Want more site activity? Yes! When do we want it? Hopefully soon! June 15, 2018 1:04 PM   Subscribe

We've been chatting in the funding thread about a number of things, including the necessity of growing MeFi's userbase and creating a site climate that facilitates that. That discussion has a lot going on, so I thought it might be good to have a dedicated space specifically to talk about user site climate encouraging more discussion, commentary, and joining in on this community. That is: how can we as a community make this space enjoyable and interesting to engage in, both for strangers and each other?

Here are a couple of thoughts that I have had:

1. Reduce shitposting. For me, that means that if there aren't at least 5-10 comments that are positively engaging with the FPP subject, I shouldn't post anything dismissive--because I know from experience that dismissive comments are likely to dampen the spirits of posters. This does not mean I can't be critical of the links, but I still ask myself to engage with the post seriously and thoughtfully if I feel negatively about the topic.

If I feel the need to be jokey, I can wait until 5-10 comments have already gone down--in my experience, jokes can stifle comments like just about nothing else. If I have a complaint about the FPP's framework, it can wait until there are 5-10 comments engaging with the content, and if it can't wait, there's MeTa or a sharply worded email to mod staff. 5-10 comments lets a conversation grow until it's robust enough to survive those types of things, because then you have some hooks people can respond to.

2. Calling out good commentary and content. I'd love to see more users dropping a line to the mods about a bit that made them laugh or that they loved to see, or telling other people how nice a post was. Small positive interactions buffer us against criticism and conflict and make us feel more invested in a social space. I want to call out for example Eyebrows' weekly cocktail threads as a genius move and really good, even if I don't usually participate.

I appreciate that some people see these kinds of "I saw so and so doing something great!" commentary as exclusionary and upsetting, but frankly, my experience is that if you make a bunch of honest complimentary notes like that other people will reciprocate. I am firmly on the side of paying for community investment with positive attention, because why the hell else are we all here? I've done "compliment someone you've seen around" threads before on the grey, and they tend to turn out with a lot of people feeling positively singled out, and many people looking to reciprocate by making someone else feel good.

3. If someone has done something that I am side-eyeing, I try to check whether I am understanding them correctly before I assume they are being an asshole. I do that here most of all because I can trust the mod staff to intervene if things get too heated or they stop respecting me, and so I can afford to extend that kind of pleasant good faith. (I can't do that elsewhere on the Internet. I think that might be affecting the culture of aggression, depending on folks' habits, but... it's a thing to keep an eye on.) Relatedly, when someone is irritating or upsetting me I try very hard to start at a relatively low aggression level and then ramp it up as needed to get the person's attention, and then take any conflict-minimizing gesture passed to me. I think this is something we can all be mindful about--fuck knows I have a temper--but it's a good thing to practice when someone says something aggravating. I also try to take it in good faith when someone else takes something I said the wrong way and criticizes me for it. Again, I tend to try hard to look for commonalities in whatever someone is saying.

5. I remember that perfect is the enemy of good, and that if I want to see more good things I need to be careful that I am not only accepting and rewarding perfect things. I deliberately watch my standards to make sure that I am trying to encourage the things I want to see in the world. If I am deeply unhappy and feel like I am constantly trying to make everyone around me better, I try to take a step back and recharge.

6. A perpetual reminder that I try to prod myself with: flags exist, and if something upsets you, flag it with something. Anything other than 'fantastic' is probably fine. I would like different options, but whatever happens on that front, we need to use the flags before starting fights. If there's something stopping you from flagging, what is it?

Those are the general things I have in mind. What ideas do you have to make the community more engaging and somewhere you'd be able to convince friends to set up and make a home?
posted by sciatrix to Etiquette/Policy at 1:04 PM (821 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks for writing this up, sciatrix, it's a really good roundup of stuff for folks to try and be mindful of.

It's been hard out there for a while and even more the last couple years, and it's easy and understandable that folks patience can get frayed, that tempers get short, that knees end up jerking more easily than usual. So it's not that this community interaction stuff going wrong is proof that someone's not trying or doesn't care.

But it's still work that needs doing, stuff that is worth doing when we're sharing this space together, to help MetaFilter be the good haven it can be at its best rather than sliding into some of the bad habits that have harmed so much the cultural feel of a lot of online spaces.

I want to say, too, how genuinely thankful I am and the whole mod staff is when we see folks making these efforts, checking GRAR instincts or taking a breath or making those small but meaningful efforts to support or positively reinforce stuff on the site. It's easy I think to just leave it at "whew, nothing went wrong today" when things are going well, but, yes: it matters. It's huge. It really helps the site, it helps the mod team, it helps this place as a community.

All those little things add up. They add up to MetaFilter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:12 PM on June 15, 2018 [16 favorites]


One thing on flagging is that without a textbox for flagging, sometimes I don't flag because I'm not confident that the mods will understand why I'm flagging a thing and I can't easily get to the contact form on mobile. I know that's a thing being worked on, so it might help when it releases. Flagging and trusting is super hard, but also makes it easier to be cool to each other.
posted by corb at 1:14 PM on June 15, 2018 [9 favorites]


Thank you for posting this, sciatrix.

3. If someone has done something that I am side-eyeing, I try to check whether I am understanding them correctly before I assume they are being an asshole.
...
Relatedly, when someone is irritating or upsetting me I try very hard to start at a relatively low aggression level and then ramp it up as needed to get the person's attention, and then take any conflict-minimizing gesture passed to me. I think this is something we can all be mindful about--fuck knows I have a temper--but it's a good thing to practice when someone says something aggravating. I also try to take it in good faith when someone else takes something I said the wrong way and criticizes me for it. Again, I tend to try hard to look for commonalities in whatever someone is saying.

This is excellent advice.

In the last year I've also taken to waiting a few minutes to see how people are reacting to a provocative comment in fast-moving threads before reacting. It's stopped me from inadvertently participating in or exacerbating pile-ons on more than one occasion. If more than one person has responded to a comment, my chiming often isn't necessary. Also, sometimes the mods will step in while I'm waiting. Watching the "New Comments" counter go from 1 to 0 lets me know they're on the case, so to speak.
posted by zarq at 1:15 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


But what's #4 on the list??

Small positive interactions buffer us against criticism and conflict and make us feel more invested in a social space.

I'm trying to do this more in real life too. Generating goodwill can be a form of self-care.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:16 PM on June 15, 2018 [8 favorites]


The contact form can be accessed at a big ol link that says Contact Us at the bottom of every single page on mobile metafilter.
posted by phunniemee at 1:18 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I'm hoping we can get the free-form text option for flagging rolled out on the soon side. Needs some more testing on the mod view side so we can use it efficiently, but much of the work is already done thanks to frimble's efforts during some quieter previous intervals on the dev side.

In the mean time, I'll just reiterate the standard mod reassurance: if you're not sure what to flag it as, just flag it! Toss "other" on there if you like. We'll look regardless, and seeing something earlier is so so helpful for assessing and cutting off or rereailing a problem situation. So just go for it, don't worry about it. For complicated stuff, tossing a note to the contact form with the details is also really really welcome and appreciated.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:18 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]


#4 is "check your accuracy before you hit post," of course. Obviously.

(I kid, I kid, but there are absolutely times that my failure to check something before posting generated some totally unnecessary heat. Whoops.)
posted by sciatrix at 1:25 PM on June 15, 2018 [8 favorites]


The contact form can be accessed at a big ol link that says Contact Us at the bottom of every single page on mobile metafilter.

In the middle of a really long thread, this basically means 'you need to open a new tab or window in order to use Contact Us' -- the 'go to bottom' button is only on the top of the page, so it's a lot of scrolling, and if you do scroll you might lose the place you were at. It's not a huge hassle but it's definitely more friction than (for example) flagging, which is integrated into every comment, or any of the stuff that's available on the drop-down drawer when you scroll up on mobile.

You also need to know that Contact Us is an option (which is a separate issue from the one raised, but is itself a minor issue if goal is to actually have people Contact.)

Adding the 'contact us' link to the scroll-up list of links on mobile would be nice, right under 'new post.'
posted by cjelli at 1:26 PM on June 15, 2018 [16 favorites]


Adding the 'contact us' link to the scroll-up list of links on mobile would be nice, right under 'new post.'

That's totally worth considering. Thanks for the suggestion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:28 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


As someone who has sent a contact form note or two over the years, the mods have always been extremely fast and very helpful about responding. Your note doesn't need to be formal or complicated. A line or two is perfectly fine.
--
sciatrix: #4 is "check your accuracy before you hit post," of course. Obviously.

#3 was followed by "5. I remember that perfect is the enemy of good" so it works as a sly, fun joke. :)
posted by zarq at 1:29 PM on June 15, 2018 [20 favorites]


I appreciate that some people see these kinds of "I saw so and so doing something great!" commentary as exclusionary and upsetting

Sorry that I’m not understanding, but could you explain this a bit further? I’m confused why anyone would think giving kudos is exclusionary or upsetting.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:31 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Thanks for writing this! Well put. I have to run some errands but I’ll weigh I when I get back - just wanted to say thanks in the meantime.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:33 PM on June 15, 2018


#4 is spelled out in the first letter of the last 480 comments sciatrix has made on the site
posted by beerperson at 1:34 PM on June 15, 2018 [9 favorites]


if you do scroll you might lose the place you were at

periodic reminder that if you click on a comment's timestamp, it is appended to the url, so if you move around, all you have to do is refresh, and you go right back to that comment
posted by slipthought at 1:36 PM on June 15, 2018 [7 favorites]


Yes! I definitely intended it to be read that way. Totally intentional. :)

(I also try to help other people save face when embarrassed with jokes like this, so hey, a demonstration! Positive Social Interactions all round!)
posted by sciatrix at 1:36 PM on June 15, 2018 [7 favorites]


Sorry that I’m not understanding, but could you explain this a bit further? I’m confused why anyone would think giving kudos is exclusionary or upsetting.

People feel that it tends to promote cliqueishness / the "in crowd." I don't agree, but that's how some people take it.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:37 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


#4 is spelled out in the first letter of the last 480 comments sciatrix has made on the site

Do you have some kind of problem with me?
posted by sciatrix at 1:37 PM on June 15, 2018


The following comes after five attempts at crafting a better way to say what I'm gonna say, all of which failed. I am truly sorry if I am offensive. I do not mean to be.

So: can we meaningfully increase site engagement without addressing what can be at times a completely depressing set of posts on the front page? If the starting points for conversations remain as is, can any amount of work to be more civil or positive within each discussion really draw in new long-term users?

I do not in any way want to say people should stop posting things that matter to them and others (including me!). I also am at a loss for how to even make a change. But, I can't stop thinking about it, because it feels like such a big barrier to entry.
posted by tocts at 1:41 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


Do you have some kind of problem with me?

No? I don't know why you'd think I do?
posted by beerperson at 1:42 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think your tone very often doesn't read the way you intend it to, beerperson.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:43 PM on June 15, 2018 [19 favorites]


One more thing about the contact form: on rare occasions I've sent a note thanking the mods for doing something. Stopping a derail, deleting a flagged comment, fixing a typo or html error in one of my posts, etc. I know I don't do it enough. The mod team is stretched thin and has been for a while. And they deal with a lot of crap so we don't have to. Sending them a positive note or just a thank you every once in a while feels like the least I can do.
posted by zarq at 1:43 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]


Okay! Just in light of the one liner about how I knew all the things last night in the other thread, that one smarted a bit. My apologies to have misread you.
posted by sciatrix at 1:46 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


#4 is "check your accuracy before you hit post," of course. Obviously.

You jest, but the reaction one tends to get on the Blue to comments in which one doesn't really know what one is talking about has helped me fairly radically curtail my otherwise unhelpful bloviational impulses in non-MeFi life over the last few years. So I'm going to consider "#4: check your accuracy" as a canonical list item in this excellent list.
posted by busted_crayons at 1:46 PM on June 15, 2018 [12 favorites]


I agree with all of this. Something I would add which sort of dovetails with less grar more granting of good faith is: I sometimes see people ask clarifying questions and just get hammered for it. In the UK disability thread I asked a question about whether or not the UK had an equivalent to the ADA and got a lot of grar in response. Now I am aware that US people sometimes turn a thread into all about them but as a disabled person who was on disability in the US, I was confused as to the legislative situation in the UK. Some of the grar comments got deleted but maybe if someone from not your country asks a clarifying question maybe don't jump down their throats/assume they are attempting to make it all about them? Like I could have, and have now googled it, but I would prefer the opinion and knowledge of someone living in that country to google and wiki. I am autistic and one of the ways I was bullied as a child was being treated like an idiot for asking simple questions about things I didn't understand. (which being autistic was a lot of things) This led to some not great things like me refusing to ask questions in class for nearly a decade being afraid it would cause problems (complicated by the fact that some of the people who bullied me as a kid were teachers). This was not great for my grades. Even now in University I get red in the face with shame when I have to ask a question, and I have mostly conquered this. (thanks therapy) but the weird push-back people get when asking simple and clarifying questions makes me very reluctant to participate in threads. So maybe we could work on that?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:54 PM on June 15, 2018 [37 favorites]


#4 is spelled out in the first letter of the last 480 comments sciatrix has made on the site

Do you have some kind of problem with me?


I recently read some very good advice:
If someone has done something that I am side-eyeing, I try to check whether I am understanding them correctly before I assume they are being an asshole.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 2:06 PM on June 15, 2018 [29 favorites]


If you are going to be critical of something that might broadly be considered art (as in, a creative work that others enjoy and are talking about), you need to be sure your comment adds to the discussion. If it doesn't, you may be floating a turd. "I hate this!" is fundamentally different than "I love this!" when they are posted without context. The same goes for tips or resources that you find useless. Others use them, so don't float that turd by saying you will never use it unless you have a specific reason. "It sucks." is not a reason.
posted by soelo at 2:07 PM on June 15, 2018 [17 favorites]


#4 is spelled out in the first letter of the last 480 comments sciatrix has made on the site

This made me laugh out loud and I took it as a joke simply having to do with the missing info and nothing personal whatsoever. That it felt personal and fell flat to others, perhaps, does highlight the difficulty we have sometimes. I applaud this post, sciatrix. Thank you!
posted by Bella Donna at 2:09 PM on June 15, 2018 [32 favorites]


I appreciate that some people see these kinds of "I saw so and so doing something great!" commentary as exclusionary and upsetting

I think it is, as always, a matter of degree...things like comments in the natural flow of a thread thanking someone for something they've shared/found feel really good to me. Just a quick "hey, thanks! I found that interesting/insightful!".

Things like big MeTa threads to have people praise some example of something good on the site can feel weird, because it can be a core group that gets called out for praise in those; though at the same time I understand the intention behind those threads and just the general desire to be more positive, if you're not one of the people whose name is going to pop up in those...it's awkward? Kinda like being the last kid on the playground picked for the team, if that makes sense. It shouldn't matter, but it does, especially if you're someone struggling with some social anxiety/self-esteem kind of things. We all need acknowledgement sometimes, and when you're seeing lots of other people getting praise & high-fives, it can be hard to not get one too.

I don't know, I don't think I'm explaining it well. I just know that a couple of years back, one of my comments got linked in the year-end "share your favourite comments that didn't get enough favourites" thread by someone for the first time, and it was a really good feeling. It shouldn't matter, honestly - but it made me feel like someone had noticed me and remembered.
posted by nubs at 2:10 PM on June 15, 2018 [11 favorites]


[That whole back and forth looks like some accidental friction; I took beerperson's comment as a straightforward joke but also recognize that there's lingering heat from the other active metatalk thread that could easily have people on edge. I agree with the general idea that, hey, this is a good reminder that taking a breath on weird/side-eye stuff is a good idea, and beyond that probably let's just drop that now.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:10 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


I 100% was expecting a

B
U
R
M
A

S
H
A
V
E

joke so idk if my expectations are too high or too low.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:11 PM on June 15, 2018 [15 favorites]


soelo, that is really good advice. As several others have mentioned, people often want to share their enjoyment of X and then somebody comes along to trash it and it is just so frustrating. If you don't like it, go find another thread that actually interests you!
posted by Bella Donna at 2:11 PM on June 15, 2018

“Let us cultivate our garden.”
― Voltaire, Candide
posted by Fizz at 2:13 PM on June 15, 2018 [8 favorites]


cortex: "In the mean time, I'll just reiterate the standard mod reassurance: if you're not sure what to flag it as, just flag it! Toss "other" on there if you like. We'll look regardless,"

I've seen this sentiment expressed by the mod team many times before over the years, so let me ask: since every flagging results in a review, why do we need flag categories at all, and what benefit to the mod team do free-form flagging reasons really present? Surely flagging could be a binary operation? ("Flagged as fantastic" would need to be separated out, but perhaps that would make automating the sidebar easier anyway?)
posted by namewithoutwords at 2:14 PM on June 15, 2018


We've talked about revising and simplifying the flag selections as another step in rolling out free-form and revisiting stuff in general there, yeah. We probably wouldn't go strictly binary/catchall even then because the difference between "this looks like trouble" and "this has display issues" is often meaningful when prioritizing stuff in busy moments, but a streamlined list is a possibility.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:16 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Have the people who find in-crowd kudos-giving objectionable offered any solutions?
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:16 PM on June 15, 2018


FWIW, people have said some kind things to me about stuff in the uspol threads, and that meant a lot.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:17 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Have the people who find in-crowd kudos-giving objectionable offered any solutions?

I don't have one, just trying to share what the issue is from my perception. It's a hard one to have a solution for, because it's about a positive thing that has some unintended consequences, and I don't want to say that any of it should stop, and I don't know what would make it better. Which is not how I like to approach an issue.
posted by nubs at 2:21 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


So, like: I've been a signed-up member here for 10 years and visiting for much longer than that, much closer to the beginning. I know the culture here; I've known the old cultures here too, and watching Metafilter change has helped me realize how I've grown and changed as well. For the better.

But I have never felt completely comfortable participating fully as a member here. Because this place, community-focused and insular as it is, puts a great weight on commenters' histories. On previous connections and conversations, on known personalities. On its own history. And that has felt exclusionary.

Also because the general tenor of conversation here has always felt more comfortable with confrontation and framing people's participation in the most negative or aggressive way than I am personally.

Those two factors, a comfort with in-your-facedness that I don't possess and a weight given to strong site personalities and long comment histories, significantly limit how much I interact here. As opposed to just following the links, reading the comments and moving on. I've always assumed those two factors were just a problem for me, personally; I guess in the context of a thread like this, it's worth considering whether they're problematic more generally. And whether anything can be done about them. And whether the site would even want to.
posted by penduluum at 2:21 PM on June 15, 2018 [66 favorites]


In my experience, there is nothing more infurariating on mefi than chiming in on a post about which you have specific, direct experience and knowledge and having people assuming that you are lying and/or misleading them about that. About a year ago, my literal office of 50 employees, in my city where I work every day, made the front page, and when I contributed in thread I was shouted at by like 10 different people who basically told me I couldn't possibly know anything about the subject bc what I was saying wasnt reported in the news. I don't know what to do about this specifically, but it would be nice if we could add to this list: don't assume people are lying, misinterpreting, or incorrect about their direct experiences.
posted by likeatoaster at 2:30 PM on June 15, 2018 [83 favorites]


Yeah, the negativity is what kills things for me. People always talk about this site like it's the most mature, reasoned place on the internet, and that may be true, but the truth is that this site seems to really love drama. It loves seeing open conflict, especially when it's a totally justified smackdown. People read comments in bad faith all the time, as in "you said X, but it really sounds like you were saying Y" or "you could only say X if you believe in ABCbadthing." I mean, obviously yes, it is possible to read between the lines sometimes, but I think it happens way more often than is really justified.

It becomes a big problem when people have fun with it. Sometimes I wish people would be more direct, instead of having to be clever about stuff, especially when it's personal, ESPECIALLY when it's part of some conflict. It's bad enough stating that so-and-so is an idiot and wrong, but it's even worse when it takes the form of a backhanded joke at their expense for everyone else to laugh at. I'm talking comments along the lines of "OK, well I will be minding my own business over here where people believe in things like 'facts' and 'evidence.'" That's nasty, and I see it all the time on this site. It makes me not want to comment, because it sucks to be on the receiving end. I want to flag those comments all the time, but I don't because everyone else seems to think they're OK. And the thing is, people aren't always wrong, and sometimes it's an informative comment aside from the sneering hostility. But the sneering hostility brings the room down, and it seems like it's very often based on a bad faith interpretation anyway.

Some people seem to do it more than others, and there are some people (past and present) who have seemed to show up in every thread with their super-confrontational truth bombs. But it can be anyone. I've done it too, so I'm not saying I'm a saint fighting against an unjust web forum. But it really brings things down, and it's the #1 reason I don't really like commenting, and why I don't really feel like recommending this place to anyone. "Hey, check out this place where you get sneered at." It's a whole lot better than "check out this place where people sometimes say the worst things people can say," but that doesn't mean it's not a real problem here.

I'm sorry if I'm incoherent about this, it's just that this stuff has been bugging me for years, and I've never felt like I could bring it up, because it seems like the response is always "well, what do you expect anyone to do about it?" or an insinuation that I want to go back to a time (before I was even a member here) when people were OK with open bigotry and whatnot. I don't know what the solution is, but I mean, it's part of a bigger problem of user activity that I'd like to have out in the open.

Tone is hard to communicate, so I want to make it as clear as I can that I'm not, like, angry or super upset about all this, I'm just frustrated.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:40 PM on June 15, 2018 [74 favorites]


Number 1 is so so so so good.

And the rest too.

I love this. Thank you.
posted by nikaspark at 2:44 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I mean, I'll also point out that it's not OK to call someone an idiot directly, but it is OK to make a joke along the lines of "OK, well you're hopeless, so I'm going to talk to people who actually bothered to think" (although maybe that would cross the line). But you know what I mean? You can't call someone an asshole, but you can be really clever about implying it. I don't know if that points to anything helpful as far as modding goes, because that stuff so often hugs the line between what is and isn't appropriate. But I think people also know that, and I've seen people kind of push what they could get away with. Fewer drive by insults would make me feel a lot more comfortable here.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:45 PM on June 15, 2018 [9 favorites]


MeTa FPPs where the first 10+ comments are “great post!” “thanks for posting!” feel very exclusionary to me. I’ve deliberately stayed away from posts like that because it feels like any comment without that tone won’t be welcome. Metafilter has become kinder and more inclusive over the years I’ve been here. I like that. But I don’t know if we can expect a correlation between increased engagement and x-number of nice comments at the beginning of each thread
posted by not_the_water at 2:48 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


To clarify, that's not remotely what I mean, and I agree that this vision of the Blue is off putting at best. The kinds of good starting comments I'm thinking of include things like "I don't know. The article says Z, but in my experience Y is more common" or "wow, I enjoyed this pull quote, here are my thoughts" or "this piece made me think of a story, let me tell it." I'm pushing back instead on something like "lol her name is Youyou To, how do people wish her happy birthday?" or "ah, I see this is a topic about people who foo, this is why I've always hated foo!"
posted by sciatrix at 2:53 PM on June 15, 2018 [14 favorites]


I think it's important for the internet at large to get better at understanding what critically engaging an idea looks like versus being an asshole. The whole "read in good faith" seems like a great principle and one that is really difficult to actually achieve. So these 5* suggestions to me seem like a good set of tools for us to approach "participating in good faith" as a principle.

*(the 4th of the 5 principles is performative)
posted by nikaspark at 2:54 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]


"OK, well I will be minding my own business over here where people believe in things like 'facts' and 'evidence." This stuff sucks, and it definitely happens. I think it has always happened (it happened to me once in someone else's askme thread), but probably more often now that there seems to be aggression and frustration leaking from the politics threads and IRL. It's blatantly rude and fighty but manages to skirt around the modding somehow.

Generally I wish people would give each other the benefit of the doubt more, but I can appreciate that's difficult with so many dog whistles flying about these days.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:03 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


sciatrix - thanks for clarifying, I understand better what you were saying
posted by not_the_water at 3:08 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Please stop dropping dead goats in threads. It really sucks to be enjoying a conversation about something like the popular colors of yarn for knitting Christmas sweaters or something, only to have someone pop in with the terrible news that Christmas is evil, or that millions of yarnworms are killed by the yarning industry so I should feel bad about my yarn collection.
posted by disclaimer at 3:10 PM on June 15, 2018 [74 favorites]


I'm sorry if I'm incoherent about this, it's just that this stuff has been bugging me for years, and I've never felt like I could bring it up, because it seems like the response is always "well, what do you expect anyone to do about it?" or an insinuation that I want to go back to a time (before I was even a member here) when people were OK with open bigotry and whatnot. I don't know what the solution is, but I mean, it's part of a bigger problem of user activity that I'd like to have out in the open.

I don't think you're being incoherent, and I do think it's possible to change the tone of the site if enough people work at it. The first step in making those changes is to speak up and say something, as you're doing here.

This site used to be a misogynistic pit. Gendered slurs against women members (as well as anti-women homophobic and transphobic epithets) were a serious problem. Bringing up women's issues was difficult because you really never had any idea if the conversation would turn into an utter shitshow. We've now had around a dozen or more metatalk threads over a 10 year (or more) period, that talked about whether or not this place was a "boyzone" and how that could change. The latest thread discussed whether the word "bitch" is a gendered insult or not, and quite a few people chimed in to give their opinions that it was. People who had never thought about how it might be harmful said they wouldn't use the term anymore in that thread.

Every one of those open, public conversations is helpful and vital. They can help move the needle a little or a lot. They can help shift the overton window of what is publicly and privately considered acceptable on the site and subsites. In part because they feature people talking about their experiences here and elsewhere and how they are affected by slurs. Those personal stories can help others empathize and decide to do better. Community change, whether it's online or outside the internet, tends to be slow and incremental, but sometimes it can move faster if you give it a nudge. The only way that ever happens is if someone brings it up. And if the worst happens, meaning that nothing changes, then we have confirmation that the site isn't as good as it could be. Which would be unfortunate, but also good to know. But more often, what happens in those threads is useful. Sometimes, the worst offenders are given time outs or 'stern talking-to's' by the mods. Or they learn from the feedback of others.

Metatalk threads are how changes happen here. They've helped cut down on transphobic and homophobic incidents, racism, antisemitism, sexism, etc. It's not a perfect process and usually doesn't happen as often as many of us would like, but progress made has mostly been for the better.

If something bothers you, it can be helpful to talk about it publicly. Even if just to say, "this bothers me, here's why. can we discuss it?" or "can we please try to do better about X?" If something is bothering you, it's probably also bothering someone else.
posted by zarq at 3:22 PM on June 15, 2018 [38 favorites]


“So: can we meaningfully increase site engagement without addressing what can be at times a completely depressing set of posts on the front page? If the starting points for conversations remain as is, can any amount of work to be more civil or positive within each discussion really draw in new long-term users?”

Agreed! And there is now a post sitting in the queue for MetaTalk asking for a HopefulSummer tag for people to post sparkly happy things to encourage this kind of positive interaction. A theme month, but looser and longer.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:27 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


I just turned on memail notifications. So here's an invitation. If something really bothers you or anyone else and you have created a metatalk post but don't want to do it under your name, send it to me via memail and (assuming I'm not like adamantly against the topic and you haven't created a "that guy zarq is an asshole amirite" post,) I volunteer to post it for you and deal with whatever lumps are directed my way over it.
posted by zarq at 3:32 PM on June 15, 2018 [18 favorites]


I'll start tweeting more mefi links not that that will do any good at all. Maybe I'll donate as well..

When I was more active I felt like MeFi can tend to have an "in crowd" and you can feel pretty excluded if not part of it. But that is life, especially for me, and probably serves a good purpose. Overall I love MeFi, and have read a ton of interesting stuff here.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:35 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well said, zarq.

In the previous thread, I vented a little bit about how it bummed me out to see people assuming bad faith and leaping at each others' throats. I'm going to make an effort to stop being silently bummed out, and start calling it out (as gently as possible) when I see it. I would encourage everyone else to do the same.
posted by teraflop at 3:36 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


Regarding the whole issue of moderation seeming to fall disproportionately on the people whose views don't hew perfectly to MeFi orthodoxy, I wonder if uneven flagging mightn't be part of the problem. All else being equal, people are naturally going to be more likely to flag things they disagree with rather than things they agree with, even if both comments have the same tone. So a righteous, snarky smackdown delivered in defense of one of MeFi's cherished ideals might stand uncontested (and maybe even get a ton of favorites) even though it's technically bad behavior, while a similarly-toned comment attacking those ideals would get flagged into oblivion within minutes. (We know the mods rely heavily on flagging to help them know where to direct their limited scope of attention.) Does that make sense? I'm super tired right now and may not be totally coherent. Anyway, maybe we ought to be trying harder to remember to flag things that are poor behavior even when we agree with the sentiment being expressed. Think a little more like moderators and a little less like users, I guess. Just something I've been thinking about, but I'm honestly feeling a bit addled right now so maybe I'm off-base.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:47 PM on June 15, 2018 [31 favorites]


Regarding point #1, I do think the bar should higher for negative comments, especially in the area of making sure that the writer has carefully and charitably read what they're responding too. I know I have been much slower to post after my last two FPPs had a significant minority of their comments in the "I have not read the article, but I have skimmed your one-sentence summary and I Need to Register my Protest That It Is WRONG WRONG WRONG" genre.

I sometimes wonder if it would be better to just turn off commenting for the first half hour after an FPP goes live, if only to remove the competitive advantage that so often guarantees that the first five comments or so will be blissfully unencumbered by anything but the most cursory reading of the subject material, much less any sustained thought about it.
posted by firechicago at 3:57 PM on June 15, 2018 [10 favorites]


Some of the bad faith reading possibly comes from not being able to infer things like tone and inflection from text. beerperson's deadpan humor earlier in the thread is a good example of this. Not that everyone should (or could) litter their comments with maximum punctuation, emojis, hamburgers, or "/s" tags to help with inference. People just may need to be conscious about reading other comments in as charitable a light as possible.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 4:01 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Hey all - just wanted to point out that beerperson has buttoned.
posted by bibliogrrl at 4:10 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]


The Royal Wedding thread was a prime example of people dropping into a well-written post and trying to aggressively reshape the conversation into a Serious Talk about the historical awfulness of European Monarchies. And this wasn't some organic, "the event is over so conversation rambled" phenomenon. The mod note was dropped on there a mere twenty-three minutes after the post went live.

And then a MeTa was created complaining of overmodding. And there was also complaining that because it was televised, it should have been on Fanfare. As if space on The Blue is finite and therefore reserved only for Serious Talk about Serious Things. But despite actual, non-sarcastic encouragement, you know what never happened? An FPP being created about the historical awfulness of European Monarchies.

So my #4 would be: Don't hijack another's FPP to be your own personal soapbox.
posted by kimberussell at 4:14 PM on June 15, 2018 [44 favorites]


To be fair, the deadpan humor would never have turned a hair if beerperson hadn't made this particular comment yesterday. Teasing goes over a lot better when you have a positive relationship with another poster--for example, I know mudpuppie as a fellow user, so her tweaking my nose over the numbering just got me laughing; we have enough shared experience that I know she means well. She also included a secondary positive interaction that communicates a general good faith teasing in her comment.

Context does matter, guys, and I did actually mean it when I asked what the intent was directly: I assumed openly that I might have been mistaken about beerperson's intent, so I asked to check and dropped it when I discovered I was.

Especially if you are only dropping into a conversation to make sharp jokes, I think it's important to consider potential readings of jokes that can lead to other members assuming that they're the butt of said jokes. This is especially true given the pattern that shapes that haunt the dusk describes upthread.

If a joke is going to be funny, shared context helps.
posted by sciatrix at 4:16 PM on June 15, 2018 [12 favorites]


Oh, dammit. That wasn't my intent at all, and I'm happy to chat with them if they want. I don't necessarily think they meant badly, and if I'd known that I wouldn't have referred back again to the conversation upthread.
posted by sciatrix at 4:17 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


I propose we figure out a better way with the UI to ask clarifying questions of people’s comments.

Like, a set of preset flags (next to the moderator flags) that communicate directly to The commenter. Things like: “This comment made me feel irritated, can you clarify what you mean?” stuff like that. Then the workflow from that would be a link that auto-formats the response comment with a box or check or something around it that states it’s a clarifying response. Then original commenter can clarify without having to be called out in thread. A “calling in” flag or something. Anything. We need a way to clarify shit that’s better than just another comment down below.
posted by nikaspark at 4:19 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


So: can we meaningfully increase site engagement without addressing what can be at times a completely depressing set of posts on the front page?

This gets brought up every so often, but the solution to not seeing the kinds of posts you would like to see on the front page is still to be the change you want to see. Johnny Wallflower is still making regular animal posts. Fizz has had a huge run of gaming posts lately. Remember that cool post last year about the buildings in The Hague painted like Mondrians? MovableBookLady has made over 200 posts since then and it's a great group of interesting and not very hoppita moppita links. I enjoy the increase in political and social justice issues on Metafilter, but they aren't the only thing here. Also, not on the front page, but MoonOrb has made a Fanfare post every single day since Feb 4. There is all kinds of good, not depressing stuff on the front page. Please feel free to add to it.

On preview: MovableBookLady made another post while I was distractedly typing this.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 4:20 PM on June 15, 2018 [23 favorites]


It becomes a big problem when people have fun with it. Sometimes I wish people would be more direct, instead of having to be clever about stuff, especially when it's personal, ESPECIALLY when it's part of some conflict. It's bad enough stating that so-and-so is an idiot and wrong, but it's even worse when it takes the form of a backhanded joke at their expense for everyone else to laugh at. I'm talking comments along the lines of "OK, well I will be minding my own business over here where people believe in things like 'facts' and 'evidence.'" That's nasty, and I see it all the time on this site. It makes me not want to comment, because it sucks to be on the receiving end. I want to flag those comments all the time, but I don't because everyone else seems to think they're OK. And the thing is, people aren't always wrong, and sometimes it's an informative comment aside from the sneering hostility. But the sneering hostility brings the room down, and it seems like it's very often based on a bad faith interpretation anyway.

Yeah, this is an excellent way of putting this. In a previous thread I said that "the constant bad faith reading and petty snark (in concert with the constant policing of outright conflict) have driven this site into the tonal equivalent of a married couple who hate each other but who are holding it together for the kids." And yeah, I stand by that, and this is the kind of stuff that I mean.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:20 PM on June 15, 2018 [9 favorites]


I feel like the mod comment directed toward beerperson was kind of terse. That kind of “there you go again” feedback probably should be private so people can’t pile on and be like “YUP FAVORITE FAVORITE,” ya know?

(Editing to clarify that I’m referring to restless_nomad’s comment above)
posted by delight at 4:25 PM on June 15, 2018 [34 favorites]


> [button notice]

...I was literally going to double post and say the comment box should be pre-populated with something like "THERE HAS BEEN TOO MUCH PAIN ALREADY. JUST WALK AWAY." But I meant it entirely as a reference to The Road Warrior and maybe making the "Everyone needs a hug" type of note more explicit and visible to users.

Bonus, if you're spamming or accidentally posting, your comment would just be an out-of-context reminder that "Everyone needs a hug" or whatever the note says.

On preview:

> To be fair, the deadpan humor would never have turned a hair if beerperson hadn't made this particular comment yesterday.

That's exactly what I mean, actually. Reading that comment, I saw it as "I, beerperson, know more about this than you can possibly imagine because of my own trials." rather than a mocking "I'm sciatrix, and I know more about this than you can possibly imagine." And both of those could still be a misreading.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 4:25 PM on June 15, 2018 [13 favorites]


There isn't a way to get into this without making it about beerperson in a way that will feel unkind. I will say this is an issue that we've addressed with them a number of times before, privately and publicly.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:33 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


And following on that - it's totally fair and good to keep working through these general tonal issues. Let's just not focus overly much on specifically beerperson - better to look more generally.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:36 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


then why mention it at all? Y'all mods have seemed to single out beerperson in the past, so why stop now?
posted by bibliogrrl at 4:42 PM on June 15, 2018 [33 favorites]


There isn't a way to get into this without making it about beerperson in a way that will feel unkind. I will say this is an issue that we've addressed with them a number of times before, privately and publicly.

yeahhhh this pretty much proves delight's point and seems wholly unncessary
posted by burgerrr at 4:44 PM on June 15, 2018 [25 favorites]


It’s a good thing to presume good faith- and we absolutely should but it’s very much a shame on you/shame on me situation, there is a point where (not talking about beerperson at all) you do get to think- wow I don’t think this person is operating in good faith I need to talk to a mod. I just feel that threshold needs to be a high one. But once the line of yeah this person is devils advocating everything/borderline insulting everyone/making really weird jokes gets crossed like a zillion times, Flag it and move on, and maybe send the mods a note explaining the pattern you’re seeing?
Like no one is saying love everyone all the time no matter what- I feel we’re saying presume good faith until proven otherwise.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 4:45 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


What if we worked on asking questions in equal parts to making pronouncements?
posted by nikaspark at 4:48 PM on June 15, 2018 [7 favorites]


I actually think that not opening threads to comments until they've been live for 30 minutes is a fantastic idea and we should try it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:52 PM on June 15, 2018 [21 favorites]


So my #4 would be: Don't hijack another's FPP to be your own personal soapbox.

yes, but that said, I do think that once I've posted an FPP, it's not really mine anymore anyway. It's in the wild now, for better or worse. Threadsitting's problematic no matter who does it.
posted by philip-random at 5:00 PM on June 15, 2018 [8 favorites]


I'll just say I reread a few things and totally understand how negative or positive context can be initially or superficially misinterpreted as the opposite in the absence of a deeper reading, at least in my case. So, yes: attention + time = a better understanding

Seconding something along the lines of nikaspark's suggestion in the sense of having an easier way to contact a user for clarification. Like, if you click the link from/near the flag icon, it takes you to a generic form letter you can edit. Or something.

In the more general sense, this is what makes it difficult to spot and address things like concern trolling and JAQing off. Because the presumption of a charitable reading is definitely something people can take advantage of. You could potentially defuse misunderstandings or get to know the user['s sense of humor] better, but like it was mentioned earlier in the thread, this is an issue of going against internet human nature and putting in the actual effort of looking before you leap.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 5:03 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Thirding a 30-minute comment delay on new posts so I can put off obsessively checking for reponses to give people time to RTFA and prevent drive-by snark.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:12 PM on June 15, 2018 [10 favorites]


I don't know if this would have a meaningful effect on site activity or is just me, but: I consistently enjoy the MetaTalk threads which are basically the dreaded ChatFilter. The MetaTalkTail threads Eyebrows McGee kindly posts weekly, the recent "neat thing you read/saw lately" thread posted by filthy light thief, the thread sciatrix herself, I believe, posted a while ago about "things you've made lately". These threads tend to be naturally easy-going and friendly (unless I'm missing a lot of behind-the-scenes mod activity...), it's a nice place to share happy things (or just "this weird thing that happened this week") and get some comfort for sad ones, and it's a lot of fun reading about what is going on in other people's lives. Also, unlike the actual chat sites it's not in real time and doesn't actually require other people to be there to interact with at that moment.
Whether this kind of thread could be expanded/increased without giving people the sense that MetaFilter is becoming too light on actual content, and whether other people would want it to be, I don't know. My $0.02 adjusted for exchange rate.
posted by huimangm at 5:21 PM on June 15, 2018 [18 favorites]


Teasing goes over a lot better when you have a positive relationship with another poster--for example, I know mudpuppie as a fellow user, so her tweaking my nose over the numbering just got me laughing; we have enough shared experience that I know she means well.

I'm so glad that's how you felt about it, sciatrix, because it really was meant in good humor. I'm sorry if anyone else read it differently and thought I was being harsh or critical of you, or of your thoughtful list of suggestions. That wasn't the intent at all.

Back to your original post:

What ideas do you have to make the community more engaging and somewhere you'd be able to convince friends to set up and make a home?

I think I've said this once or twice on the site before, but I'll say it again: On the introversion/extroversion scale, I'm about as far towards the 'I' side that you can get. I'm also really private and guarded in real life. I personally don't want to bump into real-life friends or acquaintances on Metafilter because I'm much more open here than I am in any other part of my life. My closest friend -- the person in my life I'm most open and honest with -- is an active user I met through the site years and years ago.

I'm dropping this tiny collection of data points into the discussion because, on some level, Metafilter and the folks who comprise it are doing something right. I haven't been as active on the site as I once was because I inevitably get sucked into the politics threads, which is really bad for my mental health. (The element of the politics threads that's good for my mental health -- having the opportunity to reinforce the notion that there's still some good in the world, and not everyone/everything has gone crazy -- is still outweighed by how badly the politics threads bring me down.) But I'm still here every day, and this is still my home on the internet, and I want it to be a place where the people I like and admire can be happy, and a place they'll keep coming back to.

So thanks for opening up this discussion of how we can all be better. That's always a good discussion to have periodically.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:23 PM on June 15, 2018 [7 favorites]


Thirding a 30-minute comment delay on new posts so I can put off obsessively checking for reponses to give people time to RTFA and prevent drive-by snark.

So this comes up now and then, and I think the motivation is good but the implementation would be problematic, for a couple reasons:

1. Not all posts are alike. 30 minutes to incline someone to read a lengthy article is an understandable notion! 30 minutes to get someone to watch a two minute video or look at some cool images is totally counterintuitive.

2. People who show up 30 minutes after a post goes live, don't read the article, and then wander inside to drop a turd are in the same position they'd have been in under the current rubric.

So I am pretty bearish on the idea of a technical solution to this particular social problem.

What does work pretty well is promptly flagging this stuff, and while we're imperfect about getting to it (sometimes just unlucky in timing), the mod team really really does want early noise flagged so that we can nix it from the get go. We do a fair amount of this, and it just silently goes away because the system worked. We also see folks frustrated by early-thread noise that didn't get flagged until hours later, and if we can still clean it up cleanly then we'll generally try to but the tone-setting effect on the thread is often pretty unfixable.

So flagging early and often is a really useful, usually really effective social solution that I'd like to encourage folks to just do more of starting right now. Mod-side we can work on the visibility and awareness of flags and flagging practices—I mentioned in the big State of the Site thread the idea of posting a refresher/primer ala Hey, Flagging Is Handy, Here's How It Works! to help with that—and it has the advantage of not depending on any specific assumptions about the content or nature of a post.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:23 PM on June 15, 2018 [13 favorites]


So my #4 would be: Don't hijack another's FPP to be your own personal soapbox.

Heh. I made a FPP about a cool photo of a stealth bomber over the superbowl and got a bunch of "THIS IS A MACHINE THAT MURDERS BABIES" comments which, yeah, I suppose it is but I just thought it was a neat photo, is all. I like planes.

So I probably won't make airplane posts anymore, no matter how neat I think they are.
posted by bondcliff at 5:24 PM on June 15, 2018 [35 favorites]


I don't know if this would have a meaningful effect on site activity or is just me, but: I consistently enjoy the MetaTalk threads which are basically the dreaded ChatFilter.

Agreed. Those threads feel like the team-building part of Metafilter to me, without the awkward icebreakers and forced socialization that comes with the kind of team-building meetings I've been dragged to at work.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:25 PM on June 15, 2018 [7 favorites]


It's fascinating and cathartic to see broken behavior outlined. I hope it leads to lasting change. Shame, outrage, and anger are effective tools, to be sure, but thoughtfulness, intelligence and a desire to help do more. Some say you need carrots and sticks but I think you need a hearts and minds.

In my life, personal connections have, so many times, made my mind. My friend who had an abortion. My ex who became a man. My gay cousin. A personal story told publicly -- today you, tomorrow me - even a random New Yorker who staved off disaster, ten times more clever than any perspective I could muster. The kindness of strangers.

I don't need anyone celebrating FPPs on principle. Link-sharing culture and blogging are on the decline. It would just feel awkward. It's not the old days when a MeFi post would land you on NPR or draw 20K people to your t-shirt store. Maybe that's why it's so vicious, insidious - the stakes are so low. And of course, we are making progress, which means the people that got us to this point must suffer the zeal of the newly converted.

Personally, I would like to see neighborly ways. When someone has something to share, read it before lodging your bitter complaints. When someone needs help, help. Assume the best, when you can, because no one is gonna make another MeFi ever again.
posted by fake at 5:29 PM on June 15, 2018 [14 favorites]


I've been having a hard time coming up with comments for posts lately. I've been spending more time looking at the more peaceful and enjoyable posts lately -- Johnny Wallflower has a very special place in my heart these days. But, all the same, it's hard for me to find something to say. All that is usually available to me is something like: "OH THANK GOD THIS IS WONDERFUL, A MOMENTARY REPRIEVE FROM PAIN AND DESPAIR"

We are all being affected by the horrible miasma of the times. I want to part of the solution. I want to spend more time reading about and talking about interesting things that aren't contemporary politics and gloom. I am struggling with this, though.

Life is hard. I love you all.
posted by meese at 5:45 PM on June 15, 2018 [18 favorites]


I do think the tone of the site contributes majorly to the current engagement problems. Bondcliff's example is perfect. They saw a cool picture and wanted to share it. They did so, but got a negative response, was left feeling bad about it, and is unlikely to do it again. Next time, maybe they'll just share the cool thing they saw on Twitter and maybe it'll get retweets but maybe not, but either way it was shared. This is what Metafilter is competing against. You find something cool and you share it with the hopes people will enjoy it, but one option has a significantly lower psychological barrier than the other.

Is this wrong? I think one of Metafilter's strong points is the high standards set for posts and comments, and from previous discussions about the site's tone many other people agree. There's plenty of other options if you want low-effort low-quality content. As it happens lots of people have chosen those places. I wouldn't even consider lowered site engagement a problem if it wasn't for the financial issues it has caused.

I also like the sentiment of "What if we're just nicer to each other?" It would be great for Metafilter to have the high standards it has while also promoting kindness in the community. There, I think part of the problem lies in the ghosts of Usenet and other early internet discussion forums, where moderation was nonexistent and netiquette was enforced with brutal peer pressure. There's no need for flamewars here on Metafilter, let the Mods handle it, which they should do as invisibly as possible, with mod comments a last resort to generally divert the flow of a discussion rather than call out individual users. I have no idea how to actually make people be nicer here other than what Mods can do, though. "Flag it and move on" has already been a thing here for years and how much it's actually helped is debatable.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:46 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


What if the comment box had a sentiment pull down where you self selected a predefined sentiment of your comment and the comment was hidden behind that a hyperlink naming sentiment?

That way people could set filters that allow certain sentiments to be automatically shown and they could choose whether or not to engage other sentiments or not. And if you lied/misunderstood/whatever the sentiment for your comment then the sentiment could be flagged by other users?

Also what if we set up a subsite for learning new languages to get off the USAian bias?
posted by nikaspark at 5:52 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Just some random thoughts from your resident video-game obsessive.

Live by example is something I have tried to do from day one. I have made mistakes on this forum. I have learned from them. I try to connect in a friendly and positive way, that is something I hope I am doing. If I'm ever doing something contrary to this, I would hope that it is brought to my attention so that I can try to do right and improve. I love this community and I strive to make it a better place.

Also, it's ok to walk away or to just ignore a comment/thread/post. Disengaging can be good for the self and the community.
posted by Fizz at 5:53 PM on June 15, 2018 [10 favorites]


I do think the tone of the site contributes majorly to the current engagement problems. Bondcliff's example is perfect. They saw a cool picture and wanted to share it. They did so, but got a negative response, was left feeling bad about it, and is unlikely to do it again.

I chuckled when I saw bondcliff use that example. I saw the post the day he posted it, and I started to type out my comment. Then I deleted it, because I had a hunch it would get a response that would have me hiding from my laptop for a few days.

My dad was one of the engineers who designed/worked on the Stealth Bomber. The Stealth Bomber basically put me through college. I hate what it does and what it's used for. I hate that it benefitted me. But it did, and things aren't black and white, and I'm not a horrible person because my dad was an electrical engineer whose employer got a big contract working on a project that I find politically reprehensible. But if I had left a comment in that thread admitting a familial connection to the Stealth Bomber, I almost certainly would have walked out of there feeling like a bad person.

That's the kind of thing we shouldn't do to each other. But it does happen here, and I knew enough to expect it, so I walked away. That's a problem that needs fixing.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:58 PM on June 15, 2018 [64 favorites]


2. People who show up 30 minutes after a post goes live, don't read the article, and then wander inside to drop a turd are in the same position they'd have been in under the current rubric.

But at least they would have some competition in the critical first dozen or so comments. At the moment the first half hour is entirely dedicated to the turd-droppers, since anyone who wants to engage honestly and responsibly is busy actually R-ing T F-ing A.

All that said, I agree that this problem probably doesn't lend itself to technical solutions. The fundamental problem is that people often like the thread-shitting comments. I went back to look at those two threads, and I had forgotten that by far the highest favorite-getter in either thread was a drive-by posted as the very first comment (5 minutes after going live) on a thread about video games and war in modern memory making the Very Important Argument that what we really needed to talk about was Donald Trump. (Which I flagged as a derail immediately, but I can understand that the mods can't catch everything, and might be loath to remove a comment that didn't actually attack anyone and was rapidly collecting favorites.)

It's easier to write thread-shitty comments, but for similar reasons it's also easier to read them.
posted by firechicago at 5:58 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'd just like to say that stupid jokes are one of my favorite things about Metafilter and a feature of many of the FPPs I remember best (I Can't Believe It's Never Going To Be Butter Again) and I would never want people to stop making dumb joke comments. A dumb joke is clever and fantastic and not shitposting.

If you feel a joke is ruining a thread, flag it. If you aren't certain if your joke is appropriate, wait a few comments. But please, for the love of Matt, never stop making bad puns, Metafilter.

Never. Stop.
posted by maryr at 6:01 PM on June 15, 2018 [28 favorites]


And remember, everyone needs a hug. Everywhere, not just on MeTa. Try a charitable read before clapping back.
posted by maryr at 6:03 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]


Something has been nagging me from way up in the thread and I want to respond to it. I think it was cortex who suggested that if we don't have the funding, the solution may be to shut down the site for Saturdays.

I strongly believe that this would be terrible and I am as opposed to it as is possible to express. I understand the concern about us-centrism weighing against cutting back staffing in the middle of the night (although honestly the U.S. politics megathreads seem to be accomplishing that U.S. centrism on their own anyway) but I worry that taking the site offline on weekends would solidify us even more as an upper-middle-class/rich community, and would box out many working people. It is a privilege to read metafilter during the 9-5 that many people cannot afford, especially as the economy changes and few people have office jobs that allow any downtime at all. While I understand that those hours are when the high traffic is, there are a lot of us who browse on the weekends, and many potential new users who also are more casually online and more likely to find the site on Saturdays than during a workday.

I know no one is advocating closing Saturdays right now and it is an only-if-absolutely-necessary measure but I think there has to be a better fallback option than that. And I guess I just didn't want that idea to slip by without some community pushback.

Edited to add: crud, put this in the wrong thread. Meant to go in the one about finances. :/
posted by likeatoaster at 6:08 PM on June 15, 2018 [20 favorites]


Let this be a dire warning about the perils of sarcasm. Today or yesterday I read of a bumpersticker saying "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" and I legit thought it was a pro-bombing bumpersticker, not an ironic anti-bombing bumpersticker. (To excuse my density let me point out that I have an in-law who legit thinks that killing lots of Syrian civilians with bombs is the way to "fix" the issues in Syria, so it wasn't a big jump.) I had to get to the end of the paragraph to unscramble my misunderstanding. Sarcasm in text is really easily misunderstood. Some people even read before their morning coffee is fully metabolized.
posted by puddledork at 6:11 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


Just to be clear, the reaction to my Stealth Bomber post didn't scare me from making FPPs, in some ways it emboldened me. My reaction was more of an eye roll and "don't ever ever change, Metafilter." but I've also been here a long time and have a pretty thick skin. I could see how the same reaction to a newer member would scare them away from this place.

I would never want people to stop making dumb joke comments.

This is like 98% of my schtick here so I promise you I will never stop making dumb jokes, even if Cortex shows up at my house with a cease-and-desist.

I think generally being nicer to people is the best thing for everyone. I've mentioned it before but this is still my all-time favorite Metafilter comment, specifically the line "Assume the best in people instead of the worst, it's nicer that way." Assume people are doing their best when they make a post, don't jump in and take a dump.

And if you do take a dump, sit when you wipe. You're not an animal.
posted by bondcliff at 6:16 PM on June 15, 2018 [15 favorites]


Hey all - just wanted to point out that beerperson has buttoned.

Damn, that's a shame: I enjoyed much of beerperson's sense of humor
posted by 23skidoo at 6:21 PM on June 15, 2018 [19 favorites]


So I am pretty bearish on the idea of a technical solution to this particular social problem.

Maybe we could try it for a day or two and see if we hate it? Your points are valid but I'd counter that 1: if a two-minute video is great now, it's still great half an hour from now and 2: at least the folks showing up to comment without reading at Minute 31 would have some competition, and it might help make the point that you should read (at least some of) the links before commenting in a way that no amount of gentle encouragement can do.

I'm not 100% sure that it would be an improvement either, but I'd love to try it and see how it goes. It would be a pretty radical change, but maybe we'd love it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:33 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


"These threads tend to be naturally easy-going and friendly (unless I'm missing a lot of behind-the-scenes mod activity...)"

No, they're great! Like twice in the past year and more, someone has posted a "YO, FUCK ALL THIS STUFF ABOUT POLITICS, LET ME BE SPECIFIC AND DEPRESSING" which I've deleted and memailed them to be like, "Not the right thread" and both people were like "Oh, yeah, good point." And once or twice someone has decided it's a great place to practice their tight five of insult comedy for the standup showcase this weekend (I ASSUME) but those get flagged fast.

"Those threads feel like the team-building part of Metafilter to me, without the awkward icebreakers and forced socialization that comes with the kind of team-building meetings I've been dragged to at work."


Heh. I've pulled a handful of topics from a list of "non-awkward icebreakers for team-building meetings at work." It's a good list!

"Let this be a dire warning about the perils of sarcasm. Today or yesterday I read of a bumpersticker saying "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" and I legit thought it was a pro-bombing bumpersticker, not an ironic anti-bombing bumpersticker."

I got deposed about a firing from when I was on school board, and the whole deposition was opposing counsel reading from a transcript of our (audio-recorded) executive session and saying, "Now, you said, 'You know what would be great? Let's put him in charge of ALL the high schools!' Can you tell us why you felt like that would be a great move?" "That was SARCASM." "And when you said, 'Let's give this guy a medal,' was there a medal you were thinking of?" "ALSO SARCASM." "And when you said --" "LOOK IT'S ALL SARCASM, LITERALLY EVERYTHING IS SARCASM."

I have tried to rein it in since then!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:39 PM on June 15, 2018 [27 favorites]


This is like 98% of my schtick here so I promise you I will never stop making dumb jokes, even if Cortex shows up at my house with a cease-and-desist.

I am famously against dumb jokes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:41 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


You might say cortex has no compunction about punalizing people who have a punchant for dumb jokes.

In fact, he likes to send them to the
(•_•)
( •_•)>⌐■-■
(⌐■_■)
punitentiary.

YEEEEEEEEEE-AH!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:46 PM on June 15, 2018 [33 favorites]


After the Stop the Violence thread, I wrote up a set of principles for my own engagement on MetaFilter. They join MettaFilter Bhavana in my profile's about section, but seeing as they're relevant…

Before the text-dump, I'll say one thing, which is that I really hope one outcome of the recent discussions is that we find a way to better surface submissions to the various subsites on the front page. It's honestly kind of depressing how little traffic and how few comments Projects gets, especially.

Principles for Favoriting Behavior on MetaFilter

1. You can favorite things with which you disagree.
2. You can favorite things to bookmark them.
3. You can favorite things to indicate support.
4. You can favorite things if you want to; you can leave your friends behind…
5. The points don't matter.

Principles for Posting Behavior on MetaFilter

1. You can post it yourself!
2. Avoid breaking news; there are few stories that wouldn't benefit from a week's wait.
3. Share what's interesting; it doesn't have to be "important."
4. Make the FPP the object for discussion, not just an excuse for one.
5. Seek out topics for which most MeFites are unlikely to have pre-formed opinions.
6. Keep it manageable.
7. Your FPP doesn't have to meet every audience's needs.

Principles for Commenting Behavior on MetaFilter

1. Be kind.
2. Don't be a dick.
3. This is a community.
4. The mods are our collective allies.
5. Preferentially address the idea and not the user (avoid "you").
6. Assume good faith or don't engage.
7. Speak for your self.
8. Sarcasm and facetiousness rarely translate well in online comments.
9. Favor fact over opinion; links to references are welcome.
10. Avoid pronouncements about other users' identities and life histories, which they need not share.
11. The FPP is the object for discussion; it's not an invitation to get something off your chest. Respect the framing.
12. You have time.
13. Consensus is not the goal.
14. There is no winning.
15. There is no losing.
16. There is no last word.
17. The points don't matter.
18. RTFA.
19. Rather than complain about "bad" FPP links share better ones.
20. The FPP poster can see your replies.
21. You're here to learn.
22. You're not obliged to comment.
23. You're not obliged to reply to anyone who addresses you (remove a thread from your recent activity if you have trouble detaching yourself).
24. You're not obliged to correct anyone who is wrong.
25. Most MeFites won't read what you write.
26. Most people aren't MeFites.
27. Breathe.
28. Listen.
29. Let go.
30. Move on.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 6:58 PM on June 15, 2018 [28 favorites]


Can I make a request that mods not do this public snark thing like what happened with beerperson?

It feels 100% appropriate for folks engaging in egregious stuff in thread to get a "knock it off" or whatever because it focuses on a behavior (not a person), sets expectations, and protects the thread from derails.

But this whole "yes but everyone knows you do this [bad thing]" and "oh, we talk to this person privately, just so everyone knows" is sort of fremdschämen-inducing and uncomfortable.

wrt to user engagement there are folks who are reading this thread, trying to learn the ropes, who may find MetaFilter intimidating and be nervous to participate and do something wrong and then they see an innocuous joke result in snark and the public disclosure of ongoing private communication.

You may think that these comments were appropriate given your mod context with beerperson, and you may be right! (I personally enjoy their humor and recognized their comment as a joke.) But not everyone sees that context.
posted by lalex at 7:16 PM on June 15, 2018 [83 favorites]


Also what if we set up a subsite for learning new languages to get off the USAian bias?

Um. I appreciate the sentiment but I think a good starting point would be to look at all the past threads (where non-USA / PoC members were speaking up and offering a lot of concrete suggestions), and to listen to the input of those members. So many past threads with a lot of good suggestions that for some reason or other never came to fruition/implementation. This stuff has been talked about for years. The reasons for the increasing USAian insularity are more deep-rooted than lack of socialization over non-English languages. (And I also feel the burden/labor of then teaching/sharing languages or culture related to non-English languages etc would then disproportionately fall to non-USA members... which isn't fair. This kind of stuff was already talked about in previous threads I think.)
posted by aielen at 7:34 PM on June 15, 2018 [9 favorites]


(And I also feel the burden/labor of then teaching/sharing languages or culture related to non-English languages etc would then disproportionately fall to non-USA members... which isn't fair. This kind of stuff was already talked about in previous threads I think.)

this and everything else in your comment are all great points, I was not considering it from a "I expect other people (from other countries outside the US) to teach me another language" but it was definitely implied by my comment. Thank you surfacing that implicit bias in my comment so I can clearly understand it moving forward.

I'm here for making this site less tilted towards a US POV and I'm obviously still in learning mode. I appreciate your time and thoughtfulness at critiquing my comment to help shape my perspective on this.
posted by nikaspark at 8:14 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Thanks for this op, I think these are all great ideas.
posted by smoke at 8:19 PM on June 15, 2018


Long time reader, infrequent poster/commenter.

One of the things that would lead me to post more is if there was an easing off of deleting FPPs for being duplicates. Sure, if there are 9 obit posts in a row, nuke all but one. But some dupe deletions that I have come across (sorry I have no examples) come off as somewhat elitist: "omg I can't believe you didn't see this post 2 years ago".

Fewer deleted legacy dupes = more FPPs = more activity.
posted by sacrifix at 8:42 PM on June 15, 2018 [14 favorites]


I think it would also help if there was just a better way to search old FPPs? I have never posted a FPP because I never know how to search the things I want to post to see if they've been posted before. This is exacerbated by the way MetaFilter posts are structured, I think, in that often links are not described by their title, but by the poster's summary. Unless you hit the exact same language to describe a thing, it can be hard to find if previous posts have already been done on this topic/event/project/link/whatever. Because of that I've felt like I would only be able post things that have just been posted or released or happened... but then I also feel like, "Well, if it was something MetaFilter cared about, someone else would have posted about it, right?" (An example was the whole Rose Christo/My Immortal reveal; I heard about it right when it was happening and thought about posting, but then figured someone else would have posted already if it was something that would have been a good fit for the Blue. Lo and behold a FPP was posted a couple of days later.) But that's a separate issue and maybe just my own anxiety about things being Good Enough, which I know is a personal hangup.
posted by brook horse at 8:55 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]


I think it would also help if there was just a better way to search old FPPs

I like searching by URL string, copy and paste the URL address right into the site search box.

"Well, if it was something MetaFilter cared about, someone else would have posted about it, right?"

We are the someones that we have been waiting for.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:17 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]


I like searching by URL string, copy and paste the URL address right into the site search box.

You know... I had thought about that passingly and always just assumed that wouldn't work, but it does! Incredible. I have officially learned something new today. (It doesn't help for things that have coverage from a lot of different places, but I definitely will use that if I happen across a cool site or something similar in the future. Thanks!)
posted by brook horse at 9:23 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


As far as engagement: I am frustrated with the threadsitting rule on Ask Metafilter, because I feel like it encourages unhelpful advice to stand. There's been a few questions I've posted over the years where the advice given wasn't workable because Reasons (and sometimes the reasons are mentioned in the question, though not always), but when I try to clarify I get told to not threadsit. Also I've found in other circumstances that having the space to drill down and unpack the question can actually help reveal what the actual issue is and thus lead to more useful answers. There's been stuff that I've just decided not to ask on AskMefi because the ratio of useful to not useful isn't in my favor.
posted by divabat at 9:26 PM on June 15, 2018 [27 favorites]


Thanks for the thread and ideas, sciatrix. I was considering posting something similar. I think having positive metadiscussions on how we have discussions from time to time is an important mechanism for keeping the site healthy, though they can be fraught and stressful.

MetaFilter rightly prides itself on a number of things. One of them is being a long-lasting community where intelligent discussion is common. Another is the emotional labor thread. I don't think this is entirely coincidental. Actively participating in conversations in a healthy, collaborative manner is often an act of emotional labor, particularly when the medium of conversation is text, and that emotional labor is absolutely critical to the creation and maintenance of community. On the whole, most of the suggestions for how to improve the quality of conversations we have on MetaFilter effectively entail asking commenters to invest a little more emotional labor into their comments. As the concept of emotional labor has a lot of resonance in this community as a tool for analyzing social structures, power dynamics, and interpersonal interactions, I think it could be very beneficial for us to consider it very explicitly in the way we think about commenting and otherwise participating on the site.

Treating other MeFites with the presumption of good faith when reading their comments can be an act of emotional labor, particularly when their comment seems to say something you strongly disagree with, or which you believe may be a personal attack. This is real, valuable, sometimes difficult work, that is absolutely necessary for all of us to perform if the site is to continue working as a community. But, as the saying goes, many hands make light work: the more we all participate and invest in this emotional labor, the less demanding it will be for each of us. The more the site norm bends toward the presumption of good faith, the easier it is for each individual to presume good faith, as that is generally what they experience. This is where MetaFilter's outstanding moderation shines, by identifying and removing clear bad-faith behaviors like trolling, personal hostility, negative stereotyping, etc. But moderation alone cannot and should not try to solve this problem.

There is also a recursive element to this. Other MeFites are investing various degrees of emotional labor into their own contributions to the site, and taking a moment, even internally, to acknowledge and respect that work can itself be an act of emotional labor. This is why negative comments attacking the quality or substance of an FPP early in the thread can be so detrimental: it disrespects the emotional investment by the poster. Likewise, comments can sometimes themselves represent carefully crafted thoughts heavily invested with the commenter's emotional labor (as well as, speaking from personal experience, a sometimes embarrassing amount of time). A dismissive reply that fails to seriously engage with a comment's substance, or which misconstrues a meaning that the commenter carefully tried to avoid, can also make the original commenter feel that their emotional labor in writing the comment was wasted. As someone who writes wall-of-text comments with obnoxious frequency, I would much rather be ignored completely than attacked for something I didn't say. Presuming good faith can entail acknowledging to oneself the emotional labor that other MeFites' words on this site represent, and then doing the work to respect that in one's replies.

I have other thoughts about the role of emotional labor in site participation, but I'm already running on very little sleep, and I expect these thoughts to be somewhat more controversial, and quite frankly at the moment I don't have the emotional reserves to have a potentially fraught discussion about them. Suffice to say I think it can sometimes be real work to remind ourselves that other commenters are individuals and not just members of a class, but this work is also necessary if the community is to thrive.

Anyway, thank you all for the work your participation in this and other tough discussions on MetaFilter represents. Even if I don't agree with some of you sometimes, I always appreciate your carefully thought-out posts and comments.
posted by biogeo at 9:27 PM on June 15, 2018 [15 favorites]


This site is too hard to get into. It's not the text, it's not the lack of memes, it's the vague and confusing site norms. I've never recommended the site to anyone I know because I don't want to answer all the inevitable "WTF?" questions.

People always talk about this site like it's the most mature, reasoned place on the internet, and that may be true, but the truth is that this site seems to really love drama.

Yes. I think there is a huge disconnect between what members say about the site and how it actually functions. I was here a long time before I figured all the ins and outs of that. Most people are not going to put in the time, and I've taken big time outs because it didn't seem worth the effort. I don't really think discussion is the strength of of MF, it's not really discussion as such most of the time, or it takes place within a very narrow frame.

Please stop dropping dead goats in threads.

So my #4 would be: Don't hijack another's FPP to be your own personal soapbox.

This is maybe the biggest problem here. It seems to me that a lot of people have gone way past "calling out asshole behavior" to "never let a conflicting opinion pass without correcting it harshly". The thing is I agree with most of the political and social views expressed, and I realize people have strong feelings for very good reasons about some subjects, but damn, they don't have to be brought into every conversation.

In a previous thread I said that "the constant bad faith reading and petty snark (in concert with the constant policing of outright conflict) have driven this site into the tonal equivalent of a married couple who hate each other but who are holding it together for the kids." And yeah, I stand by that, and this is the kind of stuff that I mean.

There really is a lot of dysfunctional family dynamic. There are people who've figured out which buttons can be pressed without drawing mod wrath, how to snark under the radar, grudges that I can't (and don't try to) follow even though I've been on here for years.
And you can be a bully or shitposter as long as you frame it right and/or pick the right position.

Why would new people want to bother with that?

Because this place, community-focused and insular as it is, puts a great weight on commenters' histories. On previous connections and conversations, on known personalities.


Do you have some kind of problem with me?
posted by sciatrix at 16:37 on June 15 [+] [!]

No? I don't know why you'd think I do?
posted by beerperson at 16:42 on June 15 [+] [!]

I think your tone very often doesn't read the way you intend it to, beerperson.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 16:43 on June 15 [11 favorites +] [!]

To be fair, the deadpan humor would never have turned a hair if beerperson hadn't made this particular comment yesterday.


That's the kind of shit that is exhausting.
No wonder he quit.
posted by bongo_x at 10:33 PM on June 15, 2018 [52 favorites]


Oh, I didn't at all make this clear, but I really feel like the problem is a small number of people, not the majority who just tend to walk away, like every other site or organization in history. But that IS the problem, the majority are just walking away and not saying anything.

(And I don't at all have anyone in mind because I rarely remember anyone's name, if I paid attention at all.)
posted by bongo_x at 10:42 PM on June 15, 2018 [7 favorites]


Hey folks, long time lurker, infrequent participant here...

It just about broke my heart to see posts in the money-business thread from site members who contribute so much great content on a near-daily basis but who, AFK, are scraping by such that they can't contribute much to the site monetarily.

Assuming we can get the financial situation back on its feet, what if we *gasp* pay some of MeFi's Own(tm) freelancer types to work on content?

Especially if the site goes more towards a subscription model, it would be very satisfying to see occasional in-depth "featured" posts from members and know that they are being taken care of.
posted by cosmologinaut at 11:08 PM on June 15, 2018 [11 favorites]


So I probably won't make airplane posts anymore, no matter how neat I think they are.

A plane killed Buddy Holly & Richie Valens, you insensitive monster.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:25 AM on June 16, 2018 [22 favorites]


I would love to see a shift in tone in AskMe responses. It's where I spend most of my time on the site and lately it feels like there's been an increase in various kinds of unhelpful responses (specifically: "have you tried thinking about it like this" where "like this" is not super relevant to the actual question; folks getting hung up on small details of the question and responding that rather than responding to the whole question [both charitably and uncharitably]; drive-by "I don't know the answer either but I think I might be better at googling than the asker" responses for questions that are more nuanced than "I've been trying to google the name of this one thing I vaguely remember for hours"-type questions).

I totally understand the impulse - people want to be helpful and that's great - but it sometimes feels like the payoff in various Ask threads is that a bunch of people got to feel like they were being helpful in ways that weren't actually super useful for the asker.

Personally I'd prefer to see fewer but higher-quality responses to questions on Ask and less of the behaviour mentioned above.
posted by terretu at 12:30 AM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


I recently read some very good advice:

I regret that I have only one favourite to give to this comment
posted by Sebmojo at 3:50 AM on June 16, 2018


I've participated less because of the habit many people have developed since the election (not just here but also IRL) of, "You did the ONE thing -- now I won't listen to anything else you say". Some people tend to forget all the other wonderful things that others have said and done when they hear something from that person that they don't agree with. There are so many generalizations about people and groups of people, conversations can't be had, people are shut down before they get a chance. (Maybe I'm doing that now too, but its hard to have this discussion without doing it I guess.) There's a small mob mentality that is so quick to judge and chastise people so I kind of come away from Metafilter sometimes feeling like I'm not good enough or smart enough or woke enough to participate - I'm not allowed to have my own opinion about something unless I know every single little nuanced thing about it, and if it is against the majority? Forget it. And to me, that's not discussion, that's an echo chamber.

It's said upthread a few times, but Metafilter is difficult to participate in sometimes. I guess its like school. You have to do a lot of research before you post anything for fear of someone finding a flaw in what you wrote (and they will!) Its WORK. Which is ok if there is play, but without a chatfilter where people can laugh and have fun and let off steam, its not fun. So that is where I see things lacking with MeFi in general -- there is no balance -- there are lots of serious discussion threads, but not many silly, jokey, get to know the people you're posting with kind of stuff. I have to hand it to EyebrowsMcGee for those weekly chat posts in MetaTalk, that's where people are having fun and getting to know each other and its hard to be a dick when you know someone or know more about them. People keep calling this a community, but it doesn't feel like one sometimes because of the lack of opportunities for people to know each other, not just the opinions they have about stuff.

Could the mods do a daily "Open Post" kind of thread in MetaTalk where there might be a guiding topic, but it's just bullshit and people can have fun with each other? So that when a person heads over to MeFi and has a disagreement with someone they might say, "Damn, Nora, why on earth would you say that? What the hell? But hey, isn't she the one that we had a great time with the other night talking about foo in Meta? She's pretty cool, I don't want to fight with her, so I'll be mature in my response and while I disagree, I won't be a dick to her."

If people don't have a fun area where they can get to know each other, then how will people know how cool we all are and then not be a dick to each other? I've been a part of so many discussion boards, most have come and gone, and I'd love for this one to stick around, but all work and no play makes Nora a dull girl.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:57 AM on June 16, 2018 [42 favorites]


I tend to post very little because I feel that the Metafilter 'crowd' is a closely knit group and the necessary effort to fit in is greater that my current interest on it.

I posted that in 2007 and I still feel pretty much the same even if the names of the ones in the in-crowd have changed. I also avoid commenting on my own posts because I don't want to deal with the responses if I say something wrong.

I love reading Metafilter but engaging with the site feels insurmountably hard with only a couple of exceptions (Fanfare is fun even if I forget it exists half of the time.)
posted by Memo at 5:35 AM on June 16, 2018 [27 favorites]


I personally vastly prefer a site where I am recognized and known as a person, and where my relationships with other people are informed by my history with them. I'm sort of in awe at the idea that a better Metafilter is one where we could ignore each other's identities from day to day, but that may just be me.

I like being known, and I like forming relationships and friendships. I like the sense that if I just invest in a community by being present, by being myself, by trying to make it a better place, that the community will respond by welcoming me. That's one of the things that attracted me to this site, and adding context to communications kind of comes along with that.

But the downside is that this perspective requires you to invest in a community, too: think about people as people, hold mental memories of others, remember people as well as our flawed memories can. At least, it requires you to do this to receive the dividends of community: the sense of belonging, the recognition, the affirmation from other community members.

I often get frustrated by what I see as demands for community affirmation and recognition and inclusion without willingness to engage in the kind of interactions that make someone into a member of a community, not just a stranger. Social networks are people everywhere, and one of the fundamental rules of people is that showing up and bring present is crucial to becoming a meaningful part of a community. On The Internet, being present means joining in on discussions, which might result in the disconnect between someone who feels they are part of a community--they read everything! they know many people in the community!--and at the same time aren't known by other people in that space. I can see how that would feel very isolating.

Trouble is, I don't know how to facilitate that step from "lurking, know community dynamics and individual dynamics, too shy/busy to comment" to "commenting, responding to and interacting with other users, forming two-way relationshipd, achieving recognition and social payoffs of being engaged." There's a lot of strategies to do that which have been discussed here and elsewhere--MetaCocktail, minimizing barriers to posting FPPs, minimizing threadshitting--but at the end of the day, I don't know how to do that first scary thing of walking up to a big table where other people know each other and no one knows you for other people. And that's one of the fundamental problems I think we're wrestling with here re: inclusion.
posted by sciatrix at 5:47 AM on June 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


I propose we figure out a better way with the UI to ask clarifying questions of people’s comments.Like, a set of preset flags (next to the moderator flags) that communicate directly to The commenter. Things like: “This comment made me feel irritated, can you clarify what you mean?” stuff like that. Then the workflow from that would be a link that auto-formats the response comment with a box or check or something around it that states it’s a clarifying response. Then original commenter can clarify without having to be called out in thread. A “calling in” flag or something. Anything. We need a way to clarify shit that’s better than just another comment down below.

It's an interesting idea, nikaspark, and I'm hoping more people weigh in.

In the past, when I was crapped all over in a MeTa thread by someone I suspected was unintentionally misreading me, I decided not to engage them directly in the thread because I didn't want to inadvertently cause other people to crap all over them in turn--so I decided to try and clear it up via MeMail. They never got back to me and I just sort of let it go and forgot about it, but in cortex's State of the Site post on Wednesday, I got the impression that some people might find private communications to be a shitty way of circumventing moderation and site norms.

I hadn't considered that aspect of "calling in" before, but I'm intrigued by your idea, nikaspark, and I guess I'm just putting this comment out there in hopes that more people engage with your idea and consider it from angles I haven't.
posted by duffell at 5:59 AM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I've been around for about 17 years (swapped names for purely aesthetic reasons a year or two ago) and what I am most enjoying about these two threads (the funding thread and the site activity thread) are hearing how other people experience "belonging" to Metafilter.

Aside from the (occasional) mentions that (some) people are really pleased that the boyzone background misogyny is (mostly) gone (I am one of those people), I don't see much of my experience of participating here reflecting in other people's characterizations of what it's like around here. This is so interesting to me!

As for improving, or increasing, site engagement, I am afraid I have no suggestions. I feel like I am reading and engaging at ask.me way less often now than when it was new. I'd say it's because of two or three types of questions which get asked on the regular that I think are unanswerable chatty questions that "break the guidelines" and annoy me. I think it's also because the relationship questions are "same person, different dress" and it's boring to keep reading. Ask.me used to feel like I was reading people with esoteric or specialized or pratical-rooted-in-experience answers to questions and now it just feels like a bunch of random folks spitballing. I would say that I am less often engaging there, but I would not be surprised to find that it was not true (you know, if someone were monitoring my clicks and engagements and such). Novelty wears off, after all.

I like to read the Blue more than I did 15 years ago. It's less hostile, in my opinion. It feels less self-referential, too, but to the latter point, ¯\(O_o)/¯ I've been reading it a long time, maybe I just don't notice the self-referential water is wet. On the other hand, the internet is less weird, more commercial, less personal, so the Blue is usually just serving up things from places I'm already aware of or videos which I'm not going to watch. So there's a lot less here that I have not seen elsewhere than there used to be.

But I am not a person who's ever sent people to metafilter and I don't know what would make me do that. I have shared links I've seen on metafilter. I've told my spouse stories about exchanges that amused or annoyed me. I don't know that I have a point, having typed this all out now. Normally, I'd just hit the back button, nuke the comment and move on. I do that a lot. I think I'm going to hit post, though.

Because I think the mild opinions don't get expressed in metatalk often enough. Like I don't think "heavy handed modding is ruining metafilter" but I can probably think of one or two mod interventions which felt intrusive. I don't think groupthink is ruining metafilter, but I can think of one or two conversations where someone with a different opinion got slammed. I don't think dead-goating is out of control around here, though I've seen it happen.

In short, I like metafilter enough to subscribe to it and to try not to treat its members rudely but in these conversations, I don't often see complaints or praise that feel much like my experience over almost 20 years as a member.
posted by crush at 6:42 AM on June 16, 2018 [18 favorites]


I think the problem isn't the private part in and of itself, but some people have been shitty in private communication.

I don't know how to do that first scary thing of walking up to a big table where other people know each other and no one knows you for other people.

I think the ... detached (not quite the right word, still working on my morning coffee) nature of communication here makes it really hard to perceive that people at the table are paying attention to your input. So people have to make that first approach repeatedly before perceiving direct feedback, which works fine for some people, but others are left a little cold.

Metacocktail is a pretty good way to try to set up a table with empty seats, but a new (or lurker) user who doesn't get some direct responses may feel like they're just talking to themselves. That's just sorta how this kind of setup works though. I'm not sure if there's anything that people at the table could do to mitigate that outsider looking in feeling. Even if there was a way to flag "new or rare user making a comment," that seems like it would lead to noisey (if hopefully nice) responses. Plus, it'd be kind of weird to be labeled.
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:18 AM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Metacocktail is a pretty good way to try to set up a table with empty seats, but a new (or lurker) user who doesn't get some direct responses may feel like they're just talking to themselves. That's just sorta how this kind of setup works though. I'm not sure if there's anything that people at the table could do to mitigate that outsider looking in feeling.

There are, though. I often favorite almost every comment in those threads, just as a kind of, "Hi! I'm glad you're here!" sort of thing. I also try to respond to anyone who expresses that they're having a rough day (or at least make sure that someone else has responded to them), rather than just letting those comments pass seemingly unnoticed (and I'm often a little shocked to see that no one else has responded already). I think those are perfect threads to do a little community gardening, I guess, of tending to people and relationships.

I wonder if AskMe norms of not talking to other commenters are getting generalized a bit too much, and stifling engagement with each other? Would having some sort of "Reply to this comment" feature on all the sites except AskMe make it easier to indicate that we are a discussion site, not just a comment site? (I say that as someone with very limited engagement on the Blue these days, so I could be overgeneralizing my theory of overgeneralizing.)
posted by lazuli at 7:26 AM on June 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


As someone who often posts low-engagement FPPs, I'll just say I really appreciate when people say "cool post!" or "great article!" It encourages me to keep posting, especially about things and places that I think are otherwise often ignored.

Speaking as an inveterate dead goater, I'm sorry. I try to bite my fingers but sometimes there are things which do need to be pointed out or at least complicated. I try to be kind or at least neutral in tone, but sometimes things make me angry or are just incorrect and I have the knowledge to correct them. I try very hard to keep my response about the situation rather than about individual mefites, and I try not to be arrogant about things. I hope that usually makes it seem less personal? I do think that the background and expertise and personal connections we have to things that are posted is really the value that metafilter adds to the internet at large, and sometimes that means saying "Sorry, that goat is dead. Let me tell you how I know that."
posted by ChuraChura at 7:36 AM on June 16, 2018 [30 favorites]


Can someone help me with what "dead goat" means? Is that just another way of saying "beating a dead horse"?
posted by lazuli at 7:38 AM on June 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


Oh, sorry. It's become shorthand for coming into a thread and saying, "Actually, that thing is incorrect or problematic or bad in some way."
posted by ChuraChura at 7:39 AM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


This made me look up the original dead goat comment.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:46 AM on June 16, 2018 [13 favorites]


Ahh, ok. I had been noticing (and been baffled by) similar things on Facebook photos of animals lately ("That cat is only jumping because the photographer threw it at a wall! Anyone who likes this photo is a sadist!") so I maybe that's an internet-wide phenomenon?
posted by lazuli at 7:50 AM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it became such a thing in the "cute" subreddits like /r/aww that it's gone all the way around again and become a meme.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:57 AM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


So my #4 would be: Don't hijack another's FPP to be your own personal soapbox.

The thing is that the FPP isn't a soapbox, either.

If something isn't a lighthearted or happy statement but is on-topic, I think it's 100% appropriate to add it to the discussion in-thread. For example, I think that discussing thoughts on the royal family or the royal family's role in civic life would have been 100% appropriate in the royal wedding thread.

I think that encouraging people to bite their tongues so they won't be buzzkills or "ruin" threads suffocates conversation rather than making it more engaging or inclusive.
posted by rue72 at 7:58 AM on June 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


Speaking as an inveterate dead goater, I'm sorry. I try to bite my fingers but sometimes there are things which do need to be pointed out or at least complicated.

My two cents is you have nothing to apologize for. Please continue to leave dead goat comments. I'll suggest that you start off with [Content warning: dead goat comment] (or something more descriptive) so that people who don't want to read dead goat comments can skip them.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:07 AM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


I think one of the biggest problems of the dead-goat phenomenon is the tone that it often takes of "you people have committed a moral error in thinking this thing was harmless." It's always a bummer to learn a cute animal photo was staged in an inhumane way, but it's really a conversation-killer to be told that you must be a horrible person to not have known ahead of time about it. I think the former is something that is not necessarily a faux pas, but the latter is actually a social evil and really needs to be avoided.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:11 AM on June 16, 2018 [47 favorites]


Honestly, as I think we've just seen, embedding more site shorthands and cute wordplay into comments will do even less to make metafilter an inviting community than warning people about an upcoming caveat comment. I'd rather people not inject more in-joke language into threads, and I apologize for falling back on it!
posted by ChuraChura at 8:12 AM on June 16, 2018 [15 favorites]


Quite literally everything is terrible and bad and perhaps a little give on all sides is needed here, like what if commentors and posters agreed to work on their perceptions of other commenters “problematizing” a thing in the comments as coming from an oppositional gaze rooted in otherness as opposed to being a huge ass affront to be taken personally, and the people problematizing said thing work on addressing the systemic roots of why everything is terrible and bad? That way people can “dead goat” a thing and other people can work on not taking it personally?
posted by nikaspark at 8:15 AM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


It depends, really. For example, if someone links to a video of a cute kitty doing normal cute kitty things, and a commentor just drops into the thread to tell everyone that it has some horrible -itis, that's kind of a dick move. But if someone posted a link to a video of Bill Cosby doing stand-up and is just like "I love Cosby, this is hilarious!" then pointing out his history of monstrous behavior is perfectly fine.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:16 AM on June 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


It depends, really. For example, if someone links to a video of a cute kitty doing normal cute kitty things, and a commentor just drops into the thread to tell everyone that it has some horrible -itis, that's kind of a dick move. But if someone posted a link to a video of Bill Cosby doing stand-up and is just like "I love Cosby, this is hilarious!" then pointing out his history of monstrous behavior is perfectly fine.

I agree with that, and I think that leads to the question of how do you create a principle that can be described to others and agreed upon by the community about what's ok and what's not ok? I think it's the same with giving users the benefit of the doubt -- when does that need to stop because someone's dog-whistling all over the place?
posted by lazuli at 8:21 AM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I agree. Since everything is terrible and bad, it makes problematizing a thing a choice and is not a headspace we have to open up with every single post or engagement on the site.
posted by nikaspark at 8:22 AM on June 16, 2018


Also, Fanfare is so well hidden that it has almost no shitposting (not to say it doesn't have its own issues) so please don't make more visible, k thx.
posted by Memo at 8:23 AM on June 16, 2018


I think one of the biggest problems of the dead-goat phenomenon is the tone that it often takes of "you people have committed a moral error in thinking this thing was harmless."

I think that the biggest problem with Metafilter in general is that when we talk about comments that we don't like, we use the broadest, least kind shorthand when describing those comments. Most dead goat unexpectedly-depressing comments aren't as judgey as the one you described, but when Metafilter discusses them, they're talked about as if all unexpectedly-depressing comments are horribly judgey, when they're usually just unexpectedly-depressing (imo)
posted by 23skidoo at 8:26 AM on June 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


I have to go to Standard to post: Where is this New Post link on mobile ?
posted by y2karl at 8:35 AM on June 16, 2018


A couple of great comments in the other thread hit what I think the core issue is: we need to promote diversity.

We are all talking about ways to tackle the threadshitting and negativity and "dead goating" by policing that behavior more as a community, but I think we can flip the problem around and come at it from another angle by promoting diversity instead.

This site prides itself on being progressive and inclusive, but time and time again many users have voiced their feeling that it's actually fairly insular. In other words, it's great to see that MeFi has taken steps towards a more inclusive atmosphere over the years, but the areas we have targeted are quite limited.

Here is what users have voiced:
  • MeFi skews American, very heavily.
  • MeFi skews urban.
  • In the US, MeFi skews toward the Northeast and Pacific Coast.
  • MeFi skews older.
  • MeFi skews agnostic or non-religious.
  • MeFi skews white.
  • MeFi skews straight/cisgender.
  • MeFi skews toward those with postsecondary degrees.
  • MeFi skews white collar.
  • MeFi skews well off financially.
  • MeFi skews toward those who have been involved in internet and forum culture for a long time- 15-20 years.
  • Politically, MeFi skews toward a narrow Democrat orthodoxy, given its US focus.
The thing is, the diversity is there on our site and in our user base. We just need to encourage those users to speak out and share. People just feel shouted down, or are afraid of threadshitting, or are afraid of speaking up and being a different voice, or are afraid they'll be ignored as Jim the 38 year old educated somewhat liberal straight cisgender white man from Boston who was raised religious but stopped going to church a long time ago and who shops at Target because he "won't support Walmart because of the Waltons" makes a comment or joke that "skews MeFi" and gets 100 favorites. (Sorry about the snark, but I think there is some truth there I feel.)

What I would suggest is something simple, focusing on the Blue first: themed weeks or months, which we've done before, and we should now do all the time and on a broader range of topics to really celebrate diversity in posting topics and contributions by diverse users.

Each week or month gets a cute tag. We ask our mod teams and the community to be extra vigilant in flagging and managing threadshitting on these FPPs. How about China Week? Or Alabama Week? Or PoC Month where we celebrate posts made by PoC and/or posts about PoC issues or cultures? Or a week celebrating Muslim cultures and issues timed around Ramadan and Eid? Or, I'm not sure what to call it, but a week encouraging posts related to youth culture and issues (sorry, I'm clearly an old dude)? I think it's clear that I'm Jim from Boston here, so others will definitely be able to come up with better ideas for themed weeks. But regardless, the idea of more themed weeks might be a way for the mods to set up a simple framework to encourage diversity, and for the community to rally behind it.

Finally, more radically, I'd eliminate favorites. Favorites always end up encouraging orthodoxy and discouraging diversity, ultimately. But that's another conversation and solution and one that is probably a non-starter.

But let's think about diversity, bottom line... that would be my solution for a way to tackle the cultural problems we are noticing, while also making sure those asking for more diversity are being heard, and while making MeFi feel more open to everyone.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:39 AM on June 16, 2018 [18 favorites]


For example, if someone links to a video of a cute kitty doing normal cute kitty things, and a commentor just drops into the thread to tell everyone that it has some horrible -itis...

For example
posted by y2karl at 8:42 AM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, seriously! Speaking as someone else with a tendency to accidentally depress others, specifically on animal posts--look, sometimes cute animal pictures either center animals that are clearly distressed or stressed, sometimes specifically to achieve the photo. Sometimes I've commented on things like difficulties of wildlife filming and staging shots of wildlife, and that makes people sad. Sometimes you get situations like the service dog giving birth in an airport that are simultaneously cute and fuzzy and also the result of someone who fucked up at some point even under the most charitable interpretation of the circumstances.

Sometimes I've been quiet and wondered if I was perpetuating the problem by doing so. Sometimes I've chimed in and wondered if I was perpetuating a different problem by doing so. Sometimes I've weighed in on the irresponsible aspect of something and then swung around to explain which aspects are and are not necessarily problematic according to my experience as other people rush to condemn the person, which usually makes me feel like I'm talking over the entire thread.

What do you do when your area of expertise suggests that the cute and fuzzy thing is not great for the subject of the piece? Where do you draw the line? "That mouse is clearly dead, sorry?" "That dog making funny noises is going to bite, and bite hard, if people keep doing that?" "That dog's handler probably meant well, but she kept making mistakes and doubling down on them in a way she had no business doing?"

Where's the line?
posted by sciatrix at 8:43 AM on June 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


Finally, more radically, I'd eliminate favorites. Favorites always end up encouraging orthodoxy and discouraging diversity, ultimately.

I favorited this. I think “add to activity” is way way better.
posted by nikaspark at 8:43 AM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Finally, more radically, I'd eliminate favorites. Favorites always end up encouraging orthodoxy and discouraging diversity, ultimately. But that's another conversation and solution and one that is probably a non-starter.

1. Bullshit on the encouraging orthodoxy.
2. Not probably but rather a total non-starter.
posted by y2karl at 8:45 AM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Where's the line?

I don’t think there is a line. I think the site needs to get better at not taking problematizing personally and just move on if it’s something you’re not in the mood to deal with in that moment. Why do we have to care if someone points out the bad thing?
posted by nikaspark at 8:46 AM on June 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


...Metafilter is difficult to participate in sometimes. I guess its like school. You have to do a lot of research before you post anything for fear of someone finding a flaw in what you wrote (and they will!) Its WORK.

Yeah building on this "MetaFilter is work" idea, a big reason I don't recommend the site to people I know irl is the user hostility and unusually hands-on moderation folks encounter if they run afoul of both 1) the prevailing zeitgeist and 2) the fairly elaborate web of moderation guidelines that have developed over the years.

It is what it is, but I just have no succinct way to explain commenting rules and site culture and norms to them. And if folks start posting without some understanding, they face hostility/comment deletions/etc. which is a huge immediate turnoff. The cultural/moderation barrier to entry here is high, and it is hard for a new person to feel comfortable jumping into participation.

Here is the FAQ with what looks like 150+ questions, no index, and just briefly browsing it I don't see any kind of "hey, here are some basic commenting guidelines!" information.

(In fact, commenting norms and guidelines are often developed in MetaTalk, even sometimes deep in the comments of MeTa threads, with no followup post saying "hey, here's what we've decided about topic X." And of course many people don't read MetaTalk or even get that it really exists.)

The barrier is especially high in the more sensitive, more heavily-moderated threads that relate to social justice or politics, which is frankly what's on the mind of a lot of folks I know who might be interested in participating in a discussion forum.

frex, here are the "political thread guidelines" that get linked at the beginning of U.S. politics megathreads. This is a wall of inside baseball text that's not written, at all, for new users or even longtime users who might be new to the politics threads.

In my view, this is all a barrier for new user engagement intertwined with the site culture stuff we're talking about here, and worth mentioning. One small idea I have is to do what a lot of other sites do and add a "participation guidelines" link next to the comment box.
posted by lalex at 8:47 AM on June 16, 2018 [29 favorites]


Finally, more radically, I'd eliminate favorites. Favorites always end up encouraging orthodoxy and discouraging diversity, ultimately. But that's another conversation and solution and one that is probably a non-starter.

Nooo. This is probably the first big metatalk kerfuffle I remember, when favorites were hidden. Some of us (still!) use them as a useful shorthand for communication.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:47 AM on June 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


you can TURN THEM OFF. you have the power. it is right there on your profile and it is very freeing.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:48 AM on June 16, 2018 [20 favorites]


Insert “your favorite favorite sucks” joke here :-)

(sorry I couldn’t resist!)

YOU CAN TURN THEM OFF WHAT.

Brb
posted by nikaspark at 8:50 AM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


I often start to comment and then think better of it for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I think I am going to ruin the party (having had at least one comment deleted for doing that, it's not entirely unfounded). Sometimes it is just exhausting to be the one who sees things differently - because of being non-USian, because of being fat, or queer, or someone who has experience of chronic pain and depression and various other things that often make me feel like a not-very-cheerful person to be around. Sometimes I do it anyway and feel like one of those humourless people that can't take a joke. There's frequently no way to win this - if I say nothing, I feel alienated. If I say something and people take it badly, or my comment gets deleted, or I get ignored - well, it doesn't help with the feeling of community. Saying nothing is usually the better course of action, and is usually what I do.

On preview, I really agree with Old Man McKay and like those suggestions. I think they would help a lot with this kind of thing and encourage people from minority perspectives to feel like it is okay to still speak up.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:53 AM on June 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


MeFi skews urban.

Sorry for the nitpick, but most of the world skews urban, and that does have an influence on internet access. And in a lot of countries, the urban population makes up a very large majority, with 80%+ in the US and even higher in places like the UK. Also, there are very few people (urban or otherwise) that have lived in the same place all their life.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:54 AM on June 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


" I often favorite almost every comment in those threads, just as a kind of, "Hi! I'm glad you're here!" sort of thing. I also try to respond to anyone who expresses that they're having a rough day (or at least make sure that someone else has responded to them), rather than just letting those comments pass seemingly unnoticed (and I'm often a little shocked to see that no one else has responded already). "

I really appreciate you and others who do this -- since I post them when I'm working, I often end up reading along for the first few dozen comments and responding as appropriate, but then something blows up in the politics megathreads or elsewhere on the site and I can barely check in for the next couple hours. So I really appreciate that members are stepping up to help people feel seen & heard in those threads!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:57 AM on June 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


I frequently use favorites to communicate "thank you for sharing" or "I hear you and I am glad you spoke" or "I'm listening" in the same way that lazuli or ghost phoneme describe doing upthread.

Removing them would prevent basically the easiest way to translate smiling and listening into Metafilter commentary. When I first started posting here, receiving favorites and support for posting was literally the main reason I felt emboldened to comment more.

I like lalex's idea of helping introduce folks to site culture, maybe by more frequently linking existing "who are we?" pitch commentary. We never reference things like the site culture wiki, and I always forget it exists; the same goes for the FAQ.
posted by sciatrix at 8:57 AM on June 16, 2018 [26 favorites]


One URL suggestion: kardashians.metafilter.com
posted by sammyo at 9:06 AM on June 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately, one of my less pleasant Metafilter experiences was when someone proposed "June by LGBT" or whatever it was called two or three years ago. It's frightfully hard to do without just making work for marginalised people. And, while I think there a number of issues that "go better" on the site than they have in the past, I actually think that's about the site's orthodoxy having changed rather than the membership having greater understanding of experiences unlike their own.
posted by hoyland at 9:06 AM on June 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


I was going to put myself on a break from commenting for a couple of hours to let conversation breathe, and I still intend to do so. But let me just say this right here:

JuneByLGBT and the following JuneByQueers MeTa I created, and the aftermath, were perhaps the most traumatic, exhausting, and disheartening experience I have had here as a member.

Ever.

I have been quietly downplaying that hurt for years here, because I felt that the negative feelings that other people had were valid--more valid than mine and that of other people who wanted to be seen and stand for their own communities. But I was deeply hurt at the time, and I am still deeply hurt about that on a very, very personal level. As, to be clear, a queer person who wanted to celebrate with other people in my community on an opt-in basis.

I nearly left the site over it.

I will be taking that "break to let the thread breathe" now.
posted by sciatrix at 9:17 AM on June 16, 2018 [32 favorites]


There are many reasons why I dont post on Metafilter much these days but the overwhelming #1 reason is the lack of an easy mobile web interface or app. Thanks.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:37 AM on June 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


I liked a lot of beerperson's comments, I'm upset that they felt the need to disable their account, and I doubt that their decision to do so was unmotivated by how they were treated in this thread.

I agree that the site culture has improved, inclusivity-wise, in vitally important ways since I started hanging around here in 2011. From what a lot of people have said repeatedly, it seems like who one is is less of a factor in whether one feels included/like one even wants to bother participating. That's unambiguously important progress.

On the other hand, MeFi is in some (orthogonal) ways no more inclusive than I remember it being in the past.

I'm glad that it's less tolerant of shitty viewpoints and behaviours (like the misogynist garbage that's been dialled way back). However, it's still widely acceptable to engage in terrifically shitty behaviour, and it's still possible to act like a giant asshole with community support and moderational impunity as long as one does so in the right language and avoids stepping on certain toes.

For example, I've witnessed intolerance of forms of expression that deviate from "house style", except possibly where those deviations come from members of a specific in-group (e.g. there are noticeable stylistic similarities between the exquisitely-but-generally-benignly snarky comments of beerperson and those of a particular high-profile MeFite, of both of whose comment-oeuvres I am a fan; only the former has given strong evidence of feeling unwelcome by buttoning).

Second, even on topics about which disagreement is reasonable (especially in threads of an overtly political nature), there is often a narrow orthodoxy that's frequently enforced via unpleasant tactics. This is most alienating when someone gets piled on for articulating a slightly more nuanced version of what everyone else basically agrees with. It's particularly alienating when it ends with a moderator chastising the pile-ee as the source of the trouble.

[By "orthodoxy", I'm not talking about stuff that is rightly considered non-negotiable, e.g. the unacceptability of racist/misogynistic/transphobic/classist shit, and by "enforcing orthodoxy", I'm not referring to efforts to call that shit out.

Instead, I am referring to the fact that there is a fairly culturally homogeneous group of vocal users whose attitudes and prejudices sort of set the tone in a lot of threads. I find this problematic, even as someone who generally finds a lot to agree with in comment threads/has a lot in common culturally with these people.

To see how this sometimes plays out, one could try the following experiments (in contexts where they are on-topic): (a) expressing views to the left of, say, the DSA in a US politics thread; (b) expressing impatience with off-topic comments about the US in a thread about a non-US topic, even gently; (c) talking about animal rights/veganism without walking on eggshells (bonus points: bring up pets); (d) interrogating American Russophobia; (e) expressing the view that there are some aspects of reality that are understandable by means other than direct personal experience; (f) expressing misgivings about some aspects of the zeitgeisty vocabulary for discussing mental health issues, as applied to your personal experience with mental health difficulties (definitely won't be doing this myself); etc.]

I'm aware that using (experience-adjacent) hypotheticals instead of specific examples is rhetorically weak, but I'm also not interested in starting a call-out war here.

I like to read MeFi, I like to read the comments, and I've learned a considerable amount from both, but for me it's certainly more of a social anxiety minefield than a community.

It's also possible that inclusiveness and "community" are inevitably in tension sometimes, and that the cliquishness I'm noting is an example of that. There seem to be respects in which the site culture and moderation practices prefer "community" over inclusiveness. This may not be optimal from the point of view of increasing (high-quality) engagement with the site.

It also occurs to me that I could just read the posts and comments (and kick in the odd donation) without having an active account, and I'm considering doing that.
posted by busted_crayons at 9:47 AM on June 16, 2018 [44 favorites]


I posted that in 2007 and I still feel pretty much the same even if the names of the ones in the in-crowd have changed.

The idea of there being an in-group, which makes the site feel exclusionary, has come up a few times in this thread, and it's something that I remember coming up numerous times in the past. At work, I'm on a committee that just conducted an office climate survey of our staff. Overwhelmingly, the strongest theme was that there's a privileged in-group in our office. When the committee came back together to discuss the survey results and we noticed this trend, we were all really surprised. None of us could figure out who the in-group was, but we were all individually certain that we weren't members of it.

I think that's A Thing about in-groups. They're visible from the outside, even if they're a mirage, but they're not so visible from the inside.

I don't really know what the solution to that is.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:58 AM on June 16, 2018 [20 favorites]


(a) expressing views to the left of, say, the DSA in a US politics thread

wellllppp for various political reasons I am currently working with a group of DSA folks and I actually would not recommend to them they participate here.

They were hugely disappointed by Obama. Many did not vote for HRC. They have serious problems with the current platform and strategy of the Democratic Party, and definitely with our 2016 standard-bearer.

They are also extremely well-informed and engaged. They're out there on the streets and spending every spare hour at campaign offices. They are working their asses off to promote causes that we all care about, like racial justice and access to healthcare for all.

And yet! They would only be able to express a very narrow range of their political views and activities in our threads without being exposed to nastiness from users and moderation for fight-starting or pot-stirring or whatever. But like, even if this limited participation were acceptable to them, I don't even know how I would begin to start explaining all the norms and off-limits topics.

I think it's a loss for the site. I come away from my time with them feeling like I've gained understanding of different perspectives, and discussions with people I don't 100% agree with help clarify my own beliefs.

And in general, over a wide range of topics, the pattern of user hostility and heavier moderation for folks even partially outside the prevailing zeitgeist is not great for new user engagement.
posted by lalex at 10:05 AM on June 16, 2018 [33 favorites]


In-joke/term definition requested: what does "Buttoned" mean? I checked the Wiki and couldn't find the answer. I can guess from context, but I sometimes err.
posted by heathrowga at 10:11 AM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sorry. As I understand it, "to button" is to disable one's account. I've usually seen it used in the context of an account closure in response to some negative interaction, especially on MeTa.
posted by busted_crayons at 10:14 AM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yeah, on your Preferences page, allll the way at the bottom, there is a button for "close my account". Buttoning = Pressing that button
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:17 AM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yeah, those sort of in-joke terms I think could stand to be more explicitly defined somewhere. I remember when I first joined I didn't know what "snowflakes inside" meant. I remember searching the wiki and googling and not finding a definition. Eventually I figured it out (and was like, oh, that makes sense!) but for a long time I was still nervous about using it wrong because I didn't have a clear definition.
posted by brook horse at 10:19 AM on June 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


TIL! :) Thank you all!
posted by heathrowga at 10:19 AM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


And in general, over a wide range of topics, the pattern of user hostility and heavier moderation for folks even partially outside the prevailing zeitgeist is not great for new user engagement.

Indeed. There have been a few times recently where I considered turning friends on to MeFi, because of posts that reminded me of specific interests of theirs. However, one of them is involved in and vocal about antifa work and the other one is, say, idiosyncratic in a way that's totally inoffensive but also not in line with the type of strangeness that's typically celebrated here. In both cases, I decided against being the one to recommend MeFi because I wasn't confident they'd be treated very well if they signed up and started commenting.
posted by busted_crayons at 10:36 AM on June 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


(b) expressing impatience with off-topic comments about the US in a thread about a non-US topic, even gently;

Ha, I do this fairly frequently, at least as often as I notice it happening, and I don’t think I’ve ever received any pushback. Perhaps I’m just lucky or weirdly intimidating.

(e) expressing the view that there are some aspects of reality that are understandable by means other than direct personal experience;

I think I notice the reverse of this more often, Where people with actual experience in an area get discounted in favor of armchair explanations, but, again, that could just be my reading.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:55 AM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


I think injokes and shorthand phrases are inevitable, and are a result of community history. I thought I was quite familiar with most of MeFi slang, but I hadn't come across the dead goat thing yet. But now I know it, and it's a quick and concise way to represent a particular behaviour. I feel that trying to solve this would be a hard ask, and am not even sure if it's desirable. However, it may indeed annoy people who are not familiar with MeFi slang. If there is a need to encourage more activity, I feel a better approach may be to emphasise the posts themselves and not so much the comments. That way, people come for the links, and if they want to, stay for the discussion. A possible site redesign could address this.
posted by dhruva at 10:56 AM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


I am semi-retired from the site for Reasons, but the main one that got me to hit the logout button and delete the bookmark was that there's just so much unhealthy obsessions that I was starting to feel bad about contributing, even if not directly, to someone eles's anxieties.

I feel like there used to be a pretty good handle on things that we Don't Do Well, and we could kind of stand back and realize that just because some had a different perspective, that didn't make them a Big Bad. Lately, I saw things happening on the site where people were getting all churned up and being unhealthily obsessed, and instead of the community trying to tap the brakes and get them out of that spiral, it was allowed to go rampant into delusion, conspiracy and other forms of self harming madness.

Loath as I am to admit it, I have begun to take the Garden & Gun editorial approach to online life: No politics, no religion.(I also ignore SEC sports, but have been doing that for years anyway...)

Maybe that's not possible for the site as a whole, but maybe each user should step back and think about what kind of emotional state those two topics put them into, and how it affects their overall well being, the well being of others, and then decide whether or not to engage them...

Anyway, nice to chat with you all again, be well.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:58 AM on June 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


METAFILTER: None of us could figure out who the in-group was, but we were all individually certain that we weren't members of it.
posted by philip-random at 11:06 AM on June 16, 2018 [31 favorites]


That's actually something I've been thinking a lot about 1f2frfbf, and coming to the conclusion that I need to dial back my participation. A lot of the more political/social justice stuff here really ramps up my anxiety levels for some reason, even though I often feel inclined to participate. I feel like the politics megathread probably increases anxiety site-wide on the whole and I manage to stay out of that, but even the smaller, more focused threads are probably bad for me personally. And that kind of stuff seems to be more and more of the site lately, which to be clear I think is a good thing as long as it is balanced by large amounts of "cool stuff on the web" posts, but with the web seemingly becoming a place where less and less of that "cool stuff" actually exists anymore, I'm not sure that it bodes well for the mental health of this community or anyway for my mental health specifically to be so focused on that stuff. Like, it's certainly important, and I've learned an absolute ton over the years from those kinds of threads, and I think they're an important part of MetaFilter, but my feelings about that genre of post are starting to get kinda complicated lately.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:07 AM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


METAFILTER: None of us could figure out who the in-group was, but we were all individually certain that we weren't members of it.

Soylent Green is the in-group.
posted by y2karl at 11:08 AM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


See also
posted by y2karl at 11:16 AM on June 16, 2018


1f2frfbf, agreed. That compulsion to participate is not great. It's often driven by the heavier weight that we give our own voices. This is not a slam on anybody. It's natural. Many of these voices have opinions I agree with, so it's not a question of silencing anyone. (And, yes, it applies to me or I wouldn't be making this comment.)

The difficulty here is that individuals are terrible judges of their opinions' contributions. (This is part of the issue with jokey comments/derails, where YOU find it amusing, but it's not really helpful/amusing/productive.)

And of course people should contribute! So it's a question of striking a balance. It's very difficult to do. But as 1f2frfbf said well: Users should focus on their well-being, as well as the well-being of others. We are all people — except for the dogs on here; I know who you are!

(Probably there is some part of this comment that is not expressed as well as it could be. If it's problematic, please be charitable.)
posted by veggieboy at 11:26 AM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


METAFILTER: None of us could figure out who the in-group was, but we were all individually certain that we weren't members of it.

which, now that I think about it, brings me back to high school -- that point part way through my senior year that a comparatively new friend pointed out to me that I was considered part of the ruling clique. My immediate response being, What!?!? No Way!!! But it did get me thinking and reflecting and ultimately realizing, yeah, I guess. Call it one of life's great lessons. Something to do with power being invisible when it's me that's wielding it.

There's a small mob mentality that is so quick to judge and chastise people so I kind of come away from Metafilter sometimes feeling like I'm not good enough or smart enough or woke enough to participate - I'm not allowed to have my own opinion about something unless I know every single little nuanced thing about it, and if it is against the majority? Forget it. And to me, that's not discussion, that's an echo chamber.

Speaking of unrealized power, I wonder if that's what's at the heart of this dynamic, which yes, if I had to choose a single factor affecting the number of members here at Metafilter (active and otherwise), this would be it: the high price paid for crossing the not so silent majority here, often in the most comparatively minor way. The temptation is to get into specifics, but I think that's beside the point. The point is power and:

A. realizing that though power may feel good to have, it's like a feel-good drug, probably not good for you or anyone that you care about in the long run, and

B. how to even recognize power when you've got it.

As to B. I'd say, beware of those moments when you're in a community situation and you're feeling very much at home, comparatively relaxed and uninhibited, neurosis free and all that. This is perhaps a symptom of being seen (however obscurely) as the one (or certainly one of them) carrying the proverbial club. Which isn't to say, run away or button or whatever. Just please be kind, and if you feel yourself getting drawn into some conflict, put down the club. Or as they say in the Conflict Negotiation world, if you're convinced you're in the right about something, get curious, stop telling, start asking ...
posted by philip-random at 11:39 AM on June 16, 2018 [15 favorites]


Can I just say it's great that the "How do we increase site activity?" discussion is where people are coming to terms with the realization that personally being more active on the site is unhealthy for them and they should dial down their participation.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:41 AM on June 16, 2018 [13 favorites]


The Royal Wedding post is an okay example. I'm perfectly happy to stick up for myself. I wasn't bothered by the Monarchy is Wrong comments because the thread was high-spirited and the fun drowned out the quite legitimate royalty-nope comments, with mod help, thankyouverymuch.

It's cortex's site, but it's our site. It's my site and it's the newest member's site. I send the occasional That was cool, what you posted/ commented MeMail, or Sorry Bad Thing happened to you; have a hug if that is a thing you would like. I have gotten such MeMails. I really like in-jokes, and I love that MeFi has an easily-located Wiki that explains them. brook horse, the MeFi Wiki has a section on in-jokes. I seldom see the personal nastiness that used to be more common, not a *lot* more common, but still unnecessary. For a while, I saw a lot of Please be kind, this is my 1st FPP. and I haven't seen it so much lately. It's a good barometer.

Own it. In a thread with 5 Cool, thanks. comments, post your comment saying WTF? Isn't this kind of Blah-blah. Here is my thoughtful, well-reasoned, civil comment saying why I think this. keywords: thoughtful, well-reasoned, civil. I post Hey, nice post because I think the poster may feel that the post failed, but some post do not generate discussion but are still terrific posts.

Post stuff. I love going to the front page and seeing a link to something that may not be earth-shaking or controversial, but opens the world a little. doesn't have to be profound.

It's okay to argue, disagree, challenge. These things make the site better, but only if thoughtful, well-reasoned, civil are present. I vastly prefer it when comments have links to the comment 100 comments upthread in question(yeah, parse that). The MeFi scripts help a lot.

Like 10,000 people said on the previous post, this is my home. If it gets dreary and depressing, post music or beauty or funny or kind. Dissent is good, unkindness is not. Make it better.
posted by theora55 at 11:46 AM on June 16, 2018 [16 favorites]


and the short version is try very hard to not be an asshole.
posted by theora55 at 11:47 AM on June 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


I am not unaware of that irony, Mr.Encyclopedia.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:48 AM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


My comment was flip, but it really does make sense. We're here delving deeply into Metafilter's culture and plainly stating issues that people may have run up against without realizing their systemic or universal nature. It's unsurprising that this would lead people to better understand how participating in Metafilter might be affecting them negatively.

I don't get mods louding me out in threads, but I also routinely see comments I make quietly disappear so I'm not doing everything right. I don't take those mod interventions personally and I make an effort to not take Metafilter too seriously, but I'd be lying if I said I don't feel pressure to give my best effort when I participate, especially if I'm making a post. I know all too well how that pressure can affect people like me who struggle with anxiety. It's so much easier to share on Facebook or Twitter, even though I don't value those communities as highly as I value Metafilter. So here I am too considering my own participation, wondering how it may be contributing to my own problems, even wondering if Metafilter as it exists today is worth defending.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:02 PM on June 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


Why do we have to care if someone points out the bad thing?

That also works in the other direction— why do I feel the need to point out the bad thing?
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:02 PM on June 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


Well, if a lot of folks are raising their hands and saying "this feels unhealthy to me, I think I need to step back" then it might at least point the way toward a significant problem that could potentially be remedied.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:18 PM on June 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


theora55, I'm aware of the wiki; as I mentioned, I looked there for explanations of "snowflakes inside" (and recently, "buttoning") and it's not there. So perhaps what I meant is that it needs to be broadened to include some of our very everyday language that has become so much a part of the culture we don't consider it an in-joke.
posted by brook horse at 12:21 PM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


And jumping off from that, I remember reading a long time ago a comment from a mod in some MetaTalk or other about what makes a good post, and it was something along the lines of, "If you see something on the internet and think, 'This is cool, other people will want to see this!' then you probably have a good post on your hands. If you see something on the internet and think, 'This is important, people SHOULD see this!' then you should probably think twice before posting it." I think we've moved away from the first category somewhat, or at least that posts in the second category are becoming a larger percentage of what gets posted around here. Again, not that that stuff isn't important—it absolutely is—but I feel like we've drifted away a little from what originally made MetaFilter such a cool place and maybe a gentle recalibration of some kind is in order. Maybe?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:22 PM on June 16, 2018 [18 favorites]


In regards to

But this whole "yes but everyone knows you do this [bad thing]" and "oh, we talk to this person privately, just so everyone knows" is sort of fremdschämen-inducing and uncomfortable....

I knew someone who took est a couple of decades ago and found the first weekend's trainer to be a fireball until the moment when she got into a back and forth with a Russian emigre who was being rather obtuse, mostly due to, according to my friend, an imperfect command of English.

The trainer got so frustrated that she called for and got the Russian woman's application and started going Hmm.... and Uh huh ! and Well, no wonder ! as she pretended to read until the woman shut up and just trembled. The most powerful person in the room had shut her up by reading her own personal declaration with arch asides.

My friend thought it was one of the shittiest moves he ever witnessed.

And that was what came to mind when the beerperson smackdown ensued above.
posted by y2karl at 12:44 PM on June 16, 2018 [19 favorites]


I moderate on a small gay writing forum. We have a small core of very dedicated people modding there. And a site owner who is quite strict about some rules.

One of the top rules is that moderation matters are not aired publicly. Nor are personal feelings about site members or other mods.

If a moderator mentions that a member is facing mod action in public, the mod is fired, and could be banned from the site altogether. There is no gray area there.

If a member mentions their interactions on a moderation matter in public, they're subject to more moderation, up to and including banning.

More widely, if a member expresses personal attacks of any kind to another member, that's a mod action of the "two strikes and you're out" variety. The attack is removed from view; the member is warned severely and/or banned, and there is no discussion of it afterward.
posted by disclaimer at 12:56 PM on June 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


(c) talking about animal rights/veganism without walking on eggshells (bonus points: bring up pets)

I have certainly seen this on the Blue. I am also a person specializing in animal behavior who is directly and strongly opposed to animal rights as a moral philosophy, whose career animal rights activists usually express discomfort with or tend to actively demonize. (I am a scientist who actively conducts animal experiments, including experiments in which animals do not survive. I care deeply about animal welfare, but that is also the source of the many problems I have with animal rights.)

Am I allowed to comment when animal rights/veganism come up, or does that make people walk on eggshells? I am certainly very uncomfortable with the sorts of things animal rights-focused folks say about me, and I have a great deal of criticism of animal rights that comes up when the topic does. I don't believe the people with those opinions are terrible, but I have strong and negative beliefs about animal rights and the way that animals rights works often co-opts animal welfare work. And while I try to be respectful, I am unwilling to let those beliefs slide by without challenging them.

Bluntly, if you have a space where animal rights is totally great with no pushback, you are going to exclude people like me. If you are going to entertain diversity and disagreement, that's one thing. If you're going to demand welcome for a system of viewpoints that is controversial even within people who feel strongly about animal welfare, that... doesn't sound like more inclusive behavior to me.

Bonus mode: I am also often deeply uncomfortable talking about animal ethics and care on the Blue, largely because I feel far too ruthless about discarding human emotion to consider things from the perspective of an animal--which means I harsh the joy of a whole lot of people who were just thinking of something cute.

If we want a bigger tent, how do you weigh these conflicts?
posted by sciatrix at 12:58 PM on June 16, 2018 [20 favorites]


Animal rights, especially animal research, is a hot-button topic everywhere, not just on MetaFilter. As someone who has done animal reseaarch myself but who no longer does and would not again, I can understand why. It's not a subject that one can really talk about in public, I don't think. There are lots of interesting aspects that might seem like they'd make good MeFi posts, but the whole area is just such a tinderbox. Some topics just aren't doable and I think that's one of them.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:13 PM on June 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


I agree strongly with the idea that moderation needs to be somewhat more impersonal, in particular the “[A few deleted. Username, stop that.]” stuff. That makes Username’s bad behavior a matter of permanent public record, not just a thing that might be remembered by people who happened to be reading the thread when Username was acting up. Admonish via MeMail.
posted by Etrigan at 1:15 PM on June 16, 2018 [17 favorites]


If you're going to demand welcome for a system of viewpoints that is controversial even within people who feel strongly about animal welfare, that... doesn't sound like more inclusive behavior to me.

You can welcome viewpoints without just nodding in agreement. There's a middle ground where you are respectful, but also listen and disagree.

I don't see how being welcoming of more viewpoints is inherently less inclusive. If people are saying "omg sciatrix animal killer gtfo" then sure, that's going to exclude you, but a viewpoint like "I think animal testing is wrong" is something I think it is reasonable to ask you to be tolerant of if it comes up and is on-topic.

"Tolerant" doesn't mean that you can't disagree, but it does mean that you don't try to keep them from saying it, and it does mean refraining from personal attacks and similar.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:17 PM on June 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


I have only had the impression that Metafilter is improving, mostly because it's gotten less toxic to marginalized groups. Not not toxic at all, but less. I'd say now the biggest issues surround intersectionality, which is not surprising given the demographics of the majority of the user base.

Regarding interpersonal stuff, I strongly suggest everyone follow my example, which is to have a terrible memory so that largely the only thing you remember about posters personalities and opinions and writing is that Miko makes good posts and comments. Also be totally socially clueless so that you don't notice cliques or anything similar. It works out great!
posted by schroedinger at 1:21 PM on June 16, 2018 [19 favorites]


> Please stop dropping dead goats in threads.

I completely agree. Personally for me, a dead goat in a recent post I made acted like the straw that broke the camel's back and I am spending proportionately much less of my time on MetaFilter sites overall. The dead goat added to the growing sense I'd had over the years that I didn't know how to communicate with the site - what to post, or even comment. Perhaps it's a cultural thing, as I am Korean and have spent time in the U.S. only as an adult.

I stick mostly to the Korean language internet these days.
posted by needled at 1:47 PM on June 16, 2018 [16 favorites]


I lurked for several years before signing up in 2005ish, and lurked afterwards, and still overwhelmingly lurk. My experience of Metafilter has evolved over the years reflecting some of the issues we're discussing. Early on, I was nearly all about the content of the FPPs except for major events when super long threads were extremely rare, e.g., the 9/11 thread. I gradually got more interested in the threads themselves, and came to rely on MeFi as a place to get a range of perspectives. Specifically that there would be viewpoints I disagreed with, or were totally new to me, but packaged nicely in a more-or-less civil environment. [The misogyny here seemed like the usual background radiation of misogyny everywhere in my life, so I didn't much sweat it; I was nakedly oblivious towards other micro- and overt aggressiveness]. Anyway, my point is that the site was a resource for me because of the good faith dialogues/debates. I would come here seeking to answer the question, "what is it that I'm missing about $Event or $Topic."

That particular upside is diminished, if not gone. It's been compensated for, somewhat, in my increasing sense of community (despite being a fairly marginal "active" member outside of IRL), so I'm here and expect to be here indefinitely. I think that Secret Quonsar and the card club are super, I cherish camping and beer-drinking with local MeFites (and the ones I'll hopefully meet in Tokyo soon), I chuckle through the Alphabet threads and other jokey riffing in MeTa, and I am always enthusiastic about the little, quiet, niche posts where I either learn something totally new or get to see my fellow Mefites geek out over something I hold dear.

I have no idea how to talk about the missing component in a way that isn't loaded. Tolerance for disagreement seems closer to it, for me, than tolerance for conflict. But as a reader, something has gone away, and I'd like to have it back if we can do so without inviting either pile-ons or asshattery.

Maybe it would help, as suggested above, if the mod notes shift away from naming individuals (structurally biased against the outlier rather than the mob, even if both sides are behaving badly and both sides are scolded in the note) towards more background conversations and time-outs, not just for the person with the divergent viewpoint but also (and maybe instead) for the prolific shouters-down? I'm specifically talking about fights over ideological purity, not someone being a jerk. I guess the folks piling on might get madder, but the thread might right itself and be better at modelling how a disagreement or a nuance doesn't require an argument. And maybe the timeout notification could have some of the very gentle de-escalating corrections that people are offering up?
posted by janell at 2:00 PM on June 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


There are many reasons why I dont post on Metafilter much these days

I personally would like more Potomac Avenue on metafilter as a whole what do I gotta do to help make that happen?
posted by nikaspark at 2:27 PM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also I’m kind of wondering, what’s actually at stake here at metafilter?

Also, I totally agree with this:

That also works in the other direction— why do I feel the need to point out the bad thing?

My opinion expressed earlier is that pointing out the bad thing is a choice a commenter doesn’t have to take.
posted by nikaspark at 2:39 PM on June 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


I agree strongly with the idea that moderation needs to be somewhat more impersonal, in particular the “[A few deleted. Username, stop that.]” stuff. That makes Username’s bad behavior a matter of permanent public record, not just a thing that might be remembered by people who happened to be reading the thread when Username was acting up. Admonish via MeMail.

I'm fairly sure the mods have more than once discussed why this is done?

From memory:

It used to be the "impersonal" approach you desire. Unfortunately (a) it ends up not being very effective, and (b) the perceived lack of transparency of the mods not calling out the person causing trouble caused a lot of distress for other users.
posted by tocts at 2:51 PM on June 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


Yeah, in defence of mods naming users and asking them to stop in the thread, I've been in threads where this has helped massively. Instances where someone is just loudly shouting over or at others, and the mod note was a reassurance that it was ok to comment again without being shouted at. Particularly when topics are intensely personal and it feels risky to share anything out on the internet, this is really important and I'm glad the mods do it.

Of course it is something that doesn't always work, or is sometimes used when it doesn't need to be. But mods are human too, and also need hugs.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:00 PM on June 16, 2018 [11 favorites]


One thing that's always struck me as a little odd is how the site tells users to avoid "chatty" Ask questions, yet many of the most popular questions, even getting linked in the sidebar, are those that only keep from crossing that line by clever framing. (Which isn't to say the questions weren't heartfelt, but that if they were framed more neutrally they'd have hit the "chatty" barrier. Couldn't there be some way to make pleasantly framed questions/opinion polls more welcome since they seem the kind of thing that a lot of people really like and where "rightness" isn't so much at stake. I'm thinking of things related more to enjoyment of culture or odd quirks, not political, moral, or other fraught topics of opinion.

Think of it maybe as an "Ask" for Fanfare where people could float more fanciful ideas of their own imagining rather than having to find links to someone else saying something similar so the conversation can be broached. Posts or questions, for example, comparing the history of aliens in space shows and movies without any outside prompt.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:10 PM on June 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


Bluntly, if you have a space where animal rights is totally great with no pushback, you are going to exclude people like me. If you are going to entertain diversity and disagreement, that's one thing. If you're going to demand welcome for a system of viewpoints that is controversial even within people who feel strongly about animal welfare, that... doesn't sound like more inclusive behavior to me.

I think it's a stretch to read my earlier comment as asking for certain viewpoints to be regarded as "totally great with no pushback". There's a wide (obvious) gulf between unreasonably asking for specific viewpoints to be given an automatic pass (which I was not doing) and pointing out that certain viewpoints, which ought, if civilly expressed, to be the subject of civil discussion, are instead often catalysts for community-condoned pileons.

I'm not talking about shutting down actual discussion, and I'm not advocating against pushback against specific views (I'm also not an "animal rights" person, it's just an example of something I've seen, and I am likely using the term more broadly/less correctly than you are). But animal rights stuff, when expressed civilly, seems to me like a position about which it's reasonable to allow some degree of serious discussion, rather than simply declaring certain viewpoints beyond the pale (in contrast to, say "race realism", or something like that, where a collective practice of simply shutting that shit down is completely justified).

The specific example came to mind in response to threads I've seen that indicate it's completely okay for MeFites to talk shit lazily about vegans (again, for some reason I feel the need to add that I'm not vegan) in ways that it's not okay to talk shit lazily about other groups organised around belief systems, even where those belief systems are not well-represented on MeFi. I mean, the MeFi Consensus is pretty evidently: "'Lol Xians" is unacceptable, but 'lol vegans' is fine."

Now, I don't want to die on the hill of this example, because, as I said, I'm neither a vegan or an animal rights person.

I'm more interested in the fact that I was pretty clear that the hypothetical examples I gave were supposed to illustrate some behaviours I've witnessed, and were unaccompanied in my comment by any sort of call for the enumerated views to go unchallenged.

Indeed, there is a difference between (a) challenging a view and (b) establishing a de facto orthodoxy that excludes it -- both of these are sometimes appropriate, depending on the context, but they are different, and pointing out that a community has gone with (b) in specific instances is not remotely the same as arguing against (a) in those instances. It's not clear you agree about the distinction, though.

Anyway, good luck with the reading-comments-charitably thing. My interest in spending time on MeFi having dropped precipitously over the course of two recent MeTas, I'm out.
posted by busted_crayons at 3:17 PM on June 16, 2018 [16 favorites]


Regarding the dead goat drops, personally I try to avoid commenting on posts people make about things they enjoy that I may not, other than occasionally offering a hopefully, mildly toned counter to some framings about well known artists, works, or ideas. I figure there's no sense in expressing dislike for something that's already a niche interest, but offering an opposing viewpoint to more celebrated things can provide useful or interesting conversation. But that might just be true for me.

At the same time, I'm less hesitant to express disagreement about or with essays and articles that provide a point of view I find questionable. I try not to be one of the first to comment, but expressing disagreement with the perspective seems to me to be reasonable in taking the texts seriously, either to offer reasons why they might not provide the answers they attempt to or to find out why my disagreements may be offbase.

My view is that the utility of being disagreed with in measured engagement is too often undervalued. I like being shown to be missing out on ideas if the conversation remains impersonal. That's how I learn to be better. That doesn't mean jumping in every time I have a immediate response to something I haven't given much thought to or had experience with, but asking questions can be the best way for some to overcome blind spots or to sometimes perhaps give others the chance for the same.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:25 PM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Another buttoning. Crap.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 3:32 PM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


Couldn't there be some way to make pleasantly framed questions/opinion polls more welcome since they seem the kind of thing that a lot of people really like and where "rightness" isn't so much at stake. I'm thinking of things related more to enjoyment of culture or odd quirks, not political, moral, or other fraught topics of opinion.

I've been trying to do this more right here in MetaTalk. We have our normal Saturday evening hangouts but I like to try to find ways to ask MetaFilter related questions that let people talk about a wide variety of subjects, subjects that are a bit lighter in tone. I am often limited a bit in finding ways to make my posts here on MetaTalk about MetaFilter and yet somehow still open enough to have a bit of a chatfilter like element to it.

I know that CHAT is a thing that exists, and maybe we need to start making that more of a thing as in, not just MetaTalk Saturday threads but MetaTalk Saturday CHAT where everyone hops in there instead. I don't know. It's an idea.

I'm always trying to find ways to infuse something light into this place. I've mostly walked away from all USPol threads. I just hate that entire scene and it's cool for some and people can vent or discuss real world issues that impact them and I appreciate the value in that, but for my fragile mental health, it's too overwhelming.

I know I do raise a fair number of political issues with my video-game posts when we touch on things like diversity, feminism, gamergate, etc. But for the most part, I'm posting about video-games because it's fun to play games and talk about games and I like to share that with everyone here.

I need a bit of light in my life when I feel like so much is dark. I guess I'm just saying, try to find some light and share that with us. I know I always appreciate posts about cats or laughing babies or video games or a new movie trailer for an upcoming movie or a cool song that just released. I'm rambling and I'll stop now. Maybe what I said makes some sense.
posted by Fizz at 4:00 PM on June 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


Yeah, your contributions are noticed and welcome Fizz. I always add them to activity even when I don't have anything to add to them myself.

I was just thinking that we have so many creative and interesting people here who could provide fun content ideas or prompts that aren't allowed for lack of a place for them and, rightly, no outside linking being permitted. At the same time people love the posts that point to things outside Metafilter that could just as easily be originated here and bring traffic, rather than sending it elsewhere.

I mean all those bracket polls that get linked, light hearted questions about popular culture that compare things that don't fit any category currently offered, or other conversation prompts around things people enjoy that can avoid the hardcore angst people find so depressing. I guess this might be better suited, or have already come up, in the funding thread but I haven't finished going through that monster yet, so it ended up here instead.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:08 PM on June 16, 2018


Like tocts and Athanassiel mention, I recall it being requested of mods to start being a little more explicit in their mod notes. It seems to have been helpful in many ways and I don't see being named as a black mark on someone's record; not only is no one perfect at reading a room, it's also easy to be misread without realizing why. But it clearly bugs some (many?)people. Maybe there's some room for tweaking (without making the mods go insane splitting hairs)?
posted by ghost phoneme at 4:14 PM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I remember reading a long time ago a comment from a mod in some MetaTalk or other about what makes a good post, and it was something along the lines of, "If you see something on the internet and think, 'This is cool, other people will want to see this!' then you probably have a good post on your hands. If you see something on the internet and think, 'This is important, people SHOULD see this!' then you should probably think twice before posting it." I think we've moved away from the first category somewhat, or at least that posts in the second category are becoming a larger percentage of what gets posted around here.

That comment was about self-reflecting while making a post, so that you select something that people will want to talk about. Reflecting on other peoples' posts? Good luck with that. There's no good way to judge other people's posts and determine what they were thinking when they made it. What looks like 'This is important, people SHOULD see this!' to one (or more) users could totally look like 'This is cool, other people will want to see this!' to the person who made the post. "Important", "cool", "SHOULD", and "want" are all subjective AF.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:23 PM on June 16, 2018


I think there's a big difference between

[A few deleted. Mr.Encyclopedia, change your attitude or you're taking a time out.]

and

[Pruned an unpleasant exchange. This is a charged subject but please remember to be charitable with each other.]

The latter may or may not include a private message letting me know I'm on thin ice. I agree that a mod note can be a signal to continue discussion after a loud troublemaker is dealt with, but I think that can be accomplished without singling out someone in particular, even if that someone is a known troublemaker. Metafilter already has a strong pile-on ethic and mod comments like the former are just a big bullseye on members who may have something important to say but are, as you say, bad at reading the room.

I do understand that visible policing can have a useful effect on a discussion, but given the amount of people here that agree that Metafilter's atmosphere is deeply flawed I think it's prudent to move in the opposite direction. Mods ought to be very deliberate about what they say in their mod capacity, and work to encourage positive discussion rather than openly punish bad behavior. If a member really wants to have their public trial, then MeTa is always open.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:29 PM on June 16, 2018 [24 favorites]


That also works in the other direction— why do I feel the need to point out the bad thing?

I feel like I do this on a semi-regular basis at least, and I feel like I rarely get much pushback. I think the reason for that is I generally try to be super clear in framing why I think something is problematic, and keep judgment out of it.

Why do I do it? For me, frequently, it's because I'm trying to put in a non-US perspective. I think the royal wedding example is a really interesting one, because the perspective that the wedding is an entertaining spectacle is a very American one, whereas perceptions that it's a celebration of an entrenched and awful power structure is more widespread in Britain. I think comments outlining this perspective could have been totally added and appropriate to that thread, but unfortunately many of them were voiced in a very emotive and confrontational manner (understandable, when dealing with months of pablum, but not helpful to the thread).

I do think it's useful to remember that just as there can be reflexive negativity, there can also be a large number of reflexive comments that add little but happen to conform to the metafilter/American orthodoxy. A recent example was the thread on the Trump/Jong Singapore summit. There were a plethora of super confident, asstertive comments about why the nation states were doing what they were doing and what would happen as a result, but bizarrely, hardly anyone was mentioning China's role - when China has far influence on what happens with North Korea than America, or North Korea. But it doesn't fit into the narrative very well, so it was elided.

I think all kinds of comments, "positive" and "negative" can really help threads as long as they are constructive. This means being open to other perspectives and opinions, and trying to soften how judgement is expressed.

This kind of thinking often brings out accusations of tone policing. I guess I think tone really does matter!
posted by smoke at 4:39 PM on June 16, 2018 [27 favorites]


I think all kinds of comments, "positive" and "negative" can really help threads as long as they are constructive.

I...love this. Thank you.
posted by nikaspark at 4:56 PM on June 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'd be interested in seeing the day's top posters by wordcount for the blue, the grey, the purple and the greeen, and then compate it to this thread's (or any thread) top posters by wordcount... if such a dashboard app was available, I'd use it.

Now what would it tell me? I'm not sure.. I suspect we'd see some overlap though if we compared this thread's top posters to the top daily site posters.. Which would indicate that those who participate most are also the most vocal on how to improve the site. I don't have the data at hand however, so I guess we'll never know. I suppose everybody already thought of this and that's why I'm the only one dumb enough to post out loud about it. story of my life lol.
posted by some loser at 5:06 PM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


A lot of the more political/social justice stuff here really ramps up my anxiety levels for some reason, even though I often feel inclined to participate. I feel like the politics megathread probably increases anxiety site-wide on the whole and I manage to stay out of that, but even the smaller, more focused threads are probably bad for me personally.

I am less conscious of this happening in my case, but I've begun to suspect that this is something happening with me subconsciously; the megathreads confine everything to those threads, but those threads are always on the front page along with everything else. We're all still soaking in it, even when we don't read those threads.

Curious whether this might be cause to re-think the "we will not have a separate Politics page" policy?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:10 PM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


> EmpressCallipygos:
"those threads are always on the front page along with everything else. We're all still soaking in it, even when we don't read those threads."

That's relevant to my recent MeTa requesting that MetaFilter implement their My Mefi functionality for real, as in let people set it as their front page if they so choose.

MeFi incorrectly claims it's already possible in its FAQ about front-page filtering of potus45 posts:
If you want a more carefully-tuned filter of what you see and don't see on the front page, you can instead use the My MeFi tool to create a custom list of filtering tags.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 5:37 PM on June 16, 2018


I too recall a user-driven push to have the mods call out people who regularly misbehaved by name more often. It was part of the larger drive to deal with people who were repeatedly hurtful toward other users or who expressed bigoted viewpoints. The userbase also called for swifter banning over such misbehaviors.

But to some extent it's also something they've always done. Quite often a member who gets called out by name in that way has already been headed for a banning for a while, in the sense that the mods had already been trying to get them to fix their issue but the user's behavior had continued. That is my understanding of how things work around here, at any rate.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:48 PM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think there's a substantial difference between calling someone out by name in a thread as part of a "knock it off" moderation, and "yeah we have had private conversations about your behavior" being aired in public. I don't think that type of "we've had it with you" stuff belongs in a public space. It contributes to pileons and doesn't promote changing the behavior. It just drives people away, and not necessarily the people you want to drive away, either.
posted by disclaimer at 6:11 PM on June 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


The "we've had private conversations" thing was post-buttoning though, and in response to users wanting an explanation for why beerperson had been called out by name like that right before they buttoned. I then took LM's answer as an explanation that the mods had been following established protocol. It's a protocol I recognize and one that I remember people asking to see more of (and with good reason) but maybe LM could have been a little clearer about expressing that. I understand their reluctance to really delve into the issue though, once beerperson was no longer here to speak for themselves. It's a less than ideal situation on a number of axes.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:26 PM on June 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


One other thing I'll mention that I've been thinking about.

When I first joined 10 years ago, I was super lost. I felt very out of my element. I think it took me at least 2 or 3 posts before one stuck, I kept on posting doubles and this finally forced me to read the FAQ (something I had probably just skimmed those first few posting attempts).

It took me about 2-3 years before I really felt like I had a handle on this place, the very specific MetaFilter like language/references/in-jokes that flew over my head. Even then, I don't think I felt like I was an actual member until about the 5 year mark.

But that also coincided with my starting to actively read/comment/post more. Once I started to make this a part of my digital life, once I became more active, I felt more comfortable about this community. I think the bar is high, it's not easy to learn the ins and outs of this place. I just sort of butt my head against it until it finally took. There's definitely something about this place that feels "difficult" early on. It's not a mean spirited feeling or anything like that, it just feels "hard" to join, to truly feel like you fit in.

My only solution is in trying to find ways to make others feel welcome and positive about their experiences. Posting a small note that says, "Great post." "Thanks for sharing." something like that. One hopes that with enough of these types of happy little asides, the hardness, the difficulty I mentioned up above, starts to fade.

Not sure that I'm trying to prove anything with this comment , I just wanted to share my own personal history with this site and how I have felt through the years.
posted by Fizz at 6:33 PM on June 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


Finally, more radically, I'd eliminate favorites. Favorites always end up encouraging orthodoxy and discouraging diversity, ultimately. But that's another conversation and solution and one that is probably a non-starter.

You know how they say that messing with Social Security is the third rail of American politics? Favorites are Metafilter's third rail.

Their introduction was controversial. The mod team tried hiding them in November 2009 as a month long experiment and people freaked out. Worth keeping in mind.
--
I know that CHAT is a thing that exists, and maybe we need to start making that more of a thing as in, not just MetaTalk Saturday threads but MetaTalk Saturday CHAT where everyone hops in there instead. I don't know. It's an idea.

It's an unmoderated space.

Which is great and all well and good until somebody directs a slur your way. Someone did that to me quite a while ago. So I don't visit chat anymore. YMMV.
posted by zarq at 7:16 PM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


A lot of this stuff comes down to fine distinctions. I think most people generally think they’re engaging in a thoughtful and appropriate way. Well reasoned critical comments are great in theory, but in practice they really do often come across as “well, if you like racism, ok” (I saw that in a thread recently). It’s easy to see where other people’s comments are not great for the dynamic, but when we do it it’s obviously not taking about everyone who reads those books, or it’s obviously a joke and shouldn’t be taken seriously. I think I’ve made that mistake before and not realized that someone thought I was attacking them, or that someone thought I was laughing at their expense.

It’s hard to solve. I feel like more diversity would go a long way. Political stuff is a great example; I used to love commenting on politics, but repeated “just tell me how you think that’s a reasonable thing to believe and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong” comments drove me way away from anything even remotely political. Those comments always get tons of favorites, so you can see how many people disagree with you. Lousy. I might feel better even about those interactions knowing it wasn’t me vs metafilter.

That’s just diversity of viewpoint, life experience, etc. Other people have already said, much better than I could, why diversity along lines of race, gender, etc. are so important.

idiosyncratic in a way that's totally inoffensive but also not in line with the type of strangeness that's typically celebrated here

I’m not sure exactly what that means, but that’s sort of how I feel here. I often feel like I totally can not relate with the majority of people here. More and more I’ve had to be like “well, I guess this site isn’t really for me.”

Do other people often come away from spending time on this site feeling actively worse about who they are? I think someone sort of hinted at that upthread.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:20 PM on June 16, 2018 [10 favorites]


Do other people often come away from spending time on this site feeling actively worse about who they are? I think someone sort of hinted at that upthread.

I don't, but I also actively avoid certain topics and threads. I just nope right out of them because it's not good for me and I recognize that. I try to spend time in places I enjoy, in happy threads, in subjects I am passionate about: video games, literature, movies, metatalk, etc.

This isn't some magic solution, I get that. It's just my own way of dealing with parts of the community that I find tougher to engage in. And I get that it'd be better if this wasn't necessary on my part, but for better or for worse, the USPol stuff is here and some people really need it and engage with it because it's important to them.

My whole philosophy here is that 'you do you doing you' and try to bring your own sense of positivity and light to this community. It's why I work hard to post about video-games, because its a happy place for me and I want to share my happy place with others.

There's no denying though that this place can always be better.
posted by Fizz at 7:49 PM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


While this can probably be filed in the "nice in theory, hard to remember in practice" file, even for me, I would suggest that the general vibe of a lot of postings centers around debate instead of discussion.

In debate the goal is to influence or convert the audience to your side, while in discussion the goal is to influence the other participants. The effect on communicating can be significant, moving from trying to curry favor by beating one's opponent by use of tactics designed to increase differences and win favor by using whatever means necessary to win or keep the audience, to one of closer engagement with the thoughts of those who have differing points of view in hopes of developing agreements from which you can all move forward.

Favorites probably do contribute something to the effect since they make the audience more visible, but I don't think removing them would solve the problem as it might just create more felt need to comment from those who agree with one side or the other. (Or not, but since favoriting defines the user experience for many, they don't seem likely to be going away anytime soon.) It would be of great benefit for everyone if the values around discussion were the more common and those more suitable for debate used less frequently.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:50 PM on June 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


It seems pretty clear that there are topics (Israel/Pal and that other one) that just can't work here due to staffing load. Certain topics (animal rights/ LGBQ/trans) that bifurcate the community in that only a subset even considers commenting. And as pointed out the ruling elite seem to be increasing in power if not self awareness which tends to skew possibilities where the community will be reduced.

This is all really too bad, there are an incredible range of viewpoints all except the explicitly hurtful should be available. It's good to have a wrong fact stated, if it's wrong and stays locked up in folks heads the world will only change on the outside.

I think there is sometimes too much moderation and quick deletions due to hurt sensibilities. I saw beerpersons joke, it wasn't great, cortex got the joke, I couldn't read the earlier reference due to slow db but just too bad if that person left. But to the issue of growing MiFi, it'll need more actual openness and wider actual listening (not agreeing, not fighting, not starting flame wars). Mods should have the option to have folks just calm down.

And just really too bad that the widest range of topics is restricted, there are some of the most thoughtful and knowledgeable folks on the internet here, should be a real greater good.
posted by sammyo at 7:56 PM on June 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


shapes that haunt the dusk: "Those comments always get tons of favorites, so you can see how many people disagree with you."

I know your comment touched on many other things, but a reminder that you can hide favorites, if you don't want to see them.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:21 PM on June 16, 2018


I think it would be cool for there to be some sort of Metafilter Podcast Network.
The requirement to join would be to be a member and to mention the network and site on each episode.
The reward would be inclusion in FanFare threads/sidebar/site stuff.

Better yet, if we could incubate podcasts here - if there was some method for members to get the support/encouragement they needed to launch... I mean, you'd subscribe to Chrysostom's Political Weather Forecast, right? Even if it is other Mefites taking his research and talking it up?

We generate a lot of stories/research/discussion here, but that stuff just stays here. Why not make an effort to record it, share it, and thereby publicize Mefi?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:54 PM on June 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


Do other people often come away from spending time on this site feeling actively worse about who they are? I think someone sort of hinted at that upthread.

Not often, but sometimes, yeah. There are one or two topics I care very deeply about that are regularly discussed on MetaFilter, and even though I agree more or less entirely with the majority of other users, I am beginning to learn there is no amount of care I can put into crafting a comment on those topics which expresses any complexity or nuance that won't result in being misread as supporting a view I don't hold. My default assumption is usually that I'm at fault in failing to express myself well, particularly when this comes from MeFites whose contributions I respect highly, but I discuss these same topics frequently in other venues in my life and don't have this trouble -- in fact, my friends in these spaces sometimes tell me when we are commiserating that they appreciate that I can express clearly what they also believe. Regardless of the cause, I often end up feeling like I've inadvertently made someone's day worse when I set out to do the opposite. I've had to take mental health breaks from the site after some of these incidents, and once or twice considered leaving entirely. I've finally realized that the best thing is probably for me to stay out of discussions on these topics entirely, which saddens me because I do care deeply about them and generally appreciate the insights of other users here when discussing them.
posted by biogeo at 9:01 PM on June 16, 2018 [26 favorites]


Do other people often come away from spending time on this site feeling actively worse about who they are? I think someone sort of hinted at that upthread.

To be honest, that is kind of my own takeaway from this MeTa. :/ I don't regret posting it, but I definitely don't feel closer to other people, either. And I don't know that we've forged a whole lot of light. I feel like we're mostly making a space to share grievances and discomforts, which... is something I have encountered here before, especially when trying to find out how to make a community better and more tightly knit. It's disheartening.

I'm taking steps to block myself from reading this thread for multi-hour stretches of time as a result. I don't feel like we are talking about things to do better. I feel like I misread someone else, got hurt and upset and inquired about it, and triggered a couple of people I generally like and respect buttoning because I didn't appropriately read their minds. That's pretty upsetting. Maybe I should refrain from starting these discussions in the future.
posted by sciatrix at 9:11 PM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think discussions of site norms often result in people getting upset and buttoning. That doesn't mean they don't bring value, though. I think it was worthwhile to bring this up.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:27 PM on June 16, 2018 [21 favorites]


It's a tough position for you, sciatrix, because this is both a) a spillover thread for discussion of site atmosphere and b) a place where you've articulated some lovely and productive solutions, but people are still in the "identify and talk about the problem/airing of grievances" stage, they've been told to talk about it here, and you're a couple steps ahead!

You've mentioned that you're having a tough week and it is 100% ok and healthy to step away and engage in some self-care. :hug: if you want one!
posted by lalex at 9:31 PM on June 16, 2018 [19 favorites]


Let's talk about concrete things that can be done to grow site activity (that don't depend on resolving a collective action problem of user decency).

Some of my ideas:

1. Show subsite activity on the front page, so Projects, Music, and Fanfare are less dead and it's less demoralizing to post there.
1a. Restructuring of subsites may be in order.
2. Fully enable tag-based front page filtering
2a. Use moderators to edit tags so they are functional.
3. Increase the number of posts visible on the site's front pages, so that activity is not limited to a couple days after posting and there is a greater chance of discovery.
4. MeFi has lots of fascinating users—big shots and people with niche interests. Interview them! Have AMAs!
5. Invite people from off MeFi (authors, researchers, filmmakers, etc.) to answer user questions.
6. Rethink the user linked to/by feature, which currently is rather nonfunctional and focuses on favorite stats rather than content.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 9:32 PM on June 16, 2018 [20 favorites]


Can we get a flagged as fantastic filter and just read a summary of those with an OP? Like my filter in excel that hides dupes or shows only fields that equal [xyz]
posted by tilde at 9:39 PM on June 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


I think these are pretty fabulous ideas!
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 9:40 PM on June 16, 2018


sciatrix, you’re good people and I’m sorry this has been so rough. You haven’t done anything the least bit wrong, and I know I’m not the only one who consistently values and appreciates what you’ve brought and continue to bring to this site.

My hope in raising some of these issues was that a bunch of people would be saying similar stuff and we’d all collectively identify a solution to the problems. What I hadn’t taken into account was how nuanced it can get, and how everyone can agree on the problem (if they even do!) but not the cause or the solution. I like the concrete steps listed above.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:02 PM on June 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


Maybe I should refrain from starting these discussions in the future.

Just a suggestion: If you start another discussion like this one, avoid anything even remotely appearing like an open-ended question. Like, all of the great suggestions in your MeTa were behaviors that you saw in yourself that you wanted to curtail (or promote), so you did, and you shared your suggestions to encourage others to do the same. But your question "How can we as a community make this space enjoyable and interesting to engage in, both for strangers and each other?" is open-ended enough where almost anything could be an answer to your question, and so discomforts and grievances are going to be common answers.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:28 PM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Well gee, I was operating under the assumption that that stuff would be useful in its own way, but I guess not. Is there any value at all in community feedback? People are saying this stuff because it’s been bugging them for a long time and there’s few opportunities to express it. I can accept that some feedback isn’t as useful as other kinds, but it seems like everyone has been trying to do their best here.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:49 PM on June 16, 2018 [11 favorites]


Is there any value at all in community feedback?

Everyone's going to have their own opinion on that, but my suggestions to sciatrix were because they were disheartened by the type of answers they got to the MeTa they started. My comment wasn't saying that discomforts and grievances are valueless, but instead was saying that writing future questions differently could help create the kind of discussion they were looking for.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:11 PM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Certain topics (animal rights/ LGBQ/trans) that bifurcate the community in that only a subset even considers commenting.

Pretty sure this is true of all topics, not just the ones you're listing as fringe topics here.

If the suggestion is that these topics are less valuable because they don't engage the whole community (and again, no posts engage the whole community) then I would question why you've singled out these particular topics.
posted by Dysk at 1:41 AM on June 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I kind of take exception to the idea that LGBTQ topics are intractable in the way that animal rights and I/P are. I think we have tons of good discussions about LGTBQ topics (and some rocky ones too sometimes, sure) and that it's one area where we've actually gotten way better as a site over the years. There's still more the site could do to be welcoming of LGBTQ discussions and LGBTQ people, but I think MeFi already does that stuff well a lot of the time and that it's within reach to be even better at it. I don't feel that way about I/P or animal rights.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:11 AM on June 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


I want to chime in in favor of the mods specifically calling out users for a pattern of problem behavior. This is not about beerperson specifically (I've really enjoyed and will miss their informative comments about beer and spirits!) but I definitely have gotten really frustrated when I see a repeated pattern of individual crappy behavior on the site and it seems like the mods are either missing the pattern completely or giving them 900 "second" chances. The increased transparency recently has made the site much better for me because at least I know that the recurring issues are seen and noted.
posted by capricorn at 4:22 AM on June 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


I kind of take exception to the idea that LGBTQ topics are intractable in the way that animal rights and I/P are. I think we have tons of good discussions about LGTBQ topics (and some rocky ones too sometimes, sure) and that it's one area where we've actually gotten way better as a site over the years.

I agree with you that the site is better about it.

On the other hand, the site is really bad about dismissing queer sensibilities when the narrative doesn't fit.

So what happens most frequently is that if you are on the queer spectrum and you are discussing an issue that also has relevance to the wider "humanity" spectrum, your views will be dismissed more wholeheartedly than straight/cis people, who don't seem to think that queer issues are important. Case in point: the George Takei thread, where the issue of sexual harassment of a gay man by another gay man brought out a number of people saying "yeah, this is terrible for women too", and "this is what we women face EVERY DAY".

When gay men tried to speak to the issue - whose viewpoints came from their experiences in the gay community - they were dismissed, to the point that mod action was needed to re-rail the conversation.

Now, in the context of trying to generate more site activity, why in the world would I recommend Metafilter to my gay friends if this is the reception they're going to get?
posted by disclaimer at 5:12 AM on June 17, 2018 [23 favorites]


I don't comment or post much because I just don't know what to say that would be valuable and hasn't been said already. And also I guess because I'm mostly a mobile user and typing/linking stuff is a pain?
It's hard to keep track of what is OK to do where. What is chatfilter? What is a duplicate? What is a sufficiently impersonal non bloggy framing of content? How many degrees of separation need to be between me and a Metafilter post? What do all the flags mean?
Once upon a time I rated search engine results for a temp agency that worked with a company that rhymes with "floogle" and we had this nice long pdf of what constituted a good search result and a bad result with examples, and I sometimes wish we had something like more like that. More real examples of stuff that got pulled and why.
Another thing is, it's hard to tell who's saying what because there are so many usernames and I can't keep them straight. If there were a little picture or icon or some kind of visual cue maybe I could remember people a little better.
posted by sacchan at 5:26 AM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


The way I think about this is: given the current site design, site moderation, and community norms, the current (and apparently still declining) level of participation is what you are going to get. To change the level of participation, changes would be needed, and not just small tweaks. But the people still here and discussing this (us!) are the people for whom the current design/moderation/norms largely work, so there is a built-in resistance to making more fundamental changes.

3. Increase the number of posts visible on the site's front pages, so that activity is not limited to a couple days after posting and there is a greater chance of discovery.

The rigidly chronological display is kind of a MetaFilter signature at this point, but it also is a thumb in the eye to usability. That's most obvious in FanFare, for which the chronological display is particularly unsuited, but it's also an issue on the front page and in AskMe. In both cases, active and interesting discussions -- the kind that might attract and keep new members and elicit greater participation from current people -- drop out of sight as more are added above.

Who knows, maybe in practice switching away from purely chronological display would be a disaster. My bigger point is that to create different outcomes, it is going to require larger changes that are almost certainly going to be disliked (at least initially) by a proportion of the current user group.

Finally, for whatever it is worth, I'll add my voice to the people who find the big politics threads to be a huge negative. They had their place, but surely it is time to do something different for the site.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:24 AM on June 17, 2018 [17 favorites]


We need metafilter filters so we can better filter metafilter.
posted by nikaspark at 6:47 AM on June 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


The rigidly chronological display is kind of a MetaFilter signature at this point, but it also is a thumb in the eye to usability. Huh. I disagree strongly with this. Until you said it, I had not realized that Mefi is the onliest internet thing where I have an account that does not re-order the posts according to some opaque, unwanted, developer's idea of how I want things ordered. I want posts in the static order they are posted. always. everywhere. so they remain where I saw them and so I'm not seeing something for the first time four days after it's posted.

And apparently I feel quite strongly about that! I read Fanfare, sometimes, but entirely as a reference source. Like, I don't see movies in theatres and I don't watch current television, so anything I'm curious about discussion for would be something I'd expect to search archives for. The chronological ordering of posts does not really affect that in my experience. How would changing the ordering of posts chnge how other people use it? I am curious to know: what people using Fanfare do that would change with a different ordering of posts?
posted by crush at 7:06 AM on June 17, 2018 [37 favorites]


> I want posts in the static order they are posted. always. everywhere. so they remain where I saw them and so I'm not seeing something for the first time four days after it's posted.

Same here—thanks for saying this so well!

As for in-jokes and the like, which people often complain about: they are inevitable in any community that sticks around for long enough. Complaining about them is like complaining about the weather. And I personally enjoy them (as do lots of people, or they wouldn't exist).

In general, every community has its problems, and is going to get on one's nerves from time to time. I have had to take breaks in the past, and I doubtless will again. Такова Се ля ви, как говорят у них (That's c'est la vie, as they say).
posted by languagehat at 7:16 AM on June 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


Apologies if this has already been suggested, 'cause I'm not reading 900 comments:

Quarterly membership drives, where the site encourages new members to make new posts and get involved across whatever subsites interest. Them. Or just make it clear that there are different subsites for various interests.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:17 AM on June 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


how about

deepdive.metafilter.com

a more managed and planned subsite with scheduled topics where the interested and invited experts can examine a topic from all sides perhaps over a more extended period than the day or so most posts live on the front page
posted by sammyo at 7:17 AM on June 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


I just want to say that I don't think queer issues are always handled perfectly here, but metafilter is the place where I went from being a clueless, defensive, internalized transphobic baby-TERF to actually feeling comfortable in accepting not only my bisexuality but my genderqueer identity, too. In fact, last year, after a bunch of stuff started coming to a head, I read this comment from AFABulous, cried a bunch, then got up from the computer and told my spouse that I'm on the trans spectrum.

Also we've grown as a community a lot on these issues. A decade ago, my first ask (now anonymized) was basically about whether I was "allowed" to claim my bisexuality despite having a male partner and a bunch of dudes basically told me I was trying to seem special. You don't see that on similar questions anymore, and thank god.

I don't know what my point is other than that I'm protective of the right for queer metafilter to continue to be an important part of this site.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:24 AM on June 17, 2018 [35 favorites]


disclaimer, it's funny but I actually thought the Takei thread was a really good one. Yes there were some off-topic and straight-centering comments, but the thread was able to deal with them (with a little help from the mods) and move on. In the end I (a straight guy) found it a really interesting discussion, because I was able to listen to a whole bunch of gay guys share their varying perspectives and personal experiences, seemingly without feeling like they needed to throw up a Unified Front Of Gayness in order to defend themselves from the straights. There was disagreement, there was nuance, there was a level of realness that as a hetero person I don't normally get to see. There was a lot of gay men speaking to and for other gay men, and I found it very interesting and informative to be able to listen to that.

Now, I'm aware that this is just my perspective and that the primary purpose of a thread like that shouldn't be as an educational performance for straight people, but I thought that on the whole that thread represented a very thorny subject that was actually done rather well, considering.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:36 AM on June 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


That's most obvious in FanFare, for which the chronological display is particularly unsuited

Agreed.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:42 AM on June 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


moderation needs to be somewhat more impersonal, in particular the “[A few deleted. Username, stop that.]” stuff. That makes Username’s bad behavior a matter of permanent public record, not just a thing that might be remembered by people who happened to be reading the thread when Username was acting up. Admonish via MeMail.

Another problem that happens is that it isn't always the singled out user who is "acting out". One thing that can make the site feel hostile is when User A posts sincere comment that disagrees with the majority consensus, Users B through L pile-on (often with mischaracterizations), and User A attempts to respond. Given the number differentials, User A will be posting more than any other given poster, but they aren't the one who was "acting out". But they are the one whose last comment will be deleted - and the one named in the shaming moderator's explanation as bring the problematic person, the one who caused all of the trouble.

I would hope that moderation decisions would be made based on behaviour and tone (and yes, in a text based forum where you are not speaking to power, but just other people, maybe you should think about your tone) - and not on the user who seems to be on the outside. But that may be easier said than done.
posted by jb at 7:47 AM on June 17, 2018 [33 favorites]


This feels like a question that I should know the answer to, but are live postings as things air still not allowed on fanfare? Because that's always seemed like an obvious problem to me (what was so wonderful and vital about live-TV threads on the blue was that we were all watching shows and talking about them together), but even going through past MeTas on the subject, it felt no more clear.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:49 AM on June 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Fix the subreddit menu bar. I love projects, music and jobs but they are both nichy and have a much slower update rate. Not quite sure what "fix" means and all three should be available (and encouraged and grown) but the top bar should be used to drive traffic.
posted by sammyo at 7:56 AM on June 17, 2018


I often feel like I totally can not relate with the majority of people here. More and more I’ve had to be like “well, I guess this site isn’t really for me.”

What this thread has helped me with is realizing how many people feel that way, and for pretty much opposite reasons than mine. And it's made me think about how much of what seems like drive-by nastiness/turd dropping probably stems from defensiveness. So when I start feeling attacked, or unwelcome in a conversation for who I am perceived to be, I'm going to try to keep that in mind.

And thank you sciatrix, for posting it; I understand how hard it is for you to read. It is helpful, I hope you don't decide to refrain from starting these discussions.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 7:59 AM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


but are live postings as things air still not allowed on fanfare?

it happens under Special Events like the world cup thread currently happening now
posted by poffin boffin at 8:03 AM on June 17, 2018


it happens under Special Events like the world cup thread currently happening now

Well, I am increasingly feeling like fanfare has major UI problems. I'm someone who pretty regularly reads through the threads for various shows I like (though comments less often than I read, because the conversation is often dead by the time I get to it . . . ) and I had no idea that either that or the watercooler view existed.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:06 AM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


I often feel like I totally can not relate with the majority of people here. More and more I’ve had to be like “well, I guess this site isn’t really for me.”

Well tough [pejorative euphemism]... this is a good thing. It's a really good thing to have a place where wide range of people can interact and express and didactic-ize and vent and ruminate and rant, snark, and and drop in amazing kernels of ideas that one would not see anywhere else.

GOOD ON sciatrix for starting something!!!

Hey, perhaps a version of metatalk where folks can sent to be talked off the buttoning ledge? metatalk_therapy?
posted by sammyo at 8:09 AM on June 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Well, I am increasingly feeling like fanfare has major UI problems.

yes same. and also wrt the special events, only a mod can post them so there's an additional sort of approval required.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:18 AM on June 17, 2018


Something that concerns me a bit about this engagement thread and the engagement-related stuff in the fundraising thread are the requests for moderation adjustments. Some of the things that are being asked for—less calling out of people with dissenting viewpoints, more shutting down of pile-ons, more emphasis on tone and civility—feel like rollbacks of relatively recent reforms that were fought for specifically to foster engagement among people from marginalized backgrounds who otherwise found this place too toxic to be worth their participation. You can say that nobody here is speaking to power, but the fact of the matter is that many of us here do represent power, in that we have privileged backgrounds and the views that tend to go with them. I would be very wary indeed of any moderation changes that might make this place less welcoming of people with marginalized identities, as I feel this would only serve to reduce the diversity of perspectives available.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:27 AM on June 17, 2018 [14 favorites]


I used to read and use AskMe more and found it super helpful. But I was noticing more snippy comments, condescending, and just harsher comments. Nothing outright abusive enough to flag, but enough to chill and discourage threads. So I stopped using it.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 8:27 AM on June 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


A couple notes on the question of MetaFilter's strict reverse chronological vs. a more curated feed:

I can't see the blue changing in that respect, as in the normal "what the default daily index of MeFi for logged in users looks like" presentation of posts/threads. That is definitively MetaFilter and presenting that as how MeFi operates unless a user specifically chooses to alter it feels important to me.

I don't feel the same way about FanFare, which we've agreed for a long while now needs a different approach. That's a whole big discussion but the goal with FanFare is gonna be to have its front page act much more as a portal for discovery: what's active/popular right now in discussion, and what's new in general, but not Every Single New Episode Of Something, In Arbitrary-ish Order. We'll still provide a chrono index for people who like it but that isn't working as a front page presentation for the subsite.

My feeling on that comes down in large part to seeing the blue's content as, outside specific news- or zeitgeist-centric exceptions, fundamentally serendipitous. Certainly folks hit the front page sometimes thinking "I wonder what folks are saying about [thing x]", but the rest of the content is pure "hey, I wonder what's interesting on the front page right now" chance discovery. That's a huge strength of the blue, that's what brought people to MeFi in the first place 18 years ago.

FanFare, it's much more likely to be an issue of "what are people saying about thing X I'm specifically interested in?", where X falls into a fairly constrained (if still very broad) landscape of known media productions. So finding a way to say "hey, here's where discussions are" and "here's new things hitting the site" so people can first find a lot of the obvious stuff at a glance and then resort to a bit more searching or serendipitous browsing feels more appropriate.

All that said, we are also gonna think more about taking a limited approach to a "here's cool stuff elsewhere on the site" visibility push for the front page and throughout the site; I think supplementing the MeFi front page's classic chrono with e.g. a sidebar box or Did You Know interjections in long threads or etc. would be a good way to strike that balance. We'll be hashing out possibilities and experimenting a little with things along those lines, etc.

This feels like a question that I should know the answer to, but are live postings as things air still not allowed on fanfare?

We've been trying to enable that more lately than we had before, setting up Special Event type posts, but I'd like to move that to a more self-serve model going forward now that we've seen that it basically works fine.

In general I'm gonna be revisiting some of the infrastructural assumptions and constraints of FanFare, because while we started in on it wanting to really really save users from having to do manual heavy lifting on messy metadata etc, it may work better to let things be a little messier and a little less structured but let folks just self-organize and have a more organic "let's just post stuff" experience without all the framework underneath.

Another problem that happens is that it isn't always the singled out user who is "acting out".

I agree that that's better avoided; I will note that an active part of what we've tried to do as we've adjusted mod note stuff over the last few years is to more consistently avoid explicitly naming a user in that kind of dynamic if they haven't been starting shit or basically ignoring moderator guidance up thread or via other channels.

At the same time, we've also been trying to more explicitly address it when something going sideways in a gross or not-okay way, including specifically naming the behavior that's not okay or calling out the person mucking things up.

And those things exist in some degree of conflict: there's community value in specificity and bounds-setting, in sometimes saying not just "hey cool it y'all" but "hey arguing [gross thing x] is not okay here, stop it", or saying not just "this needs to stop" but "hey, [person y who is not stopping doing y], you need to stop doing y". But of course it's going to put someone on the spot to some extent to be named.

So: I don't think there's a general solution in one direction or the other. It's something we wrestle with because a mixed strategy is fundamentally more useful and workable than just veering hard to one or the other. I do not expect that to change; I do sympathize with folks who feel strongly in one direction or another about it, and I won't pretend we don't fuck it up a little now and then either. But it's a tightrope that we have spent a lot of time and effort getting better at walking, and the tightrope can't really be removed from the equation here so long as e.g. people aren't 100% responsive to non-public moderation communication. Which people just sometimes aren't, for a whole host of complicated reasons.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:45 AM on June 17, 2018 [14 favorites]


One of the things I do like about site culture here is that I feel behooved to take care in how I express myself. On most of the internet, it feels like I'm screaming into a howling void anyway, so why should I give a shit if someone doesn't like what I have to say? I won't have to deal with them and they won't have to deal with me again either, so why should I put more than minimal energy ito crafting my words? Around here though I feel more loke the people I'm talking to are my neighbors, and I feel like the things I say have more permanence and weight. So I have a greater tendency (although I'm far from perfect about it) to weigh my words more carefully, to edit and proofread, and to read the room before deciding whether to say my piece. I think it helps me be a better writer, a better thinker, and a better person. I don't feel like I have trouble expressing a dissenting view in a nuanced way, certainly not as compared to literally anywhere else in my life, online or otherwise. Obviously others don't feel the same as me though, and that's valid too.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:45 AM on June 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


One thing I wouldn't mind though would be a low-effort way to clearly say "I'm listening, but I don't have a lot to say here." The closest I can think of to that right now is favorites, but that just makes a number go up by one. Maybe I'll just try to make more brief comments along the lines of "This is interesting and I'm curious to hear what other people will have to say."
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:47 AM on June 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


And in general, over a wide range of topics, the pattern of user hostility and heavier moderation for folks even partially outside the prevailing zeitgeist is not great for new user engagement.

This, 100 percent. For me, the recent Aaron Persky thread is a good example. I’ll go on record here as saying that in my opinion, the Persky recall is a bad thing, full stop. But no way was I going to say that in-thread, because, you know, I’d really rather not be called out as someone who obviously sides with rapists and oppressors of women. What I eventually did was just post an opinion piece from the WaPo advancing that view. And guess what? Yep, the very next post was basically, “If you don’t support the recall, you’re siding with rape apologists.” I actually just gave up after that and never looked at the thread after that; I don’t even want to know where it went. I mean, I’m a survivor of domestic violence, so it’s not like I don’t have some street cred on the topic.

So yeah, I think that it’s a big problem for this site that views go outside the prevailing orthodoxy are not just shouted down, but actuality interpreted as siding with the enemy. I won’t even get started on the time I took issue with the view that politely asking someone to move on the NYC subway was inevitably going to lead to violence against any woman who did so.

And yep, favorites on this site do, in fact, add to the problem. As does, not incidentally, dismissing as “bullshit” the view that favorites might add to the problem.
posted by holborne at 8:55 AM on June 17, 2018 [35 favorites]


Some of the things that are being asked for—less calling out of people with dissenting viewpoints, more shutting down of pile-ons, more emphasis on tone and civility—feel like rollbacks of relatively recent reforms that were fought for specifically to foster engagement among people from marginalized backgrounds who otherwise found this place too toxic to be worth their participation

Yes. But. When you phrase it like this, it sounds like there’s an underlying assumption that the majority MeFi consensus aligns with the views of those from marginalised backgrounds, and that dissenting opinions are against them. This is not necessarily so.

I’m really trying not to make this about any of my own specific views here because, well, not the point, but it is hard to even have this conversation in vague terms when any mention of a dissenting opinion is getting repeatedly interpreted here as a call for the “I’d hit it” days of yore.

So to take one example: I think MeFites frequently being relatively wealthy means the site often isn’t great at handling discussions about wealth and inequality that reach outside the 1% richest. I’m sure others will disagree on this - and that is fine! - but it’s one example of where I wouldn’t recommend MeFi to a number of my friends who don’t come from a typical MeFi kind of background, because I know from experience that pushback against some consensus opinions on this can get a very snarly response.
posted by Catseye at 9:18 AM on June 17, 2018 [17 favorites]


[String of stuff removed. We can talk about general issues with fractious/rude/obnoxious rhetoric and stuff in here but for butt's sake relitigating a "no YOU were the jerk" thing in here is just gonna spiral in an unhelpful way. Please drop it in here now.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:55 AM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sorry, cortex. 23skidoo, point heard and received. My apologies.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:56 AM on June 17, 2018


I think devolving into "teams" hinders user engagement, especially new user engagement.

And I think that engaging as a representative of some bigger group/view instead of as just yourself, a specific human being who has specific opinions/values/etc, leads to that corrosive us-versus-them dynamic, too.
posted by rue72 at 9:57 AM on June 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


I disagree that favorites add to problems and feel that some sort of citation is needed here. Honestly, so what if someone has favorites? That doesn't make one's point more or less valid. It just means some people either wanted to bookmark the comment or liked reading it. If favorites made comments bold or something that would be a Reddit-like crushing of opposition, but they're just a number.

If favorites are something that personally bothers you it's been stated: favorites can be hidden.
posted by schroedinger at 10:00 AM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Now, I'm aware that this is just my perspective and that the primary purpose of a thread like that shouldn't be as an educational performance for straight people, but I thought that on the whole that thread represented a very thorny subject that was actually done rather well, considering.

During a time of site engagement decline, we should take a good long look at whether "using Metafilter as a place where majorities can learn about minorities" is an idea that will help Metafilter continue to grow (or even tread water) long term. It's great that majorities are using Metafilter to learn about minorities, but when that's talked about as if it's 100% a good thing, you're only looking at it through the lens of majority culture.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:08 AM on June 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


During a time of site engagement decline, we should take a good long look at whether "using Metafilter as a place where majorities can learn about minorities" is an idea that will help Metafilter continue to grow (or even tread water) long term.

Or whether it's even sustainable. Are minorities generally going to be interested in their engagement only being allowed to be performatively for the benefit of the majority? Or is this the kind of thing that causes people to leave, even while a bunch of people look on and marvel at how wonderfully inclusive and progressive they all are?
posted by Dysk at 10:12 AM on June 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


I'd be grateful if at some point we can see a summary of plans resulting from this and the other thread.

Single-column threads get overwhelmed by lengthy, highly branched discussions. I almost wish this whole discussion were through GitHub issues, so I could tell what gets the thumbs up/down. Or like a Trello board.

And, since things have gotten heated here, shameless shout out to the Calm Metafilter browser extension I posted. Deep breaths!
posted by waninggibbon at 10:33 AM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'd be grateful if at some point we can see a summary of plans resulting from this and the other thread.

Yeah, I'm gonna try to get a decent summary of some sort put together. We're actually wrapping up a team meeting right now going over both short-term and big-project stuff and prioritizing a few things accordingly, so some of that will hopefully be coming out over the next couple weeks as MetaTalk announcements of stuff either done or in progress.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:38 AM on June 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


This is a long thread. I've been reading from the beginning and just want to chime in. I'm thinking about why I don't comment more, and why I make the kinds of comments I do. And ... I feel this pressure to:

(a) Make a comment that says something substantive or "important."

(b) Not fuck up while I do it.

I think there is just less innocent fun on the internet these days. So many front-page posts are about things that have real unpleasant consequences for people: Structural oppression, violence, economic inequality... and there is an expectation that when you engage with these, you do so seriously. Quite right - but that carries over to my participation in lighter threads. It feels like going against site norms to post "omg look at its wee little face."

And then when I do want to post something more substantial, I worry that I'll be taken the wrong way. I've been called out by someone who read something into my comment that wasn't there. I've been challenged by someone making snide implications instead of outright saying what they think, making it hard to respond without seeming overly defensive. It's not pleasant. And the frustrating thing is, if we actually talked to each other with charity and respect we'd find that we agree more than disagree.

There are commenters who are really good at that charity and respect thing. They make MeFi better. I've been trying to emulate them more even though I'm not perfect at it yet.

Sometimes I feel like people enter into discussions to "win" them, instead of entering into discussions as a mutual exploration of some topic. It's hard to pin down a particular instance where you can say, "yes, this person was just trying to score points." I've posted comments that could certainly be taken that way, and they come out of a genuine sense of frustration. That person who misread me and called me out on a point I didn't make probably made an honest mistake.

It's also hard to say what people should do differently. Making it against site culture to speak up when someone does something hurtful or derailing or whatever just introduces different problems.

But right now, a lot of the time MetaFilter feels like a hostile audience. Not... like ... super hostile. But very, very ready to pounce on potential flaws and ambiguities.

Overall, I feel like MeFi needs a mood adjustment. I think we need to be less defensive, and more charitable. And to have more fun. But I'm not sure how that can be accomplished.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:41 AM on June 17, 2018 [33 favorites]


As far as ideas that would encourage more overall site engagement and activity, of things that we can control (I put things like the world moving away from blogs, message boards in general and moving more towards social media, people using PC's less and less and moving more towards smart devices in the category of things out of Metafilter's control) I would argue that Metafilter should be more open with content, should delete less, and encourage a wider variety of topics that would bring about more discussion and participation.

I realize I am threading a fine needle to not have this come off as sour grapes or "silenced all my life" complaining, but I think my anecdotal example might be reflective of some of the decline. I have been a member here for a dozen years, joining in 2006. In that first dozen years, I had a grand total of one FPP deleted. In the past couple of months, I have had 2 out of the past 3 FPP's I've tried to post here deleted. Now, I'm not trying to relitigate those deletions at all, maybe they really were shitty posts that were deserving to be axed, but I think it symbolizes a change in Metafilter where FPP's are gauged by how easy they will be to moderate, where posts get deleted ahead of time with the idea they may get fighty (not because they ARE fighty), or users with a heavy flag hand can end up curating the site and thus anything the least bit controversial gets axed and instead we end up with FPP's that are a mix of cute pet videos or posts with political views everyone agrees on from the outset.

In the funding thread a few posts down from here it is discussed how a few years ago staffing levels were altered here to insure that the site has a moderator on staff 24/7/365 without anyone having to work ridiculous amounts of overtime. In that case, I guess I would ask, why not let the moderators moderate, instead of just acting as pre-cogs? I have to admit, it smarted a bit to have posts that took a while to put together get deleted rather quickly only to see that the main page of Metafilter only had something like 3 or 4 posts that day with a handful of comments each on any of them. After my recent experience there have been several times where I've seen something cross my path where I've thought, "This would make for a great Metafilter FPP that would generate a lot of great discussion", but decided not to bother since, well, not really worth the effort since there is a better than average chance it could get chopped by an unwritten standard.

As long as content is not offensive in terms of being racist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-Semitic, sexist, misogynistic etc., I guess I don't see why more stuff isn't allowed to just fly here?
posted by The Gooch at 10:44 AM on June 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


I'd be grateful if at some point we can see a summary of plans resulting from this and the other thread.

I was thinking a bit about sciatrix's comment above, in which she said:
I feel like we're mostly making a space to share grievances and discomforts
which, I feel like right now is definitely an appropriate time for airing of grievances.*

But it would be neat if the mods had some sort of regular wrap-up for both community and technical issues where they said stuff like "we take this seriously as a problem and here are the steps we're taking to ameliorate it" or "we appreciate the feedback but this isn't something that's going to change" or "we love this idea but it's a bit farther down on the priority list" etc.

I think this would help out a lot with folks feeling like they've been heard and away from sort of endless cycles of grievance airing.

* something I really do not like about the MetaTalk queue is that it presents a barrier to discussing the community here, with the community. I interact with a bunch of MeFites offsite so I can say that folks talk about the stuff in these threads all the time, they just don't do it here anymore.

The queue obviously has some upsides but as a rule I think it's unhealthy to push community discussion to spaces outside of the community.
posted by lalex at 10:53 AM on June 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


As long as content is not offensive in terms of being racist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-Semitic, sexist, misogynistic etc., I guess I don't see why more stuff isn't allowed to just fly here?

There are certain topics that spur otherwise reasonable, sane people to Completely Lose Their Minds.
posted by zarq at 11:06 AM on June 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


"There are certain topics that spur otherwise reasonable, sane, people to Completely Lose Their Minds."

Metanip

One thing I've noticed and found remarkable is how terrible MetaFilter is at discussing anything relating to food without it becoming an utterly miserable mess. Sometimes you can talk about cheese as just cheese.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 11:12 AM on June 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


There are certain topics that spur otherwise reasonable, sane people to Completely Lose Their Minds.

Yeah, I think it's worth keeping in mind that even if the moderation isn't always ideal, neither are the interests of the people posting. Posts have been made that look for all the world as if they were intended to start fights for promoting one sided takes on topics that not only have more than one side, but are known to be divisive among the Metafilter audience.

I can't judge why individual users post anything, and don't want to, but I know in general that the desire to "win" debates over some issues keeps people returning to contentious topics with "new" arguments as if this time those opposing them will have to recognize their wrongness. It mostly doesn't work and just sparks a new round of fighting over the same things as before.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:24 AM on June 17, 2018


Now, I'm aware that this is just my perspective and that the primary purpose of a thread like that shouldn't be as an educational performance for straight people, but I thought that on the whole that thread represented a very thorny subject that was actually done rather well, considering.

Man, this bothers me. I did not think that thread went particularly well, personally, but that's secondary to another kind of point I want to make:

A gay man making a comment that he was uncomfortable with the way a FPP about a sexual encounter between two gay men went, because he felt that the conversation was repeatedly derailed away from the context and experience of gay/queer men?

That is not the kind of perspective that I want to hear commentary from a straight man on, as a queer woman with complex and often deeply frustrated feelings about the relationship between queer men and straight women here on Metafilter. Like, I am sort of astonished you felt the need to say "I thought it was done well!" It's the kind of conversation that is... how do I put this? If you want those kinds of careful, nuanced conversations to happen in a space where you can observe it, where you know where it is to observe, you have to be willing to step back as someone without that expertise and listen carefully to the perspectives of people who are actually capable of having that conversation about their own experiences.

Bluntly, I think it's fine to say that you learned a lot and appreciated the conversation, but I don't honestly think that this kind of situation is one in which you can say "I thought it went well." I don't think that a straight man--or a straight woman!--has the experience and exposure to queer male culture to pronounce whether that thread went well or not. And I'm honestly rather dubious about whether I get to pronounce that judgement as a queer woman, too. I lean towards no.
posted by sciatrix at 11:39 AM on June 17, 2018 [14 favorites]


> Maybe I'll just try to make more brief comments along the lines of "This is interesting and I'm curious to hear what other people will have to say."

I try to do that when I think of it. I'm aware that some people consider that sort of vague positive comment as "noise," but I don't really give a damn. It's important to support posters and make people want to post more, and I vividly remember how great it felt to get positive comments back when I used to post.
posted by languagehat at 11:48 AM on June 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


I wish chat was part of metafilter. I know there's a separate place to go but it's empty and scary and generally asleep when I'm awake and anyway it's not really here. We have to keep chat out of Ask; if we want to chat about a thing on the Blue we've to hunt around and peg it to some link or other (and then if we feel we're insufficiently efucated about someone else's link we can't really chat about it in case someone comes along to point out how ignorant we are, and they will); we can chat in metatalk essentially once a week when we're given permission. I would like a part of the site where I can post a topic that I want to shoot the shit about with other people also not up for a finely-tuned debate without having to justify it. People here are really smart. I know people like the fact that it's a site for smart people. US politics broke my spirit and now I just want to talk about meaningless crap because it's easy and safe and that's all I can cope with anymore. I wish I could do that here. That's all.

Oh and being able to create new posts from mobile. Have I missed that that's possible now? If it's not it should be. Having to switch to desktop to make a post is nonsense in 2018. But if it's there then thanks.
posted by billiebee at 11:50 AM on June 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


Yeah, I think it's worth keeping in mind that even if the moderation isn't always ideal, neither are the interests of the people posting. Posts have been made that look for all the world as if they were intended to start fights for promoting one sided takes on topics that not only have more than one side, but are known to be divisive among the Metafilter audience.

In a case like that, I would argue this is a great opportunity, assuming the goal, as stated in this thread, is to increase site activity and participation, for other users to chime in with differing viewpoints and interpretations, not to delete such posts from orbit just because they didn't happen to include every possible viewpoint under the sun in their framing.

As evidence, here is one I recall from memory that I thought went pretty well: This FPP obviously had a particular framing and singular point of view, immediately followed by a another user chiming in with an alternative link that changed how one could potentially view the initial FPP. It made for a really great discussion; I'd like to see more of that here, not less.
posted by The Gooch at 11:53 AM on June 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Having just said that--and frankly, it feels hypocritical of me, and I feel like I should flag my own previous comment for being the third bluntly corrective response to the same person, but... hell. Okay.

This is a long thread. I've been reading from the beginning and just want to chime in. I'm thinking about why I don't comment more, and why I make the kinds of comments I do. And ... I feel this pressure to:

(a) Make a comment that says something substantive or "important."

(b) Not fuck up while I do it.


Corrections, especially corrections for small things, I think really enforce this attitude? And I mean, like--I noticed a correction for a single linked piece on a game using problematic language the other day. I think that kind of thing--assuming that the other users don't know what is problematic and what isn't, and feeling the need to correct that based on that knowledge--can lead to a lot of that quelling defensiveness.

I have no idea what to do about that, but I think it is a hugely important thing to be aware of when managing conflict. And in particular, I think the tendency to correct problematic shit--not 100% asinine shit but just things that contain something that is not perfect about systematic injustice in a world that is steeped in systematic injustice--by drawing immediate attention to flaws in the assumption that the other user doesn't know that something is problematic is one of the biggest drivers of this.

I also think the assumption that the other user will agree that something else is objectively problematic enough to be censured if only they understand that it is a problem and hurtful to minority groups is a problem. Sometimes that just isn't true. For example, I don't monitor my language to purge every turn of phrase with potential ableist connotations. This is in part because I think that the tagged words sometimes add more pejorative connotation to neutral terms like blind and deaf and silo disabled people away from public dialogue, but I refuse to do it mostly because language monitoring is probably the most powerful trigger to my own anxiety and ability to engage in social interactions without removing myself from them entirely. And I am careful about my participation in spaces that care about inclusivity specifically because these are the spaces least likely to honor my request for accommodation in this area, as an autism-spectrum person, and most likely to tell me that I need to behave and speak in the same ways as everyone else in order to accommodate people who may or may not even be here.

I would like to see more people framing these kinds of call-outs, particularly for small and probably obvious problematic content, as "I am uncomfortable with X because Y" rather than "X is problematic because Y," I think. I would like to see more people treating "problematic" as a relatively neutral term, too, and not a harsh indictment on themselves. I would like to see more widespread understanding that the systematic inequalities we fight have been absorbed into our shit wholesale, and that there is literally nothing free of them.

As it is, I think that people who do understand these latter sentiments tend to assume that obviously so does everyone else, and that is just not the case in my experience. Particularly among people who mean well and who want to be inclusive.
posted by sciatrix at 11:57 AM on June 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


users with a heavy flag hand can end up curating the site and thus anything the least bit controversial gets axed

I'm not sure this is true. I don't flag a whole lot (maybe I should do more of it) but there have been times, including recently, when I flagged something, nothing happened, I asked the mods what was up, and they gave me some explanation along the lines of "I get where you're coming from, but we don't see it quite like that and people aren't being horrible about it so we're not planning to take any action." The mods seem to use flags more as a way of helping them know where to look than anything else. They still use their own judgement and guidelines in terms of what actions they decide to take.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:57 AM on June 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


... I feel this pressure to: […] Make a comment that says something substantive or "important."

I've made my peace with putting a reasonable effort into making a comment, and if it not's substantive or important enough to post, then simply not posting it. It seems to be a lot less painful than agonising over every line to make sure it's definitely going to be worth it at the end.

Of course, I also end up posting some right old shite, but I always thought it was justified at the time.
posted by ambrosen at 11:58 AM on June 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

Oh and being able to create new posts from mobile. Have I missed that that's possible now? If it's not it should be. Having to switch to desktop to make a post is nonsense in 2018. But if it's there then thanks.


You have to switch to the newer Rrsponsive crayony look skin. Brings /random back too.
posted by tilde at 12:06 PM on June 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Actually you know what, I am just going to take a little break for a while. I'm starting to side with those who say that it just feels impossible to not get snapped at around here, no matter what you do or how carefully you try to qualify and hedge. See you in a week or two, maybe.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:09 PM on June 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


But some dupe deletions that I have come across (sorry I have no examples) come off as somewhat elitist: "omg I can't believe you didn't see this post 2 years ago".

Coming back to this much later, (I was queueing a reply in my laptop but have been on my desktop since then) but I want to note this is something where (a) we really really try to avoid anything with that kind of tone in a deletion reason, aiming much more for e.g. "heya, this is cool but looks like we saw it recently _here_" if it's something we do nix, and (b) in general I've been pushing toward a culture of more leniency on that stuff in the last few years.

There's still gonna be times when something is being reposted with no substantial new content a year later, or just literally an essay that couldn't have changed and the poster just missed it on search, where we will nix stuff under the dupe rubric. But I'm pretty down for happenstance five- or ten-year-later revisits of good stuff that's still active or really rich content or that has some newly interesting context that didn't exist before or highlights how good it is.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:08 PM on June 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


So yeah, I think that it’s a big problem for this site that views go outside the prevailing orthodoxy are not just shouted down, but actuality interpreted as siding with the enemy.

Yes, this, 100%. I have been following this thread (and the funding thread that sparked it) for days, and have composed (and then deleted) dozens of my own comments trying to articulate my concerns about this poisonous, burn-the-witch dynamic. It's why I usually stay out of threads on a number of topics I actually care about, it's why I am unlikely ever to post an FPP, and I certainly will never, ever, ever, ever, ever encourage anyone to join Metafilter, because I am 100% certain anyone I know who isn't down with the absolute latest positions/language around a whole host of issues would be driven away the second they express a non-Mefi-orthodox opinion.

I, myself, hold a non-Mefi-orthodox opinion (but which is considered solidly progressive/left in the world at large) about a major social issue, but which I would never even hint at here, because I know I would flatly be accused of wishing a number of Mefites dead. Were I to defend myself against accusations of wanting Mefites dead, I am certain I would be told to pipe down; if I didn't immediately shut up or recant, I am relatively certain I would be given a timeout and, possibly, get banned. I wish any of this were hyperbole. It's not. Fact is, I don't fear speaking my mind anywhere else I exist online. I do sometimes fear it here.

Also: the problem with the dismissive "well, just turn them off if you don't like favorites!" rejoinder to comments like holborne's is that it misses the point entirely. Those of us who have concerns about favorites are not saying we don't like to look at them; we're saying that the actual existence of favorites creates a feedback loop that may be a component in feeding toxic behavior that we consider detrimental to the site. Hiding favorites on the individual user end does absolutely jack squat about that.

Anyway, I'm nervous about even having posted this so I think I'll step away for awhile. That said: Cortex & Co., I appreciate what you do (and the funding thread inspired me to start donating monthly), and I appreciate that you're listening. Thanks.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 1:31 PM on June 17, 2018 [40 favorites]


Or is this the kind of thing that causes people to leave, even while a bunch of people look on and marvel at how wonderfully inclusive and progressive they all are?

Yeah, this is what I've been trying to articulate in my head but haven't quite managed. Like, I'm glad people are growing and changing from stuff they didn't know about my own lived experience, but at the same time, the sort of feeling of self-congratulation people get from "don't treat queer people this way" taking years and years of slooooow learning while it seems the rest of the internet, even the parts we consider worse than metafilter, have caught on more quickly.....in that kind of situation I often wonder why I should stay, and how much I should put up with. There are things that have happened here involving other people's learning that have hurt me for years after the fact (the "whackadoodle" MetaTalk and the Susan Hawk being fired thread on the blue which devolved into intense ableism just to name some I still think of - that's another things, the level of Socially Acceptable Ableism that happens here). Ultimately, when trying to curate my own experience online, I have to think about what is worth it and what is not, and I feel that's the position a lot of us find ourselves in.
posted by colorblock sock at 1:38 PM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Please don't do this if you want to make the site more welcoming.

Someone offered a perspective on a topic I have experience with. They didn't agree with my perspective, but offered it in (what I felt was) a conversationally positive way. It wasn't unfriendly. It was just a different perspective. That's okay. We can have different perspectives.

And then someone jumps in with "hey, you're not supposed to have that perspective because you're not personally affected". Well, bullshit. Please, give people the freedom to agree or disagree from different perspectives. We're grownups. We can handle it.
posted by disclaimer at 1:44 PM on June 17, 2018 [35 favorites]


I hear you. Oof. *shakes head at self*
posted by sciatrix at 1:47 PM on June 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


I think the dynamics of this stuff are worth talking about but I'm gonna request that we not third-rail too hard into some kind of subtweeting-about-I/P territory.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:54 PM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Metafilter does animal rights fine, actually, from my perspective as an animal rights person / former vegan who thinks veganism is the most ethically correct position. I mean, people are rude and annoying and like to make the same "sanctimonious veg*n" comments they always do, but veg*ns mostly are chill about it and deal with it handily. It's nothing like the totally intractable and deeply entrenched debates you see with stuff like I/P. JMO, IMO, YMMV, etc.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:59 PM on June 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I try to spend time in places I enjoy, in happy threads, in subjects I am passionate about: video games, literature, movies, metatalk, etc.

This isn't some magic solution, I get that. It's just my own way of dealing with parts of the community that I find tougher to engage in. And I get that it'd be better if this wasn't necessary on my part, but for better or for worse, the USPol stuff is here and some people really need it and engage with it because it's important to them.


I think this hits on something important; I suspect some people are so enamored with the community aspect, and it's such an important part of the site for them, that they feel every part of the site has to match their expectations and ideals. I think it would be more productive to stop thinking of the site that way. It's not a private group of your best friends, it's lot of interesting people like your neighborhood.
posted by bongo_x at 2:00 PM on June 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


1) Be Thou Not An Asshole
2) Do Not Presumeth Thy Co-Mefite Is An Asshole
3) Engageth Not With Obvious Assholery
4) Walketh By Those Threads You Do Not Enjoy
5) Though Shalt Not Drop Turds At The Top Of A Fresh Thread
6) Though Shalt RTFA
7) Flageth That Which Offends Thee
8) Bestoweth Love To Posters Who Gladden Your Heart
9) I got bored

Ooh also please can we have in thread images? We can't ask new people to come and forbid them to use visuals, it just isn't how people work now. Whatever fear there is around that I don't get it.
posted by billiebee at 2:02 PM on June 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


I've also cut way back on posting over the last few years, finding that MeFi is quick to jump on less-than-perfect comments. Many upthread have said this much better so I'll leave it at that.

I also don't recommend MeFi to friends because of the land-mines here for innocent noobs. One thing I don't think anybody has mentioned yet: commiseration-type comments don't go over well AT ALL. If a group of some-degree-of-marginalized people is talking about some bad thing that happens to them, it often attracts well-meant comments from (usually) cis/het/white men about how they totally understand because this other thing happens to them too. Even in real life, where you have the sidebands of body language and tone of voice, this can be really grating if you're in the first group. Online, it comes across as totally infuriating "but what about teh menz" redirection.

I guess if I could make a suggestion for making MeFi a little more welcoming to new users, it would be a warning: don't try to commiserate. If you're not in the affected group, just shut up and read. (And dial it down in real life too - it's not as helpful as you think.) And maybe old-timers could be a little more charitable when somebody drops a clueless but well-meaning "me too" in the punchbowl, especially those of us who are pretty darned privileged even if not at the very top of the heap. But mostly, knock off the "me too" stuff.
posted by Quietgal at 2:04 PM on June 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


I guess if I could make a suggestion for making MeFi a little more welcoming to new users, it would be a warning: don't try to commiserate. If you're not in the affected group, just shut up and read.

I'm struggling to think of a less welcoming sentiment, haha.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:24 PM on June 17, 2018 [24 favorites]


And I mean, like--I noticed a correction for a single linked piece on a game using problematic language the other day.

That might have been my comment. But like, my experiences sometimes making "corrections" is part of why I think it's difficult to say that people should stop. In that case, someone posted a video of some people playing a video game - only, those people used some pretty misogynist language. As a gamer, I'm frustrated that it is basically impossible to take part in my hobby without encountering explicit and normalized misogyny. And so, I said something about it.

I think you're right that one of the ways to make "corrections" land more softly is to assume good motives. But I don't think that the problem is that I'm uncomfortable with misogyny. To be honest, I see that kind of framing as leading straight back to the kind of "toughen up, snowflake" attitudes that I already have to deal with - because it makes it about personal feelings, and not about what's wrong or right. It centers the problem on an individual.

And like, I know there are differing opinions about what's wrong or right. And I know that kind of framing is itself not perfect. For one thing, it can make discussions more heated, especially when you see it in that big picture way ("you're what's wrong with the world"). At the same time I feel like I should be able to share my opinion that sharing misogynist content is wrong without downplaying my actual

I could have probably still made that comment nicer, I guess? I could have assumed it was an honest mistake and carefully framed my comment that way - assuming that the poster hadn't watched the entire video, for example.

This is all a very specific example, but I think it's illustrative of the conundrum I see with the site culture. On one hand, the fact that I can freely share my opinion that something is misogynist makes this site more welcoming and inclusive to me. I don't feel like I have to shut up. On the other hand, criticism of other people always leads to tension, no matter how carefully you manage it.

Actually, one of my best interactions on this front was with Fizz. They made a post about some game or something without bringing up the large amount feminist criticism it had received. I said something about it, and Fizz... listened. And their posts frequently incorporate multiple points of view.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:25 PM on June 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


This is all a very specific example, but I think it's illustrative of the conundrum I see with the site culture. On one hand, the fact that I can freely share my opinion that something is misogynist makes this site more welcoming and inclusive to me. I don't feel like I have to shut up

I think people should say something when things are misogynist and/or seriously problematic in other ways (including post content).

I don't think people should make nasty personal attacks on people/claim that people are secretly x-ist because those people disagree with them.

Not trying to axe-grind, but want to make clear that I think there's a huge distinction between these two types of behavior.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 2:32 PM on June 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


I think the dynamics of this stuff are worth talking about but I'm gonna request that we not third-rail too hard into some kind of subtweeting-about-I/P territory.

Thanks for that, if it's in reference to the unstated opinion that the commenter believed would be interpreted as wishing Mefites dead. As a member of a marginalized group that some people actually do literally wish dead, things got a little too real there for a second. ("Is it me? Is it people like me??")

Since this is a thread about how we can do better, I'm going to suggest that we don't tease each other with that sort of "I have this belief that you wouldn't like but I'm not going to tell you what it is." The world is a scary place for a lot of us right now. It's one thing when you're reading it online or seeing it on the news. It's a completely different thing when it's dangled in front of you in a Metafilter thread. Too real.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:35 PM on June 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


I believe there's a big disconnect about the kind of discussion we're aiming for. I think it was articulated in a MetaTalk thread in the last year or two, that a lot of people don't want to focus on deep analysis but rather on supporting each other and talking only about how we are affected by this thing and how we feel about it. I'm pretty sure someone said that if you are not affected by the thing, you shouldn't participate at all. [And on preview, someone literally just said that in this thread]

So someone posts an outrageous thing and the unspoken premise of discussion is: This is terrible and I am outraged. Then people who want to have a deep analytical discussion about it will blithely come in at a very different angle and get perceived as heartless assholes. It's the same unspoken rules of conversation, with the same resulting frustration, as ask vs. guess.

I'd rather analyze than share feelings but I don't have much time to read and even less time to contribute, so whatever. But if we've made a decision to be an online support group (in which we tell people, literally, "no one cares what you think" to someone who makes the mistake of assuming it's a general discussion forum and civil discourse is welcome from anyone) then advertise it as such. It's a drag to see someone come into a thread and try to explore some aspect of an issue and get shut down because they didn't know that we were actually here to only share feelings. The more dispassionately they try to explain their position, the bigger a hole they're digging for themselves, because that wasn't the (unspoken) point. Are some people being deliberately obtuse? Sure, but if you're new it just looks like people are being assholes to the one person who's slightly different, and who wants to participate in that kind of environment?

It doesn't even matter who's "right". There are number of people who believe that it's totally OK to be hostile to someone as long as they believe that person is objectively wrong. It seems like I regularly read a comment and think, "Well, I don't disagree, but you seem weirdly determined to be an asshole about this" and I close the thread because that's not what I'm here for. I do that a lot.

Regarding favorites: You can't really hide them. Anything I favorite is counted, and is viewable in my profile and the profile of the person who's contribution I favorited. As much as we claim "favorites are bookmarks and don't mean approval!" they are still commonly perceived as agreement or upvotes, and I can't deal with the cognitive dissonance of "favoriting" something that pissed me off. If we had a bookmark that actually functioned as a bookmark, I'd dump favorites in a heartbeat.
posted by stefanie at 2:39 PM on June 17, 2018 [26 favorites]


I guess if I could make a suggestion for making MeFi a little more welcoming to new users, it would be a warning: don't try to commiserate. If you're not in the affected group, just shut up and read. (And dial it down in real life too - it's not as helpful as you think.)

A lot of people are voicing concerns that they feel increasingly uncomfortable participating in many threads because of the pile-on culture and the way that non-orthodox perspectives are treated with hostility. I don't think "shut up and read" is a constructive way of engaging with those concerns. Shutting up and reading (or just skipping threads entirely) is exactly what people are doing, rather than participating, because they don't feel welcome in the conversation. And when they do comment, they do so with significant trepidation, because failure to stay within narrow prescriptive guidelines of acceptable tone and viewpoint triggers immediate defensive swarm of the snark brigade.
posted by dephlogisticated at 2:40 PM on June 17, 2018 [36 favorites]


Yes, this, 100%. I have been following this thread (and the funding thread that sparked it) for days, and have composed (and then deleted) dozens of my own comments trying to articulate my concerns about this poisonous, burn-the-witch dynamic.

I just wanted to say yes, this goes for me as well. I've been here 10 years and I get nervous almost every time I comment about anything more serious than a recipe or product recommendation on AskMe.

I have deleted several paragraphs in this comment box several times because I don't have the energy for big debate right now but yes, I don't make many FPPs (and average of one every 3 years!) and delete far more comments than I leave because I just don't have the energy or advanced debate skills to defend myself if I accidentally misspeak or make a mistake.
posted by pointystick at 2:44 PM on June 17, 2018 [19 favorites]


Count me as someone who felt energized by the funding thread, only to be re-reminded why I've dialed my MeFi back over the past few years by how this thread has played out.

Not going anywhere, I depend too much upon all the shiny things that still turn up here, but yikes.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:45 PM on June 17, 2018 [16 favorites]


I've made my peace with putting a reasonable effort into making a comment, and if it not's substantive or important enough to post, then simply not posting it. It seems to be a lot less painful than agonising over every line to make sure it's definitely going to be worth it at the end.

I do this regularly, and more so as time wears on. At least for "heavier" threads/topics. (I still pop in to "lighter" threads to make an asinine pun or three, then peace out.)

YMMV may vary considerably, but I view this as a positive development, and it's spilled over a bit to my life in general. A corollary to "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything" might be "if you don't have anything useful to say, listen." At least when it comes to discussions of contentious topics that are deeply personal to folks.
posted by duffell at 2:45 PM on June 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


Maybe we could tag FPPs with a list of groups of people who are not welcome?

Like for a thread about x: we could say "please, no persons of y,z, a or b groups respond - you are part of the problem please die"

Or maybe word it a little more subtly. but you get the gist.
posted by some loser at 2:57 PM on June 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


"I guess if I could make a suggestion for making MeFi a little more welcoming to new users, it would be a warning: don't try to commiserate. If you're not in the affected group, just shut up and read."

I'm struggling to think of a less welcoming sentiment, haha.



But this sentiment is very useful, and very crucial. And it is expressed (as part of site/group participation guidelines) in other online/social groups I'm in. Yes, in the above example it could be framed/worded more tactfully (e.g. "If you're not in the affected group, try not to insert yourself into their situation by jumping in to commiserate or equate their circumstances with your own relative position of privilege. This detracts and takes away attention from discussing the actual situation of the marginalized group - which already faces the challenge of being heard, seen and considered on a day-to-day basis. We advise firstly reading and listening to what they have to say." something like that.)
It's such an important and basic guideline for any online community that considers itself progressive and open.

Metafilter thinks it's progressive, but I really agree with divabat's and colorblock sock's comments in the other (related) MeTa thread in that Metafilter is actually a lot less progressive (relative to other online groups/communities/sites) than its (primarily and increasingly white/cis/het/US-ian) community thinks it is.
posted by aielen at 3:00 PM on June 17, 2018 [16 favorites]


> stefanie:
"much as we claim "favorites are bookmarks and don't mean approval!" they are still commonly perceived as agreement or upvotes, and I can't deal with the cognitive dissonance of "favoriting" something that pissed me off. If we had a bookmark that actually functioned as a bookmark, I'd dump favorites in a heartbeat."

I favorited this to indicate approval.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 3:11 PM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


I think people should say something when things are misogynist and/or seriously problematic in other ways (including post content). I don't think people should make nasty personal attacks on people/claim that people are secretly x-ist because those people disagree with them.

Well, of course there's a distinction between these two behaviors - I'm perfectly aware of that. But I don't think that nasty personal attacks are the biggest part of the problem. When I comment, I'm not really worried that someone might say, "kutsuwamushi wouldn't have said that unless she's a misogynist." I'm more worried that someone might say, "kutsuwamushi said something misogynist" and will be snide about it.

To use an example: When I think about my own comment about the misogynist video, and the effect I wanted it to have, I don't think I did a good job. I want that commenter to think, "I should check videos before I share them and find non-misogynist alternatives." I don't want that commenter to think, "I've been called out, I'm embarrassed, I don't want to post videos anymore." I didn't say anything about the commenter at all, but I didn't have to. It still wasn't written nicely.

And now people are saying "yikes" over how this thread has gone. Which again makes me feel like maybe I shouldn't have participated. Like, maybe this thread didn't go in the directions that were intended - but from my perspective, I see people who are mostly trying to have a thoughtful discussion with each other. While it's totally understandable that it might not be your cup of tea, I don't think that means it's a bad thread.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:18 PM on June 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Wow, there really is no way to phrase “Hey, maybe you could think about dialing this particular behavior back just a little bit every now and then?” without someone leaping to “Oh, you’re saying you want me to die?!?”, is there.
posted by Etrigan at 3:23 PM on June 17, 2018 [17 favorites]


Favorites definitely aren’t Favorites being used for favoriting, since they’re not called Favorites.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:26 PM on June 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Maybe we could tag FPPs with a list of groups of people who are not welcome?

I think everyone should be welcome in all FPPs. I (cishet white male) felt very welcome in the George Takei assault allegation thread. I didn't post any comments, though, because I didn't have anything to say.

I think the most important thing about FPPs, and I certainly express myself impatiently when it happens to me, is that where an FPP's about a minority group that does have representation in MeFi, everyone who's not a member of that group takes a back seat and goes much more into listening mode. And if they do have a comment, they don't use it recontextualise the issue in terms of the majority group. Whatever happens, using “they” to describe the lives of people who've already shown up in thread is definitely wrong.
posted by ambrosen at 3:33 PM on June 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


Also: the problem with the dismissive "well, just turn them off if you don't like favorites!" rejoinder to comments like holborne's is that it misses the point entirely. Those of us who have concerns about favorites are not saying we don't like to look at them; we're saying that the actual existence of favorites creates a feedback loop that may be a component in feeding toxic behavior that we consider detrimental to the site. Hiding favorites on the individual user end does absolutely jack squat about that.

I was going to make precisely this point, but the return of the thin white sock said it so well I'll just repost what they said and say: yeah, this.
posted by holborne at 3:35 PM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


One thing I've been thinking about is that I'm spending a lot more time on /r/raisedbynarcissists recently (lol my life really is a mess lately) and it's really shifted how I approach people on ask.metafilter. The general guidelines for that site are here. Specifically, I think a lot about respecting an asker's stated boundaries and how I can best support them and if I don't feel I can do that, I just say nothing. It's been a useful shift in approach for me, and feels broadly more kind.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:37 PM on June 17, 2018 [15 favorites]


> everyone who's not a member of that group takes a back seat and goes much more into listening mode.

One thing I’ve found on MetaFilter—mostly in regard to the Jewish experience, which I’m most equipped to judge, but I assume it applies to others—is a tendency of some users to universalize their perspective in unhelpful ways. It’s more irritating to me when some in my “group” act as spokespeople than when those outside try to recontextualize a scenario in terms of their life. The latter is perhaps misguided empathy. The former is the Lorax.

I am often loathe to comment As A Jew (TM). Sometimes I feel compelled to chime in to complicate the prevailing narrative in the thread. More often I don’t have the patience and ignore the whole thing.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 4:17 PM on June 17, 2018 [17 favorites]


Well, of course there's a distinction between these two behaviors - I'm perfectly aware of that. But I don't think that nasty personal attacks are the biggest part of the problem. When I comment, I'm not really worried that someone might say, "kutsuwamushi wouldn't have said that unless she's a misogynist." I'm more worried that someone might say, "kutsuwamushi said something misogynist" and will be snide about it.

Thanks much for eloquently explaining more --- that makes a lot of sense.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:36 PM on June 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I find the favorites hate kind of perplexing. I mostly use them to say “hey, I saw this thing you said.” I suppose he usually suggest some sort of broad approval, but not necessarily complete agreement. Since a lot of my comments and posts don’t collect a ton of responses, mostly by their natures, i’m not sure I would have continued this long as a member without them. It would feel too much like spending a lot of time crafting material to no response whatsoever. So, needless to say, I like favorites. They tell me someone is paying attention.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:42 PM on June 17, 2018 [23 favorites]


So, needless to say, I like favorites. They tell me someone is paying attention.

Bookmarked.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:46 PM on June 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


While it's totally understandable that it might not be your cup of tea, I don't think that means it's a bad thread

I don't think it's a bad thread, either. It looks, to me, like a bunch of thoughtful people trying to sort out some difficult material together.

What I'm clearer on is that there are many ways to engage with MetaFilter, and that I can be content with mostly passive consumption. I don't have the wherewithal to rise to those same high standards of posting that make the site attractive, and I don't have the wherewithal to weather whatever ensues from posting. Lots of folks do, and more power to them!
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 5:33 PM on June 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I agree very much with pointystick and Kutsuwamushi. I have a personal rule (and regrettably I sometimes slip up) never to get into any kind of serious discussion or argument on this site. Because I fully expect that if I don't craft my comments very carefully, if I don't qualify statements all over the place, somebody is going to read my comments in bad faith and chastise me for saying something which I did not say and do not believe.

Admittedly this probably affects me more than many other folks, having words put into my mouth is a very strong personal pet peeve.

Nonetheless I feel like the bad-faith readings have gotten worse the last couple years. And I see it happening to newer users all the time. I remember recently seeing a comment from a new user which, by my reading at least, was very clearly deploring institutionalized racism/sexism in some situation. It closed on a note of bitter sarcasm, something along the lines of "because only white men matter". And somebody called out the new user for being a white supremacist! I doubt they felt much like sticking around after that.

I feel like the site is less welcoming than it has been in past years because of this. These days, if I were to recommend MeFi to someone, even someone whose political/social views fit perfectly, I would feel obligated to warn them against making substantial comments.

I'm violating my rule here. I won't be surprised if someone tells me that I should put more effort into my comments so they won't be misread. I've spent 30 minutes on this comment, we'll see if that's enough.
posted by equalpants at 5:44 PM on June 17, 2018 [30 favorites]


I just had a brainstorm. Make the term and use of “favorites “ throughout the site code and UI user editable as part of our preferendes
posted by tilde at 5:53 PM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Metafilter does animal rights fine, actually, from my perspective as an animal rights person / former vegan who thinks veganism is the most ethically correct position. I mean, people are rude and annoying and like to make the same "sanctimonious veg*n" comments they always do, but veg*ns mostly are chill about it and deal with it handily. It's nothing like the totally intractable and deeply entrenched debates you see with stuff like I/P. JMO, IMO, YMMV, etc.

Just as a "I mostly agree with you" nuanced counterpoint, I'm a vegan and I added some comments to a recent light-hearted news story connected to veganism which was framed really non-judgingly towards any one group. When I went into the thread, I was like "Cool, different perspectives about how people's diets and experiences affect their opinions on this news story", but by the end I made the decision to nope out because the overall vibe of the thread had shifted from comments like "Here's my opinion about the vegans in this story" to "I don't have much to say about the light-hearted news story, but I'm going to share arguably-insulting things I think about vegans."

Topic-drift is what it is and it's been a part of site culture for a while, but sooooo much of Metafilter's site culture is just a List Of Stuff That Mefites Do/Like, but we never really ask/analyize whether the List Of Stuff That Mefites Do/Like actually makes people want to engage with the site more/less.

I stay away from topics that Metafilter traditionally does not do well, so this is an uninformed opinion, but I have the feeling that those threads go soooooo badly that when we get a thread that goes mostly okay but with some cringey aspects, it's seen as good enough, and that's something we could improve upon.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:01 PM on June 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


So I was just about to post an FPP and didn't. Thought process:

1. Here's a lovely story about a man coming to terms with all the ways men can be men, despite a macho upbringing, and celebrating his break with his father's insistence on machismo that allows him to support his son however he expresses himself.

2. Lemme do a search for his name to see if this is a double.

3. Just an older comment from a user I respect saying this particular person is awful due to his politics.

4. Decide not to post the nice, heartwarming video because... maybe the dude is awful? He probably is awful. His awfulness doesn't really change the nice-ness or heartwarming-ness of the video, but I really don't want a thread full of people arguing "nice" vs. "Fascist."

I don't really know what to do with any of that, nor do I think any of that is any one person or group's fault, and for all I know this guy's politics *are* that bad that he's more on the "Bill Cosby" side of the spectrum, where everything he does is wrong. But I think, as a culture (at least in the US, not sure how it's playing out elsewhere), we've hit a place where we condemn the entirety of people/shows/movements that aren't ideologically perfect, and I think we lose valuable ideas (and users, in the MeFi context) because of it. There certainly should be ideas that are absolutely not acceptable and that brand someone as being outside the realm of acceptable "Aww, cute!" or "Huh, interesting" post subjects, but it feels like that realm is getting bigger and bigger. I think it goes to sciatrix's earlier point that "problematic" should be a neutral word. I think we (Americans? MeFites? Progressives?) are really quick to banish anyone with problematic viewpoints about one thing from any discussion about anything. I'm totally fine with people bringing up relevant bad acts, but (as I said above) the question about what is relevant is a total judgment call and I have no good way of framing it for the community as a whole. And I suspect that uncertainty -- which I see playing out in all my social circles, not just MeFi -- is making it harder for people to participate in the kind of conversations MeFi has. (And on both sides -- someone who simply can't see past someone's opinions on X to care what they have to say on Y, and also someone who doesn't see why someone's opinions on X matter at all to their opinions on Y.)
posted by lazuli at 6:03 PM on June 17, 2018 [23 favorites]


Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent; the sweet blankness of the empty comment box can cause no offence and is reminiscent of the grave so that's good too.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:11 PM on June 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


It seems more and more like these are problems with no clear-cut solutions. The site probably needs clear-cut guidelines for how to improve things, because it’s so big and diverse, and because one person’s problem is sometimes one person’s reason for being here. I’m not seeing anything jump out from this thread.

Honestly, I wonder if this is just what happens when there’s a climate shift and a bunch of people are left behind. I’m not hearing complaints from a lot of the major players here. It’s possible that yeah, a lot of people are being shut out, but maybe we’re the outliers. People will always have reservations about this site because it just can’t be perfect, and it seems like we’re asking a lot of people to make changes they probably don’t want or find necessary. The barriers to site participation we’ve talked about are behaviors people engage in here, and short of expecting a radically different way of thinking on the part of every user, any efforts at changing behavior will probably just piss people off.

I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who felt alienated, but I don’t know what else to get from all this. I’m circling back to thinking maybe this site just isn’t for everyone, and couldn’t possibly be.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:16 PM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Speaking as one whose comments have been deleted frequently, in the 'politics threads' and outside, may I make a suggestion for an alternative to the Mod calling someone out within the thread: a message to the 'deletee' within the thread that only they can see... because I click on the "show more" link and don't know I've been deleted unless they make it public. (I've taken to having an open tab with Comments Activity to check occasionally if I've gotten deletions)
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:19 PM on June 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I hope that doesn’t seem dismissive of anyone. I’m not trying to say so-and-so isn’t a major player, or anything like that. I just mean that this doesn’t seem like a true site-wide discussion, and I’m guessing it’s because most people don’t have a problem.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:20 PM on June 17, 2018


I’m not hearing complaints from a lot of the major players here.

I never know what people mean when they say things like this. I think a lot of people whose comments and posts I pay attention to and am happy to see have commented - were there people you wanted to hear from?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:30 PM on June 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Most people don’t click over to a thread on MetaTalk unless it gets a shoutout in the main site header or sidebar.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 6:32 PM on June 17, 2018


Also, my parents say I’m a major player!
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 6:33 PM on June 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


Forgot to mention something. Although I know this is extremely controversial, I feel like threaded comments would help address some of the problems with bad-faith readings. When there's a back-and-forth between two or three users, naturally the later comments aren't intended to stand on their own, and frequently that's where someone will swoop in and seriously misread something. This would be harder to do if the whole history of the discussion was plainly visible.

(BTW, lest someone falsely assume I'm a Redditor for the second time in a week: no, I am not speaking from a "be more like Reddit" perspective, I have never been a Reddit member.)
posted by equalpants at 6:40 PM on June 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Speaking of yikes, I was going through MeFi to find something to read and came across a recent post about a book being released in the Buffyverse. Clicked through the comments and the very first comment was a dead goat (I realise we are anti these "in-community" references, but I wanted to use the 'dead goat' phrase - just once!).

Anyway, the point of that example was that it dawned on me that often when it is a topic of particular interest to me - when I click through to read comments on MeFi, I actually do so with trepidation - "how will this be ruined for me now?" or "let's see how MeFi hates this thing I adore", and actually sigh with relief on the few occasions when that doesn't happen.

I hope to see less of that.
posted by liquorice at 7:12 PM on June 17, 2018 [26 favorites]


My solution: encourage everyone to stop favoriting acerbic hot takes and pile-on comments, even those you agree with. As others have stated, favorites very much reinforce the echo chamber. I don't think it's realistic to try to get rid of them entirely; they're too much of an established institution on Metafilter. But we can still make an effort to shift the culture in terms of how they're used.

Popular Comments used to be a place where you could find lots of funny and interesting material. Since the election, that section has been entirely overrun by tedious moral grandstanding on the subject of Trump et al. The fact that I mostly agree with these comments does not mean I want to see more of them. Quite the opposite: I want to see comments that address a wide range of subjects, providing nuance, background info, personal stories, and stupid puns. I want to see stuff that occasionally challenges my worldview in thoughtful ways. I don’t want a continuous deluge of John Oliver-style outrage and ridicule. It's boring, and quite frankly I don’t think it’s healthy for the site.

So before you click that +, ask yourself, am I favoriting this because it reaffirms my viewpoint on an emotionally-charged issue, or because it's something I want to see more of on this site? If the Venn diagram of those two things forms a perfect circle, you're part of the problem.
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:41 PM on June 17, 2018 [23 favorites]


Yeah sorry, “major players” was dumb phrasing and I regretted it immediately. I just meant that it seems like a lot of people are pretty indifferent to these problems, but it’s also totally possible people just aren’t seeing this thread. In short, that comment could have used more forethought.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:48 PM on June 17, 2018


I don't think people should make nasty personal attacks on people/claim that people are secretly x-ist because those people disagree with them.

This is a problem. In a recent thread, people were being called "bro-cialist" or rape apologists, when they disagreed with one specific action.

But maybe this isn't a Metafilter problem - maybe this is a society-wide problem. Someone I've known for 20+ years in real life has decided I don't care about facism because I don't agree that it's okay to hate and dehumanize even fascists, who are people - deeply misguided and dangerous people. It's sort of funny, since my partner has been very active in actually working on anti-hate issues, and we discuss hate-groups and fascism regularly. As that same partner is also visibly Jewish (kippah-wearing), we're not at all blase about fascism. But this old acquaintance felt that my personal morals about dehumanization - even of dangerous people - must mean I'm sympathetic or soft on fascism.

Sorry, that was longer than I intended. But it was just to say that these dynamics are not Metafilter specific, but really flowing around the whole progressive, anglophone culture. It has me distancing myself from parts of that culture, because I have strong beliefs (around dehumanization, use of violence) at odds with parts of that culture, and variation on some issues makes me suspect on all. I get it: I'm not welcome in all progressive spaces. So I'll move on - and keep fighting Nazis my own way.

also: I won't offer a hug (as Metatalk suggest) because that is invading people's personal spaces and I'm not comfortable with that. But I would like to extend a deep thank you to everyone in this thread: I feel like people have made very sincere efforts to be open-minded with each other, and to listen even when we disagree.
posted by jb at 7:50 PM on June 17, 2018 [23 favorites]


I just meant that it seems like a lot of people are pretty indifferent to these problems

One thing is that we've had a bunch of these conversations in a bunch of these over the past couple of years and not much has changed. (I think about this thread sometimes, frex, although it's politics-specific.)

I've quoted this 2015 comment from Rhaomi more than once and I still think it holds up really well.
posted by lalex at 7:57 PM on June 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter: that comment could have used more forethought.

(not criticizing you, shapes that haunt the dusk; it was just too perfect to pass up)
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:00 PM on June 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


> equalpants:
"I feel like threaded comments would help address some of the problems with bad-faith readings"

I often wish we had threading. It would make certain things easier. But I come down against it overall, because:

1. Most threads are not that long, so it's rarely useful outside of megathreads (like the politics ones, which I think are to the detriment of the site and should be nuked).
2. It's a good way to encourage people to mentally acknowledge that threads are shared with others (same reason it's good we have the comment box at the bottom, rather than the top).
3. The post should be central. Comments are added value.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:12 PM on June 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


My solution: encourage everyone to stop favoriting acerbic hot takes and pile-on comments, even those you agree with. As others have stated, favorites very much reinforce the echo chamber. I don't think it's realistic to try to get rid of them entirely; they're too much of an established institution on Metafilter. But we can still make an effort to shift the culture in terms of how they're used.

Assuming that's what we want to do. This has not been proven to my mind. One person's "reinforcing the echo chamber" is another person's "hey people are listening and apparently appreciate what I'm saying." Or even just "hey, this is a community."

So before you click that +, ask yourself, am I favoriting this because it reaffirms my viewpoint on an emotionally-charged issue, or because it's something I want to see more of on this site? If the Venn diagram of those two things forms a perfect circle, you're part of the problem.

Or it's because I agree with the person. Or I like what they had to say. Or I thought it was important that somebody said it. Or I thought it was funny. Or their wit was on fine display. Or the pun was fucking awesome. Or the band they suggested just blew my mind. Or the cute doggo video was perfectly timed.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:20 PM on June 17, 2018 [19 favorites]


This is a problem. In a recent thread, people were being called "bro-cialist" or rape apologists, when they disagreed with one specific action

Ok, I finally went back and read the thread and Good Christ am I sorry I did. I’m genuinely shocked by some of the stuff that was allowed to stand. There’s gratuitous personal nastiness there the likes of which I’ve never seen on this site. (Yeah, I flagged them but they’ve been there for a while now so I assume that ship has sailed.)
posted by holborne at 8:34 PM on June 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


Regarding favorites, as my "MetaFilter Principles" upthread show I fully understand that they are used for multiple purposes. I think it's good for commenters' psychology to see people favoriting their contributions.

But I think it should be hidden from other users. It's really not a useful signal of that comment's value. If use were confined e.g. to "I am favoriting this, because it is so great I want it easily accessible at a later date" then it could indicate worth. As is, I believe it's vague enough to offer nothing in most cases and is damaging to discussion in others. It may seem innocuous, but some people *do* feel shouted down when a critical comment gets a hundred favorites.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:44 PM on June 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I have been lurking and reading on Metafilter for yonks, and finally got an account in 2014. I'd never bothered with an account before because of the boyz club feeling and it says a lot about the site today that this feeling really seems to be gone. I appreciate the level of moderation, I get a lot out of the site. I've just increased my contribution and I try to give back on Ask where I have the expertise.

Still, I rarely recommend MetaFilter and I'm trying very hard in this thread to think about why.

I think the best way to put it is there's often a kind of drive-by nastiness which I personally find difficult to take, but I take it because the good outweighs the bad. But I am not sure it would for everyone. Stronger, I am pretty sure it wouldn't work for most of my friends.

I think the example which sticks most in my mind was the thread that followed when somebody published the obit for Ingvar Kamprad, who had just died. I'm aware of his past-- working for IKEA for many years, I'm probably more aware than most. (backstory-- Ingvar was involved in the Swedish fascist youth party as a 16-17 year old and remained friends with a fringe fascist politician he met during those years for most of his life.) I've met him and the family and I had personally come to terms with his contradictions and I do not believer he still carried any of those political views. Still, I understand why others might decide differently and I don't shy away from discussing it.

Still, I was taken aback when the response to his obituary was a couple of folks jumping in really early and really loudly posting things like "good. nazi scum rot in hell." And that's what I mean by drive-by nastiness. I mean, it was an obituary. Most of the linked article was about the role of IKEA in design. I've got a pretty thick skin, but even I was quite put off and-- honestly-- a bit disgusted. Once that started, it set the tone, and nobody wanted to be the one defending the nazi scum so that was that to anything else about the post. I posted, mildly, something like what I've said here. Two other former coworkers memailed me and thanked me for saying something because they'd wanted to share a memory of Ingvar but then didn't dare after the initial grar.

And it didn't make me leave MeFi and I don't hate anyone who participated in the conversation. But still, I have a lot of friends who enjoy thoughtful discussion and who might enjoy MeFi at its best, but things like this mean I would never recommend it without at least a lot of thought.

I guess the thing I might say about the dialogue is to consider how easily strong opinions offered early can set the tone for a conversation. That's something you can do on purpose, and then I guess that's fine. But when you are one of the first people to post, you can unintentionally be creating a dogpile where only people who agree with you dare post. And if you do that when your point isn't central to the link in question, then you may well be drowning out the people who are interested in the actual link.

Finally, a big thank you to the mods who I believe do wonderful work. It can't be easy.
posted by frumiousb at 8:48 PM on June 17, 2018 [34 favorites]


A lot of people have expressed the idea that the first comment is a big part of setting the tone. I almost wonder if there's something we can do to put in an extra speed bump on the very first (or first couple of comments). Like you have to review it before it posts, and maybe there's an extra warning ("First comments can derail threads, please don't crap in the thread" or whatever)?

I mean, I know technology can't fix humans. But maybe it would help to remind people that jumping right in with something crappy is even worse than jumping in with something crappy 45 comments in.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:13 PM on June 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


I have a personal rule (and regrettably I sometimes slip up) never to get into any kind of serious discussion or argument on this site. Because I fully expect that if I don't craft my comments very carefully, if I don't qualify statements all over the place, somebody is going to read my comments in bad faith and chastise me for saying something which I did not say and do not believe.

This is one of the reasons I spend 95%+ of my Mefi time on Ask. While it comes with its own issues (I definitely hear divabat's point on strict threadsitting enforcement) I feel a much greater sense of, hey, this is a question relative to an actual human being, and we're generally here because we want to support that person. Whereas the FPPs make me feel like a total yokel trying to have a heart-to-heart on a crowded NYC subway platform or something.

I'm actually not sure if this is at all relevant to the wider community here – I know some of us live more on the Green, but I haven't seen many folks articulate that distinction explicitly or what it means to them. I feel so much affection for AskMeFi, experience so many moving and creative and unexpected things there, and I do tell my friends to check it out. I just haven't reconciled to what degree, when I say check out MetaFilter, I'm only talking about a specific subset of interactions.

(Sorry that this is more general than feature-proposing, but I think it's relevant to what coming to this community may look like from the outside.)
posted by elephantsvanish at 9:20 PM on June 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


But I think it should be hidden from other users. It's really not a useful signal of that comment's value.

To you.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:32 PM on June 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Well, yes. And my favorites wouldn't be useful to most anyone else. That's not saying anyone's favorite is invalid, just that it doesn't necessarily map to anyone else's metric of goodness. MetaFilter doesn't let you browse a thread's comments by favorite count. Even the Popular Favorites page is warped by threads that get a lot of traffic (i.e. the US Politics Megathreads). It's not highlighting hidden gems. Maybe we need to put 'flag as fantastic' to better use. That seems more in line with "others must see this."
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 10:03 PM on June 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think this thread and the effort to articulate some of my own feelings have made me feel quite unhappy about Metafilter. I've had to actively remind myself of many of the good things about Metafilter, and after this comment plan to take a break from the grey at least.

One of the things that alienates me the most from Metafilter in general is the US-centrism. I mean, I get it. It is a site based in the US, most of the user base is USian, the US is very much a dominant culture in the world in general and especially online. But there is something about the way this plays out here that makes it exhausting at times. The relentless assumption that everyone else is in the US. The zoo animal feeling when giving a non-US perspective, or when they are directly asked for. The cheerful derailing of international posts into what it means for the US, or how USians feel about the topic. A general ignorance about other countries and, what's probably worse, a cheerful lack of interest about anything different.

(I should point out here that I was born in the US but have lived in Australia for most of my life. Australia itself can be quite insular and racist and is certainly not without its share of problems when it comes to the rest of the world. So it's not that I live in some kind of perfect country or have all the answers. )

It also affects things like the ability to participate in some of the other good ideas people have suggested - chatty posts like the MetaTalktail hour (fabulous idea) happen on US time because that's where most of the userbase is. Sure, there's nothing excluding people in other timezones, but part of why those sorts of things work to build community feeling is because they are happening synchronously. Living in the future, I can't help but be asynchronous unless I am interacting with Metafilter at work (which yes, ok, happens, but is not ideal) or early on a weekend morning when I would rather be asleep. My choice, absolutely. And there are other little things like constantly having to adjust the timestamp because this turns out to be really super hard to program and I'm not blaming anybody but it is still annoying. And the currency conversion fees stacked on top of a currency that is already worth very little in the global sense. I mean, none of these things is something that Metafilter is responsible for, or responsible for fixing, but it all adds up to: you are not one of us, you have to work harder/pay more/distort your sleep schedule in order to be a real member. But even then you won't be.

I don't really think there is a solution to this. Other people have tried proposing various ideas (most memorably divabat's suggestion of an international month a few years back which quickly devolved into arguments over whether it should be non-US or non-Western, what counted as Western, did immigrants in the US count, did the content have to be non-US or non-Western, etc - go read the thread and the earlier MeTa if you want to really dig into all those issues. There were many people in the threads basically saying, yeah, sucks to be you non-USians but that's the way it is. Which I think I agree with, and means that sense of alienation I have will never really go away.

So now that I have articulated all of that, I want to make some actual suggestions for things that I think would be good to do:
- Highlight things like the "Best Of" and "popular favourites" (though I think that might be better to be "popular posts" or "conversation starters" or something.
- Turn the tags into a way of filtering and highlighting content - so maybe have a tag cloud/list or something so that people can see what types of topics are current, popular, trending. I know you can click on a tag and see other posts with that tag, but combined with a "best of" it could be a really neat way of curating posts that relate to a certain shared interest, and make it easier to find the content you're after on a particular day. Some days all I want are the "cute animals" posts; other days maybe I want the "social justice" posts or the "queer" posts or what have you. This would not replace the chronological view, but could give more options for people and maybe even help surface some more enduring content that otherwise moves off the front page too quickly in favour of the topics du jour.
- As others have suggested, have a separate MetaPolitics subsite. I suggest making it red in colour, for obvious reasons.
- Slowly and inexorably try to shift the Metafilter culture away from one of debate where in order to share your opinion or have a say, someone else must be wrong. Slowly and inexorably try to shift the Metafilter culture towards one in which discussions are valued and people are allowed to have different viewpoints and opinions, that this is a good thing, and that sometimes things are not as simple as having one opinion be right and another be wrong.

I've learned a lot from Metafilter. I've found some amazing things - even shared some! I've improved my communication style and had some great insights into how people work. I have learned truly impressive facts about toilet habits in other countries and/or households. I've gotten into wonderful new music. I've swapped presents and postcards and made connections. The emotional labour thread was life-changing, quite literally; I met my partner as a result of it. It is a wonderful place at times, and I truly do think we do a lot of things well.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:10 PM on June 17, 2018 [29 favorites]


jb: This is a problem. In a recent thread, people were being called "bro-cialist" or rape apologists, when they disagreed with one specific action

holborne: Ok, I finally went back and read the thread and Good Christ am I sorry I did. I’m genuinely shocked by some of the stuff that was allowed to stand. There’s gratuitous personal nastiness there the likes of which I’ve never seen on this site. (Yeah, I flagged them but they’ve been there for a while now so I assume that ship has sailed.)


I don't like to say this kind of thing, but: I'm surprised that you're surprised.

To my eye, this kind of rhetoric has become increasingly typical of the site, especially since 2016. During the election, we apparently crossed some kind of line on how we see moralistic aggression, and now it's always good. People who are wrong -- even on matters of emphasis or strategy, not principle -- are at best giving comfort to evil. Anti-prison activists are rape apologists; opposition journalists are trying to destroy America. The politics threads seem to be the worst, but, as you've seen, it's spread all over.

People have tried to bring these problems to MetaTalk before [1, 2, 3]. Nothing's ever come of it, and in fact each time we talk about it a loud contingent comes out to say, "So what? We're the good guys, there's no problem." Meanwhile, the people who don't like this style of engagement see their pleas going unheard and, often, leave the site. We're seeing that in this very thread, and if you go back to those older links you'll see other people quitting the site in them.

I've had several friends, and almost a dozen people I've admired, leave the site because of this. I've thought about leaving myself (and even been anonymously heckled to leave via Twitter, by an unknown Mefite, something that would've been inconceivable to me before 2016). I haven't because I still enjoy being here, I still find parts of the site useful, and frankly Metafilter is a habit of almost 15 years for me. But I rarely feel that I am participating in something overall good. Particular threads, absolutely. But my image of Metafilter as a whole is corrupted by the pervasive and overwhelming nastiness of a few folks, and the acquiescence of the mods and the rest of us.

And that's the thing -- most people on the site don't participate this way. We all may appreciate it sometimes, give it faves, because it seems to be righteous. But we mostly won't go for this kind of intense social aggression ourselves. Mostly, it's done by a small handful of users, even among those who post a lot of comments about politically charged topics. They don't normally espouse extreme positions, but whatever line they defend they do fiercely, and they attack the motives of others who do not agree with enough ferocity.

I truly believe that the participation of just a handful of people can poison the whole atmosphere of the site, if they are reckless enough and if they are not checked by the community. If you keep this in mind and then read through the Persky thread, or some of the mega-threads, I think you will quickly form some tentative opinions about who that could be.

There is now a note at the very bottom of the Persky thread from restless_nomad, saying, "It is possible to disagree about priorities while holding the same principles." This seems to be a rebuke to those in the thread who were saying that anti-prison activists are rape apologists, but it doesn't say that explicitly, and it especially doesn't name names (or sides), even though in a thread of 164 comments it was only maybe 2 or 3 users.

I think this may be a mistake of emphasis. I don't think the problem is that users in general are forgetting about a general norm of good faith. Rather, particular users transgress that norm habitually. And when the well-meaning mods, or well-meaning posters in this thread, later come in to remind everyone of the norm, the damage is done and the effort is misplaced. If we want things to be different, we can't just keep reminding each other to hold the spirit of good faith in our hearts. We'll have to take a hard look at behavior we've been tolerating and make it unacceptable.
posted by grobstein at 10:28 PM on June 17, 2018 [39 favorites]


I'm thinking a lot about the too much moderation angle. So far, I've always been in favor of more moderation. And I still am. But I wonder if it could be a little different:

In this thread today a couple comments that were yeah, problematic, got deleted. But honestly I wish they had stayed. People said a couple uniformed and in one case somewhat offensive things. But I guess to me, as the person who posted the thread, and as a queer person, I didn't mind the somewhat weird comments. I mean, those comments representing a different view is what makes conversation happen. I get why they were deleted, but I also am starting to think it does make spontaneous conversation hard if people can't be different or wrong sometimes. I guess I need to give this more thought because I completely understand the idea that queer people for example shouldn't have to wade through stuff with homophobic overtones, but also as a queer person, I guess I feel like I can handle some uninformed ideas. What would have bothered me though is if either of those commenters had been allowed to dig in on their (problematic) positions, making multiple, uninformed and offensive comments. Honestly, where I wish for more moderation on this site, is in number of comments per post. If you've made your point a couple times, then please move on and make room in the thread for others. I think the most painful issues on metafilter would be a little more possible if like, two people couldn't just take over a thread and have an endless, increasingly angry dialog that goes nowhere. Sometimes I wish there was a pop up that appeared after you've made three comments in a thread saying something like "you've commented three times in this thread, time to make room for some other perspectives"

(BTW I just really appreciate all the work of the mods, and I don't say this to be critical, but in the spirit of exploring how to bring back more vitality and growth to the site)
posted by latkes at 10:34 PM on June 17, 2018 [18 favorites]


I’m guessing it’s because most people don’t have a problem.

Speaking only for myself, that's not why I'm not saying more in this thread.

I see some problems that I think may be fixable with effort (favorites, dogpiling, assuming good faith) but don't have anything constructive to add at the moment that I haven't said before.

I'm also very much aware that as a cis white straight guy that sometimes letting others speak instead of flooding a thread with my opinions is a better choice.

But also, there are things that bother me about metafilter that I don't think are fixable.

For example, this happened. Nothing more can be done there. A mod managed the situation with comment deletions. The other two people involved weren't spoken to (as far as I'm aware) or given a time out. They didn't get banned. No real consequences. So I spoke up at a later date with a suggestion in a metatalk thread in part because I was upset but also because something good might as well come from the incident. And it worked. The next #metoo thread that was posted included a nice disclaimer that all were welcome to speak up.

I sure as hell won't be speaking about my own personal history on MeFi anymore though. Took me years to come to the conclusion that I could be okay doing that here (not comfortable, but "okay") and I was very wrong. I was an idiot to think otherwise and should have known better.

For better or worse, being here is at times an exercise in managing one's expectations.

Anyway, please don't assume that silence means everything is hunky-dory.
posted by zarq at 10:34 PM on June 17, 2018 [27 favorites]


I just want to say that I’ve seen an uptick of great FPPs the last few days. Thanks to all the posters, for keeping the interesting content coming. I’ve really appreciated them.
posted by greermahoney at 10:40 PM on June 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


"you've commented three times in this thread, time to make room for some other perspectives"


Hmm. I totally agree with this and would like to suggest a “reblog” function that allows an FPP to be reframed and posted not as a double, but as a “new frame”.

I think the no doubles thing is creating a tight aperture where we have to say everything we have say on a particular subject and artificially upping the stakes on this site and creating unneeded anxiety.
posted by nikaspark at 11:00 PM on June 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I was once quite engaged and active. I closed that account and took a break. Now I lurk occasionally. I know this may come across as overly critical of the mods. I must preface this with I get that it is a difficult job and I think the mods are quite good here generally. At the same time some of my interactions with the mods played a role in my decision to take a break and then lurk. Also I have considered that maybe that was for the best. The community should consider if there are tweaks to moderation policies that might improve engagement.

My recommendations are:

- Don’t call out users in mod comments if possible — use email or other means instead.
- Some form of direct private feedback by mods to users when posts are deleted — perhaps just a report of things like number of flags and “reasons.” Along with some canned text to improve future comments.
- Let in 10% more drama. Let some ugly; shitty back and forths go on. Not too much; but a little more than today.
posted by interogative mood at 11:05 PM on June 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Anyway, please don't assume that silence means everything is hunky-dory.

Yeah, I’m sorry for making that assumption. It wasn’t fair at all.

Anyway, it’s not idiotic to think you could be able to share stuff about yourself, because everyone acts like it’s a great thing to do. I’m right there with you.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:30 PM on June 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


Let some ugly; shitty back and forths go on.

I think in order to succeed at this we have to have a common mutual goal which binds us together across ugly and shitty backs and forth.

I have worked in groups that were bound together by very tight principled aims which allowed for the group to engage in hellacious disagreements (all IRL), which could be followed up with hand shakes and hugs and apologies and knowing nods that shit got heated, but that we were gonna be okay.

That kind site-wide camaraderie is hard to achieve between internet strangers on a general topic site like metafilter.

I’m initially skeptical that Metafilter has a common enough shared fate to normalize into that kind of culture, but I’m willing to discuss trying to get there.
posted by nikaspark at 11:39 PM on June 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


> > So before you click that +, ask yourself, am I favoriting this because it reaffirms my viewpoint on an emotionally-charged issue, or because it's something I want to see more of on this site? If the Venn diagram of those two things forms a perfect circle, you're part of the problem.

Following up on dephlogisticated's point, not to pile on myself, but here's another example of this kind of problematic comment.

It's from a thread on the dying popularity of golf, just a few days ago. Many posters commented that they were happy to see golf dying off for a variety of reasons. A few people chimed in with personal stories about what golf has meant to them, or posts sharing a different perspective. And then we got this response (which I should've flagged). And it became a highly favorited comment, naturally.

The right perspective is that golf has caused an ecological disaster and only for the rich. You are a moron and your comments are not welcome if you have anything else to say that is not parroting this point. No other thoughts are welcome. "Full stop."

We all might consider flagging this kind of post that seeks to kill discussion. Don't favorite it, even if you agree (and I did agree generally that golf is a game that has its problems with privilege and environmental unfriendliness). It's something we can all do to try to help create healthier discussions.
posted by Old Man McKay at 11:39 PM on June 17, 2018 [19 favorites]


24 favorites doesn’t signify a lot to me, though 240 favorites does.

I think we have the opportunity to create alternate FPP’s that editorialize and frame subjects in particular ways, and I’ve seens mods suggest as much dozens of times over the years.
posted by nikaspark at 11:45 PM on June 17, 2018


I didn't read the article, but the comments on that golf thread were awful. The reaction to the few poor bastards who owned up to liking golf were hostile, dismissive, condescending (note, I don't play golf or care for it, I have no dog on this fight). Is golf something "metafilter doesn't do well"? Cripes I hope not. It really was a display of poor instincts.


Let some ugly; shitty back and forths go on.


Sticking with the golf example above, which was pretty light on for this place, so you think those exchanges enriched this community or made mefites feel good?

I think shitty back and forths suck, I've seen them kill god posts dead. They also have a tendency to escalate. No thank you.
posted by smoke at 11:47 PM on June 17, 2018 [17 favorites]


The golf thread sticks out in my mind as a good example to me as well. I'd read the article earlier, and had thoughts about it in multiple contexts that were much more interesting than "eat the rich", and I did draft a few comments which I ultimately abandoned.

Because I think many golf courses should be reassessed as to whether their use of land is acceptable for society. If we want to talk about fixing their space use, it'd be nice to chat about the actual hypothetical replacements, rather than vigorously focussing anger on their users.

And of course, when someone comes in from Scotland saying that their village links is an important part of the community there's a big "oh yeah, we were talking about places where golf is bad", as if land use in Scotland is a trivial issue. Because it would be impossible for the consensus to agree that Gleneagles is a rentier capitalist mess, but 18 holes on sandy land by a coastal town is sensible public use of space.

In short, we've lost nuance.

And yes, 24 favorites on a grumpy comment in a non-politics thread without many comments is enough to send a strong signal that you'd better be prepared to fight your corner pretty hard if you disagree or even want to add nuance.
posted by ambrosen at 12:42 AM on June 18, 2018 [21 favorites]


> My solution: encourage everyone to stop favoriting acerbic hot takes and pile-on comments, even those you agree with. As others have stated, favorites very much reinforce the echo chamber.

Mmmmno. I use my favourites the way I want to, and I do it for myself. I'll favourite what I want, when I want to.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:53 AM on June 18, 2018


I just looked at the Persky thread, and I wish I hadn't. Talk about bad faith. That thread should have been moderated very differently. There is no justification for keeping an endless back and forth about how because you disagree with someone, their work is worthless, it's OK to call them names, and they're advocating for stuff they say they aren't. Where was the pushback against that when it was needed? Doesn't this site have a policy against personal attacks? Why weren't any of those comments deleted? One mod note at the end there doesn't fix what came before it.

For the longest time I've been under the impression that in order to be a better person, I should learn to put up with people calling me names and telling me what I really think. We've had MeTa threads where the lesson is that you're supposed to have a thicker skin. I'm seeing now that it was bullshit, that people just wanted to yell at each other, and it's not a healthy environment for anyone. You shouldn't have to learn to put up with insults and other bullshit just as a condition of participating here. As long as that kind of behavior stands, people are going to keep leaving.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:15 AM on June 18, 2018 [11 favorites]


Is golf something "metafilter doesn't do well"?

I was a lifelong golfer, till I got lazy and stopped. It meant a lot to me. I noped right the fuck outta that thread without commenting when it was made clear that the dusty set of clubs in my basement makes me history's greatest monster.
posted by tocts at 1:24 AM on June 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


the dusty set of clubs in my basement makes me history's greatest monster.

Surely after this past weekend that privilege belongs to Phil Mickelson.

More seriously though, the seeming increase in anger on the site, as opposed to the old issue of antagonism via divisive values, feels like it comes from the election. There was a profound loss of what minimal trust there was before in speaking to anyone outside a narrow sets of shared traits and values. There's good reason for that, but it also carries a real cost and doesn't leave a very clear way forward.

I think there's a lot more to say about the loss of trust and increased interest in partitioning the culture, but I don't want to sound like my perception is right and even more that I have any good answer for the issue if it is. All I can say is that it feels like it bodes ill for the site but fits the times as trust is hard to justify with things as they are.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:09 AM on June 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


antagonism via divisive values

Shit, I meant divisive perspectives, often of the unexamined sort.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:22 AM on June 18, 2018


There is a degree of exaggeration going on in some points here. People in the Persky thread were accused of siding with rape apologists. Nobody was explicitly called a rape apologist. I think that distinction is pretty important, personally.
posted by Dysk at 3:05 AM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Is it still potentially a problem? Sure. But let's talk about what actually happened, not an exaggerated version thereof.
posted by Dysk at 3:06 AM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


From a non us member I definitely think it's related to the election. Even if it's contained to the politics thread the feelings spread through the site. Understandably people are stressed and upset but it has made the site less fun. Everyone seems ready to crank it to 11 in every fpp. I honestly don't know what to do because people don't want the poli posts to go away and I doubt the anger will leave until after trump does and even then I think it will leave its scar.

For me I lost a lot of desire to engage since the last trans meta where I buttoned. I've come back but rarely comment anymore. Not that I did it before but knowing that some people here don't have my back despite saying they are progressive has made me even more shy. I find that a shame since I learnt I was genderqueer through metafilter.

There's lots of reasons I don't share this site with people even tho I talk about it a lot. Including trans stuff this site has a blind spot towards poverty (especially in ask), disability, education levels, and rural people. Not counting the huge US slant where it feels like those of us outside have to beat back US members just to get space in threads about our countries to even get a say.

I don't know how to fix all that but that's I see and yeah as a poor rural uneducated queer trans person I've left this site many a time feeling like crap.
posted by kanata at 3:09 AM on June 18, 2018 [22 favorites]


> Still, I rarely recommend MetaFilter and I'm trying very hard in this thread to think about why. I think the best way to put it is there's often a kind of drive-by nastiness which I personally find difficult to take, but I take it because the good outweighs the bad. But I am not sure it would for everyone. Stronger, I am pretty sure it wouldn't work for most of my friends.

Yup, I've been a member since 2002 and have only recommended the site to two people (very tentatively), and I'm glad neither of them took me up on it. You have to have a very specific combination of opinionatedness, restraint, and tolerance for semi-nasty back-and-forthing to make the site work for yourself and others; people who just want to have enlightening discussions about interesting topics are not going to enjoy it. That's a shame, but it seems nothing can be done about it.
posted by languagehat at 5:30 AM on June 18, 2018 [16 favorites]


There are a few reasons I would not recommend Metafilter, and while one is very personal (Metafilter, and even more so Ask, is a place I have and want to keep to myself: without family, friends or anyone who knows me in real life, a room to withdraw to), there is also the aspect, described so succinctly by languagehat that it takes a certain combination of restraint and opinionatedness and tolerance to read along. I would add detachment.

I prefer to stick to Ask, and rarely comment outside Askme, I think it is scary to post on the Blue. As for creating an FPP - tbh the only topics I could or might share finds on, are either related to work and hence on my employer's website which I cannot link to, or about people I meet through work , or about good friends who are into very niche music, so I cannot and maybe better so, although sometimes this is an irritating limiation especially as some of the people I meet through work have really good insights into politics and society as a whole.

I do comment occasionally on the grey, but it is scary too.
As many pointed out above, the segment of what is deemed a correct opinon is small and narrow, and sometimes I have thoughts that whilst they do not go against the common left leaning grain, are still more center left than is generally seen as acceptable.
Also to someone living in Europe, the site is often so US centred it is hard to be sure to not offend simply by not knowing the "secret code", add to that the language barrier and heavy use of insider slang, there is no way I would recommend it to another European.
Add to that the limitation of only using PayPal or Strike, neither of which are commonly used here, the predominant way to subscribe to anything within theEU is directly from bank account to bank account, as sharing bank account info is not seen potentially dangerous, rather any reputable international organisation seeking donations within the EU has their bank details prominently displayed on their website and printed material. Paradoxically, requiring use of PayPal is seen as slightly off and not quite the thing. But these are just cultural differences.

As I said elsewhere I read the megathreads, and find them interesting to get a glimpse of the US outside the news, but I think I commented there just once and lucky for me the comment was immediately deleted (heartfelt thanks to the mods), as it was simply a total vent of frustration not related to US politics directly but to my anger at people being so super flippant and I am sure it would not have gone well had it remained.
Yet everytime I promise myself I wont go back because wtf, I return for the glimpse into everyday life under Trump which the news cannot give me.
posted by 15L06 at 6:27 AM on June 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


This thread had provided a great example of how US-centric attitudes can be very off-putting. Cutesy-poo indeed.
posted by Dysk at 6:39 AM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yes, I just flagged Sonascope's comment for racism. I'm disturbed by how good it felt. I should probably stop reading.
posted by Grangousier at 6:40 AM on June 18, 2018


People in the Persky thread were accused of siding with rape apologists. Nobody was explicitly called a rape apologist. I think that distinction is pretty important, personally.

Maybe you do. I don’t. I realize the ironic meta irony of what I’m about to say, but I’m going to say it anyway: that makes me think of my abusive ex who used to say, “Stop acting like such a bitch,” and then when I’d say it hurt when he called me names, he’d respond with, “I’m not calling you a bitch. I’m telling you to stop acting like a bitch.”

Semantic hair splitting is a shitty way to evade responsibility for deliberately devaluing and hurting someone.
posted by holborne at 6:44 AM on June 18, 2018 [28 favorites]


Okay, I don't see the situations as equivalent, because in this instance, Persky was a literal rape apologist. It was an accurate description of the situation. Whether you think that's justifiable or not was what was under discussion. But perhaps this is veering into relitigating the thread.
posted by Dysk at 6:46 AM on June 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


But see, you’re begging the question again. Saying “Well, but he was a literal rape apologist” is not something to state as though it’s incontrovertible, as you’re continually doing. I don’t agree that he was a literal rape apologist, and that’s the whole point.
posted by holborne at 6:49 AM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


I mean, he was literally making excuses for rapists' behaviours and actions. That is what the term means.
posted by Dysk at 6:53 AM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm very late to the party, but I've got a couple of cents to offer up as well. A lot of people have already made some very good points regarding good faith.

Anyway, a couple things stick out in my mind, and are reasons why I've more or less given up on being a regular here anymore.

I was posting in one of those venting threads, ages ago, and I posted something, that was probably ultimately a silly complaint. Yes, it was silly and shallow, but they were my feelings, and I thought the thread would be a safe space to take the edge off my feelings (which were actually greater than the original complaint, it was kind of a straw that broke the camel's back thing). Someone replied, basically stating that there were other, more pressing things to do than thing-I-complained-about. It really, really crushed me. I reported it, was told that Talk was kind of the Wild West and that was that. I decided that it meant that the venting threads were Not for Me, and I haven't been back.

Ultimately, I wish it had been clearer upfront that hey, this is kind of a less-moderated part of the site/thread, whatever, so I could have adjusted my expectations accordingly. I'm a really emotional/sensitive person, and all of that basically means that the snarking and shitposting wear on me pretty badly after a while, so I try to gauge when to bounce in order to keep the site from ruining my day.

Otherwise, I already mentioned the other thread that bugged me, with the massive derail that I thought SURE was going to get commented on, but it sort of had to switch itself back on track -- at the expense of a really good discussion, I believe.

I also wish that the posting etiquette is clearer -- is this site paywalled? Does this site not meet our editorial guidelines? I remember I have to label the YouTube links, but also the Twitter threads, too? It's intimidating, and I obsessively read the FAQs in order to not appear stupid. Sometimes, though, I feel like a moron anyway when trying to figure out how/why/what to post, so ...I don't comment, let alone make new threads.

About the Green: I used to rely on Ask.Me, but lately, I feel like the advice lately is all over the place. My last thread asked about mildew cleaners, and it started with trying to get me to install a new ventilation system in my windowless rental apartment. There was ultimately some good advice in there, but the first several comments had me wondering if it was a wasted question.

Also, I notice lately that I've been trying to be snarkier in my comments in order to fit in, and I kind of hate that I'm doing that. It makes me feel bad, and not terribly productive. If posting less and more sincere comments means I engage in a more healthful manner with the site, then so be it.

Last thing: The latest thread on TinyKittens was GLORIOUS. Through the highs and the lows, there was a lot of respectful updates, cooing over kittens, sniffling over health issues, and general good intentions. It was my favorite thread to follow in recent months, and I keep wishing it was still open so we could talk about how the kittens are getting SO BIG and are nearly ready to be adopted!
posted by PearlRose at 6:55 AM on June 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


Dysk, that you keep stating that as objective fact, as opposed to a view you’ve chosen to adopt, is the crux of the issue, to me. But now I’m done with this particular back and forth.
posted by holborne at 6:59 AM on June 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


you've commented three times in this thread, time to make room for some other perspectives

I totally agree with this. I am hesitant to press on a backend solution when the mods are already stretched pretty thin (I readily admit I have no idea what kind of effort that would be). It would be great if mefites could recognize when they're commenting a lot in a thread and sucking air out of the room on their own or making the whole thread about themselves and take a step back.

I started out this year intending to make more FFPs. Mine tend to be more about sports and fashion/beauty in culture, and those threads don't always go as well as I hope. Sometimes they do, though, and that feels great. But also, for example, I made a post that totally missed a very important aspect of the subject matter, and that was pointed out in a really snarky way, which I guess I deserved, but it still was a downer to see a ton of favorites appear on a comment criticizing something I thought was cool (the criticism was absolutely correct, the snark just stung).

I am always rethinking how I interact with the site as a poster and commenter. Have I been that snarker? I've been on here for a while, so, probably. I probably ruined someone's day by rushing to be correct instead of correct but kind. Feels bad. This is a community, we can all do better to make it a kinder place.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 7:00 AM on June 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


Semantic hair splitting is a shitty way to evade responsibility for deliberately devaluing and hurting someone.

But one of the recommendations for pointing out potentially problematic behavior is to focus on what they did or said, not who they are. So, if you don't think Persky is a rape apologist, that's fine, but I don't think it's beyond the pale to get some heated pushback on that.
posted by Mavri at 7:01 AM on June 18, 2018


"You're stating it as fact when it is an opinion" can be levelled at basically any statement. It's just how the vast majority of people actually use language, including the people complaining about it (there's no it's-just-my-opinon hedge on "And yep, favorites on this site do, in fact, add to the problem." to take just the top example from this thread) and I'm not sure that demanding the people you disagree with make it clear that they're speaking from their subjective position - an unavoidable fact of the human condition (in my opinion!) - is really a solution to anything.
posted by Dysk at 7:19 AM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I didn't see a link upthread, so here's one to the Persky thread.
posted by zarq at 7:23 AM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


So my 10-year anniversary on the site came a couple weeks ago. I had been planning to do another "yay thanks guys" post like others did recently. But at the time the anniversary actually came, I found myself....not really wanting to, because I'd been the victim of a pile-on over something I'd said. I'm loath to even link to it because I'm afraid I'll get yet another pile-on in here over how I shouldn't have said anything.

It's entirely due to the antagonism with which we're all living these days. The mods are doing what they can (this is NOT anything I hold the mods at fault for, I want to emphasize that), and I know that this is anger that will burn itself out in time. But right now...I'm spooked.

I don't know if there is a solution other than time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:29 AM on June 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


I feel like part of the problem is that the current state of US politics has collided with MeFi's pre-existing tendency towards pile-ons in a really unfortunate way.

The whole "the other side is evil / stupid / literally nazis" thing seems to easily bleed over into "anyone who disagrees with me at all is evil / stupid / literally a nazi". (Some users are worse about this than others, of course, but it isn't a few bad apples kind of situation; it's an easy mode of thinking to fall into, I'm as prone to it as anyone.) It's affecting everything from how we treat external sources (I'm thinking of stuff like the repeated calls to boycott the Washington Post of all places for being insufficiently ideologically pure) to how we treat each other. Being on the receiving end of a moralistic diatribe from people you largely *agree* with, because you tried to express a tiny bit of nuance, can be a real day-ruiner. Sometimes it feels like the only acceptable opinion is to just agree with everyone how fucked up everything is.

I don't have a solution to this (because, yeah, everything is pretty fucked up) but I wish more people would recognize that nobody's mind was ever changed by a Stern Lecture About How Terribly Wrong They Are About Everything.
posted by ook at 7:32 AM on June 18, 2018 [21 favorites]


It's from a thread on the dying popularity of golf, just a few days ago. Many posters commented that they were happy to see golf dying off for a variety of reasons. A few people chimed in with personal stories about what golf has meant to them, or posts sharing a different perspective. And then we got this response (which I should've flagged). And it became a highly favorited comment, naturally.

The right perspective is that golf has caused an ecological disaster and only for the rich. You are a moron and your comments are not welcome if you have anything else to say that is not parroting this point. No other thoughts are welcome. "Full stop."


I have nothing to do with golf or golfing so I wouldn't have normally read a thread on golf, but I just finished it. A couple thoughts:

The discussion is going to be shaped by the links, and (imo) the links provided specific, negative things about golf and golfing, and those things came up a lot in the thread. I know it sucks to hear that other people hate something you love, but after reading the 4 links in the post, folks should have realized that the discussion was going to include lots of negative opinions on golf and golfing.

Lots of the anti-golf comments were written in such a way that it was clear that the commenter hated golf and golfing, but (and apologies if I missed these) none of the anti-golf comments claimed that their opinion was the only one worth listening to, no one insulted anyone's intelligence, no one said that pro-golf comments are unwelcome. (I do understand that some people were leaving comments that weren't about golf/golfing, but instead were comments about another MeFite's opinion on golfing, and those comments are (imo) both 1) likely to create back-and-forth in-thread debates that get emotional, suck other people in, and shift the vibe/focus of a discussion 2) a part of MeFite site culture given that we don't have threaded comments.)

I think that while nuance is great for lots of people, it should be a-okay to express strong, negative opinions on Metafilter. If someone's saying/implying anything like "I don't get how anyone could like golf" or "If you still like golf in 2018, you should feel bad", then I fully agree that comments like that are likely to create tense back-and-forths which ultimately lead to less site engagement. But most strong, negative opinions on Metafilter are not as judgey as people think.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:33 AM on June 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


It would be great if mefites could recognize when they're commenting a lot in a thread and sucking air out of the room on their own or making the whole thread about themselves and take a step back.

This happens in many threads, but this makes me think of the politics threads the most. Sometimes it feels like 5-10 people are having an intimate discussion all by themselves - no one else required - or wanted.
posted by agregoli at 7:41 AM on June 18, 2018 [11 favorites]


But most strong, negative opinions on Metafilter are not as judgey as people think.

I suspect there's a chance you may be underestimating the effect that a bunch of strong, negative opinions about something one enjoys -- however they're worded -- might have on one's willingness to join that conversation.
posted by ook at 7:43 AM on June 18, 2018 [21 favorites]


Also, Fanfare is so well hidden that it has almost no shitposting (not to say it doesn't have its own issues) so please don't make more visible, k thx.

Counterpoint: Hatewatching. I wonder if it might be good to have a Hatewatching tag in addition to the Show Only/Books Included & First Watch/Rewatch. I can see how it would be really disappointing to jump over to FanFare to talk about the latest episode of your favorite show and have everyone there taking a collective dump on it (also, you should feel bad that you like something so terrible and you are a terrible person for liking it. (sarcasm! I promise!))

Also, I keep seeing this in Metas but what is the problem with FanFare? It's definitely tied with the blue for my most active part of the site (TV is my jam!). I have posted waaaay more FPP's there than the blue (it's not hard! Just grab that IMDB description and go!). I don't have a problem finding the latest episode of whatever I'm looking for.

This is just an encouraging note but if you feel like you "comment less often than I read, because the conversation is often dead by the time I get to it" please still comment! I will absolutely read your comment when it pops up in my Recent Activity. It's kind of a neat thing to see someone binging an old show and one episode after another keeps popping up to the top of Recent Activity. I love hearing their reactions as the episodes progress.
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:45 AM on June 18, 2018 [11 favorites]


This happens in many threads, but this makes me think of the politics threads the most. Sometimes it feels like 5-10 people are having an intimate discussion all by themselves - no one else required - or wanted.

And furthermore, that they can win the thread by being as doctrinaire as possible. Also, by repeating the same catchphrases constantly.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:46 AM on June 18, 2018 [16 favorites]


I met a traveller from a weblog land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the comments. . . . Near them, on the Blue,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Metamandias, Winner of Threads;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 7:52 AM on June 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


Re: getting new folks to join/comment

I'm paraphrasing alot of comments here but there was a general gist of "I wouldn't recommend this site because commenting is work/new people will get attacked for not knowing norms/etc." I guess I don't think it's a bad thing that it is intimidating for new people to engage. I lurked here for like 5 years before I was comfortable enough (both with the site and with myself, I never really engaged with the internet besides social media before joining) to comment on something. And there's a significant number of people in this thread who said the same thing. I don't think I want some person who's not familiar with the community to just come in without any care for the site's norms. I guess to me there's a difference between increasing engagement and increasing good engagement. Someone who's lurked for quite a while before joining is going to be more dedicated than a random person who comments a couple of times and then forgets about the site. Which I think is another reason the $5 sign-up is essential.

Granted, this is a different issue than the snarkiness/meanness people have complained about in general, but I do still recommend this place to people. I say it's like reddit but with actual and enforced moderation. So people will get the idea that there are interesting things, the site is a place to have conversations/debates, but it is still the internet and there is internet shittiness here. I wish there wasn't but I also wish people weren't terrible in real life too so...**shrug**.
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:58 AM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


As the main other person in the Persky thread, in my opinion the intervention that I can imagine changing the tone is a gentle message out of the thread (mod note pop up window?) And, if things continued, some sort of limit on the few of us who came to dominate the bottom of the thread. It was a really intense issue so feelings were understandably strong. I felt I was being name called, but I also understand the level of intensity from folks who disagreed with me. I'm not sure it's possible to force people to communicate a certain way when they have strong feelings. But probably those few of us getting to continue to back and forth made the thread really unappealing for anyone else.

This thread has demonstrated a lot of people's resentments and hurt. I hope (and believe) mods and cortex can make some structural changes to facilitate more participation from more people. But I don't expect metafilter to eradicate personality traits I don't like. Can we find structural ways to bring out the best in people instead of the cranky, petty or mean?
posted by latkes at 8:00 AM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


I can see how it would be really disappointing to jump over to FanFare to talk about the latest episode of your favorite show and have everyone there taking a collective dump on it

This same sort of idea has come up in a number of the recent trailer postings to the Blue, where some posters, myself included at times, either find fault with the trailer or point out potential problematic aspects of it or some element of the movie it's related to. This bothers some of the others who've said they are just looking for something to enjoy without having to stress out about complicating factors since they get that enough already in life. (That's a, hopefully adequate paraphrase since it isn't a complaint of mine and I don't want to misrepresent anyone.)

I'm not sure how to deal with that since ignoring problematic elements or denying those who don't like what they see in a preview the chance to speak each have their problems, but so does making people feel worse about life over something of questionable importance in the larger scheme of things. It's something I think needs some attention because it does carry over into fanfare and many cultural posts beyond just the movie trailers.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:01 AM on June 18, 2018


When you come into a FPP late, it's much easier to see when people come cruising in for their usual semantic nitpicky fights. Individually and in real-time the comments seem harmless so flags do nothing. However, over time it's easier to see a pattern of "can you expand that? can you cite this? but I didn't say THAT I said (word that's a close synonym to THAT)" of comments that erodes the desire to participate. It's the series of comments that should be flagged, but you can't do that.

That's why you have people saying they're afraid to comment, they take 20 minutes to write a comment because they have to reexamine every word, etc.

Maybe a free-form flag field would be good for that, so one can type "this person is spoiling for a fight again"
posted by kimberussell at 8:04 AM on June 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


you've commented three times in this thread, time to make room for some other perspectives

I totally agree with this. I am hesitant to press on a backend solution when the mods are already stretched pretty thin (I readily admit I have no idea what kind of effort that would be). It would be great if mefites could recognize when they're commenting a lot in a thread and sucking air out of the room on their own or making the whole thread about themselves and take a step back.


I know fuck-all about programming, so I don't know how difficult it would be--but even more helpful than a pop-up saying "you've commented three times" or the like, might be an obligatory waiting period of some kind after making multiple comments in a single thread. After 2-3 comments, say, you have to wait an hour before commenting again. The ideal numbers are probably way off, but it might help.

Re LizBoBiz's comments on FanFare above, it might be nice to have a note at the bottom of threads explicitly reminding people that FANFARE THREADS NEVER DIE and your fresh takes/comments are always appreciated.
posted by duffell at 8:04 AM on June 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


this is just to say

i cannot eat
the plums
that are in
the icebox

because
i don't know
who grew
them

and whether they
voted republican
or are in favor
of declawing cats
posted by pyramid termite at 8:08 AM on June 18, 2018 [32 favorites]


I'm guessing the answer is almost no one, but: Does anyone else miss the good old days when Matt was the only "moderator"?

I know I need to just let it go and move on to other places on the web, but I still remember how fun this place was, and how excited I felt when I signups were reopened, and I was finally able to get an account.

But as my partner frequently reminds me about other things I'm nostalgic for: That was a long time ago.
posted by JeffL at 8:09 AM on June 18, 2018


I often write comments and then delete them. I mean, its taken me at least 10 years to really get comfortable commenting here, although part of that is my particular form of social anxiety that is way worse online than in person. I used to comment on a thread and then never open it again, just in case someone read something in to my comment that I hadn't intended which would make me feel on edge for the rest of the day. Part of that is a thing that has always happened on metafilter, part of that is a me thing. I think it's really just an unfortunate aspect of online social interaction (I experienced this happening on a highly moderated doll forum. People get on edge about their favourite artists I guess). I don't know how to avoid that with moderation, although it would be great.

Personally I'm going to try to comment more, comment positively and flag more. Be the metafilter I want to see in the world and all that.
posted by stillnocturnal at 8:11 AM on June 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


I suspect there's a chance you may be underestimating the effect that a bunch of strong, negative opinions about something one enjoys -- however they're worded -- might have on one's willingness to join that conversation.

Oh, I understand that strong, negative opinions about something that someone enjoys might make people unwilling to join that conversation. My point was that people tend to read a lot of judgment into strong, negative opinions.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:11 AM on June 18, 2018


Does anyone else miss the good old days

In fairness, the whole internet was a lot more fun back in those days. This isn't solely a Metafilter problem.
posted by ook at 8:11 AM on June 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


What zarq said. Discussions about or for sexual and relationship violence survivors who are not women have frequently not gone well.

Add to that all the other topics that don't go well or devolve into petty infighting. Why would I recommend this site among my church and activism peers knowing that someone--ostensibly on the same "side"--will pick a fight over what they do? Most of my interaction these days is filtered through the RSS feed, so I'm cherry-picking maybe 1/20 posts to click through.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:12 AM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


Got a question. What kinds of spaces do people recommend others to?

(Metafilter is actually probably the most common place I do recommend to others; it's just I don't recommend spaces to anyone very often.) So are there places that other people do recommend frequently to others? What's different?
posted by sciatrix at 8:16 AM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


In fairness, the whole internet was a lot more fun back in those days. This isn't solely a Metafilter problem.

Oh yeah, that's definitely true. It's just that this was once my favorite website.

(Close second was a certain semi-famous bicycle touring website whose owner eventually went insane and transformed from a liberal vegetarian type into a racist, white nationalist, gun-loving Trumpist.)
posted by JeffL at 8:18 AM on June 18, 2018


Got a question. What kinds of spaces do people recommend others to?

Increasingly, face-to-face opportunities.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:19 AM on June 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I just posted the excellent Hip-Hop Radio Archive from Projects over to the Blue.

I added a comment asking that people please pay Projects a visit, because so many contributions there languish without much acknowledgement (even those that get a warm reception when showcased on the main site). I think this is something that could be done automatically.

At the top of a thread, include a message, e.g.:

"Enjoyed this? Check out Projects to see all the great things MeFites are up to when off the site. X new things have been submitted in the past month. Go give them a comment and, who knows, maybe you'll find something to share with others on the Blue."
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:21 AM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


My point was that people tend to read a lot of judgment into strong, negative opinions.

I guess -- and I swear I'm not trying to nitpick your wording here, I'm honestly curious about what you're saying and don't understand it -- I'm missing your point. I feel like strong, negative opinions are inherently judgemental. Like, literally, "I judge this thing to be a bad thing." The "and therefore if you like it I think you are wrong" is implicit. (As demonstrated by those statements' chilling effect on any opinions to the contrary.) What's the distinction that I'm missing?
posted by ook at 8:26 AM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


And... Just speaking for myself, I get told to shut up and stop talking a lot. Everywhere, not just here. So I try to self regulate by blocking myself from participating in conversations for periods of time on a regular basis.

Self regulating on that level sucks. It's exhausting and it certainly doesn't make me feel like I'm capable of relaxing at all. But people mention wanting that, and so I try to behave in ways that work with those desires.

It doesn't make me much happier. Does it make other people happier? If I talk openly about doing it, particularly if I am hurt, I get expressions of dismay. So I wonder: if we are calling as a community for some people to talk less, are the people requesting that satisfied by the outcome? Will they speak up more then, or will they just mean to?

Because of the state of the US right now, we are all jumpy, tired, and strung thin. That's definitely playing a role, too. But... I guess I just wonder at the concept that to get more participation, people who are currently participating ought to do so less. It seems bass ackwards to me. And I suspect that if you did a poll on who exactly should speak less in any conversation, you wouldn't reach as much consensus as you might think.
posted by sciatrix at 8:26 AM on June 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


In fairness, the whole internet was a lot more fun back in those days. This isn't solely a Metafilter problem.

Oh yeah, that's definitely true.


Do you think it might be possible that MetaFilter and the whole Internet weren't really that much more fun for everyone? That maybe your perspective is not held by people who, let's say, present differently from you, Jeff?

Specifically calling out the days when Matt was the only moderator dismisses that Matt himself actively attempted to change the culture of the site from those days. He didn't accidentally hire Jessamyn, who then just happened to pull the site hard away from its boyzone rep.
posted by Etrigan at 8:31 AM on June 18, 2018 [27 favorites]


In fairness, the whole internet was a lot more fun back in those days.

For some.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:36 AM on June 18, 2018 [23 favorites]


I think small groups are just more fun than large ones, especially when those small groups consist of similar people. You can do a lot of shooting the shit, and risque jokes because you know the audience. But that just doesn't work scaled up. And that sort of atmosphere excludes a whole bunch of people.

I accidently ended up on 2003 metafilter yesterday, and came across this, paraphrased because I'm not looking it up:
"They used to say that women couldn't drive!"
"They still can't, we just don't say it to your face"


That is less fun for me. Since you asked, and this wasn't meant aggressively, I don't know how else to answer that question?
posted by stillnocturnal at 8:41 AM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


Which is to say, it probably was more fun for some people in some ways, but I think you straight up can't recreate a small site atmosphere on a site as big as metafilter, especially when the aim is to grow the membership.
posted by stillnocturnal at 8:43 AM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I feel like part of the problem is that the current state of US politics has collided with MeFi's pre-existing tendency towards pile-ons in a really unfortunate way.


I kind of think focusing on US politics as "why people are more on edge" is another US-centric perspective - it's not like the rest of the world is happily progressing along a calm and well-thought-out path to gay space communism.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:45 AM on June 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


Fundamentally I think nostalgia is nostalgia and it's (a) understandably easy to look back and remember just the good stuff and (b) also the responsibility of the looker-backer to try and take a critical eye to how memory and nostalgia and blind spots can play into that golden-days perception.

That's all complicated stuff and we've been over it a bunch and probably don't need to dig into it yet again right now. Missing remembered fun times is understandable. Not everybody had the same experience, which makes expressions of yearning for those times complicated. I think fondly of a lot of stuff that went on early in my time on MeFi and can relate some of that to stuff I'd like to happen more these days; I don't miss at all in a "what was being done and not done to care for the MetaFilter community" sense the early days of just-Matt and all the problematic stuff that went on in the meantime. It's complex and it's not a one-or-the-other thing, basically.

A lot of where my focus is with where MeFi is going, emotionally and aspirationally, is on trying to find ways to move toward fun and goofy and enjoyable without wanting to frame it as going back. Because I firmly believe we can up the quotient of good stuff and positive feelings and being-comfortable-here by sorting out what we have and where we want to be. And part of that is recognizing that The New Days can't just be The Old Days pulled out of the attic and dusted off; it's gotta be the MetaFilter that exists now, existing in the context of the world and the internet right now, finding ways forward.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:46 AM on June 18, 2018 [15 favorites]


shapes that haunt the dusk: Yeah, I’m sorry for making that assumption. It wasn’t fair at all.

For whatever it's worth, I don't think you voiced an unfair assumption. Feels like a reasonable one to me. Silence is often passive assent, after all.

By bringing it up, you give people here the opportunity to explain and that's a good thing. Thanks for that.

Anyway, it’s not idiotic to think you could be able to share stuff about yourself, because everyone acts like it’s a great thing to do. I’m right there with you.

I understand what you're saying and I appreciate the kindness.

Talking about the childhood sexual abuse almost always goes very poorly pretty much everywhere outside of clinical settings -- see prior threads about Dylan Farrow for examples on MeFi. Knowing this and trying anyway was a mistake.
posted by zarq at 8:49 AM on June 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


Do you think it might be possible that MetaFilter and the whole Internet weren't really that much more fun for everyone? That maybe your perspective is not held by people who, let's say, present differently from you, Jeff?

Of course. I'm only offering my perspective, which is that the site used to be a fun place, and now it seems like a place where most of the posts are about the latest Bad Thing That Happened - not "Best of the Web."
posted by JeffL at 8:50 AM on June 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


Got a question. What kinds of spaces do people recommend others to?

Depends a lot on who they are. I interact with people with diverse ideologies and habits and often recommend things that will expose them to new info or expand on their interests without turning them off. Often that’s a smaller topic specific forum, including some hosted on Reddit.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:51 AM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


it's been my impression that the internet was a lot more informative way back when - lots of people had their own little websites dedicated to various arcane interests

nowadays, it's tougher to find things like that - also, it seemed a lot easier to find specific answers to various computer problems - nowadays, it seems like you get a lot of opinions and arguing and few of the people even know what they're talking about

i'm not about to try to measure fun - but i will say that i think the us plain froze as a culture in 2001 and we've been slowly circling the drain ever since - websites included

as far as this place is concerned, i find myself participating less - the pile ons aren't quite as bad, mostly because they're stopped, but i don't think tolerance for non-conforming viewpoints has improved a bit - and as a midwestern factory worker in a small city, i know that there are things that the vast majority of this website's membership simply don't know and sometimes aren't even willing to hear

also i wish we'd just get rid of that damned button - if people don't want to be here, fine, they can stay away without all the drama of "omg, they buttoned"
posted by pyramid termite at 8:52 AM on June 18, 2018 [11 favorites]


either find fault with the trailer or point out potential problematic aspects of it or some element of the movie it's related to

The issue I have, particularly with posts that only have links to a trailer and no other context, is that most trailers are not really worth much as a discussion point. Without seeing the final product, most of the discussions of a 2 to 4 minute trailer (designed for marketing and not really designed for much scrutiny) ends up being nothing more than "this is the worst/best" and then a lot of nit picking and defense of your position. That's not much of a discussion nor much fun to read.

I think in situations where some cultural production is presented for discussion I think it is really important for the post to have a greater context otherwise it just leads to the inherent problems with the contemporary Internet in general - lines drawn, rage expressed and kneejerk opinions. A greater context allows more nuance into the conversation so that it isn't simply a polarized argument and actually a discussion.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:53 AM on June 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


Possibly off-topic, but Jeff's point had me wondering - how do people find FPP links these days? I get all my cool links off metafilter, so obviously that's a non-starter, how does everybody else find cool stuff on the web to post here?
posted by stillnocturnal at 8:57 AM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


Got a question. What kinds of spaces do people recommend others to?

There's some dross, mostly SV-and-startup-culture silliness, but in terms of interesting links with a mostly-but-not-exclusively technology focus, I think Hacker News is the best. I almost never comment there, but I do read the discussions, and to me, the moderation seems effective while staying relatively light (compared to MetaFilter, anyway.)
posted by JeffL at 9:01 AM on June 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


A lot of where my focus is with where MeFi is going, emotionally and aspirationally, is on trying to find ways to move toward fun and goofy and enjoyable without wanting to frame it as going back. Because I firmly believe we can up the quotient of good stuff and positive feelings and being-comfortable-here by sorting out what we have and where we want to be.

I like this and this aligns with my filtered* experience with the site over these last two decades - there were a lot more goofy, jokey, taking-things lightly moments than there is today. The tone here is much more serious than it used to be - there is a non-stop US politics thread where the sky never stops falling, fuckity-fucking fuck threads in MetaTalk, way more interpretation of tone and meaning (often bordering on the least charitable reading) and a cynicism that manifests itself in dead goats and shitposting and a whole host of other stuff. It's much different than my initial interactions with MeFi which were - a link, a bunch of short comments or jokes, and everyone moved on. People are very invested here.

I'm not saying that's bad - in person, I notice many communities also do this over time...something casual and light gets structure, purpose, rules, and a whole lot more expectation built into it. The new Metafilter brought a very serious thread - the original emotional labour thread - that had a profound, lasting impact on my life moreso than anything from the old days ever would. It's just different - and that difference may not resonate with older users and the question is whether or not there is sustainability in a more serious site that requires a lot more consideration of its users than the old days did.

* I recognize that, around all the jokes, there were the I/P threads and MetaTalk was a ragequit, hurt feelings, trans- and POC-phobic hellscape at times.
posted by notorious medium at 9:01 AM on June 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


how do people find FPP links these days?

I skim a lot of stuff from social media, stuff posted by folks I follow or boosts of stuff they follow. So I see some cool art, I google the artist, I put together a post. Someone mentions an interesting paper, I look it up, I make a post about it.

One of the weird things, going by my historical sense of link-sharing culture, is how ten-plus years ago I would have tended to write off something showing up on large-scale social media as probably too late for me to post about. Once it was going around, it was probably already at a saturation point, or the fact that a person I was following on twitter or whatever posted a cool thing meant they sorta had "dibs" as silly as that may seem on that thing. (Part of that is a lot of my initial forays into outside social media were in MeFi-centric group forays so I was following mostly MeFites and post material was maybe more inherently tricky that way.)

These days if I see something show up in a tweet and think "oh cool" and it isn't something everybody is tweeting, I can almost assume it hasn't been on MeFi yet and it's a gimme of a post. Sometimes it turns out someone else did get there, but it's been a rich vein for me and the only reason I haven't done a lot more posting in the last couple years is personal distraction or friction or hangups. There's a ton of good stuff out there, the process of casting a net has just changed a lot and sometimes I need to remind myself to embrace that change.

I see a lot of neat stuff go by on mastodon. I steal a fair few posts from cool things showing up on mltshp.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:04 AM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: I know it sucks to hear that other people hate something you love, but
posted by Barack Spinoza at 9:09 AM on June 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm not really old enough to have a Back in the Internet Good Old Days memory in the way others do. I wasn't a techie kid, so I wasn't crafting bespoke sites or anything like that. All I can say is that pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, pre-Avaaz type activism, I didn't view the Internet as a place to Make Things Happen and to Make My Voice Heard. My usage, like most, was either consumptive or circumscribed to small spaces. I went online to learn about things. I read the news, I played flash games, I looked up baseball scores, I watched Ted conferences, I commented on niche environmental blogs.

When I read MeFi threads, I'm struck by the tremendous effort expended to Reach Consensus. It really feels like some people believe that if they can set the overarching mood or thesis of a thread that something has been achieved in the Real World. Like MetaFilter is an important decision-making body (it's not).

Most threads, I can tell by the topic which commenters I'll find present. They really believe in their perspective. And they really think it's important for others to hear. For some commenters, every FPP is just another opportunity to relate their body of knowledge. That they, rather than the FPP, are the resource to be mined.

The world, as presented by the prevailing tone on MetaFilter, is a truly simple place. Any time an FPP fits into a bucket, the comments become a general survey of that bucket. By now I can walk through a whole thread in my head before clicking through.

I like hearing from other people. It's how I learn. And MeFites do bring valuable perspectives. But I really wish there was a refocusing on the FPP itself. That the FPP and its links are a way for us to grow. That we can revel in nuance. That we can pause, read, and listen.

Maybe the best MeFites are the lurkers.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 9:17 AM on June 18, 2018 [41 favorites]


My point was that people tend to read a lot of judgment into strong, negative opinions.

The onus is on the person writing to make sure that their readers respond to their writing in the manner it was intended, though, isn't it?

And while a lot of people here are saying that they're putting a lot of effort into writing their comments, I suspect that they're people who are already putting enough empathy into their comments, and life would be a lot easier if everyone was focusing on how their readers would read things rather than collecting all their thoughts together and putting it in words and posting it straight away.

On the other hand, (repeating myself) sometimes it's good to write out the comment and then delete it unposted. You've done yourself the favour of having a conversation with yourself about it, without the chore of persuading other people.
posted by ambrosen at 9:22 AM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


how do people find FPP links these days

See: Putting the "Meta" in "MetaFilter"
posted by zarq at 9:22 AM on June 18, 2018


That was really well put, cichlid ceilidh, and, at least for me, worth reflecting on to make sure I don't fall too far into that habit. Thanks.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:23 AM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I want to say that I lurked her for years before finally making an account last fall; I just started donating last week in response to the "state of the site" MeTa; I am, like many have expressed here, prone to typing a comment, reading it 10 times, and then deleting. All these things feel like a normal progression for using the site. My own expertise, such as it is, is not often the subject of an FPP or an Ask (actually it was an Ask question in my field that got me to finally sign up, I felt like I actually could help someone with a comment and that was my kick in the pants). Maybe in a year or two I will feel confident enough to make an FPP, and in the meantime I'll do what feels possible to to keep the site in existence.

I miss The Toast, I miss The Hairpin and The Awl. I used to read Boing Boing. Lurking is my jam, but I have been realizing that if I don't participate in some fashion I might be part of the reason the things I like online don't last. I never had an account at any of those sites, I never threw them any money.

Thank you to everyone who is talking through their engagement with the site here. I am listening and learning and rethinking my own practice as I go.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:25 AM on June 18, 2018 [18 favorites]




Speaking as an inveterate dead goater, I'm sorry. I try to bite my fingers but sometimes there are things which do need to be pointed out or at least complicated. I try to be kind or at least neutral in tone, but sometimes things make me angry or are just incorrect and I have the knowledge to correct them.

My response is not aimed at the person who wrote this AT ALL, this comment is just a really good framing of the good faith place where a lot of dead goaters come from, and I want to say that up front I think most people do so from a place of good intentions and a desire to inform. ILU and I love your knowledge, people who know things, and who are trying to make the world a better place by keeping people in the know.

That said, I asked in the other thread if we might be willing to accept the occasional framing of problematicfaves or something similar— which is to say, framing the occasional post as “I know this topic/product/figure has some problematic stuff, but let’s take it as a given that I already know that and it made me smile anyway, maybe it will make some of you smile too.”

I don’t mean uncritical thinking, or lauding actual monsters, or reproducing propaganda. But sometimes we all end up loving problematic things, and for the sake of our own sanity, we try to take the good and leave the bad and acknowledge the harms but also support attempts to do better. In the midst of that never-ending strife, sometimes the dead goat comments feel less like “FYI,” and more like “you were bad to post this or care about this and here’s why” or “how can you not know about this context” or “only people who don’t care about [problematic part of topic] have any interest in [post topic]."

I see a lot of calls for people on the site to “be the change you want to see” and “just make a post” and “share what you love”, but it can be hard to be enthusiastic about that when literally everything in the world has something secretly terrible about it, and someone on this site inevitably knows what it is, and someone else thinks the topic shouldn’t be discussed without first having an in-depth discussion about HOW bad that terrible thing is.

Life is hard! Everything is secretly the worst! Late-stage capitalism is poison! Sometimes people just don't know things! Thank you everyone who keeps trying and talking and doing their best, when it would be so easy to just be numb or cruel or despairing.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:29 AM on June 18, 2018 [27 favorites]


also i wish we'd just get rid of that damned button - if people don't want to be here, fine, they can stay away without all the drama of "omg, they buttoned"

So I've buttoned about a dozen times, I think. Not to make a dramatic statement (well, maybe once or twice), but because I really enjoy the site a lot more when I can't participate directly. Part of it is that I have a tendency to spend way too much time here, but mostly it's a relief knowing that when things go south, it's not my problem. I can just enjoy the links, see if there's anything interesting in the comments, and then walk away. I mean, that's an attitude you can have as an active user, but I'm pathetically weak-willed and can't keep my grubby fingers from typing "in fairness..." instead of just staying away from contentious stuff (lesson for me in this thread maybe?). It's not like I can really improve things on my own anyway.

Incidentally, being a lurker made certain patterns of behavior stand out, because I've got no skin in the game and it's never personal. These have already been talked about in detail, but a lot of them weren't obvious to me until I'd spent a while just skimming threads and noticing the same stuff happening again and again (the biggest one worth repeating being that it only takes one person to turn a thread totally hostile, and often in multiple threads at a time).

The only thing that convinced me to reactivate my account recently was wanting to ask dumb questions in AskMe, along with maybe a vague feeling that it's good for the site if there are more active users. Well, and the lie I told myself that I'd be more restrained in how often I commented here. If you see me disappear, it's not "you people make me sick! *door slam*" but more likely "man, I gotta take a break." I can't speak for other people, but I'm sure I'm not the only one.

And yeah to the problems of sharing deeply personal stuff outside of therapy. Every time I've done that I've had a vague feeling that it was a bad idea, and every time I've felt pretty uncomfortable about it after the fact. There's the impression that this is a much safer space than it actually is, and I'm really embarrassed that I ever felt comfortable sharing most of the stuff I've shared.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:48 AM on June 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


I think there's a big difference between this:

you've commented three times in this thread,

and this:

commenting a lot in a thread and sucking air out of the room on their own or making the whole thread about themselves

By which I mean, three comments can easily be either A. not very many in a big, active thread, or B. a significant chunk of what's keeping any discussion at all going in a less active thread.

My point being, I don't think the issue of someone hijacking a thread is something that mere metrics is going to resolve. It's just not that simple. Even, "you've commented three times in the last five minutes" is dubious. Because that could be as simple as,

"I liked that."
--
"No, the part before that part"
--
"but now that you mention it, I guess I liked the whole thing."
posted by philip-random at 10:14 AM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Sure, but what's wrong with making sure the user is aware? If you have a reason for getting in a dialogue, okay, but just make sure you think about what you're doing.

A reminder is not the same thing as actually preventing something from acting.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:28 AM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Sorry to hear about the financial problems. Not a total surprise.
I've popped in a few $$ to help alleviate the shortfall.
There is a wealth of knowlege amongst the membership here and the mods probably have a better handle on this than anyone else.
I suggest reaching out to some of those people and tapping their expertise re among other things
Charity / Religion ..yes we could all praise oolong... tax status possibilities.
Merchandising and how to do it right.
Something equal to the deck if it exists. That is the only advertising platform I have actually gone looking for.
A downloadable music compilation maybe - mefi musicians might like to contribute for the greater good.
Each of these is a fair handful on its own so I suggest casting around for a qualified volunteer on the various subjects and asking them to get back with some suggestions in a week or so. It is too much to do on your collective mod own and keep the wheels on the site on a day to day basis.
A couple of further suggestions
Keep the $5 sign up it helps keep the rabble and spammers away; and Mefi gift certificates could also help. $5 is just as useful a contribution as $100 .... as some Spaniards say Cada gota llena la bota
I liked the idea about Mefi blog hosting / aggregation and think there is something to be done there.
Not sure about how bandwidth / hosting space works these days but many members probably run a bit of spare or larger vetted sympathetic companies might want to trade hosting against advertisement.
More frequent cash drives - 2 -3 times a year.
Greater membership participation through subtle cohersion - themed posting weeks - whatever.
A good start might be to extract the different ideas in this thread, short list the ones you think will work and throw them up for further discussion.
20 years is a very long time to survive in Internet history; lets hope and work towards making another 20 years possible for this unique space.
posted by adamvasco at 10:38 AM on June 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


it can be hard to be enthusiastic about that when literally everything in the world has something secretly terrible about it

Yep. I posted a video of babies laughing at dogs and two people felt a need to point out that all the babies were white.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:49 AM on June 18, 2018 [51 favorites]


there's a phrase I like to remind myself of:

"Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good."

That doesn't mean I don't try to be better. But I also don't dismiss things that are good, just because they may not be perfect.

and that can be applied to people as well as posts: none of us are perfect, most of us are good. Maybe we should focus in on that sometimes.

My other phrase is "Everything is problematic." So I just need to pick my battles and what matters most to me in my life. I did ruin a restaurant for a friend by telling her the owner had been campaigning against the bike lanes we both support (and use all the time). Then I told her to go eat there, she needed food and there weren't many other possible options.
posted by jb at 11:12 AM on June 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


but what's wrong with making sure the user is aware? If you have a reason for getting in a dialogue, okay, but just make sure you think about what you're doing.

maybe I think three is too low a number. maybe I suspect that many folks would quickly just view it as another annoying pop-up, more unwanted online noise.

But who knows? I was wrong in believing that the edit-window would be a disaster. Perhaps it's worth a try.
posted by philip-random at 11:15 AM on June 18, 2018


Bluntly, I think it's fine to say that you learned a lot and appreciated the conversation, but I don't honestly think that this kind of situation is one in which you can say "I thought it went well." I don't think that a straight man--or a straight woman!--has the experience and exposure to queer male culture to pronounce whether that thread went well or not. And I'm honestly rather dubious about whether I get to pronounce that judgement as a queer woman, too. I lean towards no.

Speaking as a gay dude I did not think that thread went well and refrained from participating in it for precisely those reasons. When I saw it it had already been going on for a while and I noped right out of there.
posted by Automocar at 11:37 AM on June 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I posted a video of babies laughing at dogs and two people felt a need to point out that all the babies were white

I mean, at least there's a point there, and several words strung together to form an idea.
On a recent FPP I made about a new album (that I thought was a cool concept and just sort of had a general dose of fun & nostalgia for two eras), someone commented "nope."
Like, wow. Thanks for the generous allotment of valuable time from your day that you devoted to conjuring up that bon mot.
posted by chococat at 11:38 AM on June 18, 2018 [22 favorites]


I'm another mostly lurker, long-time reader and I've been following this discussion with interest. It's a little disappointing that it went from, "What are some actions we can take to encourage more participation and more users," to an airing of grievances. That's how these community discussions usually go.

I've been thinking about a response examining why I don't participate more - the UI for mobile posting is definitely a contributing factor, but so is an overwhelming feeling of "why bother?" Either other people will probably make the point I might make, or it's clear nobody wants that point for a variety of reasons. Some of them are good, some of them are kind of terrible. Recently the Royal Wedding post reminded me that there totally is a right way to approach subjects here, which is how we keep the sense of community. The moderation set the tone, the vocal users who were pleased had the conversation they wanted, and those who were more interested in discussing the monarchy and a socio-political and economic institution were told not to rain on people's fairytale. (That should have been in Fanfare then... but what's done is done.) The thing that's more annoying about the thread is the aftermath that people still point to it like those who weren't into the spectacle and ceremony were killjoys taking it too seriously. Um, what? This is an easy example (along with the golf thread in the other direction) because it's got a serious side to it but not entirely. I think it's harder for Metafilter to engage in serious and conversational in the same post these days, and if we make an effort as sciatrix outlined in the original post that could help improve the situation.

The thing I keep coming back to though is that these discussions are very inward looking and I think that solipsism is leading to a decline in engagement and new users. It feels like Metafilter policies keep being refined and refined, within the basic site culture. If we as a community want to really attract new users and increase user engagement, then we probably need to have new ideas that haven't been steeped with the Metafilter culture and baggage. I don't know if this means talking to other sites Metafilter could be like, bringing on some sort of advisory board, or even some new moderator perspectives. There needs to be some new ideas and energy though.

To that end, I think it would also be good to rethink the learning curve for Metafilter. I think the $5 sign-up is fine. I think people taking a bit to read and absorb site norms also makes sense. But (of course the but was coming) the FAQs are not friendly to new or existing users and I think reflect the in-jokes, in-house style, history, and long memories.
posted by kendrak at 12:01 PM on June 18, 2018 [11 favorites]


Having read all of the concerns, grievances, problems, issues that people are airing here, I'm going to be a bit more considerate in how I comment, especially when it comes to something that I find not to my liking. For the most part, I just skip commenting in threads on subjects that I do not want to engage in.

But I'm sure I've said something snarky in the past that has most likely hurt someone's feelings. So I'll try to be a bit better and more considerate. Something I'm always striving for.

I do hope that others have gained some value from this thread, I have, even though I realize it's not been pleasant for everyone to discuss these things. I guess I hope that there's some kind of healing that is happening in this thread.
posted by Fizz at 12:06 PM on June 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


By which I mean, three comments can easily be either A. not very many in a big, active thread, or B. a significant chunk of what's keeping any discussion at all going in a less active thread.

Those are good examples! It isn't perfect, and it could easily be wrong more often than it's right.

Also, speaking from experience here, there have definitely been times when I've gotten in too deep on a thread and feel like every comment is directed at me and I! must! respond!...then I read it back later once I've settled down and yeeeee. I have seen this happen to other people too and I just want to be like, it's okay to take a break! In the heat of the moment though, I don't know if I would have listened to someone saying that, automated or not.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:28 PM on June 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


interestingly enough - I've been thinking a lot recently about how to participate in the whole world in general, and the Internet overall in particular, in a more positive way. I'm realizing I have been getting a little too caught up in Two Minutes' Hate over on Twitter, and I'm starting to think about how I get out of the world what I put into it.

I may consider scaling back to AskMe-only for a while. Helping people with things - even if it's helping name a cat - is positive.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:56 PM on June 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


I guess -- and I swear I'm not trying to nitpick your wording here, I'm honestly curious about what you're saying and don't understand it -- I'm missing your point. I feel like strong, negative opinions are inherently judgemental. Like, literally, "I judge this thing to be a bad thing." The "and therefore if you like it I think you are wrong" is implicit. (As demonstrated by those statements' chilling effect on any opinions to the contrary.) What's the distinction that I'm missing?

I think we just totally view things differently, because I don't understand you at all, either. Strong, negative opinions are not inherently judgmental to me. "Fuck golf [for these specific reasons]" is just saying "Fuck golf [for these specific reasons]. If you like golf, then we disagree on the value of golf". People with strong, negative opinions don't inherently think that people who hold different opinions are wrong to hold them.

I think assuming that someone who posts strong negative opinions must be judging those who disagree is reading those comments in the worst possible light. That's about as good as I can explain it, so I hope that helps.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:58 PM on June 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


I noticed a change in the tone of comments on Metafilter around 2014.

Lurked since 2002, became a member in 2006 and closed that account after I got burnt out from a thread where members, who I had respected in the past, called an author of an essay something along the lines of "an evil piece of shit." It was gross. And that thread kind of encapsulates why I would, as much as I have enjoyed reading this site almost daily for the last 15+ years, never encourage any one I know to join Metafilter. We can be really judgemental and pile-on on topics that just end up being ... not great.

I took a very short break, opened a new account, and now leave threads or don't read threads where it's obvious commenters are on a high horse holier-than-though streak that leaves no room for conversation or discussion or nuance of opinion. I certainly participate even less than I did through my old account.
posted by BooneTheCowboyToy at 1:03 PM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


Fair enough, 23skidoo. I guess you're right that I do attach some personal moral weight to what opinions someone holds, and hadn't considered that others might not (or ever really thought about it in those terms for that matter. I'll have to spend some time with this one.) Thanks for explaining.
posted by ook at 1:08 PM on June 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


Maybe the best MeFites are the lurkers.

with all respect: this sentiment breaks my goddamn heart. How do we build a community and lasting relationships if the best vision we can construct for the site is dead silence?

It's resonating with people. And that hurts, because the sentiment I hear is "you people who speak in a place that bills itself as a place for community discussion?

you are the problem."

I hate it when I make a FPP and no one responds. It's disheartening. It makes me question why I bothered. This goes double when I bring something that is interesting in a way I think might spark a conversation. Listening is great, but frankly, if the goal is to encourage folks to speak less, what do y'all intend to read?

Personally, my vision is to encourage more people to speak up. Failing that--and, well, as I read the room--I've been deliberately using site blockers to wall myself away from the site for longer and longer periods over the course of this discussion as I get more and more self conscious about my participation. I... that's, uh, not where I envisioned going with this. And once I've posted this comment, I'll be re-enabling my blocker so I don't suck up all the air again and--honestly maybe I should just block it entirely.

I feel bad. And if we're bringing up JuneBy again, I feel bad in the same way I felt bad then: I wanted to encourage more conversation and affirmation among people within my community, those people who wanted to chip in and thought it would be nice, and the general attitude was that the idea was inherently problematic, with no redeeming traits for those people who did wish to be involved, and that it was a mistake to even suggest it.

which: everything is inherently problematic. the trick is to try and do the best you can, not to do nothing so that you too will be without sin. And god, sometimes I feel like I have a bad habit of trying to improve communities by blundering up and volunteering to be a sin-eater.

I'm pretty emotionally fragile generally now, what with the state of This Whole Fucking World. I wanted to figure out how to stand with each other and encourage people to come out and support each other. I feel like the best and maybe only good takeaway I've gotten is the discussion about dead goating--and I think a fiendish thingy's comment there is right on the money. Mostly, though, I feel like the enthusiastic, cheerful, let's-all-do-this-together, why-don't-you-come-sit-by-me presence I try to bring to the grey and was trying to encourage... got, well, dead goated all to hell.

Fuck. fuck. fuck.

I think it's time for me to step out again for a while, because the nasty little voice in the back of my head is telling me "by sharing your honest emotions, you are making this All About You, and that will distort this discussion worse." I think it might be right. But holy shit. Holy shit.

The best MeFites are lurkers. People who don't speak, people who don't talk, people who sit in the corner and don't get engaged.

People who are, by definition, not the sort of people who get involved in community discussion, or who post FPPs, or who try to chip in on interesting conversations of the sort someone else might wish to read. No. Lurkers.

Fuck.
posted by sciatrix at 1:13 PM on June 18, 2018 [16 favorites]


*gently offers a hug to sciatrix*
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:18 PM on June 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


I appreciate your contributions, sciatrix.
posted by overglow at 1:21 PM on June 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


You don't have to swallow that bitter pill.
posted by slipthought at 1:24 PM on June 18, 2018


I think we just totally view things differently, because I don't understand you at all, either. Strong, negative opinions are not inherently judgmental to me. "Fuck golf [for these specific reasons]" is just saying "Fuck golf [for these specific reasons]. If you like golf, then we disagree on the value of golf". People with strong, negative opinions don't inherently think that people who hold different opinions are wrong to hold them.

One of the things I've learned from MF is how many people view an opinion opposed to theirs as a judgement on them personally. I don't understand it, but there it is.
posted by bongo_x at 1:25 PM on June 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


I think that it's reasonable and useful to have a phase of change in which people talk about what's currently not working for them. Not because they hate the site, but simply because that's a logical way to figure out what needs to change. Making a bunch of changes to things that don't need to change is not super-useful. So the fact that people are, in this thread, which is posted in a very-early-in-this-phase-of-change stage, talking about what they think needs to change is, in my mind, a positive. People are trying to identify what feels "not right" so that we all can, when we hit the next phase of change, figure out how to fix that. Assuming that negative comments here are all despair and apocalypse is a bit premature.
posted by lazuli at 1:25 PM on June 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


I wanted to figure out how to stand with each other and encourage people to come out and support each other.

I don't know if it makes a difference, but I am glad you brought it up, and you inspired me to make my first FPP in months, and I made it something random but cool that I saw elsewhere on the web, and no one has been unpleasant in the comments yet, and it left me with very nice community feelings.

So, you know, the effects of your post were to make some nice things happen. I know that probably isn't much consolation, but I appreciate what you're trying to say and do, and it is inspiring me to try harder to be kind and careful with people around me, including people here.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:26 PM on June 18, 2018 [11 favorites]


Also, I favorited cichlid ceilidh's comment that contained the sentence about lurkers because I thought the rest of the comment was really insightful, not because I think everyone should only lurk.
posted by lazuli at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


I posted a video of babies laughing at dogs and two people felt a need to point out that all the babies were white.

I posted one about dogs doing the perp walk and someone was if I recall literally crying about how terrible it was that people were shaming their dogs. I have no interest in posting grar, only nice things, but I don't because no matter what someone will come and shit on it. I posted a kitten meeting a hedgehog and people complained about the background music! Mefites are their own worst enemy. So often I just want to be like lighten the fuck up but that would lead someone to point out that I'm missing what a shitstorm the world is and I assure you I'm not.

Maybe the best MeFites are the lurkers.

with all respect: this sentiment breaks my goddamn heart. How do we build a community and lasting relationships if the best vision we can construct for the site is dead silence?


See that's where favourites come in. Not shouting is not silence. People can read and engage without pontificating, agree without lecturing. Some people here and irl think everything they have to say is important and that speaking is a goal in and of itself. It's not. I'd rather see an interesting post with two "Cool posts" than 900 "and I'll tell you another thing..."s because one is fun and one is not. Post what you think is interesting, great! Then let me figure out how to engage with that. Clicking favourite - "hi I read this", "cool I dig this", "I'll check this out on the bus home" - this is not silence, it's not meaningless, and it's just as worthwhile as anything else.
posted by billiebee at 1:29 PM on June 18, 2018 [36 favorites]


I also take issue with the idea some have expressed that this is just an airing of grievances.
The discussion is how to get more people involved, current members and new members, and improve the finances of the site. I feel like some people just want to talk about "let's have a bake sale" type answers, but that doesn't address core issues.

The grievances being aired are why things aren't working as well as they could. Just because most people are not going to make the effort to bring them up doesn't change that.
posted by bongo_x at 1:34 PM on June 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


I have no interest in posting grar, only nice things, but I don't because no matter what someone will come and shit on it.

And my response to that is to flag, move on and ignore it. And try to focus on the rest of the thread and the people that are contributing in a way that makes for a more engaging discussion.

I realize it's still hurtful and problematic and you can only hope that the mods do their job and look out for this kind of noise or grar that doesn't serve to make the conversation/thread any better. But that is how I deal with it. I just try to focus on the people who are enjoying the thing that I posted.

This is me saying don't let those people drag you down, even if they're not breaking any forum rules, it can be a downer and I just choose not to give them that much power and influence over the threads I'm interested in. It's tough, but I try to focus on the good, the bright spots, the comments that lift up the conversation and keep it going forward.
posted by Fizz at 1:41 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


If “playing golf” (or insert thing under attack) is part of an individual’s identity; then statement “fuck golf” will likely be seen as a personal attack.

When I wrote up thread about more shitty back and forth that wasn’t what I had in mind. I was thinking of incidents where avenues of discussion have been proscribed within the thread as being “shitty.” Sometimes this is done by the mods; other times it is more a bullying by a subgroup in the discussion using favorites on attack posts and shitty pile ones that trigger the whole conversation to vanish.
posted by interogative mood at 1:47 PM on June 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


>> I have no interest in posting grar, only nice things, but I don't because no matter what someone will come and shit on it.

> And my response to that is to flag, move on and ignore it. And try to focus on the rest of the thread and the people that are contributing in a way that makes for a more engaging discussion.


Yup. I just did that with the first comment on the FPP I posted an hour or so ago. I felt that it was setting a negative tone for the thread, as well as ever so slightly beside the point. Apparently one of the mods agreed with my flagging, and poof! It was gone.
Now people are engaging with TFA, in thoughtful and personal ways. I'm sure some folks will not like the link I posted, but that's fine: there is discussion, it's on topic and interesting.

Feels good, human.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:48 PM on June 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


I've commented in other metatalks and I'll repeat here to echo other comments that there's still often a problem of a few users dominating many discussions--often with very lengthy comments. The wall of text increasingly becomes a turnoff when I'm feeling pressed for time, much less opening on a phone (and yet, because I'm a terrible procrastinator I spent more time on this site than I should). The bar for a new user feeling like they can get a word in edgewise is very high.

And then I don't recommend the site to others because I feel like it is still more likely than not to be terrible with discussions of race and steeped in privilege along axes of race and class. Like, it's exhausting. And I'm just hooked or have some kind of sunk cost rubbernecking going on, but I don't want to expose my friends to this when so much of the rest of social media is already tiring

While I think that the moderation is overall solid, there are definite inconsistencies where some longtime users get a pass while others don't, and while I'm sure there's a whole wealth of behind-the-scenes cautioning that goes on, what's visible to users is that it seems like some users can driveby to their hearts' content and others are stopped immediately.
posted by TwoStride at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


To sum up some of what I've seen above:

billiebee: I posted one about dogs doing the perp walk and someone was if I recall literally crying about how terrible it was that people were shaming their dogs.

bondcliff: I made a FPP about a cool photo of a stealth bomber over the superbowl and got a bunch of "THIS IS A MACHINE THAT MURDERS BABIES"

Johnny Wallflower: I posted a video of babies laughing at dogs and two people felt a need to point out that all the babies were white.

---
I've also seen a person on this thread say that they felt certain topics were out of bounds, and a response that implied that person might be a -phobe of one kind or another, which seems extremely unfair given the context of the original statement.

I'd propose a block feature. I think there are a small number of commenters who judge and hassle other people, but do it inside the site's guidelines and orthodoxy. I think giving individuals the opportunity to ignore people who they feel don't contribute positively would actually increase engagement over time.
posted by cnc at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


Yup. I just did that with the first comment on the FPP I posted an hour or so ago. I felt that it was setting a negative tone for the thread, as well as ever so slightly beside the point. Apparently one of the mods agreed with my flagging, and poof! It was gone.

Yes, please do this! It helps. I really really like being able to get to unnecessarily vibe-dooming stuff quickly before the doom actually sets in. It's the ones we don't get to quickly that tend to do the damage. Sometimes that can happen despite flagging if it's a very busy day etc., so I can sympathize with folks who may have a "but one time I did that and it didn't work" feeling about it, but the ones we are able to get to just never turn into a thing in the first place because the system just quietly worked.

And even in those cases where it's more subjective and complicated and e.g. a given comment doesn't seem like it needs to go, we can at least be aware early on that there's something to eyeball; maybe it's a case where the conversation is bound to be complicated but if it's on our radar we can help it stay more in the vicinity of complicated, nuanced discussion instead of getting all the way to grar or absolutist back-and-forth before any moderation can come into play.

Flagging helps, it really really gives us a better shot at helping stuff just sorta happen in a good way on the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


I wonder if it might be good to have a Hatewatching tag in addition to the Show Only/Books Included & First Watch/Rewatch. I can see how it would be really disappointing to jump over to FanFare to talk about the latest episode of your favorite show and have everyone there taking a collective dump on it (also, you should feel bad that you like something so terrible and you are a terrible person for liking it. (sarcasm! I promise!))

I could see myself reading and commenting in a Hatewatch post for The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. Because I think Rick is terrible, and Carl is a menace, and the writers seemed to be trying to make us identify with Negan (what the hell writers?!) etc etc, and gosh do I have opinions, but I don't want to subject non-hatewatchers to my graaaar (I do that enough with my friend who I watch the show with).
posted by Secret Sparrow at 2:09 PM on June 18, 2018


I was going for punchy, but what I really mean is that there is something of value to be taken from lurkers. In this and the other thread we have people coming in, abashed because they've commented once in the past decade.

Honestly, there's something magical about that.

They're not totally disengaged. Some read the comments. Some read the posts. Maybe they vote and favorite. They (by definition) listen. And some feel identified enough with MetaFilter to break their silence this week and voice their concerns and wishes.

I would love for them to comment more, even just a note of "thanks for sharing!" I commented above about how depressing I find the Projects site. (Seriously, go there right now and comment on something—it will make the submitter's day. Share it on the Blue. Share it elsewhere online. Same thing with the Music site.)

I would love even more to see them post FPPs, because I think that that's where people should really be doing the most to bring new voices and insights to the community. Obviously some lurk because they are daunted or demoralized, which is not ideal.

Comments are, by and large, about us as individuals. But it's a huge world! It's way bigger than MetaFilter's userbase. Way way bigger than me.

Maybe I can bring some perspective to bear on a topic and it's important to show signs of life in the comments, but I know that I'm limited. If I'm consistently chiming in with the same personal perspective, positioning myself as a teacher or exemplar of my identity or experience, I'm probably both mistaken about the breadth of my insight and wasting time where I ought to be exploring, promoting, and growing from the knowledge of others, both on and off MetaFilter.

Go where you don't already have the answers! Have a pre-formed opinion? Challenge it and add nuance! Don't just lurk, but also don't just share what you know; share what you've learned.

Oh, and you have time to RTFA!
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 2:21 PM on June 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


I think the conversation about lurkers contains an interesting tension. I love lurkers - was one myself for a long time - and I think it's important when having a conversation on the internet to keep in mind that you have a silent audience. After difficult, personal threads, we always have people coming out and saying "I didn't have anything to contribute to that conversation but I learned a ton" and that is fantastic!

However, I *also* think that one of the bad habits fostered by social media is the tendency towards speech-making - nominally responding to someone but in fact using their remark as a jumping-off point for a rhetorically heated persuasive essay aimed at that silent audience. This is how Tumblr works, this is a lot of what happens on Twitter - but it is not how Metafilter works and, insofar as it happens here, it trashes conversations. What I would really like to see (and am thinking hard about how to encourage) is more conversation between people that involves listening, checking in, and building on one another's points, not setting up a series of speeches-in-parallel for the benefit of a nominal audience. That's the part that I think is really changing given the dominant modes of expression on the internet these days, and that's what I think we need to consciously counter here.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:27 PM on June 18, 2018 [49 favorites]


Thank you, r_n. That nicely captures something I find true, too.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 2:34 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Giving you an incongruous favorite, given my speech ;)
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 2:35 PM on June 18, 2018


One of the things I've learned from MF is how many people view an opinion opposed to theirs as a judgement on them personally. I don't understand it, but there it is.

In my experience, a lot of people (not just on MeFi) choose to dig in on a difference of opinion with some variation of "you're a bad person for disagreeing, and likely a stooge/collaborator for other bad people as well." And when confronted with that, it's hard not to also dig in as a response in kind. That's eased up a bit lately, but there are still some topics here I won't touch with a ten-foot pole.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:43 PM on June 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Mostly, though, I feel like the enthusiastic, cheerful, let's-all-do-this-together, why-don't-you-come-sit-by-me presence I try to bring to the grey and was trying to encourage... got, well, dead goated all to hell.

Sciatrix, don’t beat yourself up because the thread didn’t go how you expected. I think it’s been a really good thread, especially for the grey. We are over 450 comments in and only 1 buttoning! You always put a lot of yourself into all of your wonderful contributions. Sometimes threads move in ways you didn’t expect, but that does not constitute a failure on your part.

Maybe the best MeFites are the lurkers.

with all respect: this sentiment breaks my goddamn heart. How do we build a community and lasting relationships...


Different people engage with the site differently. I don’t comment very often, not for any specific reason except that everyone here seems to be able to put their thoughts into words more elegantly than I could. But I’m here just about every day. Metafilter is the internet for me. People are going to desire different levels of participation for themselves. And that’s ok. It is definitely a worthy cause to see if some of the holding-back is for reason that can be addressed, and thank you for making the effort, even if it didn’t go as expected.

tl;dr: Mefites: a land of contrasts
posted by LizBoBiz at 2:45 PM on June 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


As a self-confessed lurker, I also want to offer to sciatrix that I have commented more today than I have in weeks - in a couple of other threads as well as this one - and mostly they were good comments and I feel good. But I think the responses above about lurking not necessarily being a passive choice feel true to me.

I read, I listen, I favorite, and if I don’t comment in every thread I read, it’s not because I don’t like or appreciate them. It’s because I don’t have a comment that hasn’t already been better said, or I don’t have a fully formed opinion, or I have strong feelings that I don’t want trampled, or I am doing a drive-by read when I should really be working - any number of things really.

I hope that we have room to use the site the best ways that work for us, at different times and in different ways, and that’s one reason I am glad I set up a monthly donation just now, so that the lights stay on even if I am not up for direct participation all the time. I still want to help people name their cats!
posted by Lawn Beaver at 2:46 PM on June 18, 2018 [20 favorites]


Whew, I was working up the courage to participate more and maybe make an FPP, then I read a decent chunk of this thread. I didn't realize how much is lurking under the surface here. I'll still make a donation because I have gotten value from the site but everything seems so... fraught.

I feel kinda weird too since I'm yet another US user who had a few US centric ideas for an FPP, but the country is massive with a ridiculous amount cultures that are barely represented on Metafilter. My own culture is definitely not the majority around here, but I'm still a citizen. I don't want to contribute to alienating people from other countries, but I think some people are using US centric as a shorthand for a certain kind of mainstream in politics, entertainment, etc. that some of us who live here feel adjacent to as well.
posted by Freeze Peach at 2:58 PM on June 18, 2018 [11 favorites]


I’d love to learn about your culture, Freeze Peach. Please do post!
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 3:02 PM on June 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


An observation about myself: when doing things on facebook, I work very hard to make sure my activity isn't popping up in someone else's newsfeed. I guess I just don't want my comments to be that visible to my general social circle. So a publically-accessible post where I have something to offer in a comment, I just don't. I literally only post/comment in private groups and I lurk (a ton!) elsewhere. That didn't used to be as true, and I'm not sure why.

In college (which was pretty recent) I worked for the newspaper, where one of my biggest jobs was recruiting op-eds. We worked really hard to try to attract diverse viewpoints that actually represented the student community, in a genuine way that I was very proud of, but I quickly learned that most opinionated-but-non-activist students (which was most people) were not willing to attached their name to almost anything that could possibly attract disagreement, seemingly because of fear. I don't blame them, as the pile-ons in campus discourse could get nasty, even when it was just about some housing policy issue or something. I don't know if it was already the case, but I can't help but think that social media made that negative feedback loop significantly worse and it chilled our discourse in a way that I hated.

I wonder if part of the issue is that our legacies follow us so closely that we're always curating our words instead of making the sort of mistakes that humans make in normal, ephemeral conversation. A part of me consider that record every time I type on metafilter, despite what one may think from my general comment quality, but also elsewhere - is that true for others?
posted by mosst at 3:08 PM on June 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


Here's a half-baked idea I had on the train ride home about how to increase engagement - letting people lightly control how they want the discussion to go by assigning categories. Category examples with fake-ish FPPs:

Category: Just for Fun
> video: babies laughing at dogs
> royal wedding pomp and circumstance
> cool bike stunts

Category: Casual Conversation
> study showing babies with dogs in the house exhibit increased empathy at an earlier age
> what it takes to design a wedding gown for modern royalty, from sketch to chapel
> history of bicycle technology

Category: Deep Talk
> under-representation of multicultural babies on Youtube
> the British Royal Family's tax burden on the typical family, and how that money could be better spent on local issues
> bicycle lanes, laws & zoning in North American vs European cities

This way the OP might be able to more easily overcome the anxiety of "what if the conversation goes wrong?" with a FPP. Light topics have light conversation, people that want to dive into a topic can post their FPP as Deep Talk and get ready for some vigorous debate. Obviously, this would take testing and workshopping and a slight change in culture. We might get more FPPs out of the deal as well.
posted by kimberussell at 3:25 PM on June 18, 2018 [33 favorites]


Also, I wanted to share a strategy that I tried to keep this coulda-been-disastrous thread fairly on track: I'd wanted to post about something that was interesting but also definitely had problematic aspects, so I added a disclaimer that tried to explicitly call out those issues and then highlight why I thought the subject still had merit beyond that. I consider it a success from the number of comments that said something like "welp, came here to criticize but the first comment pretty much covered it."

In that case, making the well-trod criticisms visible up front let the thread move beyond repeating that and have there was a conversation that, at least, went better than previous posts on similar topics. It wouldn't always work (especially if the poster wasn't aware of the issues - one shouldn't need to be an expert to make an FPP!) but it seemed to do okay there.
posted by mosst at 3:27 PM on June 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


And if we're bringing up JuneBy again, I feel bad in the same way I felt bad then

Since I'm the person who brought it up again, I should probably clarify that I don't bear you ill will for that and I'm sorry that you seem to have that impression. I was angry, but I wasn't angry at you for trying to make something work.
posted by hoyland at 3:38 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Crunching some infodump data again (from January 2008 to May 2018, Blue stats only):
The first graph shows the number of monthly "new commenters" on the Blue (people who not only sign up but comment for the first time), which is still decreasing: there's now less than 50 new active MeFites per month (vs 150-200 before 2011). The rate of decrease is less severe than in 2011-2013 but finding new blood is even harder than before. The "last commenters" figure is more difficult to interpret (the figure in a given month is the number of people who made a comment that month and haven't commented since) but it's not good either: for 1 new active MeFite, 3 stop being active. The streams crossed in 2012.
The second graph shows the evolution of the number of comments and posts per month, also on the Blue only. We can see how the 2016 election boosted the commenting activity, which went back to 2011 levels for a couple of months, at the expense of the posting activity (which fell from 800 posts/months to 600). The situation went back to normal early 2017, as MeFites started posting again, but commenting resumed its downward trend.
Previously: 2015, 2017)
posted by elgilito at 4:41 PM on June 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


I’ve been thinking about this thread and these issues for several days now, and had a bit of a lightbulb moment that helps me put my finger about what’s going on with the site dynamics here. So often it seems like nothing good or nice can be allowed to stand without pointing out all of their problematic aspects. Comments that offer nuance or slightly different perspectives get snarked at and dismissed. I often write and rewrite comments and ultimately decide not to post. I confine almost all of my participation to Ask (which feels helpful and useful) or sharing stories.

These things are why I, like many here, would never invite people I know to join Metafilter. It’s not just that I don’t think they would enjoy it, no matter how much they are otherwise very Mefite-like; it’s also that I don’t want them to judge me for liking Metafilter. I don’t want them to think that I endorse this kind of mean dynamic, or think it’s a good thing.

The weird puzzle for me is how and why Metafilter is this way. Virtually without exception, the Mefites I have come to know in person have been truly lovely people: intelligent, thoughtful, and genuinely kind. Yet how have we created a site that feels so mean so much of the time?

My lightbulb moment came when I read this comment:

Speaking as an inveterate dead goater, I'm sorry. I try to bite my fingers but sometimes there are things which do need to be pointed out or at least complicated. I try to be kind or at least neutral in tone, but sometimes things make me angry or are just incorrect and I have the knowledge to correct them.

This was a great comment and I appreciate it, because it crystallised things a lot. I think that many people here have a strong sense of moral obligation to Correct Things On The Internet. If you don’t, then how will they ever change? How will people become aware?

The thing is, I don’t think this sense is correct. I am a professor. I am a supervisor. I am a cognitive scientist. I am a parent of toddlers and have read a lot about dealing with people with special needs. The main thing I have learned in all of these situations is that negative reinforcement — correction when people have done something wrong — is NEVER as effective as positive reinforcement (ignoring the behaviour you dislike and rewarding the behaviour you like). Positive reinforcement makes people keep trying and enables them to spend all of their energy on being their best self. Negative reinforcement is often actively detrimental to people’s ability to learn. It upsets them, and they end up spending all of their energy managing their negative emotions rather than taking your points onboard or learning. It destroys goodwill. Repeated negative reinforcement makes people just want to avoid similar situations. You may argue that people shouldn’t get upset, but that’s like arguing that they shouldn’t feel sleepy when they’ve been awake for 24 hours. Sure that would be nice, but we are humans. Refraining from feeling upset when faced with negative reinforcement — particularly for something you care about and tried your best on — is impossible to achieve, especially consistently. I think many of the comments in this thread attest to that.

The good news is, there is a way to shape the behaviour you want without correcting things or pointing out the problematic elements. If something is egregious, flag it (and don’t comment). If there is a repeated pattern, bring it up in Metatalk. If it’s not egregious and not part of a repeated pattern, let it go. Use positive reinforcement. Reward the things that are good. It may feel in the moment as though you are just ignoring bad behaviour, allowing it to flourish, but the long-term effect is to crowd it out with all the good behaviour. You have also in the meantime created a site in which discussions flourish and people feel welcome.

I know the standard response is to say that if we do this, people who are not cis straight white men will not feel welcome. But the thing is, many people — including non-cis non-straight non-white non-men — don’t feel welcome now. I am a queer-ish woman who lives in Australia and grew up fairly low-income in a rural small town. There are a lot of things that people say here that I think are problematic for and about me and my loved ones. Those things bother me far, far less than the general sense I get from the site that no matter what I say or how carefully I say it, I am going to be met with snark. They bother me much less than when fellow women or queers presume to speak for me and discount my lived experience when it doesn’t fall into their ideological line. They bother me much less than knowing that if I post something, no matter how innocuous or interesting, all of its problematic elements are going to be focused on and I’m going to end up feeling like I’m a shitty person for liking it in the first place.

We can do better, folks. If we want to change people’s minds, correction is not the way to do it. Let’s focus instead on rewarding the things we like.
posted by forza at 4:43 PM on June 18, 2018 [89 favorites]


Here's a half-baked idea I had on the train ride home about how to increase engagement - letting people lightly control how they want the discussion to go by assigning categories. Category examples with fake-ish FPPs:


Instead of this, why not just move to threaded conversations?

The problem that's being examined seems to be that some participants want to have conversation X about a subject, while others want to have conversation Y. Threading would get around that without having the poster place restrictions on their post. I don't really want either, but I'd much rather have threading than someone tell me "thou shalt not talk about this" in a post.
posted by dazed_one at 4:51 PM on June 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


It may feel in the moment as though you are just ignoring bad behaviour, allowing it to flourish, but the long-term effect is to crowd it out with all the good behaviour.

I think this works better for some things than others. There has to be enough good behaviour to crowd out the bad, for one thing, and I'm not clear how your "reward" good behaviour on mefi - by responding and engaging? That allows "bad" behaviour, in situations where it's commonplace, to reinforce itself as "bad" commenters engage with each other. Which is indeed how we get threads of armchair experts crowding out people with expertise or knowledge on certain topics (something which is a frequent observation in metatalk).

I get what you're saying in general, but I do think that it requires a certain critical mass of 'good' commenters to make a meaningful impact on the 'bad', and that there are some areas where metafilter doesn't meet that requirement (yet - there are areas where it didn't, but now does, largely because of much of the sturm und drang you're arguing against).
posted by Dysk at 5:26 PM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


It sounds like sciatrix has blocked this page for now, but at whatever point you read this, know that this was never going to be an easy thread, no matter how well-crafted it was. If there's one lesson to be taken from this thread (and there are many), it's that you can't control how people will respond to your post, and it's not your responsibility to see that it goes a certain way. You can influence that with your initial framing, but people are going to be bringing their own knowledge and baggage. This is why the site has moderators, and that's why people are hashing out ways to make things work better overall.

I've wanted to make a post like this for a long time, but I didn't because I didn't want to take on the burden, and it certainly is a burden. I think I said it already, but we should keep in mind that everyone really is trying to do their best here. I haven't been around nearly as long as other users, but I've been around long enough that I've seen much, much more contentious MeTa threads. This one is positively saintly in comparison.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:36 PM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


While reading this thread I got to thinking about my participation here on MetaFilter and exploring the favorites system, checking in on users that I appreciate. I noticed that two of my favorite black women on this site had disabled their accounts, so I checked to see what their last public interactions were and I came away feeling unimpressed with MetaFilter.

I debated with myself on posting here at all. I've mostly become a lurker who delivers the occasional drive-by-one-liner. I've been reading MetaFilter since the beginning (It was my upgrade from memepool), but due to signups always being closed I never got an account until about 7 years ago. (I no longer use that account.)

I've been doing a slow fade away from MetaFilter. Mostly going read only and doing even less reading. When I saw that those two users had faded away I felt like that's two less reasons for me to even read here.

I think the biggest problems are:

1. The nastiness.

I can't help but feel that some people are getting their fix of beating people up on the internet here. The rules about civility and the cliquishness let people stay to just this side of the line while pumping significant amounts of toxicity into other people.

The condescension and the pedantry that floats around here at times are also tiresome.

I can tolerate a certain amount of fightiness (okay, a lot of fightiness, I'm more of a "let them fight" kind of person but I understand not letting linear threads turn into battlegrounds) but it's compounded by..

2. The moderation.

It takes trust for people to add high-effort content knowing that their contribution may be silently and irretrievably discarded.
A user that has that trust, coming from a history of positive interactions with the site's community, will probably be more accepting of moderation decisions while a user that doesn't have that history will simply feel unwelcome.

I think that there's probably some level of in-group favoritism that goes on with regard to moderation. I get that people here like a well-moderated community but I fear that some people like a community where they know that the authorities will side with them.

3. The perceived demographics.

We can't see each other's faces. We don't know each other's histories. You have people who assume they're shouting at [the dominant perceived demographic] and people who assume they're being shouted at by [the dominant perceived demographic].

I think there's this assumption that because we're anonymous we're homegenous. I've seen a lot of calls for "greater diversity" but you won't know they're here unless they tell you they are and they may not have much tolerance for being condescended to by the presumed aggregate face of MetaFilter.


That's all I've got. These feelings are as much if not mostly generated from observing others as my own personal experiences.
posted by yonega at 5:58 PM on June 18, 2018 [28 favorites]


I don't want to contribute to alienating people from other countries, but I think some people are using US centric as a shorthand for a certain kind of mainstream

Speaking as non-American I think the issue, for me, is less about an American-centric FPP then it is about Americans derailing FPPs about say international politics or a special thing unique to a country by making the discussion all about America or assuming the situation described in the post is identical to a vaguely similar thing in the US. I've seen it happen a number of times, especially when people fail to read the post and don't get the nuance. It ends up killing the actual conversation about the post. But saying that, I think hearing about other cultures in the US which we don't hear about would be great.
posted by Ashwagandha at 6:26 PM on June 18, 2018 [18 favorites]


As a long-time lurker, I’m glad to see that there’s understanding of why people lurk & that it’s not a purely passive behaviour devoid of value. MeFi has been a constant in my life since 2002, so it’s confronting for me to see someone take offence at my apparent lack of participation.
posted by hgws at 6:35 PM on June 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


I see the value in lurkers and at the same time I wish to hear more from them—in the same way that I wish all the great people I know of would run for political office.

Especially in the context of a thread where we hear people saying they've given up posting by being demoralized. "Lurking" because that's your jam? Go right on (though I'm sure we'd benefit from your written voice, restraint, and interests).

Honestly, compared to many here I'm a lurker. Stats say I comment less than once every 3 days, but I think that's mostly in spurts like this thread.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 7:05 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


restless_nomad's comment reminded me of some points I took from Celeste Headlee's We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter. I recently heard this as an audiobook on a long car trip, and I have to say at first I was prepared to dismiss it as a piece of TED talk / pop-psychology fluff, but it actually had lots of substantive and useful things to say that I've been trying to apply in my own life.

Not all of it is relevant for online conversations (like put your phone away and don't interrupt), but much of it is, and echoes points already been made in this thread. Like, try not to assume the worst intentions from someone who seems to disagree with you, or to argue against strawmen that the person wasn't even suggesting. Try not to just get on your soapbox and stridently repeat habitual points divorced from the context of the conversation. Try to understand, charitably, the values and reasoning behind what someone says, and to reframe your disagreements in terms of the values and opinions you share, and as respectfully as posslble, those you don't. Recognize that you have your own biases and blind spots. Think about whose mind you can possibly change with what you're saying and how you're saying it.

(Personally, as a long-time lurker turned occasional commenter, I think I tend to avoid having to apply these lessons on MeFi by shying away from conflict or expressing personal opinions, and only commenting when there's something factual to say, or cheap points to be scored. But I value what I get from this community, and it often pains me to see people who probably mostly agree with each other tearing each other apart.)
posted by mubba at 7:18 PM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't comment on here the way I used to because of the nastiness. If you hold a position that's unpopular you risk getting a condescending cascade of remarks suggesting that you gently consider that you [haven't thought things through and probably are killing unicorns.]

I also wouldn't suggest people come here because there's such an in-group feel. You're supposed to walk in the door knowing who the major players are and how to follow group norms. It seems actively hostile to new people to me, with the exception of AskMe, which I still recommend.

I'm from a low-context culture and metafilter feels increasingly high context.

I don't have a good suggestion for how to fix it without losing the safeness of the space that so many people appreciate. It doesn't feel safe to me, but I'm straight, white, and middle class so I am fortunate enough to have other options available to me.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:20 PM on June 18, 2018 [18 favorites]


dazed_one: "Instead of this, why not just move to threaded conversations?"

I absolutely see shitty user-on-user behavior on sites with threaded comments. Also, this may just be me, but I find threaded comments much *harder* to read than non-threaded. I'd probably stop coming if we moved to threaded.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:22 PM on June 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


I swear to god if you do threaded comments I will burn this place to the ground and salt the earth.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:27 PM on June 18, 2018 [15 favorites]


My latest FPP attracted someone who dropped by just to say that it must have something to do with "the dog circle-jerk I am not part of." Flagged it, it's gone, but JFC can we have a Threadshit Counter and members who hit a certain number are warned and then booted if it continues?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:30 PM on June 18, 2018 [33 favorites]


There has to be enough good behaviour to crowd out the bad, for one thing, and I'm not clear how your "reward" good behaviour on mefi - by responding and engaging? That allows "bad" behaviour, in situations where it's commonplace, to reinforce itself as "bad" commenters engage with each other.

I don't think this is much of a risk, at least not for the kind of "bad behaviour" I'm talking about. I'm referring to the kinds of non-egregious things that get "corrected" or receive dismissive snark, like the examples upthread. Things like:
(a) Posting a video of babies and dogs in which the babies are not racially balanced
(b) A well-intentioned commenter uses the wrong nomenclature to refer to an LGBTQ person
(c) Sharing a nuanced reflection about the founder of IKEA without talking about his fascist history

I don't see how in any of these cases simply refraining from pointing out the problematic elements would lead to bad commenters engaging with each other. What's the worst that will happen? (a) People enjoy the video of babies and dogs without thinking about race for a moment? (b) The commenter forms bonds and learns from people on the site, and comes back, and eventually learns through observation how people in our community tend to talk? (c) There is a conversation about the IKEA guy that centres around elements other than his past?

Are these that bad? Especially when the alternative is nasty or deraily comment threads and people leaving the site or opting not to comment because of the tone?
posted by forza at 8:14 PM on June 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


I think "Why can't people who leave [the kind of negative comments that get deleted] just not leave those kind of comments?" is just as realistic as "Why can't people who hate [the kind of comments that get deleted] just roll their eyes, scroll by, and not engage?" Like, I think if Mefites practiced either strategy (or both), we'd have a better Metafilter, but both strategies seem impossibly hard to implement, because they place all the onus for change on others, instead of accepting the hard truth that People Who Leave Negative Comments and People Who React Emotionally To Comments are both part of a dynamic where there's lots of room for improvement.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:36 PM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think that if a comment is deleted, there should absolutely be a placeholder comment that shows where it was. I think it’s important to transparently convey to new users of the site that comment deletion is a totally normal, everyday thing that happens to nearly everyone. In the absence of comment deletion indicators it’s possible to look at an already-cleaned-up thread and have a totally false idea about how the discussion has been going so far.

The downside is that you could end up with long strings of [comment deleted], but I still think that’s more honest and faithful to the messy reality of discussion than having a mod note like [some comments removed]. Whenever I see a mod note like that I assume the shit really hit the fan with dozens of comments deleted, whereas it might simply have been two or three.
posted by um at 8:49 PM on June 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


Also, ages ago I think Jessamyn said she wanted one of the flagging options to be “THAT PERSON is doing THAT THING again”, which I thought was brilliant and apt and definitely an option that should exist.
posted by um at 9:11 PM on June 18, 2018 [19 favorites]


I have to go to Standard to post: Where is this New Post link on mobile ?

Don't know if someone's already answered this, but when you're on the blue, click on the person outline (same place you get to profile, recent activity, whatnot). It's the bottom right hand option. There's a little pencil picture. New Question is in the same place if you're on the green.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:37 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Instead of threading, (I'm opposed), I'd enjoy seeing one or two improvement to replying and referencing other comments within a thread. There are some third-party user scripts that improve replying, but I think there are some really powerful improvements that probably require server-side changes. Here's a brief idea:

1. On the "posted by" line, add a "reply" link (nothing ground-breaking there).
2. When you use the reply link, it automatically puts an "in response to user x" block into your comment that includes a special link. When the reader clicks it, it expands to reveal the original comment in-place instead of jumping away to elsewhere in the thread. When you are done, the reader could collapse the comment again, or just scroll onward.
3. While editing a reply, you could select some of the text to explicitly quote into your response, just like people quote now, but a reader could still expand the full comment when they want to read it.

I think that kind of "in-place context" could make it easier to follow the flow of a busy or long conversation while preserving chronological comments. Revealing a comment in this way wouldn't even require any additional database access. The comment is already loaded in the page and can just be pulled from the DOM.

This would be best if combined with a more advanced WYSIWYG editing interface, where these "in response" links could be atomic blocks before or between your own text instead of some custom markup. It would be especially effective if you could expand and review these blocks yourself as you are crafting your response, without scrolling up to the original.

Separately, a tasteful WYSIWYG comment editing interface seems like a good idea anyway for making the site more approachable. (I'm surprised that this hasn't been mentioned, and now I'm wondering if it's already the default in the Modern theme or some user preference that I don't know about.)
posted by Lirp at 10:18 PM on June 18, 2018 [26 favorites]


... and based on something that just happened to me elsewhere, the edit window needs to be at least seven seconds longer.
posted by philip-random at 11:03 PM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't see how in any of these cases simply refraining from pointing out the problematic elements would lead to bad commenters engaging with each other.

Going back and looking at an old trans thread, for example, should tell you a lot about what's wrong with (b). Things are better now, broadly, but we didn't get to that point without much wailing and gnashing of teeth, just as boyzone took a lot of confrontation and shaming to curtail.
posted by Dysk at 11:39 PM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


Like, a thread full of misgendering or deadnaming is fundamentally hostile to trans users. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away. Mods deleting a problem comment just leads to a game of whack-a-mole deletions unless someone points out that the behaviour/mode of address is wrong, hurtful, and why.
posted by Dysk at 11:44 PM on June 18, 2018 [15 favorites]


...and fundamentally, the best trans threads have been the ones largely consisting of trans people talking to each other. The ones that have descended into a bunch of (well intentioned but clueless) cis people talking to each other (as the tendency is, without any kind of intervention) have been absolute horror shows that have led to contentious metatalk threads and multiple buttonings.

I'd rather a metafilter where trans people can talk to each other (and clued up cis people) about trans stuff without constantly having to effectively defend themselves, than I'd have a thread where nobody is corrected, but a reasonable conversation is impossible to have, and half the trans people attempting to have it end up leaving the site for good.
posted by Dysk at 12:00 AM on June 19, 2018 [9 favorites]


Like, a thread full of misgendering or deadnaming is fundamentally hostile to trans users.

I'm not talking about a thread full of misgendering -- that is a repeated pattern that I explicitly said was not necessary to ignore. I said repeated patterns should be taken to Metatalk. I'm talking about isolated comments.

And isolated comments are not "fundamentally hostile to trans users." I don't doubt that they feel hostile to you. Okay. Your opinion matters. But as we can see in this thread, the level of nastiness permitted here feels hostile to many people as well, including trans people. More importantly, YOU are not all trans people and you cannot speak for them the way you are doing here. My husband and my best friend are both trans, and both of them are more distressed by the kind of nastiness I have been talking about than by occasional misgendering or the use of incorrect terms by otherwise well-meaning people. (You might ask why I'm presuming to speak for them, but they aren't here because one has pretty much left the site and one refuses to join it and this is exactly why, I know this because I have had multiple explicit discussions about these topics with both of them because I or they were so distressed).

The kind of blanket declaration you made here is exactly what I was talking about when I said I found it distressing when people in my demographic presumed to speak for me. Please don't try to speak for everyone like you. Trans people are not a monolith.
posted by forza at 12:03 AM on June 19, 2018 [25 favorites]


Isolated comments become a trend if not addressed. Obviously, this can be done kindly, but things have historically gone very badly when they haven't been addressed. What's worked best has been polite nudges or posting of 101 or FAQ links in response.

I'm not presuming to speak for everyone, but I am presuming to speak for the many many people who've buttoned explicitly over this issue, and whose contributions I feel the site is poorer for lacking. It is not a small number.
posted by Dysk at 12:12 AM on June 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


And no, not every trans person needs to agree that something is a problem in order for that thing to fundamentally be hostile to trans people. The old boyzone days were hostile to women, even though I'm sure you can go back and find women who had no issue with it whatsoever at the time. It simply needs to be enough of a pattern to be a general trend. It does not require absolute, 100% consensus.
posted by Dysk at 12:15 AM on June 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


Isolated comments become a trend if not addressed.

I think we'll have to agree to disagree here. My experience is that positive reinforcement leads to better, more effective, and long-lasting change than negative reinforcement, and that a site norm of immediate negative reinforcement even to isolated comments has a very, very high price in terms of creating a culture of hostility. I think multiple stories in this thread and the decreasing levels of engagement to the site as a whole speak to that.

But clearly you disagree, and I'm just repeating myself now. I don't think we're going to get anywhere by continuing this dialogue. I trust that people reading our comments can make their own decisions about what they think. I'm going to play with my children. Take care.
posted by forza at 12:23 AM on June 19, 2018 [20 favorites]


I just wanted to bring up an example of some of the stuff people have been talking about this thread, how comments can easily become....aggressive? or mean?

There's an open and recent thread now about an app for teens to use when they're depressed (link).

It starts off really well and then there are a couple of comments about the fact there is a cost to use the app (totally fine to discuss) and now it has kind of devolved into a number of back and forth comments that do seem personal and attack people for either being okay or not being okay that people are being paid for their labor or having to pay to use a potentially life-saving app.

I don't know. I'm obviously particularly sensitive to this today having spend the past couple of days reading this thread. It's not a particularly noteworthy example but it's happening right now. I did flag a comment because I'm guilty of almost never flagging a comment - but even then I hesitated, because it already had 5 favourites which was the most favourites in the thread so far. The comment ends with "Get over yourselves." which I don't think is a stretch to say it got personal.

My question is really - what do we do here? Does just that comment get deleted? It wouldn't make sense seeing as there's already been about six more comments about it, and maybe it's not grar-y enough to be deleted anyway. But it does set the tone. Maybe the thread gets course-corrected on its own. Maybe it doesn't. I don't know.

Anyway, I have a lot more sympathy for the mods in having to make calls with things like this.
posted by liquorice at 12:27 AM on June 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


forza, you seem to be equating corrections with hostility, which I don't quite understand? In not arguing for hostility necessarily - as I've indicated, what's historically been most effective is a gentle, polite correction, often in the form of an FAQ or 101 link.
posted by Dysk at 1:07 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


(And a lot of hostility in corrections in many instances in the past very much had to do with a trend where it was the same people making the same "honest mistakes" over and over, something that thankfully no longer seems to be a problem)
posted by Dysk at 1:08 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


But yeah, I can see how those repeated fights with the usual suspects might have just looked from the outside like threads were a touch paper looking to go off at anyone saying anything slightly wrong. The mods having gotten better at shutting that down (both the repeat offenders and the people reacting badly to them) which helps dramatically.

And like, I guess I take some degree of issue with the fact that human nature or cognitive science means we can't expect people not to take corrections badly, but we can expect people not to get annoyed or frustrated at pointed incorrectness, even on issues that are hardly impersonal or trivial. I'm all for cutting slack, but you can't just cut it for the one behaviour.
posted by Dysk at 1:16 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Just another graph: this is the evolution of unique commenters per month since 2008 (unique commenter = number of unique users who make a comment in a given month). In Metafilter's heyday, the population of unique commenters grew by 30 users each month. Since 2012, it's been decreasing by about 20 users per month and the population is below 3000 now (of course the population of active users is larger if once considers a longer period). Note that the number is still relatively high: even at this decrease rate, Metafiter could theoretically chug along for many years before the place becomes empty.
posted by elgilito at 2:12 AM on June 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


It's not really a one-to-one comparison, but it almost feels, but not exactly like, when Barbelith started to implode over the site being dominated by a few users. Admittedly, Barbelith never had the numbers, was UK-oriented, and Tom (who used to post here too but likely doesn't anymore) was running it for free. He asked for mod help from the community back in those days and it worked for a time. It too was pretty gated; you couldn't just sign up, there was a bit of a waiting period. But when that started to stagnate current activity, the waiting period was waived and holy shit, it became an immediate cesspool for trolls. Too much work, everyone who had been there since 1998 drifted away, and it finally closed in 2012. That was a bittersweet moment for me, as Barbelith was my first online forum home. I am still friends IRL with all those lovely people, it was how I met my husband--who, just as the Lith was getting to be shit, moved over here and bought me a membership because I missed Barbelith so badly--and I have fond memories of all the conversations and weirdness over there.

MeFi has scratched that itch for me, but recently, not so much. Where once I too would recommend this site to friends, I don't think that I would anymore. For better or for worse, I think we have the the community we have, we have the posters where this is very much their online home, and it makes for occasionally infuriating sometimes fun in-crowd dynamic. MeFi will have to evolve and change a bit for survival, but that's inevitable, I think. I still say that $5 membership fee is worth its weight in gold in terms of keeping the nasties out.

It's a lot of work to keep this place up and running. Hopefully it will continue to do so.
posted by Kitteh at 3:51 AM on June 19, 2018 [7 favorites]


I don't want to contribute to alienating people from other countries, but I think some people are using US centric as a shorthand for a certain kind of mainstream in politics, entertainment, etc. that some of us who live here feel adjacent to as well.
posted by Freeze Peach at 2:58 PM on June 18 [10 favorites +] [!]


I thought some more about what I mean by US-centric and realised I am somewhat ambigous about this.
On the one hand, getting a glimpse of US everyday life outside mainstream media or TV etc was the main reason that brought me to this site.
On the other side, what grates is that so very often the US experience is seen as the only experience and more than that the defining experience.
In one way this is ok as I do want this opportunity to see inside, but as thorugh the years I feel I have become less of a lurker and more of a somewhat reticent participant, I find it offputting.

I am trying to think of an example that is harmless but can only think of controversial ones such as the defintion racism. Now the term racism as in German, Rassismus, rassistisch etc does simply not carry the same meaning. By dictionary definition yes, but not in usage.
However, this is as far as I have seen not an acceptable position to have on this site. Either one subscribes to the US definition or one is onself a racist. However, the history of the countries is so different that proscribing such a definition is in my opinion simply impossible. It is also one of the reasons I would not recommend the site unless someone is interested and very aware of the cultural differences.

Another example of what I would define as US-centric is the flippant use of German in the megathreads. Words such as Nazi, Hitlerjugend (recently I found Trumpjugend in there), Führer, Lebensborn, etc are not there to joke with but evoke serious and horrible times in my home country. German is my mother tongue and of 90 million others, not a joke or worse the langauge of fascism. One can be a fascist in any langugae not need to resort to badly spelled German. I get very emotional and angry even now when I remember the number of times someone thinks it is appropriate to use German words to make fun of Trump.
This is a serious reason for me not to recommend metafilter, as (similar to someone above) I would be ashamed of someone finding out I did not push back more against it. Which I wont for obvious reasons.
posted by 15L06 at 3:54 AM on June 19, 2018 [34 favorites]


Yea, that app thread is a great example of a thread that just got not derailed but thrown off a bridge by the angry "shut up and like it" responses. Seriously, talking about the cost of the app is not an attack on young women and presenting it in that light is mean spirited silliness. A couple people in that thread definitely need to get over themselves and it is not the ones saying "why charge $2/month?"
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:11 AM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


I wonder whether that thread might not be an example of something where there's not much positive to say other than "Oh, that's nice!" and when someone's done that it goes all tangential because nature abhors a vacuum and all that.
posted by Grangousier at 4:36 AM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Please don't try to speak for everyone like you.

This is really good advice. Thanks, forza.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 4:45 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


The NotOk App thread reminds me of literally every student design/engineering project done for a course, which has the misfortune of getting posted to MetaFilter.

Maybe the $1.99 is damning, maybe people will just use WhatsApp instead, etc. I'm sure the kids who made it will learn and adjust (or do something different next time). When I see a thread like that, my inclination is to see it as a pseudo-Ask thread. Acknowledge the intent behind the thing posted and then share other links to related endeavors you do support, without nitpicking the original thing to death.

It's the "Yes, and…" improv approach applied to MetaFilter.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 4:51 AM on June 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


A couple of ideas after reading the first 2/3rds of this thread:

- Replace the 'popular favorites' page view with a 'flagged as fantastic' view
- add a widget to the comment box that says 'you have posted x% of the comments on this thread's
- figure out how to make interacting with the site on mobile less miserable for long thread's. My phone is barely keeping up with posting this comment.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:19 AM on June 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


I posted a video of babies laughing at dogs and two people felt a need to point out that all the babies were white.

I posted one about dogs doing the perp walk and someone was if I recall literally crying about how terrible it was that people were shaming their dogs. I have no interest in posting grar, only nice things, but I don't because no matter what someone will come and shit on it. I posted a kitten meeting a hedgehog and people complained about the background music! Mefites are their own worst enemy. So often I just want to be like lighten the fuck up but that would lead someone to point out that I'm missing what a shitstorm the world is and I assure you I'm not.

THAT. My last FPP was about the cake at the Royal Wedding. The very first comment was that Harry and Meghan's preferred cake was racist (which, being MetaFilter, racked up some favorites as a few people immediately jumped on the sanctimony wagon without checking whether it was, y'know, actually accurate or not).

When it was pointed out by several other people that the comment was a pile of crap, the MeFite came back with a weasly reply which, pathetically, blamed the "tone of that last-sentence remark" instead of the simple fact that the MeFite was talking shite.

This set the tone, and the thread repeatedly derailed into aspects of racism - despite there being many other open threads about racism and not about cake. The mods deleted some of these comments but left the others - and as much as I love the moderation here, the weak moderation around comments flagged for derails and noise just enables this behaviour.

I gave up doing posts and went out for some long walks instead, where I could look at trees and listen to nature rather than read the inevitable opportunistic negative comments, a stream of digital diarrhoea over otherwise good threads. I'm waiting for my walking partner now as I type this. It feels a waste of time creating any fun, happy, frivolous posts on the blue when there's MeFites waiting to shit in the comments section. Why they do this is beyond me; sanctimony, the need to constantly point out evils in the world, their own issues/problems, the anger/jealousy of seeing other MeFites be happy, some kind of sad and pathetic pleasure in ruining other people's enjoyment. Don't know but what is obvious is how anti-community spirited it is.

If the end-point is people giving up posting the positive, happy, silly, frivolous stuff and the front of the blue continues to evolve into a wall of depressing, negative, triggering, mental health killing misery, then what's the point? Ah good walking partner is here so off to walk to a village hall and have tea and cake, which is far more satisfying, and healthier, than reading the commenting of a small, but unfortunately very active, relentlessly negative proportion of MeFites.
posted by Wordshore at 5:19 AM on June 19, 2018 [46 favorites]


For me what is called US-centrism is basically chauvinism. It’s three unspoken assumptions:
1) Everything that happens somehow originated in the US.
2) If it didn’t originate in the US then it was caused by or is a reflection of something which originated in the US.
3) If it didn’t originate in the US and wasn’t caused by something that originated in the US then it is something that only found its fullest expression or exemplar in the US.
posted by um at 5:30 AM on June 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


Anyone who's noticed me throwing my toys out of the pram on the subject will know that I've given it a bit of thought. I suspect that mere chauvinism is possibly too simplistic an explanation, and that any of us might consider any thread an open playground for us to play in and comment freely, while missing subtleties that mean that that's not necessarily the case.

For example, in the case of an entirely fictitious thread about the plight of street cats in Buenos Aires, someone might just notice that it's a "cat thread" ripe for filling with stories about their own cat, and if that comment stands it becomes a general cat story thread; Or they might notice it to be a "street cat" thread, and it becomes important to contribute information about street cats in their own city (making it a space for tales of street cats around the world, or at least the U.S.). All of which would miss the specificities and subtleties about the original post and story that would have made it worth posting in the first place, frustrating and marginalising those who are concerned about the particular story of the Buenos Aires street cats.

(No street cats where harmed in the making of this example, Argentinean or otherwise.)

It's a kind of blindness to the rest of the world that any of us are prone to rather than the deliberate idea of one's own superior importance that the word "chauvinism" would suggest. It happens that MeFi contains enough people of a similar enough background that they can very quickly recontextualise a post around their own world view, but I don't think it's an act of deliberate colonization. Which doesn't mean it's not vexing and something to be addressed, but it's more a case of not attributing to malice where an explanation of cluelessness might suffice.

In the case of the UK, I think one thing we should be more careful of is to post about "our" subjects in the morning up to around lunchtime when we can define the terms of the conversation rather than in the evening just before we all go to bed, but perhaps that wouldn't help.
posted by Grangousier at 5:49 AM on June 19, 2018 [21 favorites]


Why they do this is beyond me; sanctimony, the need to constantly point out evils in the world, their own issues/problems, the anger/jealousy of seeing other MeFites be happy, some kind of sad and pathetic pleasure in ruining other people's enjoyment. Don't know but what is obvious is how anti-community spirited it is.

Yes - this.

I had a birthday party to go to over the weekend - a joyous, kids in an unbreakable-play-structure-anarchy-is-king kind of party. There was energy - and then our one friend arrived who cannot turn off his anger over Trump and pulled up a bunch of articles we had to read to send to us. It completely and utterly sucked the life out of it - and most of us have either activist roots and are working on those issues specifically. However - for a brief couple of hours, we were trying to be kids again romping around a play structure.

To some degree, I think we have the same issue here - because this site has attracted and enabled a significant activist, constantly-informed-and-engaged cohort, it's made it very hard to host the kids birthday party toned threads. I will commit to flagging more of the stuff that I don't like, however I would love it if we could find a way to moderate towards more joy around here and to encourage the "well actually everything is bad" and "fuckity fucking fuck" stuff to stay in the specific places created for it.
posted by notorious medium at 5:50 AM on June 19, 2018 [29 favorites]


To everyone that swung by and defined US centric after seeing my comment: Thank you. I came across as ignorant there and had my own blind spots about the term. I understand much more, and I hope it didn't sound like "educate me!" or yet another teaching moment as mentioned earlier in the discussion. I seriously appreciate it and your time. Thanks again y'all.
posted by Freeze Peach at 6:00 AM on June 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


Freeze Peach - I am actually very grateful for your comment, it made me think adn try to be more specific. Thank you.
posted by 15L06 at 6:09 AM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


I like what notorious medium just said, and I think part of it is that a lot of people are really, really anxious and depressed right now. I don't think there's necessarily a conscious decision to read things in a negative light all the time; it just feels like the site overall is depressed and can't see good things without immediately thinking about all the negatives. I think a lot of the "smart people are always skeptical" cultural stuff over the years has added to the idea that being smart = being skeptical = assuming everything is too good to be true = assuming nothing is good.
posted by lazuli at 6:19 AM on June 19, 2018 [7 favorites]


Freeze Peach, asking questions is not a sign of ignorance it is a sign of caring about the conversation and the community. Metafilter is struggling with things I think are rampant across the Internet and in the zeitgeist in real life. We've gotten through it in the past I think we will get through it in the present. More then anything we need to work together to make the community better and understanding what works on the site is just as important as understanding what doesn't. Sadly that isn't always obvious.
posted by Ashwagandha at 6:20 AM on June 19, 2018 [5 favorites]



Why they do this is beyond me; sanctimony, the need to constantly point out evils in the world, their own issues/problems, the anger/jealousy of seeing other MeFites be happy, some kind of sad and pathetic pleasure in ruining other people's enjoyment. Don't know but what is obvious is how anti-community spirited it is.

Yes. Exactly this, Wordshore.
(On preview notorious medium too)
I like to think that much of it originates in a place of wanting to promote justice and squelch problematic or hurtful comments but so much of it feels to me to actually come out as a desire to make a snarky zinger or just a place to have a fighty mcfight (and again that desire to fight can come from a place of legit being worn down by a world that is, and may be increasingly so, cruel).

But in my opinion, in a place that is supposed to be fostering community, that behavior contributes directly to the problem of people leaving or lurking.
posted by pointystick at 6:30 AM on June 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


If the end-point is people giving up posting the positive, happy, silly, frivolous stuff and the front of the blue continues to evolve into a wall of depressing, negative, triggering, mental health killing misery...

attracted and enabled a significant activist, constantly-informed-and-engaged cohort, it's made it very hard to host the kids birthday party toned threads.

I've felt for sometime that posts of a political nature or those which carry more emotional weight should be in their own section - a Fanfare for Politics... Poli-filter perhaps. That way the Blue could be devoted to the "best of the web" or at the very least the more diverting end of the Internet rather than wallowing in the midden. I recognise that people can control their front page viewing experience through filtering but I think it needs to be more explicit than that by default. I'd even argue having an Obit-filter as well because some weeks can be a drag with all the deaths noticed and the ones not noticed. I don't think this will solve all the problems but perhaps it could keep those who want to wade into that mire satisfied and not have them spill over into frivolous posts to bring us all down.
posted by Ashwagandha at 6:34 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


suggesting that you gently consider

JFC YES. If we make one change, can we put a total ban on the use of the phrase "gently suggest"? It's the most passive-aggressive way to call someone an idiot I've ever seen.
posted by Automocar at 7:05 AM on June 19, 2018 [16 favorites]


I like to think that much of it originates in a place of wanting to promote justice and squelch problematic or hurtful comments but so much of it feels to me to actually come out as a desire to make a snarky zinger or just a place to have a fighty mcfight

I too like to think this, and in some cases have acted in ways that might read in a more negative light than intended for the attempt. While I'm certainly in agreement about not derailing every light hearted post with potentially negative seeming comments, I do have to wonder where the line should be drawn since some posts do seem to me to warrant a little pushback as not every pleasure is harmless.

So let me ask, how does everyone else see that issue? Where or when is it okay to pushback or question a linked piece? Can care about the tone make a sufficient enough difference not to aggravate those looking for pleasure?
posted by gusottertrout at 7:09 AM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Why they do this is beyond me; sanctimony, the need to constantly point out evils in the world, their own issues/problems, the anger/jealousy of seeing other MeFites be happy, some kind of sad and pathetic pleasure in ruining other people's enjoyment. Don't know but what is obvious is how anti-community spirited it is.

Maybe it's none of those things? I get that many Mefites don't like certain kinds of negative comments, and working toward decreasing those kinds of comments is a worthy goal that would probably improve Metafilter a lot for lots of people, but spitballing about what negative commenters might be thinking or motivated by seems like another kind of negativity in and of itself.

I know we're using this thread to vent and to come up with ideas, but I think assigning/assuming a bunch of bad things about other Mefites might be (on a grand scale) compounding existing problems.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:18 AM on June 19, 2018 [14 favorites]


A question for the dead goat advocates. Not calling you out, Chura Chura, just that you were the one who spoke to your mindset when doing so:

Speaking as an inveterate dead goater, I'm sorry. I try to bite my fingers but sometimes there are things which do need to be pointed out or at least complicated. I try to be kind or at least neutral in tone, but sometimes things make me angry or are just incorrect and I have the knowledge to correct them. I try very hard to keep my response about the situation rather than about individual mefites, and I try not to be arrogant about things.

Let me first thank you (and any others who do this) for trying to make any comments about the situation itself, and trying to stay neutral about it. However, I still have a question about the practice itself for the dead-goating advocates. Which is:

Why do you feel that "there are things which do need to be pointed out"?

Informing people of problematic stuff is generally a good thing; but when it comes to problematic things, there is usually a finite number of people who can act upon the situation. Those are the people who most need to have such things pointed out to them. Informing everyone else of the problems of a situation, when they aren't in a position to help...leaves those extra people feeling at sea.

Let's use the original analogy that gave birth to the "dead goat" analogy to begin with. I believe it was: someone posts a link to a video of a cute baby goat. Everyone coos, and then someone comes in to point out that "hey, there's a scab on the corner of that goat's eye, that's usually a sign of goat pox. If it's not treated it could die."

Now: the person who really needs to know that that baby goat has goat pox is the owner of the goat. And odds are, the owner of the baby goat isn't here - they're over on Youtube, and are likely the ones who posted the video to begin with. (Also, it's plausible they already DO know and are in the process of treating goat pox anyway.) So - all this has done is to inform a bunch of unrelated people about goat pox, which....does nothing to advance the health of the baby goat itself, and has made a bunch of people upset.

Now, that's a really cut-and-dried example, but I think it points out the biggest caveat about dead-goating. Giving people information is one thing, but perhaps some thought could first be given to "what do I expect for people to do with that information" and "is this information that Mefites can use".

I'm reminded strangely of something an ex pointed out about the inherant problem with the human pain response, and chronic pain in particular. Pain is the body's way of telling you "hey there's something wrong, you should take care of it." However, usually the process of "taking care of it" takes time, and meanwhile the body is continuing to tell you "hey there's something wrong here". The fact that pain exists is a good thing, but that doesn't mean it's universally useful in every context. Same too with information.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:24 AM on June 19, 2018 [21 favorites]


Listen, if we fix all the problems that Mefi has re: negativity on the front page, where will I go to learn What I Should Be Mad About Today?
posted by disclaimer at 7:30 AM on June 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


Where or when is it okay to pushback or question a linked piece?

If it is a particularly fraught issue, sure. If it is about a choice of cake or babies laughing at dogs (both cited above as examples of derailed fun posts) then no.

Can care about the tone make a sufficient enough difference not to aggravate those looking for pleasure?

In my experience with Metafilter this is a very rare occurrence and in the current state of things I'd say it is nearly impossible for most Mefites. Unless the topic has sufficient weight as a subject, or has an aspect which can be construed as harmful to some and/or after the "reading the room" that your comment won't be a wrecking ball I think it is best to take your concerns elsewhere and let it go.
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:31 AM on June 19, 2018


where will I go to learn What I Should Be Mad About Today

Reddit.
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:31 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


> gusottertrout:
"Where or when is it okay to pushback or question a linked piece? Can care about the tone make a sufficient enough difference not to aggravate those looking for pleasure?"

I think it's always ok to question. I don't expect (or want) for every comment to be "great read!" or "thanks for sharing!" (those can be nice sometimes, though, don't get me wrong).

You should be able to appraise a piece without making the FPP poster feel bad for having made the post in the first place. We have far more lurkers than commenters. And we have far more commenters than posters. You want posts to read? Then don't make people hate posting.

One way to do that, like I suggested with the NotOK App, is that you do so by:

1) weighing the value and intent of your input (wait until I tell you about all the people who are wrong online!)

2) behaving as if we're ALL learning (you're an expert on you, but I doubt the article is about you specifically)

3) pointing out additional resources when possible (e.g. a different app you like or an article with a different perspective)
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 7:39 AM on June 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


Interestingly, I felt far better about posting the not ok app than some of my other posts, pretty great, in fact. I think having the first two comments be purely positive made most of the difference and after that, the thread could handle at least discussion of the drawbacks of it. (It's also about a more difficult subject, so I was braced a bit. Sometimes if I post something I think is just happy or entertainment, I get really surprised when there's lots of negativity or criticism.)

I read the first fifty or hundred comments on this thread and decided to make more posts. I've made two and have a third ready to go (compared to six from the past twelve years).
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:04 AM on June 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


I think it's always ok to question. I don't expect (or want) for every comment to be "great read!" or "thanks for sharing!" (those can be nice sometimes, though, don't get me wrong). You should be able to appraise a piece without making the FPP poster feel bad for having made the post in the first place.

Yeah, I try and be pretty careful when I do this. I don't know if I did it well in the NotOKApp thread, but my intent is always to convey, "This is cool/interesting/important, but I wonder about x factor--maybe that should also be addressed?" I think it can be really easy to just jump to "here are the problems!" without also articulating, "This has value, and because it has value, I want it to be even better."

It's also really easy to take your first glance interpretation as immutable word of law. I thought the $1.99 fee was totally reasonable at first and provided info to back up my position--and then some people brought up some other info and points that I hadn't considered, that made perfect sense. I therefore ended up agreeing with them and swaying a bit more towards that side, and then... other people brought up other opposing points that also made sense. I did a lot of vacillating as I read that thread (most of which I saw only it happened as I went to bed immediately after posting), and I wonder if maybe we could try and normalize that? Like, throughout a discussion, it's okay to change your mind, even several times, as new information or perspectives come in. I think maybe part of the reason people go all hard and GRAR is because they assume that the person they're talking to holds that belief very strongly, and that you need to give a strong response to get through to them. But maybe we could work to normalize a culture of less rigidly held beliefs, and of it being okay for your position to move around as you learn more.
posted by brook horse at 8:07 AM on June 19, 2018 [14 favorites]


Personally, I think dead goat comments have a really disparate impact depending on a) when they are posted in the thread, and b) the tone of the comment.

If you are going to raise what you see as a problematic aspect to a "fun" FPP, are you doing it in the first couple of comments? Are you being snide/snarky? If so, maybe wait or reframe.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:08 AM on June 19, 2018 [16 favorites]


Also, I should mention that I haven't participated a lot in this thread (and probably other long threads) because I'm still reading it. I have another tab of this open with my place, and I only caught this stuff at the bottom because I wanted to answer something further up and then the end of the thread went into my activity. I mean, I didn't stop reading when I got the 395 new comments thing to click, but I did want to read them so as not to repeat lots of comments or rehash an argument that was settled ages ago or whatnot. Anyways, back to reading now.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:14 AM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well, when I think of things I've "dead goated" most enthusiastically or most frequently, they are:

1. People talking about pet primates and other wild animals. People having pet primates and talking about their wish for exotic pets does active, ongoing harm to wild primates and other animals and to primate conservation. I'm quite comfortable saying "No, this is not cute and here is why." This might not add much to the overall conversation, I guess, and so if the general consensus is that this sort of thing is not helpful, I can keep my nose out of wildlife pet things and discussion of that sort.

2. People talking about Ivory Coast and chocolate and, to a lesser extent, people talking about Africa generally. It's so easy for stereotypes or just a lack of knowledge to dominate the conversation, I feel like I should contribute to with my specific experiences in a place and with people many people on metafilter don't have specific experiences around.

I guess the problem is just places where I have a specific body of knowledge and strong feelings that may run counter to the general impression of a topic. Again, I feel like people with those specific bodies of knowledge are the value that metafilter adds to a conversation - I love hearing from likeatoaster about what it's like to be a DA, or from barchan about geology, or Eyebrows about theology, etc. etc. However, upon hearing from lots of folks in this thread I can see how those additions to the conversation might not be helpful or wanted, and I can see how this may come off as me being arrogant and trying to Make Things Correct. In general, that's not what i'm trying to do. I mean, yes, I do want people on metafilter not to find videos of depressed captive monkeys adorable, but I don't think that their feelings about captive monkeys make them bad people, and I apologize if that's how it comes across. I try to think of it as ... adding goat-y nuance? But of course intent doesn't matter and if the outcome isn't a positive for metafilter, I'll change the way I interact with the site.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:27 AM on June 19, 2018 [23 favorites]


- As others have suggested, have a separate MetaPolitics subsite. I suggest making it red in colour, for obvious reasons.

With bright orange text. Blinking. Make those politicrazies suffer for their snark.


insert huge smilie meme that blatantly violates Article 13

...

posted by sammyo at 8:27 AM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


15L06: Another example of what I would define as US-centric is the flippant use of German in the megathreads. Words such as Nazi, Hitlerjugend (recently I found Trumpjugend in there), Führer, Lebensborn, etc are not there to joke with but evoke serious and horrible times in my home country.

10L06, I can see where you're coming from (almost literally, since I live very close to Germany). But I'm not sure that people always use German in a flippant way. I think some people at least are not joking, but trying to express that they feel that there are serious and horrible things about to happen, and already happening, in the US.

Nevertheless, it tends to make me do an unpleasant double-take, too... and I really despise seeing these words used jokingly. Which is also a thing that happens.
Please, fellow MeFites, don't use these words unless you actually mean to invoke genocide.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:33 AM on June 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


I guess the problem is just places where I have a specific body of knowledge and strong feelings that may run counter to the general impression of a topic. Again, I feel like people with those specific bodies of knowledge are the value that metafilter adds to a conversation - I love hearing from likeatoaster about what it's like to be a DA, or from barchan about geology, or Eyebrows about theology, etc. etc. However, upon hearing from lots of folks in this thread I can see how those additions to the conversation might not be helpful or wanted, and I can see how this may come off as me being arrogant and trying to Make Things Correct.

Yeesh, now I regret using your comment as the illustrative example...

My ultimate point was: is there a concrete thing that other Mefites can do with the information you're sharing? With your example about chocolate, I'd argue that actually there is. Pointing out info about the chocolate industry and problems with it, and offering links to other fair-trade suppliers, both gives people like me information about the problem ("oh no, Hershey's pays for shit") but also offers a "so what can I do" solution ("Oh hey, look, here's some places that actually pay well so I can start buying their chocoalte instead").

To be fair, too, I'm coming from a personal position of taking a bit of a dim view of the "awareness campaign" kind of activism about things that are already well-known to be problems. I like to hear about "what action can I take" alongside being informed of problems, and if there really isn't any action I can take when you tell me about a problem, then I'm left wondering, "so....what, you just want me to think about this problem and get bummed out? That doesn't seem effective."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:44 AM on June 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


Again, I feel like people with those specific bodies of knowledge are the value that metafilter adds to a conversation - I love hearing from likeatoaster about what it's like to be a DA, or from barchan about geology, or Eyebrows about theology, etc. etc.

I love this, too, and just like I look to those other posters, you, ChuraChura, are someone who I also look to for thoughtful, accessible, and exceptionally well-informed opinions about your expertise.

I think the problem is when people decide they're going to subject their fellow posters to purity tests -- not when they're giving their thoughtful and informed perspective.
posted by rue72 at 8:49 AM on June 19, 2018 [26 favorites]


> I think some people at least are not joking, but trying to express that they feel that there are serious and horrible things about to happen, and already happening, in the US.

Yeah, this. The United States is heading down a very dangerous path, a path that mirrors the rise of the German Nazi party in many important ways. When the President is tweeting about immigrants as an "infestation" and the government is rounding up children in camps, I think the burden of proof is on those who disagree to explain why the comparison is inapt.

If there are specific examples of people being too cavalier about their use of these words, I think we can debate those, but Godwin's law is basically out the window at this point, as even its creator has acknowledged. If we decided to stop using these specific German words, we'd basically leave a "these specific German words" sized hole in the conversation that would communicate the same ideas anyway. I'm truly sorry that this causes pain to German members of our community, but the blame for that lies with the people doing these deeds that so closely mimic the ascent of the Nazi regime, not the Americans talking about those deeds.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2018 [11 favorites]


I think it's good to be cognizant of the dead-goat problem, and to pick your moments, for sure, but by volume most dead-goating is not "I'm knowledgable and have something careful and informative to say about this specific link."

I think much of it is instead pretty kneejerk stuff -- it's not really specific to a given link or conversation, it's either reflexively issuing a canned speech about the general topic or unreflectively looking for the negative in any story just as a habit of mind. That's the stuff it would be good to really reduce, because it's so easy to make those more general kneejerk comments, once people get into that habit, it's self-perpetuating and spreads everywhere.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:52 AM on June 19, 2018 [26 favorites]


OK! I don't mean to make this about me, then, but I guess I've been confused about what we're grumpy about when we are grumpy about dead goats. It looks like we're generally agreeing that there is value in bringing thoughtful, nuanced critiques to a conversation, and generally agreeing that just saying "This is problematic" is not helpful.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:53 AM on June 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


I like what notorious medium just said, and I think part of it is that a lot of people are really, really anxious and depressed right now. I don't think there's necessarily a conscious decision to read things in a negative light all the time; it just feels like the site overall is depressed and can't see good things without immediately thinking about all the negatives.

I agree and would just note that "right now" goes all the way back to the primaries in early 2016 and has an indefinite end that could go on for years to come depending on how things shake out. If the cause is environmental, I don't think we can expect the environment to change - so Metafilter is going to either be like this or adapt to try to bring more joy into the mix.

The site policy on this stuff has been largely to accommodate it and trying to corral the most impactful parts of it into specific areas, but my question is - is that approach actually having the intended effect or is it creating a malaise that hangs like a specter over the entire site? The latter is how I'm feeling these days.
posted by notorious medium at 8:55 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


What We're Grumpy About When We Are Grumpy About Dead Goats is the MetaFilter version of What to Expect When You're Expecting.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:58 AM on June 19, 2018 [15 favorites]


thanks, Too-Ticky.
posted by 15L06 at 8:58 AM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


One man's dead goat is another man's chocolate exposé .

With all regards and pardons to disclaimer and ChuraChura and others, one element of MiFi that is far far from perfect but is actually good is that many threads are discussions. Wild meandering discussions that are alternatively and simultaneously digressive and illuminating. As well as paths that are not good. A highly focused discussion on an important topic is just excellent, but there are threads that diverge into territory far from the original topic that are just great discussions. Remember your meme's "The perfect is the enemy of the good".

Let's make MiFi good again.
posted by sammyo at 8:59 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


It feels a waste of time creating any fun, happy, frivolous posts on the blue when there's MeFites waiting to shit in the comments section. Why they do this is beyond me; sanctimony, the need to constantly point out evils in the world, their own issues/problems, the anger/jealousy of seeing other MeFites be happy, some kind of sad and pathetic pleasure in ruining other people's enjoyment. Don't know but what is obvious is how anti-community spirited it is.

Please don't talk about the royal wedding stuff as though this is the only reasonable characterisation of the issue. You took part in the MeTa about it where we discussed how other UK mefis felt that treatment of the wedding and the mods' actions was excessively US centric, and that it was stripped of its sociopolitical context in a way that other big events are not. And that felt shitty for some of us.

To carry on with the trend of 'would you recommend metafilter to a friend'? No, I wouldn't. This is a site where in my experience European issues are valued more for their tweeness to a larger American audience than their relevance to the lives of people (mefis included) who actually live in Europe, in a way that US issues almost never are.
I say this in full knowledge that this experience as a UK mefi pales in comparison to that of mefis from the rest of the world, particularly the non-Anglophone world. Same for lots of other groups of mefis. Same for what dysk and aielen said, and as was said in the other thread: Metafilter just isn't as progressive as it thinks it is.

If as someone who lives in the UK you are happy with it being a locus for happy, fun, frivolous stuff in a way that the US isn't, fine, that's you, but I object to your ridiculous assertions that other UK-resident mefis could only possibly have objected out of "some kind of sad and pathetic pleasure in ruining other people's enjoyment". How the hell can you say that about someone? How can you think that's a reasonable interpretation of people's objections in the previous MeTa? Like, I sometimes disagree with the dead goat characterisation of negative comments but at least that term doesn't actively assign malice to folks leaving the comments.

In that thread zarq reasonably suggested that "MeFi can only ever be an echo chamber if outside perspectives aren't added to the conversation. Doing so requires (at times, Herculean) patience. But it's totally possible and rewarding." Pretty sure zarq is right, on the first part at least, and god knows I've only made one post myself but I am seriously struggling to see how it's worth it. From this thread it looks like some folks feel that metafilter is only going to achieve a less negative feeling and more site activity by ignoring the concerns of folks outside of the core metafilter demographic.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 9:03 AM on June 19, 2018 [19 favorites]


(it seems like, if we are indeed in it for the nuanced critiques, there should have been space to talk about - for example - the Royal Wedding in a less-than-excited way in the dedicated thread on the blue. It's easy to allow space to critique things that we can all agree deserve criticism; it's harder to make space for criticism of popular things)
posted by ChuraChura at 9:09 AM on June 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


I know it’s been suggested, but maybe that’s another good reason to put (some) future event-based threads in FanFare instead of on the blue. Those who want to gather and celebrate an event are welcome to do so over there, while those who want to discuss something more analytically (or whatever) can do so on the blue.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 9:15 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


To echo a bit of what Too-Ticky and tonycpsu said, I think that there is value in pointing out Nazi terms and their analogues. For a lot of MeFites, particularly those who are Jewish and especially those who have direct ties to Holocaust victims and survivors, these German words have very specific meanings. Tying them to their English equivalents is very much saying "these people are echoing Nazi propaganda, and we must not be allowed to forget that." Indeed, making sure we never forget these terms is important to a lot of Jewish people's relationship to the Holocaust. Even before Trump, and much much moreso since he began his campaign, actual Nazis in the US and elsewhere have been emboldened and enabled. Some of us have seen this not just in politics, but in culture and society at large.

I very much try not to use "fascism" and "Nazi" interchangeably, because as 15L06 mentioned, they are not one and the same. But I also believe that when we are hearing almost word-for-word echoes today, we should be able to note that. So when I use Dolchstoßlegende, I am talking about people actually saying "stab in the back" to describe groups they want to suppress or eliminate. When I use Lügenpresse, I am talking about people actually talking about a lying press. I don't think that removing them from discussions helps, especially in light of the many, many times gentiles have misunderstood, ignored, or even occasionally parroted the concepts on this site.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:19 AM on June 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


[One deleted. I get the feeling but bringing escalatory rhetoric here isn't going to make any of these problems better, it will only make people more entrenched and angry. People in here are talking about how things have bothered them and made them feel, it's okay for them to talk about that. Let's try to keep it cool if possible, we're all here because we're aiming for the good of the site.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:43 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Tying them to their English equivalents is very much saying "these people are echoing Nazi propaganda, and we must not be allowed to forget that." Indeed, making sure we never forget these terms is important to a lot of Jewish people's relationship to the Holocaust.

Yes.

Every once in a while, some of us have also pushed back against Trump / Hitler comparisons. (Link is to one of my own comments, but I'm not the only one who has done so.) Don't know how often that's going to happen any more, since Trump's administration has quite literally set up a concentration camp for children in Brownsville, Texas.
posted by zarq at 9:52 AM on June 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


Just commenting to say I've found this thread really helpful, thanks; it's given me some good questions to ask myself when deciding whether to speak up or shut up (am I just trying to seem clever? am I just expressing hostility? is the harm of adding a negative note to this thread outweighed by some specific good?). I'll definitely bear it in mind in future when commenting.
posted by Aravis76 at 9:54 AM on June 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


I know it’s been suggested, but maybe that’s another good reason to put (some) future event-based threads in FanFare instead of on the blue. Those who want to gather and celebrate an event are welcome to do so over there, while those who want to discuss something more analytically (or whatever) can do so on the blue.

Or perhaps relax the guidelines so that we could have both a post with fun Royal Wedding fluff AND a post about the Serious Analytical Ramifications of Monarchy. I don't see how shunting posts over to the veritable ghost town that is FanFare (sorry, but with the exception of GoT or Westworld, every time I go to the main FF page it's rewatches of old shows, old movies, and podcast episodes) will increase users (and new users) impression about engaging on the Blue.

There should be room for everyone.
posted by kimberussell at 10:03 AM on June 19, 2018 [11 favorites]


fwiw, I think the royal wedding thing is a situation where two separate posts on the blue would've been the best outcome, and it only didn't happen that way because we sort of backed into it. But fully hear people on frustration over the outcome there.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:07 AM on June 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


I don't see how shunting posts over to the veritable ghost town that is FanFare (sorry, but with the exception of GoT or Westworld, every time I go to the main FF page it's rewatches of old shows, old movies, and podcast episodes) will increase users (and new users) impression about engaging on the Blue.

As one datapoint, the current World Cup thread in FanFare has 800+ comments.

I didn’t participate in either the blue or grey wedding threads. I don’t have a horse in that race, which is why I chose to comment on it in particular, instead of my own tedious hobbyhorses. Just so folks know.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 10:20 AM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


As one datapoint, the current World Cup thread in FanFare has 800+ comments.

...well thank goodness for the usian skew, with other demographics it'd triple just about Germany vs Mexico and the site would be crashing hourly and the mods would be pulling their hair out ;-)
posted by sammyo at 10:36 AM on June 19, 2018 [3 favorites]



As one datapoint, the current World Cup thread in FanFare has 800+ comments.

and a quick ctrl/F reveals only 12 "soccer"s. Well done USians ...
posted by philip-random at 10:47 AM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Here's an example of a Dead Goat Comment that I am Really Hoping to see way less of. (I'm not linking the comment or reproducing it in full, because I've flagged and send a contact form note about it.) It starts "Sex work is outside of my experience as either worker or client." and goes on to offer a completely uninformed opinion that's outside the scope of the linked material, offering the same tired opinion that has been stated in every thread about sex work since the dawn of MetaFilter.

It's not expert opinions and thoughts that are the problem. It's people who feel like their spectacular brain has supplied them with an original thought no one has ever had before that absolutely must be shared, all without considering whether or not they're the ones who should share it or if their opinion is even useful. It's also the sort of moralizing comment that will gain favorites quickly and set the tone of a thread. It makes it really hard to post anything with even a modicum of nuance when you know people are going to use it as a jumping off point for their moral credentials on a broad, mildly related subject.

[Abuse of the edit window to note that while I was typing this it got taken down. Thank you mods! I heart you]
posted by stoneweaver at 10:50 AM on June 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


"Soccer", of course, being a term of English origin.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:51 AM on June 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Or perhaps relax the guidelines so that we could have both a post with fun Royal Wedding fluff AND a post about the Serious Analytical Ramifications of Monarchy.

The staff stated it was "basically fine to put a good one together whenever. Would have been fine a week ago, is fine now, will be fine next week or next month if it's a decent post."

When we want a space for a conversation, we need to make a space for it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:53 AM on June 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


I feel like people with those specific bodies of knowledge are the value that metafilter adds to a conversation - I love hearing from likeatoaster about what it's like to be a DA,

likeatoater is a PD! Just for the record.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:54 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


I wonder if I would have been the only person who would have read and participated (in a productive way) in both a Royal Wedding Fluff and a Serious Issues About Monarchy Thread and gotten a lot out of both.
posted by pointystick at 10:56 AM on June 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


> I think the problem is when people decide they're going to subject their fellow posters to purity tests -- not when they're giving their thoughtful and informed perspective.

Very well said, and thank you for saying it.
posted by languagehat at 11:02 AM on June 19, 2018 [17 favorites]


Honestly, I'm getting more confused as this thread goes on. I don't want to shit up threads, but also I find it very meaningful and fulfilling to call certain assumptions into question. It's not to be smug or superior, it's just how I like to look at certain topics. Sometimes it's obvious that now's not the time or place, but other times I'm just not sure if I'm sucking the fun out of something or contributing to an overall bummer thread when I start talking about why I find, say, colorizing old photos problematic (and I wrote one comment in that thread and then left because I figured it probably wasn't as interesting as I thought it was). Yeah, it's great to hear from people whose careers center on a subject, but what about people who are just passionate? I got my degree in anthropology, and I've spent the last few years studying how we conceive of social relationships in the past, but I feel every fuckin BA thinks they're hot shit who knows, like, so much about this topic because they totally wrote a thesis and stuff.

Basically, I want to be able to challenge stuff, but I don't want to just be That Guy ranting about shit. One person's interesting nuance is another person's pointless wankery. If that makes sense. Where do you draw the line?

Also, just a side note, but if it's all the same to people, I'd rather not be referred to as a USian. I get why people do it, but I also like to think people have a right to be referred to as they refer to themselves. Maybe no one else cares, but at least to me it feels demeaning to be referred to with that term, and I'm not sure if people are aware of that.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:04 AM on June 19, 2018 [18 favorites]


two separate posts on the blue

I agree that it would have made sense to have two separate posts, but why both on the blue? Why not one on the blue and one in FanFare? Or one on the blue and one in a hypothetical "Politics" subsite?

That's an honest question -- I'm wondering about how we should see the relationship between the blue and the (other) subsites and how different subsites cultivate different tones/moods.
posted by rue72 at 11:05 AM on June 19, 2018


We've argued about USian before.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:07 AM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also, sometimes I think I AM just trying to show off, because I, like (hopefully) a lot of people get insecure sometimes, or just want an opportunity to share something I'm really interested in. I'm not saying that should be something we encourage, but for all the comments I've written about bad behavior other people engage in, I feel like I should also acknowledge that I've probably done pretty much all of it myself at one point or another. I'm not expecting the site to enforce my boundaries for me, but it further complicates all this stuff, because it's not like you can just set a solid rule set for what is and isn't an appropriate way to participate.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:08 AM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


(b) A well-intentioned commenter uses the wrong nomenclature to refer to an LGBTQ person

This needs to be corrected or deleted. It's not something that you can just let slide in order not to upset the person or whatever.

And frankly, if they're well-meaning, they'll welcome the correction and say sorry.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:11 AM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


I wanted to take a moment to note just how much I appreciate this thread. As I noted in an earlier comment, I've been a member here for 12 years. My participation over the past couple has gone down considerably. Because I don't participate in IRL events or have a lot of contact with Mefites in other online spaces, it can feel rather isolating when there are aspects to the site that feel like they have changed for the worse. It can end up feeling like maybe it's just me, maybe everyone else thinks everything is going just great here. Seeing that a whole mass of other users share the same concerns that I do about meanness, assumptions of bad faith, worst possible interpretations of others comments, demands for ideological purity, etc., really feels validating. I realize this thread from the outside looking in can possibly appear to be little more than an "airing of grievances", but I can say that it has made me feel more energized knowing there are others who also feel there are ways the site could improve in positive ways.

Regarding "dead goat" comments, I think there may be a confusion over the term somewhat? I've never understood it to mean, as some people seem to be using it here, as ever saying anything negative about a topic. My understanding was more when an FPP is about something more light and frivolous and someone jumps in for no other reason than to sour the mood. As one quintessential example,I remember an FPP that was simply a video link to a performance from Miley Cyrus, Laura Jane Grace, and Joan Jett and someone chimed in just to comment (obviously very loose paraphrase), "This is great and all but did you know Miley Cyrus associates with PROBLEMATIC PEOPLE?!?!?!?!?!" I wouldn't put some of the examples used above, making nuanced comments about complex topics, in the same category.
posted by The Gooch at 11:11 AM on June 19, 2018 [18 favorites]


but if it's all the same to people, I'd rather not be referred to as a USian.

We've argued about USian before.

Thanks, I was just about to ask if we had ever come to a consensus about this. I also do not like being referred to as USian. I don't want to have the fight again but I suppose it's inevitable at some point? If you don't want to say "American" can you please find some other way of referring to those of us from the United States other than USian?
posted by cooker girl at 11:15 AM on June 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


an entirely fictitious thread about the plight of street cats in Buenos Aires

Hold my beer.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:20 AM on June 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


I'm from the US and I live in the US and I don't find "USian" offensive, upsetting, or anything else. You can keep referring to me, specifically, as USian if you want!
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:20 AM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Basically, I want to be able to challenge stuff, but I don't want to just be That Guy ranting about shit. One person's interesting nuance is another person's pointless wankery. If that makes sense. Where do you draw the line?

Myself, I think that if you're engaging with the other people in the discussion (or earnestly trying to) rather than ranting at them or scolding them, then you're probably fine. If you get into ranting or scolding and find yourself talking at people rather than with them, then you maybe are sucking the air out.

I don't think the problem is pointless wankery. On its best days, pointless wankery is kind of the internet's raison d'etre.
posted by rue72 at 11:21 AM on June 19, 2018 [9 favorites]


an entirely fictitious thread about the plight of street cats in Buenos Aires

Hold my beer.


I'm almost, but not quite, tempted to post it as a scientific experiment. Thanks!
posted by Grangousier at 11:23 AM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


On its best days, pointless wankery is kind of the internet's raison d'etre.

In several senses of the word.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:28 AM on June 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


By the way, something else I've mentioned before, and I've written and deleted so many comments over the last day or so that I can't be sure whether I've just posted it, so apologies if I'm repeating myself unnecessarily, but:

I think it's incumbent on us to remember that the people we're talking about are right there in the room with us. So if we refer to them as some distant other, possibly using dismissive parodic language, it's the same as if they were sitting right next to us and we were simultaneously insulting and ignoring them right to their face. Even if it's not literally true on any particular occasion, it's probably worth adopting the frame of mind that it might be. Unless you want to be that kind of person, in which case I can't really stop you. Or judge you, actually, seeing as how I'm an incorrigible asshole myself. But I'm assuming that most people don't want to do that.
posted by Grangousier at 11:32 AM on June 19, 2018 [16 favorites]


Maybe we should adopt people first language, and just say "people from the United States"?
posted by jb at 11:33 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


I have *feelings* about the "Wrong nomenclature for LGBTQ person" subthread. I hesitate to bring them up, because I feel like this is a ship that has sailed on MetaFilter, and I'm opening myself up to a back and forth fight. So, I'm going to make this comment and then go away to do something else so I don't get sucked in.

I watched one of my friends who is a legit for real trans pioneer get attacked and piled on for using the word "Tranny." (Not here, but it's a reason that I wouldn't tell her about MetaFilter.) The idea that there is one set of acceptable words is a problem. It reinforces the dynamic that the people who are allowed to speak are the ones that fit into a narrow acceptable paradigm. Someone who has fought and won court battles that benefit trans people throughout the US being told by cis white people what language they're allowed to use is a problem.

The internet can make it seem like there is one agreed upon set of words that are right and proper and acceptable. Real life is way more complicated and nuanced, and the LGBTQIA community is way deeper and full of differing opinions. I have participated in many a MetaTalk about how certain language is harmful and needs to be nipped in the bud and not tolerated. I both stand by that, and think that the very hardline is reductive and alienating. As forza said above, there's a lot of presuming to speak for the entire queer community that goes on here. It's a super difficult line to tread, and just marking some words in the Good Column and some in the Bad Column doesn't reflect the world or the community. It really really narrows the demographics, and not all in the way people imagine.

Presuming bad faith because someone uses a disfavored word is alienating. It means there are certain conversations that will never happen here, because "we" have decided we're not interested in those difference of viewpoint. I have a huge list of topics that I know people would be Very Interested in reading about and reading the discussion around, but which are more nuanced and indepth than is workable here. Largely because of this sort of language policing. It's an area where MetaFilter isn't as progressive as it thinks it is.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:34 AM on June 19, 2018 [37 favorites]


There's already the little note under the comment box that can suggest for you to be thoughtful about your comment. Would it be good if you could check a box when making your post that would change that note to provide a small post-specific guideline about norms for commenting?

For example, it could say "Please limit your contributions to make space for experts to comment", or "Constructive criticism only, please", or "This post is about truth-seeking and discussion, so be prepared for people to disagree with you", or whatever other kinds of things seem to be the different perspectives that typically clash when commenting.
posted by value of information at 11:36 AM on June 19, 2018


Here’s a good example of someone dropping a turd in a thread. It’s not even that it’s negative. It’s that it’s (frankly) dumb. It adds nothing to the thread but a generic (and in this case, uninformed) cynicism, which is worthless.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 11:42 AM on June 19, 2018


On that note (somewhat joking, somewhat not), add a checkbox with something like "I stand by this comment as my contribution to this thread" before displaying the submit button.

I swear people will go back and edit.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 11:46 AM on June 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah, deleted that. At first I read it as someone with more of a from-Detroit perspective (don't trust this deal), but on reread it doesn't seem to have been that, more of a very general "never trust big companies" which, meh.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:51 AM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


There are people in this AskMe thread giving really bad medical advice.

One person suggested using a vacuum cleaner. (That was deleted. Folks, if you have to add "I have very bad judgment and take many unnecessary risks" to your comment offering medical advice, then maybe don't offer at all?! ) Others are suggesting things that could conceivably cause the OP harm.

People. Damn. We don't have to answer every question that is posed to us. Especially if we don't know what we're talking about?
posted by zarq at 11:57 AM on June 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


Yeah, we've had the "AskMe doesn't do medical advice well" MeTa before. Don't think we ever came to consensus on that one, either.
posted by cooker girl at 12:00 PM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


> Someone who has fought and won court battles that benefit trans people throughout the US being told by cis white people what language they're allowed to use is a problem.

It's also a problem when other people prescribe language for them. Even or especially like-minded, or like-bodied, or like-gendered.

I'm close to some people who helped bring about the feminist changes of the 80's and 90s - they were right there in the protests and on the front lines -- who have dropped MeFi because they can't handle the newly converted telling them what they can and cannot say, and who or what IS or IS NOT a feminist. Can you blame them?
posted by fake at 12:13 PM on June 19, 2018 [21 favorites]


have dropped MeFi because they can't handle the newly converted telling them what they can and cannot say, and who or what IS or IS NOT a feminist. Can you blame them?

Gatekeeping. It's not just for neckbeards anymore!

On a more serious note, and at the risk of repeating myself too much, we should have much stricter moderation for popular ideas presented in nasty ways. Gatekeeping, Bad Faith Misinterpretations, Dead Goating, all those things are part and parcel of someone "right" and being a jerk at the same time, and years of mods letting those things sit in the thread time and again.
posted by tclark at 12:49 PM on June 19, 2018 [11 favorites]


With respect to this comment upthread (i.e., someone posted a cute dog video and one of the comments was that the background music was annoying):

One thing that puzzles me a little about Metafilter is how difficult it is for users to shape their own experience here. For example, there's no way for me to click a button so that an FPP or an AskMe doesn't appear for me on the page ("forget" or "ignore" in the nomenclature of other sites). So if there's, say, an FPP about domestic violence that I find it profoundly upsetting to read, the only thing for me to do is stay off the Blue until the FPP falls far enough down the page that I don't see it. Tools like "putting a thread on ignore" (in the nomenclature of Ravelry) seem to be pretty common on other sites, but they just don't exist here, and in the past, when people have suggested implementing them, they've gotten shut down in about three seconds. Similarly, I confess to being absolutely mystified as to why there's no killfile on MetaFilter. Why does MetaFilter not provide a way to hide posts of people with whom you really just should not engage, ever? In all seriousness, I'm hard pressed to think of a single other site where that feature isn't available.

I wonder whether it would be better if MetaFilter would adopt more of a "tools, not rules" approach, so that, for example, instead of saying, "We're not going to discuss Israel and Palestine, ever," we give users the ability to put those threads on ignore if they don't want to see those discussions. In the same vein, going back to the "the background music was annoying" thing, it seems that people now feel obliged to tag videos with stuff like "Warning, background music and light effects!" (I exaggerate for effect, of course.) I mean, what? I don't really see any percentage in making every user feel responsible for shaping the user experience of every single other user on the site. Why not do that at the macro level by giving all Mefites the tools to do that themselves?
posted by holborne at 12:56 PM on June 19, 2018 [11 favorites]


holborne, you may want to pop into my (still open) MetaTalk post where I request that My Mefi be put to its full, logical, and ostensible use of actually filtering our front page.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 1:05 PM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


I've often longed for a way to simply block the comments of those users I don't enjoy. If the conversation isn't making sense to me without their comments, that's on me. It's not like it would ruin anyone else's experience if *I* can't see something.

I agree that upping the "Filter" of MetaFilter would help us all a lot - in comments and content. I also love the idea upthread of the main page of MeFi being a sampling of all content here.
posted by agregoli at 1:10 PM on June 19, 2018 [9 favorites]


Similarly, I confess to being absolutely mystified as to why there's no killfile on MetaFilter. Why does MetaFilter not provide a way to hide posts of people with whom you really just should not engage, ever?

This does not answer your question, but it's worth noting that there are many scripts available to us through Greasemonkey and its equivalents on iOS and Android, including Killfile scripts. The "diediedead" script allows one to filter by text, user name or site url.

I don't know how often they've been updated over the years. They may or may not work with new browser architectures, operating systems or metafilter site themes.
posted by zarq at 1:18 PM on June 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


I've often longed for a way to simply block the comments of those users I don't enjoy.

killfiles for chrome and firefox
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:19 PM on June 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Historically the reason for no built-in site filtering/killfiles has been: everybody sees the same front page, everybody sees the same comments in a thread.

On posts, we now have more ways to customize which posts you see, for example MyMefi or the US politics filter that blocks posts tagged 'uspolitics' or 'potus45'... and I think we're more open to looking at that kind of thing. (But the influence of those threads is present on the site. It's like the suggestion of hiding favorites - individuals can hide or obfuscate favorites in their own view, but some people still feel like they affect site dynamics regardless of what an individual does.)

On comments, it's harder - the problem is that each thread is a single conversation... it can meander and have some digressions or multiple strands at once, but a given commenter needs to be able to contextualize their own comment within the thread that everyone is seeing. Imagine you've hidden Person X's comments, but they're commenting in a thread. Now you comment -- and because of the wording or the timing, you seem to be replying to them, which gets them replying to you, but you may not even realize that's happening.... and so on. A lot of opportunity for confusion, angry misunderstanding, etc, both for the commenters and for other readers.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:21 PM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'd be curious to know if people who run killfiles tended to add duplicate links or content to say, longboat political threads.
posted by zarq at 1:24 PM on June 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


I don't post a lot except to AskMe. This is because of the fighty /attack-y/ look for worst possible interpretations of everything tone. I assume that I'll be made to feel like crap for my comments.

I need to apologise for my own behaviour in a recent MeTa about the Royal Wedding- I generalised about the people on one side of the issue, and it was wrong and inadvertently hurtful. I still think it would have been better to have either been in FanFare or to have two threads.

As an Australian, the US-Centric nature bugs me. Serious threads about Australia either tend to have comments joking about my country (lol, must be the kangaroos!) or turning it into a US discussion

AskMe is a lot better but suffers from people not reading the actual question. I've made a number of questions about my status as a single woman trying to have a kid, and every post has suggestions I let my husband help, or that I need to focus more on my relationship.
posted by daybeforetheday at 1:24 PM on June 19, 2018 [14 favorites]


AskMe is a lot better but suffers from people not reading the actual question.

PREACH.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 1:27 PM on June 19, 2018 [20 favorites]


I'd be curious to know if people who run killfiles tended to add duplicate links or content to say, longboat political threads.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:28 PM on June 19, 2018 [9 favorites]


I'd be curious to know if people who run killfiles tended to add duplicate links or content to say, longboat political threads.

Why would you say that, Chrysostom? Have there been near-duplicate comments recently?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:29 PM on June 19, 2018


I mean, great, there's a tech solution - but I've never used a killfile, so I guess I can read up on it and try to implement it. But it's not weird to suggest, since almost every other website with commenting has a way to do this. It's one way MeFi is different, and that might be how those in charge want it - but it's unusual to not provide a way for users to do this through the site itself.

On comments, it's harder - the problem is that each thread is a single conversation... it can meander and have some digressions or multiple strands at once, but a given commenter needs to be able to contextualize their own comment within the thread that everyone is seeing. Imagine you've hidden Person X's comments, but they're commenting in a thread. Now you comment -- and because of the wording or the timing, you seem to be replying to them, which gets them replying to you, but you may not even realize that's happening.... and so on. A lot of opportunity for confusion, angry misunderstanding, etc, both for the commenters and for other readers.

If the user is shown to have a comment, but I can't see it, I would know I was missing something in the convo. If someone replies to that, and I'm like "Bwuh?" I would know I missed something. Which is obvious to me, cause I see that I missed something. Maybe you were thinking I wouldn't see that the person I blocked commented at all?

I guess I can see how this could get complicated, but I don't think in most situations it would ever be a problem. I know it's a pony that I'm likely to never get, but it could be one more barrier to newer people feeling comfy here.
posted by agregoli at 1:30 PM on June 19, 2018


[that was a joke, repeating zarq's comment to imply he was in my killfile. I'll work with the writers to punch up my material a bit]
posted by Chrysostom at 1:32 PM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]




The same jokes happen every time the subject comes up.
posted by zarq at 1:33 PM on June 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


You want me to be funny AND inventive?!? Cut me some slack, zarq!
posted by Chrysostom at 1:35 PM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


“Well, I laughed,” he thought to an empty room.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 1:35 PM on June 19, 2018 [9 favorites]


(I am struggling to figure out the Nancy killfile extension on mobile. Is it possible? If it's possible, I'll keep trying to figure it out.)
posted by agregoli at 1:36 PM on June 19, 2018


Presuming bad faith because someone uses a disfavored word is alienating. It means there are certain conversations that will never happen here, because "we" have decided we're not interested in those difference of viewpoint. I have a huge list of topics that I know people would be Very Interested in reading about and reading the discussion around, but which are more nuanced and indepth than is workable here. Largely because of this sort of language policing. It's an area where MetaFilter isn't as progressive as it thinks it is.

Full agreement here, especially since the words I use to describe my own sexuality and gender ("queer," "bi," and "pan") has been increasingly under fire over the last decade and this week is the target of a 4chan concern-trolling operation. Not everyone using the "wrong" language is acting in bad faith. Not everyone engaged in language policing these days is acting in good faith.

My suggestion, more checking in and less calling out.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:44 PM on June 19, 2018 [16 favorites]


The word tranny is a word that I as a trans person can decide when and how to use it because I also know as a trans person that the word carries a lot of trauma because I've experienced that trauma personally and quite often.

Where that lands me is "Yeah I don't use that word except in very particular small IRL settings where I am totally safe to use that word and I'm not somehow normalizing cis people into feeling like that word is theirs to use whenever the fuck they like".

And I hope that other trans people care more about the trauma that trans people directly experience via that word than their own feelings that it can reclaimed and used however they like. Because that word is loaded as fuck and to claim reclamation of a word and saying to other trans people "why u so mad it's just a word yo" is...It's just not a way of being that I will ever agree with.

So, to be clear, I'm not opposed to the word, I just think how and when we use the word should be more carefully considered and less casually thrown around in a campy ambivalent in your face way.

Like for instance, I wish Laura Jane Grace had not named her book that, but I also understand why she did, and I don't hold any grudges against her for it. I personally would have chosen something more creative and nuanced.
posted by nikaspark at 1:50 PM on June 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


I joined at a time in my life when I desperately needed community. I read the site for a long time before joining, so I knew how things went. I read the FAQ(s), I followed the rules as best as I understood them, I posted comments, and I got pushback. Not all the time, but enough. It's like somebody takes my comment and uses it as a springboard to point out the less than charitable read of my opinion, or maybe the part of my opinion that I didn't carefully think through and pick the exact combination of words to forestall exactly this particular response, and there we have it, my presence is a net negative in this thread. Sigh.

So I kept at it. I figured that I wasn't doing things right, and I read more, commented less, and found myself typing more and more, editing the comment to get across exactly what I meant and nothing more, and still nothing. I felt no interaction, no community, no point to my being here.

So I stopped. I stay logged out most of the time, and on the rare occasion I feel strongly enough to comment, I take my chance. And sometimes when I check back, my comment has been disappeared. Like, I get that the moderators have a tough job to do, and I can appreciate the way that shit is kept pruned, but my takeaway is as if someone's saying, "Yeah, no, we don't need your presence here." And as I'm typing this, I find I'm thinking about my own posting history, and I'm wondering who's going to review it and point out what I've been doing wrong. And it just adds to the general disgust I feel about participating here.

Maybe I really don't have anything to contribute, maybe I'm not valuable. I honestly don't know. I don't have that level of self-awareness. But what I do know is that I've read multiple comments that reflect how I feel: this site is highly insular, some people get away with shitty behavior repeatedly, literally any comment is a potential grenade, dead goats, etc. It's a real fucking drag, and I have no more energy to give to stuff that, by all appearances, nobody cares about my participation in.

This thread was started with the apparent intent of increasing user activity, and at least two members have left as a result of actions taken in this very thread. Just... I don't even know where to go from there. How do you not see it?

I'll keep reading the front page, ask, and Fanfare. I don't plan to disable my account; it's helpful to be able to ask questions, and on the one instance I had a link to a story that I actually thought the average metafilter reader would appreciate, I was able to create a bare bones FPP. Never could work up enough energy to read the comments, though. And that seems pretty telling to me.

You want activity? Invite activity. Reward activity. Don't punish activity.
posted by disconnect at 1:55 PM on June 19, 2018 [33 favorites]


disconnect -- I just read your thread. It went well, got to some thoughtful and informed stuff ... and then toward the bottom:

Thank you for posting this.
posted by meemzi

posted by philip-random at 2:17 PM on June 19, 2018


Would it help if you did not think of having a comment deleted as a punishment? The reason for deletion are vast and I imagine they are also very contextual. If you are often replying to a comment that is deleted, mods like to keep those replies from spurring another derail, so they will often remove any quick follow ups as well.
posted by soelo at 2:22 PM on June 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


nikaspark: I think that's a great response. In my experience a lot of people who reclaim slurs or use them situationally are willing to meet half-way and moderate language to the needs of the room.

But there's a lot of gatekeeping and infighting going on when language norms are discussed. And not all of the words under debate are recognizable slurs either. Sometimes we're talking adjective vs. noun, where and in what context it's appropriate to use medical jargon, or changes that have not had time to diffuse to everyone. Sometime's it's a confusion about talking about cultural fluidity vs. biology. And, there's strong efforts to limit who can access which language to people meeting "gold star" or equivalent standards.

And as I alluded to, I'm twitchy in this area because I constantly have people using bad linguistics to drive a wedge between my bi-ness (a cultural and medical reality, not just a label I wear) and my nonbinary gender (also a cultural and medical reality). This week, that wedge has been made explicit via right-wing trolling op that has a least some traction over on twitter, although a fair number are pointing out that it is a trolling op.

Just personally, if I start peppering my texts with slurs in reference to myself, I'm usually mad as heck about something. So a kindly check-in rather than a "how dare you" callout would likely settle things a lot quicker.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:51 PM on June 19, 2018 [7 favorites]


gosh, this post has gone so much worse than I thought it would.

To those who are afraid to speak - speaking for myself only, I am so sorry to hear that and I would be thrilled to hear from you, I promise. Especially if you're a member of an underrepresented minority on metafilter.* Even if you're not a PhD-level expert in whatever you're talking about - I mean, please take care not to talk over the folks that are experts, but a community of full-time lurkers is not much of a community at all.

I promise not to think ill of your character if you say something unintentionally hurtful, even if that thing is directed at me. I will make an effort to read in good faith and participate in a way that conveys that. I will ask for clarification before assuming. This is all in the spirit of the golden rule - I can only hope that others will extend me some latitude when I inevitably fuck up, too.

If that's not what the community here wants anymore, so be it, maybe eventually I won't be a part of the community, and I can accept that. But until then - I'm here, and I'm committed to making myself a positive force in a healthier general-interest space that is accessible and inclusive, even to the less knowledgeable and the unorthodox.

*especially if that minority is non-USian. Seriously, I'm immersed enough in American thought in my day-to-day life. I sincerely value an international community and I will do whatever I can to foster that moving forward. If anyone has specific recommendations for things I should be mindful of, please do share!
posted by mosst at 2:59 PM on June 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


But there's a lot of gatekeeping and infighting going on when language norms are discussed

Totally, and I typically avoid that lot of unsettled inside baseball within trans communities elsewhere on the internet because I personally do not have the mental health to participate in those kinds of discussions. I find they take me farther away from the things I actually care about to instead intentionally focus on discussions that upset me and make me feel more outside and more alien and less belonging and more alone.

This is the last place I have any social media presence on. And when I finally reach the point that I can't deal here, I'll be another silent unknown ghost of a queer statistic that may as well have never walked the earth.
posted by nikaspark at 4:19 PM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Not that I haven't already talked my fuckin mouth off, but I just wanted to say that I'm glad so many people have weighed in on this thread. It's seriously been years that I've been wanting to talk about all of this, and I didn't because I figured it was just me and I'd be shouted down. Like, I seriously thought there was something wrong with me (and when I did bring it up tentatively once or twice, and it was suggested that yes, there was something wrong with me and I'd have to just learn to deal with it, and this is the first time I've ever experienced discomfort in my life so welcome to the club). Now it seems more like there's actually a real problem. I wouldn't have seen that if other people hadn't shared how alienating this site is to them, too.

It makes me want to take a giant step back from this site, but it's not because I'm feeling hurt. It's actually a huge relief! For years I was so sucked into this site and its drama that I honestly believed it was a good thing that I felt bad about myself so often. That is... not a good relationship to have with anyone or anything.

Sorry to have made this comment all about me, but I went for a walk and I was struck by this new perspective (also, my insomnia hasn't abated, so apologies if this is rambling and incoherent). I just hope other people are getting new perspective out of this thread, and I hope there's something positive in there. I know this hasn't been an easy thread, and I know it's been especially difficult for some people, but I hope one of the main takeaways is that most if not all of us really are just trying to do our best, even when things get contentious or hostile.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:42 PM on June 19, 2018 [11 favorites]


Ok, I feel funny posting this after people writing about how much they did or did not talk here, but there were a few comments a while back (starting with latkes') about showing people stats about how much a thread they're occupying.

I thought it would be interesting, so I made a userscript/greasemonkey script to do just that. i.e. it adds below your comment box something like:

You have contributed 5 comments to this thread. That's 25% of all comments by count and 30% by length.

15 other people have commented. You make up 7% of all commenters.


Clearly it's no judgment on comment quality, but if you're interested in playing around with it it's available here.

Btw, there's a bunch more scripts, extensions, etc. available in the MefiScripts website and they should be more current than those in the Mefi Wiki.
posted by waninggibbon at 5:42 PM on June 19, 2018 [15 favorites]


One nice thing about reddit is that they have Cake Day - basically a bit of flair that appears next to your username on each anniversary of you joining reddit. I say it’s nice because it leads to people wishing you Happy Cake Day from time to time. Bringing in something similar for MetaFilter might make people feel less invisible when they comment. Combat the idea that there’s a MetaFilter in-group that uses up all the attention, which is an impression some people had way up-thread.
posted by um at 6:07 PM on June 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


I don't know if there's a way to do it, but maybe have some kind of spinoff area for side discussions? Sometimes people want to have a side conversation (like in the politics thread) and right now the mods are stuck deleting it and saying "knock it off" even if it's "good but not on topic" but if those conversational energies could be directed to something like discussions.metafilter.com so the conversation could continue, you'd get more content and upset less people.

Right now I feel like there's a lot of functionality that's there but not expressed well. For example if I did want to keeep up with the Trump thread, I'd have to know where to go or scroll through several pages to find the OP, then click the "300 unread" rather than use the sidebar. I'm sure there's another way to do it but I don't know what it is. Likewise with flagging, there's not a lot up front about what that does.

And maybe a little prompt on what to comment? Sometimes I read a new post and there's no comments yet and I don't want to be the guy that breaks the silence.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:19 PM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


hey y’all this place is tiresome. The problem isn’t metafilter the problem is the internet itself. The medium is toxic and bad because it was designed to carry data not relationships. I’m out.
posted by nikaspark at 9:08 PM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Mods, please stop this MeTa before it kills again.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:35 PM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well. I guess that’ll learn us!
posted by holborne at 9:47 PM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Damn you Millenials! Is your bloodlust never sated? *shakes fist at sky*
posted by um at 10:18 PM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


anyway, I'm not going anywhere ... except maybe to sleep pretty soon.
posted by philip-random at 10:22 PM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh, no. Motherf-

(turns to dust)
posted by FJT at 10:22 PM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Guys... guys...

I have the answer...

Bring back the img tag.
posted by dazed_one at 10:35 PM on June 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


[an elephant shitting the american flag]
posted by grobstein at 10:39 PM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


We can’t bring back the img tag because of What Jessamyn Did
posted by um at 10:42 PM on June 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


So like we just had a big chat in this very thread about how mocking mefites and making snarky one-liners about people makes folks feel excluded...

And yet more than one person felt compelled to make jokes about someone leaving in this thread. Come on -do a little better, please.

I'm not totally po-faced but let's save the jokes for joke threads and save the mocking-other-mefites for the never threads. Jeezy Creezy people, it's not that hard.
posted by smoke at 10:43 PM on June 19, 2018 [25 favorites]


Seriously, this is really really gross. I’m sad to see nikaspark go, and I’m sorry that me being away from the thread long enough to take care of myself meant not getting to engage in further conversation with them. It’s a loss to the community, and the response has me pretty close to leaving, too.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:45 PM on June 19, 2018 [16 favorites]


This is so sad, especially because nikaspark said just a few posts above that this was the last place they had a social media presence on. I thought this thread was really helpful for me, making me better understand how people approach and experience this forum, it also strengthened my resolve to comment more and flag when needed - but none of that should come at the expense of so many members feeling the need to leave. Damn.
posted by liquorice at 11:13 PM on June 19, 2018


Look, I totally get why nikaspark left. MetaFilter is dying and there’s probably no way to turn it around.

Apparently it’s dying because the number of people who leave exceeds the number of people who sign up. Mefites do not recommend people join MetaFilter because the people who know this place best have concluded that the general culture is one of fundamental hostility. People here aren’t comfortable confronting that.
posted by um at 11:13 PM on June 19, 2018 [23 favorites]


because the people who know this place best have concluded that the general culture is one of fundamental hostility.

sorry, I don't buy this. I don't for a moment dispute that there is hostility here, and it can hurt. I've been hurt. But to say that's fundamentally what this place is about just feels like depression talking.

And now I really am going to call it a night. Take care, all. It's only words.
posted by philip-random at 12:11 AM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


I don't want to shit up threads, but also I find it very meaningful and fulfilling to call certain assumptions into question. It's not to be smug or superior, it's just how I like to look at certain topics.

I really appreciate shapes that haunt the dusk and ChuraChura for working to articulate unpopular, nuanced explanations here. I was reading through the thread thinking "why don't I recommend MeFi to people?"* And it's exactly the sense of forced positivity, animal memes, opposition to discussing how something "just for fun" actually reflects and highlights bigger and more interesting things. Sincerely, the Royal Wedding thread and last year's TERF issue mean most of my friends would be horrified by the site and would wonder what I'm doing here. These things have made me wonder that too.

I applaud people's efforts to think about the site's future and how to encourage participation, but I would also suggest considering how the substantive discussions (including conflict) have contributed to the blue and the green, and how to ensure the site has substance as well as fun, instead of going towards UpWorthy.

*I have recommended AskMe for some real questions and have bought a few friends and family members accounts, but that's not the same as "check out this post" and honestly has mostly not led to lasting participation
posted by carbide at 12:47 AM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


hey y’all this place is tiresome. The problem isn’t metafilter the problem is the internet itself. The medium is toxic and bad because it was designed to carry data not relationships. I’m out.

I was really sorry to read this because I've always appreciated and enjoyed nika's contributions to the site. But the sentiment expressed above (about the web in general) is one I've been feeling for a long time. It's a big part of why I deleted my Twitter and Facebook accounts over the past year or two. I still plan on sticking with Metafilter; it's not a faceless, nameless corporation trying to maximize profits for shareholders at the expense of its user base, and I like hanging out here.

For entirely selfish reasons, I hope nika makes it back to Metafilter at some point, but it ain't my life and it ain't my call... if you're reading this, be well, and know you'll be missed here.
posted by duffell at 2:53 AM on June 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


Jeezy Creezy people, it's not that hard.

I apologize.
posted by FJT at 3:30 AM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


I've taken this thread to heart and for the past couple of days I've made a conscious effort to make positive comments on the posts that have made me smile (or happy cry). I'm still a bit intimidated to post an FPP on the blue (yes even as a member for 13 years and a lurker for 3 years before that) so I acknowledge that there is something there we need to work on. But nice, encouraging comments I can do. Be the change you want to see right?
posted by like_neon at 3:35 AM on June 20, 2018 [13 favorites]


the sense of forced positivity, animal memes, opposition to discussing how something "just for fun" actually reflects and highlights bigger and more interesting things

I appear to have joined the wrong metafilter can someone send me the link to that one pls

Seriously, metafilter as a place of forced positivity? That is so not my current read. I find it incredibly depressing but that's my personal opinion. The world is shit and coming to a place where people talk endlessly about how shit it is and why is not my idea of escapism. If someone posted a heavy thread and a commenter came in all "Why the long faces guys?? It's a marvellous time to be alive!" the ink wouldn't be dry on their comment before a dozen mefites had (rightly) shouted at them and a mod had appeared with a big crook to hoik them out of there. But post a lighthearted thread and simply count down the seconds until someone appears to say "No but *actually* you are a horrible human being for liking this" and pushback against that and hey presto, you want this to be Upworthy! Good grief. The only winning move...
posted by billiebee at 5:30 AM on June 20, 2018 [24 favorites]


.people who know this place best have concluded that the general culture is one of fundamental hostility. People here aren’t comfortable confronting that.

I don't totally get this. You were the second person to make a joke after they quit. You have directly contributed to feelings of hostility in this thread. If you can understand it, why did you crack wise?
posted by smoke at 5:49 AM on June 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


Did you mean "metafilter", not "millenials" perhaps?
posted by smoke at 5:53 AM on June 20, 2018


After a pretty long and difficult thread, while there's been a lot of negative things said here, I think the thread itself has been valuable, even if some things haven't gone as well as they should. If anything, I think a frank meta-discussion of some of the problems MetaFilter has been having with discussions has been long overdue, and this thread probably would have been more focused on positive change if there hadn't been so much bottled up. I'm grateful to sciatrix particularly for having the courage to make the post, and to everyone else who commented as well for sharing their perspectives.

I also think it's worth pointing out very explicitly that while this thread has been very focused on negative aspects of MetaFilter, there's at least as much positive that we could say. While we have problems with vitriol and negativity, including in this thread, the majority of comment threads on this site demonstrate a sincere and serious engagement with the content of the FPP, and commenters generally provide a variety of considered perspectives on a whole range of issues, including expertise and/or lived experiences that are rare to encounter elsewhere. Despite the very real problems articulated in this thread, I believe MetaFilter remains a rare place on the Internet where the rule is Do Read the Comments. We can always do better, and we should find ways to try, but this community is worth fighting for.
posted by biogeo at 6:02 AM on June 20, 2018 [12 favorites]


MetaFilter is dying and there’s probably no way to turn it around.

Apparently it’s dying because the number of people who leave exceeds the number of people who sign up.


People leaving faster than they are joining is the symptom, not the cause.

The interesting question to me is what are people (both moderators and users) willing to do differently than the status quo? Without changes, there aren't going to be different results, but right now it feels like substantive changes are mostly off the table. And that is totally fine -- but with that needs to come the recognition that the decline in activity is likely to continue over time, with predictable outcomes.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:16 AM on June 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


I would suggest that the expression of unhappiness is not negative. For a lot of us, hearing other people express the same unhappiness that we've long felt (indeed unhappiness that we've felt but not been able to express or articulate) has been very positive: it has opened possibilities that didn't seem to exist before.

The condition that I would represent as negative is where the culture literally negates one's experience: where one's enthusiasm is simply material to fuel other people's desire to snipe and put down and criticise.

In a lot of ways I think this is coming out of the wider culture - there is a tendency to compensate for a sense of powerlessness by assuming power in a relationship, even as tenuous a relationship as most of those that exist here. The chaotic world is so oppressive that the easy thrill of identifying and calling out in-thread malefactors, or ruthlessly picking apart a beloved TV show or explaining why a favourite band is shit can sometimes be hard to resist.

And it's one of those things that's easier to spot in others than oneself - do I do it? Yes, I'm sure I do. Would I like not to do it? God, yes. How likely is it that I will stop? More likely than it was before I read this thread. And that's why the thread is positive for me and not negative.
posted by Grangousier at 6:22 AM on June 20, 2018 [18 favorites]


Oh, and if I didn't mention it earlier, I've been spending a lot more time recently on a messageboard for enthusiasts for the electric guitar (a British one). It's a place where a middle-class, middle-aged white bloke is less likely to feel unwelcome. I really don't mean that snarkily, you wouldn't believe the relief.

Anyway, they're not without their problems, as you can imagine, and they've been having exactly the same conversation at exactly the same time. It's in the air. I wonder whether it's not a sign that something's changing. Perhaps people don't want to live like this any more.
posted by Grangousier at 6:29 AM on June 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


Mefites do not recommend people join MetaFilter because the people who know this place best have concluded that the general culture is one of fundamental hostility. People here aren’t comfortable confronting that.

I don't recommend Metafilter because it has a complicated culture that has developed and evolved over 20 years that is hard to explain to newcomers. I do not think it's fundamentally hostile. It certainly can be. It was more hostile in the good old days. I comment some now, but I never would have when recreational pile-ons and casual misogyny were a big part of the culture of the site. My earliest memories of Metafilter are of the jaw-dropping, gleeful hostility. But also great links and askme. So why did I join? Great links and askme.

What's changed? The internet. All this discussion about what's bad about the culture here and who's bad and what's wrong seems pretty normal to me. MetaTalk has always had these threads where people hash out their complaints and suggestions and get mad. Lurkers, of all people, even got some hostility in this one. That hurt my feelings, but I know sciatrix has the best of intentions and is acting in good faith.

I think the metafilter upside (the links) has changed. I was fondly reminiscing recently about The Sneeze and none pizza with left beef. Does that sort of thing even exist anymore? Not really, it seems, because of the loss of blogs and rise of social media. If Metafilter is dying, I think it's because the internet has changed and its raison d'etre--great links--is just harder. Part of the site shift to serious stuff is because of Trump and a politically inclined user base, but also partially attributable to how much less weird and original shit is out there these days.

My two takeaways from this thread is to try to assume good faith and post more fun stuff. That's hard. Some of the very same people complaining about negativity and lack of good faith do it themselves. Like the discussion about dead goating. No one seems to agree on what it means. The original, hypothetical example, yes, we all agree that is bad. But most of the real examples haven't been as clear cut. And yet we have one user ascribe to people who (allegedly) dead goat the worst, most uncharitable motivations (sanctimony, the need to constantly point out evils in the world, their own issues/problems, the anger/jealousy of seeing other MeFites be happy, some kind of sad and pathetic pleasure in ruining other people's enjoyment). Maybe a mistaken comment about a cake, followed by an apology, is just a harmless mistake.

And fun links. I have never done an FPP because in my mind it needs to be The Sneeze-level of awesome. I'm gonna set my sights lower and see what I can come up with.
posted by Mavri at 6:47 AM on June 20, 2018 [34 favorites]


Grangousier: It's a place where a middle-class, middle-aged white bloke is less likely to feel unwelcome.

Is there... a shortage of such places that I've been unaware of?
And 'less' as compared to what?
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:49 AM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


I have no idea whether there's a shortage. Probably not. I just like guitars.

Less than here.

That's my data point. I'm not saying anything should change to suit me. I just mentioned that I altered my habits to make myself feel less uncomfortable. Perhaps it's right that I feel uncomfortable, I don't know.
posted by Grangousier at 6:56 AM on June 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm very sorry if my comment was taken as mocking nikaspark's exit. It was intended as a serious desire to see this MeTa closed, as it seems to be having the opposite of the intended effect of bringing people together. Looking at it in the context of the comments that followed, I can see how it might be interpreted differently, but I promise that was not the intent, and apologize for not being clearer.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:59 AM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Okay, so you are saying that you're feeling unwelcome/uncomfortable here, in a roundabout way. Gotcha. Sorry to hear it. If you want to change that, maybe you could explain how/why.

And that leaves me with "Perhaps people don't want to live like this any more".
Like what? Which people?

Sorry if I seem obtuse, I'm trying to understand what you're saying.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:01 AM on June 20, 2018


It's okay for people to say if they feel uncomfortable, without feeling like they need to defend themselves. The whole point is people feel reticent to speak because they feel like they'll be immediately under a personal microscope, and it would be good if we could back away from that style of engagement.

On the bigger picture -- A lot of people have said stuff in this thread that's been really useful to hear, and we are talking about ways to move the needle on this stuff, including mod actions and notes meant to encourage charitable reading and push back against the making-it-personal stuff.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:39 AM on June 20, 2018 [31 favorites]


I am working on a short series of "argument clinic" MetaTalk posts intended to provoke narrowly-focused, hopefully non-judgmental discussions on how we can disagree with each other more productively on this site. There are probably some moderation actions that can be helpful, but I think the real change needs to come from the ground up, equipping the community as a whole with better language and frameworks for navigating potentially fraught disagreements.
posted by biogeo at 7:45 AM on June 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


A lot of people have said stuff in this thread that's been really useful to hear, and we are talking about ways to move the needle on this stuff, including mod actions and notes meant to encourage charitable reading and push back against the making-it-personal stuff.

Thank you, LM. Could y'all please also take the incident referred to by beerperson in the 'state of the site' thread into consideration as well? I know you said there's greater context and don't want to discuss it publicly, but what he describes isn't good.
posted by zarq at 7:48 AM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Sorry if I seem obtuse, I'm trying to understand what you're saying.

Thank you, that's fine, and I suppose I took your comment as... well... as the kind of thing that makes me uncomfortable. But I find it very difficult to describe fairly. I hope it's a conversation that can be had, I don't think it can be had now, and I think it's a conversation I'd much rather read than participate in, as I feel very clumsy on it.

I suppose the closest I can get to is... I remember during the Boyzone wars, suddenly seeing the things that were said, or the way they were said, or just the general culture of the site through the eyes of the people complaining and being brought up short. Maybe like that, though I'm sure it's more difficult to find. But, given the characteristics listed above, the kinds of things that people are able to say about people like me, because we are people like me - and I really don't want to go trawling for examples right now, I'm afraid - while I do understand the reasons those things are said, the culture in which they're said... that's the landscape. I don't know if that makes sense.

(Actually I knew that it didn't make any sense, so I wrote the following paragraph in hopes that it might make more sense)

I'm writing like I'm trying to avoid clarity because I'm trying to avoid dropping into a pattern of complaint and protest which triggers a specific set of emotional responses and then causes more trouble than it's worth: I don't want to complain, but I do want to describe. And I'm thinking as I go along, which makes it worse. But if men, generally, or white people generally are being torn down, particularly in threads where one might not automatically expect it ... I understand perfectly why that's happening, why they're justified in saying those things, but at a subconscious (?) level the connection is made, the identification is made, and I have to make a conscious effort to suck it up, to differentiate myself from it. When there's the latest ... what are they now, "incel"? - atrocity, I'm a fucked-up-enough individual with remarkable levels of fucked-up-ness in my youth that I can see how I might have turned out like them. And I have to make a conscious effort not to let the entirely justified and understandable rage and dehumanisation that's piled on them and their appalling, dreadful ideologies and actions soak into me a bit.

And all that sucking things up, all that conscious effort at denial and refusal, it's as tiring for me as for anyone else struggling with such things. So when I get tired, I go to a place where blokes talk about pickups and amps and new guitars that have been artfully abused to look like they were made in 1958 and it's a holiday. Until they get too ... um ... blokey. And then I come back here.

So, sorry, it was a throwaway remark. Possibly it's a sign that that stuff wants to leech out again, it sometimes does like that when I'm tired or drunk or distracted by anger, but I shouldn't let it.

I hope that's OK. I really am trying to describe something slippery that squirms around the back of my head, popping out occasionally to humiliate me.

Which people?
Sorry, I wondered whether perhaps there was so much indecency in the world that there was a renewed desire for people to be more decent to each other. Maybe I'm inadvisedly indulging in hope.
posted by Grangousier at 7:48 AM on June 20, 2018 [19 favorites]


Grangousier, thank you for taking the time to explain. That's helpful.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:58 AM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


I am working on a short series of "argument clinic" MetaTalk posts

I appreciate any MetaTalk posts named after Monty Python sketches. even if they are actually quite unrelated. Maybe we can change the whole "dead goat" thing into "dead parrot". And a rousing chorus of "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay" would be good for everyone.

But seriously, I think the 'Filter is better today than ever before, and truly among the Best of the Web (although that's a very low standard to meet these days). And even if the active membership is declining (and I know my personal activity has declined), I certainly don't consider it "dying", I consider it "becoming more exclusive".
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:10 AM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


I don't think the fact that a MeTa thread leads to people leaving means it hasn't been useful. That's always been the case with heated threads. They tend to bring out some tension that's been bubbling under the surface, but that may be what we need in order to resolve that tension.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:14 AM on June 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


> Oh, and if I didn't mention it earlier, I've been spending a lot more time recently on a messageboard for enthusiasts for the electric guitar (a British one). It's a place where a middle-class, middle-aged white bloke is less likely to feel unwelcome. I really don't mean that snarkily, you wouldn't believe the relief.

Just as a point of reference, when I read this I thought "That's a brave thing to say, and somebody's going to shit on him for it." And sure enough, two comments later:

> Is there... a shortage of such places that I've been unaware of?

I know you weren't intending to shit on him, and I'm sure you're bristling at the very idea of being accused of such a horrible thing, but I'm equally sure that's how it felt to him, and he presumably regrets having made the comment to begin with. And that's exactly what some of us are trying to talk about, exactly why we wouldn't recommend the site. It seems so important to a lot of people here to push back against the very idea that a "middle-class, middle-aged white bloke" might have any problems at all compared to genuinely oppressed people that they just have to say something. But all you've done is make someone else feel embarrassed and regretful. Can we please treat each other as if we all have equal value, and all have problems we have to deal with?
posted by languagehat at 8:18 AM on June 20, 2018 [53 favorites]


> They tend to bring out some tension that's been bubbling under the surface, but that may be what we need in order to resolve that tension.

That's always been my view as well, but seeing at least three people peace out has me paying more attention to the cost side of the cost/benefit equation.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:19 AM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Sure, I just think that it makes people leave visibly, at that moment. When they they may have drifted away anyway, without you really noticing.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:30 AM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


(Can I mention that having read Too-Ticky's response to my response I know there was no on-shitting involved, but that yes, that's something I'd be nervous about, was something I was touchy about and I'm grateful for the opportunity to at least try to give a measured explanation for the context for my comment. It made me feel like a grown up for a moment, which is something to give thanks for in an increasingly angry-toddler world.

Also, I'm glad I stumbled on the phrase "describe, don't complain", which I think is a way out of the mess. We should be able to describe how we feel however justified we are in feeling it. I'm not sure we should be allowed to dictate how others ought to feel, but that's getting closer to opinion than I feel comfortable with right now.)
posted by Grangousier at 8:33 AM on June 20, 2018 [17 favorites]


Can we please treat each other as if we all have equal value, and all have problems we have to deal with?

They seemed to have been very civil to each other and worked it out?
posted by cooker girl at 8:34 AM on June 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I'll third that I think the exchange was civil AF. Not seeing where anyone was shitting on anyone in that exchange.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:36 AM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


I've been thinking a lot about this over the past few days. I've been reading Metafilter regularly (almost daily) since 2001, I think, and have been a member since 2007. Since then, I've made a handful of FPPs, asked a few AskMe questions, and posted a few MeTa threads, and commented irregularly, as well as attending some local meetups. I think I have a pretty good handle on site norms and expectations, but I still don't feel like it's easy to engage with this community. I would liken it to feeling like a wallflower at a cocktail party.

I looked back at my participation over the years, and I think one of the things that makes me feel ambivalent about participating more is that very often, I feel like I'm typing into a void. It seems like roughly half of my comments get no traction at all -- no favorites, no direct responses -- and I end up feeling like I shouldn't have bothered. Maybe I'm just boring :/ but the truth is I also hate getting into back-and-forth arguments and sometimes it seems like that's the main way people engage when it comes to online discussion. Someone above mentioned the concept of "Yes, and..." as a conversation driver and it would be so much nicer to participate in conversations that flowed that way.

But other times, I'm just discouraged to participate because of the general tenor. Metafilter sucks the joy out of some things that I really like because it seems to breed and reward cynicism and snark. I basically avoid threads about comic books now, for example.

With regard to FPPs, I tend to follow the practice of "post it and walk away", which I think is still considered a MeFi best practice of sorts but also leaves me feeling a bit empty. If I'm invested enough to post something to the site, I shouldn't have to feel weird about engaging in any ensuing conversation.

The general 'callout culture' kind of stuff that people have mentioned, and the silencing effects it has are real too. I recently posted an FPP about queer comedy and it felt like 90% of the responses were "why wasn't this article about these other people". On one level, it was great to see people using the post as a launchpad to talk about other queer comedy that they love but it didn't really seem like people actually engaged with the content of the post itself. I ended up feeling bad about it, like I had failed by posting something that was "problematic".

Anyway that was a lot of words at the bottom of a long thread, and probably not super helpful. For all its faults, I still really like this place and I won't be going anywhere soon, but I'm eager to see if some positive change can come out of the turmoil.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:37 AM on June 20, 2018 [31 favorites]


Grangousier: "describe, don't complain"

I like that!
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:38 AM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


They seemed to have been very civil to each other and worked it out?

it did work out, but I also felt some of what languagehat just said ...

I thought "That's a brave thing to say, and somebody's going to shit on him for it."

though shitting on him is perhaps a little hyperbolic. What did happen, to my mind, was Too-Ticky sort of leaned into Grangousier and got active in their curiosity, which yes, did get us to ...

"describe, don't complain"

which is damned good advice for any situation where conflict is real. I guarantee that it will impact a few things I've got to handle today in my (so-called) real life. So yes, an entirely useful and ultimately positive exchange. Thank you, Too-Ticky, for making your questions explicit, and Grangousier for taking the time and energy for a thoughtful answer ... and to anybody lurking who may have felt a compulsion to jump in, take sides or whatever, but didn't, instead stepped back, gave breathing room.
posted by philip-random at 9:01 AM on June 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


I don't think the fact that a MeTa thread leads to people leaving means it hasn't been useful.

I agree. These things need to be aired.

But still, it pains me to see people buttoning.
posted by zarq at 9:04 AM on June 20, 2018 [11 favorites]


it felt like 90% of the responses were "why wasn't this article about these other people".

To branch off from sevenyearlurk's excellent comment: lists/listicles end up on the blue pretty often, and there are almost always comments like "[X] not included, list invalid" or "ctrl-f for [Y], no results, this list sucks." And that comes off a bit, at least to me, as 'post invalid' or 'post sucks.' Can we, as a community, try and take more of that Yes And approach? "[X] not included, so here's more information about it!" is basically the same thing, but framed more of a contribution than a dismissal.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 9:54 AM on June 20, 2018 [19 favorites]


> sevenyearlurk:
"On one level, it was great to see people using the post as a launchpad to talk about other queer comedy that they love but it didn't really seem like people actually engaged with the content of the post itself."

I totally recognize this. I actually learned about "Yes and…" from a boss of mine, who was obsessed with the phrase. I really hated it for a long time. It made me feel totally diminished. Eventually, I realized the reason was he was vocalizing "yes and…" but what he really meant was "no, but…".

He didn't actually acknowledge my thoughts and ideas. He didn't build off of them. He just wanted to get to his ideas. It was an empty phrase.

"Yes and…" isn't about getting over what you've been handed. It's about saying that what's in front of you—its substance and not just its existence—has been in some way necessary to getting to your next destination.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 10:09 AM on June 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


shapes that haunt the dusk has also buttoned. :(
posted by zarq at 10:18 AM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


> Sure, I just think that it makes people leave visibly, at that moment. When they they may have drifted away anyway, without you really noticing.

Maybe they would have, but I think it's worth considering that maybe the semi-public act of buttoning (often accompanied by a comment saying goodbye) might be a signal that the buttoners care more than those who simply drift away, and might want their exit to mean something -- if not for their future selves when the site is more to their liking, then for the benefit of those who are also disengaged but haven't decided to leave yet. It could also mean they just want a break, or that something in the MeTa was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, but if it's meant to send a message, I want the community to be receptive to that message.

Not trying to speak for any of them, of course... Just bummed that this is happening.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:55 AM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that could be. I don't like to see anyone leave; I hope folks who have reconsider at some point.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:04 AM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's only me but I feel it's weird to publicize other people's buttonings. If they didn't call attention to it before they left the site maybe don't do it for them?
posted by Memo at 11:17 AM on June 20, 2018 [12 favorites]


You make it sound like I am gossiping. I am not. We've already been discussing the fact that multiple users are buttoning as a direct result of this thread. I think there's value in noting when another person leaves (especially one who has spoken so eloquently here,) since it is additional evidence that both the manner in which this conversation has unfolded and people's dissatisfaction and unhappiness about the site are a problem that should be addressed.
posted by zarq at 11:37 AM on June 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


sevenyearlurk: "I think one of the things that makes me feel ambivalent about participating more is that very often, I feel like I'm typing into a void. It seems like roughly half of my comments get no traction at all -- no favorites, no direct responses -- and I end up feeling like I shouldn't have bothered."

I think this is a really strong point. One of the strengths of Reddit is that it is built around direct interaction with other people's material, and when people do interact with your stuff, you receive tangible indicators: not just upvotes, but also notifications when somebody replies to one of your posts or comments. So it (often) feels less like speaking into a void.

Or to put it another way -- if we want to promote engagement with the site, I think we should be placing *much* less emphasis on site culture, and much *more* emphasis on small technical changes that reward participation. E.g. I think lirp's suggestions upthread are good ones that really ought to be seriously considered.
posted by crazy with stars at 11:57 AM on June 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


shapes said they were leaving; I checked their profile within a couple of minutes of their last comment because I happened to be reading the end of the thread and I thought the comment was saying goodbye, and they were already gone.
posted by jamjam at 12:13 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Can't figure out if Nancy killfile works on mobile, so I'm stuck reading everything, as the site intends. If anyone knows how to do this for Android Chrome browser, please memail me.
posted by agregoli at 12:16 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


The person who created the Nancy killfile and several other Greasemonkey plugins (such as "Howls of Outrage") is mdevore. He appears to be happy to receive inquiries at his email address (listed in his profile.)
posted by zarq at 12:38 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


If we're talking about people who buttoned, I was sad to see runt's profile has been deactivated, as they had some really valuable contributions.
posted by daybeforetheday at 12:53 PM on June 20, 2018


I suspect that their buttoning is probably for different reasons than some of the people in this thread, as they seemed to want more argy bargy not less.
posted by smoke at 1:56 PM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Just another graph ... Metafiter could theoretically chug along for many years ...

I've spent almost no time on this, but if my slapdash work isn't too far off, unique IDs leaving favorites and total favorites per month look a bit more stable, which could mean a lot of people are still out there. Caveats: I think the favorites data covers the whole site, so it's not a 1-1 comparison with commenters on the blue; and people use favorites in different ways, so even if it's accurate, this shouldn't be taken as much more than a possible metric of quiet engagement--whether it's bookmarking or liking or "I came in this AskMe thread to say that" or what.
posted by Wobbuffet at 5:15 PM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


tonycpsu, it's nice to see you reflecting on why people are leaving and also how the tone of your own comments is interpreted by others, since it felt like you were pretty nasty to me in the meta just 4 days ago, after I made a comment about why I was on the verge of buttoning and how I was nervous about getting piled-on. So I guess at least in that sense this thread has been useful towards building a less hostile environment.
posted by likeatoaster at 6:17 PM on June 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


As one datapoint, the current World Cup thread in FanFare has 800+ comments.

and a quick ctrl/F reveals only 12 "soccer"s. Well done USians ...

Like so many others, I've spent time reading through this thread over the last couple of days, working hard to absorb the thoughts and feelings of site members. For me, the exchange listed above is exactly what causes me to lose interest in engaging with the site.

User 1 offers some great data about FanFare - pointing out positive interaction in the World Cup thread. Instead of letting the comment stand alone or acknowledging the upbeat sentiment, User 2 replies by making a snide comment about the use of the word "soccer" (rather than "football") in the thread.

This style of engagement is exhausting for me. Why must everything have a negative spin assigned to it? In my day to day life I gently address or avoid this kind of conversation. My family, friends, and co-workers do not interact in this way. On MF, however, it almost feels unavoidable. I'm not sure if it's because MF attracts a personality type that is predisposed to negative thinking patterns, or if I'm just not cut out for the community.

MetaFilter has challenged my thinking in so many ways; there is a vast community of users here with a broad depth of knowledge. One of my professors used to say, "Be curious first - judgmental a distant second." We gain nothing, ultimately, by tearing down others in a community we care about. There is so much darkness in the world at large, let's bring a little light to the rooms we occupy the most.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 6:37 PM on June 20, 2018 [26 favorites]


likeatoaster: Wait, when was I nasty to you? You said that MeFi is overmoderated, and that you wanted a "moderator downsize", but that you weren't advocating layoffs. Then someone else asked how a moderator downsize wasn't layoffs, and I speculated that you were suggesting fewer hours, which is the only compromise I could see where there would be less moderation (as you said you want) with the same number of staff members. Unless I missed it, you didn't clarify exactly how your proposal wasn't going to lead to layoffs of moderators.

Then a bit later, beerperson chimed in and characterized your comment as "a mild criticism", which I took exception to, as, in my view, "mild criticisms" don't include things that could cost people their jobs, especially when considering that the current number is the bare minimum for 24/7 moderation.

You then asked why 24/7 moderation is necessary, and I chimed in with my own experience moderating forums that don't have it. And that was my last post in that MeTa.

I stand by my feelings about your proposal, and I felt like you weren't assessing the full impact of a "moderator downsize", but I hold no ill will toward you personally, and don't think I was nasty to you. I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, but I need to know which comment of mine you're interpreting as nasty.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:49 PM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


User 1 offers some great data about FanFare - pointing out positive interaction in the World Cup thread. Instead of letting the comment stand alone or acknowledging the upbeat sentiment, User 2 replies by making a snide comment about the use of the word "soccer" (rather than "football") in the thread.

I'm sorry if this caused distress. But I'm a little perplexed as to how congratulating Americans for not being US-centric in a thread where that has been an issue is "snide". Perhaps it's not full-on "Hooray For Everyone" level glee, but the intention was not to be mean or dismissive at all.
posted by philip-random at 7:13 PM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


User 1 offers some great data about FanFare - pointing out positive interaction in the World Cup thread. Instead of letting the comment stand alone or acknowledging the upbeat sentiment, User 2 replies by making a snide comment about the use of the word "soccer" (rather than "football") in the thread.

This style of engagement is exhausting for me.


Odd, I don't read that as an exhausting, negative comment. It's a quip, a joke, and one with no real hostility behind it that I can perceive.

Should the light jests and bon mots of metafilter be deleted? If so, this would truly be a bleak place.
posted by dazed_one at 7:17 PM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


But I'm a little perplexed as to how congratulating Americans for not being US-centric in a thread where that has been an issue is "snide".

I apologize for misunderstanding your intent. In my experience, the use of the term "USian" sometimes signals a disingenuous tone - I shouldn't have ascribed that to your comment, though.

I don't think anyone wants to see a world (or a website) devoid of lightheartedness. However, in an already intense thread, where tone is everything, a bit more care than usual is something worth considering.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 8:23 PM on June 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


However, in an already intense thread, where tone is everything, a bit more care than usual is something worth considering.

Agreed. Perhaps we should take care not to ascribe malice to people's words. What other people write is often out of our control, but how we read it is entirely up to us.
posted by dazed_one at 8:35 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have spent the last few hours reading through this thread and digesting it.

I am not disheartened. I am the complete and utter opposite. I am incredibly relieved. It's like my very soul has taken a huge sigh of relief.

I am relieved to not be so alone. I am relieved that this frank and difficult discussion is finally taking place. I am relieved to finally not feel like I am the weird one. I am relieved that so many of you have, too, sensed this palpable disconnect in Metafilter's espoused values and its current reality.

It takes an incredibly crazy-making level of cognitive dissonance on the daily to engage here. We say we are embracing of "others." We say we are progressive. We say we are accepting of all. But saying and being are two completely separate things. We can do better.

We're living in a day in age where we want to belong but we don't know how to engage with others without first putting on layers upon layers of wretched armor against the inevitable onslaught of right-fighting and side-taking. Brené Brown, researcher, professor, speaker and author delved deeply into this is in her truly paradigm-shifting book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest For True Belonging. It's a must-read for anyone feeling this way. Hell, just go read the Amazon reviews. You guys, we're not alone.

It hurts like hell to try to exist in this age of human evolution. It's demoralizing and heartbreaking and we're all so exhausted by it all. And things are changing at an ever rapid pace we can barely fucking keep our heads about us.

But as human beings we're wired for connection. We need it. We desire so deeply to reach out to others and feel heard and validated, but we're unsure of how to do it and we're frightened as all fuck, for good reason.

It's a polarizing age and the way forward, with due time, will be messy and not easy. But we will do it, as a collective humanity, because this is our evolution. We will do it as a collective Metafilter because it's worth it. We are all connected by being alive and being human. And what is happening to our neighbor is happening to us.

I hope we can all be strengthened by this discussion, not saddened. I feel like we are tapping into the very root causes of the lack of engagement. I personally have disengaged for the very same reasons.

And perhaps we won't have clear answers tomorrow or the next day on the way forward from here. But that so many of us are brave enough to finally speak up and share our fears is exactly what we need.

This is the time and we are in this together. These are our growing pains as a human race, and they're sure as hell not comfortable nor easy. But we're a pretty badass, brave species. Love to all.
posted by bologna on wry at 11:41 PM on June 20, 2018 [30 favorites]


Well said, bologna on wry.
posted by mosst at 6:55 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


On the bigger picture -- A lot of people have said stuff in this thread that's been really useful to hear, and we are talking about ways to move the needle on this stuff, including mod actions and notes meant to encourage charitable reading and push back against the making-it-personal stuff. - LobsterMitten

I'd be happy to hear what kind of conclusions you're drawing, because I'm not getting much of any. Some people want to be able to add critical perspectives missing from posts, without which they find themselves unable to participate, and other people view this as "dead goating," which immediately prevents them from participating. Some people want the staff to refrain from deleting comments at all, some want the staff to delete with a note, some find the deletion notes offputting, some find the lack of specificity in deletion notes confusing, some find too much specificity unhelpful, some find the use of names as a good guide, some find naming users to be the heavy hand of moderation silencing their contributions, and others think the problem is the wrong people being named.

Some people find the political megathreads helpful, even the main attraction for the site, while other avoid them, or even think they are a net detriment, with negative affects spilling over into other threads. Some think the lack of threads on a specific issues is a problem, but don't want to post them, for various reasons. Some think we have too much of some kinds of threads, and not enough of others.

It looks to me like one's meat is another's poison.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:17 AM on June 21, 2018 [17 favorites]


In conclusion, MetaFilter is a land of contrasts.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:49 AM on June 21, 2018 [13 favorites]


For sure, I think one of the obvious things from this discussion (and from many previous on MetaTalk over the years) is that there isn't a clean, simple, everybody's-happy throughline for any of this. Lots of site stuff about which people here have strong feelings and preferences land somewhere on a spectrum dotted by other disparate-but-also-valid feelings and preferences; MetaFilter as a large community exists pretty much by definition in a state of tension.

Like LM said, we're talking about moving the needle, about nudging things toward a better state of compromise on this or that point of tension. Almost nobody is going to come out of that process with exactly what they want, but I think we have room to move to keep just about everybody involved in those compromises while still improving the overall health of the site's conversational dynamics.

Part of that is recognizing that if one's meat is another's poison and vice versa, we can help people—and encourage people to help themselves—to spend more time on their meat and less time on their poison, or to tell one from the other quicker before it becomes real trouble.

And part of it is looking past "can't please everybody" to try and better identify the stuff folks most consistently agree is meaty, and the parts folks most consistently recognize and poison, and trying to shift the balance there a bit.

It's all messy and complicated. This thread is an absolute testament to that; the whole history of MetaTalk discussions about the nature of this community is. It will always be that way. But it's still something we can work on, something where we can patch up cracks in the foundation and arbitrage subpar conversational patterns and try and help most folks feel a bit better about how things are going.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:34 AM on June 21, 2018 [14 favorites]


philip-random: "I'm sorry if this caused distress. But I'm a little perplexed as to how congratulating Americans for not being US-centric in a thread where that has been an issue is "snide". Perhaps it's not full-on "Hooray For Everyone" level glee, but the intention was not to be mean or dismissive at all."

The American word for the sport is soccer. I apologize if this facet of the English language bothers you, but yes, congratulating speakers of American English for not using the word is snide.
posted by TypographicalError at 11:50 AM on June 21, 2018 [10 favorites]


I don't think it's the semantics of that exchange that caused any friction, more that in an already tense conversation the potential ambiguity of sentiment of both "well done" (genuine appreciative praise? sarcastic golf-clap?) and "[for not doing x]" (noting and appreciating a sometimes-problem avoided? back-handed implication that of course you'd expect them to do x, so...?) stack up to a situation where there's wildly different parsings available for a short comment.

FWIW I took it in good faith when I read it, but I also understand why some folks blinked! Terseness + tension is a tricky mixture. It's a bit of a microcosm of some of the challenges of extending the benefit of the doubt under difficult circumstances.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:56 AM on June 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


(As the person to whom the soccer comment was directed, I took it as a good natured jab. Nothing serious. FWIW. Hope everyone’s having a good day out there.)
posted by Barack Spinoza at 11:59 AM on June 21, 2018 [8 favorites]


Almost nobody is going to come out of that process with exactly what they want, but I think we have room to move to keep just about everybody involved in those compromises while still improving the overall health of the site's conversational dynamics.

One of my favorite definitions of democracy is that everyone is equally unhappy.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:47 PM on June 21, 2018 [10 favorites]


It's something to strive for, but hard to achieve.
posted by bongo_x at 4:41 PM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


well, I'm definitely not happy




tersely offered in hopes of reducing tension
posted by philip-random at 6:45 PM on June 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


I'm happy! I have some faults I find with MeFi, but I love it here and do not wish to go away, nor do I wish MeFi to go away. Nothing's perfect, but if I'm fighting or criticizing here, it's because I both want and think that things could get better. Looking forward to see how things evolve!
posted by lazuli at 7:23 PM on June 21, 2018 [7 favorites]


I've buttoned a couple of times. Mostly, it is out of a growing sense that I do not belong, and am not welcome, here.

It's not that I think what I have to say is all important or anything - but, being a member of a community requires contribution and I want to feel that my contributions are adding to the greater good. I used to feel that. But once you notice that no matter how carefully you craft a comment, there is room in there for someone to find insult, then... you start feeling like what you have to add brings no value and that maybe it's best if you start spending time doing other things.

Anyway, I re-opened my account so I could make a (not-as-large-as-I'd-like) contribution to the site. If any of you noticed, and were curious why I'm not around, there it is. I don't know that I'll be around much or for very long. There's lots of good suggestions in this thread on increasing site engagement or whatever, and I wish Cortex and fam the best of luck with their goals on that.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:28 PM on June 21, 2018 [23 favorites]


I'm curious what can be done to extend the lives of low-velocity threads.

Looking at my past posts, for the most part any activity they get (especially from new commenters who won't see it in their 'recent activity') is confined to a single day. As soon as they get pushed down the front page far enough that you have to scroll, you see an immediate drop off in activity.

I'd warrant this is a big problem those outside of US time zones face. I also hypothesize that the modern theme has exacerbated the problem, since greater spacing leaves fewer posts visible.

If you're posting something that gets limited immediate traction, either because it was posted at an inopportune time, it's something for which people don't have a ready opinion (negative-oriented posts seem less likely to suffer this), or the material is more difficult or niche, it requires longer visibility to get traction.

The bloggy nature of MetaFilter means things are purely ordered by post time and I don't want to advocate algorithmic ranking, but I think there are some other possible approaches that could be beneficial. I'll throw some out there:

1. Let people set their FPP to be published at a certain future time.

2. Show post favorite statistics on the front page.

I believe people are biased in favor of opening threads that appear to have a lot of activity and, currently, the only immediately visible metric of activity is comment totals.

All other things being equal, posts inviting a more negative response appear to benefit from this. Looking at the front page now, positive-oriented posts have fewer comments but many more favorites.

I realize you can already click over to Popular Posts, but I bet most people don't do that regularly, if ever.

3. Visibly re-surface past posts that are still open for comment, possibly at random. Give things another chance to be seen.

4. At the end of the week have a summary of posts that got a lot of favorites/fantastics. Or maybe invite people to shout out a great post from the past week on MetaTalk.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 2:53 PM on June 22, 2018 [14 favorites]


At the end of the week have a summary of posts that got a lot of favorites/fantastics.

It strikes me that that'd be a good thing to offer as an (opt-in) email to MeFi members, too.

(By comparison: Medium's daily "recommended for you" emails are much too frequent, but they do quite often surface posts that I'm interested in and wouldn't otherwise have found.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:14 PM on June 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


I liken MeFi to a large, bustling party (at which IRL I would so very likely NOT be in attendance); but where for whatever reason, I find myself. And therein I experience a plethora of conversations and discussions, some of which I start myself, others I just pause and listen to for a bit; others, I feel compelled to actually stop and participate in.

As in any such situation, the following all occur with fairly consistent regularity:
1. Someone's story makes me laugh out loud, or perhaps cry with joy; these are lovely interactions and I am so glad I got to be part of them; someone else's story references an article, movie, book, or other item of interest which I then pursue on my own, to much delight; someone's problem grips my heart and listen with compassion and offer whatever small help or advice I can, hoping that it makes even the tiniest difference;

2. My own engaging conversations, in which I share something personal and perhaps heartfelt (or maybe just cool and/or thought-provoking), provide insight and support and, if I'm lucky, benefit to others;

3. One of more of these same conversations is interrupted (or interjected into) by someone who has very few social skills, or maybe is only there to show off his knowledge, and as a result, repeatedly pokes the bear and kills the vibe to such a degree that the rest of that group simply splinters off and begins to wander the room in search of other interesting interactions;

4. Someone pulls me aside for a one-on-one exchange that references a previous larger conversation and wants to make sure I am OK, because something I said was cause for concern; this warms my heart and I appreciate anew how the kindness of strangers can sometimes be the only thing that gets you through til the next day, and I am glad I was there to receive it;

5. Someone corners me in a very different type of one-on-one, and throws an insult or accusation at me, because they didn't like something they overheard. This person felt justified in such a verbal attack, and left me standing there sort of reeling. I left the party, determined to simply keep to myself only from that point forward. However, over time, this feeling dissipates and I do come back- albeit much warier, less inclined to participate, and constantly on the lookout for the signs that any conversation I may want to be part of holds the potential for any one of the previous outcomes, and I need to be prepared for any/all of them.

This, of course, reinforces the holding back, and in general, the original enjoyment of the party never truly returns. But I keep coming back anyway, because overall, the good outweighs the bad... and the drinks are phenomenal.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:13 AM on June 23, 2018 [12 favorites]


I’d like to point out this comment from haruspicina as an excellent example of an informative piece of information added to a thread.

When I created the post on colorized photos, I knew that not everyone would like it, and I was happy to see people presenting their thoughts and opinions - but I had not known the history of that specific photo and deeply appreciated the additional context.

It would have been so easy for that to have been presented in a hostile, attacking or accusatory fashion - but it wasn’t. It was presented as “hey, this was missing from one source but I was pleased to find it wasn’t missing over here” - that context expanded the conversation instead of shutting it down. Thank you, haruspicina.

My first post on the blue was prompted by a different MetaTalk where a user said something to the effect of “be the MetaFilter you want to read” - and I do think these discussions of the site and site culture help us individually understand how we fit into that and where and how we wish to participate.
posted by hilaryjade at 6:01 AM on June 23, 2018 [19 favorites]


I love that, I_Love_Bananas! What a fantastic analogy.
posted by bologna on wry at 7:16 AM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


That's a fantastic example that encapsulates the approach to commenting I would like to see more of us aspire to, hilaryjade.
posted by tavegyl at 8:12 AM on June 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


/* buys I_Love_Bananas another drink, steers her toward the petting zoo */
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:10 AM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


^ Anytime!!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 12:52 PM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


The fact that MetaFilter has a (cruelty-free) petting zoo is why it's the best party! Thanks, guys!
posted by ambrosen at 3:24 PM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Do we think we could drive more activity on FF if we allowed ratings? Or even reviews?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:46 PM on June 23, 2018


I appreciate how hard the moderators work, but honestly as someone who helps support this site, I've been angered and saddened in the past when I've innocently posted questions or comments and been attacked for not being X enough. I've been accused of cultural appropriation, had comments deliberately taken out of context, had my opinions and perspectives (which are not extreme!) argued over within a thread, etc. Usually it's someone who thinks they're the most enlightened, woke person on the planet and feels the need to bully me and others. This isn't just me - it happens to other people often.

This should be a safe community for everyone, and unfortunately there are a few folks with extreme points of view who drive the discourse, making the rest of us feel like shit because they behave in such a way as if they are the judges of everyone else. It's condescending, infuriating, and toxic. It's fine to have opinions and share those opinions, and I learn a lot from others here. But when those opinions turn into dogma, it's time to leave.

There's a fine line between calling someone out on their behavior and outright shaming, and I've seen too many people on here get shamed for sharing an opinion or point of view in good faith, trusting this community, and getting blasted by someone with an axe to grind. I'm sick of the extremism and alienation, and I get pissed when the moderators do nothing.

I stick to Ask, and asking questions that are not sociopolitical in nature, or can in any way be misconstrued as inflammatory. I, like others, also find myself censoring what I say - routinely - when commenting on posts. This community has gotten more extreme in this way over the past few years, and as mentioned upthread, it's only gotten worse since the U.S. 2016 Presidential election.

Is this what the moderators want? Seems to me that if you want funding for the site and increased activity, you should work to ensure that a basic level of respect is adhered to among all members, not just ones that align with the site's default political views.
posted by onecircleaday at 11:22 PM on June 23, 2018 [16 favorites]


I think the moderation here is very good overall, especially in comparison to other sites. But there are always going to be those people who know how to hurt you without breaking the rules, or even while enforcing the rules.

But where do you go? Twitter? Great place to pick up a death threat or twelve. Reddit? Actually much worse than Twitter in some subreddits. Facebook? Welcome to the Borg: Your distinctiveness will be monetised.
posted by um at 11:53 PM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


I, like others, also find myself censoring what I say - routinely - when commenting on posts

I don't want to pick on you, but this is a sentiment I have seen expressed a lot, by many people - he idea that people are self-censoring, and this is inherently a problem.

I don't think it's necessarily a problem. I don't even think you do - your suggestion for how to deal with it involves other people being censored, or self-censoring. Self-censoring is something we all do, and a natural and necessary component of interacting with a site like metafilter. A site where we all say what we think very quickly starts to approximate 4chan.

Of course, I may be misunderstanding, and your meaning is closer to the following (which I agree with):

you should work to ensure that a basic level of respect is adhered to among all members

But I do see self-censoring brought up again and again as I'd it is itself a problem. I don't think it is. We should all be routinely self-censoring.
posted by Dysk at 12:28 AM on June 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


I agree Dysk, but I think maybe what is being alluded to is that for some people the self-censoring feels like it reaches extremes, while others allow themselves - and are allowed - lots more leeway. Of course people need to not deliberately, or carelessly, offend people, or ignore the tone of the room, or be inflammatory for the sake of it. Self-censoring is essentially about being respectful in a shared space. But there is a difference between "Actually I'll delete that part of my comment because it could be hurtful to someone" and "I better rewrite this fairly innocuous comment thirteen times in case someone might possibly set me on fire", only for it to happen anyway and by someone who is allowed free reign with the torch.
posted by billiebee at 3:22 AM on June 24, 2018 [14 favorites]


I've been angered and saddened in the past when I've innocently posted questions or comments and been attacked for not being X enough.

I think somewhere in 2014-2015 there was increased regcognition that JAQing was harmful and so there was a lot of pushback to people who said they were innocently asking questions when they hadn’t done 101 level research first. Quite a few users buttoned or were banned who had been the cause of problems with other users. I think hopefully at this point, people who were causing trouble by JAQing have been culled from the site and maybe we can again presume that those who are innocently asking questions are asking in good faith again?
posted by LizBoBiz at 3:50 AM on June 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sadly I think a frequent outcome of self-censorship is not people choosing their words carefully (which I agree is a good habit to have), but simply choosing not to speak or participate at all. People are out there reading MetaFilter right now deciding they wouldn't be a good 'culture fit'.
posted by um at 5:36 AM on June 24, 2018 [16 favorites]


I appreciate how hard the moderators work, but honestly as someone who helps support this site, I've been angered and saddened in the past when I've innocently posted questions or comments and been attacked for not being X enough. I've been accused of cultural appropriation, had comments deliberately taken out of context, had my opinions and perspectives (which are not extreme!) argued over within a thread, etc. Usually it's someone who thinks they're the most enlightened, woke person on the planet and feels the need to bully me and others. This isn't just me - it happens to other people often.

Here's something I've noticed, and it's annoying me- it's not just this one comment, it's a recurring theme among comments of this type, so I hope you don't feel I'm drawing specific attention to this comment alone. The specific annoying behavior is when MeFites view their own comments through a lens of positivity, but don't view comments from other Mefites with the same positivity. If people have had negative reactions to your "innocent" posts, then maybe the way you are writing your posts is causing that reaction. If you've been accused of cultural appropriation, maybe that's because the way you wrote a comment made someone think you had no problem with cultural appropriation. You have no way of knowing if a Mefite who disagrees with you thinks they're "the most enlightened, woke person on the planet", and thinking of someone that way is going to make you more likely to view their comments in a negative light.

(Politely) arguing over opinions and perspectives is acceptable behavior on Metafilter.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:48 AM on June 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


But there is a difference between "Actually I'll delete that part of my comment because it could be hurtful to someone" and "I better rewrite this fairly innocuous comment thirteen times in case someone might possibly set me on fire", only for it to happen anyway and by someone who is allowed free reign with the torch.

If you rewrite a comment 13 times, maybe it's not innocuous at all, maybe you have no idea how to judge what's likely to bother other people. I'm bothered by the notion that [people who are worried that they might be misunderstood] bear no responsibility for being misunderstood.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:51 AM on June 24, 2018


True, but if you're in a place where sometimes it feels like people read comments ready and waiting to find the misunderstanding it can seem easier not to bother.
posted by billiebee at 6:03 AM on June 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


I think it muddies the water to conflate etiquette and self-censorship here. Etiquette includes things like reading the FPP, and not asking stupid and trolly questions "JAQing off." And if you're in a conversational hole it's often better to put down the shovel.

I see self-censorship as avoiding a subject entirely because you don't want to deal with the bullshit that topic will generate, even if you do everything right in terms of etiquette. That non-Americans, POC, and other minorities have reported that they choose to drop out rather than deal with the various forms of group bias on Metafilter should concern us. As should the copious research that women are more likely to do this on the internet than men.

On misunderstanding, it's a two-way street. Some forms of bad-faith argumentation are common, especially deep within megathreads on touchy subjects. Thankfully, it's been a lot more common lately for people to say, "oops, I'm sorry, I misread you."
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:10 AM on June 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


True, but if you're in a place where sometimes it feels like people read comments ready and waiting to find the misunderstanding it can seem easier not to bother.

I don't doubt that , but I think the number of Mefites who read comments ready and waiting to find misunderstanding is reallyreallyreallyreallyreally low. I think that it's likely that (some) Mefites can feel like "people read comments ready and waiting to find misunderstanding" even without encountering any Mefite who had actually done those things.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:30 AM on June 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


A practice I'd like to see Metafilter move away from is selective quoting, or even quoting at all in threads. Because I've seen way too often people pulling out and responding to the worst sentence in the post in isolation from any qualifiers, hedges, or discussion about why that sentence is not the full picture.

No, I don't see self-censorship as an act of respect at all. It's often exhaustion from being a perpetual Cassandra. If the issues you raise are habitually ignored, or shot down because the crowd wants to grind an axe about something completely different, eventually you stop bothering.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:35 AM on June 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


(Politely) arguing over opinions and perspectives is acceptable behavior on Metafilter.

Except it's totally not. I can't count the number of times I've seen someone politely and respectfully arguing a minority opinion on here get told to stuff it or take a walk by the mods.
posted by Brain Sturgeon at 6:40 AM on June 24, 2018 [15 favorites]


True, but not my point, which was that it's not out of line for Mefites to leave comments that disagree with the opinions of other Mefites.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:50 AM on June 24, 2018


It functionally is out of line, though.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:09 AM on June 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


From a mod view, I think it's mostly a mix of softer versions of these propositions playing out, most of the time. Like, 23skidoo, I get where you're coming from and I think there certainly are cases where folks convey something badly and then don't recognize why it gets a lot of pushback. But I think it's also the case that folks do sometimes get into a reflexive pushback mode on basically-fine comments that makes it harder for folks to feel comfortable discussing stuff than should be necessary.

I don't think really anybody on the site is literally waiting crouched for the opportunity to spot and call out a misunderstanding or a problematic element. That's sort of a cartoon villain take on the dynamic. But the more low-key, general issue of folks sometimes being primed (usually for understandable, non-cartoon-villain reasons!) to react strongly/quickly/uncharitably to stuff is a real thing, and part of why discussions can sometimes be difficult to navigate without getting heated or shutting folks down needlessly.

It's a balancing act thing, and a self-awareness thing, and that's part of what we're trying to work out some new/renewed strategies for. Part of that is just gonna be talking to folks privately in low-stakes contexts about e.g. being mindful about when and how they engage in that specific kind of critical response, because it's something people could calibrate themselves on better more than it is something with a simple "don't do that" answer. Sometimes critical responses are pretty appropriate! They just shouldn't get to being too much of a default or reflexive approach to conversation on the site, and where that's not well-balanced right now I think we can nudge things a bit on a general and individual level to be a little healthier and more welcoming while still keeping some firm boundaries on the decidedly-not-okay stuff that critical responses tend to be part of keeping off the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:07 AM on June 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

If people have had negative reactions to your "innocent" posts, then maybe the way you are writing your posts is causing that reaction. If you've been accused of cultural appropriation, maybe that's because the way you wrote a comment made someone think you had no problem with cultural appropriation.
Yeah, blame the victim.
posted by svenkatesh at 1:15 PM on June 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


I've been looking at Metafilter since 1999. It might have been a community once, but these days, it's a clique. Or maybe more accurately, it is dominated by a clique.

You can't have a polite, reasoned argument with a clique. Either you go along with the orthodoxy, or you get pressured out.

Look at what 23skiddoo is doing to onecircleaday, in the exchange up above. Classic Mefite bullying technique: 'If you're having a problem, have you considered maybe it's you who is the problem?' Come on.


It's condescending disingenuous horseshit like that, that is keeping people away from this place, and I can't blame them a bit.


Let people speak their peace, without deletion, without policing every damn little thing, and you might get some new people showing up to participate.
But I'm not holding my breath.
posted by KHAAAN! at 2:16 PM on June 24, 2018 [18 favorites]


So, KHAAAN!, I agree with your point. Fully, in fact. But not the way you presented it in an argumentative, angry tone. And I completely understand the frustration and anger regarding how things unfold around here, because I feel it, too. But we can be civil to others while wholly disagreeing. It goes both ways. How do you think 23skidoo feels after reading your comment? Pretty lousy, I'd venture.

For instance, it could have been more generously stated, suchly:

23skidoo, I think the sentiment that people are expressing is they want to engage from a place of genuine well meaning but if they use certain words or are constantly on pins and needles in the edit box regarding exactly how to make their point in way that they won't be subject to call-out or pile-on, they eventually just stop trying and disengage. A lot of users are saying that's not a problem that lies with the person attempting to speak, but rather a problem of the audience quick to censor words and thoughts and ever on the ready to take offense where none was meant. And the moderation policies seem to encourage these censorship and call-out tactics.
posted by bologna on wry at 2:50 PM on June 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


Why is it that KHAAAN! gets called out for tone, but 23skidoo gets a free pass even though they did the equivalent of saying "well, maybe you shouldn't have worn that short skirt?"
posted by svenkatesh at 2:55 PM on June 24, 2018 [6 favorites]


Because 23skidoo had a point they wanted to make with a civil and reasoned tone.
posted by bologna on wry at 2:57 PM on June 24, 2018


The comparisons to sexual assault are not appropriate here. Please don't.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:07 PM on June 24, 2018 [12 favorites]


> I don't doubt that , but I think the number of Mefites who read comments ready and waiting to find misunderstanding is reallyreallyreallyreallyreally low.

I think a lot of us feel it's reallyreallyreallyreallyreally high.
posted by bologna on wry at 3:27 PM on June 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


A few things.

First off, I do not care how 23skiddoo feels. Period. He made a shitty comment to onecircleaday. The whole point of my making a comment was to point out his shitty behavior. The 'politeness' in 23skiddoo's comment was insincere. He told onecircleaday to shut up, in a way where he has plausible deniability in case he's ever called on it. I've been reading this shit for 19 years now, I can recognize when Mefite A is shanking Mefite B in the back with words in such a manner they walk away without so much as a slap on the wrist.

23skiddoo did a bad thing. He should feel bad.

Svenkatesh was not making a comparison of 23skiddoo's shitty behavior to a sexual assault. He was talking about blaming the victim. I take it the mod was trying to put out a fire before it started, because there are people here who will jump at the chance to take something out of context. (Honestly, if the mods want to make their lives here easier, make prospective new members pass a reading comprehension test before they're allowed to make comments. But I digress.)


If you're going to have a polite disagreement, you've gotta let the other guy actually disagree, and express that disagreement. If you police their language to the nth degree, how is there engagement? How is there even basic communication?


I'm tired. I'm tired of watching people throw a dead goats into a thread. I am tired of knowing what tone policing, virtue signaling, and threadshitting mean. I'm tired of seeing comments and posts get wished to the cornfield. I'm tired of the same complaints that have been around on the gray for years, decades even, going unanswered and dismissed, then telling the complainers to use the goddamn contact form.


Let people speak their peace. If what they say offends you or is wrong, answer them in simple, honest, direct language why it is wrong. And go from there. I get it, that's hard. It makes more work for everybody. But I'd rather see that than the tepid, tense pablum that passes for dialogue I see here now.
posted by KHAAAN! at 4:05 PM on June 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


23skiddoo did a bad thing. He should feel bad.
...
Let people speak their peace. If what they say offends you or is wrong, answer them in simple, honest, direct language why it is wrong.


This, for me, sums up the essential tension in this line of thinking. I hear and understand you, and some other people, saying that direct personal attacks on MeFites, such as calling their comments horseshit, by name, stifles discussion and makes people not want to comment, and that this mode of commenting be entirely ended.
And I also see you, and some others, using these same tactics to force out perspectives and silence commenters you don't want to hear, right here in this thread.

Can you help me navigate this?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:27 PM on June 24, 2018 [11 favorites]


If you don't care to view other users as human beings worthy of respect and civility, then this is where I choose to end my side of this discourse. I wish you the best.
posted by bologna on wry at 4:49 PM on June 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


This whole thread is just lousy. I haven't been following closely but it's still in my Recent Activity and every fragment of it that I scroll by is just oof. It started off with a buttoning and went downhill from there. What is even happening?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:19 PM on June 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


To the man of twists and turns:

I didn't attack 23skiddoo, other than to say his comment to onecircleaday was condescending, disingenuous horseshit. I don't know 23skiddoo, haven't read their profile. For all I know, they're a terrific person, who does good things. (Incidentally, that's 100% irrelevant.) I called out his comment, where 23skiddoo implied that onecircleaday might have some sort of personal failing or blind spot that maybe he should check out for, if he's feeling persecuted.

Which is worse, attacking someone's words, words that are there for all to see, question, and criticize, or suggesting to someone you don't know (someone you're not singling out, by the way, heaven forbid!) that they have an unexamined personal flaw?

If I have somehow stifled 23skiddoo's desire to make a comment such as that, good. I sincerely doubt that that's the case, unfortunately.
posted by KHAAAN! at 5:28 PM on June 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


I fully understand your position now, thank you for explaining.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:31 PM on June 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


I feel like the 23skidoo discussion is a bit off the rails, but isn't this a prime example of how things turn sour when users don't assume good faith? Instead of taking folks' comments at face value when they say they've been attacked inappropriately, 23skidoo basically accused them of misreading the situation (without citing any evidence), arbitrarily denying their reality is true. I just don't see how that type of comment is supposed to be helpful.
posted by gueneverey at 5:46 PM on June 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


Just coming back to the idea of MetaFilter being clique-dominated: I’ve personally never got this impression. What I think happens is that there are some users who are high-participation and high-engagement, because they have the time or the inclination or both. This means you’ll see their username in a lot of threads, and also frequently in any given high-traffic thread.

I don’t think these people get moderated differently. It would be almost impossible to prove anyway. It just seems like they’re everywhere because they show up early and often. That’s not a bad thing in itself, although you could argue that their early involvement tends to set the tone and direction of discussion which could lead to other perspectives falling by the wayside. Again, no way to prove any of this so I don’t know how to discuss it.
posted by um at 5:48 PM on June 24, 2018 [6 favorites]


Not trying to weasel-word my way into an argument there. I honestly don’t know if the dynamic I described exists as a real issue or if it’s purely theoretical. Mods probably have a better understanding of what’s going on than I do.
posted by um at 5:50 PM on June 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


This whole thread is just lousy.

I disagree. It's definitely been difficult at times, but given the original framing ...

What ideas do you have to make the community more engaging and somewhere you'd be able to convince friends to set up and make a home?

... how were we not going to get into some tense stuff? That is, how do we improve the experience that is Metafilter (particularly for potential new members) without looking at a bunch of the stuff that we think needs improving? Which, of course, quickly gets very complex when you consider just how many perspectives this site has -- that there are thousands of us here, each bringing their own their own unique treasures and baggage to the conversation.

Specific to what just happened with 23skidoo's dismissive response to billie bee -- yeah, I felt it was ... dismissive. Even as I can agree that there might be something to some of it ...

I'm bothered by the notion that [people who are worried that they might be misunderstood] bear no responsibility for being misunderstood.

By which I mean, this could be applied to me sometimes (ie: when I'm not using my words very well for whatever reason, yet I am endeavoring to insert myself into an ongoing conversation). But, and this is fairly large BUT, when I look back at threads I've been involved in that have, in their way, gone badly for me, it's too often been a situation of simply daring to speak to what amounts to an unpopular position, even after I've taken great care to craft my words. I get hammered anyway. Or I spend much of my time negotiating the eggshells I feel I'm walking on.

I wonder if there are any regular site users who never experience those eggshells ...
posted by philip-random at 6:11 PM on June 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


Self-censoring is essentially about being respectful in a shared space. But there is a difference between "Actually I'll delete that part of my comment because it could be hurtful to someone" and "I better rewrite this fairly innocuous comment thirteen times in case someone might possibly set me on fire", only for it to happen anyway and by someone who is allowed free reign with the torch.

Thank you.

Why not simply ask someone to clarify their point or intention if you think it's [cultural appropriation, whatever, fill in the blank]? Why assume that they are ignorant or have ill intent? Why bully them? It's judgmental, toxic, intolerant and deeply disrespectul.

And yeah, tiring.
posted by onecircleaday at 6:33 PM on June 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


I mentioned upthread where someone implied another person was a -phobe because the first person stated that there were conversations they weren't allowed to participate in.

Now there's this:
If people have had negative reactions to your "innocent" posts, then maybe the way you are writing your posts is causing that reaction. If you've been accused of cultural appropriation, maybe that's because the way you wrote a comment made someone think you had no problem with cultural appropriation.

23skiddoo is implying that onecircleaday is a bad person, based on no evidence at all. The claim here is that if anyone calls you out on anything, you probably did something wrong. In that light, I'm calling this behavior out. I have a negative reaction to 23skiddoo blaming the victim here. This is subtle, holier-than-thou bullying and it shouldn't be allowed.

When you imply someone is a bad person, you've lost them, and it happens here all the time. It's happened and been cited repeatedly on this thread. This kind of word-policing, the inevitable subsequent victim blaming and the implicit or explicit accusations of being a -phobe, an -ist, or an appropriator is pushing good people away from the site. Allowing this kind of subtle bullying means Metafilter is fractioning itself into ever smaller slices of acceptable discourse and an interested audience. (And using 4chan as an example of what the site would be is a fallacy.)

I don't expect this to change, but understand that If Metafilter keeps excluding its own, over time there will be no one left.
posted by cnc at 7:00 PM on June 24, 2018 [16 favorites]


23skidoo, as you said, "If you rewrite a comment 13 times, maybe it's not innocuous at all, maybe you have no idea how to judge what's likely to bother other people."

But can't anyone be genuinely bothered by anything at any given time? To that point you're in fact right -- we don't know how to judge what's likely to bother people (other than dismissive tactics that serve to shut down the dialogue, like snark, outright hostility, sarcasm, incivility, etc.).

No matter what you say or how carefully it's phrased, worded or couched, someone, somewhere may genuinely take offense. That happens in communication. We all perceive, process and digest words and thoughts differently due to our individual lenses of personal knowledge and life experiences.

The question is, when and why and how exactly did we give up personal responsibility for our own emotional wellbeing and instead hand that responsibility over to others to somehow very, very carefully navigate the waters of never, ever causing us a moment of distress or offense?

I am genuinely curious.
posted by bologna on wry at 7:57 PM on June 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


And let the record show on further rereadings of 23skidoo's comments I can see the points made above by others and I do agree with them. I took a bit too charitable read at first glance.
posted by bologna on wry at 8:07 PM on June 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


Wow, the way everyone decided to collectively take a dump on 23skidoo is way out of line...
posted by Dysk at 9:37 PM on June 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


23skiddoo: If people have had negative reactions to your "innocent" posts, then maybe the way you are writing your posts is causing that reaction. If you've been accused of cultural appropriation, maybe that's because the way you wrote a comment made someone think you had no problem with cultural appropriation.

23skiddoo is implying that onecircleaday is a bad person, based on no evidence at all.


I took it as 23skiddoo calling out the clarity of the writing, not the person writing, but perhaps he could have been clearer about it. /irony
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:38 PM on June 24, 2018 [6 favorites]


The question is, when and why and how exactly did we give up personal responsibility for our own emotional wellbeing and instead hand that responsibility over to others to somehow very, very carefully navigate the waters of never, ever causing us a moment of distress or offense?

Come on, this is needlessly reductive and insulting. When did the people who can't handle someone taking offence hand over their responsibility to others having to carefully never push their buttons in how they react? That knife cuts both ways, because it's exactly the kind of rhetorical device you claim to be arguing against.
posted by Dysk at 9:45 PM on June 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


Y'know, the thing I just realized is we've all been marinating a very long time in Metafilter. We're not exactly new members any more, so I think a lot of this conversation about what potentially helps or drives away new members is kind of guesswork.

But, since the site has the emails of new people that join, would it be a good idea to find some way to survey these folks after like a month of posting or maybe if they post and then just drop off after a month?

I'm not an expert at this at all. I don't know anything about surveys or how to pose questions to folks without biases, etc. This is just my random thought. People receiving those surveys might even feel creeped out about it, so this idea could die by a fire in the subcommittee.

But, just wanted to suggest it before the next tense standoff erupts.

Thanks, peace.
posted by FJT at 9:51 PM on June 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


If I have somehow stifled 23skiddoo's desire to make a comment such as that, good.

Incidentally, that is exactly the reasoning behind the kind of comments people are complaining about in general. You went full-bore both barrels at the man of twists and turns because you didn't like how they comment and wanted to discourage them from commenting (like that). People do the same thing with (perceived) - isms because of exactly that. An assumption that their reading of the other person's comment as being in bad faith is ultimately correct. You cannot "fight" that tendency by doing the same thing. All you achieve is changing which eggshells people feel they're walking on.
posted by Dysk at 9:52 PM on June 24, 2018 [11 favorites]


Not the man of twists and turns, 23skidoo. Too many tabs open, that was a complete brain fart. Apologies to both parties of that confusion!
posted by Dysk at 10:15 PM on June 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Dysk, I see your point and it's a great one and I've been sitting here questioning my own questioning more deeply and I really appreciate that, so thank you. I need to chew on that a while.

I also feel like I'm taking up a large part of the air so I will step back for a while. Love and light to all of you.
posted by bologna on wry at 10:49 PM on June 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


... how were we not going to get into some tense stuff? That is, how do we improve the experience that is Metafilter (particularly for potential new members) without looking at a bunch of the stuff that we think needs improving?

I think it would be great if the conversation about improving what we do could go on in terms that don’t involve repeated attacks (and counter-attacks) on others by name. Some of the aggression on MetaFilter generally could be taken down at least a few notches if people criticised comments they disagreed with in a less personalised way, ie without

- using direct address to ask a series of angry bad faith questions of the person who made the comment (something I’ve done in the past and will stop)
- using that person’s name over and over again, as an example of someone bad who did something bad
- deconstructing that one person’s comment at length, for several comments, as an example of all that is wrong with the world / the site.

I understand the objections to 23skidoo’s comment here, for example, but I think it would have been better if those objections hadn’t been framed in such a personal way by multiple commenters. That kind of piling on to a single person, by many, over several comments, does have a bullying tinge to it. That may not be deliberate—people don’t know, when they are drafting their scathing and burningly necessary takedown that others are doing the same—but it’s one of the things I wish we could be more mindful of. I think the site experience would be better, in eggshell-walking terms, if the norm was a quick rebuttal of the substance of a comment we disagree with and then moving on to talk more generally about the topic; that would be more constructive than a long angry dissection of everything wrong with that comment, frequently addressing or commenting on the user by name. As I said, I’ve done this stuff before myself but it’s a way of engaging with people that I regret and it would be great if site norms shifted to make it very unusual as opposed to fairly common.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:18 PM on June 24, 2018 [20 favorites]


He should feel bad.

In general, I wish Metafilter participants were less OK with the casual suffering of people they disagree with. I don't want 23skidoo to feel bad because he was (in my opinion) unkind on a MetaFilter thread. In my experience, feeling bad rarely causes people to be kinder. I don't want his original interlocutor, onecircleaday, to feel bad, either. I want everyone to suffer minimally, regardless of whether they were right or wrong, kind or unkind.
posted by value of information at 12:49 AM on June 25, 2018 [25 favorites]


I’ve been keeping up with this thread and oh man, I can see why MeFi isn’t going to grow. This is a space for folks who’ve been here awhile, who know how things roll, and I cannot see how potential new members would read a thread like this and go, “yes, here is my $5.”

Would it better to close this up or think of posting things in terms of “if i were someone on the Internet looking for a non-Reddit/FB/etc home for thoughtful discussion, what would I like to see?”
posted by Kitteh at 3:07 AM on June 25, 2018 [9 favorites]


I don't think really anybody on the site is literally waiting crouched for the opportunity to spot and call out a misunderstanding or a problematic element. That's sort of a cartoon villain take on the dynamic. But the more low-key, general issue of folks sometimes being primed (usually for understandable, non-cartoon-villain reasons!) to react strongly/quickly/uncharitably to stuff is a real thing, and part of why discussions can sometimes be difficult to navigate without getting heated or shutting folks down needlessly.

I've been thinking about this, and maybe it's even more relevant considering the series of exchanges that followed. In a comment above I wrote "a place where sometimes it feels like people read comments ready and waiting to find the misunderstanding". I was careful to write "sometimes" and "it feels like", rather than stating "people definitely always do this thing". However, I'll be honest, I was doing that thing we (or just me?) do here of carefully wording things so that people don't get annoyed. (I mean it happened anyway so there you go) But really I was feeling like actually that is the case. I have felt like lots of people here are always ready to pounce, and correct, and berate. It has made me not want to participate because I'm too kind of tired.

BUT.

On reflection, I don't think it's true. I think as cortex said, it's more about people being "primed" to react. In my job, I work with trauma every day. It can be hard going (and one reason why I now prefer my downtime to be spent on less serious things, because I can't take the misery 9-5 and then in the evenings for fun). When I'm working with people who have been traumatised, a major symptom is usually hypervigilence, the constant feeling of - and physiological response to - perceived threat. I work with people who might be perfectly lovely and yet aggressively say "What are you looking at?" to a stranger in a public place who they have thought has been looking at them, but who might have been looking out of the window behind them. I think that's what happens here, rather than people are intrinsically aggressive - it just can come across like that to the person on the other end.

There are a lot of people here who have had personal traumas, and they may be primed to react to perceived threat on an individual basis. But I also genuinely think there was a collective trauma when he was elected - on a societal scale, obviously, but also inside this community. I found the political threads after that too hard to be in, it was all so angry and despairing. And I think that spilled over into the rest of the site, but not just in the sense that now there were a lot of angry people wandering around shouting in lots of threads even outside the political ones; now there were a lot of traumatised people wandering around in threads outside the political ones primed to react. I have experience of living in a society affected by collective trauma and it is difficult to navigate, and lots of people within that don't even realise that's why they are feeling and acting as they are. Maybe if we were able to re-frame the thoughts here not as "people can be jerks" but as "all of us here are kind of hurting" then we might temper our responses a little bit. I feel hopeful we could do that, because there is an understanding here about mental health and anxiety and PTSD and so on that there isn't always in other spaces.

Maybe that all seems a little hyperbolic, and believe me I hate when the word "trauma" is thrown around - it sometimes keeps me off Ask because it riles me - but I do think it fits here. And I think I personally have been burnt out and saddened by the world, and have been dealing with my own stuff, and I've also been primed to assume that someone is being ill-intentioned. So I'm going to practice what I preach and assume that if someone says "What are you looking at?" in response to a comment of mine they're maybe just a lovely person who perceives a threat, and maybe if someone says something that I find threatening and I'm ready to react I can check out instead if maybe they were just looking out the window behind me.
posted by billiebee at 3:22 AM on June 25, 2018 [25 favorites]


A slight derail from the discussion in this thread to date, but as some commenters have already mentioned, maybe we could do more to increase AskMe's profile.

I say this largely because I have just posted a question after doing only the most cursory googling, but it made me think that relatively obscure but factual questions often have the most interesting answers on AskMe when someone with some knowledge of the subject area responds, with links etc, but also a deeper understanding of the area. Moreover, it creates a bank of interesting, in-depth and insightful answers that can't hurt in increasing AskMe's prominence for casual internet users. I suppose Quora sometimes fills this spot, but I feel we could probably do a better job of it. So, I guess, I suggest members be less rigorous than they currently are about doing their due diligence about googling before posting on AskMe, feel freer to ask 'I was just wondering...' questions, and the multiple questions allowance should be more heavily signposted.

While I know the problems experts have reported in the past in AskMe, a system of opt-in MeMail alerts to members, based on categories or tags chosen from a pre-determined or curated list, might also promote richer content. I do think we need to do more to ensure that people who are knowledgeable, rather than simply opinionated, are encouraged to respond to questions in AskMe. Perhaps a variation of the flair system as in Reddit's AskHistorians sub-reddit, would be no bad thing.
posted by tavegyl at 3:41 AM on June 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


I have felt like lots of people here are always ready to pounce, and correct, and berate.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the way I interact on MetaFilter and how I can do better both for the community and for my own mental health, and so I am going to raise my hand and admit that I have absolutely been guilty of this. There is a way to write a comment on MetaFilter so as to utterly dismantle your opponent, belittle them, vilify them, without breaking a single guideline or raising a peep of protest from the rest of the community—it's almost an art form. I've done it, many times, and while I haven't exactly come here specifically to do that, there have been times when I've felt a righteous glee in latching onto something another MeFite has said that I know is generally disapproved of here, and doing my damndest to rip them to shreds.

I'm not proud of it. In fact I'm ashamed of it, which is part of why I think it's important to admit it. I don't want to be that way anymore. It's an ugly way to behave toward a group of people who I generally really like and respect both as a community and on an individual basis, and it makes me a worse person when I do it. MeFi is not an appropriate place for me to act out my darker impulses; many of us, myself included, harbor a lot of justifiable rage at the world but it's wrong for us to take it out on each other. It's destructive to our target, our community, and our souls.

So I'm going to try very hard to stop making those kinds of comments, to find better ways of interacting with people I disagree with and to just walk away when I feel my trigger finger start to itch, rather than going for my guns. I've got nothing to prove. I already know I can write a scathing takedown as well as anyone here—for better or worse, I've got the favorites to prove it.

But that's over now. That's done. That's not the impact I want to have, nor is it what I want to be known for. Better to build up than tear down. If anyone reading this now has been hurt by my comments in the past, I'm sorry. And if anyone reading this now sees me raining down any MeFi-style fire and brimstone in the future, I'd take it as a kindness if you'd call me out on it however you see fit.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:41 AM on June 25, 2018 [29 favorites]


Look at what 23skiddoo is doing to onecircleaday, in the exchange up above. Classic Mefite bullying technique: 'If you're having a problem, have you considered maybe it's you who is the problem?' Come on.


It's condescending disingenuous horseshit like that, that is keeping people away from this place, and I can't blame them a bit.


It's neither bullying nor condescending nor disengenuous nor horseshit. It was me questioning whether an accusation of cultural appropriation is even a problem. "Getting accused of cultural appropriation" isn't a problem, so I really think your paraphrasing of what I wrote is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off the mark.

If people are bristling at the words I used, that's definitely something that happened, but I am really uncomfortable with the notion that Metafilter (as a whole) shouldn't question 1) whether we are reading too much into what someone else wrote, and 2) whether the words we choose affect someone's ability to understand us.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:59 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


23skiddoo is implying that onecircleaday is a bad person, based on no evidence at all. The claim here is that if anyone calls you out on anything, you probably did something wrong. In that light, I'm calling this behavior out. I have a negative reaction to 23skiddoo blaming the victim here. This is subtle, holier-than-thou bullying and it shouldn't be allowed.

I'm implying no such thing. I don't think that onecircleaday is a bad person, and I'm certainly not claiming that if anyone calls you out on anything, then the person who got called out is in the wrong.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:11 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


First off, I do not care how 23skiddoo feels. Period. He made a shitty comment to onecircleaday. The whole point of my making a comment was to point out his shitty behavior. The 'politeness' in 23skiddoo's comment was insincere. He told onecircleaday to shut up, in a way where he has plausible deniability in case he's ever called on it.


It's hard to keep track, but here's another comment that's reading too much into what I wrote. You're making assumptions when you share your opinion that my comment was insincere. I have no problems telling people to shut up, but I don't see the need to tell that to other Mefites so I don't. I didn't tell anyone to shut up, and it's gross to say that I did.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:19 AM on June 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


23skidoo, you said:

"If you rewrite a comment 13 times, maybe it's not innocuous at all, maybe you have no idea how to judge what's likely to bother other people. I'm bothered by the notion that [people who are worried that they might be misunderstood] bear no responsibility for being misunderstood."

I'll politely suggest that this is in fact the exact kind of dead goat we've been talking about. I appreciate from your remarks in this thread that you don't think dead goat comments are a problem, but many others have a problem with them, in fact I'd say you're in the minority on this.
I would therefore like you to please consider that maybe your problem with dead goat comments is your problem, and not metafilter's. Do you see how this works?

So the question is, Was it necessary for you to actually make that response at all?

For that matter, was it necessary for Khaaan to respond with a brusque tone?

Was it necessary for others to then chime in?

My opinion is that the whole exchange was completely unnecessary, and it's the exact kind of exchange that keeps people away.
posted by disclaimer at 7:10 AM on June 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


Was it necessary for you to actually make that response at all?

Necessary or not, this MeTa is a discussion about stuff things that could create more site activity, and I feel justified in leaving that comment. I understand that certain people think that calling out specific member's truths wasn't the best, but that comment of mine that you just linked seems completely appropriate to this discussion, and moreoever, I think it would actually help Metafilter if everyone (including people who are worried their comments will be engaged with aggressively) would be more self-reflective with regards to how to improve their own comments so they have a greater chance of being engaged with in a less-aggressive way.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:27 AM on June 25, 2018


^ "it was "neither bullying nor condescending."

Maybe you didn't *mean* it that way, but that's how I (and others) perceived your post. Perhaps you should have edited 12 more times?

"I'm bothered by the notion that [people who are worried that they might be misunderstood] bear no responsibility for being misunderstood."

Maybe they're not worried at all - maybe they know they'll be misunderstood. This isn't "worry over being misunderstood" - this is sniffing out the dead goat dynamic that happens so often here:

^ It really sucks to be enjoying a conversation about something like the popular colors of yarn for knitting Christmas sweaters or something, only to have someone pop in with the terrible news that Christmas is evil, or that millions of yarnworms are killed by the yarning industry so I should feel bad about my yarn collection.

Apparently about 70 other people feel the same way. So yea, I don't worry about being misunderstood.
posted by onecircleaday at 8:00 AM on June 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


Looping back to this, I want to point back to my comment yesterday, here, which appeared in the middle of this whole exchange, addressed some specifics about it gently, and was basically driven right past.

I'm not bringing this up as a "how dare y'all" thing or because it's some towering achievement in commentary. In fact I think it was a pretty hum-drum middle-of-the-road analysis of some conversational dynamic stuff on the site. On the other hand, it was also an attempt to model good behavior, to take a step back from "well no YOU are the jerk" type construction or second-level you're-the-jerk-for-saying-they're-the-jerk stacked criticisms and whatnot and just try and identify and talk about the underlying conversation structure stuff in a fairly impersonal way.

That comment, on topic, from a mod even, mostly just didn't exist because the conversation just routed right around it to get back to some not-so-great rhetorical approaches to the brewing conflict. Which is a decent microcosm of part of the problem here: it's one thing to recognize and note that some other person's behavior is a problem on the site, and another entirely to really pull yourself out of a bad loop and recognize when your own behavior is contributing to a problem on the site too.

Because this stuff, again, isn't happening because of cartoon villains or because one particular person is the one who is wrong or doing it wrong or being uncharitable or or or. It's a bad-kind-of-collaborative effort almost all of the time, a layering of one person after another having a bad moment or following up on an uncharitable reaction or bristling at a criticism and so on. I use the phrase "dynamics" a lot talking about site stuff because that's what we have here: not soliloquies or plotted-out dialogues but systems of conversation, and almost everything that goes wrong in conversation here goes wrong as the result of a complex process playing out. That's why it goes wrong rather than just a priori being wrong; the distance from "basically fine" to "this is kind of an ugly clusterfuck" is almost never a single step or a single person. It's usually fine, fine, mostly fine, well what was that, what do you mean by that, well that doesn't seem fair, oh after what you said who are you to talk about fair, oh yeah well what about...

Dynamics are hard; dense conversation is a machine with lots of moving parts. And by default any of those parts breaking can break the whole machine. And unfortunately a lot of what tends to happen next is folks gesturing angrily with wrenches and arguing about whose fault it actually is, which very rarely fixes things.

I'd rather we try and build some redundancy into the machine. And that's a collective effort. It depends on folks recognizing when something's bending, and finding a way to apply less force, not more, so it doesn't break. It depends on everybody being aware of how and when things start to go wrong and to help keep them from going wrong. And that can take a lot of patience and self-control, because if someone's seeming to be a jerk responding to that with genuine forbearance and even kindness is hard. But the upside is: you're contributing forbearance and kindness to the situation, and if the seeming jerk doubles down as actually meaning to be a jerk it can escalate to the mods to deal with instead of the whole situation getting angrier and uglier and harder to recover from on the off chance that someone might turn out to actually really be a jerk without getting a preemptive comeuppance.

So I'm going to practice what I preach and assume that if someone says "What are you looking at?" in response to a comment of mine they're maybe just a lovely person who perceives a threat, and maybe if someone says something that I find threatening and I'm ready to react I can check out instead if maybe they were just looking out the window behind me.

Yeah. This. In general I like billiebee's whole comment there; it gets at and further unpacks some of what I'd been talking about yesterday. We can't just identify what other people are doing wrong or getting wrong; we each also have to be willing, to a person, to really seriously recognize that we are capable not just in theory but in daily practice of being the person who is doing something wrong or getting something wrong. To go into every dicey conversational situation with enough self-awareness to realize that there are some easy-to-reach bad choices about how engage and actively identify and skip 'em.

I think we'd honestly get a lot of mileage out of a little more of that, spread around. I mentioned above that part of what the mod team is talking about is checking in with people more often, and trying to sort of low-stakes nudge on that kind of thing—not "hey stop being such an asshole, asshole" but rather "hey, some of the choices you make in responding could be tweaked to make stuff work better for everyone"—is gonna be an element of what we're up to. Because I'd much rather privately encourage folks with good intentions but some bad habits to be more self-aware, than to have to tackle it in public.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:13 AM on June 25, 2018 [14 favorites]


There is another, different issue that I think may get tied into some of the unhealthy dynamics: the belief that someone who disagrees with you on something you feel strongly about must either be ignorant or be acting in 'bad faith'. The first certainly happens - and I am as guilty as anyone else.

But the second idea is ... problematic. It assumes that the responder can look into the mind and heart of the original poster and (through magic?) tell that they don't really mean what they are saying. This is just impossible.

We have to trust each other on this website, or the conversation is pointless. When someone says 'I believe X' or 'I feel X' or 'I experienced X' - you have to trust that they believe/feel/experienced those thing, unless it is substantially demonstrated otherwise. (For instance, if you ever see me posting about my love of market deregulation and how climate change is clearly not anthropogenic - well, you know that either my account has hacked or worms have invaded my brain).

But I know I've been told that I was commenting 'in bad faith', people I know who were describing their personal experiences and feelings have been told that they were making stuff up or exaggerating or posting 'in bad faith'. But unless you truly have a window into their heart - or were personally present for an event they are describing (though, of course, we all have our own perspectives on the same events) - to accuse them of being in 'bad faith' is utterly groundless.

I feel like this is a toxic dynamic for conversation on this website, and a tactic that the moderators should step in to deal with.

It's one thing to disagree with what someone says - even vociferously; I know I do, and I may think they are wrong on X issue, for reasons Y and Z. But I don't ever believe they are commenting in bad faith - I believe that they believe what they are saying, and have reasons to believe that way. Sometimes it's an issue with a clear right and wrong answer (whether humans are affecting our planet's climate) or it's a issue where there is currently no clear right or wrong answer (what are the most effective tactics for dealing with growing fascism and white supremacism in the developed world?) or it's an issue where the 'right' answer is a matter of faith itself (Is there a God(s)?). The first example can be argued out, and people can be presented with evidence. The second can be argued out - but you have to accept that those who disagree have reasons to believe what they believe, and are arguing in good faith. And the third cannot be argued - you can discuss (ideally with respect), or just move on.

But if we don't at least give our fellow members the benefit of the doubt, then -- it's not acting in bad faith, but maybe in no faith? And if there is no faith or trust even to the level of believing that people aren't lying (which is different from being wrong and requires that you have knowledge that you are doing so) - then conversation cannot happen.
posted by jb at 8:51 AM on June 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


To go into every dicey conversational situation with enough self-awareness to realize that there are some easy-to-reach bad choices about how engage and actively identify and skip 'em.

so in response to my earlier wondering if there was anyone active on this site who didn't at least occasionally find themselves negotiating eggshells, perhaps the answer is, "There shouldn't be."

Or as I put it way back in the thread:

I'd say, beware of those moments when you're in a community situation and you're feeling very much at home, comparatively relaxed and uninhibited, neurosis free and all that. This is perhaps a symptom of being seen (however obscurely) as the one (or certainly one of them) carrying the proverbial club. Which isn't to say, run away or button or whatever. Just please be kind, and if you feel yourself getting drawn into some conflict, put down the club. Or as they say in the Conflict Negotiation world, if you're convinced you're in the right about something, get curious, stop telling, start asking ...
posted by philip-random at 9:12 AM on June 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


Maybe you didn't *mean* it that way, but that's how I (and others) perceived your post. Perhaps you should have edited 12 more times?

Perhaps, because I feel like I'm still being misunderstood. I don't think there's anything wrong with you suggesting I didn't put enough effort into my previous comments, just like I don't think there's anything wrong with criticizing a hypothetical person who hyperbolically edits a comment 13 times to avoid encountering negative reactions.

Maybe they're not worried at all - maybe they know they'll be misunderstood.

This dynamic cuts to the heart of the problem, I feel. Feeling like you know you're going to be misunderstood is a self-fulfilling prophecy (imo). It's not the Only Thing Wrong With Metafilter or anything like that, but it's part of a negative dynamic on metafilter.

At this point, I feel like I'm just repeating things I've already said, so I'm going to bounce out of this thread now.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:22 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Feeling like you know you're going to be misunderstood is a self-fulfilling prophecy (imo).

If I have confidence that it’s raining outside, can hear and see evidence of rain, and have experienced these clues in the past to mean it’s raining...then I walk outside and get wet from the falling rain...

Well, I didn’t make it rain by force of will.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:39 AM on June 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Well, I didn’t make it rain by force of will.

The flipside of cortex's comment above (that we want to try to work with people privately to improve their communication) is that we are always delighted to be *approached* to help figure out the best way to communicate. If you feel like you're definitely going to be misunderstood in a situation, drop us a line! We might be able to help pick apart some tone and context issues to give you a better chance to communicate successfully.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:43 AM on June 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


jb: The bad faith I referred to involves a lot of "you believe" based on sketchy hot takes and bad quoting. Benefit of the doubt is dismissed, and all the linguistic strategies for for negotiating meaning are walked right over in favor of grinding the axe of the day.

My suggestion is that we need to be better at accepting apologies, corrections, and clarifications with grace instead of chasing that argument to a nebulous winning condition. I admit that failing for myself.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:22 AM on June 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


23skidoo: "I think it would actually help Metafilter if everyone (including people who are worried their comments will be engaged with aggressively) would be more self-reflective with regards to how to improve their own comments so they have a greater chance of being engaged with in a less-aggressive way."

1) I can't help but point out the obvious irony.

2) You are in the middle of this argument for telling people who think too much about their comments that they are probably already doing wrong. To insinuate that these people need more self-reflection seems contradictory.
posted by TypographicalError at 10:32 AM on June 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


jb: In shorter words, better check-ins, fewer call-outs.

23skiddo: I think that principle needs to be applied all around though. If your spicy hot-take from a person's post is that they're advocating some sort of extreme and disagreeable position that you think is just plain wrong, maybe you should check-in or step away from the keyboard and pet a cat before responding.

This is more likely to happen in threads that are already polarized, aggressive, and snarky. I had to stop looking past the front page of politics posts last year. That's a form of self-censorship.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:18 AM on June 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


I've caught up after a break, and I kind of want to call attention both to cortex and also to billiebee's excellent comment, which is right on the money.

Can we please ignore the pile-on of specifics and talk a little more about generalities? Holy shit, you guys. What is the desired outcome of this argument?

Let me pick up billiebee's point about all of us being collectively a little traumatized and that meaning that everyone is a bit more reactive. Fuck knows that's happening with me, which is why I'm self-censoring and trying to engage a little more in a controlled kind of way. (And more of a positive way, which. Hah.)

The microdynamics that cortex mentions actually remind me strongly of something I've frequently noticed in pairs of groups of people who are each marginalized along similar axes but in opposite ways. Each group is most sensitive to microaggressions and perceived threats against itself, because each person in each group has experienced varying levels of trauma and hurt and insult from the mainstream. Each group may also be attacked for not being like what they perceive the "other" group to naturally be like, so that they can interpret folks from the other group just being as a potential threat and attack. Each group also feels more acutely their own absence or silence in a conversation, because, well, we all naturally notice things that are Like Us than Not Like Us; that's a natural feature of humans.

And so you have this nasty situation where people are primed to react badly to each other, are primed to feel that the focus of one group means that the other is being Centered, and you can wind up with a horrible little situation where two totally separate groups of people wind up thinking that a) those Others are totally comfortable and centered and taking up all the space and b) we Here are out on the margins and not allowed to be ourselves without walking on eggshells at the same time about each other.

I suspect there are a whole lot of little groups focused on different opinions and beliefs here that feel like that. The trick for dealing with it is really a whole lot of affection and communication and hearing each other and taking turns centering each other so that folks generally trust one another so that the odd accidental sore yelp doesn't spark a deeper fight.

How do you think that could work generally on the site? What can we, collectively, do to achieve that? Focusing on who feels excluded isn't actually as helpful as it looks, because of that natural tendency to assume that whoever we feel like is excluding us feels secure and safe in the community--when often, they really, really don't. So how do we focus on bringing ourselves closer together? How do we focus on inviting each other in?
posted by sciatrix at 11:29 AM on June 25, 2018 [14 favorites]


Another suggestion: If you're really pissed off about something that's happening in the world outside of metafilter, starting off with a pull quote from another user probably isn't the best way to express that.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:34 AM on June 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's good to see you sciatrix. Glad you're here and trying to re-rail the thread. (although I'm sorry it has to be re-railed in the first place)

billiebee: There are a lot of people here who have had personal traumas, and they may be primed to react to perceived threat on an individual basis. But I also genuinely think there was a collective trauma when he was elected - on a societal scale, obviously, but also inside this community. I found the political threads after that too hard to be in, it was all so angry and despairing. And I think that spilled over into the rest of the site, but not just in the sense that now there were a lot of angry people wandering around shouting in lots of threads even outside the political ones; now there were a lot of traumatised people wandering around in threads outside the political ones primed to react. I have experience of living in a society affected by collective trauma and it is difficult to navigate, and lots of people within that don't even realise that's why they are feeling and acting as they are. Maybe if we were able to re-frame the thoughts here not as "people can be jerks" but as "all of us here are kind of hurting" then we might temper our responses a little bit. I feel hopeful we could do that, because there is an understanding here about mental health and anxiety and PTSD and so on that there isn't always in other spaces.

Building off of what sciatrix just said....

There were a number of comments upthread that discussed the importance of personal experience in being able to truly empathize with and understand what someone else is dealing with. I'm convinced that to truly understand certain traumas requires direct personal experience. Sympathy is possible, but perhaps deeper empathy is not. Losing a parent or a sibling, for example.

During the campaign, many of us spoke in the political threads about the similarities between the way Trump spoke, acted and expressed himself and classic abuser stereotypes. We talked about being able to recognize those patterns, having been through them ourselves. Now he's been elected, and every single day, those traumas (I agree that their effect on us should be referred to as traumas) have magnified. He's been trolling and gaslighting the entire country for 3 years if not more. I'm not sure that they're so evident to people who haven't been through it in their personal lives. Who haven't been forced to develop coping mechanisms.

The political threads have become a kind of group therapy venting space. But that can only be healthy if they involve some sort of healing. While they've allowed some mefites to commiserate, focus their political efforts and stay informed, very few other healing treatments seem to be on the horizon. And the way people are feeling has leeched into other areas of the site. They show up in metatalk threads and other posts on the blue and green in the form of anger and pain and instinctive reactions. The patterns become kind of obvious when you recognize them. But unfortunately, they're a symptom of a greater problem, not something that can be easily solved.

We're butting heads against one another a lot in here. Given the world we're living in now, this is inevitable. Many folks have real concerns. They feel they're not being listened to or treated fairly.

On the other hand, many of us also feel that we've been polite and decent and kind and forgiving for a while now and not a damned thing has improved as a result. So we see our anger and outrage as justified and a proper response to shitty, oppressive behavior. But also demanding to be treated equally, with respect and dignity is the only thing that works. We're all really tired of politely asking that groups of human beings be given inalienable human rights. That doesn't work. Silence leads to more oppression. Silence kills.

This is not an insurmountable problem on metafilter. We can try to improve things for both sides simultaneously, without sacrificing our values. Without sacrificing ourselves.

We can change the way we interact here. We can ask people (and do so ourselves) to try to assume good faith but also stand up for themselves when they really need to. To request that people to ask questions first, rather than jump instinctively to the worst possible conclusions. To treat each other kindly and as complex beings, not caricatures. We don't usually need to react in fury when responding to people here.

To reiterate a comment from above, I also cannot count the number of times I've seen a minority viewpoint be shouted down into oblivion or told by a mod to stop commenting because other people are mistreating them. Been that minority viewpoint myself more than once.

We can change that dynamic, too. We can recognize in the moment what is happening and choose not to pile on. We can also choose to quietly flag comments that do. We can also ask people who seem to be getting stuck in disruptive arguments and sucking all the air out of a thread if they would consider taking such discussions to memail.

People who have been through emotional or physical trauma tend to find that it shatters our sense of security. That we suddenly and unexpectedly feel vulnerable and helpless in a world that we newly recognize as dangerous. Our Lizard Brains engage and we react like an animal that has been injured. Defensive. Angry. Hurt. Sad. Horrified. There's an old, horrible joke that says "A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged." It isn't entirely true -- it can be a way for some groups to justify their cynicism and mistrust of others, but there is a kernel of truth in there. In reacting to trauma, we can lose our sense of idealism, of hope, of positivity and trust -- and our ability to interact with each other rather than react to one other.

Increased self-awareness and changing the way we speak to one another is the least we can do.
posted by zarq at 12:08 PM on June 25, 2018 [13 favorites]


It's pretty wild to me that there are users in this thread who are (in a really classy and admirable way) admitting that they have been intentionally nasty and that it's possible to be intentionally nasty without attracting mod censure, and that the mods are focused on the idea that people are just being misunderstood or not being patient enough. I mean, alternatively, it could be that some people on the site are actually being nasty and it's not the fault of the people who are the recipient of that behavior.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:29 PM on June 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


I just reread the exchange I engaged in yesterday and I loathe my "let the record show" comment. The hell? What record? As if I need to be on some record of 'rightness'? Just ugh. Ego is a bitch, y'all. lol

I sincerely want to apologize for my part in the exchange. I came from a heartfelt place, but in retrospect I shouldn't have reacted at all to KHAAAN!'s comment.

I did my best, and I