggest that maybe, if possible, it be a tapered-off sort of thing, rather than an abrupt change?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:15 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


If MetaFilter eliminates U.S. politics conversations it will bleed participation, I think.
posted by lalex at 9:22 PM on June 6 [7 favorites]


So it's a win-win?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:24 PM on June 6


So it's a win-win?

What? No. In what way is reduced participation / fewer voices / fewer contributions a net benefit to the community?
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 9:38 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Are people really just visiting the site just for the latest megathread and that's it? That seems unlikely? Or is our country's ongoing breakdown sapping peoples' energy for the other types of posts there used to be/still are?
posted by bleep at 9:41 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


In what way is reduced participation / fewer voices / fewer contributions a net benefit to the community?

I was half joking, but growth dramatically changes the site and at a certain point (and people may reasonably differ on where that point is!) the userbase will be too big to maintain any meaningful "community" qualities.

I'm not saying that's happened yet, but the idea that growth is good will get some pushback from me every time.

(as an oldy, let me add that while I miss the part about the old days that allowed you to sorta "know" almost all of the people you communicated with here, I do not miss the "boyzone" part one bit.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:20 PM on June 6


There's another aspect to this that bugs me, and maybe it's none of my business, but I see lots of heartfelt thanks for everything the mods do, and it leaves me wondering if we're actually paying them enough for this[...]
I just want to ask whether or not a heartfelt thanks is really enough for everything they're doing. Unless donations get distributed like tips, this seems like one of those situations where again, we need to consider exactly what we, as users of this site, are demanding of the people who work here.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:51 PM


This exact issue did cross my mind as I was typing my heartfelt thanks (I am reminded of Apu's "Banana bread!" line from The Simpsons), but I decided to post the thank you anyway because I figured it's better to express thanks rather than make it seem like we're taking the mods for granted.

I echo the feeling that we're all debating about different things and we have different ideas about what the threads should be. I'd want to hear more from the mods themselves (like restless nomad's comments above) about their framing of the situation. What should the threads be? What're the biggest issues? Underfunding? Labor [logistical or emotional] overload? Trauma? Repeat offenders of guidelines? etc.

As a consumer of the threads, I previously said I enjoy the riffing but of course I wouldn't want anyone to have a mental breakdown or get worked to death on account of the threads. And the possibility that we can't have the threads at all...I guess that would be sad but understandable, but there's gotta be something we can work out before we give up entirely. It's just really hard to be helpful when there's no clear directive on do vs. don't.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 10:23 PM on June 6


I have a suggestion. As restless_nomad pointed out the megathreads act a lot like a subsite. Each existing subsite has its own norms & rules. Can we not do the same for these but without the dedicated subsite? Compile & periodically post them together preemptively ( exactly where/how TBD) rather than onesey twosey as they're broken. Wouldn't it tend to reinforce them more memorably & have more impact that way? We can include both hard & soft rules - things we can't do & things we shouldn't do too often. Thoughts?
posted by scalefree at 11:11 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's so easy to say Okay, this should move to chat but that should stay in the thread, but it makes sense for something like a hearing, which is only a few hours and has a start time and end time. I think it's an easy way to transition back and forth and will do that for tomorrow's (PST) NSA hearings. Hopefully that will help a little.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:43 PM on June 6


I seldom comment, but I've been Tehhunding my way through the megathreads on permanent catchup mode, and I would be very sad indeed to lose them. As a UKian these threads are an astonishingly complete source of condensed and accessible discussion about American politics in general and the current administration in particular. I absolutely rely on them for context and local knowledge.

Personally I love the snark and witticisms and I don't mind the liveblogging, as it gives me a good picture of Metafilter Reaction Level, but! I read on a laptop so I'm unaffected by thread length. Timezones ensure I will never be present for Chat so I'd welcome a thread-posted recap if the chat thing happens.
posted by Ilira at 12:14 AM on June 7 [15 favorites]


I echo Ilira's comment above entirely - as an American abroad, my news sources are out of time-sync and quite disjointed if I choose to consume local media. And while I rarely comment in the Trump threads, I am easily the most informed person in my international office because of them. So a huge thank you to the mods for keeping it going to this point.

I'm trying to give back to the site, though, by setting myself a goal of making ten JuneJourneys posts this month. A gentle suggestion: perhaps our most frequent commenters in these threads can participate in other parts of the Blue or on other subsites to ensure their time here is evenly spread and for the good of all our co-users?
posted by mdonley at 2:59 AM on June 7 [14 favorites]


I can tell you that I've recommended MeFi politics threads to numerous people who now follow them religiously and who never "got" metafilter before. Several are considering joining. To a one they refer to the threads as "addictive."

As a fairly active participant in the threads I can't see why mefites who don't like them should somehow be bothered that they exist. I mean, I hate science fiction and gaming and avoid those threads.

To me, the politics threads feel redolent of community. I've come to know and admire a whole new group of mefites from them. Yes they get silly and riffy, but leaving the moderation question to one side, so what? Are we running short of server capacity or drive space for a few megabytes of text? I can tell you that if they disappeared I'd (sadly) spend a lot less time on metafilter (which may be a good thing for me personally!) because like a lot of people I am not really focusing on anything else these days. This is a crisis.

I also do not think of those threads as "contentious," aside from occasional spats. In general I think of them as wildly supportive and collegial.

I do however really appreciate the mod effort required to keep them that way, and keep them useful. I myself have tried really hard to cut down on my natural tendency to wisecrack and am consciously deciding not to comment as often, and to mostly post useful links. To me, journalism is as much the story here as politics, and as a fan of good journalism it's a riveting tale on an hourly basis.

I think those of us who participate in those threads can self-moderate more, and moderate each other a little more, to take the weight off the mods. By now those threads have a culture and a cycle and most of us know when it's getting either silly, deraily, or needlessly argumentative. A little more collective effort, a little more individual restraint, and we can lower the burden on the mods out of respect for their workload and sensibilities.

To add I am really heartened at the way my suggestions to cite reporters and original publications for news links have been widely adopted in recent threads, and apologize for annoyingly reminding everyone early in each of the last three threads. I think it's made the threads more useful and readable and cut down on multiple postings of the same links. And incrementally, it helps support and pay for the journalism we must have.

To me, having been here over a decade (prior username), metafilter is above all a community that respects thought and informed debate with a diverse and supportive and intelligent culture, and in no small part due to seriously great moderation and a unique and widely shared culture of mutual responsibility for the community. The links are essential but secondary. I have been inspired, informed, comforted, and motivated to political action repeatedly by these threads since November. The problems the threads present seem solvable and manageable -- mostly by good faith efforts from the community, which we expect here anyway -- from outside at least.
posted by spitbull at 3:31 AM on June 7 [21 favorites]


I was half joking, but growth dramatically changes the site and at a certain point (and people may reasonably differ on where that point is!) the userbase will be too big to maintain any meaningful "community" qualities.

I'm not saying that's happened yet, but the idea that growth is good will get some pushback from me every time.


But the userbase, at least in terms of active commenters, is declining and has been for quite some time.
posted by lalex at 3:34 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


So I just checked out Alexa for mefi traffic, and apparently traffic has been steadily rising since January after a steep drop at the end of last year? I don't know how accurate this is but prima facie it's evidence that politics threads are certainly not hurting site traffic.

More to the point these were the top 5 search engine terms that led people to us... wtf?

Keyword Percent of Search Traffic
1. maggie roche 0.18%
2. pun generator 0.12%
3. ilike2learn 0.10%
4. metafilter 0.08%
5. clyde stubblefield

posted by spitbull at 3:45 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


A final thought: I can tell from my favorites count that a hell of a lot more mefites are reading the politics threads than are routinely commenting in them. The commenting group may be largely a reliable subset of 20-30 people but many comments get 50+ favorites and many get over 100.
posted by spitbull at 3:58 AM on June 7 [8 favorites]


Clyde Stubblefield!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:35 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I would put up a recurring contribution for a politics subsite. This isn't going to end, this is the new normal. Even if impeachment, this is a new need, and not just USAian, either. If we are using these posts as a subsite, it proves the community need is there, we just have to provide the resources, and Cortex the will (we're sorry, Cortex).

In fact, I'll start. I'll set up the donation and hope it leads to good things. The old way made sense for the way the world was then. The world changed. It's hard on everybody who has a heart.
posted by rikschell at 4:48 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


As a fairly active participant in the threads I can't see why mefites who don't like them should somehow be bothered that they exist. I mean, I hate science fiction and gaming and avoid those threads.

Part of my annoyance is that I like politics and would like to participate in political discussions here but feel completely overwhelmed by the megathreads. I miss having discrete topic/event-based threads that I could actually read while still maintaining a job that doesn't have me at a desk a lot.
posted by lazuli at 5:46 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


These threads are unsustainable and they are, in their own way, killing MetaFilter.

How? How are they killing the site? For that matter, what exactly do you mean by "unsustainable?"

I keep seeing statements like this on social media amongst mefites and in metatalk threads like this one, but very little accompanying quantification of how exactly the threads are doing irreparable harm. Other than "they're contentious newsfilter" or "they're breaking the mod team." We've always had newsfilter posts and this place used to be a lot more contentious. MetaTalk was far more active. People used to express surprise that we'd gone more than 24 hours without a MetaTalk post.

The mods are overworked, yes. Which truly sucks. The threads are very long and have different rules than other threads on the site. Ok. They (and we) seem to be managing.

We've had long threads about the campaign and the election for over a year to a year and a half. Possibly longer than that? People continue to make posts on other subjects and US politics are now mostly corralled into their own threads. The site still offers superlative FPP's. And even a few bad ones. I don't know for sure, but it feels like the frequency of deleted posts has dropped a but, too.

MetaFilter's culture has never been static. Many changes were even worried over as site-breaking at the time. Yet we're still here.
posted by zarq at 6:13 AM on June 7 [8 favorites]


*I* would just like to offer an ear & shoulder to the mods if they need one. And unlimited dog and cat pictures. You guys are human, too, and just because you're tasked with keeping us maniacs somewhat inline doesn't mean you are immune to the stresses we're all feeling.

Per this discussion:
1. I'm fine with 3000ish comment new thread thresholds.
2. The earlier mega threads had a quick etiquette reminder in the top post (no comment bloat/noise, be nice, chat's over here, MeTa is over there, FIAMO, avoid double linking, Remember the Mods! etc). Can we go back to including the reminder in new posts?
3. The top post in a new mega thread doesn't have to be encyclopedic. I've enjoyed the shorter ones lately, because to me, the meat of the discussion is in the comments.
4. Learn to love your scroll wheel. There are things in the megathreads I personally have no interest in - like bible stuff - so I skip it. It's easy, doesn't clog the thread and doesn't tax the mods. Scrolling is a beautiful thing.

Regarding the Politics Subsite idea:
I do not agree with the separate politics subsite idea. Everything is interrelated, and it would fracture the site and the community. People want to stay where there are other people, even if they are just lurking. If we are scattered, it's more places to check/moderate, and it's part of why the liveblogging--->chat thing hasn't really caught on. The megathreads are like the kitchen at the party, where everyone always ends up.

Bottom Line:
Moderate yourself more so than usual in the megathreads, ESPECIALLY if the news cycle is slow. That's when a lot of what we're complaining about in here happens. If it's slow, don't pick on each other and put shit under the electron microscope to examine to death.

I personally LOVE that if I don't feel like heading straight to the megathread, there's always something interesting on the front page that serves as a diversion from the hellscape. It reminds me that there IS something besides the hellscape, and I see that as a very healthy thing.
posted by yoga at 6:14 AM on June 7 [15 favorites]


Moderate yourself more so than usual in the megathreads, ESPECIALLY if the news cycle is slow.

Like don't repeat the same joke in consecutive threads.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:37 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Just to make it clear, I'm not among those recommending a politics subsite but rather a periodic (top of the post, every thousand comments, something along those lines) list of the top 4 or 5 rules we tend to break in the megathreads, to give them more visibility as a group. Often enough to reinforce them but not so often to make it oppressive.
posted by scalefree at 6:42 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Moderate yourself more so than usual in the megathreads, ESPECIALLY if the news cycle is slow.

Like don't repeat the same joke in consecutive threads.


And preview, then preview again. Then do it one more time before you hit Post.
posted by Etrigan at 6:48 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Part of my annoyance is that I like politics and would like to participate in political discussions here but feel completely overwhelmed by the megathreads. I miss having discrete topic/event-based threads that I could actually read while still maintaining a job that doesn't have me at a desk a lot.

I agree. I like politics, but I don't have the time or interest in keeping up with such huge threads. But more than that (because my lack of time is my own problem, not a site management issue), the noisiness and chattiness of those threads just aren't interesting to me as a way of discussing or interacting with politics. I get that people are having fun, but that fun comes at the expense of losing other people's input and reduces the utility and overall enjoyment of the site.

I understand that the mod resources aren't sufficient for this, but the solution I would like to see (barring the idea of shunting all the chattiness to a different area) would be to have those threads moderated much more strictly, in keeping with how politics threads were run before this last election cycle, and how all other threads are still managed. Off topic? Chatty derail? Boring repeat argumentation? Single twitter links? If all those were severely deleted and feedback given for people to lay off, we'd be back to a much more normal kind of thread. Still longer than the average, I am sure, but I'd settle for cutting the 2/3 or more of each thread that is currently just filler.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:50 AM on June 7 [9 favorites]


reduces the utility and overall enjoyment of the site

People keep saying this, but with Zarq I am still unclear on what it means with the exception of perhaps limiting participation in the megathreads by those without the time or inclination to follow them. Which yeah, but then all long threads are a problem? The rest of the site proceeds apace as far as I can tell. Many people do participate in politics threads sporadically and without following every side discussion. I'm one. If I miss 8-10 hours I generally skip to the last few comments and gradually try to catch up if I can, which I can't often manage.

If the issue is mod resources and sanity, that seems like a problem we need to solve communally. If the problem is other people having too much fun, some of the stern talk here seems a bit censorious. Most of the active participants in the politics threads are longtime mefites with prolific commenting histories across all subsites and topics, not some newbie rabble taking over the community and changing its culture.
posted by spitbull at 7:15 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


I don't know where else to say this, so I'll put it here — one thing that I think would help make the threads easier to read and parse quickly (as when someone is just popping in several times during the work day to keep abreast of developments, as I do) is if people would stop using so many acronyms. It might seem like a small thing, but I have never seen "WWC" used as an acronym outside these threads, and therefore I stumble on it every time. (Unfortunately a Google search is not helpful.) There was a thread last month that was using "HRC" in a context that made no sense to me (ask me how many times I re-read that part of the thread trying to figure out what was being said) until someone pointed out that they weren't referring to Hillary Rodham Clinton but to the Human Rights Campaign. Just this morning someone posted a link to a story from "RS," which I assumed meant Rolling Stone but, nope, Raw Story. Those are just examples off the top of my head, but I'm stymied fairly often by non-obvious shorthand and other confusing elements in these threads.

Anyway, I'd ask people to put this on their list of things to think twice about before adding to the political threads — if you're using acronyms, abbreviations, jargon or jokey references to TV shows that would be difficult for people to suss out if they're not quite as immersed in a certain flavor of Internet political culture as you are, please consider spelling things out in the interest of clarity, especially if the difference is only a few extra keystrokes on your end. Even something like "KSA," which pretty obviously stands for "Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" in context, takes me extra time to work out when it's dropped in the middle of a thread. I know it takes a commenter a few seconds longer to type KSA rather than Saudi Arabia, but I guarantee you it also takes some readers a few seconds longer to figure out what you're talking about.
posted by Mothlight at 7:16 AM on June 7 [13 favorites]


zarq: The mods are overworked, yes. Which truly sucks. The threads are very long and have different rules than other threads on the site. Ok. They (and we) seem to be managing.

I'm more and more getting the impression that they are barely managing, in a way that is not sustainable for the long haul. Which to me means that something will have to change, one way or another.

I don't want the mods suffering or burnt out and I feel that they are experiencing more stress than is healthy. Life should be good, for as many people as it can be, and that should include our beloved mods if at all possible. Modding is a job but should not be a burden and I'm getting the impression that it currently is. How can we fix that?
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:19 AM on June 7 [10 favorites]


Maybe a silly suggestion, but between threads on a slow news day (touch wood), would it help to agree on a deliberate break of a few hours? Say, the person volunteering to put together the next FP says when they'll post it, then the mods know there'll be some downtime, and it might give the head of the thread a chance to be more curated in terms of discussions.
posted by lucidium at 7:21 AM on June 7


(Not specifically in response to the last few comments re burning out, just a thought.)
posted by lucidium at 7:28 AM on June 7


So what are the top 4 or 5 rules (hard or soft) we tend to break in the megathreads?
posted by scalefree at 7:34 AM on June 7


And preview, then preview again. Then do it one more time before you hit Post.

The politics posts may need have a lower comment cutoff if this is going to be effective. Refreshing a page when it has 2000-3000 comments can take a lot of time on mobile. In a fast moving thread it's perfectly possible for several people to post during the minute or so that a thread takes time to load.

I'd also be willing to bet that most people will not preview more than once (if at all) if doing so is going to require one or more full minutes of load time.
posted by zarq at 7:34 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Some of the broken rules are:

No context-free live-blogging ("Did Spicey really just say that?");
No single-tweet comments;
No comments with over-the-top despair, violent fantasies, or overtones of self-harm.

The last one is hardest on the mods.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:43 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


My experience in these threads is that they're not actually as filler, uh, filled as people seem to think. (Trim 2/3 of the threads??) There's really just a LOT of news out there, coming out at all times, that people are having conversations about.

I'd be interested in how people felt if they skimmed, say, the first 200 comments of the current megathread and posted what they thought should be cut?

Also, I'm not interested in a form of megathreads that doesn't include jokes, conversation, and a bit of back-and-forth; I have Twitter and a dozen other resources that are frankly better at conveying a straight news feed. And that's ok, not everything on the site needs to be for me!

But I'd keep in mind that an awful lot of the people keeping an eye on the news and posting up-to-date stories for everyone's edification (the kind of content that seems to be universally desired) are also the people who are occasionally joking or making covfefe jokes or whatever. Hard not to through the baby out with the bathwater.
posted by lalex at 7:43 AM on June 7 [11 favorites]


I do not always comment in the politics threads but MetaFilter is a go-to for me to see if, for example, the latest "scandal" which blowing up twitter is really a thing or not. Most of the time I find the pro case linked with a "but also see ..." in the same or following comment. Even at 3000 comments they are more streamlined, timely and substantial than anything I see elsewhere. If there is another place where most people are being good natured, curious, thoughtful and occasionally funny, I am open to hearing about it.

I have written and not posted A LOT of jokes. They were not good jokes, even by my undemanding standards. They were more like "I, too, am witnessing this" comments. I am going to try to not post fluff to be part-of. Maybe you should too.
posted by shothotbot at 7:44 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


I understand that the mod resources aren't sufficient for this, but the solution I would like to see (barring the idea of shunting all the chattiness to a different area) would be to have those threads moderated much more strictly, in keeping with how politics threads were run before this last election cycle, and how all other threads are still managed. Off topic? Chatty derail? Boring repeat argumentation? Single twitter links? If all those were severely deleted and feedback given for people to lay off, we'd be back to a much more normal kind of thread. Still longer than the average, I am sure, but I'd settle for cutting the 2/3 or more of each thread that is currently just filler.

Single twitter links were not automatically deleted in metafilter threads in the past. We've even had posts based on single twitter feeds. (I've made at least one of those myself.) Chatty on-topic derails are usually left alone as long as they don't get too nasty. On the Blue, off topic discussions and 'boring repeat argumentation' only seem to be moderated when they cause a problem, people argue and can't seem to let something go, and/or they get a threshold of flags.

Most of the chattiness that happens in politics threads is on topic because it's related to the current US political situation in some way.

What you're proposing is much more aggressive moderation than we've ever really had on Metafilter posts. Not a return to any former status quo. Including in old posts about politics or world events, such as the killing of Osama bin Laden or various Israel/Palestine posts.
posted by zarq at 7:49 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


Some of the broken rules are:

This is relatively minor but hey since we're talking about rules, I would like to add the rampant abuse of the edit function. It explicitly says something like "do not do Edited to Add: and change content" right on the editing page!

I am not sure how much this is a burden to the mods, though. I'm just a stickler for the rules (and a chronic overflagger, which is probably more of a burden, I am trying to cut down, sincere apologies).
posted by everybody had matching towels at 8:00 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


That's because we've been deleting really egregiously upsetting ones -- suicide fantasies, long dystopic discussions into how specifically everyone will die, violent revenge fantasies -- but the mods still have to see them and engage with them and it's wearing on us. So think twice about things in that neighborhood. Some of them are fine; some of them are really upsetting. Months and months of reading the worst of it is getting hard.

The mega-threads have become indispensable for me as a source of news, analysis, and, occasionally, comic relief, but more than ever, I'm beyond grateful to the mods for keeping them sane. That this comes with the cost of the mods' sanity is incredibly worrisome. For my part, I'd rather lose the POTUS45 threads than the mod team - I can find news and political commentary elsewhere, but there's no substitute for Metafilter as a whole.

If I have any practical suggestions, it would be to post guidelines at the top of each of the POTUS45 threads about good posting practice (and maybe reminders every 1,000 comments). The next step would be stringent thread-policing, and nobody wants that.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:00 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


> A final thought: I can tell from my favorites count that a hell of a lot more mefites are reading the politics threads than are routinely commenting in them.

Yeah, I've made it a rule not to comment in them because I don't need the aggravation (participating in a thread automatically makes it a thing for me, mentally, in a way that just checking in on it doesn't), but I check them every day. (For what it's worth, the way I do it is to click on a comment with a bunch of favorites in my Contact Activity sidebar, then scroll up and down till I've gotten enough news and jokes to satisfy me, and back out of the thread before I feel overwhelmed. Sure, I miss stuff, but we all miss a lot of stuff all the time.) I favorite useful links (another rule is to automatically favorite any comment with a link I wind up e-mailing to people) and good jokes, and am very glad the threads exist. Like everyone else, I'm sorry the mods are going through so much thread-related shit, and I hope people can start retraining themselves to cut back on the stuff that causes problems; I think Doktor Zed's suggestion is excellent:

> If I have any practical suggestions, it would be to post guidelines at the top of each of the POTUS45 threads about good posting practice (and maybe reminders every 1,000 comments).

It seems to me such reminders do have an effect.
posted by languagehat at 8:10 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


Maybe we could update the Election FAQ for the post-election era?
posted by corb at 8:19 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


I think the biggest thread-extender is when we go back around on a topic that has been done to death with everyone repeating their well known positions. It just happened with "maybe keeping Trump is better than having Pence" for like the third time in that thread alone and the 20th time in the last two weeks, same positions and arguments.

Certain points seem to be red flags for "here we go again," including anyone giving any credit at all to any republican for acting or seeming to act honorably or even sanely, always followed by a barrage of "we is doomed all republicans are complicit and evil and they will never do the right thing ever again" comments. Likewise on "Trump, evil genius or stupid hater or mentally/cognitively unwell"?
posted by spitbull at 8:27 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


The mods are overworked, yes. Which truly sucks. The threads are very long and have different rules than other threads on the site. Ok. They (and we) seem to be managing.

I am worried about the psychic damage. Like I said above, this has happened before and I think we should believe the mods when they tell us it's becoming too much.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:28 AM on June 7 [11 favorites]


Yeah, to clarify, I can easily see how the threads might be too much for the mods, suggestions I am talking about here are hoping we can self police so we can still have the things we want without breaking the people we value.

Here's the old Election Thread wiki, if anyone wants to take a gander at whether an updated version might be useful. It includes, I note, a handy list of topics done to death that could be expanded.
posted by corb at 8:36 AM on June 7


Yes and the solution is for all of us to self-moderate more and voluntarily moderate each other with a spirit of community and kindness and generosity.

I guess it's a testament to outstanding mod efforts that I can't detect psychically damaging dystopian fan fic as a substantial element of these threads, beyond black humor I tend to find funny. And "we are all fucked so what's the point in fighting for anything?" comments seem to be abating a bit as more of us are calling them out, and since the meta for dumping your anxiety went live. (Great idea!)

But just because I didn't say so yet, thank you to the mods for what you do.
posted by spitbull at 8:40 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure what a good solution is - I've been struggling to really define the problem in ways that aren't just "you and you and you, you talk too much. You over there, knock it off.

I think you've defined the problem, but it's just, as you've probably figured out, in a way that looks negatively at the actions of the members, which can be emotionally draining.

Ultimately, Trump is a emotional IED to the Metafilter crowd, he literally breaks reality on a daily basis. Hell, sometimes it's hourly. It's why I've personally stepped way back from those threads, because in most causes they're just feeding into that dynamic.

The site and those threads need more positive and active takes/words/actions in my opinion. Which is incredibly hard when Trump is doing his thing. A community wide effort to would be good. After all, in lot of ways, it doesn't matter what Trump is doing or saying, it's going to bad, that's just a known fact. Focus on a few large things that can people can work towards and share stories about said work and delete things that are minor.

In shorts political threads need to be like AskMe, more heavily moderated with little tolerance for BS.

A more assertive mod stance on the repeated back and forth would also help. A lot of the arguments are from the same crowd, repeating known stances for the nth time and nothing is really solved. Just nip them in the bud.

If there was going to be a subsite for politics, it should be something like a screaming room/MetaTalk. Just let people complain in loosely moderated threads. Or have two political threads, one that's tightly moderated to be informative with little emotional outbursts and the other specifically intended to be that "WHAT THE FUCK IS HE DOING NOW AND WHY" thread, where people go to scream.

Mixing those two streams in a single thread is what's messing up the thread.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:46 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Also "surely this" and "all out of evens" jokes have finally and blessedly gone by the wayside. At least until Trump takes an actual shit on the Resolute Desk on live TV.
posted by spitbull at 8:47 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]



The site and those threads need more positive and active takes/words/actions in my opinion. Which is incredibly hard when Trump is doing his thing. A community wide effort to would be good. After all, in lot of ways, it doesn't matter what Trump is doing or saying, it's going to bad, that's just a known fact. Focus on a few large things that can people can work towards and share stories about said work and delete things that are minor.

In shorts political threads need to be like AskMe, more heavily moderated with little tolerance for BS.


Being honest here. This would pretty much cancel out my interest in the threads and Metafilter as a whole because it would make it even more US centric then it already is. I understand the importance to have these sorts of discussions but to me Metafilter is the one place on the entire internet that I can count on to have a group of American people who one, give any shit about Trump's (and US) effect on the rest of the world and two, (and this is a big one) actually have decent levels of knowledge about the rest of the world. This is very rare and hard to find in the same sort of numbers that have gathered on Metafilter. The stereotype of a myopic American is out there as a stereotype for a reason.

Metafilter is a breath of fresh air in this regard. I'll be honest that in my assessment I would have a much more screwed view of the American populace as a whole with regards to Trump if there wasn't this place. I'm hope that many Americans here can ponder on how valuable this is to people in the rest of the world. It really is. In real like I constantly reference discussions that go on here and I can confidently say things like 'no not everyone down there is okay with this and they are fighting hard' as well as more detailed insight as to what is going on and how actual people are responding to it.
posted by Jalliah at 9:05 AM on June 7 [13 favorites]


...I think we should believe the mods when they tell us it's becoming too much.

What I said was that "they (and we) seem to be managing." I didn't say that the mods weren't overworked or that the endless politics threads are not a burden. They clearly are. My impression is that the mod team has been overworked and understaffed since 2012 or earlier.

The mods have said that specific behaviors are a problem. They have defined concrete changes we can make to the way we comment which will make thread management easier. Other, excellent suggestions have been made here.

These are things we can do.
posted by zarq at 9:19 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


What I said was that "they (and we) seem to be managing."

I know, that's why I quoted that line. What I'm saying is that this is not what I consider managing in a healthy way:

That's because we've been deleting really egregiously upsetting ones -- suicide fantasies, long dystopic discussions into how specifically everyone will die, violent revenge fantasies -- but the mods still have to see them and engage with them and it's wearing on us. So think twice about things in that neighborhood. Some of them are fine; some of them are really upsetting. Months and months of reading the worst of it is getting hard.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 1:54 PM on June 6

posted by Room 641-A at 9:28 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


The megathreads work for me, but I'm exclusively on a laptop not a mobile.

I can't say enough about my appreciation for the folks who make the posts, fill the posts with timely informative links, and the mods.

I wouldn't mind if: 1) more attention was directed toward this post and the idea of self-policing content in the mega's 2) MeFi held another fundraiser specifically to help with modpower during this administration 3) president dampnut were impeached so we could get back to business as usual around here
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:31 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


What I'm saying is that this is not what I consider managing in a healthy way:

What you implied was that I don't believe what the mods have said on the subject. I corrected your misapprehension.

I've now said twice in this thread that there are concrete things we can do that have been suggested by the mods, to help alleviate some of the problems created by the politics threads. My comment to Ivan was about something else -- a request that he clarify how those threads are, as he put it, "killing the site."
posted by zarq at 9:38 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Well, zarq, you believe they are managing. Room_641-A believes (as do I) they are not really managing, and telling us as much. There probably isn't any misapprehension on Room_641-A's part involved; you two seem to disagree on what it means to be 'managing'.

Personally I don't believe that you can be overworked but managing, except for a short period of time. If you are overworked, you are not sustainably managing. That's what 'over' means.

In the end I think we can agree that the burden on the mods is too heavy and we should try to lighten the load.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:52 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Is it the case, then, that megathreads are more problematic for content rather than systems performance? The latter would seem to have several available options.
posted by petebest at 9:53 AM on June 7


I don't think Zarq has any lack of sympathy for the mods, but is simply asking the question of whether the problem is a "system failure" requiring hitting the brakes or simply the site operating a bit beyond its tolerances in ways that can be solved by easing back on the gas. We don't need to have a semantic debate about what "sustainability" means to address things that seem unsustainable. Happy and healthy mods and servers alike are needed for sustainability. As are hits and links and page views and ads. As is the passionate, engaged, loyal community of the user base. Can we solve the unsustainable issues incrementally and even culturally? We usually do.

There are all kinds of metrics involved in asserting that something is changing or killing the site and its community. By some of those metrics mefi is doing fine based on public evidence. But none of that is sustainable if our mods are losing their minds from stress.

Much like declaring the republic doomed with each new piece of bad political news, intimations of Mefi's impending demise (rather than its ability to self-manage changing contexts and community standards) seem a little overdramatic and unnecessarily alarmist, unless they come from cortex and he's waving a balance sheet covered in red ink.
posted by spitbull at 10:04 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


Well, zarq, you believe they are managing.

Again, not what I said. I said they seem to be managing. And they give that appearance, yes: the site is running and does not appear to be in imminent danger of collapsing. Which is how I read Ivan's statement and why I asked him for clarification.

I'm absolutely not interested in nitpicking my own comment to this degree. It's a derail from the topic at hand. The mods have been telling us that there are specific changes we can make to help them. They have explained why. I have tried to focus on those changes in my comments so that we can all do what is needed. The politics threads are clearly not being eliminated. The best thing we can all do as a community is try to help make them easier to navigate for users, and by extension make the overall experience easier/healthier to mod.
posted by zarq at 10:08 AM on June 7


Yes, exactly. Thank you, spitbull.
posted by zarq at 10:09 AM on June 7


Killing the site is farther than I would go, but the number of other threads is down, and the number of comments in those threads as well. Here's a random page of threads from this April and here's one from January 2015. You can see that we got those 50 threads in a little over one day in 2015, but it took about twice as long to get 50 new threads this year. I calculated the average number of comments per thread on each page, and there the average for 2017 is 34 comments per post and in 2015 it was 55.

I know that's not conclusive or anything, and there are other factors like a shrinking userbase that are involved, but it really does feel like non-politics-megathread participation is way down. I've definitely gotten my share of fun out of the megathreads, but if I'm being really honest, what originally drew me to MetaFilter was people who had niche expertise or interesting stories to share on obscure topics, and now a lot of those threads are withering on the vine (or not getting posted at all) because so much energy has been put into a handful of threads.
posted by Copronymus at 10:19 AM on June 7 [10 favorites]


Had an idea....

I'd be perfectly willing to tolerate and unblock (tasteful) ads on the election thread pages only even for logged in users. Could turn them into a bit of a profit center. Knowing Mefi, "Professor McSexy reveals one simple trick for finishing your PhD dissertation" might even generate some clicktroughs!

On a more serious note, I just decided to be that guy and left a non-snarky note in thread calling attention to the issues being discussed in metatalk and asking folks to voluntarily refrain a bit from a jokey riffing exchange that was starting to gain steam. I hope it doesn't seem bossy. But maybe a little volunteer modding done in a cheerful tone can help a bit.
posted by spitbull at 10:27 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]


Killing the site is farther than I would go, but the number of other threads is down, and the number of comments in those threads as well.

Attention is a finite resource & I absolutely admit much of my attention has shifted from the Blue in general to the megathreads in specific. I'm making a conscious effort to shift that balance but they're just so damn addictive. I liken it to the empty calories I get from junk food. I may have to start self-imposing breaks from following them to regain the value I receive from MeFi & give back to it.
posted by scalefree at 10:27 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Post numbers and participation have been declining since before the rise of Trump. If anything I think the volume of activity in the megathreads is masking site decline.

More to your point, it's hard to say whether the megathreads are creating a problem with the rest of the site. Speaking just about my own mood and the mood of my meatspace circles, U.S. politics is just what's on everyone's mind, constantly, and to an unprecedented extent.

If I come to MetaFilter and see no politics post, I'm heading to another site that speaks to my current mood, not forcing myself to engage with other posts. There's no, like, I must spend X hours on MetaFilter today engaging with something, I'm here when the discussions are interesting to me and I'm not when they're not.
posted by lalex at 10:27 AM on June 7 [15 favorites]


I think that to many people, dallying in niche expertise and interesting stories may seem a bit like the proverbial fiddling whilst Rome is burning.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:29 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


I have been making a point of reading and usually commenting on at least one non-politics thread a day, and almost daily on AskMe, both to lint my time in politics threads and to support the breadth of the site.

I will say that several people I've alerted to the politics threads who were not previously mefites have been gradually discovering the rest mefi has to offer, and I think there could be a positive impact on membership and traffic too.
posted by spitbull at 10:30 AM on June 7


On a more serious note, I just decided to be that guy and left a non-snarky note in thread calling attention to the issues being discussed in metatalk and asking folks to voluntarily refrain a bit from a jokey riffing exchange that was starting to gain steam. I hope it doesn't seem bossy. But maybe a little volunteer modding done in a cheerful tone can help a bit.

You certainly didn't seem too bossy, and I appreciate that. I guess like It's Raining Florence Henderson, and ctmf I appreciate the jokes and riffing, to the point they don't get too out of hand, which does happen often enough, and I'm worried that the cumulative effect of having this discussion is to increasingly discourage people from participating at all and to make the threads increasingly soulless.

That's not in any way to criticize you spitbull, and I appreciate your comment. But at least some jokes are, to a point, a big part of why I'm here, and while I hope this discussion makes things more manageable, I also hope it doesn't suck all the life out of the room too.
posted by zachlipton at 10:39 AM on June 7 [8 favorites]


Here's the old Election Thread wiki, if anyone wants to take a gander at whether an updated version might be useful. It includes, I note, a handy list of topics done to death that could be expanded.

One of yoga's excellent suggestions upthread was to return to including the etiquette reminder in new posts.

We could take it upon ourselves to write up a set of guidelines (and have them approved by the mods) which could be added as the first comment to new election threads.

What do y'all think?
posted by zarq at 10:40 AM on June 7 [9 favorites]


> I think that to many people, dallying in niche expertise and interesting stories may seem a bit like the proverbial fiddling whilst Rome is burning.

I'm not sure whether you're speaking for yourself or speculating about others, so I'll try not to be too caustic; I'll just say this is a misguided approach that can only lead to general burnout if taken seriously. We all need respite from the continuing madness (I used to think "what fresh hell" was a joke); some of us get it from cat videos, some of us from Russian literature (plus cat videos), but to imply we should all be doing all politics all the time... come on, surely you don't seriously believe that.
posted by languagehat at 10:43 AM on June 7 [9 favorites]


soelo: For example, real time comments on press briefings would go in Chat while a summary of the important (if any) points can be posted in the thread.

Eyebrows McGee: (You guys could even live-chat spiceytime and then someone could come back and report the Sense Of The Chatroom and all its best jokes in one chunk in the thread instead of 47 liveblog comments.)

You know, I was in the "liveblogging OK as long as done with context" camp, but even as someone who has enjoyed following along with that kind of thing before, I think maybe this would be worth giving a try. Instead of liveblogging every question and answer in Spicey time or the Comey testimony or whatever, have a handful of (designated? self-appointed? something else?) users who can post one summary comment (for shorter events such as Spicey time) or periodic (half-hourly? hourly?) summary comments for longer events such as congressional testimony.

With the Comey testimony coming up tomorrow, that might make an ideal test case: start a new thread for it, with a prominently displayed "no liveblogging even with context, summary comments to be made every [time period] by one of a designated small cabal cadre of users" policy.

Summary comments should be clearly designated in thread somehow so that users interested in only those can Ctrl-F for them if they don't want to read other commentary.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:45 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


That's not in any way to criticize you spitbull, and I appreciate your comment. But at least some jokes are, to a point, a big part of why I'm here, and while I hope this discussion makes things more manageable, I also hope it doesn't suck all the life out of the room too.

Thanks zachlipton, and I couldn't agree more. I'm a joker myself and really enjoy the level of literacy and erudition on mefi and the humor that enables. The site has entertained as well as informed me since 2003. Humor is a big part of mefi culture.

But it is possible to be both funny and substantive. And indeed there is a lot of that in these longboats.
posted by spitbull at 10:46 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]


...but if I'm being really honest, what originally drew me to MetaFilter was people who had niche expertise or interesting stories to share on obscure topics, and now a lot of those threads are withering on the vine (or not getting posted at all) because so much energy has been put into a handful of threads.

Yeah, that's where I am about this as well. Imperial fiddling or not, it absolutely feels like MeFi's general focus has shifted. But, I mean, so has uh quite a bit of the world so it's hard to fault MeFi for it. But I guess I'm having a certain mono no aware about a website where I could go to a thread unrelated to US Politics and ... not have US Politics show up in it, which is really not the case for MeFi anymore.

It's not exactly deadgoating per se but it certainly feels like a thread about a cute goat will inevitably have a comment about how the goat resembles Donald Trump. Be The Change You Want To See and all that, but it's kind of hard to get excited about making FPPs while already walking the line of "the first remotely problematic thing will be 75% of the discussion" (which, to their credit, the mods have been more on top of now.) Actually getting past that barrier only to have the thread turn into How This Is Like Politics Right Now is all the less encouraging.

These days logging into MeFi feels like it's a choice between: the US Politics megathread, the current active argument thread about whatever social justice/feminism/racism/intersectionality thinkpiece that just came out, the latest movie trailer and then just a bunch of other threads that have a percentage of the participation they would have had a couple of years ago.

Anyway, I've been on the internet most of my life and I've been a member of internet communities most of my life and I have an extremely good sense of when a place stops becoming For Me. And I never (or rarely at least) fault the place or the people in it for outgrowing what I want to see in it. But it's sad to watch MeFi turn into that even if I don't see a clearly better direction in which it can grow.
posted by griphus at 11:09 AM on June 7 [16 favorites]


I'm not sure whether you're speaking for yourself or speculating about others, so I'll try not to be too caustic; I'll just say this is a misguided approach that can only lead to general burnout if taken seriously. We all need respite from the continuing madness (I used to think "what fresh hell" was a joke); some of us get it from cat videos, some of us from Russian literature (plus cat videos), but to imply we should all be doing all politics all the time... come on, surely you don't seriously believe that.

I didn't take their comment as implying that people should only do politics all the time but that perhaps for some, the reason they aren't doing much in other threads is because of these sorts reasons. I nodded my head because yeah, this is me. I don't spend anywhere near as much time on other topics like I used to because for the most part for me it does feel like fiddling. Take that as you will, I'm not suggesting that others do the same, people do them, but I won't apologize or feel guilty because of what other people think is says about them and their interests. It is just how I feel right now in terms of my own priorities.
posted by Jalliah at 11:14 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


With the Comey testimony coming up tomorrow, that might make an ideal test case: start a new thread for it, with a prominently displayed "no liveblogging even with context, summary comments to be made every [time period] by one of a designated small cabal cadre of users" policy.

I think there's no point in really having the thread at that point. You might as well just have a chatroom and people can get their own blogs.
posted by zachlipton at 11:24 AM on June 7 [12 favorites]


what originally drew me to MetaFilter was people who had niche expertise or interesting stories to share on obscure topics, and now a lot of those threads are withering on the vine (or not getting posted at all)

I agree with this; I feel like there's less fun on Metafilter now and some of that is that there's less fun EVERYWHERE now but I like posts where people tell stories about their kids or funny acid trips they took or the most unbelievable thing they 100% believed until someone pointed out that it was bonkers and I don't feel like we have as much of that. We get some posts with people listing stuff that applies to them and sort of ignoring each other like any post where there's a score or a random X generator but I'd love more threads where people share stories or chat about an interesting or enjoyable topic like alternative currencies or whatever.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:29 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


I think the biggest thread-extender is when we go back around on a topic that has been done to death with everyone repeating their well known positions. It just happened with "maybe keeping Trump is better than having Pence" for like the third time in that thread alone and the 20th time in the last two weeks, same positions and arguments.

I feel like this is important from a different angle, too: a lot of the people who feel like the thread is cliquey or unwelcoming feel that because their chosen topic/link/etc of interest has already been "done" in some 15 minute period where they probably weren't monitoring the thread. I don't know how to curtail each of those "done" topics into their own thread, but it might be nice if there were somewhere that people could have that conversation in a way that preserved the arguments and allowed the deeper analysis to stay visible.

I've said this before and I'll say it again - I really feel like slack is the best model of the kind of interface that people want to have when they discuss politics in the megathread, and I'm not sure that either metafilter or metafilter chat is entirely equipped to handle it well. I'm aware of metafilter-adjacent sites like metachat; is there any precedent for mods pushing a certain discussion to an offsite place if it's better suited for that?
posted by R a c h e l at 11:54 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I would love and participate in a spin-off Slack with MeFites discussing politics.
posted by lalex at 12:02 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


>I would love and participate in a spin-off Slack with MeFites discussing politics.

So would I, but any such spin-off would further drain Metafilter site participation.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:08 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I would love and participate in a spin-off Slack with MeFites discussing politics.

Okay. I created one. PoliticsFilter.

Here's the invite code.
posted by zarq at 12:09 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


R a c h e l, you're describing an inherent problem with a flat thread instead of nested subthreads, which is a choice mefi made long ago that contributes greatly to its participatory culture. There are no (or few) side or branch conversations. Everyone is responsible for joining the flow where they enter it. Many a meta has been devoted to the issue.

It gets worse with long threads. But the politics threads are usually news-driven so the topic is often emergent.
posted by spitbull at 12:22 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Zarq, can i be Wm. F. Buckley? I will bring along my best 17 comma sentences with multiple digressions and a dash of didactic effrontery.
posted by clavdivs at 1:19 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Sure, yeah, I see - but we need to acknowledge that "flow" is a whole lot different in a megathread than even in a (still political, still charged) thread like this.

I don't have all the answers, for sure - but I see it as an example of a tool that's known to bridge the need for chatty stuff, asynchronous conversation, and posts of differing importance/visibility. Then again, I rarely use slack so I might be misunderstanding (wait, wasn't that the same need that Google Wave was supposed to address?).
posted by R a c h e l at 1:21 PM on June 7


Zarq, can i be Wm. F. Buckley? I will bring along my best 17 comma sentences with multiple digressions and a dash of didactic effrontery.

HA!

Go right ahead. :)
posted by zarq at 1:24 PM on June 7


a truly groundbreaking innovation:
new threads created complete with 2,976 pre-existing moderator admonishments! take all the various permutations, put 'em in a table and mix & match!
"just a reminder that _____ "
"a few deleted due to ______"
"quonsar, give _____ a rest"
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:28 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Can I ask about single tweet comments for a second? Because I'm a little unclear on what the norm is. I think it's clear that the goal is to avoid filling the thread with a billion reposted jokes from twitter, and I appreciate that. And if there are a few related tweets that are significant, I'll try to bundle them together where it makes sense, because it's less noisy and easier to read.

But what about something like what murphy slaw just posted (and I was going to post it myself, but he's speedy)? It's a single tweet, but it's relevant to the ongoing discussion and newsworthy and seems like the kind of information people want to see in the thread. Do people object to comments like this? I don't, but I've seen mixed signals.
posted by zachlipton at 1:43 PM on June 7


I think the problem in the post-Election threads is that their shenanigans are cruel and tragic, while our shenanigans are cheeky and fun.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 1:51 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


To me some of the problematic kinds of single tweets are:
- tweets that are redirects to articles (just link the article instead)
- "big news coming!!!" (just wait til it comes and post it then)
- not-especially-great jokes (collect them into a grouping)
- unrelated but you're just kinda dumping them in the thread because heck, people are around and want to read about outragey headlines (like, "asshole wins school board race in some town in Florida" or whatever; just skip this)

It's also a thing where, for some people at some times, it's like they're just reposting their whole twitter feed sort of indiscriminately. (Not as much today, but reflecting over the last few months.) It's the issue you raised a while ago about editorial judgment. I think yours, zachlipton, has generally been very good -- you're one of the most prolific posters in these threads, but you're posting things that are reasonably high-value, they're not noise.

As with the liveblogging issue -- it's the low-value, noisey kind of liveblogging ("whoa" or "He said yes!!" kind of thing) that's a problem when we have a lot of it. The multi-sentence recaps are fine and good.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:53 PM on June 7 [13 favorites]


Part of why we emphasize this is, the main thing that slows down the thread's loading is number of comments. So, ten single-sentence or single-tweet-link comments are a bigger technical burden on the thread than one ten-sentence or ten-tweet-link comment.

It's not to say people can't comment that way. But might be useful in understanding why we push back hardest on short little noise bits -- among other things, they have an outsize effect on thread performance.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:01 PM on June 7 [11 favorites]


"just a reminder that _____ "
"a few deleted due to ______"
"quonsar, give _____ a rest"

we really need to do that podcast.
posted by clavdivs at 2:05 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


you're describing an inherent problem with a flat thread instead of nested subthreads, which is a choice mefi made long ago that contributes greatly to its participatory culture. There are no (or few) side or branch conversations. Everyone is responsible for joining the flow where they enter it. Many a meta has been devoted to the issue.

Well I personally am sorry I missed those because the flat thread becomes utterly unusable for me after about 1000 posts. Just a wall of text that requires me to parse every single thing in between to know the flow of the conversation, just to avoid getting honked at for restating something that was already talked to death in comments 1397-1482?

Subthreads and collapsables could reshape everything we do in the megathreads. It could make them comprehensible. Failing that, the only solution that can preserve it as it now is without slowly killing the mods is to FUND MORE MODS.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 2:16 PM on June 7


On further reflection, I think it's actually harder than you'd think to just fund more mods - like, even if we dropped a Full Time Mod Salary on their laps, there's still the choosing of who the mod will be - someone well respected, who's super familiar with how the pulse and culture of Metafilter work, who gets along with all the existing mods, doesn't have any personal grudges, and also has the time, interest, and skill for modding. That's actually a lot to ask!
posted by corb at 2:21 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


But what about something like what murphy slaw just posted (and I was going to post it myself, but he's speedy)? It's a single tweet, but it's relevant to the ongoing discussion and newsworthy and seems like the kind of information people want to see in the thread. Do people object to comments like this?

In the general case, I don't have a problem with single-tweet comments if they're truly breaking news originating on Twitter (i.e., not a link to something elsewhere), on-topic and of interest. In the specific case, though, I don't think lapdog Chris Christie's defenses of Trump rise to that level.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:25 PM on June 7


Newsfilter and Chatfilter were once verboten. Times change.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:43 PM on June 7


I am interested in hearing more about Kuwait, Turkey, the attack on Iran's parliament, and so on. It irritates me that this topic has been rolled into the POTUS 45 thread. It would help both me and that thread if we were able to start a new one on the Mideast. You allowed this for the UK election -- splitting that away from the POTUS thing -- but not some other topics. I have little sympathy for complaints that the POTUS threads have become unwieldy when you allow so much other stuff to be crammed into them.
posted by CCBC at 6:11 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


"It would help both me and that thread if we were able to start a new one on the Mideast. "

Please do. In the deletion reason for your earlier post, gnfti said, "I'd be fine with a slightly more fleshed-out post, ideally when there's a clearer picture of what happened today." If you need help sorting out a well-constructed post, we're always available at the contact form; especially with breaking news it can be a bit tricky. The problem with that post wasn't that it was about the Middle East; it was that it was a single link breaking news with very little context or (at the time it went up) information. (I see the CBC article has been updated substantially.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:18 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


I think it's actually harder than you'd think to just fund more mods

Funding an additional mod just so that there would be more coverage in PoliticalFilterOngoingAwfulness posts is also making a pretty strong statement about What MeFi is For since there are lots of things that you could use more mods for, that among them. Mods have said those threads are hard for them (I can confirm they suck to moderate, even when everyone is mostly trying to make them not suck). If MeFi had the equivalent of a mod's salary to toss around at things, I can make a list of things I would rather that money go to.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:19 PM on June 7 [9 favorites]


All right Eyebrows, but I see that I typoed "Kuwait" for "Qatar" which causes me to doubt my posting ability right now.
posted by CCBC at 6:23 PM on June 7


"I see that I typoed "Kuwait" for "Qatar"

BLAME AUTOCORRECT!

posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:36 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Just as a more general thing, if there's something you (general) would like to highlight in a separate thread but aren't sure, please hit us up via the contact form! We're happy to share our thoughts about whether a Separate Topic X can work and how to frame your post so that it has the best chance of working. Events in other parts of the world are great (and aren't excluded just because DJT said some stupid shit on twitter and it was mentioned in the POTUS45 thread); specific US politics things you want to drill down on more closely are okay but can be a bit tricky to frame but we're happy to try to help; political theory sorts of things we've had several good posts on since we relaxed the "ONLY ONE THREAD" rule. We typically have some thoughts on what sorts of framings are more and less likely to result in a good conversation about the actual topic/links vs. what's more likely to go immediately off the rails into Trumplandia.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:46 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Speaking of separate threads related to politics, should we be talking about the Russophobia thread somewhere? Because it hasn't gone great and it seems like griphus buttoned and that saddens me.
posted by zachlipton at 7:08 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


>

Jessamyn, certainly I bow to your superior understanding of what mods do and what in general needs doing behind the scenes, but I would argue that there's a widening gap between What MeFi Is For and What MeFi (and the Megathreads) Are Being Used For.

People are saying upthread that they're using it as a news aggregator, as a mental health check-in with likemindeds, as a sounding board for what happens next, and sometimes as a resistance mobilazation. (I'm personally feeling the other way -- they're useless to me once the comments get above 200 or so -- but that just means I walk away or only check the newer comments for most recent discussion.) At least some of that usage is unlike what we used to do here -- someone upthread actually compared the non-politics posts to fiddling while Rome burns, which says a lot about what their view of MeFi usage is.

So regardless of what else's on the funding wishlist, the pressing questions are: Can the mods cope with the shifting use of the site at current staffing levels? Would additional mods even be a help? Could there be mods whose duties are restricted to politics threads only? And if the answer to the above is "no", then what options remain are: make Chat beefier to take some of this traffic, spinoff the politics into its own subsite, restrict the pace of comments in the megathreads, or dot dot dot?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 8:47 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I agree that "killing MetaFilter" was hyperbole. But I think if you carefully read this thread you can see evidence of the argument I was making. I would agree with zarq and others that, oh well, MeFi has changed in the past and so a politics-centric MeFi is another change we'll survive -- but I don't think that's true because the past cultural changes all came with an incoming tide, as MeFi was growing. The tide is going out, it has been for years, the community is simply aging and not adding many younger members, and so the kind of change we're discussing is one that is both the kind that (already is) profoundly affects both the perception of the site by the community, and the job of moderating it and is occurring when the overall trend is against MeFi generally.

Personally, I think that going toward the "more accomodating to politics" route will result in short-term gain, on the order of maybe six months to a year, at the cost of long-term loss. But the problem is that I think that the obvious alternative will result in a short-term loss, followed by what will end up being just a more protracted long-term loss. Which maybe is okay. If the difference is MeFi being viable for seven more years as opposed to three, that might be a reasonable choice. However, if it only extends the life of MeFi by a year or two, we might as well embrace this short-term inertia of politics on the site.

The one thing I believe strongly is that there is a serious underlying tension and problem here that isn't going to go away on its own and that there's not an easy solution to it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:52 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


I completely agree with all of that, Ivan.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:10 PM on June 7


But again, the user base was shrinking and participation was declining before Trump ever announced his candidacy. One can just as easily speculate that embracing a more robust political discussion here might *save* metafilter as a going concern. According to Alexa, as I said above, mefi traffic has increased steadily since December after a long period of decline.

We have always had mefi cultural conservatives (not politically right, just "don't change metafilter") who complain bitterly and leave when things change here, and imagine some original charter to which we are no longer faithful. I submit that mefi's active membership is the site. Many of the active members are participating in politics threads. Some of us have as much as said they if they disappeared or were sharply curtailed we would just spend less time here. I suspect that is widely true.

As for griphus buttoning, that post featured a disingenuous misquotation of James Clapper from a bad article posted in anger. Spoiling for a fight means you get one sometimes.
posted by spitbull at 3:43 AM on June 8 [7 favorites]


According to Alexa, as I said above, mefi traffic has increased steadily since December after a long period of decline.
I just looked at the monthly signup numbers (aka "young blood") from the infodump. They were at an all-time low in September 2016 (119) and they have slightly picked up and sort of stabilized since November (139 on average). So, at least, for the past 6 months, the political threads do not seem to have had a negative effect on signups. Signups are still down by 18% compared to the same period last year (November-May), though, so it's too early to tell whether this will be enough to stem the downward trend.
posted by elgilito at 7:42 AM on June 8


Some of us have as much as said they if they disappeared or were sharply curtailed we would just spend less time here.

Very true for me. The longer one stays, the less novel content there is here, and of course the information universe around us has expanded and complexified dramatically, making it much easier to find unique content and subcommunities elsewhere. The politics threads offer something of daily value that is keeping me engaged, where my check-in and contribution habits have otherwise declined.
posted by Miko at 8:12 AM on June 8


> As for griphus buttoning, that post featured a disingenuous misquotation of James Clapper from a bad article posted in anger. Spoiling for a fight means you get one sometimes.

Oh, bullshit. That was a good article and griphus had every reason to be upset. I sure hope he comes back; I always enjoy his contributions.
posted by languagehat at 8:36 AM on June 8 [11 favorites]


How did chat work for people? It really seemed to cut down on the hot takes in the MeFi thread!
posted by agregoli at 10:30 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I was just in chat as a civilian but it was really nice to be able to primal scream with my people. :D I was in and out throughout the morning while running errands, etc., and I liked both that the thread was moving slowly enough I could actually catch up when I was between things, and that chat was full of, well, chatter and jokes and one-liners and primal screaming.

(I was mostly listening on the radio in the car between things, I found it a little harder to follow chat when I finally got back to my house and was watching the end of the thing on TV. But chat + radio worked really well for me!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:37 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


"Very true for me. The longer one stays, the less novel content there is here, and of course the information universe around us has expanded and complexified dramatically, making it much easier to find unique content and subcommunities elsewhere. The politics threads offer something of daily value that is keeping me engaged, where my check-in and contribution habits have otherwise declined."

You're a good example of why I think that these threads and encouraging them would boost membership and participation in the short-term, but hurt it in the long-term. Even assuming that Trump isn't impeached, I still think that the interest and urgency that's driving this will eventually wane. But this last year and the coming year of this emphasis would substantially change how people think of MetaFilter away from the other stuff and toward the politics discussions.

To answer spitbull's argument, I think that would be bad not because I'm temperamentally conservative or that I just don't want MeFi in particular to ever change, but rather that I think that MeFi has been extraordinarily successful to a degree to which many people here don't appreciate -- eighteen years as a reasonably popular web-based discussion forum is something that one can say about fewer than ten sites, I think -- and that its longevity is essentially tied to its unique mix of "interesting stuff" + "serious discussions (including politics)" + "strong sense of community and an unusual and successful moderation approach". That's a delicately balanced mix of things, part site culture and part business conditions, that unravels when any part of those three is removed (or significantly reduced).

Turning into a somewhat different kind of site wouldn't necessarily threaten the site alone, of course, because maybe MeFi could be successful, even more successful, doing something different or with a significantly changed focus. I mean, I think that it's kind of a stretch to leave what has been working for eighteen years and switch to another untried approach -- but, all things being equal, that's a defensible choice.

However, what I think completely undermines that line of argument is that the whole way that people use the internet has greatly changed away from what any version of MeFi does. When I said that we're not getting younger members, I didn't mean that figuratively, I meant it literally. The average age of mefites has increased by at least a decade over this period -- while there were lots of early twenties folk joining in the early-to-mid 00s, that's not true now. And overall signups have decreased and traffic plateaued six years ago and has been very gradually falling every since (in close step with the aging-out attrition, I bet).

So my argument is that nothing that MeFi could conceivably change to would place it back in the trending internet the way it was in the 00s and so the reality now is how slowly or quickly MetaFilter will fade away. I think we want "as slowly as possible". If switching to a politics-heavy version of MeFi would boost membership and participation during the majority of the remaining lifetime in that form, that would be a good choice. Alternatively, if staying with what has worked in the past and keeping the politics stuff from dominating the site best preserves the status quo for as long as possible, then that's a good choice.

I'd be amenable to the politics version as the better choice if I could be persuaded that it would, in fact, be healthier for longer than otherwise. But there's two major reasons why I strongly doubt this. The first is what I already discussed -- that this level of interest and participation in politics on the site will wane, not stay constant. And it will wane quickly, within the context of the remaining lifetime of the site (which is to say, within about a year). The second is that I think that the moderation staffing level, workload, and type of work requirements for an increasingly politics focused MetaFilter aren't sustainable or achievable under the prevailing business conditions.

I really want to be clear that I recognize and personally share the interest in a more politics-focused MeFi -- my own participation has become more like Miko's. That's true for a lot of us. I really would be okay with this direction if I thought it was sustainable ... but I strongly believe it is not.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:45 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


> The average age of mefites has increased by at least a decade over this period -- while there were lots of early twenties folk joining in the early-to-mid 00s, that's not true now.

How do we know this?
posted by languagehat at 11:48 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I think it was credibly quantified somewhere -- something posted to MeTa -- but I can't remember where. But I remember this because it matches my own impression (confirmation bias, I know). I think the MeFi culture was noticeably 20s/30s in the 00s and is 30s/40s now. You can see it in what people say about themselves. MetaFilter was, say, grad students and young techies then and is postdocs/profs and senior tech staff now.

My sense from discussion is that this change has been more obvious to the people in that cohort than it is to people like you and me, who are ten to twenty years older than them.

And, anyway, it stands to reason because of how greatly the nature of the internet has changed over this time. I'm surprised that any younger millennials find their way here at all (but in a good way, because I think they're collectively an impressive group).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:07 PM on June 8


Anecdotally, my average age has increased about that much since the mid-’00s.
posted by mbrubeck at 12:08 PM on June 8 [8 favorites]


So my argument is that nothing that MeFi could conceivably change to would place it back in the trending internet the way it was in the 00s and so the reality now is how slowly or quickly MetaFilter will fade away

Yes.

I think it might be overstating things to contemplate having MeFi turn into some sort of politics-forward version of itself. Right now, the discussion can stay limited to how long a political thread should be and how many per day or week there should be. It's difficult to imagine that coming to dominate the site so much as to be offputting. People who don't want to participate don't have to, and there is currently plenty of other content, still.

I think we want "as slowly as possible".

To a point. I'm the type that generally prefers a clear and final pre-emptive closure of any organization. online or off, rather than a long slow bleed to death. I've seen that happen to enough web communities (as well as real-world communities, like all the fraternal societies and symphonies and garden clubs struggling along), and it feels pathetic and sad to see a few people keep a limping-along site alive as a shadow of its former self. But evidently there are people who don't mind and see no real loss coming from a slow decline as opposed to designating an end date. I don't mean to prognosticate doom; I just don't think any "change" in contemplation here is so wholesale as to turn it into a politics-maximizing site to a degree that would alienate non-politics people. Non-politics people are being estranged from the site through other means, and the politics do not really dominate here.
posted by Miko at 12:09 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


I sure hope he comes back; I always enjoy his contributions.

As above; I have had the great pleasure of meeting griphus once, and thought him (and also many other MeFites in and/or of the same city) a great, intelligent and interesting person who I was very happy to know through MeFi.

Let this be a warning to you, MetaFilter Users: one day - one terrifying and inauspicious day - you may find yourself at a meetup attended by that foul and ancient horror, the quidnunc kid. And the awful consequence of that frightening event - the inevitable, unavoidable conclusion? I will almost certainly LIKE you. In fact: I probably already do. BWAH HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:25 PM on June 8 [8 favorites]


Oh, bullshit. That was a good article and griphus had every reason to be upset. I sure hope he comes back; I always enjoy his contributions.

I don't think it was a good article, framed as it was by an out-of-context quote, but I think it's a good and super-important topic, and it's far from the first FPP on a good topic that's based around an article people have some problems with. I saw some of the early deleted comments too, and there were some fairly shitty things said until the mods did some cleanup. I hope griphus comes back.
posted by zachlipton at 12:34 PM on June 8 [8 favorites]


that foul and ancient horror, the quidnunc kid.

mostly true ;)
posted by lalex at 12:40 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I'm the type that generally prefers a clear and final pre-emptive closure of any organization. online or off, rather than a long slow bleed to death.

Your preference is your preference and that's fine, but (fighting for time to get caught up on the actual bulk of this thread) I will take a moment here to be very, very clear that I could not be more opposed to this line of thinking if I tried.

Something absolutely catastrophic happening that shutters the site is a scenario I am obliged to think about, more often than I would like, but short of that meteor-strike sort of event I am very thoroughly committed to MetaFilter's long haul regardless of whether and how much that includes an ongoing decline in overall activity as the nature of the web and the site's demography changes.

MetaFilter is not a thing that depends on some critical degree of relevance to have value. If in the future it is a smaller, quieter thing than it is today, it will still have tremendous value. It will still be MetaFilter. I find the alternative view basically alien and unthinkable, as a steward of this site and community.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:08 PM on June 8 [46 favorites]


It's difficult to imagine that coming to dominate the site so much as to be offputting.

Not for me. And again, this is just one of those "reasonable people may disagree" things, but as an old-timer here, I have made my peace with MeFi becoming a place for political discussions (both specific and general) but it's not my preference. I come here for the community, to see the neat things on the web that the people in my community find interesting and the things they care about. That has shifted over time and my thinking about that has also shifted but I feel it's useful to be here with gentle pushback against "ways to do politics better" (meaning making assertive changes along the lines of hiring mods or doing a lot of programming behind the scenes to facilitate this at the expense of other things) because the list of "things we can do" is short and the list of "things people would like done" is long.

I personally love the idea of a politics chat that is a little more robust for livebloggy stuff. I am also in favor of more heavily moderated political threads to facilitate this. And whatever mods need to make this less noxious for them. But I don't see decline as always a negative if the people who wind up here mostly like it and if the site mostly likes them. If the site winds up being smaller and less political (or smaller and more political) or smaller and slightly more dull, it will still be where I am.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:33 PM on June 8 [8 favorites]


I mean it seems clear the site will get smaller. The question is what role we think politics does/will play in that and what does that mean for handling politics right now, at a big historical moment that has blown up just about every outlet for journalism, news, and opinion, not just MeFi. For instance, politics dominated dramatically around 9/11 but that was a time of growth and the ultimate impact was different. A lot of people then came for the news, stayed for the community. We are probably not riding that wave any more and it is debatable how determinative politics talk can be.
posted by Miko at 2:08 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


It's difficult to imagine that coming to dominate the site so much as to be offputting.

The site is serving its current user base, y'know, to levels of satisfaction that vary by person.

But the political focus of (and the tenor of political discussion on) the site over the last year has certainly been off-putting to me.

I'm still here, but I've been informally tracking people who have left the site because of it, and there've been quite a few, some of them my friends.

I have also been contacted offsite by an anonymous Mefite who told me to leave the site. No reasons were given, but it was clearly related to US electoral politics. The same person has said similar things to other Mefites. This surprised me; it is new in my experience of Mefi.

So from my perspective it is obvious that the last year's politics have had a corrosive effect on the site. Maybe the gains to other people are enough to offset the costs to me, but there have been costs.
posted by grobstein at 2:24 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


I think that, unfortunately, the last year's politics have had a corrosive effect on a whole lot of things. Mainly in the US, but elsewhere too.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:28 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


And I don't think there's necessarily a positive side to that. Some things just suck and this may be one of them.
(I'm sure that some folks see it differently. I'm not sure I want to know those people.)
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:31 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


> I have also been contacted offsite by an anonymous Mefite who told me to leave the site. No reasons were given, but it was clearly related to US electoral politics. The same person has said similar things to other Mefites.

That's a shitty thing to do, but it's not new; it's traditional for a certain sort of pissed-off buttoner to trash the site everywhere they can and try to get other people pissed off.
posted by languagehat at 3:00 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


so the reality now is how slowly or quickly MetaFilter will fade away

I suppose that's true, in that it's probably true for every web site, and TV show, and everything else that people create. Countries.
posted by bongo_x at 3:02 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Oh, I'd assumed that the person who contacted grobstein was a current user telling him to get off the site because they didn't like grobstein's views.
posted by lalex at 3:02 PM on June 8


That's a shitty thing to do, but it's not new; it's traditional for a certain sort of pissed-off buttoner to trash the site everywhere they can and try to get other people pissed off.

Oh, I'd assumed that the person who contacted grobstein was a current user telling him to get off the site because they didn't like grobstein's views.


It was the latter, as far as I could tell.
posted by grobstein at 3:14 PM on June 8


It was the latter, as far as I could tell.

Eeeeurgh, sorry about that. We can't moderate sites that aren't ours, but if anything like this happens to someone, you are more than welcome to drop us a line about it. Sometimes, if nothing else, it can give us a heads-up to a pattern of behavior that was happening mostly out of public view.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:20 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


> It was the latter, as far as I could tell.

Oh, sorry, I totally misunderstood! Even shittier, then.
posted by languagehat at 5:53 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I am on the of metafites who avoids the US political threads in general for two reasons- a) they're incredibly depressing, and b) I'm not American, have no political expertise, and don't feel I could offer any worthwhile commentary. There's a limit to how many times I could say "Trump sucks, I wish it had been Hillary instead".

I also don't know how to support US mefites. I have no advice to give, no extra support I can offer.
posted by daybeforetheday at 2:45 AM on June 9


This surprised me; it is new in my experience of Mefi.

It's not a new phenomenon and it's definitely not limited to political disagreements.
posted by zarq at 4:05 AM on June 9


Thank you mod team.

I very much appreciate your efforts keeping the threads' contents psychically manageable for the rest of us.
posted by fragmede at 9:16 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


I was thinking, do we need them anymore at all? it's going to be a long 8 years of 'oh no he didn't'. Just ignore and get that news elsewhere.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:29 PM on June 9 [6 favorites]


How? How are they killing the site?

I'm not sure they are. But looking at my stats, I see that I've made 24 comments so far in 2017, and one post. I made 179 comments and 8 posts in 2016. For 2015 those numbers are about 300 and 14. Overall I've made just under 3000 comments and just over 200 posts in my 12 years on the site. I've definitely been feeling that the site has attracted me less as it's gotten more US politics centered, even as my own life has become more US politics centered. But I didn't actually expect the change in my participation to be so quantitatively visible.

It's not the point of MetaFilter to be relevant or appealing to people like me! As zarq said, communities change over time and maybe this one is just changing away from me. But I'll miss it if I lose it completely. It's been a big part of my Internet for a long time.
posted by escabeche at 9:06 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


But is it really politics that caused such changes? Particularly in your posts - going from 14 two years ago to 1 YTD is a dramatic drop. Why wouldn't you continue posting the non-politics topics you're interested in?
posted by Miko at 5:21 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Why wouldn't you continue posting the non-politics topics you're interested in

Right. Part of this conversation feels like the opposite of Yogi Berra's "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
posted by Room 641-A at 5:46 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


*beep*
2300 comments.
New Threadshold in approximately 734 comments.
Bon mot ratio .01866.
Status level: Greenish.
*beep*

*punch-card sorting noises*
posted by petebest at 6:25 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


And it's a weird thing, the enthusiasm curve, because everybody's is personal and complicated but because it's yours its easy to generalize/universalize where you're at as What Is Going On.

Which isn't to say politics stuff isn't affecting anyone or isn't affecting escabeche specifically. It's affecting me for sure, both in ways I'm fairly successfully rallying against and in ways I continue to struggle with. As a mod that's more complicated obviously but I know users are feeling it in a variety of ways. (And part of that is politics-on-MeFi and a lot of it I think is politics-as-reality. Hard to separate those two as well when talking about resulting on-site experiences.)

I've posted more on the front page in the last three months than I have in probably any year of my participation here previously. We're not talking about a ton of posts, but probably a dozen which is a lot for me; it's never been a major aspect of my participation. But I got to thinking about what I like about MeFi, and what I worry about about it under the cloud of all this stuff and reduced overall participation, and I realized that posts on the front page even if I historically haven't made that many are a big part of what I love about this place, so why not just go for it?

So I'm letting myself not worry too much about making the perfect post, and just taking things I like that I see online and making posts out of them. They're not the best posts, my framing isn't as careful as it could be, half the time I have to throw 'em away immediately because someone else beat me to it. But it's low effort and it helps do something that I find huge value in: make the front page a little busier, a little more varied, a little more of a collection of weird/wonderful/interesting stuff on the internet.

And in the process it keeps me engaged. It's a weird little magic trick or tautalogy or I don't even know, but: posting makes me feel good about being here. Feeling good about being here prompts me to post. It's a loop, it's a way of keeping the juices flowing. The best cure I think for feeling disengaged from the site is to just engage. Set aside the worries and the frustrations and the accumulated sense of things that are bugging me and just do the thing that I like and that I appreciate seeing other people do.

This is rambly off-the-clock thoughts, I'm not going anywhere specific with this. But I feel like it can be easy for a sense of fatalism or growing detachment or worry to end up crowding out this fairly simple idea of, as Jessamyn has so often invoked over the years, being the change. I'm not saying don't worry or analyze or strategize about MetaFilter's future or site trends or whatnot, I'm just saying don't fool yourself into thinking that doing that should take priority or primacy over just doing fun things on the site. Because chilling out and having fun here pursuing things you actually like turns out to be a pretty good restorative for the stress and worry of that bigger picture stuff, and it helps push back the tide for others.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:01 AM on June 10 [10 favorites]


If anyone hesitates to post the lighter stuff because they assume everyone has seen it on their social media, keep in mind that not everyone here is active in all the most popular places, and some of us are practically NoSo, so there's still a good chance people haven't seen it yet. And if it's something like puppers or kittehs only big meanies will complain that there are too many cute things all over their social media.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:33 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]


[i]Why wouldn't you continue posting the non-politics topics you're interested in?[/i]

I wonder the same thing too. But it's just a fact; I don't feel like it as much as I used to.

Be the change, yeah, I know. And cortex makes a good point, that it's hard to separate "MeFi has gotten more political" from "The whole world has gotten more political." I have an intuition, maybe a wrong one, that to the extent I want to make x% of my day politics, I want almost x% of my day to be politically useful, and that's not how participating in MetaFilter feels to me. I can see from this thread that it feels and is that way for others.
posted by escabeche at 6:13 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


And cortex makes a good point, that it's hard to separate "MeFi has gotten more political" from "The whole world has gotten more political."

Well, I've spent almost my entire life happily ignoring politics and look where it got me. I used to say the thing I hated the most about George W. Bush was that he made me have pay attention to politics. And then I thought we were OK for a while, we turned a corner.

So yeah, I actively hate politics. It's not at all interesting. But I also feel a lot lately like people are saying "relax, come play a board game" sitting in the living room while the house is on fire. "Can't we talk about something other than the fire?"
posted by bongo_x at 8:32 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


...as opposed to people sitting in the living room and typing on the internet about the fire that's consuming their house, right? I mean, there's no number of comments in a politics megathread that will actually change things.

(Many, many people here are out there organizing, activisting, etc., of course, but that's irrelevant to the analogy.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:38 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Apparently the analogy is not what I thought. I don't care what other people talk about, now or ever, but if they keep asking me why I want to talk about the fire so much I don't know what to say.
posted by bongo_x at 8:43 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I mean I am very tired and my experience is probably very different, and I never post because I'm not the most eloquent person, but I feel like I should say something here.

the political megathreads last year absolutely saved me. they inspired me to go find the Hillary office last summer, which lead to me meeting a group of people I love more than most of my own blood family. now I am with most of those same people on a governor campaign, with actual viable prospects of an entirely new career. I keep a tab open on the threads right next to votebuilder, still, almost a year later. it's my go-to source of information and commentary and, yes, the jokes that keep our spirits up after twelve straight hours of calltime. I don't know what I would do without them.

I am profoundly grateful for the existence of these things, and I like them just as they are, but I would never want to sacrifice anyone else's mental health for them. but I thought the datapoint was worth submitting. these things actively led to at least one person out there organizing, and I think they're beneficial to my team on some level.
posted by dogheart at 8:51 PM on June 10 [21 favorites]


Understood, bongo_x, just finding the weak spot in the analogy. Talk politics (or fire!) all you want.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:59 PM on June 10


I assume [ass/u/me] that MeFi threads are engineered to provide maximum comfort and safety for each and every comment. Each comment being a shining, sumptuously-appointed vehicle that allows commenters and readers alike the silent sophistication of true MeFi excitement.

But, like the land yachts of yesterday, they weren't meant for the overpacked traffic jams and short-hops of today's cosmopocalyptic megathreads.

In other words, megathreads are a problem because the site is specifically written to support a different model of use. Solution: change the code.

Proposition: a "Megathread Subsite", i.e. politics.metafilter.com, that contains the basic functions of login, reading, posting, commenting, (and favorites?), but no live preview or other pre-formatting-per-comment. Really Old School, with the classic theme, of course - we're not monsters. Fast and lean. Problem solved.

Alternately, if the issue is we're just empty headed motormouths, then yeah, maximum comment limit. (Other) Problem solved.
posted by petebest at 6:12 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


As a college teacher I have introduced many young people to MeFi, in part as a great place to dive into certain topics that are handled well here as a way to see what stakes and positions smart people might take on any particular subject (because of what I teach, that means threads about intellectual property issues, cultural appropriation issues, and culture and technology issues). At least a half dozen of those students have joined the site that I know of over the last decade, and a couple are regular contributors here and I get a smile out of recognizing their comments.

Mefi actually provides a rich teaching resource if you know its content well, by the way. As I am often telling students to analyze the discourse *around* a topic like cultural appropriation or media "piracy" or gentrification etc., Mefi provides a great entry point without the awfulness of many other online forums. I think this "meta" use of metafilter (how do intelligent and literate people debate this subject under wel moderated and civil conditions and without relying on reductive polemics and memes?) may provide a utility in the future, actually.

Anyway, they still make young people who like what we have collectively made here, and they still keep turning into older people who know the value of a real online community with real collective engagement and notable levels of civility. This site's greatest resource is the range of knowledge and expertise and passion of its membership.

I think of jazz as a field. It's been "dying" forever, supposedly bleeding young people's interest. Turns out to have been very good for jazz music in other ways. But lately there is an explosion of interest in what fields like organizational management can lean from the study of jazz improvisational dynamics, for example.

Anyway my point is that young people seek community too. We are one of the few refuges from meme culture on the web with any kind of critical mass. I'm with cortex in saying small or large in reach, the exercise is valid and important beyond its importance to many of us personally.
posted by spitbull at 9:04 AM on June 11 [11 favorites]


I'd like the cutoff to be closer to 1500. I am overwhelmed by them, it's impossible to follow as people reply or refer to stuff that's 25 or 250 comments away. I do go in to try to get good links, but it's difficult to participate.

It might make some sense to start a new US Politics/ #potus45 thread daily, especially as things are getting more newsworthy/ intense. Not that a mod should do the task; there are obviously many excellent posters doing already.

Mods, does it help when people flag the junk? It would help me if flagging were more accurate; I know the list of flagging options has been discussed.

For me, Best Practice is to link a comment that you are replying/ referring to. For example, if I want to refer to jessamyn's comment I should link it, and if I want to call out a specific part of the comment, I should link the source when I paste the quote, again using jessamyn's comment as an example: I have made my peace with MeFi becoming a place for political discussions

Pony Suggestion: Make it easier to cite comments within the site. What I do now is open notepad, past in the quote, paste in the comment link, then use those in my comment referring to something somebody said.

And Best Practice is always to be thoughtful, civil, intelligent if possible, not be a jerk, make it easy on the mods, and in the huge threads, especially, work on maximizing one's personal signal:noise ratio. The site is currently sustainable, but moderation is costly, anything that requires a lot more moderation upsets that balance.
posted by theora55 at 12:45 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


In late 2001, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 dominated the site in a similar but obviously smaller way. If US politics were not so volatile, the threads would also be much smaller.
posted by theora55 at 12:48 PM on June 11


I've been having a drink every time someone suggests a metafilter politics subsite, even though that idea has been floated and shot down a ton, and its kept me reasonably sloshed.
posted by agregoli at 1:10 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I don't like links to comments for myself, I don't want to open another window with thousands of comments to read something that could have just been copied and pasted. I don't open most links and just skip by them, and never do if it isn't clearly stated what it links to.
posted by bongo_x at 1:26 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I don't like links to comments for myself, I don't want to open another window with thousands of comments to read something that could have just been copied and pasted.

Then the GraphFi browser extension is going to rock your world the same way it did mine.

I've been having a drink every time someone suggests a metafilter politics subsite, even though that idea has been floated and shot down a ton

And what exactly is your takeaway from that, other than a hangover? If the idea keeps coming up, then it's clearly not settled in the minds of the userbase. If the mods are set against it, let's put a sticky at the top of MeTa somewhere, like "These are the pros and cons of politics.metafilter.com, and here's why we decided not to do it. It is therefore as dead an issue as threaded comments."
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 4:18 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I just wanted to say that MeFi not growing is not something I object to. In fact, that Matt has always eschewed growth-for-growth's-sake (unlike, basically, every other site on the web) is one of the choices that I highly respect Matt for. Not growing is fine.

Shrinking can be problematic, though. Not at first and not for a while, but I strongly believe that there's a network effect at the core of what makes MeFi so useful and enjoyable to its members. I don't know what the threshold would be, but I think that a shrinking membership wouldn't make much of a difference until, seemingly all the sudden, it does. And then MeFi would quickly became nearly dormant. I think we probably want to put off that day as long as possible.

So my concern is finding ways to, basically, keep the site going along about the way it has been for the last few years. Not really growing, not shrinking rapidly, but in many ways relatively stable. And my concern is that this new politics-centric version of MeFi will destabilize this. And, as I wrote, in the short term it might change things in good ways -- increasing the rate of new memberships, increasing participation, etc. But I am in the camp that strongly believes, after years of observation and consideration, that a big part of why MeFi works is its particular balance and type of content and discussion. I think that were this to change in some significant way, it would disrupt this long-standing felicitous mix. And I think this not just in terms of member experience, how the front page "feels", and other intangibles, but also in terms of very practical things, such as how the modding philosophy and the mod team have been unusually successful -- lauded industry-wide as exceptionally good -- and that the politics stuff tilts things in directions that makes this style of modding much more difficult and thus, again, is destabilizing to the whole of what is working.

Early on, the 9/11 thread made it clear how essential this sort of engagement is to MeFi. But it's never before been so extreme or extended into, well, a year or more. I think we should think carefully, and discuss as a community, how we both accommodate the fact that the world has changed around us and these threads meet a need and are very useful, while also trying to avoid destabilizing a site and community that works.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:42 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


This is just a small pet peeve, and not the source of the problem, but it happens mostly in the election threads; It isn't necessary to preface "In the interest of not abusing the edit window I'm adding this extra thought I had to my previous comment". You can just say another thing, nobody is reading and thinking "what the hell, you just said something and now you're saying an additional thing?!"
posted by bongo_x at 2:31 PM on June 12 [11 favorites]


Metafilter: what the hell, you just said something and now you're saying an additional thing?!
posted by theora55 at 12:08 PM on June 13 [5 favorites]


I agree that growth for growth's sake is an empty notion, but you're right - all organizations are always either growing or shrinking. Stability is an illusion that occurs when growth and attrition (in rates and in raw numbers) are in balance. So, to support the goal of relatively stable network size and activity levels and some maintenance of community identity and community memory, the questions would be: what are the best ways to attract the kinds of new participants who will sustain involvement when this political cycle is past, and how to slow attrition during this political cycle.
posted by Miko at 3:25 PM on June 13 [2 favorites]


I'd like to suggest that people try a bit harder not to spread US politics across into other threads. I realize it is all on Americans minds and a I obsessively follow the megathreads but I see references to Trump popping up in threads that have nothing to do with politics. I think I noticed the latest in some animal thread. It makes it hard for those who are trying to distract from the election to want to post fun topics as it is hard to stop other people from then latching onto that to continue the discussion or express their anger at Trump.
posted by kanata at 9:43 AM on June 15 [7 favorites]


I suggest a 5$ off coupon.
posted by clavdivs at 2:03 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


How 'bout green stamps? You know, 3 stamps for an FPP, 1 stamp for a comment, 2 stamps for a useful AskMe answer.

Save 'em up and redeem for valuable prizes!
posted by Miko at 8:17 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Kanata, that's what's called a "dead goat" around here, because it feels like you have to step over that dead, smelly goat of a political comment to move on with the actual topic of the thread.

I flag em and move on, personally. The doom and gloom doesn't have to be EVERYWHERE.
posted by disclaimer at 4:16 AM on June 16


Yeah, if there's any doubt: go ahead and flag wandering into random Thread Not About US Politics to dump in a "well you know what else I'm thinking about? US politics!" in one or another needless deraily form. I delete most of 'em when I see 'em.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:22 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


The "best good bad movies" threads reminds me of the MeFi we used to have before Lord Dampnut. I always read the political threads and do post/kvetch in them but the megathreads are affecting this community and the quality of conversation. I don't blame anyone here, I blame Mandarin Mussolini for affecting the quality of my life.
posted by Ber at 2:01 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


I just sidebarred that, hooray bad movies!
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:33 PM on June 20


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