potus45 spinoff threads and "rehashing/retreading" November 20, 2017 10:17 AM   Subscribe

In potus45 threads, moderators seem to be ratcheting up their opposition to discussing topics that have been previously discussed, even if those topics are evolving, and even when participants in those discussions find the continued discussion valuable. Previous MeTas seemed to lean in the direction of spinoff threads for certain aspects of US politics, and folks are asking for a spinoff thread now for the Al Franken situation, but the mods seem to be against that, based on the idea that we're rehashing/retreading previous discussions. This same logic has been applied to other sub-topics in the past, e.g. anything that touches on the 2016 primaries, and it makes a certain amount of sense. Still, I find it unsatisfying when these discussions are closed off when (a) the underlying story is evolving, (b) other community members are making compelling points, and (c) the discussion isn't terribly shouty/fighty -- criteria I think all apply to the discussion so far re: Franken. What say you, MeFites?

In the current potus45 longboat, there's been some tension regarding how talk about the the Al Franken situation is crowding out other discussions. Some have suggested opening a new thread, but cortex responded:
[I'm gonna suggest instead that we try just not talking more about Franken until there's something new and substantial to talk about. There's been a bunch of conversation about him and that situation in this and the previous catch-all thread, and not much has happened since; a new thread to duplicate that conversation seems unnecessary and continuing to duplicate/rehash it in here seems likewise. This is a line of thinking that applies more broadly than to just the Franken thing and this may be something for further MetaTalk discussion soon, but in any case, yes: I think the solution to endless retreading of this fairly static Franken situation filling up the thread can just be to drop it for now and let the thread be quiet if things are relatively slow out there at the moment.]
zarq then noted that there is actually breaking news on the Franken front. Eyebrows McGee responded:
[The allegation has been noted. If you have anything new to say beyond 1) I am disappointed in Franken 2) men are terrible 3) he should resign 4) he should not resign 5) right-wing media is terrible 6) we have to be better than Republicans 7) no we don't that's unilateral disarmament, you may say it, otherwise retreading the same seven points for another 400 comments is a no.]
So, I get that the mods have limited resources, a big US Holiday is coming up, etc. so I understand if there's resistance to spinning off threads that could create more heat than light. At the same time, I dislike the notion that everything compelling and useful that can be said about the topic has already been said, particularly given that the allegations just surfaced four days ago. There are other Frankens out there, and the #metoo movement has created a situation where any allegations that are hanging out there as open secrets are just a single interview or tweet away from becoming front-page news. In this situation, isn't it useful for us to have a place, separate from the ongoing daily potus45ery, where we can discuss what all of this means, how we should respond as citizens, and how it affects the political landscape?

Speaking more generally, I find the idea of throwing a rehashing/retreading/relitigating flag every time a discussion that resembles a previous discussion rather stifling. I understand the moratorium on 2016 primary derails -- I don't necessarily agree that every time the topic comes up it needs to be killed with fire, but given limited staffing resources, I want the mods to do what's best for the site. At the same time, it seems like so many moderator interventions about new topics raise the idea that we've discussed something similar before, and that people should go read those old threads if they want their fill of that topic. Of course nobody's going to do that -- we've already accepted that the potus45 threads are not like other threads, in that it's more about the interaction with other members discussing current events than it is about the FPP content or any particular story/link on the web. But somehow if a topic comes up twice, or a similar topic comes up to one that's been discussed before, we're not supposed to discuss it again?

I understand the mods need to keep things manageable. I don't fault them for having a hair trigger when things look like they're going to spiral. But what's going on right now with #metoo is going to deserve its own chapter in US history books, and how it's affecting politics is a significant part of that. Asking us to avoid discussing a major aspect of that story on the grounds that we've talked about it for a few days seems like a major escalation of the status quo ante moderation policy for megathreads, as does asking people not to do a spinoff thread.

This topic is important. Not every important topic needs a thread on MetaFilter, but doesn't this one rise to the level of something we as a community can talk about and maybe learn something along the way?
posted by tonycpsu to Etiquette/Policy at 10:17 AM (281 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

Heya, I want to open up with a few specific points on this and honestly this is more a collection of thoughts that have been brewing for me than any kind of pointed response to this MetaTalk. But this is the most appropriate place for it at the moment and it's tied up with this situation and subject.

1. I've been basically expecting a MetaTalk somewhere along this or similar lines to come along at some point, because it's been such an intense last little while in the world and on the site and some of the big picture stuff tied into this needs addressing. The whole mod team had an actual all-hands yesterday, which is rare for us because ugh meetings, to talk about big picture stuff in more detail together and do some planning for the near future as far as dealing with catch-all threads, US politics stuff, and the recent cresting wave of #metoo and sexual assualt and misconduct revelations. That's something we planned yesterday to dig in on in MetaTalk more next week after the holiday weekend is over and we've all had time to develop further some of the stuff we talked about as a group.

2. I think the Franken stuff is worth talking about, and I don't in the end have overwhelming feelings about the Franken-thread-or-not thing itself. I want to state that clearly because the friction about it is really for me just an emergent property of the bigger picture stuff: how political catch-all threads are going on MetaFilter, how to deal with the balance of letting folks talk about the wave of sexual assault revelations without making the front page Rapist News Central. Ultimately, I don't care a ton about whether we have a dedicated Franken thread and if that's the way folks feel strongly about it going, I'll greenlight it and so be it. I kinda despair at the idea of arguing about that specific point further.

3. I do think, and this is the big picture thing, that the general dilemma doesn't go away either way there, and my resistence to kicking open a new thread for Franken isn't about Franken but about the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Sexual assault is serious and worth talking about. It's also awful to sit through and moderate again and again and again. And we've had to do a ton of that recently. Like, off the top of my head, this isn't a complete list, just literally the recent busy difficult threads about sexual assault that I can think of offhand: sexual assault, sexual assault, sexual assault, sexual assault, sexual assault, sexual assault, sexual assault, sexual assault.

Ultimately if people need, need, to add another one to that list, then fine. I was talking with taz this morning about the unusual tack of kicking open an explicitly "let's talk about all of 'em here" thread on the blue on the overall subject, to have a thread where no particular new revelation would be perceived as stepping on the notional "this one dude" topic. I don't love that but it may be the thing we end up needing to do.

But my reservations are not about the propriety or righteousness or usefulness of discussing this stuff, it's about the sheer fucking weight on the mods of having to facilitate that over and over again, lately in parallel across multiple threads; and it's about the weight on the membership and readership of that being a constant part of what visiting the front page means. It sucks. It sucks in the context of sexaul assault being an awful and important thing, but it does in fact really suck.

4. Shit's hard everywhere right now, and so this isn't really only about sexual assault stuff. And to that end I want to acknowledge that it sucks that important, difficult stuff ends up vying for limited attention and limited emotional resources. That's a big part of what my recent talk about MetaFilter in a dark timeline was about. This isn't an issue of casual compromise, of flipping a coin to settle a low-stakes disagreement.

So my feelings about this are not "we've talked about sexual assault, it's done now" or for that matter "we've talked about politics, it's all hashed out" or so on. My feeling is that there is a limit on what we can manage. Not limit as in "it only matters so much", but limit as in "things under too much stress break and fail". The overwhelming importance of a topic—and I know all this shit is variously deeply important to people—cannot push us to ignore the cost of that discussion, the accumulation of too much stress on the system, or things will just break irreparably at some point. And that creates an awful conflict, between things being genuinely important and at the same time us needing folks to not drown themselves and each other and the mods and the community as a whole in the weight of that importance.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:18 AM on November 20 [72 favorites]


I have no useful thoughts on the big picture thing, but for what it's worth I agree with the desirability of a dedicated Franken thread. It's not just one more sexual assault incident.
posted by languagehat at 10:30 AM on November 20 [3 favorites]


Sounds like we need just one big thread where people can go scream their heads off, and that way the people who don't need it (and or, find it more upsetting instead of less) can still participate in the community.
posted by Melismata at 10:36 AM on November 20


I would be in favor of a Franken thread, but in general....

I think like we have the giant endless politics thread, we really need to have a giant endless sexual assault thread for all the allegations coming out every 5 minutes about all the men, even though in some respects with certain people in politics there is going to be overlap. It's just too big to have separate threads for anyone short of the big 3-4-5/however many (Weinstein/Spacey/Louis/Franken/Moore) after a while. And lord knows We Will Have Mo(o)re of them.

Sucks for the mods, but none of this is ever going to get less insane at this point and I can't think of a way to make it not suck for them.

(Isn't the "scream your heads off" thread in Metatalk somewhere already?)
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:42 AM on November 20 [17 favorites]


I think like we have the giant endless politics thread, we really need to have a giant endless sexual assault thread for all the allegations coming out every 5 minutes about all the men, even though in some respects with certain people in politics there is going to be overlap.

Combining threads so that the discussion then includes women, men and trans victims of sexual harassment and/or assault would be a recipe for disaster in which people would drive each other off the site by attacking them and downplaying their lived experiences. There's more than enough silencing going on in the individual threads already. We do not need to introduce an environment where people can freely create false equivalences as an excuse to dismiss others.
posted by zarq at 10:45 AM on November 20 [20 favorites]


I agree that a catchall thread should be considered, even though the idea of it kind of grosses me out. The pace of the news flow is not slowing down, and I think that the front page is getting super-rapey.

Just in the last 24 hours of my Twitter I've seen discussion of: Franken, Wes Goodman, Russell Simmons/Brett Ratner, Bill Clinton, George HW Bush, Murray Miller, and probably more that aren't coming to me right this second.

These are all important stories but we really can't have separate posts for all of them. Maybe one for allegations against people in politics and one for...everyone else? I just don't know.
posted by lalex at 10:48 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]


I'd like to move the sexual assault news and discussion out of the Potus45 threads. No one thread can handle all things Trump and all things #metoo.
posted by diogenes at 10:49 AM on November 20 [13 favorites]


The "scream your heads off" threads in MeTA, informally known as "What the Fucking Fuck", are up to five now. The most recent was launched on the 25th last month, so we'll have to have another one shortly. It might be good housekeeping practice for the US politics megathreads to include links to these in MeTa.
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:50 AM on November 20 [8 favorites]


I think like we have the giant endless politics thread, we really need to have a giant endless sexual assault thread for all the allegations coming out every 5 minutes about all the men

Replace Mefi with a Slack workspace
posted by beerperson at 10:51 AM on November 20 [5 favorites]


Please feel free to skip over this if it's too far outside the discussion, but...

...for those people who feel the need to emote and discuss in ways that are a little too chatty for the blue but where chat doesn't suffice, zarq created politicsfilter.slack.com. We never really got it off the ground and it's pretty dead in there right now but I've been keeping an eye on it and would be happy to participate if folks wanted to bring any part of the political discussion over there.
posted by mosst at 11:03 AM on November 20 [4 favorites]


Ooops. And here's the invite code (I'm not very good at slack).
posted by mosst at 11:05 AM on November 20 [2 favorites]


chat.metafilter.com is also still a thing
posted by Existential Dread at 11:05 AM on November 20 [6 favorites]


I would also ask you to remember that while many MeFites want more conversation and more light shone on this, there are also many members of MetaFilter -- mostly women, mostly survivors of sexual assault -- who are exhausted by it, triggered by it, and let us know they have to stop visiting MetaFilter because it's all-sexual-assault, all-the-time. Some days there are half a dozen sexual assault threads on the front page. So while I understand that not having a thread about this or that particular sexual harassment/assault allegation feels silencing, please understand that HAVING them all is also silencing. Especially if you have not personally experienced sexual harassment or assault, please think twice about whether posting another thread about sexual harassment is helping victim's voices be heard, or silencing them by making our community unsafe for our members who have been victims.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:06 AM on November 20 [90 favorites]


chat.metafilter.com is also still a thing

It's also an unmodded free-for-all.
posted by zarq at 11:06 AM on November 20 [5 favorites]


It's also an unmodded free-for-all.

My understanding is that we can (and have, although not for a while) requested mod intervention when necessary. I recall a situation in the murky past of five years ago when a harasser was booted. Nowadays it's mostly quiet regulars hanging out.
posted by Existential Dread at 11:12 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]


exhausted by it, triggered by it, and let us know they have to stop visiting MetaFilter because it's all-sexual-assault, all-the-time

Was thinking this same thing. These conversations are necessary but toxic, much like the potus45 conversations are necessary but also toxic in their own way, and if they must exist (and I think yes, they must exist) I would like to see them rounded up into as few threads as possible. There's always going to be overlap between the politics and sexual assault conversations (as long we keep electing humans with dicks, at least) but maybe we can acknowledge the thing in thread A and ask that extended conversation about the other side of it be taken to thread B.

It's still a burden on the mods of course. I don't know how to remedy that, besides donating to support the site in the hopes that at least some of that goes into a bourbon-or-ice-cream-or-chair-massages-or-whatever-helps fund. I'll commit to keeping my contributions as minimally modworthy as I can at least. If there's more we can do, I hope the mod team will let us know.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 11:18 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]


My understanding is that we can (and have, although not for a while) requested mod intervention when necessary. I recall a situation in the murky past of five years ago when a harasser was booted. Nowadays it's mostly quiet regulars hanging out.

It's not just harassment. I know several people who avoid chat because while they were there, a small number of regulars sounded like men's rights activists. Has that changed?

--

Sexual harassment and assault are not generally subjects that lend themselves to respectful conversations in unmonitored spaces, here and elsewhere. The victims in the articles that are linked on mefi tend to have their motives questioned or be targeted with shaming language. A similar, silencing dynamic to what happens in our culture as a whole. It happens on Metafilter even when the mods are active.

When people who have had dismissive, victim-blaming comments deleted in a sexual harassment thread move those conversations to Chat, that's either going to be more work for the mods or yet another space on Mefi where survivors are made to feel unwelcome. Not an ideal scenario.
posted by zarq at 11:22 AM on November 20 [3 favorites]


I would also ask you to remember that while many MeFites want more conversation and more light shone on this, there are also many members of MetaFilter -- mostly women, mostly survivors of sexual assault -- who are exhausted by it, triggered by it, and let us know they have to stop visiting MetaFilter because it's all-sexual-assault, all-the-time.

This x1000.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:24 AM on November 20 [8 favorites]


I would also ask you to remember that while many MeFites want more conversation and more light shone on this, there are also many members of MetaFilter -- mostly women, mostly survivors of sexual assault -- who are exhausted by it, triggered by it, and let us know they have to stop visiting MetaFilter because it's all-sexual-assault, all-the-time. Some days there are half a dozen sexual assault threads on the front page So while I understand that not having a thread about this or that particular sexual harassment/assault allegation feels silencing, please understand that HAVING them all is also silencing.

Actually, it sounds like this is a very good argument in favor of a dedicated sexual-allegations thread, to corral all the discussion in one single place. So those who want to avoid those discussions have only one definite thread to avoid as opposed to umpty-squillion "maybe" bombs throughout different threads.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:27 AM on November 20 [21 favorites]


The world might be so awful for so long that it's time to really consider the ability to hide things on the front page, either by a button like politics (which thank you so much, not seeing those is why I can be here) or with the ability to 'remove from front page' or something like that.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 11:34 AM on November 20 [7 favorites]


My MeFi - "My MeFi is a space to filter the front page to those posts you find most interesting. You can get started by visiting your My MeFi preferences and choosing your favorite MetaFilter tags."

You can choose tags to positively filter (only show posts with these tags) and tags to negatively filter (never show posts with these tags). My Mefi is a native part of MetaFilter.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:36 AM on November 20 [11 favorites]


I also don't know how to square my desire for maybe a longboat sexual assault thread with my knowledge of the culture here and more broadly around discussing anything that isn't a man assaulting a woman. I think that can be solved by Mefites just being better and more considerate to victim profiles that don't match their own/the dominant cultural narrative, but that would take a lot of time and hurt feelings to actually get there. I don't know how to solve that problem on Metafilter without somehow attacking the larger cultural problem as well.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 11:37 AM on November 20 [5 favorites]


I suggested MyMefi last time this came up and people said it was insufficient. If mods are getting mails that people aren't coming here anymore, even with MyMefi (and an effort to tag properly so it works right), then it's not enough of a solution. We've already opened the door with hiding politics and I can say personally that's been super useful for me. I can see how something similar would be helpful for survivors having a rough time with the onslaught.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 11:39 AM on November 20 [3 favorites]


I would also ask you to remember that while many MeFites want more conversation and more light shone on this, there are also many members of MetaFilter -- mostly women, mostly survivors of sexual assault --

For me at least it's also just not about being triggered or being exhausted by it it's about feeling like my response to the actual discussion happening in the larger catch-all political thread is limited. It's a complex and yes as a woman who has had multiple personal experiences it's just extra to sort through and put into words. I've found myself getting super frustrated by feeling I can't comment because of the concern of derailing the discussion too far out of the purpose of the actual thread. Or even causing and more heated discussion that derails the thread too much.

Granted this frustration may be largely me seeing something that's not there but for the sake of general civility and keeping the conversation on the general track of 'politics' I don't bother. And now that's led me to bothering less with the main politics thread just so my blood pressure stays down.

I'm just one voice and whatever is decided is decided. I just likely won't be going to the catch-all thread if it's POTUS politics catchall AND all of the what should the Dems do about sexual assault and Franken just because I don't have the energy to muddle through both at the same time.
posted by Jalliah at 11:39 AM on November 20 [4 favorites]


I'll note that one of several things we talked about as a team during our meeting yesterday was the possibility of revisiting and generalizing My MeFi as a default front page function. The vanilla front page in that scenario would still be exactly as is, but we would signpost the filtering stuff more clearly and not require users to navigate to or bookmark a separate tab to use it once its enabled.

We haven't had a chance to look closely at the implementation details on that yet, and there are caveats not least being that tagging is a porous and inconsistent filtering method, but given that the US Politics widget has worked well for a lot of people, this might be a good relatively low-cost way to generalize the functionality for folks.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:44 AM on November 20 [16 favorites]


The flip side of which is that that would not in my mind mean an all-clear for unrestrained posting about sexual assault, etc. I think the fundamental question of how the default front page of MetaFilter feels for members and readers in general is a major issue regardless of what we can do to help individual folks tailor it some to their personal needs.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:47 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]


Some days there are half a dozen sexual assault threads on the front page

I've considered, but desisted, from adding more of these kind of posts as Parliament here in the UK continues to accumulate assault reports (summary from last week which is probably way out of date by now). The front page is oft grim for several posts at a time, without it being relentlessly grim all the way down plus scrolling.
posted by Wordshore at 11:51 AM on November 20


I have actually kind of been thinking about this - like, this is an unprecedented time where sexual assault allegations are actually being listened to, and there are some of us, especially female sexual assault survivors, who are kind of all talking to each other about this in multiple threads, like it’s heavy but it’s also so exciting because we don’t know how long this moment will last before it gets shut down as too damaging to men? But also if we have to have a new thread for every powerful man with sexual assault allegations it’s like having to have a new thread for every time Trump fucks up, which is why Potus45 got started in the first place.

At the same time, the continuation threads get very...like they definitely spin into having their own culture and self moderation and history, and sometimes I think even mods aren’t really aware of like, what was said 4 accusations ago or whatever, because of the nature of how modding works, and I think because of the knowledge required those megathreads become harder to moderate because of having to keep track of the minutiae of thread history. But also, the problem is probably equally when there are five sexual assault threads concurrent and conversation is kind of intra-threaded?

But also, the thing is, the reason the most recent Franken allegations and the Moore fuckery intersection and any other allegations against actual politicians are so fraught is because politics matters so much under Potus45 that we are for many of us on survival situations, and so not discussing them in the politics thread or the political implications is leaving out a lot of the context. But that context also makes it hard to discuss sensitively.

Like, as a survivor, I am honestly reflexively grumpy to anyone who supports keeping a harasser in power, because I fear the end of this movement and a return to the status quo. At the same time, people are reflexively grumpy at people suggesting “burn it all down” when the US is already on fire.

I don’t really have a good solution, I guess. I do support it being discussed each and every time, but I don’t know the best way where or how. There are definitely going to be more of them.
posted by corb at 11:55 AM on November 20 [11 favorites]


I've been really impressed by the male survivors and non-binary survivors too, wading into these threads and being part of the conversation. I think it's important we keep viewing this as someone that doesn't just affect women because that will also be instructive in how we deal with this.

I honestly thought we weren't discussing Franken because it all went into the politics thread, fwiw. Not that I have to know everything, but just reinforcing what the mod team and membership seems to know broadly - it's all too muddled right now and it probably won't get easier.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 12:06 PM on November 20 [7 favorites]


I want to say something but I also don't really know what to say except that I wish I could hug this entire community. Thanks to the mods and everyone here for making this place worth fighting for. I've always found MetaFilter to be a safe, interesting and informative space and it only works because of the community. All of our posts, comments, and participation. Keep on MetaFilter. Keep on.

*hugs*
posted by Fizz at 12:08 PM on November 20 [7 favorites]


I don’t really have a good solution, I guess. I do support it being discussed each and every time, but I don’t know the best way where or how. There are definitely going to be more of them.

Male survivor here. I also don't have a good solution, and I also understand / support other people discussing these things each and every time. I don't know that those discussions necessarily need to happen on the blue.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:11 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


It's not just harassment. I know several people who avoid chat because while they were there, a small number of regulars sounded like men's rights activists. Has that changed?

I'm not a longtimer on chat, but I have never had an interaction (or witnessed an interaction) that was at all uncomfortable for me.*

*I am not a men's rights activist.
posted by slipthought at 12:16 PM on November 20


Yes, I have this problem:
...my response to the actual discussion happening in the larger catch-all political thread is limited. It's a complex and yes as a woman who has had multiple personal experiences it's just extra to sort through and put into words. I've found myself getting super frustrated by feeling I can't comment because of the concern of derailing the discussion too far out of the purpose of the actual thread. Or even causing and more heated discussion that derails the thread too much.

And this is frustrating. I really want to talk about it because I want to understand it [edit: I kind of mean bear it; I think I understand it] and discussing helps. For instance: I keep arguing that Franken needs to resign and favoriting everyone who says that. But the arguments to the contrary--that we need to let the ethics probe play out--have been compelling and helpful. I still would rather he go so that I could get on with grieving for who I thought he was, but I really appreciate and am comforted by the careful and sensitive arguments people are making about other ways it might go down. And I don't know where else to look for this thing that I have become dependent on: smart, quiet, respectful, kind, decent discourse about stuff that is happening that is devastatingly, heartbreakingly awful.

Granted this frustration may be largely me seeing something that's not there-
It's definitely there!

-but for the sake of general civility and keeping the conversation on the general track of 'politics' I don't bother. And now that's led me to bothering less with the main politics thread just so my blood pressure stays down.

I get a dreadful feeling whenever I click a link without checking it and it's a Facebook link and suddenly I'm staring at my Facebook feed. I could take or leave Facebook pre-trump; post trump I had to dump a bunch of people who posted bullshit, and then it was fine, if insipid. Post #MeToo it's become terrifying. I don't even want to driveby glance at Facebook. I can certainly see how people would get a similar kind of feeling from seeing multiple sexual assault threads on Metafilter all the time. I think a way to filter it out and not wreck the site for people would be wonderful.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:28 PM on November 20 [6 favorites]


A handful of random thoughts:

- Given the inconsistencies of tags, would mods be OK adding basic ones (politics, potus45 and sexualassault come to mind from this thread) related posts without those tags, when appropriate to help people filter the site?

- To make the site "less heavy" (in tone/spirit), is it feasible/ reasonable that such "heavy" posts get auto-hidden, with a quick "show all" toggle under the current "dark/light mode" toggle? Or a three-link section:

[ hide some | show all ]
[ manage preferences ]

(the bold text to indicate how the option is toggled)

-- toggling "hide some" would automatically add politics, potus45 and sexualassault tags to the My MeFi exclusion list, if not already added, and refresh/reload the front page
-- toggling "show all" could (temporarily) disable My MeFi exclusions
-- "manage preferences" would take the logged in user directly to My MeFi Preferences

-- ALSO: non-logged in users would not see politics, potus45 and sexualassault or any other threads with tags deemed "heavy" by default, with a banner at the top of the page saying "MetaFilter (now) filters the front page by default for users who have not logged in, hiding politics, potus45 and sexualassault tagged threads. Click here to display any threads with these tags, or register to manage which threads you see and hide."

None of this addressed the moderator's work-load and stress-load. If that is (part of) "too much stress on the system" that cortex mentioned, it is definitely good to discuss what options would make life better for the mods, who make our lives better on MetaFilter.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:36 PM on November 20 [4 favorites]


There have been a few times, including recently, where I've asked the mods for a higher bar for sexual assault posts. I appreciate their receptivity and the obvious thought they've put into the conversation. My Mefi isn't a good solution for me because I don't want to miss cogent, serious, interesting discussions of sexual assault or harassment. What I want to miss is the single link "Here's a thing for men to do!" or "This person is also bad!" or "Here's a clever metaphor for consent!" or "This is a shitty thing about sexual assault!" kinds of posts which could go very well in extant sexual harassment threads. I don't think they generate particularly useful or interesting discussion, they generally aren't of the "this is interesting!" genre of links, and instead they raise the ambient temperature of the "sexual misconduct" bathwater we get to swim in and help exhaust an already exhausted group of people.

I really appreciate the corralling of sexual assault links and conversations into a few places on the site. I think it does improve the conversation when people have a chance to catch their breath, and while My Mefi is a great and incredibly useful tool, for me at least it's sort of too blunt for how I engage with the site.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:39 PM on November 20 [19 favorites]


I'll note that one of several things we talked about as a team during our meeting yesterday was the possibility of revisiting and generalizing My MeFi as a default front page function.

Quite some time ago I bookmarked MyMeFi as my default landing page after choosing a ton of tags to filter out. On the whole, it improved my experience. While other people's mileage may vary, I can recommend it myself.

Then 2016 happened. With politics too important to pass over, I tend to click on "Home" or "My Comments" almost as soon as I've finished scanning "MyMeFi" to see what breaking news I may have missed.
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:03 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


Considering that the #potus45 tag and the practice of keeping ONE catch-all thread until it becomes too big and unwieldy has been a moderate success, I think a #metoo tag doing the same for all the sexual abuse news may not be the best way to deal with it but it's definitely not the worst. Why can't Weinstein, Spacey, Moore, Franken and the next 10 offenders share a post?
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:15 PM on November 20 [3 favorites]


Why can't Weinstein, Spacey, Moore, Franken and the next 10 offenders share a post?

For reasons people have outlined.

Talking about Weinstein is categorically different, for some people, from talking about Spacey. Different cultural contexts, etc. I'm not saying I know what the solution is, but I think I at least understand the arguments. I really feel what Eyebrows is saying. There are many vocal people who like these threads and find them useful, necessary, and constructive. There are others who find them oppressive, difficult, problematic or otherwise not a good fit for MeFi culture as they see it. Neither of these groups are wrong.

Mods have to make difficult decisions about how to support both groups of people--nominally all MeFi "constituents"-- have the MetaFilter experience that they want. Or, alternately, let people know "Hey the way you want MeFi to be isn't actually how it's going to be" People who want the front page to include a lot of today's news about US politics are finding themselves restricted to one megathread. This helps many people and hinders others. The same might work for sexual assault threads, possibly. Or putting them in a "higher bar" sort of category and gently pushing back on Yet Another Sexual Assault thread.

I am excited about what I see as a tipping point in the US, where victims are getting listened to and where abusers are getting in really serious trouble (in some cases) and, of course, the edge cases where that doesn't happen, and why. At the same time, MetaFilter doesn't have to be the one place on the internet where those discussions take place. It's great that people want to talk about those things here, but a few boundaries on how those discussions should take place on a broad-based international site would not be out of line.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:28 PM on November 20 [33 favorites]


To make the site "less heavy" (in tone/spirit), is it feasible/ reasonable that such "heavy" posts get auto-hidden, with a quick "show all" toggle under the current "dark/light mode" toggle? Or a three-link section:

...

ALSO: non-logged in users would not see politics, potus45 and sexualassault or any other threads with tags deemed "heavy" by default, with a banner at the top of the page saying "MetaFilter (now) filters the front page by default for users who have not logged in, hiding politics, potus45 and sexualassault tagged threads. Click here to display any threads with these tags, or register to manage which threads you see and hide."


I don't like it when the social media sites go and reorganize my feeds/pages, but I think I'd support a change in this direction for MetaFilter with the caveat that I think the little sidebar box(es) should stay. Maybe they could be collapsed by default?

FWIW, I'm speaking as someone who does participate in those threads.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:41 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


I realize the NewsFilter term has been used pejoratively in the past, but would the various technical and “cultural” (in the MeFi front-page sense) problems be handled by a NewsFilter subsite, giving a place for the timely, heavy discussions as well as keeping the front page of the Blue from being inundated?

I also know this has been rejected before by the powers that be for various reasons, but maybe a slow roll out a la Fanfare with the politics megathreads and other “heavy” news items? It seems like that would save having to kitbash a tags-driven solution on the Blue.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:50 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


Just speaking for myself here -- I really do not relish the idea of making anything like a feed/sidebar for rape posts, or setting the expectation going forward that we'll need to set up a whole parallel part of the site for rolling catch-all threads on abuse/misogyny/sexual assault/etc.

For one thing, we don't do subreddits or single-topic subcommunities here, and I think that's an important aspect of the site -- the mix of topics on the front page, the mixed community of people it draws in. We're a general-interest community site. The potus45 threads were a stopgap temporary measure. They've served a purpose, but IMO they're not a good model for how the site should be, and the development of a subculture in there has gone against what I think of as good longterm Mefi practice. This is part of what we as mods have been talking about.

For another thing, I think it's not good for people to immerse themselves in this stuff exclusively. I know we have folks who really want to talk about this stuff, and I'm very glad people are finding conversations here useful. But for some people there's a kind of self-pressure of "I'm not allowed to look away", like you have to digest and engage fully with every important and horrible piece of news or else you're shirking your responsibility to justice. It's a kind of obsessive tendency that's encouraged by our current information ecosystem of filters, push notifications, publications competing to be shared on social media. That self-imposed pressure to hook up an IV drip of everything horrible makes for bad self-care decisions -- it's bad for people's mental health -- and I don't want us to enable it by building new architecture for it.

Taking breaks from this stuff is good for individuals, and having gaps between heavy discussions is good for the site.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:56 PM on November 20 [54 favorites]


Quite some time ago I bookmarked MyMeFi as my default landing page after choosing a ton of tags to filter out.

I'm a little disappointed if people are starting to talk about MeFi in the way they defend Reddit.

I do like the idea of default My Mefi-style filtering, especially if mods could assign additional sticky tags when the poster doesn't. Granted, that will at some point become something else to argue about.

Really, I think there's a split coming about what people want in a MetaFilter. I enjoy the substantial discussion. Lots of people want to discover fun stuff and don't want a front page covered by doom and outrage. Maybe it's time for a subsite just for lighthearted stuff, a return to "best of the web"? (This is a reverse of the PoliticsFilter subsite idea)

That's problem 1. Problem 2 is mod resources. I think we can all agree that personal hand moderation has made MeFi what it is, but the economics don't scale to the volume lately.
posted by ctmf at 1:58 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


Maybe a queue for front page posts and not only MetaTalk?
posted by agregoli at 2:01 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


I'm a little disappointed if people are starting to talk about MeFi in the way they defend Reddit.

I was going to agree in part, but then I realize some people rarely go beyond the blue, or the green, and that could also be seen as enjoying only parts of the site. I also recognize that people have limited time to read and bandwidth to manage stressors, and that different people find different things appealing, interesting enjoyable, annoying and triggering.

To that end, I really appreciate that MetaFilter allows people to filter the site to their preferences.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:11 PM on November 20 [5 favorites]


I just posted about Charlie Rose in the main politics thread; no hard feelings if it's not the place at the moment. I really appreciate all the work the mods do in keeping the philosophy of the site in mind and their willingness to talk out this hard stuff in this hard time. Hugs to anyone that needs/wants 'em.
posted by lauranesson at 2:12 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


Maybe a queue for front page posts and not only MetaTalk?

no, no, no, please do not do this
posted by lalex at 2:16 PM on November 20 [17 favorites]

I'm not a longtimer on chat, but I have never had an interaction (or witnessed an interaction) that was at all uncomfortable for me.*

*I am not a men's rights activist.
I don't think that I'm one of the people zarq was talking about, but I did run into some men's rights stuff on chat a while back, and I did back away from going to chat because of it. I don't remember who it was, and I don't think it was anything beyond the pale, but it was just kind of a bummer that made the place seem like not a lot of fun. I'm not sure there's anything to be done about that, though.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:19 PM on November 20 [4 favorites]


Why not, lalex? I was thinking it would give the mods time to space out posts that give them trouble. Of course, its one more thing for them to DO, is the only problem I see with it. No one will die if their post doesn't go live immediately.
posted by agregoli at 2:21 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


One idea that comes to mind is having the option to make triggering threads opt-in only. That is, make them only available with effort, such as actively adding them to My MeFi. Take them out of the default metafilter flow.

No idea if this is even feasible or desirable.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:25 PM on November 20


Combining threads so that the discussion then includes women, men and trans victims of sexual harassment and/or assault would be a recipe for disaster in which people would drive each other off the site by attacking them and downplaying their lived experiences.

Binary-gendered trans people are in fact within the spectrum of women and men and should not be presented as a third option in lists like this. I get that this was intended to be inclusive rather than exclusive, but that's not actually how it winds up reading, so... just a reminder for people who don't always think about how they phrase such things.
posted by Sequence at 2:27 PM on November 20 [18 favorites]


The mods already get accused of stifling discussion for viewpoint reasons all the time (it seems like). A queue would make them responsible for what gets posted and when? Also, there really doesn't seem to be a good "later" to post resource-consuming posts that will be any better than "now".
posted by ctmf at 2:27 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


The problem with making sexual assault threads opt-in (more so than they already are) is that it makes them opt-in to even be visible, which is...kind of like they are in the real world which is part of why it’s so hard for some of us? I mean the whole reason #metoo is shattering is because people had the option of not seeing this for a long time.
posted by corb at 2:28 PM on November 20 [13 favorites]


I frankly loathe the MetaTalk queue and think it's bad for the site, for reasons that have been discussed in previous MeTas and probably don't belong in this one. A queue on the blue? would fundamentally break the democratic nature and feel of MetaFilter. And it's enough of a hassle to post MeTas (and also anonymous questions, although those are a totally different story); I know I would not bother posting anymore. Just...ugh, no.
posted by lalex at 2:29 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


I mean the whole reason #metoo is shattering is because people had the option of not seeing this for a long time.

Point taken.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:30 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


Catching up on a couple things:

Maybe a queue for front page posts and not only MetaTalk?

I'm going to say a queue for the front page is off the table. I appreciate the spirit of the idea but I'd rather implement it the old-fashioned way at this point with a gentle delete saying "hey, we don't have the bandwidth for this" or a redirect to an existing thread. No one will die from having to repost later either, basically.

Related: I don't see a NewsFilter subsite as a good solution. Creating a bigger footprint and a new part of the site to watch has zero appeal to me for basically universally difficult/heavy discussions. Doubly so for the idea of siphoning off everything fun to a subsite.

I am excited about what I see as a tipping point in the US, where victims are getting listened to and where abusers are getting in really serious trouble (in some cases) and, of course, the edge cases where that doesn't happen, and why. At the same time, MetaFilter doesn't have to be the one place on the internet where those discussions take place.

What jessamyn said. This is a hard part of this discussion but an important one: I understand and feel probably as much as anyone in the world the desire to have MetaFilter be a home for all the things I'm thinking about and caring about, but I think MetaFilter can't really always be that. And at a certain point we have to find a way to draw a line where we can facilitate on-site what limited amounts of discussion the site/mods/community can manage and then encourage folks to find some self-determined extra place for what it can't.

I know we have folks who really want to talk about this stuff, and I'm very glad people are finding conversations here useful. But for some people there's a kind of self-pressure of "I'm not allowed to look away", like you have to digest and engage fully with every important and horrible piece of news or else you're shirking your responsibility to justice. It's a kind of obsessive tendency that's encouraged by our current information ecosystem of filters, push notifications, publications competing to be shared on social media. That self-imposed pressure to hook up an IV drip of everything horrible makes for bad self-care decisions -- it's bad for people's mental health -- and I don't want us to enable it by building new architecture for it.

What LobsterMitten said. I'll point again to this short talk I gave because that's a central component of the dilemmas and difficulties I was trying to convey in it. I think its important to recognize the way the pervasiveness of awful stuff can cause us to assume a stance in which we feel obliged to stare at or wallow in the awful at a risk of feeling unrighteous or uncommitted if we look away. And that can become self-reinforcing in the site culture, and it leaves a mark on community morale.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:33 PM on November 20 [11 favorites]


One idea that comes to mind is having the option to make triggering threads opt-in only. That is, make them only available with effort, such as actively adding them to My MeFi. Take them out of the default metafilter flow.

Please no. I often browse without being logged in; I don't want to need to log in to see the whole site. I don't mind "some content is hidden unless you click the show-me button," but I'm not always in a setting where I can log in.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:33 PM on November 20 [6 favorites]


I'd love it if they were opt-in, but only for anyone who's had comments deleted for being a bigoted asshole for the thread topic. I mean, there were something like six "Jesus, no, wtf" notes in the Weinstein thread in the first 24 hours alone.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:33 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


and then encourage folks to find some self-determined extra place

So essentially, create NewsFilter, and then outsource it. Except skip the first part. That's one strategy, I guess. I'm not sure how you get from here to there without a bright line "as of today, no NewsFilter" decree. Trying to do it gradually is going to drag through the grey area of "some allowed, some not" and be way more painful.
posted by ctmf at 2:40 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


I've started to sense the tide turn against the women who are coming forward against Franken and other powerful men. The NYT comments section, which was pretty reasonable just a week ago, is now a liberal dudebro cesspool of victim-blaming. This has been one of the only places I can go and not have to read comments about how this hysteria over women was okay for a while, but now it's time to get back to real issues. I was completely confused to check in to the big politics thread this afternoon to find that all the discussion was about some random voter on a CNN panel who said he'd believe Trump over Jesus. I don't know what the solution is as far as the amount of work for the moderators, but I feel a little more alone now.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:41 PM on November 20 [13 favorites]


I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today!: "I suggested MyMefi last time this came up and people said it was insufficient."

I was one of those, but I can report that the front page has gotten much better for me after taz went back and enforced a consistent "sexualassault" tag. I now have all those posts blocked in MyMefi and a userscript that automatically redirects the front page to MyMefi, so thankfully I never have to see these posts anymore.
posted by saltbush and olive at 2:50 PM on November 20 [5 favorites]


I was completely confused to check in to the big politics thread this afternoon to find that all the discussion was about some random voter on a CNN panel who said he'd believe Trump over Jesus.

There was a point where the mods asked for general Franken discussion to be moved to its own post, hence this meta. Trumpster dude may have filled that vacuum.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:53 PM on November 20


Maybe finding a non-MeFi NewsFilter place to alight will need to be the way forward, if for no other reason than to protect the mods.

Both #potus45 and #metoo, not to mention mass gun violence and disastrous climate change events, are all bigger than this site is able to handle — and at the rate things are changing, those won’t be the last heavy hashtags by a long shot.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:54 PM on November 20


The potus45 threads were a stopgap temporary measure. They've served a purpose, but IMO they're not a good model for how the site should be, and the development of a subculture in there has gone against what I think of as good longterm Mefi practice. This is part of what we as mods have been talking about.

I would be totally adrift without potus45. It isn't perfect, but it's better than any alternative I've encountered. I don't know what I'd do without it it.
posted by diogenes at 3:17 PM on November 20 [20 favorites]


Could we try a catchall #metoo thread, and see how it goes?

I feel like having a place to corral these discussions would help with the impact to the front page for users and mod impact (fewer posts to be seen on the front page, fewer posts for the mods to keep track of, greater ability to avoid duplication of comments/subjects).

I understand the argument for keeping separate posts (lumping them together diminishes the importance of each, different constituencies might be interested in different aspects of different stories), but it seems like the same forces that led to the creation of a single #potus45 thread are at play here too--in another world/time each individual thing that is happening *would* have merited a separate post due to its significance. But, we're not in that alternate world, we're in this one. As much as that sucks, I think we need to deal with the world we have.

I think the MyMeFi tool is useful, but it doesn't help with the issue of duplication of comments across different threads, or the mod workload of monitoring several different threads.

Creating one #metoo post and a single link to it under the current US Politics sidebar (maybe rename it "ongoing shitshow", idk) seems like it is worth trying out.
posted by msbubbaclees at 3:17 PM on November 20


I would be totally adrift without potus45. It isn't perfect, but it's better than any alternative I've encountered. I don't know what I'd do without it it.

Although the more I think about it, I really just need it for Trump/Russia.
posted by diogenes at 3:23 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


There was a point where the mods asked for general Franken discussion to be moved to its own post, hence this meta. Trumpster dude may have filled that vacuum.

Which reminds me: I think part of the issue with the potus45 megathreads is that the pace of news has slowed down a lot from the early days of Trump's presidency, but that's not reflected in the pace of the thread. I feel like the megathread encourages people to check in find out what important things are happening, but if nothing's happening, people still post something (even if it's not meaningful) and then that encourages others that there's something important happening and on it goes. The megathreads are self-perpetuating.

There's a few clear endpoints for the US politics megathreads after which they're no longer going to be necessary (Mueller indicts Trump, the Democrats impeach Trump, or Trump loses an election) but there's no clear point at which a sexual assault megathread would ever stop. It'd be self-perpetuating with the only clear endpoint being a mod shutting the thread down, and that's not fair to the mods.
posted by Merus at 3:26 PM on November 20 [6 favorites]


There was a point where the mods asked for general Franken discussion to be moved to its own post

wait, I thought one of the issues brought up in this post is that a new Franken post was discouraged?
posted by lalex at 3:28 PM on November 20


Yeah, the vibe I got was more like: stop talking about Franken already, likening it to rehashing the primaries. I may be misreading the intent there, but I did not come away with the idea that the mods wanted another thread.
posted by ctmf at 3:32 PM on November 20


You're right, just that we shouldn't rehash it there, which is why people may have been talking about idiot guy.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:32 PM on November 20


FWIW, I think it would be ok to have one now, if people feel like there's good links on it, and that more discussion is needed beyond the last 5 days in the potus threads.

When it was initially turned down, it was last week and was more hot on the heels of a whole bunch of other very active threads about other abusive dudes, and it was very much an "in-context, this is one too many right now, let's wait and see" kind of decision. Then people have talked it over a ton in the potus threads so there was some feeling of, let's not split that discussion, and plus maybe it's just all repetitive at this point anyway so we can hold off more until there's something new to discuss. And then the meta-discussion took over and here we are.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:33 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and my initial mod note this morning in the catch-all was partly just pre-coffee and working from that "the last few days" context more than specifically up to the minute, which is my bad. EM's followup shortly thereafter with the specific points of concern about rehashing is more on point about my active concerns for the resulting thread itself.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:36 PM on November 20


Is there any chance we could try to focus the potus45 threads? There's no reason they need to be a catch all for literally every shitty thing happening in US politics. Would it be crazy to try and stick to Trump/Russia and current legislation?
posted by diogenes at 3:37 PM on November 20 [8 favorites]


Whether there's a way to cut down the noise and churn in there dramatically is something we've been talking about, yes.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:39 PM on November 20 [5 favorites]


I just posted about Charlie Rose in the main politics thread; no hard feelings if it's not the place at the moment.

I didn't think the politics thread was the right place, but without a catch-all thread where should it go? That story is blowing up (eight women, suspended from CBS, PBS halting production of his show) but isn't worth it's own post. And there will be lots of those. I've tacked on links to existing threads but that's not ideal.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:43 PM on November 20 [3 favorites]


Yeah, and there's apparently another news org getting ready to publish more on Rose.
posted by lalex at 3:47 PM on November 20


I would be totally adrift without potus45.

Absolutely. Mainstream news simply isn't structured to cover POTUS45 cogently or comprehensively. And the traditional tone of objective disinterest is alienating, if not self-censoring. MeFites read the news more closely, reflect more thoughtfully, and react more passionately than the entire memberships of the National Press Club, White House Correspondents' Association, and Gridiron Club put together.

Which reminds me: I think part of the issue with the potus45 megathreads is that the pace of news has slowed down a lot from the early days of Trump's presidency, but that's not reflected in the pace of the thread.

It only seems that way because the news is no longer accelerating as quickly as it was following the post-inauguration. Our national velocity continues to increase, but we're more accustomed to pace. The clowncar went from zero to sixty in three or four months, and Trump & co. are still fighting over who gets to press the accelerator and push the horn.

Would it be crazy to try and stick to Trump/Russia and current legislation?

While I'm inclined toward this myself, the statewide politics have at various times over the past year taken on national importance. Perhaps truly momentous events would warrant their own spinoffs - like a deep dive on whoever Mueller indicts next - but catch-all is catch-all.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:49 PM on November 20 [4 favorites]


Room-641A - Links in the other threads is fine for now. I mean, with many of these, there isn't a ton to discuss beyond "oh god no, that is so disappointing and awful." We don't need a separate post for each; we don't need separate posts for a lot of important but still not-good-to-have-a-dozen-separate-posts-about-on-Mefi things.

With Franken (maybe) there's more of a national-consequences angle, this ongoing question of what the Dems should do, what will happen with the ongoing political situation, which makes it somewhat different in terms of the in-thread discussion. But "major media figure is a harasser/assaulter", I think it's better to try to consolidate them where possible, since the discussion will be more or less similar in its broad outlines.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:51 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


Could we try a catchall #metoo thread, and see how it goes?

I am a childhood sexual assault survivor who was drummed right out of the last #metoo thread after having my motives questioned for speaking up, and who was actually called a sexual harasser in a now deleted exchange. Because I'm a guy. And guys can't possibly be survivors of molestation. Or some other infuriating garbage reasoning.

If the membership wants a #metoo thread, y'all should make crystal clear to people that it's either a thread for everyone to participate and be treated respectfully, or that some groups of survivors simply aren't welcome.
posted by zarq at 3:58 PM on November 20 [36 favorites]


Would it be crazy to try and stick to Trump/Russia and current legislation?

I just don't know what that would look like or if it'd be as useful or interesting for people. On a brief scan of the current megathread, that would seem to include topics under discussion like:

state and local races
state and local politicians
figures in the Trump administration (family, appointees, advisors)
Trump's tweets, which are often relevant to policy
the activities of various Cabinet departments (Justice, Treasury, etc.)
International relations with not-Russia countries
#resistance
gerrymandering and voter suppression
SCOTUS
posted by lalex at 4:08 PM on November 20 [4 favorites]


Binary-gendered trans people are in fact within the spectrum of women and men and should not be presented as a third option in lists like this. I get that this was intended to be inclusive rather than exclusive, but that's not actually how it winds up reading, so... just a reminder for people who don't always think about how they phrase such things.

I apologise.

I was thinking about transphobia, and how it has become part of the conversation related to Jeffrey Tambor in the comments of articles I've read and also on Twitter threads about his crappy, disgusting "denial" which blamed a "politicized environment" rather than him taking responsibility. And I was thinking about transphobia here on mefi, which has been a problem for years.

But in my effort to get my point across I did not say any of those things. I should have spoken specifically about transphobia directly, rather than implying in any way that trans women or men are not simply women and men. I don't believe that and would never have implied it deliberately. I clearly fucked up and that's inexcusable. I'm sorry.
posted by zarq at 4:11 PM on November 20 [12 favorites]


I just don't know what that would look like or if it'd be as useful or interesting for people.

Yeah, there's probably no way to come up with a workable list of "acceptable" topics for a catch-all thread. I'd settle for cutting down on the noise and churn. We definitely didn't need to talk about what random people on the internet said that day.
posted by diogenes at 4:14 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


I did an FPP. Thanks to zarq and a few others who made suggestions here, which I either incorporated into the post or took into consideration while crafting it.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:23 PM on November 20 [9 favorites]


I get that there's resistance to creating NewsFilter/PoliticsFilter for very good reasons. At the same time, given the (conservative) pool of potential topics lalex lists, I don't think this is going to solve itself in a way that allows the front page to channel any and all political topics into one or two or three behemoth threads, modded by topic.

Apart from internal logistics, or ideas about not being reddit, I'm having a hard time seeing a downside to a PoliticsFare (as it were). We're hearing loud and clear that a lot of people don't want it on the front page, and that a lot of people never look at the blue anyhow, so we already don't have a "general interest" place with a little of this, a little of that. We've got one topheavy topic pulling the front page in its own direction, a bunch of unwieldy threads and unhappy-about-it users, and a bunch of users who don't even want to see it. Small solutions about trimming around the edges, tweaking tagging, or greenlighting here and there are probably not going to cut it long-term.

And I'm sorry to note it, but this doesn't look like it's going to be short-term. We're past the days of "when the election is over things will get back to normal!" Things aren't going to be getting back to normal until, possibly if everything magically goes perfectly, late fall 2018. But most likely not even then. And by then I bet our "normal" will be different anyhow. MetaFilter needs a way to adapt to new realities and move forward, not just contain.
posted by Miko at 5:33 PM on November 20 [8 favorites]


Hmm, I am churning this comment around in my brain: "I think it's not good for people to immerse themselves in this stuff exclusively" and I'm a bit bugged by it -- I am not sure this is a universal truth, and I think that taking the specific experience of being a moderator and trying to generalize it to being a user is a misapplication that I think has some important implications for interface design and management. Because then you say:
a kind of obsessive tendency that's encouraged by our current information ecosystem of filters, push notifications, publications competing to be shared on social media. That self-imposed pressure to hook up an IV drip of everything horrible makes for bad self-care decisions -- it's bad for people's mental health -- and I don't want us to enable it by building new architecture for it.
This is fair, and good, and I am glad to hear that the mods do not want to build new architecture for bad systems. But the architecture here right now is not working. It is buckling under this weight. And I think there may be ways to solve this problem that don't necessarily involve enabling an "IV drip of everything horrible." I have to think this; I certainly hope this is true. This is a very tricky problem in online forums, and this is not just a Metafilter problem.

One of the important things to do is to listen to users, and that can be very challenging when they have competing voices. But there has been rumbling around a NewsFilter for, well, forever now. And maybe this is the time. The other thing that is important in a lot of the research on online communities and health of those ecosystems stresses the role of banter or phatic communication, side discussions, derails. So I worry about some of the things I'm seeing about "cutting down the noise and churn" because some noise actually has a very important social function.

Anyhow, I very much appreciate all the mods are doing and this is really hard work and I'm not sure how to solve it, but I think that Metafilter is a place that can do good work in this domain, and perhaps this is an opportunity as well as a horrifying terrible situation. Everyone needs a hug.
posted by sockermom at 5:39 PM on November 20 [18 favorites]


I find myself really struggling in these discussions to figure out what is meant by cutting churn or noise or talking about random people on the internet. I'm not being snarky, I really mean it.

The threads are busy in large part because U.S. politics is really busy right now.

I post things random people on the internet are saying because a lot of random people have insight, access, or perspective that I find valuable and think MeFites will too.

Is it the jokes, the riffing? I think these threads without jokes or funny things would become really DARK, even darker than they are now, and certainly remove a lot of the "community discussion" feeling I find valuable about MetaFilter.

I know I've said this a few times, but a huge part of the value in these threads is discussing this stuff with our community, and social discussions tend to include analysis, jokes, news, riffs, etc. I mean, I have Twitter for sterile lists of breaking news and analysis.
posted by lalex at 5:42 PM on November 20 [14 favorites]

And maybe this is the time. The other thing that is important in a lot of the research on online communities and health of those ecosystems stresses the role of banter or phatic communication, side discussions, derails. So I worry about some of the things I'm seeing about "cutting down the noise and churn" because some noise actually has a very important social function.
This is a much better articulation of what I was trying to say.
posted by lalex at 5:44 PM on November 20 [6 favorites]


"No jokes or fun" isn't the idea at all. We like jokes. We know jokes make a community fun, we know there's value in people just hanging out.

The idea is more "No going around the same old tired discussion points for the millionth time, just because we're all sitting in this one thread all day like it's a waiting room, and nothing of real significance is happening at this instant, so we have to find something to bicker about or just restate our opinions for nth time."
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:54 PM on November 20 [3 favorites]


What is the goal here? To shorten the threads?
posted by lalex at 5:59 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


To be more clear (and I definitely appreciate that you're not talking about funny stuff), I guess I just don't see a ton of stuff in these threads that isn't an organic outgrowth of a conversation involving a large group of people.

Like, I definitely see "the pace of the previous topic has slowed and now I'm going to bring up this other thing that interests/outrages me" or "getting back to my previous point..." but not much "the pace of comments is too slow! I must fill dead air!" stuff.
posted by lalex at 6:06 PM on November 20


but not much "the pace of comments is too slow! I must fill dead air!" stuff.


The "tick tick" comments, comments that promise some important significant news event release at some later date fit this classification.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:10 PM on November 20 [11 favorites]


Nthing just how uncharted these waters are with respect to the structure of MetaFilter as a site and what people want or need it to be. It has never been NewsFilter, but even so, the megathreads are some of the most reliable sources of news aggregation at a time when most good aggregators have been kneecapped or silenced and information-seekers must wade through this brave new media environment perpetually vomiting pseudo- and anti-journalism everywhere. People reclaiming their sanity is in no small part thanks to the communal, human curation and despite the noise in those threads. In some cases, even the noise contains useful advice/anecdotes or indirectly connects some dots. Back when each month had no more than 31 days, someone predicted that the aftermath of the election threads would be one final thread for celebration and/or detoxing, or that the election megathreads would continue to evolve into a living testament of how "this is not normal" nonetheless.

But these omnishambles are breaking (as in breaking open) everything, and while it might make sense to have a general thread on sexual predation committed by Important People and subthreads on the context-specific revelations related to these, the site doesn't seem built for it. There's also the discussion regarding whether we're seeing the implementation of various strategies meant to weaponize these accusations against particular targets or demonize and weaken these types of accusations in general, which is a substantial and important conversation aside from a discussion of the bad actors' specific behaviors. How do you separate such connected topics effectively? Alternatively, how do you integrate such broad and far-reaching topics effectively? The original MeTa's points (b) and (c) are often only valid because the not-so-compelling points and the shouty/fighty or trollish comments have been removed to give a more sanitized appearance of The Discussion That Could Have Been.

And this is just one example. It has been remarked several times that incidents which would normally occupy the news cycle for weeks are ignored or "forgotten" in a matter of hours due to the firehose of brazen stupidity that got turned on a while ago. I would like to tie this into something inspiring, like "if you can't find a place to have the discussion you want, it may be time to start generating discourse in other spaces altogether," but I realize that is naive and maybe even harsh to people who have limited options or for whom MetaFilter is the liferaft in a salty sea of shit.

There clearly is no way for it to be everything for everyone, because there is at least one person who says "I want to discuss the nuances and implications of sexual predation in pop culture and politics" and at least one person who says "I never want to hear anything about sexual predation ever again; I came to the site today because of the post about turn-of-the-century horseless carriage schematics." At the same time, this is not unique to the current political megathreads, and anyone should feel free to make a well-reasoned FPP about the Israel/Palestine situation if they feel otherwise. Even though many of the other spin-off politics threads have been small, the Roy Moore thread turned into 1000+ comments relatively quickly, which is just another way of saying cartographers draw monsters in uncharted waters for a reason.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 6:13 PM on November 20 [3 favorites]


I guess I just don't see a ton of stuff in these threads that isn't an organic outgrowth of a conversation involving a large group of people.

Mods (and retired mods) have some visible tools that can show them, for example, who the heaviest commenters are in these megathreads. Often there are like five people who are commenting easily two, three, or four times as much as the next most frequent commenters. Depending what is going on, the thread can seem like a great place to drop and discuss links and news or it can seem like a chat room with maybe five or ten people in it. This sometimes happens on non-political/touchy threads but those usually don't require a lot in terms of moderation so it's fine to just let them choogle along.

MeFi hasn't really arrived at a good "This is what these threads are FOR" resting point yet, so there's still a lot of uncertainty about how much chattiness is too much and some of that does revolve around moderator load. Back when I was modding here, some days were busy and some were not. When they were not, you could do other mod jobs like work on the FAQ, run contests, tidy the wiki etc. Now there is almost always a thread that is not only busy but contentious (at least during US awake times). The thought of having multiple ones of these running in parallel concerns me.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:22 PM on November 20 [24 favorites]


Mods (and retired mods) have some visible tools that can show them, for example, who the heaviest commenters are in these megathreads.

omg
it me
the call is coming from inside the house
posted by lalex at 6:24 PM on November 20 [7 favorites]


My personal feelings are:

• Talking about recent assaults in the news is better than not, but having it periodically dominate the main politics thread can be difficult, since (a) it's currently a huge topic and even those of us toughened up to modern politics may not feel up to it every time we want to dip into the main politics thread, and (b) we're unlikely to have a separate "tax bill" thread (e.g.) concurrent with the potus45 thread, so certain unspinoffable topics are likely to get shorter shrift during those periods.

• Re lalex's list of topics above, I don't think there is any ex ante way to specify what counts as a topic worthy of a separate thread, but what that also means is anything, no matter how apparently narrow seeming, can count if there is enough action in the world and in the community. That means that sometimes we should have separate threads for Moore and Weinstein when those are each huge and largely distinct conversations, and sometimes we're better off with "catch-all" threads when, e.g., the inevitable stream of interconnected Senator accusations kicks in. Whether Franken does or doesn't count is a reasonable question, but that says more about exactly how much distinct attention it got here and elsewhere, rather than anything inherent to the magnitude of the topic itself; and oftentimes we just have to wait and see whether a topic blossoms to so quickly it needs its own thread.

• As a reasonably long-term participant here (long predating my $5), I am deeply sympathetic to mod concerns about "going around the same old". That said, we are not wikipedia; a community is the members, and many members are either new, or new to a topic, or are in the process of evolving their thoughts on a topic. The fact that for some of us, both the topics and 90% of the thoughts to have on a topic are now familiar, doesn't change the fact that to most of the posters on those topics, these are new thoughts presented in full sincerity. Yes, we are all familiar with old hands rehashing their oft-repeated arguments; and yes, I'm sure my impression of (user-specific) novelty is itself a *result* of mods who carefully delete repetitive material; but even so, I myself would like more freedom for people to "rehash" arguments that may be familiar to many of us and all-too-familiar to the mods, provided they are doing it sincerely and appear to be presenting thoughts that are genuinely new to themselves. I don't think this is a binary or qualitative scale though -- if we allow ourselves to nudge just a little farther in the "benign repetition" direction, that's my own preference. If that gives rise to over-crowded or over-long threads, then I would lean towards solving this with more threads rather than heavier policing.

• This last one goes beyond this particular meta, but briefly, my own feeling is that Metafilter needs to get better at dealing with intra-left conflict. The vast majority of the things I see the "already" deletion applied to are not actually more repetitive than, say, the ten-thousandth "can you believe Trump said this" trivium. Perhaps there's some sense that a trivial piece of new information is the threshold for making the exact same substantive point -- which is problematic in its own right -- but in reality, that's not the rule, or at least, the threshold for sufficient "newness" varies radically depending on the topic. A new tweet by Trump always qualifies, while a new accuser of Franken or a new development in DNC internal politics often do not, even though in all cases, the new doesn't really change the underlying politics and the comments and points made are as old (to old hands) as ever. The difference is that intra-left -- even civilly done -- is held to a higher standard, and Franken just about counts -- and if there had been more conflict about how to deal with Franken here, it would have almost instantly graduated to "already" simply because the mods are (reasonably) exhausted by policing intra-left internal conflicts. I certainly understand that, like repetition more generally, we mortal users barely see the apparently horrid conflicts the mods are ceaselessly policing for our benefit, so I definitely appreciate the cost. But my own personal feeling here too is that I'd be happy to nudge things a bit more towards allowing more civil intra-left disagreement, "repetitive" though it may be, either in the main politics thread or in dedicated threads as the context-dependent size of the topic demands.

TLDR: Slightly more threads; slightly looser rules.
posted by chortly at 6:42 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


[OT: Anyone else notice how fresh and lovely a shade of blue Metafilter becomes after a long period of staring at the Metatalk gray and desaturating those cones? Seems like an elegant metaphor, somehow...]
posted by chortly at 6:54 PM on November 20 [4 favorites]


lalex: "I find myself really struggling in these discussions to figure out what is meant by cutting churn or noise or talking about random people on the internet. I'm not being snarky, I really mean it. "

I think LM has it. It's not that we have to be serious all the time - yours truly made a Peace of Westphalia joke earlier . But I do think there's a tendency on slower days - even now, some days are less eventful than others - and on the weekend to just...fill the air, like we're all standing on the corner waiting for a bus. The conversation should at least *primarily* be substantive.

I probably make Westphalia jokes too often in general.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:34 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


I wanted to make jokes about Sanders making reporters giving thanks and snark about the administration, but couldn't pull the trigger.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:40 PM on November 20


Often there are like five people who are commenting easily two, three, or four times as much as the next most frequent commenters.

And in a lot of contexts, those people would be called key content generators or powerful contributors. Those people are generating the value proposition that is causing regular and repeated attendance/reloading of these threads.

I feel fine about saying this because, at least in politics threads, I am definitely not one of them. But I sure as hell appreciate them. I'm not sure these are the people the site should be looking to contain, curtail, or censure. I am not sure that if these people and these threads weren't around, I'd still be making a daily visit to this site. Not sure at all.

What will MetaFilter be in two years? How important then, in hindsight, will decisions made about politics threads and how they're managed here be? I'm guessing: extremely important. We might be looking at a moment where this site is facing a schism, threatening to become two major buckets: perhaps, quotidian beanplating/quirky content kibitizing, vs. intense political/social commentary and response. I suspect these two strains were always sitting side by side. But at the moment where the site is sort of looking to quash/limit one in an attempt to preserve the other, I'm not sure there's an outcome that pleases everyone, and it means something for the trajectory of the site - not just long-term, but in, like, the next 6-12 months.

Not to come off all "a hard rain's gonna fall," but this isn't oughts-internet-plus-more-of-the-same. Things are changing. For the site to remain a "community," it needs to change, too. If it's ok that it becomes a smaller and smaller community, due to choices about what's allowed and what's discouraged ,that's another choice, a valid one. But it's not one that's going to be able to keep those interested in deep and detailed discussion of unfolding events engaged at the same level of those who prefer to avoid it. Those folks will move on and go elsewhere.

I suppose we'll know, by what happens here, what choices are made and what priorities win and which subsets of the user community are favored in policy. But before that just happens, by virtue of non-decision or reluctance to make a decision, it would be a good moment for some serious thought - and not just one "ugh, meeting" - because meetings are a place where people with wisdom and expertise can present cases and be heard and brainstorm together, and are extremely valuable and somewhat sacred in their power. Meetings are a place where leaders are given a sharing of views, and that's a tremendous gift, not something to be dismissed with a handwave. Reflective communities have structures in which they consider together and listen to collective wisdom and one another, and we call those structures "meetings."

If nothing else, I'd simply say: allow yourselves to slow down and think about the import of this particular moment, as a web community and as individuals and as community leaders.
posted by Miko at 8:21 PM on November 20 [23 favorites]


Note: this is a thread for everyone to participate and be treated respectfully. Thanks.

Thank you. Good luck with the post.
posted by zarq at 8:34 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


And in a lot of contexts, those people would be called key content generators or powerful contributors.

oh thank god
posted by lalex at 8:35 PM on November 20 [3 favorites]

They've served a purpose, but IMO they're not a good model for how the site should be, and the development of a subculture in there has gone against what I think of as good longterm Mefi practice. This is part of what we as mods have been talking about.
It's not hard to notice increasing levels of hostility from the mod team and other MeFites over the #potus45 threads, and I've been dialing back my participation in those threads (and MeFi in general) as a result. It's hard not to feel unwelcome when there's a Metatalk thread every two weeks about how a big part of the site you participate in makes the mods suicidal and that other users feel like it's wrecking MeFi, but any attempt to change the status quo to meet everyone's needs is tossed aside with some comment about how we'll just soldier along in the darkest timeline until these threads are no longer necessary. To my mind, that's pretty much a recipe for making exactly no one happy.
posted by xyzzy at 8:52 PM on November 20 [9 favorites]


I mean we could just...stop them.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:00 PM on November 20 [8 favorites]


In all seriousness, that's a typically smart and thoughtful comment from Miko, who's been making smart and thoughtful comments about this community for quite some time.

I am not sure that if these people and these threads weren't around, I'd still be making a daily visit to this site.

Yes. I was sort of halfway out the door before engaging with the megathreads, which both speak to what's currently on my mind and reminded me of how good this community can be. And just briefly looking at my activity to confirm, my revived engagement due those threads has led to much more participation in AskMe and other areas of the site that people find unequivocally valuable.

I frankly think MetaFilter would bleed participation without these threads or if the threads became much more heavily moderated, and agree with xyzzy that the level of hostility from mods and users is discouraging.

And, as Miko said, maybe that's ok to bleed participation and have a smaller community! But...is it? I have no idea how the financials here work, except that money recently needed to be raised, and don't really understand what would happen if there was a marked decrease in user engagement.
posted by lalex at 9:02 PM on November 20 [10 favorites]


I frankly think MetaFilter would bleed participation without these threads or if the threads became much more heavily moderated, and agree with xyzzy that the level of hostility from mods and users is discouraging.

See, for me, it's the exact opposite. As I commented a few days ago, I'm here a lot less in large part because the megathreads are like a gravitational singularity that's impossible not to get sucked into. Not because I think the subject matter isn't of both national and personal importance, but because it is. And if that big of an existential-dread-thing is sitting in the corner of an otherwise nice place, it demands your attention. All of your attention. Forever. Because it's existential dread.

Both points of view are valid.

I'd also echo some of the thoughts above — just because a conversation is of ultimate importance does not mean "here" is the right place for it. Or it is. I don't know.

And, as Miko said, maybe that's ok to bleed participation and have a smaller community! But...is it? I have no idea how the financials here work, except that money recently needed to be raised, and don't really understand what would happen if there was a marked decrease in user engagement.

What if there's a marked decrease in user engagement because of the threads?

Of course this all might be moot. I fear it won't be long before the Eternal September Insurgency will finally have its revenge, and the non-walled-garden web will be gone for good.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:56 PM on November 20 [8 favorites]


While I've long been in favor of giving Politicsfilter its own place, I've resigned myself to never seeing it.

Perhaps the solution is some sort of throttling of user comments? The mods upthread say 5-10 posters in a megathread are making most of the posts, so maybe there needs to be a limit (in contentious threads?) of how many comments you can make per day. That way you could still say whatever important things you have in mind or make a joke or two, but couldn't dominate the thread in that way.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:01 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


quotidian beanplating/quirky content kibitizing, vs. intense political/social commentary seems like a particularly uncharitable way to characterize the different ways people use metafilter.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:46 PM on November 20 [4 favorites]


For whatever it is worth:

I have been lurking since at least a decent bit before 9/11, as I specifically remember Metafilter being the only site that would load (slowly) right after the attacks. As I was at work at a low level job where they didn't have the decency to let people huddle at the radio, MF was the only way for me find out what was going on. It was a big service then.

I don't remember exactly when I started lurking, but IIRC it was long enough ago that I remember kicking myself for not registering when the site began requiring a small amount of $ to register since I didn't use PP or CCs. Either way, the amount of lurking that I did increased greatly during the election, and I was finally compelled to join immediately after the election.

I'm not a high volume poster. I checked and I have averaged 6 posts per month since registering. Finally being able to post is awesome, but lurking is still much of what I do, and it is from lurking that I get the most out of the site.

With that in mind, I'm going to make a somewhat dramatic statement. As someone prone to depression under normal circumstances, I'm not sure how well I would be surviving or if I would be without the poli threads. That's on me, but nevertheless, the crutch that the threads provide and the work that is put in by mods to make those threads viable is very appreciated. Some might say that spending a couple hours a day reading about horrible stuff is a bad idea, but I feel that it somewhat allows me to quarantine that negative content, and only deal with the negative political situation when I am protesting out in the world or reading here.

That said, I'm not opposed to any solution, as long as it is a solution that doesn't eliminate the threads altogether. If they need to be moved to a subsite, so be it. (Though, personally, I would find a purely political site with a different thread for each medium/big thing far harder to navigate than one or a couple threads). I don't like the idea of making them something that only users can opt in to see because I worry about the people who are still lurking like I used to.

If it bothers people too much to see these things on the main page, my suggestion (in order to avoid a full on sub-site with dozens of poli threads every day) would be something like "broadtopics.metafilter.com" where there would be long threads for general catch all topics like election/trump, misogyny/assault, racism, gun violence (for the nearly daily gun attacks), etc. That way, people who are disturbed by these things wouldn't have to see them on the front page, but the lurkers and users alike who find great personal value in the catch all threads could continue to read and participate in them.
posted by bootlegpop at 2:22 AM on November 21 [14 favorites]


seems like a particularly uncharitable way to characterize the different ways people use metafilter.

I apologize and did not mean to be dismissive or insulting. Was just trying to indicate the notion of the Two MetaFilters, where one is political and the other is everything else we do, without writing another paragraph to sum it all up.
posted by Miko at 5:07 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]


This conversation seems to keep coming up (which makes sense, since the issues aren't being resolved in any way), and I've commented several times before that I am not a fan of the massive political threads. Adding massive sexual assault threads seems to me like a terrible idea. There's not a requirement that every outrage-of-the-moment be posted to the front page, and personally I prefer the front page when it is a nice blend of weird, boring, and a fairly low number of outrage-based posts. (The outrage posts can be fun and I am not wanting them to go away, just to have the ratio maintained deliberately low.)
posted by Dip Flash at 5:56 AM on November 21 [4 favorites]


I think a more strategic discussion around "What makes a good thread post to MetaFilter?" would help guide this discussion in useful ways. The knock against NewsFilter was always that, by definition, it fails to meet the first criterion as laid out in the guidelines - most people have seen it before. Maybe there are ways to change those criteria such that 1) users get to see the types of things they want to see on MetaFilter, 2) the mods are able to maintain their workload and job satisfaction at an acceptable level, and 3) users have a better understanding of what constitutes a good post, and can use that to help guide moderation as needed.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:29 AM on November 21 [4 favorites]


People will still post whatever they want, though.
posted by agregoli at 6:48 AM on November 21


This conversation is not limited to just Metafilter. This is a really challenging and/or empowering time for many survivors. For me personally, as a professional GBV professional, I choose to jump in and out of Metafilter, and take care of myself when I need to. I have left all other social media behind because it is too much for me. And I think the moderators do as great of a job as they can, especially given the volume, of creating space for difficult conversations - and our community looks out for each other as best as it can - it's the only reason why I can participate here. But there is a fiction of safety and the safe place. I do not have a suggested solution that will work for everyone, because I do not think that is a possibility. But I do think creating a clear flag/message so that people can make educated choices about when to engage is important. Even the potus45 threads are hard - I have friends who cannot walk by 45's picture in a hallway without having an actual physiological trauma-related response because they are survivors. I do trust that this community, with the moderators sherpa-ing, will make a decision that is thoughtful and not perfect.
posted by anya32 at 7:28 AM on November 21 [6 favorites]


Some morning thoughts:

1. I'm glad triggerfinger put that thread together and I look forward to seeing how it goes. We have no perfect solutions for this but trying something that's more deliberately designed to accommodate ongoing revelations in general vs. feeling shoehorned into one or another more specific-feeling thread seems really worthwhile.

2. The shape and size and nature of megathreads is a big snarl of a topic and this like every prior discussion of it has shown how much it's an issue of being different things to different people. How to move forward on it was a major focus of our team discussion this last weekend and it's something that we do need to make some sort of change on, but that's obviously something that's going to require compromises and leave some folks unhappy. Which is a bummer, but it's a big ship and hard to steer and an iceberg keeps looming, so steer we will.

One of the main things I have been trying to parse out and think about is all the disparate "this is what I like / this is what I dislike about the megathreads" factors at play. Because folks variously talk about finding value in:

A. having a good roundup of what's going on with this whole mess
B. having a place to dig into a detailed conversation on one or another specific development
C. having a place to vent to/with folks on the same wavelength in a stressful time
D. having a place to goof around and riff and blow off steam together

And I agree with the value of all of those things, and want to find a way to preserve/facilitate them. But with the megathreads as a all-in-one venue for it, those things fight each other significantly; none of them works out as well as they could and people who are there for one reason and not the other end up at odds and feeling under- or mis-served by the actual threads we end up with.

All of that aside from the fact that the mod team collectively finds them exhausting and hard to manage.

So where I am at, and where the team is at, is looking at how we can shift things around and reset expectations in a way that makes the threads we do have more workable without just disregarding entirely the needs that have driven the existence of the current endlessly-busy, everything-in-one-bucket threads.

Because, for a pointed example, the threads' utility as a roundup of links exists basically in opposition to the rest of that stuff. And that utility is a pretty big thing! It's exaaaactly why I would point someone to a MetaFilter thread about a big topic, it's something folks on this site can collectively do very well. But I can't imagine linking the average megathread as a resource. The stuff that has historically made "check out this big MetaFilter thread" a go to move when trying to share something with folks elsewhere on the internet is in these threads but it's buried in the everything-else. Likewise, their sheer size and busyness makes them very hard to use to catch up on the events of the week; plowing through a couple thousand comments is an extreme thing to ask.

Whereas the other stuff has a lot of value that is transportable to other threads, or other modes of interaction on the site. A lot of the "hey I'm just anxious" energy that manifests in a lot of idle chatter in the megathreads would be fine in e.g. the recurring Fucking Fuck threads in MetaTalk, or similar community-centric things we could do. Detailed digging-in on the more major subthreads would go fine in a standalone post on a topic, or in the case where it's a minor subthread but a couple people want to dig in, they can do so over mefimail or some other personal channel or be the subject of a personal blog project that could then get linked back in as a resource. People who feel like just riffing and goofing around, we have an entire website for that energy and I would honestly be thrilled to see that stuff distributed a little wider across threads about weird/fun/interesting stuff.

With the megathreads part of the dynamic I see is people showing up because of point (A), because the threads are a good sane resource for US political stuff, and then setting up a camp chair and putting (B) and (C) and (D) into the thread pretty much reflexively because, well, they're already there. And I get how that happens and don't think that on principle that's a bad thing—it's, well, community activity happening organically—but I do think that given the external conditions it's made it into an unworkable always-on mishmash where all the things different people want from the threads end up fighting against each other.

And I look at that intractable mess and say, okay: these things don't actually have to coexist in this one spot, in this one way. The existence of the rolling megathreads was itself a change, a design decision by the mods and the community, and wasn't uncontroversial to begin with. It wasn't totally organic, and all these things, A/B/C/D, were things we did as a community before they came along and can do (and do do, daily, still) independent of them. It's not a strict choice between accepting the status quo unchanged and outright barring B-through-D from the site, and the status quo has been a strain on the system for a while.

This is a big, complicated topic; this comment has gotten long and even at that it's essentially just a preview of my broader thinking on all this, and this is something we're going to keep talking about in the near future. But the core of it is this: there's not one canonical way to serve these various needs within the community that, currently, the megathreads are doing a subpar and resource-straining job of serving. I don't want to chuck out the idea of serving those needs; I want to change how in a way that makes things more sane and workable for us and hopefully allows more people in the community to get the specific things they need.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:40 AM on November 21 [12 favorites]


Hey, what about a group of some kind of subject-specific, fully-moderated, chat-like spaces? I know that sounds like a huge can of worms to open, but it seems like something like that would address at least B, C & D, and maybe with some way for mods to "sticky" one or more really great roundup-type comments, could address A.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:28 AM on November 21


Give me the ability to tag a comment, user or post in a way that I can filter them (or isolate them). Then give me a "filter" button so I can filter a thread or the front page. It's deeper than mymefi.
posted by disclaimer at 9:35 AM on November 21


Hey, what about a group of some kind of subject-specific, fully-moderated, chat-like spaces?

I am 100% in favor of people making Slacks or whatever and inviting the folks they want to chat with, but adding multiple new spaces to moderate in a new format is not going to help with the workload problem at all.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:42 AM on November 21 [2 favorites]


Yeah what about doing up some Slack spaces? As a proud member of Gen-X, the name alone speaks to me. Plus it seems like a good idea.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:05 AM on November 21


I think I saw mention of this as a possibility, but was there ever a post put up to handle the Franken and now Conyers stuff?
posted by lalex at 10:06 AM on November 21


No.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:13 AM on November 21


I am 100% in favor of people making Slacks or whatever and inviting the folks they want to chat with, but adding multiple new spaces to moderate in a new format is not going to help with the workload problem at all.

I was thinking as a replacement for newsy megathreads, not as an addition. If such spaces existed, presumably the bar would be raised for the Blue, resulting in fewer fast-moving, argumentative threads. Again, a lot depends on the implementation. Just a thought.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:35 AM on November 21


One of the main things I have been trying to parse out and think about is all the disparate "this is what I like / this is what I dislike about the megathreads" factors at play. Because folks variously talk about finding value in:

A. having a good roundup of what's going on with this whole mess
B. having a place to dig into a detailed conversation on one or another specific development
C. having a place to vent to/with folks on the same wavelength in a stressful time
D. having a place to goof around and riff and blow off steam together


Not only are Points A and B absolutely vital features for me in the POTUS45 megathreads, but they've also become essential to my participation in MetaFilter itself (MetaChat or a Slack channel is no substitute, even for fast-moving news). For Point C, I've tried to abstain from venting in those threads but will also try to engage in the WTF MeTAs more. As for Point D, I've resolved to comment in the Blue with something like my pre-2015 frequency and post more diverting FPPs.

Thanks again to the mod team for all the work they put into the site and in particular the exceptional megathreads (sadly, these are exceptional times).
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:40 AM on November 21 [2 favorites]


There's nothing else like the megathreads for A and B. It seems like C and D could easily exist elsewhere (on MetaFilter or off). So let's focus on what's special and irreplaceable about the megathreads (A and B).
posted by diogenes at 11:11 AM on November 21 [5 favorites]


The Charlie Rose revelation is of interest to me, and I have no idea where it might be being discussed. I'm interested in US Politics, but the megathreads are self-referential and long and unwieldy. They kind of have their own weather. The last thing I want to do is set up a camp chair. That's part of what makes them unappealing to me. I go in to the #potus45 threads and read only the comments with lots of favorites, which is not my preferred approach to MeFi. MeFi remains my best resource for what's really going on, what's behind what's really going on, and some thoughtful and/or funny commentary And quite often genuine insight.

Sexual abuse is certainly a triggering issue for many and everybody has strong opinions and rules and etc. And it's a topic that's going to be on every front page for a while and I'll bet it requires lots of moderation. Limiting it to no more than 1 post per day makes sense.

Cortex and mod team, what can we do as members to help make this work better? There's are areas of news/ discussion that now have their own rules and I think it's not good for the site as a place where we can post and discuss. I've been here a while, but I don't feel I could post a US Politics post to the front page because I'm not part of that sub-community.
posted by theora55 at 11:11 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]


MetaChat or a Slack channel is no substitute, even for fast-moving news

Why?
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:17 AM on November 21


Charlie Rose stuff probably best here for the moment, or here.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:21 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]


MetaChat is not robust. (Can you even scroll up to see previous discussions?)

I love Slack, and I think it's a reasonable option! The megathreads are mostly working for me right now, but I think if/when they are "reset" and become narrower in scope and conversation then people, including me, will be ready to organically migrate over to a different forum for political discussion.

Which I think is the intention? idk, like others above I feel like I've been hearing for maybe 18 months now about how the megathreads are bad and that form of participation is bad, for mods and many users, so maybe it's approaching time to take it offsite so we at least don't have to have these conversations every month.
posted by lalex at 11:30 AM on November 21 [2 favorites]


Slack would require moderators, and they would need to be sensitive to the needs of a given community as well as willing to donate their time. I am a mod of the politics slack I started that was linked upthread and have been thankful that it's inactive. I was a mod at Crone Island for a while but asked to be demoted after it became obvious that I didn't have the time and wasn't needed. I know I don't have the temperament for moderating a community except in small doses.

If you start a slack devoted to discussing sexual harassment, assault, molestation, etc., the people running it will need patience, kindness and the ability to keep channels respectful and safe spaces for users. Knowledge of the various issues that may arise for survivors would be essential. For a community like MeFi, that would be challenging.

Go in with your eyes open.
posted by zarq at 11:43 AM on November 21 [8 favorites]


There's nothing else like the megathreads for A and B. It seems like C and D could easily exist elsewhere (on MetaFilter or off). So let's focus on what's special and irreplaceable about the megathreads (A and B).

I find A/B essential, and I mostly find C/D annoying. I imagine that jokes help people cope, and the occasional joke is not bothersome, but it seems like there will be these semi-frequent one liner-type riffs that occur that make it necessary to skip dozens of redundant comments (and some important ones, since I mostly tend to skip posts of less than 2-3 lines) far too often. I'm sure that it is fun for the people involved at the time, but as someone who tends to catch up during the slow late night hours, it seems really stale to me at that time. I'm not sure how regimented mods want the threads to be, nor am I sure how regimented the userbase can be encouraged to be. However, as someone who hasn't missed checking these threads for a day since the Trumpocalypse, whether these discussions remain in catch all threads or end up somewhere else, I would welcome a reduction of the non-informational noise.
posted by bootlegpop at 11:48 AM on November 21 [9 favorites]


people, including me, will be ready to organically migrate over to a different forum for political discussion.

Is it essential for you that A through D are in one place?
posted by diogenes at 11:51 AM on November 21 [2 favorites]


To me, it just makes sense to separate venting and riffing from substantive conversation. They simply aren't compatible activities.
posted by diogenes at 11:53 AM on November 21 [2 favorites]


Is it essential for you that A through D are in one place?

For me? Kind of, yeah. I don't really see A through D as being entirely separate activities as much as normal, interlocking features of organic conversation, and I think trying to take a couple of those elements out is anti-conversation. (sockermom discussed this much more beautifully above.)

cortex said this

People who feel like just riffing and goofing around, we have an entire website for that energy and I would honestly be thrilled to see that stuff distributed a little wider across threads about weird/fun/interesting stuff.

above and it didn't quite make sense to me; I don't think people are like "hmmm, I'd really like to riff and goof off today, I guess I'll do it in the megathread." I think the riffing/goofing/venting (C and D) are just things that happen organically in the course of normal conversation.

And conversation with this communnity is what I'm here for; I have other better tools for link discovery, breaking news, etc. That said, not everything needs to be for me!

I am honestly not sure about what the goal is here -

make threads easier to manage for the mods? redirect participants' energy to other areas of the site? make threads roundup/link heavier so they can be linked to non-MeFites? make the threads quantitatively shorter? have fewer U.S. political threads on the front page of the blue?

- but it's been about a year and a half? of megathreads and the accompanying (good faith, for sure) complaints and I wish whatever's going to happen would just happen and we can all move on either here or on some offsite alternative.
posted by lalex at 12:10 PM on November 21 [5 favorites]


A and B, with just enough C and D to keep things bearable, are essential aspects of the politics megathread to me - but I'm a user who mostly reads along and rarely comments in those threads, so I don't know how useful that perspective is. Slack would not be a workable replacement for those aspects, in my mind, if only because of how fast you bump up against the comment limits in a fast-moving Slack community, so that the history is lost.

But I do think the mods' mental health matters more than having the exact site experience that makes me personally happy. Thanks for trying to work through this; I know there's no easy answer, or we'd have done it ages ago.
posted by Stacey at 12:20 PM on November 21 [6 favorites]


I'm a user who mostly reads along and rarely comments in those threads, so I don't know how useful that perspective is

Very useful. In case anyone else is wondering -- we're interested to hear what people think, especially people that we don't hear from very often. We don't have another way to know what people like and dislike about this situation, so please, if you're a lurker, this is a good time to let us know where you're at.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:24 PM on November 21 [4 favorites]


I'd say I'm a moderate commenter on the site - in the sense that I read Mefi, MetaTalk, AskMe, and a teensy bit of Fanfare daily, and comment probably 5-10 comments on a heavy day and none on most days. I rarely comment in the political MegaThreads although I read them all, because I don't have anything jokey to add (and get annoyed with the long riffs of jokes and silliness sometimes) and get my news/links from there mostly. The benefit to me is that Mefites are talking about things that AREN'T widely reported and I feel like I need that to know what's going on.

I haven't really understood this conflict at all - for me, two simultaneous discussions can go on - one, in the MegaThread, which could be what it is - links, discussion about those links and breaking events. In parallel, I'd rather a MetaTalk thread (kind of like the Fucking Fuck Fuck threads) be the place where people try out their joke material, say, "hey that link over there, made me think of this other tangential thing, etc., mods said not to discuss it in the MegaThread, but since several of you wanted to talk about it with me, let's do it here?") I realize that this approach maybe makes fights break out in MetaTalk instead of MeFi, which doesn't really help the mods, but I don't really get why too much jokiness can't be like, "cut it out, take it to the fun politics MetaTalk," which is what happens to a lot of topics that stray on the blue.
posted by agregoli at 12:32 PM on November 21 [8 favorites]


I don't really see A through D as being entirely separate activities as much as normal, interlocking features of organic conversation

I understand, and I agree that some "noise" serves an important social function. I'd probably miss it if it was gone.

The trick is to agree on how much noise is too much. Good luck with that mods :-)
posted by diogenes at 1:11 PM on November 21 [2 favorites]


People who feel like just riffing and goofing around, we have an entire website for that energy and I would honestly be thrilled to see that stuff distributed a little wider across threads about weird/fun/interesting stuff.

But my jokes about Trump wouldn't make sense in a thread about people who knit cute sweaters for whales.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:24 PM on November 21 [3 favorites]


Maybe a convention like [real]/[fake], tagging actual factual developments or new news with... I don't know, something. [not noise] seems a little pretentious. But at least then people who just want a synopsis could ctrl-f, next through.

I'm brainstorming, in case it helps someone else think of an idea not quite this bad.
posted by ctmf at 1:30 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


Very useful. In case anyone else is wondering -- we're interested to hear what people think, especially people that we don't hear from very often.

I viewed the US Politics megathreads for a while after the election but quit before they become a Thing. I hate what they've become - the link roundup FPP is useful but the threads themselves seem to be primarily venting and riffing. It's the opposite of what makes MetaFilter valuable to me. If I want to read one-liners about Trump being stupid I can (and do!) log in to Twitter, Facebook, CNN comments, what have you. Yeah the moderation here cuts out the racism but it's not a substantially different experience.

And the energy from the threads has definitely leaked out; I've come across "This reminds me of the GOP..." comments in otherwise unrelated comment threads. Forget 'adding' a PoliticsFilter; MetaFilter itself will, without active resistance, BECOME politicsfilter. If not for all the great mod work we'd already be there. This is absolutely not to disparage talking/chatting about US politics, but simply to point out that even though US Politics is something many MeFi members want to talk about, that topic should not dominate MetaFilter, in addition to all the other websites the topic already dominates. Because, critically, many MeFi members diswant to talk or read about it, and their wants are less well served by the internet as a whole.

This is true for any sufficiently large topic, including sexual abuse. I mean, we need balance. I like to read the occasional FPP about turn-of-the-century horseless carriage schematics too, but we'd be having the same discussion if half our members REALLY wanted to talk non-stop about turn-of-the-century horseless carriage schematics.
posted by smokysunday at 1:47 PM on November 21 [25 favorites]


smokysunday, you perfectly nailed what I've been struggling to articulate the last day or so that this MeTa has been open. I agree completely.

The megathreads do serve a purpose and work for many people here, but I mostly stay out of them because if I really want all of what the megathreads have to offer, I can just as easily load up Twitter and I've been avoiding Twitter a lot lately for these same reasons.

It's one reason why I've tried so hard to not post about anything related to politics the last few months. I don't know what the answer is, but more POTUS45/USpolitics/news is NOT something I want here on MetaFilter.
posted by Fizz at 1:55 PM on November 21 [10 favorites]


And with regards to the sexual assault/abuse threads. I feel like handling them on a case by case basis (the way the mods have been handling them) is working. I realize thats a lot of work/management for the mods but I don't know that another megathread in the same vein of politics is necessary or helpful. Closing a thread or redirecting a post and its links to an already ongoing thread are probably the best option.

And again, thanks to the Mods for all of the work they do. This conversation shows how much behind the scenes is really happening and I appreciate it.
posted by Fizz at 1:57 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


we're interested to hear what people think, especially people that we don't hear from very often. We don't have another way to know what people like and dislike about this situation

It's extremely difficult to keep up with the megathreads without spending significant chunks of time, and this is frustrating if your priority there is A and B type discussion. I completely understand why people who are willing and able to spend that time want to also participate in C and D but those categories are what I tend to try to skip, not because they aren't interesting to read and often funny, but just because the sheer volume makes it nigh impossible to keep up with A and B within the portion of my time I am able to spend reading the threads.
posted by walrus at 2:26 PM on November 21 [7 favorites]


I find a lot of value in A-D in various degrees at various times. Sometimes one area gets emphasized a lot (a lot of riffing and venting, a lot of in-depth discussion on Franken and sexual harassment, an avalanche of news, etc...), and sometimes there's a request to dial that back when one area gets out of hand. I do sometimes question the value of the threads vs just reading Twitter, and then there's some in-depth insightful comment from one mefite or another that just blows me away. That model doesn't please everyone, because people who want more of A will be frustrated by lots of B-D, but trying to split things is also weird: the in-depth discussion and snark comes as an outgrowth of the news. It's hard because everyone wants different things, from "these threads should not exist" to news only to "500 in-depth comments analyzing health care policy" (yes please!) to "bring me all the jokes and snark," and everyone is doing a little bit to make the thread a little more like they want it, which makes it a little less like how someone else may prefer things to be.

I've been on vacation (hence the less posting lately; hope you're having fun lalex), and skimming the thread has been a useful way for me to keep up with what's happening during a time when I'm spending a lot less time digging into articles and following the news closely. I've appreciated that.

My dream model is closer to something like a hybrid of a community weblog, a higher SNR version of Twitter, or, really, Google Reader: some sort of web app where you follow selected curators who post curated links and up to a couple paragraphs of optional commentary, with room for pullquotes and some kind of discussion mechanism under each story. You could adjust the kinds of things you see based on who you follow. It would be sort of an, er, meta filter on the news. It all veers into "get your own blog" territory, but in the back of my head, I wonder if there's a way to have a tool that's more suited to this kind of information sharing and discussion. (I'm just daydreaming, and explicitly not saying MetaFilter should go off and build an entirely new type of thing to support political megathreads.)
posted by zachlipton at 2:41 PM on November 21 [3 favorites]


I tend to read the politics thread once in a while, usually when a new one starts. Then I create a masterful comment, full of great insight, awesome links, and carefully considered opinion.

Then I preview it, and then close the browser without posting.
posted by disclaimer at 3:06 PM on November 21 [6 favorites]


I don't really see A through D as being entirely separate activities as much as normal, interlocking features of organic conversation

I don't think they're inherently separate either; I'm not surprised at all that they tend to commingle in the megathreads because I'd expect them to commingle to some extent in any sizable conversation.

However, the proportions can and do vary a lot and one of the reasons the megathreads end up as mega as they do is because of how those proportions are playing out in practice. And we are as a community very much capable, when we make an effort (both through mod intervention and individual and collective self-policing), of managing how much of one or another kind of conversation prevails in any given context.

So I feel comfortable saying we can manage to aim for e.g. a lot less riffing and venting, and more restraint about whether and which details to try and unpack, without saying that those things literally aren't allowed. We can filter more thoughtfully which bits of "this guy said this dumb thing!" info to bring into a thread without banning the idea outright.

My feeling on the megathreads is that a major issue with them is that these proportions have gotten off, in large part because they've become hangouts in such a way that giving those proportions careful thought and filtering what's worth mentioning has gone by the wayside. And while I'm glad for folks to have a sort of loose casual feeling when hanging out on the site I don't think it's done the site good to have so much of that taking place in and tied to non-stop politics kibitzing. And the momentum of their inevitability has both made it more difficult to nudge people back to a less breakneck default and made it more difficult for folks looking for the non-breakneck utility to bother to keep a toe in the water.

So, yes: MetaFilter discussions tend to have links, and deep dives, and venting, and goofing, and even with an eye toward making a change to how politics threads go on the site I don't expect that to change. But I think there's a huge amount of room to move on the specific balance of those things, and that for folks who prefer the current balance there are options for getting their needs there served reasonably well by working out a different balance of where and how they spend their time in the larger MetaFilter community space.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:08 PM on November 21 [9 favorites]


disclaimer: your comments sound lovely, and I'd enjoy reading one sometime if you'd care to hit post instead of closing the window.
posted by zachlipton at 3:10 PM on November 21 [3 favorites]


I want to ask, do folks feel they need to read the entire megathread before participating? I definitely do not do this.
posted by lalex at 3:15 PM on November 21


I'm a mostly-lurker, in general on mefi. But lately most of my reading has been in the politics threads, because honestly politics have become a much bigger part of my life in general.

I don't understand twitter (I'm not even that old..) and seeing pictures of several of the people involved stresses me out, so the mefi politics threads are the way I stay informed about politics, but it takes a significant amount of my time such that I don't really have time to read the rest of Metafilter any more, which is a bit sad. I was really struck by the data cortex showed in his talk about how commenting behavior has changed (i.e. people post more in politics threads, and less everywhere else).

If the threads went away, I think I would look for what they provide somewhere besides mefi, because it turns out I care about politics now. I think I just have less eyeball time for things outside of politics these days, and that is likely true whether or not I get the politics through metafilter.

I would understand if the threads are something the mods can't support, or can't support in their current form, but I'd also be interested in what can be done to help the problem- as in, would having more mods help?
posted by nat at 3:15 PM on November 21 [4 favorites]


I definitely do not do this.

We've noticed. It is not great. It leads to a lot of duplicate links and comments that add to the volume of the thread without adding to its value. We'd really prefer if people at least got up to speed with the last hour or so of conversation before dropping something in.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:16 PM on November 21 [20 favorites]


I generally don't comment unless I have read the entire thread, but I'm that way about most threads, and I generally don't comment anyhow. Maybe updating a wiki with strategies for skimming/checking for previously posted links/etc would be useful for people who want to participate without having to read every single comment.
posted by nat at 3:16 PM on November 21


It leads to a lot of duplicate links

I definitely do search, both by control-Fing for usually more than one keyword, and additionally by skimming the conversation since the timestamp of the article, before posting a link. Certainly zach and I post a lot of duplicates, but they're usually within a minute of each other and I'm not sure how to avoid that.
posted by lalex at 3:20 PM on November 21 [2 favorites]


I read the whole thread before commenting. Maybe that's why I have a lower tolerance for noise.
posted by diogenes at 3:22 PM on November 21 [7 favorites]


Yeah, and I'll note that as a commenting strategy, commenting-without-reading is something that the mods watching the thread don't have the option of. One of the reasons constant fast-moving threads are a problem is that we have the capacity to keep up with that basically only in the sense that a person has a capacity to run very fast: sprints are for short intervals. They aren't sustainable.

So when we used to have that big weird thing that happened every few weeks or every couple of months, or the very busy few days around election day, it was tiring but doable and then it was over. When every five days is the start of another five day sprint, there's no rest period there and our options are (a) be exhausted all the time or (b) not moderate effectively. In practice, we're stuck teetering between the two.

That's part of why while I understand on a personal level saying essentially "I like the way things are, maybe they should stay this way?", that's not really engaging with what we're saying as a moderation team. "Don't change anything" isn't viable.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:27 PM on November 21 [13 favorites]


Please make some effort to read the thread before posting. I've noticed when people do this too and it is not helping.
posted by agregoli at 3:35 PM on November 21 [8 favorites]


Certainly zach and I post a lot of duplicates, but they're usually within a minute of each other and I'm not sure how to avoid that.

Waiting a minute would help.
posted by agregoli at 3:36 PM on November 21 [7 favorites]


For me, reading the political megathreads is little like going on a bender in Las Vegas. Everything is bright and noisy and alarms keep sounding left and right. Nothing seems more urgent than the next round of cards and drinks. When you finally go home you've spent way more than you intended and you feel a little out of touch with your spouse/family/friends/colleagues. So I find them fascinating but draining, and participating too much can foster a sense of disaster camaraderie that's somewhat alienating.
posted by dmh at 3:41 PM on November 21 [6 favorites]


I want to ask, do folks feel they need to read the entire megathread before participating?

Yes, because I don't want to make more work for the mods. Also, I do searches for links and keywords (especially in View Source) if I'm not sure if I missed something. But I do those searches even in shorter threads.

As a commenter, i find the mods' deletion pattern in politics threads hard to predict. I have trouble figuring out why some comments are deleted and others are left standing.

I don't really ever have this problem in other threads.

Does anyone else have this problem? Might just be me. I dunno.
posted by zarq at 3:48 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


as in, would having more mods help?

Probably so, but it's kind of a "would unicorns help" thing because it's not on the table; mods are expensive and right now we're doing okay financially with the team we have because it's exactly the size it is. Something really significant would have to change for us to seriously look at increasing our headcount at all, let alone by enough to let us spare a lot more energy for wrangling politics discussion, even if that was how we wanted to use site resources.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:48 PM on November 21


Is there any percentage in having two or so mods 'adopt' one megathread at a time, instead of every mod trying to keep on top of every active thread during their shift, meaning the duplication of a lot of reading time? I do understand this may not be at all feasible since you have to cover the clock and that seems to usually mean one person's on duty.
posted by Miko at 3:53 PM on November 21 [2 favorites]


How expensive are we talking, if you feel comfortable saying? Like, if you were to have a donation drive to hire temporary/dedicated mods or simply acquire necessary resources to better handle a decision about politics on the site, where would you set that goal?
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 3:53 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


Waiting a minute would help.

As would disabling live preview and going back to the "preview" button before posting. It shows the latest comments before you pull the trigger and hit 'post'. Bonus: live preview makes the page much more sluggish when the thread gets long.

And now I can't find that option in the preferences, but I swear it's there. I have the preview button instead of live preview.
posted by ctmf at 3:56 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


We have one mod on shift at a time; we have enough mods right now to be able to cover 24/7 and have a tiny bit of leeway for someone to take a vacation now and then without anyone working more than 40 hours. If we added one more mod, that wouldn't really add more eyes on every shift (or every North American awake-time shift, which is the relevant bit for this question) and would be a bunch of money because Metafilter actually pays its mods a living wage. It's less a matter of "how much money" and more about how shiftwork works just in general. Believe me, I think we've all thought a lot about this in the past two years.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:57 PM on November 21 [4 favorites]


correction: I'm wrong. I used to have live preview turned off, now I have both, live preview AND the preview button, and I didn't notice.
posted by ctmf at 3:58 PM on November 21


Yeah, we'd be talking several thousand dollars a month, per head, exact figures depending on whether it's a full-time or part-time hire. It would represent at a minimum doing something like increasing community donations 75-100% over the already hugely generous amount people are giving, and depending on that increase staying sustained over the long term. And that'd be to just take the strain off a little bit, not change the game.

And, again, I have basically no interest in making a huge demanding long-term-risky push like that specifically for the sake of avoiding having to reexamine a politics discussion dynamic that I think is not good for the site in the long term to begin with.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:01 PM on November 21 [4 favorites]


Waiting a minute would help.

Well we just tried... (For context, lalex and I just did the double post thing again, and it was quickly cleaned up by a nimble moderator on duty.) I usually do flag my own comments when that kind of thing happens and have been trying to avoid feeding into the assortment of jokes that follows such moments, to make it easier for the mods to deal with. I presume flag it and move on is a better solution for double posts and it's easier if we avoid some of the riffing?

The sense I have is that it's more of a problem when people don't read the thread (by which I often mean, can't read the thread in its entirety) and stuff starts repeating six hours later than the situations where the same new link is posted by a few people within 30 seconds or so, it gets flagged, and one lives on.

Anyway, I'll take that double post as a sign I should be drinking some sort of fruity thing out of a souvenir plastic cup right now instead of reading news.
posted by zachlipton at 4:04 PM on November 21


for folks who prefer the current balance there are options for getting their needs there served reasonably well by working out a different balance of where and how they spend their time in the larger MetaFilter community space.

You do the Lord's work, man, but I haven't a clue what this means. It sounds like I'm getting yelled at by the cable company.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:07 PM on November 21 [2 favorites]


I can't find that option in the preferences, but I swear it's there.

Found it, not in preferences, but on every page, next to the live preview itself, a little 'hide' link. Also removes the 'post' button so you have to preview.
posted by ctmf at 4:08 PM on November 21



Often there are like five people who are commenting easily two, three, or four times as much as the next most frequent commenters.

And in a lot of contexts, those people would be called key content generators or powerful contributors.


I find this really interesting cause for me, on any thread, those hyper frequent voices are the opposite of adding value, indeed they make it harder for me to read substantive contributions, and break the flow, drowning out other voices in the process. It can contribute to a cliquey feeling (I think is one of the worst aspects of metafilter) when it's the same people all the time.

This is not me saying that my way is right and your way is wrong, but rather that I think there are at least two different need and desires at play. Whilst the site can generally accommodate these competing needs, the stresses of the politics threads in particular are throwing them into relief.

I would love hyper commenters to back off and let threads breathe more, but if others are getting value from then it's not really for me to say.

My greater concern is a sense of increasing stress from mods regarding these threads. I feel as community members we have an obligation to protect and help our mods, as they so often do for us.

Whilst it's ideal that mefi continues to meet most needs for most members, I don't want these people I partly pay for, and respect and like immensely, dreading coming into work, wading into certain threads every single shift etc.

Weve spoken about what mefites need and want, how can we help our moderators reduce their stress around these threads? They don't have an option of opting out like we do.

Its sounds like from a mod perspective, something has to give sooner or later. Let us know how we can help you.
posted by smoke at 4:14 PM on November 21 [34 favorites]


I hate what they've become - the link roundup FPP is useful but the threads themselves seem to be primarily venting and riffing. It's the opposite of what makes MetaFilter valuable to me.

and

I find this really interesting cause for me, on any thread, those hyper frequent voices are the opposite of adding value, indeed they make it harder for me to read substantive contributions, and break the flow, drowning out other voices in the process. It can contribute to a cliquey feeling (I think is one of the worst aspects of metafilter) when it's the same people all the time.


I am in total agreement with smokysunday and smoke here. I don't comment much at all but I read the threads, and fairly often when I check in on recent activity the most recent 10 comments are wholly inscrutable 'jokes' from the same handful of users. At that point it's not a politics thread, it's a chat room, you know?
posted by everybody had matching towels at 4:22 PM on November 21 [23 favorites]


Self care is important, but mod care is important too. Yes, let us know how we can help, or what changes we can accept in the interest of mod sanity.
posted by nat at 4:24 PM on November 21


Nth-ing what smokysunday said. I participate here less than I used to. A large part of the drop-off is that the politics megathreads seem to have leaked over into a lot of the rest of the site. It's important to people so I don't begrudge that; I do miss the other variants of MetaFilter, though.
posted by introp at 4:37 PM on November 21 [6 favorites]


I love the politics threads, I've been reading them nearly daily for about 18 months. I really do get good value out of them and I'm greatful to the mods and to the people who contribute.

Saying that, I don't they're at all sustainable as they are right now. I've been reading Mefi since 2003, and a member since 2006. I get that things are moving at breakneck speed in politics with new crazy shit almost every day (or multiple times per day) and I get that the stakes are really high. But I also remember Mefi during the Bush years and there was high stakes shit going on then too. The pace was a little bit slower, and things seemed less patently ludicrous (who could imagine Stupid Watergate back then?). But the mods still had to put the breaks on topics and be like look, this has been covered a lot lately and we need to give it a rest.

I'm kind of thinking we need to go back to that, even though I will really really miss the ongoing politics threads. It's not a judgement on the importance of the topic, it's just that eternal question of "Okay, but does that discussion have to happen here? Does it have to happen right now?" I'd rather some sort of choke-point was put in place where we could still have politics fpps semi-regularly, but just less regularly? I think that might be a do-able compromise, although the mods would have to be the ones to make that call.

We've tried this experiment for a year, and I think it's time to start tinkering with it, much as I personally enjoy the status quo.
posted by supercrayon at 5:28 PM on November 21 [3 favorites]


I really don't care about the political threads one way or another, but if the stress of these things is slowly tearing the mods down to the studs I think we need to make a change. I can't imagine interacting with these threads on the level they do.
posted by selfnoise at 5:29 PM on November 21 [4 favorites]


if you're a lurker, this is a good time to let us know where you're at.

I'm mostly a lurker on the Blue though I visit the front page at least once every day. I'm not American but skim the politics megathreads for the roundup of links. I find them very useful. I used to try to follow the comments but I don't bother anymore. I hop in, skim for links, then hop out. They're a huge time suck.

I would never actively participate in them. Not only do I, as a non-American, have nothing too much to add to the discussion, but also the general tone of those threads tends to be so charged and fraught and angry and despairing and, like smoke pointed out above, often feel very cliquey. And the recent surge in sexual harassment discussions feels overwhelming to me sometimes as well.

This has been discussed before in MeTa, but I've always felt that MeFi is an American site, though I understand the mods try to level it out as being open to an international audience. The big American politics discussions are just that, American, so I feel it really weighs down the site even further in that direction, which to me is kind of sad, but I'm not really sure what can be done about it.

So count me in as one of those whose participation on the site in general has been tapering off. I used to comment from time to time in AskMe but I don't even go there much anymore.

I love MetaFilter. I really do. I've been here for 11 years, longer than any other site on the internet, and even though I don't post at all and don't comment much, I really still do love this site. I'm thankful for the effort the mods put into running the place. I saw cortex's talk and really appreciated what he had to say. I hope some kind of solution is reached regarding how to handle the difficult topics because yes, it's definitely affecting the site in general and probably not in a good way.

Apologies for not having anything constructive to add, but this is how I've been feeling about MeFi this past year.
posted by misozaki at 5:31 PM on November 21 [24 favorites]


Endless political threads are for Republicans who do bad.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 8:10 PM on November 21


I'm mostly a lurker for whom mefi used to be a daily read. I've been lurking much less (and commenting almost not at all) since the politics threads started being a thing. If they became less of a thing again, I'd probably spend more time here again.

Yes, adding the ability to hide them helped, but they bleed over to the rest of the site in all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle ways. For me, post-eternal-November Mefi is a place I often don't enjoy any more.

No clue how common my feelings are. But I'm guessing more common than might be evident reading this thread. Most of the people speaking up here love the politics threads. Almost by definition, the people who feel driven away by the change in the site aren't saying anything: they've been driven away.

I'm glad to hear that changes are on the table. I hope they'll be ones that make me happy to be here more often.
posted by jacobian at 8:50 PM on November 21 [9 favorites]


Having made my own kibitzes up-thread and having now read many others, speaking again just for myself, I'd have to say that of the many solutions proposed, in almost all cases I actually prefer the status quo. Slack, chat, lots of narrow threads, careful policing of over-active posters or over-redundant posts, a crackdown on the mega-threads, hiding the mega-threads ever deeper, strengthening norms to reduce C&D (venting and goofing), etc -- for me personally, all would be worse than the status quo. Which makes me realize that the status quo is actually pretty great.

I think most of the frustration I occasionally feel is really just transference from a frustrating world, and not actually caused by anything on Metafilter. Yes, I spend far too long on these megathreads, but (a) that's my own problem to overcome, and (b) it does come with a reduction of time spent on other (less useful) blogs. Just as for many, Twitter has replaced blogging in the zero-sum world of people's time, these megathreads have reduced my dependence other resources, including Twitter, enormously. Almost all of the proposed changes mooted here would, for me, reduce that utility. Which again is to say that overall it's really a great resource, and everything from cortex's A through D are important and rewarding for me, and while the A-D balance might be usefully shifted a little in one way or the other, I fear that more radical changes would excise some of that stuff altogether -- and it's all essential in my book.

So to update my TLDR from above: I actually think it's pretty great as it is. We're all hurting, but I gain far more (informed) optimism from these threads than I lose. The sheer volume of activity here shows that something is working. If it's unsustainable for the mods, so be it, but if not, please take care not to break a truly useful and rare resource.
posted by chortly at 9:22 PM on November 21 [7 favorites]


We've tried this experiment for a year, and I think it's time to start tinkering with it, much as I personally enjoy the status quo.

Chewing on this for a bit, I agree with the need to continue to evolve it, for the betterment of the site and for the sanity of the mods, but I feel like some of my hesitancy has been coming from a fear that to take steps to end the "state of emergency" of the megathreads would be to normalize what is happening politically. Which is, on the one hand, silly, because us making the self-care decisions we need to make for our community is necessary and good, but there's a part of me that feels like significantly curtailing the threads would be a pretty huge step in actually accepting the present reality, and that's hard for some of us to do.

None of this is sustainable, but making major changes to really acknowledge that fact also feels like a way of giving up a little, of adjusting to a new normal. It doesn't, of course, have to be that way for us personally, regardless of what the site does, and there are lots of things Mefites are doing in their other communities one way or another.

Living in perpetual emergency mode isn't sustainable for the country or for MetaFilter, and it's hard to figure out how to stop it for MetaFilter when we're still going to be living it.
posted by zachlipton at 9:43 PM on November 21 [2 favorites]


Some have said that they could get the same experience from Twitter. I don't concur. I don't post on twitter, but while I have an okay list of people who I follow, the signal/noise ratio even among intelligent and active people on Twitter is still far worse and those people don't come up with a 10th of the information that people do on the MEGA-MAGA-threads. Plus, the posts that I like best on Metafilter, aside from links, are the long thought out posts. That is not something that one can find on Twitter, nor, even if Twitter didn't have post length limits, would it be possible to find such a good mix of people who are essentially mostly on the right side most of the time.

I can see and sympathize with how this larger and somewhat more likely to get contentious block of posts can be frustrating and tiring for mods, but people are also saying that even without going into the threads, the politicization of Metafilter is ruining their experience in the non-political threads. I don't want to invalidate anyone's experience, so if people are saying that they see things that way, there must be a reason for it. However, as someone who also looks at and sometimes posts in the other threads, I don't get why that would be the case, since it seems like the political stuff is usually relegated to threads that are posted twice a week tops. With that being the case, if the people who feel that way have the time to clarify, it would be much appreciated, so that I can cure my ignorance on that point and also curb any potential actions on my part that might be leading to people feeling that way.

Personally, as I guess one could already have guessed from my posts above, I find the rumblings that these threads(/the status quo) might be eliminated rather ominous. Aside from the fact that I feel that these threads are actually helping other people and I cope with what is going on, I have also found them useful in that they have exposed me to ways to take action and let me know in a timely fashion where to go to protest on occasion. The people who post in these threads are a small group relative to the size of the US or the overall online community, but I feel that they people represent a larger portion of the resistance proportionally than their numbers would lead one to believe. Without these threads, I think the resistance would have a rather useful means of fighting back taken away from them.

If I knew of other places to go to converse with a population this active and intelligent(and verbose), I would already be there (and if anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to dm me). As I've said, I don't feel that there would be a big loss if the joking and doomsaying was mostly channeled elsewhere, but I think that the loss of A/B here would actually be enough of a loss that it would actually make the resistance a small bit less likely to succeed. Good things happen in the world because of what happens here, and I hope that continues.
posted by bootlegpop at 9:45 PM on November 21 [10 favorites]


I love the politics megathreads. But if moderating them is wearing on the mods, then I'm fine with just ending them. I enjoyed mefi before the megathreads. I'm sure I can still enjoy it without them.

As an aside I do appreciate that you've let them run for over a year now. It's been incredibly helpful.
posted by great_radio at 10:26 PM on November 21


Very useful. In case anyone else is wondering -- we're interested to hear what people think, especially people that we don't hear from very often.

I agree with smoke and everybody had matching towels and smokeysunday and others.
I read the US politics mega threads, on my commute so pretty much two times a day, as I do find them an interesting source on US politics. However, the noise and snark and insider jokes/insider language (eg names for Trump) and repeat comments by always the same people is at times truly offputting to this reader and I just scroll in hope for anything of substance and some links.

I read pretty much all links posted there but hardly any of the comments, except to get a feel of the athmosphere in the US currently, but the feel of the room in the megathreads is really cliqueish and even just reading often feels like eavesdropping to be honest. Lurking decribes it well but is sad I think. LIke if you come into some rural pub and conversations stops while the local regulars look you up and down.
I would never dream of commenting in a US politics thread, first I am not in the US nor a US citizen but also because it seems utterly useless.

Also, as an observer from the outside there is to me the to quite obvious aspect that several others also have mentioned, that keeping up a constant state of emergency is not sustainable.
An IV drip of twitter nastiness is deeply poisonous. I personally do not understand why people even bother to repeat and repeat ad nauseum every tweet Trump makes. I do realise it is his main form of communication, but the quote him again and again more than once?

Let me point out that I write this from Austria, a country that was taken up in the thrall of a vicious presidential election all of 2016, with the very very real possibility of Austria ending up with a very far right, fascist president. Lucky for us we did not.
However, right now following general elections in October, that were the dirtiest so far in the country's history (complete with fake facebook pages run by several parties throwing mud on candidates, fake news, etc), we will have a coalition governement of the far right party FPÖ and the center right-moving to far right ÖVP, a true nightmare for a large part of the population.

So I do know the panic and fear caused by my country moving into a directiion I deeply loathe only to well. I have a 9-year old son. I am worried for his future. Add to that our own little sexual abuse scandal, involving the one true oppposition politician remainig after this election, Peter Pilz, renowned for his anti-corruption work in the last decades. He is not only accused but two (male) witnesses whose names are on public record dragged him off the woman. He says he cannot remember because he was drunk.
Austria being a very small country of 8 million, we now have truly no one who will pursue and investigate the swamp of corruption.

I share all this only say I empathise with you, but at the same time, I think that this total immersion that is the megathreads seems quite unsustainable to me, both for the commenters and even more so the mods.
posted by 15L06 at 2:17 AM on November 22 [19 favorites]


Also, as an observer from the outside there is to me the to quite obvious aspect that several others also have mentioned, that keeping up a constant state of emergency is not sustainable.
An IV drip of twitter nastiness is deeply poisonous.


Masha Gessen:

Rule #4: Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.
posted by bootlegpop at 2:57 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


I promise you that most of the people participating in this conversation do not need to be reminded that Trump is bad and we should be outraged. Being enthusiastic about the politics thread is not the only way to demonstrate political engagement (or be politically engaged).
posted by ChuraChura at 3:12 AM on November 22 [17 favorites]


I don't think that my usage of that quote implied ignorance on anyone's part. I posted it because I feel that there is a desire to normalize things here while, as someone said above, things are not normalized in the world. I felt that the quote was a decent argument against doing so.

In addition, I think that shock (still after a year) at least partially explains the unfortunate tendency mentioned by 15L in the post that I quoted for some people to get repetitive in the maga/megas and, while I don't enjoy redundancy any more than the next guy, I empathize and I think that the shock that can lead to it isn't necessarily negative, even if some of its products are.

Sorry if I was needlessly obscure initially.
posted by bootlegpop at 3:36 AM on November 22


I don't think anyone pushing back against the structure of political threads is trying to normalize the political moment in the US, and I think that perception is part of what makes the political threads problematic. The political threads are not The Resistance, participation (or lack thereof) is not a value judgment or indicator of political engagement and awareness.
posted by ChuraChura at 3:49 AM on November 22 [19 favorites]


Thank you, and I see I should make clear I do not want to say or even imply anyone should have a desire to normalize the current situation, whether in the US or in my home country.
I thought long and hard for days before posting tbh and how and what to say. Finally, I decided that I would after long deliberation as it seemed right to share my experience as a reader of those threads. I want to make it clear, what I wrote is entirely in regard to the US megathreads on Metafilter.

I am familiar with the work of Masha Gessen and have great respect for her. I do not think that one should not be outraged, resist, etc and that was not what I intended to convey at all. Especially to maintain one’s capacity for shock is important, how to do that is an individual choice. Outrage can manifest in many ways. Also, I feel it is important to maintain one's sanity in the face of such an overwhelming deluge of nastiness. Again how to is a personal matter, and in a shared space such as on this site, I appreciate the mods interest (expressed above) to hear from those not so vocal. I know I don't need to read any of it and some days I don't.

If you have not read it yet, let me recommend the in my opinion challenging, hands-on and helpful book (or manual if you will) by Tim Snyder: On Tyranny.

Finally, to quote Gessen once more (and in my mind I like to replace Trump's name with our own horrible Austrian politicians names and the Deomcrats with our own Social Democratic party who lost the majority in October due to complacency and infighting mainly):
Rule #6: Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election. They offered no vision of the future to counterbalance Trump’s all-too-familiar white-populist vision of an imaginary past. They had also long ignored the strange and outdated institutions of American democracy that call out for reform—like the electoral college, which has now cost the Democratic Party two elections in which Republicans won with the minority of the popular vote. That should not be normal. But resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged—should be.
(emphasis mine)
lets fight the good fight.
posted by 15L06 at 4:29 AM on November 22 [7 favorites]


I only read the links in the OP of each mega-thread, and keep up with news on my own time. I don't recall participating more than once or twice since they started. So I'm strictly A. I don't have the time for B, I think C belongs in private channels and D - no way. Few people (including myself) are ever as witty as they think they are.

I am in full agreement that the tone of the MegaThreads leaks into other areas of the site on the regular. I believe asking MetaFilter, as currently built and staffed, to continue to support these giant slobberknockers of news, "news," and debate is asking too much.

It's a similar feeling for me as when I see the same large group of people at the coffee shop push tables together and take over 1/2 of the area almost every day. They're boisterous and high-maintenance, expecting the employees to keep the table 100% bused and crumb-less at all times, a higher standard than the smaller tables normally get. The smaller groups of 2 or 3 are trying to have their own conversations but it's hard because the larger group's conversation is very pervasive. They're told to ignore the larger group (nobody's MAKING you pay attention to them), or put up their own physical barriers to filter them out (here's how to build a screen). Some of them start ordering their drinks to-go. Some of them stop coming altogether.

BTW, I started writing this last night, and it has taken me 'til this morning to post because I'm nervous of being shouted down, judged for not caring about [x/y/z]. That's...not good.
posted by kimberussell at 5:03 AM on November 22 [22 favorites]


Not to pick on any one person’s comment above, but I need to push back on what feels like implicit and in at least one case explicit passive aggressive guilt-tripping.

Neither you nor the country are going to be saved by you reading thousands of comments daily on MetaFilter. “The Resistance” is out in the world Fighting Back, not breathlessly waiting for a pre-Thanksgiving Mueller indictment (as a whole swath of comments were doing this week).

Meanwhile, the status quo is not sustainable, neither for MetaFilter as a whole, nor for the mod team, nor for the commenters — never mind adding in another vitally important topic that will add thousands more comments every day. And then there will be another. And another.
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:45 AM on November 22 [16 favorites]


I wonder if this is one of those situations where the attempt to impose control has created its own beast. The Megathreads were instituted so as to prevent the blue from being taken over by multiple political topic posts a day or a week. But channeling all political content into their own giant single posts limited to once or twice a week has had some unintended effects: creating the "clique" atmosphere some people perceive, glomming multiple topics together, building giant and unwieldy threads that make even an average amount of joke and snark feel like clutter, consuming disproportionate mod energy, becoming self-referential, etc.

I wonder how possible it would be to just go back to allowing people to post when there's a unusually strong reason to do so (which, let's be honest, would be frequent), or alternatively, a single daily "did you see the politics" post that ends at midnight and is clearly tagged so others can avoid it. That might also give the mods a throttle since redundant posting could easily be spotted and deleted.
posted by Miko at 5:46 AM on November 22 [4 favorites]


CC: participation (or lack thereof) is not a value judgment or indicator of political engagement and awareness.

I don't think that I implied that, nor did I mean to. If other people have, that sucks and I am sorry to hear that. No one should have the right to judge people for how they opt to cope with and react to the present presidential debacle. People find their own ways of dealing with things. Some of us have found other ways, some of us employ the aforementioned threads. I certainly would not wish to try to take your means of coping away from you, nor would I make any judgments about you based on what those methods are or aren't.

The political threads are not The Resistance

I don't concur. People, including myself, have heard about things here and used that information to go out into the real world to do things about them. The means by which one reaches an act are also a means of resistance.

I've asked that anyone who knows of one to DM me a easier or even equally or nearly equally easy way to gather poli information and to get to see long thought out posts by smart people of the caliber of Metafilter users in one place. No one has DM'd me. If it doesn't exist and people are finding ways to resist through these threads, elimination of them will unfortunately take a tool of resistance away from some people who are resisting in their own way, and consequently less resisting will transpire due to people losing a method of communication and co-ordination.
------
1: If you have not read it yet, let me recommend the in my opinion challenging, hands-on and helpful book (or manual if you will) by Tim Snyder: On Tyranny.

You are quite right about that book. I'm also a fan of his "Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning". It is a bit more of a slog, but somehow made 2016 a little less unpredictable for me.

Also, touche on the reciprocal quoting of Gessen. Your point is well taken.

I know I don't need to read any of it and some days I don't.

This is a point of agreement with you, but a jumping off point for a general point of disagreement with other people who seem to want the threads to go away. If the moderators can no longer or will no longer support the poli threads, and that is something that everyone will have to deal with and there is not really any argument or complaint that I or anyone else can fairly make against that. However, I don't see why people who can opt to ignore the threads feel a desire to shut them down. People have stated that they find them useful and people have stated that they help them cope. I feel it would be a shame if something that hundreds (thousands?) of people participate in and benefit from should have to go away so that people don't have to scroll past a post every 2-5 days on the main page, a post that furthermore they can toggle a block for.
----
Kim:slobberknockers of news

I love that word, slobberknocker.

or put up their own physical barriers to filter them out (here's how to build a screen).

Point taken, though I do wish that the barriers at restaurants were as good as the ones here. I would give far more than a 5$ fee for something that made people who were loud or annoying at restaurants completely invisible and inaudible to me.

I'm nervous of being shouted down

Well, hopefully this doesn't happen. I don't agree with you on all points, but we're actually closer in perspective than you may think, in that I only like A/B, and could even deal with B being a little trimmed down. I do find that I get quite a bit of A from the comments, though. Sometimes when the thread is really busy and I am too, I just scroll through for links, don't comment, and ignore text. Not everyone has the time for that, of course, but I find that most useful information tends to be in the comments because the links in the comments keep on coming while the post is open, whereas the actual main post is more of a snapshot.

I see what you mean about the pervasiveness, though. I haven't used the filter that I joked about above obviously. Do you know how many of those would still be visible to someone with it on? If they aren't all being caught, I can see that being really frustrating for someone who is trying to ignore them especially if they find them to be triggering. I think that the pervasiveness is somewhat a product of the rapidity of news. Someone above mentioned how much more orderly things were here under Bush, but Bush moved at a crawl speedwise compared to Trump and Twitter didn't exist yet, so as horrible as he was, it was an easier time in that regard.
---------------
Celsius:Not to pick on any one person’s comment above
in at least one case explicit passive aggressive guilt-tripping.

Those two statement seem contradictory to me. The first one denies a respondent to take things personally, while the second one makes it personal. I think that I know exactly who you are referring to, and if I am wrong, that is because you did not specify while specifically referencing your take on what I said. That almost kind of seems like gaslighting because it gives you the wiggle room to go back and say that you were talking about someone else when you definitely weren't, as evidenced by the quote below.

“The Resistance” is out in the world Fighting Back, not breathlessly waiting

I am the only person to employ that term {as you call it, "The Resistance") in this thread in that way, so you've made it quite clear who you are talking about despite saying that you didn't mean to target anyone. I think that is harsh and kind of duplicitous.

passive aggressive

In addition, I find your employment of that term really inflammatory. Plus, that was not my intent. While I do, in retrospect, admit that just posting Gessen and leaving it at that was needlessly obscure, I don't think that I was particularly passive or aggressive at any point. I gave my opinion on the value of the threads, and I gave my opinion about what would be lost if they went away. What is passive about that? What is aggressive about that?

breathlessly waiting for a pre-Thanksgiving Mueller indictment

Sure, some of those comments got redundant, but that seems like a fairly mean-spirited way to characterize the entire thread.

Additionally. I don't concur that the threads have nothing to do with resisting. Communication is necessary prior to action. Information is necessary in order to know what the proper action is to take. Both of these things are assisted by the poli threads. As I said above, the employees of Metafilter are not under any compulsion to continue to allow these threads, and if the mods opt out, I don't see much room to complain. However, regarding non-mods, my take is that some people seem to want to get rid of something that is really major for them over something that they can make a minor effort to avoid. That is their prerogative as it is mine to give my opinion on what would be lost.

Miko: (which, let's be honest, would be frequent), or alternatively, a single daily "did you see the politics" post that ends at midnight and is clearly tagged so others can avoid it.

I would love this, even if the post was on a sub-domain that everyone else could ignore.

All: Sorry for the length of this post and the occasional redundancy of it. Responses kept on coming in while I was writing, so I figured that it would be better to bundle them all into one giant post instead of a bunch of smaller scattershot ones.
posted by bootlegpop at 6:21 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


This is probably a non-starter or a dumb idea but I'll just throw it out there:

What if the political megathread is closed for comments on Friday evening, and re-opened on Monday morning?

This would give the mods a much needed break over the "weekend". Also, and this is kind of vague and tough to articulate, but I feel like in the same way that, for example, taking a week off from alcohol or coffee tends to re-calibrate your cravings, maybe a couple days off a week from the megathreads would be a good thing. I love them and follow them obsessively even though I don't comment much, and they serve a critical function for information and reassurance that I'm not alone, but it wouldn't kill me to take two days off a week from that particular spigot.

And maybe it would mean that we collectively can suit up even 1% sharper the next week for the fights to come. This wouldn't be normalization, but just a little bit of a break from the flow in this one particular medium, and might even contribute towards helping some of us feeling drained and brittle to build in some re-charge time to continue to fight against the normalization of this insanity.

Folks that want to could of course still follow and discuss off-site through their own means / organizing - this might help people develop some homes off site generally for political stuff as well.

Anyways, just a thought.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:33 AM on November 22 [12 favorites]


In case anyone else is wondering -- we're interested to hear what people think, especially people that we don't hear from very often. We don't have another way to know what people like and dislike about this situation, so please, if you're a lurker, this is a good time to let us know where you're at.

People above (and this is a sentiment expressed regularly in these MeTas, so I suspect it is true for many) suggested that the omnibus political threads are crucial for their mental health. I have the exact opposite reaction -- I've found that reading these threads in detail on a regular basis is terrible for my mental health, and doesn't actually help with anything productive for me (it doesn't change my base level of outrage, and it doesn't change what I actually *do* in the face of outrage). It's not a triggering situation, I would never request on the basis of my reaction alone that these threads go away (I can just skip past them without issue), and I even do often look at the posts themselves. But it is dismaying to hear the degree to which they seem to be sucking energy and life out of the mod team, and therefore the site.

(I think it's also worth pointing out that someone who has my reaction is rather unlikely to post in a thread like this one, that's partly why I did so at all, I'm a very-long-time member and can handle it. It's not a very comfortable environment; intentional or not, there's a lot of tacit presumptions about what people ought to be doing in the face of horribleness, without much apparent recognition that there's space for many different reactions and ways of responding.)
posted by advil at 6:51 AM on November 22 [16 favorites]


I love the idea of the threads being closed over the weekend and a new one open on Monday. I'd be fine with one daily being closed at like 5 or whenever too. Cutting it off would be good. People can wait to talk again, the threads wouldn't be so large and unwieldy, and the mods would get a break.
posted by agregoli at 6:57 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


re a couple of the reactions above, I feel like there's some weird catastrophizing going on at this point. We are discussing how best to handle the situation, which does not include not having politics posts. The problems with the megaposts has not been the discussion of politics, it's been the other stuff ... the sheer overwhelming *volume* of chattiness, jokes, existential freakouts, rants, extended bickering, off-topic discussion, pulling in topics that have nothing to do with Trump/WH, off-topic news items, etc, and just a wide variety of derails – some of which extend over a greater number of comments than a typical "regular" thread gets all together. For just a derail.

So, they're unwieldy, and they're difficult to follow if someone doesn't spend a LOT of time in those threads, and it's hard to find the actual-news-plus-discussion-of-that-news bits in between all the noise. We are discussing how this might best be handled, and trying to see if people are willing to even dial it back a bit to make them possibly useful, or if it's better to go back to discrete posts for larger news items – just, how to handle the issues.

We don't want to be like NEVAR MAKE A JOKE, or never ever ever stray even a little bit, but the quantity is too much, and there isn't necessarily an easy way to ease that back unless folks are willing to work with that idea. The threads are becoming useless for a lot of people who just want to be able to keep up with the Trump/WH political news on the site and what people here are thinking/saying about those developments.

What we're not saying is that there won't be discussion of US political topics on Metafilter, so before people start totally freaking out and attacking each other or whatever was sort of happening above, that's not on the table.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:59 AM on November 22 [19 favorites]


"This would give the mods a much needed break over the "weekend"."

Full-time mods do get 2 days off from the site per week (less so cortex, who has to deal with emergencies sometimes). Stopping the threads on the weekend would mostly mean part-timer me didn't have to mod them; other mods are off weekending anyway! (OTOH, it would mean less drunk-commenting, which -- help a mod out, when you're drunk, push the keyboard away and go watch a movie instead of starting fights in the politics thread.)

"the sheer overwhelming *volume* of chattiness, jokes, existential freakouts, rants, extended bickering, off-topic discussion, pulling in topics that have nothing to do with Trump/WH, off-topic news items, etc, and just a wide variety of derails – some of which extend over a greater number of comments than a typical "regular" thread gets all together. For just a derail."

Yeah, my pet modding peeve (and again a function of weekends, I think, when less news is happening, but people really want to keep the speed of the thread up so they're looking for something to talk about) is when people get in extended freshman poli sci fights about pet pie-in-the-sky, half-baked, semi-informed theories to reform American democracy. At this point I can tell by the first sentence of the first comment which posters are going to get drawn in and how the entire argument is going to go (I even know who's going to make which jokes), since I've probably read the same set of arguments 40 times in the past year. It honestly feels like grading freshman papers, where you read the same essay 150 times because you've got 3 classes all writing the same paper and by the end of it you want to throw the whole pile in the shredder. And then you do it again next semester. Except it happens just about weekly, rather than twice a year.

It was kind-of interesting shit-shooting the first couple of times, but it's incredibly tedious by now, and I think because people feel very passionately about fixing the Current Mess, and because it's just a whirlwind of news all the time so time-sense is pretty distorted, they don't realize exactly how often they're repeating themselves. I'm sympathetic, but I'm also ready to strangle my monitor when I see those arguments spin up yet again.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:14 AM on November 22 [22 favorites]


Huh...
"I love them and follow them obsessively even though I don't comment much, and they serve a critical function for information and reassurance that I'm not alone, but it wouldn't kill me to take two days off a week from that particular spigot."

Honestly, me, too, on every bit of that. So rather than continue as we have been until some site-wide change has to be imposed, what if we just individually moratoriumed ourselves, proactively, in whatever way works for each of us? Sort of like how state and national parks impose daily visitor limits to protect fragile ecosystems? So that we don't break this thing we love.

Some of us could take days off, some of us could elect to read but not comment some days, some of us could impose a comment limit on some days, some of us could impose wait times on ourselves. I like disclaimer's method, personally. You can still read and refresh endlessy and spend hours writing beautiful perfect comments. But you're not exhausting anyone but yourself. Or another thing might be to deliberately spend equal time enriching other parts of Metafilter.

I used to have a swear jar policy where if I did something stupid in comments that made somebody have to do work, I'd go put $5 in the till. It gave me good incentive to delete ill-advised comments rather than posting them and making work for moderators. After 2016, I started giving every extra dime to Al Franken's Act Blue campaign because I liked the way he was looking out for other senators in other states. It will be a cold day in hell etc. etc. etc., so I'll go back to my original policy. I owe some $$ right now, actually, because I tried to start this metatalk thread and hashed it up hideously, and cortex had to write two e-mails.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:14 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


At that point it's not a politics thread, it's a chat room, you know?

This has been my feeling as well, and why I've been avoiding the threads. I would prefer going back to the previous MeFi norm of discrete posts of particularly well-written articles about individual topics, even for politics, rather than gigantic unwieldy threads where the links don't matter and no one can really keep up with the comments, many of which are off-topic anyway. The current threads make me feel like Twitter has invaded Metafilter.
posted by lazuli at 7:16 AM on November 22 [13 favorites]


Any mod thoughts on the one thread a day, closed at a specific time convenient for mods idea?
posted by agregoli at 7:26 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


I participate in the politics threads, and I honestly don't know that I'm in the mood to do a lot of lighthearted gabbing about other stuff if the politics threads go away, but I understand that the combination of holidays, which are always a bit weird on Metafilter, plus heated political atmosphere could be particularly brutal this year. So I'm on board for whatever the mods think is necessary to get us through the next couple of months, although I guess that my preference would be for the politics megathreads to stay, perhaps with a reminder to try not to talk just for the sake of hearing the sound of our own virtual voices.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:30 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


I want to comment a little more on a thing a couple people broached:

I feel like some of my hesitancy has been coming from a fear that to take steps to end the "state of emergency" of the megathreads would be to normalize what is happening politically.

&

I posted it because I feel that there is a desire to normalize things here while, as someone said above, things are not normalized in the world.

So, to be clear, resisting the normalization of All This Stuff has been a personal theme for me all year too. I think it's very important that we not just shrug and say "reacting appropriately to how out of line this president and administration is is tiring so I'm just gonna say it is what it is and move on with my life". I think keeping our eyes open and our legs braced is important. I'm with you there.

But.

But I think it's an error in judgement to allow that conviction to override self-care, and I think that is exactly part of the problem with not wanting to see changes to something because accepting that change could be seen as abetting normalization. Because you will lose your mind or burn yourself out completely if you trap yourself in that kind of no-win. You'll litmus test yourself within an inch of your life, trying to avoid doing the appearance of compromise. You'll fall off a cliff because you think people will think less of you, or you'll think less of yourself, if you grab at some outcroppings on the way down.

I keep pointing to my talk because it's a pretty dense collection of my thoughts about a lot of this stuff and I don't want to just reiterate the whole thing verbatim, but one of the major themes in there is that there isn't some easy return to normal. That normal isn't even on the horizon right now. What we're as a mod team talking about in here is not trying to prop up a simulation of normalcy; we're talking about survival skills, about trying to find purchase on the way down, to find some way to help more people in this community be okay despite the distinctly non-normal conditions.

I agree both with the idea that MetaFilter itself isn't Resistance HQ and with the idea that people on MetaFilter are meaningfully doing stuff that is important and useful to resisting normalization and pushing back on all this shit. Both of those are true. And there are and have been and will continue to be ways people on the site organize those kind of resistance efforts. But part of that is picking your moment and your venue—dedicated threads for organization efforts, putting work in around specific activist or campaign or call-your-reps events, etc.—and part of it is recognizing that refusing to breathe and creating pressure on other people to not look like they need to stop and breath does damage rather than helping.

And to the extent that the megathreads have utility for folks keeping up with what's going on so they can better resist and organize and be ready for stuff, those threads ballooning with stuff other than the actual focused roundup of what substantial stuff is going is actively at odds with their utility. If you have to skim comments at a 10:1 ratio just to get to the actual what's-happening bits, that's not helping anybody, that's just making the threads less useful for the notionally important purpose they can serve.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:35 AM on November 22 [15 favorites]


Any mod thoughts on the one thread a day, closed at a specific time convenient for mods idea?

My initial reaction is we'd have more noise and more heavy-lifting to do that way than we do now. Thread start tends to be a reset button on things in a way that invites a lot of goofy or reflexive opening commenting, that we either let balloon the early bit of a thread or we have to do a bunch of work to delete. People import comments from the previous thread, people wander in and ask questions or start fights that have already been hashed out in the last thread or three, etc.

So I get the impetus for the idea but it's pretty much the opposite of what I think would actually help us mod side. Roundup threads that develop slower, stay more readable, require less constant moderation effort, and don't require a fresh pile of start-of-new-thread effort every day would be much more useful.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:40 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


That makes sense, and again I recognize that it is a little out there, but just to be clear - my suggestion is not to have a new thread each week, but just close the existing thread to comments over the weekend and re-open on Monday. I think that might help the thread by having a bit of a weekly refocus back on the issues instead of endlessly spiraling out into side discussions and whatnot.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:43 AM on November 22


Sure, lazaruslong, I get that those were two separate ideas, was just responding to the direct question about the one-a-day one. I'll echo what Eyebrows McGee said a bit above about the closed-for-the-weekends thing; I think the intent is good but it's moooostly a "give EM the weekend off when she mostly just works on the weekend" proposal in practice. Doesn't solve any systemic issues, and I'm more interested in targeting the systemic side so that everyone on the mod team gets an easier shift as far as tracking breakneck politics goes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:46 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


> At this point I can tell by the first sentence of the first comment which posters are going to get drawn in and how the entire argument is going to go (I even know who's going to make which jokes), since I've probably read the same set of arguments 40 times in the past year. It honestly feels like grading freshman papers, where you read the same essay 150 times because you've got 3 classes all writing the same paper and by the end of it you want to throw the whole pile in the shredder. And then you do it again next semester. Except it happens just about weekly, rather than twice a year.

If this is the case -- if the patterns are so clear, and at least somewhat correlated with a specific set of users -- why not just reach out to them and ask them to do better? And if that's already happening, why not just move the lever a bit more toward "no, seriously, do better or take some time off to figure out how to do better?" (I say this recognizing there's a fair chance that "them" includes "me".)
posted by tonycpsu at 7:47 AM on November 22 [10 favorites]


Ahh right on cortex and eyebrows, that makes sense. Phew. It's a puzzle for sure.

To mis-quote the West Wing...boy, political megathreads? I just don't know.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:48 AM on November 22


If this is the case -- if the patterns are so clear, and at least somewhat correlated with a specific set of users -- why not just reach out to them and ask them to do better? And if that's already happening, why not just move the lever a bit more toward "no, seriously, do better or take some time off to figure out how to do better?" (I say this recognizing there's a fair chance that "them" includes "me".)

It's something that's happening already but something that, yeah, part of what we've talked about is getting more aggressive about over the next bit as a component of changing how this stuff works. You won't be surprised to hear that that straightforward idea tends to come off less as "oh, what a straightforward request, I didn't realize!" and more as "how very DARE you" in practice on a person-to-person basis, which is part of why when we're already low on energy we don't jump at every opportunity. But we need to do a little more jumping and a little how very daring on this, yeah.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:50 AM on November 22 [9 favorites]


I'm not sure closing threads on weekends is going to have the intended effect. Very soon, something major is going to happen on a weekend (it already has) and there's going to be intense frustration at not being able to share links and discuss. Then, when the thread opens on Monday, there will be a fast explosion of pent-up OMGing, creating a quick posting pace at first which is tough to mod, and almost guaranteeing plenty of redundancy and content-free commenting. I suspect we'd get into a "nutty Monday" pattern where the first day is 1000 comments easy.
posted by Miko at 7:54 AM on November 22 [4 favorites]


I wonder if these two possibly minor things might help people focus:

a. having rules/suggestions posted at the end of each poli thread's initial post.

b. having a second confirmation button pop up that requires an additional click for posting in poli threads that says something like "Does this really add to the conversation?" in a more polite way.
posted by bootlegpop at 7:56 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


The problems with the megaposts has not been the discussion of politics, it's been the other stuff ... the sheer overwhelming *volume* of chattiness, jokes, existential freakouts, rants, extended bickering, off-topic discussion, pulling in topics that have nothing to do with Trump/WH, off-topic news items, etc, and just a wide variety of derails

I mean, begging your pardon, but the nature of a crowdsourced forum discussion of this size suggests that there's very little that can be done about these kinds of asides and conversational drifts short of choosing to moderate the discussion in the way round table or conference discussions are moderated. I'm not at all opposed to that kind of editorial level moderation—the moderators have significantly more to gain or lose than I do by anything that happens here—but I wish it would just be clearly stated. The nebulousness of what is or isn't an acceptable contribution to the discussion—not to mention where it is or isn't acceptable—is something that I find a little exasperating.

In general I have no strong feels about any of this, I suppose. Moderators gotta do what they need to make the forum work. My attitude toward my experience here is to look for what I find interesting or entertaining and try to leave the same. I often see comments and stylistic tics that I roll my eyes at but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. If that's the problem, then the only solution is to hire better commenters.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:05 AM on November 22


> You won't be surprised to hear that that straightforward idea tends to come off less as "oh, what a straightforward request, I didn't realize!" and more as "how very DARE you" in practice on a person-to-person basis, which is part of why when we're already low on energy we don't jump at every opportunity.

Maybe the "person-to-person basis" thing is the problem, then? If someone's breaking the rules, you don't owe them a hand-crafted explanation. Just add a button that bans the user for a day/week/whatever and sends them a generic "we already told you what you were doing is wrong, now you're getting some time off to think about how you can do better." Or maybe have a dropdown of some common categories of reasons people might be given a break. Your (the staff's) sanity and the continuity of the site are far more important than any user's feelings that their bad behavior was met with the proper amount of due process.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:18 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


I understand, cortex. But I am not really understanding what it is that WOULD help in changing these threads then. The only thing put forth seems to be a desire for people to change their behavior, which is obviously not happening and impossible for everyone to be on board. I don't feel like this is any closer to a solution then the first time this got put forth. I'm assuming mods will have to make a decison about whatever will help and do that, whether people like it or not.
posted by agregoli at 8:22 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


I mean, begging your pardon, but the nature of a crowdsourced forum discussion of this size suggests that there's very little that can be done about these kinds of asides and conversational drifts short of choosing to moderate the discussion in the way round table or conference discussions are moderated.

I disagree, because I have seen MeFites adapt in a self-policing way to a whole variety of conversational constraints or expectations over the years without requiring constant high-production-value moderator intervention. You can look at the different comment culture expectations we have on MeFi proper vs. Ask as one big bright line example, but there's more subtle stuff in how people respond in different kinds of threads on the blue, how folks are (generally) pretty good at being responsive to small mod nudges in individual threads, and so on.

The bigger challenge is adjusting a specific prevailing commenting posture in a specific context. Specifically the context of megathreads and the balance of different kinds of and rates of interactions along the lines of what we've been talking about in here. And, yeah, getting folks to reset their expectations on that front is going to require some explicit messaging and some more-active-than-usual moderation in the short term to drive those expectations home. But it's overdue, and its doable, and that's what we're looking at.

We're talking somewhat in generalities in here because this is conversation that has cropped up in a MetaTalk thread by chance, not a mod-side MetaTalk announcement post. I think based on past experiences with the MeFi community that even with a more explicit list of examples of problem stuff we're never gonna have something explicit and complete enough to satisfy everybody—there'll still be an aspect of "we'll delete it when we see it" to any kind of shift on this—but we'll talk more about the details and specific kinds of behavior we want to curtail as this stuff moves forward.

My basic feeling is that we don't need a better quality of commenter; I already like an awful lot the commenting potential y'all bring to the site, it's why I hang out here and why I've kept stepping up on responsibility for this place instead of running screaming. We just need to work together on tuning the when and where and what of that output to keep the site working well long-term.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:23 AM on November 22 [8 favorites]


I’ve read that one of the biggest reasons that US armed forces were so successful in WWII wasn’t so much their fighting ability or military prowess, but rather logistics - being able to move innumerable tons of personnel and materiel across the globe.

I’ve also read elsewhere that one of the most important items for a soldier is dry socks. And that in the old days more people were lost due to disease or lack of medical care rather than bullets or explosions.

Fighting a war (maybe especially a war of resistance) can’t be just armed struggle. Living the boring parts of life, getting rest, keeping your socks laundered, eating breakfast- these are all just as vital. Resistance is utile.

Remembering to breathe every day is an act of resistance every bit as powerful as manning the barricades.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:27 AM on November 22 [4 favorites]


I wonder how much of this issue might be solved by another subsite.
posted by WCityMike at 9:05 AM on November 22


Since another subsite isn't in the plan for now, we'll be left wondering. (These convos give me wicked deja vu)
posted by agregoli at 9:19 AM on November 22


> a. having rules/suggestions posted at the end of each poli thread's initial post.

Huh, I thought that was still happening. I remember seeing evidence that regular rule reminders do help on forums, and especially in the wee hours I'm almost surprised not to see the occasional, quick, "rein it in folks" note.
posted by lucidium at 9:21 AM on November 22


Since another subsite isn't in the plan for now, we'll be left wondering. (These convos give me wicked deja vu)

In the face of new problems, old discarded solutions may at the very least be worth re-examination. Not necessarily adoption, but to always close the door on a solution simply because it's been closed in the past is not a wise way of thinking.

Seems to me that Metafilter's creation was initially created based on a "post interesting link and comment upon same" structure. That structure -- plus its moderator team -- have been sturdy and robust enough to be adapted to many high-frequency, emotionally robust threads throughout its history.

However, the fact is that the frequency of said high-frequency emotionally robust threads has shot through the stratosphere, and corralling those threads into their own venue would help not only with the "trigger/filtering" issue but would probably be of assistance to those who moderate. Additionally, it would address the problem of this thread, namely the need to prevent larger topics from spawning off subtopics, making The Blue harder to corral and moderate.

A separate subsite very, very well may NOT be the solution. I know it's been discarded many times before. It nonetheless seems to offer advantages to the problems being discussed in this thread.
posted by WCityMike at 9:48 AM on November 22


I wonder how much of this issue might be solved by another subsite.

DepressMe
posted by zarq at 9:49 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


Also, if we ever start closing threads on weekends, how feasible would it be to create either a greasemonkey script or an app that autoposts comments when the threads re-open?

Asking for a friend.
posted by zarq at 9:51 AM on November 22


It's not about whether a subsite is a good solution or not, it's the fact that we've been told, seemingly at least 3-4 times recently, that it cannot be implemented right now, even if it was desired. So why rehash it?
posted by agregoli at 10:05 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


We were told it wasn't a good solution in the discussion in this very same thread - here's cortex saying, "Nope."

I mean, we talk about people not reading through the megathreads before posting, they can't even read through this MeTa.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:37 AM on November 22 [11 favorites]


Cortex: I don't know man. Sure seems to be a lot of general hatin' on what I like most about MetaFilter. But you've earned the benefit of the doubt over the years that you know what you're doing. Whatever you do, there's going to be X% flounce and Y% drift away, so [shrug emoji]
posted by ctmf at 11:39 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


What we're not saying is that there won't be discussion of US political topics on Metafilter,

It's my only Christmas wish!
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 12:02 PM on November 22


An observation: There are two different participation styles being used in the megathreads, each resulting in a different experience. (1) Keeping up with the threads as they happen and (b) digesting large chunks all at once.
posted by DanSachs at 1:36 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


hatin' on what I like most about MetaFilter.

To elaborate, people are saying things like, "I can get the goofery and riffing on Twitter". Well, I guess I feel like I can get sterile link dumps and strict on-topic serious discussion in a number of other places as well. But not the community.

I know "that guy" is going to trot out that horse again. That's the fun part. And sometimes people's jokes are lame. Like all of mine. That's the fun part, too. Sometimes a brief digression sends me down a google rabbit-hole. I *like* that.

But I guess if enough people don't, eh.
posted by ctmf at 2:05 PM on November 22 [7 favorites]


I think it's a matter of degree. We're not saying "never any of that" but "less of that, because at a certain point there can be too much of a good thing".
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:09 PM on November 22 [6 favorites]


This was posted by zachlipton in the current politics thread:

Likewise, a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving from us here at "Zach copies and pastes the news into MetaFilter." I'm thankful for all of you and this community.

Didn't want to respond there and set off a massive derail wave, but Zach, you're one of the reasons I keep coming back to the political threads, and I've been grateful for your participation, insights and links. Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving to you and everyone else here.
posted by zarq at 4:08 PM on November 22 [16 favorites]


Ctmf: you make a really important point.
posted by Miko at 8:09 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


The thing I can think of is just limiting how much you can post in the political post per day. Like ONCE per day. Which would suck for discussion, but that seems to me the only way to limit the conversation enough for the mods. Everyone just gets one really long post per day to respond to everyone at once.

It's totally ridiculous and I don't like it, but then again, I don't think there are any good solutions. Or even any not-awful ones.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:53 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


I think that one would be a bit low, but I have to think that even a limit of 5 would reduce noise.
posted by bootlegpop at 11:10 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Yeah, my pet modding peeve (and again a function of weekends, I think, when less news is happening, but people really want to keep the speed of the thread up so they're looking for something to talk about) is when people get in extended freshman poli sci fights about pet pie-in-the-sky, half-baked, semi-informed theories to reform American democracy. At this point I can tell by the first sentence of the first comment which posters are going to get drawn in and how the entire argument is going to go (I even know who's going to make which jokes), since I've probably read the same set of arguments 40 times in the past year. It honestly feels like grading freshman papers, where you read the same essay 150 times because you've got 3 classes all writing the same paper and by the end of it you want to throw the whole pile in the shredder. And then you do it again next semester. Except it happens just about weekly, rather than twice a year.

Apologies for the huge quote but I don't want to be blamed for quoting people out of context.

But yeah, uh... ok, wow. I'm just going to point out that in my view that's a super shitty, reductionist and patronizing attitude to have. I only lurk the US politics thread, but holy shit.
posted by Soi-hah at 4:31 AM on November 23


What attitude are the mods supposed to have? They have asked and asked for people to curtail this sort of stuff yet day in and day out they still post it.

If people would just listen I think it would go a long way.
posted by PugAchev at 6:19 AM on November 23 [11 favorites]


Soi-hah, could you say more about why you find it super shitty, reductionist and patronizing? It’s not flattering to the users described, but it pretty accurately lines up with my experience, and I’m not modding. Eternal September and all that.

One of the issues always in these big threads, or even smaller ones where discussion is vigorous, is that everyone is understandably solipsistic about the importance of their ideas and contributions. In another context, it would be an editor’s job to reduce that kind of clutter.
posted by OmieWise at 7:40 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]


Like ONCE per day.

Can we also lengthen the comment edit window to 24 hours? :D
posted by zarq at 7:41 AM on November 23


Tell everyone there's a hard limit, but the number is secret. Don't actually change anything under the hood.
posted by lucidium at 12:17 PM on November 23 [3 favorites]


Tell them it's secret, but that the number increases with the quality of your comments.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:26 AM on November 24 [6 favorites]


I really appreciate the political threads and all that goes into them. I personally wouldn't change a thing EXCEPT for the toll they take on the mods. And I don't know how to fix that, but mods, thank you and all you do.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 3:55 PM on November 24 [2 favorites]


I personally wouldn't change a thing EXCEPT for the toll they take on the mods. And I don't know how to fix that, but mods, thank you and all you do.

This is the problem.
posted by PugAchev at 7:51 AM on November 25 [2 favorites]


If you have to skim comments at a 10:1 ratio just to get to the actual what's-happening bits, that's not helping anybody, that's just making the threads less useful for the notionally important purpose they can serve.

Just to illustrate this point, I've just spent some time scrolling through dozens and dozens of comments on variously which person would most annoy Trump if they were declared Time magazine's person of the year, whether Sarah Huckabee Sanders pie is real, and whether the NYT supports nazism, and at this point I have no idea whether there was any "actual what's-happening bit" in there because I've frankly lost the will to live.
posted by walrus at 5:04 PM on November 25 [9 favorites]


Personally, having read it and the comments(while refraining from comment myself), I think that the BS NYT article was very worthy of comment. They are normalizing Nazism. That is very problematic. The point isn't that they out and out support them, the point is that they enable them.

(As for the two other topics, I feel you. However, non-mods picking through individual topics one by one to decide if they personally feel that they are worthy is likely to just create bad feelings.)
posted by bootlegpop at 5:31 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


I think the problem is: "what is worthy of comment" is kind of turned on its head in a world where literal Nazis reign. In a world where Nazis reign, even trivial mockery of the king is important - especially in a world where such mockery means he's going to attack, say, Time Magazine, instead of, say, all immigrants.
posted by corb at 5:35 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


It seems like, not just here but everywhere, there are forces at work trying to both lower and raise the bar as to what is a big deal. On one hand, there is so much horror out there that some only have the time or will to register the worst of the horrors, which is understandable. On the other hand, there are those who rightly see every small part of it as part of one nasty tapestry and feel that it is all important. Finding a proper middle ground seems harder than threading a needle.
posted by bootlegpop at 5:47 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


Personally, having read it and the comments(while refraining from comment myself), I think that the BS NYT article was very worthy of comment. They are normalizing Nazism.

I feel like I'm now in danger of continuing the derail here but my read was more that the article was making the point that many otherwise normal people are capable of nazism. Which is clearly borne out in the observation that otherwise the holocaust could not have happened.
posted by walrus at 12:59 AM on November 26


The original article (iirc) had links to where one could buy swastika armbands. Even if your take is exactly what they were going for, and I do definitely agree that there is almost certainly a degree of accuracy in that reading of their intent, the article seemed to leave a great deal of room for critique. In fact, a variety of sites and news outlets felt that it was worth taking them to task, after people here did, in many cases arguing along the same lines as some people were arguing here. In addition, NYT felt the need to update the article to make it more critical at least once, so there must have been some in-house concern too.

In addition to the aforementioned media criticism, I also really appreciated the fact that some posters, as a result of their dismay over the NYT article, expressed their reactions to, feelings about, and encounters with Anti-Semitism. Being mostly white, my initial gut reaction was more along the lines of just being annoyed about over-exposure and over-coverage of the racist far right VS under-coverage of the anti-racist far left. The community here re-focused me on how things like this can be taken by people who are more directly effected by the topic. I do get that I sound a bit preachy about these threads (and MF as a whole), but I still feel compelled to say that I find one of the best aspects of this site to be how it gives people a chance to hear about and be educated by the experiences that people in different situations go through and are kind and open enough to talk about, which I think ultimately can, in the best of cases, increase empathy and understanding.
posted by bootlegpop at 1:57 AM on November 26 [4 favorites]


Rediscussing the thread in here seems destined to spin it into an infinite loop.
posted by lazuli at 7:11 AM on November 26 [3 favorites]


I still feel compelled to say that I find one of the best aspects of this site to be how it gives people a chance to hear about and be educated by the experiences that people in different situations go through and are kind and open enough to talk about, which I think ultimately can, in the best of cases, increase empathy and understanding.

Please keep in mind that it can also be extremely tiring for those who try to do the educating on a given topic. Especially when they feel under attack. Metafilter has not always been a great place when it comes to expressions of hatred: racism, sexism, misogyny, transphobia and yes, anti-Semitism. We've had a number of long discussions about each of these subjects in metatalk recently (and not-so-recently) to varying results.

Those conversations usually have to take place repeatedly because educating a large group of people is an ongoing process. They lead to hurt feelings. People sometimes walk away from the site temporarily and/or permanently. Others, far more rarely, get banned.

Empathy and understanding is a worthy goal. Publicly condemning hatred is also.

But frankly, people not keeping their mouths shut and looking away when they see their fellow mefites cross a line would be a hell of a lot more helpful around here. To say nothing of not doubling down against members of a minority group when they point out why something that has been said is offensive or wrong.
posted by zarq at 8:04 PM on November 26 [10 favorites]


My only real experience with the politics threads was Ctrl-f-ing the old thread, not finding what I was looking for, asking a question in the new thread, and being howled down because people thought I was kidding, as apparently this was all discussed deep in the old thread.

I felt pretty stupid and haven't really attempted to keep up with the politics threads since.

I feel like, perhaps due to the smaller commenting base, metafilter does other countries OK - auspol, brexit, etc. (although running the perennial risk of "hey, we've got this in the USA too!")
posted by freethefeet at 4:05 AM on November 27 [1 favorite]


The NYT Nazi article is a pretty good example of what I've come to dislike about the political megathreads more than anything else. Two years ago, that would have made for a fascinating FPP, with collected rebuttal articles, probably a Twitter thread or two, a look at the writer's history in social justice activism. It would have been a topic that lots of different people might have been drawn into from different angles, although we probably all would have come to the conclusion that this article was a pile of nonsense. Now it's a blitz of "NYT thinks Nazis are cool lol" outrage lines some 1200 comments into a thread from two weeks ago.

And yes, I know, be the change you want to see in the world and all that, if I want that post why don't I write it myself. But my point here is that well before I learned about it, people here already wanted to talk about it. Their instinct wasn't to craft an FPP to do so. It was to add yet another subject to the "catch-all" thread, which is starting to look like "catch-all" means "every single topic less than three days old". We used to want to make new posts; now we want to be the first to comment in those threads. This is a material change to the way that people collectively interact with the site, and it genuinely surprises me that people either can't see that or don't think too much of it.
posted by Errant at 9:51 AM on November 27 [10 favorites]


I agree with Errant.

But my point here is that well before I learned about it, people here already wanted to talk about it. Their instinct wasn't to craft an FPP to do so.

The Atlantic has had a good series on looking back at the 2016 election and when I ginned up a post with the articles, reactions and commentary and counter-articles, I found a prior post on the same lines was deleted, due to some of the same territory covered in the politics megathreads.
Which is true, and reducing the mods workload is a good goal, and do we really need another post?

So balancing what goes in and what stays out, what lines of commentary are derails what are noise, and what is relevant, is a difficult series of decisions. And we can't rely on everyone just changing their behavior (because everyone is not going to just). It's an emergent phenomenon generated by users, their history, and the structures of the site.

This is why we should allow close-to-comments on the front page.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:21 AM on November 27 [1 favorite]


The mods will decide what to do and when to do it - and I hope they do soon. Because people do NOT give a shit in those threads about clutter - right now seemingly at least a dozen people dove in enthusiastically with a derail as to which sci fi character Trump is. And I KNOW all of those people knew it was a derail, would make more work for the mods, and yet didn't care.
posted by agregoli at 10:51 AM on November 27 [9 favorites]


I put a link in that thread to this thread.
posted by zarq at 10:56 AM on November 27 [1 favorite]


The question of when to spin out a new standalone thread is one of a bunch of details we've been looking at, yeah. And the short version is "probably a bit more often" on that front; I don't want the front page saturated with politics, but reversing somewhat the "everything goes in the catch-all" idea is I think going to be a necessary part of the balance of reworking things.

Of which, more generally, we'll be making a detailed metatalk post soon, probably tomorrow, talking about about this stuff in detail with some concrete "here's what we need to see change, here's where we're focusing to begin with" guidelines, along the lines of a lot of stuff that I and other mods have touched on in this discussion. I don't want to dig into in parallel in here as well, but suffice it to say that, yes, we've very, very actively looking at this stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:14 AM on November 27 [9 favorites]


Thank mod.
posted by agregoli at 11:16 AM on November 27 [4 favorites]


to be a necessary part of the balance of reworking things.


Would you say that a proportional amount of your attention is spent on integral links and comments as compared to derivative, derailing ones and that the extant feedback mechanisms give you appropriate control? ...Loops.

^ that was a private joke that doesn't need a response.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:31 AM on November 27


oh good more rules that always works out well
posted by entropicamericana at 12:45 PM on November 27


oh good more rules that always works out well

Since less rules seems to be failing pretty miserably, maybe we should give it a try?
posted by conic at 12:52 PM on November 27 [3 favorites]


(More rules worked out great here at eliminating old boyzone comments like "I'd hit it" so rules are fine with me in web circles.)
posted by agregoli at 12:54 PM on November 27 [7 favorites]


How about waiting to see what it actually is before deciding you don't like it?
posted by zachlipton at 12:58 PM on November 27 [3 favorites]


sorry, next time i will submit my opinion to the opinion queue and let a mod post it if passes review
posted by entropicamericana at 1:00 PM on November 27


sorry, next time i will submit my opinion to the opinion queue and let a mod post it if passes review

Someone disagreed with you opinion, so now you're being oppressed?
posted by Dumsnill at 1:04 PM on November 27 [2 favorites]


*eyeroll*

forget i said anything, i don't feel like making this about me and my antiquated opinions about moderation. i registered my suspicion of yet more guidelines, i may be wrong, if so, i'll admit it
posted by entropicamericana at 1:08 PM on November 27


No problem, consider it forgotten.
posted by agregoli at 1:15 PM on November 27


oh good more rules that always works out well

This and your following is a pretty tedious and bullshitty way to register your opinion and I wish you'd just skip it in the future if that's as much effort as you're willing to put into it. You want to add something to the list of shit that makes it harder than necessary to keep this place working, that sort of thing goes on it, and this is far from the first time that we've had to say "hey, maybe be less of a jerk about how you participate" to you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:29 PM on November 27 [11 favorites]


Speaking for myself, I would be completely fine with a hard limit of five comments in the mega thread per day. I like that they exist, but since I definitely do burst-reading and then drop it for a day or two, I fall into the "please less chaff" camp. The substantial comments about special elections are, to me, lovely and valuable, the various linked policy analysis is great, but I would prefer less repeating from Twitter in general, if the goal is to trim some of the up-to-the-minute comment culture. I have no idea if that would be enough to cut the mod stress down.
posted by tautological at 2:33 PM on November 27 [3 favorites]


Pony request: one of those banner thingies that occasionally get posted site-wide, except localized to a specific thread when there's a MeTa opened for that thread. Might help remind people not to goof so much about sci-fi villains and Coen Brothers titles when everyone's been asked to reduce the noise.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:46 PM on November 27


Speaking for myself, I would be completely fine with a hard limit of five comments in the mega thread per day

Assuming you don’t mean there should be a limit on posting links, I just don’t see how this is workable. Say you make four comments on two stories that broke overnight and in the morning. At the rate that real, actual news is breaking, you’re asking people to not comment on what may huge stories that break later in the day, or possibly “saving” their comments in case of 5:00 blockbusters. Or possibly not correcting misinformation, or not posting your great answer to someone’s question. There are plenty of people each making fantastic contributions all day long.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:16 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


why should one put effort into registering in an thoughtful opinion when it could be deleted at anytime for any reason? i'm not even sure what metatalk is for nowadays, so i should probably get back to avoiding it.

(i'll follow whatever the new rules are, though, assuming there's a heads-up on the blue)
posted by entropicamericana at 7:58 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


Well, I guess we see it differently? I would think it would be totally fine for people to stagger their comments through the day to include several bits of articles/commentary/responses/etc. because there have been, at least from my perspective, a lot of instances of piling on something, where I am unsure that the tenth "NYT sucks" or the reposting of Trump's tweets is adding meaning to the conversation rather than grar. Admittedly, though, I post in the threads very rarely, and as I said, I read them in bursts, so making people really think about whether they want to use one of a handful of comments is a solution that looks good to me for my level of mostly-lurking. I assume a solution is going to have to be hashed out between the mods and the thread power users; just give the rest of us a heads up, like entropicamericana said, and I'll endeavor to do the thing.
posted by tautological at 8:13 PM on November 27


possibly “saving” their comments in case of 5:00 blockbusters

I don't see most of these outcomes as bad, but what they would likely produce is megacomments. If you've only got one or two a day, a lot of people will just keep a window open and keep building their long comments and responses and clarifications into giant, single comments. Well, at least some people will. And maybe that's fine.

As history shows us, rationing can have weird unintended outcomes, and hoarding is one of them.
posted by Miko at 8:20 PM on November 27 [3 favorites]


Looks like we're seeing more aggressive derail suppression tonight, already.

This is not a complaint, mind you.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:51 PM on November 27 [4 favorites]


The question of when to spin out a new standalone thread is one of a bunch of details we've been looking at, yeah. And the short version is "probably a bit more often" on that front; I don't want the front page saturated with politics, but reversing somewhat the "everything goes in the catch-all" idea is I think going to be a necessary part of the balance of reworking things.

As per my comments upthread, I myself would enthusiastically support this. There are obviously problems with saturating the front page, etc, but many of the wieldiness issues with the mega-threads would be alleviated by just a few more.

Of which, more generally, we'll be making a detailed metatalk post soon, probably tomorrow, talking about about this stuff in detail with some concrete "here's what we need to see change, here's where we're focusing to begin with" guidelines, along the lines of a lot of stuff that I and other mods have touched on in this discussion.

Having participated in various deliberative forums over the years (most recently, an interminable series of public sessions on a neighborhood bike path), I might humbly suggest a slightly more "consultative" tone and process here. We all realize that the mods rule the roost and their problems are paramount, but statements like this make it seem very declaratory ("here's what we think, here's what we're planning to do, as per what we have stated in these threads"). I imagine that's just a matter of phrasing and that you all are taking ideas from the community, not just about how to solve your own problems, but about how to deal with intra-community problems that may not be the same as those of the mods. Perhaps foregrounding that consultative and deliberative process a bit more, though, will dampen the inevitable complaints about unilateral decisions from on high. More substantively, explicitly highlighting specific suggestions and insights from the hoi polloi in your initial and subsequent official statements will probably improve both the process and the outcomes. It might even be helpful to provide some mechanism for explicit and transparent aggregate feedback from the crowd, such as posting various suggested actions as comments that can be favorited; while responders to such things are never representative of the whole community, best practice in deliberation is generally that it is better to have some form of transparent aggregate community response than nothing. But in any case, however you all try to do it, from my own experience I'd urge as deliberative and consultative a tone and process as is honest, and not just via a series of one-off comments responding to various inevitable complaints.

And again -- I say this as someone who as per my previous comment here is generally quite happy with the mods and with the status quo, at least relative to most of the potential alternatives.
posted by chortly at 8:59 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


we're interested to hear what people think

I'm a daily reader of potus45, aside from taking a 10-day break, which I'm just back from. So I'm a little late - sorry. I spent all day catching up on the last 2 threads. I'm here for A and B. C is ok. D drives me nuts, usually. Yes, I can get news headlines anywhere, but the interpretation is what I can't get anywhere else.

For those who say that the resistance doesn't happen in the thread, I disagree. I take parts of the commentary here and cross post or link on FB to a closed group. I've expressed to those people that maybe my posts there are too much/too political/too depressing and I've had pleas in response not to stop. That the info I share is their best way to get actionable info, free of the usual FB extremism and questionable origins. I know that some of those people are making calls to reps based on what I post - therefore, based on what is said in the potus45 thread. It has so much value, further than the blue.

I appreciate all the mods do to curb the derails. I do wish that we would pause when posting the nth take on a topic to think about if it really adds value. Do I have any specific expertise on this topic? If not, and my position has been even closely stated upthread, maybe skip it.
(And I wouldn't have even posted this opinion if we weren't specifically asked.)
posted by greermahoney at 9:05 PM on November 27 [5 favorites]


why should one put effort into registering in an thoughtful opinion when it could be deleted at anytime for any reason?

Because if you would actually successfully put more consistent effort into thoughtful, non-assholish engagement, your stuff being deleted wouldn't be as much of a practical problem. This isn't "one", this is you. The vast majority of people on this site don't actually need to deal with a substantial fear that any given comment they make will be deleted. That this is an outstanding concern for you is a matter of your actual personal behavior, possibly mixed up with but definitely not limited to a personal allergy on your part to the idea of moderation itself, especially given that for all your tendency to be needlessly caustic in your interactions on the site you still don't get all that much deleted, for better or worse.

Having participated in various deliberative forums over the years (most recently, an interminable series of public sessions on a neighborhood bike path), I might humbly suggest a slightly more "consultative" tone and process here.

On the one hand, I do hear you here—I maintain that Paul Ford's "Why Wasn't I Consulted" piece is an important and thoughtful touchstone in practical web community philosophy—but on the other I think that while there is value in hewing toward a consultative posture most of the time there are also points where we have to flat out say "this is the situation, this is what needs to happen". Right now that's where we are. I'll talk more about it in the actual post relatively soon. We cannot always defer to general community brainstorming on this stuff; sometimes it comes down to the actual straw, the actual camel, and having to take decisive action to avoid back-breaking circumstances.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:41 PM on November 27 [5 favorites]


I hear ya. It was just 2 cents noting that there are a lot of camels around here.

In any case, you can always take a consultative stance even when the decision is foregone -- in fact, I'd say that's the modal case in real-world deliberative forums!
posted by chortly at 11:09 PM on November 27


From what I'm reading, a culture shift is desired. Would simply adding a new flag category help? For example, Excessive Zeal. (As in, "Who should we read? Who should not be required to fall on their sword? Only those who are utterly without sin.")

Absolutism in matters of opinion is disruptive. Even if it's not intended to be. We recognize that it undermines thoughtful discourse in the world at large. Yet the tendency to feed into it is common. Why not highlight it explicitly when it occurs? Then we can have a direct hand in training ourselves to communicate better.

Might not be a total fix, but maybe it could help.
posted by perspicio at 7:03 AM on November 28


I think some time ago there was talk of a freeform text field, but I really don’t think the mod problem with the mega threads is that the mods are having trouble figuring out why something is flagged.
posted by corb at 7:43 AM on November 28


Here is that new MetaTalk thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:46 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


Thanks cortex. Does it make sense to close this one so the discussion isn't split between two threads?
posted by DanSachs at 9:21 AM on November 28


I think it's probably fine to just let this one die naturally on the vine; if there's something specific to this post itself that people have thoughts on independent of that larger thing, that's okay.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:24 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


The new MeTa is really great for figuring out how to deal with the politics threads, but I'm not sure I really know what the answer is to the sexual assault drumbeat of new revelations coming out against new politicos and prominent figures all the time? If we just don't have an answer yet that's fine too.
posted by corb at 10:53 AM on November 28


Yeah, I think that's just going to continue to be its own process for us to sort through.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:41 PM on November 28


I posted this in the reckoning thread, but in case anyone else finds it helpful:

Lifehacker: How to Cope With the Current News Cycle as a Sexual Abuse Survivor. Lots of excellent advice here, and sidebarred links to mental health resources.
posted by zarq at 10:44 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


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